The House met at 1330.
Mr Kormos: I do not have to tell you, Mr Speaker, how we in this House are inevitably and consistently impressed by the young men and women who come to this House from across Ontario to serve as pages. This particular group of pages is serving probably its second to last day here at the Legislature. They are from across Ontario, and rightly so, and I can tell the House that we are looking forward to the chance to have young men and women from Welland-Thorold right here in this Legislature performing as these young people have for the last several weeks.
I have told Mayor Longo of Thorold and Mayor Hardy of Welland how impressive these young people are and those mayors from those two communities that I represent have insisted that I not let this group of people leave without giving each of them some souvenirs of their attendance here, some pins from the city of Thorold and from the city of Welland, of course some reading material about those respective cities and road maps as to how to get there -- it is not difficult -- hoping that they will share those with their parents.
We are proud of our communities of Welland and Thorold. They are great places to live and, quite frankly, great places to visit. While they are visiting there, it is only a hop, step and a jump to Niagara Falls or to Niagara-on-the-Lake and the theatre there.
I am going to leave these behind on behalf of the mayors of those two cities with their best wishes and with our thanks for the fine performance that these young people have made and the contribution they have made to this Legislature.
COMMUNITY INFORMATION CENTRES
Mr McCague: Community information centres are a valuable resource for communities throughout the province. They provide a single access point to government programs and services. As community-based services expand to support our ageing population, information services will be in increasing demand to ensure Ontarians get the help they need.
Community information centres are in a financial crisis throughout the province. The 1989-90 budgetary allocation was 0.4 per cent above the 1988-89 funding.
It is shortsighted for the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) to refuse additional funding for such a valuable community resource. If we did not have community information centres, each ministry would have to establish local information services and the budgetary implications of that would be explosive.
A single information source is the most cost-effective way to provide access to provincial programs. The individuals who work tirelessly on our behalf at the community level deserve more recognition. The $100,000 that the Minister of Skills Development (Mr Conway) spent on the recent Pathways report, which was simply a rehash of the earlier version, Out of School Youth in Ontario, and the $78,000 the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) wasted yesterday on his inaccurate assessment notices would do nicely. The member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean) and I would certainly like some assistance.
KAWARTHA SKILLS DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Mr Adams: The Kawartha Skills Development Committee in Peterborough has two new projects aimed at improving input from teachers and principals in the development of skilled tradespeople. The committee is putting together a directory of tradespeople willing to speak directly to students. It is also funding trophies for local schools to present to grade 7 and 8 students for aptitude in technical subjects. The committee hopes to receive enough replies to publish an occupational speakers directory this month, when many students are looking at their options.
The technical arts proficiency award is the second initiative of the committee. It is designed to recognize achievements of students in technical courses. The 24 elementary schools that offer technical training will each be able to present a trophy to one grade 7 and one grade 8 student and engrave the names on a school plaque. The committee is also looking for business sponsors whose names will be printed on the scrolls that go with the awards.
The Kawartha Skills Development Committee is one of 57 such committees across Ontario involved in the Skills OK campaign, a drive to address the issue of a lack of skilled workers through projects of various kinds. The OK stands for two things: occupational knowledge and “It’s okay to want to be an electrician or a welder or whatever.”
I wish the Kawartha Skills Development Committee luck in its important work.
Miss Martel: School boards were recently asked by the Ministry of Education to comment upon proposed changes to the 1990 general legislative grant. The Sudbury Board of Education responded in this way:
Specifically, option 1 represents the status quo and would result in a grant to the board of some $3.3 million. Option 2 would reduce this goods and service grant by some $1 million. This is the same grant that supposedly recognizes the great difficulties of northern boards and provides some additional moneys to offset the higher costs. Now the ministry is proposing to cut this funding by $1 million.
The Sudbury board has argued for some time that special consideration be given to its board because of the cost of operating in a jurisdiction of 2,400 square miles in northern Ontario weather conditions.
The board has a demographic density of approximately eight students per square mile, versus the 1,100 students per square mile of Metropolitan Toronto boards. This affects the board’s level of plant operations and maintenance costs and has resulted in higher per-pupil costs in both panels.
Second, because of the large geographic area, the average enrolment per school building is much lower within the Sudbury board than in southern boards. This again affects costs. Therefore, higher taxes have resulted from this need to provide services for schools in sparsely populated areas. According to a Royal LePage survey of April 1989, the ratio of municipal taxes to the market value of homes in Sudbury is the third highest in Ontario.
The ministry options will maintain the status quo or reduce grant moneys. Neither option is acceptable if Sudbury taxpayers are going to be hit yet again because of inadequate provincial funding of education.
Mr Pollock: In the village of Madoc on 16 November, gas fumes were detected at a local high school. The source was traced back to a local service station. The fuels safety branch inspectors immediately shut down the operation.
This leak occurred because of two things: the overflowing of an unleaded gas tank and a leakage because of poor workmanship in one of the suction lines.
The occurrence of the spill and the leak, as described, have led to the discovery by investigators, and in particular the fuels safety branch, of extensive contaminated soil below the level involved in the spill. This contamination existed as a result of events many years ago, none of which had anything to do with the local owner.
I understand that the problem occurred when Esso owned the tanks. It seems that there is now contaminated soil on the property under the station. As a result of this, the fuels safety inspector has ordered the removal of the tanks, which were installed only 18 months ago and under the direction of Esso’s engineer. Also, representatives from the Ministry of the Environment and the fuels safety inspection branch were present during that time. The contaminated soil was clearly visible for those involved to see when this work was being done.
Who is going to clean this up? This service station operator’s business is now shut down, through no fault of his own. The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara) and the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) should make some fair decisions now.
CHAMPIONS OF HALTON NORTH
Mr Elliot: In Halton North, 1989 has been an exceptionally fine year. Constituents of Halton North have won five national championships. I would like to congratulate the champions as we come to the close of 1989.
Tammy Wilson of Milton began this fine effort by becoming Miss Majorette of Canada at a competition held in Kitchener in June.
Jennifer Guzman of Milton brought home a gold medal by winning the 3,000-metre race at the Canadian Legion national junior track and field championships held in Victoria, British Columbia in August.
Julie Lawrence of Milton won a gold medal at the national junior table tennis championships held in St John’s, Newfoundland in July.
Kelly Stewart of Hornby was crowned Miss CNE, Queen of the Fair, at the Canadian National Exhibition. She has had an exciting fall travelling throughout the province and beyond and has represented the CNE in extremely fine fashion. Leanne Caputo of Milton, whom I was pleased to introduce to this Legislative Assembly on 7 December as Miss World, Canada and runner-up to Miss World, completes this impressive list. Leanne has already begun her year of work on behalf of special kids in Canada. This list of champions is impressive. Collectively, they are a combination of talent of extremely high calibre. Each one, in her own area of expertise, spent years in training. I am delighted to congratulate each of them on their achievements and wish them continued success.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I have in my hands a newspaper report that a bounty of $20 is being put on Catholics who send their kids to the public school system at the moment. In the city of Windsor the Roman Catholic separate school board is giving $20 a head to any of its employees who bring in a Catholic who is now sending his kids to the public school system. Can members believe that? It is incredible. They are going to call them assessment revisers and they are going to send them out and get them to actually go out -- I do not know if it is going to be on board time or volunteer time -- and pay them $20. What is going to happen? Are they going to slip $5 to the person they are bringing in and only keep $15 for themselves?
What we are having here is a major problem in the province. We have direct mail campaigns going on in terms of competition between the two boards at the moment in Ontario. Are we going to see fire sales around the setting of mill rates? Are we going to see a whole new meaning to door prizes for kids who come into the school system? It is time this government looked at this matter very seriously, because anybody who says this is ethically correct is, in my view, very misguided indeed. It is time the Minister of Education (Mr Conway) laid down some ethical guidelines about what is fair competition between the two board systems in Ontario. We cannot have this kind of thing going on in our province. It is the last thing we need.
Mr Jackson: I would like to comment on the statement by the Minister of Education in response to a question on destreaming asked on 8 November.
Contrary to what the minister may think, the Progressive Conservative Party has never endorsed province-wide destreaming. The all-party select committee on education recommended an investigation of the potential of destreaming because there was a lack of Ontario-based data.
It specifically recommended that “the ministry sponsor research on the practice and impact of streaming and ability grouping in Ontario.”
In response, the Liberals will establish 10 pilot projects by September 1990. Since the government has declared mandatory destreaming of all grade 9 students in Ontario by September 1992, there will be no thorough evaluation and analysis of these pilot projects.
The committee also recommended that any plans to reduce streaming must be accompanied by other measures, such as smaller class sizes, in-service programs for teaching destreamed classes, mentoring, individualized instruction and remedial programs. The minister has ignored these key recommendations and has never discussed who will pay the increased costs of the government’s mandatory destreaming plan.
Dr Jeannie Oakes, a destreaming advocate, warns: “Simply mixing students is no answer. Revolutionary changes are needed in organization, curriculum and instructional practice.... Teachers and administrators must collaboratively develop ideas and experiment with different strategies. If not, little will change, and what is changed probably won’t work.”
Before rushing ahead, the Liberals should listen carefully to her advice. The potential for damage is too great.
Mr Owen: Recently, I lost a friend. Allan Fisher was a musician, a teacher, an historian and a poet. Nearly 30 years ago, mutual love of history and music led to a friendship which survived until he died earlier this month.
Allan Fisher started the music and band program at Barrie Central Collegiate in 1937 and led it for 35 years. His instrumental music was studied and copied across Ontario. Through the years his band was a consistent medal winner in the Toronto Kiwanis and in competitions across the United States and Europe. Many students went through his band and music program to become outstanding musicians today. However, many more developed an appreciation and love of music, which will remain with them all their lives.
As a history teacher in the classroom, he continued to challenge his students, often in a provocative manner. They learned, sometimes in spite of themselves.
Allan Fisher was a keen Canadian. He loved this country and its history.
Allan Fisher was a writer and researcher of our past. He published a number of books and prided himself on the accuracy of his research.
Allan Fisher has left a legacy of an acoustically fine auditorium which has been named after him. Fisher Auditorium is a 1,000 seat theatre which enables Barrie to bring in some of the finest of musicians.
Allan Fisher received two honorary doctorates, including one from his alma mater, Queen’s University, and was honoured by Canada with the award of the Order of Canada.
His wife, Eva, and their children developed the same love and fascination for music and history, as did everyone who came into contact with the man.
The Speaker: The member’s time has now expired.
Mr Owen: Allan Fisher leaves many friends behind him and all of us are the richer for having known him.
The Speaker: Thank you. That completes the allotted time for members’ statements.
Mr Kormos: I understand that we need unanimous consent to address the recent events in Romania.
The Speaker: There has been a request for unanimous consent. Is it agreed?
EVENTS IN ROMANIA
Mr Kormos: Some time ago, on 1 May 1989, I addressed this House briefly about the plight of, among others, Hungarians in Transylvania, that part of Romania where there have been some 2.5 million Hungarians settled for generations. It is their homeland and only by virtue of the artificialities of man-made borders have they become, as it is, residents of the country of Romania rather than the country of Hungary, their native and their home land. These Hungarians in Transylvania, the 2.5 million people, have been the victims of persecution by a brutal Romanian regime for some time now.
Sadly, the press reports of last evening and this morning reveal an oppressiveness and a brutality that has spread beyond those victims in the Hungarian ethnic community of Transylvania. Indeed, reports indicate that there have been murders, assassinations, of not just a few but many people throughout Romania, young and old alike, with some special brutality directed at the Hungarians living in the country of Romania.
The federal government appears to have taken initial, but modest, steps to express concern. I would ask that this Legislature go well beyond that.
Red Fascists are what this government is and nothing less. It is the most brutal and oppressive type of government. It is a people who have suffered the chains of this oppression for a long, long time, and as I say, the Hungarians especially.
We in this House must condemn that brutality, must condemn that Red Fascism. We must call upon the Romanian government and its bosses like Ceausescu to cease immediately the brutality and assassination of their own countrypeople. This is an intolerable situation. We can but protest in the strongest of terms and utilize all the economic coercion that is available to us to ensure that it is terminated immediately so that freedom is finally granted to the Romanian people and those Hungarians living in Transylvania, that province or part of Romania that was once Hungary.
We condemn the conduct of that government. It is unacceptable in the 20th century, in a world that should recognize and favour and respect individuals and human liberties. It is a government that has long outlived its day. Its brutality is condemned and we should extend our prayers for those people who have had to endure it for so long and who now resist so bravely.
Mrs Marland: It is with great horror and sadness that Ontarians have learned of the massacre of dozens, possibly hundreds of Romanians by their own armed forces. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the Romanian people and any of their relatives here in Ontario. We also hope that this violent repression of peaceful demonstrations is an isolated incident in what has otherwise been a peaceful campaign for reform in eastern Europe.
This fall we have admired the courage of the eastern Europeans who have asserted their belief in full and equal participation in the political process, open expression without reprisal, free enterprise and, most important of all, religious choice. We have rejoiced in the result of their courage, which has been nothing short of peaceful revolution, that is, until the Romanian massacre.
We have, of course, worried that the governments of these Warsaw Pact nations would feel threatened by the demonstrations and the rapid changes. We are all too familiar with the violent use of force to maintain the status quo. Many of us remember the invasion that marked the tragic conclusion to the Prague spring in 1968. In more recent memory, we recall last June’s massacre of the Chinese students who protested in Tiananmen Square. We shared their hope and jubilation. Then we mourned for them. Now we feel that horror and grief again.
We hope that the violent events in Romania will not sway the governments of eastern European countries to abandon their process of reform. Democratic nations such as Canada must make it clear that we have great admiration for the eastern bloc’s recognition of the will for reform and for the peaceful management of the dramatic changes occurring in these countries. We must also offer our assistance in the rebuilding of their economies. Let us pray for the Romanian victims and for the success of reform throughout eastern Europe. May the spirit of perestroika rise above the tragic events that we mark today and may we also be mindful as we celebrate this special season in this special province in the next few days of the suffering of other people throughout the world.
Mr Velshi: I too wish to express my party’s outrage at the horrible violation of human rights which is taking place, as we speak, in Romania. I spoke at a rally sponsored by the Romanian World Congress on this past weekend here in Queen’s Park, and myself and other speakers called for the same freedoms being granted to other eastern European citizens. Little did we know that as we spoke we would hear of reports of flagrant violations of human rights. If these disturbing reports are confirmed, it means that the winds of change that we are witnessing across eastern Europe are being stifled in a most undemocratic, authoritarian manner. The Romanian government is placing itself in a disgraceful position of repressing freedom, democratic reform and respect for human rights. If the tides of change in eastern Europe have confirmed anything, it is that what cannot be denied cannot be suppressed. As many as 51,000 Canadians trace their roots to Romania, of which 18,000 live here in Toronto, in Ontario, and our thoughts go out to them and their relatives. I am sure that all Ontarians will agree to strongly condemn any form of violence conducted by the Romanian authorities against their own people.
The Ontario government urges the government of Canada to give immediate attention to the situation in Romania and to make strong representations to the Romanian government on behalf of Canada and all Canadians who value peace in a free and democratic society.
If those reports that are filtering through to us are true, it means Romanians in their struggle for freedom have died and are still dying. We pray for those who have died that their souls rest in eternal peace, for they will not have died in vain. They are the martyrs who have died for a just cause, a cause that many of us here are all too familiar with. The question we ask is, why is it necessary for anyone to die in that quest for freedom? This is not acceptable to us and it never will be.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would like to inform the House that Ontario Hydro has today submitted its demand/supply plan to the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) for review under the Environmental Assessment Act. The plan contains Hydro’s forecast of electricity demand and supply over the next 25 years and its proposed options for meeting the needs indicated.
In view of the importance of this document, I have asked that detailed information on its contents be provided to all members and that the plan itself be made available on request.
As I announced here earlier, the plan will be subjected to a thorough environmental assessment and the public will be given the opportunity to review and comment on the proposals made by Hydro.
In making this announcement, I want to assure the House that the government is committed to a thorough and timely review of Ontario’s demand/supply plan so that Ontario will continue to have a supply of electricity that is both reliable and reasonably priced.
Hon Ms Collins: It is my great pleasure to announce, on behalf of my colleague the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mr Morin) and myself as the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons, that the access fund will be extended for another three years, to 31 March 1993.
The program was created in June 1987 to help promote the independence and integration of disabled persons and senior citizens in this province. Funding for the next three-year period will be $15 million, bringing our government’s commitment to this program to $30 million.
As a direct result of the access fund, 353 renovation projects have already been carried out by community-based nonprofit organizations throughout our province, making their facilities barrier-free and accessible to everyone, including disabled and senior citizens.
During a recent program evaluation, we found that projects carried out under the access fund created for many Ontario communities their first truly accessible public facilities.
I am also pleased to announce that we are expanding the eligibility requirements of the access fund to include a broader range of organizations that might qualify for a matching grant; specifically: community-based nonprofit organizations which provide important services to seniors and persons with disabilities. Services such as consumer advocacy, training and employment, volunteer services and volunteer co-ordination and shelter for victims of family violence will now be eligible to apply for access fund grants; the eligibility requirements of the access fund will also be expanded to allow organizations to equip their facilities with portable aids for people who are hard of hearing or deaf, equipment such as FM amplification systems and TDDs, telecommunication devices for the deaf, and for certain organizations which have the primary mandate of serving disabled persons and senior citizens such as consumer organizations and elderly/disabled persons’ centres, the access fund may provide up to 75 per cent of the total funding required. The maximum grant for any individual project will continue to be $50,000.
The extension of the access fund for an additional three years and the broadening of the eligibility requirements for qualifying projects are a clear demonstration that this government is honouring its commitment to the disabled community of Ontario and to Ontario senior citizens.
Hon Mr Phillips: I would like to inform the members of this House about the progress that we are making on amendments to our Employment Standards Act to expand unpaid family leave. In October, as the members recall, I announced that my ministry would be undertaking public consultation on family leave legislation. That consultation process has been wide-ranging. We have heard from groups representing labour and business, as well as organizations that have the particular interests of women and family at heart.
These groups have been generally supportive of the government’s proposed direction, and their feedback has been very helpful. We will now review their comments and their concerns.
Our family leave legislation is partially linked to the upcoming federal legislation regarding unemployment insurance benefits. Currently, as the members know, the federal government pays unemployment insurance benefits to employees taking leave relating to birth or adoption. However, it is the province, through its labour legislation, that provides job protection to employees while they receive these benefits. Provincial law ensures that employees have jobs to return to when their leaves are completed. A new federal policy on unemployment insurance benefits would increase the maximum benefits entitlement for natural mothers to 30 weeks from the current 15 weeks. And for the first time, natural fathers would be entitled to parental benefits.
It was anticipated that the federal bill bringing in these changes -- it is called Bill C-21 -- would be proclaimed on 1 January 1990, and that new unemployment insurance benefits for parents would be available from that date.
Mr Speaker, as I think you are now aware, it is uncertain whether the federal government will proclaim that bill at that time. Nevertheless, it is my intention to introduce family leave amendments to the Employment Standards Act in the new year. Part of our legislation will include a provision which will harmonize provincial law regarding job protection for workers with the federal government’s new parental benefits offered through the unemployment insurance system.
Our amendments will provide employees with job protection which, at a minimum, will parallel the additional parental unemployment insurance benefits that will be offered on the new federal policy. Should the federal benefits come into effect first, before our expanded job protection, we would expect employers to grant employees periods of parental leave that would be comparable with the federal benefits.
The consultation process that we have been engaged in has demonstrated already that there is co-operation among the workplace parties in the matter of family leave. I am confident that employers and employees will continue to resolve these matters co-operatively. I look forward to introducing family leave legislation extending the job protection offered to new parents at the earliest opportunity in the new year.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr Charlton: I would like to take a few minutes to respond to the almost nonstatement by the Minister of Energy here this afternoon. I can understand why the minister would want to distance herself from the document which Hydro tabled with the Minister of the Environment today and submitted for environmental assessment. Having spent the morning reviewing this document, this document lays out in very clear terms all of those things that this government has failed to come to terms with over the course of the last four years.
This document reminds me of 1974 revisited. We had Ontario Hydro proposing to this Legislature the need for seven Darlington-sized nuclear plants, of which, as the members are well aware, we built one. Today we have Ontario Hydro back here proposing to build, in a very confusing fashion, somewhere between two and four more Darlington-sized nuclear plants, none of which we need but all of which Hydro feels it needs because of the failures of this government to come to terms with the major energy issues in this province.
For example, this document sets out Hydro’s beliefs that between now and the year 2014, it will only be able to find some 2,000 megawatts of new, independent generation in the province of Ontario. At the same time, the independent power producers of this province said, and said clearly, yesterday that if Ontario Hydro was prepared to pay them precisely the same energy rate that it is prepared to pay to the province of Manitoba to import power, those energy producers in this province, Ontario producers, could provide 8,000 megawatts of electricity, or 6,000 in addition to Hydro’s projections.
This government has failed to come to terms with the avoided-cost question and the buyback rate, and as a result, we have a plan that does not reflect anything near the reality or the potential for our energy future in the province of Ontario.
The Ministry of Energy has spent several hundred thousand dollars on energy efficiency studies, studies which have identified tens of thousands of megawatts of potential energy savings in Ontario at costs that are lower than the nuclear option in the province of Ontario. But because this government has failed to provide the direction to Ontario Hydro in terms of new initiatives for energy efficiency, we have Ontario Hydro proposing in this 25-year plan to capture far less than half of the potential which is identified in the ministry’s own studies.
The Minister of Energy can stand in this House and make a statement like this statement she made today attempting to absolve herself of all responsibility for its content and ensuring that it will get a thorough review, but this report that was tabled today, this proposal, this plan, is a reflection of this government and its lack of understanding of Ontario Hydro and the energy issues in Ontario.
Mr Allen: I want to compliment the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs in deciding to extend the access program for the disabled and seniors in this province.
My real unhappiness is that the fund was not doubled rather than simply continued, because we all know there is a very large unmet need out there. It is rather striking to note that while we are physically opening up buildings and facilities, we are not moving forward very fast with the opening of access to mainstream transportation, for instance, in this province and that the overall need we will need to meet with regard to physical access around this province will really only be known when we tackle the question of employment equity for the disabled in Ontario.
Only when, in fact, the disabled have access to work or have a need to move around this province for employment purposes as well as for personal and other social reasons will we know what the real need is, and at that point, the access funds will have to be much greater than they are.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr Cureatz: Mr Speaker, I know this being the Christmas season, you will allow some of the old Sam to come forward. I want to say to the Minister of Energy, this is unbelievable. One page, not even two sides; a major report concerning electrical production in the province of Ontario, and all the minister gives us is something without substance whatsoever.
It is enough to give a wolverine a heart attack. There is absolutely nothing here. It is the craziest thing I have ever seen in my life. This report was supposed to come out back in October, but someone from Europe was visiting with the Premier, so it had to be postponed until November and, finally, now.
It just so happens we are close to brownouts and blackouts in the province of Ontario, so at last the report can come forward so that this administration will not have to take the well due criticism it deserves.
The government has not planned for electrical production in Ontario since 1985, none whatsoever. Even when the illustrious Conservative Party of Ontario lost office, through the accord, I might add, Darlington at least was still being built, much to the chagrin of this present administration.
Now, what do we get from the report? I will tell members, typical Ontario Hydro. With all due respect, God bless it, it turned off the sign, at least in my riding, that says “Season’s Greetings” after we were complaining about the usage of electricity. I will say to my colleague the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr Charlton) -- and I give him credit; he brought this forward many times to all those various select committees and to the critics of Hydro -- it is overkill. Look at this stuff. Holy smokes, you need a tandem dump truck to lug this stuff around, and what do we get? For the few minutes that I have got, let us look at the summary of the report.
“Why Ontario Needs an Electrical Plan”: In one sentence, because people need electricity. But no, they have got to put out a huge report. I will have to speak to the deputy minister about this again.
Now this is really great, chapter 2, “People Using Electricity.” What can you say about that? People go turn on the switch, they turn on the television, they push the buttons on the microwave. They come out with a huge report: people use electricity. A real insight. I cannot believe it.
Finally, “Finding a Balanced Solution”: If you turn to the appropriate page -- and this is great -- they talk about computer plans and makeups. Our illustrious Premier (Mr Peterson) went to Manitoba, and I know there is no other place he would rather be in the middle of winter than in Winnipeg signing a $15-billion contract -- with a Tory government, I might add -- when the money should have been spent in Ontario so that we would have our own plant and our own jobs.
So what do we come up with? We come up with what we have been saying for a long time. Probably case 15 is what this government is going to have to decide. But we know what they are up to. Yes, we do. They are going to wait until after the election and then they are going to announce probably another nuclear station. Shame on them.
Mrs Marland: I wish to respond very briefly to the statement by the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Ms Collins). I want to ensure just one thing, and that is that although this is a joint announcement from this minister and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mr Morin), when this fund was originally announced by the former minister, the member for Essex South (Mr Mancini), it was announced as $15 million for three years. During estimates I discovered that $15 million had not been spent, and when that money was not allocated it did not automatically flow through to the next year.
I want to be sure that, as exciting as this $30-million announcement is -- $15 million plus $15 million -- it will be $30 million spent for the disabled community in Ontario, because this community is very deserving. They absolutely need it, but we do not want announcements that are reannouncements and then find, because the money is not flowed through to those groups, that it flows back into the consolidated revenue fund. Please ensure that this happens.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr B. Rae: I have a question to the Premier, who at one time was a critic of Hydro and now has become an apologist for Hydro. It is my understanding from a source within Hydro that the cost for the design, the typesetting, the printing and the publication of these reports, plus the third volume overview, was some $1.84 million. Interestingly enough, the environmental analysis is printed on recycled paper but of course the demand-supply plan report is not printed on recycled paper. That shows the degree of the commitment to environmental analysis. That is the true definition of Liberalism.
My question to the minister is this, and it is a serious question: Given the fact that Hydro has this kind of power and these kinds of resources in putting forward its institutional point of view, its stake in more nuclear power, its stake in more growth --
The Speaker: Question.
Mr B. Rae: -- and in complete expansion of the system, what is going to happen to ensure that citizens and other people who are concerned about this future have an equal stake and an equal power in achieving a fair result in terms of Ontario’s energy future?
The Speaker: Premier?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am sorry. At one point the member said “Premier” and at one point he said “minister.”
I want to thank my honourable friend for that very substantial question that he raises. Let me respond to my friend and say I do not know if the figures he uses in this House are correct or not, but it is obvious that a plan of this type is going to be scrutinized in every single detail. The member is quite right: I was a critic of Ontario Hydro, and I think he will notice that enormous changes have gone on in Ontario Hydro in the last little while, a direct result of some of the very knowledgeable and thoughtful criticism that we levelled when we were in opposition. We have rectified all the problems.
The member is still using the same old criticisms. He has not taken into account yet the enormous changes that have gone on in Hydro. Hydro has put forward its plan in the House today, and as my honourable friend will be aware, there will be a full environmental assessment of this matter. There is no question about that. It will all be subjected to public scrutiny. There will be, I expect, a very active, lively debate on all aspects of the report, as there has been in the past. I had many criticisms of Ontario Hydro, as my friend is aware. He is aware of the changes under the Power Corporation Act, the memorandum of understanding, the dramatic changes that have gone on, the buys outside the province, the conservation programs. My honourable friend, knowledgeable as he is, is aware that we have affected major change at Ontario Hydro.
Mr B. Rae: There has been far more change in the position of the Liberal Party and in the position of the leader of the Liberal Party than there ever has been in Ontario Hydro, I can tell members that right now. That is the change that is significant. It is ironic that the day before Ontario Hydro is presenting its view as to the very best that it can do in terms of buying from alternative producers of power within Ontario, the day before it says this is the very best it can do, the Independent Power Producers’ Society of Ontario told us that, “If you give us the same deal as you gave Manitoba, we can increase fourfold the amount that is produced in Ontario.” That is the statement from the independent power producers of Ontario.
Just what is the Premier going to do within his own government to make sure that there is an alternative view to Hydro? Where is the conservationist alternative perspective going to come from within his own government to take on the forces of uncontrolled growth as represented by Ontario Hydro?
Hon Mr Peterson: My friend has this conspiracy theory of life, that everybody is conspiring together to get him and his own theories. I ask my honourable friend to scrutinize the report. I think he would not want to jump to any superficial conclusions. He would want to look at all aspects of it. He would want to look at the conservation, he would want to look at the cogeneration, he would want to look at the changes that have already gone on with respect to cogeneration and how that fits into the plans, and then he would want to come up with a thoughtful, balanced, reflective view as opposed to just a quick jump at a report that he has obviously not had time to reflect on.
Mr B. Rae: I asked the Premier a very specific question. I asked him three times. I want to ask him again: What is he doing within his own government to ensure that the taxpayers of this province have an alternative point of view that is funded, that is ready, that is there and that is going to present an alternative to the institutional power that is represented by Ontario Hydro? What is he going to do ensure that view is represented?
Hon Mr Peterson: There is no conspiracy by Ontario Hydro to beat the member into oblivion. That is not the case. Their responsibility is to provide power at cost in this province. They have a variety of options on how to do that, and they are going to be presented for public scrutiny. The member just may have a lot better, more thoughtful ideas himself about how to run Ontario Hydro. There will be intervener funding, there will be a full public scrutiny and review and many groups will have views and want to express those. We welcome those, and I think everyone would want to be engaged in this debate, now and for the future.
As my honourable friend knows, it is a multipronged strategy, both on the demand side and on the supply side. Alternatives have been put forward and will be thoroughly scrutinized. If the member has better ideas on how to run Ontario Hydro, he should stand up and tell us. If he has better ideas on how to provide hydro 10, 20, 30 years from now, then we will want to hear those and we will want to scrutinize those as well. But I can tell my honourable friend it is all there. He will have many opportunities to present his views, as will other interested people. We believe that it is a sensible, democratic way to make the kinds of decisions that are going to have to be made.
Mr B. Rae: My question is to the Minister of Health. One of the disturbing facts about life in Ontario today is that poverty has a direct impact on the health of everyone, but it has a particularly dramatic effect on the health of kids.
It has recently been discovered that the two-year survival rate for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was only 28 per cent for kids in a low socioeconomic group and 51 per cent for those in a higher socioeconomic group. That is just one example, but I think it is a particularly dramatic one.
The experts say that the outcome for poor children may be due to such factors as more advanced disease at the time of diagnosis, inadequate access to health care, poor compliance with therapy or poor nutrition. All of these things are having an impact on whether or not kids who get leukaemia survive.
My question for the minister is this: The studies from the public health experts are growing. They are overwhelmingly clear that the biggest factor in determining health among kids is how much money they have, what kind of food they can get and what their status in life is. I want to ask the minister why her ministry is not tackling the problem of poverty head on and seeing it as a major public health issue in the province?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for raising what I think is a very important issue. We all know that the goal of our health care system is to improve the health of our population. It is the reason that we are conducting health status surveys and that we are acknowledging that health is far more than just the treatment of illness.
When we talk about the need to shift resources on the basis of outcomes -- and he used the word, I think, most appropriately -- and we talk about health promotion and disease prevention, we rely on those very kinds of research studies to help us make sure that our health programs, as they are developed within the Ministry of Health, respond to the need for appropriate care for the people of this province.
Mr B. Rae: I did not hear an answer to my question. I asked the minister why she is not transferring resources within her own ministry to ensure that poor kids who get cancer have as much a chance at life and survival as rich kids who get cancer. That is a very specific question. I want to ask the minister why she is not transferring resources within her own ministry to deal with this crisis. The fact of the matter is that poverty is the key determinant of public health in the province today. It is the key determinant factor in what happens to survival rates among young kids with cancer, something as basic as that.
I am asking the minister what she is doing within her own ministry to transfer resources to deal with poverty as a health issue, because it is a health issue.
Hon Mrs Caplan: When we talk about the provision of appropriate services, when we talk about the need to ensure that our resources are used most effectively to respond to what people really need, we must look at what the determinants of health are. We know that the creation of wealth is the single most important determinant of our health. We know that health, as I said, is not simply the treatment of illness but a resource for living.
I would say to the member that the very foundation and the principles of our medicare system, which are universal access, reasonable access, comprehensiveness of our approach to programs and portability in public administration, allow us to establish the kinds of priorities that would let us focus on health promotion and disease prevention opportunities.
I would say to him that our commitment under Bill 94 to eliminate user fees and to eliminate extra billing was a significant step forward to meeting those objectives. I would say as well that this is a very important debate --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: The Toronto Board of Health is now beginning to do studies which I think are going to have a major impact on public health, not only in this city but across the province and indeed across North America. All the initial studies of the medical officer of health in Toronto establish that one in three kids is going to school hungry, and that hunger among kids is the most pressing public health issue facing our young people today in this community. I am asking the minister specifically what she is going to do to transfer resources so that young kids get some food.
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the Leader of the Opposition knows, this year we will spend some $13.9 billion in the Ministry of Health. We know that the system that we have in place is a good one and that some 80 per cent of the resources being used are appropriate and leading to appropriate care. That does mean that we can, through quality assurance and effectiveness evaluation of everything that we are doing, look at how we can make sure that resources are made available for programs which will lead to better health outcomes and improve the health status of the people of this province.
Not only are we concerned about the treatment of illness; I am particularly concerned about improving health and having a healthier life for our children. I would say to the member that if he will work with us to look at how we can evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of our programs to ensure appropriate care, we can look at the appropriate reallocation and the shift from inappropriate --
The Speaker: Thank you.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Energy. I want to relate to the power supply study that was released today and that has been discussed earlier in this House.
Ontario Hydro indicates that there are going to be serious shortages, as the minister is aware, in the Hydro power supply that will be available by the mid-1990s. We are already, as she is also well aware, suffering from shortages now that are causing plants to be shut down as a result of the inadequate supply of power.
Given the length of time that would be involved in the proposed approval process with the environmental review, the specific site review, public review, government review, all of those necessary steps that have to be taken, and recognizing when this power is needed, which is virtually immediately, what is the estimate of her ministry with respect to the time required for Ontario Hydro to get through the approval process for either a fossil fuel or a nuclear plant, if that is the final decision that is made?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Before I address the specific question in terms of the anticipated time lines, I would like to acknowledge, as I have in the past in this House, that the decision about the environmental approval process was one which was worked out jointly with the Ministry of the Environment and in full consultation with Ontario Hydro, recognizing that we were absolutely committed to having a full public review, going through the environmental approvals process, but at the same time wanted to do that in as timely a fashion as possible, recognizing the concerns for reliability of electricity supply. So all of the planning that has gone into the approvals process relates to the kinds of concerns the honourable member is raising.
In terms of the specific time frame, We are in a position, because of having determined the process, to begin a government review immediately. That is a six-month process. The first phase of the hearings on the basic nature of the plans would take approximately 18 months to two years. That would be followed by site-specific hearings dealing with whatever options are approved at the end of the first phase of the hearings.
Mr Brandt: The minister well knows that even if all the approvals were in place today, it would take at the very least a decade before a new plant could be up and operating, with all of the best intentions, and probably longer given an extensive review process as approved, which I understand is necessary. What I am concerned about is the kind of procrastination, the kind of dithering that has gone on and the wasted years in getting on with the job that is absolutely essential and that has to be done. This government, under her ministry, has not moved quickly enough to bring this matter forward to the point where it can serve the power needs of this province. We are going through an extremely difficult period --
The Speaker: And the question might be.
Mr Brandt: -- as she is well aware and what is happening is that these shortages are going to become more and more critical. Is her government committed to any kind of a specific program with respect to approvals so that she can get on with the job that has to be done, because I tell her she is putting the economic growth of this province in jeopardy --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would remind the honourable member that in fact it is Ontario Hydro’s mandate to carry out the planning necessary to ensure that there is reliable electricity delivered to the consumers of this province. What we have done in dealing with our response to Ontario Hydro’s planning process is not at all to procrastinate but in fact to have in place a process before the plan was tabled with government to be able to carry out the approvals process for that plan as quickly as possible. The government review process will begin first thing in the new year. We anticipate that it will be completed at the conclusion of the six-month period and public hearings can begin immediately after that.
Mr Cureatz: In the most humble, quiet manner that I can, and now that the minister will have the opportunity to respond, as she did not on my opening dialogue, in terms of her insignificant statement, the truth of the matter is that she is waiting until after the next provincial election, when the then former Treasurer of Ontario becomes chairman of Ontario Hydro, to finally make the decision that they are going to have to build another nuclear plant. Yes or no, they are waiting until after the next election?
Hon Mrs McLeod: No, that is not the basis for determining the approvals process that would be brought to bear on Ontario Hydro’s plans. I would again stress the fact -- and this is not an attempt to distance myself in any way from the issues but to recognize the reality that the responsibility for planning is Hydro’s -- Hydro has brought forward a plan today and tabled that with us. We are absolutely committed to a full public review of the issues that are involved in the planning for our electricity choices of the future. We have that process in place. That is a commitment which we would make at any time or any stage of the planning process for provision of electricity in Ontario.
Just to reassure the honourable member, if we look very carefully at the plans that have been tabled, Ontario Hydro does have plans to meet the more immediate needs of the electricity system and has fully anticipated the length of time which it will take to carry out this approvals process.
Mr Brandt: To the same minister, she indicates that the process is in the hands of and in the control of Ontario Hydro as it relates to the supply of the additional power requirements of the province. That being the case, could I ask then the minister to explain the comments made by her Premier (Mr Peterson) relative to the construction of and the need for Darlington over the course of the past couple of years?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would want the honour-able member to be much more specific in referencing particular comments that he would like me to address. I can certainly address the issue of this government’s position and our goals in terms of working with Ontario Hydro to meet the electricity needs of this province. We would share the goal of ensuring that there is reliable electricity provided at reasonable cost, and we bring that additional commitment of ensuring that any supply of electricity and any decisions about options are sensitive and responsive to environmental concerns. That has been very much a consistent position of the Premier and of this government and it is a position which we carry into the review of Ontario Hydro’s plans.
Mr Brandt: I appreciate the minister asking me to be more specific and so I will be. The comments that I have some concerns about, as they relate to the administration and the management of Ontario Hydro by Ontario Hydro, were statements to the effect that there was some real concern on the part of the Premier about whether or not Darlington was in fact even needed, whether nuclear power was the option that should be considered by Ontario. I wonder if the minister has taken into account the direction that has already been established by her government as it relates to the various alternatives that might be available to Ontario Hydro. Is she now saying that the nuclear option is back on the table as a viable alternative for future power generation in this province --
The Speaker: Minister.
Mr Brandt: -- because that would run contrary to the specific statements made by --
The Speaker: The question was asked.
Hon Mrs McLeod: The honourable member raises, I think, two very separate issues, one being the whole question of the accountability of Ontario Hydro and the relationship between the government and the Ministry of Energy and Ontario Hydro. I think there have been a number of ways in which those concerns have been addressed, including amendments to the Power Corporation Act which were introduced and recently passed by this Legislature.
In terms specifically of the nuclear option, which is a part of the plans which Ontario Hydro has presented, and concerns that have been raised, certainly by members of this government in opposition and which continue to be raised by members of this party while in government, there are concerns about issues of the safety of nuclear plants, about waste disposal; the same kinds of concerns that members will hear reflected in the public in general. Those kinds of concerns have to be addressed.
We have undertaken studies to address them; the Atomic Energy Control Board has undertaken studies to address them; we are in fact committed to addressing those concerns, because there is nuclear power generation in Ontario and there will continue to be, whatever decisions are made about future choices.
Mr Cureatz: In fear of having to oblige the member for Niagara Falls (Mr Kerrio), who has just sent me a note, “Turn in your uniform,” might I say to the minister, would she please advise us then, in terms of the concerns that she and this administration have for the planning process of ensuring Ontario residents and industry have an adequate supply of electricity, what will the select committee of energy be doing in January and February? Will the minister please share that with the members of the House so that people across Ontario will feel confident that there is some kind of planning process taking place?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I am not sure whether or not, in a supplementary question, the member still wants me to address the issue of the long-term planning of Ontario Hydro and the process that we have decided upon for review of those plans, because quite clearly we have made a decision to refer that to the Environmental Assessment Board, which has a quasi-judicial role to play and which we feel is the most appropriate and effective forum for having a full public review of those very essential long-term questions.
Asking me about the select committee on energy is, I feel, a somewhat different question, although I recognize that the select committee has been very much involved over the years in the kinds of issues that are going to be addressed through the planning process review.
There are a great many issues related to our energy choices in the future and I think the select committee will be involved in at least one or more of those issues over the next few months. It will have a very important role to play and we are discussing that with the chairman of the committee.
LAND USE PERMIT
Mr Wildman: I have a question to the same minister in her capacity of being responsible for the stewardship of Ontario’s natural resources regarding the Kinoje project. Can the minister explain why her ministry issued a land use permit on the traditional lands of the Kashechewan first nation with little or no proper consultation with the people of the first nation?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would have to ask the honourable member to provide me with more specifics of that particular land use permit for me to able to comment on it or to pursue it in greater depth.
Mr Wildman: I would be glad to provide further information to the minister. The minister should be aware that the Muskegowuk first nation’s declaration of rights includes the statement, “We have the right to be guardians of the land and its resources.
In light of that and the commitment made by the Attorney General (Mr Scott) last week to negotiate Indian self-government, does the minister think it appropriate for her ministry to issue a land use permit on lands that are part of a trapline and thus interfere with the rights of the citizens of the first nation without first discussing the whole issue with the chief in council, and if she does think it inappropriate, would she revoke the land use permit until proper consultation takes place and the first nation has given its approval for the project?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would really have to ask for an opportunity to review both the land use permit specifically and its intent before I could respond in detail to the member’s question, but I would certainly want to indicate that I am completely in support of the initiatives that were announced by the minister responsible for native affairs (Mr Scott) last week. My ministry and I share a commitment to working with the peoples of the first nations in order to work with the partnerships which they have proposed in terms of their access to the resources of our lands. As well, I know the minister responsible for native affairs has a commitment to carrying forward discussion on specific land claim issues. We are prepared to do that with each of the first nation groups that comes forward and wishes to have those discussions with us.
EMPLOYER HEALTH LEVY
Mr Pope: My question is for the Premier with respect to Bill 47, the employer health tax. In the last couple of weeks, we have received a number of letters and many calls from small business particularly, and also those who are labour-intensive, and specifically I have received a couple of calls from firms who claim that their salary costs are 60 to 70 per cent of total income and their gross profit margin is the equivalent of five per cent of total wages paid. They claim that because of the employer health tax, 40 per cent of that profit margin is now going to be taken by an ad valorem payroll tax. They also claim that because of this they have to reassess whether or not they are going to continue in business at all and, second, whether or not they are going to continue to employ the number of people they now employ or any employees at all.
What I want to ask is, did the Premier really contemplate, in this time of recession and layoffs announced in the media, this kind of economic effect from his employer health tax when he introduced it?
Hon Mr Peterson: The Treasurer has thought out all of these matters and he will explain his thinking to the member, since the member has not been here very often lately.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am very glad that the Premier continues to have confidence in my ability to think through these difficult matters, and as usual, he is entirely correct. I can tell the honourable member that we reviewed the situation very carefully. We are not the first jurisdiction that has applied a payroll tax, and this one is directly associated with the provision of our medicare program.
I think he would be aware from his own days in government that the program involving premiums, which we have, until the end of this month, has been funding, or did fund in those days, just under 20 per cent of the cost of OHIP. We froze these costs when we took office, and as the costs of medicare expanded, these sank in their efficiency in funding medicare until they are presently about 13 per cent of the costs of medicare. It became apparent that we had to have a better and more appropriate method for funding medicare and that gave rise to the payroll tax that the Legislature has been good enough to approve in all but its third reading component. We look forward to that some time in the next few hours.
We are aware, and the honourable member would be aware, that essentially the same amount of money that was collected from industry and employers by way of premiums will now be collected through the payroll tax, except for one thing. We have deliberately raised the share of the revenue from 13 per cent to 16 per cent, which we think is fair and equitable. We know that in some instances businesses are going to find this difficult to levy, but we feel that it is fair and essential if we are going to continue to fund medicare.
Mr Pope: The Treasurer was so concerned about it he never bothered doing an economic impact analysis of Bill 47 before he introduced it. The Premier, while he is here, does not deem it necessary to reply to job losses, does not find it necessary to lower himself to deal with the economic impact of his inflationary tax policies; it is beneath him to worry about --
The Speaker: Order. With respect, I recognized the member to place a supplementary to the Treasurer.
Mr Pope: My question to the Treasurer is: While he obviously, from his answer, did not consider the job impact of Bill 47, could he tell me why there is no contemplation of the following effects of Bill 47? For a worker over the age of 65 who is employed and the company was paying OHIP premiums for its employees; prior to Bill 47 it did not have to pay OHIP premiums for an employee over the age of 65 but now will have to pay the payroll tax.
A small business that employed a husband and wife in the business, formerly could pay the OHIP premium on a family rate. Now they will have to pay a two per cent payroll tax on the basis of both salaries.
Why were these detrimental impacts on small business employing people over the age of 65, or employing couples, never contemplated when the Treasurer introduced this legislation?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Mr Speaker, I am sure you would know that those matters were carefully considered and we think that in fact we have increased the equity for small business, because we have applied a rate that is simply half the standard rate that is applied to business in general. Instead of 1.95 it is less than one per cent and we feel that this is a bargain indeed to small business.
As a matter of fact, to some of the businesses in the province that are actually employing people at the minimum wage, the cost is less than an extra five cents an hour. For that, we have a program which is generally considered, and all sensible people, including the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), would agree among the best in the world.
DOWNSVIEW REHABILITATION CENTRE
Mr Polsinelli: My question is to the Minister of Labour. As the minister knows, the Downsview Rehabilitation Centre is located in my riding of Yorkview but the Workers’ Compensation Board has decided to decentralize medical rehabilitation services across the province to offer injured workers treatment closer to their homes. While we know that the Downsview site will be undergoing changes, no specific date or time frame has been given, and according to the board, it will be some time before a final decision will be made with respect to the site. Can the minister shed some light on this situation and inform us as to what process has been established to determine the future use of the lands?
Hon Mr Phillips: The timing of the closing of that site, and I know the member has a good deal of interest in it, as do his constituents, is timed very much to the ability of the board to implement its decentralized strategy, as the member has mentioned. What the board has been doing is to designate, I think, about 100 community clinics, which it has now done. It has designated 11 or 12 regional assessment centres, which now has been done.
Actually, coincidentally, as we speak. the board is announcing this afternoon the final phase of that decentralization, which is its medical rehabilitation institute. They will announce that this afternoon. Having those things in place, it is my understanding that the Workers Compensation Board plans to close that facility some time in 1991.
Mr Polsinelli: As the minister knows, this is an issue of concern to many of my constituents who live in the area and are afraid that the board will give them a final decision with no input. Can the minister assure me and the members of the community that the local citizens will be involved in any decision made with respect to the use of those lands?
Hon Mr Phillips: I hope I can provide at least partial reassurance to the member. Now that the project in terms of decentralization and the closing of that facility is well under way, I understand the board is beginning to turn its attention to what use it will make of that asset. That is a site of 65 acres, I think, and is obviously of considerable value to the Workers’ Compensation Board.
Having said all of that, I would urge the member and his constituents to become involved with the board at this stage, in terms of thoughts they might have for that facility. I must emphasize that, frankly, the final decision will be the board’s, but it is one where I think it would welcome input from the local community. Because it is now beginning to turn its attention to the matter, I think now is the time that the member and his constituents might want to begin to let their views be known.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. The Libbey Owens Ford plant in Lindsay has become notorious for its contempt for the labour and safety and health laws in Ontario. Its recent handling of the strike was followed by a refusal to deal with grievances and by time limits arbitrarily set on grievances.
But my concern is the pay equity legislation, which is the latest law in Ontario under attack.
Subsections 9(2) and 14(1) and (2) say it is incumbent upon companies to negotiate, set up a committee and talk about the pay equity problems in that particular plant.
Libbey Owens Ford called the chairperson of that committee into the office and insisted that she sign a document stating they did not need to set up a committee and that everything was A-okay, they did not need to hold any discussions in terms of the pay equity legislation.
What is the minister going to do to see that these kinds of actions do not make a mockery out of the pay equity issue in Ontario?
Hon Mr Phillips: The member did raise this, I think, in a statement in the House recently. I did inquire of the Pay Equity Commission of Ontario whether it had any complaints from that particular union. At least at that time, they informed me they had not.
I would say two things. One is that I would urge that if the union is having difficulty, it take advantage of the services of the Pay Equity Commission. It is their role to help to ensure that this legislation goes smoothly, and certainly as we are now, I guess, less than two weeks away from the time when companies with 500 or more employees and the public sector must post their plans. I hope that organizations would take advantage of the services of the Pay Equity Commission to resolve matters such as this. I have been led to believe that the commission has not heard from the union in this matter, so I urge it to take advantage of those services.
Mr Mackenzie: If we are going to seriously redress the issue of gender discrimination, these kinds of actions cannot be allowed. As the minister knows, this union has had to go to to the Ministry of Labour and the health and safety people on an almost monthly basis in this particular plant. This is but the latest example of their disregard for the law. What is the minister doing generally to monitor it? Does it require in every case a request from the workers involved? What about those workers who do not have an active or powerful union such as this one? What is the minister doing to monitor the implementation of this legislation when these kinds of actions are going on in Ontario?
Hon Mr Phillips: We have established the commission with considerable resources. It has a fine staff who are trained and available for just these sorts of matters, to help ensure that the pay equity legislation is smoothly implemented. It is, as I think all members know, without question the most progressive piece of pay equity legislation in North America. No one disputes that. Everyone who is involved in pay equity would acknowledge that, and I take my cap off to the Attorney General (Mr Scott), who spearheaded this legislation two years ago.
The Pay Equity Commission is responsible for implementing that. They are available to assist in just these sorts of matters, and I would urge the unions and companies and employees to take advantage of the very fine services that they offer. It is in the interest of all of us to make certain that this progressive legislation is implemented so we do redress some of these matters of equity unfairness.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Skills Development. With his recent announcement, last Friday, of the destructuring of the Ministry of Skills Development, I am concerned about the status of one of the minister’s recent promises. In September 1989, in an issue of his document Skills Letter, he stated that: “The skills ministry will increase the number of women being trained in nontraditional occupations by 3,000 more women by the year 1992. That is 1,000 more women each year.” During estimates it was revealed that the number of women actually entering nontraditional occupations through his apprenticeship program actually decreased in relative terms last year, from 4.59 per cent down to 4.41 per cent. Finally, according to his government’s own projections, an economic recession is on the horizon. How can he, as Minister of Skills Development, ensure that 3,000 more women will enrol in nontraditional occupations with the economy and his government’s own apprenticeship statistics in relative decline?
Hon Mr Conway: The government has undertaken a realignment of a number of the programs that have traditionally been housed within the Ministry of Skills Development because we are particularly concerned at meeting the future needs that have been identified in the community and in the economy. Unlike a predecessor government, we have set very real and, we think, achievable targets to improve the participation of women in the nontraditional areas in so far as the economy is concerned. We have got a number of projects up and running at the present time. The Ontario women’s directorate has been closely involved with the Ministry of Skills Development. I am certainly very confident that we are going to be able to meet the targets that were set some time ago in terms of increasing female participation in these key areas.
Mr Jackson: The problem, and this government’s inability to deal with this, is not as new as the minister would have us believe. The Ministry of Skills Development identified a serious lack of women in nontraditional occupations as early as 1987, almost three years ago. The then minister responsible for women’s issues, the member for St George-St David (Mr Scott), tabled a document in Halifax entitled Training Women in the Workplace. It spoke at length to his government’s commitment to women’s equality. Yet the number of women entering nontraditional occupations has increased by a mere 103 in the last year and, according to projections, will only increase by about 60 more women this year.
In short, the minister’s government’s commitment to women’s workplace equality is increasing at a decreasing rate. In light of his failure with this program, will the minister explain why he is dismantling the Ministry of Skills Development and why he --
The Speaker: That sounds like a supplementary.
Mr Jackson: -- has dismantled it into six other ministries, and yet nowhere is the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues (Mrs Wilson) being indicated --
The Speaker: Order. I asked the member for “a” supplementary.
Hon Mr Conway: I do not deny that there is a very real challenge out there for all of us in the community to meet. It would be very foolhardy to imagine that government is going to be able to do this alone, because clearly we are going to have to change attitudes. We must all recognize that as we face a situation where the workforce is going to be 50 per cent female by the end of the 1990s, we have simply got to change the way we do business. We are going to be effecting major change in counselling at the elementary and secondary levels in education because we want to ensure that girls in elementary and secondary education understand the opportunities that will be available to them in the skilled trades area.
There have been very progressive steps taken by, for example, Local 27 of the carpenters’ union. They have undertaken a program to increase the female participation in that trade. There is a program in Ottawa to do the same in another area of the skilled sector. As far as the redeployment of the programs under Skills Development --
Mr Jackson: Come on, Sean. Women don’t scare you that much, do they?
The Speaker: Order. The member for Burlington South does not seem to appear too interested. I would also remind the member that on many occasions I have asked all members to address their comments through the chair. Not the minister; I am informing the member for Burlington South who seemed to have a very bold interjection.
RED MEAT II
Miss Roberts: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I recently was contacted by two of my constituents, Robert and John Brown of Fingal, who indicated to me that they were experiencing some difficulty with the health management component of the Red Meat II program. Under that component, producers are encouraged to consult with veterinarians in order to identify means of improving productivity in their herds. This requires two consultative visits by the veterinarian at least 30 days apart. The difficulty for my constituents, and no doubt for many other producers, is that the details of the health management component were not announced in a sufficient time to fulfil the program requirement to meet the deadline of 31 December 1989. Could the minister indicate if he is prepared to rectify this?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to thank the member for Elgin not only for asking the question but for bringing this matter to my attention. I have reviewed this situation with my officials and have decided to extend the deadline three months for the consultative health studies to take place, so instead of ending --
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am also pleased to have the support of my fellow members on this decision and to know the team is behind me on this decision.
This will allow time for the producer and the veterinarian to plan to carry out the consultative health study and to plan that out at their convenience, so that we have a good farm management program developed on each of the applicants’ operations.
I will also be informing our county offices to inform the applicants and we will be directing this information through the media also.
Miss Roberts: I am very pleased to hear that the minister is addressing that problem with the Red Meat II program, but now that I have a chance, could he also tell me if there are any other problems with the Red Meat II program or at least update us on how it is going along?
Hon Mr Ramsay: There are no other problems on the Red Meat II program. As members know -- now that we have that one fixed up -- the Red Meat II plan was announced in June or July of last year as a follow-up to the very successful original red meat plan that helped producers in Ontario with herd management. It would be of interest to members that goat meat has now been added to the plan, so it is now sheep, beef and goat meat. This is going to offer increased efficiency, competitiveness and productivity and quality assurance for all our livestock producers in Ontario.
SALE OF LIQUOR
Mr Hampton: My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. His ministry has established and is establishing a number of agency stores to sell liquor and beer around the province. Can he tell me, does he as minister approve of liquor being sold in stores where someone can also purchase a rifle and ammunition at the same time or does he approve of liquor and beer being sold in stores where someone can fill up his tank with gas and buy a six-pack of beer for the road? Does he approve of those kinds of retailing techniques?
Hon Mr Sorbara: Let me tell my friend that I approve of having a distribution system for beverage alcohol in the province that combines two matters and two policy issues.
The first is to make sure that one is responding appropriately to consumer demands. That is why members have seen, over the past few years under this government, a series of initiatives that respond to changing consumer tastes.
The second thing that is fundamental to the principle of the distribution of alcohol in this province is the socially responsible use of alcohol.
Those are the principles that drive all our decisions on how and where and at what times of the day and at what locations we sell beverage alcohol in this province, and I think we have done a darned good job at it.
Mr Hampton: I noticed which principle came first in the minister’s statement: consumer demand. His government claims that it is committed and opposed to drinking and driving. His government says that it is opposed to violence in our society. He must acknowledge that there is a high correlation in terms of the relationship between alcohol consumption and violence.
He must acknowledge that when he sells alcohol and beer out of a gas station, he is sending a very clear message to people. How does he justify those kinds of sales techniques’? Is it again, as he said in his first principle, simply --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Sorbara: My friend the member for Rainy River is really expressing absolute and patent nonsense to the other members of this House. If you followed his logic, you would bring in regulations that would require everyone to walk to a Liquor Control Board of Ontario store to ensure that they are not carrying beverage alcohol in their car as they drive home. It is absolute silliness, and that kind of silliness does not help one iota in working out the combination of these two principles.
I have no problem at all with an individual going to a store and buying alcohol and putting it in his car and then going to a gas station and filling up his car because in order to get home the car has to be filled with gas. I cannot tell him any more on this subject.
Mr Sterling: I have a question of the Minister of the Environment. Last week, the member for Nepean (Mr Daigeler) praised a report on the pilot project to recycle plastics in Nepean. He said the Barrhaven experience showed that plastics recovery for recycling is feasible for communities where the blue box program exists. What he failed to say was that the city of Nepean has decided to cancel the program because it is uneconomic.
The city spent $1,750 per tonne to collect and ship plastic recyclable containers for a return of a mere $145 a tonne. The minister has been quoted as saying the Barrhaven experiment has proven that plastics recycling works. How does the minister draw that conclusion?
Hon Mr Bradley: What the opponents of recycling will continue to say unfortunately -- and when I hear others chiming in, “What do you think of that?” I have to say that this has long been the argument against recycling. l can tell the member there are people today, even in 1989, I say to the member, who are strongly opposed to recycling. The reason is they fail to look at the cost of landfilling.
When you are looking at the cost of landfilling, you must first of all look at the cost of siting a landfill; that is, going through an environmental process to site a landfill. Second, you must look at the cost of the operation under more stringent rules today than ever before, the operation of a landfill. Third, there is the perpetual care of that landfill in terms of a leachate catchment system and a methane gas catchment system. With all of those things taken into consideration, they will find that the cost of actually operating and establishing a landfill is far greater than we are going to see in terms of recycling in this province.
Mr Sterling: We are talking about a loss of $1,605 for each tonne of plastic that is collected. I do not know of one political person in this province who is against recycling of all of our waste, but let’s be practical. Is the minister going to subsidize the municipality to the tune of $1,605 or, in the case of Nepean, some $200,000 in order to take on this project? Is he willing to put his money where his mouth is on this matter?
Hon Mr Bradley: I have to say to the member again that one must always consider what the alternatives are to recycling. I know it is much easier to go out and dig a hole and pour the garbage into the ground. It has always been that way. The member is making out a situation where he has a product that is made from oil, the plastic is made from oil, and surely we would want to recycle that instead of simply having it thrown away, if the member really measures it against disposal. I ask for his support in this, as other members in this House have supported it. I think the member is an environmentally sensitive person. I certainly accept that fact. I ask his support in the crusade to make recycling work in Ontario. With his help, with his strong support in this province, together we can make it work.
PROVINCE OF ONTARIO LAND REGISTRATION AND INFORMATION SYSTEM
Mr Campbell: My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. As the minister is aware, over the past five years Ontario has experienced a 60 per cent growth in real property transactions. The sheer volume of property deals has caused processing delays which have left real estate closings in doubt. In response to this situation, the previous minister announced the implementation of an automated property title indexing and mapping information system called Polaris, province of Ontario land registration and information system, which would expedite land registration and transfers in Ontario.
In April 1987, the county of Oxford land registry office introduced the first practical application of Polaris and the benefits were immediately apparent. Three other pilot projects, of which Sudbury is one, were to be subsequently initiated. Can the minister update the House on the status of these pilot projects?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I want to begin by congratulating my colleague on his interest in the Polaris system and land registration in general. There really are two parts to his question. The first is that dramatic expansion in land transfers which has put some significant pressure on our land registry offices right around the province. I think we have done a rather good job in coping with those pressures as we move towards Polaris.
Polaris is not a program that is on the tip of the tongue of every single resident of the province, but residents of the province should know that it is one of the most exciting initiatives in implementing appropriate technologies to massive workloads of the government of this province. Once it is fully implemented, our land registry offices in this province will be the beneficiaries of the most modern and technologically appropriate way of registering land and communicating information about the ownership of land anywhere in the world.
In 1987, as my friend said, we implemented a 15-year plan to transfer all of the data that we have in written form into computer technologies and computer-based information technologies. We have a specific five-year plan, as my friend said, for five centres and we are proceeding apace.
Mr Campbell: I want to thank the minister for his response. I am pleased to see that progress has been made in Polaris, but any delays in its introduction could prove costly for Ontario. Polaris represents an opportunity for Ontario to be a national and international leader in this vital information industry, as the minister has pointed out.
The previous minister announced the implementation of Polaris could be accelerated if it was linked to the private sector. The idea of a joint venture was received with enthusiasm by the private sector in the fall of 1988. The final deadline for applications under the ministry’s request for proposal was 28 February 1989 and a choice was to be made by the ministry in April. The interested private sector firms are still waiting for a decision and this delay is not only causing problems for the companies, but it is threatening Ontario’s ability to provide a uniform land and resource information system that is world class.
Can the minister inform the House how soon a decision in this matter will be reached and how it will affect the timetable of Polaris’s implementation across the province?
Hon Mr Sorbara: A decision on a private sector partner is imminent. I hope to be in a position to make an announcement very early in 1990. Just to provide members with some of the background on this private sector partnership, I want to tell my colleagues in the House that this partnership with the private sector entity will allow us not only to develop and implement Polaris province-wide on a much more accelerated timetable, but I think and our government believes it will give us the capacity to market that technology not only in North America but also, realistically, around the world.
We have to be very careful when we make our decisions about the partnerships we are going to achieve. We have to negotiate a relationship that secures the interests, first, of the people of the province, but also gives us the capacity to be world players in this high-tech area.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of Housing and concerns homes on McClure Crescent in Scarborough, homes that have been the subject of many questions and many statements in this House, homes that were purchased by one of this minister’s predecessors because the original purchasers of the homes were concerned about the radioactivity of the soil on which they were built, homes that were then rented out to families that were desperate for accommodation, homes where we now find the Minister of Government Services (Mr Ward) is undertaking remedial measures to remove radon gas from the basements because the level of radon gas that has been found is 75 per cent above acceptable levels.
Can the Minister of Housing explain to this House how he can possibly justify continuing occupancy of those homes and the activities of his ministry in continuing to rent them out?
Hon Mr Sweeney: There are two elements to it. The first is that while it is true the original owners of McClure Crescent decided to leave because of the soil conditions, there has always been some question whether those soil conditions were sufficiently hazardous that people should not be there at all, and it was on that basis that the Ministry of Government Services decided to rent the homes.
I would say to my honourable friend that if there was clear evidence that it was definitely hazardous to people’s health, the ministry simply would not have taken that action, but there is much in dispute in that. I am not trying to come down on one side or the other. I am just putting the facts, as I understand them, on the table.
Second, with respect to radon gas, it is now known that radon gas can exist in the basements of many homes in different parts of the province, but that there is a technical solution to it. There is a piece of equipment that can be put in the basements that can expel the radon gas and allow the home to be quite safe to live in.
On the basis of those two, I would have to say that unless we have further evidence to the contrary, it is not unsafe and is not unduly hazardous for people still to be in those homes.
Mrs Grier: Surely the minister would agree, and I think he did agree in his last sentence, that there is a great deal of debate as to what level constitutes a hazard and whether people ought to be exposed or whether they ought not to be exposed. I think it is significant that when this government came to office it was talking about removing the soil. The first Minister of Housing for this government attempted to remove the people, to purchase the houses and move the people out. Now what we find is this minister saying he is going to remove the radon gas.
Surely this minister ought to be explaining to us how that progression has occurred and why in the face, first, of trying to remove the soil and then removing the people, they have failed utterly in both of those endeavours and are now accepting the fact that all they can do is attempt to remove the gas. Surely that --
The Speaker: Minister.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I have to share with my honourable friend that the chief medical officer of health has made a scientific health determination that in fact the situation, that environment, is not hazardous with respect to the soil. That decision has been made. Now my honourable friend can challenge that, and by all means she should please do so. With respect to the removal of the soil, she is correct. That was the original intention. My honourable friend, though, is well aware of the fact that there has been -- what shall I say? -- considerable resistance as to where the removed soil would then be put. That has not been determined yet.
With respect to the radon gas, again I have to share with her that my scientific information, based on more expert authority than I, is that radon gas can be safely removed from the basements of houses. With the proper equipment that will expel the air containing the gas from the houses, they are quite safe.
If there is some point in time when we are told by health authorities, who have the expertise in this area that this is not so, then we would have to take different action, but at this point in time I believe the Minister of Government Services is acting appropriately given the scientific evidence and information that is available.
Mr Ward moved that, notwithstanding any standing order, the House meet in the chamber from 10 am to 12 noon on Wednesday 20 December 1989.
Motion agreed to.
Ms Bryden: I have the honour to present a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that I believe is in accord with the spirit of the new rules about petitions.
The petition says as follows:
“Whereas it is my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my preference;
“And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
The petition is signed by 38 people, mainly from the riding of Beaches-Woodbine. I support the petition and have signed it. I am very pleased to present it through you, Mr Speaker, to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislature.
Mr Matrundola: I have a petition here that is signed by some 31 residents of the riding of Willowdale and it is my duty to present it. 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 to the front of this petition.
Mr Adams: I have a petition from people in the Peterborough area concerning auto insurance:
“With regard to the pending legislation containing the new insurance proposals, we, the following listed licensed drivers, wish to express our deep concern against said legislation. Once more the record-free driver will line the pockets of insurance companies and will be put at the mercy of careless or impaired drivers. The injustice of this is overwhelmingly apparent.”
Mr MacDonald: I have two petitions that I am presenting today. One contains 36 signatures and there is one with 136 signatures. Bath of these petitions, addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, were signed by citizens who oppose the French Language Services Act. I have affixed my signature to these petitions.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Mr Chiarelli from the standing committee on administration of justice presented the following report and moved its adoption.
Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill 145, An Act to prohibit the Sale of Gun Replicas.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
BUILDING CODE ACT, 1989
Mr Sweeney moved first reading of Bill 103, An Act to revise the Building Code Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I am pleased to present for first reading the government’s proposed amendments to the Building Code Act. The changes my ministry is presenting today will provide greater flexibility, efficiency and effectiveness in the enforcement of building regulations, while maintaining Ontario’s commitment to public safety. My ministry has carefully reviewed the existing legislation and sought the advice of experts, building industry associations and other ministries.
As a result we are proposing the following: to allow municipal chief building officials to permit the substitution of equivalent materials, techniques or systems to those permitted in the building code, providing that the level of safety and performance is not reduced; to develop a code for existing buildings which would consolidate and simplify current regulations; to allow for the issuance in special circumstances of a conditional permit in order to facilitate construction on some projects which are awaiting approvals not related to land use matters; to develop regulations allowing for the review of plans and the inspection of buildings by designated experts such as architects and professional engineers; to streamline the process for approving innovative building products and permit the minister to authorize the use of innovative materials, products, systems or services approved by the Canadian Construction Materials Centre. Finally, we propose to incorporate the plumbing code into the building code.
These amendments will streamline many aspects of the regulatory system and assist municipalities to carry out their important task of ensuring that buildings in the province are safe and sound. These changes should foster a more efficient and innovative building industry and help contain construction costs.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
The following bill was given third reading on motion:
Bill 34, An Act to amend the District Municipality of Muskoka Act and the Education Act.
COMMERCIAL CONCENTRATION TAX ACT, 1989
Mr Mancini moved third reading of Bill 46, An Act to establish a Commercial Concentration Tax.
Ms Bryden: I cannot let third reading of this bill go by without raising my concerns about what I consider the worst piece of tax legislation ever introduced by the present government. It is a brand-new tax. It is discriminatory in that it applies only to the so-called greater Toronto area, which is a rather vague area stretching from Burlington to Newcastle. It is a very unequal, unfair and undefined tax. For that reason, it should have been withdrawn and other alternative sources of revenue considered for the purposes for which the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) says he is imposing this tax.
The objectives, he says, are to increase funds for the transportation needs and the infrastructure needs of the greater Toronto area. His argument is that businesses and parking lots in that area should pay extra taxes. It marks part of the government’s tax grabs from the past budget. On top of tax grabs of $1 billion in each of the previous two years, there is the commercial concentration tax and the employers tax levy, which are further tax increases.
They are based on criteria that show they are not progressive taxes. We had hoped this government would keep its election promise to reform our tax system and bring in a progressive tax system. Instead, it is letting businesses off most of its new tax increases, except the employers tax levy, and it is not increasing the corporation income tax or taxing the various areas where there is ability to pay, which the province has power to tax and which are more suitable for the province to use.
The commercial concentration tax is an invasion of the municipal tax field and challenges the municipalities’ occupancy of this field. We all know that they are very short of sources of revenue and that this creates a new tax authority in the greater Toronto area. There is no indication that tax authority is accountable to anybody but the provincial government and there is no indication that the collections and the decisions on the tax will be administered by anything else but the province.
It is a tax that hits those who have parking lots and those who use parking lots. It will create great chaos in the municipalities that rely on public parking. The estimates of the increase in parking lot fees on municipally operated lots range from 50 per cent to 150 per cent.
It will simply slow down economic development in the centre core of municipalities. It will affect people who rent space in centres and malls because of the relationship to the landlords and their share of the tax.
It is a most unfair tax and should have been withdrawn so that there could be more study of a proper source of additional revenue, if it was needed for these objectives the Treasurer mentioned.
One thing that is very bad about it is that there is no guarantee one cent of the revenue will go to any of the purposes for which the Treasurer said he was imposing this tax, namely, further infrastructure, further transportation. We know he has not spent a penny on the Sheppard subway, which is the greatest need in this city, and there is no guarantee he will spend a penny of this new tax on that.
He is talking about using it for transportation improvements in the greater Toronto area, but these have been heralded for the past two years and we still do not have very much evidence of them being carried out. so it is not really new money he is promising. He says he is going to keep his previous commitments that are two years old and we are still waiting to see when they will be implemented.
It is an example of a tax grab and very poor tax policy. I think we should not give it third reading.
Mr Cousens: We had a chance to make a few comments on this as it was passing through the House on second reading. and on it now before it is given the strong approval and endorsation of the Liberal majority in this House. We have a few moments at the third reading stage to at least put on record once again our contempt for this billl, our contempt for the government for finding another way to tax, an unprecedented move by this government to move into a tax arena that heretofore was that of the municipalities and regional governments.
During the hearings that were held in this Legislature on this subject, there was no one who came forward in support of the bill. I was present and heard the presentation that was made by the chairman of Metropolitan Toronto. I have never before seen Mr Tonks as upset and genuinely concerned with the invasion the province is making on the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto taxation base.
In making his presentation, he was supported as well by the Parking Authority of Toronto. The parking authority is barely able to handle the cost of parking. They are going to have to increase the cost for those who are using parking lots. It is going to drive people away from parking lots on to the roads, therefore adding to the gridlock that we are beginning to experience in the greater Toronto area. There is absolutely no doubt that the parking authority now will not be able to expand certain parking services because it is not going to have the money to do so.
We received presentations, as well, from business and industry and commerce, which are going to be impacted most negatively by this bill. I am in support of their concerns that in fact it is going to be a hardship on the hotel industry in the greater Toronto area. We are trying to attract tourism to this area. We are instead going to scare it away. We will cease to be an attractive place for large conventions and groups of people to come and celebrate our beautiful city because we are pricing ourselves out of the market. There is no way the hotel industry can withstand the kind of hardship this is going to have without passing it on to the people it is trying to serve.
May I suggest as well, when we saw the impact that it will have on other businesses, they will have to pass on this increased cost of doing business to the people they are selling their services to, so retailers, distributors and others will be increasing the cost of their products and services accordingly, adding to and fuelling inflation in this province.
Can we take it lightly? We cannot. If there is anything that is a hardship to Ontario, it is the high cost of government, the high cost of doing business, making it unattractive for people to want to come and establish their business in the greater Toronto area.
There is no doubt in my mind this government is spending the money incorrectly, but it is now collecting the money incorrectly and wrongly.
I stand on the record and so does our caucus in opposition to this bill. We see it as contemptuous of business. Unfortunately, in the greater Toronto area, especially in Metropolitan Toronto, there is the property tax reassessment. Commercial areas are going to be hit doubly, not only by the commercial concentration levy but also by having to help carry the cost of the whole reassessment that is being considered for Metropolitan Toronto that has not yet been approved by this government. The legislation has not come forward.
But all we are doing is just adding to the load of what it is to run a business in this area. We are going to turn off the tap. We are going to turn off business. We are going to turn people away. We are making this into a community and a place where people are not going to want to establish their business. I just hope that some of the Liberals are listening and may join our caucus in voting against this bill.
Mr Daigeler: Very quickly, last week, on 14 December, the member for Markham stood up and said in a statement in this House that the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party has “growing fears for the future of commuter transportation services in the greater Toronto area. We are concerned that the Ontario government is failing to address a looming crisis in transportation... ” Bill 46 provides the revenue to address the concerns that the member has expressed. Bill 46 will provide the resources that will continue to keep Toronto a world-class city.
Mr Cousens: I ask the honourable member for Nepean if he can guarantee that all the moneys that are being collected from the commercial concentration levy are going to be assigned to roads and transportation services. A yes or no answer would be all I would like to hear from this member.
Mrs Marland: Obviously, the member for Nepean, who gets up in a very shallow way and quotes my colleague the member for Markham and then does not have the intestinal fortitude to get up and answer his question, says it all.
The fact of the matter is we know that all of us who are involved in the greater Toronto area -- and I suppose in our caucus currently that is the member for Markham and myself -- know quite well that the commercial concentration tax revenue will not in any way be guaranteed to go back into services and infrastructure in the greater Toronto area.
It is just the same way we knew that when I tried to amend another act, another piece of legislation of this government very recently that was announced in the throne speech -- and I refer to the $5 tire tax. There was an example where the $5 tire tax was for environmental programs, and yet, four times, I placed an amendment worded differently on each of those four occasions when that bill was going through this House to have a guarantee that the money that was raised from the $5 tire tax would indeed be allocated directly to environmental programs, but it did not happen. The whole thing is one big money pot for the Liberal government to collect, with all kinds of promises but nothing backing up those promises.
The very fact is, when we actually try to nail it down here in this chamber by asking a direct question which requires a very simple and direct answer, there are no answers, just like last night when I asked the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) about one of his bills. His answer was, “That question has been asked many times already in this House.” He does not need to answer for himself, I suppose. I think that this is a disgusting display.
Mr Jackson: I am quite amazed at the statement by the member for Nepean. Obviously he is not sensitized to what this bill does. For him to stand in his place and make these statements, how is he prepared to even vote for this bill if he does not understand one of the fatal flaws in this bill? It pits community against community, region against region.
The member represents the riding of Nepean, which is already experiencing some of the growth pangs from the greater Ottawa area. How would he like it if his government stepped in and created a taxation structure that divided his community in half and said that people living on one side of the street will have to pay taxes and on the other side of the street they will not have to pay taxes? That is what the Liberal government has decided to do with this commercial concentration levy, and the member fails to even understand that fundamental flaw in this unusual and abusive form of taxation. He should travel throughout this province where there are transportation problems and realize that the solution is not blaming communities like Burlington, Oshawa and Oakville for the growth that has occurred in this province.
The member should know that previous policies of federal and provincial governments have not been interconnected to work with dealing with the issues of growth, planning and immigration. Why would we tell senior citizens, who have lived all their lives in these communities, “Now you are going to pay a penalty because your community is growing”? The member knows that does not speak of fairness. The member knows that talks more about a grab for taxation, and he should know better than to rise up in the House and suggest that the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario does not know what it speaks of when it talks of its opposition to this bill. It speaks to its opposition to this bill because it has listened to the citizens of Ontario who live in the greater Toronto area and who are sick and tired of being referred to as the greater taxation area for the citizens of Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: Other questions and comments? If not, Monsieur le député de Nepean, vous-voulez réagir ? No? Do other members wish to participate in this debate? The member for Leeds-Grenville?
Mr Runciman: No.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Burlington South.
Mr Jackson: I would like to thank my colleague the member for Leeds-Grenville. I am due at another committee hearing and I want to briefly make a few statements about this atrocious bill.
I will be voting against Bill 46, as will the Progressive Conservative caucus. We do so because we have examined the details of this abusive form of taxation. We have listened to the community of Mississauga. I am pleased that the member for Mississauga West (Mr Mahoney) --
Mr Mahoney: Likes it.
Mr Jackson: -- who has already expressed concerns, as has city council in Burlington, about the impact on municipal parking lots, as we try to strengthen and improve consumerism and the development of our downtown core. This has been seriously hindered by this tax. Nowhere did the government consider its implications to the business improvement organizations which fit within the greater Toronto area.
As I indicated to the member for Nepean, what is also offensive about this form of taxation is that it creates a regionally targeted increase. That is unfair. There is a tradition in this province to look at the reverse of this equation, which is to look at areas based on need and provide them additional support, but it is rather an offensive notion to go in and punish areas of this province with increased taxes.
In the community of Burlington there is considerable outrage at the fact that the citizens of Hamilton do not fall within this taxation structure, and yet, quite clearly, the government has enunciated that the moneys that will be raised in the greater Toronto area will go to benefit Hamilton-area transportation needs. That is fine, that is well and good and that is appropriate, but if we have a targeted regional tax, it is unfair, because clearly now the government has indicated that a lot of those moneys will be spent outside that region. So the government is responsible for creating this tension, this dynamic.
I would like to also make a reference to what the senior citizens are saying to me. “Why is this government using as its defence that those areas that experience and benefit from growth are going to have to pay for growth?” As I indicated earlier, the senior citizens who have lived in the city of Burlington for 40, 50 or 60 years of their lives find it hard to believe that they should now be punished and have to pay for the effects of growth which they are not responsible for and they did not create.
In fact, if we were honest, we would realize that as a province we are responsible for the long-term planning of our communities and also that our immigration policies have to be more clearly defined and better suited for accommodation and growth within our province.
Yet this government would respond to those major pressures on growth by taxing and punishing people who live in a specific geographic area. For that reason, we will be voting against this bill. We strongly urge all members of the House to vote against this bill. It is clear that the money which is being taxed is going into the general coffers of this government and will not necessarily be dedicated to the specific needs which the government has indicated it would be spent on, primarily on garbage and on transportation improvements for the greater Toronto area.
In fact, nowhere in this configuration is this government willing to look at the over $20 million which has been spent by taxpayers in Halton region as we seek out our landfill site. In fact, we are being punished for having shown the leadership a decade ago in terms of developing that site. We have paid the price. The taxpayers have paid the price and we still are not ultimately finished with our landfill site. Now the government has created a superfund, a supertaxation level, in order to assist in locating future landfill sites, but in no way will Burlington residents and Halton residents ever be compensated for the multimillions of dollars they have spent in their quest for a landfill site.
In transportation, the Highway 403 bypass that goes through Oakville, which will relieve pressure on the Queen Elizabeth Highway, is no closer to completion as a result of this taxation announcement and the government’s capital commitments in transportation. Not one day sooner will that project be completed, and yet as I drive home to Burlington South on a daily basis from this chamber, I can tell members that it is easier to get from University Avenue to the Ford plant in Oakville than it is to get from the Ford plant in Oakville to Burlington. That is how bad the traffic has become on the QEW, and there is no relief for the next 15 years, according to the government’s own schedule.
It can clearly enunciate its taxation plans for the citizens of Burlington, but it cannot enunciate and give relief for the transportation problems that region will experience. For that reason, the tax must not be imposed.
Mr Runciman: Just a few brief comments in respect to this legislation. I sat on the committee dealing with it and I want to say at the outset that in respect to other matters dealing with the Ministry of Revenue in respect of my own riding, it has been most helpful. I want to put that on record and compliment the minister especially, and his parliamentary assistant, in respect to some matters dealing with assessment changes in my own riding. So I am not always critical of the government. When I believe it is doing a good job and making an effort, I will be the first one there to say so.
But in respect to Bill 46, I have to share the views of my colleagues who spoke before me. It is indeed bad legislation. I am not one who is boosting the greater Toronto area on a regular basis. In fact, I have been rather critical, as an eastern Ontario member, Mr Speaker, as I think you have been, at least quietly or within the confines of your own caucus, in respect to some of the expenditure commitments made by this government and past governments in respect to the greater Toronto area, the Metropolitan Toronto area, which I think have been inappropriate.
When you look at the needs of other parts of the province, especially northern and eastern Ontario -- and I, of course, am most familiar with eastern Ontario and I want to touch a bit on that as we proceed -- I think one of the major problems in respect to what is happening in the greater Toronto area in terms of the infrastructure, the efforts to try to deal with the waste, etc, and the unbelievable traffic congestion that we now witness with the gridlock really occurring from seven in the morning till seven at night on most of the major arteries in the GTA -- l think that is really the result of very poor planning.
We have talked about immigration policy. We have talked about a host of things, but I think if we look at the government’s initiatives in this regard in the past number of years, they have been really totally lacking in terms of having any meaningful impact on growth patterns in this area. I think that innovative things could have been done, and the province perhaps has to take that kind of initiative. I am thinking of density changes, for example, in the core area to ensure that less and less prime land is being chewed up. It not only increases densities in the core but also, I believe, makes housing that much more affordable in the Toronto area, and perhaps even more important, has a positive impact in terms of the continuing loss of prime farm land surrounding the Toronto area. That is something that this government has seemingly had very little concern about.
Anyone who has driven out through Markham, through some of the fringe areas in the greater Toronto area, cannot help but be alarmed if he indeed cares about that precious high-quality, prime farm land that is being chewed up for these massive single-family residential developments taking place. When we look at same of these palaces being developed, the 10,000-, 20,000-, 30,000-square-foot and above kinds of properties that are being built to -- I do not know what -- feed the egos of the yuppie Torontonians. I am not sure, but in any event, they are chewing up and we are forever losing some of the best agricultural land in this province. Certainly those are the kinds of things that this government has failed to look at.
We have talked for a number of years about trying to increase investment and growth in northern Ontario and eastern Ontario, parts of this province that are suffering. I have mentioned studies in respect to eastern Ontario that show that families living under $5,000 a year, families living under $10,000 a year -- that is gross family income. By far the highest percentage of families having to live on those kinds of dollars coming into their home reside in eastern Ontario. Yet we do not see any real effort, any real meaningful impact to try to divert investment into those regions of the province.
We have seen a $25-million eastern Ontario economic development program. That is $25 million over five years, $5 million a year to try to boost economic development in eastern Ontario. We can contrast that with the kinds of money going into the domed stadium or the kinds of money this government has committed to an opera house in downtown Toronto, a whole host of things on which I think this government simply has misplaced priorities.
The government has to start dealing with this in a more meaningful way rather than simply tax, tax, tax. That seems to be this government’s answer to virtually everything. If you take a look at what it has done over the past four years, it has increased taxes in this province over 100 per cent.
They have also very quietly increased licence fees. Every kind of fee this government is responsible for has increased 400, 500, 600 or 700 per cent. That is not uncommon. There is an insatiable appetite for new revenue sources and increased revenues through a variety of tax grabs that they have employed over the past number of years, but there is no real effort to deal with the cost side of the ledger to try to bring their own expenditures under control. We have seen the budget grow at an enormous clip. I do not know what the total is now; $42 billion or $43 billion, I think, is the budget we are looking at in the past fiscal year. If you look at the enormity of the increase since this government took office, it is pretty frightening.
I have said this before and I do not mind repeating it: There are a lot of projections that we are going to be faced with an economic downturn in the not too distant future. This government has set a pattern of continually increasing expenditures, of continually increasing taxes, of making virtually no effort to get its house in order. Whoever is in government at the time we face the significant and serious economic downturn, there are going to be some very difficult times in this province because of the expenditure levels established by this government.
Talking specifically about Bill 46 and the impact it has on businesses in the greater Toronto area, in certain areas of the GTA, in listening to witnesses I have to be very concerned about the continuation of some of those businesses, about their ability to be competitive. It has put many of them, I believe, based on testimony we heard before us, in jeopardy in the years to come.
We talk about the infrastructure and about traffic congestion. No meaningful effort is being taken to deal with the people creating that problem to a degree. We can all go out on the highways here and see a proliferation of single-passenger cars. Virtually every car you see on the roads in the downtown Toronto area just has one person in it, the driver.
Why have we not done something to address that situation? Why has this government not taken the bull by the horns, if you will? If municipal governments are not prepared to deal with it, perhaps this is something the provincial Legislature could grapple with. Perhaps it is about time we did, rather than simply throwing additional taxes on to build additional highways to try to accommodate more and more cars with one person in those cars. Let’s try to reduce the traffic load on our highways. I think that is achievable through a variety of mechanisms that are available to us at the provincial level.
One thing that some people seem to think is a little bit scary, but that I think is certainly worth exploring in any event, is the concept of tall roads. That is certainly nothing new. It has been used in Quebec. It has been and still is used in many states in the United States. If we look at the use of toll roads on some of the major arteries going in and out of Toronto and at the kinds of revenue sources that would generate, the payout would come from the people using the infrastructure, not from the downtown businesses, from the people in the GTA who are having a tough time scraping by currently in the Toronto economy and who are going to be faced with this increased tax burden placed upon them by the Liberal government of Ontario.
That is really all I wanted to say, a very few brief comments. I am concerned about this legislation and the impact it is going to have on businesses, and about the fact that the government is really not dealing with the problem and has consistently adopted, right across, a spend, spend, spend, tax, tax, tax approach to governing this province. It is wrong. At some point in the not too distant future, we are all going to pay for it.
Mr Daigeler: In the absence of the minister, it is my pleasure to make a few concluding remarks. In this case, as in many other ones, I think we have a very clear difference between the opposition and this government. This government is prepared to recognize needs that exist, to address these needs with concrete action, and I may add to raise the revenue to address these needs.
Bill 46 is a response to the increasing transportation needs that have been recognized by the opposition in the greater Toronto area. The Treasurer has announced several major initiatives and I would simply like to repeat some of them: accelerated construction of highways 401, 403, 407, 410 and the Queen Elizabeth Way, as well as an expansion to the GO transit service to Milton, Georgetown, Richmond Hill, Stouffville and Oshawa. There are many other projects that will be made possible by this particular tax.
I recognize we are raising revenues, but that is precisely what this government is prepared to do. We recognize the needs, we address the needs and we are willing to raise the funds to pay for these actions and for these initiatives that are so important at this time.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr Mancini has moved third reading of Bill 46.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
I declare the motion carried.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I think there were five votes standing and by agreement the vote has been stacked at 5:45 pm.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to check with the members of the House to make sure that there is consent to have the vote stacked at 5:45. I do not think this has been checked formally with the House. Is there agreement to do that?
EMPLOYER HEALTH TAX ACT, 1989
Mr Daigeler, on behalf of Mr Mancini, moved third reading 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.
Ms Bryden: Bill 47 is another brand-new tax. It is another regressive tax. It is another unfair tax similar to the one we have just been discussing in those aspects. The commercial concentration tax also fits all of those descriptions.
It is an unfair tax because it hits labour intensive industries the hardest. It is an unfair tax because it hits small businesses very hard. It will add to their costs. Big businesses may be able to pass it on to their customers, but small businesses will find it very difficult to add this extra cost to their operations without having to lose their competitiveness or raise their prices.
It is presented as a replacement of the revenue from the abolition of OHIP premiums. We all agree now that OHIP premiums should have been abolished long ago. The OHIP premium system had become a very poorly organized system with more numbers than there were people in the province. The OHIP system was very regressive in that families paid the same regardless of their income. It was not based on ability to pay.
It was the New Democrats who recommended that premiums should be abolished, about 10 years ago in a committee report, in a dissenting report. It took a long time for the Liberals to come to that position. Finally, after the last election they did, but it does not actually replace the revenue from premiums; it more than replaces it to start with. The estimate of revenue from this tax is that it is going to be $300 million more than the cost of premiums in the last year of collection.
What is even worse is that there is a hidden tax in this bill that was not even announced when the bill was announced. We have just been discovering the hidden tax in the last month or two. That hidden tax is an attempt by the government to collect an estimated $425 million more from the premium payers of 1989, which will cover health care costs for the first three months of 1990. This is an entirely new tax grab on top of the money that is expected to come in through the employer health tax levy.
Last night in the House I attempted to correct that situation with amendments to Bill 47. The government had brought in amendments that would legalize its collection of the premiums for the first three months of 1990. It based it on the fact that premiums had always been paid three months in advance, and that therefore those who paid their quarterly instalment up to 31 December would normally pay three months in advance.
Nobody was told about this being the government’s interpretation of the removal of premiums. It was only by much questioning in the House that we found out the government was bringing in amendments that would legitimize or legalize its continuation of collecting those premiums after premiums were supposed to have been abolished.
The bill itself says that OHIP premiums will be abolished as of 1 January 1990, but the amendments that have been brought in by the government say that premium payments paid for the December instalment will be collected by the government and will cover some of the health care costs for the first three months of 1990.
I moved in the House, in an attempt to stop this, that no premiums should be paid for the December instalment because it should have been illegal and was really illegal, I think, under the first version of the bill. Why did the government bring in amendments that changed the dates in the bill so that premium collections were allowed for the first three months of 1990?
It seems to me the government could have corrected a very grave injustice that it is doing to all the hundreds of thousands of premium payers. It includes the many hundreds of thousands who paid direct. They were mainly self-employed people or single parents who were not covered by any other premium payments, who were not covered by an employer’s payments. They were mainly poor people.
In addition there were all the employers who were paying their employees’ premiums on this quarterly basis. They are also being stuck with the payment of three months’ extra premiums.
Those employers, of course, are also stuck with the employer tax levy. There is a great injustice being done by this legislation in the way the government has amended it, in the attempt by the government to legitimize this extra tax grab from those people.
I think it is very unfair to expect to collect an extra $425 million, which is the estimated amount, from those people. It shows, to me --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Order. I do not mean to intervene in the debate. The table officers have a bit of a quandary because traditionally in this House we do not entertain lengthy debates on third reading. It is clear to us that they are in order, but I would simply remind you that there is a question before the House. The question is that the bill has been moved for third reading and members should address their comments to that motion. That should be the focal point of your debate. In other words we should not have the wide-ranging debate that we entertain on second reading where you debate the bill in principle.
I just put that reminder to the chamber.
Ms Bryden: I am coming to my main objections to the bill and why I think we should not proceed with the bill.
My attempt was made last night to give the government an opportunity to look after those people. It had already looked after employers who had objected to a section of the bill that required a December payment, but apparently, according to what was passed last night, it is not going to look after those people who are very severely disadvantaged by this extra $425 million that they are going to have to put up.
I also had an amendment to provide compensation for those who had paid in December because the minister had told them they had to pay or because the officials of her department told them they had to pay the December instalment. That was unfortunately ruled out of order because it was considered a money bill and only the government can move money bills. I made an attempt to see that people who paid the December instalment were compensated. If my amendment had passed, it would have been completely illegal to have collected any funds for the first three months of 1990.
The main objections I have to this bill are that the replacement of revenue from the abolition of premiums should be dealt with through overall tax reform to produce a fairer tax system based on ability to pay. Why did the government not look at a higher corporation income tax? Why did it not look at a minimum corporation income tax? We do not have that in the province of Ontario.
Many corporations pay no taxes at all. They are able to use the loopholes in the corporation income tax law to avoid paying any tax. It seems to me those companies have as much obligation to pay taxes as the rest of us. There should not be people who are tax-free in this province.
It could have been covered by a land speculation tax, which we have been asking for for many years and which the government always says will not work. It did work in the early 1980s when there was a real land boom going on. It stopped it. The government is afraid to put a land speculation tax on all its friends, the developers, and the other people who are making a great deal of money out of the present boom in land sales.
We could have tried a wealth tax, which they have in several states in the United States and also in Europe, that would tax assets that are not necessarily income. There are many progressive taxes available to the province, but instead it chose to use a most regressive employers’ payroll levy, which it calls the EHT, the employer health tax.
This is the reverse of the kind of tax system we should have. What is worse is that it imposed this tax on almost every single employer. There are practically no exemptions. As a result, there is a heavy additional burden on all public agencies, including municipalities, school boards, crown agencies, hospitals, universities and charitable and nonprofit organizations. All of those agencies will have to pay this tax and there are no exemptions provided.
They will have to raise this tax by cutting their services, by raising their mill rates or fees, or by going into debt for the first years until they have adjusted their revenue sources. But it will be a great burden on them because most of those organizations are also getting fewer and fewer grants from the province and have to put up more and more money out of their limited tax sources in order to maintain services and not leave people without adequate day care, welfare, education and other things.
The tax will be inequitable in its incidence. We do not know what its effect will be on different businesses and how many will be able to pass it on. We do not know what its economic effects will be and that is one of the most serious reasons why we should not be passing this bill at the present time, because we are approaching what appears to be a slowdown, a possible recession. Add a heavy tax like this on business, on employers, and it may just trigger us into a recession.
We do not know enough about its effects on the different kinds of businesses and how inequitable it will be as between businesses. We do not know its effect on employees. Some employers will consider the employer health levy a wage cost and will claim they have less money for wage increases through collective bargaining. The employers who did not pay premiums before will be particularly hard hit because it will be an entirely new cost to them. Those who did pay premiums may not be very seriously affected because they will be relieved of paying the approximately $714 a year that a family used to have to pay for full premiums.
I am very disappointed the government failed to accept our suggestion that we should have looked at other alternative sources of taxation. I am disappointed they failed to rectify the situation of taking the OHIP premiums for the first three months of the year. I think it is immoral to do that and not to have let people know, when the tax was introduced, that there was anything of that sort contemplated by the legislation. It was only when we read the fine print and looked at the effects that we found this out.
The people who appeared before the standing committee on this tax were practically all opposed to it for the reasons I have mentioned. I did not hear very many people in favour of it. The submissions also showed that the government was really very unaware of the technical problems this tax could bring in, in payroll deduction systems and jibing payroll systems, because the government would have to keep a tab on what the payrolls were. There will be a very big administrative and bureaucratic need to collect from the employers in the province and there will be a very great need to educate them as to how the tax will affect them.
It seems to me that rather than spending all this money on administration, it would be better to simply add to the current tax system, to the corporation income tax and other of the progressive taxes we have, rather than putting in all this bureaucracy and administrative setup that will be needed to collect from the hundreds of employers who will be affected.
I think it is a good reason for voting against this tax that there has been no adequate study of its incidence, of its economic effect on both business generally and on employees, and on whether it will cause layoffs in a bad time when we are already having thousands of layoffs every year. I think the failure to eliminate what many people have called extra-billing by the government for the present payers of December payments for OHIP premiums is another violation of its own legislation. The government introduced a bill a couple of years ago to eliminate extra-billing, but now it is extra-billing all those people who paid or who were requested to pay premiums for the quarterly payment in December, which covers the first quarter of 1990. I strongly urge the members to see the light on this bad levy and reject it at this time.
Mrs Cunningham: It is with some regret that I find myself in the position of having to speak to this bill this afternoon. It has been part of the public agenda and certainly of the agenda of this Liberal government for some months now. I am certain that most people who are going to be subjected to this unfair level of taxation -- I am now talking specifically about small business, and for those who will not play a role in supporting the health care system because of this taxation, I would say to the members of the Liberal government that once again they have not listened to the public of Ontario that has come before committees to speak very clearly on a tax that it is opposed to.
No one is questioning that the health care system is in need of support. What kind of support is the big question. Are we looking at a system that needs more money or are we looking at a system that needs better management? Are we looking at a system that should be examined so the public will clearly understand what they can expect in the level and provision of health care or are we looking at a system that promises everything to everybody, even to people who line up for years?
We are looking at a system right now that needs a major overhaul. We are looking at a public that would like to help us and have input to that major overhaul. We are looking at a government that has not recognized that need and proceeds to a Band-Aid approach to the health care system as it exists today in Ontario. One Band-Aid approach is finding another way of getting money for the system. This afternoon we will be speaking to a couple of bills -- this employer health tax and another one, Bill 119-- that purport to support a health care system but in fact will do very little to what causes the problems in health care delivery in Ontario today.
What this bill really does is to get the premiums or the support that the public is paying, through whichever method the government proposes, back up to the level it was in 1984-85. That is what it is doing. That may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing, but what we do know is that when we have asked for advice, the people we have asked the advice of, those people who are affected, have told us this is a very poor way to support a health care system.
It is so poor that other provinces have not opted into it in spite of what the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) said today. In response to the question of my colleague the member for Cochrane South Mr Pope), he said that other jurisdictions have supported this method. The other jurisdictions are Manitoba and Quebec, and Manitoba is in the process of dismantling this system because it is so objectionable to small business.
I would like to make two statements on behalf of our caucus. We are convinced that a payroll tax will have a negative impact on job creation, the competitiveness of our economy and the vitality of Ontario’s small business sector. That conclusion comes from listening to public input.
The other statement I would like to make is a result of the public input we heard and is a result of the clerk’s analysis of the public input that all members of this House, no matter from what party, had the opportunity to look at. The other statement that was made very strongly and one that our party supports is this: We are concerned that this new tax, because it is largely hidden from the general public, will reduce incentives to control health care costs.
Those two very big problems, the negative impact on job creation and the reduction of incentives to control health care costs, are statements that have been made over the years, from studies done in the late 1970s and early 1980s, by consultants asked by the government of Ontario to do work on our behalf so that we can make good decisions. Here is a government that once again pays millions of dollars for advice and turns its ear and its eyes in the other direction.
I will speak very specifically. I really think it is very important to take a look at the real contributors to our society, the employers of people, and that is our business community.
The Small Business Advocacy Report 19, Small Business Payroll Taxes, in March 1987 stated after much study as it took a look at the economic implications of payroll taxation on small businesses -- by the way, all payroll taxation, to be fair -- and then specifically to the assessment of the effects of abolishing Ontario’s health care insurance plan, OHIP premiums -- it looked in very careful detail.
These studies do not come cheap. They come with a lot of energy and a lot of time. I feel very sorry for people who really think the government of Ontario is going to take anybody’s advice as they come down here as individuals, public members speaking before committees, or as persons in professions who really think that if they do hard work somebody is going to listen to them.
In 1986, the bottom line was this, and I will not go into any detail except to quote, “A conclusion of the study is that payroll tax increases of 12.9 per cent over the last five years are already a serious concern to small business.” That is 12.9 per cent over the last five years. “A new payroll tax could deter small firms from hiring and impair job creation. The study advises against the imposition of a wholly employer-paid payroll tax.” That same group by the way, under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, went on to make the same statement a year later.
What more does this government need? Today in response to the question, the Treasurer said that they studied the situation very carefully. I was part of that study, at least the public part of the study. From the information we were able to get, the questions we were able to ask and the responses we received convinced me that if they studied it very carefully, then they are going to do whatever they like anyway; never mind accepting good advice.
The other statement the Treasurer said today, and this one is one that should really upset small business, is that this is a bargain indeed.
The First Deputy Chair: Order, please. You put the chair in a most difficult position. I have read the rules of debate in this chamber. I know the traditions of the House. We all want to let the House debate whatever it wants in virtually whatever manner, but when you sit in the chair and it is clear to you that members are not addressing a motion that is currently before the House, you can hardly let something that is out of order proceed.
As gently as I can, I remind all members that there is a motion before you. Would you please address your remarks to that motion. It is not the intent to interfere with what you say, but there is an occasion in the procedures when you can have as broad a debate as anyone could think about and that is on second reading. On third reading there is a motion before you that you should address in your comments this afternoon and I urge you to do so. Proceed.
Mrs Cunningham: I understand the statement you are making. I also very carefully looked at the clock with reference to the other speaker. I intended to speak for some five to seven minutes. I had spoken for six. I am winding down. I am having difficulty finding out what my place is too, but I do represent London North and I do want to get my remarks on the record so that at least they know somebody in London is speaking on their behalf. That is my point.
In conclusion, Mr Speaker -- I respect the role you play and I will wind down immediately -- the bottom line for this tax is this: It is not going to solve the problem of health care delivery. We think the problem should be one that is shared by every individual in Ontario. They should clearly understand the expense of the system to them and they should clearly understand what role they are playing in it.
We had a bit of that under the old system. People did understand at least to the extent that through collective bargaining processes they or their employers paid. Now they do not understand and they really think we have a free system. It is on the back of small business. It may be on the back of future competitiveness in Ontario and we are concerned about it. We think it is a bad tax and our party will be voting against it.
Mr Pope: Addressing the issue of why we should or why we should not proceed with third reading of this bill, first, I submit that we should not vote for this bill on third reading because the government really did not mean it. It really does not want us to vote for this tax.
As members know, this is an ad valorem tax. It is a percentage on top of payroll that will be paid as a payroll tax to the Ministry of Revenue, not the Minister of Health for the purposes of the health care system, but a payment to the Ministry of Revenue, a payment of a percentage of your payroll, an ad valorem tax on top of your payroll.
Why do I say they do not really mean it? Why do they not really mean it? I will quote, “This government has decided that this ad valorem type of taxation, this value added tax, is the way to go and that it will join in robbing the people of this province of their hard-earned dollars.” That is not the member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) making that statement. That is the member for St Catharines (Mr Bradley), now the Minister of the Environment, making that statement on 8 June 1981.
Why does this government not really mean it? How about this quote? “They know how shameless and iniquitous a revenue grab this tax action is.” That is not the member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean) speaking. That is the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway) speaking on 9 June 1981.
Why do they not really mean what they say today with this legislation? How about another quote? “I only regret that we are dealing with an ad valorem tax and that the government is now putting itself in a position where it will not have to come back to the people of Ontario when it wishes to increase the tax revenue. I believe the people of this province would be much better served if the government came back to them when it wished to increase the revenue.
That is a comment on the ad valorem tax. That is not a comment made in the course of this debate by the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves). That is by the member for Bruce (Mr Elston) on 9 June 1981. How about this one? The quote that I am going to read now you would think was from the member for Simcoe West (Mr McCague). It is really two quotes. The member for Simcoe West might have said this in the context of this debate:
“Why do they feel it is so necessary to introduce backdoor type of tax increases such as this?” “We voted against the ad valorem tax some years ago. We knew it was unfair. We are proud finally to have the opportunity to abolish the ad valorem tax...Ad valorem legislation is not legislation the people can trust... Ad valorem legislation is a tricky way to raise taxes.”
That was not the member for Simcoe West. Guess who that was? That is the member for Essex South (Mr Mancini) on 23 June 1981 and 3 December 1985. That is the Minister of Revenue, as he now is, saying exactly the opposite from what his legislation is attempting to do.
Why do I think we should not proceed with third reading when I say they do not really mean it? How about these quotes? “This tax” -- ad valorem tax -- “is wrong headed, it is unjust, it is damaging and it is cynical.” Another quote, “The ad valorem tax is inflationary.” Remember those words -- inflationary.
That is not the member for Cochrane South I am quoting. That is the now Premier (Mr Peterson) of Ontario on 25 May 1981 and then on 1 June 1981. The very policies they ascribed when dealing with these kinds of percentage taxation measures they are now prepared to set aside and are prepared to proceed with legislation. They cannot be serious.
When the Minister of Revenue, the Premier, the Chairman of Management Board (Mr Elston), the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley). the Minister of Education (Mr Conway), when all of these people are personally opposed to this kind of tax measure, how can we accept that we should vote for third reading? We know they do not mean it. They cannot be introducing this which really they are personally opposed to it. That is not possible.
Why should we not vote for this measure on third reading’? Because we have not had answers to the questions we raised in debate on second reading and in committee of the whole House. We talked about the double taxation measures of this government, when people are not going to be opting out or no longer having to pay for OHIP premiums for the months of January, February and March 1990, but in fact are paying right now their OHIP premiums for those three months, and their employers, starting on 1 January, are going to pay the payroll tax for the same three months.
That kind of double taxation, which is a grab of $435 million out of people’s pockets that they cannot afford to give this government any more in the context of the tax grabs of the last two years, this $435-million tax grab has never been explained by any minister of this government. We spent over 45 minutes last Tuesday afternoon trying to get a straight answer out of the Minister of Revenue whether or not there was a double taxation measure and we could not get an answer. Surely to goodness we deserve an answer before we vote on third reading.
We have been told by Statistics Canada that tax increases are the main source of inflation. We have been told that inflation is leading to higher interest rates or maintaining high interest rates. We are told that this combined with inflation is leading to a recessionary cycle in Canada, with a loss of jobs that the members of the opposition party and the members of the third party have been discussing in this House for the past two weeks. In the face of all this -- inflationary pressure and recessionary cycle introduced by tax measures principally by this provincial government -- how can we proceed with third reading unless our questions are answered, unless we are assured that there is not going to be a job loss?
We raised again in question period today, as one last gasp at getting an answer from this government before we dealt with third reading, the fact that most small business representatives and organizations claim this tax measure will result in job losses at a time when we are growing ever more concerned with layoffs in many major industrial sectors of this province.
Job losses are going to be created directly as a result of the tax policies of this Liberal administration and we cannot get an answer from the Treasurer, who claims he has considered all the consequences but uniquely, with respect to this tax measure, never did an economic impact study.
We have asked for answers about the impact on the small business sector when they are operating on small profit margins, when this payroll tax will take 40 per cent and 50 per cent of the profit margin and leave these businesses even less profitable, even more marginal than they were before, when we see the impact on the ability and the willingness of small business to hire older workers to help them reach and to continue to be productive people in their retirement years.
It used to be, as we raised today, that when an employer hired a worker 65 years of age or over, the OHIP premium did not have to be paid by the employer, although he might regularly pay it for other employees. One of the incentives to hire an older worker, particularly a laid-off worker, was the fact that OHIP premiums did not have to be paid, that this person was automatically covered by the OHIP system as being 65 years of age and over. Now that incentive, that inducement will no longer be there. These older workers are additionally at risk, particularly when we have layoffs and a downturn in our economy.
We have talked about the impact on small business with the cancellation of the family premium package. The answer of the Treasurer today in trying to convince us to proceed with third reading is that you have a decreased rate, a smaller rate of tax with respect to a smaller employer. Well, the smaller tax rate is with respect to firms that employ virtually five employees or less.
What about the other firms that are family firms and are employing husband and wife teams for whatever reason? How about labour intensive businesses in this province such as real estate companies, privately held, that employ husband and wife teams?
The economic impact and the potential impact on the continued employment of husband and wife teams in these businesses is going to be of some consequence and of some concern. We in the Conservative caucus have heard that concern by telephone calls to our constituency offices and our homes and by letters to us here at Queen’s Park.
Why should we proceed with third reading on a bill when none of these questions have been answered by any ministry or any minister of this government? Why should we proceed and give third reading approval to a bill when we have so many concerns about its impact on people and their daily lives?
Finally, why should we give third reading to a bill that is part of an overall Liberal tax grab that is robbing the people of this province of their vitality, of their ability to fend for themselves and of their ability to have discretionary income to meet their needs as families and individuals in this province?
We see an overall Liberal tax regime that is robbing us of our competitiveness, as we have seen being paraded in the Quebec and Saskatchewan budgets -- our lack of competitiveness being paraded -- and the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association worrying about the competitiveness of the Ontario economy and the Treasurer’s own reaction being one to address the issue of tax rates.
We see all of these potential impacts and we see a government that really does not want to address them, because it has never done an impact study, then we have to say: No way can we give third reading to this kind of tax regime. No way can we give third reading to a Liberal government that is so insensitive as to not even address these issues in the context of this debate.
Mr Speaker, I know I have convinced you now that we should not proceed with third reading and I know you will not even call the vote.
Mr Daigeler: Obviously, contrary to the opposition members, and I mean this quite sincerely, I take special pleasure in participating in the closing remarks on this initiative which I consider a significant one. I appreciate that the opposition has also taken the matter seriously.
It does introduce a new system into our health care financing. As the public knows and as we all know, health care financing takes a very major part of our provincial budget, so anything that has to do with putting health care financing on a solid basis will be of major impact to this government, and this bill, Bill 47, certainly does that.
As the Treasurer announced in his spring budget, OHIP premiums as of 1 January will be eliminated. May I repeat to some of the members of the opposition that this very clearly says that there will still be a payment in December. The Treasurer indicated OHIP premiums will be eliminated as of 1 January.
This bill provides relief to small employers. It puts forward half the rate that large employers are taxed. The rate of 1.95 per cent for employers with a payroll of over $400,000 is still the lowest in Canada. Both in Manitoba and in Quebec these rates are substantially higher, so we are recognizing that with this bill we are making headway towards improved financing of health care, but we are certainly not anywhere near the burden that is being placed on the business community in Manitoba or in Quebec.
The business community realizes that it has a responsibility, and many business people have done it already, to look after the health care needs of their employees and of the people generally, because only if we have a healthy and productive workforce will we be able to compete the world over.
In conclusion, I take pleasure in supporting third reading of Bill 47.
The Acting Speaker: In the absence of the minister, the parliamentary assistant has moved third reading of Bill 47.
LAND TRANSFER TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 SUR LES DROITS DE CESSION IMMOBILIÈRE
Mr Daigeler, on behalf of Mr Mancini, moved third reading of Bill 48, An Act to amend the Land Transfer Tax Act.
Ms Bryden: Our greatest disappointment in this bill is that it does not bring in a land speculation tax, which we have been advocating for a considerable time.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Let me try to do this as briefly as I can. We tried to draw to the attention of members that we are in a debate on a motion to give a bill third reading. We have just heard a member speak at some length precisely to that motion. That is what I would like all of you to do. I would be happy to hear everybody’s opinions on all other matters at another time, but this is a motion for third reading and I would like you to address that motion.
Ms Bryden: The member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) introduced an amendment that would have changed the land transfer tax to prevent flips in apartment buildings, which I think is a legitimate amendment. It was not accepted. A land speculation tax might have been more effective than that, but at least the elimination of flips would have been a contribution to the taxation of land transactions in this province.
However, our main other objection to this bill is that it had a rather checkered career. It amends a land transfer tax that was passed in July. It appeared to be a sudden afterthought by the minister that they needed to control some of the land transactions and see that there was not abuse of the trust arrangements that could be made about land transactions and transactions by partnerships or groups that were not incorporated.
We were in favour of closing loopholes that appeared to have developed, and that is perhaps why the bill came in rather suddenly as an amendment before the earlier land transfer tax, which was part of the budget, had actually received royal assent.
The other feature of the bill that bothers people who looked very carefully at it is that there is a great deal of discretion given to the minister under the bill. The minister can do almost anything with regard to determining whether a land transaction should be taxable or not, what the rate should be in certain kinds of transactions and what the definition should be under the bill. This kind of discretion to the minister is in my opinion very dangerous. This House, under the Liberal government, is being asked to give the ministers and sometimes the Lieutenant Governor in Council all sorts of power to rewrite the legislation as they see fit.
This is the opposite to what the trend should be in this House. The trend should be to spell out in detail what problems the government is dealing with so that people would know what the extent of the prohibitions in the law are. They should know what the definitions are and they should know what their tax liability will be. Under this bill the minister has really been given the power to rewrite the act, or the Lieutenant Governor in Council has been given some of those powers.
It is true they have to come back to cabinet to have an order in council made once the minister has decided, but the orders in council, while they are tabled, are not discussed in this House. We really do not have much control over what is going on.
I ask also for a reporting annually of what the minister does under this act, what kinds of things he approves and what kinds of definitions he makes so that we can have some sort of accountability for this delegation of power. That would at least give us a handle on how much his power is being used and whether it is being used or abused. This is what we must know. We must have an accountability in our tax systems and I am afraid this government is moving farther and farther away from that.
M. Pope : J’aimerais indiquer, au nom du Parti conservateur, que nous sommes opposés à la troisième lecture de ce projet de loi à cause des actions du Ministre.
Lots de la deuxième lecture, nous avons posé beaucoup de questions spécifiques et nous avons indiqué que nous pensions avoir beaucoup de problèmes avec l’administration de ce projet de loi. Il n’y a vraiment eu aucune réponse de la part du Ministre ni aucune réaction de la part du ministre du Revenu au sujet des questions que nous avions posées lors de la deuxième lecture et en comité plénier. Alors, sans ces réponses, il sera impossible de procéder au vote lors de la troisième lecture.
I want to indicate that on second reading and in committee of the whole, we posed a number of questions to the minister giving him some examples Basically, our complaints were, what kind of bureaucracy are we creating for the sins we are trying to resolve? What kind of an approval process will we have? How much information will there be? What kind of priority will the government claim? Will you have to get a lien clearance certificate?
All of these questions the minister could not answer. I grant that the principles of the bill are clearly enough stated by the minister and he did a fine job of articulating that, maybe, depending on your point of view, but we are entitled to know and the people are entitled know how a bill will be administered before voting for it.
On second reading and in committee of the whole, we did not get those kinds of answers and I can see the minister has no intention of answering them. It may be that the answers are not forthcoming specifically to the minister, but I think we have an obligation to highlight some of the administrative problems we see coming, and for those reasons we think it is unwise to proceed with third reading at this time.
M. Dalgeler : C’est toujours un plaisir de voir plusieurs députés prendre la parole en français dans cette Chambre. J’apprécie aussi les commentaires du député de Cochrane-Sud, même si, de temps à autre, ils sont très compliqués ; certainement, pour moi qui ne suis pas avocat, c’est pas mal difficile que de le suivre quand il parle de sujets très complexes basés sur son expérience en tant qu’avocat.
To speak very briefly to this bill and to the third reading, the main purpose of this particular bill is to prevent the erosion and the evasion of land transfer tax by some rather well-educated and well-experienced lawyers who seem to find any kind of loophole rather easily. This particular bill will make sure that all the people in this province, including the corporations, are paying their fair share of the tax burden, and especially with regard to the land transfer tax.
If I understand right, the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope) asked a question on second reading regarding what will happen to individuals who are purchasing shares and whether they might be held accountable for any tax burden that may accrue on corporations that did not pay this particular tax burden. I am informed that tax indemnity clauses are standard practice on the sale of shares. I am not sure whether that addresses the question that the member asked at second reading, but certainly I myself and the ministry officials will be pleased to answer very specific legal questions that the member has at the appropriate time.
The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House 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.
The following bills were given third reading on motion:
Bill 53, An Act to amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act;
Bill 62, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984.
NOTARIES AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Ms Collins, on behalf of Mr Scott, moved third reading of Bill 63, An Act to amend the Notaries Act.
Mr Reville: We support the bill, and I want the Legislature to know that in 1961 I read a book called Le Notaire du Havre.
The Deputy Speaker: Do any other members wish to make a statement on their childhood?
Motion agreed to.
STATUTES REVISION ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 SUR LA REFONTE DES LOIS
Ms Collins, on behalf of Mr Scott, moved third reading of Bill 74, An Act to provide for the Consolidation and Revision of the Statutes of Ontario.
Ms Collins, au nom de M. Scott, propose la troisième lecture du projet de loi 74, Loi prévoyant la codification et la refonte des lois de l’Ontario.
Mr McCague: I wonder if the member could explain to us what these two bills mean. My colleague the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) yesterday was making the case that the statutes of Ontario and the regulations of Ontario should be printed in French and in English, but not necessarily all in the same binding. I think that suggestion makes abundant sense and I hope that the government will see the wisdom of doing that. It would in fact save many hundreds of thousands of dollars not only for the government but also for those who are obliged to buy them. I am sure that the Attorney General for the day, the member for Wentworth East (Ms Collins), will take that idea to the minister and endorse it also.
Hon Ms Collins: If the member would like to read the title of the bill, I am sure he will understand what the bill means.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The Speaker is trying to get a vote going.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
THIRD READINGS / TROISIÈME LECTURE
The following bills were given third reading on motion:
Les motions de troisième lecture des projets de loi suivants sont adoptées :
Bill 75, An Act to provide for the Consolidation and Revision of the Regulations of Ontario;
Projet de Loi 75, Loi prévoyant la codification et la refonte des règlements de l’Ontario ;
Bill 86, An Act respecting the Custody of Unclaimed Intangible Property;
Bill 90, An Act to amend the Municipal Act and certain other Acts related to Municipalities;
Bill 95, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act;
Bill 101, An Act to repeal the Ministry of Transportation and Communications Creditors Payment Act;
Bill 102, An Act to amend the Construction Lien Act, 1983.
ONTARIO LOTTERY CORPORATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Reycraft, on behalf of Mr R. F. Nixon, moved third reading of Bill 119, An Act to amend the Ontario Lottery Corporation Act.
The Deputy Speaker: Does the parliamentary assistant have an opening statement? Do other members wish to participate in the debate? In that case, the member for Beaches-Woodbine.
Ms Bryden: I am sorry to interrupt the steamrolling that is going on, but I think it is time that something was said about third reading of Bill 119 because it is one of the most destructive bills that has gone through second reading and the committee stage in this House. I think it should be stopped at this stage.
I am sure the honourable members know that Bill 119 is the provincial Treasurer’s grab of control of all the lottery funds that come into the provincial lottery corporation from all the lotteries in this province. It is the repeal of the designation of lottery funds for sports, fitness, recreation and culture and it will leave people who have relied on lottery funds ever since 1975 when we went into the lottery business --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Will the other members please respect the member who has the floor? The member for Beaches-Woodbine.
Ms Bryden: Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I say, it takes away the designation of lottery funds for sports, fitness and culture. It gives the provincial Treasurer complete control of those funds. It also gives to him the distribution or the allocation of the lottery funds which have come into the consolidated revenue fund but have not been allocated to any of those designated purposes or to any other purpose in many cases.
It is doing two things. It is removing any guidelines on how lottery money shall be spent and, at the same time, it is really springing lottery money that has come into the consolidated revenue fund but for whose disposition there is no particular law. Some of these funds have been distributed under orders in council. Some of them appear to have been just distributed according to statements that we needed money for the environment or for education, for universities. These were not covered by the original designations in the act, but the government simply allocated them.
Some of them were given to the Trillium Foundation, which is a group of businessmen to whom the government has delegated the job of deciding which social service agencies should receive grants. I do not object to giving grants to social service agencies, but I think the delegation of that job should be done perhaps through organizations that are more representative of the population rather than through a businessmen’s foundation.
The worst thing is that under this legislation all the groups which came before us, and there were almost 200 of them, will not have any guarantee that they will get one penny of lottery funds in the future. They will not have even the one-third guarantee which was proposed by the alliance of organizations in the cultural and recreational fields.
This alliance came together from hundreds of groups to speak with one voice in order to have more clout in opposing this very undemocratic bill, a bill which really goes against the whole parliamentary tradition of the power of the purse being in the hands of the Legislature and not in the hands of the executive council and certainly not in the hands just of the provincial Treasurer or any one cabinet minister.
It is an attack on the Magna Carta really when the barons came together and told the king, “If you don’t listen to us, we won’t put up any money for your armies and your adventures abroad.”
The worst part of this tax grab, which it really is, is that it is paltry, perhaps only $500,000 in lottery revenue that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) is putting his fingers on and leaving us with no guidelines as to how it shall be spent. There is perhaps another $500 million or more in the unallocated funds. I understand that without this bill going through the government would not be able to spring those funds and use them for whatever purpose it wished. In effect, those funds belong to the organizations that were under the original designation and that have been deprived of their rightful claim to those funds. I think that is simply misallocation of funds.
It appears that there is a complete failure by this government and by the Treasurer to appreciate what all those cultural and recreational groups provide to the mosaic of our province. Most of their work is done by volunteers, and they produce a tremendous amount of effect on our community, on our wellbeing, on our recreational needs. Some of the recreational departments produce great brochures on the effect of those activities on people’s mental health, on their physical health, on their satisfaction with life in general, on their feeling of community.
They are activities which most of the groups that came before that committee -- as I say, there were close to 200. They brought a new story to the members of that committee, a story about dance groups, groups working in prisons, doing theatre in prisons for rehabilitation purposes, groups trying to bring culture and recreation out into the rural areas, groups trying to form coalitions of similar cultural and recreational groups which could save money if they could have a coalition. They could spend their grants more efficiently, but instead they are left in penury. They are not able to expand to meet the growing needs of this province, the growing demand, with more leisure time, with more seniors, for recreation. The government has simply refused to listen to pleas of those groups. If they had not come before us, we would never have known about many of their activities because they have no funds for publicity, but they worked a magic among their community of enriching those communities.
I think it is absolutely shocking that the government is putting through this tax grab, giving the Treasurer a blank cheque and not accepting our amendment, which was that we would require that the unallocated funds at least should be put into a lottery trust fund and the dispensing of that trust fund should be subject to a committee that would study the needs that have been neglected due to the unallocation of those funds and would also plan for their use in the future. Then the whole program would come to the Legislature for approval and for voting in the budget. But at least there would be machinery for allocating those funds in a fair way and in a way which would improve our cultural and recreational milieu.
I think it is very disappointing that this is the government’s fourth or fifth tax grab. It is the smallest one perhaps, but it is the worst one from the point of view of its effect on the people of this province and its absolute refusal to consider their needs. Our amendment asks that at least one third, which is very modest, be guaranteed to these groups.
The coalition settled for one third, but we did not even get that, we did not get any guarantee from the government. I think it is something that all of these groups will remember when the next election comes, that all they got was a kick in the teeth from the government.
Mr Faubert: I want to put a couple of items on the record. I think we should. I was not going to speak to this, but in light of what the member for Beaches-Woodbine said, I sat through this whole committee hearing and I heard every single deputation that came before that committee. I will tell members right now that many of these came and they were very articulate in their defence and their support for arts, culture and recreation in this province. But every single group said one thing, and they were almost united in their voice, and that was not in opposition to the bill, it was in opposition to the impression that their funds were being cut. They all said very clearly, “Do not cut our funds.”
The Treasurer came before our committee and he gave a commitment of $120 million of lottery funds per year for the next three years, and that is more than has been committed. He stated that was only the base and he felt that it would be more.
Mr Harris: Oh yes, same as the fishing licences.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Your nose is growing.
Mr Faubert: Indeed those remarks are in Hansard, if members want to check them.
The other impression that is left here by the member is that there is no priority in here. Our legislative research, backed also by legislative counsel, stated that the bill has a priority, the bill clearly states a priority for the spending. I think all members should be aware of that.
Ms Bryden: I would like to point out that the Treasurer came before the committee and said that he would guarantee not less than $120 million per year for the next three years. Surely when there is at least $1 billion available, $500 million in the unallocated and $500 million coming in, if he is only going to guarantee $120 million for three years, that is $360 million, which is really peanuts. Anyway, he made this statement before a committee, which may be on Hansard, but it is not in the legislation. There is no commitment by this government to give even the $120 million to sports, recreation and culture.
Mrs Cunningham: It is with some concern that I rise again this afternoon to take a look at health care being funded on the backs formerly of small business, in Bill 47, and now on the backs of recreation, sport and culture. I say that not because we know members of the public are very concerned about the funding of our health care system -- they are -- but I think that they are also very interested in a topic called prevention, those of our citizens who are actively involved in sports and recreation and more passively involved, but just as important, in activities that have to do with culture. I think we can say that if we are looking at any form of prevention when it comes to disease -- physical, emotional and mental -- we like to see our citizens active and we think it is very important that we support cultural and recreational activities in the province.
There was a time when in this province, in the mid-1970s, when those of us who were heavily involved in both of those pursuits went to the government of Ontario and asked for more money because we did not have the facilities, especially when it came to the provision of hockey arenas, swimming pools and other facilities, to support young athletes and young people as they pursued, and their parents hoped they pursued, a very healthy lifestyle.
Equally so, when it comes to supporting art, dance, music -- and I could go on -- we at that time entered into a tremendous debate about whether or not we could support lotteries in Ontario. On the wishes of the government of the day, these groups became very involved in understanding that we were in tough times financially and economically and yet they still wanted to support these activities. Thus the birth of the lotteries, three of which were meant to specifically fund sports, recreation and culture.
Over a period of time the moneys were not expended. We are not certain why. Both governments were involved. All three parties were involved in that decision-making, they were all here at the time. There is no use arguing about the money. It was put in what the public would consider some kind of trust fund. Somebody says it is $369 million as a surplus; others say it is close to $500 million. That money was not spent, and yet the sports groups and the culture groups went around this province supporting lotteries so that their young people could be supported in the activities that they felt were important to their future lives, their future commitment and their future health in Ontario.
Now we have a significant change in direction on the part of this government, and that is all right as long as the people in Ontario understand that their reasons for purchasing lottery tickets are extremely diversified. As a matter of fact, in all honesty, that money will go into the consolidated revenue fund, perhaps for the support of health care. That is what the government has told us -- health care -- just maybe.
Bill 119 amounts to unfair retroactive expropriation of the unallocated surplus. The Parks and Recreation Federation of Ontario, for example, argues that the $369 million is not surplus dollars and that numerous examples of legitimate justifiable projects can be identified which have not been funded. Those groups across this province that are looking for support from this government have had lists, sometimes, for many years. The federation has requested that the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation provide the exact dollar value of unfunded eligible requests. Of course, no one brought that to the attention of the committee members. It would not have been important.
I sat on the committee. The public once again came and gave alternative solutions, suggestions. I was there when the public came, not for the full amount of time but one has to be there only one day and watch the response of the Liberal members of the committee to know that nobody is listening and there will be no changes.
The Liberal government has the audacity to say that this act states that over the next three years the sports, recreation, culture and Ontario Trillium Foundation will get no less than $120 million. Does the government really think that the public believes the Liberal members? The broken promises of this government are unprecedented. Once again, just because the Treasurer says we will get not less than $120 million for these causes, sports, recreation, culture and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, are we expected to believe it? I do not think this is a government that is believable.
The bill unfairly pits sports, cultural, recreational and fitness groups against hospitals for public support. In spite of government assurances, section 9 activities are likely to suffer in competition with hospitals. The bill does not provide any guarantee of a minimum funding level; we will be counting on the Treasurer’s word. It does not provide a minimum guarantee of a funding level or a minimum share of the profits, nor does it make any provision for year-over-year increases in the level of financial support available to these groups from lottery proceeds. As a matter of fact, the 1975 act said that the money was supposed to be dedicated to culture and recreation.
Small nonprofit organizations right now, if they took this government as their lead, would say: “If we break the law like this government has broken its own law, we would be disfranchised, we would not be allowed to operate. If we broke the law under which we operate, we would be disfranchised.” I hope members of this government will be disfranchised because of this broken promise and this broken law. It is that simple.
It is fundamental that arts organizations were told during the hearings that there was a $400-million surplus. That is what they were told. On the one hand, they were told that they had to be fiscally and artistically accountable for the money that they spend, and yet the government does not have to be fiscally and artistically accountable for the money that it collected on behalf of those organizations and saved.
This is an indicator of deplorable financial management. The least this government could do is to put the $400 million in a trust fund and assure these groups that they at least get the interest off the money that was dedicated to them when members of the public bought tickets they thought were supporting sports, culture and recreation.
In closing, I can only say that Bill 119 purports to support hospitals and we know that the money that is taken in by the lotteries could possibly support three or four days of health care in this province. It was worked out by the management of this government, who advised us in committee how much money we would possibly get, and that is three or four days of health care service in Ontario.
We think that supporting sports, recreation and culture is health care service and we are absolutely in shock that the government has chosen to deal with the public’s trusted money in this way. This party will be voting strongly against Bill 119, and we know that out there in the communities we will get the support of those special nonprofit groups that worked so hard on behalf of our young people in Ontario.
Ms Bryden: The previous speaker has reminded me of the government’s sheer hypocrisy in bringing in the prospect of hospital funding out of the paltry lottery moneys, because there is no guarantee that there will be a penny for the hospitals; but if there were, there is no guarantee the Treasurer will not cut his hospital budget so that there will be no additional money for the hospitals. But what is worse, he is not putting money into the delivery of health care and the improvement thereof. That is what we need and where there could be money savings, more efficiency, more community-based health care centres. Instead he is going in for selling his bill by pretending it might put some money into our hospitals, which badly need assistance.
Mr McLean: I did not think it would be appropriate for today to pass without my at least making some statement in this Legislature. I want to say that with regard to third reading on this bill, I spoke at great length on seconding reading of this bill. I thought that for less than two minutes today it would be proper to reinforce what I had already said with regard to the public hearings that were held in the province and the hearings that took place here at Queen’s Park, where almost all delegations were opposed to this bill, the only bill, I might add, that has been brought into this Legislature with no amendments, with about two sections in it and one amendment.
I am sure that the sports and recreational fitness groups are not satisfied with the amount that will be set aside for them. We wanted, and the municipalities wanted, a specific amount to be set aside for sports and recreation groups in this province. That is not happening.
I agree with funds going to help hospitals and expenses, but there is nothing in there that says what amount they are going to get. If the bill were more specific, I could support it, but it is not specific in any way, shape or form. The sports and fitness groups have told the government that. Every group that appeared before it did not agree with the process that this bill was taken.
I cannot understand when a government with no walls and no barriers, and which says it is listening to the people, comes ahead and presents a bill for third reading when the people in the groups across this province are opposed to it. I think it is a disgrace and I say, shame on the government for doing it.
Mrs Cunningham: In the interest of time, I think the public spoke out against the bill, and there is no reason for me to elaborate at any length.
Mr Reycraft: I have listened to the interpretations of Bill 119 that have been provided by the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms Bryden), the member for London North and the member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean). It will come as no surprise, I think, to say that I disagree completely with their interpretation of the bill.
Bill 119 represents no threat to culture and recreation. Indeed, what Bill 119 does is require-
Mrs Cunningham: Oh, listen to them.
Mr Ballinger: We listen to you.
Mrs Cunningham: You didn’t.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The member for Middlesex has the floor.
Mr Reycraft: Bill 119 requires that each year the net profits of the Ontario Lottery Corp shall be transferred to the consolidated revenue fund. There is nothing new in that. That is what is required under the existing Ontario Lottery Corporation Act. What Bill 119 further provides is that the allocation of those lottery profits by the Treasurer each year, as part of the budget process, must be restricted to three specific areas: culture and recreation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and if there are still funds left, then those are to be allocated to the operation of hospitals. That is the essence and the entirety of Bill 119.
Mrs Cunningham: How much will be allocated? How much is restricted?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Reycraft: The member for London North shrieks across at me, “How much will be allocated?” She asks how much. It is impossible for any of us to estimate accurately what the annual profits of the Ontario Lottery Corp are going to be. We do know that the estimated amount for this fiscal year, 1989-90, is some $500 million.
I want to say that not only does Bill 119 not represent a threat to culture and recreation, I think it has protected the funding of culture and recreation. I also want to say that I agree with what my friend the member for London North said about the importance of health promotion and disease prevention. Indeed, the government of this province, the party that I am a part of, supports that position as well. That is why each year for the past four, the Treasurer of this province has increased the allocation for culture and recreation, and increased it substantially.
Mrs Cunningham: You should have spent all the money on it. You should have spent all the money. You broke the law.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Reycraft: I have indicated to her on a number of other occasions that the total allocation, both of lottery profits and of tax moneys to culture and recreation was $282 million in 1984-85 when this party took office. This fiscal year, the allocation for culture and recreation is some $418 million. That $418 million comes partly from lottery profits; the remainder of it comes from other sources of revenue that are flowed to the provincial Treasurer.
I want to say, in concluding, that I agree with the need to fund adequately culture and recreation in this province. We think our record in funding those areas for the past four or five years indicates very clearly that we support the need for funding of those areas and the important role they occupy in the fabric of this province.
Mrs Marland: That is not what the Association of Municipalities of Ontario told us. I don’t think we need waste any more money on public hearings, on any of these bills.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Is it the pleasure of the House 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.
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY, MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Mrs Grier: Debate, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: If somebody wants to debate, go ahead. Who wants to debate?
Mrs Grier: I would like to speak to the motion --
The Deputy Speaker: Then go ahead.
Mrs Grier: -- because we have before us today concurrence in supply that, I regret, is so small. I wish, as a member of the opposition, that the supply that we were voting today for the Ministry of the Environment was commensurate with the importance that the environment has in the minds of the people of this province.
We spent 15 hours on the estimates of this ministry and we covered a wide range of issues. I want to tell those members of the House who did not have the pleasure of spending those 15 hours that it was in some respects a triumph. It was a triumph because myself, the member for Mississauga South and the member for Elgin (Miss Roberts) succeeded in confining the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) to the point on a number of occasions.
We managed to get some specifics and we managed to prevent the minister from diverting us down the paths of discussion, of which he is so very fond. However, the bottom line was that the estimates of this ministry are pitifully low. I want to say to the members of the House that despite all the rhetoric that we hear from this ministry, the reality is that only 1.3 per cent of total government expenditures for 1989-1990 went to the Ministry of the Environment. That is only barely above the 1.2 per cent that was a part of the estimates last year.
When we look at the actual expenditures of this ministry, its portion of total government spending actually fell from 1.16 per cent in 1987-1988 to 1.3 percent in 1988-89. What this says is that despite the rhetoric, despite the press releases, the commitment to the environment on the part of this government is very limited when it comes to actually allocating resources and putting the funds in place to enable this minister to live up to his rhetoric, or even to his own public relations.
During discussion of his estimates, we debated at length the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement program, scheduled to be completed by 1989, now perhaps going to be in place by 1992: no diminution in the discharges to the waterways of this province during the term of office of this minister.
We debated the remedial action plan program: again, not in place and no definitive plans or timetables or targets as to when it will be in place. In fact, during that debate I asked the minister for an organization chart of the bodies involved in the Metropolitan Toronto remedial action plan and I am still waiting.
We discussed the clean air program: unveiled two years ago, not expected to be in place for another five years. During estimates I asked the minister what portion of his budget was allocated to the clean air program and the number of staff appointed to the project. I was told there were 13 staff and I am still waiting for an answer with respect to the allocation.
We discussed the Environmental Assessment Act, and the feeling that seems to be abroad in this government is that somehow the Environmental Assessment Act is an impediment to getting things done in this province and to getting approvals for worthwhile projects. It was clear from discussion of the estimates that the impediment was the ministry, the bottleneck that occurs when proposals are before that ministry and cannot be moved through the review process and the approval process within the ministry, its staff, because of the lack of resources available to do just that.
I want to remind the members of the debate we had last week, when it was very clear that there is no commitment on the part of this government to a reduction in garbage, merely an emphasis on recycling. It is clear that despite, as I say, the alleged commitment to the environment, the resources are not there, the actionability is not there, and while I concur in these estimates, I regret that we are not looking at a much broader commitment from the government as a whole to this very critical ministry -- the Ministry of the Environment.
Mrs Marland: To concur in the supply, the appropriation of funds for the Ministry of the Environment today would be impossible in the present budget scheme of things for this ministry.
It is an amazing thing in 1989, as we come to the very last part of the last month, that this Liberal government still does not realize what the priorities of people in this province are. The priorities in terms of everyone you talk to, once you step beyond health, are environment. They do relate, one with the other, as a matter of fact, because it is going to go to the point, if we as members of the Legislature do not start prioritizing in terms of environment, ultimately there will be an impact on our health.
It is rather interesting to watch this government and listen to its throne speeches, its budget speeches and all its grandstanding in terms of introduction of this legislation and that legislation. They never really quite follow through with anything. I cannot think of anything that this government has followed through with, that they have announced that has ever been implemented in legislation the way they promised it would be.
In terms of the environment, we had a $5 tax on new tires on all vehicles in this province. Then they tumbled to the fact that it did not really make sense to charge a $5 tire tax on a tire for a wheelbarrow or a baby carriage. After they have introduced their legislation, they realize it is not, again, well drafted, so they have to make the appropriate amendments to make it a little more logical in their thinking, but they still do not agree with implementing in the actual legislation what they announce in their throne speeches.
I use the tire tax as a particular example, because when we are talking about concurrence in supply for the Ministry of the Environment, I have been totally dismayed by the fact that this Minister of the Environment did not stand up and fight for the amendment, which I placed, that would have ensured that his ministry and the Ministry of the Environment programs got the money from the $5 per tire on every tire purchased in this province, because that was the way it was announced in the throne speech.
Another matter that was announced in the throne speech this year, of course, was our famous Cleantario, a lottery to clean up Ontario. Here we are some nine months since that throne speech and we still do not have the Cleantario lottery, because it was another little figment of somebody’s imagination. They thought: “That sounds good. We will throw it in the throne speech.”
It is like so many things this Liberal government does. You can point to a lot of programs both within the Ministry of the Environment and within other ministries that somebody thinks of, and it does not matter whether they are practical or impractical or whether the public wants them or it does not want them. Time and time again, we have examples of where this government just simply is not listening, is not practical and certainly does not consult.
I think in terms of the Ministry of the Environment, with the number of programs in there that are offtrack in terms of the original timing because of the fact that it says it has not had the staff, it has not had the time to fully implement the program --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Since it is the order of the House, would the member for Mississauga South move the adjournment of the debate, please.
Mrs Marland: You want me to move adjournment of the debate?
Mr Harris: I realize we have a deal, by agreement, to vote. I think the member for Mississauga South could wrap up in one minute if the chair took one minute to recognize the time of the clock. I think that would be in the interests of the chamber.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous agreement to wrap up?
Mrs Marland: Obviously, if I had the opportunity, it would take me a lot longer than one minute to comment on the concurrences for the Ministry of the Environment. But out of respect for the fact that we are trying to deal with a time schedule here, I will respect that and I will respect you, as the Speaker, in trying to keep the business of the House flowing since we are in this last-minute panic to get all these government bills through because it is Christmas.
I will take the opportunity, however, as the spokesperson for the environment, to wish the Minister of the Environment the compliment of the season, and his staff. I just wish they had more money to do what they need to do in the interests of the environment for Ontario.
Resolution concurred in.
Hon Mr Ward: I know we have an agreement to vote at 5:45, but some members have expressed an interest in two more of the orders being called. I am at their disposal.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent for this?
The following bill was given third reading on motion:
Bill 91, An Act to amend the Legislative Assembly Act.
EXECUTIVE COUNCIL AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Ward moved third reading of Bill 94, An Act to amend the Executive Council Act.
The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House 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.
Hon Mr Ward: I believe we have an agreement to take some votes.
The Deputy Speaker: There is an agreement for a stacked vote on three bills, Bill 46, Bill 47 and Bill 119. Is that correct? There will be up to a half-hour bell call.
Hon Mr Ward: I would like to seek unanimous consent for a five-minute bell.
The Deputy Speaker: It will be a maximum of a five-minute bell. Call in the members.
COMMERCIAL CONCENTRATION TAX ACT, 1989
The House divided on Mr Mancini’s motion for third reading of Bill 46, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Adams, Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Bradley, Brown, Callahan, Campbell, Carrothers, Cleary, Collins, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Daigeler, Elliot, Elston, Epp, Faubert, Fawcett, Ferraro, Fleet, Fontaine, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Kerrio, Keyes, Kozyra, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, Matrundola, McClelland, McGuigan, Miclash, Miller, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Nixon, R. F., O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Oddie Munro, Owen, Pelissero, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Poole, Ramsay, Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Smith, D. W., Smith, E.J., Sola, Sorbara, South, Stoner, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tatham, Ward, Wong.
Allen, Brandt, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D.S., Cousens, Cunningham, Eves, Grier, Hampton, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, McCague, McLean, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pollock, Pope, Pouliot, Reville, Sterling, Villeneuve, Wildman.
Ayes 65; nays 28.
EMPLOYER HEALTH TAX ACT, 1989
The House divided on Mr Mancini’s motion for third reading of Bill 47, which was agreed to on the same vote.
ONTARIO LOTTERY CORPORATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
The House divided on Mr R. F. Nixon’s motion for third reading of Bill 119, which was agreed to on the same vote.
Hon Mr Ward: I wish to advise the House that the Honourable the Administrator of Ontario awaits to give royal assent to certain bills.
His Honour the Administrator of Ontario entered the chamber of the Legislative Assembly and took his seat upon the throne.
ROYAL ASSENT / SANCTION ROYALE
Hon Mr Howland: Pray be seated.
The Speaker: May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present sittings thereof, passed certain bills to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour’s assent.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals: The following are the titles of the bills to which Your Honour’s assent is prayed:
Bill 34, An Act to amend the District Municipality of Muskoka Act and the Education Act;
Bill 46, An Act to establish a Commercial Concentration Tax;
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;
Bill 48, An Act to amend the Land Transfer Tax Act;
Bill 53, An Act to amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act;
Bill 62, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984;
Bill 63, An Act to amend the Notaries Act;
Bill 74, An Act to provide for the Consolidation and Revision of the Statutes of Ontario;
Projet de loi 74, Loi prévoyant la codification et la refonte des lois de l’Ontario ;
Bill 75, An Act to provide for the Consolidation and Revision of the Regulations of Ontario;
Projet de loi 75, Loi prévoyant la codification et la refonte des règlements de l’Ontario ;
Bill 86, An Act respecting the Custody of Unclaimed Intangible Property;
Bill 90, An Act to amend the Municipal Act and certain other Acts related to Municipalities;
Bill 91, An Act to amend the Legislative Assembly Act;
Bill 94, An Act to amend the Executive Council Act;
Bill 95, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act;
Bill 101, An Act to repeal the Ministry of Transportation and Communications Creditors Payment Act;
Bill 102, An Act to amend the Construction Lien Act, 1983;
Bill 119, An Act to amend the Ontario Lottery Corporation Act.
Clerk of the House: In Her Majesty’s name, the Honourable the Administrator doth assent to these bills.
Au nom de Sa Majesté, Son Honneur l’administrateur sanctionne ces projets de loi.
His Honour the Administrator was pleased to retire from the chamber.
The House recessed at 1804.
The House resumed at 2000.
The Deputy Speaker: Is someone present in the House to advise us as to what they would like to do tonight?
Hon Mr Sweeney: Mr Speaker -- Mr Laughren: Try it, John. We’ll vote for it.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Whatever it is, the member is going to vote for it, eh?
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY
Resolution for supply for the following ministry was concurred in by the House:
Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION
Mr Laughren: I would not want to disappoint members of the assembly on this very important vote.
Mr Carrothers: Please disappoint us.
Mr Laughren: I may disappoint the member more when I speak than if I do not speak.
What needs to be said about the transportation concurrences, of course, has something to do with the lack of commitment on this government’s part towards highways in northern Ontario. I do not view myself as a terribly parochial member concerned only with the problems of northern Ontario. However, I do drive frequently from Sudbury to Toronto by Highway 69.
When I watch the various ministries talk about increasing the fines for speeding -- for example, a new Highway Traffic Amendment Act this week increases the fines for speeding -- I want to tell my friends that the problems on Highway 69 do not have to do with speeding; they have to do with the condition of that highway. At some point they are going to have to understand that if they want to cut down on the number of accidents and deaths on Highway 69 -- a terribly serious problem not just for northern Ontario but for the entire province because it is not just northerners who drive on Highway 69 -- they are going to have to do something about that highway.
I have a very practical suggestion for them. I want to suggest that they make a commitment that they will four-lane 10 miles a year on Highway 69, the part that is not yet four-laned.
That would mean that by the year 2000 we would have a four-lane highway from Toronto to Sudbury. If they decide that I am too conservative in my demands, of course, they have the option of speeding up the construction process and do it in less than 10 years if they like. But what they simply must do is make a commitment of so many miles a year to Highway 69 between Sudbury and Toronto.
While they are in the mood for four-laning Highway 69, they should also take a look at Highway 17 --
Mr Laughren: Well, compare the accident rate on these highways with the accident rate on highways in southern Ontario. I want to tell you that Highway --
Hon Mr Sweeney: Do you want to compare it with Highway 401?
Mr Laughren: Yes, I do.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Laughren: Take a look at Highway 69. It is the most dangerous highway in the province.
Hon Mr Ward: What about Highway 403?
Mr Laughren: Do not take my numbers.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Laughren: Take the numbers from the Ministry of Transportation.
The Deputy Speaker: The third person singular through the Speaker. The third person plural through the Speaker. Well, the third person.
Mr Laughren: Thank you. I was confused for a moment there. Mr Speaker, you have broken my concentration. I regret that very much because when you break my concentration, I start to ramble and meander over the entire Ministry of Transportation in Ontario.
Mr Speaker, I will conclude, since you have destroyed my speech anyway, by saying that I really hope that the government will take seriously considering four-laning Highway 69 and making a commitment now to doing only about 10 miles a year. Surely to goodness we can handle that in this province, and by the year 2000 we will have a four-lane highway all the way to Sudbury and it will be a lot safer for everyone who drives on it.
Mr Cousens: As we consider the supply and estimates for Transportation, we have to understand that the popularity contest that goes on in this Legislature is not one that is indicative of the total province. What we have is 94 seats for the Liberals and the remainder of the 130 seats among ourselves and the New Democratic Party.
If the people of Ontario were to have a chance to answer questions in a referendum: “What do you think of the road system in the province? What do you think of the job that is being done by the Minister of Transportation? How do you feel about the gridlock that is beginning to appear in the greater Toronto area?” then the answer to all those questions would be a negative one, because at that point they would not only have to do something to the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye), they would have to do something to the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon).
The Treasurer is the one who is responsible for giving the allocations to the Minister of Transportation and has not begun to accept full responsibility for the importance of what transportation is to all parts of this province. I appreciate the fact that there are people from every area of the province, represented by this large majority of Liberals, who are not being represented right now either in their own caucus or to the Minister of Transportation. If they were, we would begin to see a greater emphasis in the percentage of funds being invested -- invested, not spent -- in roads, in transportation services across this province. As we look at this budget now and the spending estimates that have been assigned to the Ministry of Transportation, it does not begin to touch upon the real needs of our province.
I have to comment as well on the task force that has been established by the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus. I am very pleased to have been named chairman of that task force, dealing specifically with the needs of transportation services in the greater Toronto area. One of the major concerns that has arisen since our meetings with all the regional municipalities and with numerous groups around -- and it applies not only to North Bay, but to every part of the province; it applies in particular to the area which I am elected to represent -- has to do with planning.
The province has not gone into long-term planning. Back in the 1960s, there was a sense in which the government, before it allowed subdivisions to be built, built the roads, built the infrastructure, invested in the long-term needs of those communities. Now what we are seeing instead is a government that does not make those investments; it talks about them.
Mr D. R. Cooke: It is the Toronto-centred plan, is that it?
Mr Cousens: You guys -- Mr Speaker, if you could keep them quiet and have them stand up in their own places and speak. They are far more eloquent when they are sitting down and they do not have to be accountable to Hansard or their public.
I would just like to say that we in the province of Ontario would be far better off if this province took some lessons from back in the 1960s when planning preceded the development. By having the roads built first and the subdivisions and the housing and the other facilities coming in afterwards, we were able to move the people inside and outside of the areas in which they had moved and resided. Right now we are talking about a problem that has not been given that emphasis.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: You can throw them all out, Mr Speaker, because I do not think they are listening anyway. None the less, they will not deter my concern or the concern of our caucus to do what we can to make sure that this government understands the importance of transportation services. It has to do with planning, it has to do with the investment up front, so that that planning leads to a proper and full development of areas in a way that causes things to move easily.
A dollar spent on transportation is a dollar well spent. If we look in the greater Toronto area, we are seeing the dollar is not going into commuter services the way it should. We are seeing municipalities across the province all suffering from a lack of funds for transportation services. This government has flat-lined its investment in roads, maintenance and commuting services, and instead of allowing those services to improve and increase -- not only flat-lined--because inflation for roadbuilding is at about 15 per cent, it results in a net decrease in costs going out for the building of roads.
I cannot tell the members how unhappy I am as a member of this task force and as chairman of it about the lack of leadership that is coming from this government in transportation. I have to say that in my conversations with municipal leaders across the province they are universal in their condemnation of this government in its failure to deal adequately with transportation needs.
By virtue of the failure of this government to increase its resources in order to expand and build upon an infrastructure that is implicit to a strong economy, to strong tourism and to a province that can truly reflect the kind of open and welcome province that we want it to be, it is imperative that this government see transportation as a very important issue. In the Metropolitan Toronto area, I believe it is one of the top three issues that has to be dealt with. Across the province, it certainly is one of the most important issues.
I am very concerned that the Ministry of Transportation is out of control. It does not have the support of the Treasurer; it does not have the support of the government, and certainly the people of Ontario will not give their support to a government that has failed so miserably in this important area.
Mr Harris: I do want to say a few words about the concurrences for the Ministry of Transportation because, as the member for Markham (Mr Cousens) has so correctly pointed out, we are dealing here with a different style of government. We are dealing with what I consider a very short-term government. We are dealing with a very interventionist government. We are dealing with a government that is more concerned with, “What can I spend money on today to get a vote today?” as opposed to the long-term planning. the long-term infrastructure, investment decisions that are crucial for this province.
Forty-six years ago, a man by the name of Drew drew up a 22-point plan. There were three main aspects to it, and tonight I want to talk about two of them. It was a plan long-term, not short-term. It was a plan that said: “We will invest in infrastructure. We will invest to make Ontario competitive, so that in this region of North America, in the northeastern United States and Canada, Ontario will be competitive. If we allow that environment to exist in this province, then the private sector will thrive and indeed Ontario will thrive.”
The three main points were electrification, roads and education. Because I am dealing with the Ministry of Transportation, I want to touch on two of those aspects tonight. The members all appreciate that education is one of those long-term investment decisions for our people that contributed and tied in with the hard services type of investment that was proposed to be made. When we think back 46 years ago and we think of the investment decisions that were made in Hydro and in the transportation infrastructure, Drew was indeed right.
I suggest that it served this province well for some 40 years. I think it set the stage for this province to be competitive, so the private sector could thrive for some 40 years. I also suggest that over a period of time politicians and the public changed from the long-term type of thinking and infrastructure to the short-term type of vote-getting.
It did not begin, quite frankly, in 1985, it began before then. Politics changed. There were pollsters, there were backroom people. They said, “Look, here is the mood of the public.” Then you went to a strategist, then you went to a public relations firm and then you hired somebody to package it and say, “This is what they are thinking today. Hurry up and give me this program that will let them say we are meeting this need,” without regard to whether it was in the long-term interests of this province, whether it made good sense in an infrastructure sense or in a financial sense. We saw politics, federally and provincially, change.
I suggest that we took for granted some of the comments that were made by the member for Markham; we just took for granted that it happened, that roads were there, that sewers were there, that water services were there, that the infrastructure was there and that subdivisions went in and companies built and the land was there for industrial land and for commercial land. We just assumed somehow that that happened, that it did not require long-term planning. We have now found out that is not the case.
I condemn this government and particularly this ministry for being the absolute worst of any administration I have seen for saying: “What does the poll say people are thinking today? Let’s give them that. The people say there is a problem with housing. Let’s spend $3 billion and subsidize housing.” Had they spent $1 billion and provided the infrastructure, the roads, the services and the type of infrastructure so there would have been a supply of land, they would not have had to spend the $3 billion.
I further suggest that this administration does not care as long as it gets votes. In fact, there is a mentality I have seen develop in this country; there is a mentality I have seen develop in this province, a mentality of politicians that says:
“Look, if there can be a problem here, we can be the saviours and solve the problem. We will spend $3 billion to build housing,” when the correct answer was to do the long-term thinking, not short-term vote-getting, of investing in the infrastructure that this province requires.
As we deal with transportation issues, there is no area where this is more apparent, this type of political thinking that we have seen in Ottawa through the Trudeau years and this type of political thinking that I suggest has been in this province perhaps for up to the last 10 years. It has been a change from the infrastructure long-term thinking type of planning that Drew began 46 years ago.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Harris: I suggest that it did not happen by chance. I suggest that the environment this government inherited whereby there was a 10 per cent tax advantage with the province of Quebec, whereby education was viewed as the best in the country, the best in North America, and health care was viewed that way, affected the types of decisions of where companies were going to locate.
If you were a company in Europe that wanted to locate in North America and wanted to access the North American market, you said, “Let’s look at Canada.” What do you look at when you are a company? You look at long-term supply of electricity, you look at tax advantage, you look at the education system, you look at the supply of labour, you look at those human and physical infrastructure decisions that have been made and facilities that are made and the stability in the long term.
We are losing that. We are losing that to the province of Quebec, we are losing that to other jurisdictions in the United States. You think now:
“If I’m going to invest $40 billion in a plant, am I sure the infrastructure is going to be there? Is the transit going to be there for my workers? Is the retraining going to be there? Is there going to be a secure supply of electricity?”
We saw a supply-demand report today that over the last few years there are a number of concerns that we are not investing in the long term. After 1 January, with the tax increases we have gone through this past week, Quebec will be more competitive tax-wise than Ontario. When you think of the investment decisions they have made in hydro over the last 10, 12 or 15 years, they will be able to guarantee to industry a long-term secure supply of hydro, more so than Ontario.
I think it is important that we not just talk about, “Oh, we’re going to vote X amount of dollars for transportation.” I think it is important that as legislators we sit back and take a little longer-term view of what has been happening in this province over the past number of years, of what has been happening in this country and of what has been happening in a number of jurisdictions where the name of the game has been: “How do we get re-elected? How do we give those voters what they think they want, and if they do not think it, how we do create the impression that this is indeed what they want?”
I suggest to members that it works in the short term. We have seen that it works. We have seen political leaders of all parties in this country make it work in the short term and we see what a disaster it is in the long term. We see what has happened to this country of Canada, mired in debt. Many say that regardless of how tough Michael Wilson is, how tough the Conservative Party is -- in spite of the fact the other parties are criticizing it for trying to get the spending under control -- it is already too late, that it will take a total collapse before it can be brought under control.
I hope they are wrong. I hope this country wakes up. I would hate to see lost a well-managed province that invested its money in infrastructure so that the private sector could succeed and Ontario could be competitive and would be the province of opportunity. I suggest to the members that over the last four or five years in particular the thrust has been far too much to the short term. I suggest to the members that we are losing what we once had in this province. Slowly, over a period of time, without being able to pinpoint any one decision, collectively the attitude on the infrastructure decisions leads to that.
I want to say a little about Via Rail and this government’s response to Via. In North Bay, where my riding is located, there are two trains serving northeastern Ontario. One is the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission train; the other is the Via train. When you ask people in northeastern Ontario, “Which train do you take?” they say: “We take the ONTC one. It’s only 30 years old, not 50. They actually seem to be appreciative that we took their train. Somebody smiles at us when I get on the thing.” In fact, the people of northeastern Ontario will tell you they specifically ask: “Which train is it? Is it the Via train or is it the Ontario Northland train?”
Now Via has said it is going to cut back. It is going to get out of the rail transportation business. I say alleluia. They cannot run trains; they do not want to run trains. They do not want to be in the business. Is it not time we had people running railways, passenger travel services, which I am so supportive of, who want to be in the business, who can be in the business and who belong in the business?
What an opportunity for the Ontario government to say: “Thank God they’re gone. We can run trains properly now in northeastern Ontario. Let’s take over the CN track. Now is the opportunity to take over that track for the province of Ontario and run passenger services the way they should be run.”
Now is the time to go to the private sector and say, “Look, we are open to people who want to be in the passenger business.” The private sector has indicated it wants to be in the business. Via does not want to be in it. That is the arm of CP and CN where they shuffle all that off into passenger services, where they shove all the costs into passenger services because the government will subsidize those. That is just being smart if you are in that business. They say, “Look, we’ll subsidize half your home that is doing this piece of business, but we won’t subsidize this half that is not.” You shove all the costs into the half that is being subsidized. That is why the taxpayers have to subsidize passenger rail services so much. They do not want to be in that business.
We know that from Montreal to Toronto the private sector will make the $5-billion investment. They want to be in the business. They will run high-speed rail between Toronto and Montreal without any subsidy, without any capital costs paid for by government. We also know that they will run in the Quebec City to Windsor corridor if they are given some concessions of land where the stops are. Why do we not take this opportunity to let the private sector run the rail system in this country? Why do we not take the opportunity to let the ONTC run the rail service north in this country?
People say: “Let’s blame the federal government. Let’s blame this government.” There is one government in this country that is more than bankrupt; it is flat broke, bankrupt and in deep, deep trouble, regardless of which party is in there, whether it is Liberal, Conservative or NDP. They are bankrupt. They cannot afford many of the things we are asking them to do; they cannot afford it. To Ontario taxpayers, does it matter whether they pay to Bob Nixon or whether they pay to Michael Wilson or whether they pay to the school board or whether they pay to the municipality? It is the same taxpayer. There is only one guy who cares: the individual treasurers or the premiers or the governments.
I suggest that the commuter services should be provided by this province or the private sector. I suggest that now is the opportunity for passenger services in this province to be looked at jointly with Quebec, to be looked at with the ONTC, to put passenger rail services back in the forefront, to see the investment that should be made in the future. It is ironic, is it not, that 46 years ago decisions on electrification, education and roads were made. That was the direction the government went in. Successive governments followed that way and Ontario prospered.
People say to me, “It’s just because Ontario is so lucky the way it is located.” Ontario is not located any better than Quebec or many of the northern states. It took good planning. It took courage. It took infrastructure-type investment, the long-term decisions. Does it take courage to do it? Yes, it does, because there are no short-term votes in it. When you make a decision where a major artery is going to go and where the trunk-line sewer is going to go you make a lot of people mad, because if it is in this area where private people own the land or the community sees a development, they are happy and these five towns are mad.
Government must insist on those infrastructure decisions being slightly ahead of demand. If it is slightly ahead of demand, I suggest to the members of this House that we will not have to spend billions of dollars subsidizing because we will have an adequate supply. We will have affordable land for commercial, industrial and housing use.
I wanted to put those few comments on the record. I wanted to say how disappointed I have been with many levels of government of all parties for taking the short-term view over this past decade or so in this country and in this province, and not taking the courageous, long-term view. Nowhere is it more apparent than in taking the long-term view of the type of transportation infrastructure, in conjunction with those other infrastructures that are so important and that allow a province to be competitive, that allow those who want to work, who want to succeed, who want to invest that opportunity in our province, in my province, in Ontario.
I say these words with sincerity. That is why I think I was elected and what I hope to accomplish, to be able to influence in whatever small way I can, from wherever I am and from whatever position, and at the current time from the opposition, to encourage legislators to take the long-term right view that will allow our province to again be competitive.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Is it the pleasure of the House 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.
Resolution concurred in.
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY, OFFICE FOR DISABLED PERSONS
Mr Laughren: First of all, I should congratulate the minister on her promotion. We have hopes she will do some things her predecessors did not do.
There are a couple of issues with which I have a problem. One of them has to do with the sales tax rebate for vehicles for people who are disabled. First, the ministry has not properly advertised the program through the dealers, that if someone who is disabled buys an automobile he gets a rebate on his sales tax or does not pay the sales tax. That is not well advertised out there across Ontario, neither to disabled persons nor to the dealers who are selling the vehicles.
Second, it is my understanding as well that in order to qualify for that rebate, you must have an assistive device such as a wheelchair, for example. Surely to goodness that is a bit extreme in terms of determining whether or not a person is disabled. I think that is a very narrow and mean-spirited definition of disabled for purposes of a sales tax rebate.
I would encourage the new minister to look at that matter. I do not expect her to give me an instant answer this evening, but I would very much hope that she would take a look at that program and promote it more among the disabled and the automobile dealers of the province, and take a look as well at how restrictive the definition of “disabled” is for the purposes of that sales tax rebate.
The final point I want to make has to do with a matter with which the minister is familiar, because I have been harassing her for the last couple of months over the problem when someone is disabled and needs transportation to his employment.
I could be very specific with an example of a person who is disabled and has multiple sclerosis, I believe. Bell Canada has employed this person and to its credit has continued to employ this person even though the disability is quite severe. We asked for some assistance for transportation for that person. If that person is not transported to his work, in this case to Sudbury, that person will go on social assistance as the sole breadwinner in that family, and the state, Ontario, will pick up the tab for social assistance.
Surely the alternative, which provides that person with more dignity, and for those people who are concerned about the public purse will save the public money as well, is to provide transportation for that person from where that person lives to his employment, in this case in the city of Sudbury.
It is unfortunate that the municipality in this case has not resolved the problem. The region says it is the responsibility of the local area municipality and the area municipality says it is the responsibility of the region, and they both say it is really a provincial problem. I personally think it is a provincial problem. I do not think something that important for our disabled should be left up to the whims of the local municipality, which may not be as progressive as I think most of us here are, or want to be at least, when it comes to dealing with the disabled people in the province.
While the minister has been very co-operative on this particular problem and I believe is trying to do what she can for this particular couple, it is not good enough to try and resolve the problem for one person when there must be many cases like that across the province.
I hope a policy is developed by which, if a person needs to get to work, the province will make sure a program is in place, either by doing it itself or by making sure that municipalities do it and giving the municipalities the proper backup. This person lives in a municipality that has a population of only about 15,000 persons, so it is very hard for it to put on a program and fund a program by itself. I hope very much that the minister will be able to put in place an appropriate program.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I spoke to the minister earlier this afternoon about a problem that very much concerns me. She made an announcement today that access funding would be extended for the next three years. I congratulate her on that endeavour because I think it is extremely important, but I brought to her attention a concern I have for disabled senior citizens living in senior citizens apartment buildings of two storeys.
I have talked to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mr Morin) and the Minister of Housing (Mr Sweeney). I raised it with the Premier (Mr Peterson) in question period a week or so ago. The problem is that it does not fall within the mandate of any of the ministries, including the minister’s own. I fully appreciate that.
I have a problem with it because the federal government years ago built the two-storey apartment buildings without consideration of the fact that some day the seniors would become disabled and not be able to climb the stairs.
Whether they have had a heart attack or just simply a hip replacement or a broken leg, they cannot get into their own homes. Surely, if we have access to the Royal Canadian Legion once or twice a week, if we have access to the church once or twice a week, and to community buildings, it just makes sense that we should provide access to our disabled seniors to get into their own homes. I have requested support from the Premier and I hope he will respond.
If we are providing access, surely it just makes sense that we should provide it for these people. What I am asking her to do tonight is to give consideration to working with the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs, the Minister of Housing and the Premier and come up with some type of program whereby we can work towards resolving the problem we have. It is not just in my riding. There is not one riding that does not have a similar problem. We have to address it at some point in time.
It just does not make sense. If these people have an operation and they cannot return to their homes, they stay in the hospital for an extra four, five, six or eight weeks at a prohibitive cost. Many of them become so disillusioned that they end up going into nursing homes much earlier than they would have to. There is accommodation on the second floor of many of these buildings that is not being taken up for the simple fact that the seniors realize what is going to happen.
Somebody in the government has to work to resolve it. The federal people have a responsibility. They have not exercised it and refuse to do so, so I am simply imploring the ministries that are involved to work together and see if we cannot start a program over the next five or 10 years to try to resolve this situation for the benefit of our senior citizens who become disabled.
Mr Allen: I want to rise and make a few comments with respect to the concurrences in the estimates of the ministry responsible for the Office for Disabled Persons.
First, to return to the point that the last speaker initiated his remarks with and the minister’s announcement today, I want to emphasize the point that I was maybe making very hastily at that time, that while all of us can feel happy up to a certain point with respect to the extension of the access program -- and one certainly moves around this province and sees more and more buildings, more and more facilities which are accessible to the disabled, and I think that is a credit to any government that has initiated those programs and has seen them through -- at the same time, I think access in a certain measure is measurable by the needs of the community concerned, the community of the disabled.
Clearly, the degree of access that is needed and the pressure upon access is a direct consequence of how mobile disabled people are: how much they are moving in and around the community, whether they are able to get back and forth to work, whether they have jobs to go to or not or whether they are all sort of shepherded in one or another location because that is where the disabled congregate for sheltered workshops or for this or for that. The more movement, the more mobility there is and the more life options there are for the disabled, the greater is going to be the demand for access of all kinds.
It has certainly struck me that while the Office for Disabled Persons has tried to be a reasonably good advocate for the disabled in this province, at the same time we have not made the progress we might have among some of the main line ministries.
I am thinking, for example, of the Ministry of Transportation, in whose estimates I might have spoken just a few moments ago. In this city, the Toronto Transit Commission has for some time resisted very strenuously the notion of using a variety of devices, investments in its transportation system, in order to make the system more accessible to the disabled, whether it was subway stations on the one hand or whether it was kneeling buses on the other, or a number of devices in between for enabling the disabled transit user. Recently, the transportation commission has appeared to be in a fairly significant internal debate and moving much more positively in that regard. What I have not noticed in the Ministry of Transportation in the province, however, is an equal readiness to move in response.
That may well be because of a certain resistance in some municipalities across the province. Before the minister was the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons, she did not have an opportunity to go, as I did, to the speaker’s conference on the disabled at the House of Commons two years ago and to hear the mayor of Mississauga stand up at the opening breakfast of this conference of and for the disabled and to say literally the first words to that assembly, “Don’t come to us for money for integrating main line transit for the disabled” -- wet blanket; right off. It was amazing.
Mr Mahoney: Hazel McCallion?
Mr Allen: His Hazel. Incredible.
Mr Mahoney: That was one day. The next it was something else.
Mr Allen: Well, that may be. He knows her better than I do.
What I am perhaps giving the minister and the Ministry of Transportation is a bit of an out. I understand that there may be problems with the transfer agency involved. None the less, I think there is an issue to be tackled by this minister and by her ministry; namely, advocacy with a major ministry in the administration, the Ministry of Transportation, in order to see that universal access for the disabled to main line transit becomes the hallmark, as the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons has suggested in its own study, Freedom to Move is Life Itself. Lay that agenda on this ministry and on the Ministry of Transportation. “Before any other measures of disabled transportation access were to be embarked upon,” said the council, “this government must commit itself to an agenda and a timetable for disabled access to main line transit.” I think we all have to fight for that and fight for it strongly, so I urge the minister to move in on that battle.
The other point that I want to make which will affect the way in which we measure the success of access programs of the kind that the minister has proposed today is in the whole area of employment equity. L am sure I do not have to tell the minister very much about this. Again, the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons has this as a major focus; not just a one-year study, now a two-year study. They have had to extend their parameters because it is such a big project. The minister will know a great deal about that.
All that I want to say is that we have made very slow progress, glacial progress, on the question of employment equity for the disabled in this province. I do not care, basically, whether the progress we have made is better or worse than any other province or any other jurisdiction. I keep hearing that line more and more from this government, as I heard from the past government in its declining years. It was always comparing, “This is probably the most advanced administration, if not in Canada, at least in North America; if not in North America, in the world.” It got repetitive to the point of being tiresome, and when one began to investigate the comparisons, often it was more hyperbole and self-congratulation than a reflection of reality. I think a government should very carefully measure its words and not engage in those comparisons in too exotic a fashion, because those words will come back to haunt it.
Certainly in this case I do not think the measure is what other people do, I think the measure is the need that is out there. The measure is the need of disabled people, and until we have met their need for full dignity in the workplace and in employment questions we have not responded fully to the needs of disabled people in Ontario.
There is no one who can tell me that this province cannot afford to do that. I was just looking through this recent publication, Income Security: The Disabled Income System in Canada, which explores a number of options with respect to income options for the disabled. I notice, for example, by way of comparison, that in terms of assistance to families, compensating them for the costs of having a disability in the family, the maximum amounts that are available to families in various provinces are more than $97 in Quebec, $275 in Ontario, $300 in Nova Scotia, $369 in Newfoundland. In fact, it goes all the way up. New Brunswick is even higher than those and Alberta reimburses actual expenditures for every necessary service that is purchased to the full for income supplements for families with a disabled member. So not only on meeting real need, but in terms of meeting the level of compensation that other provinces provide, we are not in a particularly happy position in that kind of a measure.
Without wanting to prolong the debate and engaging in a whole lot of incidents and the programs that I could go into, such as the special services at home program, which has been recently cut, and our failure to provide full and total costs for assistive devices and so on and so on, I will resume my seat and urge the minister in her first and succeeding years to take up this advocacy option.
Using the word reminds me that the province has had on its agenda for some time a number of advocacy reports which have not been implemented, which need to be implemented, which would provide a context for any advocacy ministry such as hers to play a much more positive and effective role in this province. I hope she will likewise further inside the government an advocacy on behalf of advocacy.
Resolution concurred in.
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY, OFFICE FOR SENIOR CITIZENS’ AFFAIRS
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would just like to compliment the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mr Morin) for the very serious consideration he has given to the problem I just spoke about a few minutes ago and I do hope he will work together with other ministries to try to resolve it.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I remember when this ministry was first created and the original minister under the Liberal government, Ron Van Horne, was the minister. There were all sorts of ambitious plans they were looking at. They were looking at a new extended care act, an amalgamation with the Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act, they were looking at regulation of the rest homes and retirement homes in the province, none of which has happened. The only thing that has happened at this point has been the short-term amendments to the Nursing Homes Act that occurred under the accord period as a result of the accord. The new extended care act has not been drafted. I do not know where the minister is at with that piece of legislation.
Our home care programs have not progressed at all in this province. Home care programs were frozen. The integrated homemaker program has not been extended to any more communities than were under the pilot projects. I do not know what this minister has to say for himself in terms of progress that has been made for maintaining individuals in their homes and their independence and their dignity, rather than a reliance on chronic care institutions and nursing homes in this province.
As far as I can see, the only thing this ministry has really accomplished over the last number of years has been to receive the annual report of the advisory committee on senior citizens in this province. There has not been anything concrete come out of this ministry at all in terms of basic reforms for services provided for seniors that are meaningful in this province. I guess it is a junior portfolio that is designed to allow additional people to be in cabinet and provides for some regional balance in cabinet.
What has happened to the review of the extended care program? Is there now going to be a consolidation of the Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act and the extended care act in this province, the Nursing Homes Act? That was promised in 1985. They said it would be a two-year program and that the legislation would come forward. Here it is nearly 1990 and there is still no amalgamation of those two pieces of legislation.
With respect to home care programs, I have already said the integrated homemaker program was frozen by this government a couple of years ago. It has not been extended at all.
I think what this minister should set is some goals for himself over the next year. If his government and his colleagues are not prepared to implement some of those programs which seniors have been asking for time and time again, I think he should voluntarily resign and say that if the recommendations and concerns are not going to be adhered to, then perhaps there is no need for the ministry at all.
The Acting Speaker: The Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs has moved a motion for concurrence in supply for the Office for Senior Citizens’ Affairs. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will say “aye.”
All those opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Resolution concurred in.
INCOME TAX AMENDMENT ACT
Mr Daigeler, on behalf of Mr Mancini, moved second reading of Bill 60, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.
Mr Daigeler: This bill, entitled An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, implements a number of administrative and basically technical amendments, as well as one rather important item arising out of the budget of 17 May 1989, certainly, in my opinion, a rather good budget which will establish the future prosperity of this province.
In the budget the rate of personal income tax was increased one percentage point to 53 per cent for 1990 and subsequent years. Since health care funding is shared between business and individuals, this increase in the personal income tax will help to maintain the balance in the funding for Ontario’s universal health care system. This bill implements precisely this increase for individuals.
Also, an enrichment to the Ontario tax reduction program is part of this announcement. This means that approximately 365,000 low-income individuals who are liable for basic federal personal income tax will pay no Ontario personal income tax and about 195,000 other people in Ontario will benefit from reduced personal income tax. All of this is part of this bill.
Much of this project is dedicated also to redesigning the act in order to link by direct statutory reference many administrative provisions to the parallel federal provisions. These are the technical amendments that I was referring to earlier.
Under the terms of the federal-provincial tax collection agreement whereby the federal government, as the members know, administers Ontario personal income tax, Ontario is required to amend the act continually in order to keep it current with the federal provisions. This bill provides that federal amendments to adopted sections will apply for the purposes of our Ontario act and this reduces the need to amend our own act in the future in order to implement federal changes.
The important point, therefore, is that the amendments, while simplifying the method of enacting administrative provisions, do not change the basis parameters of the law.
Mr Laughren: I have just one question, and there may be a totally legitimate answer to it, so I do not put the question in an accusatory way:
Where is the minister on this very important bill?
Mr Cousens: Could the member for Nepean tell us what this rate of income tax was when he came to power in 1985? I happen to know, but it is a skill-testing question I would like to hear the member answer so that he can compare what it is now with what it was then, because I am going to tell him afterwards just how much it is costing the great people of Ontario.
Honourable Speaker, I want to speak through you, in the spirit of Christmas.
Hon Mr Sweeney: We’ve got to pay for those roads you want, Don.
Mr Cousens: This does not go to roads. This is going into the big pockets of the Liberal government, and those guys better know where the money is going, because we --
Hon Mr Sweeney: It sure does -- roads, hospitals, schools; all for Markham.
The Acting Speaker: Would the Minister of Housing come to order, please?
Hon Mr Sweeney: All for Markham.
Mr Cousens: If that is the case --
The Acting Speaker: Are there any further comments and questions? Seeing none, does the parliamentary assistant wish to reply?
Mr Daigeler: First of all, to the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren), if l am not mistaken, I think the minister has confidence in his parliamentary assistant to follow the well-established practice in this House. After all, that is why they do get a bit of extra allowance; we earn our keep and this late at night do represent hopefully well, the viewpoints of the government. So I say to the member for Nickel Belt, the minister has conferred the responsibility on me this evening.
I would like to indicate to the member for Markham (Mr Cousens), because he has a purpose behind his question, that we realize this particular provision will bring in additional revenues to the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), and these revenues will balance the provisions he has complained about for several weeks that in his opinion are providing an undue burden on businesses in the province.
This particular provision also places an additional tax or levy on individuals; although the member opposite does not agree with it, I am confident that it will raise the moneys we need to continue to provide the excellent health care services and improvements in the health care services that are constantly asked for here by the members in the front line opposite and by some of the members in the background as well.
Mr Laughren: In my earlier remarks I was not questioning the ability of the member for Nepean to shepherd this bill -- there is that word “shepherd” again -- through second reading debate. Rather, I was expressing my surprise that the minister would not be here.
Surely, when we are dealing with one of the basic principles of taxation, namely, income tax, the minister is the one who should be here to carry the debate, listen to the arguments put by the opposition and respond to the conclusion of the debate. After all, the minister is the one responsible for delivering this bill and this increased tax.
My criticism was not of the member for Nepean. I am sure he can handle the bill most competently. That was not my problem at all. But it is beyond me how --
Mr D. R. Cooke: So what are you complaining about? What’s your problem’?
Mr Laughren: If the member for Kitchener does not understand what the problem is, I will repeat it for him. My problem is that on a bill as important as this, an income tax bill, for the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) not to be here to carry it is, I think, offensive to this chamber. That is what my problem is. I do not expect the member for Kitchener to understand that. But there is the tradition in this place that ministers deliver and shepherd the important bills through this assembly. It is a long tradition that I do not expect the member for Kitchener to understand.
Mr D. R. Cooke: How many NDPers are here?
Mr Laughren: Would the clown from Kitchener mind keeping quiet for a minute?
Mr Cousens: If the Speaker would look after him and kick him out --
Mr Laughren: Yes. If we needed a clown we would give him a suit.
Mr Kerrio: Floyd, you are in bad humour.
Mr Laughren: I was not in bad humour when I started this debate.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Members should know by now that you interject at your own peril.
Mr Laughren: It is bad enough that the Treasurer passes on the responsibility for this bill to the Minister of Revenue and now the Minister of Revenue passes it on to the parliamentary assistant. We are carrying delegation to an embarrassing extent here.
We all know that Maximum Bob Tax-to-the-Max Nixon lays the taxes on the people of Ontario and then says to the Minister of Revenue:
“Now you go carry the can on this bill. I’ve done my job; I’ve raised taxes. You go out there and try to get it through the assembly.”
I and my caucus would be supporting this bill if this was part of a package of progressive tax reform. We would be supporting, believe it or not, an increase in income tax, because we do believe that of all the taxes that are out there imposed on our citizens, income tax is the fairest tax of all. But if all the minister is doing is loading up income taxes and consumption taxes on people and not bringing in a balanced package so that the tax burden is shared more fairly, then he should not ask us to support even an increase in the income tax. Why should we? I have no hesitation in saying that if this was part of a package of tax reform, we would be supporting this bill to increase the provincial income tax.
It is not as though the Treasurer does not have an array of options open to him in terms of tax reform. We have said to him for a number of years now, ever since he became the Treasurer, “Why do you not impose in Ontario a minimum corporate tax?” Corporation tax in Ontario is a provincial jurisdiction, as it is in most other provinces, perhaps in all of them. Even in the United States, in Reagan’s America, there is a minimum corporate tax.
When Reagan was creating his tax changes, he heard a story that a teller in a bank paid more income tax than the bank did, even though it was a profit-making institution. He found that offensive and said, “We have to bring in a minimum corporate tax.” It is not very often that I would quote Ronald Reagan, or George Bush for that matter. I do not think George Bush has said anything, so I cannot quote him. But even Ronald Reagan outflanked these bandits opposite; he imposed a minimum corporate tax on the American corporate sector. They have not done this in this province. Why not? And they wonder why we are offended even by an increase in the provincial income tax.
By the way, 24 countries belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Of those, 22 have imposed a wealth tax in the form of either a tax on the wealth of people when they are alive -- it is very small; not even one per cent -- or an inheritance tax at death. Two countries do not have it, out of all the OECD countries. Even Ronald Reagan’s America has one, or George Bush’s America. Canada and Australia, out of all the OECD countries, do not impose a wealth tax.
Mr D. R. Cooke: The United States doesn’t have a wealth tax.
Mr Laughren: The United States has an inheritance tax. I would call that a wealth tax; it is a tax on wealth when it passes from one generation to another. How come it is only the member for Kitchener I have to explain things to again and again? That is considered a wealth tax. Talk to anybody in the tax field, and they will tell you there are basically two forms of wealth tax, one on inheritance and the other on net worth. You would of course exclude principal residences, cars and so forth.
At least we have an option. This province used to have an inheritance tax, but we did away with it. The Conservatives did away with it and the Liberals have not reimposed it.
We have asked many times for a land speculation tax, but not as a source of revenue, I must confess, because if a land speculation tax was to work, it would not raise any revenue; it would just discourage speculation. That is my point. I do not see it as a revenue source; I see it as a way of discouraging speculation in residential property and land.
We have laid out before the Treasurer a package of tax reforms that would make it fair in the province of Ontario. But what does the minister do? He comes in and increases sales tax and personal income tax. There is no package of fairness there. That is just sticking it to Ontario citizens; that is all it is doing. There is absolutely nothing fair about that.
Now the Treasurer is in cahoots with Michael Wilson at the federal level to bring in a goods and services tax. When we presented a resolution in this chamber about a month ago that called for the province to reject the goods and services tax and not co-operate with the federal government in putting the two together, the Liberal members in Ontario voted totally to oppose my resolution, which implies very directly that it would not be prepared to say to the feds, “Go away; we want nothing to do with your GST.” Can members imagine the message that gives Michael Wilson and Brian Mulroney? It is telling them: “We’re going to make all the right noises about not liking the GST, but when it comes time to impose it we’ll be there to help you do it. Don’t you worry, Brian and Michael, we’ll be there to help you.” That is what the government is saying.
That is why, once again, we are opposing this increase in the income tax, not because income tax is inherently unfair but because it is not part of a package. We have laid out in budget after budget exactly what we would do for revenue. We have given the Treasurer our sources of revenue in every single budget, and we have put dollars after every one of them. If members do not believe that, they should go and ask the Treasurer himself. We have told the Treasurer exactly where he will get his money.
Mr D. R. Cooke: I don’t believe that.
Mr Laughren: Well, it is an absolute truth.
I do not expect the members on that side to support a fair tax system; that would interfere with their very comfortable lifestyles. I do not expect the lawyers in Ontario to support our tax system. That is why I do not expect the member for Kitchener to support any tax system that I would bring into the province to protect ordinary people with ordinary incomes, not those people who make their money in rather -- well, I will not say it.
I should not be surprised at the way this government handles taxes. The Treasurer is the person who says he thinks the sales tax is a fair tax because it is right out front there, where everybody can see it. Is that what makes a fair tax? That sure is a strange definition of equity to me. I thought equity was when people had equal burdens when they paid their tax. Just because it is evident there does not mean that it is equitable, but the Treasurer has a rather perverse view of what is equitable in our society. The Treasurer has imposed sales tax increases, he has imposed provincial income tax increases and now he is in cahoots with the federal government on the goods and services tax.
The Treasurer also has not dealt very fairly at all with the school boards and the municipalities of this province. Members do not have to take my word for that. They can go back to their communities and ask their local municipalities what they think about the Treasurer and his treatment of the municipalities and the school boards. The Liberals said back in 1985, I guess it was, that if they were the government, they would lower the proportion of property taxes that were raised for school board purposes to 40 per cent and the province would pick up 60 per cent of education costs. Guess what happened?
Mr Villeneuve: How quickly they forget.
Mr Laughren: How quickly they forgot. Right now it is almost exactly the other way around. I think it is not much more than 40 per cent of school board costs are paid by the province and almost 60 per cent are paid by local property taxpayers. If that was not enough of an insult, they froze unconditional grants to the municipalities last year and then gave them a Mickey Mouse increase this year, not even keeping up with inflation and the rise of the population in the province.
There is no question that the tax system brought in by the Liberals in this province is no different from what the Conservatives did, with one exception: We no longer have OHIP premiums in the province. For that, I give the government credit, full marks, because to me the OHIP premiums were the most regressive of all taxes. It is most appropriate that the government has done away with OHIP premiums. To me that was a very important move. But if we think about what this Treasurer has done, he has increased income taxes, he has increased sales taxes, he has increased gasoline taxes, he has put a tax on tires and now he is imposing a further burden on municipalities and property taxpayers with the education lot levies at the local level.
At budget time, the Treasurer determines the tax policy of the government and then simply walks away and says to the Minister of Revenue, “All right, you go and sell it.” I wish the Minister of Revenue was here, because at some point we have to involve him in the debate about taxation. I do not believe it is appropriate for the Treasurer to be totally responsible and then walk away when it comes to having the debate go through the assembly.
The argument that has always been used is that the Minister of Revenue says, “I don’t make tax policy; go talk to the Treasurer.” Of course, when the Treasurer brings it in he then says:
“That’s the responsibility of the Minister of Revenue now. I’ve done my job; I’ve introduced the policy.” It is very difficult to engage in a proper debate with cabinet members when the jurisdiction is split that way. That is one reason I am offended by the fact that the Minister of Revenue is not here this evening.
We know, for example, that if I were to ask the Minister of Revenue to explain the unfairness of the fact that people below the poverty level in the province still pay income tax, he would say, “Go talk to the Treasurer.” Yet the last number I saw was that in Ontario there were 700,000 people who earned less than $10,000 a year who were paying provincial income tax. Imagine earning less than $10,000 a year and still paying provincial income tax. I think that is grossly unfair. This bill does not rectify that. This bill does not remove people below the poverty level from the tax roll. Why not? It could. It deals with income tax. Why does it not do that?
In this very wealthy province, at this point in our time, a single person earning $10,000 a year -- which, by the way, is $2,000 below the poverty level -- pays the following taxes: $634 in federal income tax and $313 in Ontario income tax, for a total of $947. A single person earning $10,000 a year pays almost $1,000 in income tax. I consider that to be perverse.
To give another example, a single mother with two children who earns $20,000 a year would pay federal income tax of $1,500 and provincial income tax of $743, for a total of $2,243. I hope when I am finished speaking that some Liberal member will get to his feet and justify a tax system that says to a single mother with two kids that she should pay $743 in provincial income tax when she has an income of $20,000 a year. I would like to hear a Liberal member get up and justify that kind of taxation in the province. I really hope someone will do that. At the very least, I expect the member for Nepean to justify that.
I should tell members that in Quebec a family of four with an income of $20,000 would pay no provincial income tax -- none. Part of the reason, of course, is that Quebec has its own income tax system.
At the same time as people at these kinds of levels, with incomes of$10,000 or $20,000, are paying provincial income tax in Ontario, in 1986, the last year for which we could get figures, there were almost 3,000 people who earned over $50,000 and paid zero income tax. I want some Liberal to stand up in his place and justify that too.
In particular, I expect the member for Nepean to justify that kind of tax system. If he says, “It’s not our fault; provincial income tax is based on the basic federal tax payable,” then I would say to him, “Why are we dependent on the federal tax system for our level of taxation in the province of Ontario?” Not only that, of course; there is the tax credit system that could look after that if it were properly enriched.
I do not expect the member for Kitchener to understand this or to know this, but in Ontario, while all that is going on in terms of how unfair the tax system is, there is a special exemption for capital gains because of the federal legislation. That costs almost $500 million a year to the Treasury in Ontario. So the member says, “Where’s the revenue coming from?” There is one place. I say to my friend, almost $500 million from the special exemption for capital gains. That is what it costs the Ontario Treasury.
Do we hear anything about that from the Treasurer? Not a word. Do we hear about that from any member of the Liberal Party? Nothing. I am waiting. I am glad we have a late-night sitting where we can sit until 12, because there is going to be lots of time for Liberal members to get up and justify their tax system in this province, lots of time, and I expect they will do it. It is truly wonderful when people below the poverty line are paying provincial income tax and people earning $50,000 a year are paying no income tax. What kind of tax system is that supposed to be?
I have raised in this assembly on several occasions with the Treasurer the possibility of Ontario having its own income tax system. A number of years ago, in 1983, the Ontario Economic Council, when it existed, prepared a report called A Separate Personal Income Tax for Ontario. The report did not conclude that Ontario should have a separate income tax. They said there were advantages and there were disadvantages. When I look at it, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, but there is no question there are some disadvantages as well.
Mr D. R. Cooke: Hire more bureaucrats.
Mr Laughren: I guess they can always say, “We don’t want any bureaucrats,” even though it would make a fairer tax system. Even though it would make a fairer tax system, there are Liberal members who will say, “We don’t care how rotten the tax system is, we don’t want any more bureaucrats.” Liberals can say they do not want any more bureaucrats, but my friends should check the record and see how many more bureaucrats they have added since they came to power. So that argument does not hold any water at all. That is a ridiculous argument, totally ridiculous.
The report from the Ontario Economic Council said, “Because the federal-provincial income tax system must apply uniformly across the nation, it clearly cannot reflect unique social and economic geographic jurisdictional differences.” It makes the point that we are all different.
“The Canadian fact of great interjurisdictional diversity, coupled with the need for a uniform federal-provincial income tax system across jurisdictions, suggests a possible opportunity for the provinces. Why not have a separate provincial income tax system for Ontario that fully reflects the unique mix of tastes and preferences of Ontario residents and their particular human, physical, capital and natural resource endowments? Why settle for less? The province has a separate and unique corporate income tax system and a separate and unique retail sales tax system. Why not its own unique provincial income tax system?”
Why not indeed? Sure it would cost money. They have even done estimates of how much it would cost, but as a total percentage of the cost of what you would bring in, it is not unreasonable.
The real issue here is not whether you have your own provincial income tax system: it is what kind of income tax system you have. I just refuse to buy the argument from the government that it cannot alter substantially the income tax system because it is based on the federal system. If the government does not like the federal system, then it should get its own. Quebec has done it; we can do it. There is nothing wrong with it.
I make that point because I do not want the members of the Liberal government saying that we cannot have our own system. We can have our own system. I do not want them making arguments that they cannot control the fairness in the tax system because it is federally based, because that is nonsense. If they are that unhappy with it, then we should create our own tax system.
The Treasurer occasionally will say: “Tax credits look after the problem. Don’t worry about income tax levels. The tax credits look after that.” That is a lot of nonsense. The value of tax credits has not even kept up with the rate of inflation since they were first introduced 15 years ago.
Last year, the sales tax increase was raised from seven to eight per cent, but there was no increase in the sales tax credit, none. How can the government raise the sales tax without raising the sales tax credit and still have any credibility when it comes to the value of tax credits easing the burden for low-income taxpayers?
Now there has been an increase in the income tax. There is no increase in the tax credits for that either, no increase in grants to seniors in this budget either, nothing.
If the government wants to have any credibility on the tax credits, this year it would have had to have increased the total value of them by about $300 million. Even just to bring them up to the level of the 1984 sales tax credits, it would have had to enrich them by about $300 million in total. But it did not do that; it just increased taxes without increasing the credits to ease the burden on the low-income taxpayers.
The issue here is one of a package of fairness or no package of fairness, and clearly the government has not brought in the package of fairness. I mentioned a few minutes ago that a tax that we have proposed to the Treasurer would raise about $477 million. That was a special exemption on capital gains because I know that the member for Kitchener was really fretting about the fact that he did not think we would be able to raise any revenues with our system.
We have just talked about the capital gains exemption, that it is costing the Treasury almost $500 million. The minimum corporate tax would raise $500 million almost exactly. So already I have handed to the Treasurer $1 billion a year in two taxes, the capital gains exemption that would be removed and the minimum corporate tax, and neither one would drive investors out of Ontario or would drive taxpayers out of Ontario.
Mr D. R. Cooke: What do you mean, “neither one”?
Mr Laughren: Because they are in other jurisdictions, that is why, and it does not drive people out of those jurisdictions.
It is total nonsense that we cannot do more than we are doing for people at low- and middle-income levels. Is it any wonder that there has been a dramatic increase in food banks, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto? I do not know how members of this government can be even proud to represent their party when they look at food banks in Metropolitan Toronto.
Ms Hošek: None of us is proud of food banks, Floyd.
Mr Laughren: The members are so proud of them that they do nothing to remove them. If my friends really do not like the food banks, they should get rid of them. Why do we need food banks? Are these the 1930s? Do the members know what makes a Liberal happy? What makes a Liberal happy is seeing someone drive up to a food bank in a Jaguar and drop off a box of canned goods. To a Liberal, the war on poverty is to throw stones at beggars. I am telling members that this government has not even tried to make the system any fairer since it became the government back in 1985.
Mr Adams: What about OHIP? You are exaggerating now.
Mr Laughren: I gave the government credit for abolishing OHIP premiums.
As long as we talk in generalities about minimum corporate tax and about capital gains exemptions, the Liberals are pretty quiet. They sit there and they take it, but we touch a raw nerve when we start talking about food banks and poverty in this province because it makes them squirm, does it not? It makes them squirm. That is the problem. They really do not like to think about it. They would like to think that it was not there. They would like to think that we have a first-class city, a first-class province without dealing with the reality of what is out there. That is their problem.
I hope that someone, perhaps even the member for Nepean, will tell me how he justifies a system that taxes people earning $2,000 below the poverty level, makes those people pay provincial income taxes. Is he really surprised that they end up at the food banks? We are talking about the working poor here. We are not just talking about people on social assistance. The latest estimate was that there are about 80,000 to 90,000 people in total every month using the food banks in Metropolitan Toronto, and about 14,000 who are working poor. The member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen) will correct me if l am wrong, but that is the number.
The government has done absolutely nothing about that problem, absolutely nothing. If it had a program in place to phase out the food banks, I would apologize for my remarks. The government has done nothing to get rid of food banks in the province. My leader asked the Premier (Mr Peterson) the other day and the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) --
Mr Allen: We will tell you about that in a few minutes.
Mr Laughren: My colleague from Hamilton will deal with that issue. We have asked the Treasurer and the Premier what their plan is to get rid of food banks. Do members know what we get for an answer? Nothing. There is no plan. They have no plans to get rid of food banks. Food banks should be an embarrassing memory in this province, but that is not what it is, it is an embarrassing reality. That is what makes the Liberals squirm, is it not? They do not mind the people with the Jags and the Audis and the $50,000 incomes who pay no taxes, but they do not want to acknowledge the people who have to go to the food bank every bloody month for food for their kids. That is what they do not like to accept. Yet it is out there, it is very, very real and they are doing absolutely nothing about it. They could start at least with the tax system. They can at least make a start there. It would be an indication that they realize how wrong things were.
I would not want to take up much more time of the House on this bill, but I would conclude by simply saying that we have in this province a rotten tax system, an inequitable tax system and we have as a Treasurer someone who does not really care about that. I do not think I am being unfair. They can talk to him themselves, ask him what he thinks about the food banks in the province and particularly in Metropolitan Toronto, ask him what he thinks about people earning below the poverty level paying income tax. They do not need to take my word for it. The members can ask him. He is their colleague. He will tell them. He is very direct, he pulls no punches. He will tell the members what he thinks of it. I hope the members will be as surprised as I was with his answers.
We are opposing this increase in income tax because it is not part of a package of tax reform. It simply sticks it to people in the province without giving any of us any sense of fairness about the system. For those reasons we are opposing this bill.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): The honourable member for Nickel Belt is participating in the debate of second reading of Bill 60, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act. Any questions or comments? Seeing none, continuing the debate, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to recognize the member for Markham.
Mr Cousens: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and I would like to compliment you on your new duds. It is probably part of the way in which this money is being spent, to pay for the acting Speakers to be dressed in accordance with the standards of the House. I would not want to offend the honourable Speaker. He might cut me off for being off topic, but I am not, because we are talking about the spending of moneys of the people of the province of Ontario. The fact that we have the honourable acting Speaker dressed accordingly is a good thing, so I support that.
We are dealing with the Income Tax Amendment Act, and it is a very, very serious bill. When we began this presentation, the member for Nepean stood up in his seat, tall and strong of voice, and started to say that we are increasing this income tax by one per cent to 53 per cent and then it will lead to the future prosperity of the province and a few technical amendments.
I had the pleasure of asking him, what was the rate of taxation on the personal income tax when you came to power? This honourable member, the member for Nepean, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Revenue, deigned not to respond to that question, either because he did not know it or because he did not want to admit to it. In either case, I find it quite repulsive that he would not be open, but that is typical of this Liberal government.
When the Liberals took office in 1985, the Ontario income tax that was part of our personal income tax was 48 per cent of the base federal tax. The Liberal budgets in 1985, 1988 and now in 1989 have increased the Ontario personal income tax rate. This bill represents the third time in less than two years that the Liberals have increased the Ontario personal income tax. The 1988 budget provided for a two-phase increase, from 50 to 51 per cent of the base federal tax in 1988 and from 51 per cent to 52 per cent of the base federal tax in 1989. In subsequent taxation years this proposed increase will raise an additional $36 million on a gross basis in the 1989-90 fiscal year and $237 million in a full fiscal year.
This government has taken another step by linking this bill with the employer health tax and the financing of the health care system. The government argument is that while the self-employed and sole proprietors have been exempted from the employee health tax, some of the foregone revenues from this exemption will be captured by the rate increase that will ensure that these individuals continue to contribute to the financing of the health care system.
I have to say it is a repulsive and reprehensible thing that is going on within this province. We are being taxed to the hilt by this government and there is no relief in sight for the small person who is carrying the load of the responsibility of paying his bills, looking after a family, being responsible for himself. I have to say it is becoming a major financial struggle for everybody in this province, and one of the leading causes of that struggle has to be the rate of taxation that this government is levying upon all people.
It costs 30 per cent less to live in Buffalo. By costing that much more in the Toronto area, and accordingly across the province, we are making it increasingly difficult for people at home to balance their budgets. We have people today going out to spend their moneys to buy Christmas gifts for their children and their families and who again are short-changed because there just is not enough money there to pay the bills. More and more people are just a couple of paycheques away from bankruptcy.
This government has been a leading cause of the real downfall of people not being able to have enough money left over from their hard-earned work to go and do the things they want to do with it. What we have got here is a government that has increased its taxation levels by over 100 per cent since it came to power. We are seeing a government that has taken Ontario from being the lowest of all the provinces on a per capita basis of money spent on the financing of government to now the fifth most expensive. It is very easy to spend money, especially when you have got it. We have had prosperity. But it has been a time when this province could have come along and said: “Let’s balance the books. Let’s be frugal in our expenses.”
During the earlier years before the Liberals took power, in the four years before they did take power, the government at the time was successful in decreasing the number of civil servants by over 4,000. In the few years that the Liberals have taken power, some four years, they have added 8,000 civil servants.
All of these things, along with the false expectations, the large spending habits, have caused our whole society to start to say, “There’s something the matter.”
I would like to touch very briefly on some of the people who are really touched by it. They are the small hard-working people who have made this province strong and what it is today.
Mr Chiarelli: The red Tories built a $3.2-billion deficit.
Mr Black: Don, that’s not going to work as long as you keep talking nonsense.
Mr Cousens: There are a lot of people who are very eloquent from their seats, Mr Speaker, and if they want to speak, they certainly have a chance, but I would be grateful if you would find some way of stifling them. Maybe you have no power over the other members of this House.
The Acting Speaker: The honourable member is inciting other honourable members with his remarks but, by the same token, every honourable member has the right to be heard. I am wondering if we could all come to a more happy understanding so that we could make the rest of the night enjoyable for all of us.
Mr Cousens: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I apologize for knocking your new suit.
When we talk about students and the financial hardship they are having, the Ontario student assistance program has certainly not kept pace with the way in which young people are trying to finance their education. Costs are increasing, but we are not seeing this government put the emphasis on education that it should be doing.
We are seeing the health care system suffer in a way that is unprecedented. I have a letter from one of my constituents in the old village of Markham who talks about a person who was going for cancer treatment and could not obtain that treatment in Toronto hospitals and was suggested to go to Thunder Bay or Windsor. We were helpful in getting this person to go to Windsor, a little closer to her home town. I would just like to quote briefly the comments from this senior citizen in my own riding. She says:
“This is totally unacceptable for a senior, of all people, to have to be moved away from family, church and support groups at such an emotionally trying time as cancer therapy. I am told that the reason for this is that Toronto brings in so many patients from all parts of the province. I ask the question: If people have to come from out-of-the-way places for treatment and they understand that this is the routine when they choose to live in remote areas, could these out-of-town people not be sent to Windsor and Thunder Bay, leaving beds in Toronto free for local people? Is this asking too much?”
She goes on to explain the problems of the health care system.
“I have to compliment my member, the member for Parry Sound, for the tremendous effort that he has taken in this Legislature to try to bring sense to the Minister of Health and explain to her the problems that the people at the grass-roots level of this province have. We have all this taxation, we have all this money, but the services that are being delivered are certainly not of the quality that people want in Ontario.”
Another area where money has been misspent: Recently in the region of York there was a possibility that the home care program would be transferred to Metropolitan Toronto. I had a letter from the seniors co-ordinating and planning council of York region protesting that problem.
The problem was simply one of the province collecting its money. This province collects the money as quickly as it can from our payroll, from our provincial sales tax and any other way it can, such as land transfer tax; yet when it comes time to paying for the services that are needed within our communities -- the Red Cross, the Victorian Order of Nurses, the home care systems -- they are late in making their payments.
I have a community house known as Participation House in the town of Markham. They are always two or three months behind in their payments from the province to pay for this 100 per cent cost. They are quick to take the money but they are not quick to invest it back into our local communities. We are talking about a government that is not only irresponsible in the way it collects our money by taking more out of our pockets through personal income tax but irresponsible in the extreme in the way in which it is spending it.
Prior to the September 1987 election, the Premier (Mr Peterson) said he had a solution for car insurance in Ontario. It is now proven that he does not have a solution and that the solution he has presented to reduce rates is costing us far more -- several million dollars. Over $10 million has been spent by this government in order to help arrange for this fantastic program that does not exist from the Premier of Ontario.
I would have to say also, when we talk about education dollars that are being spent, this government has recently approved a lot levy that is going to allow more money to be skimmed off the top for people who are moving into new homes in communities such as mine, and yet it does not begin to handle the cost of new schools. We see this government come along and expand junior kindergarten and kindergarten itself to full-day programs -- it has mandated these programs, which will necessitate an increase of 92 teachers for the York Region Board of Education plus 92 more classrooms -- but there is no more money from the province to speak of; it is coming from the local tax base.
We are talking about a government that is increasing its taxation level at the municipal level and how many programs it is passing on to the local municipalities, causing local taxes on our properties to increase by a significant rate. In our own community, they increased by over 15 per cent. If they keep on increasing at this rate, people on fixed incomes will not be able to afford to live in their own homes.
We are talking about an environmental crisis, and I believe an environmental catastrophe has replaced nuclear war as our number one menace. What we are talking about here is a government that does not begin to make the investment in environmental concerns that is part and parcel of protecting our environment, our society and our cities for the future in the long term. The way they are going about it is by short-term decisions.
As I speak to the Income Tax Act, I am seeing a government that has lost sight of its priorities. If it is going to take our money, it should spend it where it should spend it, not just fritter it away in areas where we cannot see our health care system protected, our insurance protected, our education protected, our municipalities protected and our environment protected. As I go on, I have other issues I would like to talk about, such as the handicapped, whom I see suffering great hardship.
I have a considerable amount to say on this issue. I happen to know that there are many other members who wish to participate in this debate. I would just like to go on and say that in short, we in Ontario are a very patient and complacent people. If there is anything I like about Canadians, it is the fact that we work well together, we believe in having a good society and fairness for all people; the unfortunate thing is that people, when they only have an election every three or four years, leave the problems to the people they have elected to solve their problems.
Fortunately, they have elected at least a few of us, some 17 Progressive Conservatives, who will stand up and be counted, unlike the 94 Liberals who are just sitting in their seats, speaking eloquently where they do not have to stand up and speak standing up. I guess they are not allowed to stand and speak for themselves and they are not allowed to influence the government in what it is doing.
If I could influence this government, I would say: “Cut your costs. Cut your spending. Reduce those costs. Reduce the overhead of government. Bring it down and serve the people of our province so they can afford to live within their means. Don’t come along and start plowing more money into programs that really do not start helping people.”
We are seeing that with rent control that has gone from about $8 million a year to over $50 million and a huge backlog at the same time. We are talking about the disabled who are not able to get the services they need in the health system. I look around this province, and I am proud of it, except that I know it could be a far better place if they, as a government, were doing the right things with our money. Here they are coming along again, adding to the cost of living and fuelling inflation.
What are we supposed to do about it? What I will do about it, Mr Speaker, is I will vote against this bill and against every tax bill that this government has brought in from this budget for this Legislature to debate. I will continue to vote against them until this government has the sense to come along and put the money where it should be. I say to them, stop spending so much. Stop fuelling the idea that people can get something for nothing. If they come along and expect the government to do something, it is going to cost them money. It is going to cost them out of their taxes -- out of their pocketbooks.
This bill we are talking about right now has to do with their own personal income tax. I am opposed to it. I will fight it. It is just too bad there are not enough Liberals who will stand up and speak their mind, because I am sure many thinking Liberals would agree with me that this government is out of control and it really needs to have a fresh sense of vision and purpose; that is, to live within our means and serve the people of Ontario. They are not doing that now; until they do, I can guarantee you, Mr Speaker, this government will not have my support.
Mr Villeneuve: I want to congratulate my colleague the member for Markham. It is kind of refreshing to hear it called the way it is and not paying lipservice. I come from a riding close to the city of Ottawa, and I was most disenchanted, I guess, whenever on the weekend a federal Liberal member from the Ottawa area decided the government of Canada should not be cutting expenses. That is amazing; it is true Liberal philosophy.
I see the Minister of Education (Mr Conway) looking at me. The member was Mac Harb, quoted on the front page of the Sunday Citizen. He said: “We cannot allow this government to stop spending and to reduce the deficit.” Very interesting. Typical Liberal philosophy, a philosophy that got us into some very deep trouble at the federal level and is now getting us into some very deep financial problems at the provincial level.
In the last four years we have gone through as good an economic time as we will ever have in this province. We have reduced the annual deficit but we have not wiped out the deficit. The total deficit of this province has been increasing, and whenever we get to a recession, which we are on the verge of, the true Liberal philosophy that is now being expressed by the federal Liberal members out of Ottawa is coming to roost right here in Ontario.
It is rather annoying because we are mortgaging the future of not only our children but our great-grandchildren. It is a situation that must stop. As we go into a recession the automotive industry is now feeling the brunt; it is the initial wave and it is going to get worse. Agriculture, it is anticipated, will be faced with an almost 40 per cent reduction in net income this coming year. This government is just not providing the leadership it should.
Mr Daigeler: I want to make a few comments on the remarks by the member for Markham. First of all, he is referring to the increase in the rate of provincial income tax over the last few years, but he fails to comment on the main reason for this increase; it is actually, if the members would like to hear this, the decrease in federal transfer grants from his federal cousins.
Mr Cousens: That is a lie. That is not true.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Daigeler: Secondly, it is a direct reflection of the tax reforms that have been instituted at the federal level. If the member would take that into account, perhaps he would come to a different conclusion.
I would also like to indicate that several times on this bill and on other bills the member has stood up and complained about the increase in taxes. Even this evening we heard him speak a few minutes ago about the high level of taxes in this province. An hour earlier the member stood up as chairman of the Conservative caucus committee on transportation and complained about the lack of new roads and new transportation facilities in the province.
I am struck by the inconsistency in this approach, not to say the two-facedness. I would like to say to the member that he cannot have it both ways; either he wants the health infrastructure, the social services infrastructure, the transportation infrastructure or he does not want it. If he wants it, then we have a responsibility to pay for it and not to put the burden on our children and the children of our children. With this bill that is what we do, and I am pleased to support it.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I wonder if we could have unanimous consent to revert to reports as previously arranged through the House leaders.
The Deputy Speaker: Could we first finish the exchange on this one?
Hon Mr Ward: I am sorry, I did not realize comments were still going.
The Deputy Speaker: Any other comments from members? If not, does the member for Markham wish to respond?
Mr Cousens: First of all, I would like to thank the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve). I have to thank our own critic for Agriculture and Food for the leadership he has given in pointing to the financial leadership the government should give to our agricultural community and what he gives in his own lifestyle and how he goes about it. I would have to say there is a leadership there that is the kind of thing that really makes me proud of the people who elected this member to represent them.
I would like to say that the member for Nepean has his facts wrong. The federal transfer payments to Ontario were up this year by eight per cent. Is the member not aware of that? How can the member for Nepean stand in this House with any sense of pride and give the kind of statement that he did that does not begin to represent the facts or the truth? The federal government increased the transfer payments to Ontario by eight per cent. He obviously did not know that. That is in excess of the cost of living; it is in excess of inflation.
What the member goes on to say, and I think he fails to say, is that this government, although it has received that kind of increase from the federal government, has not maintained the same increase to the local municipal governments that report through to it. Where has he been? When it came time to start supporting the services in our own local municipalities, they have not done it. I defy him to come along --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: I will lower my voice. The honourable member for Nepean upset me. I am sorry.
The parliamentary assistant does not understand that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. As a government, they received that kind of funding from the federal government and have done nothing of the same nature for municipal governments across the province. Where is the member? He had better put his mind in order, because I do not think he understands what is going on within this government or how it is really responding to the needs of our municipalities. I think in the future when he stands up --
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The member’s time is up.
There has been a request from the government House leader to revert to reports.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Mrs O’Neill from the standing committee on social development presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill with certain amendments:
Bill 66, Teachers’ Pension Act, 1989.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I think the member forgot to mention that the short title of the bill has been changed. It is now known as Sean’s bill. I thought I should bring that to her attention.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INCOME TAX AMENDMENT ACT (CONTINUED)
Resuming consideration of the motion for second reading of Bill 60, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.
Mr Allen: I rise to address Bill 60, which purports to add a further percentage point to the income tax proportion that the provincial government adds to the overall income tax which is administered through the federal government but which it receives for public purposes in Ontario.
What I want to pick up on in a certain perspective is the principal remark of the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) when he observed that, instead of piggybacking upon the federal income tax system and thereby being subjected to the underlying assumptions and values that animate federal governments and the parties in power in Ottawa, it is time that we in this province imposed upon a home-grown income tax system in Ontario the particular values and social perspectives that are more appropriate to this province.
I would underline the fact that we have not hesitated to do that with regard to a corporate income tax. Therefore, I ask the question, why have we been unwilling to do it with respect to personal income taxes? I raise the question because it strikes me that whenever we begin to move in on some of these questions that the member for Nickel Belt raised, namely, questions around poverty, distribution of income and so on, we are continually saddled by the incubus of federal perspectives and priorities, which we ought to be ourselves trying to escape.
It is evident, for example, when the report of the Social Assistance Review Committee proposed there should be two major programs in response to the problems of poverty in Ontario, the government immediately had to say, or felt it should say, “We cannot do that unless we embark upon it as a national program involving the federal government.” The two programs in question were the children’s benefit and the universal illness, accident and disability proposal which SARC proposed to this province.
If one wanted to simplify the question a little bit further, one would have to take up the issue and the challenge that the member for Nickel Belt laid on us this evening and which my leader has laid in the past two days and in previous weeks and months even to this government, that is, to use the income tax system, to use the wealth of this province in such a way as to respond not only dramatically but in such a way as to eliminate the basic fact of poverty in Ontario.
The member for Nickel Belt highlighted some of the astonishing income tax provisions that this province is prepared to indulge in. It is prepared, in fact, not to soak the rich but to soak the poor. We have gained in this last income tax year something like $80 million from those who made $10,000 or less a year. Unlike the province of Quebec, we insist on levying an income tax on a family of four that has an income of $20,000.
If we ask ourselves, who are the accomplices who are sending children of families to food banks, we have to point our fingers across to the opposite benches. The tax system is taking back from families that cannot afford essential subsistence or poverty level existence what those families require as absolute necessities in some cases, and in others, the means to even a modest element of dignity in their lives, which all of us would accept and expect for our families and would not accept anything less.
There are accomplices and the accomplices are right in this House. They are those who manufacture the income tax system in this province but who will not even seek enough liberty for themselves to manufacture a home-grown tax system. They are not prepared to be brave enough or courageous enough to break free and establish our own Ontario income tax system so that we could really provide the perspectives and the values, plug the loopholes, get on with a tax system that is equitable and fair in this province.
I want to suggest that the question in responding to the problem of food banks is not a question of where the money is going to come from. If my friends have any doubts as to whether there is wealth in this province, I suggest they pick up a couple of recent publications that came to all of our doors, or most of them. I must say they embarrassed me.
For the third year in a row, the Globe and Mail has published the best-of-Toronto Christmas collection. Of all things, the irony and the scandal of publishing as a Christmas publication, with the word “Christ” in it, a whole book of advertisements -- beautiful glossies; thick, heavy paper impossible to recycle.
Fountain pens? There are people out there who are prepared to buy them at $640 a shot. Carpets? Apparently there are people out there who buy them at $140,000 for 14 feet 7 inches by 11 feet in dimension. Not for your whole house, just for one small room. My goodness. And to wash yourself in. a handy, tiny bathroom basin for $2,500.
Lamps? Do you want a cheap lamp? Well, here is one: urn shaped, lead cut crystal with nickel base -- $5 short of 1,000 smackers. And you can go on.
The same magazine published in the recent Toronto Globe and Mail edition -- it is obvious whom the Globe is catering to these days. Surely, some modest-income families subscribe to the Globe. I would hope so, because there is darn good reporting in the Globe. Yet, those families are receiving these kinds of publications. What a scandal. What a moral affront. It really is.
There are pages in this that tell us the kind of gifts that Mr Wilson is prepared to sanction, by giving his picture to the front cover, and the front cover story relates to this neat little midsection which tells you, “Christmas gifts for the characters on your list.” Boy, there is some expensive stuff in here. The members have all seen it; they mostly subscribe to the Globe. Were they not shocked?
Then, there is a recent story that tells us about the miracle of Queen Street. Christmas is a great time for miracles. We like to incorporate the sense of the miraculous into Christmas. Many of our traditions borrow on the miraculous in order to give a heightened sense of reality, purpose and value to the things that are important in our lives. But what is the miracle of Queen Street?
The miracle of Queen Street is the transformation of Simpsons department store into a store for the rich of world-class proportions. And what does the story tell us? It tells us, according to George Kosich, who is a president of Simpsons parent company, “We are going to take Simpsons into the better market.”
What is the better market? The better market is the upper class of the superrich in Toronto that has developed that is corrupting the very value system and morality of this province by its excessive wealth, its conspicuous consumption, its distortion of the distribution expenditure of wealth and its investment in this province. Our income tax system ought to be attacking that corruption in our midst that is brought here by the superwealthy.
“We have the finest fashion floor in North America,” boasted Paul Walters, until recently, the president of Simpsons, who is now running Zellers and the man who saw to it that Simpsons had the best fashion floor in North America. This store is being compared to the highest of high fashion stores in Japan, New York and Europe. Those are symptoms of what is going on in our midst.
When the member for Nickel Belt proposes a tax on real wealth, then I suggest that this government, if it is true even to the basic values of liberalism -- and I have to remind the members, liberalism in this province, at least in the past century, arose among some pretty humble people. If this government is going to be true to any of those values -- and I hope they still persist across there. Sometimes I see the flame flickering, as though it were about to go out. But if it is true to that flame and trying to keep it alive, surely it will devise an income tax system that goes after real wealth in a real way.
Because, if there is one thing that is coming clear, according to the analyses of our distribution of wealth in this province, according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development analysis, it is that we are becoming one of the most polarized societies in terms of real wealth of any country in the western world. If we do not get a handle on that in our tax system and if we do not reorder the priorities of our life by means of the powers that government has to make certain that there is only a certain margin of fluctuation between normal means that provide adequate sustenance for life and the indulgence in luxury, then we are going to suffer the worst social cancers and disorders and difficulties down the road that certainly have afflicted any of our partners in the western world.
If I want to come back to the tax on wealth that we have proposed, which if one applied it in the same measure to which it has been applied in western European countries, 0.2 per cent of the gross provincial product, we would earn about $500 million out of that, as our finance critic pointed out. What would that do immediately for us and what would it do immediately in the direction of an attack upon food banks, to be more particular, in Ontario?
It would mean that instead of having to poach on the Social Assistance Review Committee report’s $415-million first phase -- by building in such things as $30 million for two years of inflation costs, which should be written off against that amount and ought not to be considered within it, $125 million in terms of an inflation level increase that is supposed to be coming in January, not to increase the capacity of those who are poor to deal with their poverty but just to keep them barely at the same level that they were the previous year prior to the inflation level -- we would be able, from that $500 million, immediately to do the entire first stage of the SARC report, lift all those benefit levels, almost double what they were on average, to what the minister was able to do.
And we would still have about $350 million left over to do what? To provide $255 million for the second stage immediately, without waiting, and even have some money left over, which we could then direct at some of the crash and urgent food programs that need to be engaged in over this next while in order to feed the poor kids in this city and other cities around this province.
When my leader this afternoon asked the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), was she going to transfer some resources in order to meet the biggest health problem that we have in this province, namely poverty and the hunger of poor kids, whose bones are just being formed, whose bodies are just being developed, whose mentalities are being shaped, whose minds are being fashioned, the only response she could give was to talk about treatment in some fashion, as though somehow looking after the health in a sickness society fashion. Treatment was the answer. It is not treatment that is needed; it is an address at the fundamental fact of poverty. The poor kids are hungry and money is needed, not tomorrow, now.
The medical officer of health, on 14 December, sent an SOS to this government, “The state of hunger of children in Toronto is an SOS, it is an emergency, it has to be met immediately, we cannot tolerate it any longer.” The food banks tell us that even the amount that has been spent on the SARC report will only touch, at the most, 20 per cent of the clients of the food bank system; 80 will still be there, which means 80 per cent of the 45 per cent of that number who are kids will still be there at the end of the year.
The government has proposed to take away the emergency shelter assistance program, which will cut marginally into the support of food banks, before one even tested the water as to whether the SARC reforms were even going to touch the food bank problem. This is a question that cannot wait. This is a question that urgently needs the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) to lay his hands on resources that are available in this province to meet the hunger of children.
What I say to the members is, that is going to require all the imagination of a Treasurer and a cabinet and a government and all the members of this House over the next year if we are going to beat that problem, because no one, I am sure, in his right mind will deny that it is arguably the most important single question facing this province at this time.
If we are not going to gear our income tax system to finding the wealth where the wealth is and deploying that money where the need is, then let’s say we are not going to do that. Let’s be honest about it. Let’s say a certain percentage of poverty is a good thing. Let’s tell the poor that they have a right to be poor. In fact, they may even have an obligation to be poor, because certainly we are not going to get all of them out of their misery. “So live with it, friends.”
Surely we do not want to send that message. Surely what we want to say is that we have massive resources at the disposal of this government, and this government, if it sets its mind to it can eliminate poverty in relatively short order. The problem is the will. The problem is facing up to a little bit of the reaction it might get in a few quarters which it now counts as friendly and which may become a little bit unfriendly in the process.
Surely anyone who thinks about it for a few minutes has to really sort out -- in particular, perhaps, at this season of the year -- what his commitments are with regard to the people of this province. Will any member in this House stand up and say that his commitment is not to seeing the hunger of poor kids is ended this year? Is any member of the House prepared to stand up and argue the contrary proposition? I do not expect any member of this House would do so.
All that I say to us as a collective entity is, unless we are prepared to stand up and say the contrary, then we must take our commitments in hand and do what we need to do with respect to the emergency programs that are necessary, the funding that is necessary for them and the income tax system that will support in an equitable and fair way the maintenance of what I think one has to call a democracy in Ontario. Because let’s be quite clear: If the continual division of wealth in this province continues as it is going, if more and more poverty develops, as it has been, in spite even of prosperity in much of the population, and if, on the other hand, the kind of accumulation of wealth that this stuff represents and the articles in the paper on the miracles of Queen Street represent, then democracy in any proper meaning of the term, which means a real value attributed to each citizen and his capacities and his abilities to participate in the social process and in the political process, will be dramatically eroded in this province.
I ask us to think about that very seriously, because I do not think it is a future that any of us wants. Yet it is one that we might inadvertently build just simply by neglecting to do today what should be done today and what needs to be done tonight with respect to income tax amendments. So I want to echo in my own way what the member for Nickel Belt said as our finance critic and to put it to this government that it ought to be doing something other than endorsing consumption taxation à la Mr Wilson. It ought to be doing more than piggybacking on federal income tax priorities and structures. It ought to be developing a made-in-Ontario income tax system with fairness at its base and with equity for all as its purpose and with the elimination of poverty as its urgent necessity.
Mr Villeneuve: I also want to spend a few moments debating Bill 60, a bill that will implement a proposal contained in the budget of the Treasurer on 17 May 1989 to increase the rate of personal income tax to 53 per cent of the federal income tax for 1990 and subsequent taxation years.
That is just another of many tax grabs that have occurred since this government took over in June 1985. Taxes have gone up by more than 10 per cent every year of this government’s mandate.
The total take for this government when it took office in 1985 was some $28 billion; that is not that long ago. We are now faced with a total take, including federal transfers and taxes paid by Ontario residents, of almost $42 billion, an increase of some $14 billion in some four years.
I am going to reflect to some degree on where some of this money is not going. There has been a tremendous tax grab from Ontario residents by this government over the last four years. They have dug deep down into the pockets of our residents and have done it in such a way that they have attempted to make Ontarians feel good about doubling the taxes they pay, at the same time attacking any attempt by the federal government to try to control spending, and as I referred to earlier, to try to reduce spending and reduce the deficit -- true liberalism.
We will start with the employer health tax. It is amazing that the Premier or his Minister of Health or his Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) has never admitted publicly that there is double taxation.
Mr Carrothers: Because there isn’t.
Mr Villeneuve: The member says there is not. It is interesting to note that some $435 million will have been collected for October, November and December for premium payments for OHIP for January, February, March and April -- $435 million -- and yet on the first day of January the employers start to remit based on up to 1.95 per cent of their payroll.
Mr Carrothers: It’s an accountant’s argument.
Mr Villeneuve: The member says that it is an accountant’s argument. The dollars are going to the government. It is pure, straight, unadulterated double taxation. An accountant’s nightmare? I am not an accountant. I happen to come from a rural part of Ontario and I think I understand taxes. I understand that they have has a windfall of some $435 million. The member says it is an accountant’s problem. It may be. Still, the Ontario taxpayer is paying double. It does not matter how you look at it and how you cut it. That is the way it is.
I come from the part of Ontario that is agricultural and rural. The same government, with its former Minister of Agriculture and Food and its present Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay), has paid lipservice to Ontario’s agriculture, and no more, pure and simple lipservice. I have an answer here to a question in Orders and Notices. It is signed by the minister and has to be pretty accurate.
The ministry’s budget for 1988-89, as estimated and budgeted: $579 million. The actual expenditures: $522 million. Some $56 million, almost $57 million that was earmarked, budgeted, for Ontario’s agricultural community was never spent. Indeed, $51,694 million was not transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to Ontario’s farmers in the last fiscal year. That is from the same government that has wooed and tried to woo farmers and is trying to make them believe that they are the be-all and end-all to agriculture and to the people who are involved in farming in this province.
We have just had the outlook conference at the federal level and we have had some pretty dire predictions, predictions of a reduction in net farm income across Canada to our agricultural community of almost 40 per cent. That is a severe reduction in net income. No other sector, bar none, in our economy is facing that type of reduction in net income. Yet this government and its Ministry of Agriculture and Food has seen fit to reduce the budget by more than 12 per cent, a budget it had earmarked and intended for agriculture, which stayed with the consolidated revenue of Ontario and never got spent on agriculture. It went elsewhere of course. It never went where it was supposed to.
It is rather sad that our Liberal colleagues are not participating, but I am quite sure they would like me to refer to a few things the Provincial Auditor brought forth in his 1989 annual report. I know all members of this Legislature are familiar with the auditor. The auditor is the watchdog of the public dollar and reports to this Legislature on value for money. I am privileged because I happen to be a member of the standing committee on public accounts and have seen at first hand some of the darker sides of the way this government spends.
I will quote a few of the statements made by the auditor. For instance, consulting services: I will just go at random; it does not really matter, “We were concerned that in some instances ministries were merely going through the motions of competitive tendering.”
That is deceitful and it is a situation where when you say “being deceitful” you are being kind; you could use other words. That is one of the statements by the Provincial Auditor, “ ... going through the motions of competitive tendering.”
We have some other statements by the Provincial Auditor and I will just touch on a few of them. “Government ministers and employees often spend too much money on travel, renting full-size luxury cars and staying in expensive hotels.” Well, a little bit of that, but not when it goes on consistently at the peril of Ontario’s taxpayers and against the rules.
“District courtrooms are in use about half the time, even though some 14,800 cases are waiting to go to trial.” We need some streamlining there of course.
“Fishery staff lost $1 million by not enforcing fishing licences and inspectors are often, on weekends and holidays when violations are likely to occur, not there.”
I could go on. I know many of our members here are well aware. We have to remind the members here of where the dollars are not going and of where they are going that they should not be going.
The auditor’s report gave this government a 70 per cent.
Mr Carrothers: Better than under the Tories.
Mr Villeneuve: The member over there seems to think that is a great mark. I look at it in this way: $42 billion is the money that is spent by this government, and 30 per cent of that according to the Provincial Auditor is money that is not being well spent or accounted for. That is a lot of money, over $12 billion a year of money that is not spent where value for dollar spent is, according to the auditor, well intended.
The Provincial Auditor was probably kind in some of the statements that he made. I see my colleague the member for Cornwall (Mr Cleary) is here this evening. We both attended the inauguration of a new warden in Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry yesterday, a man who has been in municipal politics for a number of years. His name is Claude Cousineau. He is the reeve of Winchester township and he replaces Stewart Hart, who was the warden for the entire year last year.
I found it most interesting that the federal Liberal Party saw fit to visit the city of Cornwall and found tremendous funds lacking in expenditures towards municipal infrastructure, to the point where they recommended strongly that because of the lack of funding by this provincial government, the federal government should be involved in assisting, believe it or not. There is a clear message to this government from its federal Liberal colleagues that the job it is doing is far from adequate.
The previous government in Ontario -- we have been told time and time again it was for 42 years. For 42 years the previous government built this infrastructure, built the roads, the class 1 provincial highways, the four-lane roads. This government cannot even maintain them let alone build some more, and it has had a 50 per cent increase in revenue over the last four years. That is the kind of government we now have here in Ontario.
I will tell members where the money was not going. I was elected in a by-election just six short years ago, in 1983. I recall the evening well, 15 December. One of the big issues for my Liberal opponent at that time -- I reminded him of it yesterday during the inauguration of the warden -- was the transfer payments, the unconditional grants to municipalities that year. That was one of the big issues in that by-election, a two and a half per cent increase over the previous year.
Mr Villeneuve: Yes, Bill 60, Mr Speaker. We are talking about money. It is provincial; I realize that. I realize your concern and I am glad you reminded me. It all reports back to Bill 60 of course, because where the province takes in money, then it has to reallocate.
The big issue was that the provincial government of the day, the Tory government, had only increased by two and a half per cent the unconditional grants to municipalities. Mr Speaker, would you happen to know what the increase to municipalities was last year? In case you may not recall offhand, it was zero, absolutely nothing, flat-lined.
I reminded my friend the Liberal candidate of the time and he said, “That is not enough either.” We know that is not enough either, and we got four per cent. Would members that this government saw fit to announce recently that it would be increasing by slightly more than four per cent unconditional grants and transfers to the municipalities next year? But when we take the two years together, it is something like two per cent a year, and this is in good times, times when the federal transfer payments to this government increased by a full eight per cent.
Inflation is somewhere between four per cent and five per cent. This government, to municipalities, to school boards, to agriculture -- I could name a number of others, but those are for sure the ones that suffered real decreases in the amount of dollars they had for maintenance and operation. When those dollars were not forthcoming from the provincial level, the municipalities and the school boards, in order to simply exist, had to increase municipal taxes by somewhere between 12 per cent and 20 per cent, and in some instances more than 20 per cent.
The taxpayers are not only being asked to support more at the provincial level, and going to 53 per cent of the federal income tax, but they have been asked to pay such things as an increase of one per cent in the sales tax, a tire tax and lot levies. We could go on and on.
Over the last four years it has been more than a 10 per cent a year increase, consistently and rising. When you compound that, you have over four years a 50 per cent increase in the amount of money this government has gone after to its residents, to its taxpayers, as increases to its coffers, which it has spent and probably will continue to spend to some degree in a way that is not even very acceptable to our Provincial Auditor.
I have great concern over the future and the direction that this government appears to be leading the province with the best economic record in the entire country, the province that I am certainly very proud to be a resident of and very proud to be an elected member of this Legislature, except I have some difficulty in trying to explain to my constituents where these dollars are going. As I mentioned before, in the last four years we have had an increase of $14 billion of moneys coming into the coffers, yet municipalities, school boards and agriculture have not seen their just share, leave alone other sectors of the economy.
In wrapping up, I am very concerned. We are increasing again in Bill 60 another tax grab. Probably within the next year we will see our Premier (Mr Peterson) decide that maybe he should go to the public for a new mandate, and sometimes you wonder why. How frustrating, as you must know it is, Mr Speaker, to sit in this Legislature and have a large majority government simply steamroller and sometimes turn into somewhat of a joke legislation which it brings forth. We can debate until we are blue in the face but when the bell tolls, the Liberal members stand up and simply overwhelm the opposition.
I want to touch on another item which was brought to my attention. Two weeks ago I attended the annual meeting of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. I understand that the Liberal members, the rural members, the rural caucus members, had a get-together for farmers, as we did in our caucus. Some 300-plus people came through our hospitality suite that night, and I made it a point to speak to most of them. I met a number of farmers who came from Liberal-held ridings. As a matter of fact, some of them were on the executive of elected Liberal MPPs right here in this chamber. They wanted to go to the Liberal rural caucus room to speak to people like the Treasurer for what he did to farm tax rebates, to the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program.
Bill 60 is going to bring in more money, yet less of it will be going to these people. If Bill 60 and the increase of one per cent was to contribute to some degree to assist our rural communities, then maybe we could support it, but Bill 60 says simply, “There will be another one per cent, but don’t be looking -- municipalities, school boards or agriculture -- for more money, because we have kind of set our track record now. We have our priorities right. We like big-spending ministries but basically spend it on those things that get you re-elected.”
Some of these were very strong, committed Liberal supporters. I say “were” and I put the emphasis on “were” because they wanted to speak to the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay), they wanted to speak to the Treasurer, they even would have liked to speak with the Premier and explain to these people that agriculture is really getting the short end of the stick. As a matter of fact, the stick has gone. There is nothing left for them. The interest rebate payments are gone, the means test for the farm tax rebate, and I think there is a message there that in the future the means test will be the way this government wants to go. In other words, we are encouraging people to be mediocre. We are not encouraging successful people; to some degree we are encouraging mediocrity.
In conclusion, this government had better change its tune and its method of thinking because rural Ontario will not accept the type of lipservice and noncommitment that this government is becoming well known for. Lipservice will no longer carry the day. We are looking for real help and real support. Bill 60 will bring in, again, more money to the coffers of this government, but will it be going to the right place? I am afraid it may not.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity of participating in this debate.
The Acting Speaker: I thank the honourable member for the opportunity that I had of listening to the debate and his comments.
Mr Cousens: The honourable member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry has a tremendous insight to the agricultural community. Are there any specific programs that he would see this government implement on a very short-order basis to begin to strengthen our agricultural community?
I happen to feel that there is not that emphasis of looking after our farmers. I have heard him many times in caucus on it. Maybe he could just briefly indicate the weakness of some of the programs that exist now or he could touch on some of the things that he would do, as Minister of Agriculture and Food, for our party when we take government.
Mr Villeneuve: I really appreciate the comments from my colleague the member for Markham. I have visited Markham, and he does have some farmers in Markham -- not many, but he does have some.
I am a little disappointed that only one of the parliamentary assistants for the Minister of Agriculture and Food is here and, of course, one of the past presidents of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the member for Lincoln (Mr Pelissero), is here and would quite obviously rather not participate. That is fine.
The Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program must return. We must have a family farm program to protect exactly that -- the family farm -- and it is very important that these Liberal members understand. The farm tax rebate must not be subject to a means test and the federation of agriculture presented a plan. I am replying --
The Acting Speaker: To what?
Mr Villeneuve: Bill 60, which will bring in more money. But the federation of agriculture presented a plan that would have reduced to 90 per cent the farm tax rebate without a means test and the government said no. I had a private member’s motion and was totally turned down by this government because I simply suggested that this government had failed farmers in not providing leadership, having a dismal record of co-operation with the federal government and not adhering to its own report on free trade where it said $95 million would be lost by Ontario agriculture with the implementation of free trade. What did it do? It lowered the support for agriculture by $57 million the same year that the report said agriculture would suffer a loss of $95 million if free trade came in.
Some positives; some negatives. Some of the things that came in under free trade we do not like, but GATT is where it is all at, and this is where this government has to recognize that we need support for the basic industry of this province.
Mrs Cunningham: I am pleased to stand up in this House and denounce Bill 60. When the Liberals took office in 1985 the Ontario personal income tax was 48 per cent of the federal base rate; it is now moving to 53 per cent -- another example of the significant tax grab by this Ontario government over the years.
The London Free Press of 18 May 1989 spoke very clearly in an editorial when it said:
“Even with a booming economy generating high tax revenues, Ontario Treasurer Robert Nixon has still not managed to come up with a balanced budget. It’s a failure of responsibility that could come back to haunt the province in the next recession.... His chronic lack of spending restraint has resulted in yet another substantial tax grab that will eventually filter down and hurt low income earners the most.”
If we are thinking about the quality of life in this province, low-income earners are the people who contribute significantly to our economy. They are the people we encourage and work hard to keep in our workforce, and they are the kinds of people who are hurting the most with this kind of tax grab.
To prosper in this changed economic order requires that advanced economies like Ontario’s become more productive and that they fully exploit technology and technological diffusion in order to offset the low-wage cost advantage of newly industrialized countries, that they develop and maintain flexible and skilled labour pools and that they pursue policies which encourage innovation and creative and productive investment. We want people to invest in Ontario. We want them to live here and stay living here.
I am personally convinced that our future prosperity and our ability to successfully manage and exploit the opportunities of the next decade as we move into the 1990s depends on a constructive and positive partnership between the public and private sectors in this province. Today we talked about a commercial concentration tax. Imagine, we are wanting to foster positive relationships with the public, with municipalities and with the private sector.
Tonight we talked about an OHIP tax. That does not foster positive partnerships with the public that we serve. Regrettably, that partnership does not exist today in the way we would like it to because this Liberal government does not appear to appreciate the difference between constructive participation and destructive interference in its dealings with the private sector. I believe this is clearly demonstrated in a number of areas of public policy, and tonight is a clear indication of one of them, another tax policy.
It is imperative that we maintain a competitive tax system in order to attract investment to create jobs and to encourage growth. In Ontario we seem to be set on a tax policy which will repel investment, destroy jobs and discourage growth.
Since this current Liberal government took office in 1985, it has imposed no fewer than 32 tax and levy increases on Ontario consumers and businesses -- 32 since 1985. Every major tax has been increased at least once, and new taxes have been created.
I heard a Liberal member this evening talk about the public wanting improved infrastructure; they wanted new roads, more schools and better health care. All the members have to do is go out into the community they live in now, or spend a day a week in their constituency office, and the people will tell them what they feel about the roads, about the highway congestion, about passing big trucks, about sending their students and young people to school in portables and about their friends, neighbours and family members who are on waiting lists to get health care services.
It is just fine for the Liberals to stand up and say, “We have to have more money to provide services.” What services? As a consequence the tax revenues, because of the tax grabs by this government, have increased by more than 100 per cent since 1985. The tax revenues by this government since 1985 have increased by over 100 per cent.
I expect all of my colleagues, and I know all of my colleagues, are advising the public of the dangers in this kind of planning, in this kind of lack of planning and this kind of no vision for the future. There is a danger and the public must be warned.
In the current fiscal year the government will collect $15.2 billion more in taxes than it did a mere five years ago. In per capita terms, the reality is this: In 1984-85 the Ontario citizen’s share of the total provincial tax bill per capita was $1,687. How could the government possibly go out and tell the public what it is paying now? This year the per capita tax share of an Ontario citizen is $3,147, an increase of 86.5 per cent this year, and this increase in the Ontario income tax base to 53 per cent is contributing to that kind of grab that costs the little guy practically the ability to buy clothing and food for his children -- those who are still working.
This government has used a series of massive tax grabs to fund a spending spree which has driven provincial program expenditures up at an average annual rate of 10.2 per cent over the 1985 to 1989 period, a rate of increase greater than in any other Canadian jurisdiction. How does that compare with the other parts of the jurisdiction that we are all part of? Ottawa’s spending average over five years is 3.5 per cent.
There is no way. If the government were to try today to change things, it would take it two years to get things back into shape. At least we should not be spending beyond inflation and beyond productivity, beyond the average taxpayer’s ability to pay taxes -- 10.2 per cent in Ontario, average; Ottawa, 3.5 per cent.
Do members know what the provincial average is in Canada? It is 6.5 per cent.
We should be ashamed. In this booming economy where the rest of Canada relies on Ontario because of our wonderful resources and people who are still committed to being good citizens, we are spending 10.2 per cent, the provinces 6.5 per cent and the federal government 3.5 per cent, average, over five years. When they consider these numbers, the members will appreciate why we have been saying that the government of Ontario has been the primary beneficiary of the province’s economic boom.
It is not only the amount of tax but the type of taxation imposed by this government that is so disturbing. The imposition of a health payroll tax on Ontario employers to replace OHIP that we talked about this evening is an example of the destructive tax policy which will clearly impair job creation, discourage expansion and do nothing to enhance our competitive position.
The situation in Ontario has become so bad that it is now standard for the government of Quebec to boast in its annual budget that the business tax gap between the two provinces is constantly shrinking. Imagine, in this year’s budget the Quebec government was pleased to report that the business tax gap between the two provinces, which had stood at 9.6 per cent in 1985, had dwindled to 1.8 per cent in 1989. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
It is hard to stand up in this House and speak to yet another tax, a tax that does nothing to help our young people have confidence in the future economic policy of this province, in the future of this province’s ability to contribute to the economy of our own province and country. I do not see the kind of confidence in this government that I would hope our young people would have; they are discouraged.
More important, the business community is discouraged. The head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business described this government as the most antibusiness government he has dealt with in over 20 years.
It is not, I suppose, a fulfilling way to spend one’s time in this House to have to come a couple of days before Christmas and be speaking to the lack of fiscal restraint and fiscal responsibility of this government, so I only wanted to put on the record the kinds of facts that we should be very concerned about as we continue to try to support a government without a vision or, I should say, some responsibility for fiscal policies in the province. I should think that this would be the last time we would have to stand up and speak to yet another tax bill in this House. I would encourage all the citizens of Ontario to go to their individual members and tell them how concerned they are about a government that does not balance its budget, that has spent 10.2 per cent over the last five years and that is noted for its total lack of concern for the small-income earner in Ontario. Thank you for this opportunity, Mr Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: I would like to thank the member for London North for her comments on second reading of Bill 60, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.
Mr Daigeler: I understand that this is the wrapup.
Mr Cousens: That is the tradition around here. If anyone can wreck it, it is you right now.
Mr Daigeler: Seeing that my colleagues are so keen to listen to my words of wisdom, I will try to be as succinct as possible, because, quite frankly, being a new member in this House, I must admit I have not yet quite learned the almost eerie ability of the member for Markham to pick two or perhaps at most three ideas and to weave them into a speech of some 30, 40, 50 minutes without even catching a breath in between his statements. That is one ability that I am still trying to learn and I think the member for Markham, if he has any attribute, that is one that perhaps I can look forward to still.
In what the member has referred to, he does not seem to want to acknowledge that his federal colleagues are costing the provincial government this year alone $560 million that we have to make up out of our own provincial income.
With regard to the member for Nickel Belt and his effort to introduce a totally new tax system. I would like to indicate to him that we are always interested in his comments. Perhaps his party would like to set up a task force on the revision of the tax system; we are always glad to listen. However, tonight we are looking at a one per cent increase, a very limited bill, Bill 60, that puts a one per cent increase to the Income Tax Act in Ontario. In that context, I do not think it is the place to revise our total income tax system and our total taxation system.
To the member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen), who I think at this Christmastime has spoken, I would say, quite eloquently, possibly even theologically or philosophically about our need to look after the needs of the poor, I think he makes some very valid points, but I would indicate to him that the previous Minister of Community and Social Services this year alone has already addressed $400 million to the SARC reforms to a very important concern that the minister has raised.
Finally, in conclusion, perhaps the member for Nickel Belt did not hear my introductory remarks where I indicated to him that through measures associated with this bill another 50,000 people in Ontario will in fact benefit from not having to pay any Ontario income tax at all. Perhaps he missed that at the beginning. For his benefit, I am repeating it, and there will be now 365,000 low-income individuals who are liable for basic federal personal income tax but who will no longer pay Ontario personal income tax under the provisions of this initiative.
The Acting Speaker: Mr Daigeler, in the absence of Mr Mancini, has moved second reading of Bill 60, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those against will please say “nay.”
The Acting Speaker: No, I think the ayes have it.
The Acting Speaker: Are we calling in the members?
Hon Mr Ward: By prior agreement, the vote will take place following routine proceedings tomorrow.
The Acting Speaker: That is wonderful news. Agreed? Unanimous consent?
DISCHARGE OF BILL 66
Hon Mr Ward: Before calling the orders of the day. I would like to seek unanimous consent that the order for committee of the whole House on Bill 66 be discharged and the bill ordered for third reading.
The Acting Speaker: The honourable House leader has asked unanimous consent that Bill 66 be moved into third reading. Agreed?
Hon Mr Ward: Given the season, I would suggest that we adjourn until tomorrow.
The Acting Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 of the clock tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 2302.