The House met at 1330.
Mr Farnan: The Minister of Health has said that the proposed health legislation she has inherited will be brought before the Legislature this session unchanged. Under the proposed legislation, health care workers will remain unregulated; that is, pastoral counsellors, social workers and crisis centre volunteers would become vulnerable to prosecution for doing their jobs.
We can support the general intent of the proposed legislation for regulation of health care professionals, especially with respect to the standards of self-regulation. However, clauses 24.04 and 24.06 within the proposed health professions legislation are not in the best interests of a significant portion of our population and broader consideration should be given to include both traditional and non-traditional health disciplines in the health care field under the proposed legislation.
It has been reported that the minister will not budge in her determination to keep the wording as it is. She has indicated that the only wording acceptable to the powerful College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is the present one.
The present wording is unlikely to be acceptable to the citizens of Ontario once they hear about it. At least half the population relies to some extent on the services of unregulated health care workers -- hospital counsellors, social workers, psychotherapists, holistic healers and many others. Indeed, under this legislation anyone giving advice over the backyard fence concerning a cold or other human health condition would be breaking the law. This is intolerable.
Mr Cousens: Each year the first week of June is designated National Transportation Week. Activities are held nationwide to acknowledge the crucial role of Canada’s transportation systems, both socially and economically.
Today in Ontario transportation has become a central issue for the public. For millions of people in the greater Toronto area, transportation has become a very high priority. Clogged roads, perpetual traffic jams and overcrowded public transit are causing frustration and anxiety among members of the commuting public.
As chairman of the Progressive Conservative task force on transportation, I have had the opportunity to hear the concerns and listen to the suggestions. More than ever, this government has the opportunity to address the problems evident in our transportation networks. More than ever, this government must move quickly and decisively to improve what many term the lifeline of our economy and of our society.
The minister’s announcement of 5 April was a good start. Members of my party eagerly await the plans of the implementation committee. Dynamic solutions must be found that combine new capital construction with effective management and upgrades to the existing system. No longer can we just respond to our current needs. It is essential that we plan for the next generation. Time is of the essence.
PASSENGER CRUISE SHIPS
Mr Keyes: Today I rise to recognize the adventurous exploits of a brave and daring entrepreneur from my riding, Bob Clark, who has revived a mode of transportation one can associate with the discovery of this continent. That mode of transportation is the passenger cruise ship.
I am sure we can all picture vividly the time-honoured images of a grandiose steamer cutting the waters of the St Lawrence River in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The cunning riverboat gambler, the coquettish southern belle, the paddle-wheel incessantly slapping the water are all too familiar to us as we conjure up scenes of a steamship plying the waterways for both business and pleasure.
Bob Clark is the proud owner of the Victorian Empress, a 192-foot steamship which sailed magnificently into Toronto harbour recently. Passengers travelling on it for the first time extolled the virtues of this vessel. They were impressed with the spacious and well-decorated staterooms, the excellent service and an atmosphere of quietude and relaxation that we associate with sea travel. It was my pleasure to tour the Victorian Empress in company with a number of members of this Legislature.
Mr Clark will be venturing from Lake Ontario towards the Ottawa River, the Saguenay River and the great St Lawrence. In the true entrepreneurial spirit illustrated in the past by many eager and ambitious industrialists, Mr Clark is endeavouring to rejuvenate an area of the tourist market. I applaud his bold initiative in breathing new life into passenger cruise ships.
FUNDING FOR THE HEARING-IMPAIRED
Mr Allen: Carol Lumsden, who has a four-year-old daughter, Veronica, deaf and with spina bifida, is getting rather worn out having to confront arbitrary rules like the rule that you cannot get funding from two ministries at once. Her daughter, Veronica, has been at the Chedoke treatment centre for her deafness for the last year or so and has made great progress. Now she is about to move on from Chedoke to the Queensdale school program for the hearing-impaired, which is of about the same intensity and presumably the same overall cost, except that this will now be funded by the board of education.
Well, so far so good, but currently Veronica has need and her mother has need of her being in a day care, which acts as a kind of extension to the hearing-impaired program for her. Veronica’s mother gets 87.5% funding support for her child in the day care because the child is handicapped.
Here comes the problem. Because the day care is funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the hearing-impaired program will now be funded through the Ministry of Education, Veronica’s mother is stuck in the catch-22 position of having to lose her day care option in order for her child to go on with her care for her deafness.
She will next year have two children in day care, an immense expense. She has additional expenses with regard to Veronica, $1,700 since last fall, and if she cannot get day care for her children, she cannot work.. What a problem to put a mother in because of this arbitrary rule.
CHIEF SCOUT AWARDS
Mr McLean: My statement is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation and it concerns a memo dated 24 May that he sent to members about the Chief Scout Awards for the Land 0’ Lakes region. This memo stated that recipients on the list would be receiving their Chief Scout Awards on 16 June and that the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay would be presenting provincial plaques. It is most unfortunate that the memo failed to indicate the time and place of the awards presentation, and it was like pulling teeth when my staff called the member’s office in an attempt to get this information.
Why is the member so secretive about this event? What is he trying to hide? Why is he ashamed of people who have worked so hard to get their Chief Scout Awards? I think the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay should get his priorities in order.
In any event, I do not want the member’s secretive attitude to detract from the joy that should surround this event. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere congratulations to all of the recipients of the Chief Scout Award in the Land 0’ Lakes region, and especially to Steve Cox of the 9th Orillia Troop, Barry Rye of the 1st Udney Troop. Jeffrey Klug of the 1st Penetanguishene Troop and Christopher Dunn and Kelly Moreau of the 1st Port McNicoll Troop. Their efforts should not go and have not gone unnoticed.
SANDERSON CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
Mr Neumann: This past Thursday I had the delightful opportunity of attending an open house at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in the city of Brantford. This centre was formerly known to community residents as the Capitol Theatre and is currently being restored and refurbished by the city of Brantford with funding from the province of Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications to the tune of $1 million. The federal government has thrown in funding as has the city of Brantford as well as many citizens donating capital dollars towards this refurbishment.
This 1,200-seat theatre was built originally for live theatre in 1919 and saw many vaudeville acts and other live performances in its early years. It was then converted to a cinema and for many years the people of Brantford, the kids of Brantford, went to see shows there.
In recent times Famous Players, which was the owner, threatened on many occasions to divide the theatre into three mini-cinemas and the community was afraid that it would lose the largest gathering place for citizens for cultural events.
The city of Brantford purchased the theatre and it is being restored. The original artwork in the ceiling is being restored, the mural is being put back, and when it opens on 8 September at a gala performance with Anne Murray as the guest performer, it will recreate the original atmosphere of 1919.
ERAMOSA PLAY PROJECT
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to extend an invitation to the members and anyone who is listening to come and celebrate the Eramosa community play. It is the biggest event in the township since the retreat of the glacier.
The Spirit of Shivaree offers a unique taste of rural Ontario, past, present and future. Share an evening of provocative drama, elaborate costuming, original music, giant puppets, lively dance and a spectacular barnraising. Performance boundaries blur as the 150 cast members enact the drama on four different stages and throughout the audience. There is no backstage.
Come early and enjoy the natural beauty for which Eramosa township is famous. Have a meal, walk along village streets and enjoy the country fair which leads into each evening’s performance.
The celebration starts at 7:15. Meet at the old town hall on Highway 7 for a stroll down the old Valley Road to the playsite, the Harris Woollen Mill ruins along the Eramosa River. Go to the front gate of the Rockwood Conservation Area and walk down Rattlesnake Hill.
This is an outdoor performance. If anyone is interested, they can contact my office or the Eramosa Play Project, 118 Main Street South, Rockwood, Ontario, phone 856-2480.
Mr Matrundola: As members know, this month, June, is Senior Citizens’ Month, and I am proud to rise and salute all the senior citizens.
About 25% of senior citizens are volunteers in our society, and more volunteers are needed. Therefore, I wish to encourage every senior citizen who can to get involved in helping those less fortunate who for health or other reasons cannot participate in voluntarism. Can members imagine how wonderful it would be if we had 100% participation? What a great sense of fulfilment it would give to our senior citizens.
Senior citizens provide an invaluable service and they help our government save millions of dollars. Many seniors are recognized by awards from the government and/or the community, but some go unrecognized. These volunteers believe in the law of giving and the law of harvest, which is to say, give and you shall receive, not once, not twice, but 100-fold. These very responsible seniors believe that the service they render is the rent they pay for the space they occupy.
Therefore, I wish to call upon my colleagues to pay tribute to senior citizens in Ontario. I particularly salute the seniors of Willowdale, with a special mention to the senior citizen volunteers who drive friends to doctors and shopping and who help with Meals on Wheels and an array of other things. In recognition of this Legislature’s pride in our seniors, please join me in wishing all Ontario seniors a very happy seniors’ month.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for members’ statements.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent for statements regarding Italian National Day.
The Speaker: Do we have consent?
ITALIAN NATIONAL DAY
Mr Leone: It gives me great pleasure to represent the Liberal caucus today in honouring Italian National Day.
On 2 June 1946 Italy became a republic and this date is now a national holiday in the Italian calendar. It is also becoming customary to celebrate this festivity here in Canada. Yesterday I was present at the celebrations on St Clair Avenue at Corso Italia.
Italians in many parts of the world are now fourth and fifth generation and they are active components of the country where they live and reside. Their presence here in Canada dates back to the first days of the discovery of this land. In fact, on 23 June 1497, an Italian, Giovanni Caboto, left England and reached the Atlantic coast of Canada. The province of Newfoundland recognizes this day as Discovery Day.
Between the two world wars Italians have come in great numbers to Canada, and especially during the years of open immigration of the 1950s and 1960s the cities of Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Windsor, Hamilton etc have seen Italians arrive in the hundreds of thousands.
Today Italians are a vital part of this country. Children of Italian descent are today proud Canadians and are present in every aspect of public life, in the sciences, education, business and also in political life. Here in this Legislature, members of Italian heritage number 11. Some of us were born in Italy and are now part of the same Italian immigrants who helped to build this great province of Ontario and this great Canada.
Celebrating this holiday is not only a gesture towards the Italian government, but also to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians of Italian heritage. It is also a reaffirmation of the multicultural character of our nation. On Canada Day in 1985, on the inauguration of the monument to multiculturalism in front of Union Station, our Premier in his speech said: “Multiculturalism is Canada. Canada is multiculturalism.”
When we celebrate something in honour of our lands, the lands which gave us birth, we are reaffirming the essence of our Canadianism. We are proud of this great nation. We are proud to be Canadians, but at the same time we are proud of our origins and our cultural heritage.
Certain to interpret the sentiment of this House, I extend congratulations to the people of Italy and to the president of the republic, Francesco Cossiga, through our consul general present here today, Dr Gianluigi Lajolo, and to the thousands of Ontarians and Canadians who are of Italian descent, represented here by the president of the National Congress of Italian Canadians, Ontario region, Mario D’Ambrosio.
[Remarks in Italian]
Mr Philip: It is my pleasure on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, who is in Ottawa today, and the New Democratic caucus here in the Legislature, to add our congratulations to Italy on the occasion of its celebration of its national day.
On 2 June 1946, a majority of voters said yes in the referendum to bring about a united, republican and democratic Italy. We congratulate Italy and the consul general and distinguished visitors in the gallery on this memorable occasion.
Although Italy only became a united nation about the same time that our country formed as a Confederation, the role of people of Italian descent extended far before that. Father Bressani, for example, the ethnographer of the Hurons whose studies were first published in Italian, has now had his contribution to this country recognized. Indeed, there were representatives of the Italian community in the early colonial governments of both French and early English Canada.
Although a majority of Italian immigrants came after the 1940s, it is safe to say that people of Italian origin have contributed to our country for as long a period of time as Europeans explored and developed this country.
We salute Italy in its growth as a nation. We recognize the importance that immigrants from Italy have made to our country. We recognize the importance of the family to Italian immigrants and of the industriousness which they have shown in building this nation.
With the growth and sophistication of Italian industry and the Italian economy, the connection between our industries and those of Italy can only benefit all of us as Canadians and can only open up new doors to our industry.
[Remarks in Italian]
Mr Cousens: I will begin by saying I am not going to try to upstage the member for Downsview, whose Italian and presentation really have the spirit of what I want to say.
It is a pleasure today to speak on behalf of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party knowing that the consul general is present in the visitors’ gallery and distinguished friends of the Italian community. We, too, would like to share in the celebration of Italian National Day.
It is 44 years since democracy took control in Italy and it is 44 years in which a nation has built itself strong in the values that are really part and parcel of what we are proud of here in Canada. Ontario has a particularly large population of Italian descent. Immigration has brought many great people to our country from Italy. Canada has given them a land of opportunity where they have settled and worked, had their families, contributed to the community and made this a better place because of their contribution. They formed clubs and associations to help adjust to the problems of life in a new country. They have brought with them that culture and love of life that have enhanced our own community. They are a people who have a passionate love of life. They enrich the lives not only of each other but of the whole community. They are strong in the arts, music and architecture. Their commitment to hard work is an example for all Canadians. I especially respect their family values, their faith in God and their support of the church. These are the very foundations on which a society is strong.
Toronto has become more cosmopolitan over the years and Ontario has benefited throughout through the participation of Italians in all parts of our communities. I know in my own community the chairman of the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board, Joe Vergilio, has Italian background; the former chair, Celeste Pelliccione -- Italian background; a significant number of people on regional and local councils -- Italian background; the citizen of the year for our community in Markham, Carmen Di Paola -- Italian background.
May I just say that there are more people of Italian background in our community who are doing good things than many of the other communities, and so you are setting an example that all of us can look up to. On behalf of our party and on behalf of all the people of Ontario, we join you in celebrating this very special day. May you as Canadians continue to give us that which you are so proud of: a love of life, a love of people and a love of democracy.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
ONTARIO HOME OWNERSHIP SAVINGS PLAN
Hon Mr Mancini: Many Ontario residents, particularly young people, look forward to the day they can buy their first homes, but with rising prices and escalating interest rates saving for a down payment can be a difficult task.
The Ontario home ownership savings plan program is an excellent example of this government’s commitment to assist Ontario’s first-time home buyers to build up their savings to purchase that new home. Launched in September 1988, the program is aimed at home buyers with incomes of up to $40,000 for singles and $80,000 for married couples. The program offers graduated tax credits for qualifying contributions to the plan.
In his last budget, the Treasurer of Ontario announced enhancements to the program. These are included in Bill 105, which awaits second reading in this House. In addition, the Treasurer announced changes to the Land Transfer Tax Act that further enrich the OHOSP program. With these changes, a first-time home buyer who opens a plan and who qualifies for OHOSP tax credits may also be eligible for a refund of land transfer tax. The amount of the refund will depend on the amount paid for the home. That is, for homes costing up to $150,000, planholders will be entitled to a full refund of land transfer taxes paid. For homes priced between $150,000 to $200,000 planholders will be entitled to a partial refund.
To date, over 83,000 prospective home buyers have opened plans. Already the purchases of 26,000 first homes have been financed partly by this program. Some people might think 26,000 homes are nothing, but that in itself is a very large community. In 1989 alone, the ministry distributed more than $6 million in land transfer tax refunds. The maximum refund on a first-time home costing $150,000 is $1,225. The average refund to date is $670. For the taxation year 1988, more than $11 million was distributed in OHOSP tax credits. The maximum credit for an individual whose income does not exceed $20,000 is $500. The average tax credit processed for 1988 was $345.
OHOSPs are available at most Ontario financial institutions, including the Province of Ontario Savings Office. Interest rates are set by the individual institutions. To qualify for tax credits, annual contributions must be made before 31 December.
LIQUOR LICENSING / PERMIS DE VENTE D’ALCOOL
Hon Mr Sorbara: Later today I will be introducing for first reading amendments to the Liquor Licence Act. Members may recall that last June the government announced its intention to introduce a variety of changes to the statutory and regulatory framework relating to alcoholic beverages. The amendments I am introducing today give effect to some of those changes.
These amendments reflect the government’s commitment to the responsible sale, service and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Ontario’s licensed establishments. They will provide realistic and enforceable rules. The changes will also address specific needs for revisions within a framework of continuing social responsibility. These rules will apply equally to all manufacturers of liquor, both domestic and foreign.
The amendments include provisions for more control over the sale of liquor to minors and provisions to allow the appeal process and the public hearing process to be more streamlined and cost-efficient. The Liquor Licence Board of Ontario will have greater authority to refuse to issue a special occasion permit where there have been problems in the past with a particular location. The act will also authorize regulations to require mandatory server training and to define private places where consumption will be allowed; for example, private offices.
Nous croyons que ces modifications encouragent un usage sûr et responsable des boissons alcoolisées, tout en assurant une réglementation ontarienne réaliste et applicable.
I urge that all members support the amendments when I introduce them for first reading later today.
ONTARIO HOME OWNERSHIP SAVINGS PLAN
Mr Laughren: I wish to respond briefly to the Minister of Revenue. I was scratching my head a bit wondering why he was making the statement today, since this was already announced in the budget, but I guess a recycled statement is always appropriate for the Minister of Revenue.
I wonder if I could join with the Minister of Revenue in issuing a clarion call to everybody in Ontario out there who is earning $40,000 a year to get in line for this program. If you are earning $40,000 a year, you are eligible for assistance under this program to go and buy a $250,000 house in Toronto. That is a resale house, of course; new ones are more than $300,000. I do not know what the Minister of Revenue thinks he is doing by dropping this little pebble in the water. He somehow seems to think this is going to help people get into the housing market.
This government had an opportunity with its Homes First program to renew that program, which was working, but, oh no, because it was working, apparently, it abandoned that as well. That Homes First program meant a lot more than this program means, I can tell members that right now.
I sometimes wonder if, between the federal government’s interest rate policy and this government not renewing programs that work and then only bringing half measures in for new programs, Ontario is not going to become truly a place to stand -- no place to sleep or sit down, but a place to stand only -- because the programs this government is bringing in simply are not adequate to meet the housing crisis in this province. They should take a look around and see what is going on. There is much to be done, and this government is not doing it.
Mr Farnan: In response to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the minister is talking here in terms of providing more control over the sale of liquor to minors. Obviously it is something we support.
However, the minister must remember that his ministry has many branches, and one of the things the minister should be aware of is that the initiatives this ministry is taking in the area of privatization and agency stores is a direction that is in direct contradiction to providing protection for the sale of liquor to minors. He must be maintaining his workforce in the LCBO, because it is there that he has qualified, professional workers who are dedicated to the highest standards and who will indeed ensure that there is protection for minors.
It also strikes me as rather extraordinary sometimes, the manner in which this government will act publicly in one instance and very privately in another. For example, when the minister has something positive to say, something constructive to say, and obviously something that will be supported in principle by the opposition, he stands up in the House and makes that statement.
That is very fine, but there is also another side of this ministry that I would like to take this opportunity today to point out. This ministry, as do all the others, very often acts through regulation. Not too long ago in this ministry, for example, we saw the liquor licences for restaurateurs increased by 550% through regulation. We did not have the minister standing up in the House and saying, “Licences will increase by 550%.” We had the Treasurer of Ontario standing up and saying: “There are no tax increases this year. In fact, it’s just a packet of cigarettes. That’s where you get your tax increase this year. But there are no other taxes.” However, when you go for your motor vehicle licence, when you go for your fishing and hunting licence and when restaurateurs go for their licences, you find extraordinary increases of up to 550%.
Let the public of Ontario beware: there should not be taxation without representation. It should be debated in the House. This minister has a double standard: something good, he stands in the House; something negative, we do not hear from him.
ONTARIO HOME OWNERSHIP SAVINGS PLAN
Mr Brandt: I want to applaud the Minister of Revenue for being able to deliver this statement with a straight face. He makes a point, Mr Speaker, of talking about the rebate, if you will, on the land transfer tax and how it is such a tremendous benefit to first-time home buyers if they are given the opportunity to participate in the government’s program and get some of this money back.
Here is a government that talks about rebating land transfer tax as a stimulus to housing purchases when it is the selfsame government that in fact has increased the land transfer tax by literally hundreds and hundreds of per cent in previous budgets to discourage people from buying homes. The government cannot have it both ways. It cannot on the one hand say, “Well, we’ll rebate part of the money, stimulate purchases and help first-time home buyers,” and then on the other hand raise the land transfer tax by 300%, 400%, 500% and say to the people of Ontario, “We’re not discouraging you from buying homes.”
That is absolute nonsense. Not only has the government raised taxes with respect to the land transfer tax, it raised the sales taxes. Then it went along and raised taxes on a whole series of things, some of which impacted locally to make the purchase of a house in this province virtually beyond the reach of a first-time home buyer, particularly in the Metro Toronto market. This is absolute nonsense.
Another thing that the minister should be aware of is if he is proud of the figures that are contained in this document, he ought to go back and re-read exactly how this program is being taken advantage of at the local level by some people who are getting into the program the day before their house closes by borrowing the money, simply putting it into the program and qualifying for the money from the government. They are looking at this as some kind of windfall. It has absolutely no impact whatever on the decision to buy a home.
I am going to challenge the minister to take a look at how he arrives at this figure of 26,000 individuals who have purchased at least in part their home as a result of this particular benefit from the government. He must straighten up this program. It is not working. The first thing he could do is start to cut back on some of the horrendous tax increases which he has put in the budget and which are discouraging first-time home buyers.
Mr Sterling: I would like to respond briefly to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations regarding amendments to the Liquor Licence Act.
Hon Mr Sorbara: It doesn’t have anything to do with tobacco.
Mr Sterling: He says it does not have anything to do with tobacco. If it is as successful as his act is on tobacco, it will not be very successful at all.
The control of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario on special-occasion permits is in total disarray in this province at this time. What this government has done is encourage people to drink by raising the special-occasion permits to $100 each, regardless of how many drinks you serve. Therefore, small groups, non-profit groups and theatre groups which apply for a special-occasion permit from time to time and want to serve one or two drinks to their patrons are forced to promote the sale of more and more liquor in order to cover the cost of a special-occasion permit.
Instead of providing a special-occasion permit at a cost which is in relation to the amount of alcohol which is sold or consumed, this government has no idea what it is doing with regard to controlling the consumption of liquor in this province. It should be the government’s goal to reduce consumption as best it can, while providing a reasonable access to liquor in most places. What this government has done is penalize small groups, non-profit groups, unsophisticated groups, by making the issuance of special-occasion permits expensive and almost impossible to obtain.
We believe that the whole system that we presently have set up should be abolished and that a reasonable system should be put in place. These groups can be trusted. They have been capable of delivering on that trust in the past. Our party believes in these groups. We believe that they have done a good service. They have controlled the sale of alcohol in the past and they will do so in the future. We only hope that this act will bring some small amount of relief to these many, many groups across Ontario.
The Speaker: That completes ministerial statements and responses. The member for Scarborough West informs me he has a point of personal explanation.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Mr Speaker, I would like to raise with the House my correspondence with you today in which I informed you that I will be resigning my seat as of 24 August, this summer, and I wonder if I could make a few comments to the House.
RESIGNATION OF MEMBER FOR SCARBOROUGH WEST / DÉMISSION DU DÉPUTÉ DE SCARBOROUGH-OUEST
Mr R. F. Johnston: I would like to say a few words, if I could, about my decision to leave. As many members know, I have decided I will not contest the next election because of health reasons, but I have decided on this particular timing for a number of reasons, the first of which is I did not want to leave my future plans in the hands of the Premier and his decision about when decisions would be made. I thought I should start with the partisan kind of hit first.
Secondarily, there are many family considerations, not the least of which is that Vida and I are expecting another baby in July and I would like to be home for a while for this one. I consider myself a late bloomer in many ways, and also for matters of making some career choices, being able to leave at the end of summer is useful to me.
Mr Speaker, when I started off in this House, I was in seat 124, the farthest you could get from the Speaker, near the vacant seat of Speaker Stokes at that point, and now here I am closest to you so that you can invoke that standing order for interjections on a regular basis. I am heard too well now at this end.
I have never, however, breached the sanctity of the seats on the other side, and that I regret, not just because I wanted the car but for other reasons as well.
This has been a place where, as many of us know, egos are alternately stroked and shattered on a regular basis, and I have enjoyed the great emotion that this place has provided. I remember, for instance, thinking about the pomp and ceremony of this place and my first speech in the House. I gave a great deal of thought to it. In fact, I decided it would be on the first equal pay for work of equal value legislative initiative that was started, and I waited for several weeks to make my speech in private member’s hour on Ted Bounsall’s motion at the time.
I did not know the rules well enough in those days, and the way the rotations worked, and so I was the third speaker. By the time it got around to me and I rose to my feet -- and I had worked on this for three weeks -- Speaker Stokes said, “I recognize the member for Scarborough West.” There was a small round of applause from my colleagues, and then he said, “You have one minute.” I said: “But Mr Speaker, I have been working on this for three weeks. This is my maiden speech.” He said, “You have 45 seconds.”
I then gave the most magnificent 45-second address this place has ever heard, and the vote carried. I should probably use the same example now, but I will not, because after 11 years and four elections I would like to take just a few more minutes, if I could, to say a few things about this place.
One of the things I have learned is that I am as much a partisan as ever in the issues that I have been fighting for over the years, whether they were to do with poverty or equal pay and other matters. They just keep coming up again and again and again; they never seem to go away. In the end, that is not something which is just a partisan fact; it is this place as well. The old saying about “the mills of the gods grinding slow” really does talk about this place as well. In fact, it is probably the only godlike thing about this institution and our work here. But I regret that many of the things I worked on have not come forward in terms of full fruition that one might want at the end of a career, but I like to think that I have pushed some of them along the way a piece.
I think in terms of my own influence on this place perhaps of moving us away from just the parochial and seeing our responsibilities as international as well as national from time to time has been, I hope, a useful kind of assistance.
I would like to say a few words, if I could, to the people of Scarborough West, who have been very patient with me over the years, not always understanding my tangents, whether it was around nuclear-weapons-free zones or going to Nicaragua or whatever. They have been very patient with me over the years and I hope they have liked the fact that I have often brought them into this place. When we have tried to raise issues, as we did in the past, about asbestos poisoning of individuals or other kinds of cases, they have come often from the people of Scarborough West. Their impact on change in this place has come because I have been able to be their funnel of information.
I wanted to say that the staff I have had over the years has been remarkable and still is to this day. I have had wonderful page staff and many wonderful interns. Some members would say too many interns when it has come to competition for interns in our own caucus. The reason I am making the announcement today is that Suzanne Schwenger, my last intern, is due to have her baby on Thursday and I wanted to make sure she could be in the House today for me to make my farewell speech.
I would also like to say a few words en français. Premièrement, il faut remercier l’Assemblée législative pour le droit que nous avons d’avoir des classes de français depuis dix ans maintenant. Peut-être peut-on remarquer quelques changements dans ma méthode et mon vocabulaire.
J’ai été le premier député à suivre des cours au bureau. Auparavant, tout le monde devait aller en classe à l’Institut d’études pédagogiques de l’Ontario, mais maintenant beaucoup de personnes profitent des classes privées dans leur bureau. Ça, c’est très important, surtout aujourd’hui avec les problèmes qu’éprouve notre pays. Les changements dans notre Assemblée, quant à l’utilisation du français, ont été remarquables pendant les dernières dix années. J’aimerais encore dire merci pour le droit d’apprendre un peu le français ici.
I would also like to say a few words about the people who work here, not only because the Sergeant at Arms is personally responsible for my getting up here -- I wanted to avoid this ritual, but he insisted that I do it -- but there are many people whom no one knows outside this place. Whether it is the people who work in the cafeteria and the dining room who have been such great friends over the years, some of the cleaning people in this building whom I have helped to get permanent status in their employment over the years or the people in the parking lots or whatever, they have made this a very important experience for me, perhaps as much as for my colleagues. I do not know about the rest of the members, but they make this a very human and real place and not as detached as it maybe seems, from time to time, from the reality of the real world out there.
To my colleagues, I would like to say that it has been a wonderful pleasure working with you over the years. I have often been a minority within a minority and I have enjoyed that status. In fact, God knows what would ever happen if I voted on a majority side in all things. It would probably just shatter my whole sense of who I am. But it has been a great experience and I have had some wonderful support during some very trying times. I am thinking back to the heart attack and other times. It has been very good to have had members’ help and support.
To all members on all sides, maybe I am known for my political partisanship and passion that I throw into a debate from time to time.
Mr Reycraft: Perhaps.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The member for Middlesex is saying, “Perhaps.” He is not sure. But I also have dealt with members in nonpartisan ways, as chair of a committee during some very tough dealings around Catholic school funding and other matters, and I have really enjoyed the friendships which have developed over the years.
I might just conclude by saying that I look upon my own career now, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it over the last number of months, with quite some satisfaction. I think in a very modest way I can feel that I have had some impact. Perhaps as a lesson for future backbenchers who will be part of the privileged 130 who are chosen -- which is really a remarkable thing when you think about it -- to be, at any given time, one of the 130, or 125, as it was when I started, individuals who come to represent the nine million in this province, you can have an impact. It may not be the changing the world that you think it will be as you enter, but there are small changes that you can see have been made because you have been here. I like to think that I have had a number of small moral and sometimes deferred victories and no defeats. That is the way that I would like to look at my career.
If I could say something to the Minister of Education and to the other members of the House, I worry about our parliamentary tradition. I worry about it because of some of the changes that have taken place in this House. I do not want to dwell on those changes to our rules that we have made in terms of the rights of the opposition and the yin-yang of the kinds of powers the executive council has to have compared with the opposition, but I despair about it more because of the apathy within our citizenry.
It seems to me that one of the new goals that we should be establishing for our Ministry of Education and for the future of education in our country and in this province is to produce active, democratic citizens who believe, as I believe and other members believe, or they would not have come to this place, that an individual can make a difference and that they can make the kinds of changes that are necessary by getting involved in a democratic process.
Too many people today do not think they have any impact at all and that their vote means nothing. If there is anything we can do within our educational system to change that, to reinforce the kinds of values that my parents gave me -- I am sure that whoever speaks for the Liberal Party will mention that they were Liberal ethics that my parents passed on to me; I put a lot of them aside -- but the participation that they insisted upon is one that I want to see more institutionalized so that the future of our democracy stays as strong and provides to others the kinds of wonderful opportunities I have had here.
Mr Laughren: Mr Speaker, if I would be allowed to say a few words about my friend and colleague, I would have thought that anyone who has expressed as eloquently as my colleague has the privileges of being a member in this place would at this point want to reconsider his decision. It seems to me that many of us will miss him a great deal.
I do recall, of course, the member’s getting elected to this place back in 1979. He made an almost immediate impact on social policy in the province of Ontario, partly because of the leadership role he played in the formation of social policy, not just in this assembly and across the province, but in our party as well.
It was not very long before the member for Scarborough West was heeding calls to provide a different kind of leadership role, namely, that of our party. One of those persons who was making a call to him and encouraging him to do so was I. I certainly do not regret that. Although Richard did not win that leadership race, in a typical class act after the leadership contest was over, he threw himself with a great deal of vigour into the operations of this place and also into the formation of policy within our party.
I do not think any of us will forget the welfare diet on which he sustained himself and got himself into better shape than he is -- no, I will not say that. Anyway, got himself into a different kind of shape.
As Richard moves on, the one thing that will stay in my mind will be his commitment to what I would call those who are neither young nor swift in body and mind. That commitment has been unshakable from the time he got elected.
I was glad to hear him say he thought that there were some victories, because I believe that there have been successes in the formation of social policy in this province. I do not think there is any doubt that Richard had something to do with that.
I do recall his chairmanship of the standing committee on social development as he travelled across the province bringing equal funding to the two public school systems in our province. I recall not only that he chaired that committee at very difficult times but that he always had time for people who were following the course of the committee. I can recall him sitting having a late-night glass of milk with people who were perhaps lobbying the committee or at least following with interest its deliberations. He really did do a fine job in that.
I recall as well that his demands for democracy on the committee were not restricted internally to the committees, and Richard mentioned his trip to Nicaragua and his fight for democracy there and then more lately Lithuania. I suspect that Vida, who, I am pleased, is here, had something to say about that trip as well. I think that we all have something to learn from the causes that Richard has championed since he became a member.
I think as well that -- and I believe most members would agree with this -- as an opposition member, you learn not to expect to get credit for the changes that you can effect or at least influence. I do not think that most of us expect that; I do not think that is why we are here. But I think that fairminded people in this province and in this House will acknowledge the fact that Richard has had an impact on social policy; I know he has within our party, and I believe he has across the province as well.
The population of Ontario may not knowingly miss Richard’s presence here, but I think that they will in fact miss his presence here, although they will not perhaps be as aware of it as we are. I know that I will miss his presence here. I will miss his commitment to the causes. I will miss his humour -- not all good -- but I will very much miss his companionship as a member of our caucus. When Richard does leave, I do not know where he is going or what he is going to do, but I do know that whatever person or organization or institution he ends up with will be richer than they are today and that we in this place will be poorer. We are sorry to see you go, Richard.
Mr Jackson: As a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus, one would think that any time a member of the Legislature representing the New Democratic Party, having won four successful, almost uncontested campaigns against him, who speaks so eloquently in the House, that this would be some sort of cause for celebration. Unfortunately, I cannot say that, neither on behalf of my caucus nor for me personally.
I regret very much that Richard at this point in his life -- he is a young man -- has made the decision to leave the Assembly. I know the constituents of Scarborough West and many of us in this House will suffer in some way for his announcement today. But it is an opportunity for us to pay respects to a career and to an individual who, for those who have been willing to allow themselves to approach a fellow member of this chamber, to get to know him without being blocked, as it were, by their political persuasions but to try to attempt to get to know the person, to understand his belief system, which comes from his heart and not necessarily from his ideology. It has been a unique pleasure and privilege for many of us to say that we have not only known Richard Johnston but become his friend.
It was easy for me, as a brand-new member in 1985, to first meet Richard, to work with him on the standing committee on social development. Anybody who has worked with Richard knows that he has spent an inordinate amount of his legislative time on social policy issues, but they very much help define his outstanding career in politics, because that is where he gets his biggest sense of satisfaction and it very much defines his political role. In fact, in his statement to the House today he very much regrets that he cannot continue that work but acknowledges that it has been in this very appropriate and important area for the advancement of society in our province as we know it.
For five years I have worked with him on committees. I am tired of his telling me he has never travelled anywhere on any committee of this Legislature, and it is true. In 11 years he has never benefited from what some consider the largess here at the Legislature for these wonderful trips. Perhaps now that he has left the Legislature, all manner of trips will be offered to him, but we regret that he is taking the rather short trip out from the Legislature back into public life, where I am sure he will continue with the same degree of dedication and service.
We have seen Richard operate as a Chair of some of the most difficult bills and one of the most difficult committees of its day, the social development committee, during the minority government. He exhibited his outstanding characteristics. He was very gracious and he maintained control under very difficult circumstances with Bill 94, which he refers to as extra-billing. I still insist it was balanced billing, but we still do not agree on that issue, Richard.
He also referenced Bill 30 on separate school funding. These were not easy committees to chair. In fact, the one on separate school funding still holds the record as one of the longest and most intensive processes of public hearings ever experienced in the long history of this chamber.
To estimates he brought a unique characteristic. He was always serious and insightful and insisted that estimates were an appropriate function for us as legislators to pursue. They were not a formality to be dealt with and gotten through. He saw it very much as a forum where we could operate in a non-partisan fashion.
We could use estimates as a method by which we could explore, without the pressure of the media and this chamber, opportunities to improve and be helpful to a minister and his ministry and his staff. Richard, we attempted that on many occasions because of you, and I am hopeful that that legacy will continue.
I would like to suggest briefly that what I think has attracted many of us to Richard’s style of politics is that he has clearly brought forward an approach which is different from most. He looks at every issue first, from his conscience, second, for his constituents, and third, on behalf of his caucus. I think I am fair in suggesting that his career has very much followed that sense of personal priority that makes him unique.
Certainly the Legislature would not survive if every member took that approach, but the fact that he brought that approach with such vigour in this chamber -- and I am told that some of his most passionate moments were when he brought his belief system to his caucus and was not afraid to be at variance with his caucus and in fact with his leader. Then again, I am never told those stories directly. I only hear them in the halls in the sort of a fashion that we are not supposed to repeat publicly because we really do not have them confirmed.
We will miss Richard very much. I know there is some rumour that he is going to go into academic life. Somehow I cannot connect those two words with Richard Johnston, but I believe that he will be an outstanding professor or in whatever pursuit he intends to apply his politics and his passion for politics. He will teach many of his students the importance of politics as an act of the heart as well as the head, and I am quite sure that they will benefit immensely.
On behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus, we would like to extend our best wishes to you personally, Richard, to your wife, Vida, who is here in the House today, to your son, Gabriel, your daughter, Daiva, and your yet-to-be-named new constituent. I wish you much luck personally. We sincerely will miss you very much.
The Speaker: The Minister of Education.
Hon Mr Sweeney: You had better leave, Richard.
Hon Mr Conway: I think my friends have set a very good and high example that I will do my best to follow.
I well remember the night -- and it was before the by-election in April 1979; in fact, it would have been some time in mid- to late 1978 -- when, sitting about where the member for Oshawa now finds himself, I was chatting with Stephen Lewis, who had announced his plans to retire from the Legislature. He said to me, “We have a real live one for you, and whenever the by-election is called, I guarantee you will enjoy my successor.”
I remember campaigning in the by-election through the winter, and I think it was 5 April -- it was the day that Colin Isaacs was also elected, because Stephen Lewis and Ian Deans left, I think, at roughly the same time. The live wire, it turned out, was in fact Richard F. Johnston, whom I had not met but whom I had known in a very real way because he was Buck Johnston’s boy.
Buck Johnston, for those members who would not know Richard’s father, was probably one of the best Liberals ever to participate in the public life of Renfrew county. Buck Johnston was an outstanding public figure who served on our council in Pembroke, who was very active in the Liberal Party, whose brother Walter was, for all the years until his death just a few weeks ago, one of my best friends and advisers, equally active in the Liberal cause.
So when I met Richard Johnston, I certainly was struck by how he had some of his father’s skills. Buck Johnston was one of the best athletes, one of the best baseball players who ever played ball in our part of east-central Ontario. Those members who know Richard know that until his health difficulties of a few years ago, he was, among other things, a superior squash player. Certainly he had his father’s athletic prowess, but his father’s politics he seems to have set aside.
It was a very few days after his election in the spring of 1979 that I met him in full fury in the social development committee hearings around the Lakeshore Hospital matter. I am not going to go into that, but I shall remember my first encounter with Richard F. Johnston as one of the most memorable and unhappy of all the memories I have had over 15 years. I certainly was not the winner in that exchange.
Then of course it was just a few years after his entry, as the member for Nickel Belt observed, that we saw his participation in the leadership campaign of 1982. No one has yet mentioned one of our friend’s really important mentors in this business. I hope I am not speaking out of turn here, but the late Jim Renwick, the long-time and very distinguished member for Riverdale, was someone who I know influenced all of us but I think he was a very close friend of the member for Scarborough West.
One of the keenest memories I will always have about Richard Johnston is the association he had, in that leadership particularly, with the late Jim Renwick, and particularly the famous week when they set off in the winter of 1981-82 in search of New Democratic Party delegates in Huron-Bruce. I remember it well because they encountered many more snowdrifts than New Democratic delegates. As my friend the member for Bruce would say, they were snow-stayed somewhere between Hensall and Exeter and spent a long time, I think, in some farmhouse that happily was made available to them.
My friend the member for Bruce even said they were seen visiting certain provincial outlets in the area to try to get them through what was a very difficult winter week. Jim Renwick used to tell the story with much more relish than I can offer, but it was a good example of the kind of colour that our friend brought to that race and to his time in this Legislature.
What I also remember about that race was the vigour and the ideological intensity that our friend brought to that leadership. He was quick to point out that he was not going to be part of any kind of preordained establishment plot to make certain inevitabilities come about. He certainly did give full vent to that commitment. The speech he made to that convention is one we will all remember. It was not quite the winning way, but it left a very strong and distinct impression. It was shortly thereafter that we had the welfare diet to which my friend the member for Nickel Belt has made reference.
Certainly I would join with the member for Burlington South, the member for Nickel Belt and my colleague the member for Middlesex in remembering one of the member’s most lasting accomplishments, which was presiding over the extremely difficult, delicate, endless hearings on Bill 30. As I was saying to the House just a few weeks ago when we were observing the elevation of our friend the member for Nipissing to the leadership of the Conservative Party, the role of committee Chair is not one of the most valued around this place, but it is very important. I do not ever remember two people doing a better job than Richard Johnston in that extraordinarily difficult enterprise. I was saying that the member for Nipissing handled the anti-inflation bills in his committee a little earlier with very considerable aplomb as well.
I do not want to go on unduly, but I would have to observe on this day, 4 June, the anniversary of another time. It was five years ago today that His Honour was reading the speech from the throne by the late Miller administration, which makes me think about things where the member for Scarborough West had an impact. Certainly he was a very, very important part of the chemistry that occasioned the change of government five years ago. Whether or not he would look back on that personally as one of his great achievements I do not know, but I will always remember the important role he played in creating the climate for change that we all remember and associate with the spring of 1985.
It has been said that he played a very active role in a whole range of social policy issues, but I think he is also to be remembered for his contribution on national questions and certainly his participation as a member of the Legislature on the constitutional and language questions. The role he has played in his own party at the national level I think is a great tribute to the kind of opportunity that is afforded all of us and that not all of us, myself included, access to the same extent that he has over his 11 years.
In his internationalism, Nicaragua and Lithuania come to mind as two examples of where he has taken a very keen interest. I have not always agreed with some of his assessments, but I have very much enjoyed the perspective he has brought to this Legislature on those important public policy issues.
Someone once wrote that the New Democratic Party had become a protest movement becalmed. Today we celebrate a member of that party who is not at all becalmed. The kind of passion, sometimes anger and always lively participation that have characterized his 11 years I know will continue to fuel his participation in the public life of this province and country in whatever role he might select for himself.
It is sad in a way to observe a retirement at age 44. One can never predict the future. We wish him, along with his family, all the very best in whatever that future provides. I for one expect that the future will provide him with a very great range of opportunity that will continue to utilize his very considerable talents. To that future, we wish him Godspeed and good luck.
The Speaker: I know that all members keep a copy of the Legislative Assembly Act at their bedsides for bedtime reading and they will be very much aware that the member for Scarborough West has now given the House notice, as stated under clause 19(1)(a) of the Legislative Assembly Act. This will be recorded in the Journals of the House. According to other subsections of section 19, I will take further steps later in August.
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of Financial Institutions which goes back to pension indexing legislation, but I think we should first reflect on the five-year record of Liberal delays on pension indexing.
In December 1986 the Friedland Task Force on Inflation Protection for Employment Pension Plans was set up to make recommendations on indexing. In June 1987 the Pension Benefits Act was passed with a provision that amendments for indexing would be forthcoming. In February 1988 the Friedland task force presented its report. In March 1989 the minister responded with his document Building on Reform: Choices for Tomorrow’s Pensions and called for a 60-day period of consultation. Now, more than a year after that period of consultation has ended, where is the legislation?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman has asked me that question before. As I responded before, we have been held up to a certain amount of time in the Legislative Assembly. We have now just got by that. I thank the honourable member for Sault Ste Marie for asking me to come back into the forum with another piece of legislation, but I am not in a position to come forward at this time.
We are looking in a detailed fashion at the legislation as it is and at the replies which came from the consultative process. We are a lean and very mean sort of operation at the Ministry of Financial Institutions. We will now take the allotment of people who serve in our policy and planning group and change assignments so they can get on with dealing with the pension materials. We will be back in due course with recommendations surrounding the consultation input we receive.
Mr Morin-Strom: It has been five years since this Liberal government made a commitment in the accord agreement to provide pension indexing to pensioners in Ontario. While this government has stalled and delayed, retired workers have seen their pensions eaten away by inflation. A typical pensioner who would have had a pension of $17,000 a year in 1985 sees his pension today worth only $13,700, a loss of $3,300.
What does the minister responsible for pensions have to say to these pensioners who have to struggle year after year with less and less money?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman knows that part of the consultation document dealt with issues around the structure of pensions and how they were brought together to understand exactly what is required for retirement income opportunities. He knows as well that the pension consultation document looked at the impediments to setting in motion or putting in place new pension plans in the province.
All the material that will come forward to us or has come forward and is actually being refined by some continuing input from some sectors of the province will tell us some of the difficulties that retired people can anticipate with respect to how the pensions are structured currently.
We know there is one thing for sure, that in Ontario if there is a product to be purchased, we will have to pay the price for it. We cannot manufacture something out of nothing. There is a cost associated with putting in place the support funding for pensions. We have already gone through some pensions that have come up with some deficiencies and we talked about the need for solvent pension funding over the course of several weeks last year, as we dealt with two particular public sector pensions.
So the answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is that we are looking at how pensions have to be funded to deliver the product that people had thought they had. That will mean that both the people who represent the employers and the beneficiaries will have to be --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Pouliot: Save him from himself, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Order, the member for Lake Nipigon. I really do not need any help, thank you. I appreciate that 60 seconds has 60 seconds in it. If a member is responding and one is listening, it seems long: if a member is on his feet for that 60 seconds, it seems quite short.
Mr Pouliot: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My apologies. You are quite right, with high respect. I should exercise more patience, like the people of the riding of Lake Nipigon have to do on their pensions.
The Speaker: I do not think that is a point of order, but I do appreciate the acceptance.
Mr Morin-Strom: This government has let pensioners go now for five years without any protection from the deterioration of their incomes. At the same time, they have allowed corporations to take some $300 million in surpluses out of those pension plans. This government has again shown that its friends are in the corporate area, not the ordinary workers and retirees of the province.
Will the minister take the side of pensioners and workers on this legislation and bring in a bill that will assist those workers to ensure that their incomes will be maintained in their retirement years? When will he do that?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman has made some allegations which, as usual, are not completely accurate. There have been negotiated settlements in the labour marketplace which have featured the indexing of pensions. Those are arrangements that have taken place between employees as represented by their associations or trade unions and employers.
There have been steps taken that I think reflect the fact that the 1987 legislation brought in several indications of reform for pensions, including the indexing, as the member rightly indicated, but in addition to that some very basic standards which also increased the protections afforded to pensioners in Ontario. We talked about the improvements in portability, which was a major difficulty that was overcome for the ordinary workers in Ontario. We have talked about the issue of growing in and a whole series of other initiatives which have provided the protections that the member has talked about seeking. In fact, they have been delivered and we continue to work for better pensions in the province.
SUPPORT AND CUSTODY ORDERS ENFORCEMENT
Mr R. F. Johnston: In the absence of the Attorney General, I have a question for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues regarding the support and custody orders enforcement in the province of Ontario for women who have court orders to have payments provided to them by ex-spouses. Why is it that the backlog is increasing at an enormous rate? By the support and custody enforcement office’s own figures, $230 million is in arrears on the files that the government has at present. That is up over $60 million since last summer. The number of cases on file has jumped to 65,000 from 57,000 and people are complaining that they cannot get the kind of enforcement that the legislation and these officers were supposed to provide when this was brought in in July 1987.
Hon Mrs Wilson: The support and custody orders enforcement plan is a plan that is of very real importance to women and children in Ontario. We recognize that the numbers of orders which have been filed with SCOE are increasing at a dramatic rate and that the numbers of people who have been working in SCOE to enforce those orders need to be increased. We have looked at the telephone system that takes requests and questions from people who are phoning SCOE to look at where their file lies in the status of SCOE. We have made changes so that more calls can be answered and so that more people who are coming to SCOE can feel that their case is being looked after in a more real and more timely way.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The minister is quite right: There are 90,000 children who are affected by this besides the women involved. But I wonder how the minister can say that this is more effective, the kind of dehumanized approach that is being taken here. The minister should confide to this House that in point of fact you now call a 1-800 number and you do not talk to a human being any more. All you get is recordings; that is all these people get. Almost all of them are phoning up in crisis because they are going on welfare, just as their predecessors had to before we brought in SCOE, and all they get is a recording and they cannot get any assistance. How is it that the government is doing this? How is it that the government is providing only recorded messages to these women who are desperate for income for themselves and the 90,000 children involved?
Hon Mrs Wilson: The member, if he knows about the new phone program, will know full well that any person who phones SCOE in this province can ask a simple question and get a simple answer by a computer but that any person who calls that line can also have the opportunity to speak with a person who can actually answer that question. The member will know, as will all members of this House, that through our constituency offices we have had to address some real concerns with the SCOE program. I can assure the member opposite that those concerns have been looked at very carefully and have been discussed by members of this government. I expect that real changes will be made very shortly.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Frankly, members on this side have been raising questions about this for months asking for some kind of action, and the minister’s assertion that something is going to take place is not good enough. In point of fact, if you hang on to that line for 30 minutes or 40 minutes maybe you will talk to a human, but it takes that long to get through. I have a case here of a woman from the riding of Riverdale, who is owed money back to December 1988, who actually went down with a hand-delivered communication and is still being given nothing and has been told by the workers in SCOE that they could not guarantee when they would even acknowledge what she had handed them in person. Surely it is time for the government to make an announcement in this House about the changes in staffing that are going to take place so that people can get the service they need. Why will the minister not give us a time and numbers today about the worker replacements that we need to make sure this is not just another Workers’ Compensation Board where we know nobody gets any service these days?
Hon Mrs Wilson: Earlier this afternoon in the House there were many comments made about the work of the critic for women’s issues on the opposite bench, and he himself indicated that there were issues of great importance to him and that he only regretted leaving this House sooner than some of those issues could be addressed and solved. He himself gave the date of 24 August for his departure from the House. I am quite confident that before that date comes around the member opposite will feel satisfied that the concerns he as well as many members of this House have brought forward regarding SCOE can be answered effectively.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG TREATMENT
Mr Eves: My question is to the Minister of Health. I am sure the minister is aware that in the last fiscal year 1,805 people, I believe, have had to leave the province of Ontario for treatment outside Canada for alcohol and drug abuse. The reason for this, very simply put I think it is fair to say, is because the treatment is not available in the province. In Ontario, these patients must wait four weeks for medical assessment and, in many cases, up to a year for treatment. Why is the government not more committed to providing the necessary health services for these patients?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have answered this question in the House before and I am pleased to answer the member once again. People, for a number and variety of reasons, seek treatment outside the province. What I find quite amazing is that this member would stand in his place and ask this question once again when he knows that treatment programs in this province have increased so dramatically since this government took office. I am very proud of the progress we have made. Granted, there is more that must be done, but this year we established an anti-drug secretariat, we developed a comprehensive policy, and in the area of prevention, education and treatment I would say that Ontario is leading the way.
Mr Eves: What the minister says is all very well and good, but again she is not answering the specific question that is being asked. If her services are so great, why do people have to wait for a year to receive treatment in Ontario, why is her ministry paying up to $800 a day for individuals to go to the United States of America and why is she spending almost $20 million a year of the taxpayers’ money to send 2,000 people outside Canada? Why does she permit this to happen if her services are so great here in Ontario?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows, whether we are talking about substance abuse, drug and alcohol addiction or any other illness, the OHIP policies are the same and treat alcohol and drug addiction as they do every other illness. I can tell him that patients, for a variety of reasons, choose to have their services provided outside of the province.
I would also tell him that in fact we must at all times review our policies to ensure that they are responsive to the needs of Ontarians. While we have made progress in the area of providing drug and alcohol programs -- and that is significant; this year the increase is very substantial -- there is more to be done, and we are constantly reviewing our policies and programs to see that they are meeting the needs.
Mr Eves: Would it not make more sense to spend the $20 million a year that the minister is spending of the Ontario taxpayers’ money to send these patients outside of Canada, who she says do not need to leave Ontario because she has the services here, would it not make more sense to take those same dollars and spend them here to improve the facilities and services for treatment that she has in Ontario? Yes or no?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would remind the member opposite that in the last three years the ministry spending on drug and alcohol addiction programs has increased by 126%. The number of programs has increased from 93 to 150. I would say to him that we are always reviewing OHIP’s out-of-country treatment policies and that I will take his advice into consideration as we review our programs.
Mr Eves: I have another question for the Minister of Health; I am just warming up here. The minister is aware that there is a long waiting list for chronic care patients in the province of Ontario. There are over 3,000 patients alone in Metropolitan Toronto waiting for a chronic care bed. The waiting list for a chronic care bed at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care is three and a half years. There are huge waiting lists in all our chronic care facilities. We are concerned that the government is not concerned enough to do something about this big backlog of chronic care waiting lists in this province. What is the minister doing to address the needs of these chronic care patients?
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, I am very proud of the record of this government in bringing forward substantive reform and change to the long-term care system. My colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services recently tabled, on behalf of myself and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons, a long-term care reform document called Strategies for Change, which I believe will, for the very first time, allow us to develop a comprehensive long-term care system which will focus on people. the services that they need and the most appropriate way of responding to those services, whether they need heavy care in an institution or home support services so that we can achieve our objective and their goal, which is to remain as independent and in the community for as long as possible.
Mr Eves: I do not think anybody would disagree that we need the long-term strategy with respect to chronic care. The minister herself has said on several occasions that as many as 25% of the beds in hospitals that are designated for acute care are taken up by chronic care patients. We raised the example in this Legislature just last week of the over 1,200 people on the waiting list for Queen Elizabeth Hospital here in Ontario. Almost every one of those patients is currently occupying an acute care bed elsewhere in the system. If the minister is so committed to improving chronic care treatment for patients and chronic care facilities in the province, why has she not done something about the drastic shortage of chronic care beds, why are there 1,200 people on the Queen Elizabeth waiting list and why do people at Baycrest have to wait for three and a half years to get a bed?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I was hopeful, when the member first started asking his question, that he was starting to understand that in fact people can receive services on an inpatient basis, an outpatient basis and at home. Unfortunately, he still does not understand the way the overall system seems to be working and what the issues are. In fact, he is quite correct: Some 25% of people seem to be inappropriately placed. People are in institutions who do not need to be there. People are in acute care beds when they could be provided services in alternative locations, in nursing homes and homes for the aged. That is what long-term care reform is all about. We have one of the highest institutional rates in the world here in Ontario. We force people into institutions because there are not the alternatives and the choices available to them as they seek a response.
We are working with the chronic care hospitals in reviewing their role as part of long-term care reform. In the meantime, I want to assure him that we are reviewing the budgets of chronic care hospitals to make sure that during this transitional time we will be able to ensure that the heavier-care services, those requiring inpatient treatment, will be available to the people of this province during this important time of transition.
Mr Eves: The same minister who is standing in her place now saying, “We don’t need institutional care; we are doing something different,” will be aware that on 14 May 1986 the Minister of Health of the day announced, as an election strategy, that the government would provide over 4,000 new beds to the system. Today, we are 2,000 beds behind. The minister is about 6,000 beds behind what her predecessor committed to the people of Ontario. There would not be 3,000 people waiting for a chronic care bed in the province if she had delivered the 2,848 that her predecessor promised on 14 May 1986. Was he wrong, or is the minister wrong? They are both sitting right there.
The Speaker: Order. Did the minister hear the question?
Hon Mrs Caplan: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Several important reports have been commissioned by this government over the course of the last few years: the Evans report, Spasoff, Podborski. I can tell him that it was the policies of the previous government that resulted in the highest rate of institutional care in Ontario. What we are attempting to do is expand community-based services, provide inpatient services when they are required, provide outpatient, ambulatory and alternative services in the community, as well as supporting home care and home support services to allow people to remain as independent in their homes for as long as possible. One of these days the member opposite will start to understand that people do not want to be forced into institutions.
The Speaker: Order. Now, let’s be orderly.
Mr Allen: I have in my hand a printout of all the 329 plant closures, reduced operations and layoffs that are reportable in the province of Ontario over the last three years. I want to draw the attention of the Minister of Labour to the 21 that took place in Hamilton in those three years and to the fact that only nine of those had employment adjustment committees while 12 did not, and the record is getting worse. In the first of those years, 1987, five out of seven plants had employment adjustment committees whereas in the most recent two years only two of eight and two of six had them. When they did have employment adjustment committees, employers contributed anywhere from zero to $600,000 for their workforces, or from $50 to over $2,000 per worker.
Would the minister please like to explain why adequate and fair adjustment is not happening in Hamilton or across the province for workers in these situations?
Hon Mr Phillips: I very much appreciate the concern of the member and the concern for any worker who is laid off. The most important thing, and I keep stressing this, is that we continue to create jobs in this province, and I would just remind ourselves that fortunately in the past five years the unemployment rate has gone from around 8.5% down to 5%. I think the most important thing we can do is to continue to create jobs.
Having said that, the fact that the unemployment rate is relatively good in this province does not comfort the individuals who are in a situation where they have lost their jobs. I would say that wherever we can have both the employees and the employers participating in an employment adjustment program we find they work very well. We do not impose those programs. It has to be one that both sides feel they would benefit from, and wherever we have a request from both sides to participate, we will.
As we look down the road, I think this is an opportunity for us to improve in the area of employee adjustments. We will be looking at ways that we can make these programs more effective. So I repeat, what we look for is both sides wanting it, and where they do, we will step in and provide the assistance.
Mr Allen: The minister knows how those unemployment rates are concocted and how deceptive they are and the fact that organizations like the Economic Council of Canada say that 50% of the jobs created are bad jobs; in other words, they do not compare with the jobs that are lost. He also must surely recognize that the figures I have given relate only to those that are reportable -- 50 employees and over. There are endless numbers of plants and workers affected by an inadequate trigger mechanism. They get no treatment at all. There is no mandatory provision, as the minister himself has said.
Why is there not mandatory provision? Is one set of workers better or worse than another? For example, there is no model or standard of employment adjustment in any of the legislation that requires some measure of employment adjustment. One can go through a dozen different elements that this minister could be doing something about to improve employment adjustment, and it is not happening. Could the minister tell us why it is not?
Hon Mr Phillips: In terms of concocted statistics, I think we rely on the same statistics that we have over a long period of time, and those statistics show a substantial improvement in employment. As I said, we recognize that for those workers who are laid off that is no comfort to them, and I appreciate that.
We have been in the position of attempting to not impose on the bargaining parties a solution by the government. We have tended to want to work towards the two workplace parties working out an agreement and looking to the government to provide assistance where they request. There has been an attempt by ourselves, as I say, to not impose solutions. Normally I would expect that the members opposite might appreciate that not every workplace wants us to be involved. Many workplace parties have found that they, working together, have the solutions, and I think some of our union organizations have found mechanisms that they find very effective without the government’s involvement, ones that they have developed over a period of time. So we have been reluctant to impose a government solution on the two workplace parties where they themselves have found better mechanisms.
Having said all that, I think there are opportunities for improvement that we are --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Last week, as the minister will know, there was a press conference held on Thursday by the Canadian Commuter Rail group, a group of commuters very unhappy with what has happened in their relationship with the province of Ontario in trying to obtain commuter services to Peterborough and some of the outlying areas. The minister will know that these people have invested a great deal of time and money, and there has been private sector money as well, in the proposal for commuter rail services to communities outside of Metropolitan Toronto.
Will the minister please explain to this House why he led this group to believe that GO Transit had no interest in expanding into these communities, and then in the Treasurer’s budget it was announced that GO rail service would be expanded into Barrie, Bowmanville and Guelph and that extensions to Brantford and Peterborough would be reviewed? There is quite an inconsistency with what was assured them in their earlier meetings. Now with the Treasurer’s statement about future plans, it really leaves them in quite a quandary as to what the ministry’s position really is.
Hon Mr Wrye: I appreciate the work that has been done by that organization and I appreciate the expenses it incurred as it went ahead with the study. I feel quite badly that they went ahead with some of that work and that we made a determination at the time to go forward with some additional enhancements of GO service. I do not feel badly about the enhancements, but I feel badly that we went ahead with them even while the study was under way.
If the honourable member wants to know who is to blame, I think he need look no farther than his counterparts in Ottawa. In the first place, none of us should be having to do what we are doing, because the federal government has responsibility for the system, a responsibility it has simply walked away from.
They did even worse than that. They walked away from it with 90 days’ notice, no planning, no proper plans in place, no time for anyone to properly assess this matter. So I do feel badly that we were forced to make an instant judgement. I told them at the time that we did not expect we would be moving forward and then decided it was an appropriate decision to take. I certainly do not apologize for the fact that we are moving forward with a system that is already one of the finest in North America.
The Speaker: Supplementary.
Mr Cousens: We on this side have as much influence in Ottawa as the Liberals did with Mr Trudeau when he was there. There is a different government. It may have the same name but it does its thing. The fact is that whenever there is a hard issue that comes along, all they can do as Liberals in Ontario is to blame the federal government.
What we are dealing with is a matter of trust between the government and the commuters in the province of Ontario. The question I had to ask the minister did not have to do with the federal government. I was asking the minister what it is he can do to help the Canadian Commuter Rail service and that really means --
The Speaker: Supplementary.
Mr Cousens: We are getting to them. The fact is they are starting to need a fish feeding or something.
The Speaker: This is question period and I asked the member for a supplementary. Would you place it please.
Mr Cousens: Would the minister answer the question. Would the minister advise this House what work is now under way to operate these lines? Is he prepared to meet and work with the representatives of the Canadian Commuter Rail to devise additional routes to those communities which they are prepared to service?
Hon Mr Wrye: I think it is really amazing to watch my good friend the member for Markham and how he is trying to separate himself from that group in Ottawa. He says. “The names are the same, but in every other way we are not like those guys in Ottawa.” It really is an amazing situation, though given how things have gone in Ottawa recently, it is quite understandable.
I am quite prepared to meet with that organization. My staff has met with it on any number of occasions. We have tried to keep in contact with it as these discussions have gone forward because certainly that is a group with very many good ideas and good thoughts as to how we can move forward together to solve the challenges of rail transportation, and indeed general transportation in this province.
As we go forward studying the options of extending GO service into Brantford and Peterborough and the communities in those various commuter sheds, I will certainly want to meet with that organization and with others that in the past have shown the kind of vision that I think is so important in terms of expansion of public transportation in Ontario.
ONTARIO DEVELOPMENT CORP
Mr M. C. Ray: My question is for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and it concerns the operations of the Ontario Development Corp in the Windsor area. The minister will know that a concern has been expressed to me by business officials and local government officials about the adequacy of the lending practices of the Ontario Development Corp in the southwest region, particularly in the city of Windsor, which as he knows is currently suffering from plant closures and heavy job losses and is in great need of capital investment.
Could the minister explain the variations in the lending practices of the Ontario Development Corp in those regions serviced by the ODC?
Hon Mr Kwinter: The ODC, as I am sure all members know, is an agency of my ministry that provides loans and loan guarantees to small and medium-sized companies. Its policies are more liberal than most conventional lending institutions, and as a result it usually can provide a very worthwhile service to industry. Having said that, they have an obligation to the taxpayers to make sure that there is adequate security and that they can in fact do business in a businesslike way.
I want to assure all members of this House that there is not one practice that applies to one area and not to another. They have an obligation to make sure that given the fact that their standards of lending are, as I say, more liberal than others, they protect that investment. They have to be accountable, but there is no discrimination against any region or any area in Ontario.
Mr M. C. Ray: The minister will know that it is now about two years since I first urged that ODC officers be placed in the Windsor office. Several months ago, he made a commitment to that effect, but so far as I am aware no action has been taken with respect to the minister’s commitment. Could he please update us and advise when we can expect implementation of the relocation of ODC officers to the Windsor office?
Hon Mr Kwinter: The ODC is looking at its whole program to see how it can get officers out into all regions of Ontario. That is under way and Windsor is certainly in that consideration.
I think the member would want to know that since June 1985 there has been about $4 million in loans and loan guarantees given to companies in the Windsor area, amounting to about 200 companies, with a direct result of about 3,400 new jobs being created. As a matter of fact, the Windsor area at the present time, although it is being serviced out of London, Ontario, has a substantial share of the funding that is allocated in that particular area of Ontario.
Mr Reville: My question is for the Minister of Health. I wonder if the Ministry of Health has not done one reorganization too many. The health insurance division seems to have come under the management of Dr Doolittle, or perhaps the minister has another explanation of why a new Ontario health card has been issued to a cat and a dog.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have also read the story that was in the newspaper this weekend and we have not confirmed in fact that this took place. However, the ministry is investigating to see if fraud has occurred. If cards were issued and they are returned, I will assume it was just a practical joke. I would agree with Dr Finkelstein, as quoted in the newspaper, that abuse is unacceptable and that the government must be vigilant and take appropriate action.
Mr Reville: If the minister is looking for a hint, if she looks for names like Fido, Fluffy and Marmaduke, that would give her a clue. A ministry official said that sorting cardholders into human and non-human groups could not be done at this time because summer holidays were coming. If that explanation worries anybody, try this one: The government still does not know how or when it will find out how many cards were issued to people and how many cards were issued to members who are not people. I am wondering if the minister will reassure us that this is not the much ballyhooed better system we have been hearing about.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In all seriousness, I want to thank the member for the question because this re-registration, which is the largest in North America, was specifically designed to provide speedy assignment of new health numbers to all Ontario residents without causing concern about continued coverage. In developing the process and the system for initial registration of Ontario residents for the new health numbers, specific control measures were assessed to determine which could be best applied prior to the cards being issued and which were more appropriate to post-registration audit.
It would be virtually impossible to detect cases of intentional fraud without some kind of process such as the passport-like application process, and even there we know that where there is intentional fraud, that is very difficult to control. In a lighter vein, in order for a family pet to receive benefits other than publicity, it would be necessary to convince a health care provider that the pet was indeed eligible for OHIP.
Mr Sterling: Along these interesting lines that have been developed, one of our concerns about the issuance of health cards was the whole area of privacy and privacy protection. How can the minister assure us, if cards are being issued in such a random and easily accessed manner, that these cards will not be improperly used for purposes of identification and for purposes of using the system in the wrong manner?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As I said to the member opposite a moment ago in answer to his question, the re-registration of the province of Ontario, with some 9.5 million people -- some four million applications are being received -- is quite an undertaking and a very important one. He should know that only Ontario residents with a valid OHIP number and a surname are eligible to be registered through this process and everyone is required to sign his application or to have it signed on his behalf.
As I said to him, we are investigating to see if fraud has occurred and would agree that it is very important the government remain vigilant and take appropriate action.
I would say one thing further. There are a number of prior measures as well as post-registration measures that are being put in place to ensure that appropriate audit is taking place. All of this is being done with a view to protecting individual confidentiality and also to ensure that people have the information about how to most appropriately use their card to access health services in Ontario.
Mr Sterling: Part of our concern was the fact that there are 24.5 million OHIP numbers now in existence. We have 9.5 million people in Ontario. Even if we add all the cats and dogs that may be in existence in Ontario, we still do not get to 24.5 million.
Can the minister assure us that there will not be other methods of increasing the number of health cards so that there will in fact be more health cards in the future than there are now, this sum of 24.5 million different numbers that we have? Can the minister assure us that this new system which has been implemented at great expense to the taxpayer will not suffer from the same abuses as her present system?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I will tell the member opposite that the province of Ontario has embarked on a re-registration program, a redevelopment of the OHIP computer and a new health number, which in fact has already taken place in every other province in Canada. We are learning from their experience and we are bringing in the appropriate measures to ensure that fraud is minimized, that people have the numbers they need and that the new system will be in place. I want to tell him that no system is ever without the opportunity for flaws. We are always looking at how that can be improved and learning from experiences in other jurisdictions as we move forward.
Mr Tatham: This question is for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. There have been newspaper reports lately about this matter of exports and about the effect the high Canadian dollar is having on the ability of Canadian exporters to compete in foreign markets. Could the minister comment upon the impact of the high Canadian dollar on Ontario exports and the programs his ministry has in place to financially assist Ontario exporters?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I want to thank the member for Oxford for the question. There is no question that the high value of the dollar is impacting negatively on our exporters. They are really in a situation of double jeopardy. When the free trade agreement was negotiated, the dollar was at 72 cents. Today the dollar is trading at about 85 cents to 86 cents. What has happened is that any of the benefits that could have been realized under the free trade agreement have really been wiped out.
Added to that is another problem. The problem is that we are not playing on a level playing field. We have the cost of capital, which is reflected in interest rates, with a 5% spread. We are up 5% higher than our American counterparts who have a built-in non-tariff barrier for our Canadian exporters. So all of those things combined have really put Canadian exporters at a disadvantage.
We have made representations to the federal government at every opportunity. We are going to continue to do it to see if they will change their policy. But until that happens we have, of course, no jurisdiction over that particular area. We do have programs that are in place by my ministry. We have a trade expansion fund that will provide up to $35,000 for an Ontario exporter to help him penetrate the United States market. We have loans for capital equipment that will help him get more competitive. We have an export support loan program which provides up to $1 million of revolving credit for those companies that are exporting into foreign markets.
The Speaker: Thank you. The member may have a supplementary; I do not know. I am sure there may be some further information he would want.
Mr Tatham: I appreciate the factors that are impacting upon our exports, but what initiatives are we taking? What things are we doing? What things could we do to help our exporters? What other things can we do?
The Speaker: Now you may continue.
Hon Mr Kwinter: As well as the programs I have already outlined, we have a couple of others that I think are very important. One of them is called new exporters to border states. What we do is we take potential exporters to border locations such as Buffalo or Detroit to take them through the steps of how they can in fact become an exporter. That has proved very successful and we have now expanded it to include a similar program, Euronex, to allow exporters who want to penetrate the European market. We feel that both these programs will help stimulate activity in the export community and take new exporters and show them the opportunities that await them in these rapidly expanding markets.
Mr Pouliot: My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. On 17 April she said in this House that she recognized the very specific need for a timber management plan assessment at the same time as the very important and the very real environmental assessment commission was sitting. In fact, her ministry issued a pamphlet, Timber Management Planning -- Getting Involved Can Make a Difference. Some people got involved. In fact, eight specific cases came to the minister’s door, reached her office, asking that they be heard.
Can she explain to the House, with respect, why in the past two years there has not been one single environmental assessment heard?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think the honourable member is well aware -- in fact he has referenced it in his question -- that there is a very intensive environmental assessment on timber management planning taking place right now. It is the most intensive environmental assessment on timber management practices that I think has ever been undertaken across the country, not only in the province of Ontario.
Obviously, we do have to continue to ensure that there is a supply of wood for the many mills that are operating both in northern and, to some extent, in southern Ontario while the environmental assessment of our timber management practices continues. Our commitment on each of the timber management plans that does receive approval during this period of time when the class environmental assessment is going on is that we will ensure that there is very thorough consultation in our planning process, as well as ensuring that through the ministry we are engaging in the most careful integrated forest management that we can bring to bear on each of those timber management plans. Obviously, each of them is examined individually before it is finally approved.
Mr Pouliot: Let’s make sure, with respect, that we are talking about the same due process here. If the minister makes reference to the Red Squirrel Road, this was “a road assessment.” What we have here is Timmins forest, Lanark forest, Magpie forest, Ranger Lake forest, Nakina forest and the list goes on and on. They are begging the minister. They want assessment work conducted under her ministry’s auspices.
Only the minister and her ministry, with the stroke of a pen, can acquiesce with their legitimate demands. Can she? We can do it together. This is not sending someone to the moon. This is acquiescing the need, acquiescing the mandate that she herself initiated. Will she give us a commitment and please, soon, in the not-too-distant future, at her convenience bless us with a reasonable timetable? Will she do that?
The Speaker: Will you bless the member?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I confess that I am somewhat confused by the honourable member’s question. I understood in the first question that he was asking about the possibility of individual environmental assessments on timber management plans during the course of the class environmental assessment being carried out. I would recognize, of course, that if that is the question it is the responsibility of the Minister of the Environment to determine whether or not an individual environmental assessment would need to be carried out on a specific timber management plan.
My responsibility as Minister of Natural Resources is to ensure that every timber management plan that is brought forward by the ministry has been subject to the most careful analysis that we can bring to it to ensure that environmental concerns are being addressed and that there is a thorough consultation process in the development of each of those plans, and that we are responsive to the consultation that is taking place.
Those are my responsibilities. I undertake to ensure that they are carried out on each of the timber management plans. But there are, I would point out, hundreds of timber management plans across the province and it is essential that those continue in order to ensure that our forest products industries can continue to operate.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Education. The minister would be familiar with this document, the third report of the select committee on education, which was not only sent to his office on 17 January but he also had copies of it several weeks in advance. He will know that this document specifically calls upon the minister to consult with the partners in education to determine a clear way of changing and calculating the cost of providing educational services in Ontario.
The standing orders clearly state that the minister is required to respond to this report within 120 days, yet 138 days have passed since it has been in the minister’s hands. Could the minister please advise the House when he is going to give a formal response to this document?
Hon Mr Conway: At an early opportunity.
Mr Jackson: Mr Speaker, this should be a matter of some concern to you, given that this is in fact what the standing orders state and that this document has been in the minister’s hands well in advance of that time. The minister will be aware that all members of this House have been receiving a large number of phone calls from senior citizens regarding the most recent receipt of the second instalment of their property taxes, recognizing that education is not only the largest component but it is the fastest-growing component. Many of them are expressing concerns for the fact that the government’s share of operating funding has dropped to its lowest level in modern history in this province and Ontario taxpayers are now paying about 60% of those costs.
Given the fact that this is now seniors’ month, given that seniors on fixed incomes are expressing the greatest amount of concern about the increases in their property taxes due to educational funding and financing in this province, does the minister not think it appropriate and timely that he immediately respond to the recommendations of this report and specifically look at the costs of education in this province and the reforms necessary to assist seniors?
Hon Mr Conway: I am sure my friend the member for Burlington South told all the seniors with whom he discussed this matter that it is this government which has raised the seniors’ property tax grant from, I believe. $500 to $600. I just want to be sure that the member for Burlington South is pointing out that in consideration of the impact of property taxes on seniors, this Treasurer in this government has in recent years substantially increased the property tax grant, which has as its intent relieving from senior citizens the burden of the educational property tax.
We as a government are taking very seriously the advice which the select committee has provided, particularly in the very vital issues of equity and accountability. I can assure my honourable friend and anyone else with an interest in this subject that we, as a Liberal government, are going to proceed with reforms that have as their hallmark equity and fairness for seniors and for all other Ontarians.
EMERGENCY SHELTER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Mr D. R. Cooke: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Because the poor cannot lobby on their own, I make it a point of trying to monitor the services available to them. I have been alarmed recently by the fact that the number of people seeking emergency food assistance in Kitchener has been increasing in unprecedented numbers over the past several months. As the minister might imagine, this news has come to me with some surprise because it is different from the reports coming from other cities such as Toronto and Ottawa.
I am working with community leaders to determine why this anomaly has arisen. However, this is all taking place just as social service agencies are struggling to make ends meet due to the discontinuance of the emergency shelter assistance program by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. St John’s Kitchen is a case in point. The ministry’s decision has had the effect of placing St John’s Kitchen in a precarious financial situation.
Can the minister tell the House why he has chosen to eliminate this important funding source, thus endangering the work of worthy groups such as St John’s Kitchen?
Hon Mr Beer: I know that my honourable friend has been working closely with this particular group and I share his concern about some of the figures he has raised. The honourable member would know that when we brought in the major reforms last year and this year with respect to the social assistance system, it was in the order of some $415 million. The intent was to ensure there was more money in individual recipients’ pockets so that they would be able to have more money available for food and shelter.
At that time it was decided the emergency program which the member makes reference to, a program of about $1,600,000, would be phased out because of the increased dollars that were going into social assistance reform in a major way. I should point out to the honourable member that this year we are still spending somewhere in the neighbourhood of $700,000 to $800,000 to work with organizations like St John’s around a number of the non-food programs they have. As he also points out, in the main those have worked out well.
I am concerned about the information the honourable member has brought to me and can assure him that I have asked officials on my staff to look directly into this particular program.
Mr D. R. Cooke: I appreciate the thoughtful approach the minister has taken to this. In light of the continuing demand in Kitchener, would the minister be willing to set up some kind of transitional funding to allow St John’s to overcome the heavy increase in demand that seems to be occurring at the present time while declines are occurring elsewhere in the province?
Hon Mr Beer: I would want to make very clear to the honourable member that we would work closely with the St John’s organization in terms of reviewing what the specific problems were and in what way our ministry can help in terms of a number of programs we have. I recognize the important role that agency plays within the Kitchener-Waterloo area in dealing with the wide range of people who come there for a variety of services. In working closely together with the agency, we will do our utmost to find ways of assisting it in meeting the needs of the people who come to see it.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of Health. For five years now this party has been trying to pressure this government into bringing in a safe drinking water act. The last time we raised it with the Minister of Health, she tried to pass the responsibility off to the Minister of the Environment or to the federal Minister of National Health and Welfare, but the Health Protection and Promotion Act clearly says that the promotion and protection of the health of the people of Ontario is the responsibility of the Minister of Health for the province of Ontario.
Can the minister explain why nothing has been done by her government to put in place standards for drinking water right across this province?
Hon Mrs Caplan: Quite rightly, in her preamble, the member has identified the federal government as having the lead in the development of standards and the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario as ensuring safe drinking water. She knows that our Minister of the Environment has done an outstanding job of advocating for the kind of appropriate response from the federal government. I support him in his initiatives and join with him.
Mrs Grier: The last time we asked the question the minister said she would raise it at the first opportunity with the federal minister of health, so I hope in fact that has been done. I want to say to the minister that we now have a list of 15 communities across southern Ontario that are receiving from the ministry or from their local municipality bottled water because the ground water or the surface water is so contaminated in their communities that people cannot drink that water.
Is she satisfied with putting this pressure on the federal government or urging the Minister of the Environment, who has done nothing about safe drinking water? When we first raised the question, he said the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement was going to solve it; MISA is now two years overdue. Why does she not, as Minister of Health, share my concern that in communities like Westbrook, Rednersville, Killaloe, Elmira, Fergus, Hagersville and Nanticoke there is no safe drinking water for the people of the province? Does she not feel that is her responsibility at all?
Hon Mrs Caplan: While in the preamble to the first question I said that I agreed with some of the things the member opposite said, in the preamble to her supplementary question I do not agree with her at all. I believe the Ministry of the Environment has been very active and progressive in responding appropriately to communities across this province. I know we get the advice of public health officials and that the Ministry of Health supports the Ministry of the Environment in its efforts to ensure that the people of Ontario have access to drinking water which is of an appropriate standard, as set by the federal government. Both ministries are working very actively in making representations to the federal government and I assure the member of our commitment on this very important matter.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr Philip from the standing committee on public accounts presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Report No. 1.
The Speaker: The member may wish to inform us slightly on what the recommendations are.
Mr Philip: I never inform anybody slightly, but I will inform you concisely, Mr Speaker.
The Provincial Auditor’s report on the audit of the personnel classification system of the Human Resources Secretariat, Management Board of Cabinet, was investigated by our committee on 5 March and 8 March 1990. The committee made a number of recommendations in this report and we have assigned dates by which we expect the Human Resources Secretariat to provide progress reports.
This committee is of the opinion that this report on the Human Resources Secretariat’s classification system is of importance to both management in the Ontario public service and to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. The members have decided therefore to forward a copy of their report and the Hansard to OPSEU, and we hope OPSEU will also provide comments.
On motion by Mr Philip, the debate was adjourned.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
LIQUOR LICENCE ACT, 1990 / LOI DE 1990 SUR LES PERMIS DE VENTE D’ALCOOL
Mr Phillips, on behalf of Mr Sorbara, moved first reading of Bill 175. An Act to revise the Liquor Licence Act and to amend the law relating to Liquor.
M. Phillips, au nom de M. Sorbara, propose la première lecture du projet de loi 175, Loi portant révision de la Loi sur les permis de vente d’alcool et portant modification des lois relatives à l’alcool.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
BUSINESS NAMES ACT, 1989
Mr Phillips, on behalf of Mr Sorbara, moved second reading of Bill 108, An Act respecting Business Names.
Mr Laughren: Mr Speaker, on a point of order or privilege: I wonder if we could have an opening statement from the minister.
The Speaker: I know the members are very interested in an opening statement. I see the minister is here now, so I will recognize the minister.
Hon Mr Sorbara: My apologies to my colleagues in the House. Apparently, Mr Speaker, you moved through petitions, motions and introduction of bills in an entirely orderly fashion, and we are now dealing with the second reading of Bill 208.
Hon Mr Phillips: Bill 108.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I am sorry, Bill 108.
There is not a great deal to say on this bill other than that, after a great deal of consultation with all the people who have an interest in this bill -- and that is generally the business community and the legal community, which does the work of incorporation, which does the work of forming a partnership if a business is going to be carried on in the form of a partnership -- it puts the law relating to the creation and use of business names into a modern and appropriate state.
One of the things this bill does is that it acknowledges in statutory form the fact that we have moved from an economy that was generally a goods-producing economy to an economy that has a very significant service sector component as well. One of the things Bill 108 does is require that all business entities, notwithstanding that they are a service sector business, must register a business name if they are going to be using that business name.
Another thing that is important to mention is that the bill, when it is passed, will require a comprehensive registration of all business names in the province so that we will move from a system which is, at best, only sometimes reliable in the searching of business names to a system which will be comprehensive and very highly reliable for the individual who is looking to find the business entity which is behind the business name.
For my friends in the House who perhaps do not understand how this system works, let me just say that a business entity, whether it is a corporation incorporated under our corporations statutes or a partnership which is formed by way of an agreement, can, if it is not using its own name -- let’s take corporation ABC Ltd. That corporation can carry on business under the name ABC Ltd or it can adopt a business name, for example, Laughren’s Calisthenic Shops. If it chooses to use that name, under this act it must register that name. It also must obviously search to find that someone else is not using that name. Indeed, under the new act, when it is passed, if a similar name is used and it is deceptively similar, and the other Laughren is damaged or suffers as a result of the use of the Laughren name for calisthenic shops, then the act provides for damages.
Finally, as result of some careful analysis by our friend in the House, the member for Welland-Thorold, pointing out a couple of matters that needed some more attention, a number of amendments will be proposed to Bill 108 when it goes before committee of the whole. They are really rather technical amendments ensuring that the law is absolutely clear that a business name, not only in the English language but the French language and any other language, can be used as long as appropriate characters known to our society are used.
The long and the short of it is that a great deal of work has been done among client groups, and particularly lawyers representing businesses, to ensure that we will have in the province, when Bill 108 is passed, a modern statute which gives a very high degree of reliability for people trying to search the user of a business name. Once this act is passed, the machinery to put it into place will be set in motion, and I am confident that we will have a very good statute indeed.
Mr Farnan: We will be supporting the legislation today. I find it rather amusing that the minister would say that this bill will make the whole process absolutely clear, especially after a team of lawyers has been working on this for a period of time. I have read the legislation and, of course, not being of the legal profession myself, I do not find it absolutely clear. For those individuals who are in corporations or businesses that have the benefit of legal advisers, those boards of directors may find the legislation absolutely clear after it is explained to them by their legal staff and legal departments, but I assure you, Mr Speaker, for the layman, any legislation can often appear to be quite complicated. Effort, I believe, should be made in all of the legislation to produce a language that is readable and understandable to the average citizen and to the small business people of the province, because often legislation indeed comes in a language that defies understanding.
I do want to make one comment, and that is, in talking about Bill 108, I just want to make absolutely sure, and the minister will give his assurance, that this is the case. My colleague the member for Welland-Thorold brought to my attention as critic, and I believe to the ministry, our concern with a particular clause that suggested, “A name may be registered only in English and French or English and French combined,” and we pointed out that certainly we would like to see the possibility for other languages to be used in the name of a business, whether it be Italian, Portuguese or any other language.
The ministry indicated to me that it has accepted this and it has brought forward the amendment to address our concerns, with the understandable reality that it can only go so far as to accept names that are in the generally accepted characters of the alphabet as we use it, and that, I believe, is supported by the New Democratic Party.
In the final analysis, although this is very much a housekeeping bill to bring in order and some kind of efficiency, I do not think we can take the stance that it is just wonderful legislation. Legislation often only can be evaluated when we look at it in practice, see how it works, see if it is doing the job, look at what wrinkles come about later on as we watch the legislation applied. Therefore we just say to the minister, as I expect he will be looking at how it works, we support it at this particular stage. We will monitor it. We hope it works. I know a lot of work has gone into it. The minister and his staff have put a lot of work into this, and certainly we support it. We will monitor it and we will get back to the minister with any concerns of ours that arise.
Ms Bryden: I support the idea of this bill, which is to streamline our procedures for registering companies and examining whether names have duplication or should be questioned. At the same time, I want to say that I think the bill will only be as good as its administration, and I have found that the administration of the companies legislation and the registering of companies thereunder is less than what one might call excellent or even good.
I found when I phoned the companies branch for registration information on some companies in the east end that I was interested in, who their owners were or who their shareholders were if they were a share company, the companies branch came up with a complete blank on two of them, and yet I could see their storefronts within a mile of my home or my constituency office. I wonder how those companies are allowed to operate there without any registration. They could not even tell who the owner was, or they had just no file on them at all.
Also, in one or two others in which I did get the names of the proprietor in whose name the company was registered, I could not get any information about other owners or other shareholders, if there were such. It appears that most of these companies are not subject to any very definite supervision.
We all know that in the past 10 years there have been a great many companies which were originally registered and then their registry lapsed and they have had to have private bills to resurrect the companies because no efforts were really made to collect their annual reports or any fees that are required when those reports are received.
I know there have been some improvements in the reporting process, but I still think there are too many companies that we can find out very little about, operating in this area anyway. I do not know about the rest of the province.
Also, there are too many companies operating under numbers. Behind the numbers, you cannot always get the names of the actual owners. Certainly you cannot get them posted in apartment blocks, where the owners often are a numbered company. It seems to require a great deal of digging for the tenants to find out who the people behind the number are, and also for anybody doing research who wants to find out what companies are joined with other companies in the ownership of a numbered company.
I hope the minister will be looking into the administration of this bill and of the whole companies’ legislation to make sure that it is easy for us to monitor the operations of the act, that there is some sort of annual financial statement and that there is the ability to find out who are the people behind the numbers.
With that reservation, I am willing to support second reading of this bill, but I hope the minister will give us some sort of statement on what kind of administration he plans.
Hon Mr Sorbara: Just to wrap up second reading debate, I appreciate the support of the two speakers and the support of the New Democratic Party on this bill.
I note the absence of anyone from the Conservative Part to speak to it. I hope they will support it as well, if they care to participate in the vote.
To answer my friend the member for Cambridge, the matter that his colleague the member for Welland-Thorold raised in respect of the use of a broader range of names has been incorporated in a number of amendments that I will put before committee of the whole. I think they will pass easily. Simply, they reflect that concern, and I think we have reshaped the bill in order to do that.
To my friend the member for Beaches-Woodbine, I simply want to say that all of the things she would like to see changed in the area of company law, even if I were completely sympathetic with all her views, could not be incorporated in an act like this. But I think she will be satisfied when she sees this act put into place and the machinery to do what the act proposes to do put into place.
The business of searching behind a business name, whatever that business name is, will be made easier. It is not written up in the statute, but there will be a technology incorporated within my ministry to make the registration process and the searching process simpler and more effective. For example, if you want to search behind a company and you need to know who the principals are or what the corporate entity is or who the individual behind that business name is, hopefully, when this act is passed and the new machinery of registration is put into place, that process will be easier.
The other matters that she raised, I think, are really part and parcel of consideration under statutes and there may be a time and a place for that as well.
I want to thank both of them for their comments on the bill and I hope we can deal with this expeditiously.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
Hon Mr Sorbara: If I might, on behalf of the House leader, my understanding was that we were going to do a number of bills on the order paper and then go to committee of the whole after that. Is that wrong?
The Deputy Speaker: That is correct.
EASEMENT STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Sorbara moved second reading of Bill 106. An Act to amend certain Acts with respect to Easements and other matters.
Hon Mr Sorbara: Very briefly, Bill 106 is a rather technical bill and I do not want to spend a lot of time dealing with the technicalities of it. Suffice it to say that what this bill does is provide to municipalities, at the request of municipalities and in response to some of the concerns that municipalities have about the registration of their easements in land registration offices around the province, an additional 10 years to re-register very old easements which, in the absence of this bill, would simply disappear and lose their legal effect over land.
For the benefit of my friends who might not have much history on this bill, easements can arise in a variety of forms. Under the registry system, they might arise by a reference in a completely unrelated document. Back in 1981 the government saw fit, in beginning the creation of the Polaris system, the province of Ontario land registration and information system, a process of requiring that any easement held by a municipality, or anyone else for that matter, had to be on title as a result of a notice on the particular property that the easement affected. That affected thousands and thousands of municipal easements, things like utility corridors and easements for sewer pipes and water and all of that sort of thing.
The intention at that time was to have those easements registered by a notice on title on the property affected. That process has not been completed yet and, rather than have municipalities lose their rights in those easements, we have provided under this act an additional 10 years, really until 1999, for those registrations to take place. It has been done in consultation with municipalities and I know that they are awaiting the passage of this act, so I encourage my friends in the House to support it and give it speedy consideration and speedy passage.
Mr Farnan: The minister has summed up the legislation. It does provide a 10-year grace for municipalities to reserve easements. I would like to point out to the minister that since 1981 many municipalities have never bothered to relocate and register their easements. I would like the minister to answer this question when he responds: How does he feel this legislation will encourage municipalities to get on with the job of registering their easements? I think that is an important question.
There has been a period between 1981 and the present in which many municipalities have not registered, and this is an additional 10 years. Is this a very efficacious way in which to proceed, that we look at a 20-year period in which we have easements registered? I am not going to say it is or it is not; I am just looking for the minister’s views on this. Is there a process by which it could be done more effectively so that all of this could be in the data bank within a reasonable period of time? Is 20 years an overly long period in which to have this process completed? What guarantees do we have that by 1990 it will be in place? I am just interested in the minister’s views.
It is obvious that we support this legislation. I think municipalities will appreciate the period of grace. I am looking at the period of grace as being quite extraordinary, in the sense that it is a 10-year period of grace. However, I suppose that given the relationship of the government to municipalities over many issues, the government might be looking for something with which to placate municipalities, even if it is on this small piece of legislation. I look forward to the minister’s comments.
Hon Mr Sorbara: In summing up this mini-debate on Bill 106, I want to direct myself exclusively to the comments of my friend the member for Cambridge. He suggests that 10 years or 20 years to have these notices of easements registered is too long a period. I think probably the previous government in 1981 suggested that 10 years was long enough in the legislation that it proposed. Unfortunately, the municipalities either did not or would not get the work done.
I understand that, because in many instances to register these easements in the way that the law now requires or will require over the number of years can be a very expensive process. We talk about it as the simple registration of an easement, but to understand it in technical terms, it may mean the surveying of a right of way for a water line to traverse perhaps half a mile of private property. That is the kind of thing we are talking about.
Often, let’s be frank, the municipality is unaware that it still has the easement, and the question does not arise until some time in the future, when a property is being transferred or a new pipeline is being put in or that sort of thing. So what has to happen to register these easements in many cases is very expensive survey work has to be undertaken, new plans have to be drawn, and then of course the document has to be registered. A good deal of that work is done, but in order not to in any way inadvertently void the easements that are necessary for municipalities to continue to do what they do in many instances, we have seen fit to provide another 10-year period.
I just want to point out in that regard that any private property owner who happens to be affected by this bill is, under the terms of the bill, to be compensated by the municipality. We do not expect that is going to happen in a great number of cases, but we wanted to satisfy ourselves as we move into this last period for registering these easements that no one is prejudiced by the extension of time. We have done that with an appropriate amendment.
I just want to reiterate that in passing this legislation we are putting into place yet another important component of Polaris, the province of Ontario land registration and information system, that is going to really revolutionize our land registration system in the province. The fact that we are speeding up that process with a strategic alliance with a private sector partner means that this system will put us at the leading edge of land registration technologies in the future.
It really will be necessary for municipalities to comply with this 10-year period, because we expect that at the end of that 10-year period we will have a new land registration system in the province, technologically driven and computer based, that will be the envy of every other jurisdiction in North America. This is an important part of it, and I thank members for their support of the bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
MINING TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Mancini moved second reading of Bill 104, An Act to amend the Mining Tax Act.
Hon Mr Mancini: I have an opening statement, but very short. An Act to amend the Mining Tax Act basically implements the proposal in the Treasurer’s budget of 17 May 1989 requiring mine operators to pay monthly instalments of mining tax for taxation years commencing after that date. It also reinstates an administrative penalty of $50 per day for non-filing of tax returns. This was omitted in error during the overhaul of the act in 1987.
Mr Laughren: I just wanted to ask the minister -- this is not in debate now, but simply a question to the minister -- whether he could tell us, if this bill flowed from the previous budget, why it has taken the minister so long to get it before the assembly.
Mr Pollock: I have a couple of things. One question is, how does this affect a mine that possibly might be shut down for a long period of time with a labour dispute? Another question is, since the minister mentioned that they will be paying a tax of $50 for each day they are in arrears, how does that compare with former legislation? Is it in any way near the same amount? Would the minister please explain clause l8(2)(b) in section 4, “an amount equal to the lesser of $1,000 or 10%”?
Hon Mr Mancini: There are three short questions. My friend the member for Nickel Belt wanted to know why it has taken so long to get the matter before the House. It has taken so long because of all the scrutiny that all the legislation must go through. This is a very open government, as my honourable colleague knows, and many, many bills are introduced that probably could proceed quickly. The members of the opposition want to earn their salaries, justifiably so, and they want to scrutinize everything very thoroughly in the House. Actually I think they do not do too bad a job doing that. That does slow down the process somewhat, but I think it is worth while in order for the scrutiny to take place.
My friend speaking on behalf of the Conservative Party wanted some clarification on the $50. I think it is just being handed to me right now, but the $50 is comparable to the late payments, for example, on the employer health tax. That is a comparable rate. The honourable gentleman asked what “the lesser of $1,000 or 10%” of the unpaid tax means. I would assume that if there were money owing, it would be exactly that: it would be the lesser of $1,000 or 10%. I do not know how much more clear it could be.
The notes sent to me from my officials tell me that if a mine is shut down --
Mr Laughren: They are not your officials. They are ours.
Hon Mr Mancini: Our officials, officials of the government that members opposite are always criticizing in the Legislature all the time.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The minister’s time is up.
Hon Mr Mancini: My time is up? I wanted to answer the honourable gentleman’s question, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Do other members wish to participate in the debate? The member for Nickel Belt.
Mr Laughren: Yes, I do. I appreciated that aborted explanation from the Minister of Revenue. I must say that when I looked at the bill and I realized way back when, when they talked about an amendment to the Mining Tax Act, for a wild and crazy moment I got excited and I thought we were going to have a meaningful amendment to the act that would benefit communities in northern Ontario that have mining companies within their jurisdiction.
When I think of all the possible amendments that the minister could have brought before us, this is the one that I find the most unlikely for him to have dreamed up to bring for debate and passage. We could spend a full week in this assembly debating meaningful amendments to the Mining Tax Act. Most of us who represent constituencies in which there are mining operations could have filled the minister’s ear with suggestions. Indeed, we often have in the past.
We would have thought that if the minister was going to amend the Mining Tax Act, he would have incorporated some of those suggestions into his amendment package. Instead of that, we have an amendment that simply says to the mining companies, “Instead of paying all your taxes at the end of the year, now we want your revenue every month.” That is basically what the amendment does, and a few other amendments attached to that.
We know, for example, that this year there is almost $200 million budgeted for revenues from the mining sector. If others obviously have not done it, it is time that this minister put his stamp on the industry with his own kind of Mining Tax Act. There is absolutely no reason why we have to go on with the kind of tax regime we have in northern Ontario with the mining companies.
For example, this minister is responsible for assessment. He is also responsible for the legislation on mining tax revenues. Why would he not come forth with a package that changes the way in which mining properties are assessed when they are either inside or outside municipal boundaries? When he was going through this, and he had a year to do it, why did he not bring before us a substantial amendment that said, “We are going to change the assessment so that mining companies pay more to the municipalities in which they are located,” even if they are just outside the boundaries of the municipality?
When I think of the community in which I live, the regional municipality of Sudbury -- anyone ever taking the time to read any kind of resource economics would note that there has never been a textbook written, I suspect, that did not refer to the incredible wealth of the Sudbury basin. Yet when you look at the Sudbury basin and you see the problems we have had, the struggles we have had simply to maintain basic services, which are still not there in the entire community, then it speaks volumes about the kind of tax system we have in this province.
It really does puzzle me. I hope when the minister winds up debate on this bill, he will tell us why it is that he did not attempt a more meaningful and substantial amendment to the legislation. I am puzzled by it. The mining companies themselves are not opposed to a change in the way they pay their taxes. If the minister really feels he does not want to offend the corporate sector, then that is fine. Let him at least change the direction of the money that is extracted from the mining industry. Why not have more of the money that is raised from them stay at the local level?
Virtually all mining communities have particular problems, partly because they are in northern Ontario, partly because some of them are isolated or partly because of the nature, for example in Sudbury, of the rock on which we are located. All services are very expensive to deliver in that community. There is no reason why the minister could not have come before this assembly with an appropriate package of amendments that would have meant something to people in northern Ontario.
What does the minister think this bill means to any resident in any mining municipality? Does he really think it makes a difference if the companies pay their bills once a month instead of once a year? Is that going to benefit the regional municipality of Sudbury? Is that going to benefit Timiskaming with all its problems? Or Timmins? It is not going to make things a bit better in those communities.
If the minister is going to muck around with the Mining Tax Act, why does he not do it in a meaningful way? This way, he is going through the motions as a minister and he can say, “Well, I passed a Mining Tax Act amendment today or this session or during the life of this Parliament.” But what did it really do? He had an opportunity to do something meaningful that would have benefited the municipalities in northern Ontario where there are mining operations.
As I said, the mining companies would not have opposed it. They are not looking to pay more taxes, but I am sure that virtually every mining company would be willing to have some of its taxes redirected to the local level rather than to the consolidated revenue fund down here in Toronto. I do not expect them to say they want to pay more money.
What I am saying to the minister is that if he does not want to direct some of the mining tax profits back to the local municipalities, then it seems to me he should change the Assessment Act. That is within his power too. It is not within my purview to debate that this afternoon with this bill, Mr Speaker, I hasten to add before you interrupt me, but I really am disappointed in the minister’s amendment.
We will vote for the amendment because all it does is say the companies pay once a month instead of once a year. But tell me why we would take the time of this assembly to spend a lot of time debating that. I do not know. I am surprised this was not in the form of a change in the regulations. That is how important I think it is. I hope when the minister responds he has some kind of explanation of why he comes in with a piece of legislation that will not alter the wellbeing of any resident in the province -- absolutely none -- yet he has an amendment before the House.
It seems to me I have heard ministers complain that it is difficult to get their legislation before the assembly because of the backlog of legislation. If that is the case, when they do get a bill before us why do they not make it worth while? Why do they not make it a bill that we all feel good about debating? Whether or not we would all agree on it is not the point, but at least if they are going to bring in a bill to amend an existing piece of legislation, for heaven’s sake, make it worth our while to do so.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): If memory serves me correctly in watching the monitor, we are dealing with second reading of Bill 104, An Act to amend the Mining Tax Act. Questions and responses? Continuing with the debate and waiting a sumptuous amount of time, the honourable member for Hastings-Peterborough.
Mr Pollock: I think the minister was about to answer that question about what happened if there was a lengthy labour dispute. He never really got that out, so possibly when he gives us a response he will mention that. I mentioned the $50. I know that is what it is right now and I really do not have a problem with that. I want to know what they charged for a penalty in the past. That is what I was concerned about.
The Acting Speaker: The honourable member stood up in questions and responses. My understanding is that he has already participated in the debate. I would anticipate the minister would rather not participate in questions and responses but reserve his comments for his summation at second reading. So we will still cast our eyes about to see if there is any further discussion with the bill on second reading. Seeing none, the minister’s concluding remarks.
Hon Mr Mancini: In my concluding statement, I will try to answer some of the questions and comments that have been made.
First, I think it would be fair to respond to my Conservative colleague who has asked now twice about what the situation would be if a labour dispute was in effect at a certain mine and affected the operations. I am assuming if that was the case and if the dispute was for any particular length of time, then the company’s profits would be lower and therefore the mining taxes would be lower. That is basically how the situation would be affected by a labour dispute.
Also, the honourable gentleman opposite asked what the previous fine was. I believe the previous fine was $50 and I believe it was left out of the previous legislation. Then I tried to compare that with the employer health tax, which is also $50 a day in penalty if the filing is late. I think those two answers in fact might serve the honourable member.
My friend the member for Nickel Belt asks a different kind of question. He asks more of a philosophical, economic question, probably a question that would be more appropriately directed to the Treasurer, who sets economic policy for Ontario. The member for Nickel Belt started off by indicating, in my view, that mining taxes were in fact too low. He certainly left that impression. I am not sure if there is widespread belief in northern Ontario or anywhere else that mining taxes are in fact too low, but if they were, that would be a question for the Treasurer to decide. He sets economic policy and he sets tax rates. My colleague the member for Nickel Belt, who has been in the Legislature for a long number of years --
Mr Sola: Too long some would say.
Hon Mr Mancini: Some members have said too long -- and who on a regular basis asks the Treasurer questions, knows who sets economic policy.
Then, in his concluding remarks, he seemed to indicate that these increased taxes he wanted placed on the mining industry should not come to the coffers here at Queen’s Park but should be paid to the local municipalities. That is an interesting idea indeed. I am not sure how the honourable member would put that in place. Maybe in the not-too-distant future he will get the opportunity to stand on a platform in northern Ontario and indicate just how high he would raise mining taxes and, when he did raise these taxes, how he would divert this money to the local municipalities. We will look forward to hearing from the honourable member in the not-too-distant future, or maybe even later on today, as to how this would happen.
I also want to say that I know my friend the member for Nickel Belt would be the first member on the opposition side in the House from northern Ontario to stand and say that something should be done for the industry if in fact there was a downturn in the economy and how a higher tax rate would particularly affect the industry at this time when there is some feeling and in fact some justification for concern expressed by workers, by people in the industry and by companies that manage the industry as to what the future holds as far as being able to work within a strong economy is concerned.
So I would say to the honourable member that this particular piece of legislation is not any more or any less than what it purports to be. It purports to be an explanation as to how mining companies will remit their taxes. That is basically what this piece of legislation does. That is very important to the Ministry of Revenue. It is very important for us to be able to inform the Treasurer as to how funds are coming in. It is very important for the government to know, because during in-year reviews of ministerial expenses it is nice to know whether there is room to manoeuvre, whether there is room for further expansion in government programs or whether we are going to have to hold the line very tightly.
That is basically running the store well and that is basically what this piece of legislation is going to help us do. It is going to help us run the store better. I know the New Democrats, the socialists, are not concerned about that. Frankly, the honourable member’s suggestion today, that taxes should be raised on the industry and then given to the municipalities, is a very novel idea. We will await further explanation as to just how high he would raise these taxes and which municipalities would get how much from these new taxes.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
ONTARIO HOME OWNERSHIP SAVINGS PLAN AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Mancini moved second reading of Bill 105, An Act to amend the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act, 1988.
Hon Mr Mancini: I had a short statement about this particular piece of legislation earlier on today and I was happy to see that it was applauded from all sides.
Mr Laughren: No, it wasn’t. What are you talking about?
Hon Mr Mancini: Yes, it was applauded from all sides. I am happy to have an occasion here this afternoon to comment further on this important and positive piece of legislation.
This bill, An Act to amend the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act, 1988, implements the changes to the Ontario home ownership savings plan program for the first-time home buyers. This arises out of the Treasurer’s budget of 17 May 1989.
These changes, designed to enhance the attractiveness of this program, are as follows: (1) higher-yield fixed-term investments, such as guaranteed investment certificates, are now eligible investments in addition to demand deposits; (2) the early release of plan deposits is now allowed when a buyer has agreed to make interim payments to a builder as part of the agreement to purchase and sell; (3) planholders who acquire an interest in a home as a result of a marriage or inheritance are no longer required to pay back any tax credits received in previous years; and (4) an individual whose spouse owned a home prior to, but not after, the marriage is now eligible to participate in the Ontario home ownership savings plan program.
This bill also contains some administrative changes to clarify the wording of certain definitions, the conditions for the creation of an OHOSP and a time limitation for the prosecutions of offences committed under the act. A technical amendment is also proposed to prevent individuals from abusing the program in trust situations.
With the concurrence of my colleague the Attorney General, a complementary amendment to the Succession Law Reform Act is included in this bill. This amendment would allow OHOSPs to be included in the definition of a plan under the act and enable an OHOSP planholder to designate a beneficiary of the plan in a signed statement. Presently, a beneficiary may only be appointed by means of a will.
I will propose amendments to Bill 105 that will exclude from the program homes that have been illegally converted from rental property in contravention of the Rental Housing Protection Act. Copies of the proposed amendments will be distributed to the honourable members, and I look forward to their assistance and to their comments.
Mr Laughren: I wonder if we could have some questions and answers first, before we get into debate. Is that appropriate?
The Acting Speaker: Well, that is not the way these things are done, as the honourable member, who is much more learned than I am in the proceedings of the House, will know; but maybe during comments and questions.
Mr Charlton: Could we have unanimous consent to have questions and comments?
Mr Laughren: It is all right. I shall engage in the debate on second reading. The question I was going to ask the minister, if I had had the opportunity earlier, was whether or not it is usual to bring forward an act to amend the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act and then at the very end of it say he is also amending the Succession Law Reform Act. Is this the normal procedure, to bring in a bill amending an act right in the title of the bill and then at the end of it tack on an amendment to an act that is not even mentioned in the title of the bill? I would appreciate hearing what the minister says on that. However, I will not dwell on that. That is just one of those in-House matters that one likes to have cleared up.
The Acting Speaker: I have made an error. Actually, we could have questions and comments. I apologize for that.
Mr Laughren: That is what I was suggesting, Mr Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: Yes, and I do humbly apologize -- because last week we had, strangely enough, turmoil in the House because of time allocation and we did not have questions and comments on second reading. Anyway, it slipped my mind. We are in questions and comments. I was just thinking, if the honourable member would like to use two minutes for questions and comments, then we would go back to the minister to have an answer and then go into second reading debate. Okay?
Mr Laughren: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I would simply ask the minister to respond to the question I put, as to the purpose of adding on to this bill an amendment to another act that is not referred to in the title of the bill. I am asking that question not because I am necessarily opposed to it, but simply on the protocol of doing it in that way.
Mr Cousens: I would like the minister to explain why he is bringing in the amendment now to Bill 105. I do not have a lot of problems with some of the points in the bill, but he has really missed the major point. Why is it he did not look at increasing the maximum to something greater than $2,000 per year or $4,000 per couple? Why did he not touch on the real core of the problem with the Ontario home ownership savings plan rather than just some of the other things?
The other changes he has made would begin to make some sense if he changes the value that the bill will have on people buying a first home, but what he has really done is sort of play with the bill; maybe not the minister but the people who do all the thinking in his ministry, and they are the ones who really should be held responsible for it.
I do not want to cast any aspersions on the minister, but he cannot sit down and figure out all this stuff. That is done by the bureaucrats -- the civil servants and the deputy minister. These ministers change from week to week and month to month. You do not know who is going to be the minister. We lost one last week; we could lose another one next week. One does not really know who does the homework around there. It sure is not the ministers because they are just coming and going, and they are looking over their shoulder wondering who the Premier is going to move in or out next.
In spite of the fact that the Minister of Revenue is still there after this short period of time, and even while I am still speaking he is still sitting there, I would like to know why he did not do anything about the maximum as is related to in this bill, because that is the one thing that, if he had changed it, would begin to have credibility as far as helping out people who are buying a new home.
The Acting Speaker: We will have time for questions and comments in rotation.
Mr Cousens: Do I have any more?
The Acting Speaker: No, you do not.
Hon Mr Mancini: My friend the member for Nickel Belt wanted to know why there was mention in this piece of legislation in regard to the Succession Law Reform Act, and I want to explain to him that this complementary amendment, to include OHOSP as a plan under the Succession Law Reform Act, is so that a planholder may designate a beneficiary of the plan assets by means of a signed statement. I understand that this is not breaking with protocol, and I understand that when matters are of a complementary nature and when they are related, this has in fact been done before.
My colleagues from across the floor indicate that they would like to see a more significant program, I guess a program where more people would qualify, and qualify for more funds. I would say to my friend the member for Markham that we hear a lot from his party about reducing the costs of government, but every time we get into a specific piece of legislation we hear from him and his colleagues about increasing the size and expenditures of government.
I do not know how he will be able to reconcile that, but I believe that the OHOSP program has in fact been successful, and our statistics, which have not been challenged, bear this out. I said to all honourable members today that to date over 83,000 perspective home buyers have opened plans, 83,000 people who hope to own a home in the near future have opened plans, and 26,000 first homes have been financed partly by this program. A lot of individuals have taken advantage of this program and have used it to their benefit. That is why it was introduced, to assist people with their first homes.
Mr Laughren: Before we get into the debate, I will say that I am not sure that the minister is entirely correct in his explanation of attaching a complementary amendment. We will deal with that later, I assume.
I am also not sure, on the statistics he uses, how many of those people he talks about actually end up buying a home as a result of this plan as opposed to those people who simply go into the plan, perhaps with good intentions, but simply put money aside. To what extent those people actually end up owning a home as a result of this program I do not know, but we will be after the minister to provide those numbers.
As I read the bill, the main amendments are as follows:
First, a planholder in the Ontario home ownership savings plan can terminate the plan without repaying tax credits if he or she either inherits a home, receives a home by way of a gift or marries a person who already owns a home. I think that is appropriate. I would not be opposed to that amendment.
Second, a planholder can release plan assets to make interim payments to a builder under an agreement to purchase a home. I think that is also a reasonable change to the existing legislation.
Third, a person can become a planholder even though his or her spouse previously owned a home prior to their marriage. I see no problem with that change either.
Fourth, financial institutions can now offer fixed-term investments as well as demand deposits for plan asset investment. I see nothing wrong with that either.
But the next major change bothers me and my colleagues: An eligible home now includes a partial interest in a multi-residential property if it carries the right to occupy a unit of the building. That is my understanding of the proposed amendment. That bothers me because part of the Ministry of Housing’s rental housing protection branch is supposed to prevent the conversion of rental housing into ownership in order to protect the rental market, and here we have this program now deeming equity co-op purchasers to be eligible for financial assistance from the government. This seems to me to be, in a back-door kind of way, encouraging conversion from rental to ownership. We all like to engage in some ownership in this world, but I think that the government has to be more up front about how we do it, that this is not the right way to do it.
We believe that the ministry has no plans to do any kind of screening on this form of conversion of equity co-op purchasers, and unless the ministry has some evidence that screening has been set up to look after this potential problem, then certainly I would not be prepared to support this piece of legislation. I hope that the minister will think about that.
A major problem, of course, is that it simply does not touch the real problem of housing in this province. We know that the program is aimed at home buyers with incomes of up to $40,000 per annum or, if it is a couple, $80,000 for the family. Of course, there are graduated tax credits, depending on their income.
The minister should know, and I suspect that he does know, about the price of homes in Metropolitan Toronto. The last time I looked, I believe the average price of a home in Toronto was over $250,000, around $270,000. That is why I cannot imagine a $40,000-a-year person -- that is the limit; it is not my limit, it is the government’s -- how you can imagine somebody at $40,000 a year putting money into this program with the dream of owning a $271,000 home. That is just the average price. There are some lower than that, sure, but how can someone at $40,000 a year ever really take advantage of this? I assume they can put money into the program on a regular basis, but that does not mean they are going to end up owning a home as a result of putting that money aside.
The minister also pointed out earlier this afternoon in his statement that the land transfer tax credit also applies and that the maximum amount of credit for the land transfer tax is $1,225. If you add the $1,225 for the land transfer tax and the maximum amount for the OHOSP credits, then you end up with something like $1,700 maximum credit for the combination of the two programs. If I am wrong on those numbers, I am sure the minister will correct me. That is not going to alter many people’s decision on a home that is in excess of $200,000, and it is very difficult to purchase a home at less than that, particularly in southern Ontario, more particularly in the Metropolitan Toronto area.
An hon member: How about Nickel Belt?
Mr Laughren: Even in Nickel Belt.
It is not that the bill is a harmful bill, except in that one area I referred to about conversion from rental to ownership, but it is the fact that it simply did not raise the -- I wondered why the minister did not take the opportunity to change the income levels on the eligibility criteria.
The other thing, of course, is that the minister can bring in all the OHOSP plans he and his officials can dream up -- he and our officials -- but in the end, as long as the government sits there and watches the land development industry raise the price of houses at an obscene rate, then all of these programs are just nibbling at the edges. The price of homes since those people came to government has gone up dramatically. That is no coincidence. They know who their friends are out there. So the prices skyrocket and they bring in a plan like this that does so pathetically little for those people who still have a dream of owning a home in this province.
It must be difficult to justify. I know that every time we criticize one of his pieces of legislation, the Minister of Revenue says: “Don’t blame me. It’s the Treasurer.” Well, the Treasurer is not here to answer to this bill. If the minister wants to blame the Treasurer, he should make sure that he is here to respond to our criticisms. The minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot say. “It’s not really my bill, it’s the Treasurer’s,” and then the Treasurer is not here.
The minister must make up his mind. Does he want the Treasurer to deal with his bills or does he want to deal with them? If he is going to deal with them, then he should deal with the criticisms that flow from them, because it is simply not appropriate in every matter of policy for him to simply pass the buck back to the Treasurer, who of course can stand in his place and say: “That’s a Ministry of Revenue bill. Go talk to him.” The way they are dealing with these bills is not appropriate.
If, on the one hand, he does not wish to be Minister of Revenue any more, then he should say so. On the other hand, if he still wants to be Minister of Revenue and accrue therefrom all the perks that flow from such an onerous task, then fine, he must then carry out his responsibilities as well as accepting the perks, and --
Mr. Laughren: -- I am not even talking about his limo. I am talking about other, more important things. I do not care about his limo. I do not care if he rides in that limo day and night. I do not care if he lives in his limo; that is not important. I do not care if he has got an OHOSP grant for his limo; that is not my problem. I do not think his limo is important in this debate and I do not think we should even be talking about his limo, because it has nothing to do with this bill.
I would simply say to the minister, however, that this is the second bill this afternoon that he has come in with that simply nibbled at the edge of a problem and I am disappointed in that regard. I thought that on the previous bill, the mining bill, there were some substantial changes he could have brought in, and there were some substantial changes he could have made on this bill as well. In both cases we find him wanting.
It is true, I know, that the minister does not set all government monetary and economic policy. On the other hand, when someone comes to him with a suggestion and he knows that he is going to have to defend it, why does he not say: “Look, give me something I can get my teeth into. Don’t give me this shell of legislation. Give me something real”? I want this minister to make his mark in this assembly and he is not going to do it with legislation like this. I would hope the minister would stop his buck-passing game with the Treasurer and insist that from now on if the Treasurer wants him to do his dirty work, he had better give him something of substance to work with, not these pieces of legislation. They really do not mean very much.
In a way I feel sorry for the minister, despite his limo. I do not think it is right that he should have to deal with this kind of legislation that he really cannot justify. He cannot justify taking up the time of this assembly, when we are hard pressed for time with other pieces of legislation, to bring in two bills before us both of which are of very little content. I hope to get a commitment from this minister that this is the last time we will see a piece of legislation brought in by him that has so little content in it.
I cannot vote for this piece of legislation, even though it does not have much content. The little that it does have is not good; namely, the encouragement of conversion from rental to ownership when we are in desperate straits for rental accommodation in this province. Yet the minister comes in with a piece of legislation that encourages conversion from rental to ownership. That is not appropriate. I would hope the minister would have an explanation as to why he has done that terrible thing.
I do not want to delay or prolong the debate on a matter on which there is so little substance, so I will take my place and listen to the other members speak.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments on the honourable member’s debate?
Mr Cousens: I just want to ask the member for Nickel Belt if he would rather see the government not make any changes at all to the bill. I realize the concern he has about the cost of housing and indeed the need for change. I know we would probably share the same view that the present ownership savings plan is insignificant compared to the real cost of a home, but I have trouble with his opposing some of the terms that are outlined in this bill.
It gives a person a chance to get a higher yield on his investment. I think that would be good socialist policy. The planholders who acquire an interest in a home as a result of a marriage: That makes sense. What the member really wants to do is throw out the baby with the bath water. Why does he not try to make some amendments to the bill or something else rather than just oppose it all the time? I think the New Democratic Party has a chance to give some leadership here and I do not see it really doing that much.
Mr Laughren: I would be pleased to respond. First, any meaningful amendment to this bill would be ruled out of order because it would be considered a money bill. The Speaker, I am sure, would descend with both feet very heavily on us if we tried to move an amendment of substance that cost the Treasury money on the ceilings, for example.
Second -- I know the member for Markham does not agree with me in this -- I think that if a government says to your community, “We’re going to bring into this community a government facility that is going to have six jobs and you should be happy with those six jobs, and at the same time we are going to approve the location of a germ warfare testing centre in this community too,” surely to goodness because six are good jobs and the other 300 are dangerous jobs testing for germ warfare, I assume the member for Markham, using his theory or analysis, would say, “Better to have a little bit than none, I guess,” and he would go for the package even though it included a germ warfare testing centre in downtown Markham.
I do not like that kind of reasoning and I think it is shoddy logic, and for those reasons I will still continue to oppose this bill because the good aspects of it are outweighed by the bad aspects, which are, namely, encouraging the conversion of much needed rental to ownership. For those reasons we shall be opposing this bill.
Mr Cousens: Before I begin my remarks I want to compliment the member for Nickel Belt. I really do. He is a very persuasive person. The fact of the matter is --
Mr McCague: I agree with him, not you.
Mr Cousens: I could agree with some people on some things and other people on others. The fact of the matter is that I am in the unfortunate position of having been given a little lesson on politics here by my friend the member for Nickel Belt who has been around here an awful lot longer than I have --
Hon Mr Mancini: Too long.
Mr Cousens: -- and maybe too long, as the Minister of Revenue says, but I do not think so, because I still live in the hope that in opposition we will do something to persuade the government to change its mind and get it to do what is right. What I see here is the member for Nickel Belt saying, “Look, member for Markham, you are not going to bring in any significant change to this bill because it is a money bill and the Speaker will not let it anyway,” and he one-upped me on that answer.
I just happen to think that he has been reading the order book at night and doing his homework and I want to thank him for that. As far as having any more kinds of germs coming into Markham is concerned, I will do everything I can to keep them out. He sort of swung me on that one because that is something he knows more about than I do; that is for sure. Anyone who comes from where he does knows what it is to fight the enemy.
We are dealing with a rather painless bill when you consider what government does. Everything is so lovely and nice and they are really trying to make this a beautiful province for people to enjoy. May it be a place where people can live, put down their roots, have a family, earn a living, pay taxes and allow things to prosper and develop.
During the last several years since the Premier took over at the helm we have seen a lot of change. The minister would have us believe that this home ownership savings plan is one of those magnificent gestures on the part of the government. The fact of the matter is that there are going to be fewer people owning homes in the future than did in the past. You are going to have fewer young people having the hope and expectation of owning their own piece of property and their own home where they can raise their families and do their thing. It is going to be more and more difficult for them because the cost of buying homes has gone up since this government took power. The ratio of the cost of a home to their income and everything else has gone up.
I am going to come to it in greater detail. This is only a preamble leading up to a tirade on irresponsible government. This bill is really just a small coverup plan to try to make people think the government is doing something for them. I do not think it has done much for them except to make it more difficult and more impossible for young people to own a home. To come along and say that this bill is leading the way and heading in the right direction is hypocrisy.
Mr Laughren: Right on. Hear, hear.
Mr Cousens: My goodness’ sake, the member for Nickel Belt agrees. Well, we do agree on some things. The socialist and the right-wing Conservative can agree on some things. I am not that right-wing and he is not that socialist, but the fact is that we are most interested in doing something for people.
I happen to believe that when you look at the record of this government, it is no wonder that it had to do a little something to appeal to the younger voters so that it can have something on the brochure in the next and forthcoming election campaign that says, “I helped young people buy a home, get that investment in land.”
That is something we have always dreamed of, but it is going to be more and more difficult in the future to have that dream fulfilled, by virtue of the way in which this government has oppressed the taxpayers of Ontario. It is not hard to look at the data and see why we have this two-bit bill and say it is really something.
We just have to look at the way the tax inflows have come into the province. Since the Peterson government took over the purse-strings of Ontario, personal income taxes have increased from $6.2 billion in 1984-85 to $14.5 billion in 1991 -- an increase of almost two and a half times. That is just an incredible increase in personal taxation.
That accounts for one of the reasons why the government had to come in with a home ownership savings plan, because the people are paying so much out in taxes now, far more than they paid out before, that it will go and give them a little sop, a very fine, small sop, and that is called the Ontario home ownership savings plan. The fact is that the people are paying more out in taxes. If each person in the province of Ontario had more money in his jeans, more money in his pockets to spend, then you would see more investment in the province, more money plowed back into free enterprise and more money plowed into the acquiring of cars, homes, furnishings and the things that make the economy strong. But the only thing that has been strong in these last five years is government investment, the government money, because it has had an increase in taxation from $6.2 billion to $14.5 billion in that period of time.
During the same period of time, land transfer taxes have gone up in a phenomenal way. I just have to touch on what some of those numbers are. The land transfer taxes imposed by the Liberal government have inflated the revenues even more. In fact, land transfer taxes in Ontario since 1984-85 have gone up by 354%, again adding to bigger coffers for this government to spend on other things, taking the money away from the person who is buying a new home.
It does not take long to figure out what impact that has. We are talking a land transfer tax in 1984 of $448. That same tax now, since this government took power, when someone goes to buy that home now, is $1,570. That is what it was in 1989 anyway -- close to $1,000 more that someone would pay on a $200,000 home just on land transfer taxes.
So the government comes along and has an Ontario home ownership savings plan, and all it has done is take the money away from them on one hand and it thinks it is doing something on the other hand. It just does not make sense. Mr Speaker, I think you should almost rule the government out of order for just trying to fool most of the people. They are not fooling us. They have not fooled the member for Nickel Belt and they are not going to fool me. The land transfer taxes have increased significantly, and what are they doing with this bill? They are saying, “We have a little chance to help someone buying a new home.”
The land transfer taxes in 1984-85 amounted to $139 million. In 1989-90 the aggregate amount for the province is $701 million -- almost $1 billion in land transfer taxes. This is the amount you pay when you go and have a property change and you want to have it in your own name. You pay the land transfer tax. It is something you have to pay. The government monitors it closely; you cannot get around it. You pay it and pay it and pay it.
Here we have, on the one hand, a land transfer tax which costs and on the other hand the government is saying: “We’re doing you a favour. When you want to buy a new home, we’re going to give you this great benefit of having the home ownership savings plan.”
Mr McCague: Give out and tax back.
Mr Cousens: That is what they are doing: they are giving taxes back. If they did not tax people in the first place, then they would not have to come along and have this little tax-back special that the Minister of Revenue comes along and touts, and he pretends he is doing us all a favour.
What has happened to retail sales tax inflows to the Ontario government since the Premier and his company of bandits took power in 1984-85? In 1984-85 it was just over $4 billion in retail sales taxes. During the period of time the Liberal government has been in power, do members know how much the increase in retail sales tax has been, just into the coffers of this government? Nothing close to the kind of money they are throwing back to the Ontario new home buyer, but they have more than doubled the sales tax inflows to this government. By now, in 1989-90, the retail sales tax amounted to $8.6 billion in the province of Ontario.
In 1990-91 it is going to go up a little less than it did in previous years, because we are now beginning to taste the effects of a very rough economy, but we are talking something in the order of $8.7 billion. That is a huge increase in money that the province has had: over $4.7 billion. It is one of the biggest scams one has seen, certainly one of the biggest in my lifetime, when we went from 7% sales tax to 8% sales tax. It was “Oh, how terrible.” But people are used to paying it now. The Premier and his group of the Treasurer and the tax collectors say, “The people are used to paying it.”
I tell the House, we are going to remind them and remind them and remind them that they are now paying more taxes than they did before and this government has levied them on them. If it did not spend so much on advertising and promotion and did not collect the taxes in the first place, then the people would have a way of investing that money in homes and in other investments, It is reprehensible that this government has come along and collected so much in taxes.
So what has happened to the total tax inflows in the province of Ontario since the Liberal government came to power in 1984-85? Its total tax inflow around then was about $15 billion. How much have the taxes gone up in four years to 1989-90? I guess it is five years, so we give proper credit to the time frame. In five years, the total taxation in the province of Ontario, all the revenues that have come in to this government, have gone from $15 billion to over $31 billion. In five years, it has doubled the intake of this government. Is it any wonder now that it is trying to do something to help the poor, poor person who wants to buy a home? They are just not able to do it by themselves any more, because the government has bled them almost dry. There is not any money left in their pocketbooks.
If we talk about the Red Cross coming along and doing a blood-letting, they would probably be complaining, but the members opposite do it and everybody says, “Oh, well, we’re used to it with the government.” They are blaming the wrong government when they are saying government is causing inflation. The federal government is in the wrong, but the members opposite are worse by a long shot because no one has bled as much money out of the taxpayers of the province of Ontario as this Liberal government. It is a horrible tax grab. Then we come along and the minister comes forward and says, “Now we’re going to do something to help the new home buyer.”
So what we have is a program that was announced a few years ago that is in place. It has some problems. I am inclined, unlike the member for Nickel Belt, to support the government in having some of these changes in place. I would like very much to see this fine, outstanding minister of the crown, while he still has the job, do something that counts, and that is increase the amount of money that someone can invest in a vehicle that helps him buy a home.
As it stands right now, all people can put into it is $2,000 per person per year for five years, so that is $10,000. If they have someone who is a partner, then that can be doubled to $20,000, and that is it, no more. Yet the very programs I am talking about have had a significant impact on the cost of a home. If the government had not come along with its land transfer tax increases, $1,000 of that on a $200,000 home would not be necessary, because the home would have been that much less expensive. Since this government took power, the cost of housing has gone out of sight. It is becoming less and less possible for a young person to even consider the day will come for him or her to buy that first home. That is criminal.
If there is any dream that we want to have for our young people and for all Canadians, it is that property ownership has to be one of the expectations that is part and parcel of being Canadian. I love the fact that my wife and I own our own home. It is really a significant investment for us. It is our most important investment. I remember the satisfaction we had when we had gone from a rental accommodation town house to buying our first home in Burlington. When I bought that home with my wife’s help, together, it was one of those happy times when we hung a picture on the wall and we did not have to worry what the landlord was going to say, we did not have to worry what the neighbour was going to say; it was ours. There is something that we have in our culture and our society about being able to own something. That has a sense of power over our own destiny. If you can keep up the taxes and you can keep up the maintenance and you can keep up the utilities and you can keep the other things up, then owning a home becomes a very meaningful thing.
Yet what has the government done in that period of time? In the last few years, because of their management of the economy of the province of Ontario, they have pushed the possibility of someone owning their own home further and further and further out of reach. How many people now in the greater Toronto area, as a young couple and young people starting out, will be able to buy their own home?
I get nothing but criticism on all the large home builders up my way. People come along and say: “Look at Canada Homes. Aren’t they making a fortune out of it?” I will tell members what they did. There was a time when you could buy a brand-new home in my riding for $70,000 back in the early 1980s. Then it was $80,000, and now it has gone up. Those same homes are reselling now for over $250,000 because of the value of property, because of all the other things that go into it. I am getting into the problem of home ownership, and there is a significant problem.
What I have seen companies like Canada Homes do, and Greenpark and Bramalea and Monarch and some of the smaller builders, is make it possible for people to buy a home, and they did it through a number of things. One was wise land management. They bought up large sections of land. There was good development planning. All we ever do is criticize the builders of homes. I think they have made an investment in our community and our society, and it allowed young people to have a chance to buy a home for the first time -- not just young people either; people of all ages moved into our community, and of all cultures, because they saw it as a chance of putting a stake in the ground, their own stake. They then own something.
How many people can come along and buy a new home today for $200,000 or $250,000? They cannot do it, and a lot of the reasons why they cannot do it is because this government has not helped them. They did not help them because they have had taxes to the limit, they have bled them dry; there is no money left except to just maybe buy a case of something, get their food in the house. They really are struggling to maintain things. And now more than ever it takes two people in order to survive. A single person just cannot provide for a family any more unless you are really prepared to sacrifice. People are prepared to sacrifice, but even when they have two incomes, it is increasingly difficult to get a home.
What the government has done is place some limits on them. Here they have a program that can result in $20,000 towards a new home, and if a new home in the greater Toronto area costs you $200,000, how far is that going to go for them? Are they going to be able to carry a mortgage when they are going to be paying 15% and 16% on a mortgage? What is this government doing to help them on the mortgage costs? Sweet nothing. Neither is the federal government, and if the feds think I am going to take sides with them on what they are doing with interest rates, I am not. I think we are doing something horrible in our society that is making it more and more difficult for people to have ownership of anything, own a car or own furniture or own a refrigerator or own a home.
I want to see people have the right and opportunity to buy a home. Here what we end up having is a government that says: “Hey, we’re going to help you buy a home. We’ve got the Ontario new home ownership savings plan.” It is just a bag of shells. It does not come close to meeting the need.
Mr Bossy: This sounds like electioneering.
Mr Cousens: If the member thinks this is electioneering, every day is electioneering in this political business and every one of us has a responsibility to fight for the small guy, and those guys, when they took power, forgot about them. The member for Chatham-Kent has gone in there and he has just let them in cabinet run things and he does not have any say on it at all.
The Treasurer comes out with his budget and everybody comes along, gives him the old red clap and that is all you get. People are getting sick of it. They want to see some action that is going to help the small guy in this province. If they think this new home ownership plan begins to help, it does not begin to do it, not at all.
I happen to believe that this government has an awful lot it could do to help people buy a home and be affordable, but there are not programs forthcoming from this bunch. There is a real advantage for co-operative homes. There must be some ways in which we could have a cheap lease on government land so that people could build on it and have long-term ownership on the thing, some innovative techniques that would say to a person, “We want you to be able to say that those walls and things are yours,” but that is not happening from the Minister of Revenue, from the Minister of Housing or from the Premier’s Liberals. They are too busy doing the same old thing and giving more brochures and more literature on it, rather than dealing with the fundamentals of the issue.
Why is it there is not something done about land banking and the government opening up land so that people can build more affordable housing on it? What has happened is that all the land around the greater Toronto area is now owned by a few developers. It is not owned widely. We are not seeing an investment by the government to put another York-Durham pipe in there somewhere else, not that we need another York-Durham pipe in the same position, but where is the next place where they are going to have growth in the area?
Mr McCague: Where is the planning?
Mr Cousens: Where is the long-term planning? The Minister of Revenue is going to say: “That’s not my responsibility. No, no, that falls on the back of one of my staffers,” or “That goes to the Minister of Housing” or “That goes to the Treasurer and Minister of Economics.” Everyone passes the buck to someone else and what we end up having is no buck gets invested where it should for the long term. That is a detriment to the long-term benefit of the people of Ontario who want to own a home.
It takes a whole comprehensive program and idea to develop a concept of housing. It really means that the government starts with helping people financially. If they want to put money aside, then we can give them a tax benefit through an Ontario home ownership savings plan. That is certainly one of the vehicles that is used to help them. I encourage that, but we have not begun to go far enough, nor have we understood the differences and disparities that exist in the greater Toronto area, where the cost of property is twice as much as in the northern area. If it is not twice, it could be three times in some areas.
To get a starter home here costs well over $200,000, and yet there are other opportunities within a few hundred miles of the greater Toronto area where you can buy a home for under $100,000. We have the same program provided across the entire province, so what is good for the goose is good for the gander. What you get in Toronto is good for someone up north. That somehow does not take into the equation what it really costs to live in a house that you can afford and to have the costs covered. The program is not working.
The minister touts some figures. He says: “We’ve got a fantastic number of people. We’ve got 83,000 people who have opened plans.” How many of them are really going to be able to take advantage of it in buying a home, especially with the amount of money that is there? The government should get a whole comprehensive program together that takes into consideration all the ingredients in economical and affordable purchase housing. It was there back in the 1980s, to the credit of those who were leaders at the time.
I look to my friend the member for Simcoe West, who was in cabinet in those days when the investment was made for the York-Durham pipe. That was a significant cost outlay that said, “If we put this in, it is an upfront cost, but with it we will be able to build more housing.” When that housing became available and people could hook into the sewer, then the price of property was low enough that people were able to buy a home, make that investment and put down their roots.
But there has been no advance, long-term planning by this government. What has it done to help open up more land for the future? The Seaton program is just an extension of things that were planned 15 and 20 years ago. The government must not come along and herald the day as if it did something significant or fantastic with Seaton. It is doing nothing to help the small guy right now.
This government was going to sell off some land it owned in Malvern, just a tremendous way of fuelling the cost of the price of housing and property in the greater Toronto area. I wish I had the exact figures in front of me, but it was not that long ago, three years ago, when this government had several lots that were left over in Malvern. They were no longer going to be used by the government in its own building program, so it put them up on the auction block. The auction block ended up paying the Minister of Housing an inflated amount per square foot for the land that was sold on that. What it did was peg a new, higher price for property values in the greater Toronto area because the government set a precedent in what it sold that land for. They set a precedent for a new high price for property that up until then had never been reached, and then all the undeveloped land that had not been sold was automatically escalated to the price of the land that they sold those lots for in Malvern.
I ask them to deny it. They will not deny it. It is a major contributor to the cost of housing in this province because the province itself ended up selling that land at inflated values and then all the land around went up accordingly.
What have they done? They have done bad in every way. They have taxed the limit out of people.
Mr J. B. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member is pointing his finger at this government and blaming it for the high price of the land sale.
The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Mr J. B. Nixon: He should be aware that it was the federal Conservative government that controlled that sale.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: I do not know what he is talking about. I think that what he has done is just disrupt my train of thought, and I have to start from the beginning, and that is right back from scratch. The first thing that the Liberals like to do is blame the feds. I cannot believe how many times people have blamed those boys in Ottawa, and girls. Not just boys; there are girls up there who do it too. But I just cannot believe it.
Mr McCague: If they did anything, they would not have to blame anybody.
Mr Cousens: That is right. The government has a responsibility, and the provincial jurisdiction is very clear. They do not seem to understand it too often.
I thank you, Mr Speaker. I am sorry that I am distracted with the kinds of things that these Liberals do. It is very upsetting to me. I am speaking on behalf of the young couple, it could be my son or daughter, who in the not-too-distant future may want to settle down and have a home of their own.
Mr J. M. Johnson: Then you would have a conflict of interest.
Mr Cousens: I would have a conflict of interest if it were them. Well, I will keep fighting for them, and when I am fighting for them, it means I am going to fight for every young person in Ontario. The one thing about it is, they will be entrepreneurial enough that they will work hard and do their best. They are not going to expect the government to do much to help them, and I think my lesson to them is, “Don’t expect this government to do anything for you, but if you work hard, study hard and work together, then you might end up with something.”
The fact of the matter is, if they just wait for the government to help them with this Ontario home ownership savings plan, they will never own a home. They will have to get out there in the meantime and do what is right.
What I am saying here in my presentation is that this government is not doing what is right. They have done it wrong by overtaxation, and I gave the numbers a minute ago. They have done what is wrong in not planning new land to be developed and opened up. This government has not opened up new land. They have not made any significant investment. Would members tell me what investment they have made in providing for an infrastructure that is going to allow people to say, “Here is land that is going to be opened up and developed”?
I have not seen that initiative and it is not forthcoming. What we end up with is getting an $11-million program, when in fact over a period of time, when you start looking at the billions of dollars that this government has taken out of our pockets -- when we have gone from a $15-billion total tax bill in Ontario in 1984-85 to $34.9 million this year, you are talking more than double the income of the government, and then it goes and throws $11 million into an ownership program to buy a home -- not good, not good.
What we have to do is challenge this government to come out with programs that are really going to have a long-term impact, and that means putting together a comprehensive policy, getting the Minister of Housing involved with it, setting up a task force in which all members of the Legislature are involved in trying to address, respond to and resolve the concerns that are involved. The government should not just leave it to the Minister of Revenue to come in with a small, two-bit bill that is not going to do anything more to help a person buy a new home than just a small percentage of it.
Let’s set the environment up so that we have a province in which every young person can hope to own his own home. That has to be what our goal should be as legislators. We want people to be able to have ownership in this country. In Eastern Europe we are beginning to see the opening up of ownership of property, and that is a sign that they are coming our way. What we are doing is going their way. We are drifting into a socialist state where this government is saying, “Well, we will look after other things.” It cannot do it. It has to somehow make the investment in the long term, have a plan for the long term and then act upon it. This government does not have a plan, it does not know how to act and it comes forward with a bill that does not begin to do much to help the Ontario new home buyer.
I could go on further. I would just have to say that the concern I have is that everything this government has done has been to add to the cost of a home, not to reduce it. This program, if it is meant to reduce it, just does not come close. The land transfer tax, as I said earlier, increased by over $1,000 in 1984-85. The lot levies, which will come in now under Bill 20, this new bill we have, are going to increase the cost of new property by up to $10,000 a lot. That is going to ripple-effect through all the resale of other properties, and school boards are now going to benefit on it and towns will continue to have their own lot levy fees.
Lot levies are another way in which this government is saying, “Well, hey, look, we want to help cover costs in the local areas and so we will allow them to have their lot levy.” But the fact of the matter is, that lot levy is going to make it even more difficult for a young person to buy a home, because on top of the regular cost of a house today, starting shortly, and already in some instances, a $10,000 bill is added to it for school costs or for municipal costs or for other costs. It just does not make sense to me.
Then the Ontario provincial sales tax that the government brought in, taking it from 7% to 8%, has added $2,000 to the cost of a new home, an extra $2,000 since the present government came to power, an extra $2,000 in purchasing a home. So it comes along and says, “Now we are going to have the Ontario new home savings plan. This is going to help you” -- nothing close to the extra cost of a house.
It all adds up to the fact that this is a government that is great on the words but not great on the action. They are great in paying lipservice to people saying, “Oh, we are doing a wonderful job.” Those of us who are watching the cost and seeing what is happening know that this government has failed. It has failed our young people who want to have the long-term benefit of ownership of their own property. I say that this government stands condemned for what it has failed to do and for the way it has done what it has done.
What do we do about it? I will fight them. I feel like a voice in the wilderness when I stand up and I make my points. It sounds as if the government is not going to listen. They are not going to increase the Ontario home ownership savings plan to $4,000 per person. They are not going to allow young people to have 10 years to save for the program. They are only going to be allowed five years, so a maximum of five years’ input into that program. Why not double it right away? If the minister has any power at all today in this House, he will come forward and say that he will make a commitment at least to discuss that with the Treasurer and Minister of Economics and the Premier, who has him on a very short string, so that he will be in a position to do something that is meaningful.
I am really disappointed. The government has a chance to come back in the House with a bill that is going to help home ownership. It has made minor changes, most of which I see as acceptable. It has come in with amendments which I am not really going to counter too much. I mean, they are trying to cover some of the holes in the system that they created, but I would say to them they should do what they really should do: deal with the urgent necessity, and that is, deal with the real primary need of young people, any people, people in Ontario who want to buy a home. Let’s make the program meaningful for them. It is not now; $2,000 a year just is not enough. The government should double it so that they can really do something with it, and then, with the cost of inflation, the cost of property, the cost of interest rates, the cost of everything, they will have a chance of being able to buy their own place.
Why does the government not come out with some other programs as well? They have the chance to show leadership in that government and I am not seeing it. It is not coming forward. They should come out with some program. Why do we have to wait until the election is called to hear what the promises are? Then afterwards I sit around here and realize that they are broken, the broken promises of the guaranteed new homes that are going to be built that are never built. How many homes were going to built by the end of last year and were not? How many hospital beds were going to be built -- some extra 4,000 we were going to have -- and were not? How many roads were going to be built and have not been? Come on.
I am just very disgusted that we are not dealing with the real substance of this bill, and that is the number of dollars that a person can put away towards buying a home. I hope the day will come when all the pages who are here will be able to own their own home and be able to buy it with their own savings.
If we have got a program at that time, maybe we will have a government in power by then that is doing things right and providing the balance that says: “There is an opportunity for free enterprise. We as a government will create an environment so that people will be able to invest in property, want to invest, and that would still be one of the best investments they ever have.” The chance today of people being able to own their own home gets less and less and less, especially with the way this government is spending our money and not investing it properly.
One of the things that the minister said earlier -- and I really take exception to the way in which he said that here we are wanting to reduce the cost of government. Yes, sir, I would reduce the cost of government and I would find ways of having the tax frozen right now as our leader, the member for Nipissing, has said. But there are things you do as a government to invest to make it a better community, and one of the things this government could do, when it has collected close to $19 billion from the taxpayers of the province over five years, is put a little bit more than $11 million into a home ownership savings program, and that is what we are talking about.
It is all relative, and here is a government that says it is doing a fine job. They have got to put some money back in there. They cannot just keep bleeding the people of Ontario, who will not take it any more. They have had it with taxation by the federal government and by the provincial government. This government keeps taking and taking and taking. When they throw it back, it is a peanut, and that is what half of the members are eating over there anyway. I notice all those members do around here is eat peanuts. It is peanuts this government is throwing to the province of Ontario, and the people deserve an awful lot more than what this government is doing.
Ms Bryden: I just want to say that I appreciate the member for Markham bringing out the history of the land tax increases over the past few years. They have been phenomenal, and this bill certainly does nothing to offset them or to offset the other taxes that have raised the price of homes throughout Ontario but particularly in Metropolitan Toronto. As a representative from that area, I think the minister should have brought in amendments that would have made this program accessible or available to people in Metropolitan Toronto.
At the moment the limits on income and on the price of houses just cuts the entire Metropolitan Toronto area out of any benefits from this very misguided bill anyway. But if we are going to have a bill, which I do not think we should have, we should make sure that Metropolitan Toronto residents have an opportunity to share in anything that is available under that bill, and I am very disappointed that the minister is going in the completely opposite direction from that. I would like to see the bill withdrawn.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I was listening to the member for Markham talk about his views on the housing market and the housing industry and the availability of affordable housing. He certainly does paint a black picture, but of course that black picture serves but one purpose, and that is his own party’s interests at the next polls that may or may not take place.
People who are really seriously concerned about affordable housing know some of the measures that this Ministry of Housing has taken and this minister and previous ministers have taken to make available affordable housing: changing the planning process, making available government lands for affordable housing. The fruit can already be seen when you pick up the newspapers now and you start to see affordable housing listed at $149,900, $129,900, $169,900.
There are more and more homes coming on the market at an affordable price, affordable for people in Metropolitan Toronto, on lands in and around Metropolitan Toronto. I think we are starting to see the success of a variety of programs, concerted efforts by the Ministry of Housing, by the private sector, finally dragging along some of the municipalities and indeed some of the more generous municipalities who have participated from the outset. All of them working together have produced affordable housing. The member will see more of it as it comes along. The picture is not as black as he would like to think it is.
Mr Laughren: I would love to respond to the member who just spoke, but I know I must respond to the member who is speaking in the second reading debate. I know the member for Markham has a passion for ownership of everything, and I am wondering if he agrees with or supports subsections 1(3) and 1(4) of the bill that encourage the conversion of rental units to ownership units, given the shortage of rental accommodation in this province.
Mr Cousens: I would like to respond. I would like first of all to thank the member for Beaches-Woodbine for her remarks. I think that what you really need to have is that sense of what is going on in Metropolitan Toronto that she has in her riding and really understand the difficulty that people have in acquiring a home. It is obvious that the government has lost touch with what is going on there, and I really compliment her for that.
I find the member for York Mills humorous. I do not think he intends to be such a funny guy, but when he talks about my painting a black picture, I guess it is just that he does not like to see the truth in Technicolor. He would like to continue to walk around with rose-coloured glasses and pretend that everything is going fine. The electorate out there is beginning to see that this government is a do-nothing government, and that what it has done for housing is really nothing close to what the need really calls for. He says there are more homes -- I guess there are condos. You have not seen any kind of --
Mr J. B. Nixon: No; single, detached.
Mr Cousens: He is saying single, detached homes.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: I do not know if he is listening if I do not look at him, Mr Speaker. He is behind my back. How can I look at you and know -- I mean, he could be going to sleep and I would not know it. That happens an awful lot around here, but certainly not with the member for York Mills.
More homes. I just do not believe it. I do not think he believes it.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I do.
Mr Cousens: That is the real nub of the matter. He stood up here and gave the party line. He came in from outside and he gave the three or four lines that someone gave him out in the lobby. The fact of the matter is, we just do not accept what he said. There has been no investment long-term to build the infrastructure for homes.
The member for Nickel Belt -- I almost called him the member for rental units -- I happen to agree with him. I really do not want to see us reduce or diminish the supply of rental accommodation and allow that to be an excuse to give people an incentive to buy up rental units when we are so short of them as it is. I think we should be doing everything we can within this province to increase rental accommodation as well.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The member’s time is up.
Mr Cousens: This government has not begun to respond to that need either. I think that is a subject for another day.
Hon Mr Mancini: During the short debate on the mining tax the member for Nickel Belt wanted to know why it had taken so long to bring certain pieces of legislation before the House. We have seen this afternoon why it takes so long. We have seen this afternoon where the bill which is before the House is very rarely mentioned.
We know that your patience is taxed to the extreme, Mr Speaker. We know that the bill before the House is rarely mentioned and members will use any excuse to repeat their reply to the throne speech or their reply to the budget speech that was probably given a year or two ago.
I have been told that my friend the member for Markham in a previous life served as a minister of the cloth. After I heard him speak today, I am sure that his collections on Sunday must have been outstanding because the member could inspire anyone on almost any subject, regardless of the facts. So I want to congratulate the member for his oratorical skills and I am sure that his sermons of many Sundays past are in fact legendary.
The members opposite basically are opposed to this bill. The Conservatives say that while they are opposed to it, they are going to vote for it anyway. The NDP members have said they are opposed to the bill and they are going to vote against it, thereby denying the many citizens of this province who can benefit from this assistance that opportunity. They make light of the statistics, they make light of the fact that thousands of people have been helped. I said earlier today that 83,000 had in fact been helped. Upon a review of the statistics, that figure was low. It was not 83,000; it was 91,261.
Of the 91,261 people who have used OHOSP up to 31 May 1990, 31,898 have bought their first homes. The members opposite make light of those figures and they speak here in this Legislature as if those 91,261 do not count. They speak here in this Legislature as if those 31,898 people who have used OHOSP to buy their first homes do not count, because the program is not as rich as they would like it. At the same time, we hear from the member for Markham that he wants to hold down all government expenditures.
They make light of these people and they pretend that they do not count. The people who have used this program --
Mr Cousens: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member is misconstruing the things that I have been saying. Those people who have used it are probably not even going to be able to carry their mortgages now that they have bought a house. The fact --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. That is not a point of order. Minister.
Mr Cousens: When he said that I was not talking about the bill, then he --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Minister.
Hon Mr Mancini: I did not interrupt the sermon by the member for Markham. None of us did actually. None of us interrupted the sermon by the member for Markham. We are talking on the bill before the House.
The honourable members opposite, I believe, are surprised at the success of this program. I believe from some of the comments I heard today that maybe they wish it is not as successful as it is, when 31,898 people have been helped in purchasing their first homes. That is a significant number anywhere and a significant number here in Ontario, and that is before the enhancements to the bill that was put before the Legislature today. The enhancements that have been made will assist even more people in buying their first homes. This government is going to do that.
The enhancement which will allow spouses, or people who are just getting married or people who have just got married, which would remove the penalty from both spouses because one spouse happened to own a home, is fair and equitable and will help a lot of people.
The enhancement which will allow individuals to put their money in guaranteed investment certificates and receive a higher rate of interest than a regular account is going to help more people and will encourage more people to take advantage of the OHOSP program.
The enhancement which will allow people in the OHOSP program to withdraw funds and pay their contractor as work is being done will remove another penalty and will allow for the administration of the program to take place in a much simpler way, will allow the people who have a plan to do business in a much simpler way. The honourable members opposite know that.
In closing, I want to say that the honourable member for Markham spent most of his time actually talking about housing programs. Our government is proud of our Minister of Housing and we are proud of our housing initiatives. Under construction today, under construction this year, 17,000 units under the Homes Now program; $3 billion to be made available for affordable housing over the next five years. That is more than the Conservative government had made available in their entire 44 years of office.
Mr Laughren: Who’s got the biggest limo?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Now can we proceed as per the standing orders?
Hon Mr Mancini: What can I say about my friend the member for Nickel Belt, who is infatuated with the car that is provided to me by the government of Ontario through the grateful taxpayers? What can I say to my colleague? I will say to my colleague the member for Nickel Belt that I am going to permanently reserve in my car a section for him.
Mr Cousens: The trunk.
Hon Mr Mancini: No, I will not reserve the trunk. I will permanently reserve in my car a section for the member for Nickel Belt. When I go back to my office late this evening, I am going to get a piece of Bristol board and write out, “Floyd Laughren, Nickel Belt. Reserved.” I am going to put that in the vehicle and it will remain there and the member for Nickel Belt will never have to wet his shoes again. If it is raining, all he has to do is call over to the Ministry of Revenue and he will be afforded a ride in comfort and will be able to keep his shoes dry at all times.
But it is typical of the NDP members that they would rather not have anyone benefit from the OHOSP program. They would rather that these 91,000 people not benefit. They would rather not have had the 31,898 homes purchased with the assistance of OHOSP. They would rather have the bill cancelled, thrown out of the Legislature. They would rather have nothing at all because it does not meet their particular standards. My friend the member for Nickel Belt has been in the Legislature a long time.
Mr Cousens: Too long.
Hon Mr Mancini: The member for Markham has said, “Too long.” The member for Nickel Belt knows the responsibility of government, and we in the Legislature are always involved in compromise and always involved in putting forward the best program at any given time. I would take this program, which has helped 31,898 people buy their first homes, any time over providing nothing. We are moving forward with this bill. We have the support of one opposition party, even though its members spoke for an hour against the bill. We are sad, but not surprised, that the NDP is not for this particular bill.
An hon member: They’re never positive; they’re always negative.
Hon Mr Mancini: They are always negative, as my colleagues have said here this afternoon.
In closing, we are proceeding. We believe the amendments are good, fair, and will help many, many Ontarians buy their first homes.
Mr Laughren: On a point of order, Mr Speaker -- and I seek your assistance in determining which part of the standing orders; I confess I do not know -- you will note that the title of Bill 105 reads An Act to amend the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act, 1988. On page 9 of the bill, you will notice a complementary amendment in which this bill amends the Succession Law Reform Act. It seems to me, Mr Speaker, although I am no expert on these matters, that the very least that should happen is that the title of the bill should reflect the acts that it amends. Surely it is not up to the opposition to amend bills accordingly to make them comply with the standing orders of this place. I would ask you to rule, before this bill goes any further, as to whether or not it is appropriate to have this bill with the present title, considering the fact that it indeed amends another piece of legislation as well as the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act.
The Deputy Speaker: I have listened attentively and I have looked at the concerns that the member for Nickel Belt has. As I read again section 10, as it says, it is a complementary amendment. If it were not complementary I could understand the point more, but as it is a complementary amendment I am of the belief that these amendments can best be brought forward in the next committee, when this bill will be discussed further. Maybe at that point, in committee, you will be able to bring that point forward.
Mr Cousens: On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: Because of the good relationship I have with the minister, I want to do this in the spirit of the repartee that goes on in the House. I really think, in clarification, the fact is that, yes, I did wear my collar backwards for a while. But I think he is almost insulting a true sermon when he says that what I am doing in here pertains to a sermon, because there are many preachers of the gospel and people of churches where a sermon is based properly on a context, a text of scripture, and it really has an awful lot of bearing that comes out of their biblical background, especially from the background I have. Therefore, to bring that kind of thing into the Legislature is not the place to do it. If in fact I might sound like a preacher sometimes, that is a different point.
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Speaker, my comments were in fact made completely in jest, because the honourable member and I have known each other for a good number of years. Any comments in reference to his previous occupation were done with good spirits. If anyone, including himself or anyone in the public who was watching, took offence to anything I said, I withdraw completely.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you both for a point of mutual explanation and respect.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
The House adjourned at 1757.