36th Parliament, 1st Session

L210b - Tue 24 Jun 1997 / Mar 24 Jun 1997



Report continued from volume A.


House in committee of the whole.


Continuing consideration of Bill 129, An Act to stimulate job growth, to reduce taxes and to implement other measures contained in the 1997 Budget / Projet de loi 129, Loi visant à stimuler la croissance de l'emploi, à réduire les impôts et à mettre en oeuvre d'autres mesures mentionnées dans le budget de 1997.

The Chair (Mr Gilles E. Morin) We will resume clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 129, section 1. Mr Kormos.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Chair, I was putting a question to the parliamentary assistant. The interruption was unavoidable because it was a vote that had been deferred from yesterday.

The Chair: I can hardly hear you, sir.

Mr Kormos: It's because people are talking all around me, Chair, and they're creating a din.

We understand that there's a tax break. In the broadest terms the issues are, for whom, to what end and at what cost? We know, as a result of questions put to the parliamentary assistant that, gosh, folks making 170 grand a year, this government's going to kick back $5,815 to them. Man oh man, if you're up 200 G's a year, you're going to see a tax cut of around 15 grand, $15,000 for those persons earning $200,000, $225,000, indeed up to $257,000 a year.

I was querying where this money came from and will come from. I presented to the parliamentary assistant our experience in this province with the family support plan and the dismantlement of that plan, no doubt in no small part to help finance this tax break for people making $150,000, $160,000, $200,000, $257,000 a year.

I have no doubt that the Attorney General was directed to find savings in his ministry. One of the places he found savings was laying off almost 300 staff from the family support plan and shutting down eight regional offices. That's what is helping to finance this so-called tax break. It's a wonderful tax break for the six-digit income earners, for families up in the $160,000, $170,000, $200,000, $257,000 income bracket.

We know there's a tax break. For whom? That's starting to become clearer and clearer as the parliamentary assistant and her staff, not inappropriately, start to come up with the numbers; there are more coming. A tax break for whom? We're starting to understand that. Our suggestion for a good chunk of time now that two thirds of all of that tax break is going to the top 10% of income earners is being confirmed by the parliamentary assistant and her staff now.

A tax break for whom and at what cost and then to what end? Now the cost once again: To help finance the tax break the Attorney General is told to find money in the family support plan. You find money by reducing costs, and he reduced costs -- no two ways about it -- by terminating almost 300 staff and shutting down eight regional offices.

What flowed from that we witnessed. We witnessed the aftermath, and I speak specifically of the member for Sudbury East and myself. I suppose I'm talking about our visit up to Downsview, the old MTO offices up around Keele Street and the 401. We witnessed the disaster in practical terms, in administrative terms that flowed from shutting down eight offices and terminating almost 300 FSP staff.

But as importantly, and I tell you probably more importantly, we talked across this province to the women and their kids who became victims of this government's so-called tax break. I say "so-called" because two thirds of the tax break is going to the top 10% of income earners. If you're making 225 grand a year, by God, you're going to get 15 grand back. What if you're only making $28,000 a year? Where I come from, that isn't a salary or an income to turn your nose up at. There are a whole lot more working people -- the ones who are blessed to be working, because down in Niagara region we've got the highest unemployment in all of Ontario, and an unemployment level that has grown while there's been a general trend across Canada for some modest reduction in unemployment.

The parliamentary assistant understands those figures. She's aware of the national trend, one that the federal government of course took great credit for, although I suppose it was more attributable to international factors and things that take place well beyond the control of any government. Certainly that modest decrease in national unemployment wasn't the result of any tax breaks that the federal government granted anybody; it was a result of international trends. Like my colleague from Fort York, I read what various people write. The low interest rate we're told is in some small part responsible for an increase in new investment. It's cheaper to borrow money; it's as simple as that. It's as cheap as it's been in a whole lot of time.

As I say, $28,000 a year is nothing to sneeze at where I come from, and I suspect that can be said about a whole lot of Ontario. I visit families -- not just me; I'm sure everybody here -- and I've got to tell you it's remarkable to witness a family that can raise two or three kids on $28,000 a year. Housing costs alone; but then you move on to things like the cost of kids' clothing and the cost of groceries when you've got two or three kids. Folks who are witnessing that or experiencing that know exactly what I mean. But a whole lot of working people in this province make, yes, $28,000 a year.

That figure is based on what the parliamentary assistant and her very skilled staff tell us. A tax break of 450 bucks a year, that's what the numbers were as I read them; it's slightly less than 10 bucks a week. Let's assume it's 10 bucks a week. Let's gross it up a little bit here. Let's show some generosity for the sake of the argument to the government. Let me tell you, Parliamentary Assistant, 10 bucks a week where I come from doesn't even begin to cover the cost of increased user fees for those same families earning $28,000 a year with two or three kids, doesn't even begin to cover the new costs being downloaded on to them.

This government's abolition of rent control is going to mean that those families, one way or another -- I understand the control that will exist as long as the status quo prevails for a family or persons living in a rental unit. But one way or another, that rent's going to be jacked up. Municipalities -- and I know municipalities oh so well, and their councils -- and city councils from municipality to municipality, to city, to town across this province want, especially in the year 1997, to be able to proclaim to their constituents that there was a zero tax increase. But what they don't talk about is the increased user fees or the increased sewer surcharges on water bills or the increased water bills. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Or like in the city of Welland -- again, I don't fault the city council. They've been put under the gun by this government and the downloading. A family friend died a couple of months ago. I was asked to help with some of the funeral arrangements. It was a tragedy. I went down to the funeral home and we were adding up the costs and then they told us about the $10 licence fee for a funeral. Not the burial plot, not the fee for city workers to come and dig so you can accommodate the concrete chamber that goes into the ground; a $10 licence fee, a licence to die.

At the end the funeral home was -- well, I'll tell you which one it was, Cudney's -- very considerate about controlling the costs of the funeral. But the indignation, especially in the context of something like that -- albeit it was $10 and I might say only $10, I suppose, in contrast to what the real costs of a funeral are. As I say, the funeral home was very careful in terms of controlling the costs, but the indignation of a $10 dying licence, a new user fee.

The city wasn't particularly proud of it, I'm sure, but cities, municipalities like Welland, Thorold, Pelham, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Lincoln, St Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake are having to become increasingly creative when it comes to finding new user fees.

So that $8 or $9 a week that your tax break is going to give the vast majority of families -- because you, Parliamentary Assistant, know the scale. I'm doing this off the top of my head. I believe that the top 10% of income earners begins at around $67,000 a year. That's the last scale I saw and I could be off on that. It's a remarkable observation, but the top 10% of income earners begins at $67,000.

I don't begrudge somebody $67,000 a year, understand that. But I'd like to know -- I suppose I have several questions, because the parliamentary assistant and her very skilled, hardworking, committed staff came up with some hard numbers -- of this group of $23,000 to $28,000 a year what percentage of income earners they constitute here in Ontario. I think that's important, because I suspect that we're going to find the biggest bulk, in terms of numbers of people and families, not up there at the top end getting the big bucks from their friends here at Queen's Park, but that the vast majority of Ontarians, like the folks in Welland-Thorold, are struggling along, working hard and doing their best, more likely for wages of $23,000 to $28,000, $35,000, $40,000, $45,000 a year.

I think we've got to put this into perspective in terms of the numbers of people who are benefiting, because we know there are a heck of a lot more households making $28,000 to $35,000 a year than there are making $172,000 to $257,000 a year. There's a whole lot more of them.

One of the issues here is fairness, isn't it? We know there's a tax break. For whom, at what cost and to what end? I've got a feeling that some of those same people making $23,000 to $28,000 a year were the women who relied on the family support plan to deliver their support payments -- who may well witness a tax break of $8 or $9 a week; that's what it comes to. For $9 a week do you think they gave up the family support plan the way it was taken away from them by this government and its Attorney General? Not in a New York minute.

We were interrupted by that vote and I think I was talking about some of the women and kids that Ms Martel from Sudbury East and I -- look, I'm not going to suggest that none of the government members has spoken to these women and their kids. I'm not going to suggest that for a minute, because I know that some of them have. You couldn't have avoided it. Back in the fall of 1997, September or so, our offices here in the New Democratic Party caucus were beginning to be plagued by concerns about the family support plan and its failure to deliver moneys that were being paid into it.


Let's get something very clear: The family support plan wasn't delivering tax moneys. It wasn't delivering taxpayers' dollars. Its duty was to receive support payments that were being paid by absent parents, usually fathers -- not always though, because we talked to a whole lot of interesting cases, of course, where moms were paying support -- and then deliver it to the moms and their kids. These were moneys to which those moms and kids were legally entitled -- not just legally entitled, morally entitled. These weren't wealthy families who could afford to dismiss a couple of hundred bucks now and then as being an oversight and, "Oh well, we'll let that one ride." These were as often as not the very families we're talking about earning $23,000 to $28,000 a year, struggling, counting pennies, making ends meet, and they relied on the family support plan to make sure they got that $100 a week, $120 a week, $50 a week or $40 a week. That's what made the difference between making it and doing without.

I think I did mention -- I don't want to repeat myself unduly -- that what heightened the tragedy of all this was that it occurred just before Christmas, and on a daily basis members of this caucus, the New Democratic Party, were putting questions to this government's Attorney General, asking for some explanation as to why so many women and their kids were doing without. We knew that eight offices had been shut down. We knew that almost 300 family support plan staff had been terminated. We suspected that was the reason for the failure to deliver the moneys that were due these women and their kids.

But the Attorney General on a daily basis, day after day, question period after question period, said that each and every one of these cases was an anomaly, that it was a mere glitch isolated from anything else that was happening in the family support plan and that the family support plan, by God, was up and running up there in Downsview, that their high-tech system, their computers, their planning, by God, their restructuring of the family support plan was making it bigger and better and centralized. They were going to do more with less. They were going to deliver those moneys and those cheques without those eight regional offices and without those almost 300 staff.

We asked the question again when other cases came up, as they did on a daily, on an hourly basis in our offices. The Tory members were getting the same queries, receiving the same complaints, and the Attorney General kept on insisting that his plan was smooth sailing. You heard him, Chair, day after day.

What was happening out there across Ontario while this was happening? It's as I told you. I suppose if I had merely heard about it, I would have been disinclined to believe it. I wouldn't have thought that it could be possible that so much heartbreak and devastation could be wreaked upon so many young kids and their moms, until we met those kids and moms. We looked at the eviction notices and the writs of possession, and we looked at the termination notices for utilities: water, gas, hydro. As I say, it's one thing to lose your cable, it's another thing to lose your telephone. We saw the notices from banks where you get the $10 fee for bouncing a cheque. I know what it's like. I've bounced cheques; I think most of us have. It's one thing that a merchant will inevitably call me up and say, "Look, your cheque didn't clear," and I go, "Oh, my goodness." The fellows down at George's hardware down at the south end of King Street know me and it's no problem: "Pete, next time you're by, drop off another cheque."

But when you're living at $23,000 to $28,000 a year, merchants are disinclined to call you to say: "Oh, you bounced a cheque. Don't worry. Come in next time you're by." They're more inclined to call the police to have you charged with an NSF cheque. That's what happens to low-income people who bounce cheques. They get the cops sicced on them and they get charged with fraud or false pretences. The people who are going to get the 15 grand a year back from this government, the folks making $172,000 to $257,000, when they bounce a cheque nobody calls the cops. They say: "Oh, Mr Black, we're sorry to embarrass you, but your cheque bounced. Oh, we're so sorry. Please, next time you're in the neighbourhood, drop off another cheque." But when a single mom's cheque bounces, it's the cops knocking on her door.

The Chair: The member for Welland-Thorold, I have listened to you very attentively, I gave you ample time, but in listening to what you're debating, you're not on target at all. We're talking on section 1, and I would just remind you to try to stick to section 1.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Chair: The bill is entitled An Act to stimulate job growth, to reduce taxes and to implement other measures contained in the 1997 Budget. Part I deals with an income tax cut which purports to stimulate job growth. I would think that would make it possible for a member to range quite widely in debating this matter, since we are talking about stimulating job growth because of a tax cut. We just want to get information.

The Chair: All I'm saying, member for Welland-Thorold, is that you're going a bit too far.

Mr Kormos: Thank you, Chair. I appreciate that comment. I also appreciate the comment of my friend from Algoma, who has witnessed many bills similar to this but never one like this, I'm sure. I apologize to the Chair, because the Chair will understand that what I was talking about was the tax break, at what cost, for whom and to what end. I appreciate what you're saying and I appreciate the Chair's direction.

I will end my comments with a very specific question; I have asked several of the parliamentary assistant. I was commenting on the incredible cost, because my question to the parliamentary assistant entails, among other things, something I suspected, and that was that the abandonment of the family support plan was part and parcel of paying for the tax break, which is what section 1 speaks of -- speaking to what cost, at what cost. We've already started to understand who the tax break is for. It's for the very richest. The low-income family receives a tax break of but nine bucks a week, all of which is consumed by increased user fees, city to city, whether it's one of your little kids who's got to pay a user fee at school -- yes, a user fee at school -- so she or he can participate in, let's say, track and field or in the drama program or in the science labs. It's true. It's been happening. Or a user fee for these same families as their sewer surcharges are increased as a disguised way of increasing property taxes, because no municipal council in 1997 has wanted to face a municipal election year subject to the inevitable charge that they were responsible for increased taxes.


They were responsible for increased sewer surcharges, increased water rates, decreased garbage collection, increased poundage rates at the local dump, increased fees for kids using swimming pools: not big Olympic swimming pools, but small-town wading pools and small-town swimming pools with a diving board like we've got over at St George's Park. You see, what happens is that sometimes the pools just get shut down. At what cost these tax breaks? Sometimes the pools just get shut down.

You know what? Something that's incredibly important, you've got to understand -- and this isn't unique; there are so many other communities across Ontario that are similar to this -- is that in Welland, public swimming pools are very much an element of public safety. You see, we've got a river running through the city and a canal, the old Welland Canal, and it's imperative, I suggest to you, that there be public swimming pools well within the range of affordability where young kids can take swimming lessons, because those kids are going to be lured to that canal and that river in any event. I tell you, swimming pools in a city like Welland are more than a mere luxury for little kids. They are. You're talking about ensuring that every kid has a crack at learning how to swim because you've got a big, deep canal there, a big, deep river, and a lake on either end of the peninsula, be it Ontario or Erie to the south. I know there are a whole lot of other communities in a similar position. Swimming pools aren't some sort of luxury.

I'd like the parliamentary assistant to explain, with the increased user fees being imposed from municipality to municipality to municipality, how this $9 tax break -- because don't forget, Parliamentary Assistant, please, I also ask you to tell us what percentage of families are down there in that $28,000 income bracket. I suspect far more than a lot of the folks in this room. These are the folks in this room, the Tory backbenchers, who gave themselves a 10% salary increase within mere days of slashing social assistance benefits by 21.6%. A 10% salary increase. They jacked their gross salaries up, their base salary. Don't forget, the minimum wage in here is $78,004 a year. That's the minimum wage in this place, and MPPs gave themselves a net salary increase, on the base alone, of at least $8,000.


Mr Kormos: They did. That's generating some howls of protest. It's remarkable, because one advertisement, a full page that I saw in the St Catharines Standard this Saturday past by an MPP from the government benches, said that we've got a 5% salary decrease. Not. Sorry. That isn't the way it calculated out.

Interestingly, what the government did was bump up MPPs' salaries. The poorest MPP in this place makes $78,004, and all but a handful of government members make perks in addition to that $78,004, all but four or five or six. We know some of the ones who don't. We know that Bill Murdoch has been cut back. We know that Gary Carr has been cut back. We know that Tony Skarica -- what did he have to say about this government? "It's a dictatorship."

Section 1 of Bill 129 talks about tax breaks, two thirds of which are going to go to the top 10% of income earners. Tax breaks for whom? Parliamentary Assistant? You've started to break down who's going to get these tax breaks. It's becoming clearer and clearer that the wealthier you are, the more you get from this government. Understand that, Chair. The richer you are, the more this government's going to be handing back to you. The poorer you are, the less you get. That's what their tax break scheme amounts to. The poorer you are, the less you get; the richer you are, the more you get.

It's to create jobs. That's what they've said. We heard from the member for Fort York, who talked about economist after economist who tells you that giving rich people more money doesn't create jobs. It doesn't.

Beating up on kids and their moms by shutting down the family support plan so that you can pay those rich people more in tax breaks doesn't create jobs. It just creates women and kids who are victimized, women and kids who are tossed out of their apartments because the landlord gets an eviction order or writ of possession, women and kids who default on their mortgage because this government's paying for these tax breaks for the very richest. By shutting down programs like the family support plan, it means women defaulting on their mortgage and being ousted out on to the street from a home that they thought was theirs and that once was.

That's where the money's coming from so that somebody making 250 grand a year can get $15,000 back from this government while some poor working stiff busting his or her butt for 28 grand a year will see if he or she is lucky a mere nine bucks a week, all of which plus will be consumed by new user fees. Is that how you create jobs? Not likely.

Where I come from, the people in Welland-Thorold, the people across Niagara, know it. This doesn't put money back in the pockets of working stiffs. Guys and gals working over at the rubber plant or the guys and gals working over at Exolon in the abrasives factory, swallowing the dirt and the grit and the dust and walking the catwalks around the huge arc furnaces as the boiling metal splashes up on to him -- it doesn't put money back into their pockets. It doesn't. They're the ones who are going to get back $9, $10, $11 a week. They're the ones who are going to spend every penny of that plus on the new user fees that flow directly from this government's appropriation. What a polite word for theft: "appropriation." Conversion, I suppose, gets even closer.

This government picks the pockets of working people. It makes them pay so that the six-digit-income earners -- look, do any of us begrudge somebody? If somebody's making 100 grand, 150 grand a year, God bless. We understand. I understand in a very direct and personal way. I understand, but I also understand that if you're blessed in this society, in this province, with the opportunity to earn that six-digit income, you've got a responsibility to pay your fair share. I believe that. Do you want to know something, Chair? I think there's a whole lot of people -- not all of them, not by any stretch of the imagination -- blessed with those types of incomes who agree with me.


We'd all like a tax break. We'd all like not to have to pay taxes. I understand that. But surely if we're going to be putting money into the pockets of Ontarians, we had better start putting money into the pockets of the lowest-income Ontarians first. Surely if we're going to be putting money into the pockets of Ontarians, we don't make women and kids suffer as a result of it, like the women and kids suffered when this government shut down the family support plan. And suffer they did, not merely inconvenienced. And I tell you, it was and remains large numbers. It was thousands of women and kids who paid a huge price as they relied upon the family support plan, women and kids who paid a huge price so this government could give tax breaks to $225,000- and $250,000-a-year income earners.

This government talks a big game about -- well, let's get around to family values. This government talks family values. After what it did to women and kids and families during its bungling, during its shutdown, during its abandonment of those women and kids, during its shutdown of eight regional offices and layoff of almost 300 staff of the family support plan this government dares talk about family values? Do you know what you did to families? Have you any sense of what you did to families across this province when the Attorney General was instructed to shut down eight regional offices and lay off, terminate, almost 300 staff for the sake of a tax break for the very wealthiest? If you didn't have any idea then, surely you've got some idea now.

I tell you, that doesn't impress the guys outside Stelco right now. It doesn't impress the folks outside Exolon. It doesn't impress the workers at General Motors or Atlas Steels or the folks at the rubber plant or the folks in the paper mills down in Thorold. It doesn't impress them one bit, because they're starting to understand what this tax break really means to their day-to-day lives. It means fewer services, it means new user fees and it means victim after victim after victim.

It means shutting down hospitals like the Port Colborne General and like the Hotel Dieu and their dialysis unit up in St Catharines. I'll tell you what you've got at the Hotel Dieu dialysis unit: You've got people who have to show up and do -- I'm talking about the tax break and what it means, what is the real cost of this tax break. I'm talking about folks who show up at Hotel Dieu because their kidneys have broken down. Their kidneys don't work any more. It's a disease that I'm told by the people up in the dialysis unit is becoming more frequent. People show up for dialysis and have to leave before the full course of treatment is effected. So instead of staying the appropriate seven or eight hours, they've got to leave after five, only partly flushed out. I speak in the colloquial about the process. They're only partially flushed out and still somewhat toxic, but they've got to go back to their jobs, back to their homes, because we've got a dialysis unit that's already working beyond capacity.

That's what's going to go when the Hotel Dieu is shut down: that dialysis unit that a whole lot of workers have donated to, that a whole lot of volunteers have contributed to by virtue of their fund-raising time and their own participation and their own labour, and a whole lot of medical staff, committed doctors and nursing staff and nurses' aides and the volunteers who drive people to and from and help the folks in there. You see, hospital shutdowns are part of the cost of the tax break.

Port Colborne General is a hospital that was built brick by brick by brick by working people and small business people and retirees and seniors down in Port Colborne: brick by brick, donation by donation, volunteer hour by volunteer hour and, yes, tax dollar by dollar, so that the families in Port Colborne could have an emergency ward and an obstetrics ward, so that they wouldn't have to risk the drive from Port Colborne up to Welland, to the Welland County General, in the case of a crisis, in the case of a heart attack.

If you ask those folks in Port Colborne which they prefer more, your tax break or the Port Colborne General Hospital, they won't hesitate a minute. They're going to tell you, "You can keep your" -- I almost slipped there for a minute; I almost threw in an adjective -- "tax break. Let us keep the hospital we built." That's what people in Port Colborne are saying right now.

You're talking about a tax break two thirds of which is going to go to the top 10% of income earners and for which there is a cost that we're just beginning to understand. Talk to the families, the moms and dads and the grandfolks, about junior kindergarten. I'll tell you, the Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, to their credit, was able to maintain JK. What's going to happen now after amalgamation remains to be seen. I've got to be fair. The amalgamation of boards in Niagara is probably among the neatest -- I don't mean that in the colloquial -- because it amalgamates the Niagara north and the Niagara south. So at the end of the day, while it still de-democratizes the role of trustees, in geographic terms it is one of the more convenient mergers -- in geographic terms only. I'm prepared to concede that. It's better than the worst-case scenario. So the Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board has kept junior kindergarten. Whether they'll have it in September 1997 remains to be seen.

When you talk to their folks, the moms and dads and the grandfolks, about whether they want their tax break or whether they want JK -- because they know that investing in junior kindergarten has payback that's tenfold; it's the biblical payback -- they're prepared to cast that bread upon the waters.

I took three of the Ukrainian students who are interns here, in these placements -- all the caucuses have been hosting them here -- down to Welland for the weekend. They said yes, they'd be prepared to see small-town Ontario. I explained that Welland was an industrial city, 48,000 population, part of the whole Niagara region, close to Niagara Falls. Of course we went to Niagara Falls. The Ukrainian Cultural Centre down on McCabe hosted them, set them up with a billet and provided dinner on Saturday night and displayed the greatest of hospitality.

But these three university students prompted some members of the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, some of the parents of similar-aged children here in Ontario, to reflect on their own situations. I heard some real despair about whether some of those kids of those families are going to be able to get to university, not because they lack the academic ability -- bar none, these kids are bright as can be, sharp as tacks -- but because this government's increase in tuition fees has built yet another economic barrier against bright, young, capable kids going to university.


You tell the working family making $28,000 a year -- there are a whole lot of them, and I'm asking that you understand; I'm asking the PA and her staff to come up with some breakdown not just of what the tax break is for respective income groups, but who those people are, how many of them there are, where they fit into what will inevitably be some bell curve kind of thing. A whole lot of families work hard to make $28,000, $30,000, $32,000, $34,000. The PA knows that; she understands that. I'm not suggesting that she's not understanding of that. I suspect it's the vast majority of Ontarians and Ontario families. I just want you to understand, Chair, that for those families -- what was it? -- a 40% increase in tuition doesn't come close to the $9-a-week tax break; not even close.

What scared the bejesus out of these families is when they read about how the Minister of Education just a couple of months ago cut a deal with the University of Western Ontario so Western could charge full-fee, American-style tuitions for its two-year MBA program -- tuition alone of $18,000 a year.

Once again, I suppose from the perspective of some of the government backbenchers, they can reflect on the good old days. I guess it is the good old days, where once again with tuitions at $18,000 a year it's becoming increasingly clear that only the children of the very richest will be going to university in this province, the children of the same very rich families who are getting, if they earn $225,000 a year, a tax kickback of over $15,000.

You don't understand, Chair. The children of those families don't need that tax break to enable them to go to university, and as this government increases tuitions, we're going to find fewer and fewer children of working-class families, of modest-income families, of incomes that are far more typical than they are atypical, going on to post-secondary education.

Let me refer you to what these people think of the good old days. I've been shuffling through the blue book, the revolution. On page 12, listen to what these people believe. This is all part and parcel of this tax break, yes sirree, part and parcel. In the handbook to Mike Harris's revolution, it is written that in 1992, tuition fees represented only 19% of the cost of a university education. But to say "only 19%" -- here's the telling phrase -- "down from 35% in the 1950s." By God, this government's going to take us back to the good old days, the 1950s -- yeah, the good old days, when the kids of Ukrainian and Polish and Hungarian and Italian immigrants didn't get to go to university, when they couldn't afford university tuitions. That's the way it was in the 1950s. If these people think the 1950s were the good old days, they had better review the course of the last 40 years.

I tell you this: I can speak very personally about that. I was born in 1952. I was the first generation of my family, myself as a child of immigrant parents, both of them incredibly hardworking people -- when I was talking about public libraries and this government's abandonment of public libraries, I remember talking to you about my grandmother. I remember that. I remember some of the objections. That was fine; people can object.

She's dead -- she's been dead for 10 years now -- but I remember how hard she worked. She was an immigrant lady, never went to school a day in her life, either here or there. She was a peasant. I've been to the village where she was born and where she grew up. At 16 years old, she had her first kid. That's how it was done. I was blessed, and I'd like some colleagues in this House to reflect -- because I know some of them share similar experiences -- on people like my grandmother, how they came to this country uneducated, illiterate -- no two ways about it, illiterate, couldn't read or write -- 16 years old, with a baby. In contemporary terms she'd be but a child, and she probably was. She had never seen electricity, along with a whole lot of other things.

We're not talking that long ago. We're talking well within a whole lot of living Ontarians' lifetimes. She came here -- we're talking about the tax breaks, Chair; we're talking about education and the cost of the tax breaks, and I want to relate this to what the Tories write about the good old days in the 1950s, when tuition reflected 35% of the cost of education for a university student, as compared to the 19% of 1992.

Here's my grandmother, like so many other immigrant ladies, with that flowered kerchief wrapped around her head and the literally handwoven clothes. As a little kid I watched her and I watched her husband, my grandfather, work like animals and work hard. I watched them as they sacrificed and as they invested through tax dollars in their community, and I watched them as they built their community and as they built public education and as they built public health and as they built institutions that were designed to help them and others like them obtain justice, with great sacrifice and great hardship, incredible hardship, never wanting for themselves but doing it so that their kids, and more important, they were realistic enough to know so that their grandkids -- I'm talking about me, born in 1952 -- wouldn't have to live like they did, and I didn't.


You see, when their kids were university age back in the early 1950s, when university tuitions were, as the government speaks of in their revolutionary guide, in the good old days, in the 1950s, 35% of --

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): On a point of order, Mr Chair: Would you inquire if there's a quorum here present?

The Chair: Is a quorum present?

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Chair.

The Chair ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: Chair, a quorum is now present.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Chair: My point of order is to whoever called the quorum, to suggest that they are in the middle of a very important ceremony at the bottom of the staircase. Having the bells ring is not going to add to the elegance and importance of the recognition of our senior citizens of this province, and I think the House might recognize that.

The Chair: This is not a point of order. The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Kormos: Thank you kindly, Chair. I was speaking to the cost of the tax break; in other words, who's paying for the tax break, because at the end of the day somebody pays. I was talking about post-secondary education and I found myself compelled to talk in a very personal way about my own family, about my grandma. In the Slavic language you refer to her as baba, and grandpa is dido. I'm not in any way, shape or form being flippant, I tell you that; I wouldn't for a moment. She was special to me but to say that she was unique among her generation of new Canadians wouldn't be accurate either. Canada was built by people like that, as it continues to be built by new Canadians, not just from Europe but from Africa and Asia and from South America and Central America.

I remember, as I told you, how hard my grandparents worked. I'm not being disrespectful when I say they worked like animals. They worked like dogs, they did; in some respects they shortened their lives considerably because it was physical labour. These weren't educated people, and they weren't particularly well received. They came to this country at a time from which we have a history that isn't totally admirable, when new Canadians of this ilk, sadly in the same way as some new Canadians of this decade, were held in less than the highest of regard.

These were people, as I say, who lived their lives with incredible sacrifice. The concept of a vacation was non-existent. There simply wasn't such a thing as a vacation. They were small business people too. I remember as a very young child their small business; uneducated, both of them, either in their country of birth or in Canada, running a small business. A lot of folks in Welland understand the places, the old two-storey red-brick building on the corner of Hagar and Crowland. That was the grocery store, it was. It was before the supermarkets, before the A&P and the Loblaw's, and that's how people bought groceries.

These people, people like my grandmother, understood what it meant to build things and to own them in common, to own them as public institutions. They dreamt of the day when their offspring, maybe not the next generation directly but hopefully their grandkids, and they loved their grandkids, could go beyond high school and get post-secondary education. As I told you, I was blessed with that opportunity, but I'll similarly tell you now that subsequent generations may not be if this government continues to herald the days when tuition fees constituted 35% of the annual cost of education.

Let's go one further and see what else we are being promised, part and parcel of which is paying for this tax break, two thirds of which is going to the top 10% of income earners. The people who need it least are getting it most, and it's being paid for by working-class, yes, and middle-income earners and it's being paid for by their children and by their retired parents and by the sick and by the youngest in our society.

A tax break that I can't even begin to -- perhaps the parliamentary assistant will be able to tell us, in view of all the suffering of victims of this government's bungling of the family support plan, in view of all the suffering that those women and their kids went through from approximately August 1996 through to the present -- maybe this government will tell us how much of the tax break those victims financed.

How much of the tax break did those kids pay for with their suffering, with what amounted to literal hunger because they went without food, with what amounted to homelessness because they were turfed out of apartments and rental homes and they were chucked out of homes they thought they owned because they weren't able to keep up mortgage payments? Perhaps the parliamentary assistant would tell us how much of the tax break those kids paid for with their suffering. That's part of what it's all about. We know there's a tax break, for whom, to what end, at what cost and who ends up footing the tab. I think we're getting a clearer and clearer picture.

I mentioned how frightening it was -- I was over at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre on Saturday night because I had three of the Ukrainian co-op students down in Welland for the weekend. Friday night we were down in Niagara Falls, saw the falls, went down to Clifton Hill, past the casino, turned around, came back, went back to Welland. They were billeted by members of the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, people to whom I'm extremely grateful.

Saturday they followed me around as I did MPP stuff during the day. We started with the Canadian Tire Acceptance ribbon cutting down at 1000 East Main Street. Then we went to the market square and we did a 50th wedding anniversary, the Plains, up at the Lions Club in Fonthill. Then we went to the Club Richelieu because it was fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, and then we went to the pig roast at the museum on Hooker Street, the Welland Historical Museum, and then another barbecue over at Round Boys where there was a fund-raiser for Help a Child Smile. On Saturday night the Ukrainian Cultural Centre hosted a small dinner of, of course, Ukrainian food for these youngsters.

But while I was there speaking, these students being there from Ukraine and the members of the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, an incredibly generous people and hardworking in their own right and almost all of them working-class people, some small business people, there was one incredible observation by one small business person who folded his business rewinding motors, rebuilding motors, armatures, bearings, that sort of stuff. He said, "You know, this government talks a big game." He was referring to the Tories. This person isn't a fan of any government. He had some critical things to say about the last government and about the government before that, but he said: "This government" -- he smacks himself on the forehead -- "they don't understand small business either. They're just like other levels of government and other forms of government. They think small business is 20, 30, 40, 50 non-union workers. They don't understand the family business." As I mentioned, that was the kind of business culture I grew up in and that was the kind of business my grandparents had over on the corner of Hagar and Crowland Avenue, a small meat supermarket.


They were prepared to contribute to the common pool -- taxes, that's what they're called -- so that young people, and not just the children of the rich, could get university educations. Those same young people are helping to pay for the tax break now, because you've got a government that wants to increase tuitions, already has and is going to do it more. You've got a government under the banner of deregulation, and it has already begun that process by cutting the deal with the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario -- this isn't in the United States; we're talking Ontario -- so that the University of Western Ontario can charge full-fee, American-style tuitions of $18,000 a year for its two-year MBA program.

The news has spread. The parents, and some grandparents, who were upstairs in the meeting room at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre on McCabe on Saturday night were talking about that. They had paid taxes all of their lives, I suppose no more joyfully than anybody has ever paid taxes, but paid them. All of us would like not to have to pay taxes. Heck, why not? It would be great. None of us are happy about paying taxes. These folks understood what this meant to their kids or, in the case of some of them, grandkids. It meant that yes, they might get $5 or $6 a week back in taxes, or pay $5 or $6 a week less income taxes, but that their grandkids were never going to make it through the doors of any university classroom. These folks said again: "Who likes paying taxes? Nobody does." But at the end of the day, if it was the difference between that crummy tax break or a university education for their kids, by God, they'd go with the university education any day of the week.

They do it with pleasure and they do it understanding that they are helping to build rather than being a party to destroying, that they are helping to create rather than being co-conspirators in an exercise that's going to roll us back 40 or 50 years into what these people regard as the good old days -- the good old days when only the children of the very wealthiest could go to universities or, as my friend from Sudbury suggests, the élite.

I have no quarrel, and of course children of wealthy people should go to university, but so should the kids from working class families, so should the kids from families that are on fixed incomes, so should the kids of the injured workers and so should the kids of the single parent. If you want to put it in practical terms, they should be in university because it's going to make us a stronger society, a stronger province and a stronger country, and a more prosperous economy -- which is where we get to the business of jobs.

This government promised 725,000 new jobs. They've picked up a new buzzword. I think it was Rob Fisher, Global TV, Sunday night. At the end of the week he exposes what he sees as somewhat humorous to his television audience. The new buzzword is, "Oh, 1,000 jobs a day, 1,000 jobs a day, 1,000 jobs a day." By God, it's been 1,000 jobs a day, we're two years down the road; we've got jobs coming out of our --

Mr Ramsay: Yin-yang.

Mr Kormos: Yin-yang. Thank you. Give me a break. A thousand jobs a day? Down in Niagara region, unemployment is up to 10.9%, when the national trend shows a decline, albeit modest. Nothing to do with this government or, quite frankly, the Chrétien Liberals.

It was Mr Ramsay who said "Yin-yang," and I appreciate that, because I was searching there. He obviously does a lot of crossword puzzles.

We've got unemployment rising in Niagara region, contrary to a modest national trend downward in terms of unemployment. We've got unemployment among people under 25 double that of their parents. It boggles the mind how, quite frankly, neither the federal nor the provincial government has declared a crisis in response to these incredible and ongoing high levels of unemployment.

The news is the depression, we're told, is over; the stock markets are booming. Stelco, I'm told, is considering a dividend. That will be some comfort to the 350 Page-Hersey Stelco workers out on the sidewalk down on Dain Avenue after eight months of fighting for a modest pension improvement and wage increase so they can have parity with their working sisters and brothers at Stelco in Hamilton -- not even parity; something akin to parity. Stelco, the economic news said today, is contemplating declaring a dividend. Its stockholders are ecstatic. The 300-plus workers who have had to strike for the last eight months with little by way of good faith on the part of Page-Hersey Stelco are shaking their heads in amazement.

Unemployment in the north: I know northern members will be speaking very specifically to this. Unemployment in the north continues to rise and rise at the slow and ponderous but never-ending process of increased joblessness.

Bankruptcies are up for the second year in a row in this province, this Mike Harris Ontario. Business bankruptcies are up. The only people making money are the bailiffs. The government talks about 1,000 jobs a day? Come clean. The government won't tell us what they are, where they are and for whom they are, but we know that if there are any jobs being created, they are inevitably part-time, temporary and minimum or subminimum wage, and that's not how you build a healthy economy.

This government advocates trickle-down with its program of tax breaks for the very richest. In two years now, I say to you, Ontarians have been trickled down on enough. They don't want to be trickled on any more. They're tired of being trickled on. Ontarians know, I'm confident they do, because I know folks in Niagara. I understand the chambers of commerce. Ms Swift from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, she's a supporter, but she also, if I recall correctly, agrees with this government's proposition to let the minimum wage drop, which is what this government's committed to do. This government is committed to holding the minimum wage until, by attrition, by the growth of the economy, it effectively drops.


You see, Ms Swift, who oftentimes isn't, is an advocate of a low-wage economy. She advocates on behalf of business people, saying business people have to be permitted to pay lower and lower wages. I suppose from that perspective alone it's not an unattractive proposition. But you see, what small business down in Welland and Thorold and Pelham understands is that when you don't have people in your community making decent wages, they don't have anything in their pockets to spend at small businesses, whether they're retail businesses or service industries.

I suppose part of this trickle-down is the suggestion, and I've heard it said by some of the government members, that if we give those folks making 250 G's a year -- that's an income of a quarter of a million bucks a year -- if we give them $15,000 back each year, charge them $15,000 less tax -- but there's a problem here. Let me put this one to you, if I may.

Folks making 28 grand a year get back $450. A household making 28 grand a year pays nine bucks less tax a week. Chair, I want you to run through this with me, because if folks making 28 grand a year pay $9 a week less, $450 a year, why do folks making 260 grand a year, almost 10 times that, pay not 10 times $450, which would be $4,500, but they pay $15,000 less in taxes? There's some inherent unfairness about that. There's something that's very troubling.

There's a huge flaw in the parliamentary assistant's argument, but what it does is expose what this is all about. It's about a tax break only for the rich. What's the old phrase? The folks from up north will understand: "The rich get the gold, the working folks get the shaft." That's what we've got here.

One more time, once again: Rich folks, the ones making a quarter of a million dollars a year -- if somebody can earn 250 grand a year, God bless, but let them pay their fair share of taxes, because this country, this community, this province has been awfully good to you if you're making a quarter of a million a year. It's been awfully good to you, a heck of a lot kinder to you than if you're struggling along at a low-wage job, the type of jobs that are becoming more and more common in Mike Harris's Ontario, eking out a mere 25 grand a year and still having to raise two or three kids and pay your mortgage and pay PST and GST.

I tell you, this province has been awfully kind to folks making a quarter of a million, a heck of a lot kinder than it has been to those working people struggling to pay for their kids' clothes and to pay a mortgage or rent and to pay for groceries. What's remarkable is, they do without but they still manage the occasional movie rental so the family can have some entertainment on a Saturday night. Listen, I salute them. I salute those working people, those fixed-income people, those retirees, the seniors who are struggling along on those low incomes, for whom the tax break is the least.

Then there's Paul Martin. Honest to goodness, what did I read in the paper today? Yes, he's going to increase the RSP -- he talked about it -- contribution level to $20,000 a year, so that the rich will enjoy yet an even greater tax break. He's a collaborator. Paul Martin and Ernie Eves, they're fellow travellers.

I'm just counting heads to make sure there's a quorum in the House. There is no -- bring them in here, Mr Baird. Fifteen, sixteen. You're still shy. Seventeen. You're still shy three.


Mr Kormos: Okay, that will do. Eighteen. We still need two more. Mr Baird, bring these people in here. We'll not carry on without quorums, by God, and don't say I haven't been fair to you. It would be nice to see a few more Tories in here so that I wouldn't have to rise on a point of order and point out to the Chair that there isn't a quorum.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): They're down with the seniors.

Mr Kormos: We're considering that they might be -- I think things are moving, Chair. I hear movement there in the background. There we go. Mr Baird, you're going to have to do better than that. Where's the high-priced help? Where are the minions? Tell them to scurry out there and drag in some of the Tory caucus members.

If they were unionized, like the staff of the New Democratic Party, they'd probably be a lot more eager to do their jobs. They'd know they'd have decent wages, seniority rights, fair pay, vacations, the right to grieve when Tory bosses are cruel and arbitrary in their treatment of them.

I'll carry on, Chair, because we were talking about the unfairness of this tax break when we see that basically the rich are being pieced off to the tune of approximately 10 times whatever modest break there is for working people. That's what it comes out to. There's an incredible compounding there. With this government in power, the richer you are, the more you get. And look who pays for it. Again, we know it's students, seniors, retirees.

Let me tell you about folks down at the Welland seniors centre. I dropped in there on Friday afternoon over on Lincoln Street. They have a little workshop there. They have a great hall. Pearl Kaleniuk and just a whole lot of people were active in getting that built. It was built over 10 years ago now.

You have seniors struggling, recognizing that the populations of Niagara and places like it are getting older, that there's going to be a growing need for seniors' care. Yet they see this government paying for its tax break for the very rich by attacking seniors and care for seniors, be it they shut down the hospitals or be it the threat of defunding public seniors residences like Sunset Haven or the new Rapelje Lodge, which is being constructed now.

The last government participated in the Jobs Ontario program with the feds of the day and made it possible for Rapelje Lodge to be built as it's being built now. The building began, fortunately, before June 1995. We're fortunate that the last government made that contribution, in cooperation with the feds, to the building of Rapelje Lodge.


The fear now is that part of the payment of these tax breaks for the very rich is coming from the downloading of costs on to municipalities. We've got Rapelje darned near finished in terms of being built. What folks down in Welland and the folks over at the Rose City Seniors Centre were concerned about is, will there be sufficient operating costs, sufficient funds to operate it so that they and others will be able to use it as they get older and start to become a little bit less mobile and can no longer live in their own homes? I suppose, yes, you can simply remain alone without assistance and die a horrid lonely death, alone in a house that's lived in only by you, or you can, as so many of us believe, contribute and work together to build things like seniors homes so that older folks can live out their senior years in dignity and with some modest care.

I would very much want to know from the parliamentary assistant the percentage of households that are in the $23,000 to $28,000 range and perhaps some understanding of who these people are in terms of being seniors, young families or fixed-income families. Of the number that are earning between $23,000 and $28,000, oh yes, their taxes are going to be reduced to the tune of just about a buck a day. Well, that buck a day doesn't even begin to pay for the increased user fees that are flowing down on to families like them as a result of this government's downloading.

We know that the last downloading model was going to increase property taxes in Niagara region by a minimum of $73 million. It means that taxes for each and every property could increase on the average of hundreds of dollars each year, regardless of the income of that person. You see, property taxes are oblivious to how much you make. They don't know that you're retired and that your income's been cut in half or a third or a quarter, unlike this government's tax scheme where the very rich are going to get proportionately back all that much more than are the very poor. They're going to pay proportionately far, far less than are the poor.

Why did I make reference to Paul Martin and his proposal that we may well see RSP contributions increased to up to $20,000 a year? We know that RSP contributions are a way to avoid taxes -- properly so -- but to avail yourself of the $20,000-a-year limit, you've got to have a heck of a huge income on an annual basis. The working stiff doesn't come close to being able to earn enough income to qualify for 20 grand a year, and if she or he even did come close, they wouldn't have that extra income to enable them to invest that 20 grand a year in RSPs, the mutual funds; and there's nothing wrong with them per se.

This government wants to go back to the good old days, the 1950s, when university students paid --

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): You're getting repetitious, Peter.

Mr Kormos: I'm just moving on to the next; that was a transition. One of the Tory members here said -- and he's darned right -- I was repeating myself, but it was a transition. I was using that to fill in some time while I moved to the page in the revolution book that I wanted to get to.

Hon Mr Runciman: At least I'm listening.

Mr Kormos: He is listening. I guess I'm happy as a pig in a barnyard that Mr Runciman's listening. I'll be pleased to hear his response. In some respects I can anticipate it, or at least imagine it.


Mr Kormos: Wait a minute.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Check it out.

Mr Kormos: I'm counting quorum again, Chair. Three, six, seven, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17. Who'll give me 18? Nineteen. Need one more. Okay, 20; we've got it. It's tough keeping the backbench folks in line.

Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): It must be your speech.

Mr Kormos: It's tough. No, I want to be fair. It's just too easy to stand up, call quorum and then sit down and let the Clerk do the counting. I think it's far more appropriate to demonstrate that we could do that.

Ms Lankin: Self-regulation.

Mr Kormos: That's right. As Ms Lankin from Beaches-Woodbine points out, that's what self-regulation is all about. If only these people could regulate themselves.

I want to get back, though, to what I had been referring to some time ago. I suppose it's part and parcel of the trickle-down theory this government has. It didn't work for Ronald Reagan. It didn't work for Margaret Thatcher. When it gave MPPs a 10% salary increase within what seemed like mere days after it slashed social assistance budgets by 21.6%, I suppose that was consistent with its trickle-down theory: Take away from the poorest. Whack them with fairness, as the member for Fort York is so inclined to point out. Take money away from the poor and give it to folks who are already making a fair bit of change, right? Bounce some real coinage, as they say down on King South.

That's what the government did, took away 21.6%, almost 22% of the support for the poorest, people on social assistance, and then gave MPPs themselves -- all of us; I have no quarrel -- around a 10% salary increase, from 70 grand up to $78,004. As I say, that's the minimum wage here at Queen's Park. Most of the Tories make substantially more than that because that's how you keep Tory backbenchers in line.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Hey, hey, hey.

Mr Kormos: Well, that's how it's done. Toni Skarica was a parliamentary assistant. He got some 11 and a half grand beyond his base MPP salary, and Toni, I'm told -- Mr Skarica rather. I'm sorry. I apologize, Chair. It's Toni with an "i" as a matter of fact, not Tony with a "y." But Toni Skarica said: "There's something wrong when the Premier and a couple of unelected staff people can run the entire province. It's a dictatorship." That's what Toni Skarica has to say about this government and its leader.

Gary Carr from down Oakville way was a good parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General. He was. Again, understand that the minister doesn't fire the parliamentary assistant. Ministers have parliamentary assistants assigned to them by Il Duce's office, the Premier.


Mr Baird: Hey, hey, hey.

Mr Kormos: I didn't say that. Toni Skarica said that. "It's a dictatorship."

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): On a point of order, Mr Chair: It seems to me that the current speaker is a little off the topic. I wonder if you could remind him of the need to stay on the topic.

The Acting Chair (Mr Floyd Laughren): Members will understand we're on section 1 of the bill, which allows a free-ranging debate. I would remind the member for Welland-Thorold to keep that in mind.

Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I think it's not in order for a member to quote another member or impugn another member's motives, as he is doing with Mr Skarica, the member for Wentworth North. I think if you're going to quote another member, you have to be extremely careful and accurate. I would ask that you ask the member for Welland-Thorold not to refer to the member for Wentworth North without pure accuracy and to attribute the source of those comments you are attributing to the member for Wentworth North.

The Acting Chair: Thank you, member for Mississauga South. I do believe you are correct and I would urge the member for Welland-Thorold to be cautious when quoting the member for Wentworth North, to make sure that he's quoting him precisely.

Mr Kormos: I apologize to the member for Mississauga somewhere and I appreciate her guidance in that regard. I want to be very careful. Precisely. I should be very careful. It would be most unfair of me, and quite frankly improper, entirely beyond the realm or scope of the rules, to misquote another member.

This is what Toni Skarica had to say: "There's something wrong when the Premier and a couple of unelected staff people can run the entire province. It's a dictatorship." That's what Toni Skarica said about this government and this Premier. "It's a dictatorship."

His colleague Gary Carr was a parliamentary assistant whom I admired. Gary Carr was the parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General. My last work with Gary Carr was on Bill 84. Bruce Crozier from Essex knows what I'm speaking of. Gary Carr sat with us in committee as the parliamentary assistant to the Sol Gen, or Solicitor General. Gary Carr -- and I think all of us noticed it, the New Democrats sitting there, the Liberals sitting there and I suspect more than a few of his own colleagues, and that's where the trouble began.

I think there were a couple of quislings among his colleagues, people who ratted him out to the Premier's office, because Gary Carr as parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General during the course of the Bill 84 hearings began to show more and more understanding of the position being expressed by professional firefighters. He did. He wasn't by any stretch of the imagination abandoning Bill 84 -- he wasn't -- but he was starting to understand -- there was no question about it -- some of the criticism of Bill 84 that was being expressed by firefighters.

We could tell that quite frankly in no small part by his demeanour during the course of the hearings. He would actually pay attention, unlike his successor who would nod off, chin on his chest, head rolled over on to his shoulder, jaw agape from time to time; I'm talking about Gary Carr's successor, not Gary Carr.


Mr Kormos: Well, it was pointed out by a participant in the committee hearings in Windsor. We were in Windsor the last day of the hearings, the very day that Gary Carr was turfed, and there was the new parliamentary assistant --

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): On a point of order, Mr Chair: It would seem that after the timely intervention of my colleague from Muskoka that the member opposite would have been called to account and would have recognized that our responsibility in this, as in all debate, is to speak to the order that is before us. I will remind him of the order before us today. Because of the fact that he has spoken now for over two hours without any direct reference to it, it is to be presumed he has not read the document. I would suggest that he restrict his comments to this year's budget.

Standing order 23(f) denies all of us the ability to debate again issues that have already been voted on in this House. Mr Chair, I would remind you that the various legislative initiatives with which he has done a superb job of regaling us into complete stupor, and I'm sure most of the people watching across the province, have related to pieces of legislation long since voted on and long since passed into law. In deference to all of us, I would ask you to have the member opposite speak to the 1997 budget. Thank you.

Ms Lankin: Point of order, Mr Chair.

The Acting Chair: The same point of order?

Ms Lankin: Yes, on the same point of order. I would say that was a bit more of a political speech than a point of order. On the point of order: With respect to budget bills and tax bills, and you know this after your many years in the House, there is a precedent in this House that there is an allowance, a very wide-ranging debate. I've been listening very carefully to the member for Welland-Thorold, who has been addressing many changes in the province that have come about as a result of government budget decisions to cut expenditures. Those expenditure cuts are directly related to the lack of revenue in the government, that lack of revenue directly related to the tax cut, which is in the bill that is before us. I think the member is directly on point and I suggest that he be allowed to continue without further interruptions from the member from Scarborough.

The Acting Chair: I thank the member for Beaches-Woodbine. As I said before, as long as the member for Welland-Thorold from time to time relates his comments to the content of the bill, he is in order.

Mr Kormos: I stand admonished and I apologize to the Chair and all the members if I've digressed. But by God, you say it's been over two hours. Hot damn.

In any event, Bill 84 and our reference to it -- and I appreciate Ms Lankin, the member for Beaches-Woodbine, and her intervention, not in defence of me but in consideration of the issue.

Don't forget I prefaced my remarks by saying we understand there's a tax break. For whom? That's starting to become clearer and clearer. Two thirds of that tax break is going to the very richest of Ontarians. To what end? Yet to be determined. At what cost? That's what we're dealing with right now, the cost, the real cost of the tax break.

I'm not going to go back to where I began and talk about the victims of the family support plan, those women and kids. They paid some of the cost, some substantial cost.


Mr Kormos: Well, I don't find it at all humorous that you called on little kids to pay the cost for the tax break.

We talked about university students, how they're bearing it. They're paying for this tax break. Man, they're paying by virtue of fewer and fewer working-class kids, fewer and fewer kids of small business people, fewer and fewer kids of modest income families are going to be able to go to university as this government revels in the good old days of the 1950s when university students' tuition was 35% of the total cost and where kids from working and lower-income families simply didn't go. Ms Lankin from Beaches-Woodbine, in her comments to the point of order, points out how Bill 84 is part and parcel -- because Bill 84, we know, was all about, at the end of the day, facilitating the privatization of firefighting services here in Ontario.


Why that had to be facilitated, if you will, was because this government knows communities are going to get whacked with downloading. Communities then are going to look for avenues -- and we talked about this before. The cost of the tax cut includes diminished services and user fees. Bill 84 is designed to provide those diminished services by virtue of private firefighters. The Laidlaws, the Rural/Metros, American-style, import the very worst of the United States.

That's what Bill 84 was about and that's why I had concern and continue to have concern about how when Gary Carr, the fine parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General, began to express interest and empathy, understanding, of the concerns being expressed by professional firefighters, including their concern about privatization and their concern that privatization is going to bring lower-quality firefighting services, that people are going to suffer, people are going to die as a result of Bill 84 and how it permits the utilization of part-time and private firefighters, firefighters who are not as well trained, who are not experienced working in teams -- people are going to die. That's what firefighters told us across the province.

Gary Carr started to show some interest in their arguments, show some sympathy and -- this is merely a suspicion -- was perhaps starting to express some concern about how Bill 84 had as its ultimate goal, in companion with Bill 129 that we're debating here right now -- none of these pieces of legislation stand independent of each other. When we go all the way back to Bill 26, we start to look at some of the major cornerstones and all these bills are like little pieces of a puzzle. Some are tinier than others; some have solid backgrounds, where it's more difficult to identify the outline of the thatched roof, whatever kind of puzzle it is you put together. Bill 129 is part and parcel of the whole puzzle.

Gary Carr, as you know, on the final day of the committee hearings was dumped, turfed. How did Gary Carr respond to that? Still the member of the Progressive -- well, the Conservative Party -- and of that caucus, Gary Carr said, "Mike Harris has got to realize this is still a democracy, not a dictatorship."

I respect Gary Carr's insight in that regard. I've known him for a good chunk of time. I don't agree with him on a whole lot of issues, but knowing him as I have since 1990, I have some high regard for Gary Carr and know him to continue to be a strong and committed Conservative. I have no doubt about that. Gary is committed to his party and clearly wants to remain with this government, but he speaks of Mike Harris as having to realize that this is still a democracy and not a dictatorship.

The goal, we're told, is to create jobs. The government is bound by its promise to create 725,000 jobs. The government wants us to believe -- as a matter of fact, there's a fellow called Mark Mullins, PhD. He's an economist who endorsed the revolution with the zeal of one of those 1960s Maoists holding it overhead, chanting in unison.


Mr Kormos: Revolutionaries are revolutionaries. That's one of the problems we've got here.

Mr Mullins says the combination of this tax cut, the non-priority spending reduction and the elimination of job-killing government barriers will make Ontario a magnet for new investment and new jobs. We're two years down the pipe here. There are no new jobs. I'm telling you, Chair, there are no new jobs two years later. There's a lot of grief, a lot of people suffering, a lot of people paying for the tax break. Let me tell you, man, they're paying a huge price for this government's tax break for its rich friends.

There are no new jobs. Down in Niagara unemployment rises. Unemployment rises and rises, till it's now 10.9%, and unemployment among people under 25 twice that. Unemployment among people who are well trained, well educated, highly skilled, indeed experienced in their respective former workplaces, is 10.9%. Does this government declare a crisis? Does this government say it's time for some urgent and direct action, while young people under the age of 25 suffer unemployment rising into the 20th percentiles and their parents suffer at 10.9% in the Niagara region alone?

This government does the proverbial fiddling, and this government reduces taxes for the very richest, knowing full well that reducing taxes for the very rich, especially now that Paul Martin has talked about increasing RSP contributions to $20,000 a year, permits the very rich to get even richer and doesn't do one darned thing about creating jobs. This government and its little spin doctor, its $1,000-a-day people that it is oh, so held captive by, this government that is being held hostage by the backroom gang, figures that if it repeats something often enough, folks will begin to believe it in that bizarre way that the advertising and marketing people convince you that it's a new, enhanced product when it's nothing but the same old liver.

This government talks about a thousand jobs a day. By God, if there had been a thousand jobs a day, we'd be awash in jobs. We'd be drowning in jobs, and we're not.

Interjection: Yes, we are.

Mr Kormos: Unemployment is at 10.9%, I've got to tell you.

Interjection: Federally.

Mr Kormos: Unemployment in Niagara is 10.9%, and if those members across the way don't believe it, come on down to the food banks, come on down to the soup kitchens where I was on Friday afternoon with Howie Hampton. We visited the soup kitchen down on Division Street, at Holy Trinity Church, where families, seniors, women with little kids are increasingly -- this is in small-town Ontario; this isn't downtown Toronto -- where women and kids and old folks, old people, retirees, seniors are increasingly having to resort to the soup kitchen for something akin to a balanced meal. Down there at Holy Trinity Church, Reverend Binns and his congregation and his parish are generous enough that they let their church, the little basement area with a kitchen, be used as a soup kitchen. They are there every day of the week.


These are people most of whom I know, and I know their histories. These are people who didn't always have to use soup kitchens and they're not pleased to have to use them now, but they're there; just like they're down at the food bank on Fifth Street, which used to be Carl Stratton's mission, the Open Arms Mission; just like the Salvation Army down in the Niagara region finds its resources increasingly strained, week after week, month after month, and as often as not by moms or dads with kids.

Unemployment isn't just a statistic. It's oh, so comfortable here, where the minimum wage is 78 grand a year, to talk about unemployment in percentages and to treat it as if somehow it's something abstract. Let's understand what unemployment means. You lose a job and most of the time you go on UI. You and I both know that UI benefits have been reduced both in terms of the length of time you can receive them and in terms of the amount of wage replacement you get. The percentage is much lower.

Let's understand unemployment. Let's understand what it means when somebody loses a job in this province. You spend just shy of a year on UI, and then, notwithstanding that you've done your best, notwithstanding that you're pounding the pavement, notwithstanding that you've been knocking on doors and making the phone calls, you still find yourself without work and you go on to welfare.

By this point, you've used up whatever savings you have in the bank. If you were fortunate enough -- and let's not make mistakes about RRSPs. Oh, yes, the people who are going to have their taxes reduced by 15 grand a year, the people making a quarter of a million dollars a year, have the RRSPs. The hardworking women and men who are earning -- at hard and, as often as not, dirty and, more often than not, unsafe work -- wages of $28,000 to $30,000 to $32,000 or $34,000 a year don't have RRSPs. They can't get tax deductions based on their contribution to an RRSP because they don't make enough money to contribute to RRSPs. They're the ones who are far more likely to end up unemployed than these Tories' rich friends, the quarter-million-dollar-a-year earners who are getting new tax breaks in excess of 15 grand a year, while their tax cut means a mere buck a day at best for hard work and lower-income earners, a buck a day, all of which, plus, is consumed by new user fees and new costs and new financial burdens.

Let's understand what unemployment means. You spend a year on UI, and when your UI benefits terminate, you get general welfare assistance. Eventually you lose your home and you lose your furniture. Your likelihood of getting work diminishes with each day that your impoverishment increases. More often than ever before, people who were hardworking, successful people, perhaps educated people in their jobs, find themselves homeless or living in rooming-houses or hostels in deplorable conditions.

I put to the parliamentary assistant some very specific questions and I would ask that her staff give her the advice with which she can respond: that is, the number of families earning between $23,000 and $28,000, and in the respective categories above, until you get to the top 10% of income earners; and the profile of those families, whether those families are single families, single-person households, whether they're seniors, whether they're young working families, whether they're families on a fixed income.

I will have more questions as we progress through this bill, but I think it's imperative that we have that data. It's unfortunate that we've had to squeeze it out of the government. One would have thought that would be the sort of data that would have been prepared. One would have thought they would have had some concrete identification of jobs that they promised. I ask them now for a little stronger profile of who the households are that we've been talking about, what they consist of. I'll be asking them later very specifically about the jobs. Thank you kindly, Chair.

The Acting Chair: Any further comments on section 1?

Mr Wildman: Prior to the vote at five to 6, we had asked for some specific information from the parliamentary assistant regarding the tabling of studies by the ministry of the effects of the tax cut. Considering that this legislation is entitled An Act to stimulate job growth, we are still waiting, as I understand it, for the tabling of that information.

We also asked for some specifics with regard to numbers of dollars that would accrue to people at certain levels of income from the tax cut, and it seems to me that if the government had done its homework, it would be able to provide us with that information. I don't think it's unreasonable to request it.

I'm sure this work has been done. I don't think any government would be irresponsible enough to act in a reckless way where they would just decide to cut taxes without having looked at the effects, whether or not they would have the desired effect. I'm talking about a government now, not a political party, a government that has all of the bureaucracy -- the economists, the accountants, the tax experts -- working for it, a government which would want to act in a responsible manner. For that matter, if they don't have enough within their own ministry, they can contract for it. It would be most irresponsible to proceed with this legislation without knowing the ramifications, or at least some predictions about the ramifications.

My friend from Fort York got up and quoted an article by a well-known economist who said that tax cuts do not work if they are designed in the way these tax cuts are designed, where most of the money will go to those who already have a great deal of wealth. What we're hoping is that the government has information, studies, which would refute Mr Donner's views as quoted by my friend from Fort York.

Mr Chair, I'll sit down and give the members of the government party who are here carrying this bill the opportunity to table those studies now.


The Acting Chair: Are there any further comments on section 1 of the bill? If not -- I'm sorry.

Mr Wildman: No, I want an answer to that question, Chair.

The Acting Chair: I can't force someone to give you an answer.

Mr Wildman: I thought he was standing up to answer.

The Acting Chair: Does the member from Muskoka wish to respond?

Mr Grimmett: Mr Chair, I should certainly comment on the long and protracted commentary that we've received from the opposition on section 1 of the bill and simply respond that the impact of the income tax cut is quite clearly explained in the budget document itself and quite clearly set out in the papers that accompanied that.

The Income Tax Act is designed to have its biggest impact on the lowest wage earners in Ontario and in fact approximately 60% of the benefits from the tax cut will be concentrated on middle-income Ontarians. So I think that is the response, Mr Chair.

The Acting Chair: Member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to continue along that line because I know my friend from Algoma would be concerned about that answer and I want to deal with a couple of other issues.

First of all, I am trying to think if I were a bank president and I made as much money as a bank president, how much money would I get back from a tax cut, as compared to the low-income person out there?


Mr Bradley: The member for Nepean is trying to ingratiate himself further with the Premier with interventions, though one wonders how that could possibly be, in light of the way he's been trying to ingratiate himself with the Premier for the past three weeks.

But I want to make sure that we deal with the issue of the income tax cut and its ramifications for various expenditures; for instance, the closing of hospitals in areas such as Ontario east and Ontario west. When I look at the Niagara Peninsula --


Mr Bradley: -- and the member for Scarborough East is mocking as we in the Niagara Peninsula lose five hospitals -- I don't think the member for Niagara South and I don't think the member for Lincoln and I don't think the member for St Catharines-Brock, all of whom are members from the Niagara Peninsula, would be amused to hear those remarks in light of the fact that there are hospitals scheduled to close in all of those communities.

Yes, the government will, when the House is no longer sitting, make some kind of change to the policy, because it's had continuous heat from various people who have visited and listened to the people in those areas, such as those who are defenders of Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie, the Port Colborne hospital in the city of Port Colborne, West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital, and of course Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines.

One has to wonder whether it is this particular item -- that is, the tax cut -- which is, according to the Dominion Bond Rating Service, costing this government close to $5 billion a year in lost revenue and therefore money that either has to be borrowed or has to be obtained by making even deeper cuts to health care services in this province. Thousands of people signed a petition to ask that Hotel Dieu Hospital remain open. The people at the St Catharines General Hospital want to ensure that that institution continues to operate and provide services to people.

When you look at the fact that Dr David Foot, the author of Boom, Bust and Echo and a well-known demographer, had an awful lot to say about the elderly people in our area and how much they would need hospital services, one has to wonder how we can afford a tax cut which is going to prompt the government, despite the promise of the Premier, to close hospitals.

You will recall that the Premier, during the 1995 election campaign -- and I know Tory members like to check off and list what they consider to be promises kept. I can remember several that have not been and some that have been defied completely. I remember, as I think all members of the House do, during the leaders' debate in May 1985 during the provincial election campaign, Mike Harris being asked by Robert Fisher of Global TV the following question, a question that's related to: "Will all of these cuts result in the closing of hospitals?" Let me share with members of the House the precise quote, precisely what Mike Harris said as leader of the Conservative Party: "Certainly, I can guarantee you, Robert, it is not my plan to close hospitals."

That will surprise the people who are associated with and need the services of the five hospitals in the Niagara Peninsula that are closing, or hospitals in Sudbury or Thunder Bay or London or the Lambton-Middlesex area or other areas of the province where the hospital closing commission is showing up, because those people know that in order to finance a tax cut which will benefit to the greatest extent the richest people in our province we're going to close hospitals.

Then we had a huge contract signed with the members of the medical profession of this province. I don't know too many people who would object to that, because they believe that our doctors require adequate compensation. Where they were surprised was where the money was going to come from. They found out they were going to close hospitals, underfund services, fire nurses and fire other hospital workers so that we could pay the doctors more money. A lot of people I talked to said, "Look, I don't mind the settlement, because I want our medical profession to be adequately compensated, but I didn't know you were going to close my hospitals and fire nurses and other hospitals workers to pay for this."

There were some out there who even believe that part of the reason was to hush the doctors up when you close the hospitals, to buy their silence. I'm going to tell you, you can't buy the silence of doctors of integrity in this province. They will not be silenced by what they feel is compensation they had coming to them. That's not going to silence them when hospitals are closing and they know we need those hospitals.

Members of the House may be surprised to know that the area of this country which has the largest percentage of people 55 years of age and over is the Niagara region. When people become older, they tend to need more hospital care. They don't want to show up at a hospital to learn that it's on critical bypass, that somehow they can't enter the hospital for an emergency service. They don't want to know that they have to wait weeks and months and sometimes years before they can get orthopaedic services, a hip replacement or other joint replacement.

I've had letters from people who are concerned about that and would like to move up on the list. I'd like to move everybody up on the list. We can't move individuals one above another because a politician intervenes. That would be wrong. What we need is an adequately funded system, and if you'd forget the silly tax cut, if you'd forget about that income tax cut, we could have that service.

I'm going to tell you, most people in this province would applaud you. I would applaud you from the opposition benches without any reservation if you said, "Look, we've assessed the situation. We don't want to make deeper cuts. We don't want to borrow more money," because we know that when the Conservative Party's term is finished, the debt of this province will have increased by $20 billion.


A lot of people said to me, "One thing I'll say about the Conservative-Reform Party is they were concerned about the deficit." When I have to break the news to them that the debt of this province will likely be $20 billion higher when they leave office than when they entered office, they're quite surprised. When I tell them the government has to borrow money to finance the tax cut, they are shocked at that, particularly the more cautious, conservative-minded people. They say, "I didn't know that." I tell them to consult the Dominion Bond Rating Service. I say, "Don't blame me, because I'm an opposition politician; consult the report of the Dominion Bond Rating Service," which I've quoted in this House before and that's what it says.

We're paying an awful price in this province for a tax cut which is going to benefit the richest people the most in terms of the dollars that will be back in their pockets. That is, of course, unacceptable to people in the Niagara Peninsula who see their hospitals closing and their health care deteriorating as a result of underfunding of the system. The hospitals can't provide the services they would like to any more, unfortunately.

You go to some of them and ask, "Do you want me to raise this in the Legislature?" and the district health council, "Do you want me to raise these issues in the Legislature so that I can help you to obtain more funding?" and across the province they're saying: "No, we can't, because they'll punish us further. We don't want anything said. We're going to try to do it quietly, behind closed doors." But they're finding out that doesn't work and hasn't worked, because they still close the hospital or they still underfund it.

My friend the member for Leeds-Grenville is here. He has a psychiatric hospital in Brockville, and I know the expression on his face and his words of shock when it was announced by the hospital closing commission of Dr Sinclair that they were going to close the psychiatric hospital in Brockville.

It's important not only for the patients, and they're paramount, there and from the surrounding area who are receiving the service, but it is equally important for the community, because Bob Runciman can tell you what that will mean in terms of a loss of jobs in the community and the negative economic spinoff of that move on the part of this government.

Mr Chairman sitting in the chair this evening, the member for Nickel Belt, will know what the effect is in his home town of Sudbury, because my friend Rick Bartolucci has told me on many occasions that which the members from Sudbury would all be aware of, that despite all the talk about closing hospitals and then turning around and reinvesting in the community, they don't reinvest in the community to any extent; they simply reannounce old NDP announcements.

I was looking through something I saw in the St Catharines Standard on the weekend. My good friend Tom Froese had a full-page ad in the St Catharines Standard. He talked about reinvesting in the community. Some of the things I see reinvested here I can remember Frances Lankin announcing, and Ruth Grier, and even before that Liberal ministers -- Murray Elston was one and Elinor Caplan another. I can remember these announcements being made and yet we have them reannounced to this province. I know it's not really new money.

That's why I don't buy into the crackpot realism. There are some people out there who will say, "Well, you have to close hospitals." I'm speaking more of my own area because I know my own area; I can't speak for other areas to the same extent. They have convinced people: "You have to punish yourself. You people have been living high on the hog. You people have had hospital services. You've been able to get into the hospital when you need hospital care. You've had sufficient nurses to look after you in years gone by. You've had all the other hospital workers who make a hospital work successfully. You have to punish yourself. You can't have that any more. We're going to take that away from you." Some people buy into the crackpot realism.

Even some scribes like to think, "Perhaps I know more than the average person out there and I'm not going to buy into the emotional arguments the opposition will make, those opposed to closing hospitals, because we know, we've been briefed by the ministry people, and you know this is good for all of us."

It's not good for all of us. It's nonsense and it's unnecessary. In our part of the province -- I can speak with most familiarity with that -- our hospitals have already gone through a rationalization of services. They have already chosen the areas in which they will become expert and deliver services. This exercise has already been gone through in many areas of the province, and now you're asking them to withdraw more.

You know what it's going to lead to: Rich people and privileged people will not tolerate a lack of service, so what they're going to do as a result is get their service somewhere else, and they're going to be pressuring for a two-tiered system. The argument is made, "What the two-tiered system does is relieve the pressure on the regular health care system, so if a person has enough money, he or she should be able to go to the front of the line with that extra money to put into the system." I can tell you one of the reasons I'm in politics is to ensure that doesn't happen, to ensure that a person's pocketbook doesn't dictate the kind of medical care that person gets in this province, but rather the medical needs of that individual dictate what kind of service that person will receive.

I can recall being interviewed by someone from the taxpayers' coalition, not this election, but in the 1990 election. They were going to screen the candidates and produce their page. I knew I didn't have a chance with this organization anyway, because I knew who the individuals were and what party they have always supported.

That was one of the arguments we had. The person said: "We've got to have user fees, don't we? What's the difference if somebody pays every time they go to the doctor or every time they get a medical service?" I said, "The difference is that it won't deter me," because that's really what you're saying, that it should be a deterrent fee. You're not going to be able to charge enough money to make a significant difference in the budget of the Ministry of Health, but what you're going to do is deter people. You don't deter wealthy people, you don't deter upper-middle-income people; you only deter low-income people from getting that service.

I have always rejected the fact that I've seen some political parties put forward that there should be one rule for the rich and the privileged and one rule for the rest. I guess that's why I would never choose one of those political parties that believes that, but rather one that believes that we should have universal access to health care and that we don't need a two-tiered system and that we don't need the Americanization of our system.

I remind members of this House that an organization known as Rural/Metro is waiting just on the other side of the border to move into Ontario. In fact, they've moved into Ontario. They've made some purchases in Ontario. They've made some alliances in Ontario. They're going to provide ambulance services. I'll tell you something: If you want ambulance services just across the border in northern New York state, they cost about seven times as much as they do here. If you need oxygen, you pay more. If you need a splint, you pay more, and the meter is running as soon as you are in that vehicle.

That's a different approach. There are a lot of things I like about America. It's a wonderful country in many ways. I don't want to be an American citizen, I don't want to emulate a lot of what they do in the US, but it is a country that has been successful in many ways. One area where I've always disagreed with my American friends is the way they deal with health care. That's what happens when you have American companies move in. They have a different approach. It's for profit.


Should we sell cars for profit? Absolutely. Should we sell consumer products for profit? Yes. Should we be able to make a profit on the sale of a home? Yes. Our system works on profits and incentives. I have no objection to reasonable profits and reasonable incentives. I do object, and will always object, to the fact that there are some people who want to profit from health care, because I think that's an essential and basic human service that governments should provide and fund.

We cannot provide nice cars for everyone. We cannot provide estate homes for people. We cannot provide 54-inch television sets with high resolution. In other words, we can't provide a lot for people in our province. But we can provide the basics, and one of those basics is health care. I see that this government, by choosing to have a tax cut which benefits the rich the most, instead of investing that money in health care and education, has made a mistake.

St Catharines city council, by resolution of Dr Joseph Kushner, an economist from Brock University, very much a small-c conservative, put forward a motion, which was endorsed by all on city council except those who apologize for Mike Harris, asking the provincial government not to proceed with the tax cut. Dr Kushner has engendered the names Professor Negative and Dr No because of the attitude he's taken to public spending.

One of the lackeys on the Ottawa Citizen, the editorial page -- somebody just sent over an editorial here. You have to know who just got the jobs there. They've got one guy who was a -- sorry to divert from this -- researcher for Mike Harris. Here were his qualifications: He's as old as the member for Nepean. I made a mistake the other day. I said 27; he's actually 28. I apologize to him for that, and he will correct me by nodding if I'm wrong. His name is Dan Gardner and he's in his late 20s, a YPC. I think his qualification was he had been involved with the Fraser Institute at one time and also he was a policy adviser to Mike Harris. Now he's writing editorials in the Ottawa Citizen. What do you expect you're going to get from that?

Mr Wildman: Who owns that paper?

Mr Bradley: Conrad Black owns the newspaper. He told everybody, and I know the member for St Andrew-St Patrick probably believed him when he said it, through Radler, his henchman in Chicago: "I don't interfere with the editorial content and I don't interfere with the way the newspaper operates. I just want it to be profitable."

What happened was, they walked into the Ottawa Citizen, they fired out the door a lot of the people with a progressive point of view and they brought in all these Fraser Institute people. One guy had been a research assistant to the Reform Party and the other guy to the Conservative Party of Ontario. They're both Reform parties. They've both been Reform researchers and now they're writing the editorials. Don't send me any of those editorials by those people who are going to naturally be echoing what this government wants and echoing what the richest and the most powerful and the most privileged people in our society want.

Mr Wildman: Like Conrad Black.

Mr Bradley: Like Conrad Black, as the member mentions.

I know in education the same things exist, and in the environment. My friend the Minister of Environment, who had responsibility for the Niagara Escarpment Commission snatched from his arms just weeks ago, would want money invested in the environment.

I want to give him his credit. He's done a good job in selling the fact that the government has cut his staff by one third, cut his budget by about one third and he's delivering a better service, he says. He has to say that, I know that, but in his heart of hearts he knows he needs the staff and the resources to do the job.

I was saddened, as I know the chairman was saddened, when they saw Mike Harris take from his hands responsibility for the Niagara Escarpment Commission, to which he had a personal attachment and I think somewhat of an emotional attachment. Then he had that given instead to the Minister of Natural Resources. I wondered why that would be. Why could that possibly be?

Then they announced the appointments to the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and we see one individual who was appointed who owns land on the escarpment and wants to get his land out of it, and others who may well be good people -- don't get me wrong -- but have no interest in preserving the escarpment lands. That concerns me.

I know people in education are concerned about the tax cut that's in this particular bill because they know they're losing educational services. This very evening, Bill Bickle is being honoured upon his retirement. I was supposed to be there tonight and I wanted very much to be there tonight but I'm trying to help the government out, to get its agenda through by the end of this week. I've been in discussions with the government House leader and I've listed all these bills. I said, "Why don't we deal with all these bills this week, get them cleaned up?" Then, if the House leader had agreed to that, I could have attended the retirement dinner, at least for a period of time tonight, for Bill Bickle and one for Jim McMahon, the president of OPSTF, who is leaving to take a provincial appointment with that organization. I can't attend those two evenings because I can't get a commitment out of the government House leader to proceed with the legislation he told me was so important.

I know some of their members must be saying, "Didn't we think several" -- what is the one you have, Minister of Natural Resources? The Game and Fish Act. I asked the members of our caucus, some of them from the north, where they really are involved in this, "Is there anything in it that would make us hold it up?" They said: "No. Proceed with it. Let's deal with it. Let's debate it. Let's get it through." Then I looked at some of the others. This bill we have before us tonight, I thought we'd be finished with this this afternoon, no problem. Then on the supply bill I was saying, "Let's deal with that supply bill. We've got the time to do that," and a number of other bills that we had to deal with. I kept saying: "Why don't you bring these forward? You've said you need them."

The truck safety bill: My friend from Huron knows that everybody in the House is for the truck safety bill. That's going to be coming back on Thursday. That's in committee now. But I said, "Why not bring that in and we will proceed with that right away," because we know over the long weekend there could be some accidents take place and I would feel a pang of conscience if I knew someone was unnecessarily injured because this bill had not passed this House.

But when we got into this discussion it was quite apparent that the government House leader wanted not only our wallets but our bank accounts as well. Oh, he's over on this side of the House now, fine fellow that he is. I get the feeling, however, like with Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen, that when I see his lips moving, Mike Harris is talking. I get that feeling because I know what a reasonable man he is, I know how fair he is to deal with. I see a situation where, unfortunately, instead of dealing with the government legislation that's important, the Premier's advisers, Guy Giorno, Tom Long and the others --


Mr Bradley: Perhaps the member for Huron could tell me more names -- want these rule changes through to grease the skids for the radical revolution. So the parliamentary assistant, my friend the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, is compelled to sit at some length now by herself, previously being advised by the member for Nepean. I thought she could do this herself. I want to tell you, Isabel, if I may be personal for a moment, I think you are able to handle this all by yourself. You don't need the advice of a 28-year-old YPC, a man eager to move into cabinet; you can do this on your own. I have full confidence in you. You were at one time the deputy House leader before they made Norm Sterling the deputy House leader. We all know his strong commitment to the legislative process -- I read it into the record the other day -- when he said the only way he could make the government listen was by having some tools to be able to listen.


I have a note that says perhaps my time could be used more productively at this moment in certain discussions with House leaders. I always enjoy my discussions with the other House leaders. They are so productive, they are so cordial, they are so helpful, and so -- I know this will break the hearts of many in the House, and there is sadness all around -- I am going to have to relinquish the floor very soon. I said that just as the member for Welland-Thorold walked in after his short oration.

I hope that my friend the parliamentary assistant has taken in all the discussion that has been taking place this afternoon and this evening and that she will as a result share with her caucus colleagues, and most importantly with members of the cabinet when she speaks to them, the wisdom that she has heard from this side of the House, so that she can effect the kind of conversion we require to enable us to make Ontario a better place.

I note to my colleagues in the Liberal caucus, some of whom might wish to speak, that I am going to proceed to a matter of discussion with my good friend the member from East York, the government House leader, Management Board Chair and reincarnation of a former member from eastern Ontario, whom you will recall, Mr Chairman, who gave the same kind of answers so that you never knew what they really were.

Mr Wildman: James Auld.

Mr Bradley: James Auld himself, and it's a compliment to say that -- and with my good friend Bud Wildman. I won't give his real name because he's known as Bud Wildman, the member for Algoma.

I thank the parliamentary assistant for being so very attentive, as she has been, and you, Mr Chairman, for being so tolerant of a little bit of additional debate beyond what might be contained in this bill.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): In the few minutes that I have I want to make some connections for the government, who don't seem to be making them for either myself or the folks out there who I suggest, from the conversations I've had with people over the last two years, are quite concerned about this tax break. They know that nothing is ever neutral, nothing ever stands on its own, that when you give something, something is taken away, and when something is taken away, oftentimes something is given.

In this instance, the giving of what seems to be a gift by way of the tax break, as so many others have said, is so much more for the rich and so much less for the poor. Folks out there who live in the real world know that means that something has been taken away, that there is a reduction in services and that the cut in the government budget of some $6 billion is a direct hit at communities, people and families in communities. There's a correlation between the tax break and the cuts in services and a fraying at the edges of a system that we have all worked very hard over a number of years to put in place.

In order to present my thoughts in a more concise and organized fashion, I'm going to share with you a letter to the editor that appeared in the Sault Star some time ago, about another instance where a tax break was attempted with the very same rationale and underpinnings that this government is presenting to the people of Ontario, that in fact a tax break would stimulate the economy so that there would be more work for people and everybody in the end would be better off.

I know that the members across the way who have some sincere interest in this will want to pay attention and hear what this gentleman has to say about the jurisdiction of New Jersey. This letter is written by a constituent of mine by the name of David Craig and it was sent in, as I said, some months ago.

"It's interesting and revealing to learn that the Mike Harris government's Common Sense Revolution, complete with its 30% cut in provincial personal income tax phased in over three years, was actually patterned on the successful 1993 election campaign of Christine Whitman, the present Republican governor of New Jersey." Interesting.

Mr Kormos: Ah, we shed some light.

Mr Martin: We shed some light.

"An analysis of the New Jersey experience written by William Walker" -- one of our own scribes -- "appeared as a three-part series in the Toronto Star," a year and a half ago, I think it was, something like that.

"The author points out that in March 1994 Harris" -- that's our Premier -- "went to New Jersey to meet Governor Whitman and to seek additional advice. Two months later the Conservative program was presented to Ontarians at a news conference.

"The appeal to `common sense,' which had figured so prominently in the Whitman election campaign, became the Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris.

"Now that Governor Whitman is three years into her mandate, would it not be instructive to see how they are faring in New Jersey?"

This is the part everybody should pay attention to because I think it's important. I don't think anybody in this House who takes their job responsibly would want to lead this province down a road that was not good for everybody who works and lives and pays taxes here. I don't think that's true. I don't for a second think that even the members of the government would lead us down that path if they thought that's where we were going.

But the unfortunate part about all of this is we haven't been presented with anything in this House, either past or present, that indicates to us that this government knows where it's going or what it wants to achieve, or how it's going to get there. Nor is there an impact study to indicate to us that some particular thing is going to happen, nor have they been able to point to anywhere where this program has been successful. I suggest that you listen to the rest of this letter because it's quite telling.

"According to Walker, in order to pay for the tax cut Whitman has had to lay off thousands of civil servants, cut many health and social service programs, slash funding to municipalities and school boards, privatize many government services, and siphon more than a billion dollars from the state pension fund." Is this beginning to sound somewhat familiar?

"To offset reduced state funding, municipalities have had to institute all sorts of user fees" -- I think that was something the member for Welland-Thorold talked about quite extensively in his short speech here this afternoon, user fees, taxes -- "such as for garbage collection, and increase property taxes dramatically.

"As for the 30% tax cut, a study by the non-partisan state Legislature's research arm showed that less than 17% of New Jersey taxpayers -- its high-income earners -- would receive more than half the cash value of the tax savings from the Whitman cuts, so their cuts were reduced somewhat."

So when the opposition stands up in all their pomp and circumstance and suggests -- when we make the case that most of the money that's going to be given back to people will in fact be given to the rich, and less of it will be given to those who really need it, the working class and the poor, the situation in New Jersey is pointing to that reality, that this is what happens.

"Her whole idea was to put more money into the hands of taxpayers so they would spend it locally and create jobs." That's a noble aspiration, I would suggest, if it works. "Not necessarily so. One commentator points out that wealthy New Jerseyans who have received sizeable tax relief" -- and I think I was told, if I have the numbers here someplace, that in fact people making $250,000 or more, they get what back by way of a tax break?

Mr Kormos: Fifteen thousand and seventy-five bucks.


Mr Martin: Yes, and people making under $25,000, what do they make?

Mr Kormos: A buck a day.

Mr Martin: They make about a buck a day, and it's that dramatic. It is truly that dramatic, Speaker and friends across the way.

"One commentator points out that wealthy New Jerseyans who have received sizeable tax relief haven't spent the money where it would create jobs." Listen to this. "They buy AT&T stock with it, then AT&T lays off 7,000 people and the stock goes up and they make even more money."

Mr Kormos: A pretty sick cycle.

Mr Martin: A pretty sick cycle all right.

"Whitman predicted the tax cut would create 450,000 jobs over four years." Does that number sound familiar to anybody? Have we heard that number before somewhere, 450,000 jobs over four years? "But through three quarters of Whitman's mandate only 115,000, mostly low-wage, service sector jobs have been created."

The members across the way are so apt and so ready to say at the drop of a hat, "How do you create jobs?" We know how they create jobs. They create jobs by giving money to McDonald's so that they can hire more people to flip hamburgers and serve people at the front counter.

"To me," the letter goes on to say, "deep cuts in government spending to reduce the deficit are understandable, but even deeper cuts in order to satisfy an election promise of a 30% tax cut are not understandable.

"Money left in the hands of poor people or used for social services will be spent locally for food, shelter, dental work, bus passes and the like."

We know the story. Money that's given to people who are working class or poor, dependent on social services, is flow-through. It very seldom stays in the pocket of the person receiving it for any more than a day. It's spent almost immediately.

I remember one time in Sault Ste Marie somebody explaining this to me as the same as in the wintertime in the north when you run out of gas and you want to start the car up right away, you put a little gas in the tank but you save a little bit for the carburetor. Giving money to the poor is a little bit like putting gasoline in the carburetor. It fires immediately. It has an immediate effect on the economy and it generates the kind of activity that creates the real jobs that we all want for our family members and friends and neighbours, not the kind of McDonald's jobs that the folks across the way are so ready to provide for all of us, if they can get away with it.

Mr Wettlaufer: -- they just keep the gasoline in the carburetor.

Mr Martin: The tank is full too. If you have a government that's taking its leadership responsibility seriously, you'll have gas in the tank as well as gas in the carburetor and communities will work.

Mr Wettlaufer: And your government really did a good job of that, didn't they?

Mr Martin: Yes, they did. You come to Sault Ste Marie some time and talk to me about Algoma Steel and St Marys Paper and the ACR and how well that community was doing after our government was giving some leadership and showing some responsibility. You're damn right it is. If there was a government in this place with the intestinal fortitude to give that kind of leadership and to take that kind of responsibility, we wouldn't have the number of people out of work in this province that we have now. We wouldn't have children going poor. We wouldn't be labelled by the United Nations as the country that is probably the richest in the world and yet has the worst case of child poverty anywhere that can be pointed to or looked at.

What we're asking for here is not a government like in New Jersey. What we're asking for here is a government like the governments we've had in Ontario over the years, no matter what stripe, who cared about people, who did things rationally, who allowed things to evolve in a way that included people and didn't make the rash and very volatile changes that this government is doing that have such a devastating effect, particularly on those who are most vulnerable, on those who are at the edges and those who are in need of assistance from those of us who find ourselves in a more fortunate position.

Anyway, let me go on with the letter here so that we can finish this up:

"That same money, handed to people who already have enough, will likely be spent on things like foreign travel, buying into an international mutual fund or investing in the money market. How would that create jobs?" How would that create jobs, I ask you. "Would it not just widen the gap between the rich and the poor?"

Mr Kormos: You've got it. That's what's happening in Ontario now.

Mr Martin: The gap is widening. With every day we sit here, with every day we allow this government to continue down its path of recklessness towards the people of this province, towards the community of this province, the gap between the rich and the poor widens and we become, all of us, collectively poorer for it.

Mr Kormos: While the middle class disappears.

Mr Wettlaufer: Well, you almost destroyed the middle class.

Mr Martin: I seem to be touching a nerve in the government members here. It's funny how when you tell the truth and it touches a nerve, we get that kind of response always here.

Mr Kormos: You've got the porkers squealing.

Mr Martin: We've got the porkers squealing. We're touching a nerve and they're responding.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The north is telling it as it is.

Mr Martin: That's right. And as David Craig from Sault Ste Marie goes on, to finish off his letter, he says: "While I agree with the Tories' aims of putting the province's financing in order and creating 750,000 jobs" --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Why are they giving a tax cut, then?

The Chair: The member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Martin: Listen to this. He says, "I think they should scrap the planned tax cut," which is what we're talking about here. That's what this bill is about, is continuing down this path of devastation and destruction for the working class, for the ordinary folks of Ontario. This gentleman here, who speaks from experience, who knows what he talks about --

Mr Kormos: Tell us about Algoma.

The Chair: The member for Welland-Thorold, you don't have the floor. He has the floor.

Mr Kormos: Tell us about Algoma.

The Chair: Please.

Mr Martin: I'll tell you about Algoma here in just a second.

The Chair: The member for Sault Ste Marie has the floor.

Mr Martin: That's right, but I don't mind having a little conversation here with my colleagues.

The Chair: Well, I do mind.

Mr Martin: I think it's healthy and in good form. Anyway, as I was saying: "I think they should scrap the planned tax cut. Then they could ease up on the severity of their attack on health care, education, the poor, the unemployed and the vulnerable." I couldn't agree with him more.

The other thing that disappoints me with what the government is doing and this bill and the continual devastation that any of us who are paying attention, who are living in the real world and are beginning to recognize more and more the frayed edges of our society, is that they're not coming across with any information that indicates to us that they know what they're doing or that, if this thing turns out somewhere down the line to be counterproductive, they have a plan to recoup and recover. We're all heading like lemmings to the edge of the cliff and they don't give a damn if we all go over. They're not going to put up a fence halfway through to save at least half of us. We're all going over.

To suggest that for some reason or other that kind of information is not available or people can't do it is just not going to cut it either. I'm sure the bureaucrats sitting in front of the parliamentary assistant will agree that it's not that difficult to take those numbers and play with them and crunch them around a bit and to come up with the impact that this kind of program will have on the lives of communities, on the lives of families, on the lives of people in this province.

As a matter of fact, we did a bit of a study back when the expenditure cuts were announced in Sault Ste Marie. We had an outfit called Econometric Research Ltd come in and do a study for the labour council so that we might have some sense of what's going on here and might be able to respond in some positive, constructive and creative way. We know, those of us who do economic community development, that all of this is tied together, and we need to know, if we're going to forge a community together for everybody, just what impact decisions by organizations as big as government are going to have on us so that we can put some mitigating plan in place and respond to the devastation that may occur.

That's where, for example, the whole Algoma Steel thing came in. In the early 1990s, we discovered that Algoma Steel was in difficulty. Dofasco, who owned it at the time, decided that it was going to walk away and let it sink or swim on its own. We knew that without the support of the parent, this very fragile company in the middle of a system laid on us by Mulroney of a dollar that was too high, interest rates that were out of the park, was going to have some difficulty.

Dofasco's plan, in partnership with the federal government and some others in leadership at the time, was just to let Algoma die, we found out later, because they thought that there was no room in Ontario for three major steelmakers, that there was only room for two and that Algoma was going to go the natural way and pretty soon be out of the way.

The Steelworkers in Sault Ste Marie decided differently. On behalf of their members they sat down and came up with a plan that called for the government of the day, which happened to be, thank God, the NDP government led by one Bob Rae and some others of the colleagues who are still here today -- together the people of Sault Ste Marie, the workers at the steel plant, management at Algoma Steel, the financial institutions, we all got together and came up with a plan that not only saved the jobs that were there at Algoma Steel in those very difficult days, but in such a way that allowed Algoma Steel to today be making the kind of profit -- it wouldn't happen under this government.


There's no leadership being given here, no responsibility whatsoever being taken for anything. The only answer they have to the economic challenges we face today is this silly, very narrow tax cut that they think will somehow stimulate the kind of job creation that saving Algoma Steel did. At Algoma Steel we not only saved jobs, but we are now investing in Sault Ste Marie a $4.5-billion investment in a new steel-making complex that will set us up to be players in the steel industry and market into the next century. That's leadership.

If these guys were in power when that was happening and the only answer they had was this silly tax cut, where would we be? Where would Algoma be? Where would Sault Ste Marie be today? I can tell you where it would be. It certainly wouldn't be in the shape it is in now, even though now, after we got Algoma on its feet, after we got St Marys Paper on its feet, after we got the ACR on its feet, boom, the Conservative government of Mike Harris comes in and rips literally thousands of jobs, by the time they're finished it will be close to 2,000 jobs, down in Sault Ste Marie in the public sector.

On one hand a government comes in, and in partnership with the community and the private sector and the workers and the financial institutions saves our bacon, saves that which the economy of that community is built on, and then a few months later the next government comes in and, boom, rips 2,000 jobs; 2,000 of some of the best jobs by way of the kind of work that was being done, the kind of services that were being offered to people, the kind of commitment by those workers to our community, not only in the jobs that they had done but after they're finished work and on the weekends.

They're even thinking now, if you can imagine this, of privatizing the lottery corporation. The Liberal government of the late 1980s decided to bring the lottery corporation to Sault Ste Marie because they, as a government, recognized the contribution that kind of move would make to Sault Ste Marie. Certainly when we became government in the 1990s we made sure that deal was consummated so it was actually going to stay there and prosper there.

All of a sudden we have this government now coming in and in their mad rush to privatize everything that walks and makes money --

Mr Wettlaufer: Really? Privatizing?

Mr Martin: -- we're going to lose the first real example of diversification to the economy of Sault Ste Marie in literally years, and with it about 600 to 700 jobs --

Mr Wettlaufer: Diversification?

The Chair: Member for Kitchener, order. Take your seat, please. There's too much noise, too many interjections. The member for Kitchener, I ask you. Member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: Speaker, I suggest to you that I must be touching a nerve here. It's funny. Whenever we get up on this side of the House and we begin to tell the truth and to tell it like it is, the place starts to squeal.

Anyway, I was just saying that a government that has a tax break as its only economic development strategy, as its only stimulus for the economy, is bereft, is bankrupt of ideas. They should be seriously thinking about whether they can continue to lead this province. I wouldn't want to suggest this too loudly here, but instead of going home for the summer and having a vacation, they might want to think about perhaps calling an election. Let's have it, right now. Call a snap election. We're ready. We'll go.

The people of this province will be ready to tell you exactly what I'm telling you here tonight, that your program is not working and that a tax break is not good enough and that what's going to happen in Ontario has already been forecast by what's happening in places like New Jersey. Is that what you want for Ontario? Is that where you want to take us? Is that where you're leading us? Is that what we're to tell the people we represent when we go back home, whenever we get out of here this weekend?

Is that what we're to tell them, that the $6-billion cut in government spending, which is driven by this tax break, is going to reduce the employment? This is really important here. The $6-billion cut in government expenditure that this government is going to impose because of their need to give a tax break is going to create -- listen to this -- 233,235 fewer jobs in Ontario.

I could share other figures with you but I don't think I need to. The question of employment has been the central question of the opposition over the last six months. I know Mr Phillips has raised it on a number of occasions. Where are the jobs? Show us the jobs, the 750,000 you said you were going to create, the 450,000 that Christine Todd Whitman said she was going to create. Where are they? Where are these jobs?


Mr Martin: No, they're not creating jobs. What you're creating --


The Chair: Order, the member for York Mills, the member for Kitchener, the member for Peterborough, the member for Kingston and The Islands. Order.

Mr Martin: All this government is creating is unemployment and devastation for people out there. If it hasn't hit you yet, if it hasn't touched you yet, if you haven't been affected by this yet, just wait, because it's coming. It's coming to your town soon. It's coming to your neighbourhood soon. It's coming to your street. Somebody in your family, somebody you know is going to lose their job, somebody who probably has spent the last 20 or 30 years being the best they can be, whether it's in teaching or in social work or in health care, delivering services, programs, caring for people, educating people.

They're being told, simply because this government wants to deliver on a promise to cut taxes, that they're no longer needed any more, that they need to have a look around and see what else they could do. After years of investing in their career, investing in being the best they could be as teachers or social workers or health care workers or whatever, they're told that they should be out there now looking to the new economy for these jobs that the folks across the way say they're going to create.

They keep asking us, "How do you create a job?" If it's to give McDonald's a tax break so they can hire more teachers to flip burgers, or to give it to Burger King so they can hire more people to cook french fries, that's not on. It's not what we're about. It's not what we're going to support. I suggest to you that every ounce of energy we have will go into fighting this and to making sure that what you're doing becomes known to as many people as possible. Let me tell you: The people out there already know. They're already on to you.

Over the summer, as you look at the polling that I know you're doing every day and every week now, you'll begin to understand and to realize that you're not getting away with it. You can only pull the wool over the eyes of the people for so long. You can only hurt so many people until eventually it comes home to roost, until eventually you've hurt everybody in some direct or indirect way.


A year ago in Sault Ste Marie we did a survey, sent out a package of information across the community; 3,300 residents replied. Do you know what they said? The overall message: The majority would rather the provincial government hold back its promised tax cut and maintain services. People are really anxious, fearful of the impact and opposed to the cuts. That's what they said. Of the total of 3,280 who returned the cards we sent out, 3,245, all of whom signed their names, were opposed to Premier Mike Harris and his cuts.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): Who said that?

Mr Martin: The people of Sault Ste Marie, the good people of Sault Ste Marie, the working people of Sault Ste Marie said that. Only 35 of those 3,300 people supported the government's actions, and some of those reactions, I have to tell you, were very angry because I was sending this out in the first place, probably card-carrying Conservatives or Reformers.

I just want to wrap up my few moments this evening by reading to you a couple of notes from some of my constituents, just so you know what they're thinking about your program and what it is you're doing to them, and to let you know you're not getting away with it, that they know what you're doing and they're going to fight back.

This is from E. LaForge. It says:

"Mike Harris, our country did not get like this overnight. So you won't be able to fix it overnight. Quit making the people suffer. I know you're not suffering. These cuts don't affect you. You, Mike Harris, try and live on $900 a month with three kids and see if you could do it. If there was a way to get you out of government, I'd vote for it, because I didn't vote you in."

Here's another one from an Armand Mei, and it goes like this:

"I'm afraid it is too late to tell Mike Harris anything. I did not vote for him, and I think the time will come when we go to the polls again." He's right. It's not too long off. We're two years in now. I expect another year or so and you guys will be real anxious to get out there and meet the people again and find out if they like what you're doing. We'll be ready. "I'm wondering why we are not building a four-lane highway across Ontario. We can take people off of welfare and unemployment insurance and they will also pay income tax."

What a novel idea: Put people to work building roads and they'll pay taxes and the ledger won't look as bad as it does now. But, no, you'd rather kick them in the rump.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Wait a minute. Who said that?

Mr Martin: That's what the people are telling me. I've got a whole whack of letters here I could read for you this evening, but I won't, because I know there are people in the Liberal caucus and in my own caucus who want to put thoughts on the record, the same as me, who are genuinely concerned about this tax break and what it's going to impose on the people of Ontario. I want them to do that.

My question, after all that, to the parliamentary assistant, if she gets a chance to respond some time this evening: Where are the impact studies? If you're so bound and determined to move ahead with this income tax cut, as I feel you are, what is it you've got that will tell you when this becomes counterproductive, when there are more people losing their jobs than are getting jobs and when more of us are being led over that cliff than you think is healthy for the economy of this province? Show me where those studies are.

I have some. I can share them with you any time you want, and there are other studies, I'm sure, around this province that will say very much the same thing. I have a study I was looking at earlier that was done in the home town of your Premier, Mike Harris. It was done by a firm led by a Mr McCracken, who says a lot of the same things that --

Mrs Marland: Will you speak through the Chair.

Mr Martin: No, to you. I want you to hear this. The Chair knows this; the Chair is from among us. I want you to hear this, because you obviously don't understand it, or if you do understand it, you're not letting it affect what you're doing and the kind of thing you're doing within your own caucus.

This government is driving government cutbacks, and government cutbacks are not in the best interests of communities. Until you get that through your knucklebox and begin to react in a way that reflects an understanding of that reality, we're all going to be hurt. Our communities are going to be hurt, our families are going to be hurt and people are going to be hurt.

Where are the studies? Where are the impact studies? What can you give us that will make us a little less anxious and a little more comfortable that you really know what you're doing? Where is it anywhere that you've actually gone back to New Jersey? I know Mr Harris went to New Jersey in 1994. Has he been back lately? Has he talked to Christine Todd Whitman? Has he gone back to walk around the inner core of some of the cities in that wonderful state to see exactly what's going on because of the imposed tax break? Has he been there? Does he know that? Does he understand? Does he understand that's where he's leading this wonderful province?

Organizations as reputable as the United Nations are saying about Ontario that on the one hand we're a rich province -- the financiers are happy with us; we got our debt and deficit in a shape that makes them happy -- but on the other hand, we're being told by those organizations that we have unprecedented child poverty, that the way we deal with our native people is unconscionable, that our environmental regulations and standards are now questionable.

You need to pay attention to that, because those are indicators that are very important and probably affect the lives of those of us who actually work and live in communities on a year-round basis, more so than the very rich you're proposing to help out with this tax break, who probably spend six or nine months --

Mrs Marland: Most of us live in communities all year round.

Mr Martin: No, you probably spend six or nine months in the province and the rest of the time you're out of the country somewhere, like your Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. When's he been back in Ontario lately? When has he gone up to Sault Ste Marie or to Welland-Thorold or to Niagara Falls and to Sudbury --

Mr Bartolucci: He's got to go to Hull.

Mr Martin: That's right. He's got to go to Hull. He doesn't even know where some of the tourist attractions in the province are, for God's sake. He puts out a document on tourism that doesn't include any of the tourist outfitters up in northwestern Ontario, for goodness' sake. This guy is a typical example, though, of the attitude that's coming at us from across the way. They don't spend enough time in the province.

Mr Bartolucci: What about the Minister of Northern Development and Mines? You've got to talk about this guy.

Mr Martin: I don't even know if he has a ministry any more or not. I don't know what they do. Does anybody know what they do?

The Chair: The member for Sault Ste Marie, address the Chair.

Mr Martin: Do you know what they do, Speaker?

The Chair: Please address the Chair. Just address the Chair.

Mr Martin: Okay, Speaker, to you: The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines it used to be, brought in by Bill Davis and the Tories -- I remember John Lane, the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, was a champion of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. They brought it in and it was to be the lead ministry in northern Ontario, the ministry to pull that vast geographic area together and put in place an economic development plan that would see us more included in the economic life of this province.

What's happening to it today? Where is the minister? Does he know anything about it?

Mr Bartolucci: It's too far from Toronto.

Mr Martin: Too far from Toronto, yes. Maybe he's gone to Japan with the Minister of Economic Development and Trade to meet with some folks who are going to tell him something about northern Ontario, I don't know.

I would suggest to the members of the governing party that you spend a little more time at home in your ridings, spend a little more time talking to people in your neighbourhood, people in your family. Ask them how many people they know who have been affected either directly or indirectly by the program you're introducing, by the spinoff of this tax break you've already introduced and now want to make worse as time goes on. See if they know any more than we do re your plan, re the impact studies you've done or not done, and what it is you have in store for us next.

Thank you very much, Chair. I've appreciated the time. I've appreciated the attention of the members in the government caucus and of course my colleagues.


The Chair: The Chair recognizes the member for Mississauga South.

Interjection: I thought you didn't want to prolong this.

Mrs Marland: With all respect, I'm not interested in prolonging this debate, but I am interested in putting some facts on the record. It's too much to sit and listen to one diatribe after another of their point of view without putting on the record some of the corrections that are necessary to be made in this debate.

It's fine to accept that there's a different opinion on that side of the House from this side of the House, just as there is a different philosophical goal for the future of this province and how we get there. It's a bit like a basic Economics 101 lesson. We could stand here for the next four years and try to explain something that everybody else in Ontario understands except my colleagues across the floor. If you do not take money from the people --


Mrs Marland: Do I have to be subjected to the interjections, Mr Chair?

Mr Martin: How about your interjections the whole time I was speaking?

The Chair: Order. The member for Sault Ste Marie, you had the floor. The member for Mississauga South has the floor now.

Mrs Marland: We have talked over and over again about how it works when you do not take additional tax money from the people in this province who pay personal income tax and how, if we take a lower percentage, a lower rate of income --


Ms Lankin: Mr Spina, stand up and withdraw.

Mr Gerretsen: You should withdraw. Come on, Joe. Withdraw it.

The Chair: Order. If there was a remark made by you, sir, I haven't heard it. If there's any reason for him to apologize -- have you said anything which was contrary to the regulations of the House?

Mr Spina: If it's something that offended someone, I withdraw it.

The Chair: But you're not in your seat. If you take your seat, I will listen to you. I will take the time for you to go and take your seat. Have you made any comments which need to be withdrawn?

Mr Spina: I withdraw the comment, Speaker.

Mrs Marland: We're discussing a basic lesson in economics here. We're talking about the fact that, if you reduce the level of taxation to the people of this province through their personal income tax level, they will not have to submit as much money to the government. When that happens, obviously more people have more money to spend.

Mr Martin: Talk to the people in New Jersey about that.

The Chair: The member for Sault Ste Marie, you had three quarters of an hour to talk. Now it's the member for --

Mr Martin: If you can't take it, don't dish it out.

The Chair: Order. I don't have to repeat it again. The member for Sault Ste Marie, I don't want to warn you again.

Mrs Marland: I'll try to explain this basic lesson in economics. If people do not have to submit as much money to the government, it means they retain more of their earned income. The majority of people -- not all people, but the majority -- if they have more disposable income will spend it. As soon as they spend that money, whether it be on manufactured goods or services --


The Chair: The member for Welland-Thorold, I don't want to warn you again.

Mrs Marland: The people who are providing those services or manufacturing those goods or selling those goods are employed, and the more people who are working because more people are purchasing those services or those goods or commodities -- it means that for each of those additional people who are working, they too are paying their share of income tax. It's not difficult to understand that the more people who have jobs, the --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): So why are you punishing the poor?

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Cochrane North.

Mrs Marland: The overall revenues to the province are increased by more people working, and it's a very basic formula as to why there are more jobs created when people have more disposable income.

The fact that the opposition choose not to understand it -- I don't believe they really don't understand it, but they choose not to agree with it, not to understand it. The point is that they never chose to implement that kind of policy, which would have helped this province in the last number of years.

It's really interesting when people on the other side talk about children in poverty, and both parties have done that tonight, and suggest we're not doing anything about it. It's particularly significant because the Premier of this province, who promised he would implement a breakfast program for hungry children --

Mr Kormos: Suggesting it? We have outright stated it. Tell us about the family support plan.

Mr Len Wood: Tell us about Ipperwash.

The Chair: The member for Welland-Thorold and the member for Cochrane North. You'll have an opportunity to speak, the member for Cochrane North, if you would just wait your turn. The member for Welland-Thorold, I have warned you.

Mrs Marland: Fortunately, the people who need help in this province are now getting help they never had before. When we talk about who is needy, who has difficulty in this province, the argument is that all our policies are adversely affecting these people. My friend the member for Sault Ste Marie stands there and reads letters from people who complained about what policies of the government have affected their lives.

I didn't come tonight with a raft of letters, but I have them from families who were in crisis before, single-parent families who were not working, were on welfare and in fact chose to come to this province because the welfare rates were higher. The change in our policies has finally made them accept the fact --

Mr Kormos: You had suicides because of your welfare cuts. That's what you had.

Mrs Marland: Those families now are working. I have the letters from the young mothers who now are out working, and they are thrilled to be working. They are proud to come home from work and have the kind of normal life that the single mom next door who has worked all along has had. They feel very strongly about the fact that they've been given the opportunity, through some of our Ontario Works programs across this province, to upgrade their skills, and the role models they in turn have become for their young children is one of the most valuable aspects of this policy of this government. It can never be underestimated how important that role model is: a role model of a parent who has self-esteem and pride because they are going out to work and they are not living on the money that other people who work and pay income tax provide.


When we look at the commitment that our Premier has made to helping children with problems, I mention again the breakfast program. We have 350 of these programs in the province today. Something like 35,000 children are now being given breakfast who were never given breakfast in the last 10 years by either of those governments. Neither of the two previous governments ever solved the poverty problems of those families and those children. They did not do anything to help those families in crisis.

Ms Lankin: They didn't have welfare rates cut by that government either. It didn't cut incomes and put children into poverty.

The Chair: Order.

Mrs Marland: I don't really think I need to shout over someone who doesn't have the floor, Mr Chair.

It was really very interesting when the member for Sault Ste Marie started to say these people -- "we live in communities on a year-round basis," he said a few minutes ago. I don't think any of us really understood what he meant by that. At that point he was in the middle of criticizing my colleague the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. He said: "This minister is never in Ontario. He's never been to northern Ontario." I'm sure if I were to come in this House tomorrow and bring the itinerary of Mr Saunderson, the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, you would be amazed to find just exactly how many communities in Ontario he has been in in the last two years and how many plants, businesses and industries he's opened in Ontario, particularly in the last six or eight months.

We actually had a very interesting experience in Mississauga last Thursday morning when our Premier opened a third addition to the Glaxo Wellcome plant in north Mississauga. What I found particularly interesting at this opening -- apart from the fact that it was very exciting to see this new R&D addition plus their wonderful, unique way of storing their product in a sterile, automated warehouse -- one of the most interesting things was that the Liberal member of the federal government from Brampton, Colleen Beaumier, was there speaking on behalf of the federal government. She was congratulating Glaxo Wellcome, of course, and she was saying that all this is happening because of -- guess what? -- NAFTA.

Here was a Liberal member of the federal government speaking in favour of the expansion of this international company, Glaxo Wellcome, and all the benefits of NAFTA. I thought, "Isn't it interesting?" Because when the Liberals were in opposition in the federal House all they ever did was criticize NAFTA and now that it's working --

The Chair: The member for Mississauga South, we're dealing with section 1 of Bill 129 and you're completely off the topic, completely off.

Mrs Marland: I'm responding to the fact that the previous speaker was allowed to speak on why the minister --

The Chair: The debate is on section 1. I think you understand that.

Mrs Marland: When the member for Sault Ste Marie was talking about the minister --

The Chair: No, no. I'm not dealing with the member for Sault Ste Marie; I'm dealing with you.

Mrs Marland: All right. I just hope you give me the same rules under which he was allowed to speak.

I will come back to section 1. I simply say that when the member for Sault Ste Marie was criticizing what our government has done, he talked about the lack of commitment by our Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. That minister, through his policies and his commitment to improve employment through the creation of jobs in this province -- and everything that he has done overseas has been to increase the number of jobs on the home market. Whether he's in Japan or Europe or Latin America, he is over there selling Ontario.

Mr Len Wood: He was out of Ontario. He was nowhere to be seen. You should be ashamed of yourself. You're trying to protect him.

The Chair: The member for Mississauga South, take your seat, please. The member for Cochrane North --

Mr Len Wood: Well, she agitates me something terrible, Mr Chair.

The Chair: No, no. Please. The member for Mississauga South.

Mrs Marland: I'm sorry I agitate my colleague across the floor, the member for Cochrane North, to use his own words, "something terrible." I'm sorry that I agitate you something terrible. If it's so bad, you could adjourn to your lobby and turn the television off and then you wouldn't have to be subjected to this. I'm simply putting on the record --

The Chair: Section 1 of Bill 129.

Mrs Marland: Thank you. I'm speaking to section 1 of Bill 129.

The Chair: No, you're not at the moment.

Mrs Marland: I will say that the reason we are able to make the tax cuts work in this province is because this minister, along with the other members of our current cabinet, has worked very hard in implementing policies in this province that do create jobs, that do now show a benefit in our economy. Why do we think that our economy is finally recovering? Why do we think we have had an increase of 1,000 jobs per day for the last three months? Not government jobs, I would say very quickly, but government-created jobs, jobs created by the policies of this government. The way government should create jobs is through its policies, not by spending taxpayers' money to create work that simply is paid for by government.

Frankly, I'm just so grateful we're finally on the road to recovery, that our economy is finally showing a turnaround.

Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I am concerned that the member for Mississauga South is attempting to speak to section 1 of the bill but that a number of her colleagues aren't here to listen. Would you check and see if there's a quorum?

The Chair: Would you please verify if we have quorum.

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): A quorum is not present, Chair.

The Chair ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Chair.

The Chair: The member for Mississauga South.

Mrs Marland: In debating section 1 of Bill 129 tonight we've had some interesting debate. We even had the member for Sault Ste Marie holding up overheads. I've seen people read letters, I've seen people read the bill at times and I've seen people read previous Hansards, but this is the first time in my 12 years I've ever seen anybody stand up and read overheads.

Mr Gerretsen: So what?


Mrs Marland: It's interesting, because if this section of this bill is so important, as I believe it is, I think it warrants debate where the preparation has been a sincere commitment to making sure that the facts are before the public.

In this bill, and particularly in this section, when we're talking about the financial policies of our government and why they're working, I really believe that while we're doing that we have to accept one thing, that the opposition will never agree with what we're doing, because frankly what we're doing is so exciting because it's working.

For the first time in a whole decade, which is 10 years, we now have a job-growth situation in this province, we now have an economy that is recovering.

Ms Lankin: It is not true. The first time in 10 years? Get your facts straight. Take a look at 1994.

Mrs Marland: You know, Frances, if you speak next, I'm going to get up and --

The Chair: Member for Mississauga South, address the Chair. Just ignore the interjections.

Mrs Marland: But it's hard to hear.

The Chair: Just address the Chair. That's all I'm asking you.

Mrs Marland: Okay. I'll ignore the interjections, and since we know interjections are out of order, I know you're going to remind them of that so I can concentrate.

The Chair: Just talk on section 1 of Bill 129. Don't worry about the rest.

Mrs Marland: It's very hard to concentrate with so many interjections.

I feel that the policy of our government that is very clearly laid out in this bill is one which, whether or not the opposition agrees with it today, will be proved to have been the right policy at the right time in the history of this province. It is very apparent to those of us who understand what the policy is about and what the bill in fact --

Mr Gerretsen: Why don't you start governing for all of the people, then?

The Chair: Member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mrs Marland: I really find that this kind of debate proves the futility of evening sittings. It's an absolute waste of time to have evening sittings. That's why I would suggest, with respect, Mr Chairman, that the revision of our standing orders, which hopefully we will get to eventually, will improve the level and quality of debate. Simply because this process right now is far too difficult and it's futile for me to continue, I'm going to relinquish the floor. Frankly, I have better things to do with my time.

The Chair: Further debate?

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's condescending and patronizing comments in this House that make it so frustrating sometimes. I understand what the previous speaker was saying about the financial policies of this province; I just don't agree with them, that's all.

When we speak of section 1 of Bill 129 and the tax implications, I am a little surprised that even the Premier agrees with them, because Mike Harris, when he was part of a Tory government, from 1981 to 1984, supported some 16 tax increases that amounted to $1.8 billion. In fact he supported the single largest increase in personal income tax in the history of this province. That's why we have trouble believing what the great Taxfighter has to say today.

In any event, I'd like to get to something specific when it comes to the tax cut. Personal income tax for 1997-98, according to the budget, is going to be about $2 billion lower than for 1996-97. That's the tax cut. I think, then, there's a direct relationship to the reductions in spending. I want to take a very few minutes to address in particular the $177-million cut in community and social services. I appreciate very much that the minister is here this evening. In the few minutes I want to take I'm going to use an example.

In representing my constituents, I try not to bring some of the problems we have to the level of the Legislature because I think they can be solved outside the Legislature. But tonight I'd like the Minister of Community and Social Services to reflect for just a moment about the result of these tax cuts on Kimberly. I'm sure she knows who Kimberly is. Kimberly is a severely handicapped but cognitively bright girl. Since November 1995, I have brought this issue to the attention of the Minister of Community and Social Services. I've been working on this so long that quite frankly it's difficult for me to talk about it. The only reason I can think of that the minister hasn't reacted in a positive way is because of the cuts that have been caused by the tax cut.

I have here a memorandum that was sent to the Ministry of Community and Social Services in November 1995. It's endorsed by two ministry personnel, the administrator of the Southwestern Regional Centre as well as the area manager for the Ministry of Community and Social Services in Windsor. It says, "I've attached a submission for order in council on the abovementioned individual."

The sum total of this story about Kimberly is that a family that is trying to keep their child at home and care for this child can't afford it.

I'll read you the last sentence of this document that was sent to the ministry by these two ministry personnel. It says, "The total benefit would be $730 monthly, in addition to the $375 basic entitlement they are currently receiving from handicapped children's benefits."

I'm not going to speak much longer on this because, as I say --

Interjection: Hear, hear.

Mr Crozier: Somebody says, "Hear, hear." You don't like to hear this kind of thing, do you? The tax cut is going to benefit the better off in this province, but when somebody brings one single story to you that they've been working on for a year and a half, you really don't want to hear about it. I'm not going to prolong it. You don't have to listen very long, because nobody has listened to Kimberly's story up till now.

The only excuse they can give is, "There isn't enough money." Well, damn it, I don't care. If somebody goes into the hospital and they're diagnosed as having acute appendicitis, you take it out. They don't say, "The hospital doesn't have enough money." The doctor doesn't say, "I'm over my cap." They take it out because it's acute.

We have an acute situation here with a family, recommended by people in the ministry that it be handled in a special way, and all we get is an answer that essentially says, "We don't have enough money." It doesn't matter whether it's acute. "We just don't have enough money."

The letter simply ends up saying that if the family has any further questions, they can contact the administrator of the Southwestern Regional Centre. The Southwestern Regional Centre administrator recommended that this be a special case. I only bring it to your attention because you can reduce the taxes of not only the most wealthy but the middle class in Ontario, you can reduce the amount of funding the Ministry of Community and Social Services has because you have to pay for those reductions in taxes, and then you simply can say to those who have an acute need, "We don't have enough money." See the area manager and they'll tell you the same thing.

That's it. That's all I have to say. The cut in income taxes has caused a cut in services, and it has caused a cut in services to the point where even an acute case can't get help. I think that's sad.


The Chair: Further debate?

Ms Lankin: I would like to ask a number of questions of the parliamentary assistant with respect to section 1 of the act. If I could begin, I'm reflecting on some of the comments by the member for Mississauga South, which she called Basic Economics 101. I was actually quite shocked to hear some of the propositions she put forward with respect to how the economy is best stimulated.

I begin by asking the parliamentary assistant if she is familiar with the studies that the Ministry of Finance has with respect to what kinds of taxes are the most stimulative. In particular, I'm interested in whether those kinds of targeted tax cuts that return money to the pockets of taxpayers who are of lower income might be more stimulative than those which return large amounts of money to the more wealthy in our province. I wondered if you could tell me your familiarity with the tax-modelling systems the Ministry of Finance has with respect to that.

The Chair: Please go ahead.

Ms Lankin: Actually, I'm waiting for the response to that question, if that's okay.

The Chair: Just take your seat, and then I'll ask the member for St Andrew-St Patrick if she wishes to respond.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I was waiting for the member for Beaches-Woodbine to sit down before I stood up, since you have been keeping order so well, Mr Chair.

I'm really not that familiar with tax-modelling systems as part of the tax policy branch. I would not be as familiar as you, not having spent as many years as you have in government. However, it's certainly an interesting area to pursue, and following your question, I will pursue it.

Ms Lankin: I appreciate the frank answer from the parliamentary assistant. Let me suggest to you that in the time I spent as a member of treasury board and in discussions around the cabinet table when we looked at tax policy, I recall very well being informed by people within the tax policy branch of the Ministry of Treasury and Economics, as it was at that time, the Ministry of Finance now, that targeted tax cuts, those that provided money to those who perhaps would immediately spend it -- I'm talking about lower-income, middle-income people -- were of a more stimulative value than money that would go to higher-income people.

I guess the theory behind that is that you might see someone who is in a higher income bracket have sufficient disposable income now to buy most of the basic needs they have for themselves and their families, and perhaps many of the luxury items, and any additional moneys coming back to them may well go into investments or into purchase of luxury items that are not manufactured here in Canada, so that there's an awful lot of leakage -- the tax officials refer to that -- of that money; it doesn't come back immediately into the economy.

I wondered next if you could answer a question for me. The member from Muskoka, when he was in your seat for a short period of time, responded to a question. He gave some percentages with respect to your tax cut and the proportion of that tax cut that is going to people who are below $60,000 a year. I wondered if you could please repeat that. I didn't catch the exact percentage he alluded to and it would be helpful in terms of the next questions I have if you could provide me with that information.

Ms Bassett: First of all, in terms of the breakdown of the percentages of where the tax cuts are going, certainly every taxpayer is going to get a tax cut, every taxpayer with less than $60,000 of income will get a tax cut of 30% or greater. Taxpayers with low incomes get the largest percentage tax cut, but the top 10%, which so many members tonight have been referring to, will get an average tax cut of less than 30% due to the Fair Share health levy.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): What are the absolute dollars?

Mr Gerretsen: Could you give us some amounts?

Ms Bassett: We figure that you can work out, with your computer, the absolute dollars. The majority of the tax cuts go to the middle-income areas. That's where it's thrust. Only 0.5% of the population of tax earners are in the top percentage group.

Mr Gerretsen: How much of the money are they getting?

Ms Lankin: I'm sure that the parliamentary assistant will have a dollar value of the overall cost of the tax cuts to the government treasury. That must have been part of the research that would have been done that would have been presented to cabinet. I'm talking about this in its simplest form, may I say to the parliamentary assistant.

Absent what you're projecting may or may not happen in the economy, there is a certain cost per tax point, and I'd be interested in knowing what that top 5% that you're saying, which is getting the smallest amount of the tax cut, I wondered if you could tell me in absolute dollar terms how much is going to that highest income bracket.

Ms Bassett: I'll get that for you very shortly. If you want to go on with your next question, I'll just look it up. I want to get as close as possible.

Ms Lankin: I appreciate that. I think we get to the heart of the issue here. The parliamentary assistant has said that only 5% of the population make this very, very high income. But we know that the tax cut that is being provided is being provided across the board on what is a progressive tax, the personal income tax. We do know that even with your Fair Share health levy, those people at the highest incomes are going to be receiving considerably more money in terms of dollars.

I'd like you to move away from percentages for a moment because that inadvertently leads the public to a conclusion that I think would be an erroneous conclusion about what's actually occurring here. Talking about dollars, would you not agree with me that someone who is earning over $250,000, or even over $100,000 a year, is going to get back significantly more dollars in this tax cut than someone who is earning $35,000 or $40,000 a year?

Ms Bassett: In the progressive tax system, as the member for Beaches-Woodbine knows, the person who earns more naturally ends up paying a lot more. When we've been talking tonight -- and I haven't been jumping up to point out -- the percentage that various members have been throwing back, that those people who earn a great deal of money are going to benefit more in dollar value, if you earn a huge amount of money, even if you're getting a smaller percentage than somebody who earns a very little bit of money, comparatively speaking, the dollar value, as one of your members, I think from Algoma, pointed out, and that's true, will naturally be more.

I think that's something we're not arguing, but what nobody has mentioned is that high-earning people, after all that is said and done, pay huge income taxes. What we're talking about in the tax cut, it's just a slight bit off that amount. They're still paying huge amounts of taxes which people with little incomes are not, or relatively small, I should say.

Ms Lankin: Again, I appreciate the frankness of the parliamentary assistant because on many occasions in this House, when we have tried to get to that exact point, I've heard many of your ministers and others, and members who are talking to bills, respond and always talk about the percentage points and not admit the very clear fact that those people who are higher income, under your tax scheme, your tax cut, even with the Fair Share health levy, the change, are going to be getting back considerably more dollars than people of a moderate income or a low income.

You say that's natural because that's a progressive tax system, but surely you must realize then that your income tax cut is one of a regressive nature, because you are squeezing the taxation level.


Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): No, it's not, it's progressive with the fair share health.

Ms Lankin: Here we go. As soon as we have a debate about these points, you can see that the chorus starts.

My question to you is, if you acknowledge that those people, whether or not you think that's the right thing to do, pay more taxes so you think they should get more dollars back in the cut, if we have established that, the tax modelling indicates that the most stimulative kind of tax cut is that kind of a tax cut which puts more dollars in low- and moderate-income, working people's hands and not the wealthy.

How do you justify this as a stimulative value? Please don't listen to the member who has just sat down beside you because I can assure you his answer will be wrong. I'd much rather hear yours.

Ms Bassett: First of all, what I would have to say is when you say the tax modelling systems are more stimulative, that's what you say. As I admitted in the first question, I have not seen those. I will go and look into the tax modelling system. So on the basis of what you say, I can't comment because I don't know that those tax modelling systems are more stimulative or not.

In terms of the kind of progressive tax system that we have in place and the tax cuts that we feel are stimulative, that is a justifiable difference of opinion. Just as many economists would agree that tax cuts such as the ones we are introducing are stimulative to the economy as those who do not, and we can't solve that debate here, obviously. So that really answers --

Ms Lankin: I appreciate that the parliamentary assistant is going to get that information and table it and provide it to us, because I do think it is important, as we appear in the last stages of dealing with this bill, that we have that information.

I accept that you have not seen the tax modelling systems I'm referring to, and I assure you that they do exist and that they are there within your Ministry of Finance.

I would also say to you that I didn't suggest that there were people who would say a tax cut is not stimulative at all. I did not suggest that. I was talking about what is the most stimulative kind of tax cut.

But I think one of the things all economists would agree with is that accompanying a tax cut, and I would agree a tax cut is stimulative -- we can debate what's the best method of pursuing that; I'd rather see something on the sales tax side, but put that aside for a moment -- if we can agree that there is a stimulative value of a tax cut, what most economists would say is that if you have to pay for that, however, by borrowing money for a longer period of time, because you're not going to balance your budget as quickly as the previous budget plan that had been there would've balanced the budget, there's a tradeoff you pay in terms of the economy.

I was wondering, can you confirm for me that in fact the deficit will not be balanced, the budget will not be balanced as early as the original budget plan had been, that you've changed that, that you've extended it out for two years, and that we will be borrowing more money for another two years towards the deficit as a result of your overall economic policy?

Ms Bassett: I can say to the member for Beaches-Woodbine that I feel the deficit is going to be balanced. It'll be eliminated 2000-01. That's on target, as we predicted, and in terms of --

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): It will be ahead of time.

Ms Bassett: It could be ahead of time, although I think right now we're planning on 2000-01, if you look at what the finance minister said, and in terms of the borrowing down the road, we feel the economy is better because we're managing our debt. If you talk to the money people in the States, where we're borrowing money, we're making better deals all the time as various bonds become due. We think that's going to offset -- and it's a value judgement. We think it's working. I think all the people say, even Standard and Poor's and Dominion Bond Rating -- although they didn't change, as somebody pointed out, our rating this time, they acknowledged that it takes two years to turn around from a lower rating and bring it up, and they acknowledged that we are going in the right direction. Each company has said that very, very strongly. The managing of the deficit we are doing: There's no question they think we're doing things correctly.

Ms Lankin: In fact the budget plan I was referring to would have seen the budget being balanced by the year 1999-2000. You've now confirmed, which we knew from the budget plan, that your government's plan pushes that out a year. It takes a year longer to balance the deficit as a result of the tax cut. You're saying you think that's worth it and you've made reference to Standard and Poor's and Moody's and the Dominion Bond Rating agency. Let me indicate to you that while they want to see progress being made on the deficit, and they acknowledge progress is being made on the deficit, they are saying they think that is jeopardized by proceeding with your tax cut as quickly as you have. They have all indicated concerns about that.

The other thing I would put to you is that in order to achieve this tax cut and to balance the budget at the same time, you know that you have to achieve a certain amount of government expenditure reduction, which your government has been engaged in. You know, as a result of that, that there are a number of jobs that have been eliminated in the direct public service and in the broader public service, and that when those people are out of work and are not paying into the local economies and are insecure and not making purchases, there would be an economic drag. Could you tell me how you have figured that economic drag into your overall picture, and don't you think in some ways that's a bit counterproductive? I guess the question is, can you afford the tax cut if you're putting people out of work in order to achieve it?

Ms Bassett: First of all, we obviously feel it is better to be going in the direction we are going in. In terms of the economic drag caused as the result of terminating some employees, the fact that we are downsizing government -- I think it's universally agreed that every province is overgoverned, certainly Ontario has too many employees, and we had to restructure. We couldn't afford to be doing things the way we were. So then, if you look at a number of employees and what happens to them, a lot of them disappear through attrition and over the course of five years their contracts or their time of employment would be ending. Other ones who are let go, which could be seen as a drag, are getting back into the workforce. In fact we all know people who have left the government willingly, or maybe unwillingly or whatever, who have landed themselves in very good and exciting jobs -- some of them are earning even more money -- and then there are some other people, and I acknowledge it, it was unfortunate, who have not been re-employed as yet.

The bottom line, to answer your question, is that I feel overall we're going to be better off and several economists have predicted that economic drag has ended, pretty well.

Ms Lankin: I must say, with respect to the parliamentary assistant, that's a bit of a Utopian viewpoint. First of all, we're not talking about some employees having lost their jobs; we're talking about thousands across the direct Ontario public service and the broader public sector, many of them not, as you said, people who are on contract who came to the end of their contract and were going to be leaving anyway, many who have been laid off. Those are real people with real families to support, and I can tell you from my own constituency and from my contacts in my past life in the broader public sector that many of those people have not landed those nice, exciting jobs you've talked about.

The very fact that we're going through restructuring in a number of the areas in the broader public sector in which the layoffs have not yet occurred, but we know they're coming, I think suggests that maybe you're incorrect that the economic drag is over. There's still a factor that is out there and if there's that sense of insecurity in those families and in those communities that are rocked by that sudden drop in jobs, thousands of jobs across the province, there's a real question about how -- we come back to the member for Mississauga South and her economic theory that overall these more people are going to be working, people are going to be paying taxes and we'll be better off. If that were the end result, I think we would all agree in this House, but we haven't found that to be the end result so far. Unemployment rates are still very high in this province. People are very worried about job security.

We just went through a federal election in which we saw jobs on the public's mind -- forget what the politicians were talking about -- consistently, in polling, jobs were the top-of-the-mind issue. So it's not a problem that's going away.

You said something, sort of an assumption, that we're overgoverned and there were too many employees for what has to be done. I'd like to know if you could say -- within the public service and perhaps within sections of the broader public sector if you don't know the overall number -- we're overemployeed, if that's a word, by how many? By what percentage? Overstaffed by what percentage? What would you say the appropriate level is?


Ms Bassett: I can't go into that. I don't have a total in every single ministry.

In terms of being overgoverned, I said that for the money we have to spend, we can't afford to be carrying the number of employees we do. We have to look at doing government differently.

You were talking about the insecurity. I know about the insecurity that people feel, not just in the public sector. I came out of broadcasting where this kind of restructuring was going on five and six and seven years ago in broadcasting companies and other businesses, which had to restructure or they went under. All those employees, for months before they were let go, were living with the constant fear that they might be let go, and it did happen. For the last maybe 10 years we've seen a number of employees being let go and an insecurity -- you could call in an economic drag -- going on.

People are finding their feet. I know not everybody is going to. That's the human cost, and it's a tragedy. We hope as a government that we will be able to get the economy going well enough so there will be new jobs, we'll have money to retrain people to go into areas where perhaps there are those jobs. Believe me, that's what we are trying to do, although it may not be exactly the way in which you might have done it had you been in government. I understand that.

Ms Lankin: With respect, I say to the parliamentary assistant that you just indicated a number of words like "we hope" these people will find jobs where "perhaps" there are those jobs. There is a wish and a song behind some of what you have said, and that's not enough for a government to provide to the people of the province with respect to jobs.

I'm sorry you don't have the numbers with respect to the level of public employment, because you did state that there were too many employees for the money we have. You made two statements there.

I might point out to you that when you came into government, the level of employment in the civil service had already been reduced significantly and had been reduced back to a level of what it had been a decade prior. Was it wrong a decade prior? Was it wrong when you came into office? Is it wrong today?

The other part of what you said is "for the money we have." I come back to the question, then why are you giving so much of it away? The tax cut, which we've established through discussion -- I know you're going to check the economic modelling -- is probably not the most stimulative kind of tax cut available, in that more of the dollars go to high-income people who are not going to immediately put it back into the economy, so there's a lot of leakage; it doesn't create the stimulation, doesn't create the jobs.

You've got to pay for it by having a deficit for a longer time, and that's made bond rating agencies a bit nervous because they'd like to see you deal with that problem first. You've also had to pay for it by substantially reducing government expenditures and laying off more people than you would have to if you didn't proceed with this tax policy at this time.

Given that it's not having the desired effect in terms of stimulation of the economy, I have to ask you why you wouldn't step back for a moment and take a look at the fact that you're creating economic drag, putting people out of work and they're not finding their way into those new, exciting jobs, and you're having to borrow money for a longer time to finance it.

Ms Bassett: Clearly I don't subscribe to what you say. I hear it. I'm firmly convinced that we have really turned the cusp and are into a period of economic growth. There's $1.5 billion more that's being spent in the economy, consumer confidence is up, retail spending is up. People who, even five months ago, weren't spending are now beginning to spend.

You mentioned the wealthy people who are not going to spend their tax cut. People who are earning less money are spending that money because they've put off doing something; that $400 or $300, or whatever they happen to get, goes a long way, and they are spending it. That is beginning to show.

We hope, although it's not where we wanted to be -- and I can't say it's going to happen, because then you would say, "Oh, you don't know it's going to happen." The signs show that this is the direction in which we are going. I would naturally hope and I think it is going to happen.

Ms Lankin: I'll wind up now by making a few comments. I appreciate the participation of the parliamentary secretary and for her frankness in answering my questions.

I find it difficult to understand when there's an acknowledgement that those wealthier Ontarians who are receiving the tax cut are not putting it right back into the economy. There was an acknowledgement by the parliamentary assistant's comments just then that moderate- and lower-income Ontarians who are receiving the tax cuts are more likely to be spending them, that that goes a long way for them and into the economy. Yet she's refusing to take the next step and understand that a more targeted tax cut, therefore, one that included the poorest people in the province in terms of giving them more money -- disposable income -- would have more of a stimulative impact.

Let me talk about who those people are. The poorest people in the province are those who are on social assistance. What did this government do? This government cut their rates by over 20%; that was supporting families and children. Those are people who spend every penny they have. If you want to talk about stimulating the economy, it makes no sense to me to have taken that kind of percentage of money away from the poorest people in this province.

What we needed to do was to have the stimulation of the economy create the jobs, and then create the links for those people on social assistance with the jobs and help move them into those jobs. That would be the right way to approach this. That would be the way to try and ensure that families are kept whole and secure and that children aren't forced into poverty, and that would see a stimulation to the economy.

The parliamentary assistant talked about growth in the economy and talked about higher consumer confidence, talked about a greater sense of security. I can tell her that the people in the broader public sector -- nurses right now, teachers right now, custodial workers in schools right now -- those people are not feeling a sense of security. Those people in the broader public sector who are facing the prospect of layoffs are not feeling secure. They're not feeling like going out and buying the products you talked about.

To say we're seeing growth in our economy -- the parliamentary assistant didn't say this; I want to be very fair. I've heard many of her colleagues attribute that to the policies of the Mike Harris government. When we know the booming US economy is driving an export market here, is creating good growth -- and we're glad to see that -- it's folly to suggest that's as a result of this government's policy. What we do know is that if we didn't have the economic drag we see as a result of the cuts in public expenditures and the loss of jobs in the public sector and what that does to local economies, we would see greater job growth as a result of the boom in the US and the boom in the export market.

I want to wrap up my comments by saying that while I appreciate the frankness of the parliamentary assistant, I believe there is room for some very considered debate about the wisdom of this tax policy. I would hope that rather than rushing through and finishing this up in terms of third reading in the next day or so, we would take some time to actually look at the impact and see whether there's a way to reorder the provincial fiscal situation that would address both reducing the deficit and balancing the budget in an earlier time frame, keeping people employed and at looking where targeted tax cuts could actually stimulate economic growth and the creation of jobs.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : C'est avec plaisir que je prends la parole afin de toucher des points qui portent à la confusion, qui taquinent un peu le public. La section 1 du projet de loi 129 porte à la confusion.

Quand je dis qu'elle porte à la confusion, la confusion que la députée de St Andrew-St Patrick a mentionnée tout à l'heure, on parle de 30 % de réduction. Lorsqu'on parle d'une réduction de 30 %, beaucoup de gens ont l'impression que les citoyens et citoyennes de l'Ontario vont recevoir une réduction de 30 % sur leur impôt personnel. Tout récemment j'ai reçu un appel d'un ami de Hawkesbury qui avait remis sa formule d'impôt. Il m'a dit, «Où est ma réduction de 30 % ?» Je lui ai répondu, «Ben, actuellement, nous n'avons pas 30 %. Nous sommes rendus à 11 %.» Mais il faudra faire le bon calcul. On n'est rendu qu'à 11 % dans le moment. On nous dit 15 % de l'autre côté mais nos calculs nous démontrent que c'est 11 %.

J'ai ici un rouage de calculs d'impôts qui m'a été présenté cet après-midi par la compagnie de comptables agréés Laflêche St-Jean. On m'a dit que, rendus le 1er janvier 1998, les Ontariens et Ontariennes auront reçu, pour une personne qui a un salaire de 29 000 $ à 59 000 $, une réduction moyenne de 2,36 % au total du montant d'impôt qu'il va payer. C'est pour ça que ça porte à la confusion. Lorsqu'on dit 30 % -- aujourd'hui mon ami de Stormont, Dundas et Glengarry m'a dit 15 % -- les calculs nous démontrent que c'est 11 % à date.

L'hon M. Villeneuve : Impôt personnel.

M. Lalonde : Impôt personnel, c'est bien ça, mais la députée de St Andrew-St Patrick nous dit 30 %.

Mais une chose que l'on devrait remarquer c'est que, en moyenne, la majorité des personnes, le plus grand nombre des Ontariens et Ontariennes, vont retirer les bénéfices de cette réduction d'impôt. Il faut se rappeler que, lorsque nous regardons la réduction d'impôt, pour égaler la partie d'une personne qui a des revenus d'au-delà de 100 000 $ par année, ça prend cinq personnes, en moyenne, Ontariens et Ontariennes, pour se rendre au montant de la personne qui gagne 100 000 $.

On dit qu'en moyenne, au-delà de 20 % des travailleurs de l'Ontario gagnent 20 000 $ et moins par année. Donc, ces personnes-là vont bénéficier, à compter du 1er janvier 1998, d'environ 300 $ par année. Comparativement, 300 $, cinq personnes, fait 1500 $. Cinq personnes à 20 000 $ par année, ça fait 100 000 $, mais une personne qui gagne 100 000 $ par année va bénéficier de 3432 $ de réduction d'impôt. Où est la justice ? Ce n'est certainement pas en moyenne. C'est vrai que le plus grand nombre vont bénéficier, mais en argent non, c'est faux.

Je viens de mentionner qu'il va y avoir une différence de tout près de 2000 $. Je regarde que, ici actuellement, une personne va bénéficier en moyenne, comme j'ai dit tout à l'heure, de 300 $ par année, tout ça pour dire que ça va coûter, aux payeurs de taxes ontariens et ontariennes, en moyenne 5 $ milliards par année d'emprunts pour bénéficier les hauts salariés de la province.

Nous regardons tout ce qui va être transféré, les responsabilités additionnelles. Qui va s'assurer à ce que l'on puisse continuer à donner des services dans une communauté ? Ce sont les personnes à revenus moyens, les personnes à revenus faibles. Les personnes qui gagnent 100 000 $ ou 200 000 $ par année ne sont pas les personnes qui vont se servir des arénas, qui vont fréquenter les bibliothèques, les garderies. Ce ne sont pas eux qui vont bénéficier de tout ça. Donc, c'est le salaire moyen.

Mais on ne pourra pas se permettre de continuer. Les municipalités vont laisser tomber. Dimanche dernier j'étais à Vankleek Hill et on m'a dit que les Femmes de fermiers ne pourront plus fonctionner. Il y avait une rencontre de la province. Plus de 140 dames étaient présentes, et on nous a dit que maintenant la ville de Vankleek Hill va demander 100 $ par réunion, parce qu'on doit charger un peu partout maintenant. Les municipalités ne peuvent plus se permettre d'offrir les salles gratuitement aux organismes locaux. Mais rappelez-vous que si les organismes locaux laissent tomber leurs activités, la municipalité est en difficulté. Lorsque je dis «en difficulté», ce sont eux qui, actuellement, vont pouvoir garantir que la continuité des services aux Boy Scouts, comme on les appelle, aux Guides, le hockey mineur, le baseball mineur et tout ça.

Un autre point que nous regardons : le gouvernement essaie d'aller chercher un montant de 5 $ milliards que l'on dit qu'on va rembourser aux hauts salariés. On vient de nous annoncer jeudi dernier qu'on va transférer aux municipalités les routes. Dans Prescott et Russell on va nous transférer la route 17. On nous offre, c'est vrai, 2 912 000 $ en compensation. Ça représente seulement 41 000 $ du kilomètre. Actuellement, lorsqu'on regarde ça, seulement pour un travail majeur on est au-delà de 1 $ million, pour un projet seulement.

Dans votre comté, Monsieur le député de Stormont, Dundas et Glengarry, la route 43, que deviendrat-elle ? Cela va être transféré à vos municipalités. Les avez-vous avertis, les représentants de ces municipalités, que le tout va être transféré ? Est-ce que le calcul a été fait de combien ça va coûter d'extra aux contribuables ? J'en ai déjà fait le calcul. Vous l'avez ici. Pour chacune des municipalités, l'honorable M. Villeneuve, je vais maintenant rentrer dans votre comté et faire le calcul pour Maxwell, Alexandria, Lancaster et tout ça et vous allez voir qu'en moyenne actuellement -- en moyenne -- une famille va payer une augmentation de taxes d'au-delà de 800 $ par année, et tout ça avant qu'on nous fasse le transfert des routes, parce que le transfert des routes est tout récent ; c'est seulement depuis jeudi dernier.

Actuellement nous disons que nous créons au-delà de mille emplois par jour. On essaie de dire que c'est par la réduction d'impôts personnels qu'on va créer des emplois. Je crois que c'est faux. Lorsque j'ai dit tout à l'heure qu'une famille, en moyenne 20 % de la force ouvrière en Ontario, gagne moins de 20 000 $ par année, ce n'est même pas assez pour venir faire un voyage à Toronto. Mais celui qui a fait 100 000 $ va prendre le temps d'aller faire de belles vacances dans le sud avec les 3 432 $ d'extra qu'il va avoir. Ça va payer ces deux semaines de vacances, mais nous, Ontariens, ne pouvons pas nous permettre ça avec un salaire de la sorte avec la réduction d'impôt.

On dit que ça va stimuler l'économie. Actuellement, heureusement que ce soit le fédéral qui a pu redonner la confiance aux Ontariens et Ontariennes. C'est le fédéral. Nous avons regardé et nous avons finalement réussi à réduire le déficit. Nous avons réussi à tenir les taux d'intérêt très bas. C'est ça qui stimule l'emploi ; c'est ça qui stimule vraiment les gens à continuer en affaires.

Lorsque je regarde, vous savez certainement, on en a longuement parlé -- we spoke a long time about the fact that dumping on to the municipalities was going to cost a fortune. It was an average, at that time, of $1,201 per family in Prescott and Russell. Now the government has come back after seeing my worksheet, and I have to say that after we sat down with the parliamentary secretary and some of the members, they said it was impossible to have an average increase of $1,201 per family. Now we've decided to take over the whole of long-term-care services but we have thrown back to the municipalities half, 50%, of the school taxes. In Prescott and Russell alone that is going to represent $13 million that we have to collect again, $13.5 million to be exact, but it all depends on what this government is going to do. They will be the ones to create the mill rate on this.

Gentlemen, all these examples that I'm giving you at the present time are just to show that I don't think the government has sat down and looked it over before saying, "We will reduce personal income taxes," but they are continuing to cut down all the services. "We have decided to cut over $1.3 million in health care; we have decided to cut $125 million in the classrooms; we've decided to cut $17 million from children's aid societies," and this will go on and on. In the end the government will recognize they don't have the funds to continue the services, and because of what? Because of this personal income tax reduction of 30%. I'm telling you it definitely is not the medium salary or the average salary of the people of Ontario that will be able to benefit from this.

Once again, the person who makes on average between $30,000 to $60,000 a year will benefit. They will benefit on average by $851 a year. They'll have that tax break, but the person who only makes about $20,000 a year will benefit by about $300. Once again, this is not enough to leave Ottawa and come to Toronto by plane and return. They would have to stay here, but since you have 30% of the welfare right here in Toronto, probably the services will be there. In rural areas we don't have the services. The way this government is going, the services are going to be reduced once again.


With what we are experiencing at the present time, I wonder whether we are going to need a minister at the MTO level, because you are transferring all the roads to the municipalities. They say for a budget of less than $300 million we don't have a minister. The same goes for agricultural services, which will have less than $300 million. Will there be a need to have ministers in those two ministries? I don't know.

L'hon M. Villeneuve : Va parler aux cultivateurs ; va écouter tes cultivateurs.

M. Lalonde : J'ai parlé à mes cultivateurs. Ils sont définitivement tellement nerveux. Nous avons commencé à couper les emplois un peu partout. Mais rappelez-vous d'une chose : nous avons coupé les soins de santé dans les hôpitaux. Je me rappelle dernièrement une personne est venue me voir, un avocat est venu me voir, et il m'a dit, «Jean-Marc, il est grandement temps que le gouvernement coupe.» J'ai dit, «C'est vrai, mais attends ; une journée tu vas voir que tu vas être frappé.»

La semaine après la mère de cette personne-là était admise à l'hôpital. Elle a eu une opération et le lendemain on a dit, «Vous devez retourner chez vous.» Il est revenu chez et il m'a dit : «Jean-Marc, c'est impossible. C'est pour ça que j'embauche quelqu'un. Si elle demeure à l'hôpital dans une chambre privée, c'est 150 $ par jour d'extra.» J'ai dit : "Toi, tu m'as dit la semaine passée que c'était grandement temps que le gouvernement coupe. Tu vois, aujourd'hui c'est toi qui est frappé.»

C'est la même chose pour toutes les personnes qui disent, «Il est grandement temps que le gouvernement donne ça au secteur privé,» mais on aura jamais les mêmes services lorsqu'on les donne tout au secteur privé. Jamais on aura le même service. C'est bien beau. On va réduire la personne qui fait 14 $ de l'heure et on va embaucher un autre à 8 $ de l'heure, jusqu'au temps que cela frappe les personnes. Les gens du ministère des Transports, de la Santé, les gens qui s'occupent de la jeunesse, on coupe les emplois de tout ça et on essaie de donner ça au secteur privé.

Je vais terminer sur cette note : on doit regarder le tout. Les municipalités ne savent pas ce qui s'en vient. Elles ont dit, «l'AMO nous supporte avec toutes les coupures.» C'est peut-être vrai qu'ils les supportent, mais elles n'ont pas vu les derniers chiffres.

Je me rappelle que lorsqu'on a discuté du projet de loi 98, ils nous ont dit, «Ben, on va le charger aux développeurs.» C'est pas ça. Nous, les libéraux, nous sommes débattus afin que les 10 % que nous demandions aux municipalités ne soient pas permit. Ça a pris Hazel McCallion, la maire de Mississauga, de Kanata, de Oakville, pour dire : nous allons geler les projets, les développements. Nous avons finalement réalisé -- » Mais même les trésoriers des municipalités ne savaient pas quel impact ça aurait sur leurs propres municipalités.

Les ambulances, maintenant : nous allons être obligés de mettre un compteur comme dans les taxis. Nous allons partir entre 103 $ et 110 $ lorsque nous allons mettre le pied dans l'ambulance. Pourquoi des réductions d'impôts de 30 % ? Nous devons aller chercher cet argent-là. Donc nous allons dire, «Maintenant les municipalités pour l'ambulance, vous allez payer 103 $ pour embarquer, un piastre et 25 du kilomètre et 50 $ d'attente à l'hôpital.» Les gens ne le savent pas, mais lorsqu'ils vont voir les factures, c'est seulement à compter du 1er juillet 1998 que nous allons tous sentir cette réduction d'impôt-là et aussi le transfert aux municipalités.

Je pourrais en parler des heures, mais je crois que je devrais donner la chance à d'autres. Mais gare aux municipalités qui sont en faveur de ces 30 % ; gare à tous ceux qui sont en faveur de la réduction d'impôt personnel. Vous allez voir qu'un jour ils reviendront nous voir et ils vont nous dire : «Vous, les libéraux, on veut que vous continuiez à vous débattre pour gagner ce que nous méritons. Nous voulons retourner comme vous étiez dans le passé afin de donner les services à toute la population.» Merci.

The Chair: Further debate?

Mr Len Wood: I have a few questions for the parliamentary assistant that I would like to get answered. I know other people have asked the questions and they haven't necessarily been answered.

Looking at a salary range between $23,000 and $28,000, I understand that with the tax cut as proposed, they would get back somewhere around $450. Adding in the tax increase, especially in northern Ontario where everybody who owns a car is going to be taxed $37 on their car -- they're reducing the taxes on cars in Toronto and they're increasing them in northern Ontario -- if you take the $37 on every car, if a family has two cars, you're talking about $75 for that.

With the fees people are paying on the increase in drugs, the seniors and the people on low income who have to pay for their drugs, there are a lot of taxes that are being added on.

If you look at some communities like Sault Ste Marie and Kapuskasing and Cochrane and Hearst and some of these areas, with the northern subsidies being cut off, property taxes are going to increase by some between 10% and 15%; some communities are saying they'll have to increase property taxes by 40%.

How is somebody going to be better off with a 20% or 30% tax cut on their personal income tax and save $450, if their costs, because of what Mike Harris and his cabinet and the government are doing to increase taxes -- people are telling me who are in this bracket, and there are a lot of secretaries, caretakers and people who have a modest income of between $20,000 and $28,000 or $30,000, that they're going to be a lot worse off.

They are a lot worse off now, even with the tax cut, with the user fees that are being put on. Most of the communities in northern Ontario, the municipalities have even had to stoop to the point of doubling the rates for parking meters, doubling the penalties if people don't put the 50 cents or the dollar into the parking meters.

All of these are tax increases. People are telling me that they're going to be worse off at the end than they are now with all the new -- you can call them user fees; I call them tax increases. They're saying, "Mike Harris used to be the Taxfighter back when they were third-party status in Ontario." Now everything that was promised during the -- and it's right here, Report of the Mike Harris "Northern Focus" Tour, all of the things that were promised. This booklet was produced in January 1995. Improve air service in northern Ontario: the result is it's shut down NorOntair, a government-run airline that was shut down as a result of that.

We've seen air fares from Kapuskasing to Toronto almost double in rates and the service is very bad. For example, if I want to travel from Kapuskasing to Toronto, I've got one flight at 6 o'clock at night, which means that I would have to leave home at 6 o'clock at night on Sunday night and spend the night over here and not be able to get home until the next night.

There are a lot of tax increases we don't hear the government talk about. They say, "People should pay for licence plates." There's not a single person I know of in northern Ontario who is happy with the last budget, the tax they're putting on all the cars. They say to me: "What can you do about that? We're already paying 15 cents or 20 cents a litre more in gasoline tax and now they lower the licence plates in the city of Toronto and they increase them in northern Ontario."

When this report came out, a lot of people didn't believe it anyway, but they're throwing that back in my face. Now they're saying, "You should raise this in the House," that if there are -- and this report was put together by Bill Murdoch, Leo Jordan, Al McLean, Ernie Eves, and it's signed by Mike Harris. That was only in January 1995.


Almost everything they promised in here during the Common Sense Revolution -- 725,000 new jobs would be created in the private sector. There are more people unemployed now and it's getting worse than it was before. Thousands of people are being thrown out of work.

The promise was made that health care services in northern Ontario would improve, and yet I can start all the way from the hospitals in Longlac, Hornepayne, Hearst, Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls, Cochrane, Moosonee; most of these hospitals had their budgets cut by up to 18%, which meant the hospitals had to close half of their beds and shut them down.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): What are all these alternative plans for --

Mr Len Wood: I know if the member for Huron was up in northern Ontario, if she toured northern Ontario, she would agree that if you make a promise before the election and you break the promise, you probably should resign your seat.

They were talking about improving the highway construction; that was going to happen. This was the promise made by Mike Harris and his group that toured northern Ontario. As a result, we've seen not a penny of the money that was committed and budgeted for in 1995 being spent, and now in 1997 they're spending 1995 dollars on road construction. They ripped the roads up between Fauquier and Smooth Rock Falls last year, and the promise was that the money was there in the budget for putting in passing lanes. Now the passing lanes have been taken out of the budget and they're just patching up as best they can and paving over the top. This is money that was deferred from the 1995 budget till now.

There are a lot of questions that I'm sure the parliamentary assistant would be anxious to answer. If you're going to get a $450 tax break in the category between $23,000 and $28,000, and you're going to have user fees and an increase in property taxes that are going to amount to $500 or $600 or $700, people are justified in telling me they're worse off now than they were before the Conservative government was elected.

As well, most of the good-paying government jobs that were in northern Ontario have been taken out of Cochrane, taken out of New Liskeard, taken out of all the areas, and they've been moved down to Nipissing. Why would they move these jobs to Nipissing? Some people say it's because the Premier of Ontario lives in Nipissing and he's trying to bring the jobs from the small communities in northern Ontario and take them into North Bay; the other ones, he's going to privatize them.

When people are out promising they're going to make things better prior to an election and then they come and get elected with a majority government, and this is exactly what we have, and people are worse off now, they're saying, "Why would the government take money from the poor and give it to the rich?" If a person is making $25,000 a year and is going to get a tax break of 30%, the money is a lot less than what a person who is making $200,000 gets. I'm sure presidents of the large bank companies are happy, if they're making $1 million a year and they're going to get a 30% tax break. But that's not going to do anything to create jobs.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): You taxed the poor when you were in government.

Mr Len Wood: The Minister of Energy is getting all excited, because he knows his plan is not working. The plan is failing, and failing badly, because there is more unemployment now and there's going to be more afterwards.

We know that some of the cabinet ministers get upset when we're pointing out the fact that people are worse off now, after two years of a Conservative government, than they were before, and they're getting worse all the time. There are more women and children out there at the soup kitchens and in poverty than there were before. It's kind of sad. They're justified in complaining. They're saying: "Why are they removing rent controls? Why are they going to allow the landlords to raise rents beyond our reach and we're going to be thrown out on the street?" A woman with two children who has modest rent now, with the controls being taken off, there's no way of assuring they're going to be able to stay in their own place.

Even the title of Bill 129, An Act to stimulate job growth, to reduce taxes and to implement other measures contained in the 1997 Budget, this is a bill that is like Robin Hood in reverse: They're taking money away from the poor and giving it to the rich and wealthy, who are not going to spend it in the province to create employment. We know that from what has been happening. As a matter of fact, even the ones on a modest income are going to be further behind than they were before because of the 30% tax break.

There's also another section in here under the Ontario Loan Act. It says the government is going to be authorized to borrow $7.5 billion. Well, $5 billion of that is to pay for the tax break, as well as all the other taxes they've increased. If you look at any municipality -- right now there's a discussion taking place between the communities of Smooth Rock Falls, Kapuskasing, Opasatika, Fauquier and Moonbeam about amalgamation. There is a possibility, in the studies they have done locally, that they might save $1 million. But to save that $1 million, they have to lay off a lot of people, administrators, clerks, people who are living in the community, are employed in the community and are contributing. They're the ones who do all the volunteer work for raising funds for minor hockey and for all the different organizations out there. If you throw these people out of work, what's the community going to look like?

The situation for the public sector: The teachers are saying, there are rumours out there that the government wants to bring back the Legislature to deal with the teachers' collective bargaining, seniority rights and the amalgamation of school boards, that they want to deal with this in August, the same as they wanted to bring back the spring sitting of the Legislature in January, when in northern Ontario it's minus 40. We couldn't call a spring sitting in Kapuskasing in January when it's minus 40.

Everywhere we turn over the last two years there's an attack on the workers. I'm pleased to see Mr Fox is here. Why would a government encourage their member to bring in a resolution that is going to be another attack on the workers, which is going to be debated this coming Thursday, that "the government of Ontario should disallow the undemocratic requirement of mandatory fee collection by unions"?

Why would a Conservative government want to make another attack on the workers in this province and try to attack the unions? I hope all the backbenchers and even the cabinet ministers who are here tonight will stand up and say this is uncalled for. For the employers to collect dues and submit them to the union off the employee's paycheque, that's democratic.

What we see here is a member being forced by Mike Harris, I guess, to write up a resolution and bring it into the House. I'm sure it's not his own idea; it's got to be Mike Harris's attack on unions. It's very similar to when they brought in Bill 7, which was another attack on organized workers in this province.

We still haven't spent the money that is needed to get a public inquiry into the Ipperwash situation. What involvement did the Solicitor General, the Attorney General, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Premier have by changing the rules in midstream and saying that trespassers were going to be handled in a different way than they were?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: This is so far from Bill 129, you can't even dream.


Mr Len Wood: It all comes back to section 1 of Bill 129. If you can go out and borrow $7.5 billion in order to make sure there's a $5-billion tax break, why are the aboriginal people being ignored? Go out and spend a bit of money and find out if the Premier was involved in direct orders at Ipperwash. Find out if the Solicitor General had control over the OPP and was calling the shots, or the Attorney General, or was it the Minister of Natural Resources? The night before the shooting took place in Ipperwash, he was on TV saying, "These people are trespassing; they will be removed." The next day they were shot and one person was beaten unconscious. These are the types of actions we've seen over the last two years from this Conservative government. I'm still waiting for answers from the parliamentary assistant.

If a person is getting $450 in a tax break if they're between $23,000 and $28,000 a year and they're going to be charged by the Conservative government $500 or $600, which we have the facts to prove -- some could go as high as $800 if they own their own house, because the property taxes are going up -- in your mind, are they better off or are they worse off than they were two years ago before the Conservative government was elected?


The Acting Chair (Mrs Margaret Marland): Order. I would like to point out to members that interjections are out of order. In fairness to the member who has the floor -- the member for Cochrane North has the floor, so if we could desist from the interjections, it would make it easier for the Chair to hear the member.

Ms Bassett: I would like to answer the member for Cochrane North. I'm going to speak only on three of the many points. As you made your way from point to point, I focused on three. Then, since I've been told so many times as a member from the south not to be pontificating about what's going on up in the north, I'm going to turn it over to the member for Parry Sound to address some of the issues in the north.

Let's talk about the tax cuts, first of all. You've all heard tonight -- we have gone over every single aspect of whether the tax cuts are stimulative or not stimulative. We believe -- you do not believe, but we believe -- that the tax cuts do stimulate the economy. They create jobs and they certainly build consumer confidence. If you look at the economy and you look at the figures, that is beginning to happen. At the risk of repeating myself, I can say that housing starts are up, consumer confidence is up. You know that, so we don't have to go into it. We've said it a million times.

As for your fears about what's going to happen in the municipalities in the north or in the south or anywhere in Ontario, there's no question that people are afraid of change; it's a very valid fear, because we don't know what's coming. AMO has sat down with the province and they have worked out what they will agree to. They will get an $800-million restructuring fund and they are going to get a $500-million reinvestment fund. There will also be savings that you will be able to find within the community by restructuring yourself, just as businesses everywhere have been restructuring and making savings by looking at doing things differently. I'm sure, given the ingenuity and spark and brains of so many mayors and town councils, they will be able to do that. Perhaps your fears are a little premature at this point.

As for user fees, that will be up to the municipalities to decide if they are going to charge or if they are not going to charge. Many questions have been answered in the House from different members over the years. Different cities have charged user fees for different things for years. That's something that will be a matter for the municipalities to decide.

Perhaps the member for Parry Sound would talk about the north so that somebody from the south will not be accused of pontificating.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I heard some of the remakes of the member for Cochrane North. I heard him alluding to the item in the budget that referred to charges for motor vehicle licences in northern Ontario.

I live in northern Ontario. I've lived in northern Ontario since I was 17 years of age, and as you can see, I'm well over that today. I do understand a little about the people in northern Ontario. As a newly elected member in 1981, I fought for many years, with my own government, I might add, and with successive governments, to make sure my area of the province was included, for all provincial government ministry purposes, as part of northern Ontario, because people in that part of the province indeed always have regarded themselves as northerners.

My experience with northern people is that they are not looking for handouts from anybody. They are very enterprising, independent people. All they are asking for is that they get a fair shake.

What we did with respect to motor vehicle licences in the most recent budget was (a) to equalize, if you will, motor vehicle licence fees across southern Ontario, because they weren't equalized. They were far greater in Metro Toronto than they were in other places in southern Ontario. Quite frankly, that was not fair and that was not equitable. That is something I believe his government had something to do with, treating people differently in some regions of southern Ontario than they did in other regions in southern Ontario.

I fully appreciate the member for Cochrane North's comment. However, we also had an initiative in the budget that puts an additional $200 million in highways in northern Ontario -- totally unprecedented.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Over five years.

Hon Mr Eves: It's 200 million additional dollars over five years, yes, I say to the leader of the third party; $200 million more over the next five years than your government ever dreamed of spending, on top of more money that we're already spending on highways in northern Ontario.


The Acting Chair: Order. We are not having interjections. The member for Kingston and The Islands, the member for Cochrane North, we have decided that we are not having interjections. It is in the standing orders, and I'm going to enforce it.

Hon Mr Eves: Madam Chair, through you to the member for Cochrane North, yes, we do understand and appreciate that things cost more in northern Ontario with respect to transportation, everything from gasoline prices to the necessity to have some sort of motor vehicle transportation because, as you know, there are not the great public transit systems you have in many parts of southern Ontario.

That is why there is a recognition of that, and the cost is exactly one half of what it is in southern Ontario. But we have made an effort to spend a great deal more money in northern Ontario with respect to transportation.

Mr Hampton: That's not true.

Hon Mr Eves: I say to you, yes, we have. The figures are there in black and white. Not only are we spending in our base budget, for highways and roads in northern Ontario, more money than any previous government, including yours, has ever spent, but we are adding on to that an additional $200 million over five years on top of that, almost a quarter of a billion dollars. I know you guys threw quarter-billion-dollar bills around like they were manhole covers. You people just spent more money than you had, than the taxpayers of Ontario had, obviously.

But in spite of that, we are making a much greater commitment to the people of northern Ontario than you ever made. You also took money out of the northern Ontario heritage fund. You extracted it because you knew you were coming up to a provincial election and you needed the money, you wanted to make your books look better. You took their money away. We gave it back, with interest, I might add, to the people of northern Ontario.

If I were you, I don't think I would have the unmitigated gall to stand up in this Legislature, having stolen money from the northern Ontario heritage fund -- your government took the money. They stole it. They stole it from the people of northern Ontario. We gave it back, plus interest.


Mr Len Wood: You can't accuse anybody of being a thief in this House.

Hon Mr Eves: I am not accusing anybody. I said your government took the money --

Mr Wildman: You said "stole."

Hon Mr Eves: Stole the money from the people of northern Ontario. That's what they did; they took it away from them, without their consent.


The Acting Chair: I would suggest --


Mr Martin: How much have you spent so far? How much have you spent in two years?

The Acting Chair: The member for Sault Ste Marie is out of order.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: We put it back.

The Acting Chair: The Minister of Agriculture is out of order.


The Acting Chair: The member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: It's been over two years, Chair.

The Acting Chair: I have warned you --


Mr Gerretsen: Come on, Chair, get some order here.

The Acting Chair: The member for Sault Ste Marie, I have named you twice. I am warning you. I am not going to tolerate this level of noise and disruption in the House, nor am I going to shout over the noise in this chamber. I say that to colleagues on both sides of this House. You are all out of order while you are interjecting.

Now, to get back to the point that was made by the Minister of Finance, I ask the Minister of Finance to reconsider the use of the word "stealing" or "stolen."

Hon Mr Eves: I would be more than pleased, Madam Chair, to withdraw the word "stolen." Perhaps what the previous government did was make an unethical withdrawal of money from the northern Ontario heritage fund and deposit it in the coffers of the Ministry of Revenue to make their books look better, because that's exactly what they did.


The Acting Chair: I realize for all members, including some members who are not in their own seats, that it's 11 o'clock at night. It's been a very long day. But the use of intemperate language on either side of the chamber is not conducive to good debate. I would respectfully ask from the chair that we caution ourselves in those words we choose to use. The standing orders also do not permit the imputing of motives by other members. If we could have regard to the standing orders, we would finish the remaining hour of this committee of the whole.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Madam Chair: It's interesting that in your comments you just said it's not in order for a member of this House to impute motives of others or a party or to blatantly say to this House through this debate that the former government was unethical. In any other case, the Speaker would ask the minister to withdraw. He has not withdrawn. I ask you to do so.

The Acting Chair: I think we could probably make some progress if the Minister of Finance could withdraw that comment.

Hon Mr Eves: I'd be more than happy to withdraw any language which has offended the honourable members opposite, Madam Chair.

The Acting Chair: Has the Minister of Finance concluded?

Hon Mr Eves: No, I haven't. I couldn't help but also overhear the member for Cochrane North talking about tax cuts and how they cost money and how they have not proven to be effective. I might want to remind the honourable members opposite that since the government in power has instituted and initiated its initial portion of its tax cut, revenues in this province have gone up substantially; last fiscal year they went up in excess of $1.2 billion. Tax revenues from all forms of taxation have gone up --

Mr Bradley: Gambling revenues.

Hon Mr Eves: No, I'm talking about taxation revenues, I say to the member for St Catharines. Taxation revenues have gone up by $1.2 billion while tax rates have gone down.

Mr Hampton: Ernie, how much did you slide from 1995-96 to 1996-97?

Hon Mr Eves: The leader of the third party is commenting on how much of that money was money from a previous fiscal year. That's a very good point, because there's a very simple little lesson in finances here, in how the affairs, year to year, are run by the government of Ontario, no matter who has been in power since the province of Ontario has existed.

What happens every single year is that the federal government, which collects our income tax revenue, guesstimates how much money the province of Ontario is owed and pays us in regular instalments. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the federal government always underestimates the amount of money that's owed to the people of Ontario -- or any other province, probably, for that matter, except for Quebec, which collects its own -- and it gains the use of that money for a period of time. In this case they gained use of money going back to 1995, sat on it for two years; had the use of hundreds of millions of dollars of Ontario taxpayers' money for some two years. Every single year there is an adjustment, and I say to the honourable members opposite, there will be an adjustment next year too. Trust me. There will be an adjustment next year that will increase the revenue from this year.

But even after you back all of that out, which was some $742 million, I believe, if you take all that out, the revenues were still up well in excess of half a billion dollars. When next year's year-end comes and we get our proper share from the federal government, that $500 million will be back up in the range of $1 billion.

Revenues indeed are going up while tax rates are going down. I know that's something the two previous administrations totally fail to appreciate, because they raised taxes 33 times and 32 times in their respective five-year tenures in office. We have reduced taxes 30 times in our first 22 months in office and we are getting increased revenue.

You can't tax the people of Ontario to death. You can't tax them out of business forever. That's partly why firms were leaving here. That is partly why people find ways to circumvent the taxation system, because you have tax rates that are so high that you're really discouraging them from being honest, hardworking, taxpaying individuals.

It's a philosophy they totally disagree with -- I will admit that and I recognize that fact -- but in my opinion it also was a very foolish philosophy. You have to allow people to keep more of their money. This money does not belong to the government; it belongs to the people who earn it. Government takes what it needs to provide public services. Government has no money. Government does not create wealth. Private enterprise and hardworking individuals create wealth. That's the only way wealth is created under our system. It is not created by government. Government doesn't earn money; government extracts money from taxpayers to pay for certain public services. That is a very basic different philosophy between this side of the House and that side of the House, or at least most of that side of the House. There is a part over there that's not too bad.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Darcy used to do this, but there was a reason at this hour of the night.

Hon Mr Eves: There isn't a reason in this case, other than to respond to the honourable member for Cochrane North. I haven't had an opportunity today to imbibe anything, including food, I might add, since this morning.

Mr Bradley: How do you define "morning"?

Hon Mr Eves: How do I define "morning"? This morning it was probably about 8 o'clock am; that's how I define morning.

I say to the member for Cochrane North, he will see again this year, even when we've implemented 22.4% of our personal income tax reduction in the province, that revenues from all sources of taxation will go up, and that is a very basic point. We don't care how they go up, why they go up, what particular tax they go up in. We have always said that if you allow taxpayers to keep more of their money, they will spend it. Whether they spend it buying goods and services, whether they spend it buying gasoline, whether they spend it on services that are taxed -- provincial sales tax, gasoline tax, any other tax that the provincial government has -- it doesn't really matter to us.


What matters to us is that they are allowed to keep more of their own money. They invest that money and spend that money here in Ontario. It creates more employment, it creates more wealth. More people get a chance to work, more people pay taxes. It makes it easier to spread the burden all around and government has more money to spend for essential services like health care, education and community and social services. That's how the system is supposed to work.

Mr Len Wood: This has certainly generated a lot of questions that the parliamentary assistant wasn't able to answer so I'm glad that the Minister of Finance is going to stick around and answer some of the other questions that we're dealing with.

When you put $5 into somebody's pocket, Minister of Finance, and you turn around and the same government takes $10 out of the other pocket, they are worse off, and that's exactly what you are doing. You're giving the people between $23,000 and $28,000 a $450 tax break and you're charging them about $600 through increased property taxes, through licence fees for all the cars that they own -- if they own one car, two cars or whatever -- all of the other fees, property tax increases that you said.

I don't know if you were here earlier when I read out the names of the people who travelled the province and wrote out a report in January 1995, the report of the Mike Harris northern focus tour. Your name is in here along with Bill Murdoch, Leo Jordan and Al McLean, and you're saying that northerners are going to be better off with a Conservative government. The people are telling me, and that's through 80% of the land mass of the province, that they are worse off now and they know they're going to be worse off as time goes on than what they were before this Conservative government got elected, because when you're putting $2 or $3 into one pocket, you're taking $5 or $6 out of the other pockets. The people, and this covers a large majority of the population, who are making $30,000 or less are worse off. Can you explain that to the people out there?

Highway construction, all the money that you cancelled for northern Ontario construction in 1995 and 1996: Now you're going to throw a few crumbs around and say, "We're going to pave a few roads here and there," but that's all money that was deferred from 1995, 1996, into 1997, so no wonder there's extra dollars that the government has because you did nothing for two years. Now you're going to spend a little bit of money because you know in 14 or 15 months you're going to have to go back and ask for another mandate. Either you pave it or you paint white lines on it and get ready for an election somewhere down the road.

Thank you, Chair. Those are my comments for now.

Mr Gilchrist: I am pleased to join in the debate here. I'm sure there will be a number of questions that arise from further scrutiny of the budget bill.

For those who were watching earlier today, I'm sure they're somewhat confused as to what actually is going on in this House. We had the member for Welland-Thorold spend probably three hours on his feet talking about absolutely everything under the sun except the 1997 budget bill. He talked about all sorts of pieces of legislation that have long since been passed, that have long since been implemented and, ironically, have long since started creating the kind of economic turnaround in Ontario that we envisaged when they were created.

When we look at this bill and the very significant impact it will have on the province once it's passed, we have to recognize that this is just the second step, the second step in a four-year plan that will see our government back to a budgetary surplus, that will see us back in a position to once again be able to make strategic investments that will guarantee the long-term security of our health and education systems, our transportation systems, and of course all the other services for which our government is responsible.

There is no doubt, as one goes through the numbers embodied in the text of the budget and in the text of the bill, that one has to be heartened by the extraordinary turnaround in this province in just the two short years since we were elected. When you see the bold initiatives that saw the ability of our government to have confidence that we could commit to a balanced budget by the year 2000-01, we are not only on track, we are $1.2 billion ahead of our goal.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Madam Chair: I don't like to be picayune, but I understand last night the Speaker ruled that the member for Scarborough East should not wear a beeper on his belt.

The Acting Chair: It is my understanding that the Speaker did make --


The Acting Chair: Excuse me, order. It's my understanding that the Speaker did make a ruling last night about the bringing in of beepers.

Mr Gilchrist: I --

The Acting Chair: Excuse me. I haven't finished.

Mr Gilchrist: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you had.

The Acting Chair: There has been a ruling by the Speaker as recently as last night that the use of pagers or beepers in the House is not permitted.

Mr Gilchrist: I would never think to use a pager in this chamber and I appreciate the member opposite reminding us all of that important rule.

Back to the topic at hand. Clearly there could be no subject more important to the taxpayers of this province than how the government manages the dollars that it collects through a variety of means, income tax of course being the one that vexes us most every April, but of course on a daily basis the retail sales tax that's collected every time we go to the shops and the gas stations and, in some cases, even places providing services. We have the gasoline tax, we have the entertainment tax. There are any number of means through which the government derives the revenue it needs to fund the important services in this province.

I think it is worthy of note that this budget now brings to 33 the number of taxes we have eliminated or reduced in just two short years. I would remind everyone, including the members opposite, that coincidentally, halfway through our four-year term, we have now eliminated an equal number of taxes to what was increased in a five-year term by either the Liberals or the NDP during their terms of office. At the rate we're going we're on track to have eliminated as many taxes in four years as they raised in 10 years.

In fact, the legacy those 65 tax increases left this province at the time of the election on June 8, 1995, was almost $100 billion in debt, annual deficits of $11.2 billion. Even former Premier Bob Rae had admitted that we had hit a tax wall, that the people of this province had reached the point where the various levels of government had picked their pockets clean; they had pushed them beyond the point where reasonable people believed they were getting fair returns from their government for the tax dollars that were submitted.

Isn't it interesting that at the same time we have cut those 33 taxes we have seen a return of prosperity in this province, a return of optimism, across all the sectors of our economy. Here in the GTA we've seen new housing starts increase by 54%. We have seen auto sales at record levels. We have seen retail sales as recently as last week reported to be up 7.2% this year, vastly outstripping an inflation rate that's still less than 2%. So in real dollars the retailers across this province, from the big stores down to the ma-and-pa variety stores, have seen a 5% growth in real dollars, and we're only halfway through the year.

We've seen any number of improvements in categories and one need look only at the incredible new investments in infrastructure by people building multi-unit apartments who are now convinced that our goal of a fair relationship between tenants and landlords will give them long-term protection and their ability to derive a fair return from that investment.

We've seen individuals in the industrial sector make absolutely incredible announcements in the last couple of weeks. You may recall that just two Fridays ago Nortel down in Ottawa announced the creation of 5,000 new jobs, 5,000 more industrial and clerical jobs. The significance of that is that we had to go all the way back in our research to the early 1960s and the passing of the auto pact to find the last time that any company in Ontario announced 5,000 jobs in one announcement.


What a remarkable turnaround from a climate of pessimism and doom, which I might note the members opposite would love to perpetuate, to a scenario where almost every town, every city from one end of this province to another is seeing new growth and new investments in jobs. We're seeing everything from new office buildings in downtown Toronto to the construction of at least seven new condominium projects just on one stretch of Bay Street.

The interesting contrast there is that there wasn't a single construction crane in downtown Toronto after 1992. They were able to coast along, some in the development industry, before their pockets absolutely ran dry of money, before the previous government's onerous and vexatious taxation and regulation strategies bankrupted even the largest developers that were working in downtown Toronto. They eked out about two years into the NDP's term of office before the last construction crane came down. What a time of despair that must have been throughout the construction industry.

All capable carpenters and bricklayers and those in the forming industry and the steelworkers, how betrayed they must have felt at budgets and at taxation strategies that drove jobs and investment out of this province, that beggared everyone, that had an abiding commitment to protect those of lower income by making sure everyone was of lower income and then dealing fairly across the population.

That was a very different perspective from the one we're bringing forward in this budget bill, because our bill is based on a commitment that we should be affording equal opportunity. Whether it's in education, whether it's access to health care, whether it's investments in infrastructure, particularly our road system across this province, once the equal opportunity is there, we're confident that the entrepreneurial spirit and the historical ability of Ontarians to compete in a free and open marketplace with anyone else in this world will once again rise to the fore and will once again guarantee that we will put that lost decade behind us, that we will not burden our children and generations to come with a legacy of increasing debt and annual deficits.

We will not adopt philosophies that are diametrically opposed to those that every single individual and every owner of a small business knows just won't work in the real world. We believe that governments, just like businesses and just like individuals, must bring in at least as much money as they spend, otherwise it's called "bankruptcy." At the government level it may be only moral bankruptcy, but it is bankruptcy none the less. This budget takes another giant step forward in making sure that decade is long forgotten.

You know, there are a number of very significant innovations in this important piece of legislation, the investments we've made in improving health care in this province.

I had the opportunity just this past weekend to have a reunion of the individuals I went to elementary school with. It was an interesting experience to meet people I hadn't seen for 32 years and to meet the teachers who had given me the fine education I've always believed I had been blessed with growing up in the province of Ontario.

I asked them their perspective on the new investments we were making in education in this province. Without exception they agreed that we have in large measure guaranteed the kind of quality output, the kind of substantive and quantifiable investment in students that they knew back in the 1950s and 1960s and that they believed was an integral and critical reason why we had the kinds of successes among the graduates from our school system in those decades.

They were very frustrated in their latter years of teaching. All but one have retired and the last one is retiring next week. They indicated they had become frustrated over the last few years with the failure of the education system to recognize the evolving trends in our society, the evolving trends in employment. Surely there is nothing more important for the government than making sure the education we give to the children who are our clients in the schools equips them with the skills they need for the jobs when they graduate, not the jobs when they started in the school system.

I think this budget, by investing in improvements in the educational system at the primary level, the secondary school level and in particular in the colleges and universities across this province, will guarantee that focus is returned, will guarantee that never again will the relative prosperity of a municipality determine the quality of education of any student in this province. For the first time in the history of this great province we will be able to give as surety to every parent that their children will have what it takes to compete at the world level when they graduate and head out into the workforce and compete for the jobs in the 21st century.

In health care, I guess one thing my English teacher, Mr Taylor, would have found very frustrating, had he the opportunity to sit in this chamber, was those who could use the word "cut" in the same sentence as "health care" since our government was elected two years ago. In this bill you will remember that despite the fact that we were elected with a commitment to spend $17.4 billion -- we guaranteed to preserve the spending on health care in this province at that awesome level. Despite the fact that that was our commitment, in our first budget bill that was increased by $400 million to $17.8 billion, and this budget goes even further and puts another $700 million into the rebuilding, the re-engineering, the refocusing of our health care system so that we can ensure all Ontarians of something else: that they will have a health care system second to none in North America.

The day of simply building hospitals in an election year, the day of shying away from difficult choices because technology had outstripped previous governments' abilities to cope with change, those days are behind us. We have tackled some very difficult challenges in that re-engineering process and no doubt there are many more to come, but the bottom line is that the investment we are making in health care in this bill is an increase of $1.1 billion over and above the amount of money that was being spent by the previous government.

I would remind you that this is in stark contrast to the commitment made by the Liberals during the election. They agreed that only $17 billion was necessary, and I'm still waiting to hear where they would cut $1.5 billion out of the health care budget we've proposed in order to meet their promise to the taxpayers. I doubt that day will ever come.

There are a number of strategic improvements to our economy that will undoubtedly accrue as a result of this important bill. One of them will be the renewed focus and investment in science and technology. We have created a $3-billion research and development science and technology fund.

When we talk about Nortel, when we talk about the software companies that have sprung up in Toronto and in Silicon Valley North in the area around Ottawa, when we talk about the pharmaceutical companies -- in fact just today Glaxo Wellcome in Mississauga opened a $120-million expansion of their research and development facility. Just outside my riding in Scarborough Eli Lilly recently added an extraordinary new expansion to their research and development wing, creating another 60 jobs, investing another $40 million here in Ontario in high-tech jobs, in value-added production of the kinds of products that are relatively clean to produce, an extraordinarily high-value-added component, great export potential and play on the strategic advantage Ontario has always had in terms of our access to markets, our access to raw materials, our access to a quality workforce, and of course a great climate and many other positive factors.


We heard just this morning that Freightliner had made a decision to close a truck plant in Tennessee and move all of that production up to St Catharines. I'm somewhat chagrined that the member for St Catharines --

Mr Bradley: What truck plant are you talking about? No truck plant in St Catharines.

Mr Gilchrist: Was it St Thomas? Forgive me. It's unfortunate that the members opposite don't seem to think that those jobs are important, don't seem to think that the announcements we're reading every day in the newspapers are exactly the sort of thing that presumably they would be boasting about were they on this side of the House. It must be very frustrating to those businesses that have made that investment, it must be very frustrating to their employees who have made that stake and moved to Ontario to be greeted this way by the official opposition and by the third party.

This bill recognizes the importance of finding even more investors like that. It finds the importance of rebuilding the optimism that the business community once had and will have again, and of course the optimism that we as individuals must have if we are going to continue to stimulate the retail sector, continue to stimulate new home construction, continue to stimulate the all-important automotive sector of our province, surely the cornerstone of Ontario's economy.

This budget makes important new investments in children and family. We're putting more money into child care than ever before in the history of this province. It makes new investments in safe communities. We're putting more money into any number of new programs that assist the police in developing proactive strategies and at the same time some that were mocked as being relatively minor because of their dollar value. One that comes to mind and which found great favour among our caucus was a $5-million fund to pay for the tuition of dependants of any law enforcement officer who loses their life in the line of duty.

Quite frankly, it was a great frustration not just to us but I think to any reasonable Ontarian that far too often the criminals get better treatment and they get access to free university education while sitting in Kingston Penitentiary or at the former penitentiary for women in Kingston. We've all heard those stories, but at the same time the unfortunate children of police officers killed in the line of duty did not have that same access to benefits from this province. We recognized that need and we've made the investment to guarantee that never again will they be disadvantaged as a result of the kind of criminal act that robbed them of one of their parents.

A glance, a quick look at the tax revenue shows just how significant last year's budget was and I think bodes well for the impact of this year's budget. We heard at some length from the finance minister himself that even when you factor in the tardiness of the federal Liberal government in terms of returning to Ontario the very moneys that are owed to it as a result of the methodology under which we remit our income taxes -- and it's fine from their perspective that they take six months or a year, all that time saving themselves interest before they actually give us back the money which the province and its taxpayers are due.

But even over and above that amount, despite the fact that for nine months of our last fiscal year we had given the taxpayers of this province the benefit of the first round of the tax cut and for three months the second round, totalling 15% -- and one would presumably have thought that would reduce the amount of income. It's very interesting and, much as it frustrates the members opposite, that made Ontario the 54th jurisdiction out of 54, to our knowledge, that has ever cut marginal tax rates and, as a result of those cuts, had an increase in the amount of tax revenue. Why? Because all of us took those tax savings and spent them in the corner store, spent them at the car dealership, spent them in buying a new home or new appliances for our existing home. Those dollars were spun through the economy, and any economist will tell you that every dollar has a spinoff benefit of four to five times once it's spent in the community. There is a demand for more people working in all those stores and car dealerships, and those people pay more tax.

There was another significant change as a result of that bill and this bill, and that is the attitude of those people who had hit the tax wall, those people who had, in whole or in part -- and it's an unfortunate consequence of the actions of the previous two governments, but it has to be said -- gone into the underground economy. It was one price if you wanted an invoice; it was a different price if you paid cash. One can almost be sympathetic to that action when the government takes so much that the next hour you work you're basically giving your money to the government. The perception, real or otherwise, was that there was just no benefit for people to participate in the income tax system.

The reality is that equation has changed, the risk-reward ratio has changed. This budget has announced two more significant reductions in income tax, two more reasons for anyone who was previously tempted to stray beyond the bounds of the taxation system to recognize their responsibilities; and, quite frankly, at the same time the employment of more auditors at the Ministry of Finance who are collecting, on average, $600 an hour when they go out and do their audits.

Mr Wildman: Oh, that's not what they're getting paid?

Mr Gilchrist: No, that's not what they're getting paid. They're getting paid about $25 an hour. That's our idea of how the taxpayers can profit, by guaranteeing that when we hired -- and we did -- close to 200 new auditors, their income in that case is 24 times what it's costing us to pay them, a staggering return.

That's the reality. Not only are more people working, not only are more people paying tax, but more people are accurately and comprehensively declaring the income they may have already been earning. I think that bodes well for how this bill will be received.

You'll also find that there were a number of other very important sectoral changes.

We have improved the exemption for R&D equipment.

We have eliminated the land transfer tax for non-residents of Ontario, which was an extraordinarily discriminatory tactic that ensured that in particular the cottage areas in this province did not see an accurate demand reflected for their properties because we made it extraordinarily expensive for non-Ontarians to invest in a new cottage or buy an existing one and improve it. We didn't think that was fair. We would hope to be treated as an equal if an Ontarian were to buy a cottage in Manitoba or in Quebec, or even on the other side of the Canadian-American border, and we don't think it's appropriate that we set a different standard for those who want to invest in our province.

Already you may have heard, and I know my colleague from Muskoka has recounted a number of statistics to me, that the enthusiasm of the real estate agents in Muskoka almost knows no bounds. They have any number of new clients who have made inquiries or have already consummated purchases of cottages, and that bodes well for the construction business in that part of the province.


We have put in a number of initiatives that assist the agricultural sector. Perhaps the most notable of those was the elimination of the retail sales tax on all materials purchased for any expansion or renovation of a farm property. As the co-owner of a family farm, I can tell you that it is a reality of life in the country that fences need to be replaced, that barns wear out. The reality is that for far too long farmers in this province, who have been eking out a relatively meagre existence in many if not most cases, have found that this measure has allowed them to make those improvements, make those reinvestments in their farm and regain some optimism about the future of staying in that important sector of our economy.

I know the Minister of Agriculture is always keen to remind us that agriculture is the second-largest industry in Ontario and certainly an industry to which we want to make sure that not just lip-service is paid, which was the standard treatment by previous governments, but that real, tangible benefits be the hallmark of our treatment in the budget and our business relationships with them.

We made a significant enhancement to the Ontario film and television tax credit. I don't think anyone who has visited Toronto and spent more than a day driving its streets would be surprised to know that the movie and television industry is an absolutely extraordinary component of the economic development that has gone on in Toronto over the last number of years. In fact, we're known as Hollywood North, such is the extent of the number of films and television programs which are produced in our great city.

We've recognized that and we've put in place some very dramatic improvements to the tax treatment for those who want to invest in those films and television programs. For qualifying labour expenditures, I know that the television and film tax credit will be increased to 20%, and the annual limit will be increased from $2 million to $3 million. We're going to make sure that anyone who has been giving only limited attention to Toronto as a result of the arbitrary level that had been set and the maximum tax credit they could claim -- we've now increased that by 50%.

In addition, we've given first-time producers the ability to get an additional 30% off the first $240,000 of qualifying labour expenditures. I can tell you that the arts community across Toronto and across Ontario was very quick to recognize this as a very significant benefit to fledgling filmmakers and producers who want to get their start in that industry, want to get their foot in the door, as it were, and want to demonstrate their creativity. We've made sure that they now have far less of a financial barrier facing them in their quest for recognition of their talents.

We've also put in place a book-publishing tax credit. I think this is very important, because there have been any number of accusations in the course of the library act and many other initiatives our government has brought forward that somehow we are not sympathetic to Canadian authors. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I think this bill proves that in spades. We are going to give a tax credit of 30% of the pre-production and promotional costs and 15% of the promotional costs. That's more than one seventh of the cost of printing a book.

That means that a would-be publisher can either increase the run and guarantee a wider distribution of their first efforts or, conversely, if they have limited resources in pursuing their first attempt at authorship, we've made sure it's that much more feasible for them to enter that business. I think the recognition by authors and book publishers across this great province was proof positive of the need for this initiative and the favour it has garnered in that important sector of our economy.

One of the other things in last year's budget that found great favour -- there's no doubt we can quantify just how interested Ontarians were in an aspect of last year's budget that we are continuing in here -- was the cooperative education tax credit that we introduced to offset the cost of tuition for eligible lower-income university and college entrants. Last year in our budget we had speculated that that program, which would have seen the government put in one dollar for every dollar that was contributed by someone in the private sector, might attract a total of $100 million. You can imagine our absolute delight when we saw that volunteers and the hardworking people in the recruitment and fund-raising offices of the universities and colleges across this province brought in dollars that were in excess of $250 million, two and a half times our own enthusiastic forecast.

Clearly it proved a number of things: first, that we were right when we thought the people in this province want to join with us in making that investment in quality education. They want to join with us in a commitment that no one in Ontario should use the cost of an education as a barrier for pursuing that worthy goal. Quite frankly, it proved as well to the educational community just how committed we were to those strategic, focused reinvestments in such an important aspect of our economy.

That tax credit has been continued for colleges and the bottom line is that the $35 million the colleges raised last year was one of the greatest surprises, because most colleges traditionally had not done any fund-raising, or very limited, so while the universities saw a dramatic increase, they at least had an existing base on which to work. For the colleges it was an absolutely remarkable windfall, and without exception they have recognized that new contribution, they have recognized the importance of this program and they have congratulated the government for the perpetuation of the credit in this year's budget for the community colleges all across Ontario.

It's very important to recognize that as you go through all the various aspects of this bill, the incentives we've given the banks to increase their investments and their loans to small businesses across Ontario clearly have had a dramatic impact. We've seen every one of the banks now put in place far more creative and far less onerous small business lines of credit.

We've done a number of things to make sure the tax system is fair: We've improved the objections and appeals process. We've improved the methodology the ministry itself uses to process tax remittances. Taxpayers will be able to pursue by far faster and more efficient means any appeals they might have to the original assessment. We think that's important and in keeping with an initiative that so far has seen this government eliminate 1,500 fees and regulations as part of our red tape initiative.

This budget goes one step further in making sure that whether it's a private citizen or a small business or a large business, the burden of doing business, the burden of living in Ontario and dealing with the government, should be as light as possible. Our goal will be to pursue that elimination of red tape to the point that there is no other jurisdiction in North America that can boast more ready and more friendly access to their government.

We've made a number of other important amendments in here, some very technical. I wouldn't presume to do justice to them in the limited few minutes we have here before the end of debate tonight, but I would note that a budget bill like this is extraordinarily complex. This is just an overview, and it runs to 186 pages. Attached to that was a supplementary book that all Ontarians are more than welcome to request.

We probably should note that all the initiatives the government undertakes are available on the Internet. You'll be able to get full information. In fact in this case, for electronic copies of the budget documents we've been talking about all day today, people would be invited to dial in at www.gov.on.ca/fin/hmpage.html.


Clearly, when one looks back in the past -- and I'm sure one doesn't have to be in the printing business to know that there's a fair expense to publish a book such as the synopsis of the budget here or the accompanying budget papers. Each book would run well over $1 in terms of its printing cost. We've recognized the ability and the need to utilize new technologies as they become available, so this budget bill is available through the Internet, as is, to the best of my knowledge, every piece of legislation our government has introduced in the last two years.

That guarantees that someone in any portion of this province watching tonight need not rely on the rhetoric from either side of this House. They have the ability to download all the information, to deal with it at their own convenience. Should they see things in there that warrant further questions or further explanation, certainly they will have the ability in a far more informed manner to couch those questions to the Ministry of Finance. Their comments and questions and reactions to this budget are welcome, of course, as are submissions to any piece of legislation we bring forward.

I would be remiss in not noting a number of other things this budget boasted. First off, as is the case in any budget document, when you dial in on the Internet and download from it or you go to your local MPP or the government of Ontario bookstore and pick up a copy of this book, you'll find any number of financial tables and graphs.

It's very frustrating and far too frequent that in this House we hear a suggestion that the government is hiding behind a veil of secrecy in the persecution of its efforts, that it's somehow not as open and accessible to the people of this province who on June 8, 1995, ratified the Common Sense Revolution and sent us on our way to rebuild this province. I would suggest to those who make that suggestion that simply looking through the page after page of very detailed information in this budget would produce a very different conclusion.

Speaking of conclusions --

Ms Lankin: We'll find one soon.

Mr Gilchrist: We'll find one soon indeed. I'd just like to draw everyone's attention very quickly to one very interesting line on page 63. Personal income tax -- again, I think I have to end on this note. The suggestion is that it doesn't matter whether it's education or health or anything else, the change as a result of the tax cut; the bottom line is that personal income tax in this province increased by $715 million last year. On that note I'd like to conclude.

I move that the committee rise and report.

The Acting Chair: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

The committee of the whole House begs to report progress and asks for leave to sit again.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.

House in committee of the whole.

The Acting Chair (Mrs Margaret Marland): Questions and comments? If so, to which section?

Shall sections 1 through 54 carry? Carried.

Shall the schedule carry? Carried.

Shall the title carry?

All those in favour?

Those opposed?

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the title carried. Shall the bill carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the bill carried.

Shall I report the bill to the House? Agreed.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that the committee rise and report.

The Acting Chair: The government House leader has moved that the committee rise and report. All in favour? Agreed.

The committee of the whole House begs to report one bill without amendments and asks for leave to sit again.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.

Hon David Johnson: Madam Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent to deal with third reading of Bill 129.

The Acting Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I move third reading of Bill 129.

The Acting Speaker: Shall the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

I believe the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 6(a), when the House adjourns on Thursday, June 26, 1997, it stand adjourned until Monday, August 18, 1997, which date commences the fall sessional period.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): Any debate?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

I believe the ayes have it.

That motion is carried.

It being 12 of the clock, this House will adjourn and sit again tomorrow at 1:30.

The House adjourned at 0002.