LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Monday 1 May 2006 Lundi 1er mai 2006
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): I move that, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 81, An Act to implement 2006 Budget measures and to enact, amend or repeal various Acts, when Bill 81 is next called as a government order the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment and at such time the bill shall be ordered referred to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs; and
That no deferral of the second reading vote shall be permitted; and
That the standing committee on finance and economic affairs meet on Thursday, May 4, 2006, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and following routine proceedings for the purpose of public hearings and clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 81; and
That the deadline for filing amendments to the bill with the clerk of the committee shall be 12 noon on May 4, 2006. On that day, at not later than 5 p.m. those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. The committee shall be authorized to meet beyond the normal hour of adjournment until completion of clause-by-clause consideration. Any division required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 127(a); and
That the committee shall report the bill to the House not later than Monday, May 8, 2006. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House; and
That upon receiving the report of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading which order may be called on that same day; and
That on the day the order for third reading for the bill is called, the time available for debate up to 5:50 p.m. or 9:20 p.m. as the case may be, shall be apportioned equally among the recognized parties; and
That when the time allotted for debate has expired, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and put every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That the vote on third reading may be deferred pursuant to standing order 28(h); and
That in the case of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to 10 minutes.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Michael Prue): Mr. Ramsey has moved government notice of motion 125. Mr. Ramsay.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I'm going to make a few introductory remarks. I will be sharing my time with the member for Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge, Mr. Arthurs.
I would just like to take a few moments to talk about the budget. As I have been travelling and making some announcements related to the budget, one of the things that has really occurred to me is the appreciation our municipalities have for the extra infrastructure money that our Minister of Finance has brought forward under the Move Ontario program. Those announcements, as I think all members of the House realize, were absolute, immediate cash transfers to our municipal partners for the good work they do with infrastructure, and were very much appreciated by our municipal leadership right across this province.
I think they were kind of surprised that it wasn't a program announcement and we didn't require them to fill out a lot of paper. They recognized that the Ontario government trusts their judgment to make decisions at the local level as to where they need to make those infrastructure expenditures. To have specially targeted roads and bridges meant they were able to allocate extra projects in those particular categories or, if not, substitute that money and maybe pay more attention to some of the water and sewer projects they weren't able to finance this year. So it was very much appreciated.
It was a week ago that the government, in conjunction with the federal government, announced the COMRIF grants to our municipal partners, which was a second round of infrastructure transfers to municipalities. Mr. Speaker, they very much appreciate that, as I know you know, because it's an equal one-third partnership between the federal government, the provincial government and municipalities. Our municipal partners apply to the provincial government. We have a due diligence system in place now, where we basically make the decisions and make those recommendations to the federal government, which now, by and large, accepts the judgment based on the competition that the COMRIF application becomes, and then together we make those announcements. I know those were very well received.
We know that the absolute participation rate in the COMRIF program really brings home to us the infrastructure deficit we have in this province. I know that when most people hear the word "deficit," they think of a fiscal one. Of course, our Minister of Finance has brought to the attention of the Legislature the horrendous fiscal deficit we inherited from the previous government. But I think the various ministers, and of course Premier McGuinty himself, have made it quite clearly known that Ontario faces many deficits. It's not just the fiscal deficit, which is the dollars and cents required to run a government, but we also found we had a health care deficit, an education deficit and, as I've just talked about, a severe infrastructure deficit.
Programs like Move Ontario and COMRIF help address this, because a lot of it can be handled very well at the local level. It's not just the provincial infrastructure of our highways, bridges and roads and the infrastructure of our schools, hospitals, universities and other post-secondary institutions, but it's the very important infrastructure that the local governments raise money for, build and maintain that is very important. Those are probably some of the most important because they involve safety and security. As our Premier, Dalton McGuinty, likes to say, what happened after the tragedy of Walkerton was that people in Ontario always had faith that when you turned on the tap you could drink the water that came out in safety, but after we saw what happened in Walkerton, we knew this was no longer necessarily the case. That's why this government has earmarked water and sewer especially, to make sure we have the safest drinking water in the world, a standard that Ontarians would expect to have. It's very important. We hope the federal government will continue the partnership with us to help with our municipal partners to address this infrastructure deficit and transfer the money to the municipalities that do the work of maintaining our water and sewer systems.
I wanted to touch on that because it's one aspect of this budget that is maybe not a point that a lot of people like to make, because maybe it's not the most interesting of topics, but it's so fundamental to the health and safety of Ontarians that we have safe drinking water. It's very important for this government to make sure that our municipal partners have the money and that all three government levels work together to ensure that.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): It's my pleasure to join the debate this evening on Bill 81. Actually, it's a time allocation motion on Bill 81, which is the budget bill, An Act to implement 2006 Budget measures and to enact, amend or repeal various Acts. I would like to talk specifically about this bill and generally about the budget itself.
This morning I attended the Parry Sound Municipal Association meeting. I was there first thing in the morning at South River. One of the points I made was that in Bill 81, hidden away in this budget bill, is a change to the term of municipal elected officials. We're kind of disappointed about that because, as the opposition, I think we disagree with the government's budgetary policy, so we're going to vote against the budget motion, I'm sure -- rather, this Bill 81 motion -- but that's kind of thrown in the middle of it. I was really seeking input at the Parry Sound Municipal Association meeting as to whether they think the four-year term is a good idea or not. A four-year term really kind of came out of nowhere. It certainly wasn't discussed around Queen's Park too much. Just when the Ontario Good Roads/Rural Ontario Municipal Association meeting was occurring, the Premier, I believe it was, went and made the announcement about this proposed four-year term. It kind of came out of the blue. I think he did it because there was nothing else he had announced, so he thought this would be a popular item with some of the elected officials.
I have to say that, at least for rural Ontario, it seems that it's not necessarily that popular. I've had a number of elected officials approach me about the four-year term, with more negative -- I don't think I've had any come to me with positive feelings about it. Just about all of them have been negative. In a rural area like Parry Sound or Muskoka, but in particular in the Parry Sound side of the riding where I have many small municipalities, I have to say the average age of the elected officials is fairly high. I know one elected mayor was saying to me that he has councillors who are 68, and do they want to be an elected member of council when they're 72? Having an extra year tacked on is actually negative in rural Ontario. I raised it in my speech this morning at the Parry Sound Municipal Association just to say, "I'll probably have an opportunity at some point to comment on this. Please let me know your feelings." I had to leave early to be here at 1:30, but I did have one person as I was leaving come and say exactly that. They said, "I'm 68 and I'm probably not going to run because that extra year is just more commitment than I want to make." If you are young, it may work the same way, that in a rural area you don't necessarily want to take on the commitment because of the longer time frame.
There have also been some negative editorials in some of the newspapers in our area to do with that. I wish it wasn't part of this budget bill, that it was something separate, part of a municipal bill instead of tied in with this budget bill. As I say, the feedback I'm getting on the four-year term in rural and northern Ontario seems to be more negative than positive. If it's going to discourage people from running, then that's a bad thing. As I say, the age of some of our elected councillors in rural areas is fairly high.
The Minister of Natural Resources briefly was speaking about the COMRIF announcements. There again there seems to be -- I mean, obviously there are some municipalities happy they got some positive results from that arrangement, but there are a lot that are unhappy too. I've certainly heard from a number of them. I was up at Powassan, at the Maple Syrup Festival there. It was right after the COMRIF announcements were being made public, and among the municipal politicians taking part in the Powassan maple syrup pancake flipping contest, that seemed to be a hot topic, that they had applied again, they'd spent a lot of money hiring engineers to put together the proposal, and once again they were disappointed.
Some rural municipalities have real challenges that are not being met. I know the mayor of Sundridge, Elgin Schneider, was quite disappointed when I was talking to him as well on the same day, not at the Powassan Maple Syrup Festival but in Sundridge, expressing how frustrated he was that once again they'd applied for a very worthwhile project and once again they were turned down.
I have to say that with some other areas of funding, such as the OMPF program -- I know the city of North Bay is very disappointed with that funding.
Mister Whip, I'm not quite sure what signs you're giving me.
Mr. Dave Levac (Brant): We're not happy.
Mr. Miller: Oh, you're not happy. But certainly there are some areas -- I have followed the North Bay press, and they are extremely unhappy with the funding they've had. They've got some real challenges; I think they have a $4.3-million predicted deficit in the North Bay budget in the next couple of years.
The budget in general: For me personally, the thing I was most disappointed in was that the budget was not balanced in what are relatively good times and times when the government had an extra $2.2 billion in revenue and they had some savings in interest payments. So they had $3 billion more to spend in revenue than they planned on when they made the budget a year ago, and yet, even with that extra $3 billion, they didn't balance the budget. I think that's irresponsible in times that are relatively good, because if the economy should have a downturn, then there are things that require government spending that are beyond the government's control, and they won't be able to control the deficit without some real cuts to people who need it at that point.
In looking at some of the responses to the budget around the area, I think Toronto is probably relatively happy, but lots of other areas aren't. The London Free Press: "Most of Area Feels Left Out by Province." These are various clippings I've saved from the budget reaction.
The London Free Press, March 24: "By the Numbers: Ontario's Budget; Toronto-Area Commuters Get Most of the Money as Province Seeks to Improve Bridges, Roads, Transit."
The Kingston Whig-Standard, Saturday, March 25: "Money for Roads Won't Go Far, Mayors Say: Provincial Budget Barely Begins to Cover City's Needs."
As I mentioned, there are a lot of negative articles in the North Bay area to do with the provincial budget and OMPF funding. "Area Mayor `Fuming' Over Provincial Budget: Toronto Gets Cash, While Mattawa Awaits Its Hospital." That's the North Bay Nugget, Saturday, March 25.
I've toured the Mattawa hospital. If there were ever a hospital that this government should agree to getting built, it's the Mattawa hospital. I can tell you, they've got an old building and they've also got portables. I don't think it meets even the current health and safety standards, and yet the government has not funded the very much required new hospital for Mattawa.
Reading from this article, "Mattawa has been left out in the cold by a provincial budget that promises to move forward with nearly a dozen other hospital projects in Ontario....
"`I'm fuming right now ... all they've done is thrown a bunch of hush money at us,' said Papineau-Cameron mayor Robert Corriveau.
"He said funds included in the budget for northern Ontario are aimed at placating communities that are getting a small fraction of the cash that's been devoted to the greater Toronto area."
The North Bay Nugget, March 27: "Toronto-Heavy Budget Focuses on 2007 Election." It's very much geared towards winning the next election -- political. "Doug West, a political science professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, said the Liberals clearly had next year's provincial election in mind when they drafted the budget, which he said offered virtually no help to northern Ontario."
The Sudbury Star: "Budget Offers Few Surprises: Predictably, Toronto and Its Neighbours Were the Beneficiaries of Liberal Handouts." That's Friday the 24th. As I look down through the article, "Nor was there anything new or tangible for northern Ontario's troubled forestry sector."
Then we get later, looking at OMPF funding, the North Bay Nugget, Wednesday, April 19: "Funding Shortfall Has City Ranting." It has been debated many times in North Bay, and they're extremely unhappy.
The Premier was up in North Bay. It was a little embarrassing; he was in North Bay and he called North Bay "Sudbury" -- always a bad thing to do in North Bay. There were a couple of negative articles to do with that.
I know we have other members who would like to speak, so I'll allow them time now. I am disappointed that the four-year term is part of this budget measures bill, Bill 81. Of course, we're discussing time allocation this evening. That's where the government is effectively ending debate on Bill 81 to shove it through.
I look forward to hearing from our other members this evening.
Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I'm pleased to participate in the debate this evening. I had a chance to speak on the bill when we dealt with it last week, and I had so much fun that I want to participate again. I'm going to be raising some of the same issues again, because you can't raise some of these issues enough.
Just with respect to the previous speaker, who was talking about the Mattawa hospital, I heard some Liberals trying to blame the Conservatives. My clear recollection is that the application for capital funding for the new Mattawa hospital went in to the ministry in June 2004, the Liberal government in place --
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Ms. Martel: -- and almost two years later, the Mattawa hospital has heard zero, zip, nada from the government about when they're going to be able to proceed.
The Acting Speaker: The member from Nipissing will come to order, please.
Ms. Martel: The reality is that these poor folks have a hospital that is completely substandard with respect to health and safety. The board has lobbied this government, ONA has lobbied this government, a number of health care professionals have lobbied this government. The only thing the government could come up with was some short-term money to deal with the most outrageous and egregious health and safety problems, but the fact of the matter remains that a new hospital needs to be built and this government has got to get off the pot and make a decision about this hospital.
It's not even a big amount of money. My recollection is that, at most, it might be $13 million we're talking about to build a new hospital. With the $3-billion windfall this government experienced in the last budget, you would think this Liberal government could find $13 million to build a new Mattawa hospital. I hope they do it before the second anniversary of the date the application for funding actually went in.
Let me deal with two of the schedules in the bill that I have the most concern with. The first is schedule I, which refers to the Ontario Infrastructure Projects Corporations Act. That is the schedule that is going to merge the Ontario Strategic Infrastructure Financing Authority and the Ontario Infrastructure Projects Corp. Of course, members will know that both of these bodies are playing an intermediate project management role in the private financing of hospitals that is now going on under the Liberals.
Speaker, you will not be surprised that I am opposed to the private financing of hospital construction in the province, just like Dalton McGuinty used to be opposed to the private financing of hospitals before and during the last election. Now it's good to remind those who are watching out there this evening of what Mr. McGuinty said on the record with respect to P3 hospitals. Let me read some of these quotes into the record. Here we are, May 28, 2003, just a couple months before the provincial election was called. Mr. McGuinty was speaking to the Ottawa Citizen -- Rod McIvor -- and said the following: "What I take issue with is the mechanism. We believe in public ownership and public financing [of health care]." Oh, but there's more. In the same article, "Mr. McGuinty warned recently that if the Liberals are elected in the provincial election now expected in the fall, they will stop private sector financing of hospitals, the so-called P3s, which the Conservative government is pushing as the way of the future." The key words here are, "They will stop private sector financing of hospitals."
But there's more: "Mr. McGuinty believes that public-private sector partnerships in health care would ultimately cost the province more money than traditional arrangements." My, my, my, imagine that. I agree with him. He's right. He was right before the election. I don't know how he had such a dramatic change in his way of thinking.
But wait. That was before the election. Now I want to read in the quotes from during the election campaign. What did Mr. McGuinty have to say about private financing of hospitals? Here is Dalton McGuinty featured in the Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, September 24, 2003, about a week left to go on the election campaign, isn't that right, Mr. Marchese? About a week left to go, and what does he say? This is according to Dave Rogers: "Ontario Liberal leader McGuinty has said the [Royal Ottawa Hospital] expansion will go ahead because Ottawa needs a new psychiatric hospital, but a Liberal government would cancel the deal with the private consortium because public-private partnerships are a waste of money." Thank you, Dalton. There you are: a week to go before election day, saying the Royal Ottawa Hospital is going to go forward, but the Liberals, if elected, are going to cancel the private financing because public-private partnerships are a waste of money.
Mr. Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): And what happened?
Ms. Martel: What happened? The Liberals win the election. No sooner did the Liberals win the election than the Brampton hospital and the Royal Ottawa Hospital are going through with private financing, contrary to what Mr. McGuinty promised. How can that be? How could Mr. McGuinty say one thing before the election about how private-public partnerships were such a waste of money and, if elected, his government would cancel these deals, and then just weeks after forming the government, change his mind and go forward with the Brampton and the Royal Ottawa deals, private sector financing in both cases? So many people out there voted for Mr. McGuinty because they believed him when he said he was going to cancel these deals. Imagine the slap in the face they got when, just weeks after becoming the government, the Liberals proceeded with the deals with respect to private financing that had been put in place by the Tories.
It gets worse, because not only did Mr. McGuinty backtrack -- that's the nicest word I can think of here tonight that will keep me out of trouble -- not only did he backtrack on the promise with respect to Brampton and the Royal Ottawa Hospital but the next thing you know, the government of Ontario is up and running and making announcements of at least 24 new privately financed hospitals in the province of Ontario -- 24. That's a little contrary to the promise he made during the election. This year, in this budget, 11 requests for proposals for 11 privately financed hospitals will go out the door at the ministry of infrastructure renewal -- 11 in this year alone.
I am opposed to private financing, like Dalton McGuinty used to be, because private financing of public hospitals costs the taxpayers more. Why is that? The reason is that government -- not the private sector, but government -- gets the lowest rate for borrowing money. We are talking about huge sums of money that will have to be borrowed for this hospital construction. The second reason I am opposed, and that Dalton McGuinty presumably was opposed before the election, is because the private sector, unlike government, is in this business to make some money. Under the traditional capital financing of hospitals, when government borrowed the money, they didn't add 20% on to the construction cost, because they were not in the business of making money off those projects. But the private consortiums surely are in the business, and you can bet your bottom dollar that a 15% or 20% profit margin is going to be factored into that final cost and drive the price up even more.
What do we know about Brampton? An independent analysis of the Brampton hospital alone, because it is a major construction project, shows that the taxpayers of Ontario are going to spend $175 million more because that project is being privately financed instead of being publicly financed by the government, like Dalton McGuinty promised -- $175 million for one project alone. Eleven privately financed hospital projects are going to tender this year. How many taxpayers' dollars do you think are going to be wasted because we are using this model of private financing? It's $175 million for one; by the time we finish with these 24, I'll bet you we spend $1 billion extra to privately finance these hospitals.
Mr. Marchese: It's the least Dalton could do to help the private sector.
Ms. Martel: I know the private sector is in such desperate straits that Dalton has to give them $1 billion. But aside from the clear broken promise before the election and during the election campaign, the other important point is that that $1 billion should be going into patient care, into hospital services, into health services, into health care for the people of Ontario. That's $1 billion that's going to go into the pockets of the private sector consortiums that win those requests for proposals to build these privately financed hospitals.
That's nuts. That model is absolutely nuts. It was nuts before the election -- Dalton McGuinty was right -- and it's nuts now. The only question is, why is it that Dalton McGuinty flipped and flopped and flopped and flipped after the election and is now moving to private financing, which is going to suck out so much public money that should be going into patient care and putting it into the profits of the private sector consortium? Shame on Dalton McGuinty for saying one thing before the election and during the election and for doing exactly the opposite after. I'll bet this broken promise is going to have a price tag, before we're done, of $1 billion which will be spent through private financing that would not have been spent if Dalton McGuinty had done what he promised, and that was to build hospitals, do hospital construction, in the traditional way, with government doing the borrowing. That's schedule I.
Let me deal with schedule D of the bill. That's the schedule in Bill 81 that reduces the rate of capital tax payable for 2007-08 by 5%, thus accelerating the phase-out of the capital tax. Do you know that eventually the elimination of the capital tax, which is scheduled, I think, to go over a 10-year period, although it might be less now with the acceleration this year, is going to cost the province of Ontario $1.2 billion? That's $1.2 billion that will essentially go to the banks and the insurance companies in the province of Ontario. I remember seeing some of the profit margins of the insurance companies a couple of months ago, and my recollection is that they made record profits last fiscal year. Record profits were made by the insurance industry. Now we've got to give them even more. They're hardly broke. They're hardly poor. It is unbelievable to me that this government would move forward with a $1.2-billion windfall for the banks and the insurance companies, when it's all rolled out, at a time when we have many other serious and important social and educational programs that we could fund in the province of Ontario.
So not only does the private sector probably get a billion bucks when it's all over because they're going to be involved in the private financing of hospitals, but now this same government is accelerating the phase-out of the capital tax and is going to give some of these other poor, poor companies in the province of Ontario, banks and insurance companies, another $1.2 billion by the time it's all said and done.
I say to you that that money could be invested in some things that are far more important than increasing the profits of the banks and insurance companies. I've got to tell you, that's what I think. Let me just give some examples of those programs that I think could benefit far more from some of this investment than the money that the banks and the insurance companies are going to make. I say it in the context of a related fact, which is that in this most recent budget this government had a $3-billion windfall. So there was $1.2 billion that they had to throw away, to give to the banks and the insurance companies, and in addition to that a $3-billion windfall.
What could the government have done? The first thing the government could have done was kept its promise on the clawback of the national child benefit. Here is what the Liberals said before the election and during the election. Here's another promise I've got to read into the record. Here's what the Liberals said in a questionnaire that was sent by the Campaign Against Child Poverty. The question that the Liberals had to answer was this: "Will your party make it a priority to end the clawback of the national child benefit supplement from families on social assistance?" The response from the Liberals during the election: "We will end the clawback of the national child benefit supplement. The clawback is wrong and we will end it. The Harris-Eves government has reinforced the cycle of poverty, not broken it."
That wasn't the first promise made about the clawback. In a letter dated July 31, 2003, to June Callwood on behalf of the Campaign Against Child Poverty, Mr. McGuinty said, "Second, my team and I oppose the Conservative government's practice of clawing back the national child benefit ... a practice we will end during our first mandate." What has this government done? Precious little, pathetically little with respect to the clawback of the national child benefit.
The only thing that the Liberals have done is allow the poorest families in the province, those on social assistance and those on ODSP, to keep the rate-of-inflation increase that goes with the benefit each year. So if it's an increase of 2% or 3%, they don't get to keep the whole benefit; they only get to keep that 2% or 3% portion, about $20 a month per child. About 20 bucks a month is what the Liberals are allowing the poorest families in Ontario to keep from the national child benefit.
Do you know what? The national child benefit was established by the federal government to put money into the hands of the poorest families in Canada. It is a transfer of federal money to the provinces that should be directed to the hands of those families that are the poorest: those on social assistance, those on ODSP. Here we are in the province of Ontario, a province with a $3-billion windfall in the last election, and the best the Liberal government can do, after making the promises it did, is give $20 a month per child to these families. Do you know what they're losing? About $1,500 a year as a result of this government not living up to the promises it made in the last election. Imagine the difference that $1,500 could make in the pocket of some of the poorest families in Ontario. Shame, shame, shame on this government for breaking this important promise.
Do you know what's worse? I've heard the kind of pathetic excuse the government uses as to why they have to keep the clawback in place. The pathetic excuse that I've now heard two ministers use is, "The money we steal back from the clawback" -- because that's what it is; it's stealing that money right out of the hands of the poorest families in the province -- "is money that we put into early childhood development initiatives in communities." Do you know what? We knew that. Everybody knew that. The Liberals knew that because that's what was done under the Conservatives too. That's not anything new. When the Conservatives decided to steal the clawback money, they put money into communities too for childhood development. In fact, every year a report is generated that shows how much money has gone out, to which community and which program that the money has been spent on. Nothing new there, and the Liberals knew when they made the promise that that's where the balance of the money was going. But that doesn't stop them now from holding up their hands and saying, "We can't stop the clawback. This is money that goes to communities, and who else would fund those programs?"
Do you know who else should fund the programs? The province of Ontario, because the province of Ontario, the McGuinty Liberal government, made a very clear promise in the last election that it would end the clawback, period -- not a portion of it, not the inflationary increase portion of it but all of it -- and give that money to the poorest families in the province. It's the McGuinty Liberal government who should find the $220 million -- and that's all it is -- that they steal from the lowest-paid families in Ontario, from the poorest families. They should stop stealing that $220 million and instead put $220 million on the table for those communities that provide those initiatives.
Do you know what? I am very proud that my own municipality just in the last two weeks moved a motion to urge Premier Dalton McGuinty to end the clawback of the national child benefit supplement and put $100 a month back into the hands of the poorest families. The Sudbury and district health board on Thursday called on the Premier to identify child and family poverty as a health issue that needs to be addressed by his government. They went on to move, as part of the motion, that it should be this government that funds the $220 million of initiatives in communities for early childhood development. Good, good, good for the board of health in the city of greater Sudbury. Congratulations to them for understanding the problem and for calling on the government to do the right thing, indeed to do what it promised in the last election. The only question is, when is this government going to live up to this election promise and stop stealing federal money from the poorest families in Ontario?
Let me look at another election promise that this government made, one that was raised by my colleague Andrea Horwath in this House today. That has to do with the Liberal government's promise, before the election and during the election, on child care. Here we go again. This was a 2003 questionnaire from the Campaign Against Child Poverty. The question was as follows: "How will your party increase access to high-quality licensed child care?" The answer from the McGuinty Liberals, during the campaign: "The Harris-Eves government has not put a penny into licensed child care. We are proposing an infusion of $300 million." Do you know what? The Liberal McGuinty government has not put one cent of new money into child care since they have been elected. Any and all money that has gone to child care in the province of Ontario under the Liberals has been the federal money that was flowed through the federal government to the province to disburse to communities for child care. Where is the promised $300 million?
Speaker, I know that you as a member of the finance committee last year moved a motion in the finance committee that the Liberal government should keep its promise and should provide $300 million in last year's budget for child care in Ontario, and I know that the Liberal members on that committee voted your motion down. This year, because you sit on the same committee, you moved another motion. You said, "Okay, we couldn't get $300 million from your last year; maybe we can get $150 million." So you moved a motion in the committee that the Liberals spend $150 million this year in child care, half of what they promised during the election campaign. What happened? The Liberal members on the committee voted that motion down too.
Where is this government's commitment to child care? If you look at the estimates for this year, not only is there no new money for child care in Ontario -- not $300 million, not $150 million, not $100 million -- not only is there not one single new penny of provincial money for child care in the province, but the Ministry of Children and Youth Services is estimating a cut of 22% in the child care budget this year -- a cut of 22% in the budget this year to child care in Ontario. Where is your commitment to child care? For goodness' sake, you folks have the audacity to point your finger at the federal government and talk to them about child care. Look at yourselves in the mirror, folks, and ask yourselves the question, "Where is the McGuinty Liberal government's $300 million that was promised in the last election?" Better yet, why is it that there is a 22% cut in the budget for child care at the ministry of children and family services this year? You have no credibility whatsoever when it comes to pointing the finger at Stephen Harper. You've got no credibility, folks, because not only have you not lived up to your election promise, you're actually cutting your child care budget this year. That's the reality. I know it hurts. I know you don't want to hear that, but you are on no good ground at all to point fingers anywhere else when you have absolutely and utterly failed to live up to your own election promise of adding $300 million more to the child care budget in Ontario.
I could go on, but my colleague Mr. Marchese is here this evening too and I know there are some comments he wants to make with respect to the budget. I think there is probably just one more, if you'll bear with me. Give me a few minutes more, Mr. Marchese.
Mr. Marchese: Take your time.
Ms. Martel: He's going to give me a few minutes more. I just want to speak about autism.
Here's a letter sent by Dalton McGuinty during the election, September 17, 2003, to Nancy Morrison, who is the mother of then-five-year-old Sean, who has autism. Here is what Mr. McGuinty had to say, because Nancy wrote and wanted to know what the positions of all the political parties were with respect to funding for IBI, intensive behavioural intervention, treatment. Here is what he said to Nancy Morrison:
"I also believe that the lack of government-funded IBI treatment for autistic children over six is unfair and discriminatory. The Ontario Liberals support extending autism treatment beyond the age of six. We are not at all confident that the Harris-Eves Conservatives care to devise any innovative solution for autistic children over six -- especially those with best outcome possibilities that might potentially be helped within the school system with specially trained EAs.
"In government, my team and I will work with clinical directors, parents, teachers and school boards to devise a feasible way in which autistic children in our province can get the support and treatment they need. That includes children over the age of six."
What did the government do after the election? Right after the election, the Liberal government kept right on discriminating against kids over the age of six and kept right on cutting them off IBI treatment the moment they turned six, just like the Conservative government before them. The Liberal government kept right on challenging the Deskin and Wynberg families and the other families who are part of that court appeal, spending millions of dollars that could have been better spent on treatments to fight these families every step of the way and even more aggressively than the Conservative government.
What's happening in the school? Nothing. There is no IBI therapist in the school; there is no IBI training in the school. You've got this hoax of a program where you have consultants who go into the school and give some advice to teachers about how to deal with autistic children. They're not providing IBI; they're not even working directly with kids with autism. It's a hoax for a program. It's a complete waste of money.
Give credit to the families who have struggled against the Conservatives and against the Liberals. Last year in April, Justice Kiteley's ruling came down. That ruling was in favour of families with autistic children in the province. The ruling made it very clear that the government of Ontario was violating the Charter of Rights of autistic children on the basis of their age and on the basis of their disability and that the Minister of Education was violating the Education Act because he was refusing to provide the supports and services that autistic children need to learn in Ontario's school education system.
As a result of that order, which remains in place unless and until it is overturned via the Ontario Court of Appeal, and we await that decision now, only as a result of that order by Justice Kiteley is IBI now being provided to children over the age of six, only because Justice Kiteley ordered it. It remains in place unless the Ontario Court of Appeal decides otherwise, not because the Liberals decided to live up to their promise; oh, no, because they didn't. They are being forced to do this now because of a court ruling, which they of course have gone to court to try to overturn. I was in court in December when the second case was heard, and I was appalled to hear the position of the Liberal government with respect to these families in light of the letter Dalton McGuinty sent to Nancy Morrison, mother of Sean, autistic child, then aged five.
We'll await that decision and, God willing, the Court of Appeal is going to be in favour of these parents. I sure hope so. But in the meantime, what has happened with respect to funding for autistic children? We've raised questions about the wait-list and we've been told, "Well, the reason there's a wait-list for kids now is because of this ruling. Isn't that terrible?" Do you know what? We did some FOI requests and just got the information back. Most recently, we found the following: In 2003-04 -- so this is a fiscal year under the Liberal government -- the total budget for autism was $80 million. The total expenditure was $44 million. So $36 million dollars was unspent in this program. Some $2.6 million went to other children's programs within the ministry, $1.5 million went to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and $32 million was returned to the consolidated revenue fund at a time when we had about 399 children on a wait-list who qualified for IBI but couldn't get it because there wasn't enough funding in the autism program to provide IBI -- $32 million went back to the consolidated revenue fund.
Let's look at fiscal 2004-05. The total budget projected for autism programming in the province: $89 million. Total expenditures: $67 million. The program was underspent by $21 million. Where did that money go? Twenty-one million dollars were applied to other children's programs within the ministry. At a time when we had more kids than ever before on a waiting list for IBI because of Justice Kiteley's ruling, at a time when we had more kids than ever before waiting to be assessed, the Liberals diverted $21 million from the autism program to other children's programs in the ministry. That is a disgrace. There's no other way to describe it. It's a complete disgrace and a slap in the face to those parents whom Mr. McGuinty made such a solemn promise to before the election and whom he was so quick to turn his back on after the election campaign.
In closing, I'll say again that I hope the Court of Appeal comes down in favour of the families because then justice will finally be served. But it is a disgrace that these families had to go to court again under the McGuinty government, especially in light of the promise this Liberal government made to these families.
Mr. Wayne Arthurs (Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge): I'm pleased to join in the debate tonight on government resolution 125, as part of the time allocation. It's important at some point that we're allowed, as government, to move things along to the point of a vote in the Legislature and to move to the agenda of Bill 81, to have the opportunity to vote on it and give the people of Ontario the opportunity to see the implementation of the budget bill and all of the items that are included in it.
I'm pleased to be able to follow the Minister of Natural Resources, the member from Parry Sound-Muskoka, and the member from Nickel Belt. We can kind of move a little bit south, in that sense, since my riding is here in the southern part of Ontario. I do want to take the opportunity, though, because the member from Nipissing provided a little bit of information, for clarity on the situation to the north of us in the area of North Bay. I just wanted to pose a couple of things based on some earlier comments.
During the first round of COMRIF, North Bay had the largest single allocation from COMRIF, some $30 million for their water treatment plant, so it's not as though North Bay is being ignored. I understand that the city received some $3.4 million in this year's provincial budget for roads and bridges, not unlike municipalities throughout Ontario. I wouldn't think from that context that they're being ignored. Some $900,000 in gas tax money this year went to the city of North Bay to help with the construction of the city's transit terminal. I think municipalities like North Bay are being treated fairly and responsibly, not unlike other municipalities throughout the province of Ontario.
This budget is about Ontarians. It's about our government effectively being onside with Ontario families, who want the best for their children in the form of public education. That's why, as part of the mandate -- and we've heard the words during the course of this evening about commitments over a mandate. Mandates mean you have a four-year period. We've chosen a fixed time frame -- not able to do everything on day one or day two. Over the course of this particular mandate, focusing on education, we have delivered a high degree of peace and stability in the education setting. One only needs to go into the schools and talk to the staff, parents, support staff or children to realize it's a very different environment in the school setting now than we had just two or three short years ago.
During that period of time, we've managed to see provincial standards test scores go up from some 50% to some 62% of students who are either meeting or exceeding provincial standards. So we're well on the way to achieving the out-year goals with respect to where we want students to be when it comes to standardized testing -- as minimums, not as maximums.
During the mandate to this point -- and it's not over yet. There's a four-year mandate to achieve a number of things. There has been the hiring of some 4,300 new teachers, and we've delivered, incidentally, some one million new textbooks into the schools. Those are things that often aren't mentioned during the course of the year, but they're certainly important to those young people in the school setting who need those resources, either directly there during the day or, frankly, to take them home with them -- something that hasn't happened very much for a long time. But 4,300 new teachers means a lot fewer students in the classroom for those children who are most in need.
Class sizes are coming down. We made a commitment during this mandate to lower class sizes for JK to 3, the primary group, with caps at 20 children. We're well on our way to achieving that. Frankly, some 70% of classes are now benefiting from smaller class sizes, and each child in the classroom is benefiting. I can speak to that from personal experience, as my wife teaches grade 1. She has taught grade 1 for a lot of years and she knows the difference when you have 25, 26 or 27 grade 1s and when you have 18, 19, 20 or even 21 grade 1s. Those four or five children make a big difference in the type of program a grade 1 teacher or a grade 2 teacher can deliver to those students, and the amount of time they can expend on students in their classroom who have real needs.
We're also on the side of Ontarians as it relates to opportunities for their children when it comes to post-secondary education. Education clearly is a central theme of this mandate that we have for four years. There are some 75,000 more opportunities for post-secondary education for students. We've doubled student aid so that families can afford higher education -- those lower-earning families in our communities who don't have the capacity to pay the full tuition, who don't have the capacity to ensure that their children get access to post-secondary education. We're doubling the income threshold to make sure that students can qualify.
We're also ensuring that those student loans don't end up burdening students so heavily at the end of the day that they're 15 years getting out of debt. The student loan portion is being capped, and anything that might be eligible to the most needy students is going to be forgiven. It effectively becomes a grant over the top. That's going to provide not only opportunity to get into the system, but it's also going to provide an opportunity, when they're finished, to realize in a relatively short period of time the real earning power that can come with post-secondary education and the opportunity to participate fully in the province of Ontario.
We have been busy creating new trade spaces. Some 1,000 training spaces for skilled trades have been created.
We're investing in total some $6.2 billion over five years in the post-secondary system. It's the largest investment in post-secondary education in an entire generation.
For the first couple of years we froze tuition, but we recognize that that's not sustainable either. We need to invest in those who have the greatest need, but in doing that we have to ensure that students also continue to support the system as they're best able.
We're also on the side of Ontario families who want the best in health care. We've added new vaccines free of charge for the youngest in our communities.
We're expanding access to doctors, nurses and professionals in our community. There are some 3,000-plus more nursing positions today than there were just a couple of short years ago.
We've launched 150 family health teams ahead of schedule, and those are beginning to roll out. It will take some time for them to become fully operational, but they're going to provide better care to some 2.5 million Ontarians. We know far too well in many of our communities about the sparsity of trained professionals, about the ability to get a doctor, about the ability even to retain a doctor if you happen to have one. As they retire or move into other activities, it's very difficult to see them replaced, and the family health teams are going to be an important part of the primary health care system in Ontario.
We're adding positions for internationally trained medical graduates.
In those key areas that we set out, wait times are coming down. We're funding some 31,000 additional surgical procedures, 24% more MRI exams, 7% more cancer surgeries, 20% more hip and knee replacements, 15% more cataract surgeries and 7% more cardiac procedures. So more people are getting treatments and they're getting them quicker.
When we came to office, there were a lot of announcements in play by the former government when it came to hospitals. As a matter of fact, I think something like 39 or 40 announcements were made in the spring and summer of 2003. None of them had funding in place, but they were all announced. So the expectations for those communities were set very high, with no financial capacity in place to meet those needs. We're working through that list, plus the list that has been established as priorities in other communities in Ontario. I can tell you, in my own home community of Pickering and Ajax we've recently, in this budget, announced the redevelopment and expansion of the Ajax-Pickering hospital as part of the Rouge Valley Health System.
I can tell you, during the past couple years in my community people have been saying, "Well, we were promised our hospital." There was a complete lack of understanding about what that meant. In reality, this year was the first year that my local hospital could even have been considered for its redevelopment, because it was only last June, after the budget, that they managed to finalize their community portion for their hospital redevelopment. I suspect there are hospitals throughout Ontario that are faced with the same types of situations. We're moving through those hospitals in an expeditious fashion with some 11 projects during this year.
I could spend some considerable time on Bill 81, on this time allocation necessary to move forward in the province of Ontario on an important part of a four-year mandate. There is more to come. For those who will consistently criticize government for not achieving everything on day one, it's important for the opposition to keep the government's feet to the fire. I am confident that to the greatest extent possible, those commitments that were made during the last provincial campaign will be realized prior to the end of this mandate in October 2007.
I appreciate the opportunity to bring some insights into our budget for this year. I look forward to the balance of the debate and, most particularly, to the opportunity for the people of Ontario to have the experience that will come with the actual implementation of this budget.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): I guess I'm pleased to be here tonight speaking on the Budget Measures Act, but the reality is that we're speaking on a closure motion, as I understand it. That means the government doesn't really want to discuss the bill anymore -- not enough debate. I guess they feel that it's an opportunity to fast-track this bill through and end the democratic right of people to say a few words.
There are a couple areas I'd like to speak on for a few moments, one being the policing community, which is my critic's portfolio, and the other of course being COMRIF, which I believe is an area of concern that many of us in rural Ontario feel deeply disappointed about.
I want to talk a little bit about police, first of all. Day after day I listen to the minister talk about how wonderful things are in the policing community. But when I question him on things like the expenditures estimates, he tells me that this book, the expenditure estimates for 2006-07 -- that they're not accurate, that it's all at the discretion of the policing community. I think of things like the field and traffic services of the OPP that have been cut this year by $31 million. The minister, Mr. Kwinter, says that's not so, that there are discretionary factors in there and that the reality is that there have been no cuts to that area. But we all know that's likely not the case, that the field and traffic services of the OPP are in a province that's expanding, when there are more cars on the road. We know there's more criminal activity today than there probably has been in a number of years. We know that cutting the field and traffic services by $31 million is likely in effect hurting the OPP. I think of nothing more than what the Ontario Provincial Police have been going through just over the last month now with the case in Caledonia, where they've basically been left on their own to try to resolve a major dispute. My guess is that it's costing the Ontario Provincial Police at least a couple of million dollars extra for manpower, accommodation, food, extra vehicles that are required and overtime. That's their additional costs to date. I already asked the minister one time what it costs on a daily basis to have the Ontario Provincial Police at Caledonia.
We often have special cases where we have to have extra OPP staff. For example, the Pope's visit a few years back -- I believe it was in 2002 -- was a case where we needed additional staffing and the police were able to budget for that. There are other cases where there are major events in the province and the Ontario Provincial Police are able to staff for those as well. But when cases like Caledonia come up, there's no reserve for the OPP to fall back on to add another 100 officers in a certain community. With that, I want to go back and say that the Ontario Provincial Police do an absolutely phenomenal job, particularly policing rural Ontario. I am very concerned about the way they have been cut in this certain area.
Another area in which the OPP has been cut -- again, this is what the estimates say; it's not what the minister says -- is in fleet management; $1.5 million has been cut. We all know that vehicles are going up in price. We all know that gasoline is probably costing the Ontario Provincial Police and their fleet 30% more than last year at this time, and we know that maintenance on vehicles is higher. But in this growing province, apparently with a growing overall budget, somehow we found a way to cut $1.5 million out of the fleet management budget of the OPP: the vehicles they need to travel the roads, the boats they need to patrol the rivers and the additional equipment they require to move their officers throughout the province.
I just want to say to the minister that I believe what the estimates say. Above and beyond that, though, I want to say that, in my opinion, having the OPP general headquarters in my riding of Simcoe North, what an honour it is to work with these people on a day-to-day basis. While talking about policing, I want to say that I was honoured to be part of the graduation ceremony at the Ontario Police College in Orillia the other day, when 84 OPP officers graduated into the rank and file. There were 10 women and 74 men. I just want to say to the police college and to Commissioner Gwen Boniface, on behalf of our caucus, what an excellent job they do for the province of Ontario. I just wish they had more support from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
The other thing I wanted to mention was the COMRIF application. I'm not really sure where the Ontario government is going in this particular Canada-Ontario infrastructure program. In Simcoe county, we felt very badly left out of the process. Not a lot of money went to the COMRIF program. There was some money for one small road in the city of Orillia and a little bit of money for a bridge in the township of Tiny.
On one hand, the government brings in something called greenbelt legislation which escalates growth in the county of Simcoe by 25-some years. You'd think that if a government was planning on greenbelt legislation, that if they were bringing in that type of legislation to deal with planning in the province of Ontario, there would be more for sewer and water systems for the extra 500,000 or 600,000 people they expect to add to the county of Simcoe in the next 25 years. Of course that's without any impact studies on the wonderful and great Lake Simcoe that makes up one of our largest tourism areas and is a great jewel in the Ontario system.
I want to say on behalf of the people I represent in the riding of Simcoe North how deeply disappointed a number of municipalities were. The township of Tay was looking for some assistance in helping with their water program, and they got nothing. The township of Ramara was looking for money for the Brechin sewer system. They put in a couple of applications. We were told they were well received and well put together, and yet this government, although they had a bundle of money on the last week of the year, hoping that they could create a deficit --
Hon. Steve Peters (Minister of Labour): Two hundred and seventy-seven applications in 1998 --
Mr. Dunlop: I've gotten under the skin of the Minister of Labour, who hasn't got a clue what I'm talking about. The bottom line is --
Mr. Dunlop: Maybe the Minister of Labour should be giving the speech. Maybe he should have the floor, because clearly he hasn't got a clue what he's talking about. I'm just telling you that the Minister of Labour has no idea what he's talking about. He didn't when he was the Minister of Agriculture, and now he's in this portfolio trying to --
Hon. Mr. Peters: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker --
Mr. Dunlop: Go ahead and say something.
Hon. Mr. Peters: -- I take offence to the personal shots that are being delivered. I don't even want to get into it, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: Obviously, the honourable member has taken some offence here, and I would ask you to be very careful in your remarks.
Mr. Dunlop: Maybe he shouldn't be heckling about things he doesn't know anything about.
The reality is, this budget did nothing for the citizens of rural Ontario, as usual. Wait. I should say that the counties of Hastings and Frontenac did well. They got money for roads and bridges. Is that not the case? They were sent a cheque at the last minute and, of course, the counties of Hastings and Frontenac have no roads and bridges. That's the type of wasteful -- that's the little bit of thought that has been put into this budget. They spent a pile of money with the surplus dollars left over from the citizens of the province of Ontario at the end of the year, and they blew it. They couldn't pay down the debt. They wanted to come out next year with a fancy budget saying they had eliminated the deficit.
Clearly, I'm getting under their skin, because they don't want to hear the truth. All I'm trying to say today is that we were not well served by the COMRIF program in this round of applications. I'll conclude my remarks with that, because there are other members of my caucus who would like to make a few comments as well.
Mr. Marchese: I'm happy to have this opportunity to speak to the strangulation motion, a motion that snuffs debate. As you would know, Speaker, I didn't have an opportunity to speak to Bill 81, so I take this opportunity to speak to this strangulation motion as a way of talking about the issues that I wanted to talk about.
We're on live. It's 8 o'clock. I welcome the listeners to this political forum. It's May 1, so that you know; you don't want to see any repeats. If it's a repeat, just move on. We're on live.
I want to start by mentioning a couple things raised by the member from Nickel Belt, and I want to repeat some of the stuff that she talked about as it relates to the public-private partnerships. It's important to spell it out because P3s mean nothing to people. I have to admit that if you say "public-private partnerships," it means even less. You've got to define it. What is clear, and the member from Nickel Belt made it expressively clear, is that when Dalton, the Premier, was in opposition he had a whole lot to say about the P3s, the so-called public-private partnerships. He said, and I repeat, "We believe in public ownership and public financing." Even the Tories believed in it.
But the Tories are real believers. They mean what they say, and they don't shy away from saying it. In fact, they say, "Yes, we're into P3s. Yes, we want to give a lot of money and profits to the private sector, but we're up front." They make no bones about it. They're saying, "We don't want to spend any money as a state, as a province; we want to give a couple bucks to the private sector so they can make some money," because they're like this, the Tories and the private corporations. But at least they're clear. God bless them. New Democrats respect them for being so bald and bold about their politics. I do respect that. Dalton McGuinty, then Leader of the Opposition, said he was opposed to P3s, and I thought, "Okay." Even I, as a politician, believed him. Nobody believes politicians, but I believed him.
The question about believing politicians is a very tricky one, because people out there say, "Come on. Politicians talking about other politicians not keeping their promises? Who are you kidding?" So it's true, they don't believe anyone. But how many broken promises must you achieve to be able to then be considered by the public as real mischievous types who distort the reality in ways such that you can then say, "I know they all distort the truth but, man, how many times can you do it over and over again until you say, `I've had enough'"? I had enough. I believed Dalton when he said he was against the public-private partnerships. I believed him when he said, "We believe in public ownership and public financing." When he said that if elected, they would stop private sector financing of hospitals, I said, "Yes, I'm on his side." When he said he believed that public-private partnerships in health care would cost the province more money than the traditional arrangements, I said, "Yes, I believe Dalton," because we say the same thing as New Democrats.
No sooner do they get into power than they change the politics. Do you know what they did? Let me tell you what they did. They don't call it P3s any more, so all the Liberals smugly say, "We don't have P3s." They're all so smug about it: "We don't do P3s." And they're right. They're not doing P3s. They call them alternative financing procurement, and thus, therefore, consequently, it's different; it's not P3s. And they're right; it's not. Now it's alternative financing procurement. So the Liberals put a new name on it, a new colour, and they say, "No, it's not the same."
The Tories were honest about the whole thing, and the Liberals are so slippery. They are like reptiles that slither in front of you --
The Acting Speaker: Although there doesn't seem to be any complaint, I think the member has overstepped the bounds and I am requesting that that be withdrawn.
Mr. Marchese: I take back "reptiles." I do. How about, "They are reptilian in their approach to politics"?
The Acting Speaker: I think the honourable member should withdraw that phrase.
Mr. Marchese: "Reptilian in their politics"? You're getting too much advice from the Clerk, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: The Speaker is requesting that the statement be withdrawn.
Mr. Marchese: I withdraw it if it offends you, but I have said this in the Legislature many a time. I don't understand how it could offend some people.
So Liberals are the only ones who could distort the truth in the way that they do, and they get away with it over and over again.
The Acting Speaker: I'm asking the member, please, withdraw that statement.
Mr. Marchese: I withdraw the statement that the Liberals distort the truth. I withdraw it.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you.
Mr. Marchese: I tell you, it takes leadership to break a promise. It takes real leadership, and we have seen this over and over again from all the Liberals across the way, particularly Dalton. It takes fortitude, leadership, to be able to say one thing before the election and change it after the election. It takes a Minister of Health to be able to do it with heart and strength and vigour, and he does defend it with vigour. You see him here every day. He's got such a vigorous voice as he defends his policies and his broken promises.
I've got to tell you, you've got to love Liberals. You've got to love that middle way. That middle way means you never know what you're going to get. That's Liberal politics. It's the middle way, you understand. You never know what you're getting.
Talk about schedule D and the gradual removal of the capital tax. Have you ever known a corporation, including banks -- it's not just about banks and insurance companies, but have you ever known a corporation or a bank to say, "We love that tax. We want to contribute to society. We think that we should pay a little bit"? Have you ever known a corporation to say, "We love that tax"? I don't know any corporation that says, "I want to make a contribution." Every corporation I know says, "I'm paying too much. We're paying too much. If you keep on taxing me, I'm just going to have to leave the country. I may even have to leave to another province, because we're overtaxed."
The Tories, God love them, oblige every banker, every corporate sector that comes and says, "We need to eliminate that tax." They've been obliging. They're very honest about it. They make no bones about it, God bless them. And the Liberals, they have no money, yet they introduce a health tax; and the Liberals, they have no money, yet they introduce a capital tax break that eventually means $1.2 billion is lost from provincial coffers, because they don't have enough money. They're broke, and they introduce a health tax. They're broke, and they introduce this capital tax break that eventually is going to mean $1.2 billion goes out of provincial coffers. I don't understand that.
Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): That's why you're over there.
Mr. Marchese: That's why I'm here and that's why George Smitherman, the Minister of Health, is there: the middle road, the middle way -- we've got to help the poor, and we've got to help the wealthy. Even the wealthy need a tax break, and the poor, they get the health tax, and they get whacked with the health tax. The Minister of Health is here, God bless him, and he defends it strongly. He defends the health tax on individuals who earn $30,000 $40,000, $50,000, who pay $400, $500, $600, some of them, when you get to the $60,000 range. If you earn over $100,000, all you pay is it $900.
Ms. Martel: That's fair.
Mr. Marchese: That's fair. So the banker who's getting a capital tax break, God bless him, all he has to do is pay 900 bucks. The Liberals think it's fair.
Mr. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): Come on, be fair.
Mr. Marchese: I am fair. That's why I'm here, and you are there defending a capital tax break for the wealthy and defending a health tax for the middle class who have to pay more and more.
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: Explain your kilometres. Explain your travel budget then --
Mr. Marchese: Oh yes, George. You stand up, George, and make that speech about my mileage.
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: You drove to Kingston every night. You drove home to Kingston every night.
Mr. Marchese: Isn't that a funny thing? God love him. When Liberals get touchy, you notice -- the Minister of Labour just got a bit -- and I thought he was a bit appropriate. But when you touch George, you notice how you get to the personal? It's very fascinating. God love you, George. Listen, George, you've got 30 minutes to stand up and make a speech, and I hope you stand up and defend your policies, as you do so well in this place. It takes leadership to take away money from those who are poor.
Talk about housing. This government says that they have produced thousands and thousands of units for low-income earners. The Minister of Housing stands up and defends it. The Acting Premier, George Smitherman, stands up to defend it. They all hoo-hoo about how great they are. In 2003-04, cumulatively in those two, three years, if you include 2002 when the Tories were in there, all they've created is 63 units of public housing. Then, in 2004 and beyond, in 2005, we don't have any figures. Do you know why? The Liberals were so embarrassed by the record of not building any public housing that they stopped publishing the figures. So lo and behold, the Minister of Housing stands up and says, "Oh, no, we built thousands of public housing units." They're not there; it's just a claim. And do you know why we know? Because they don't publish the numbers. Do you know why they don't publish the numbers? Because they don't exist, because they are too embarrassed to publish the 2005 numbers. So they stand up here with the usual puffery and the usual hubris, expressed particularly by my good friend the Minister of Health, and they make all sorts of claims in this place. Stand up and defend the record and show it.
You got the member from Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge here talking about how great they've been in their educational policies. They talk about the peace and stability -- that's all they can talk about is peace and stability. They got an agreement with the teachers for four years, and that's keep them quiet for a long time.
But it hasn't dealt with all the problems in the educational system. The member from Pickering-Ajax was a physical education teacher at one point. He doesn't know, and neither do his Liberal colleagues, and neither does the current minister nor the past one, that you've got 30% of the classrooms across Ontario who have physical education teachers. Yet what you've demanded of them is 20 more minutes of exercises from their regular classroom teacher. You've only got 30% --
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for francophone affairs): You don't need a phys. ed teacher to do exercise.
Mr. Marchese: Yes, you do, Madame. If you want the knowledge that comes with physical education, you need a physical education teacher. You're not going to get it from the regular classroom. You might be able to jump up and down for 20 minutes; that's not physical education, I'm sorry --
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne (Don Valley West): You need both. You need day-to-day --
Mr. Marchese: So when you talk about what you've done and you talk about ESL -- and I'm glad that my friend from Don Valley West is here, because she's well informed about these issues. When we talk about ESL, she knows, as a former trustee, about the needs of ESL students in Toronto, and she knows that the $43 million that was given by the previous minister was used to balance the budget. She knows because she still has a lot of Liberal friends -- trustees on the Toronto board. They know that that $43 million was diverted from ESL to balance their budget. You've got so many students who come from all over the globe needing English-as-a-second-language support, and they're not getting it.
Member from Don Valley West, stand up and defend your policies. Minister of Health, stand up and defend your policies. We've got a Liberal government that's still using a Conservative funding formula that both the former Minister of Education and Dalton McGuinty said they were going to abolish. They were going to get rid of it. They were going to change it. They were going to get rid of the Conservative funding formula that they said was flawed, that the New Democrats agreed was flawed, that the member from Don Valley West agreed was flawed. They're still in that Conservative funding formula trap that gives not enough funding for ESL, not enough funding for special ed, not enough funding for transportation, not enough funding to keep small schools open, not enough funding for music teachers and physical education teachers and guidance teachers and caretakers, and on and on.
That's what the member from Pickering-Ajax is proud of. All they can talk about is, "We've got peace and stability." The member from Don Valley West keeps on repeating the same mantra: "We've got peace and stability." Yet we have deficiencies in the system that are not being dealt with. The same problems recur under this Liberal government as we had under the Tories, yet their claim is, "Every day we're spending more and more."
Ms. Wynne: Two billion dollars more, Rosario. Come on, $2 billion --
Mr. Marchese: If the member from Don Valley West will remember, the Tories used to make the same claim. They used to say "We're spending $2 billion more." The member from Don Valley West says, "We're spending $2 billion." If you're spending $2 billion, then everything should be okay.
Ms. Wynne: It's not all fixed.
Mr. Marchese: It's not, and I'm pointing out where it's not fixed. I am pointing out where it's not fixed. The special education is not fixed.
The point I wanted to make about special ed, just a brief one, is on autism. This government is so proud -- the former minister, the other former minister that's here, now the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. We've got a real problem. They make a claim that they're spending $30 million more. If you ask them, they'll probably say they're spending more on that. What this money is doing is the following: It's going to private agencies out there, hiring consultants. Some of them may be teachers; many of them are not. We don't know how qualified they may be, let's just assume they are, but a lot of these consultants that give support to autism are not in the classroom. They do not teach; they cannot teach. They're only there to provide advice to those who are on the front lines in the schools trying to provide the intensive behaviour intervention modalities, and there's not enough money and not enough support. That's what these people do.
The claim from the government is, "We're providing more and more," yet the member from Nickel Belt says that in 2003-04 that very ministry gave back $36 million, money that could have been used for intensive behavioural intervention programs. It's gone back into the consolidated revenue fund. In 2004-05, $21 million was sent back, money that students suffering from special education needs are not getting.
That's the kind of government we've got. This is the kind of government the member from Don Valley West is all proud of, that the Minister of Health is so proud of. They boast about how great they are. This is a government of broken promises, nothing more. Yes, they threw in a couple of dollars, but that's about all they have done. They're known for broken promises, no more.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. David Orazietti (Sault Ste. Marie): I'm pleased to rise this evening to join tonight's discussion with respect to the 2006 budget bill, Bill 81. As well, I'll speak to the issue around why we need to time-allocate this bill, because of the very important work this bill will do for Ontarians and certainly for individuals in my community.
I know it's breaking with the tradition of the Conservatives by delivering the budget in the Legislature, which is something different, something our minister certainly had the respect for Ontarians and this Legislature to do. It's also going to break with the tradition of the NDP in terms of our direction in reducing the deficit, unlike the NDP who ran deficits in the neighbourhood of $10 billion yearly and really had no accountability for public money and no plan to put Ontarians on a solid footing.
We have a plan for the province to improve our health care, education and infrastructure, to balance our budget and to improve provincial services. So I want to talk about the importance of passing this budget bill and highlight some of the benefits, both provincially and to my community of Sault Ste. Marie.
With respect to health care, our health care minister, Minister Smitherman, is leading our health care transformation, and doing a fantastic job. We're certainly seeing the benefits of that in Sault Ste. Marie.
Let me just talk for a few minutes about this transformation. What this means to Ontarians is putting resources into community health care services, taking the pressure off our hospitals. For too long, our hospitals have been burdened with providing services they were really not designed to provide, not prepared to provide. In 2003, when I was elected, we had over 60 individuals in long-term-care beds in our hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, and that's certainly not the case today. This means a greater investment for public health; we're going from 50% to 75% for public health. This means infusions of cash for mental health, which for about a decade had not seen any increases to their base budget.
It also means significant resources to home care. In 2003, I recall the phone at the constituency office ringing steadily, with individuals saying, "I can't get care for my mother or father. If I can't get this care, they're going to be in the hospital." With the very first funding announcement injecting funds into home care, in Sault Ste. Marie we saw $1.4 million in new funding. What this meant was 20 new individuals were hired in the community care access centre, and the waiting list began to dry up. So this was fantastic news in Sault Ste. Marie. Again, I want to highlight the home care funding announcement today that saw a $1.5-million increase to the Algoma Community Care Access Centre to provide very important home care services to people in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma.
As well, supportive housing increases: The Ontario Finnish Rest Home in Sault Ste. Marie saw a $300,000 increase to their base budget. We know that providing health care and having people in our hospital at about $800 a day is far more expensive than providing these services in the community, where individuals want them and where taxpayers can better afford them. That is part of the key focus around our health care transformation, and that's what this budget does.
We've also benchmarked, with our wait time strategy, five important areas: cancer treatment and surgeries, cardiac, cataract, hip and knee, and MRI and CT scans. These five areas are critical in the delivery of quality health care services to the people of Ontario. Prior to our government coming to office, we really had no idea where we stood across the province and what different hospitals were capable of delivering. We made this process transparent for Ontarians to log on to the provincial website and see for themselves where each hospital stands in terms of delivering each one of these very vital services. Dr. Alan Hudson is leading the charge on the wait times strategy. We're certainly seeing results in Sault Ste. Marie. It's very transparent, and it's something that we're definitely proud of.
Multi-year and stable funding for our hospital: The Sault Area Hospital will see over $300 million over the next three years in historic multi-year funding, something that the Ontario Hospital Association has been clamouring for for years. Until we came to office, that hadn't happened, so it's definitely a step in the right direction.
When it comes to physician supply, this is an area that has been neglected and overlooked by past governments. It's something we're making a concerted effort to address. We know that in 2003 there were about a million Ontarians who said they didn't have a family doctor. When it comes to international medical graduates, we've taken the spaces from 90 to 200, we've increased medical school enrolment by 15%, and we've also added 56 new seats at the Northern Ontario Medical School with an investment of about $95 million. It's the first medical school to be built in Canada in more than 30 years, and it was built in northern Ontario. I'm certainly proud to say that there are four individuals from Sault Ste. Marie enrolled in the Northern Ontario Medical School and I'm hopeful that they'll return to Sault Ste. Marie to practise medicine.
This is very different than the steps past governments took in terms of neglecting physician supply and certainly the disastrous effects the NDP had when it came to dealing with medical school enrolment: cutting those seats in medical schools and cutting graduate programs across the board. Extremely irresponsible; I know it certainly hurt our community in Sault Ste. Marie.
When it comes to nursing, we're talking about increasing full-time nurses from 51% to 60%. We're making progress. We have over 4,000 new nurses working in Ontario. We've increased the clinical training spaces for nurses from 75 to 150, and we've also provided greater funding for graduate education. As we enter nurses' week, we have much to be proud of in terms of our results when it comes to increasing the number of nurses in Ontario and respecting the services that they provide for the people of Ontario.
As part of our budgetary planning, we also have 150 new family health teams and $600 million toward these family health teams. We're making considerable progress. I'm also proud to say that this has been modeled after the Group Health Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, which is one of the oldest in the country when it comes to a family health team model. It's won all kinds of national and provincial awards. Our government has supported this centre and has worked to see that this model is developed and rolled out throughout the province. For nearly five years, the Group Health Centre, under the past government, didn't have a contract. We took it very seriously and made sure that the Group Health Centre now has a new contract worth $26 million -- and I should say they're very happy with that contract -- to provide the services that are vital to individuals in the Soo and area. They have about 58,000 rostered patients at this centre. We also provided $1.6 million for an expansion at the centre and about $750,000 for an important program for vascular research intervention. Many residents in the Soo and area are benefiting from this.
We also created the new Ministry of Health Promotion to invest in prevention. I want to commend Minister Watson for his leadership with this ministry in raising the awareness of health issues across the province. This is an investment in Ontarians' health and it's something that's going to help us reduce our health care costs over time.
I also want to talk just for a moment about our new hospitals. The member from Nickel Belt had indicated that there are 11 hospitals moving forward. I just want to say I'm proud that Sault Ste. Marie is moving forward. Finally, a new hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, after years of neglect. I know the member from Nipissing, another northern caucus colleague, has also worked very hard to ensure that her hospital is moving forward. I know the community of North Bay is very excited about that hospital as well.
When it comes to traditional procurement projects, we can talk about some of the horrendous examples: the situation in Sudbury that was $100 million over budget; the Thunder Bay hospital that was well over $100 million over budget. The member from Nickel Belt criticizes the AFP process, but I don't recall any hospitals being built on the NDP's watch. We've committed to ensure that these hospitals are publicly owned, publicly controlled and publicly operated, and that's exactly what they'll be.
We also want to ensure that the consortium maintains this facility for the life of it and ensures that if the window seals go or the HVAC system fails, they're going to be there to make sure that's in good repair and Ontario taxpayers are not going to have to dig into their pockets yet again and come good for the maintenance costs on these facilities. The other thing with respect to the AFP is if there are cost overruns, the consortium has signed a contract for a fixed price to deliver this project, and they're required to do that at that cost. If there are overruns, they're going to have to bear those costs. We're very confident, in moving forward with this process, that Ontario taxpayers are going to get value for money and that these contracts are going to be very transparent.
With respect to education, we heard the member from Trinity-Spadina talk about education issues. You'll recall the Rozanski report that recommended several billion dollars be put back into the education system. I'm very pleased to say that we're exceeding those recommendations and putting a greater financial commitment behind our young people in this province. We've committed to reducing class sizes. That is happening. We have over 4,000 new teachers working in the province of Ontario. We've introduced the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. We've trained over 15,000 new teachers in this regard. We've included new funding for libraries. One of the most important things that we've done with education is we have labour peace: four-year contracts, the longest contracts settled among the teachers' federations in the province of Ontario, to ensure we can deliver all of those good results for the young people and the students in the province of Ontario. When it comes to post-secondary education funding, $6.2 billion in historic funding for post-secondary education. So we've made some significant strides both in health care and in education.
In Sault Ste. Marie, this budget means more money for roads and infrastructure, more money for our health unit, greater funding for gas tax. We've seen $1.2 million in COMRIF funding just recently. I have to say that funding in Sault Ste. Marie and the support that our government has provided has been really remarkable in the last couple of years, compared to the disastrous representation that we had by the NDP in Sault Ste. Marie.
I also want to put on the record one other item. The member from Parry Sound-Muskoka referenced four-year municipal terms and spoke against this issue. I want to clarify this issue with respect to our community of Sault Ste. Marie. There was a resolution passed at our city council meeting. It says, "Whereas the Association of Municipalities of Ontario is considering the matter of four-year terms of office for municipal council members, and has conducted a survey of elected officials from across the province with results indicating that 80% of respondents were in favour of four-year terms...." It goes on, and there are several other paragraphs. I see the whip giving me the hook, so I'm going to get on with it: "Therefore be it resolved that the Sault Ste. Marie city council petition the province of Ontario to amend the Municipal Elections Act to provide for four-year terms of office for municipal councils and that the first four-year term commence following the November 2006 election." Our community is certainly behind it. I think it's much like what's done in Nova Scotia and Manitoba and several other provinces in this country. I think that's my time for this evening.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton): I'm going to try to say "Nepean-Carleton" more than he said "Sault Ste. Marie."
It's appropriate tonight that we're going to be speaking to the Budget Measures Act on the eve of the federal government's first Conservative budget. The contrast, of course, is going to be most severe. On the one hand -- I'll say my right hand -- we'll have a government that, in its first 90 days, has been lauded for doing what it said it would do, exercising a Conservative credo, "A promise made is a promise kept." On the other hand, the left hand, we have this Liberal government that, now into its the third budget, almost 900 days later, has increased its promise-breaking capability by 43 new commitments we're not sure they can keep. In the days ahead, we will no doubt see more stark contrasts.
I look at my own riding of Nepean-Carleton. It's a diverse suburban riding with a distinct rural flair. Soccer moms like Karla McChesney and farmers like Brett and Andrea Taylor in Nepean-Carleton all teach their children how to keep their word. By the provincial government, these constituents of mine were promised no new taxes. They were promised the deficit would be eliminated. They were promised that the Ministry of Agriculture would be a lead ministry. My constituents are waiting for these promises to be honoured, for their government to keep their word.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Ms. MacLeod: Instead, this budget saw no relief from an illegitimate health tax imposed on young families -- I can understand why the minister might way to overspeak me on this one -- like Jared and Andrea Steinbaker. These young families can't take this illegitimate health tax.
This budget was crafted to purposely spend Ontario into deficit, despite a promise to take us into the red, and $244 million was removed from the Ministry of Agriculture, a so-called lead ministry to the Liberal Party.
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: Wrong.
Ms. MacLeod: You can check your own promises.
It's disheartening to see that this budget in its entirety does not live up to the promise of its makers, but that's not all. It's somewhat disconcerting to acknowledge in this place that some of the elements of this budget bill have been shrouded in secrecy. Take, for example, the changes to municipal terms. Why do these changes from three- to four-year terms appear in the budget when many of us understand that there will be changes to the Municipal Act forthcoming? Would it not be reasonable to expect that this change would be more appropriately made in the act that governs municipalities rather than in the province's budget bill? Where is it? It's sandwiched between schedule G, the Ministry of Natural Resources Act, and schedule I, the Ontario Infrastructure Projects Corporation Act. I spoke with Councillor Jan Harder today, a former boss of mine, who told my office that there was no burning desire in the city of Ottawa to have these amendment changes.
So why here? Why now? We understand that the government is in the process of making changes to the Municipal Act in time for the newly elected councils. I think this answers the minister's own questions. This is where a major amendment such as this belongs, with all the other changes the government is considering.
On April 26, my colleague Tim Hudak indicated that at a ROMA conference in February the Premier announced that his intention was to extend the term for municipal councils and school boards from three to four years, to the surprise of many municipal councillors. I'd like to know why, from this government's standpoint, it didn't feel obliged to include these sweeping changes within the Municipal Act and instead opted to quietly usher it through a budget that has bigger ticket items that create a bigger stir? The real issue here now, in my mind, is not how long the terms are; rather it is, what are they trying to hide over there?
In their media release on the budget, AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, clearly expresses its concerns. They said, "Ontario's municipalities have waited patiently while the province got its fiscal house in order and the Premier has said he's now ready to work with us to restore sustainable municipal finance to Ontario. This budget does not embrace that commitment."
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: Oh.
Ms. MacLeod: That's their quote not mine. You can check it out.
With a budget mired in broken promises, it can now be said too that elements of this budget are veiled in secrecy. When was the consultation? When were the public hearings? There were no consultations. There were no public hearings. Instead, the Premier blurts out that he intends to increase municipal council and school board office terms.
As I said in my maiden speech, this budget is just another example of a party that has never been able to find its way out of a hole it dug for itself in public policy during a bitter-fought campaign in 2003. In its desperate attempt to form government, this government's front bench made promises and said anything it could to win. It promised the moon, it promised the stars: a series of promises that it never really intended to keep.
This budget, whether it is the broken promises to soccer moms and farmers or its haphazard way of changing municipal terms, is indicative of the public policy void that has encumbered this government.
I think it's time that the members opposite were more reflective of the changes that really are required within the Municipal Act, and that's where changes to the terms are more appropriately reflected.
Mr. Lalonde: I'm delighted to be able to speak on this bill, which is very important. Let me tell you, if the opposition would agree to passing this bill as soon as possible, because it is urgent -- this budget bill covers 16 different acts, and without having this bill approved by this assembly, we won't be able to proceed. It includes the Business Corporations Act, the Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario Act, the Community Small Business Investment Funds Act, the Corporations Tax Act, the Gasoline Tax Act, the Income Tax Act, the Ministry of Natural Resources Act and the Municipal Elections Act. My friend from Nepean−Carleton just mentioned that we should probably have a separate Municipal Act bill, but the way this is going, we wouldn't be able to get this through before the election comes because the opposition is trying to stall it. We also have schedule I, the Ontario Infrastructure Projects Corporation Act, schedule J, the Ontario Loan Act, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System Review Act, the Public Service Pension Act, the Retail Sales Tax Act, the St. Clair Parks Commission Act, the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation Act, the Tobacco Tax Act and the Vital Statistics Act. There are 16 different acts involved in this budget bill.
The people of this province have been telling us that this is the best budget they have seen in the last 10 years. We haven't gone through any downloading like the previous government did in 1998. In just my own area of Prescott and Russell, not including Glengarry, we had a shortfall with the previous government's downloading of $23 million, which became an average of a $381 per household increase in the united counties of Prescott and Russell. What the previous government has done -- and today they're trying to stall the passing of this bill.
Let me give you just a few items here. Social housing: When I look at the city of Toronto -- and the opposition just said that since 2004 we have only allocated 65 units in total. I believe he has to go back and look at it, because just in the united counties of Prescott and Russell we received 25. That is a small county compared to the city of Toronto. When I look at ambulance services, $2.1 million was downloaded to the municipality. Social housing: $4.9 million was downloaded. The police service: $10.3 million was downloaded to the united counties of Prescott and Russell.
There's another thing. We keep talking about MPAC. MPAC is responsible for assessments. Who made the mistake? The previous government. In the past, it used to cost an average of $31 per unit to the province. All this was downloaded to the municipalities. It came up to $45 per unit. Just last month we received a notice from MPAC saying it's going to be around $33 per unit, which is going to be charged to all the municipalities. That used to be all done by the province.
The inspection of septic tanks used to be done by the province. Now it is downloaded to the municipalities.
The previous government reduced the personal income tax, but by doing so they cut some services. The McGuinty government said, "We are not going to reduce taxes and we are not going to balance our budget because we don't want to cut any services to the Ontario population." This is the only way. It's because we've been listening to the people; we have consulted. The standing committee on finance went around the province listening to what the people had to say. The McGuinty government says no. We want to make sure that the people of this province enjoy living in Ontario, and we have to look at the future of our province: the young people. We don't want to put a mortgage on those young people that they will have to pay in the future.
When I look at what the city of Toronto received in last year's budget -- just this afternoon, a gentleman came and made a deputation to the standing committee on general government on Bill 53. When I look at the municipal taxes in Toronto -- that person was complaining about the cost of municipal taxes. The city of Toronto's budget is a little over $6.6 billion. Do you know how much money the McGuinty government is going to give back to the city of Toronto? It's going to give back $1.98 billion to Toronto, because we do recognize that the city of Toronto is the backbone of the province. There are over 4.2 million people living in the GTA area. We know that is where the business comes from, and that this is really where most of the economy of this beautiful province is.
The city of Toronto has received over $600 million for the transit system in Toronto. We have given to the city of Toronto and the rest of the province $1.2 billion for public transportation. The former government couldn't have done it because they reduced taxes, so they downloaded all the roads that we used to have in the rural sector; over 4,800 kilometres of roads were downloaded.
Mr. Norman W. Sterling (Lanark-Carleton): Upload them.
Mr. Lalonde: I see my friend from Lanark-Carleton. I've never forgotten that during Good Roads he came up to see the Minister of Transportation and was after our government to upload the roads that were transferred to the municipality. Who made the mistake before? You made it. Today, we can't just take it back. You cut personal taxes, so we don't get that revenue back. You would like to see it back; you made a mistake. You were Minister of Transportation in the past, and you should have known that we should never have transferred those 4,800 kilometres of road. Over 40% of those roads that were downloaded were from eastern Ontario, and today we're paying a big amount for that.
In 2006, the city of Toronto will also receive $130.4 million in the gas tax. Did the former government ever do that? Never.
We will also give the city of Toronto $1 million, through Move Ontario, towards an environmental assessment.
We will also give the city of Toronto an additional amount of $10.4 million towards ambulances. Ambulances in Ontario used to be handled 100% by the province. They downloaded everything. They said, "After a while, we will download 100%." We said, "No, it's impossible." Finally, they said, "You're only getting 50%." It ended up being only 28% or 30% that the province was paying. Today, we have guaranteed that in the next three years the municipalities will receive a minimum 50% grant from this province. So we are taking care of municipalities in Ontario.
I'm looking at this again: Out of a $10-million rent bank program, the city of Toronto has been allocated $2.7 million to set up and run a rent bank. Last year, the city of Toronto received $91 million of gas tax. That is on top of the $130.4 million that they will be receiving today.
We are proud of the McGuinty government because we are taking care of the future of this province. At present, we know we are paying a little over $7.6 billion in interest, but when we look at the amount of debt that the previous government had left us with, especially during the year when they said, "We have balanced the budget," all of a sudden we found that there was a $5.6-billion deficit. This is why we had to come up with some different programs.
I'm asking both the opposition parties to pass this bill as soon as possible so we can proceed with the proper procedure and have the act in place to allow the municipalities to get rolling for the next election, which will be a four-year term.
Mr. Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): I'm just amazed to see the last speaker. We've been complaining about rural Ontario not being looked after, and the last speaker, from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, one of our rural ridings, wants to give all the money to Toronto. No wonder we're having trouble in rural Ontario. What are the other rural members over there doing? Are they giving all our money to Toronto too? I can't believe this. The rural members want to give all the money to Toronto; no wonder we're having problems.
What are we actually debating tonight? It's a time allocation motion on Bill 81. I didn't think this government was going to do things like that again. Rosario from the NDP, I guess we got fooled again. It was another one of those promises that they weren't going to do things like that. I can remember them standing over here, where they're going to be in another year, saying, "You can't do things like that. You're bringing bills to a head and we want to debate them."
Well, let's talk about the debate we had on the four-year term. Where was the debate on the four-year term? No, you slid that in here. When the minister before was talking about them being slithery, that was very true. A slithery bunch like I haven't seen before slid in this four-year term. I'm not saying that the four-year term is wrong, but we haven't had a chance to debate it. The people out there have had no chance to debate it, and you're slithering it in on a bill that has to do with finances. What kind of government have we got here? First of all, our rural members want to give all our money to Toronto. Second, they slide in a four-year term under the table so nobody gets a chance to debate it.
I know that a lot of politicians and municipal politicians had a chance; there's nothing wrong with that. AMO did their study and it was about 50-50. I actually did a study of the politicians in my own riding and it was about 50-50. But what about the people we're supposed to represent in this place? They didn't get a chance to say anything about this.
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: Why didn't you ask them?
Mr. Murdoch: Because you're slithering it under the table, that's why. You want to know why we haven't? Because you guys don't want us to have a debate on it. The Liberals don't want to debate anything that might be controversial. How could you say that? They've told us so many different things in this House, and can you believe them?
Mr. Dunlop: There's a nomination for mayor of Toronto.
Mr. Murdoch: I guess that would be something we could do. Well, we can do anything we want in this House, because the Liberals pull a stunt like this tonight. They want to nominate Jean-Marc Lalonde for mayor of Toronto. I just don't think he'd win that. He's always done a great job for his riding, there's no doubt. But he gave the pot to Toronto tonight; I can't believe that. He might even be a Toronto Maple Leaf fan, for all I know. I'm getting a little worried about that.
Mr. Murdoch: I agree. When you tell somebody they are a Toronto Maple Leaf fan, that is pretty personal; I understand that. But maybe Jean-Marc wants to do something for the Leafs. They certainly could use some money to do something. We've seen what happened to them.
But for things like that to happen -- we're actually tonight debating closure on a budget. No more debate, this is it, folks. You're not going to get a chance to go out and say, "Do you want the four-year term or don't you?" That's what the people would like to have a chance to do. But this government said, "No, no, we're going to slide that under. We're not even going to debate it." This is the first chance we've had to even debate that, because you slid it under a finance bill. You know the opposition are not going to support one of your finance bills. You didn't come near balancing a budget yet and you've been in three years -- never balanced a budget yet.
I know the Minister of Health is going to say, "You left us this big deficit." You know something? That was halfway through the year. You could have balanced it that year. If you had any sense, any leadership over there, you would have balanced it that year, but no, "We're going to blame it on the other guys," and you can get away with that for a year. But you're still trying to get away with it. This is three years now, folks. You can't even balance a budget and you've been in for three years. You had some money. You could have done it if you wanted to. But, "Hey, we're going to spend the money. We're going to buy everybody's votes if we can." That's what they wanted to do -- and, of course, higher taxes. I heard somebody say that this was a wonderful province. It is a wonderful province, but the highest-taxed province. Why? Because you've got Liberals in the place. Liberals love taxes. Liberals say "more taxes, more money that we can go out and give away to buy votes." Unfortunately, they forgot about rural Ontario. They're dumping it all into Toronto. They forgot about our agriculture people and took money out of their budget for agriculture.
Mr. Murdoch: I would like to say that the Minister of Health actually wants to get into this debate. I'm sure he will in the next session; I think they have a few minutes left. I think he's using some threatening gestures. Because he's a bit overweight right now -- and you probably can't say that -- I don't think he could catch me right now. That's something he'll have to deal --
Mr. Murdoch: Oh, there's that lady from up there yelling. What are you saying? Do you want to get in on the debate, too? You certainly can.
Hon. Mrs. Meilleur: Yes, I'd like to get in on debate.
Mr. Murdoch: Well, that's good. You're going to debate. You've got about eight minutes left. We'll certainly look to hear from you.
They brag about COMRIF. What happened to all the money? We don't know where it went. It certainly didn't come up to our area. You're always bragging about how you're going to help fix the water and sewers. In our area we got roads. That's where the money went, unfortunately. Maybe it should have gone to water and sewers. We'll certainly do the roads if they put the little bit of money we did get in Bruce and Grey. But only two of my municipalities got any money up there from COMRIF. You can't brag about that, boys and girls. You can't brag about COMRIF, because it didn't go anywhere this time. Unfortunately, you fell flat on your face in that one.
The Minister of Natural Resources is here tonight. What did you do for him? Nothing. He needs conservation officers out in the field, and has no money in his budget for those people. There's more retiring every day and none are being put back. I'm putting a plug in to anybody over there that would like to listen. The Ministry of Natural Resources certainly needs an uplift in their budget because they didn't get anything in this budget.
Instead of balancing your budget, you want to throw it away and give to it the people, back to the people: "Go and spend it." They're going to catch up with you on that one. Eventually you're going to have to try to balance the budget. You've got one year left to do that. We'll see what happens with you when you get around to your next budget. It's election year and it will be a little different than the one we just had. I'm sure you'll try to balance it then.
But the whole problem has been that you forgot about rural Ontario and northern Ontario. You totally forgot about us. Now I understand why, after some of the speeches from some of the members tonight. Even all the member from Sault Ste. Marie could talk about was what happened in the past. He doesn't even know he's in the future yet. He's got to realize that he is government, and has been government for three years. But all he wanted to talk about was the past. That's got nothing to do with it now, folks. You've got to get on with it and start to figure out that you're in government. As soon as you find that out, then maybe you can bring up a better budget.
A terrible budget, a terrible thing you've done on the four-year without any discussion with the public. You may have thought --
Mr. Murdoch: That's fine. I hear the Minister of Natural Resources. He's going to speak too, hopefully. I mean, he has a lot to say now. I'm sure we'll hear from him in their eight minutes.
There has been no debate on the four-year term. I'm not saying it won't work; I'm not saying that it's bad. But I think the people we represent in this place should have had a chance to debate that. It should have gone to the people. It should have been out there for them to say, "Yes, I think that would be good," or "No, it wouldn't." You didn't want to do that. It's sort of a Liberal trick: "Let's sneak it in under the table and we'll get it through," and that's the end of it, folks; it's already there.
I just want to finish off by saying that I heard someone over there say it's one of the best budgets they've seen in 10 years. I don't know where they've been.
Mr. Murdoch: No, it couldn't have been him.
Mr. Dunlop: That was the member from Toronto, Jean-Marc Lalonde.
Mr. Murdoch: I don't think he'd say that. It was bad enough giving all the money to Toronto.
Mr. Dunlop: He said it was the best budget.
Mr. Murdoch: Oh, gee, I just feel bad for Jean-Marc. He must have had a weak moment somewhere along the line. I know he does a good job in his own riding, but when they find out he wants to give everything to Toronto, I think he's in a bit of trouble. It might have a bit to do with his hockey years; I'm not sure. I think he's probably feeling sorry for the Toronto Maple Leafs. We all feel a little sorry for them.
I'm speaking on one of the worst budgets I've seen in 15 years -- 16 years, actually. It's probably the worst budget -- you know, it's worse than the NDP budgets. They didn't have any money. They did the best they could. It wasn't what we wanted. But I want to tell you, they had some money. They could have balanced their budget. But no, they just wanted to waste the money and spend it. They didn't spend it in rural Ontario, that's for sure.
So I am disappointed in this government. We will not be supporting this bill. I can see what they'll say the next time it comes up: "Oh, you didn't support the four-year term." Well, you snuck it in there, folks. If you had put it in an amendment to the municipal affairs budget, then maybe we would have supported that. But you had to put it in with your budget, which you know no right-thinking person would support. I will rest on that and say that unfortunately we won't be able to support this bill.
Mr. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre): I think all of us enjoyed some of the levity of the last speaker, but there's a serious side to what we're talking about tonight. We're talking about passage of Bill 81. We're talking about moving forward on the government's agenda and the need to do that. I think the serious point is the fact why many of us on this side of the House got involved in politics, and the collective amnesia that we've heard from the opposition benches, especially the Conservatives. The fact of the matter is, we saw eight years of government in this province which were outrageous, outrageous in their approach to so many things.
Let's start with respect for the Legislature. My friend Mr. Murdoch dares to stand up and criticize us on the issue of time allocation? Let me read some statistics into the record. Our government has introduced 90 government bills. We've passed 68 bills and only allocated 12. We have time-allocated fewer bills than any government since 1990, and considerably fewer than the Tories.
Do you know what? Members of this Legislature and people at home may be asking themselves, how many did the Conservatives time-allocate? Well, we did 12. So did they do twice as many, 24?
Mr. Milloy: How about three times as many, 36?
Mr. Milloy: How about four times as many, 48?
Mr. Milloy: I could keep going. What about double that? Did they do 96? No, 102 were time-allocated. Percentage-wise, we time-allocated 10% of our bills. The Tories time-allocated almost 50% of their bills that received royal assent. And that's not all. During the Eves government, the PCs used time allocation motions on 75% of the bills they passed.
Mr. Milloy: Now, the chief government whip asks about committee time. In 2003, the PC government allowed for no committee time and no third reading debate when using time allocation motions.
But it's about more than time allocation. I had the pleasure this morning of talking to the head of my local community care access centre, home care. I called him because of the announcement that was made today by the Minister of Health about an increase in their spending of 6.6%. In the course of the conversation, we started talking about the first meeting I ever had with him as a newly elected MPP, when the executive director and the board chair came and talked about what it had been like during the last few years in terms of the cuts that had been brought in by the Conservatives. They said, "We want to do our best. We want to work with the budget that's given us. What we ask is that if you as a government bring forth further cuts, you give us some notice on them so we can adjust the level of service." This was after a campaign where I had heard from voter after voter about elderly parents, about relatives they were concerned about because their home care services that they relied upon were being cut month after month after month because of the Conservative cutbacks.
When you think about what that government did in power, it's interesting to do a little compare-and-contrast. In 1995, they came to power and inherited a large deficit from our friends in the New Democratic Party. In 2003, we came to power and we inherited a large deficit from our friends in the Conservative Party. What did we do? We acted responsibly, because we had been elected to deliver services to the people of Ontario. We took a fair approach, a balanced approach, and began to rebuild those services. What did they do? First of all, they went to the health care system and cut $550 million from our hospitals. They went to our colleges and universities in their first and second years in office and cut $435.5 million. Do you remember that famous, famous promise that we all like to think about? "We will not close any hospitals," Mr. Harris said. So what did he do? He closed 28 hospitals. That's the sort of legacy that government left to us.
Let's compare it with our budget, a budget that focused on health care, a budget that focused on education and a budget that focused on strong communities. What have we delivered? Go to our schools. I told this story the other night, and it's worth repeating. I visited a program for troubled youth in our community that has had a tremendous success rate. Do you know what they did? They showed me a video of a news clip from several years ago, I think from around 2001 or 2002, and it was a news story about a board meeting where the board was on the verge of closing this program, this program that had taken youth who were on the verge of leaving high school and turned them around in a year. Many had gone on to become professionals, earning a living in the community, raising families. This news clip was of a board that was saying that due to the Conservative cutbacks they were going to have to close the program.
That's the type of atmosphere we lived in, where these programs were being closed, where I was going to schools and hearing how parents were having to raise money in order to get library books. I went to visit my old elementary school, and a book they had just thrown out was entitled Some Day Man Will Visit the Moon, because they didn't have any money for them. I went to my old elementary school --
The Acting Speaker: The member from Simcoe-Grey, please. It's getting just a little --
The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry, the member from Simcoe North. Yes, you're right. But you know that it's you, and you're pretty loud. Please continue.
Mr. Milloy: I went to my old elementary school, where I started in 1970; this was in 2003. They said, "Do you recognize the carpet? It hasn't been changed in those 33 years." Now we go to our schools and what do we see? We see teachers and students who are happy. We have a period of peace and stability. We also see a situation where we have more textbooks, where we have library books, where we have specialty teachers where we have smaller classrooms.
We talk about our health care system. I talk about today's investment in home care. I talk about an investment Friday, which I was proud to make, of some $11.7 million going into the three local hospitals in my riding to reduce wait times. I talk about the creation of four family health teams in my community. I talk about the new spirit of co-operation and optimism that exists there. We talk about what's going on in our communities in the investments of infrastructure: $19 million which went to Waterloo region in the last budget. We talk about some of the major infrastructure projects on our highways that are going on in my community in terms of Highway 401, in terms of Highway 8. We talk about the post-secondary sector, which they slashed. We talk about the hundreds of millions of dollars going into my community, with two outstanding universities and a community college.
Let's not have selective amnesia in this Legislature. Let's think about the outrageous eight years that brought so many of us to the Legislature, and the work that we're doing to turn it around. We need to pass this bill. We need to get on with this budget.
Mr. Cameron Jackson (Burlington): I've been listening to the debate this evening. I perhaps may not be quite as vocal as most of the speakers tonight, or as loud, but I certainly wish to put on the record some concerns I have. At the outset, let me just say that this is the 22nd budget I've had the privilege of speaking to in this Legislature. I've said this many times: to specifically condemn a budget for its entire content would be wrong. There are good things in every budget. That's just a fact. There are very good things in this budget, like the support for diabetic children and the support for insulin pumps. It's something I spoke to when we were in government and we've lobbied for in opposition. A private member's bill precipitated a response, and this government has acted. I, for one, wish to put on the record some areas of strong concern for my community, but at the outset I would be hard-pressed to condemn absolutely everything in any given budget in any given government in this province. And I dare say that probably applies federally as well.
For the constituents of mine in Burlington, we want to put some specific concerns on the record. It's been established in this budgetary debate that the government found itself with $2.2 billion of unanticipated additional revenue, about $700 million of additional revenue because of lower interest rates. There were many opportunities afforded this government which would allow them to honour more of their election promises or to prioritize the growing needs of the citizens of Ontario and to respond accordingly. So the budget becomes in many respects an imprint of the priorities of the given government and an extension of their belief system and their conscience as it relates to each of the citizens of Ontario.
I make no apologies for my interest in and my focus on vulnerable persons in this province and what this budget will mean to them. The good news, of course, is that social assistance rates are going to go up by 2%. This could have happened at the beginning of this mandate. It took three years, but needless to say, there was an increase --
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: No, that's the second increase.
Mr. Jackson: Fair enough. I stand corrected. I thank the Minister of Health. He's correct; it's the second increase. However, there are a whole series of vulnerable citizens who were not addressed in this budget, and I'm going to highlight a few of those.
At the outset, I want to talk about the Halton public school board and education in general. It's clear that there's a growing chorus of individuals expressing concern about the departure of the Minister of Education. After three years, we had hoped that we would have a revised funding formula that was promised. We were hopeful that we would receive a proper capital program and commitment. That has not been forthcoming. We were hoping to see additional supports that were promised. There's a moratorium on school closures, and yet school boards are continuing to close schools because financially they are left with no option. Therefore, the government's failure to respond and to act is forcing school boards to make decisions which they were led to believe, in the last election, they would not have to make.
We have to look no further than those six boards in the GTA that are experiencing extraordinary growth pressures. There are only 70-some school boards in the province, but there are six high-growth-impact boards, and Halton is certainly one of them. The Halton public board has currently $100 million worth of new construction which they are forced to do, because if they don't they will be busing more and more kids, and we don't any longer pay for busing the way we used to in this province. As such, it's terrible for the students, for a variety of reasons. The number of portables is growing at an alarming rate. This affects not only the public board but also the separate school board, which has at least three schools that they need to put a shovel in this spring. Yet there's no indication in this budget that the government is going to be proceeding in any timely fashion.
The fact is that there is over $1 billion worth of construction currently going on in Ontario for schools in the GTA that this government has not given them permission to do. They've stuck their neck out in the hope that they will be able to collect additional revenue in the future, but failure for that money to come soon will put school boards further and further into deficit positions. Both the Halton public and the Halton separate school boards are projecting deficits again this year, and the situation will get worse next year.
The second area I want to talk about is my profound disappointment that the government has seen fit to again turn its back on children with autism. As someone who sat at a cabinet table when a higher court decision came down about deaf services, I just want to say that we were in a position to say, "Shall we fight this or shall we be compliant and put our investment in that?" The decision that was made by our government was very clear: that each minister was required to go through their ministry to check the court ruling and to be compliant with deaf services. Quite frankly, now that we have a court ruling on autism services, in my view the most responsible thing for the government to do would be to invest those millions of dollars into programming for children and access to autistic services as opposed to investing them -- I use that word facetiously -- instead of wasting that money on lawyers' fees for a court challenge that, I agree with my colleague from Sudbury, I'm quite hopeful the government loses.
This is an issue that is growing in its importance and growing as a crisis. Today I received two more phone calls from families in my riding that are on a one-year waiting list just for testing. The fear and apprehension: More and more families who have money are going out and paying for this test. More and more families who are finding out about it, realizing that they would be put on a waiting list indefinitely, are going out and spending the money. That angers me because the promise of a public education is that you shouldn't have to have a large wallet to ensure that your children are getting quality education. This has nothing to do with private or independent schools. It has to do with programs in our schools where a child's ability to progress, to learn, to grow, to feel part of the school curriculum is being impeded by a government that actually is in court to prevent their participation.
When I look at these figures that my colleague from Sudbury tabled in the House just an hour ago, the fact is that this Liberal government budgeted, in 2003-04, $80 million for autistic services and only spent $44 million. They clawed back $36 million; almost half of the program was clawed back so they could put that money in other programs. They put it into the consolidated revenue fund. If you think about it, it's the same year that they announced some of the expansion for the casinos in this province. What are we to think of a government that stood in this very chamber and took credit that they were going to do more for families with autism, and that money has gone into the consolidated revenue fund and could have ended up in the expansion at the Windsor casino? And this tragedy repeated itself in 2004-05, where they got accolades. People applauded. They said they were going to spend $89 million in 2004-05, but they clawed back another $21 million.
You're asking us to pass this budget where $82 million is being cut from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services -- $82 million. First of all, you've never, as a government, spent $82 million on autism services, but now you're going to claw that back from the very minister who's responsible for delivering it. What does that bode for the coming year, where we've got not hundreds now, but thousands of young people on waiting lists for autistic services, thousands of young people who are not able to progress through our education system?
I understand that the Liberals are starting to flirt with this forward progress concept, this continuous progress concept: We want children in a system where they never experience failure. These kids experience failure every day. They're struggling to have someone give them the skills to unlock their own key inside them in order that they can learn and be better prepared to learn. I just think it's tragic, and we're being asked to approve a budget. You know what? This year they are out there saying that they will spend $99 million on autism. Nobody believes it. What does that mean? That means that the new minister has now got a slush fund of an additional $50 million to take away from autism. The whole thing is quite disheartening for families.
You know what the tragedy is? There are rich families and families who can sell off their RSPs and get their child through this period in their life, but increased numbers -- I know of one family in Burlington who are moving to Alberta. They've done the math. It's cheaper for them to sell, to pull up stakes and go to Alberta because their child will get these services.
I want to briefly comment on the issues around health care. I know the minister, in his own mind, has got a plan, and he is making changes to our health care system. There's no question about that. But I want to address this issue of the growth hospitals in the GTA-905. In my opinion, this is becoming an increasingly critical issue. The only two hospitals in the GTA whose expansion plans have remained unaddressed by this government at this budget are the hospitals in Georgetown and in Burlington.
Our hospital, under your Bill 8, Minister, has had to ratchet down their service delivery because of the incredibly modest increase that you provided them this year. But under Bill 8, the only way that they can move even close to a balanced budget, even though they won't, is to slash 48 beds. One quarter of all the acute care beds in our hospital have been cut. They're closed. So your waiting-time strategy, in your mind, may be working in parts of Ontario, but it is not working in Burlington. Even though you've increased dollars for additional surgical time, the fact of the matter is we have 10 operating rooms at Joseph Brant hospital, of which only six are in use because you failed to fund them adequately. We've got empty beds. So cataract surgery in my hospital has gone from a two-year wait to 20 months. This is a huge victory for the current government: 20 months for cataract surgery. Hips and knees were 18 months, and they're now down to 16 months.
The truth of the matter is that Joseph Brant hospital requires this expansion. Both the district health council and the restructuring commission have approved them. We are waiting for your government. That's what we would like to see in this budget.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Ramsay has moved government notice of motion number 125. Shall the motion carry? I heard some noes.
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. There will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 2119 to 2129.
The Acting Speaker: All those in favour will please stand and be counted by the Clerk.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Mossop, Jennifer F.
Racco, Mario G.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wong, Tony C.
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed.
Sterling, Norman W.
The Deputy Clerk (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 34; the nays are 8.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
It now being after 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 2132.