The House resumed at 8 p.m.
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS AMENDMENT ACT
House in committee of the whole on Bill 30, An Act to amend the Municipal Elections Act, 1977.
Mr. Ashe: Mr. Chairman, just in summary, I think most of the discussion related to the bill was dealt with on second reading. There were a few differences of opinion, let us say, at that time and that’s the reason we’re in committee, I understand, unless there’s been a change in thinking. There are two proposed amendments by the hon. member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) and I had one housekeeping one to correct a typographical error. I am prepared to move right on to section 1 and answer any questions that may come up over the seven sections.
On section 1:
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Chairman, I have a question, not as it relates specifically to the wording of the clause before us. Not having been privy to some of the other discussion, if perhaps I’m covering something already discussed, please advise me.
When this takes effect, what is the position of this new council vis-à-vis its budget procedures? Are they enabled by this to proceed as they would have done in January? Do they deal with budgets before the end of the year? What is their fiscal year in this first year? Do they in effect deal with their budgets for a 13-month period because now that it’s quite clear that they take over as of the beginning of December, and having had all the limitations imposed by this government in the past about the preparation of budgets in advance, could I be enlightened as to what effect this section has with reference to budgeting procedures?
Mr. Ashe: Fine. I’d be happy to, Mr. Chairman. The new council, of course, does take over on December 1. The fiscal year is not being changed, so although we would hope and encourage the new council to get into the budget process right away, we would even assume that as far as the staff on the old council is concerned, probably the procedure has started although they can’t really do anything, that’s for sure. But keeping in mind that traditionally at least 75 per cent of the council members don’t change anyway across the province, I think the process can start.
The month of December would be legally under the operation of the new council, with the one exception that outstanding budgetary expenditures relate only to the old budget --
Mrs. Campbell: Exactly.
Mr. Ashe: -- and therefore I suppose in theory the new council could be spending like mad in the month of December with moneys which it was not necessarily a party to in terms of the budget, but keep in mind, it is going to have to pay for it in the following year. So I would suggest that if the council built up a deficit in the month of December -- and that’s possible, I appreciate that -- it is going to have to pay for it in the budgeted fiscal year, January to December 31, in any event.
We are really not concerned that councils would abuse, if you will, that privilege, and hopefully the whole process of everything, getting familiar in the case of new council members or getting into the budget process, would start right at the beginning of December, albeit we have got to acknowledge the last 10 days or so of the year are pretty well lost in a practical sense because of Christmas and coming up to the year end. We feel they will start the whole process earlier and that month will probably be a plus to getting the budget process finalized earlier in the term of the new council than even before.
There’s no doubt about it, they have a 12-month fiscal year that is different from their term of office, if you will, as far as that beginning. It’s obviously not in effect the second year, there’s no problem there, but every time there’s an election that will happen for that one month. It was felt based on the input principally from municipalities across the province, they much preferred that option rather than have a lame duck council for some seven to eight weeks, which was the alternate of having the earlier lection and going on until the end of the calendar year.
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Chairman, I think I would want to correct any possible misunderstanding that the member might have. I have the highest respect for municipal politicians. They are not accustomed to dealing with deficits. They are not able to deal with deficits. Their problem usually is that they cannot get started their budgeting process in time to make decent savings in their public works programs. Don’t misunderstand me. Any suggestion I make is because I think they are the most responsible politicians that we have in this country by far.
Mr. Ashe: I was one too.
Mr. Swart: Funny how we change.
Mrs. Campbell: I just am concerned about this because I don’t know of any change which enables the old council to prepare its budget in advance. It seems to me that these people coming in in December, which is not usually a very busy month, not by reason of the council but by reason of the very obvious circumstances of December, it will be very difficult for them to try to budget so that they can be ready to tender for public works projects early in the new year. I just wanted to make that comment on this particular situation.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: The member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Chairman, I will wait until we go into committee to make comments.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: We are in committee.
Mr. Swart: We are in committee? Then I will move an amendment to section 1. I think you have a copy of that from the other evening, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Mr. Swart moves that subsection 2 of section 9 of the Act as set out in section 1 of the bill be amended by striking out all the words following “1978” in the sixth line.
Mr. Swart: I had not intended to say a great deal on this amendment because we did discuss the issue rather fully on second reading of the bill, but I have decided, after reading over Hansard for the debate that took place on second reading, that there are some things that should be said regarding the intent of this amendment. Those who were not here for the debate before will recognize that it deletes the last two lines of subsection 2, so that it will then read: “The term of office of members of a council or local board who bold office on the 30th day of November, 1978, and whose terms of office but for this subsection would expire on the 31st day of December, 1978, shall, subject to subsection 3, expire with the 30th day of November, 1978.”
As the parliamentary assistant pointed out, this is necessary for clarification in the Act, although it was of course the original intention that the term of office would expire on November 30.
Of course, on their remuneration, the section states, “and where such members are paid an annual allowance, the allowance for the year 1978 shall be reduced proportionately.” We had considerable discussion on that, and I think there was some agreement that perhaps just an arbitrary reduction of one-twelfth won’t really deal with the situation where most of the work of municipal council is done in the first 11 months of the year; perhaps a one-twelfth straight reduction is not an appropriate reduction proportional to the amount of work that is done.
However, as I pointed out the other night, that was not my main concern, nor the main concern of my party, with regard to this section. The concern is that by this section the Legislature is telling elected local government officials what they must do. What we are dealing with here is the principle of whether we trust municipal councils and other local government bodies to look after their own remuneration. That’s really the issue that is before us in this amendment; not the principle, perhaps, of whether it is eleven-twelfths, but whether we are going to tell them, from this level, “this is what you must do.” Regardless of the justification or not, we are saying, by legislation “this is what you must do.”
I would just like to read into the record the statement in the joint report and recommendations of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, dated July 19, 1977, on the issue of remuneration and expenses of elected municipal officials, and elected and appointed members of other local boards.
They have a statement of principle. The first statement of principle is: “A local determination that the entitlement to, amount of, method of payment of remuneration, transportation and other travelling expenses of local government members be determined locally.”
The second statement of principle: “Elected members or local elected officials be responsible for determination of their own remuneration, transportation and other travelling expenses.”
Those are the first two sections of that report, which was submitted to the government and municipal people feel rather strongly about that. That’s a pretty clear statement.
Municipal people, elected local government people, over the years and for many decades pushed the government to say that they should be able to determine their own remuneration. Not because they want the right to pay themselves excessive amounts of money, but every cent of it is collected from the property taxpayers, they are accountable back to them and therefore they should have the right to determine this on their own.
In fact, of course, the government has gone a long way in giving that right to them, by sections 205, 211, 238 and 389 of the Municipal Act; but somehow or other the government seems, at every stage, to want to pull back on this issue. If any problem comes up let’s take that right away. They are either indifferent about it or not capable of it.
The other night, the member for Durham West said they are not betraying that principle, that they still believe in that principle that they should have remuneration. I suggest to you that to a very substantial extent they are betraying that principle.
In reading over Instant Hansard of that night, I will say to you that I was quite concerned about the comments made by the member for Durham West. I am going to read part of that into the record. In giving the reason why they put in this clause which we are saying should be taken out, he says:
“Again we have had questions from municipal clerks, from treasurers, from heads of councils, saying that their bylaw now reads per annum, and some of them took the literal interpretation that they could not make that eleven-twelfths even if they wished to by their own decision. You can challenge whether somebody should ask that kind of question and put forth that kind of statement. But we got them. We also had a lot of just straight questions. What do we do? Do we have two councils in office during the month of December? Do we pay two councils in the month of December?
“Of course, the answer that we’re making very clear is no, if a council does feel that eleven-twelfths of what would normally be the per diem salary is not sufficient to pay them for their 11 months of work; and I acknowledge what the hon. member has said” -- he was referring to me at that time -- “relative to the work load over the year -- that December is not normally considered to be or has not been considered one of the busier months, though I think with the new term of office it will become somewhat busier. But let the council take the option that it now has to amend their bylaw relating to their compensation.
“If they now have a bylaw that says it shall be $5,000 per annum they can amend their bylaw as soon as they wish, to change it to a different sum if they feel they are being short-changed by having a pro rata salary for the month or for the whole year because of the month of December.”
Then he goes on further to say: “So on that basis we do not feel that the proposed amendment by the hon. member for Welland-Thorold is the right one. We think that the section as proposed is the way that municipal people, both elected and otherwise, have asked. They said, “Make it very clear. We know how to handle it after that, but make it very clear what you mean.’ We feel that the particular section of the bill, clause 1, does in fact make it very clear and the municipalities and municipal councils can judge their actions accordingly, both to themselves and to their electorate for any change they feel necessary in the remuneration bylaw.” End of quote of the parliamentary assistant.
The first question I want to ask him -- and I hope he will deal with this when he rises, because I have done some investigation since we last debated this bill: When he talks about the municipal people asking for this, I’m thinking of the section that’s proposed and the way the municipal people, elected and otherwise, have asked; and I mentioned earlier in what I read that this was at the request of the municipal people. I’d ask him to name the associations or the municipal people who have requested that you legislate that they should only receive eleven-twelfths of their salaries. I ask him to state those municipal organizations and those elected municipal people.
The second suggestion is that what we’re doing here is some sort of nice instruction. They asked what the situation was, so you’re giving them some nice instructions. I say to you that this isn’t just some advice to them. What is in this bill is pretty binding. Where you say, “And where such members are paid an annual allowance, the allowance for the year 1978 shall be reduced proportionately,” that doesn’t leave any option for those municipal people at all. That’s pretty hard and fast legislation. It’s binding.
Then you say that it still leaves the option with the council to change their bylaw. If they want to make sure they get the same amount of money, then they can change their bylaw. They can amend that bylaw so that the eleven-twelfths would be the same amount as the twelve-twelfths that they would have received in the 12-month period.
Let me say first of all that I’m no lawyer, but I would think, in reading that section, that a municipality could have not just problems with the electors but be in real legal problems where you say, “And where such members are paid an annual allowance, the allowance for the year 1978 shall be reduced proportionately.” If they pass a bylaw -- using your own example of the $5,000 per annum, Mr. Parliamentary Assistant -- to give themselves the same allowance, I would suggest that any ratepayer could challenge that, and they would be forced to have that reduction. In fact, it is not the case that they could change the bylaw.
But even if they could, even if they could get away with it, what kind of position does this put the council in; when you have passed a bylaw which says they must reduce their annual allowance by one-twelfth and that council, in election year, should pass a bylaw to keep it in the same position? You were a member of a municipal council, and you were too, Mr. Chairman; you know what kind of a position that would put the council in. They just, of course, won’t do it.
What you have done in this bill is effectively assure that regardless of the merit and regardless of the wishes of the municipal councils or the school boards, where they have an annual allowance, that is going to be reduced to eleven-twelfths of what they otherwise would have got this year. I say the principle of this Legislature saying to those councils that they must do that in that way is the wrong principle.
Certainly if we are going to say that, sure, we are leaving the option with them to do as they like and the effect is what the parliamentary assistant is saying, that they can amend their bylaws, surely the government is putting those councils in the impossible position of doing anything other than exactly what it says in here. You know that; I know that; this Legislature knows that. You are taking away from them, in fact, in reality, the option of determining what remuneration they should get for those 11 months this year.
This may not be the largest municipal issue in Ontario -- I suspect that it is not, and is a long way from it -- but to me and my party, the principle which you are expressing in this bill, affecting the local councils in the one area where they collect every cent of it locally and where they are supposedly accountable locally, is taking that option away from them. That is something I don’t want to do. I want to leave that autonomy with the local councils to determine, and so does my party.
As I said the other night on second reading of this bill, if the parliamentary assistant is concerned that some of them are going to keep the whole thing inadvertently, or because they think the public won’t know, and if he really wants to advise them, then he can send a notice out to every municipality in the mail reminding them there is only an 11-month year as far as they are concerned this year, and they may want to consider making some change in the remuneration. But don’t tell them this is the way they have to do it.
Mr. B. Newman: Mr. Chairman I really didn’t want to talk on the remuneration aspect but I wanted to follow up on what the member for St. George mentioned.
I hope the ministry will come out with some directive to municipal councils in relation to the fiscal year as opposed to the elected year because I am afraid municipal councils now think that since the month of December they did not expropriate those funds -- those new members on council -- as a result they would not have any responsibility towards council for the expenditure of those funds. I think the ministry should come out with some explicit instructions to municipal councils. I know I talked with a municipal councillor during the supper break and he was confused in relation to the point I raise here.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, it is my pleasure to be able to speak on this. I must apologize I was a few minutes late, due to another important function.
I feel the onus should be on the Legislature to have some kind of clarity in the legislation. Since this clarity was a little overlooked last fall when the bill was passed, I believe it is incumbent on the Legislature at this time to bring in that clarity, rather than to have 835 municipalities pass separate bylaws with respect to determining whether the municipal representatives should be paid on an 11 or 12 months’ basis irrespective of the fact that they only serve for 11 months’ which is something this Legislature should not permit. I do not believe that there should be this lack of clarity. I believe this Legislature should take the initiative and determine that the members on municipal councils should be paid for 11 months and 11 months only, because that is what they are going to be serving.
If we were to pass the amendment we would run the risk of municipalities not passing a bylaw in the interim period and then some members may very well be elected to councils and be reimbursed for 12 months for this year and then 12 months for the next year. In other words, they would be getting a double honorarium or double pay or double reimbursement for the month of December. I don’t think we can run the risk of that happening irrespective of what the hon. member for Welland-Thorold says. As far as the municipalities are concerned I don’t think they would see this as an infringement on their autonomous rights. I believe they would see this as some kind of guidance by the Legislature. As far as we are concerned on this side of the House we would not support the amendment, because it is important that there is clarity and that there is no doubt in the minds of the municipalities and in the minds of the Ontario electorate that any persons serving at the municipal level should be reimbursed for the extra month in December where they are not serving on a municipal council during December.
Mr. Ashe: Mr. Chairman, first of all, may I start out by answering the query of the hon. member for Windsor-Walkerville. May I say that, following the passage of the Municipal Elections Act legislation late last year, we have put out to the municipalities a copy of the revised statute, needless to say, along with a covering summary of all of the changes. We have had considerable correspondence with many municipalities relative to the questions that he has raised, along with some of the others that we are now trying to clarify through this amending bill.
One of the reasons for the haste of getting this particular amending legislation through at this time is so that we can prepare a final guideline for municipalities for the enactment and the procedures relating to this election, term of office, who can do what and what have you, as quickly as possible, because as we all know the municipal election procedures, clerically and clinically if you will, start very early in the year although the actual electioneering may be some months away. That’s one of the reasons this legislation is here now, because we want to do, in complete clarity to the best of our ability, exactly what he has suggested. There is no doubt there is still some confusion and we hope most of this can be clarified through this legislation and through this other calendar of events, if you will, that we are preparing for the municipal councils and their staffs.
If I may work backwards, I would just like to offer my thanks to the hon. member for Waterloo North for sharing his views on our legislation and seeing it in a very rational and straightforward way, because that is exactly what we are trying to do. This particular section 1 comes about because we have been asked very specifically on numerous occasions by elected people in the field, not through the municipal associations -- I don’t think they, as far as I know, officially in any event, have really made a comment one way or another.
Mr. Swart: Name the municipalities, name them.
Mr. Ashe: Unofficially some of those same members, of course, have been some of the people who have inquired, either directly, in person, by telephone or in actual personal contact or by correspondence. I did not bring those with me tonight, they are quite numerous You’ll just have to take my word on that, but that’s the case. I do want to say for sure that there is nothing through the municipal associations one way or another that I am aware of.
It really does disturb me to realize, or attempt to realize I guess is a better way of phrasing it, how the hon. member for Welland-Thorold can be so out of touch with the reality in the municipal scene. I would just have to assume that he’s so many years away from it that he really isn’t in touch with what’s going on in that scene.
Mr. Renwick: Like six months.
Mr. Conway: Are you suggesting we send him back for a refresher course?
Mr. Kerrio: He hasn’t been long away, but he’s got a great memory.
Mr. Ashe: No not this one. That one.
Mr. Kerrio: I know who you’re talking about.
Mr. Ashe: Well, he’s longer than that.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Mr. Ashe: In any event, how somebody can take the same set of facts, supposedly the same set of facts, and come up with the exact opposite conclusions, that’s where I have to say that being out of touch with reality has to come into it. If there’s anything in this Act it’s section 1 that has been very specifically asked for, as I have mentioned before, in various many ways --
Mr. Breaugh: But you don’t know by whom.
Mr. Ashe: -- by the municipal people. They said, “Spell it out. Make it clear. Make it clear exactly what our situation is during calendar year 1978. Spell it out. Is it 11 months? Is it 12? Do we pay 11 months in the old and start the new, or what have you?” So that’s exactly what we’re doing here, not in any way usurping the councils’ authority -- we all agree on that, it would appear -- that they do have that authority and should continue to have that authority -- to set their own remuneration. If they feel that they are hard done by in having eleven- twelfths of their annual remuneration, they have the full right and the full capabilities of changing their compensation bylaw publicly.
They’re the ones who have to speak to their electorate, and that’s fine. That’s the way it should be. They can publicly change their remuneration. To use some specific examples, the $5,000 -- I don’t know how the hon. member made it mechanically such a big chore -- would change to roughly $5,450, if they wanted to pay themselves in 11 months what they would have got in 12. Let them do it publicly. Let them say they have earned their 12 months’ remuneration in 11 months. If they feel they have, that’s great. They have to speak to their electorate on November 13, not me or anybody on that side or that side or anywhere here.
So we fully concur in and support their right to do that, and encourage them to do it if they feel that they are hard done by. The actual reality of the situation, as we all know, is that 75 per cent of the council will be exactly the same come December 1 as it was on November 30. Last but not least, we’re talking about a one-time situation, one time and one time only. It’s not an ongoing thing that’s going to happen every two years or three years, if the term of office changes at some future point in time.
It happens this year only, and this particular section 1 is to make it abundantly clear, as we have been asked to do by the same municipal people, “Just spell it out. Tell us what it is, what really we can legally do.” Believe it or not, and although it was read out from quotes from Hansard the other evening that I stated it, some municipal people, either elected and/or appointed people, are unclear and really questioned the fact whether, if they had a remuneration bylaw that spoke about an annual allowance, they really had the present right of paying eleven-twelfths of that. They thought it had to be to pay out the whole thing.
I’m not belittling this particular situation. Many municipalities are small and don’t have too much staff, they have many other more important items on their mind, and really just want something that tells them the way it is and how they can do it. Once again, that issue only arises in situations where you’re talking about a per annum remuneration. It doesn’t apply at all on your per diem because that won’t change. It’s exactly as it says, it’s on a per diem rate, so I think the original section 1 as proposed is the right one. It’s the one the municipal people as a very vast majority want as their guideline, and I would ask the committee and the House to support it in its present form and in effect defeat the amendment as proposed by the hon. member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr. Conway: He won’t take that lying down.
Mr. Swart: There are a few more comments which I’d like to make. I’m a bit puzzled by the comments of both the Liberal critic and the Conservative parliamentary assistant to the minister when they talk about the issue of clarity, and go to some lengths to explain that municipalities had contacted them and they had been in contact with a great many people about clarifying the situation. The situation now, I think, is quite clear. They can explain the situation; the municipalities now can take the 12 months, if they deem that advisable, the 12-months’ pay, or they can change their bylaw any way they like.
That’s quite simple. It’s not a question of clarification at all, in this bill; it’s a question of telling them what they must do. That’s the issue, it’s not clarification. You can clarify the present situation, you don’t have to come down with a mandatory law that says the Legislature says, “you are going to go this way.” At the present time the option is there.
Mr. Ashe: Eyewash.
Mr. Swart: You’re saying, “you’re going to go this way.” It’s not a question of clarity.
I was also a little bit concerned when the minister said or left the impression with the Legislature in the recent debate on this second reading, that the municipalities had asked for this or there was some sort of general support from the municipalities. I suggest to him that I have done as much checking as he has on this and you’d find the majority of municipalities would be in favour of the amendment and not the Act as it now states.
I don’t think you should try to confuse things on the first section. I’m not asking that the whole section be deleted. I don’t think you should try to confuse the first six or seven lines, with which we agree, and which are necessary for the purpose of clarity, legal clarity, with the last few lines, which are not for clarity but at mandatory order.
The parliamentary assistant may, if he wishes, conclude that after being out of the municipal field for two-and-a-half years after being there for 21 years, that I am also touched with municipal matters and the municipal council and so on. I would suggest to him that I may have stayed in better touch with him during those two-and-a-half years than he has in the nine months that he has been in this Legislature to date.
Mr. Conway: There is one thing for sure, there isn’t a radio station that you are not in touch with.
Mr. Swart: Finally, the member for Durham West made the comment that it is the councillors who have to speak to their electorate. I think that those were his exact words, they have the responsibility to the electorate. But what you are saying by this legislation is, “We have decided that we will not make you independently accountable to them, you can’t make your own choice, we’re setting up the rules of the game.”
I’m prepared to see them accountable. They are an accountable group. They are close to the electorate; they’re so close that in almost every case, in fact in every case, they can make the right decision on their own without being told by this Legislature what they have to do.
Mr. Ashe: Very briefly, Mr. Chairman, my answer is eyewash.
An hon. member: The best speech of the night.
Mr. Renwick: Equally briefly, Mr. Chairman, how long is the Tory government going to dictate to the municipal councils in the province of Ontario?
Mr. Turner: Nonsense.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Mr. Swart moved --
Mr. Kerrio: Dispense.
Mr. Renwick: No, do not dispense.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: -- that subsection 2 of section 9 of the Act as set out in section 1 of the bill be amended by striking out all the words following: “1978” in the sixth line.
Those in favour of the amendment please say “aye.”
Those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
Shall this be stacked until the end of the bill?
Mr. Gregory: That’s chauvinism now and you know it.
Mr. Warner: It’s called leadership.
Mr. Ashe: That’s called time-wasting, you’re good at it.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order. Are there any further amendments or discussion on this bill?
Mr. Swart: I don’t have any further amendments, but I do want to speak on section 2. If the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) wants to speak on this section further I’ll yield.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Are you on this section, Mr. Renwick?
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Chairman, we would agree to stack the vote on amendment until the end of the debate.
On section 2:
Mr. Swart: Again, Mr. Chairman, I had not intended to speak on section 2 of the bill at any length --
Mr. Swart: -- for a very good reason. Because when this was debated on second reading, the parliamentary assistant indicated that my proposal made some sense and he is willing to accept it. Perhaps again I should read from Instant Hansard of that debate:
“Mr. Ashe: In any event, as I was saying, there is one part of his argument that I do buy.”
Mr. Ashe: One part.
Mr. Swart: “That is to possibly further clarify the clause which is now section 2 of the bill: To further clarify at the beginning shall be signed by at least 10 electors, either whose names are entered in the preliminary list of electors’ -- and there it probably should be clarified -- ‘and are entitled to vote in the election to such office ... So that part of the amendment I think is reasonable.” And he left the impression with the House that he would be willing to accept that.
I was told afterwards though by the member that he had changed his mind and was not going to accept it after discussing it with his staff. I guess he has some obligation to tell this House why he has changed his mind within a few minutes after making it clear that he felt that it was a reasonable amendment.
I am concerned about this section of the bill because on the one hand it enables people who are not eligible voters in the municipality to sign nomination papers.
Mrs. Campbell: No, no.
Mr. Swart: Oh yes, there is no question about that. The clause which is there says: “shall be signed by at least 10 electors, either whose names are entered in the preliminary list of electors.” The preliminary list of electors is not the final list of electors. You can have people on there, and frequently do, who could be removed by the court of revision which is being held afterwards.
Therefore, they would not be eligible electors. We know that it’s possible; it happens. Perhaps the whole side of a street will be put in a certain ward. Those people could sign it and once they have signed, even though they are not in the ward, even though they are not Canadian citizens, they would then be eligible to be nominated. That would have to then be accepted and nobody could challenge it.
The other evening when we were debating this on second reading, I pointed out that whether we look at the Municipal Act back over the years, whether we look at the provincial Elections Act or whether we look at the federal Elections Act, in no case can anybody sign a nomination paper. The words are there, “who are eligible to vote in the election.”
So I say though you, Mr. Chairman, to the parliamentary assistant that what we have here for the first time in the history of municipal government in this province, or provincial government, or federal government, the opportunity for a person to be a legal nominator without being eligible to vote in a municipal election. I say to you that this is a principle that I find difficult, very difficult to accept.
I know why the minister changed his mind -- or the parliamentary assistant. I think likely the rest of us do.
Mrs. Campbell: You were right the first time. The minister changed his mind.
Mr. Swart: The minister changed his mind and decided not to go along with this because the municipal clerks, or at least some of them -- and again I would ask him to tell the assembly whether it was the association or some that he had discussed it with -- decided that they did not want the responsibility of having to determine whether those people are eligible electors. Of course, in the Municipal Elections Act that we now have it states very clearly that the onus is on the candidate to deposit a valid nomination paper.
So in fact, even if this section were changed to make them eligible, there would really be no legal obligation on the part of the clerks of the municipalities to assure without any doubt whatsoever -- which may be somewhat difficult -- that the person is an eligible voter; that still rests. But the way it is now, it makes it possible, knowingly, for a person to nominate somebody else for a public office when they cannot vote in that election. I say again that is something which I find contradictory to our whole parliamentary and democratic process.
The other section of this requires that a person must sign an affidavit they are entitled to vote in the election to such office if their name is not on the preliminary list of electors. Well I wouldn’t have objected too much to that being on there, but the way it exists now can just be this, and there can be no question about this, that we now can have nomination papers submitted nominating a candidate to office with 10 or more names on it. One or more of those may not be eligible to vote -- may not be an eligible voter -- but the name will be counted, and an eligible voter, whose name may have been missed on the first round, will not, his name will be struck off, and he will not be entitled to nominate that candidate. I say there has to be something of a contradiction, an anachronism, in legislation which permits this to happen, and anyone observing this Act will recognize that it does permit that to happen
I feel this section of the Act should have been amended. I realize the clerks would like the way it is because it takes total responsibility off their shoulders. I am one of those who normally support municipal people, but it comes to the fact that --
Mr. Renwick: Mel, we could be out on the hustings tomorrow if you will sit down.
Mr. Swart: -- the electors of the municipalities will find themselves having to vote for candidates who by all previous practice have not been legally nominated.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I would like to know what all this discussion is about a non-amendment. If there is an amendment, then I think we should have received a copy of it. If there is a strong feeling that change should be made, then I think that amendment should be before us; and we have no amendment. I am at a loss to see why there is all this discussion on something we don’t have before us; nobody has moved a change in the existing clause.
Personally, I think the clause reads well the way it is; I fail to see why we should welcome confusion.
Mr. Ruston: Organized confusion.
Mr. Epp: Right now we feel that the onus should be on the candidates to make sure that the people who sign their nomination papers are eligible voters, and the clerk has to assume this, so why we would open up a particular part of this bill and leave some doubt in the minds of the clerks and those candidates running for office, and then try to clear up the doubt in some other part of the Act where the onus is on the candidates to make sure that everybody is eligible, I fail to see; I just fail to see why this confusion should be in the bill itself. I think we should leave the clause as presently constituted and support it.
Mr. Ashe: As was indicated, we don’t really have an amendment to speak to, although the hon. member for Welland-Thorold the other night indicated a possible amendment and in my remarks I did indicate that I saw some merit in part of what he was saying. I think the word “part” was the important one. I was taking it -- I’ll be very frank -- in a different context in terms of clarity than, in fact, legal counsel informed me later would really have happened. Even that portion of the amendment which sounded reasonable to me as a non-lawyer became unreasonable in the lawyer’s sense in terms of clarifying procedure for the clerks.
Mind you, that’s not unusual when you think about lawyers versus laymen. I think the amendment, which is section 2 of the bill, now does exactly what we wanted it to do, make it very clear, as is already identified in other parts of the legislation, that the onus is on the candidate and the onus is off the clerk in the context of time.
The main problem would be with at least part of the proposed amendment that was being suggested by the hon. member for Welland-Thorold, in that it would put the onus on the clerk. In a large municipality such as Toronto, or any of the boroughs, if nominations closed today and he had to certify them by tomorrow, he in effect would have to have an army out verifying all of the nominators on nomination papers. If you’re checking one, two or 10, that’s fine; but if you’re checking 600 candidates, which is possibly the case in Toronto, they would actually have to be going out and verifying that so and so was an eligible elector in such and such a ward and so on. I think this would be an unbearable obligation on the mind of the clerk before he could certify the validity of the various nominators.
I think last but not least, as we’ve talked about many times, and it was discussed quite adequately the other evening, is the fact that virtually without exception -- and I say virtually because there are exceptions to everything -- people who are submitting nomination papers don’t put in the bare minimum. They don’t put 10; they put 12, 15, 20, 30 and leave lots of room for possible error or possible removal of a qualified nominator. I think the present wording as proposed in section 2 gives all of the opportunities needed to have adequate people eligible to sign nomination papers, and yet still with the threat that they may subsequently be proven to be ineligible on the final list.
As far as furnishing the affidavit, I can’t see that particular part of the discussion at all. The affidavit, again, is saying, “If you weren’t on a preliminary list, but you know you’re an eligible elector you go ahead and make an affidavit on the prescribed form that will be provided to the candidate when he picks up his nomination papers.” Then once again the onus is on the candidate and his nominator to say, “I’m not on a preliminary list. I’m eligible. I make the statement that I’m eligible,” and that clarifies it for everybody. It’s clear then in the mind of the candidate and it’s clear in the mind of the clerk when he’s certifying those particular nomination papers. I think section 2 is adequate right now.
Mrs. Campbell: I have a question. I must say that prior to the statements of the parliamentary assistant I thought the provision was adequate, but as a result of what he said I’m completely confused. Is it not a fact that in the previous municipal election provisions we did have the provision of eligibility to vote in the election? In view of what the parliamentary assistant has said, could he give any direction to this House or any information as to where the clerk of the city of Toronto, for example, faced difficulties in certification? It would seem to me that on this one, since the requirement for certification is, I assume, still with us, he is certifying without knowledge and that is surely far worse than with knowledge.
Mr. Ashe: The big difference between, let’s call it the “old legislation” -- prior 1977 legislation -- and the new one, is in the time procedures. Previously, the clerk had available to him the final lists and, therefore, it was no problem to certify the validity of the nominators. Now, because of the compressed timeframe for the earlier election date, he in fact will not have the final lists as such, and yet the time-frame can’t wait. So that is why we are saying he goes by the preliminary list, and by affidavit if somebody isn’t on a preliminary list but in fact should be. So there still is onus, if you will -- it is not willy-nilly -- for him to make a certification. But there is no doubt he is not able any longer to use what would be referred to as the final list, as he used to be able to do prior to the 1977 legislation; and that is strictly because of the compressing of the time-frame for the earlier election.
Mrs. Campbell: If I may pursue this, I am still puzzled. We are still requiring the clerk to certify.
Mr. Ashe: Yes.
Mrs. Campbell: To what, may I ask, is he certifying?
Mr. Ashe: He is certifying the eligibility of at least 10 nominators on the nomination papers, based on their inclusion on his preliminary list of electors. That is number one, which I would suggest in 99.9 per cent of the cases will be satisfied right there; or in that other 0.1 of one per cent -- and I pick those figures out of the air, I admit -- an adequate declaration by oath of other qualified electors who are not on the preliminary list would take care of that.
Mrs. Campbell: So it is a fact that if someone is on the preliminary list and is not in fact an eligible voter -- and that happens very frequently in the city of Toronto, I may tell you; I am not alone, I think, in this House tonight in verifying that -- then the clerk certifies; and on the basis of that certification that person, by the wording here, is duly nominated whether or not there is eligibility to vote? That is what I take as the question.
Once the certification is made it is made on the basis of the preliminary list, which may be in error; but that would stand, as I see it; and I hadn’t appreciated the effect of it. Once the clerk certifies that then that person or those persons are deemed to be eligible to vote whether they can or not.
Mr. Ashe: In the sense of qualification to the nomination, yes. Subsequently, as you say, I am sure; there are circumstances.
Mrs. Campbell: I will lay odds there are far more than you think.
Mr. Ashe: I understand the numbers; but I think you are putting those numbers, which are still relatively small to the total, as being the ones that would be on the nomination papers. What I am saying is that in virtually all cases they are not going to be anyway; and/or there are many more than sufficient nominators to take care of the 10 even if subsequently some of them prove to be ineligible.
Even if they are certified on the nomination papers it does not in itself say that they are going to vote. Yes, it has qualified them to be a nominator, but they may subsequently lose their right to vote if in fact they were not qualified.
On the other side of the coin, as you well know from your experiences, you have people who are not on the preliminary list for various reasons who in fact are qualified to be electors; and that is where the affidavit comes in. With the affidavit, again, they then automatically become eligible nominators, and obviously through the normal procedures of revision, and now, as you know, under the new Act right up to the close of the polls on voting day, would be quite eligible to vote in the election. But, again, if you take a very specific isolated circumstance -- and I admit that in theory it is possible to have 10 ineligible voters as the only 10 on your nomination paper -- that what you say, in the strictest terms, could happen. But if the hon. members will recall the debate during consideration of the legislation in the late fall of 1977, there was much more concern expressed by all sides of the House, as I recall, to make sure that somebody’s nomination wasn’t disqualified through inadvertency or through that kind of technicality, if you will -- because somebody they took as being bona fide electors proved to not be. So it was felt, in the case of that judgement decision, that it should be on the part of qualifying the candidate rather than disqualifying him.
Mr. Swart: Of course, the member for St. George is absolutely correct. It has now been admitted that perhaps it is even worse than the terms in which he put it, because the clerk no longer certifies. If the clerk knows one, two or three of those are not eligible voters under this Act, he must accept that nomination in any event; and unless there is an affidavit covering the one who is not on the voters’ list, even though he is eligible, he may not accept it. It makes it all very clear and very simple for the clerk. But there is a very real principle involved. For the first time, you are going to permit people who are not eligible voters to nominate candidates for office.
I would point out that the parliamentary assistant was not completely correct in what he said. He said the clerk had an easy situation before that because the voters’ list was complete and he could simply check the voters’ list. Of course, the court of revision was held; but if somebody was on there and entitled to vote, even though they weren’t on the final list, it states under section 33 they are eligible to vote and entitled to nominate a candidate.
Two people have asked why an amendment wasn’t moved. First of all, I never said we were going to move an amendment to this section. I said there would be one or two amendments made, the first one very definite. But we are quite happy with the section as it is in the Act, the one that was passed just last fall. It states a very clear principle. It says:
“A person may be nominated as a candidate for an office by filing in the office of the clerk, on the days and during the hours specified in subsection 2 of section 35, a nomination paper in prescribed form which shall be signed by at least 10 electors whose names are entered or entitled to be entered under section 33 in the polling list of the electors entitled to vote in elections to such office.”
All they have to be is entitled to be on the voters’ list or entitled to vote. That’s what it says in the Act.
If there is concern that we have made no amendment here, all we have to do is vote against this section of the Act and we’ve got the specific wording which says that people who are eligible electors may vote under the present section.
That is the reason you have no amendment in here, Mr. Chairman. It is not necessary when the Act reads as it does. It’s the same, really, as it has been for the last 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or 100 years. It’s the same as the provincial Act is today. It’s the same as the federal Act. There is the onus on the returning officers there to satisfy themselves they are eligible voters.
In this section, even if somebody found out after an election that there were not sufficient eligible voters on that nomination paper --
Mrs. Campbell: It wouldn’t matter.
Mr. Swart: -- it wouldn’t matter. It deprives a candidate who may be defeated the right to challenge the validity of a nomination. There is a very real principle involved in this, I suggest.
Mr. Ashe: How can somebody get so far removed from the realities of the political scene that we all go through?
Mr. Charlton: You’ve said that already.
Mr. Ashe: What the hon. member has just said, is that if somebody gets defeated by his peers at the polls in the normal electoral procedure that he should still have the right to challenge that election because maybe there was the misuse of a name inadvertently on the nomination papers.
Mr. Swart: Or five, or ten.
Mr. Ashe: What he’s saying is that it’s the nominators who decide the election not the electorate that he or she is appearing before. I’ve never heard such ridiculous arguments in all my life; it’s nit-picking.
Mr. Renwick: Eyewash -- is that what you called it?
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Mr. Ashe: One other point of clarity, Mr. Chairman. Let’s not kid ourselves; under the old procedure or the new, somebody could be challenged on their right and eligibility to vote. It could be right up to and including polling day, that really hasn’t changed. If anything, we now make it easier to be eligible to vote, but you could be disqualified or challenged on your right to vote before as you can now.
So let’s really put the whole thing into perspective and appreciate the job that the candidate has to do, but also appreciate the job that the clerk has to do, particularly with his compressed time-frame.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Shall section 2 carry? Those in favour of section 2 carrying will please say “aye.”
Those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the “ayes” have it.
The vote is stacked.
Sections 3 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
On section 7:
Mr. Ashe: Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment on section 7. Both of the opposition critics were provided with this minor amendment earlier in the week. It is really a correction of a typographical error in the original bill.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Mr. Ashe moves that the bill be amended by adding thereto the following section 7: “Subsection 3 of section 117 of the said Act is amended by striking out the figure 104 in the third line and inserting in lieu thereof the figure 106,” and that the present sections 7, 8 and 9 of the bill be renumbered as sections 8, 9 and 10 respectively.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Chairman, on section 7 as it stood originally, now section 8 with this amendment, I thought perhaps I should bring to the attention of the parliamentary assistant that I thought perhaps maybe further consideration should be given to the section of that Act to say that when a liquor plebiscite is being held in a municipality, it should be held during the election year of the municipality.
I had an involvement with the local election and the plebiscite held in the city of Port Colborne and I can tell you it caused a number of difficulties throughout the community, particularly in an off-election year of a municipality. To me the Liquor Control Board can almost call a plebiscite at their wish, and I suggest that is costly at times to a municipality, since they have to go out and prepare the voters’ list. I feel that where they’re moving or having a plebiscite from a dry to a wet area, perhaps it should be held during municipal election year. It won’t cost anyone or any particular party that’s interested in a plebiscite one cent more, but it does provide some assistance to the municipality, and we don’t have to call for a plebiscite during an off-year for municipal election. Hopefully, the minister and the parliamentary assistant could bring in an amendment some other time saying that a plebiscite shall be held during a municipal election year if it is requested by certain parties.
Mr. Chairman: Are there any further comments?
Mr. Ashe: May I just say something on that particular issue? I appreciate some of the arguments that were put forward about creating elections at inopportune times. It is normally the policy to have the elections, of course, at election time.
I would appreciate it if the hon. member would just leave it with us for consideration and check the various ramifications. There may be others that I definitely am not aware of and maybe the minister isn’t. If it proves to be no great problem and is feasible we’d be quite prepared to bring it forward as a future amendment to the Act.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
Mr. Chairman: Shall sections 8 and 9 stand as part of the bill?
Sections 8 and 9 agreed to.
Mr. Chairman: We have two amendments before the committee.
The committee divided on Mr. Swart’s amendment to section 1, which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 15, nays 34.
Section 1 agreed to.
The committee divided on the motion that section 2 stand as part of the bill, which was approved on the following vote:
Ayes 33; nays 16.
Section 2 agreed to.
Bill 30, as amended, reported.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Maeck, the committee of the whole House reported one bill with certain amendments.
CITY OF TIMMINS-PORCUPINE AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Ashe, on behalf of Hon. Mr. McKeough, moved second reading of Bill 5, An Act to amend The City of Timmins-Porcupine Act, 1972.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. member for Waterloo North.
Mr. Renwick: What do you mean, Waterloo North?
Mr. Speaker: As opposed to South Waterloo.
Mr. Davidson: There is no such riding, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Epp: No such riding as Waterloo South?
Mr. Davidson: That’s right.
Mr. Epp: Must be Cambridge.
Mr. Davidson: Cambridge is an entirety unto itself.
Mr. Warner: We’re not sure about Waterloo North either.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill 5, An Act to amend The City of Timmins-Porcupine Act, 1972. We would be pleased to support this bill since it’s going to provide for the minister the opportunity to divide the city into wards and, secondly, to determine how many representatives are to represent each of the wards and, thirdly, for the Ontario Municipal Board to make changes in the ward system from time to time and also to determine what those boundaries should be.
I believe this makes good sense since the city of Timmins-Porcupine would like to have these amendments and there are a number of municipalities in the province of Ontario that have wanted to be divided into wards in the past and have been permitted by legislation to do so. This city should also have that opportunity. We would be glad to support this bill as it’s constituted.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support this bill, too. It’s a perfectly good bill.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Why are you supporting it?
Mr. Warner: First one in 20 years.
Mr. Swart: It’s a good thing that it is and it’s going to get unanimous support because I noticed again, as last year, that the member for Cochrane South (Mr. Pope) is not present in the House to promote the Timmins bills when they’ve been before this House. The former member was always in the House when matters concerning Timmins were being discussed.
Mr. Turner: Nonsense.
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s why he’s the former member -- you sit here long enough, you get unemployed.
Mr. Swart: I have one question to ask the parliamentary assistant with regard to this bill, and that is why the wording on the section with regard to the Ontario Municipal Board making decisions on the ward boundaries doesn’t conform to the Municipal Act. There is quite a variation between the procedures here and under the Municipal Act for other municipalities; although the end result may be the same, there still is this great difference.
I have to say quite frankly that I support this bill because I believe it is better than the Municipal Act. Under the Municipal Act as the parliamentary assistant should know, section 13 provides that when a municipality is incorporated or erected, the municipal board shall divide the city into wards. It provides that the wards may be changed or abolished upon a vote of the municipality. That is the Municipal Act. This Act provides that the Municipal Board has power to do both upon the request of the municipality or upon the request of the ratepayers.
I think this actually is superior in a sense to what is in the Municipal Act, so I would ask, why the difference? And if this is superior, as I believe it is, does the parliamentary assistant or the minister intend to bring in amendments to the Municipal Act to make this simple procedure apply there?
Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might answer the questions as well as responding to what was expressed previously by the hon. member for Waterloo North.
First of all, for the record and for clarification, I would like to say there was a slight misunderstanding of what this bill is doing. It is not changing wards or establishing wards in that sense.
Mr. Swart: I know that but you had better explain it.
Mr. Ashe: I said I was responding to the hon. member for Waterloo North.
The original bill in 1972 established the wards for that election. It also said that the wards would be for 1972 election and the 1974 election. In fact, it did not really say that the same boundaries and the same wards would also be defined in the 1976 election. Retroactively, this is saying 1976 was the way you did it, which was exactly the same way as in 1974 and 1972. It also says it shall remain thus until such time as it is changed in the normal course of events by application to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Getting to the question and query of the hon. member for Welland-Thorold, may I point out to him that, in fact, anything that would go before the board would still be handled in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Municipal Act, which is exactly what it says. But under subsection (4b) (a), (b) and (c), it is really just summarizing, if you will, in non-legal terms, as I would define them, what section 13 does and the various things that can be done by the OMB in terms of redividing the wards, altering or dissolving the wards or carrying the composition of the council. But it specifically says: “ ... or upon the petition of electors in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Municipal Act, the Ontario Municipal Board may, by order ... ” and it goes On to summarize.
I would suggest that although we would be very happy to take under advisement his particular comments relative to clarity and ease, for the time being section 13 of the Municipal Act would still apply relative to how the petition to the OMB would happen and how the OMB would handle it.
Motion agreed to.
The following bill was given third reading on motion:
Bill 5, An Act to amend the City of Timmins-Porcupine Act, 1972.
SHORELINE PROPERTY ASSISTANCE AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Ashe, on behalf of the Hon. Mr. McKeough, moved second reading of Bill 6, An Act to amend the Shoreline Property Assistance Act.
Mr. Ruston: Mr. Speaker, this bill is brought in to amend the Shoreline Property Assistance Act. The original bill was brought in in 1973, I believe, when we had big storms and so forth. One day the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) and myself had a special debate on high water and shoreline protection, and later the government brought in this bill to allow money to be lent to the municipalities, where residents could borrow the money at a reasonable rate of interest to secure their properties from storms.
One of the things that has been happening since is that some of the people wanted to repay their loans and have them paid off, and since the debentures were sold on a 20-year basis they were not able to pay them off. There has been some representation made by some municipalities. I have a couple here from the Haldimand-Norfolk region and another one from the town of Dunnville all addressed to Mr. Gordon Miller. I had some townships in my own areas that had requests from residents who wanted to be able to pay off their debentures.
Now that it can be paid at any time within the 20-year period -- that’s my understanding of it -- this allows some people who wish to have their debt taken off the property to do so. It has not really been used a great deal in some of the areas but it certainly has served a real need for a number of people who were suffering a great deal from the high water in 1973 and 1974 -- mainly in 1973 when the damage was done.
So we support this bill wholeheartedly, because we have made representation to the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) in the last year or so with regard to this matter and we are very happy he is bringing this amendment in.
Mr. Deans: I wanted to speak in favour of the bill too. The changes may be necessary; who can tell? I’m not about to make a judgement about them; I assume the ministry has looked into them. The thing that worries me about this bill is that while this takes care of the situation which arose some time ago, and which undoubtedly will arise again, it surely would make more sense if we were to take some time and take a look at what kind of action could be taken in order to avoid the continued repetition of the flooding and damage.
There is no point in providing people with access to loans in order that they can put back together that which is washed away periodically, and that is exactly what is wrong with this kind of legislation. It is nice to assist people after the catastrophe has arisen, but since we know full well that that catastrophe will arise again it’s about time that we paid some attention to undertaking some public works on the shorelines of the province of Ontario in order to try to assure ourselves and those individuals that the kind of erosion that takes place during these periods of catastrophe will not occur year after year.
If you take a look at this year, for example, it would have required very little change in the temperatures in the province of Ontario to have resulted in yet another similar high water situation. We could have been faced today with exactly the same thing that we were faced with a couple of years ago. This kind of legislation doesn’t help. It’s too late. This only helps to put it back; this doesn’t help to stop it.
I remember the debate that my colleague from Essex-wherever-it-is, who is no longer with us, told us he took part in. The debate was aimed not only at getting assistance for the people on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and in other parts, but also at trying to find a solution to the problem. If the members will recall there was discussion about the possibility of using some of the excess stone that was available from some of the quarrying operations to build along certain parts of the lakeshore berms or whatever you call those things that go out into the water that would help to break the surf and therefore help to avoid the kind of erosion and catastrophe that overtook so many people -- I think it is now three years ago.
I want to say to the hon. member that of course we’ll support the bill, but it is time that the government took a serious look at the protection of shorelines. The province of Ontario is lagging behind the northern states that adjoin the other sides of the lakes we’re talking about. There are major works being undertaken by a number of US municipalities at the behest of and with the financial assistance of the northern states in order to protect their shorelines.
Mr. Speaker: I’m sure the hon. member would want to talk about what is in the bill.
Mr. Deans: Yes, I do indeed. Therefore it would be better to spend the money that is allocated for use within this bill for the purposes that would better serve the long-term interests of the province of Ontario. I hope the minister and his parliamentary assistant will give some thought to that because it might even be a project that would create employment. We could use it.
Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the support shown for the legislation. In fact, it does provide more flexibility to those people in those municipalities who wish to repay the loans, all or in part, prior to the original maturity date which is involved with 20-year debentures. That flexibility has been asked for and is now being used.
A couple of other points of interest: There have been approximately 465 loans made under the edict of the shoreline property assistance legislation. These have generally varied from $3,000 to $5,000. So obviously they’ve been put to good use.
I don’t agree that the loans have been provided and used just for the purpose of having repairs done to property, albeit that was part of the original basis on which the money was available. It also was for future protection and that’s where some of the money has in fact been invested.
As for what the government has done and is doing, I think there are two different areas that have to be investigated. Number one, many areas of the province, particularly along our immediate shoreline, are under the scrutiny of and, if you will, indirect control of the elements by -- to the degree that is possible -- conservation authorities which have been putting more and more of their emphasis on shoreline assistance, shoreline protection and, more particularly, flood control, albeit this is more upstream than in the lake proper. I appreciate that. But there can be flooding and erosion and so on upstream as well as in the lakes, albeit the elements are much more severe in the Great Lakes.
More particularly with the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority there have been many areas of assistance along the Lake Ontario waterfront, but with particular provisos. Again, one has to weigh the pros and the cons of how far the public purse is expected to pay to protect private property.
Mr. Deans: There is an answer to that too, by the way.
Mr. Ashe: I would have to suggest that most people who choose -- for all reasons, of which many are very positive -- to live along waterfronts, whatever they may be, make that decision consciously and hopefully agree to take the pluses and minuses of that particular decision. In most cases, they are pluses. On occasion, they are minuses. How much can the public purse pay to protect those properties?
Mr. Deans: How much do you pay now for storm sewers in municipalities to protect property?
Mr. Ashe: Yes, but those same people pay for those storm sewers.
Mr. Deans: That’s right. Everyone in the municipality pays for it and everyone in the province of Ontario has access to the shoreline, if you want to make it that way.
Mr. Ashe: We’re talking about the protection of private property, when we’re talking about --
Mr. Deans: We’re not.
Mr. Ashe: We are.
Mr. Deans: We are not!
Mr. Ashe: When we’re talking about public property, the government and the conservation authorities have made great strides and even many private properties can be protected, and can take advantage of these programs if they wish to deed their landholdings under water -- in other words, their water lots -- to the public, namely the conservation authority, they will get the same advantage of whatever works are in their particular area.
Mr. Deans: That is the wrong forum, that’s right.
Mr. Ashe: I might say that some have taken advantage of this along the Lake Ontario shoreline. But on the basis of equity, I frankly don’t think we can expect the public purse to feel that it’s bottomless in terms of expenditures to protect private property. Of course, that’s the always overriding consideration. I really think this is somewhat removed from the bill but I’ve attempted -- at least in a very small way -- to respond to the concerns of the hon. member for Wentworth. I don’t think anybody belittles what he has said, and he acknowledges the concern that everybody shares. Usually it is only highlighted in the event of a disaster. But I think we all have to be mindful of the public purse and how far it can be dipped into to protect private property.
In summary, I think what this particular legislation does is give what has been requested by municipalities and people who have benefitted by this legislation the right to prepay their loans that was unavailable under the original legislation as it was enacted.
Bill 6 agreed to.
Ordered for third reading.
Bill 6, An Act to amend the Shoreline Property Assistance Act, 1973.
Bill 30, An Act to amend the Municipal Elections Act, 1977.
BUDGET DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resumption of the adjourned debate on the amendment to the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr. Conway: It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that the member for Peterborough had the floor.
Mr. Ashe: I think they are digging him up; if I may have the indulgence of the House for a moment, I think he’ll be here.
Mr. Ashe: That was a very poor use of words.
Mr. Tuner: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure I rise to participate in the budget debate this evening. Spring is in the air, Pierre Trudeau is preparing to sell the nation another 10 years of Liberal temporizing, and the hon. Treasurer of Ontario (Mr. McKeough) finds himself contemplating yet again whether to hold a series of economic classes for the opposition.
Seriously, Mr. Speaker, perhaps we could examine the budget with a bit more discipline than has been evidenced over the last few weeks. Judging by policy alternatives advanced by the opposition, it seems safe to say that they are conversant with the concept of progressivity in revenue generation, an important aspect of equity to be sure, but their difficulty with the concept of a full employment norm, coupled with their utter ignorance of the impact of revenue elasticity changes over the past few years, lead me to believe, Mr. Speaker, that this government’s difficulties do not relate so much to policy formation as they do to communication.
Mr. Turner: When the Treasurer of Ontario released the Ontario tax study number 15 --
Mr. Conway: Over $1 million deficit is lack of communication.
Mr. Turner: -- Reassessing the Scope of Fiscal Policy in Canada, a few short weeks before the budget, members on this side of the House felt confident that the opposition would understand it as the foundation for a new and more enlightened approach to fiscal policy --
Mr. Conway: Is that the speech McCaffrey rejected?
Mr. Turner: -- not only in Ontario, but hopefully throughout Canada. Instead, it seems that the connection has not been made at all, so let me make the connection here tonight, by touching briefly on the substantial issues of government debt and unemployment. While these issues have been clouded recently by a lot of heavy-handed emotionalism, they are at core predominantly technical issues which must be approached technically despite their human implications.
Mr. Conway: Kealey gets paid 30 grand for that drivel.
Mr. Turner: Tax study 15 stated, and I quote, “even with a return to full employment, both the province and the federal government are locked into substantial deficits the potential for self-financing macro-stabilization policies does not exist and there is no fast, easy route to regaining full employment in Canada.”
Mr. Conway: What’s a macro-stabilization policy?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I believe the member for Renfrew North is the next speaker, not the present speaker.
Mr. Turner: These interlocking statements are not easy to deal with and perhaps that is just the point. We have been so inundated with yesterday’s wisdom that it appears our government’s real task in the short term is to communicate forcefully today’s realities. When, for example, public debt is casually discussed, all sorts of highly imperfect analogies are drawn to the moralistic virtues of private individuals living within their means. For the record I want to state the obvious, Mr. Speaker, that public debt produces public assets, and that, as the conference board puts it, “the extinguishing of public debt also extinguishes the assets as well.”
Mr. Lawlor: Oh, don’t let Darcy hear this. It’s terrible. What private debt produces public assistance?
Mr. Turner: This acquisition of public assets and debt at one stage of a province’s development and extinguishing of both the debt and the assets --
Mr. Lawlor: It’s terrifying.
Mr. Turner: -- at later stages, is a much- maligned but fundamental contributor to our growth.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Some lefty wrote that
Mr. Turner: No. As far as unemployment is concerned, Mr. Speaker, our government has recognized, as I have quoted, “the potential for self-financing macro-stabilization policies does not exist and there is no fast, easy route to regaining full employment in Canada.” Let me put it another way --
Mr. Lawlor: You have done that twice.
Mr. Turner: I know, I hope it sank in.
Mr. Lawlor: It did the first time.
Mr. Turner: Good, I’m glad.
The idea being expressed in some quarters is that we should be offering revenue concessions such as a retail sales tax cut to stimulate the economy --
Mr. Lawlor: That is fatuous.
Mr. Tuner: -- and that in turn this stimulation would yield enough additional provincial income tax revenue to pay for the original tax cut --
Mr. Lawlor: Well, it’s the bankruptcy of the Liberal mind.
Mr. Turner: -- while substantially decreasing unemployment.
Just a few years ago this idea may have been reasonable, when the elasticity of personal income tax was considerably higher, but today it is unreasonable and unworkable.
Mr Lawlor: You are the best speaker I have heard in a long time.
Mr Turner: It is also unreasonable to suggest that any of our structural difficulties can best be resolved in a climate of crisis and distrust. I want now to bring to the attention of the House the differing approaches that were used in confronting economic problems in two different instances in this province.
Mr. Lawlor: Both Tories.
Mr. Turner: No, not necessarily.
One difficulty was the Inco experience of layoffs caused by the soft world market. Despite the enormous media saturation of the issue, the sensational treatment it received at the hands of the opposition, and the extensive review it received here through committee, it is still legitimate to ask whether the intended beneficiaries of this treatment, the workers themselves, have really been any better served.
I would like to contrast that experience with an event that received little attention at the time in the Toronto media and failed to achieve the status of a cause célèbre within the opposition ranks, but managed somehow to be resolved successfully nonetheless.
The story concerns a company that operates in Peterborough, the Outboard Marine Corporation of Canada, and its decision last June to discontinue production of the Pioneer chain-saw line. If the politics of crisis management had intervened at that point it is likely that that would have been the end of the story, as well as the beginning. Fortunately, the theme of all our efforts was participation. City council participated by approving funding for a feasibility study of an alternative to closing the plant.
Mr. Reid: Twenty-five thousand dollars.
Mr. Turner: Our own government, in cooperation with the federal government, participated by exploring rapidly and cooperatively complex mechanisms for financial assistance. And the workers co-operated equally, by equity participation in the new Pioneer Chain Saw Corporation Inc.
Mr. Lawlor: You’re darn right. The workers will save you yet.
Mr. Turner: -- and by agreeing to a formula in which they would receive lower wage rates in exchange for a profit-sharing arrangement.
Mr. Lawlor: Where is your entrepreneurial system now?
Mr. Turner: That’s where it is -- that’s where it’s at.
Mr. Lawlor: Yes, it’s in the hands of the workers.
Mr. Turner: I am not pretending that our spirit of co-operation created an unqualified success, because it did not. And I cannot predict what the world market will be like for chain-saws in the years to come; I cannot do that either.
Mr. Turner: The important thing for Peterborough is that we participated effectively as a provincial government, not by resisting the realities but by accepting them and then getting on with the task of finding reasonable approaches. That is the situation with the Treasurer’s budget generally --
Mr. Lawlor: Not at all, Just the opposite.
Mr. Turner: Many tax increases are really only realignments necessitated by the changing real value of our dollar.
Mr. Warner: What utter nonsense.
Mr. Lawlor: You know this is an anomaly; totally exceptional.
Mr Turner: And in the instance of health care we have accepted the reality that the people of Ontario have utilized the fine system -- at an unprecedented rate.
Mr. Warner: You don’t know how to run the thing.
Mr. Turner: Our real concern now is not so much with the posturing about progressivity as it is with getting a handle on health-care expenditure increases. We can talk forever about the fairest way to pay the bill, but the truth is that if the bill is too large, there is no such thing as a fair way to pay for it.
Mr. Warner: No other province has the problem --
Mr. Turner: And for those who would argue that OHIP premiums are unfair, I would say this --
Mr. Warner: -- no one; no other province has the problem.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Turner: -- the cost of the health bill skyrocketed when premiums were frozen for five years.
Mr. Warner: You should be frozen for five years.
Mr. Turner: It was those premiums and not the new ones that have resulted in hardships for some Ontarians by increasing the bill we must all pay one way or the other. To suggest that we freeze premiums again convinces me that some people learn nothing from history.
Mr. Warner: If you learned from history, you wouldn’t have survived at Runnymede; they’d have run you through.
Mr. Turner: Our government is capable of learning. Unlike our federal counterparts, we have learned to streamline the operations of government; we have learned to reduce our claim on the economy; we have learned to reduce regional disparities by effective and selective participation in troubled sectors, and we have presented a budget that carries our insights over into clear policy positions.
Mr. Warner: Did Darcy write this?
Mr. Turner: Our support of tax incentives for research and development hubs, our support of the hospitality industry and our support of the mining industry were carefully targeted policy approaches. It is regrettable that the criticism they received was not as thoughtful.
Some suggested, for example, that our full allowance of foreign processing costs incurred in the processing of Ontario ores effectively exported jobs from Ontario.
Mr. Warner: It is called a sell-out.
Mr. Turner: There are at least four strong arguments against disallowance, not the least of which was the observation that disallowance would be counter-productive.
Our government and our system thrive on the constructive criticism of a constructive opposition. Our government is proud of its economic performance in a difficult economic period, and we welcome the day when constructive co-operation of all members creates even faster progress towards a common goal.
Mr. Lawlor: You’re completely lost. You’re out of control.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Renfrew North.
Mr. Lawlor: Say, he’s working overtime today, too.
Mr. Riddell: Now for some words of wisdom.
Mr. Turner: Now for the words of wisdom.
Mr. Conway: I should serve notice to my friends in the NDP that I had planned, because of time constraints made very clear to all of us, to speak only for roughly 10 or 15 minutes. I had anticipated the member for Peterborough going for some considerable time in addition to what he did.
Mr. Warner: You can’t say your name in 10 minutes.
Mr. Conway: If the hon. member for Scarborough-Ellesmere wishes to collect his otherwise scattered interjections into his speech for 10:15 then I suggest he do so.
Mr. Warner: No, I am going to collect your scattered speeches.
Mr. Conway: I am, as the member for Lakeshore pointed out in a very typical interjection, working overtime today, having had some occasion to speak earlier on two private members’ bills. In the second of those bills, I was happy to rise in support of a private member’s bill --
Mr. Warner: He’s never worked a day in his life
Mr. Conway: I resent these aspersions about my past working history, and I hope --
Mr. Reid: What past working history?
Mr. Warner: Past non-working history.
Mr. Conway: I would very much appreciate if that kind of personal attack --
Mr. Lawlor: It’s the relatively new members who have to do all the work.
Mr. Warner: You retired the day after you were born.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, I was pleased this afternoon to rise in support of a private member’s bill, introduced by my good and quiet colleague from Scarborough-Ellesmere, which sought to restrict the further use of regulations by this government, particularly the Treasurer, for the increase of OHIP rates in this province. However, in one of my common failures, I did not fully understand the constraints which you as Speaker drew to my attention in so far as that debate was not one that really was open to discussion of the OHIP premiums as such, but rather to the tax principle that the bill really was all about. So I wanted tonight to review briefly some --
Mr. Lawlor: That is up to you. The Speaker was wrong on that, but go ahead.
Mr. Conway: I want tonight to review some of my personal comments with respect to what I felt the most significant part of another do-nothing, know-nothing budget presented by the Treasurer here on March 7.
Mr. Turner: That is unfair.
Mr. Conway: The member for Peterborough says it’s unfair. It may be unfair, but I think --
Mr. Warner: Yes, the budget was a disaster.
Mr. Conway: -- the budget was a disaster, and notwithstanding the macro-stabilization points the member was making tonight from a very well prepared text -- and I know that the Examiner will have it on the front page tomorrow. I just hope Peterborough can’t --
Mr. Lawlor: Besides, do you think you were elected to be fair?
Mr. Turner: I would hope so, Patrick.
Mr. Conway: Yes, that’s another point. The main point of the Treasurer’s budget on March 7 certainly seemed to me, as a member of this assembly and as Health critic for the Liberal Party, to be the very substantial increase in OHIP premiums that he announced at that time.
As has been pointed out in this assembly on a number of occasions since that day, the 37.5 per cent increase in OHIP premiums announced on March 7, 1978, represent the second increase in three budgets, in fact bringing about a doubling of the premium rates in this province in 1978 over where they were pre-budget 1976. So the member for Peterborough may wish to crow ceremoniously about how pleasant it was when the government, in a majority status, refrained from increasing premiums and now it points to the requirement of doubling the premiums in two or three years’ time.
It’s interesting to see the rationale provided in the budget by the Treasurer for maintaining the premium principle in any shape or form. I’ve listened and I’ve read with my usual quiet interest and depth for the argumentation provided by the Treasurer and his friends, the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) and the next Minister of Health, the member for York East (Mr. Elgie), to hear what would be the salient arguments --
Mr. Hall: I’m going to go over there and see what you look like.
Mr. Conway: The member for Lincoln says he’s going to cross the floor. Just remember to come back.
Mr. Gregory: I don’t blame him.
Mr. Warner: They’re all deserting you, Sean.
Mr. Conway: In the budget of March 7, the Treasurer says, “Premiums retain a visible link with the cost of services.” It seems to me that to the extent that can be proven, to the extent that the premium mechanism has, in certain theoretical applications, an ability to relate to the cost of services, I’m prepared to accept that as an argument. However, I accept it in terms of this budget only until I get to page 33 of the same budget, drafted by the same very strong-minded Treasurer.
At page 33, in appendix C, headed “The Ontario Health Insurance Plan -- Details of Premium Increase,” he says: “Table 1 shows that the new premium levels will raise $1,120 million in revenue for 1978-79. Premiums will cover 34 per cent of expenditures, as opposed to 26 per cent [under the old rates]. Table 2 shows” -- and I think this is the very important point -- “that almost three-quarters of the increase will be paid for by employers, a reflection of the fact that employer subsidization of OHIP is a common fringe benefit in Ontario.”
That is a very significant point in this document. Three-quarters of the increase in the premiums, like three-quarters of the overall OHIP premium revenue, will be employer-paid. So what does that mean? It means certainly that there is to be understood the fact that squarely 75 per cent of the premium revenue is paid by virtue of fringe benefit arrangements.
For example, take the member for Mississauga East (Mr. Gregory) --
Mr. Warner: You take him.
Mr. Conway: -- a typical Tory in this province and, as it happens, a member of this Legislature.
Mr. Warner: Boy, that’s a demeaning thing to say.
Mr. Conway: What is the visible link for him in his budget increase in the OHIP rates? It means for the member for Mississauga East as, I must admit, it does for myself and, pray tell, Mr. Speaker, even you, a $144 annual pay raise.
There is nothing wrong with pay raises for members of this assembly. I spoke very briefly to the subject not very long ago in this assembly.
Mr. Warner: Some day you might even earn one.
Mr. Conway: But it must be understood, taking the members of this assembly as an example, that there is no visible link -- none whatsoever -- between the OHIP premiums that are paid for us by a very benevolent population, by the taxpayers directly. There is no relation whatsoever, no visible link, for the member for Mississauga East, who smiles Cheshire cat-like tonight.
Mr. Warner: I would have said benignly.
Mr. Conway: He knows what I am saying is absolutely correct arid why he should consider repudiating the very feeble and absolutely false logic of the Premier’s claim for both maintaining and increasing premiums in this province.
Let us get this clearly in our minds: There is absolutely no justification for saying that premiums maintain a visible link to the cost of services. Increasingly in this province people have their premiums paid by virtue of fringe benefits in collective agreements. I am not saying there is not an indirect tax in that, but there is no visible link; there is none whatsoever.
Mr. Philip: Any insurance salesman would know that.
Mr. Conway: The member for Etobicoke says any insurance salesman would know that. And I see that Mississauga East, although I think he styles himself an insurance executive, nods accordingly.
Mr. Warner: A magnate.
Mr. Conway: But there is not one other argument presented in this budget for maintaining the premiums and, worse still, for increasing them.
I see the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Drea), who has been unduly quiet here the last three or four weeks.
Mr. Kerrio: Yes, isn’t that a fact?
Mr. Conway: I thought for a while it was just another Catholic having succumbed to Lent. But Easter has passed and I see that little change has come over an otherwise controversial minister of that government.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Oh, wait for my announcement. Just wait.
Mr. Warner: They have muzzled him. They have put the reins on him.
Mr. Conway: There is not one other reason provided in this budget or in any other document that this budget calls upon for maintaining or increasing this premium mechanism.
The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere this afternoon initiated a very worthwhile debate upon the premium tax or otherwise. There is no question, despite the fulminations of the Minister of Energy (Mr. Baetz), that this is anything but a tax, a clear and very regressive tax, one that this government, in all its regressive social policies, continually depends upon and apparently to ever-increasing limits.
For those people in areas like Renfrew county, where we have been passed by in terms of the economic prosperity that this 34-year regime has handed out to such places as Scarborough East, there are an awful lot of people paying this $528 tax who simply are not very pleased about it and recognize it for exactly what it is, a regressive tax, a fitting and predictable result of Tory economics and a clear indication of how this government and how that party has been drawn away from the real thinking of the real people in this province. Tonight, I was just reading the Toronto Star --
Mr. Warner: Good for you.
Mr. Conway: -- a very objective, socially conscious, non-partisan journal.
Mr. Philip: Almost as good as the Etobicoke Guardian.
Mr. Conway: It was interesting seeing in that, and I admit that it is but a very random selection of letters to the editor --
Hon. Mr. Drea: The last time you read them, you wrote them yourself.
Mr. Warner: That was Dear Abby.
Mr. Conway: No, in fact I live in the Ottawa area and I am too busy reading the letters of the former Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. What do people say in tonight’s Star? I just took two or three of these letters because I think they are very indicative of what is being told by dear little ladies in Lincoln to my good friend, the member for that area, and colleagues of mine who represent the rural hinterland of Huron-Middlesex. All of us who are in touch with the people understand just how penalizing, just how punishing and just how regressive is this McKeough tax.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Those are the usual letters endorsing my inmate work programs. Read those. That’s the best part.
Mr. Conway: One letter that I thought was very interesting in tonight’s Star --
Mr. Warner: The guy from Etobicoke.
Mr. Philip: That was the one I wrote.
Mr. Conway: -- was from a Mrs. McCuaig of Don Mills; maybe that’s an appropriate place for this letter to originate. Mrs. McCuaig, in her letter to the Star tonight, says she was shocked to read a certain letter in the Star not very long ago, a letter that apparently applauded the Treasurer for his courage in this misadventure.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Right. Right.
Mr. Conway: “I’ll admit that such a decision as that taken by the Treasurer to raise OHIP premiums took courage” --
Hon. Mr. Drea: Will you read her letter?
Mr. Conway: -- “but the courage lay in facing the public’s reaction to his tactics. How much intelligence does it take to add money to the kitty when the bills are too high, rather than question why the bills are too high and attack the root of the problem? Which takes more initiative? To simply tack a $6 increase on all bills or to search out the people abusing OHIP?” et cetera. I’m not agreeing for a moment with the suggestion.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Oh, oh.
Mr. Conway: I’m not for a moment suggesting that there is wholesale abuse of the OHIP system.
Hon. Mr. Drea: But you are going to search it out.
Mr. Conway: I am saying, for the edification of the member for Scarborough Centre, that it is quite pointless to shovel additional hundreds of millions into a system which we all understand needs streamlining, which we all understand needs a heck of a lot more control --
Hon. Mr. Drea: We do?
Mr. Conway: -- than this maladministration has been able to effect over the last 10 years.
Mr. Gregory: If you are going to take part of those, take all of them.
Mr. Conway: I am going to say this further, this government, under the control of the Tories, has happily let this Legislature investigate everything from the after-hours use of school rooms to the very important and weighty problems of insurance in Dade county, USA.
Mr. Gregory: Conway, you are through.
Mr. Conway: One thing that this government has been very conspicuous in its avoidance of is any kind of legislative scrutiny of our health care system.
Mr. Reed: Shame. Shame.
Mr. Conway: I am not surprised -- when the Minister of Health goes to the Wellesley Clinic of yesterday to give what was reported as a bland speech, he found certain of the health care professionals pretty unhappy with the system. I can certainly suggest to him, if he wants to go and meet those people who are now being forced to pay this direct $528 tax, that he will find something of the same reaction.
But you know, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Correctional Services stares into the distance. He knows exactly the truth of what I’m saying; that nothing has characterized the cowardice of that administration more than their unwillingness to bring this matter before a scrutiny in this Legislature with a legitimate committee where we can all take a look at what is happening.
Mr. Warner: Cowardly.
Mr. Conway: They’ve got no hesitation in hiring Laurier Lapierre and the Gallup organization to scrutinize their educational disasters, but they have got total reluctance to come to terms with a similar kind of legislative scrutiny for the single most significant fiscal and social commitment this province through this government has been making in the period of post-1969.
I’m going to suggest very constructively for those members of the executive council who are fortunate enough to be here tonight, to hear these words of wisdom, that maybe they had just better go back and prevail upon their other colleagues in cabinet -- because we know, unfortunately, the Tory caucus counts for pitifully little -- that some other members of the cabinet had just better be convinced on the need and the immediate requirement for some kind of legislative scrutiny of this system. That’s why I think the member for Scarborough Centre can now smile in agreement.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I was smiling with derision.
Mr. Reid: Let the record show it.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Let the record show it was in derision.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, I think it’s a very significant comment on Tory economics when the third largest provincial source of revenue is now the OHIP premiums.
Mr. Warner: More than corporate income tax.
Mr. Conway: It is a pretty significant and pretty sad comment when fully three-quarters of the additional revenue --
Mr. Warner: That’s sad, sick government.
Mr. Conway: -- that is being raised by virtue of various tax measures in this budget is being raised on the backs of the OHIP subscribers.
Hon. Mr. Drea: What’s your alternative?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Conway: I thought the member for Scarborough Centre had an ounce or a vein of progressivism in his being.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Me? You’ve got to be kidding.
Mr. Reid: He lost it in Georgia.
Mr. Makarchuk: It’s a microgram, Sean, a microgram.
Mr. Conway: A microgram. Well, I think the member for Rainy River is even more accurate when he says he lost even that in Georgia.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I lost it long before that; I never had it.
Mr. Conway: You know, Mr. Speaker, I think it very interesting that the Treasurer would consider the choice of a very regressive OHIP premium increase to be infinitely more favourable than, let us say, a dependence upon the more progressive tax bases we all know exist in this province.
Hon. Mr. Drea: You want higher income tax? Let the record show he called for higher income tax.
Mr. Conway: I am certainly prepared to say this, that if we cannot find a more progressive system on which to base this kind of revenue generation than the regressivity the Treasurer offers this province, then I think it is an abject bankruptcy.
Hon. Mr. Drea: That Hansard is going to read beautifully.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Conway: It’s interesting --
Mr. Eaton: Don’t beat around the bush, give us your position.
Hon. Mr. Drea: That man is standing for higher income tax and he doesn’t want it in Hansard so that they won’t read it back home.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, I regret to say that these interjections are going to force me beyond my 15 minute timetable.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I might suggest to the Minister of Correctional Services that it’s the custom of this House for members to speak only from their seats.
Mr. Martel: There, Frank.
Mr. Conway: The Treasurer no doubt felt nettled by the criticism which he received as a result of this gesture. I’ve got to say something about the nature of the criticism and the flow of response. I know perfectly well that the Treasurer made this misguided choice, knowing full well there would be relatively little response to it, because he understands just how incredibly unfair and how incredibly inequitable this Ontario health insurance premium scheme has come to be, because when 75 per cent of premium revenue is employer-paid, when every single member of this assembly will never see that $144 increase, there is not going to be the kind of immediate political response that other initiatives might generate.
I would be the first, being a very naive politico, to appreciate the twisted political calculation that’s now fundamental to this very regressive system because, as long as the majority don’t pay and have no visible link, there just isn’t going to be much of a stink or of a response.
Mr. Eaton: You want to bury it some other way, don’t you?
Mr. Conway: The Treasurer, in his inimitable and machiavellian mental process, would like not to have a system put forward that would draw back to such a requirement all of those who are currently being exempted from the visible link of which he speaks.
Certainly, as long as the member for Middlesex doesn’t pay, he’s not going to be worried at all.
Mr. Eaton: I’ll tell you, I paid my way until it was put on; and I’ll pay it again. That’s something you have never done. You have never been out in the working world, have you, sonny?
Mr. Conway: I’m going to suggest to the member for Middlesex that I hope he makes that proposition to his Treasurer at next week’s caucus, that he’s prepared to pay his way.
Mr. Eaton: You have never been out in the working world and paid your way yet.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Conway: The member for Middlesex has said it far more cogently than I could ever say it: He’s prepared; he wants to pay. That’s the kind of commitment we’re going to require from the broad population who are being exempted from this kind of system. What does the Treasurer say in his letter of apology to the Globe and Mail of March 16? He says in part --
Hon. Mr. Drea: Read it all.
Mr. Gregory: Read the whole thing.
Mr. Conway: I’m only reading one paragraph.
Hon. Mr. Drea: You know the rules.
Mr. Conway: “The premium system,” the Treasurer says, “is more progressive than some critics would allow. The large number of free premiums and the fact that OHIP payments are for the most part subsidized by employers, and any subsidized amount is taxable as income by the progressive personal income tax, attest to this fact.”
Here is the significant part:
“Equally important, this government” -- this Tory government -- “is not about to damage the investment potential of the economy by increases in the income tax.”
That says something about the mentality of this latter day Francis Bondhead. He is quite prepared to screw the individual in the $12,000 or $14,000 a year bracket right to the wall.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Oh, come on.
Mr. Conway: But he’s afraid to tinker with the progressive tax systems that we have all accepted as fundamental to our governmental process because, whether some Tories in Ontario in 1978 know it or not, we have basically understood our taxation to be funded and founded on the principle that you pay according to your ability to pay.
Mi. Warner: You give according to your ability to give.
Mr. Conway: And he says: “Finally an OHIP increase is preferable to an income tax increase because OHIP premiums are directly linked to health care expenditures and rising costs.” That is just so much hollow and specious argumentation --
Mr. Warner: Totally inaccurate.
Mr. Conway: There cannot be any commitment on the part of a responsible opposition -- to a premium system and a premium increase, the like of which we have been presented in this regressive document, based on that kind of logic.
Mr. Martel: I hope you vote for our no confidence motion next week.
Mr. Conway: That is why next week we are going to begin an examination of the alternatives.
Mr. Martel: I thought you were going to vote for our no-confidence motion.
Mr. Conway: The member for Sudbury East says, “I thought you were going to vote for our no-confidence motion.” I don’t for a moment ever dismiss the likelihood of my voting for any no-confidence motion throughout the course of the 31st Parliament of Ontario. I want that clearly understood.
Mr. Martel: But that’s not the one.
Mr. Conway: I hope the member clearly understood that point. But I think we in the Liberal Party have taken, as the population expects us to take, a responsible and constructive approach.
Mr. Martel: But; here comes the “but.”
Mr. Gregory: Yes, having said that --
Mr. Eaton: Having said that, now let’s get on to the other side of the issue.
Mr. Conway: I hear the member for Middlesex howling in protest, but I remember standing in this chamber 11 months ago tonight, as the member for Riverdale said, and I can still see the member for Carleton (Mr. Handleman) -- now resigned in disgust about the jackpot into which his colleagues have placed the Tory principles in this province, resigned in disgust. I remember him sitting not too far away from the Minister of Corrections --
Hon. Mr. Drea: Correctional Services.
Mr. Conway: -- on that brave and heroic night waving, not a white flag but a red flag, that 37 days later he and his group had stuffed down their collective palates.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The biggest majority I’ve ever had.
Mr. Conway: I suspect their heroism is one tampered and tempered with the keen understanding of the rebuff they got, justifiably, on June 9, 1977.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We only won eight more seats. How many did you win?
Mr. Conway: We took the constructive approach, the only approach that we had under the conditions, since this government had been so reluctant over these many years ever to allow a frank and full examination in the Legislature or any of its committees of this high-spending, highly sensitive health-care area: we decided to direct this matter to the standing committee on social development --
Mr. Martel: Yes, to find a way out.
Mr. Conway: -- there to be guided by the excellent chairmanship of my colleague from Huron-Bruce, to look in a clear and objective way at both the argumentation that has led to this kind of nonsense --
Mr. Gregory: The Liberals never change.
Mr. Conway: -- and the possible alternatives which we are sure have not been looked at; and maybe among other things to find out just what we can believe.
In 1976 the Treasurer stood in this assembly and said we needed to restore a balance in our health-care financing where premiums paid for something of the order of 28 per cent of insured health services. But rather than take my word, as I know the hon. members opposite would never want to do, let me quote from that budget statement:
“Premiums,” said the Treasurer then, “will generate approximately 28 per cent of the total financing of OHIP and this is a suitable long-run norm to maintain as health-care costs increase in future years.”
Two years ago we were told that 28 per cent of insured health services, in so far as an OHIP premium coverage was concerned, is an acceptable long-term norm. Two years later this same Treasurer, brazen as ever, inconsiderate as ever, stands up and reneges as ever and says -- no, let me say, the Treasurer says, Mr. Speaker --
Mr. Martel: You will vote to support him.
Mr. Conway: -- the point surely has to be that we couldn’t believe the Treasurer on the basis of his 1976 statement and I want to know why or how I can take the Treasurer at his word now for those poor, beleaguered, downtrodden payers of the direct premiums? Why should they believe today any more than they did two years ago --
Mr. Warner: Vote against the government.
Mr. Conway: -- that the premiums they are forced to continue to pay at ever-increasing levels will be kept to no more than 34.7 per cent?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, order. I wonder if the hon. member could look upward and to the left.
Mr. Conway: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Makarchuk: Look to the left anyway.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, I will happily conclude this portion of my remarks by saying that the Treasurer of this province is increasingly becoming the victim of the credibility-gap politics for which he is the supreme architect. He no longer is being believed by members of this assembly and maybe much more importantly by the people of Ontario, and I don’t think his cavalier, capricious kiss-off that “this is my latest thinking” is in any way, shape or form an acceptable answer to the people of this province who are being seriously and permanently affected by this kind of an increase.
Mr. Warner: Vote against the government.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Does the hon. member have any further comments? If so, he may adjourn the debate.
On motion by Mr. Conway, the debate was adjourned.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Maeck, the House adjourned at 10:30 p.m.