L015 - Mon 25 May 1987 / Lun 25 mai 1987
The House met at 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Shymko: On November 6, 1986, this Legislative Assembly was privileged to welcome in our chamber Rick Hansen, a young man whose heroic campaign to help the physically handicapped has come to symbolize the best in humanity. We honoured him then by naming an Ontario township in his name.
I speak on behalf of all honourable colleagues as we join with millions of Canadians in paying tribute to Rick Hansen's completion on Saturday, May 23, of his international wheelchair odyssey.
After two years, two months and 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries, Rick Hansen has broken the insurmountable obstacles of time and distance to eliminate once and for all the term "disabled" from our vocabulary. By comparison with him and with those members of our society who are physically challenged every day of their lives, it is we more often than not who are the truly disabled and the handicapped.
Rick Hansen's message to all of us, including politicians, is to challenge our fear of failure and to take up the courage to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles so that dreams can indeed come true. All of us, on whatever side of our House, must address the plight of those men and women who, on a daily basis, face the challenges beyond certain obstacles that some of us cannot even imagine. Rick Hansen's strength has given them faith. His example has restored faith in conquering obstacles of time and distance.
Mrs. Grier: As a cyclist, I have always felt myself to be a second-class citizen on Ontario's roads and streets; as a pedestrian, I am offended by the careless disregard that other cyclists have for my safety; and as a politician, I have been inundated with complaints from pedestrians about dangerous cyclists on the sidewalks and with complaints from the local police at their frustration in attempting to control cyclists.
The sidewalks in our towns and cities belong to pedestrians and only pedestrians. The roads belong equally to motorists and bicyclists. Today I will be introducing a private members' bill that will make our roads and sidewalks safer for all. My bill amends the Highway Traffic Act to require that when asked to do so by a police officer, a cyclist must produce some sort of identification, even simply his or her correct name or address. Under the present act, unless the cyclist chooses to produce identification, police are helpless when cyclists ride on sidewalks, ignore stop signs or go through red lights.
Cycling deserves our support and promotion. Cycling reduces traffic congestion, is pollution-free and increases physical fitness, but in the interests of safety, cycling must be done according to the Highway Traffic Act.
The amendments I am proposing today are ones that have been long sought by groups concerned with pedestrian safety and by cycling proponents such as the Ontario Cycling Association and the city of Toronto cycling committee. I urge the government to support my bill and to ensure that it is dealt with quickly.
Mr. Brandt: On April 22, 1986, the government announced with a great deal of fanfare the formation of the Premier's Council. To quote from the press release at that particular time, the council was to steer Ontario into the forefront of economic leadership and technological innovation, very high-sounding words.
Ostensibly, this council and the high technology fund were to close the gap with an infusion of some $1-billion in funds, as the minister is well aware. Behind the headlines we have the truth. Some $2 million has been spent to date on high-technology activities. To put it into context, that is about one per cent of the amount that the government has spent on the estimated 4,000 new civil servants who have been hired over the course of the past two years. Those 4,000 civil servants will not close the technological gap to help Ontario to become more competitive with the Japanese, the West Germans or our United States trading partners.
I hope the government enjoyed the headlines it received while it got them, because flashy, slick press announcements will do nothing to improve Ontario's competitiveness.
The government's $1-billion high technology fund to date is nothing more than a $1-billion bust. The jobs for Ontario's future are dependent upon the activities that are necessary in that area, and I would urge the government to get on with the job it has talked about and done nothing about.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you, like I, will find it totally bizarre to think that this government allows insurance companies to find people guilty, not by reason of their driving records but by association.
A young woman aged 24 and single is given a rate of approximately $800 per year for her insurance. A week later she turns 25 and gets married, and to and behold, the rate now will be $2,300. Why? Not because of her driving record, which happens to be clean, but because her husband has a driving record that is blemished; therefore, she must pay for his poor driving. That is absolutely astounding.
What really galls me and many motorists, of course, is that this patently unfair condition is supported by the government. This minister cannot provide justice for that woman, who is now considering annulling the marriage because she needs the insurance in order to drive her car and continue working. This government is contributing to marital breakdowns.
Mr. Jackson: Last week, the people of Ontario were promised some $375 million as this government's response to its own admission of a housing crisis. We can only hope this year's commitment to do something with these announcements is more substantial than it was in the last year, when the minister only spent 80 per cent of what he had announced, or in the year before, when only 90 per cent of his announcements were acted upon.
Given the record, given the $92 million that has been lifted from the Ministry of Housing's budgets in two years, and given that the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) is only going to meet his deficit reduction targets by lifting even more money from budgets that are already announced, it is obvious where a good portion of this money the Treasurer wants is going to come from. It will come from a ministry that is only good at making announcements. It will come from a ministry that rejected every single application from Burlington last year, when the city had a vacancy rate of zero and the minister had close to $70 million left over in his budget. It will come from a ministry that promised 5,000 Renterprise units back in 1985, but has seen only 1,483 of those units built. It will come from a ministry that has announced Project 3000 twice, and in the six months has allocated less than a third of the units and built none.
We have a crisis because this minister and this government only understand the value of an announcement and not the value of actually providing shelter. How else does one explain a ministry that will increase its staff by nearly 200 civil servants at a cost that would have provided 200 new rental units in Ontario?
CENTRE FOR LABOUR STUDIES
Mr. Warner: Last week, I raised the issue of the Centre for Labour Studies, which the board of directors at Humber College is attempting to terminate. A week has gone by and there is still no leadership from the minister. In fact, when I raised the question, members will recall the minister did not even know what the Centre for Labour Studies was, let alone whether he should help keep the doors open.
It is worth refreshing his memory that the Centre for Labour Studies offers a large number of valuable courses, including occupational health and safety in seven languages, antiracism programs for the work place, the largest English-as-a-second-language program in Canada and special programs for immigrant workers. More than 10,000 people have taken labour studies courses over the past 12 years.
I find it astonishing to believe that this highly successful program is being cancelled because of a funding problem, since the annual cost to Humber College is approximately $50,000 of the college's budget of $75 million. Perhaps the truth behind this devastating blow to organized labour is that the college does not understand or appreciate the needs and aspirations of working people. Neither, it would appear, does the Minister of Skills Development and Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara).
TABLING OF INFORMATION
Mr. McLean: I want to bring to the attention of the Legislature the questions we have had in Orders and Notices. I have had one for almost a year now which has not been replied to. I think it is the government's responsibility to make sure all these questions are replied to.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Bradley: On December 17, 1985, I announced our government's Countdown Acid Rain program. It is a plan to cut acid-rain-causing pollution from Ontario sources by 60 per cent by 1994. It requires the four major acid rain polluters to reduce their emissions by two thirds during this time.
With its deep cuts and prompt, staged timetable, Countdown Acid Rain is the most progressive program of its kind in North America or Europe.
I am pleased to rise today to inform the House of improvements which cabinet has made to the program, in accordance with our original commitment to seek public comment on the abatement approach.
Two weeks ago, following public hearings, the select committee on the environment released its report on acid rain in Ontario which contained a number of recommendations.
Foremost among the committee's suggestions was the elimination of the banking provision for Ontario Hydro. This provision said that, in any year that Hydro's actual emissions were less than the regulated limit, the shortfall could be banked with a portion eligible for emission in a subsequent year.
Our government agrees with the committee's suggestion. We have removed the banking provision and not replaced it with any similar clause. Like the other acid rain polluters, Ontario Hydro will simply have to do what it takes to meet the law.
The committee also suggested that the semi-annual reports on pollution abatement research and development, which Ontario Hydro has been voluntarily submitting, be expanded and made a regulatory requirement. Our government agrees with this. We have included such a reporting requirement in Ontario Hydro's acid rain regulation.
The committee made a number of other suggestions. Some of them are already being done, but the committee was possibly unaware of the activity. Some are addressed by initiatives to be made public in the near future. Others are under consideration in my ministry.
I thank the environment committee chairman, the member for Halton-Burlington (Mr. Knight), and all the members who contributed to the committee's acid rain report.
With our Countdown Acid Rain program refined, I will take our accomp lishments and our demands for reciprocal action to the United States. I will press in every way I can for the United States to adopt a similarly tough abatement program. Such action is essential to protect the environment and renewable resources of Ontario and, indeed, all of eastern North America.
I will let our neighbours know that the people and the government of Ontario will not accept research and promises and delay as a substitute for pollution abatement action.
FOREST SPRAYING PROGRAM
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I would like to inform members of the Legislature that aerial spraying against forest insect pests in Ontario resumed over the weekend.
As members may know, my ministry temporarily suspended spraying operations about 10 days ago while laboratory analysis was being performed on the province's stock of biological insecticide, bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt. I ordered the analysis after we learned that trace levels of other bacteria had been discovered in a portion of our Bt stock.
Bt is a living culture of bacteria which is made through a fermentation process. It is not unusual to have the insecticide contain small amounts of bacteria other than Bt. Our tests confirmed that some other bacteria existed in all the Bt tested; however, it was not hazardous to health or to the environment.
The test results were reviewed with the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston), the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) and the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) and they all agreed there was no danger of adverse health or environmental impact.
The Ontario Pesticides Advisory Committee has reviewed the test results and concurred that the Bt formulations pose no risk. I have also been advised by the Department of National Health and Welfare that there are no concerns from that department in terms of adverse health effects.
Consequently, the suspension on aerial spraying was lifted on Friday. Over the weekend we sprayed almost 6,000 hectares for gypsy moth and spruce budworm. Spraying for jack pine budworm will likely begin June 1, weather permitting.
Mr. Gillies: The announcement today by the Minister of the Environment regarding the Ontario Hydro banking provision, which has been raised in this House for a period of weeks now by the New Democratic Party Environment critic and myself, is an admission by the minister that the inclusion of this provision in his program was a mistake and that the environment committee and the opposition critics were right. It is not a day too soon that this absurd provision has been dropped from the acid rain program.
In congratulating the select committee on the environment, I am sure the minister was just a little forgetful in not congratulating and thanking the members of that committee who first raised the issue, my colleagues the members for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland), Brock (Mr. Partington) and Lakeshore (Mrs. Grier). I am sure all members of the House would like to congratulate and thank the members who first identified this as the fatal weakness in the Countdown Acid Rain program.
The minister has taken the first step in bringing Ontario Hydro into line with the provisions that apply to all the other major sources of hydrocarbon pollution in the province, but I want to say to the minister that we believe more information is required. When Ontario Hydro appeared before the select committee, it indicated that in the event the banking provision was scrapped, it did foresee four possible options for ensuring continued security of supply of energy for our province, in the event of a malfunction of equipment, that it hoped would not see an increase in hydrocarbon emission of the type that was allowed under the banking but is now not allowed.
I want to say to the minister that the people from Ontario Hydro were not forthcoming with the committee in telling it exactly what their plans were. We believe the government has an obligation to get the information from Hydro and tell this House whether the option is going to be the increased use of low-sulphur coal. Are they going to go for the scrubber option? Are they going to go for the option of bringing in out-of-province energy at such times that it is needed? We believe this is important information that Hydro should share with this House and the people of Ontario.
This announcement is welcome, albeit belated, and is perhaps a demonstration that occasionally, when politicians such as the members of the select committee on the environment have the courage of their convictions to put forward suggestions, even Ontario Hydro can be brought to heel by a committee of this Legislature.
FOREST SPRAYING PROGRAM
Mr. Harris: I am astounded at the statement today by the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio). He says he wants to inform members of the Legislature that aerial spraying has resumed. I was shocked that he never informed the Legislature that it had been stopped. He never made a statement in the Legislature over this shocking program.
We have now had two years of foul-ups, tendering malpractices, questionable tendering practices, airplanes coming in from the United States, airplanes coming in from Quebec. Ontario operators have been shocked at the tendering practices of his ministry for the second year in a row.
Mr. Speaker, while we are on this program of bacillus thuringiensis spraying, I want to tell you that in spite of the minister's stated and avowed -- and I assume he speaks for the government -- preference for spraying chemical all over our forests, as he has said loud and clear in every section of northern Ontario that he wanted to spray chemical, with all these foul-ups in the program, one now has to wonder whether there is a serious commitment to making Bt work, in spite of the fact that last year the decision to follow the policy we had initiated in 1985 and go with Bt and give it a chance to work was forced upon this government by the opposition parties.
One of the most successful spray programs was in 1985 when, even though the minister insisted he preferred chemical, he was forced into using Bt. There was a very successful program in 1986. Again, when we see the problems with the Bt program for 1987, when we see these kinds of foul-ups, we now have to question whether he is serious and whether the ministry is serious about the commitment to Bt spraying.
It really makes us wonder whether Captain Chemical -- and I assume he speaks for the government -- is serious about the commitment to the environment at the same time as the commitment to the forest.
Mrs. Grier: We certainly welcome the statement of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) with respect to the removal of Hydro's banking privilege. When the minister first announced his Countdown Acid Rain program in December 1985, we pointed out that the provision of banking was a major loophole in the program. Gradually over the months and years, other voices were added to the cry and eventually the report of the select committee on the environment was unanimous. I am very glad indeed that the minister has listened and responded.
I note that the minister, in his statement, reiterates his commitment to seeking public comment on the abatement approach, but I regret that in his statement there is no commitment to further public scrutiny of the regulations as they are changed in the future. I remind him that this was another of the recommendations of the select committee. The select committee especially wanted an opportunity for public discussion of the abatement plans to be submitted by the major polluters at the end of 1988. In the case of Ontario Hydro, it is particularly important that the opportunity for public scrutiny be provided so we can be very sure that what we are getting from Hydro is the best available technology and not merely a substitution of nuclear power for fossil-generated power.
I am a little puzzled by the minister's statement that the committee was possibly unaware of other things the government is doing in view of the fact that we had the minister as a witness before the committee, and his staff monitored the committee all through our hearings. If we were discussing recommendations and there was action we ought to have been made aware of, I do not know why he did not tell us because we were certainly open to hearing whatever he had to say.
I think the acceptance of this committee's major recommendation is once again proof that minority government has been good for the environment of Ontario, and long may it continue.
FOREST SPRAYING PROGRAM
Mr. Wildman: I appreciate the effort of the minister to be open with the Legislature with regard to the spraying program of his ministry across the province. I point out, however, that the announcement the minister made in the House was made known through the media throughout the province over the weekend, so this is hardly new information for us in the Legislature. I hope the minister will be as forthcoming or even more forthcoming with his plans with regard to herbicide spraying across Ontario's forests, particularly with regard to the spraying of 2,4-D in this province this year.
In response to the written question I put in Orders and Notices, the minister's staff, under the signature of the minister, provided a completely inadequate answer with regard to the places across the province where 2,4-D might be sprayed. It was simply a list of the various regions of the ministry across Ontario with the number of hectares to be sprayed in each region, which certainly does not tell us what areas specifically are to be sprayed with 2,4-D.
It is most unfortunate that, unlike the experience with bacillus thuringiensis, the ministry has decided to proceed with chemical herbicide spraying in Ontario despite the fact that the federal Department of National Health and Welfare is still considering the appropriateness of the approval of 2,4-D in Canada. This ministry has decided to proceed, apparently with the agreement of the Minister of the Environment, even though we do not yet have a final statement by the federal government about the safety of 2,4-D. Would that the minister would err on the side of caution in that regard as he has with regard to insecticide spraying.
ASSISTANCE FOR THE DISABLED
Mr. Grossman: We must come back to the theme we were talking about last week, and for several months for that matter, and that is the pension money that was taken from the disabled people in this province. In that regard, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services.
One thing that seems to have been forgotten in the discussion over the moneys the federal government sent on to the disabled people in this province is that this money was not a government grant, as is the guaranteed annual income system. It is not a welfare payment of any sort. It is a return of Canada pension plan moneys to disabled people who paid into that Canada pension plan. In other words, having looked at the pension plan, the federal government deduced that the contributions paid in by the disabled when they were working entitled them to a $150-a-month increase in their pensions.
Mr. Speaker: And the question?
Mr. Grossman: Can the minister attempt to explain to this House why he and his colleagues took $100 of the $150 in pension money sent by the federal government to the disabled pensioners in this province?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: We did not take any of the CPP money that was forwarded to the disabled. All of that money went to the disabled.
As the Leader of the Opposition is probably aware, there are two groups of disabled people in Ontario who receive CPP funds. Some of them are those who receive sufficient CPP funds that they are not eligible for top-up money from our family benefits program. There are others who do not receive sufficient CPP funds so they do become eligible for top-up funds from our family benefits program. Regardless of which of those two groups the money went to, they kept that money. Those who are eligible for top-up funds in our family benefits program continued to get those up to an agreed-upon Gains level. Nothing has changed. They got the full $150. The top-up money that we gave them was adjusted to the Gains level -- the same for everybody.
Mr. Grossman: Surely the minister will agree that the adjustment he made in his program was to say that for 13,000 disabled people in this province, their pensions have gone up by $150 and therefore he has decided to reduce their Gains-D -- guaranteed annual income system for the disabled -- cheque by $100; thus meaning, in simple terms, that of the $150 increase they got on the pensions they had paid into, the minister reduced their payments from this government by $100 so they would end up $50 a month ahead of the game.
When he has had $8 billion to spread around this province in two years, he decided to reduce his cheques by $100 a month. Can the minister deny that simple, clear fact?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: It is not as the Leader of the Opposition describes it.
Mr. Grossman: How so?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: There is an agreed Gains ceiling in this province.
Any disabled person in this province who receives from other sources, including CPP, funds below that agreed Gains ceiling, does get top-up money from the provincial government program. Whatever other resources they have are taken into consideration in determining how much provincial top-up money they get. That has not changed.
Mr. Grossman: Categorically that information is not correct. The federal government, by virtue of this letter, changed those rules totally and completely. The federal government said the $150 a month was to be totally exempt from the ceiling. They said that specifically so that the minister, the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) could not hijack $100 out of the $150 a month that was intended for these disabled persons on account of an increase in their pensions, pensions that they paid into and earned -- and the minister took $100 of it.
Just to clarify this issue, could the minister agree that the letter from the federal minister exempted the total $150 from the ceiling he just referred to? Did it or did it not?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: In gross dollar terms, not net dollar terms, the amount of money that the province did not have to top up as a result of the federal initiative was about $18 million. It was a decision of this government to take that $18 million, multiply it by three, bring it up to a total of $54 million -- gross dollars -- and allocate $54 million to all 85,000 Gains-D recipients in this province. In other words, the federal government flowed $18 million; the provincial government flowed $54 million. That is a heck of a difference.
Mr. Grossman: The minister's position is that to give money to the disabled, he has to take it from other disabled. They have not got unspent money from the high-tech fund. They take money from one group of disabled and give it to another group of disabled.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Would the member take his seat? The standing orders allow the Leader of the Opposition to ask two questions and the leader of the New Democratic Party to ask two questions. Will you place your second question?
Mr. Grossman: My second question is to the Treasurer. Last week, in the House and in the budget, he told us he would not this year be advancing $330 million in funding to the school boards as he did last year. Could he tell the House why he decided to change his policy and not send $300-million advance funding to the school boards this year?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member will recall that over the past seven or eight years the cushion of advanced funds available to the school boards has varied from seven per cent down to three per cent at the hands of his predecessor, and then from three per cent up to 12 per cent during the years of the Liberal administration. The requirements for the 12 per cent required the $330 million as a one-time payment.
The member can pursue it with the officials of the Treasury if I cannot satisfy him -- and I am afraid that I cannot -- when I say to him that it is a one-time payment that gives them that cushion until we remove it. I do not want to remove it, as the predecessor government did as a budgetary restraint measure back in the time of the member for Muskoka (Mr. F. S. Miller), but we do feel the 12 per cent is necessary in order to assist the school boards in meeting their financial requirements early in their fiscal year.
Mr. Grossman: I come back to the initial question. We understand what the Treasurer did this year, which was to improve the cash flow and send some money in advance, for the reasons he has quite properly laid out. But in his budget of last week setting out his intentions for this current fiscal year, he said he was going to stop that policy and not send the cash advance.
The Treasurer is shaking his head. In answering this question, he might refer to page 64, table C6, where it shows "Grant Flow Improvement" for 1986-1987 as $330 million. The "Budget Plan" for this current year is zero. My question to the Treasurer is not what happened previously; it is just to ask him why he has changed the policy to eliminate the advance flow payment for school boards this year from $330 million down to zero, as reported in the budget.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member will notice, when he examines the table, that the grants for school boards have shown the usual advances. As a matter of fact, they are 25 per cent higher than they were during the budget immediately previous to the Liberal administration. The $330 million is listed on a separate line as an adjunct that increases that cushion to 12 per cent. It is not payable year by year; it is simply a part of the program that provides this assistance on a continuing basis and requires no further budgetary action unless, God forbid, we decide in the future to reduce it the way the member's people did.
Mr. Grossman: If that is the Treasurer's position, then one must conclude by reading page 64, where he shows the total transfers to the school boards, that in 1986-1987 -- however the Treasurer slices it -- he is sending $3.787 billion to the school boards and this current fiscal year he is sending $3.726 billion to the school boards, or in other words, a net reduction of $61 million in cash flow to the school boards year over year.
Can the Treasurer deny the reality that as a result of whatever changes he wants to explain, the school boards this year will be getting a cash flow $61 million lower than last year?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I simply reiterate for the third or fourth time that the honourable member will be aware that the increase in the general legislative grants is as I have described. The $330 million is to provide a one-time-only cushion of 12 per cent and it will continue to be to the advantage of the school boards until we decide to remove that advantage.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for York South would like to ask a question.
Mr. Rae: I would not mind.
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Financial Institutions. On Friday, a well-known revolutionary organization, the Toronto Taxicab Brokerages Association, which was represented by that rabid Trotskyite John Tory, said the solution to the current insurance crisis affecting cab drivers was, in fact, a public plan. With the basic rates for cab drivers in Winnipeg at $2,005 and those in Vancouver at $2,800, and with the Facility Association rate in Toronto now running at $9,500 and rising up over $10,000 and $12,000 for many drivers, I wonder if the minister can say who is the Minister of Financial Institutions to say that John Tory and the Toronto Taxicab Brokerages Association are wrong?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: As far as John Tory is concerned, I will let my friends in the official opposition account for his statements, but as far as the taxicab drivers are concerned, that is an area we are concerned about. We announced we were going to reduce immediately their rates in the Facility Association by 10 per cent, but the leader of the third party is continuing to do what he always does, which shows he does not understand the insurance business. If you compare Manitoba or British Columbia, what you have to do -- and I throw out this challenge to him again -- is to have those insurance agencies quote on taxi drivers in Toronto and see what kind of rates you get.
Mr. Rae: I want to talk about some other people who do not know anything about the insurance business. The policy of a cab driver called Faiz Mohammed just came up for renewal. Last year, he paid $3,600. His renewal this year is for $9,700. A year ago, apparently, he had a $400 claim. He cannot afford to pay the renewal, so he is out of business.
Lawrence Isenberg has a small fleet. Three years ago, he was able to get coverage for his cars, with collision coverage, for a per car rate of $1,102 for six months. I am sure he does not know anything about the insurance business either. He is just a cab driver trying to drive a cab. I am just trying to do a job too. This year, the best quote he could get was $4,509 per car for six months.
What I want to ask the minister is, if even the people who are working in small business themselves are saying they want to get some access to justice and the way they feel most comfortable about that is getting it through public insurance, why does the minister continue to use every reactionary argument in the book against the solution that makes sense and that even the small business community itself is starting to talk about as the answer to its problem?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I have announced that we are setting up a rate review board. We are also setting up an insurance advocate. When that is in place, anyone who thinks he requires redress will be able to have it.
To address the leader of the third party's proposal, I do not know whether he is suggesting that every taxpayer in Ontario should help subsidize the taxi industry in Ontario. I do not know whether that is what he is suggesting, but if it is, why does he not say so?
Mr. Rae: I will tell the minister what I think. I think cab drivers ought to be able to get insurance for less than $200 a week. What does the minister think? That is the question. The question is the rates.
Mr. Speaker: Minister?
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, my third supplementary --
Mr. Speaker: Oh, does the member have a question?
Mr. Rae: That was just put in there for effect.
I want to ask the minister a question. With respect to the rate review board, on October 14, 1986, the minister, in answer to questions from my friend the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart), said that if we had the same kind of rate review board structure as they had in Alberta, he figured Ontario drivers would be paying -- and I am quoting from Hansard - "If that plan were in effect in Ontario, during the past five years the people of Ontario would have paid from eight per cent to 39 per cent more than they pay now."
I want to ask the minister: Is that the kind of rate review structure he is talking about for Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: That is one of the reasons we are not implementing that kind of rate review board. We are going to bring in a rate review board that is truly going to be a rate review board. All that review board does is to pass it through, and that would have cost the taxpayers of Ontario a lot of money. We are going to implement a rate review board that will be responsive; it will protect the consumers of Ontario; and when the member sees it, he will be able to support it, which I hope he will.
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. It goes back to some of the questions we raised following the budget announcement about child care. We are still trying to get a handle on exactly what the government has announced, because I can tell the minister the director of his child care branch has given us different answers than he appears to have given us in the House.
Perhaps I could ask the question this way. Of the $26 million he has announced this year as new money, how much is going to be used for capital expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: Approximately $2.5 million.
Mr. Rae: If $2.5 million is what the minister is allocating for capital expenditure, it is perhaps worth pointing out that it costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to create a child care space, depending on whether construction or renovation is creating the space. The difficulty I have is trying to figure out how many new spaces the minister is in fact talking about. The minister is quoted in many newspapers as saying that Ontario needs 100,000 new day care spaces. Can he tell us how much the $2.5 million, and the $23.5 million in operating costs, is going to produce in terms of new spaces?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I would remind the leader of the third party that in addition to the $26 million, there was also a budget allocation of $33 million spread over three years, for capital allocation only. Therefore, it is assumed that $11 million of that $33 million will be allocated in the current fiscal year. The $2.5 million of the $26 million and the $11 million of the $33 million have to be combined to get the total capital budget.
I would also point out to the member that the figure he quotes for capital spaces is correct if we are building completely new capital spaces, and some of those will be built. But in a number of cases we will be expanding and enhancing existing capital space. In those cases, the cost for space is less. It is our hope to put in approximately 5,000 spaces over the next couple of years.
Mr. Rae: At 5,000 spaces, it will take 20 years for the government to meet its objective of 100,000 spaces. The minister said over a couple of years, so we are now talking 40 years in terms of meeting the objective of 100,000 spaces.
Recognizing that, according to the statistics, there are nearly 350,000 mothers in the labour force who have children between the ages of one month and five years, how can the minister stand in his place and say that what he is going to be doing is creating 5,000 new spaces over the next two years, when there is that level of problem, that serious a problem, and announce the really pitiful initiatives he announced in the Treasurer's budget?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I would point out to the leader of the third party that when this government took office the total allocation for day care services was $105 million. This fiscal year it will be $185 million. That is an $80-million increase.
The second point I would make to the leader of the third party is that what was announced in this budget was clearly identified as the first stage and interim dollars. The statement I will be making to the House shortly will indicate the allocations for the next three years, which the member will see will be much more extensive than what has been announced so far.
Mr. Gillies: I have a question for the Premier about the growth in the size of government bureaucracy since he took over two years ago.
Last week we asked if the government could explain the growth of its bureaucracy in two years by 4,700 civil servants, at an additional cost to the taxpayers of $200 million. This reflects only part of the overall situation.
Is the Premier aware that, on top of those increases in bureaucracy, in the last two years the staff complement at Ontario Hydro has grown by 1,239 people and that the staff complement at the Workers' Compensation Board has increased by 568 people, for a further additional cost to the taxpayers of $75 million for salaries alone?
At a time when other funds are being constrained, how can the Premier justify a total growth in his government's bureaucracy of 6,500 people and $275 million?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I will refer that to the Treasurer.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The increases the honourable member is referring to were referred to in the budget as far as the Ontario public service is concerned. He and his colleagues have asked us about that and I have responded on a number of occasions.
As far as the increase in complement at Ontario Hydro is concerned, he is aware it has an independent responsibility in that regard. We do not have the day-to-day control over Hydro that seemed to be the rule of thumb the honourable member's government took as part of its responsibility. As far as the Workers' Compensation Board is concerned, the honourable member will be aware that under the leadership of Dr. Elgie, in whom we all have a great deal of confidence, there has been an expansion of services not only for the good of the employees but also for that of the employers. This has been extensive and well supported on all sides. It has improved the services available to these people in a way that was certainly not characteristic of the leadership during the previous administration.
Mr. Gillies: We on this side of the House believe that when there are insufficient funds to give disabled people all the pensions to which they are entitled and when in two years the provincial share of education funding has dropped, the people of Ontario are not being well served by the growth in the bureaucracy. They are not being well served at all.
Faced with these facts, how can the Premier or the Treasurer possibly justify an increase of 6,500 employees, an increase in salaries alone of $275 million, at a time when they say they cannot do what is required for the disabled and for our education system?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member will be aware that even during the dying days of the administration of which he was a part, the government found itself faced with the requirement for a substantial increase under the Young Offenders Act, which is a piece of federal legislation.
He asks me how we justify a substantial increase in a variety of ministries. As far as labour is concerned and as far as occupational health and safety is concerned, there are 200 people involved in that, and so the list goes. The honourable member will know that there had been a substantial and serious shortfall in the provision of services. We feel we are making this up in an efficient and effective way.
Mr. Speaker: Order. If the members want to waste time, we will just wait. Do they not want the member to ask a question?
Mrs. Grier: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. I am sure the minister will be aware that over 40 residents of McClure Crescent in his own riding are in the courts today fighting for justice as a result of living in homes that were allowed to be built on radioactive soil by a previous government. It is almost two years since the minister announced he was going to buy some of the homes. Those people are still fighting in the courts for damages and for a fair deal. Surely even this minister must realize that he has been unable to solve the problem.
Can he explain to us why these people are still having to go to court, why he is unable to get a solution and why he is still putting these people through the aggravation, worry and concern of living in homes that have been contaminated?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The honourable member would want to suggest that I have put these people through these hardships. As she knows, the previous government sat on this thing for a long time. The first announcement we made when we came into office was to relieve those people and give them a decision, allowing them to have an option in which to move. What we have done is bought those 42 homes.
I think the system is there to address their concerns through the courts. I am wondering if the honourable member is suggesting that I should circumvent the courts in some respect. They are presenting their case to the court system and I think justice will be done there.
Mrs. Grier: I do not think people going to court to appeal against a lack of action by a government and my calling on that government to intervene and arrive at a negotiated settlement can be described as subverting the courts.
The minister knows there are 80 homes affected. He has agreed to buy 40 of them. Even some of those 40 are still joined in the court action for a fair deal and for damages. It is still not too late to negotiate a settlement. The minister has not quarantined the homes -- as his leader suggested in 1983 he would do if he were to lead the government -- and he has not removed any of the soil.
Mr. Speaker: The question?
Mrs. Grier: Is the minister prepared to sit down and negotiate a fair deal and a fair solution with everyone who is affected and who wants to have that soil removed from the properties?
Hon. Mr. Curling: We have negotiated a fair deal on the 42 homes we bought there. We have bought those homes at market prices. Not only that, but if you can recall, Mr. Speaker -- and I am sure you can; I will refresh the honourable member's mind -- we paid for the legal fees, we paid for the removal costs and we paid for the appraisals that were done. There were three appraisals there.
They had no option in the past, no other choice, but to stay there and go to the court. This government gave them an option by buying at market price. We have given them that decision.
We still stand by, and we have been advised by the scientists, that the level of radioactivity there is safe, that it is at a level --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Curling: We thought they had no other option, so we assessed --
Mr. Speaker: Order. There was no supplementary from the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Davis).
I can see that the member for St. George (Ms. Fish) would like to ask a question.
Ms. Fish: I have a question for the Premier. In the speech from the throne, the Premier indicated: "A housing-first policy will be applied to all available provincial lands to create more housing for low- and moderate-income earners. Where lands are deemed inappropriate for such use, they will be sold and the proceeds applied to an assured housing development initiative."
In the face of the appalling lack of affordable housing that we now see, can the Premier tell this House today how many lands have been allocated, where, how many units will be developed upon them and when?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I cannot give the honourable member the specific answer to the question she is asking, but I can respond in general terms.
As the member knows, this province owns a substantial amount of land, as does the federal government. We have been in very close communication with the federal government with respect to developing a policy to liberate those lands that we have, turning them into housing.
In some cases, of course, there may be an assessment that a particular piece of property is better sold off for commercial purposes and those moneys applied to housing and other areas. Swaps and other creative activities can be undertaken to try to use those lands to build the maximum amount of housing quickly. A complete inventory is being undertaken, and a development plan for each of those properties. We will be very happy to share that with the member at the appropriate time.
Ms. Fish: In view of the fact that some $12 million in the increase to the Ministry of Housing will go to administrative costs, in view of the fact that there are some additional 200 employees in that ministry, 21,000 rent review applications in a backlog and no initiatives under way to provide support for low- and moderate-income housing for new construction, since the Ontario Land Corp. advises that no lands have been designated and, further, that there will not be a clear fund set up for the proceeds of any sale of lands to be put aside for housing initiatives, can the Premier tell this House how much money will in fact go into creating new housing rather than engorging an enlarged bureaucracy?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I do not think my honourable friend is quite correct in her assessment. As she knows, the housing allocation is up very substantially to meet a number of specific purposes. Obviously, we are looking at the question of the socially disadvantaged, the handicapped and others. There is a very creative program developed in that regard, as well as using a multipronged strategy liberating the current lands.
As I said to my honourable friend, no one had ever taken this creative approach before. It is being developed on all the various pieces of land and we are happy to share that with her at the appropriate time.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I just wanted to be sure that the honourable members took note of the students from the W. Ross MacDonald School for the visually impaired who are just now leaving the Speaker's gallery. We are delighted to have them here today and we hope they will come back.
Mr. Harris: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: We would also like to welcome them and remind government members that there is an appropriate time for that type of recognition during members' statements, of which they used none today.
Mr. McClellan: In view of the absence of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye), I have a question for the Premier arising out of the decision of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal in the Villanucci case. I have the decision here and I also have the permanent disability ratings schedule of the Workers' Compensation Board, which workers in this province have referred to for the last 20 years as the meat chart and of which the tribunal said, "The board's `clinical rating' procedure estimates the impairment of earning capacity even though the board medical examiners do not consider the impact of the particular injury on the worker's actual earning capacity." The tribunal has upheld the validity of the board using the meat chart.
It is two years to the day this Thursday that the Premier signed his name to a piece of paper promising to reform the pension system of the Workers' Compensation Board. Does he intend to bring in an amendment to the Workers' Compensation Act in this session of this parliament?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I just had a quick review of the Villanucci case, which my honourable friend refers to, and I understand it created a new category to deal with the particular situation at hand. In response generally to the honourable member's question, as he knows, that matter is under review, I believe, by Mr. Weiler. We are looking at it and will be happy to report back to him at the appropriate time.
Mr. McClellan: That means no. Weiler is a warmed-over Tory appointee whose reports were rejected in 1981. The fact that he recycled them again in 1986 makes them no less unacceptable. In view of the fact that the Premier's promise to reform the meat chart is unfulfilled --
Mr. Polsinelli: Why did you guys block looking at Weiler in the committee?
Mr. McClellan: Because Weiler is not worth the powder to blow it to hell. That is why.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Yorkview, stay calm.
Mr. McClellan: In view of the tremendous disappointment that injured workers have experienced with the Villanucci case -- their hope for reform by route of appeal has been dashed -- I want to ask the Premier whether he would not now consider a very simple but very profound amendment to section 45 of the Workers' Compensation Act, which deals with the establishment of permanent partial disability awards. Let him change the statute by giving the board the discretionary power to make supplementary awards based on loss of earning capacity. We could pass such an amendment, I assure the Premier, in less than two weeks.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: As I understand, and I could be wrong, that is what happened in the Villanucci case, where there was a new category created to make a --
Mr. Rae: No.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: If I am misreading it, then my honourable friend will tell me.
I will take under consideration any idea he has and discuss it with the minister. I am not in the position to give him that assurance today, but we are always looking for constructive and thoughtful suggestions.
Mr. Shymko: My question is to the Minister of Citizenship and Culture. According to table C7 on page 50 of the budget, her ministry is the only one singled out from all the 27 ministries of this Liberal government to be on the hit list of the Treasurer to be slashed or guillotined to the tune of $21 million, representing a cut of eight per cent, when no other ministry has been cut by any.
In reality, if you add the 7.1 per cent increase in government spending, this represents a 15 per cent cut. How does the minister justify this or reconcile this with all the sanctimonious statements about concerns for culture, multiculturalism, sensitivity, etc.?
Hon. Ms. Munro: Putting aside sanctimony, of which the member has given me a very good example, I should tell him that over the past two years the ministry has been very successful in occasioning those kinds of increments which make a good deal of sense to the cultural and multicultural community. In terms of capital spending last year, we did rather well.
We continue to be a ministry that sits well in priorities with the government. I see the member shaking his head, so he must agree, and I thank him. We will continue to fight for the rights of the multicultural and cultural community.
Mr. Shymko: If cutting down the budget from $272 million last year to $251 million, if a 15 per cent cut represents doing well, I would like to ask the minister why she and her sidekick the member for Parkdale (Mr. Ruprecht) do not resign immediately for this shameful cut in spending to a population representing 9.7 per cent of the people of Ontario?
Hon. Ms. Munro: I must say the member has not lost the acrimony with which he is so well festooned as of late. This minister is very sensitive to many of the things he is talking about. When he talks about significance in cutback in budget, he should be the first one to recognize the tremendous job this government did to support culture and multiculturalism over the past two years.
Mr. Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Education. Prior to the throne speech, the press was full of stories -- which I can only assume came from discussions with the ministry -- with regard to a great education initiative that was going to be launched in this province. During the throne speech, we saw rather more vague references to teacher education, primary education renewal, drop-out rate attacks, literacy and so on.
Now, in the heat of the post-budget exchanges, if anything is clear it is at least that the ministry's budget is in steady state, if not less than that. May I ask the minister, whatever happened to the great education initiative in his visit with the Treasurer?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I appreciate the opportunity to engage my friend from Hamilton West in this debate. To call the provincial government's contribution in the coming budget year steady-state financing is quite clearly to misrepresent reality.
I have said in this House, and I will repeat once again today, that our operating grants are appreciably above inflation. We have improved, as the Treasurer has said on a number of occasions, the cash flow situation to school boards. We have tripled the capital allocation for next year, as compared to three years ago.
Mr. Davis: How about last year?
Hon. Mr. Conway: My friend the member for Scarborough Centre intervenes. I think it is important for me to put on the record that the member for Scarborough Centre said proudly in our estimates a few months ago that he was not to be connected with or held responsible for any of the Conservative education policies prior to 1985.
I have to say that we have made significant strides on the financial side. Yes, more needs to be done and we hope to address more in the future. On the program side, in the area of the drop-out, on literacy, on teacher education, on access, on evaluation and a variety of other questions, we have done and intend to do a considerable amount.
Mr. Allen: I have to assume that if the minister thinks I am not dealing in reality, I think he is dealing in fantasy. If he takes the figures that are on page 64 and he works in an inflation factor, and the reduction is there of this year over last year, and if he adds in the capital increase proportion that the budget has allocated in capital directions, he will find it is very difficult to argue that this is very much more than a steady-state budget.
I would like, therefore, to ask the minister to narrow down the focus a little bit on the illiteracy question. He may know that the federal government has recently received a report which suggests that the functional illiteracy problem in Canada is worse than we have anticipated, but that that government is not going to do anything directly beyond what the provinces do in order to attack it.
It is in the minister's court. Will he tell me how in the steady-state budget he is going to find the resources to launch any significant attack upon functional illiteracy board by board, community by community in Ontario, and if he does find it, what programs he is going to cut to free up that money?
Hon. Mr. Conway: My friends on the other side ask me to look at table C6 on page 64 of the Treasurer's budget, and I do so now. I look, for example, at the budget plan 1987-88 and I see a general legislative grant of $3,579,000,000, almost $400 million more than just two years before. I see that the cash flow improvement for 1986-87 is substantially better than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) ever afforded.
I look at the school capital grants and I see that $147 million is virtually double what the previous government was spending. I recognize that more needs to be done. I say to my friends from Sarnia to Hamilton that it is not just a matter of money, though this Treasurer and this government are dedicating appreciably more money. It is also a question of leadership and program, and we on this side are providing both in that connection as well.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I believe the member for Nipissing wants to ask a question.
Mr. Harris: That answer smells just about as bad as red trilliums smell.
Mr. Harris: In view of the absence of the Premier, who ran out of this Legislature in great haste -- I guess he got tired of referring questions or figuring out where to refer them -- I have a question for the government House leader.
The minister must be aware of the disturbing signs coming from Quebec which indicate that the Bourassa government wants to change the constitutional accord. To provide us with the openness that this House voted for last week, to help us to fully understand the implications of what may be the most significant national agreement short of the Constitution agreement itself, why will the government not permit a full range of the best constitutional minds to come before a committee of this House?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member will know that Orders and Notices already indicates that there will be a debate in the House next Tuesday on the wording of the Meech Lake agreement. The Premier will have the opportunity to hear the views of the leading spokespersons for the parties in the Legislature before he is called to Ottawa to consult with the other first ministers and the Prime Minister.
I think he is also aware that, whatever the outcome of that first ministers' meeting, the Premier has given a proper undertaking, in my view, that the results will be fully debated in the House and that there will be at that time a motion of an appropriate nature and the members will have a chance not only to express their views but also to cast a vote in this connection. The government feels that this body, the membership in this assembly, represents the views of the community in an appropriate way and we are seeking those views on Tuesday.
Mr. Harris: I do not want to involve the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) in this; I understand there may be some disagreement.
Tomorrow, as the House leader indicated, we will debate the constitutional agreement. Our party sees that as only the first step in what should be a full, open, public discussion on this important issue. In last Friday's Toronto Sun, the Premier is quoted as saying there is not enough time to hold full public hearings, even though our party suggested this over a month ago. There was time in Quebec. We indicated right off that they could be limited to one week if that would suit the Premier's timetable.
What is the hurry? Why is time so important that this agreement cannot face the full, open scrutiny which a majority of this Legislature has endorsed through the resolution last Thursday?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: As I understand it, the Prime Minister of Canada, a good personal friend of the House leader opposite, has indicated he would like to consult with the first ministers on June 2, which is just a few days from now. The honourable member will know we have been undertaking extremely important debates in this House, which have really made it difficult to pursue other avenues of business, to the extent that there is some time constraint, but not in the ratification.
I understand there is a three-year term during which the House would be asked to express its view by way of ratification. There is every indication that a full debate of the House would take place, followed by a --
Mr. Grossman: When are the hearings?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am not prepared to make a commitment in that regard.
Mr. Grande: My question is for the Minister of Citizenship and Culture. Given the fact that last week I asked the minister about where her new multicultural policy is, given the fact that she has been talking about it for a year and a half at the very least, and has been raising expectations all over the province in regard to this multicultural policy, and given the fact that her answer was that some time during the month of June she will make the announcement but the Treasurer does not have a cent in his budget to implement this policy, can the minister explain how her ministry is going to bring about that which she proposed when she said she wanted the policy of multiculturalism to be measured in terms of jobs, in terms of dollars and in terms of representations on boards?
Where are the dollars?
Hon. Ms. Munro: The honourable member would know that jobs can be created either from new money or from existing money. When the time comes for this government to announce a new multicultural policy, we will take into account not only the $4 million announced in the budget but also initiatives which have been entered into by various ministers.
Mr. Grande: Given the fact that, indeed, $21 million was cut from her budget from last year to this year -- sure, jobs can be created with old money, but the fact is that the old money is gone and she does not have the new money to implement the policy -- can the minister tell us how people in this province can take her and her government seriously when she talks about these new initiatives but when it comes down to the final outcome, to putting her money where her mouth is, the money is not there?
Hon. Ms. Munro: I can tell the member that the people of this province, contrary to what he thinks, have indeed trusted us to come out with the kind of signal that indicates this government is moving into new strategies as far as what multiculturalism is all about.
Hon. Ms. Munro: While honourable members may laugh, I hope they are not laughing when the camera is pointing right at them. This government is dedicated to working with multicultural people to make sure not only that they have the kind of services they need but also that they get a government-wide policy.
Hon. Ms. Munro: The member's friend certainly seems to be very good on the violin. We should see whether we can give him a grant through the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture.
I can tell the member that this government is committed. He can take my word for it; he can take the government's word for it. He can also talk to the multicultural people in this province, and they will tell him they trust that we have received information and are acting on it.
Mr. McGuigan: My question is to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. As reported in the Windsor Star of April 20, Leon and Lise Perrier of Maidstone township, travelling by motorcycle on county road 42 near the Windsor airport at 12:15 a.m., April 19, struck the back of a parked tractor-trailer. This couple was killed in the crash.
The tractor-trailer had turned into the driveway of a private marshalling yard and had then stopped, with the trailer still on the roadway. The driver had left the cab in order to open the gate to the yard. Of course, the closed gate prevented the driver from clearing the roadway.
As an example to the private sector, would the minister immediately give an order to have all Ministry of Transportation and Communications yards move their gates back from the roadway by a distance sufficient to allow all legal truck lengths space to pull into the entrance way and stop, while fully clearing the roadway?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I thank the member for the question. I am already aware of some of the circumstances that surrounded that unfortunate tragedy in the Windsor area. I have already directed through the deputy that our regional directors move back, wherever possible within the limits of the road allowance, any of the MTC facilities -- fencing, barriers, gateways, etc. -- to prevent that kind of tragedy recurring.
Mr. McGuigan: Would the minister look into the possibility of passing regulations so that all accesses granted in the future have a condition applied to them that the gateways have to be moved back a sufficient distance? Would he also look into the possibility of passing regulations to make all yards in the public sector, as well as in MTC, retrofit the gates to those standards?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I would be glad to give my colleague the undertaking that we will review the content of his request as it affects the private sector and private property. As I say, we are doing it within the ministry; we will certainly undertake to review it within the private sector.
APPORTIONMENT OF EDUCATION TAXES
Mr. Mitchell: I have a question of the Minister of Education, or should I suggest the minister for interference with the Ontario Municipal Board?
The minister is well aware -- and his own ministry has recognized the fact -- that the city of Nepean's education apportionment over the past number of years has exceeded its fair share by some $28 million. He is also aware that the township of Goulbourn is paying more than its fair share.
He is also aware that an appeal was made this year, as is the practice every year, at which Nepean and Goulbourn won, for one of their rare occasions, after which he immediately asked the OMB to re-evaluate the decision because of the effect it was going to have on those other municipalities that were not themselves paying their fair share.
Does he intend to constantly interfere with OMB decisions or is he going to change his policy?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I appreciate the question. What I am going to do is to listen with care and sensitivity to representations made, as with the squire of Manotick, who came to me with a delegation of municipal leaders from communities such as Rideau and Osgoode and other affected municipalities in the Carleton county area, who quite rightly asked that we consider options to alleviate the burden those municipalities would face. I met those people as I have happily and recently met the mayor of Nepean and the reeve of Goulbourn.
We have asked the Ontario Municipal Board to review the matter in the light of aspects it was not able to consider in the first instance. We did what we were quite entitled to do. That case is being heard today, and I expect this government is going to be able to resolve a situation that my friend the member for Carleton's government left unresolved for many years.
Mr. Mitchell: With respect to the minister's reply, he is well aware -- I am sure he interprets the Education Act the same way I do -- that the Education Act really is the guideline for the method with which he operates. Frankly, the minister is moving against its guidelines.
I also suggest to the minister that he is being blatantly unfair. What he is saying to me is that a Nepean resident on a boundary road between, say, Nepean and Kanata, where he is paying $900 in education taxes and a resident of Kanata is paying $600, should walk across the road and say: "Here is a gift. We are overpaying but that is all right. Here is a gift for coming and living in this area." When is the minister going to change this policy that his ministry says is wrong?
Hon. Mr. Conway: In the first instance, let me say it is interesting and almost a pleasure to hear from someone on the Tory side who actually sounds like he is running for re-election.
Second, I want to say to my friend the member for Carleton that he can be assured I will work very actively and vigorously for a solution to this difficulty. I want the Ontario Municipal Board to review the case with a view to a number of factors that were not fully understood in the first instance: the altered tax base and the implications for not just the Carleton jurisdiction but also many others.
I can assure my friend the member for Carleton that we on this side will work very vigorously towards a resolution of this matter and that we want to do so with fairness and equity to all parties in Carleton and elsewhere in the province.
Mr. Philip: I have a question for the Solicitor General, who will be aware that his own committee recommended in 1985 that police chases be allowed only where an offence is committed under the Criminal Code. I am wondering whether he is aware of the tragic deaths of two young people, James Vankregten, who died at age 20, and Tracey Cook, who died at age 17, both of whom died as a result of police chases where violations under the Highway Traffic Act were suspected. Is he aware of those deaths and does he feel that kind of tragic carnage on the highways as a result of police chases is justified in this province at this point in time?
Hon. Mr. Keyes: I am very well aware of those situations and of every police chase that has occurred in this province since taking office. I can also inform the member that a final report from staff has been presented; I will receive it this afternoon and will consider it in making a final recommendation to cabinet in the very near future.
USE OF TIME IN QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Speaker: I would like to draw two matters to the attention of the members. The first matter is that in the last 10 days there have been three instances when members have risen in their places to introduce visitors in the gallery. I hope all members are aware that there is nothing in the rules that allows a member to stand on a point of order or a point of personal privilege to introduce visitors in the gallery. I just hope that all members will stick to that decision by this House.
Mr. Speaker: The other matter: On Thursday last, the honourable House leader for the official opposition, the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris), raised a point of order regarding the recording in Hansard of words uttered in Polish on May 13, 1987, by the honourable member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Shymko). I undertook to look into the matter and am now ready to rule.
Members will find that in the past, certain parts of speeches uttered in the House in languages other than French or English have sometimes been printed in Hansard in a translated format. This, however, has raised certain problems and one of the most obvious ones, which was actually raised by a present member, is to the effect that a member who translates his own remarks may easily misrepresent his original verbal presentation in a subjective or biased moment and also commit serious errors in translation, and I am quoting.
I would agree with that opinion and in order to rule in this present case, I must fall back on our present practice as well as our standing orders. Our present practice as followed by Hansard is that when the House allows a member to speak in a language other than French or English, Hansard does not record the actual words but will enter a phrase which indicates what language was spoken at that time. Secondly, our standing orders are very specific as to language and I would take a minute to quote to you standing order 19(a): "Every member desiring to speak must rise in his place and address himself to the Speaker, in either English or French. S. O. 19(a)."
Another matter which has a bearing upon this is that there are no funds available to the Legislature which would permit official translation in these cases. I therefore rule in confirming our present practice that when a member obtains the unanimous consent of the House to go beyond the limits of standing order 19(a) with regard to language spoken in the assembly, this does not include verbatim reporting in that day's Hansard. The present practice of Hansard recording what language was then spoken is to be continued without the actual words being consigned.
Mr. Shymko: Point of order.
Mr. Speaker: That is a ruling. The honourable member has the right, I suppose, to challenge the ruling. There is no debate.
USE OF TIME IN QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could raise a point of order. Your ruling has brought into question a practice -- I thought the House leader for the government, the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon), quite properly introduced some visitors in your gallery today. I accept your ruling, but I would not want to see the type of introduction the Treasurer made today not be permissible in this Legislature.
There are other ways. Somebody could rise and ask for unanimous consent, which I doubt would ever be refused, in which case we could carry on merrily with all our introductions. Who among us is going to be the one to say, "No, the mayor from Sudbury cannot be recognized," or "No, these people cannot be recognized"?
In the past, I think that type of introduction has been very brief. It has not upset the Legislature and it has worked well for a number of years. Rather than try to raise it as a point of order or a point of privilege, I suggest to the Legislature that I see nothing wrong with a quick type of introduction when special people do come and visit us here in the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I know you will be glad to have at least an additional point of view. I want to apologize to the House for interrupting the course of question period with respect to the W. Ross MacDonald School for the visually impaired.
As a matter of fact, as the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies) would know, that fine edifice is within the boundaries of his constituency. When I received a note that they were here, I replied that I was not able to introduce them until at least the end of question period, when I thought your wrath, Mr. Speaker, might be diminished somewhat. Unfortunately, even before I got the note, they were heading out and I thought it was so important for them and for us that they be recognized that I did what I did. I certainly want to apologize for that.
On the other hand, to introduce all school groups and all groups may be all right, but the members will recall a time when it really was a bit much when every Lions Club and every United Church Women's group, all of them worthy indeed, were introduced from the Legislature accompanied by rounds of enthusiastic applause. I am not so sure we want to do that either. Maybe we could give it some additional thought.
Mr. Speaker: I appreciate the member's comments. Probably we could send a copy of this Hansard to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly when it further looks at the standing orders.
Mr. Andrewes: I have a petition which reads: "To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"That the Honourable Murray Elston, Minister of Health, and the elected officials of the government of Ontario not move ahead to implement the recommendations in the Powell report on therapeutic abortions in Ontario, act justly and provide protection for unborn children in Ontario, take immediate steps to more carefully study abortion laws, propose alternatives to abortion, offer financial assistance to crisis pregnancy centres."
This petition is signed by 124 members of the Free Reformed Church in Vineland.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT
Mrs. Grier moved first reading of Bill 72, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mrs. Grier: The purpose of this bill is to aid in the enforcement of the rules of the road as they apply to bicyclists. It adds the requirement that bicyclists provide identifying information to police officers who request it. The act provides that if they do not provide that information, they can be charged.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
NURSING HOMES AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Elston moved third reading of Bill 176, An Act to amend the Nursing Homes Act.
Mr. Andrewes: Before we give this bill third reading, I just want to to make a few brief remarks. I think it is significant that in the hearings held on Bills 176 and 177, we had a very diverse group of individuals and organizations presenting to us. Although we did not always find ourselves in full agreement with one another, I think it is significant that there was a good deal of common ground found in those hearings among those who appeared.
A significant feature of this bill is the residents' bill of rights. It would have been our party's preference that the minister would have brought in an amendment which would have given a clear definition to the contractual arrangement that the Ministry of Health has with nursing home operators. Rather than that, the minister chose to leave us with only one option, and that was to place the onus on the residents to enforce that contract, thus creating the potential for an adversarial situation between the operators of nursing homes and the residents.
Left without this kind of clear statement, our party felt obligated to support the amendment on the bill of rights, as it did. That bill of rights now becomes part of Bill 176.
Finally, might I say in reference to this whole field of nursing homes and the operation of nursing homes that on page 12 of the budget the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) brought down last Wednesday, there is a very brief mention, about one and a half lines, that says the government will provide additional funding to improve the quality of care in nursing homes. It is a very vague line. It is one and a half lines in a 70-page document.
I only ask that the minister, at some appropriate time, make clear to us what his intent is. Is his intent simply to increase the global per diem now paid by the Ministry of Health to nursing home operators on behalf of residents or is his intent to prescribe a line-by-line budget increase?
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Members, could you please carry on your conversations elsewhere. The noise level is getting to the point that we cannot hear the member debating.
Mr. Callahan: Yes, we cannot hear anything.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: He is not on topic anyway.
Mr. Andrewes: Perhaps if the member for Brampton (Mr. Callahan) cared to listen, he might learn something that he might take home to the nursing home residents in his riding. He was not listening very carefully.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps the member would address the chair.
Mr. Andrewes: I only say through you, Mr. Speaker, for the sake of the record, that we now wait for clarity on that one-and-a-half line statement that was made in the Treasurer's budget last Wednesday and that 29,000 residents of nursing homes and their families are waiting as well.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: Very briefly, we in this party are very proud that this bill is coming forward today, along with its companion bill, Bill 177. For a number of years, members of this caucus, and in particular our leader, the member for York South (Mr. Rae), have been fighting for reform of the Nursing Homes Act. The major changes that these two bills represent are in fact major reforms, and we are very proud to have been part of that process.
I might point out to members of the Legislature that when these bills were introduced in the Legislature, they did not have a bill of rights for residents. They did not have a process for public hearings when licences for nursing homes were being changed or new ones being issued. They did not have full financial disclosure, they did not have service contracts, and there are a number of other areas that the original nursing home bills introduced by the Liberal government did not have.
We in this party -- my colleague the member for Hamilton West (Mr. Allen) and the chairman of the committee, the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston) -- worked very hard in presenting the amendments that I put forward on behalf of this caucus as Health critic. We got these amendments carried, and I believe it is one of the most significant accomplishments of minority government in the two years that this minority government has existed.
There are many other things that must be accomplished in this field. These amendments do not, by any stretch of the imagination, solve the problems of the residents in nursing homes in this province. The government has not adequately dealt with the whole area of enforcement.
I disagree with the member for Lincoln (Mr. Andrewes) who says that the bill of rights puts full responsibility for enforcement under this act upon the residents. That is not accurate at all. The fact of the matter is there are two mechanisms of enforcement. One is through the normal mechanism of the Nursing Homes Act in the violation of the act, which the minister and the ministry control, and the other is through the service contract that is signed by the nursing home and the resident and could result in civil litigation.
We can pass the best Nursing Homes Act in the entire world and if the government does not have the intestinal fortitude to enforce that act very strictly in the interest of the 32,000 or 31,000 residents of nursing homes, the act is meaningless. At this point, I am very sad to say that the current act has not been properly enforced.
Finally, we have to deal more adequately with the issue of profit versus nonprofit. Ontario's nursing home system is primarily a for-profit system. We remain convinced in this caucus that there will never be fundamental change in the motivation for providing care in Ontario's nursing home system as long as the for-profit system is dominant.
In fact, we believe very strongly that the for-profit system should be phased out and the nonprofit system should be brought in, where the only motivation is quality of care and quality of life. Then it does not matter; there are no profits in the picture at all. Today, our system is primarily based on profit and return on investment for shareholders.
We look at this as the first small step towards more major reforms for seniors requiring care, both within the institutional setting and, primarily, within our community.
Mr. McLean: I would like to talk briefly on the bill. I am very concerned about some of the contents, because I had occasion to sit on the committee for some time. I think the reforms for seniors are the most important part of it.
The other concern I have with the bill is with regard to the volunteers and the committees that are being formed, which I think are great. It is something that is probably long overdue. I hope that the people in those residences will be able to take advantage of them. When we talk about disclosure for patients, I think it is important that they be able to have that in effect.
When I look at the number of residents in nursing homes across this province, I think this legislation is a start in the right direction. When we talk in the bill with regard to profit versus nonprofit, I see nothing wrong with people who want to make a profit. I am sure the honourable minister himself agrees with that. But I am concerned about and I do hope to be enlightened about the volunteerism aspect.
Hon. Mr. Elston: I wish to thank the two critics and the member for Simcoe East (Mr. McLean) for their brief contributions. I think all of us recognize that more must be done and that, in fact, there are plans to do more. We will be working very hard with respect to the development of regulations to further enhance our ability to deal with difficulties.
Members and others have a commitment in the throne speech and the budget with respect to some of the difficulties raised by my colleagues the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. D. S. Cooke) and the member for Lincoln (Mr. Andrewes). We have made a very important first step towards dealing with this issue in terms of a quality-of-life issue. I want people to recognize these new amendments to the existing legislation, as a way in which we will be proceeding in the years to come to ensure that we are providing the quality of life our seniors deserve.
I think I can say on behalf of the people who have worked very hard on this, the people with whom we consulted prior to the introduction of the bill, the people who attended at committee and otherwise, that this truly was an example of the broadest type of consultation ending up with a product that came out of a very open and, at times, intense discussion of several of the issues.
More remains to be done. I commit myself to doing more for our seniors to ensure that areas of difficulty are dealt with, that we highlight the ability of seniors right across this province to live full and independent lives and, where appropriate and necessary, that we as a government respond to the needs of our seniors.
It is with that in mind that I am pleased to see third reading of Bill 176 and the amendments as a result of the passage of this bill being placed in law and assisting us to do more for the seniors in Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
HEALTH FACILITIES SPECIAL ORDERS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Elston moved third reading of Bill 177, An Act to amend the Health Facilities Special Orders Act, 1983.
Hon. Mr. Elston: By way of explanation, this bill contains amendments to the Health Facilities Special Orders Act which are parallel to and required by the amendments just passed under Bill 176. I appreciate the passage of these to complement that initiative.
Motion agreed to.
BUDGET DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr. Laughren: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In keeping with your ruling earlier today, I will not introduce my daughter who is in the gallery this afternoon.
I am pleased, on behalf of the New Democrats, to be responding to the budget of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon). The members will not be surprised, I am sure, to know that we are disappointed in this budget. We knew, during almost the entire past year, that when it came time for him to draft his budget, money was not going to be a problem for the Treasurer, but we knew his priorities would be a problem.
The question in drafting this budget was one of priorities, not of money. That is a departure from the struggles Treasurers have had in this province for the last number of years. This government decided there were to be no priorities in this budget, save one. That one priority in the budget is that there would be no direct tax increases.
At first blush, that certainly sounds great, but we will see, as time goes on, just how well that washes in the province as it sinks in among the population just what the Treasurer did not do, given the funds he had at his disposal. It is never difficult, surely, to prepare a budget when money is not a question. It is not difficult to maintain the status quo, if you have a few bucks to do so.
This budget does nothing for the thousands of young people who have completed their education and are looking for a job. This budget does nothing for the homeless, given the tight rental market and given the skyrocketing home prices, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto. This budget does nothing for working families seeking affordable day care in the province. For northern Ontario residents, looking for a diversified and more secure economy, this budget does so little as to be laughable.
We have already heard from the two opposition parties just how shallow the government's commitment to education is. One can look long and hard for any kind of commitment in this budget to reduce class size or to meet even a fair proportion of the demands of school boards for capital expenditures, and it is not there.
There is a reason why there was no action on these issues. We think it is because the Treasurer simply could not bring himself to make any hard decisions or any tradeoffs when it came to disposing of the new revenues he had. We should be aware of just how much he had in new revenues; not just new revenues, unanticipated revenues. He planned his budget and he had $1.2 billion more than he thought he was going to have.
Surely to goodness that allows him to make some pretty nice choices as to what he can do with that money. As I will outline in more detail a little later on, this party indicated to the Treasurer that we would even support some new taxes if they were to help remove some of the inequities in the present tax system. I will detail that precisely.
Mr. Haggerty: In what areas?
Mr. Laughren: I will give that precisely to the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty). I will not speak in generalities; I will give him some details.
Despite all the hoopla surrounding the fact that there are no tax increases, there is really not much here in this. When it comes to education, we have already explained to the Treasurer, and I think he is feeling somewhat embarrassed by the fact, that there is less of a commitment to education in this budget than there was when the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson) was the Minister of Education.
When it comes to the development of northern Ontario, I am definitely going to spend a little time on that. I think that is an issue that the government is going to find very difficult to explain all across northern Ontario: no action on gas prices, no minimum corporation tax, no capital gains tax, no land speculation tax and very little for low income tax earners in the province.
I promised that I would be specific when it came to taxation, and I know the member for Erie is going to stay and listen to my remarks in order to get the full impact of just precisely how I would change the tax system in Ontario. Surely, one of the key ways to measure fairness in a system like ours is the kind of tax system we have. This budget makes virtually no attempt to make our tax system more equitable.
Since this government came to power, personal income tax revenue has increased from $7.25 billion to $9.96 billion for this year. That is an increase of $2.7 billion in provincial revenues strictly on personal income tax revenues. As a percentage of total revenue raised, personal income tax revenue has increased from 26 per cent to 29 per cent in the same period, and for the fiscal year just ended, the Treasurer has a windfall of $670 million from personal income tax revenue alone.
What do low-income taxpayers get from all this? They get a $10-million reduction in their Ontario income tax because the Treasurer has raised the zero tax threshold to $2,483. This is still $207 below what the 1981 zero tax threshold level would have been, had it simply been adjusted to increases in the cost of living. To put that in perspective, the Treasurer has announced that he is removing some of the low-income taxpayers from the burden of taxes. Yet if we had a cost-of-living indexing which did that automatically, taxpayers would be better off today than they are now under the Treasurer's measures.
The Treasurer's own staff admitted in the lockup that even after the measures of this budget, for a family of four with one payer of income tax in that family earning $15,500 a year, that taxpayer would still be paying about $450 of provincial income tax. We think that is simply outrageous. That family is about $7,000 below the Statscan poverty level. How the Treasurer can sit there and feel that he has made any kind of contribution to low-income taxpayers in the province while he takes that kind of action is beyond our comprehension.
Thus far, he proposed that to eliminate all provincial income tax for those at or below the poverty line would cost the Treasury about $110 million this year. Just to put that $110 million in perspective, that is about eight per cent of the new money that the Treasurer had come into the consolidated revenue fund this year, so we are suggesting that it would not in any way threaten the fiscal integrity of the province. We are saying, "Take eight per cent of that new money and ease the burden on the low-income taxpayers in the province."
The Treasurer also announced a modest increase in the property tax credit of the 1987 tax year, which he says will result in an increase of benefits of $85 million. Yet the real value of these credits has fallen by 65 per cent since their introduction. When the Liberals came to power two years ago the value of those tax credits was $292 million. For this coming year, the value of the tax credits is $280 million.
Once again, put in perspective, not only has the value of the tax credits, which are for low-income people, dropped by $12 million in absolute numbers, but if you build in the inflation factor, they have fallen by $40 million. The Treasurer is not giving anything to low-income people. As a matter of fact, since this government came to power it has made the situation worse for low-income-tax people. For the Treasurer to stand up and trumpet the virtue of his tax credits is simply not honest.
The Treasurer also announced a modest increase in Ontario health insurance plan premium assistance, a move that will cost a grand total of $20 million. That is a long way from the promise of that government to eliminate OHIP premiums. There is no mention whatsoever of that in the budget. We on this side have proposed that we eliminate OHIP premiums over a period of five years and start with low-income taxpayers who currently still have to pay OHIP premiums.
There are obviously a number of things the Treasurer could have done to make our tax system more equitable. I promised the member for Erie, who I notice is still in the assembly, that I would be very specific about what we would do because we do not believe it is appropriate simply to criticize. We feel it is appropriate to say what we would do in place of what the Treasurer has done.
We believe it is time provincial income taxes were eliminated for those living below the poverty level.
Mr. Polsinelli: What is the poverty level?
Mr. Laughren: I am using the poverty level as established by Statscan. For a family of four in Ontario, it is around $21,000, give or take; almost $22,000 a year. The Treasurer knows -- he has our material -- exactly what that will cost the Treasury and he knows the province can afford it as well.
As a first step towards the complete elimination of OHIP premiums, we also recommended that these premiums be eliminated for the working poor. It is entirely unfair that the most basic of services in our society, that of health care, is financed by a regressive tax, and it really is a tax although I notice the Treasurer was very careful in his document not to list it as one of the taxes in the province because the Conservatives got into trouble with that one year when they listed it as a tax. It is very cute the way he did that.
The Treasurer, by the way, is on the record as expressing unhappiness with the whole question of a capital gains tax not being in place. We tried to say to him, "We want to assist you in resolving your unhappiness," and suggested that there be a reintroduction of the succession duties tax in the absence of a capital gains tax. I recall very well when the member for Muskoka (Mr. F. S. Miller) eliminated succession duties in the province. Talk about protecting not only high incomes but also established wealth in the province. I am surprised the Treasurer would go along with a blatantly Tory measure in the province; no succession duties whatsoever.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We want to be able to take it with us.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, he does. By the way, I should tell the Treasurer that we would exempt the family farm, so perhaps he should not be as nervous as he is about his succession duties.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I do not have one.
Mr. Laughren: Maybe Mrs. Nixon could relax then.
It is also not appropriate that first-time home buyers in this province have been effectively denied the opportunity of buying a home any more. If we look at Metropolitan Toronto, the average price of a new home now is approximately $200,000. Real estate sources estimate that speculators account for between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of sales in the resale home market. What we are saying is that it is time for a real estate speculation tax to make it unattractive for speculators to flip homes. We hear stories of speculators buying homes and then selling them before the deal is even closed, simply to make some quick bucks.
Another area we suggested to the Treasurer is the whole question of tobacco taxes. I know the Treasurer is somewhat sensitive about tobacco taxes, given the area he represents. We know as well that smoking is responsible for over 12,000 deaths in Ontario every year. We believe it is not fair that as the damaging effects of smoking on both smokers and nonsmokers continue to mount, the Ontario government continues to encourage smoking by levying the lowest tobacco taxes in all of Canada. Ontario has the lowest tobacco taxes of any province in Canada.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We are higher than the northern states. We are much higher than New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Michigan. We are very high.
Mr. Mackenzie: There is the free trader talking.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Laughren: It is good to get the Treasurer's opinion of free trade on the record for the first time. We are talking about Canadian tobacco taxes. In Ontario, the tax per cigarette is just under three cents. What we have suggested to the Treasurer is that this tax be raised to about four cents which is a good average for all of Canada. All of that money, every penny of that money --
Mr. G. I. Miller: Let us make it free choice. Let the individual make the free choice of what he wants to do. You are putting the farmers out of business.
Mr. Laughren: I am sorry the member for Haldimand-Norfolk (Mr. G. I. Miller) is getting so upset. Before he gets too upset, let me assure him that every single penny of new money to be raised by cigarette taxes should go to public health programs, antismoking clinics and aiding tobacco farmers to shift from tobacco to other crops; every single penny. We are not talking about a tax grab here. We are talking about a responsible, public health measure.
We know the tax system in this province is not fair. It is as plain and simple as that. We shall continue to fight for a fair tax system. The province is sitting back saying: "We are waiting for the federal government. It is going to bring in some comprehensive tax reform." Anything the federal Tories bring in in the name of tax reform is not going to satisfy working people in Ontario. If tax reform is important, it is important today. There is no reason we should have to wait for it.
Mr. Warner: Right on.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: David, what do you know about working people?
Mr. Laughren: As much as the Treasurer.
As we talk about reform, it is appropriate that I move into an area where a great deal of reform is needed, namely child care programs. In response to our leader, we heard the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) say today that for the next couple of years there would be 5,000 new child care spaces in Ontario. I heard him say that this very afternoon, at a time when the lowest estimate I have ever seen is that we need about 85,000 new spaces, and they are as high as 100,000 new spaces. The minister is talking about 5,000 new spaces in the next two years. That is not a commitment to major child care reform in the province.
Working families can no longer cope with Ontario's inadequate and outdated child care system. Despite repeated promises from this government and the one before it to treat child care as a basic public service, virtually nothing has happened. Fees average $4,500 to $5,000 a year. That is more than most families can afford. Because centres are still totally dependent on parent fees for funding, child care workers are still notoriously underpaid, averaging about $14,000 a year. The situation is intolerable.
A major commitment of funds for the development and operation of child care services is needed to confront the crisis head on. The government's promise to fund child care services has already been diluted by its stated intention to give money to commercial centres. This foolhardy plan will divert scarce funds away from the nonprofit sector, which provides far superior care, into the pockets of private operators. I feel the same way about private child care as I do about the private nursing home business. The difference between private day care and public-funded, nonprofit day care is the same in my mind as with nursing homes. The difference between quality care and care is the element of profit and shareholders' money. We do not need that in those two areas, child care and nursing homes.
We have stated categorically where we think the money should go. We think it should go for capital funding, development assistance and operational funding. There should be conditional grants to allow the for-profit operations to shift to nonprofit. There should be a subsidy for new spaces. In our game plan, we would allocate $179 million to day care. That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but I want to tell the Treasurer that it reflects this party's commitment to a significant child care program in the province.
Our society has changed profoundly in the last few years. There was a day when two working spouses meant a self-indulgent lifestyle. Today, it means economic survival for working people. To those who resent tax dollars going to support a second income, imagine trying to buy a house in Toronto at the $200,000 level. Child care is no longer an indulgence for trendy couples. It is a necessity for families that want to realize the dream of home ownership.
Speaking of home ownership, the government's commitment to housing is increasingly being shown to be in a shambles. The Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) simply does not have a grasp of his ministry and the Treasurer has not made any major commitment to housing in the province.
Housing is a major concern for people and despite its economic and social significance, this government continues to ignore it. Ontario's housing situation is the worst since the Second World War. Vacancy rates in apartments are abysmally low. Across Ontario, they average about 0.5 per cent; in Toronto, they are 0.1 per cent. That is one vacancy in every thousand apartments and they are not vacant for very long. We have a very serious housing crisis in Ontario.
The option of home ownership has been eliminated for many citizens in Ontario because of the cost of a home. We know that prices have skyrocketed about 25 per cent in just the last year alone. Despite the fact that the government's financial situation is the strongest in many years, the province has failed to deal with the dual problem of affordability and supply. The construction of housing is a very positive economic activity in Ontario. It is labour intensive, which results in a high number of jobs being created for the amount of government spending. It also uses materials, such as lumber, that are found within the province, thus providing an enormous economic spinoff.
The only successful, although limited in scale, housing program the Ontario government has undertaken since assuming office is the three-year joint federal-provincial project that funds the construction of 20,000 nonprofit and co-operative housing units. The limitation of this program is illustrated by the fact that the rental housing units built in 1986 and 1987 are only about half of the 24,000 units needed per year. The province should at least double its commitment to the nonprofit housing sector to 13,500 units a year. As the current program is costing the province $25 million a year out of the total of $47.5 million with the federal government, an additional $25 million should not produce too great a strain on the government's finances.
As well, the construction of an additional 20,000 rental units over three years would result in the creation of thousands of additional jobs. The government's other housing supply programs, Renterprise and convert-to-rent, have once again shown the folly of throwing money at developers to build large-scale rental housing. The apartments are generally unaffordable to modest-income families. They constitute a substantial drain on the public purse -- $150 million over the life of the Renterprise program -- that could be better spent on affordable nonprofit and co-operative housing. In the case of Renterprise, up to half of the 5,000 units will simply not end up as rentals, but will instead end up as condominiums.
Finally, the question of home ownership must be examined when looking at the failures of the government's housing policy. In the two years since the government has assumed office, the cost of buying a house has moved upwards by leaps and bounds. The average price of a home in Toronto has gone from $118,000 less than a year ago to $200,000 in April 1987. The much-sought-after dream of home ownership is becoming increasingly remote for moderate-income families and this Liberal government has failed to slow down the price hikes by taking our advice and bringing in some kind of housing or resale speculation tax that would discourage that kind of flipping.
The government should also take direct action to ensure that affordable homes are being built in Ontario. It should undertake some kind of new-home-ownership-made-easy assistance program. This program would have the government use some of its extensive land holdings. The government mentions that every now and again. It hints at it but there are no details on it. There are such holdings in Pickering and we could have modest homes constructed on those parcels of land. These homes could be sold to families of modest income, say below $40,000, at the cost of constructing them while the ownership of the land would remain with the province. The homes must be owner-occupied. When the home owners decide to move, they could sell their homes back to the province. These home owners would in turn receive the equity they built up in the house plus inflation.
Not only would such a plan provide direct housing for thousands of people in the province, but it would also ease the pressure on the heated-up housing market in Ontario, bringing at least partial relief to all people who are hunting for a home. Surely it is time for the government to take bold and imaginative action to deal with the long-standing housing needs of ordinary citizens of the province. It is with great disappointment that we find the government's economic plan, this budget, provides only a minor effort to deal with important housing needs.
I was intrigued a few minutes ago when the Treasurer made some mention, in a rather peripheral way I admit, of the United States, because I would like to spend a couple of moments on the whole question of free trade and this party's position vis-à-vis the government's position and the official opposition's position.
We have seen this budget and we have seen the one little paragraph in the budget that makes mention of free trade, but that is all it does. We know the Treasurer is very proud of the revenues that have flowed into his Treasury but we feel there are some disquieting signs and I suggest the Treasurer needs to contemplate them. The free trade talks are hanging over our heads and while I suspect the Treasurer thinks they are hanging over our heads like a cloud and that the cloud has a silver lining, I am not too sure it has for Ontario.
The Department of Regional Industrial Expansion, DRIE, states that there could be job losses in a whole range of industries in this province, including automobiles, tires, major appliances, toiletry preparations, food processing, brewing, distilling, flour milling, poultry, converted paper products, finished wood products, carton, box and corrugated containers, electrical products, urban buses, construction machinery and primary glass. Ontario, Canada's manufacturing heartland, could indeed face some difficult times ahead. That same DRIE report indicated that there are 280,000 manufacturing jobs at risk under a free trade agreement.
New Democrats have been firm and consistent on the issue of free trade. We do not believe it is in the best interests of Ontario and Canada. We do not believe we live in a world of equals. If we did, I for one would be willing to compete with our trading partners because we then would indeed be on a level playing field. Free trade cannot level that playing field the federal government is so anxious to talk about because the two participants in this case, Canada and the United States, are not equal. That is exactly why we are so concerned about rushing headlong into a free trade agreement. We would very much like to have some commitment from the Treasurer or the Premier (Mr. Peterson) as to where they think they are going with it.
We are not opposed to free trade as some kind of knee-jerk, anti-American response. Rather, we think it is not in our best interest, plain and simple. I think the Macdonald commission did us all a service when it said something very startling. Macdonald said that we have a choice in this country. Either we can have a planned economy or we must have free trade. I agree with him. Mr. Macdonald and the commission understood very well that you can no longer live in this world without having some kind of game plan and I believe that.
We part company with Mr. Macdonald, the federal Tories and the provincial Tories. God only knows whether we do with the Liberals in Ontario; I do not know where they stand but we as well believe there needs to be a game plan. Free trade is a game plan -- that we concede -- but so is a properly planned economy. I would opt every time for a properly planned economy because I do not believe that free trade will give us the answers that some people seem to think it will.
As a matter of fact, it is Mr. Macdonald -- the Thumper, as he is known -- who is out there now thumping for free trade along with Peter Lougheed and trying to sell it.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: And Darcy McKeough.
Mr. Laughren: I am not surprised at that allegiance of McKeough, Macdonald and Lougheed. What a triumvirate.
We know the federal government has clearly opted for the free trade option. Provincial Tories have opted for the free trade option. I understand that, but what I do not understand is where the provincial Liberals stand on it. That is incomprehensible.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That is your problem.
Mr. Laughren: It is not my problem; it is all of Ontario's problem. That the Treasurer would bring in a major budget statement in a year when the free trade issue may very well be resolved and have one small paragraph in it, given the warnings that have been placed before us by the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion, and not say anything else about it, is reprehensible.
We believe we cannot walk away from the option that Mr. Macdonald puts before us, a planned economy or free trade. We have made our decision, and we think it is time the Liberal government did as well. They simply do not have a policy.
Those of us who live in northern Ontario have seen how free trade works. We have seen it in the resource sector, and we have seen what that means. It means that you exploit the hell out of the resource and do not tamper with it. Do not dare tamper with it, because the first thing you know, your trading partner, who thinks he is in a free trade arrangement with you, will complain that it is no longer free trade.
What better example do we need than the softwood lumber issue, where we had free trade? There was free trade in softwood lumber, but because our stumpage fees were too low, the Americans said: "That is not acceptable. You cannot have that level of stumpage fees." It did not matter to the Americans that the government wanted those stumpage fees at that level for either reforestation or regional development purposes. That did not mean a thing. It was just that the stumpage fees were too low to satisfy what our major trading partner felt was a fair agreement.
It did not matter. We now have no control over stumpage fees in the province. It does not matter that we want those fees set at that level for regional development purposes. I would suggest to the Treasurer that from this point on, every time this province wants to engage in a major regional development program, such as for northern Ontario or for eastern Ontario, it is going to run into flak because of the precedent that has been set.
We clearly lost that dispute on the softwood lumber issue. The government knew that it was done. They knew we had lost. They agreed to it, because they knew they could not sustain the argument of those kinds of stumpage fees under a free trade arrangement.
We disagree with free trade for Ontario because there are implications for both jobs and sovereignty in any free trade arrangement and we would lose on both counts. We would pay a price in terms of our ability to chart our own economic future and, in particular, in our ability to implement regional development policies. As someone who lives and works in northern Ontario, that bothers me a great deal.
We in this party are more optimistic about our ability to build our economy the way Canadians want it rather than simply acquiescing to market forces dominated by another sovereign state. We believe we can negotiate sectoral agreements and work with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, while at the same time targeting particular sectors which we would build and, if necessary, protect.
New Democrats believe in and will fight for the growth of both real wealth and jobs, through a policy designed to replace selective imports. We know we must be careful. We also know that our history of reliance on raw resources must change. We know that for every job we create through resource extraction, we export four jobs to the nation that receives and processes that resource.
We have the domestic market necessary to build industries that will go a long way towards replacing some of the imports that currently flood our market. We do not need to import such a preponderance of our machinery, appliances, electronics and computer equipment, to name just a few sectors.
A few examples will make the point. I selected these somewhat arbitrarily, but they are sectors where there is a substantial domestic market, where there is potential for growth and where there is very high import penetration.
Under hardware, tools and cutlery, we have a $650-million import bill. If we replaced even 25 per cent of that, we would create 1,600 jobs in Ontario. Machinery and equipment: 60 per cent of the market is represented by imports; 25 per cent of that market would mean 12,000 jobs in Ontario.
In electrical and electronic products, the biggest of which, by the way, are computers and computer parts, we have a deficit of over $2 billion. Small electronic appliances: 56 per cent of the market is represented by imports; 25 per cent of that would mean over 1,200 jobs.
Household radios and televisions: 77 per cent of the market is imports. Office and store machinery: a deficit of over $3 billion; 5,800 jobs if we were to replace a quarter of those imports. Finally, instruments and related products: a deficit of $2 billion; we could create over 10,000 jobs if we replaced 25 per cent of those imports.
What we have done is select some sectors, a very arbitrary number of sectors, and said: "We have large imports in these sectors. We have a large domestic market. It is worth attempting to build up the Canadian market in Ontario to replace at least some of those imports." We are not suggesting all of them -- we know that is not realistic -- but we are saying that there is a large domestic market, that there are large imports and that there is potential for growth. They are high-growth industries. We believe it is not appropriate for a government to ignore that.
The alternative option to this is free trade. That is exactly what Mr. Macdonald meant when he said, "We must opt for a planned economy or free trade." We are saying this is the kind of planned economy where you select sectors and decide that you are going to build those sectors in order to create jobs and have more control over the future of your own economy. We feel very strongly about that and think the government is simply taking the path of least resistance by going the free trade route.
Finally, on that matter I would ask the Treasurer to keep in mind the whole question of regional development, because I do not know how we are ever going to engage in serious regional development in the province under a free trade arrangement. If the softwood lumber dispute means anything, that should be all the example the Treasurer needs.
I would be remiss if I did not talk about the environment. I think the Treasurer has ignored the enormous potential of the environment in the whole area of the economy, the relationship between the economy and the environment. I feel very strongly that the mugs have had their day in counterpoising the environment to jobs. It is time that day was ended; it is time that dispute was put to rest.
We often hear, "You cannot have jobs and a clean environment." We believe the opposite is true. Environmental regulation not only reduces pollution; it also creates jobs. Pollution control has the potential to be a major sales-generating, profit-making, job-creating industry. However, in Ontario, the industry has not developed as successfully as it should have because of lack of government direction.
For example, Ontario Hydro was on the verge of developing viable scrubbers for its coal-fired generating stations to reduce acid gas emissions in the late 1970s, but the research was curtailed when it became evident that Hydro would not be forced to install pollution abatement equipment, and that is too bad.
There are no regulated air standards or water standards, so large companies have been able to avoid major expenditures on pollution abatement equipment. Disposing of municipal and industrial waste in the province's 3,400 landfill sites has been the cheapest and easiest solution for years. The lack of stringent regulations on landfill sites has resulted in inadequate disposal of hazardous wastes and a legacy of leaking landfill sites.
The government claims to care about the environment, yet its reluctance to properly fund environmental initiatives tells another story. When inflation is taken into account, the Liberals actually spent less on the environment than the previous government spent in 1981-82 at the peak of its environmental spending.
Isn't it strange, Mr. Speaker: two areas where the Liberals have been making so much noise, so much hype; education and the environment, and in both cases, they spent less than their predecessors did. That says something about substance.
The funding of the Ministry of the Environment must be increased and the ministry must tighten up environmental regulations. Otherwise, the quality of our environment can deteriorate even further and jobs can actually disappear as a result of this neglect. Jobs in tourism, commercial and sports fishing, forestry and agriculture are all vulnerable areas that have been affected by air and water pollution. We are determined that we will continue to fight for a much-improved environment.
I am glad the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) has walked into the chamber as I am speaking, because he should understand that his commitment to the environment does not even match the commitment of the previous government. So much for all the hype about the Minister of the Environment and his clout in the Liberal cabinet.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: It was alleged by the member for Nickel Belt that I was not delivering the same as the previous government or something. I was just wondering whether he had read the story that says Ontario is number one and Manitoba is number 10 in the environment.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Morin): Order. This is not a point of privilege.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, I am sure you want me to ignore the Minister of the Environment's self-serving rhetoric, because that is all it is.
We believe there needs to be an increased commitment to municipal recycling. The last time I read his numbers, the Minister of the Environment was going to spend something like $4 million.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: That has been quintupled.
Mr. Laughren: It is still a pittance to the Minister of the Environment. We believe there should be the creation of an agency responsible for the reduction and recovery of industrial waste. The Ontario Waste Management Corp. has concentrated its budget and its energy on finding an appropriate site for a major waste disposal facility. Less than one per cent of its budget is devoted to the elimination of waste through industrial process changes.
The creation of a provincial superfund, and oh, how eloquent my colleague the member for Lakeshore (Mrs. Grier) has been on this one --
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I have led the way in promoting the federal one. That is what we need so that there is no pollution haven. You know that; your leader knows that -- no pollution havens.
Mr. Laughren: We believe there should be a superfund that would be used to provide money for testing and remedial work on the province's abandoned dump sites, many of which pose a hazard to human health.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: We have an environmental security fund.
Mr. Laughren: The minister does not have enough in that fund to pay to clean up the Lees Avenue site in Ottawa and he knows it.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Mr. Laughren: He does not even have enough to clean up one site -- not one.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: We have contributed $5.5 million.
The Acting Speaker: Would you please ignore the interjections of the minister?
Mr. Laughren: No, I cannot ignore him until he shuts up.
The Acting Speaker: Please continue.
Mr. Laughren: I want to conclude my comments on the environment by saying it is a win-win-win situation. Cleaning up the environment creates new jobs; it protects existing jobs; and it protects the environment.
The Minister of the Environment has a very good public relations component in his ministry, but it is simply all words. It is like their commitment to education. It is not there. All that is there is the words and the hype. That is all that is there.
I must say a few words on agriculture. If I did not, my colleague the member for Essex North (Mr. Hayes), who is a good friend of mine, would never speak to me again. Besides that, there is a lot of hype about agriculture too.
People thought that with the member for Huron-Middlesex (Mr. Riddell) as the Minister of Agriculture and Food, all the farmers in the province would be happy. That simply has not worked out. I would say that a couple of good things have happened in the field of agriculture; for example, the increase from 60 per cent to 100 per cent for the tax rebate. We are pleased with that.
But I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that all the programs which are of assistance to farmers -- we are not denying that -- do not address the basic problem of low farm incomes. There is no overall policy directed towards the survival of the family farm in Ontario. There is no overall policy. There is no response to the long-standing problem of increasing differentials between the farm gate and retail price levels.
It is very nice to be able to say, "Here is some assistance for farmers." If my colleague from Essex North were here he would say it much more eloquently than I, but he would tell the members that it is very nice to say to a farmer, "Here is some money to help you fix up your tractors." But what good is a fixed-up tractor, a tuned-up tractor, a beautifully, finely-tuned tractor, if he has no land on which to work it? The government still has not come forward with a long-term program that helps, that is designed solely to maintain the family farm in the province.
I would like to spend a couple of moments on northern Ontario. If there is one area where the government has hyped up the population, it is in the north. It is truly incredible the way the Premier has talked and the way the member for Cochrane North (Mr. Fontaine) has talked across the north.
As a matter of fact, so seductive has been the Premier's hype and that of the member for Cochrane North that, my goodness, they even seduced the resolute character and commitment of the member for Timiskaming (Mr. Ramsay). Imagine that. I ask the members, surely there is no other reason the member for Timiskaming would now be sitting as a Liberal if it were not for the Liberals' commitment to northern Ontario. What other reason could there be, given his resolute character and commitment to cause? Surely there is no other reason.
I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, it is going to be very difficult for Liberal candidates all across the north to take this budget and sell it. There are a lot of Liberal candidates who are going to have to work a lot harder than they thought they were going to have to work. As a matter of fact, to be fair, I think the Liberals should reopen all nominations across northern Ontario because Liberal candidates were deceived into thinking there would be some good northern policy this time.
It is not there. Let me be very specific. This budget promised $30 million for the heritage fund -- out of a budget of over $30 billion, less than one per cent. That is going to turn around --
Mr. Morin-Strom: One tenth of one per cent.
Mr. Laughren: One tenth of one per cent, that is going to -- thank goodness for the odd doctorate in mathematics.
Mr. Barlow: It is not nice to call him the "odd" doctor.
Mr. Laughren: He is not that odd, Mr. Speaker. I will take that back. But, when we think about it, we have an economy in northern Ontario where the unemployment rate is twice as high as it is for the rest of the province, in southern Ontario, particularly the Golden Horseshoe. The government says, "Well, we've got $30 million. We'll set up a fund."
There is no indication as to how it is going to be spent. There is no indication of anything. They are just going to set that money aside, $30 million.
Now the Treasurer might want us to believe that $30 million is substantial. I talked a few minutes ago about the whole question of the softwood lumber tax. Guess what the softwood lumber tax is going to take out of northern Ontario? Are there any guesses? How much will the softwood lumber tax take out of northern Ontario?
Mr. Warner: It will be $30 million.
Mr. Laughren: I hear $30 million from the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner). That is very close to the truth, very close to being accurate. There will be $30 million taken out of the north from the softwood lumber. How much put back into the heritage fund?
Mr. Warner: Thirty million.
Mr. Laughren: The member was listening; $30 million. So what do we have? Nothing, no money for the north through the heritage fund. It is just replacing what they have already agreed to take out. Do they think that is going to sell in northern Ontario? They've got to be kidding. Thirty million dollars in the heritage fund.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: We are spending lots of money on sewers and waterworks.
Mr. Laughren: Oh yes, but just a minute now. Every Liberal candidate in the north, the member for Cochrane North, and the Premier (Mr. Peterson) have been talking about roads, an improved transportation system for northern Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: Sewers.
Mr. Laughren: No, that is not what they are selling across the north. The Minister of the Environment should occasionally go to northern Ontario and hear what the Liberal candidates are saying up there about new roads: "We are going to four-lane this highway, four-lane that one, build a new highway here, a new highway there. It is going to be a new era in transportation." They have even got the chambers of commerce all cranked up on it.
I want to tell them that they are not going to deliver it with $26 million in new money for roads. We phoned a couple of municipal engineers in northern Ontario and their best estimates are that if you are building urban roads, it is about $1 million a mile; if you get out into where there is a lot of rock, which there is in northern Ontario, it is closer to $2 million a mile.
That is why I asked the Premier the other day, "Where are the 13 miles of new roads going to go?" We will even give the government 20 miles; that is all it will build. And we are supposed to be excited and grateful about the Liberal commitment to roads in northern Ontario? They are going to be laughed out of town, $26 million in new roads.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: There is $106 million for new roads.
Mr. Laughren: New money, $26 million. It is in the Treasurer's own budget.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Are you afraid to spend old money?
Mr. Laughren: No, it is not there. That is why the Treasurer cannot spend it.
The Treasurer does not like to be chided. The Premier did not like to be chided about this aspect of the budget. He particularly did not like when I compared it to funding in Toronto. Does he think the people up north will like it when they see $30 million of public money going to the domed stadium and $30 million to the heritage fund for the north, $26 million in new roads in northern Ontario and $130 million in new roads in Metro Toronto alone? They are not going to buy that. That is not a commitment. It is the same old colonial mentality that the previous government had to northern Ontario; nothing more, nothing less. That is all it is.
The Premier said, "I find it unfortunate that you will be setting north against south." It was the Treasurer who put up those amounts of money. It is not a case of putting the north against the south. What a silly accusation. The Treasurer said, "We are going to put $30 million in the north and $30 million in the domed stadium," not me. If he does not like those comparisons, let him change the numbers. It is a lot of nonsense. It is not a commitment to northern Ontario at all.
Once again, all the hype on education, all the hype on the environment, all the hype on northern Ontario, and what has the government got? No substance whatsoever.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: A 16 per cent increase on the environment.
Mr. Laughren: The Minister of the Environment is nattering a lot. Perhaps he could rise in his place at the proper time and tell us how come he is spending less on the environment than the Tories did in their heyday.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: We are not.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, he is.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: This is an all-time high.
Mr. Laughren: No, it is not an all-time high. Not in real dollars, it is not. Absolutely not.
All the hype about what the Liberals are doing across the province serves them well in the short term; in the long term it will come back to haunt them. People in the north will remember all those promises, people in education will remember all those promises, people in the environment will remember all the hype around the Minister of the Environment. It is simply not there. They are not delivering.
What we have said to the Treasurer on a number of occasions is, "Here are some new sources of money that would make it a fairer tax system and allow you to do things that we are suggesting should be done."
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Laughren: Perhaps the Minister of the Environment is referring to the fact -- well, I will not get into a debate with the Minister of the Environment.
Anyway, in conclusion, let me just say that we believe that a provincial budget is an intriguing challenge, whether preparing it or responding to it, and this one must have been fun as well as challenging. This budget was an opportunity, the first real one for this government, to wipe out the accumulated and institutionalized biases of 42 years of Tory rule. In that regard, this budget has failed.
This budget was an opportunity to make --
Hon. Mr. Bradley: He is choking on his words.
Mr. Laughren: No, I am running out of gas, and at the prices I pay for gas, I cannot afford to do that.
This budget was an opportunity to make the mask of civility, as represented by the throne speech, a permanent feature in Ontario. In that regard, by failing to adequately address the question of the fairness of our tax system, this budget has failed.
This budget was an opportunity to stake out an independent position on the trade negotiations. It failed to do that.
This budget was an opportunity to show Ontario that this province has an economic game plan other than one designed to maintain the status quo. It did not do that.
This budget was an opportunity to show northern Ontario that the old colonial mentality towards northern Ontario was gone and that the north was to become an integral and inseparable part of a new and prosperous Ontario. It failed to do that.
This budget presented this government with an opportunity to remove the various mean-spirited policies that discriminate against our poor, our disabled and our homeless. It failed to do that.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: Is this a no-confidence motion?
Mr. Laughren: We will not move a motion of no-confidence in this budget, because we promised we would not do so when the accord was signed in June 1985. That does not mean we are satisfied; it simply means we are honouring our commitment. We are serving notice that we will be fighting for the people left out in the Treasurer's plan. We know that, given similar revenues, the old Tory government would have brought down a virtually identical budget.
In conclusion, it is obvious that the Treasurer's vision of Ontario is different from ours. He wants an Ontario that wears a mask of civility but whose behaviour remains autocratic, exclusive and unfair. We believe that in Ontario we have been blessed with all the tools necessary to build a society that is the envy of the western world, a society that challenges the young and the swift while embracing those who are neither.
Mr. Bossy: It is a great pleasure for me to stand in the Legislature this afternoon and make a few remarks on the budget. I have never abused the privilege of speaking in this House and I do not intend to do that today. But I cannot help but share a few of my thoughts on the budget, because I have heard some cynical comments made about it in this House.
Let us look at why there is such tremendous content in this budget. We hear comments in this House that we, as a government, are trying to reach out and touch every person in this province. I think it is about time the government recognized all the problems that exist in this province. It is not good enough to address just a few. We have to remember that every person in this province should be treated equally, whether he lives in the north or in the south.
It must be very hard for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) to look at this document and see all those things that may have been neglected in the past, just as in the throne speech debate he attacked this government, on the one hand, for addressing too many problems and, on the other hand, for not doing enough.
Ontario is currently enjoying a period of sustained economic growth. For example, during the last two years, there were 312,000 new jobs created in this province, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.9 per cent. That is the lowest in Canada. Now the government of Ontario can address some of the chronic underfunding that has so diminished many of our institutions.
I would say that this particular budget of $35 billion could be regarded as an indictment against former governments for having neglected many of the areas of concern. This budget funds essential social and economic priorities in education, health, housing, child care, transportation and high technology. I am sure the opposition could not say all is well in education. I am sure they could not say all is well in housing. They could not say all is well in agriculture nor could they say all is well for the seniors in this province.
Would they stand in their places and say the health care system is everything it should be and that the hospitals have been adequately funded? Have they travelled beyond Toronto and seen the conditions of our roads and highways? Have they been to the municipalities to hear at first hand how funding has been desperately needed for the infrastructures of their municipalities? Do they say working mothers should not have day care?
Mr. D. S. Cooke: How is Highway 401 near Chatham?
Mr. Bossy: Rough.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: What are you doing about it?
Mr. Bossy: I am sure the opposition could, upon reflection, acknowledge that this budget is, in fact, a real indication that this government is not afraid of confronting the issues of the day and that it is doing something about them.
I want to speak briefly on what we inherited when we assumed responsibility back in June 1985. We inherited a $2-billion budgetary deficit. With this budget, we have brought the budget below the $1-billion barrier for the first time in seven years.
But we have to look a little further to find other kinds of deficits; for instance, education. There were tremendous cries for more money, because underfunding was so extreme. The capital budget for schools is set at $147 million this year and $226 million for next year.
We must consider agriculture. That was totally neglected. One can just ask the farmers in this province what kind of financial difficulties we really inherited. In terms of agriculture, Ontario was recognized as the most poorly funded province in Canada. We have added 72 per cent more funding to the agricultural sector. As part of the total funding of $563 million, there is a $40-million land stewardship program that encourages sound land management and environmental protection. The budget replaces the current 60 per cent rebate on farm property with a 100 per cent rebate. As well, it eliminates the current requirement to prepay property taxes. We will continue to do our duty when it comes to the business of farming.
What kind of a deficit did we inherit in the housing sector? We should consider that in June 1985 the situation in Chatham and area was a 0.1 per cent vacancy rate with no new housing under way. I can assure the members that is no longer the case. Total funding for the Ministry of Housing will increase by 34 per cent in 1987-88. This government is putting money where its mouth is. As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Housing, I take great pride in the fact that the next phase of the assured housing strategy will provide a further $220 million for construction of more affordable rental housing.
What kind of a deficit did we inherit in the health care system? With this budget we are addressing that. We are spending about $1,200 annually for each of the Ontario residents. As well, additional funding this year will improve the quality of care in nursing homes.
Yet another deficit which we inherited is the need we now have to provide top quality child care in this province. This government is responding by raising the government's total child care commitment to $184 million.
If we consider all the roads that need repair and the work on the infrastructure that must be completed by the municipalities, this government has responded by increasing municipal road grants by 9.5 per cent this year.
As of June 1, the retail sales tax exemption for prepared meals will be raised from $2 to $4. Gone are the days of the tax on hamburgers, franks and fries put in by the then Treasurer, the member for Muskoka.
With this budget, this government has identified the areas of neglect and has set forth how this government is responding and will continue to respond to these issues. No longer will a government in Ontario have its ideas come only from Toronto. It is well known that previous leaders in this province had a vision extending only from the CN Tower. It would appear that they would climb the tower on a clear day and what they could see, that was their Ontario.
Our vision, as expressed through this budget, is that everyone in this great province is going to be recognized and have his concerns dealt with. We on this side of the House are guided by the principle that the government that governs best is the government that reaches out to the greatest number of its people.
I very much appreciate what the Leader of the Opposition and the members of his party are doing as they travel throughout this province. It would appear they are saying to everyone within shouting distance, "Get your applications in fast because there is a lot of money in the government coffers and you might as well get your share." In other words, the opposition has realized it is only a Liberal government that will take care of those needs.
Consequently, this budget outlines the areas neglected in the past. I believe it begs the question, why was nothing done about these deficit problems before now? I can tell the members why those needs were not taken care of before now. It is because the priorities of the previous governments were out of line.
I can remember very well only a few years ago when the schools badly needed capital funding but the priority of the government of the day was to buy part of Suncor. We also knew at that time that hospitals needed a tremendous amount of funding to expand and modernize but the priority of the day was to expand and modernize Minaki Lodge. We can also remember very well that the agriculture sector was crying out for help but the government of the day was more interested in considering buying a new jet for the Premier at the time.
I cannot let this opportunity pass to speak about the third party in this House. Much has been said and written about the accord signed two years ago and how our colleagues across the way seem to have more influence on government policy than their numbers would merit. When it comes to worker safety and social legislation, the third party has no monopoly on compassion.
Mr. McClellan: That is what the Tories always used to say.
Mr. Bossy: Yes, indeed, every member of this Legislature has at least as much concern for these issues as does the third party. We know how they would solve a problem. We need only look at the car insurance issue as a prime example. The third party says it can only be controlled by state takeover. That is their solution because they have no faith in the free enterprise system.
Let us not dwell on the past because the budget deals more with the future. The people of this province now have experienced what good government is all about. This is a government that gets its priorities right. As the government for almost two years now, we have delivered on many of the issues that are of major concern to the people of Ontario.
Consider my riding of Chatham-Kent as a shining example. The citizens in Wallaceburg and Dresden now have a commitment for a pipeline that will provide drinking water from Lake Huron, a $22-million pipeline that will be constructed as a result of a commitment of $16.5 million of that cost. This has all occurred in less than a year, after they had pleaded with the former government for over nine years to obtain a pipeline for their drinking water.
The people in the city of Chatham for many years looked to have their Thames River project taken care of. Within less than a year, a commitment was made by this government for funding to carry this worthwhile project through to completion. I welcome anyone to visit Chatham and see this great project in progress.
Let us talk about education. In my riding, to further the upgrading of skills for the work force, so important in this new technological age, this government has established the computer-aided design and manufacturing centre at the Thames campus of St. Clair College in Chatham. In addition, for the retraining of older workers who have been laid off, the budget sets aside $5 million this year and $14 million next year to help them adapt to changing technologies.
We can also look at what was announced recently by the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway). Over $2 million will be going to the Kent County Board of Education, money it has required for a long time. Many of our schools in the county have leaking roofs and others need to expand. These were all items on the board's agenda for the last eight years. While recognizing that much more needs to be done, we have made much progress in that area.
We are all aware of the vital leadership role played by my colleague the Minister of the Environment. We. heard his statement today in the House. He has attacked the serious problems of the environment in a very responsible way. We all want clean water to drink and clean beaches and clean lakes where our children and grandchildren can swim comfortably.
Ontario is recognized as a leader in North America for protecting our environment in that it brings in pollution laws and takes leadership. As members can plainly see, this government has shown it is not afraid to confront the major issues and develop some workable solutions. To this end, the government has earmarked $418 million for 1987-88 or a 16 per cent increase over last year. That is taking care of the environment.
Building on the initiatives set out in the last two throne speeches, the government of Ontario will continue to provide open and fair government. This government, led by the Premier, will provide the sensitive, responsive leadership required to see the fulfilment of this agenda.
It will take a strong, decisive government to accomplish this. I think the people of Ontario are recognizing that there is indeed real leadership in Ontario that is ready, willing and able to tackle all these major issues outlined in the budget. With the reading of the speech from the throne and with this budget, the Ontario government has gone boldly where no government has gone before to ensure that our province takes its place as a world-class society.
To summarize, this budget cuts taxes to the tune of almost $250 million, primarily for the elderly and the poor. We are delivering needed assistance to our agricultural community and funding the essential priorities of education, health, housing, child care, transportation and high technology. We are doing all this while bringing the deficit down to $980 million, the lowest in seven years.
If we accept what the polls are saying today, the people of Ontario recognize that they have new leadership and are happy about it. When it comes to election time, will the voters of Ontario choose the leader of the third party (Mr. Rae), the Leader of the Opposition or the leadership of the Premier? They know the kind of leadership they are getting and they deserve the best. I am confident that the voters will make the right choice. I take great pleasure in supporting this budget as an excellent agenda for the future.
Mr. McFadden: I am very pleased to have this opportunity to rise to speak about the budget introduced by the Treasurer last week. I notice that on the front cover, the trillium there is a red colour. My understanding is that when they originally went to take this picture, it actually was a white trillium, but when the trillium found out it was going to wind up on the cover of this document it turned red with embarrassment; poor trillium.
Like the speech from the throne, the budget presented by the Treasurer is full of high-sounding rhetoric that effectively does or says very little. Much has been made of the fact that there are no tax increases contained in this budget, but that particular claim is much ado about nothing because over the past two years the Treasurer has raised taxes on virtually everything in Ontario. We have had increases in personal income taxes, corporation taxes, tobacco taxes, retail sales tax and the land transfer tax. Over the past two years, the Treasurer has in effect put the touch on everyone and everything going in Ontario. To hear now that there have been no tax increases is really to talk about very little after the range of tax increases the people of Ontario have suffered since this government came to power in June 1985.
What has the current government meant? Total provincial government tax revenue over the past couple of years has gone up by some 48 per cent. Figures indicate that revenue from personal income taxes has increased over the past three budgets by almost 60 per cent. Provincial government spending has increased by 30 per cent. If we look back over the past three budgets that have been introduced by the current government, we see an annual rate of increase of 10 per cent in government spending when the inflation rate increased during that period by an annual rate of only 4.1 per cent.
During the prebudget hearings of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, we heard from one group after another urging that the provincial deficit be reduced and eliminated during this current period of economic growth so that our province would be in good, sound financial shape to face the next economic recession, which is inevitably going to occur some time next year or in the next two or three years. The C. D. Howe Institute, the Conference Board of Canada, the boards of trade, the chambers of commerce and the individual corporations that appeared before the committee all gave the committee the same advice. I know the Treasurer received the same advice from the various organizations that appeared before our committee, yet what do we have? At a time of unprecedented economic growth we still show a deficit of approximately $1 billion.
In economic circumstances where the provincial government could have started to make a dent in the total provincial debt, we have seen a steady increase in the amount of the provincial debt. The total provincial debt has jumped by close to $5 billion over the past two years, and as I have mentioned, will go up by another $1 billion over the next year. If we take a look at the actual figures in the budget, we see that in fiscal year 1984-85, the total debt was $30,041,000,000; in 1985-86, it went up to $32,904,000,000; in 1986-87, it was $35,066,000,000, and the projection for the coming year is $37 billion.
In a time of real economic growth within our economy, albeit not in every area of Ontario, the government is in effect failing to put anything away for a rainy day. What is happening through this budget and through the previous two budgets of this Treasurer is that we are leaving Ontario in a poor position to face any recession we might have in the years to come.
When we look at what economists are projecting in Ontario, in Canada and in the United States, the expectation is that we will be facing a slowdown in the automotive industry. That is already starting. We are facing potential slowdowns in a number of our other key industries. Yet where are we? In this period of economic growth, our debt is rising. It is very unfortunate that in effect, what we have been seeing during the past two years is an increase in provincial debt that will net out by the end of the current fiscal year to some $7 billion.
I would like to deal with several specific items in the budget that concern me. The first area relates to international trade. This was commented on by my friend the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren). Our provincial economy, the standard of living in this province and the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Ontarians depend on international trade. In fact, almost one job in three in Ontario depends on exports to the United States, according to figures provided by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology.
Yet when we look at the budget on page 18, what do we find? There is a section entitled "Canada-US Trade Negotiations," and that particular section in relation to Canada-US trade merits only three brief sentences. I suggest that the budget and that reference do not reflect the vital importance of the current Canada-US trade talks. Nor does it reflect the tremendous danger posed to hundreds of thousands of jobs in Ontario by the omnibus trade legislation now before the United States Congress. There are no proposals set out in this budget to assist Ontario business and workers if we fail to secure a trade agreement with the United States or if we find ourselves facing the full force of the current restrictive American trade legislation.
The Premier likes to go around and talk about the development of other world markets outside North America. Our party endorses that. It is urgent that Ontario develop markets in addition to the very large market it currently enjoys in the United States. The Premier talks about developing markets in Europe or perhaps in Asia or Latin America, but there is not one reference whatsoever in this budget to that kind of trade initiative; not a reference to it. This is a tremendous omission in view of current developments in the United States and in view of the tremendous dependence the Ontario economy has on international trade.
What this government from the Premier on down prefers to do is a lot of handwringing and sermonizing in public, but when one gets behind it, when one looks at the proposals in this budget, what one sees is a government that is singularly lacking in any policy ideas, initiatives or direction with regard to such a vital area as international trade.
The standing committee on finance and economic affairs, which conducted a number of weeks of hearings to secure the input of concerned groups about what should be included in the budget, made a number of interesting recommendations. The committee's report was submitted to the Treasurer in April and I would like to deal with a couple of those recommendations.
One of the recommendations that I thought was particularly worth while was a recommendation that the provincial government should monitor the impact of government legislation, taxes and programs on Ontario competitiveness. The particular recommendation I am referring to is recommendation 6, which reads as follows: "The government should give consideration to the development of a program specifically for the purpose of monitoring, on a continuous basis, the socioeconomic impact of new policies and legislation on the people and economy of the province. The program objectives would be to detect both the potentially negative impact of government actions and beneficial results with regard to the viability of the economy in the domestic and international markets."
That particular proposal is one that was endorsed by the representatives of all three parties on the committee and, I think, is a well-thought-out, original and much-needed idea. But what do we find in the budget? Not a single reference to that proposal, either for or against. Small wonder. Year after year, government grows larger. We have seen that over the past two years the total size of the civil service, as contained in the figures in this budget, has gone up by over 4,000.
Year after year, the costs of government go up. Year after year, more regulations are passed. Some of these programs are needed. Some of these regulations are needed. But the fact is that in many cases the various programs and concepts of government simply put in place a whole range of costs for industry in the form of additional red tape, taxes, charges and other burdens.
Since so much of our income and so many of our jobs in this province depend directly on our ability to sell our products and services abroad, government has an obligation to monitor its impact on our economy and on the competitiveness of our industry. Government should be a help, not a burden, to our industry. Government should be a help and not an encumbrance on the ability of our province to compete in the world.
Yet what do we find? There is absolutely no indication in this budget of this kind of policy thrust. In fact, I would suggest that this budget seems to have been written in a vacuum, without recognizing the kind of pressures faced by Ontario industry.
Another key recommendation of the report of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs which has been entirely ignored by the budget was the recommendation that the provincial government's share of total provincial education spending should be increased to 60 per cent. The committee also recommended that property taxes should be reduced as the provincial share rises.
I would like to quote from the standing committee's report. It on page 6 of the report, point 5. It reads as follows: "The government should increase, in a phased program, its share of funding to elementary and secondary education to 60 per cent of total expenditures, and property tax should be proportionately decreased through an appropriate tax mechanism. The committee is of the opinion that property tax is not the most appropriate basis for education revenue. A formula is required to ensure that the taxpayer benefits directly from the increased role to be assumed by the province."
Property taxes are not based on the ability to pay and should not be used as the basis to fund the lion's share of education costs. Last November in this House, a resolution endorsing property tax reform to reduce the burden of taxation on home owners and tenants, which I submitted, was adopted unanimously by this assembly.
This budget makes no mention at all of this kind of policy direction. It offers no relief whatsoever to the hard-pressed property taxpayer. In fact, if you take a look at the lack of this mention, with the amount of money being proposed for spending on education, it is fairly clear that the province has what I could only describe as a relatively lukewarm commitment to education, in spite of all the rhetoric in the speech from the throne.
This is most clearly shown in the share which education will now have of the provincial budget. Education's share in the budget introduced for the coming year by the Treasurer last week has dropped from 13.2 per cent in the last fiscal year to 12.3 per cent in the current fiscal year. The net effect of this budget, I would suggest, is to shift more of the burden of education costs to property taxes. I would suggest this is wrong for education, but it is also unfair, since the property tax is essentially a regressive tax which does not reflect the taxpayer's ability to pay.
I would have hoped that the Treasurer could have shown the kind of leadership proposed by the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, and supported by witness after witness before the committee, to commit in his budget to increase over time the province's share of education spending to 60 per cent, while at the same time reducing property taxes across Ontario. The Treasurer failed to make this kind of commitment, and in so doing, I would suggest, he has failed the education system and the property taxpayers throughout Ontario.
On page 1 of the budget, the Treasurer acknowledged the contribution made by the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. I think it was nice of the Treasurer to acknowledge the work of the committee and the commitment shown by members of the committee over a number of months in looking at the financial projections of the province, hearing witnesses and then making its recommendations on what the committee hoped would be included in this budget.
It would have been better if, besides an acknowledgement, at least some of the key recommendations in the committee's report had been specifically acted upon.
I strongly endorse the suggestion made by the Treasurer in his previous budget to create the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. I think it was a welcome development for Ontario to provide an opportunity for members of this House and for the general public to play a larger role in the whole consultation process leading up to the eventual preparation of the budget. I think this was a very valid and a very valuable initiative proposed by the Treasurer.
However, the problem is that the standing committee on finance and economic affairs has been hamstrung from the start by the lack of time it was allocated to do the kind of job it has been asked to do. In the regular programming of this Legislature, the standing committee is allocated only two hours every Thursday morning, and they also happen to be the only two hours provided in the House agenda for private members' business.
As a result of the time allocation provided to the committee, both towards the tail-end of the last session and during the break in the late winter and spring, the budget consultation process, which was a hallmark of this committee, effectively took place over only a brief three-week period in late March and early April -- hardly enough time to get into the kinds of important issues facing this province.
I would suggest that if the entire public hearing process and the entire consultation process of the standing committee is to have any relevance at all in budget-making, and if this entire process is to be anything other than political windowdressing, the committee will have to be provided with adequate time in late fall and early winter to hold hearings, to do the necessary research and then to prepare its report.
I understand this was only the first year for this committee. Members of the committee have learned a great deal, but things must be improved considerably if the committee is to make the kind of valuable contribution and serve the purpose it could have for the people of this province.
Mr. McFadden: I appreciate the applause by the Treasurer on that, and I am hopeful that indicates he intends to see the committee can function in the years ahead in a somewhat more effective manner as, in many ways, this committee was his brain-child and he was the father of it. We are looking forward to growing up in a more fertile environment than we have over the past year.
In summary, this government, through its budget, appears to lack any imagination in terms of future planning, any effective energy in terms of what it is going to do, and any real insight into the problems facing Ontario. It is my view that this is a relatively self-satisfied and self-congratulatory kind of document, which does not respond to the kinds of challenges facing this province today and the kinds of challenges which our province is inevitably going to be facing as we head to the end of the 1980s and on into the 1990s.
Mr. Mackenzie: The budget, like the throne speech, was, as far as I was concerned, a bit of a disappointment. I can recall many discussions -- the Treasurer may even have taken part in a few -- during a plant closure committee of some years ago, of the fact that some countries had a policy of using the tax system and sometimes extracting additional taxes when things were going relatively well so they could put themselves in a position to help people a little more when things were not that rosy. There was certainly nothing of that in this particular budget.
We had no ordering of priorities for the coming year by the Liberal government; certainly nothing as specific, whether they liked it or not, as the accord, which they had to give them some direction for the last two years, and for which we do not hesitate to claim some small credit.
It seems to me to be an attempt to touch most bases and constituency groups in Ontario with a little largess and more vague promises -- sort of a grab-bag for possible electoral purposes, but in that respect it may fall far short of what the Premier was expecting -- with no clear, positive and progressive directions in it, and certainly no exciting new or progressive initiatives for the people of Ontario.
I get the impression that the government really has opted for quantity, a lot of little bits, but certainly not for quality and direction in the future of Ontario. In my opinion, it is clearly time that we replace a blind faith on economic growth and development with a policy that stresses a little more the quality of life in Ontario. I think the government should understand, as most of us are beginning to, that there are just as many jobs to be produced in an approach that stresses the quality of life as there are in growth for growth's sake or economic development.
To me, to many New Democrats and to many of my constituents, the direction the government of Ontario should be taking is clear. I am not going to try to cover all of the areas that are of concern to me, but I do want to outline just a few of the issues.
We can start with something that the public has finally cottoned to in the province of Ontario, and that is the issue of taxes and tax fairness. The members should take a look at where the taxes come from. We have some fairness in personal income taxes, but when you look at Ontario and see $8.6 billion income from personal income taxes, look more closely and see how that has been increasing consistently and then take a look at the retail sales tax -- which nobody has ever said is a progressive tax -- and see that we are going to get $5.6 billion from that tax, and then you take a look at corporation taxes -- and there are enough loopholes to drive the proverbial Mack truck through -- and see $3.1 billion, you begin to wonder who is paying the bill.
Gasoline taxes, tobacco taxes and Ontario health insurance plan premiums are all items that are not progressive taxes. They all bring in sizeable amounts of income to the province of Ontario. It does raise some serious questions as to whether we are going in any tax-fairness direction whatsoever.
I find it difficult to accept. For example, back in 1966 personal income tax in Ontario accounted for 64.5 per cent, whereas corporate taxes were 35.5 per cent. In spite of the growth of business, the huge corporations in our province and the wealth that is here, in 1987 we see personal tax has gone from 64.5 per cent to 72.9 per cent in terms of the income of the province. Corporate taxes have gone from 35.5 per cent to 27.1 per cent. I have to ask the question of whether that is a proper direction for the tax structure in Ontario to go.
In 1983, there were 79,196 corporations reporting positive book profits of $13.3 billion that paid no taxes. Some 40 per cent of those corporations were in Ontario. That certainly does not seem to be moving towards a fair tax system. We have serious questions about why there are no succession duties. The use or the elimination of capital gains, which the Treasurer himself has indicated concern with, leaves a tremendous loophole. As my colleague said earlier, the only argument we really used to get against that was the family farm. This party has made it clear that, to get around that particular loophole, it would be willing to see a mechanism to pass on the family farm.
Real estate speculation tax: I think, with what is happening to property values today, it is obvious in the percentage of purchases in almost all of our cities that properties have been picked up by speculators. In my own family there is a case in point. My married daughter bought a house for $40-odd thousand just seven years ago. She can sell that house for $160,000 or $170,000 today. In their case they have put it into another house, a bigger and an upgrading house. I know a number of people who have bought houses like that in my town who are hanging on to them or are selling them, with no intention of using them for themselves or their families but for the speculative value. They can turn over a very big buck very quickly. It seems to me that speculation taxes were certainly in order in the housing field in this particular budget. We did not see the Treasurer trying to move in this way at all.
My colleague the member for Nickel Belt made a very good case in terms of a tobacco tax. Taxes there that we have suggested, which could raise a sizeable amount of money, not only deal with the health problem that is involved but also, as was pointed out, could very effectively be split into assistance for farmers to get out of the tobacco-growing field, for some of the production workers and for some of the plants that would also need some assistance.
As well, tax money could go to the hospitals or to research in terms of the problems of cancer, smoking and the health problems that are involved. In that case, we could pay for the tradeoffs. The disruption is a relatively small one compared to what is happening to many workers in terms of plant closures around Ontario.
We have not taken a look at some obvious sources. We have talked about expanding the retail sales tax base, not on many of the items that it should be excluded from -- ordinary goods for families -- but things like management consulting, engineering services, computer services or stock brokerage commissions. If you take a look at these items and a sales tax basis on these, you could quickly run up a total of $250 million to $300 million in potential taxes.
The tax elimination for lower-income families is not what we would have done on it. It is nowhere near what it should be, but setting a zero tax threshold of $11,000 of taxable income for the 1986 taxation year would cost the Ontario Treasury approximately $110 million in forgone tax revenues. That would be a small price to pay for a major improvement in terms of the fairness of taxes in Ontario.
The elimination of Ontario health insurance plan premiums: I know of few other things that would be as effective as totally eliminating OHIP premiums. I remind most members of this House that in most of the provinces of this country today there is not a premium, which is a tax and an unfair tax. The OHIP payments are out of general revenue in the provinces, and that move in itself would certainly be a major move towards a much fairer tax structure in Ontario.
In terms of tax fairness, we simply have not made any major move at all in this budget. We have the three or four smaller points: the property tax credit, $180 to $230; the no-tax-payable if taxable income is $2,483 or less -- that costs $10 million a year. How much better if the government had paid the $110 million and really done a major job in terms of taxable income of $11,000 or less. The OHIP threshold is going to cost $20 million and it raises the premium threshold by only $500. Why did we not go all the way if we are really looking at tax fairness and take a look at eliminating the premium totally in terms of our OHIP coverage?
There is very little to the tax fairness issue in this budget, and I think by not dealing with the tax elimination of those below the poverty line, by not dealing with the OHIP premiums, we have done a disservice at a time in Ontario when the Treasurer did have the money, could have raised the money in a number of different ways and could have had a major impact on taxes in Ontario in terms of tax fairness, which, as I say, I am sure the public of this country now understands.
I am sure some members have already been doing a little door-knocking. They will find out tax fairness is a bigger issue than people realize, and probably the biggest single issue that has raised the stature and the presence of my federal leader, Ed Broadbent, across this country. They see him as a very decent, honest guy who believes in certain things, and one of the first things they will tell you at the doors is tax fairness. I do not know where the direction came from in this government, but we have not seen it take hold of that issue.
Another issue I think is worth taking a look at is the pension reform issue. I do not know how you read budget figures into this particular issue, but we are likely to have a new bill for reform of the private pension plans in Ontario that is going to deal with vesting and portability and some of the small improvements we have been after for a good many years. Some of us have sat on committees looking at pension reform for many years back in this House, but the two major items most people are concerned about -- certainly working people in Ontario when you talk to them, and those who have some input through their unions into their work place, are talking about the surpluses. It is on hold at the moment, but there is certainly no indication when you listen to the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr. Kwinter) that that money is likely to remain with the workers and do the job it should in terms of indexing -- and, of course, the problem of indexing itself.
It seems to me that this government was more than a little dishonest in its approach to the pension issue. While it is obvious that they are prepared to proceed in terms of some pension reform, it is equally obvious that in appointing the three-man commission they appointed, their intent in Ontario was to make sure they had an election before they had to deal with indexing or the surpluses in those funds. I simply say that is hypocrisy of the worst kind.
In a committee of this House dealing with pension reform a number of years ago, as far as I can remember, all members, barring the New Democratic Party members on that committee, could not come to any agreement in terms of indexing. I cannot remember anybody from the Tory or Liberal parties on that committee who did not think that surpluses in pension funds were one source that could be used to improve the pensions or for some form of indexation. There was a fair amount of discussion on that in the committee at the time. Of course, because of some electoral results and the fact that the Tories did not want to move on it, we never got the action we should have out of that committee report.
I am simply saying there seemed to be almost general agreement on that particular point. This Liberal government made the decision to stall any action on the surpluses or on the indexing until well after the next election. I can only presume that is in the hope that they can come up with a majority. I wonder, and I would like it on record in this House, if indeed we will ever see that indexing or that control by the workers in those private pension plans if the Liberals ever do get a majority government in this House. I would predict now -- and it is one prediction I would really like to be wrong on, I can tell members honestly -- that we will not see either of those moves if this government should win a majority in an election in Ontario. It seems to me that was something that was supposed to be done.
When I talk about now is the time when they could raise some money to do a job in terms of protecting people in Ontario, I do not see anything that really deals with some approach to bridging or earlier retirement benefits. It seems to me that is important. It is one of the directions we have to go in terms of spreading out the work in Ontario. From the workers I talk to, I am darned certain that if the bridging and the improvements were there, those who have private plans -- I will concede that is only one third of the workers in Ontario, and I would much rather see some major reform in the Canada pension plan on a nationwide basis, where it is universal, but even dealing with the workers in Ontario and in private pension plans, were they able to adequately take care of themselves through some bridging, members would find an awful lot more people taking retirement.
I see nothing in this budget that gives me any encouragement that the approach to bridging an early retirement, not forcing them out, but allowing workers, particularly where they are in heavy industry or on production lines, to take an early retirement would be one of the most useful approaches that could be made.
Housing is, in my opinion, a real tragedy. I mentioned earlier today that we have high prices today that prevent many people, unless there are two in the family working -- and that raises all kinds of problems in terms of layoffs or in terms of starting a family, even in terms of all of a sudden finding the interest rates going out of control again in Ontario. All of us in this House had people who were losing their homes three or four years ago when we had the bad run-up to 21 per cent in interest rates in Ontario. Today, without two working members in the family or taking the chances that implies, many young people have not got a chance for housing.
But it is not just that. It is always the lower- and fixed-income people, the single-parent families or the families in the process of splitting up for whatever reason that really have the problems. I asked my constituency assistant to give me three examples of housing cases that were in my office within four weeks. He came up with the three very quickly. I will just read the details quickly to give members an idea. I know I am not alone on this. It underlines some of the need for a much more positive direction in terms of housing in Ontario.
On May 6, a family of five came into my constituency office on Main Street in Hamilton. Both parents were in their early 20s. Their three children were under nine years old. They had been living with the husband's parents. They were asked to leave the residence on May 5, 1987, because the father-in-law was sexually abusing the young mother. Unable to seek shelter, coupled with losing their welfare money, the family consequently spent the next night in the park in Hamilton.
They came into our office seeking shelter. They did not want to be separated from each other. However, because Hamilton does not have an emergency housing program catering to the needs of the traditional family unit, they had no alternative but to be separated. For the next few days anyhow, we directed them into hostels where they could stay tentatively.
Next is a young woman, a single parent with four children -- nine, six, two and eight weeks -- who has an ongoing dispute with the landlord regarding the poor conditions of the house, especially the wiring. The landlord cut off the heat and hydro. I got involved in this one myself. The tenant goes to court and gets the hydro and heat back on. The tenant now pays the court directly, but it is an ongoing problem with inadequate and poor housing for this particular family.
Another is a young man whose wife gave him custody -- or he won it; I am not sure which -- of his two-and-a-half-year-old son. He was sharing a residence with a bunch of other fellows, so the housing was inappropriate. There is no emergency housing in our city for the man and child, only for women and children. He uses his parents' address to get welfare until he can find appropriate housing. Members should try to find it. Let me tell them, it is a major problem.
We tie in these cases, which I know we all have, with the always increasing backlog of housing statistics.
In the month of March -- I do not as yet have April in my office -- I see we are up in the need for two bedrooms. There are now 449 on the active waiting list and many of them have been there for months and months. There are 188 people on the active waiting list for three bedrooms. There are 15 on the waiting list, a tripling of the number, for four bedrooms. There is one for five bedrooms.
For seniors, there is an increase of 26 since the previous month. There are 193 on the waiting list. For the developmentally handicapped, there are three on the waiting list. For the physically handicapped, there is an increase to 122. For the psychiatrically handicapped, there is an increase to 57. That is a total of 1,028 in my town. A lot of people have not put themselves on the register, but they are in desperate need of housing.
I am not going to take the time to go in and read the small section in the budget document on housing. It does not deal anywhere near adequately with the serious problem we have across Ontario in terms of housing.
In trying to come to grips with it, we find a lot of interesting things happening. In our town, a proposal was submitted to the Hamilton Municipal Nonprofit Housing Corp. by Habitat Hamilton. It is essentially some of the community groups that are involved in housing. While they have some good ideas, I have difficulty endorsing their proposal, because in effect it would mean eliminating the municipal nonprofit housing approach. I think there is a desperate need for that particular approach.
Of course, one of the arguments they used is that when you make it a political issue at Hamilton city council, you immediately have all the pressure. When you decide you are going to put 20 out of 40, 50 or 60 new units at a controlled-income level or for welfare recipients, you get the backlash from people. The politicians do not seem to have the guts to stand up and say, "Hey, you cannot stop this housing project from going into your neighbourhood, especially if it is a good-quality project, because one in five or one in six of the residents may be on assisted housing."
I think we have to get around that. It means all politicians have to have a little more guts when it comes to dealing with some innovative and positive moves to deal with the housing shortage.
Housing has a multiplier effect in terms of jobs. It is not a big profit-maker for the buildings in terms of the fixed-income and lower-income needs of our people in our communities. Therefore, it is a role the government, whether it likes it or not, is going to have to play. If it thinks it can turn that over to private enterprise, it should show me the results and I will say, "Bless you." But it does not work that way, and we do not get the housing for the people who need it.
Rental legislation: there had better be some money for rent review officers, which does not show in the budget that I can see. Here is another area where I think the people of Ontario were really let down.
I can recall the Premier and the Liberal Party going around Ontario saying four per cent. But when we got the rental bill, what was it? It was 5.2 per cent, but with a series of exceptions or loopholes -- what do you call them? -- costs that could be charged through that could bring the rent as high as 15 per cent, 18 per cent and 19 per cent.
Ms. E. J. Smith: You voted for it. You liked it.
Mr. Mackenzie: No, we did not. We voted against it, so the government House leader is wrong. Luckily, she had the Tories with her on that one.
Ms. E. J. Smith: I am not the House leader, so you are wrong.
Mr. Mackenzie: The government whip, I am sorry.
The point I want to make is that most of the rent increases that are coming through in my riding are coming through at 10 per cent, 12 per cent and 15 per cent. There is a perception out there among the people who are living in those units that they have been had. They have been had by this government with an inadequate and indefensible housing bill, which we did not support. Apart from anything else, it does not deal with the problems of roomers.
When it comes to that bill, the Minister of Housing has not been able to give an answer, even though he has been asked for two weeks running in this House about what the people who have appealed, who are waiting for their rent review hearings, should be doing. When we raised it a week or two ago, the backlog was already over 18,000. I forget the number of rent review officers, but they will be years dealing with it. I understand it is up to 21,000 or 22,000 now.
I simply ask this government, where is the money in the budget to put on that problem the number of officers needed to deal with it or to work out some kind of emergency one-shot priority program to clean up that backlog of 22,000, with people waiting for justice, really, because of an inadequate housing bill?
One of the jokes some of the counsel made at that committee -- one of the lawyers said to me one day, "Of all the legislation I have ever seen in Ontario, this bill is the most difficult to understand." Quite frankly, I think that applies to most of us -- I know it does to me -- but it is obvious the minister himself understands it least of all, and we have a really serious problem.
Mr. Epp: That is not true, and you know it.
Mr. Mackenzie: That is exactly true, and that came from one of the government's lawyers.
Mr. Epp: That is garbage.
Mr. Mackenzie: It is garbage to the member, if that is what he thinks it is -- the problem people are having. There are 22,000 on the waiting list and they cannot get hearings. It is a bill that is totally inadequate, totally wrong and is a retreat from what the Premier said when he was campaigning in Ontario.
I want to tell members about another problem we have that I do not see addressed in this budget, about which we have raised a number of cases: we raised the Villanucci case and workers' compensation here today. One of the things that has bothered me in the last week is another example of some of my constituency case load. Like a number of members in this caucus, we have always done a lot of Workers' Compensation Board cases, a lot of work on them.
I had a chap come to me who had pretty well documented a hearing loss at Dofasco, who had also had an accident, although it was a number of years ago, in which he had fallen and injured the side of his head. He was telling me he thought part of his hearing loss was not just the exposure he had in the steel mill, but was also a result of this accident a number of years back. He had one doctor who wrote a letter to the board saying he thought the chap had a case that could be made.
Simply because we cannot handle the volume of WCB cases, we got him third-hand, but before we got him he had been down to the workers' adviser in Hamilton. Do members know what he was told at the office of the workers' adviser in Hamilton, even though he had all the detailed information there? The worker adviser he talked to said, "Look, my active case load is more than 150 cases." Nobody on earth can deal with that kind of case load. Long ago, we decided -- I forget what the figure was -- that 80 or 90 cases was the maximum one could effectively handle.
He was told they would put him on a waiting list and maybe five, six or seven months down the road, they might be able to talk to him. But they referred him instead to one of the community legal aid clinics, McQuesten, in Hamilton. He went down there and was told virtually the same thing: "Our case load is too heavy. We cannot take on cases unless it is an immediate emergency." This chap was still working, so it was not that he did not have any income, but he now has a very serious hearing impairment.
As a result of that case, I called the workers' adviser board in Hamilton and found that is par for the course. Maybe if it could get rid of the peninsula cases, the staff there could begin to catch up, but it was getting further and further behind. I understand that is the case right across the province.
How can we set up a system of workers' advisers -- and we have hired some staff -- and say this is one of the things we are going to do because we recognize the problems that existed with the Workers' Compensation Board, and then have people go in with what may very well be a legitimate complaint to be told: "Go on the waiting list. We may deal with you six or seven months down the road"? I do not see anything in this budget that comes to grips with that kind of backlog and that problem in terms of workers' compensation.
If there is one item that bothers me more than anything else, it is the lack of any real action in this budget in terms of plant closures. I must go to the accord. I see the Premier's name and signature on this accord, as well as my leader's. In document 3 it says, "Reform of job security legislation, including notice and justification of layoffs and plant shutdowns and improved severance legislation."
I want a government member, any of them, to tell me what they have done. If there is one single item in the accord that they agreed to -- as one of the 22 items they promised for our support in being given two years to form a government in Ontario -- that they have done less on, it is plant closures. We had better understand in this House that we have an increasing problem here that has not gone away. I am inclined to agree with my colleague from the Tories, the member for Eglinton (Mr. McFadden), that we may be entering an increased problem in terms of plant closures.
Let me use two or three of the better-known ones as to why it is absolutely essential that we have legislation in Ontario that protects workers in plant closure situations. In the Goodyear case, regardless of the merits of the plant on which they had spent something like $18 million -- some of it government money -- to upgrade it over the past three or four years, the workers did not get much more than the minimum required by law in terms of severance after 20 and 30 years, and more than 40 years' service in some cases.
When we got them before our committee, we had Mr. Buzby, the Canadian president, all of a sudden come out in those committee hearings with the comment, "We probably are going to be building a new tire plant somewhere in the Golden Horseshoe." "When?" "Tentatively, within five years." What was the next question? "What about these 1,500-and-some workers who have made their living and in effect given their lives to Goodyear? Will they have preferential hiring?" I think everybody in this House is aware now what Mr. Buzby's answer was because we have certainly raised it in questions in this House. Mr. Buzby's answer was, "They can stand in line like anybody else."
I am talking about the commitment to working people who have given their lives to a company. I am saying that when you get that kind of answer from the president of Goodyear in Canada, it does not show any respect or any responsibility -- I guess "responsibility" is really the word -- for the workers in that plant.
I made a statement in the House the other day on a situation at the Consolidated Bathurst plant in my riding that I consider to be a travesty of justice. When they closed that plant down, some 160 workers there got the minimum. They did not have the best pension plan. Just six months before the company all of a sudden closed that container plant, they had negotiated a new contract. Had they known the company was planning to close it, they would have negotiated a much different contract for those who could get them in terms of pension improvements, the severance pay package and other benefits that would tide them over.
The lowest-seniority person in that plant was 17 years. They were able to go to the Ontario Labour Relations Board after they closed the plant and argue that the company had bargained in bad faith. The company had and the company was found guilty. They won a measly, because it is, $310,000 or $311,000 of additional money. That plant closed four years ago. They got that decision a year and a half after that. Here, four years later, those workers have not had a cent of that money.
What has the company done? I suspect it has already spent more money in legal fees than it would have cost to pay the money to the workers, but what has it done? First, it took it to the Supreme Court of Ontario, challenging the decision of the labour relations board and the company lost on a three-to-nothing decision in favour of the workers and the decision that had been made by the board.
Frustration: I have told this House there have been suicides in that plant. A number of workers now are deceased four years later. It was an older work force. After that court decision, the workers thought they were finally going to get their money. They heard just this past week that the company now has been given leave to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada. Another year from now, we will be lucky to see any decision on the $300,000-and-some. It now is up to $350,000 to $360,000 with the interest on that money.
There is no perception whatsoever of justice as far as those workers in that plant are concerned. They figure the system, the government and anybody who is in control has taken them to the cleaners and does not give a damn about their interests. There are reasons for it when I sound a little agitated -- I have said this in this House a number of times before but it bears repeating. I was at the meeting in the office of Mr. Ramsay, the Minister of Labour of the previous government; as was Gordon Walker, the then Minister of Industry and Trade; a representative of the Liberal Party, one of its sitting members; and the mayor and regional chairman of the city of Hamilton.
We sat down. They refused to let the union attend -- this was after the plant shutdown -- but we had Mr. Stangeland, the president of the container division of that company, now MacMillan Bloedel. We asked him to give the workers a little more time because they had put together a potential -- as I have said before, in this case I do not think it would have worked but they had talked to the people in Peterborough, Pioneer Chainsaw, and they had put together a package that might have allowed them to make a bid on the plant because most of their production was also sold in the Hamilton area.
What was Mr. Stangeland's answer at that meeting when we asked for a little more time? His answer, point blank, was: "Look, Imperial Oil wouldn't sell a good, choice corner lot to Texaco. Why should we put up with the competition?" In other words, be damned to these 160-odd workers. They sure as blazes were not going to give them any opportunity and they sure as heck were not going to put up with the competition. I thought that is what I heard both old parties in this House talking about: the marketplace, free enterprise, competition. I have heard it thrown at us in so many different issues so many times.
But we only found out at that meeting in the minister's office that their lawyers were negotiating right that day to sell the plant to Reid Dominion Packaging next door. The immediate question that two of us asked was, "Would you put in a good word and see if they will hire some of these 160-odd workers?" Do the members know what Mr. Stangeland's answer to that was? "We wouldn't appreciate anybody telling us who to hire. We don't intend to tell anybody else who to hire."
So, it is out on the road; close it down with minimum requirements and the devastation that results to this day among those older workers, and I see nothing that means a tiddler's damn in this document or in this budget to protect those workers.
I could go into dozens of cases because I have sat on two of those committees. Those are just two that stand out in my mind and I think make the case I am trying to make here. I am simply saying that when we got into a committee -- once again, it was the government's way out: refer it to one of the standing committees and deal with plant closures in a minimum period of time -- in that committee we usually found the Tories and Liberals voting together against a number of recommendations made by both the Ontario Federation of Labour and this party to try to protect workers in plant shutdown situations.
To me, this issue is a real tragedy that we have not come to grips with and that we are going to see increasing in the province. Our priorities had better start showing some responsibility to the workers who are involved in these plant closure situations. We have not done it until now.
There are a number of other items. I was interested to hear the government member across the way say, "Hey, the only crazy things we are doing" -- that was not the exact word he used. We talk about auto insurance. I do not know what the rest of the people in this House are getting, but I can tell members that my last riding report had more than 2,600 responses, two and a half times the most I have ever had since I have been a member here. It is running about 93 per cent in favour of a public auto insurance plan.
The public out there understands this issue if the government does not. They understand it very clearly; they understand it as an issue, once again, of fairness. We have had the figures as to the way people get stuck raised time and again in this House. It is an issue of fairness, an issue of helping young people, because they pay the price for auto insurance more than anybody else. The unfairness of it is that you are guilty before you ever have an accident if you are under 25 years of age. It is also an issue of discrimination because it clearly does.
When I got that call from one of the insurance brokers who has just sent me the three big ads on "In a pig's ear" or "Can a pig fly?" that they are going to be running to take us on in this issue, when she called me up and gave me some of the grey areas that they had been instructed not to write policies for, the one that really threw me -- it may be far from the most important one -- was that if one is living common law, unless it is for more than five years, or one has a child, one is automatically the highest of the Facility Association rates.
I could get into the young people; I could get into if you put your car up for two years; I could get into minor traffic violations, not accidents, and the rates people are paying in this province. We have the kinds of games that are being played by the minister on this issue. All I can say is they had better wake up.
Jobs: I really wonder why we have the set-piece little programs again in this budget but do not take a serious look at what really could provide more work. We are still facing a revolution in terms of new technology, in terms of the automation, in terms of the technology in our plants today. We can see increased production in almost everything with fewer workers.
Heck, I have been told that at Stelco there are probably another 1,200 workers going over the next five years. They are down to the lowest in their history right now. They are going to try to do it through attrition. But we are seeing this happening across this province of ours and we see nothing that indicates the government is willing to take a serious look in any way, shape or form at lower hours.
A number of European countries are down to 38 hours in a work week now. That is difficult. We might have to do it a half hour a year over a period of time; I do not know. Nobody underestimates the job we would have in taking that kind of approach to make sure we have work we can spread around to our people. Our people do not want welfare or benefits without working; they want jobs. But we have not made any approach in terms of looking at the hours of work.
We have not made any approach at cutting down on the overtime. I am the first in this House who has acknowledged that five years ago I could not have sold that to some of my unions or some of the plants, but I can tell members that the workers are looking at it now. In most of the unions or plants we could sell it. We would still have some opposition, but some of them are actively pushing it. But we have nothing happening in terms of looking at the hours of overtime that are routinely worked in this province.
We have nothing there that says Ontario, which is near the bottom of the list in terms of statutory holidays with seven of them, could not raise it to eight or nine. The experts tell me we could actually put figures on the number of new jobs that we would create by increased vacation time and increased statutory holidays. Why should a province like Ontario, really the richest province in the country, not be taking the lead in this area rather than trailing the pack in Canada?
What about vacations, two weeks by law in Ontario? There are two other provinces that have three and four weeks now after 10 or 15 years' service. There is hardly a country in industrial Europe that we compete with that does not have up to five weeks, and in Sweden it is up to six weeks' vacation after a couple of years in the work place. We are literally trailing the pack in this country of ours in terms of vacation legislation. The only way you get four, five or six weeks is if you are lucky enough to have a strong union, and that in itself discriminates against a heck of a lot of people who have not organized in that fashion in this country.
I would love to deal with free trade, but I will not.
Mr. Davis: Good.
Mr. Mackenzie: It is obvious on the Tory side that they are promoting it like blazes, and we are going to suffer for it if it ever comes about in this province.
It is a major issue. I think I heard my colleague say there is one small paragraph in the Treasurer's budget statement on it. If there was ever an area, because it ties in with some of the other things I have talked about, that we should have a much more careful approach and a much more positive position -- not the current Liberal position.
I defy anybody to really know what it is. I hear the Premier saying, "Hey, you know that we are not going to let them get away with anything, and I do not really support it." Then I sat on the committee where all the Liberal members voted with the Tories in favour of endorsing the federal initiative, albeit with some reservations -- most of which have been shot down since by statements by the Americans -- in terms of the level playing field, in terms of their not being willing to give up the countervail legislation, any number of areas. So the Liberals have no more a position on free trade that would give people any feeling of security in Canada than the Tories, who admit where they stand. At least they are a little more honest on it.
I also take a look at this budget and look for some of the local issues. Even though we have had it now since about 1971 or 1972, which was the first time Ian Deans got the commitment in this House, I do not see any guarantees, I do not see for sure the funding for the east-end medical clinic in Hamilton.
I do not see any funding for the Redhill Creek expressway, although this government was quick to jump to the tune of the developers in Hamilton. I will never forgive the minister from my own area, the Minister of Citizenship and Culture (Ms. Munro). She even had a meeting with us to give her some more arguments to use in cabinet, and then she is the one who goes down and announces that they are going ahead with this freeway which will destroy the Redhill Creek valley in the Hamilton area and have a major effect on the last major greenbelt area in our city.
It seems to me that rather than what she had told us -- that she was in opposition to it and wanted the arguments and would defend the position of the people -- the developer said, "Jump," and the minister said, "How high?"
Mr. Wildman: Her effectiveness was shown by what her department got in the budget.
Mr. Mackenzie: Maybe the budget also gives an indication of what weight she has.
I really do not see where the funds are for the Hamilton waterfront improvement, I do not see in here the desperate need for cleanup of Hamilton harbour and I do not see the money -- I am told it is not specifically delegated. I know the member for Burlington South (Mr. Jackson) raised this issue specifically in the House the other day. I do not see any firm commitment in terms of the need for GO Transit into downtown Hamilton in this budget.
I do not see a number of other services that are long overdue. I am talking about additional services to a rapidly growing older population. A small point, if I can, but just to try to underline it: Not only do we need the services to keep them in their homes, because that is a lot cheaper than institutionalizing them and a lot better for their health, physically and mentally, but we also are getting -- I presume the other members here are getting the same thing I am getting; they are getting an increased number of people who are calling. They are usually in their late 70s or 80s and have a little bit of difficulty. They are still in their homes.
In a five-minute drive, I could take members to three of them near my constituency office in my riding. They come to me and say, "Mr. Mackenzie, I would love it if somebody could help me put a garden in." They have a very small postage-sized backyard; these are small homes. Or, "I would love it if somebody could do something about shovelling my little walkway in the winter time when we get a heavy snowstorm." Or, "I would love it if I could get somebody to look after the lawn regularly." I know one guy who is paying 30 bucks a month -- and I think he is overpaying -- for some of this kind of assistance. In most cases, they cannot even find the service. It seems to me there is a tremendous area for growth here in terms of looking after --
Hon. Mr. Bradley: They should go to Outreach.
Mr. Mackenzie: Yes, they go to Outreach. We in my constituency office use every facility that is there, but we cannot provide all these kinds of services. They are not adequate. There are not enough of them in terms of the number of people who need them, and the demand for these particular services is going to increase. It is vitally important that we take a look at this.
There is another area I just passed by, but I want to go back to it. I think we have to be innovative and look at what we can do in terms of earlier retirement and bridging to open up jobs. One of the things that surprised me, because I had not picked it up before, is in the plants. They are talking now about whether they will take an early retirement when it is negotiated, where they are lucky enough to have a union and have a better pension than some. Stelco is a fine example of it.
One of the things the workers are telling me is, "We would take retirement almost immediately if you could add one additional thing to the package." Early retirement is important and it means some of them do take the early pension -- bridging there is important -- but they are as scared as blazes of the loss of benefits, whether it is their drug plans, their hearing plans, their dental plans or what not.
We had one plant in the Hamilton area where we thought we had negotiated an excellent early retirement package. It was a vast improvement in early retirement pension benefits. There were 25 people who were eligible to take it; only three of them would. All but two in that age range of 55, 60 or 65 years said they would if there was some way that some of the benefits could be worked in.
I think the costs would not outweigh the benefits of opening up the jobs for people and the additional healthier environment that some of the workers who would like to take that kind of retirement would be in if they were allowed to. I do not see any of these new initiatives in this budget.
In closing, I want to say I hope the members of this government will show some integrity in the three or four things they have let us down on and have not done in terms of the accord and, on something like plant closures, where they have not moved, period.
I hope that they will try to do some of these things before they call an election. The game that is being played in this House is a great one, in terms of calling an election. I personally do not care when they call it; I am prepared whenever they do call it. I have a hunch that the voters out there are saying the same thing that they said to me in the last two elections when I knocked on doors: "It seems to us the only time we get anything at all that is worth anything to us is during a minority government." We have that now. With a little more attention to a more progressive agenda, this government could probably rule for some time yet.
Mr. Mackenzie: The Liberals would probably do it more often with the Progressive Conservative support than they would with ours. Our commitment is there until June 26. We will play it on the issues thereafter, and that is exactly the way I will play it.
It seems to me that if the government brings in legislation that is worth something to people -- and that should be the approach of the government. The reason I say that very clearly, and the reason I am a little bit upset right now, is simply that the people of Ontario did not oust a Tory government -- obviously, they were not sure what they were going to get at the time -- to elect another Tory government. There is an increasing perception that that is exactly what they have done.
In closing, I want to tell this government that if it is not prepared to deal with the kinds of issues I have outlined, and many others I have not dealt with because I do not have time, we sure as blazes are prepared to deal with them in Ontario. The voters know it and the government may be in for a surprise.
Mr. Barlow: I was listening to the member very closely. I was following him and perhaps even agreeing with some of his points until he called those fellows over there Tories. That I object to.
Mr. McClellan: They are second-rate Tories.
Mr. Barlow: They are second-rate Tories, but comparing them with Tories of any sort is really unfair. I almost feel I should ask the member to withdraw that remark, but I will not.
Mr. Wildman: I am sure my colleague the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie) and most members of the House would agree with me that the budget introduced last week could indeed have been introduced by Darcy McKeough, the member for York Mills or even the Leader of the Opposition.
Ms. E. J. Smith: In the brief time I have been left, I would like to make a few comments on this budget. I am happy indeed to be the first woman who has had the opportunity to speak to it. During my time in public and quasi-public life, it has been my experience that women have a particularly practical approach to things such as budgets.
I would like to give a demonstration of this. In my job as budget chairman for the United Way, I was able to observe that the Boy Scouts got 10 times what the Girl Guides got, to deal with the same number of children. The Big Sisters had a 10th of what the Big Brothers had, and did an equally good job.
As a woman, I am very happy to have this opportunity to address the provincial budget. In fact, I look forward to the day when women may form the majority of this House. Indeed, hopefully in my time, we may even see a woman Premier. I look forward to this, particularly coming from the fine city of London, where we have one of the two most exclusive men's clubs going. In those days, they may even let the women into the London Club in London.
I want to point out to this House that this budget continues what the Treasurer introduced in the last budget, an openness and an easily presented budget that is directed to the people. At that time, he promised he would have input from the people, and indeed set up the finance and economic committee so that we had such input. I think this will be an ongoing and welcome contribution to the budget process in the province.
He addressed the deficit and reduced what, on our coming to office, was anticipated to be a $2-billion deficit and brought it to under $1 billion in this particular year.
I will not address the area of agriculture. I will only point out that this is a very needed area in this province. Agriculture has not benefited by the overall prosperity the province is feeling. The Treasurer has put a 72 per cent increase to try to look after this very troublesome area in our economy.
I will not address the north because our next speaker is from the north, but I will point out that even in our past term we have moved 1,200 jobs to the north, which represents a $40-million payroll.
We have continued our good programs in small business and expanded the number of those who can take advantage of them.
We have added to our housing for the disadvantaged and will continue to make the home care option, so important and introduced in this last term, available to the whole province.
I want to point out particularly that the Treasurer in the budget recognizes the concern of this party that indeed in this country we are aware that there seems to be a drift towards the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It is most important to us to see that the changes introduced in this budget address this problem.
By tax relief, this budget takes 100,000 of our lowest-income people right out of the tax level. They will no longer be taxed; 60,000 more will be taxed at a reduced rate. The property tax credit will be extended. The seniors will get more relief in tax areas. Ontario health insurance plan payments will be taken off to the tune of 40,000 people paying no more OHIP premiums because of their lower incomes. These are very important steps.
Mrs. Marland: I thought you were going to take OHIP off everyone.
Ms. E. J. Smith: We recognize that as an election promise we would have liked to have taken this further, but we also recognize that we cannot do everything in a short period and that this at least can be done for those who need it most.
In my office, there have been two particular groups I have heard from regularly as needing special assistance from this House. One group is the older unemployed workers, the people who have been laid off after many years. It is a very tragic group: people who have not been laid off through any of their own neglect or anything they can control, but rather because the nature of the job market has changed and they find themselves unemployed. I am particularly happy to see that a $14-million annual income is being put forward for the retraining of this group, which had not been addressed in the other budget.
The retraining of younger people continues. Futures, the program that is doing so well in helping young people into the job market, will be strengthened. Co-op training between the high schools and businesses, which is also looking very successful, will be strengthened and increased.
I was happy as well to see the change in the cost for foreign students in universities. I guess I am particularly aware of this and glad of the equalization because of my recent trip to Nicaragua. When you go to an underdeveloped country or a country we are trying to attract and keep in the democratic process, it is very sad to find that we are doing nothing to help in training their most able people so that they can go back and take our message of the value of democracy to their country. This was an added bonus of which I was glad.
We speak of the deficit and addressing the deficit, but there is more than one kind of deficit, and the biggest deficit that this budget addresses is the deficit in the infrastructure of our society, in our sewer systems, our pollution control, our schools, our senior citizens' housing and our universities. I am particularly happy to see that we recognize that in these prosperous days, we must do what had been so long neglected by the Tory government. We must start rebuilding schools and our universities and looking at the housing we are providing for our senior citizens.
In London, I have been able to see that particularly, because White Oaks happens to be the most expanding area in this province, short of Mississauga, for young people. I understand the importance of rebuilding the school system and getting a lot of our young people out of schools that are fundamentally just add-on units.
In London too, we will be happy to address this support for rest homes, as Dearness Home, our home, is greatly in need of government support and will find it available in the $100-million budget provision.
I was happy to be in London the end of last week, when we were able to acknowledge and accept a grant of $16.7 million for a new science centre. This, like other announcements recently made, recognized the importance of building excellence in our universities so that as a province we can compete not only nationally but also internationally.
We recognize and support the province in its great thrust in technological and scientific expansion. The hospital programs and the school programs were well launched last year and will be continued.
The two areas I would like to address very briefly in my last 30 seconds are the emphasis the Treasurer put on the fact that we must look to the federal government and pressure the federal government to correct its overall social assistance so that social assistance properly ties in with the programs of taxation.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. With an eye on the clock, perhaps the member would like to move adjournment of the debate and complete her comments on another day.
On motion by Ms. E. J. Smith, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.