The House met at 1330.
Mrs Grier: Last Thursday all parties in this House voted to support my private member’s environmental bill of rights. In December 1987 a similar bill was referred to the standing committee on resources development. However, government members on the committee consistently refused to deal with it despite the fact that the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) had said: “The legislation will now be brought before the standing committee on resources development for review. I am confident that the legislation will be improved and strengthened by this review.”
In order to improve and strengthen the legislation, I overhauled my original bill and introduced a new and improved bill of rights. But to have second reading on this new bill, I had to ask the government House leader to move a motion withdrawing the first bill from the agenda of the resources committee. This he readily agreed to do and the motion was moved and passed last Wednesday.
The next day, Thursday 29 June, 66 members were here to vote in favour of my revised environmental bill of rights. When I asked that the revised bill be referred to the resources committee, government members said they wanted it referred to the committee of the whole House. As there is no provision for the committee of the whole to hear submissions from the public, I opposed this proposal.
When the matter was put to a vote, 44 Liberals voted against sending my bill to the resources committee. On Wednesday the resources committee had an environmental bill of rights on its agenda, on Thursday it had not -- a tricky procedural manoeuvre. What a clever government we have. Too bad their commitment to the environment does not equal their hypocrisy.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr McLean: My statement is directed to the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Riddell). The minister recently chopped $23 million from the 1989-90 farm tax rebate program before determining how or whether it could be done fairly and he cancelled the interim payment normally made under the farm tax rebate program with little notice and no consultation.
I do not believe these actions are in the farmers’ best interests and I think the cabinet should reconsider this matter at the earliest possible opportunity. The minister’s actions in restructuring the farm tax rebate program will yield uncertain results, leave unaddressed the interactions between the program’s costs and municipal assessment and financing, and lead to conflict with other policy objectives such as wetlands or food land conservation.
I am extremely disappointed that the budget made no commitment to continuing the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program to help with high interest rates. I am also disappointed that the budget contained no additional funds for the crop insurance program.
We have been lobbying the federal government that no capping of industrial or fluid milk take place. We are not in favour of capping. Farmers have repeatedly expressed a willingness to review any problems the government has with the operations of these programs, but the minister has not taken them up on their offer. Maybe the time has come for some serious consultation with the people who put the food on our tables. The minister is shafting the farmers of Ontario.
Mr Tatham: Let’s move Queen’s Park.
Why sit we here on real estate prime?
Let us depart before 2000 time.
Find us a green, peaceful place with fresh air,
no gridlock of cars anti grim people’s stare.
Seek us a veil from this babble of shrill,
the country serene our thoughts should instil,
a considered and calm reflection for bills,
influenced by the beauty of tree-clothed hills.
Find us this home for our Legislature,
away to the bosom of Mother Nature.
The money we’ll make when we sell this
should finance a home for all our old pals.
What? Sell Queen’s Park? Never.
But, kind sir, how can I get there?
The highways are plugged with cars that we
Trying to fly could be a mistake.
Then, queried the lad, what about rail?
High-speed trains, don’t you agree?
Freedom from traffic for you and for me.
Mr R. F. Johnston: A year and a half ago, Chief Justice Brian Dickson said the following: “Forcing a woman by threat of criminal sanction to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations is a profound interference with a woman’s body” and thus in violation of security of the person.
Yesterday’s decision by a Supreme Court justice in this province, Mr O’Driscoll, is an outrage to women in the province, an affront to their sense of autonomy. It is basically a reversion to notions of women as chattels that a third-party male should be able to make a decision which would hamper a woman’s right to have an abortion if she makes that kind of a decision.
It is something on which we hope the Attorney General (Mr Scott) would be making a statement today and on which the government would be making very clear policy, because now we have our federal government suggesting this should be a provincial issue, following the lead of the United States, and we have a provincial judge in this province who is making decisions which are surely some of the most damaging to women’s rights that we have seen in the last number of generations.
Mr Villeneuve: I would like to take this opportunity to inform the House that on 1 July 1989 at approximately 3 pm, the Ministry of Natural Resources set a prescribed burn. The location of this prescribed burn was between Wawa and Chapleau, about 10 kilometres from the Shoals Provincial Park on Highway 101.
The burn was set by ministry personnel working on overtime pay during a high-fire-weather rating. This high rating means a fire could start with ease and spread rapidly. In addition to the high rating, in past years the area has been hit by an outbreak of spruce budworm and the loss of foliage had resulted in the trees becoming much drier than normal, causing an even higher risk of fire spreading quickly.
There are currently 490 hectares of forest burning, with 56 firefighters, three helicopters and two waterbombers on site working on this prescribed but out-of-control burn. This is the most serious forest fire burning in Ontario right now. It was set by officials of the Ministry of Natural Resources at a time of year when the danger of fire is increased by the threat of lightning strikes. The timing of this prescribed burn shows poor judgement at best.
As of this morning the fire was still rated as not under control. I am afraid the credibility rating of the minister and the ministry is similar: not under control.
BALLET OPERA HOUSE
Mr Elliot: My statement pertains to the proposed new ballet opera house to be built here in the heart of this great city. This will be an important addition to the cultural life of our provincial capital.
Several ballet dancers I know have gone to Europe for additional training or employment because presentation facilities are inadequate here at present. This is unfortunate, since the Ministry of Culture and Communications has done an excellent job over the past several decades of building a first-class developmental program for potential dancers here in Ontario. As well, the National Ballet School and the National Ballet of Canada have been doing an excellent job in training ballet dancers. The only thing lacking in this most successful equation is the final top-level performing outlet, which will be satisfied by the establishment of the ballet opera facility under way.
Hopefully, in the initial planning stages the need for ready access to the facility by our disabled and by our seniors will be incorporated. Relatively low-cost access to this world-class facility and its better seats is essential if it is to serve all the people of this great city and province.
I am extremely pleased my government has offered to supply the land for this important addition to Toronto and Ontario.
RAPE CRISIS CENTRES
Mr Hampton: Last week the Peterborough Rape Crisis Centre came within a few hours of having to close its doors through lack of funding. At the very last minute, the government came up with the funds to enable the centre to remain open until the fall.
Some people in the government might term this situation acceptable, but on our side of the House, and speaking as an individual member, what we have seen happen time and time again to different rape crisis centres across the province is not at all acceptable. It is totally unacceptable that various rape crisis centres have to come to this government days or hours before the imminent closure of their doors to ask for emergency funding.
The time is now long overdue for the government to present a policy and a program which will guarantee adequate funding up front for rape crisis centres so that they may do the very important work they are charged with doing. To have them go on in a situation where they do not know from month to month or from a few months to a few months whether or not they will have adequate funding is totally inexcusable in today’s environment. The government ought to act now and it ought to bring forward a better program immediately.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
NATIVE LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION
Hon Mr Scott: I would like to inform the assembly of a significant and unique development in the provision of legal services to remote northern native communities and in the concomitant assumption of responsibility by native people for the delivery of important legal services to their communities.
Thanks to joint efforts by the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, the Ontario legal aid plan and officials of my ministry, agreement has now been reached, a first in Ontario, on an appropriate model to meet the legal needs of residents of Nishnawbe-Aski Nation communities that are located primarily in the Hudson Bay and James Bay areas.
The government has approved in principle and has agreed to provide funding for a native legal services corporation to provide one-stop access to civil, criminal and family legal services to residents of the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation communities. The proposed legal services corporation is unique because it will provide in one delivery system the kinds of legal services offered both through the certificate side of the Ontario legal aid plan and through the community clinic program.
The new corporation is also designed to introduce native control into the delivery of legal services in remote northern reserves through a native board of directors, which will hire and train lawyers and paralegals to provide direct legal services to community residents. Through an arrangement with the Ontario legal aid plan, most litigation will be performed by lawyers in private practice acting on certificates issued under the plan. These lawyers will be assisted by either native lawyers or native paralegals who reside in the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation communities, who will also be able to assume the conduct of minor proceedings in native justice-of-the-peace courts.
This new arrangement will permit native people to determine the priorities for legal services for themselves and in their own communities. For example, under the direction of the board, the corporation will be able to offer public legal education, cross-cultural training and the opportunity for natives to participate in law reform efforts as part of its mix of more traditional services.
I have discussed this matter with my federal colleague, the Honourable Doug Lewis, who has indicated to me his enthusiasm and interest in this project of ours. While the project is eligible for cost-sharing under the current federal cost-sharing arrangements for criminal and civil legal aid, the Minister of Justice has indicated that he would need to approach his cabinet to seek a separate agreement for direct cost-sharing for the northern legal services corporation. The federal minister also indicated that a special contribution agreement could be provided to assist in the initial phase of this unique endeavour.
Over the next few months, the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation and its leaders, the Ontario legal aid plan and officials of both governments will be working together to finalize an operational plan and a budget. I will be making an immediate grant to the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation of up to $110,000 to permit the necessary consultation on these issues to take place with chiefs and residents of the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation communities.
I am delighted that both the federal government and the government of Ontario have been able to support this extremely important initiative on behalf of native people. It represents the type of responsibility that native people want to take over important matters affecting their lives. It has the potential to dramatically improve access to fundamental services for all residents in these small communities in the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation.
I want to take this occasion to personally congratulate Grand Chief Ben Cheechoo arid Deputy Grand Chief Bill Mamakeesic of the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation and Bob Holden of the Ontario legal aid plan for the strong personal support they have given us in this project. Without their commitment, their energy and their ideas, we would not be in a position to take this important step for Nishnawbe-Aski residents today.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am announcing today the following changes to the charges applied to imported and domestic beer sold in Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores.
Effective 10 July 1989, a minimum net return will be applied equally to both imported and domestic beer. As well, all beer sold through LCBO stores will be subject to a minimum charge designed to ensure that all handling costs are recovered adequately. I expect that these changes will yield slightly more than $1 million in 1989-90 in additional LCBO profits.
For consumers, the effect of these changes will vary according to the price of the product. While this new policy will have the effect of increasing the cost of some imported beer, the maximum price impact on any brand now for sale will be 70 cents per six-pack. Domestic beer sold through the LCBO will be subject to the same LCBO fees as imported beers.
These changes are being introduced in the context of a comprehensive review of Ontario’s beer pricing policies, including both pricing mechanisms and taxation. The review is now under way to ensure that the demands of the marketplace and the consumer’s range of choice are recognized in the policy framework.
Domestic brewers will continue to face strong competition and I expect the domestic industry to respond to these competitive pressures.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to inform members that we are expanding the Ministry of Health’s influenza vaccine program in preparation for next winter’s flu season. Everyone considered at high risk for influenza complications will be eligible to receive vaccine free of charge this coming fall.
At high risk are people with chronic cardiac or pulmonary disorders severe enough to need medical follow-up or hospitalization. Residents of any age in nursing homes or chronic care facilities who have chronic medical conditions are also at high risk.
The expanded influenza vaccine program will now cover all people under the age of 65 with chronic diseases, including those with heart and lung disease, diabetes, renal dysfunction and anaemia as well as those with compromised immune systems, who require medical follow-up or hospitalization.
Until now, residents of the province aged 65 or older and anyone else who is a recipient of the Ontario drug benefit program were the only people eligible to receive influenza vaccine free of charge.
In expanding the program, my ministry has followed the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Vaccine will be supplied to doctors across the province in the fall. Doctors can advise patients when the vaccine is available to them.
The cost of the expanded program is approximately $1.7 million for the first year, based on estimates of the size of population at risk and the costs of the vaccine. We believe the costs may be offset by reduced hospitalization and morbidity during the flu season.
An annual vaccination enables people at risk to develop antibodies to circulating influenza strains and boosts protection from the previous year’s vaccination. Flu outbreaks occur every winter. However, depending on the strain, the severity of the effect varies from year to year.
I urge everyone for whom flu poses a high risk to seriously consider being vaccinated. We will remind people again in the fall to consult their doctors if they think they need to be vaccinated.
Mr Laughren: I wish to respond briefly to the announcement by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon). It was truly remarkable. It is only a couple of weeks ago that, when the domestic brewing industry said that it was unhappy with the low-priced American imported beers, the Treasurer stood up on his free-enterprise hind legs and said, “Lower your prices if you don’t like it.”
Today the Treasurer stands in his place and says he is going to raise the price of basically imported beers to protect the domestic industry, and he says by 70 cents a six-pack, which is $2.80 for a case of 24. Only a Grinch would raise the price of beer in the middle of July.
The Speaker: Order.
NATIVE LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION
Mr Pouliot: I am honoured today to be the first member of the opposition to commend the Attorney General (Mr Scott) on his endeavour; however, I intend to be brief in commending him.
I wish to convey to him what he has indeed recognized, that the legal system that services on legal matters, on our justice system as it relates to our first Canadians and therefore our first Ontarians, is measured on a different scale. The lifeblood, the very lifestyle of those communities, one can readily acquiesce and imagine, is altogether at times different from what we take for granted or what we are accustomed to up north.
What strikes me, with high respect, is that we have been telling the minister that things are different. We came up time and time again, every member of our party, with the alternatives. We can read line by line the very message that we have conveyed to him. Nevertheless, it is his day. His efforts deserve a verbal pat on the back. Let’s hope that this pilot project will serve as a model not only to Treaty 9, to Nishnawbe-Aski, but to all native Canadians in Ontario.
Mr Hampton: I also want to comment briefly upon the statement by the Attorney General as the minister responsible for native affairs. I want to say to him that I hope the model which he has announced today will not be just a pilot model or a pilot project, but rather will become the basis for a permanent model that will be extended not only to Treaty 9 but also to those many communities that belong to Treaty 3.
As the Attorney General should know, bands which are members of Treaty 3 have a much closer interaction with our justice system, it is much more frequent and, in too many cases, it is an inappropriate interaction in the sense that our justice system does not always treat them as it should.
I would hope that the Attorney General would use this as a permanent model and go forward very soon to provide the same kind of legal services to the bands of Treaty 3, which need this type of’ working arrangement very much.
Mr Reville: Just to add to the comments of my colleagues in respect to the announcement by the Attorney General, it is possible that the James Bay first nation will have early opportunity to use these legal services. Stay tuned for question period on that one.
Mr Reville: In response to the statement today by the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), I was not expecting that minister to make any more statements, because she has already made all the statements advertised in the throne speech. Perhaps now she should just stay in her place and not say anything.
But this may be an opportunity -- it is a nice little program -- for the minister to practise the language that she is learning to use, and that is of course the language that I call healthspeak. Perhaps this is the harbinger of pharmacare -- perhaps staged pharmacare? We start with high-risk and move through medium-risk to low-risk, and all the while “quality care as close to home as possible.” It is amazing.
NATIVE LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION
Mr Sterling: I was happy to see the Attorney General (Mr Scott) take a minor step towards allowing our native communities to be involved in the legal system of our province.
I want to talk positively about his announcement. I think it is a worthwhile announcement. It does beg the question, of course, of what else the Attorney General has been doing in his role as the minister responsible for native affairs, but I do want to congratulate him on this one small step. I am glad to see that our federal Minister of Justice is in support of him on this step.
I will look forward to seeing how it spins out and how it works out and would like to copy the example if in fact it does work out. I hope that there is a degree of accountability associated with the program so that we can ensure that if this model does not work, we will be willing to try others.
Mr Harris: I would like to respond just briefly to the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) on her statement. While it is a small step in the right direction, it again points out the difference in the statements by this Liberal government, including the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), who did not like me looking at him when I responded and was pointing the finger at the Minister of Health.
This Liberal government likes to make great proclamations of universally free, accessible everything, almost on demand. We have another example where that seems to be the statement and the impression that they are striving for. However, when it comes to a very low cost, minimal avoidance item, if you like, in the area of vaccination, we are still a long, long way from it being universally accessible to Ontarians; in fact, it continues to be universally inaccessible.
Mr Harris: There is also a statement that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) made, and this is the Treasurer who has announced that the consumer is being ripped off once again.
Let me first of all state that I am not unsupportive of equalizing our Canadian breweries with their American competitors. I believe that there should be a level playing field. Of course this is a problem that has been pointed out to the Treasurer on many occasions, but this is the same Treasurer who on 31 May said, “Well, the local brewers might very well sharpen their pencils, particularly on six-packs, which is where they are losing the market.” Having for a number of months allowed this discrepancy and the inequity to exist, he continually pointed out that consumers could benefit if local breweries would sharpen their pencils.
Finally, after having taken the time to assess the facts, and it took a long time, recognizing that there was a tax inequity, how is he going to level the playing field? He will level it by sticking it to the consumers and hiking taxes on imported beer. There were two other options, one of which was to reduce the taxation on the local products to equalize prices. The second option could have been to move halfway, if you like.
But this Liberal government has consistently chosen the option of grabbing every cent it possibly can off of every product. Indeed, the highlight of this statement is, “We’re going to grab another million dollars off of the consumers as our way of equalizing prices.” It is a terrible, terrible philosophy and mentality that I do not think the Treasurer I knew used to have. Obviously, it is one that the Premier (Mr Peterson) has ground into him, whipping him along into shape, saying, “This is the way we’re going to operate.”
Mr Brandt: In the brief time that is available after my colleague finished, I just want to say that although I share the concerns of the Treasurer with respect to the equalization of beer pricing in an attempt to bring it into a more level and balanced position, there is a very well put argument by the brewers of Ontario that they are at a distinct disadvantage with American imports.
Not only can none of these brewers supply beer to Labatt Park in London, but they cannot, from the domestic standpoint, supply beer equitably in competition with American imports. I would ask the Treasurer to look at his entire policy; it needs revision.
Mr B. Rae: Because I know that the Attorney General has to leave the House to be a witness at another action, I wanted to ask him this today, if I could.
Mr Justice Dickson, the Chief Justice of Canada, said in the Morgentaler reference, and I am quoting from the judgement, “Forcing a woman by threat of criminal sanction to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus an infringement of security of the person.”
In a judgement yesterday by Mr Justice O’Driscoll with respect to a young woman who is some 15 weeks pregnant, in an action brought by her former boyfriend, the judge decided to apparently ignore this decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and to grant the injunction to the boyfriend, thereby forcing the young woman to carry the pregnancy to term.
I wonder if the Attorney General can tell us what action he plans to take in order to ensure the integrity of the original Supreme Court of Canada decision and ultimately, more important even than that, ensure that Ms Dodd will be able to exercise her freedom of choice.
Hon Mr Scott: The honourable member is right. There is no criminal law in Canada that constrains a therapeutic abortion and, as the honourable member knows, it is provided as a health service in Ontario to those who seek it with the advice of their physician.
The difficulty about this case is that although the young woman was served with the process, she elected not to appear or to obtain legal aid for reasons that are not now clear. If she should express a desire to appeal in a public forum or to the government, we would then have an opportunity to provide assistance to her. If, however, she does not want to appeal and is content with the decision, it presents difficulties in terms of intervention. Our intervention to support the proceeding would be regarded askance if it were taken against the interest of the young woman.
So what we have to establish first is her interest and her disposition in this matter. When we do that, I will be able to advise the House more fully about steps that can be taken.
Mr B. Rae: I want to go on record as saying that I regard it as a tragedy that this young woman should have to go through a legal ordeal. She is hearing-impaired and she has been through enough emotional trauma at this stage already without being forced to have to go through another appeal in a process which I am sure is extremely traumatic and upsetting for her.
The Supreme Court of Canada has said quite clearly and categorically that it is a matter of private right, that she is free to do it and that it is a freedom that she has the right to exercise. If I can quote, Madam Justice Wilson said: “It is not just a medical decision; it is a profound social and ethical one as well.” It is a decision that pertains to the woman, not to some third party, not to somebody else, but it is her decision.
I want to go back to the Attorney General. Can he tell us what is now the law in Ontario, not just for Ms Dodd, but in fact for every other woman? Mr Justice O’Driscoll’s decision has created legal chaos. Can he tell us what his message is to other women? Are they going to have to go through the courts?
Hon Mr Scott: The law of Ontario very clearly is that there is no prohibition against a therapeutic abortion procedure in the circumstances I previously outlined. The honourable member knows that is because criminalization of that act is a federal responsibility and the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the provision that was designed in the Criminal Code to curtail it. As I have said to the honourable member, those services are provided as part of the health care services in the province for which the taxpayers pay.
The issue presented by the case is an important one, and I do not seek to minimize it. The reality is that I have no power to wipe out the decisions of independent courts. I often have thought it might be nice to have that from time to time but I do not, and therefore the only remedy is an appeal --
Mr B. Rae: In this case.
Hon Mr Scott: In this case.
Mr B. Rae: What of another case?
Hon Mr Scott: Other cases may be set right by this case, but the important question is to try to ascertain at this stage the intention of the young woman. I have indicated that our legal aid facilities are available to give her, informally or formally, whatever advice she requires to have.
Mr R. F. Johnston: We have to be very clear about this. There is a shroud hanging over all of the women of Ontario at this moment. They have been told basically by a judge in this province that any ex-boyfriend can have an unconditional control over their pregnancy, even if it threatens the life of the individual. The foetus was made a ward of the state in this case.
What is the Attorney General’s message to those people, because this young woman may very well not appeal for all sorts of very personal reasons? What is his message to the women of Ontario at the moment who now have a judge making this kind of decision here? What kind of policy statement is he going to make about what this government is willing to do to support them against this kind of action which turns them again into chattels in this kind of issue?
Hon Mr Scott: Even if the press is present it is not helpful to overreact. The reality is that women in Ontario must know, and we want them to know, that there is no law in Canada that constrains the delivery of this service and that it is funded in Ontario under the health plan. I counsel all women who may be served with process in this kind of case or any other kind of case to understand that decisions are made by independent judges about entitlements to remedies.
If they want assistance, then the taxpayers of Ontario provide it under the legal aid plan; but if they simply say they will not go to court, then they run the risk, as all of us do, that orders may be made against their interests. In that eventuality they may have rights to appeal and we are anxious to advance those rights as far as we can. But if the honourable member thinks that, like Robespierre, I can wipe the court aside, I have to tell him that I cannot do that.
Mr B. Rae: I guess what we would like is an assurance that there will not be other people who will be put through this torment. That is the assurance we want from the Attorney General.
The Speaker: Is your question to the Attorney General?
ENVACC RESOURCES INC
Mr B. Rae: My question is for the Deputy Premier in the absence of the Premier (Mr Peterson). We have received certain documents relating to the relationship between Envacc Resources and a company called Edgcumbe Consulting Services which was hired by Envacc Resources, various members of the government of Ontario and various ministries of the government of Ontario.
An internal note as a result of the 23 June 1988 meeting of this group, including Mr Muzzo, with the Premier, at which the member for Mississauga West (Mr Mahoney) was present, indicates: “He” -- that is to say, the Premier -- “indicated to Steve Mahoney that he should set up the political end of things with the Metro caucus, etc. He indicated that there would be hundreds of problems as this thing went along and that, through Steve and Eric, as they arose, we should come to him.”
On page 2 of the same minutes, it says, “As the meeting was breaking up, he” -- that is to say, the Premier -- “said to Steve that as well as facilitating things, he should keep abreast of the project.”
As a result of this meeting, the member for Mississauga West accompanied members of Envacc Resources to meetings in Japan. I wonder if the Deputy Premier can explain why the government of Ontario paid for that particular trip through the budget of the Ministry of Transportation.
Hon R. F. Nixon: First, I should make it clear in response to the question that there is nothing hidden about the trip of the member for Mississauga West to Japan. It was fully covered in the press at the time. He reported to his former colleagues on regional council in Mississauga and has made a formal report to the Premier. Any implication that somehow this is something that has recently been revealed by the probing of the Leader of the Opposition would be incorrect.
I think also the honourable member knows that the whole matter of waste disposal is an extremely important issue. The honourable member may think it is important only from some sort of a series of allegations of a political nature. Most of the people in the province are aware that this is a pressing issue and the honourable member for Mississauga West has been a leader during his days in regional council and in this Legislature in these matters. He was, and is, an obvious person to be selected by the government to go to Japan and make the investigations as to what procedures they use there in the control of these refuse materials, which perhaps some people think are even in advance of our own research and development.
Mr B. Rae: The issue is not the member’s expertise; the issue is the relationship between this government and Envacc Resources, which is only one of a number of companies--and I understand there are also some public sector groups -- that are making a bid on this question. The issue is the relationship between the member for Mississauga West and indeed other members of the government, including the Premier, and this particular company and the advantages given to this particular company by the government of Ontario. That is the issue of the day; that is the issue before us.
Mr Black: Be specific.
Mr B. Rae: I will be quite specific. My friends should listen up and they will hear.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: I wonder if the Deputy Premier can comment on this letter, on Government of Ontario, Canada, letterhead, to a Japanese company from the trade representative of the government of Ontario in Japan. As a background to the visit by Mr Mahoney, Dr Berry and Mr Edgcumbe, the letter says as follows: “The government of Ontario, Canada, has a plan to set up a waste management system to treat municipal solid waste amounting to 3,200,000 tons a year coming out in southern Ontario.”
I might point out that this letter is dated 5 August 1988, long before the government of Ontario told anybody else about such a plan.
The Speaker: Question, please.
Mr B. Rae: “In an effort to prepare a recommendation and proposal for solving this problem, Mr Steve Mahoney, MPP; Dr E. E. Berry, E. E. Berry and Associates Ltd, and Mr D. L. Edgcumbe, Edgcumbe Consulting Services, are scheduled to come to Japan in the week of August 7” --
The Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr B. Rae: The question I have for the Deputy Premier is simply this: Does he not realize that the impression given by this correspondence is that the government of Ontario is endorsing a particular private sector project for which Mr Mahoney was down there?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I certainly would like to disabuse the honourable member of that impression. He is surely aware -- it has been reiterated and it is obvious -- that any contracts of this nature that will be let in the future, as they have in the past, will be let by competitive tender. There is no reason other than that, and that is simply a fact.
An additional fact is that a member of the Legislature, who has the confidence of the government, has gone to Japan to see the state-of-the-art facilities there. This is not the first time that sort of travel has been undertaken, as the honourable member knows.
Mr B. Rae: Travel in search of an answer to a public policy problem is one thing; travel on behalf of a particular company is a very different kettle of fish when you have a competitive process.
I would like to ask the Deputy Premier: Was he aware of the fact that on 26 August 1988 a confidential memorandum on the letterhead of Edgcumbe Consulting Services was sent to J. M. Beatty at Gardiner, Roberts? Mr Beatty, as I am sure the Deputy Premier is fully aware, is one of the principals in the Envacc Resources group. It says:
“On Monday, August 8. 1988, a short meeting in my hotel room was held to assess our meeting with Clean Japan Centre. Present were EEB, DLE and SM. This meeting was taped by myself and a transcript follows. Part of this is SM tape talking to my tape with him present.”
We have several extensive memoranda from the member for Mississauga West on a confidential basis --
The Speaker: Thank you. Did you ask the member if he is aware?
Mr B. Rae: I want to ask the Deputy Premier: Does he not appreciate -- we all understand that members are interested in public policy problems and go all over the world --
The Speaker: Question?
Mr B. Rae: The question is: Why is the member for Mississauga West dictating memoranda for Mr Beatty when he knows full well that Mr Beatty is a principal in Envacc Resources?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I would just say the interpretation the honourable member is putting on this matter is entirely erroneous. My colleague the member for Mississauga West went there simply to find out the facts in this difficult policy area, and as a matter of fact, many people feel the government should be moving very rapidly in order to move towards some sorts of solutions in this connection.
The fact that the honourable member recites some initials or the fact that a tape was used seems to have overtones of some nefarious deal. I simply reject that, and the fact that he introduces that stuff into his question is not the sort of thing that is appropriate in matters of public policy.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Deputy Premier as well. It was two weeks ago that the Premier (Mr Peterson) of this province announced that a public inquiry would be held as soon as possible to get to the bottom of the issue relating to Mr Ashworth and Mrs Starr as well as Tridel Corp, and it was yesterday that the Attorney General (Mr Scott) indicated that it would be cabinet that would review the terms of reference for the inquiry prior to any final decisions being made.
I wonder if the Deputy Premier could confirm whether cabinet in fact at today’s meeting dealt with the issue of the terms of reference for the inquiry so that we can be assured we are getting under way with this very important matter.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member, as a former cabinet minister, would know that I cannot and will not comment on that.
Mr Brandt: I thought it was a very reasonable question --
Hon Mr Conway: And I thought it was a reasonable answer.
Mr Brandt: -- in that I was not asking him the decision that was made by cabinet, but the answer was not nearly as reasonable as my question was, I say to the government House leader.
My second question is that we on this side of the House have some concerns in regard to the question of when that matter, according to the direction suggested by the Attorney General, is pursued by cabinet and when it reviews the terms of reference, there are in fact certain identified cabinet ministers who may have a vested interest in the way in which those terms of reference are drafted.
Can the Deputy Premier give this House the assurance that those cabinet ministers who do have a direct and very public association with Mrs Starr that has already been identified will not be privy to that discussion in cabinet and will he in fact assure this House that they will absent themselves from that cabinet discussion?
Hon R. F. Nixon: No, of course not. The honourable member would know that orders in council are passed on the recommendation of the Premier and he consults with his colleagues in cabinet. When the order in council comes forward, it would be with that authority.
Mr Brandt: I have to say to the Deputy Premier I find this very strange. Those members of cabinet who do in fact have an association with Mrs Starr, and they know who they are, are in direct conflict. The minister says to me, by way of his answer, that they are going to be sitting there in judgement and are going to have some input into the structuring of the inquiry itself. Does he think that is fair and reasonable under the circumstances?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The members of cabinet have the confidence of the Premier and they have sworn to participate in the duties that are assigned to them.
Mr Brandt: To the Deputy Premier: We understand now that, as a result of some of the delays that are built into the timing of this inquiry, we may go on for some time before information is shared with the members of this House in connection with some of the questions that we have been raising.
I wonder if the Deputy Premier could indicate to us when the public trustee’s report is anticipated. Would he assure this House that it will be released to all members at the same time or is he going to attempt to keep that report quiet or in the bowels of the government in some fashion for some lengthy period of time?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I admire the honourable member’s command of the language. I would say to him that at least one of the minor delays, I suppose, was the commitment of the Attorney General to consult with the leader of the third party on a private basis as he draws up the terms of reference that would be part of the order in council. I do not know when the public trustee’s report will be available, although I was interested to see that there were reports in the media today and yesterday, I believe, about comments made by the public trustee.
Mr Brandt: Then could the Deputy Premier indicate to this House whether the Ontario Provincial Police investigation has in fact reached the point where a preliminary report has now been shared with the crown attorney placed in charge of this particular case? Peter Griffiths, I believe, is the gentleman’s name.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not know that it has.
Mr Brandt: Well, we are getting a long way with this whole series of questions today. I wonder if the Deputy Premier could indicate whether or not he and the members of cabinet will be privy to any of the information that is going to be released by the Ontario Provincial Police at the time in which they release their report, or could he indicate to the House how it is intended that the report be released for public consumption?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not know that either.
ENVACC RESOURCES INC
Mr B. Rae: While he is on a roll, I wonder if I might ask another question to the Deputy Premier about somebody who -- I understand from the government telephone book that Gardner Church in fact is responsible to the Deputy Premier and is within his ministry. That is my understanding. He is the deputy minister of the greater Toronto area. I guess they had to put him somewhere and that is where I found him.
I have a memorandum from R. J. Ritchie of CP Rail who apparently had a meeting with Mr Church on 4 November 1988. I am sure the Deputy Premier will know that CP Rail is the parent company of Laidlaw, which is very much involved in the consortium with Envacc Resources.
I wonder if he could tell us why Mr Church would have stated as follows in this discussion: “This consortium” -- that is to say, Envacc, Edgcumbe and Beatty, and Laidlaw -- “was the most advanced in the recycling technology.” He feels that, “The meeting with the Premier on January 7, 1989, will be very positive and the capability of the consortium to develop an alternative to the present dump sites will be enhanced if properly carried out.”
I wonder why his deputy minister would be giving such a clear signal to one of what we now believe will be only one of several competitors that it is way ahead in the bidding race.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not want to confuse the honourable member, but Mr Church is not my deputy minister. If he wants to pursue that, I will explain it further, but I presume he made those statements because he believed them to be true.
Mr B. Rae: Who Mr Church reports to and who this greater Toronto area reports to is one of the great political mysteries of the Peterson government. But I would like to add another thing that Mr Church also said, and I am sure the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) would be interested in this. He said:
“He feels that Toronto can get to 1993 or 1994 with the existing dump sites.... The best way to accomplish alternative solutions to present landfills is for the consortium to allow the public pressure to build. Landfills and dump sites are determined by the public. He indicated the public will be willing to pay more for recycling alternatives if pressure is allowed to build.”
I wonder if the Deputy Premier can tell us, was Mr Church speaking for the government when he said that the best answer to our garbage problem was to allow the pressure to build and get worse before the government would do anything?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member once again has sort of got a two-part question. Mr Church actually reports to the cabinet committee on economic policy, which I chair. We can go into that in an even more intricate way if the member wishes.
I cannot particularly comment on what the member has read, but I believe if he thought about it he would agree that it makes some sense that everybody in this community -- probably including the Leader of the Opposition -- is aware of the difficulty inherent in this issue, which has been growing and building in pressure, if he and Mr Church want to put it that way, for a good long time.
One of the best initiatives in this connection that has come along recently has been recycling, and the member would know how well that has been accepted, probably even in his own household. It is an excellent program indeed and there were even some changes in the budget regarding revenue that is designed to expand that program and see that it is properly funded. So, in many respects the public consciousness of the problem that the member has referred to in these last series of questions has certainly responded into its acceptance of this recycling alternative, which I believe is an important one and I know the member would agree with me.
PREMIER’S OFFICE LEGAL COUNSEL
Mr Harris: I would like to ask the Deputy Premier, in his role as Deputy Premier, if he can tell this House why the Premier (Mr Peterson) needs legal counsel to tell him what to reveal and what not to reveal, and second, does he think it is appropriate that the taxpayers should pay for that legal counsel in this whole question of the inquiry he is going to be involved in?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The member may be referring to Mr Goudge. I presume that he is. Mr Goudge is employed by the Premier’s office on a contract. He is not retained to advise the Premier on what to say and what not to say. He is there to do a job of work in the Premier’s office that the member would, I would expect, applaud. I think it is very important that a person of his talent is there under these circumstances.
Mr Harris: When the conflict-of-interest rules were being developed and the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly was looking at them, there was a motion that was moved by one of the members that before the disclosure statement is filed, the member and his or her spouse and minor children are entitled to obtain legal advice on it at the expense of the Legislative Assembly fund. That was ruled out of order because it came from an opposition member.
In fact, the Attorney General (Mr Scott) commented on that whole situation in this way. The Attorney General said, “The only reason you” -- members of the opposition or ordinary members of the Legislature -- “would want legal advice is on the very dicey question: ‘Should I tell them this or not? Do I really own it or don’t I?’ We do not want a lawyer giving you advice on that score. We want you to say what you believe you own or think you might own.” That is what the Attorney General said when it came to legal advice for members or cabinet ministers on conflict of interest --
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Harris: Does he think it is appropriate that the Premier, at taxpayers’ expense, has his own lawyer to give him advice --
The Speaker: Order. That is the same question.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I agree with what the Attorney General said and which was now quoted by the member of the third party. I simply say again that Mr Goudge is not retained to advise the Premier on anything but the conduct of his responsibility in the Office of the Premier. It is quite appropriate and should be supported by all members of the House.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. The Transitions report has set out a suggested program for action by this government. We all recognize that there is support for this report from all our citizens. What has taken place to date?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The progress to date has been on three different fronts.
First, as the member well knows, about a month ago we announced a $415-million initiative in this House that is going to provide a number of services to people, including support to families with children by increasing the children’s benefits program, support to social assistance recipients who wish to go back into the workforce and support to those people who will continue to be on social assistance for a while with respect to their shelter subsidy costs.
The second initiative, of course, was my meeting with the other provincial ministers across the country and my meeting with the federal minister to involve them in the implementation of stages 3, 4 and 5.
The third initiative was to begin with my own staff rewriting the legislation so that we can change some of the procedures that are currently in place.
Mr Tatham: Is there any support coming from the federal government for this program?
Hon Mr Sweeney: About five or six weeks ago I met with the federal minister and he indicated that he would respond to my correspondence. As a matter of fact, just last week I received a letter from the Honourable Perrin Beatty indicating that he had a better understanding now of what initiatives we were trying to introduce into this province and a better understanding of the way in which some of the other initiatives which were proposed in the report could impact upon the rest of the country and that he was prepared to meet with me and with other ministers to begin the process of deciding how some of these other initiatives could be implemented.
That letter was received just about a week ago, and I find it encouraging that the federal minister would so write to me.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Minister of Health. I would like to ask the minister if she is aware, and I am sure she is now, of the case involving Edward Budd, who was rushed to Hotel Dieu of St Joseph Hospital in Windsor on 22 June with a dissecting aortic aneurysm. Dr Anderson tried for several hours to find hospital space at Toronto Genera! Hospital, University Hospital in London and Victoria Hospital in London, and could not find a bed. As a result, the patient waited several hours, had to be taken to Detroit and ultimately died.
I would like to ask the minister if that case has been reported to her, whether she has investigated it and what she has to say.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, the member knows, as I mentioned this to him yesterday privately in the House, that I was aware of the case that he mentions.
The doctors made the decision to transfer this patient to Detroit. In these kinds of emergency situations it is common for physicians to use their medical judgement and determine that a patient should be transferred to the nearest medical centre. In this case it was Detroit. We are part of an interprovincial and international network, as patients often come to Ontario for care.
This particular patient received his surgery within a few hours of becoming ill and, unfortunately, he passed away two days after receiving surgery in Detroit.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The minister obviously does not have the facts correct. Dr Anderson is quoted extensively in the newspaper article about this case and Dr Anderson states very clearly that they tried to get this person admitted in the two London hospitals that carry out cardiac surgery and the Toronto General Hospital. The fact of the matter is that they were told there were no beds available. There was not a choice to go to the Detroit hospital; that was the only opportunity that was available to this family and to the doctors.
I would like to ask the minister why it is that beds for emergency heart surgery are not available in Ontario when the minister has said on very many occasions that, at the very least, in Ontario emergency surgery should be able to be carried out.
Hon Mrs Caplan: As I mentioned to the member in the House yesterday, the media reports are incorrect. As I understand it, the information I have is that while calls were made to London, the physician in charge of this case in fact did not call the Metro cardiovascular registry and triage to check availability. There was availability in Metropolitan Toronto.
We know how important it is for physicians to be aware of the triage so they can call. I can tell the member that we are expanding this triage and registry system throughout the province and using our very best efforts to ensure that physicians across the province know of its availability so that in an emergency situation, they can ensure that their patients have access to the services as part of our network, which we are building as close to home as possible.
But I would say very clearly to the member that it is always up to the physician in an emergency situation to use his judgement in sending the patient to the service which is nearest. If he wishes to send him to Detroit, and he did in this case, the Ontario health insurance plan and the Ministry of Health cover those expenses.
Mr Jackson: My question is to the Minister of Health. Yesterday I raised some questions about Chedoke McMaster Hospitals. In response to her comments, the medical personnel at Chedoke McMaster have indicated that the regional program for the neonatal intensive care unit, to quote them directly, is “no longer a credible service” under her current funding formula.
Credibility in this case means that there are referrals of women with very high-risk pregnancies and they are being routinely turned away, thus increasing the chances of neurological damage and physical impairment as their new low-birth-weight children come into the world.
My question to the minister is, would she please tell this House why she responded to my question yesterday -- this is from Hansard -- by saying that “at present the capacity of our perinatal system in this province meets the recommendations of the report of the Advisory Committee on Reproductive Care,” when in fact the report specifically sets out quite a critical need to increase the number of beds per thousand in this province.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, the report recommends a ratio of 1.75 and at the present time the capacity in this province, when one includes all the hospitals providing perinatal services, is about 1.9. Chedoke McMaster is but one of a number of hospitals, 13 in total, which are a part of a regional network providing highly specialized neonatal services.
I want to assure the member that the hospital has assured the ministry that its perinatal services are operational and functioning at the level which the ministry funds. Whoever are advising him are doing a disservice and a discredit to themselves to suggest that the hospital is not providing a very fine service, because we believe it is providing a fine service to the people of Ontario. I think the member should be aware of that.
Mr Jackson: The minister says that they are operating at their funding level; that is why they have cut back their beds. The minister was advised in this House yesterday of four premature babies who had to be turned away from that facility. She responded in this House that the system she funds is working well.
Two hours after she made that statement in this House, a doctor in Georgetown was making desperate phone calls to Chedoke McMaster which, incidentally, rejected a woman who was at 33 weeks’ gestation, the placenta was separating, the mom was at risk of haemorrhaging to death and the baby was at risk of dying. The doctor then tried to get the mother and the child into --
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Jackson: -- Women’s College Hospital and was turned down there. He had to insist that --
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Jackson: -- the Credit Valley Hospital accept this mom, and when it is only funded at a level -- I risk --
The Speaker: Thank you. If the member cannot ask the question --
Mr Jackson: My question, very simply, is --
The Speaker: Please put it.
Mr Jackson: Is this the system the minister has relied on with her staff, who have told her this is a system that is working well, when the woman in Georgetown is put through this?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would be very interested if the member would like to give me the details of the specific case.
It is very important for him to know that we have a system which involves 13 hospitals. At any given time, any one of those hospitals can be stressed and others can be underutilized. The whole purpose of the central registry and the central phone number is to ensure that patients are taken to the nearest available service.
I would say to the member that the information we have is that the present capacity within the system meets and in fact exceeds the recommendations of the reproductive care committee. We are always, of course, reviewing that, but if he has specific examples of individuals who are dissatisfied or to whom we can give information within the physician community to make sure that they --
The Speaker: Thank you.
FARM TAX REBATE
Mrs Fawcett: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I have in my hand a copy of the Tuesday 20 June edition of Farm and Country. Throughout this particular edition, there are several strongly worded articles suggesting that the farm tax rebate no longer exists. In fact, there is one page that has a copy of the farm tax rebate form with “Cancelled” stamped on it.
This has caused a great deal of confusion and concern in the agricultural portion of my riding of Northumberland. Could the minister please advise us as to the status of the farm tax rebate?
Hon Mr Riddell: I agree that the article the honourable member refers to may well have led readers to believe that the farm tax rebate program has been cancelled. The fact of the matter is that this program has not been cancelled. The farm tax rebate will amount to $140 million in 1989, compared to less than $100 million in 1985 at the time when the administration of this province changed.
However, I will say that the program will be changed to ensure that benefits are targeted to bona fide farmers, according to the original intent of the program. If anybody wants to know what the original intent is, he should just refer to the order in council passed in 1971. It says it right there.
This program will be thoroughly reviewed this year to determine the program criteria for the future, and all farm groups will have an opportunity to make their views known during this review.
Mrs Fawcett: That was most reassuring, and I am sure my constituents will be most anxious to hear that.
My supplementary is, when can those eligible for a farm tax rebate expect payment of this rebate?
Hon Mr Riddell: Payments will be made as farmers complete their applications and return them for processing. I expect that this will take place in October of this year.
NATIVE HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Reville: I have a question for the Minister of Health. The Mushkegowuk council, which represents the communities on western James Bay, is concerned that the Ministry of Health is allowing the James Bay General Hospital to collect payments from the elders for chronic care. As the minister will know, the Mushkegowuk council considers chronic care a health benefit conferred on the first nations by the treaties of 1905 and 1930. Why is the ministry allowing the hospital to collect those copayments?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member is aware, the copayment portion of chronic care represents the cost towards room and board but does not cover medical costs. He should be aware that all residents of Ontario are treated equally and all pay a chronic care copayment accordingly.
Mr Reville: I am not very interested in that mumbo-jumbo. Clearly, when the Mushkegowuk council inquired of the ministry on what authority these payments were being collected, there was no answer from the ministry for four months. At the end of the four months, there was an answer and it cited Ontario regulation 207/89, which was passed after the Mushkegowuk council inquired what authority the government had.
On Thursday last, the minister said that regulations in respect of nursing homes had to be delayed for two years because consultation was necessary, and we still do not have them. In this case, a regulation was passed by this cabinet after receiving a letter from the Mushkegowuk council. Is that because they did not give the government $60,000?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am not even going to respond to the offensive comment of the member opposite, who should know better, and I think in fact does know better. He should know that the federal government does pay for copayment on behalf of native Ontarians in the area of ambulance services, and that all people in Ontario, all residents, are treated equally and all hospitals collect copayments for chronic care. If the natives wish to discuss this matter with the federal government, that is the appropriate authority for those discussions.
The Speaker: Order. Please allow other members to ask questions. The member for Riverdale had his opportunity. Now we will give the opportunity to the member for Leeds-Grenville to ask a question.
OATH OF ALLEGIANCE
Mr Runciman: My question is to the Deputy Premier. In light of the Queen Mother’s visit to the Legislature tomorrow, we in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party thought it might be appropriate to determine whether he and his government colleagues support the position taken by the newly appointed police commissioner, Susan Eng, to not swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am very interested in the visit of the Queen Mother. I thought perhaps, as all of us here are loyalists of one degree or another, that the honourable member might like to know that 50 years ago when Their Majesties visited Toronto and this building and this very chamber, I, at the age of 11, was sitting right up under the clock. Their Majesties sat on double thrones; one of them may be exactly where Mr Speaker sits now. His Majesty, as usual, had on his uniform of Admiral of the Fleet, with that kind of weird hat and long sword.
It was extremely impressive and interesting, Mr Speaker. I see you are taking notes. One of the things I remember is that Dr Dafoe, trivia aficionados would remember, brought the five Dionne quintuplets -- well, if they were quintuplets, I guess there were five of them -- all beautifully dressed.
If Susan Eng did what was legal, I guess it is all right with me.
Mr Runciman: I guess at the end of all that, the Deputy Premier indicated that he is in support of Ms Eng’s refusal to take an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty. We have heard stories -- rumours, it you will -- that the government is considering amendments to the Police Act that will require commissioners to take an oath.
I wonder if the Deputy Premier can confirm that and, if indeed that amendment is forthcoming, whether it will also include retroactivity.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I cannot confirm that. I do not know whether it will or not.
Miss Roberts: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. As I am sure the minister is aware, the availability of water in rural southwestern Ontario over the past few years has been a concern for a number of municipalities. Water is essential for economic development, residential growth and the provision of support services, such as fire prevention and protection in communities that are growing, much like the town of Aylmer in my riding.
Given the increasing need of communities like Aylmer to have a continuous and reliable supply of water available, what can a municipality do to increase its water supply?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member will know that when a municipality wishes to receive financial assistance for these purposes from the Ministry of the Environment, it makes a formal application to do so. All water and sewage project proposals referred to my ministry go to what is called the project priority evaluation committee, which objectively determines whether or not the proposed project is, first of all, eligible for funding under our existing grant structure.
It is at that time that the project, if eligible, is given a rating and that rating is based on health-, environmental- and growth-related aspects. A higher priority, as you would expect, Mr Speaker, is given to projects demonstrating a need for the improved health and environmental quality of the area. All eligible projects are then considered for financial assistance, and dependent upon the funds that are available in the fiscal year and the demonstrated need for the undertaking of a project, we approve a number of new works for construction. I could --
The Speaker: I am sure there might be more, but there might be a supplementary and you could be of help then.
Miss Roberts: I thank the minister very much for that information, but given the process he has outlined, if a review of the application concludes that the proposal has not met the minimum criteria to be considered for funding, what other avenues can or should a municipality explore to increase the local water supply in order that it can meet its needs in the short or the long term?
Hon Mr Bradley: If the project is deemed ineligible for funding, and that does happen in some circumstances, it is likely that there is not sufficient documentation to prove the need for the actual works to be constructed and that it was not adequately demonstrated in the proposal. PPEC, which I referred to, in the Ministry of the Environment will notify the proponent of this and will suggest that the proponent, if he or she has further information that might be provided in a further application, do so.
There is also the initiative one may take where a local municipality believes that for growth-related reasons it wishes to undertake such a project; in fact, it can undertake that project utilizing its own funds. The eligible funds that are provided by a number of ministries, including the Ministry of the Environment, are there, provided on a priority basis with strict criteria to determine where the need is most. In our case, as I say, it is in terms of health considerations and environmental considerations.
If a municipality is really in dire straits, approaches may also be made to other ministries that might be of some assistance to that particular community.
Mr Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services regarding the implementation of the Social Assistance Review Committee’s report. He has announced $80 million of new expenditures this year. He has not provided benefit increases for single disabled persons in subsidized housing. He gave single employables only half the increase SARC proposed. He did not lift the asset ceilings or change the asset rules. He did not extend eligibility to 18- or 20-year-olds living at home. He did not extend eligibility to refugee claimants or sponsored immigrants or anything the multicultural community was interested in. He has not improved case load ratios.
The Speaker: You have a question, I presume?
Mr Allen: He did not take the first steps towards the income supplementation and benefits to the working poor. He did not make special needs that are necessities mandatory. He did not introduce new policies regarding overpayments and has not --
The Speaker: I believe the question is, did the minister not do all those things?
Mr Allen: No, the question to the minister is, is he going to announce in the very near future these measures, or if not, is he going to announce a timetable in which he is going to fulfil them?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I recollect that either that member or another member of his caucus made the observation prior to my announcement that if we got the $400 million that was recommended in the SARC report, we would have done our job, and that if we did not get it, we would not have done our job. We got the $400 million, plus.
I clearly indicated at the time of that announcement that this minister, this ministry and this government had to make choices, that the total number of recommendations in the report were far beyond the $400-million figure. We had to make choices. I made those choices. I stand by those choices. Those choices included giving preference to families with children. Not only did we meet the recommendation; we exceeded the recommendation for families with children.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Those choices included providing sufficient funds for those --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Allen: One is not going to get into a war of statistics, but in fact there was $30 million of attrition on the original figures that projected the $415 million in the first place.
One matter the minister has not attended to that was given intense scrutiny by the SARC report was the whole question of procedural fairness, not one of the more costly measures but one that certainly would deal more justly with the case load. He has not set up the council of users to review that whole process of discretionary decision-making or to advise generally on procedural fairness and the matter is urgent. For example, in Ottawa at the moment, the social services departments there are boasting publicly about the amount they are saving in pushing welfare recipients back to work.
The Speaker: And your question?
Mr Allen: I want to ask the minister if it appears to him to be procedurally fair for them on the one hand to be saying to people who have quit a job that they will not get payments for five days regardless of what the conditions of that work were --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Allen: -- or on the other hand, when these people go to work, they never follow up with regard to the nature of the work?
The Speaker: Order. I guess there was a question there.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would point out to the honourable member that there were elements of procedural fairness within the recommendations that we have in fact met. The very first one we met, at the same time the report came out, was to provide for the cost of utilities for those people who did not have them included in the rent. That was a recommendation for procedural fairness and we met it.
Another recommendation for procedural fairness was with respect to 60-to 64-year-old men who did not have the same access to resources that women did. That was a recommendation. We met that recommendation.
A third recommendation with respect to procedural fairness was with respect to those people over the age of 65 who could not qualify for a Canada pension and who would lose some of their resources once they reached the age of 65. That was a recommendation. We met that recommendation and we are continuing to do so.
The honourable member talked about the funds for the disabled. I made a commitment when I became minister that I would ensure that the maximum amount available to the disabled in this process would equal or would exceed that available to elderly people from the guaranteed annual income system for the aged. That was one of procedural fairness. We met that one as well.
Mr Cureatz: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. The minister knows that I have spoken to him privately, that I have written him letters and that I have complained about when he is going to reconstruct Highway 2 between Courtice and Bowmanville. He has put up a big fancy sign that says the road is going to be constructed. Over four weeks, I have not seen one shovel of dirt yet for its reconstruction. Not only that, Highway 2 from Bowmanville east through Newcastle to Newtonville now has a fancy sign on it.
I want to ask the minister, when is Highway 2 from Bowmanville east towards Newtonville going to be reconstructed? I have a picture of myself beside the new sign. I want to see if he can guess what his new sign says.
Hon Mr Fulton: I could hear the member for Durham East, but I am having trouble seeing him, let alone seeing the picture. He is not doing our sign any credit at all.
The issue of Highway 2, which is some 40 years old in terms of the current surface, has been brought to me by the member, as he has indicated, and by my friend the member for Northumberland (Mrs Fawcett) as well, as they share that same highway. He would be aware that some rehabilitation work is in fact taking place this year, and he would also know that we do not put dirt on a paved road. If you did, you would have a problem, but we do sometimes put it under.
We spend nearly $300 million in maintenance on our highway system in Ontario. I think the member would be aware and I am sure would be the first to admit that never in the history of this province has he seen so much work, rehabilitation and new work, in this province.
Mr Cureatz: I say to the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), if he wants to listen, that it is a good thing the Queen Mother is not driving along Highway 2 in my riding because the chauffeur would have a tough time keeping the limo on the road.
The Speaker: The supplementary should go to the minister.
Mr Cureatz: I say to the minister, does he know what that sign says, the new sign he put up on Highway 2, the Queen’s highway from Bowmanville out towards Newtonville? Here is what the sign says, “Rough road ahead.” No walls, no barriers and now no roads in my riding of Durham East.
I say to the minister that I want to know if the reason he is not fixing up Highway 2 through my riding is that I am in opposition, and while he is at it, how about fixing up Highway 7A to Manchester and Scugog, and let’s cut the grass his ministry owns at Kirby’s store.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Fulton: I totally reject the allegation made by the member that because the highway goes through an opposition riding, we would not pay it the same attention we do anywhere else. I tell the member that the very highway he talks about starts in my riding.
Mr Tatham: “To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the government of Ontario in its discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act has refused to allow an equal partnership between teachers and government in management of the pension fund, establishment of an acceptable contribution increase, benefit adjustments, equitable treatment of future surpluses and a satisfactory dispute resolution process,
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to insist that the Treasurer of Ontario negotiate with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation towards an equitable settlement.”
It is signed by three people and yours truly.
The Speaker: Before I recognize any other members for the petitions, I find it very difficult to hear. It would be very helpful if -- thank you.
Mr Miller: I have a petition here addressed 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:
“Whereas it is our constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of our preference;
“And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
It is signed by 20 constituents in the riding of Huron.
Mr Brandt: I have a petition to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, signed by a number of constituents of mine from the Sarnia riding. The petition goes on to outline the concerns of these constituents with respect to the problems of pension and the teachers’ superannuation fund which they want to bring to the attention of this assembly.
Mr Campbell: I rise to present a very special petition from a group of students at Arthur Robinson Public School, a grade 6 class, who have been studying Ontario government. They have culminated their studies with a petition, and a very wise one I believe.
“To the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“In 1988, there were many deaths on Highway 69 south of Sudbury. We think that the dangerous shoulder lanes south of Parry Sound are a factor in these accidents. We think that drivers should not be asked to drive on a paved shoulder.
“We believe that the government should attempt to make this highway safe. We ask that the government: (1) eliminate driving on the paved shoulders; and (2) increase Highway 69 to four lanes extending to Sudbury as soon as possible.”
I affix my signature in support of the petition.
Mr Kanter: I have a petition on the subject of naturopathy.
“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:
“Whereas it is my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my preference;
“And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
The petition is signed by 20 residents of Ontario and I have affixed my signature to this petition.
SECURITY IN PREMISES USED BY PUBLIC
Mr Sterling: “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:
“We request that the Ministry of the Attorney General withdraw Bill 149, An Act to amend the Trespass to Property Act, which we believe is unnecessary and without mandate.
“While we respect the rights of minorities and youth, whom Bill 149 alleges to protect, we oppose the way in which the proposed legislation will erode the ability of owners and occupiers to provide a safe and hospitable environment for their patrons or customers. We are further concerned about the legislation’s potential for increasing confrontation in the already difficult process of removing individuals who create disturbances on publicly used premises.”
I have signed that along with 425 other petitioners. This brings to a total of 1,553 people in this province who would like to see an end to Bill 149.
Mr Reycraft: I have four petitions. All of them are properly addressed and all of them call on the Treasurer of Ontario (Mr R. F. Nixon) to negotiate with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on the matter of the Teachers’ Superannuation Act.
One of them is signed by 27 constituents from Wentworth North, the second by five constituents from Hamilton Centre, the third by 10 constituents from Scarborough East and the last by 33 constituents from the riding of Renfrew North. I have attached my signature to the petitions, as required by the rules.
Mr D. W. Smith: I have six petitions here. They are all the same.
“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:
“The Ministry of Education has made evolutionism a compulsory core unit in senior OAC (previously grade 13) history and science. Since evolutionism and creationism are completed acts in the past, neither can be proven nor disproven. In fairness to all parents and students, equal time should be given in presenting the underlying assumptions of each. Through the two-model approach, the skills of critical thinking such as recognition of bias, awareness of society’s influence on one’s bias and the awareness of assumptions can allow students to examine their own belief system and better appreciate an opposing view.”
This is signed by approximately 56 members from the riding of Lambton, and Mississauga and Toronto. I will affix my name to the bottom.
Mr Jackson: I am pleased to present a petition.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We beg leave to petition the government as follows:
“We, the business educators of Ontario, wish to inform the Legislature of our concern with the increasing of core curriculum, which will do nothing to improve the performance of young people or to encourage them to stay in school longer.
“We submit to you over 45 signatures and letters in the fervent hope that the government of Ontario will more adequately encourage business studies in the public school curriculum.”
I have signed the petition and it also has my support.
Mr Runciman: I have two petitions, one dealing with concerns related to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act and the management of the pensions by the government.
Mr Runciman: The second I am tabling on behalf of my colleague the member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr Pollock) who is, as most members know, under the weather and unable to deal with this himself at this time. This petition deals with concerns of residents in his riding in respect to the implementation procedures related to Bill 8, the French Language Services Act.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
Mr Furlong from the standing committee on regulations and private bills presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:
Bill Pr13, An Act respecting the City of Hamilton.
Bill Pr30, An Act respecting Regis College.
Your committee begs to report the following bills with certain amendments:
Bill Pr1, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.
Bill Pr16, An Act respecting London Regional Art and Historical Museums.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Conway moved that, notwithstanding any standing order, the House shall meet in the afternoon tomorrow, Thursday 6 July 1989, from 1:15 pm to 2:15 pm and from 3:30 pm to 6 pm.
Hon Mr Conway: I would like, for the information of honourable members, to very briefly indicate that what we have agreed to is that tomorrow being Thursday we will have the normal sitting in the morning for private members’ business.
Then, instead of meeting at 1:30 pm through until 6 pm, in recognition that the Queen Mother will be on the grounds tomorrow for an official event between 2:30 pm and 3:15 pm, I believe it is, at which all honourable members, I know, will want to be in attendance, we have agreed that we will reconvene tomorrow at 1:15 pm for business that the House leaders will organize.
My guess is that we may have to move more quickly into question period simply to accommodate the business. We are going to have to try to organize the business to accommodate the visit and all members.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
COURTS OF JUSTICE AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Sweeney, on behalf of Mr Scott, moved first reading of Bill 43, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Sweeney: A recent amendment to the rules of civil procedure eliminated automatic stays of order pending appeals. This bill would ensure that the automatic stay principle continues to apply, as before, to orders made under the Landlord and Tenant Act.
CENTRE CULTUREL D’ORLÉANS ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 SUR LE CENTRE CULTUREL D’ORLÉANS
Mr Morin moved first reading of Bill Pr6, An Act respecting the Cultural Centre of Orleans Act.
M. Morin propose la première lecture du projet de loi Pr6, Loi concernant le Centre culturel d’Orléans.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
TOBACCO SALE TO MINORS STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Sterling moved first reading of Bill 44, An Act to amend certain Acts Concerning the Sale of Tobacco to Minors.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Sterling: The purpose of this bill is to provide for better enforcement of the provisions in the Minors’ Protection Act prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors. The bill amends the Minors’ Protection Act to increase the fine for selling tobacco to minors from a minimum of $2 and a maximum of $200 to a minimum of $50 and a maximum of $5,000. In setting the fine, judges are required to take into account the amount of profit the vendor made from the sale of tobacco in the year preceding the conviction.
The bill also amends the Retail Sales Tax Act to require vendors to have an authorization attached to their vendor’s permits in order to sell tobacco to customers. The authorization can be suspended or revoked if a vendor sells tobacco to a minor.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 37, An Act to amend the Assessment Act.
Mr Charlton: When I ended my comments yesterday, I was talking about an example of a small businessman who had been in to see me in my riding, the impact on him of the business percentages in the Assessment Act and the inadequacy that we see in this piece of legislation because it fails to deal with the real problems that are there. It is like so many things that we have done over the course of the last 20 years since we had our first major study on the property tax problems in this province completed in 1967.
We have tinkered around the edges at playing with the problems, but politically we have run away from taking on the whole project of making property taxes in this province fair, equitable and understandable. In the case of the small businessman in question in my riding, some of the Liberal members, because I had not finished the example and I was forced to adjourn the debate, did not understand how it was connected with the bill. So I am going to try now to make that connection for members.
Essentially, this small businessman has a very small store. He has been operating that store for some 30 years in the area. He is an established part of the community. But I think, as all members understand, those very small, independent variety-type stores have been under and continue to be under severe pressure from the much larger manager-operated chain variety convenience stores that have been popping up all over the place over the course of the last 15 years.
There are a number of other things that are happening that result from the advent of those chain stores. The most recent thing to affect this particular small businessman is the fact that the soft drink companies have now said to him: “Look, the minimum order you could make for soft drinks was 15 cases. Now your minimum will be 35 cases.” The storeroom he has out back will not handle that kind of load on a regular basis. This has resulted, though, directly from the marketing practices and therefore the purchasing practices, the stocking practices, of the chain stores. It is putting this businessman at a very serious competitive disadvantage.
How does that relate to what we have here in these business percentages in the Assessment Act? I want members to think about why we have staggered business percentages. It was to try to create, 100 years ago, some fairness between different types of business with different kinds of competitive advantages in their operations. The minister does not seem to realize, though, that the graduation that is reflected in these business percentages is 100 years out of date. It has not been changed substantially in 100 years. There have been some tinkering changes, as we are doing here again today, but there have been no significant changes in the approach to these business percentages, where the business percentage applies to a whole category of business even though we know they are not similar in a competitive way any more.
The small men’s clothing store that sits out on a main street strip kind of development is in a totally different circumstance than the men’s clothing store in a large mall. They do not compete with each other. The men’s clothing store in the mall competes with the other men’s clothing stores in the mall and with the department stores around price and around quality, but it does not compete with the other businesses out there in the old strip developments in the older sections of our ridings and our cities. But under this piece of legislation, those people are all charged the same business tax at the same percentage as if they were comparable businesses. They are no longer comparable businesses. They have not been for years and years now.
The Smith commission in 1967, which did its work from 1963 to 1967, clearly set that out for us in hard, no-nonsense terms. The taxation of business properties was the subject of a special study by the Smith commission, and it could find absolutely nothing that lent support to the graded rate structure presently in the act. Unfortunately, this Legislature failed to deal with those recommendations.
Again in 1977 we had the report of the Commission on the Reform of Property Taxation in Ontario. They recommended in the strongest terms yet again the fact that the present graduated rate structure for application to business assessments in Ontario made no sense, was unfair and should be eliminated Again, the Conservative government of the day failed to have the political courage to take those property tax issues on.
I cannot blame this government for the failures in 1977, but what it is doing here today in 1989, 12 years later, is precisely the same thing: tinkering around with an inherently unfair, insupportable system. Both of those studies have clearly set that out after endless hearings across this province. It is time we had a government in this province that is prepared to stand up and to take on the political questions that are controversial rather than play around with questions like the fiasco we went through on Sunday shopping, and deal with some of the issues that have some real importance and impact for all the taxpayers in Ontario as reflected by the Assessment Act and the inequities that are still rampant right through the assessment system and are specifically reflected by the inequities in these graduated business percentages that apply.
Stop and think about it for a minute. We complain when a business that makes hundreds of millions of dollars of profit pays no income tax. Is it any fairer when two commercial enterprises -- because they both happen to be retail and selling similar kinds of products, albeit the products of one may be triple the price of the products of the other, but they happen to be in some kind of accommodation that they run their business out of -- are paying business taxes based on the assessed value of their property?
How many members from urban areas who have major malls in their areas have sat down and talked with the merchants in those malls about the level of rents they are paying in those malls in -- I should not say less valuable -- the urban areas of the province where real estate values have not escalated quite as quickly as in Metro Toronto. Even in those centres, merchants are paying $30 and $40 a square foot for rent. In some places here in Toronto they are paying as high as $60, and probably even more in some of the newer malls.
Those merchants are paying their business taxes to the municipality based on those enormous speculative rents, rents that have been speculated up and up by the developers of this province, not by anything that is very sane or rational. Members have heard us talk in this Legislature about the speculation that is going on in the housing market, and that is bad enough, but these people are actually paying business taxes on their business based on that kind of unacceptable speculation.
Yet what do we do? We come in with a piece of legislation, Bill 31, and we tinker with one percentage in a list of percentages that presently range from 25 per cent to 140 per cent. It will now range from 25 per cent to 75 per cent when this phase-out is finished under Bill 37, but the list will still be inherently unfair. It will not reflect anything that is real. Why are we tinkering with the top number on the list when we know the whole list is a problem? Why is this government not prepared to stand up and take action?
As my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) said yesterday in his comments, we have some sympathy for what is happening to the distillers. The 140 per cent is as insane today as the 25 per cent for car parks that I described yesterday, the very kinds of things we are trying to discourage in our downtown urban cores. We are trying to encourage people to use public transit, so whom do we tax at the lowest rate? Parking lots. So every time a building gets torn down, what goes in? A parking lot, for sure. It is going to provide a place for people to park, and reasonably cheaply, so that they can compete with public transit and will keep taking their cars downtown. Those very things that we are trying to discourage in our planning processes, we encourage in our taxation policy.
That list is as inherently stupid and counterproductive from one end to the other, but we are only tinkering with the top end of the list instead of dealing with the whole problem. I guess that is one of the reasons why we decided that we just could not support this bill. Every time this government’s predecessor or this government comes in with minor amendments to the Assessment Act, minor amendments to the huge problem that exists out there in terms of property taxation, it puts the real reform off again that much further. Every time there is a little tinker that fixes some little thing that is part of a problem, it puts the overall package of reform, the overall striving for fairness and equity in a tax system further and further away from reality and implementation. I guess we have just reached the point where we are not prepared to countenance this kind of chicken tinkering any more. We cannot support Bill 37.
Mr Pope: I will speak very briefly, because I know our party’s position has been clearly set on the record by speakers for our party yesterday. The member for Markham (Mr Cousens) and the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) both clearly indicated our party’s position on this bill. I want to add a few comments just to indicate that in the consistency of our position there are a number of issues that have been raised by the speakers, and we anticipate the answers of the Minister of Revenue (Mr Grandmaître) to these concerns.
Quite frankly, with due respect to the staff who are here, who give excellent policy advice to the minister from time to time, he usually does not follow it. I suspect that this is one of these areas in which there is more to the policy decision-making than merely advice of a revenue nature given by the dedicated civil servants who are paid to advise the minister.
In this whole area of spirits and wine and beer, this government is floundering. It started several years ago with a ruling of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It started before that with complaints from importers and other nations over unfavourable pricing practices, charges levied by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and unfair trading practices.
It has had an impact on this government’s stature as a fair trader in North America and in Europe, and this issue and the government’s approach to it had an impact on the free trade debate. In fact, this government, for whatever reason it saw fit, used spirits and wine and beer as instruments with which to engage in guerrilla warfare with the federal government over international trade issues.
I think we are entitled to know from the Minister of Revenue whether there is another agenda here that is being set in the context of free trade disagreements between the federal and provincial governments and whether in fact the Minister of Revenue is opting for the same strategy that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) adopted today; that is, the government does not level out the playing field, it increases taxes and it takes steps that are bound to lead to complaints from international competitors about competitive effects on the distilling industry.
Quite frankly, it is a very troublesome issue. I am not saying that it is exclusive to this administration at all, but in the context of the GATT ruling and our obligations, in the context of complaints of trading partners and people whose market we ourselves value, I think we are entitled to know.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Loss of jobs through free trade.
Mr Pope: Yes, there are jobs involved. There are jobs involved in both ends of the equation, which is something that the government has understood when it came to trade.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: There have been 33,000 jobs lost in the last six months.
Mr Pope: The Minister of Revenue is now parroting a certain press conference held yesterday by the Council of Canadians, or whatever they call themselves, with respect to 33,000 jobs lost, which leads me to believe that part of the agenda on this bill is, in fact, trade policy.
If that is the case, the minister had better stand up and say what the policy decision is with respect to trade --
Hon Mr Grandmaître: You are answering yourself.
Mr Pope: -- and why again, as the minister seems to be confirming by his interjections, the minister is standing up and using a revenue piece of legislation to participate in a trade debate that was settled in the last federal election. For some reason, this government does not seem to understand that fact.
I think we are entitled to know what their policies are and whether or not this bill is an instrument of something other than revenue reform. We are entitled to know that. The member for Markham raised it as a question in his comments. Other members have raised it in their comments with respect to this bill and I think we are entitled to know. We are entitled to know from this minister.
We have a Treasurer today with respect to beer who at the end of May took one position on the issue of imported beer and today takes quite a different position, no doubt because it has been discussed in cabinet and there has been a decision made that they are going to start another uproar over the access of imported beer into this province -- something almost as silly as their water bill, which was designed to do nothing more than provoke a confrontation with the federal government.
I think we are entitled to know what their agenda is and why the Treasurer would sock it to the consumers of this province for $1 million in this simple announcement today, rather than reducing taxes and charges that the consumers --
Hon Mr Wrye: Perhaps the member could speak to the bill. Perhaps he could speak on Bill 37.
Mr Pope: If the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations wants to give a speech, why does he not stand up and give his speech? I will yield the floor for a few minutes and we will let him carry on with his statement that he is obviously anxious to make.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Please continue. No interjections and please continue on Bill 37.
Mr Pope: The Minister of Northern Development (Mr Fontaine) as well wishes to make some statements. These interjections cause me to wonder whether or not there is something more to this than a simple revenue matter. Maybe I had better take some more time so that we can get to the bottom of it.
As I say -- and there is some linkage in this -- with respect to imported beer the Treasurer today indicated an increase in charges to the tune of $1 million, the net effect of which was discussed by opposition spokesmen in response to the Treasurer’s statement.
We know exactly what is going to happen. There are going to be complaints, again, against the Ontario government with respect to its policies on imports of beer and wine and distilled products into this jurisdiction. Once again Ontario is going to he at odds with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, once again Ontario is going to be at odds with a federal or a national consensus with respect to this policy area, and we do not think it is appropriate that once again Ontario is the renegade when it comes to trying to develop a comprehensive national policy that is going to be acceptable in international trading circles.
Now, if we see in this bill that, rather than levelling the playing field, there is going to be another incentive, another financial initiative, another financial inducement offered to the domestic industry, at the same time that there is no move to level the playing field from the point of view of others who are competing on an import basis, we are entitled to know what the impact of this is going to be in the long term upon our exports to other jurisdictions.
Yes, tax policies, tax measures are reviewed by American authorities and by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and by the European Community as indicators of government attitude towards imports. The indicators of that attitude towards imports reflect themselves in policies that may affect the ability, for instance, of dressed lumber and medium-density fibreboard products to gain access in the European market, something that many governments have worked on for a number of years. It affects the ability of Ontario lumber producers to gain access into the European common market, to get some compensation from the French government, and it has an impact on the ability of the Ontario Lumber Manufacturers Association in its efforts, along with its confrères from Quebec, to establish a presence for eastern Canada in the European market. It is all related, and I do not think that to try to indicate that it is not is a fair assessment of it.
I think the Minister of Revenue owes these kinds of explanations and clear statements to the Legislature and those who are looking on these proceedings, that kind of response and that kind of clear statement of policy, I would presume. What are the international trade consequences of this policy? Because surely that had to be examined by the cabinet when the decision was made to introduce this legislation, what the international trade consequences of this legislation are going to be. When the Minister of Revenue answers those questions, obviously we will have a clearer idea of the direction the government is heading in.
My colleagues, as I indicated earlier, put our party’s position on the record. I respect their position and obviously our party will vote according to the position of our party that has been put forward in this assembly.
Mr Allen: I rise to speak briefly on Bill 137, An Act to amend the Assessment Act, with regard to the taxation of business properties. My colleagues have made a number of remarks, some more extensive than others, with respect to this bill and I find myself in general agreement with them. I am not going to take the same tack as the previous speaker, although I thought that his remarks were very well taken and the considerations he put forward ones the government needs to bear very much in mind on the kind of issue presented by this legislation.
I think a number of matters trouble us with regard to this legislation, not least of all the fact that it came into Orders and Notices very fast. The compendium, for example, is dated 15 May but the bill was not introduced nor the compendium tabled until 21 June, which is just a few days ago. Printed copies were not available until just shortly before this debate began and suddenly it has become a priority item. It does not really make a great deal of sense to us that this is the state of play with this bill at this point in time.
The purpose of the bill, of course, is to tackle one very specific item within the taxation of business properties; namely, that of the tax paid by distillers, which stands at the level of 140 per cent of the assessed value of the property and which is the highest tax paid by any corporate entity in the province. The proposal is that the assessment be reduced to the next highest level of taxation; namely, 75 per cent of assessed value.
What strikes us as most inappropriate about the legislation is that it fails yet again to tackle the question of the whole schedule of business properties taxation. It leaves the scandal of the differentials, which would still then range between 25 per cent and 75 per cent, standing in the legislation with no rationale provided for those percentages, nothing in terms of ability to pay or any other considerations that should be dictating those particular percentages.
Why then, one asks, should one move one of the percentages and not others or all? And if one moves them, to what level and why? Why is 75 per cent chosen rather than the 140 per cent for the distilling industry? There is no particular reason which makes sense of this legislation for us that would lead us to think we should vote for such a move.
The fact of the matter is that study after study of it in this Legislature by committees or commissions have recommended various alterations to the approach to business properties taxation. For example, the special study that was undertaken as long ago as 1967 -- 22 years ago -- recommended that there was no defensible reason for the structure of the rate assessments at that time. What it then went on to suggest was that there should be a flat business occupancy rate on a taxable assessment of 50 per cent.
Whatever was thought about that at the time, it was not implemented. Of course, there are problems with a flat rate too. A flat rate takes no account of the state of an industry, its market, its state of capital development or any other matters. There would still be winners and losers under a flat rate imposed on an unpredictable, unfair and discriminatory basis. So that was not a particularly happy solution and obviously it was not selected.
At the same time, a select committee of this Legislature looked over the matter and decided after all to go back to a graduated tax that would range between 10 per cent and 40 per cent. In the first place, we have a study recommending that there was no rational basis for a graduated business tax, and then the select committee recommends the exact reverse in its proposal. Again, nothing was done because obviously it was quite irrational to move counter to the proposal of the study in the first place.
Then, again, some 12 years ago the report of the Commission on the Reform of Property Taxation in Ontario concluded that a 50 per cent flat rate would be appropriate. But what was the reason? Essentially, the reason was that it would provide about the same amount of revenue as the present graded rate system, and so we should go for it.
It sort of reminds us of the recent reaction of the Treasurer to the land speculation tax when it was proposed to him. He did not really consider whether this tax would have some beneficial results on the market in development land and therefore in the price of houses. All he was concerned about was whether it would raise more or less money. He said it did not have much advantage because it would not raise very much money for the government. Obviously, that is not a particularly sound basis upon which to calculate our taxation.
Yes, you do need a certain amount of money to do the things that government has to do, and so a total amount overall has to be raised to do those things. But when it comes to specific taxes and the divisions within specific taxes, it is quite obvious that the class of entities being taxed need to be dealt with fairly and without discrimination. In that respect, a 50 per cent flat tax is just as discriminatory as an arbitrary graded rate.
So once again, we come out of a proposal with a nonimplementation and we have stayed that way ever since. So when we come up to this particular proposal, we have nothing better to fly with than we had 22 years ago, 12 years ago or yesterday. All that we have is an irrational, arbitrary series of percentages that are discriminatory and help nobody. We do not see that in that context, we should be making any moves with regard to any of the business categories indicated at this point in time.
If the government wants to approach us with a proposal that makes some sense of business properties taxation, it should please present that to us. Let us look at it and examine it closely. But in the meantime, let’s not kid ourselves that we are doing anything particularly important or helpful when we tinker around with these items one at a time.
We would propose that, for the time being, the current schedule simply be left frozen until a new one is worked out. It would appear, from certain other respects, that the proposal that is being made to alter the distillers tax is related in some fashion to the industry’s claim that it is running below 50 per cent of capacity and that total sales volume has decreased since 1981 by 19 percent.
Quite honestly, while I recognize that there are labour and job implications in any industry, I certainly recognize that the distilling and the brewing industries are not ones that are highly labour-intensive. Second, as was cited by our finance critic yesterday in story after story after story in the newspapers reporting on the state of play of the profit situation of distillers and distilling industries in Ontario, it is quite obvious that the industry itself is not in any deep financial trouble. So the notion that this should be adjusted because the industry is somehow 50 per cent below capacity does not exactly strike a sympathetic chord with this particular member.
I should add to that that perhaps one might find some reason to rejoice if the distilling industry were running at 50 per cent of capacity and that in some fashion happened to reflect a lowered level of consumption in the public at large. Whether that is true or not, and I am not aware of the case, I would personally say with respect to the brewing industry, as well, I do not think either of those industries contributes a great deal to the welfare of this province overall, when one thinks of the correlation of alcohol consumption with a whole series of social problems that we all are very familiar with.
A second reason I think this should not be granted to this particular industry under the circumstances is that it does not cover the social costs that arise from any of the problems that are associated with alcohol, whether one is talking about the health costs of individuals, the impact that has upon our hospital budgets, the slaughter on our highways, traffic control expenses, family breakdown problems, child and wife abuse and so on. One can go through a great series of social costs for which many of our ministries ante up a lot of money and which therefore the minister in charge of revenues has to provide for.
I see no reason why this industry should be given what amounts in effect to a more than $4-million windfall by virtue of being removed from a 140 percent taxation rate to a 75 per cent taxation rate. The amount is calculated, I should say, on the basis of the compensation that the Treasurer proposes to make to municipalities, the 14 of them that will be affected by this tax.
One assumes therefore that that is the amount of tax that will be rebated at the municipal level to the industry, or that it will not pay in the first place if not rebated. I should say also that there is a rebating element in this, inasmuch as it is retroactive to 1 December 1988. Again, for what reason, we are not apprised.
There is a still further concern one has to have with the legislation, that it reduces still further the amount of disclosure required on the part of corporations. We have always in this party advocated as much and as open a disclosure as possible with regard to corporate records.
We realize that has some sensitivity in the corporate sector. We realize that as long as one has a competitive economy, that can expose competitors somewhat mercilessly to other competitors. At the same time, a lot of benefits follow from open disclosure and open knowledge of corporate transactions and corporate conditions, both with regard to government that is seeking to regulate industry and with regard to unions that in order to act intelligently in their collective bargaining need to know the state of affairs in an accurate fashion of an industry so they too can gauge their steps with the greatest degree of wisdom and information.
There are a number of reasons why this legislation really does not stand the test. As I say, it comes down essentially for us to a question of whether we are going to tackle the central issue the legislation presents, that is, the whole question of taxation of business properties in and of itself as an issue, or whether we are going to keep on, year after year, tinkering around in such a fashion that is possible, when an industry approaches or a lobby comes and makes its case with the government, for the government to say, “Well, we can adjust the business properties tax for you a little bit.” Somebody else comes and here is another proposition and you are just another one on the basis of an ad hoc lobbying process in which hardship is pleaded and tears are wept and finally the government is prevailed upon.
It is hardly a sensible process for a government to be involved in, especially if it is quite obvious that it does not have the criteria in place, does not have a sense of the way in which it wishes to tackle this particular issue. Until it does, I think the government should withhold all legislation pertaining to the subject. When it is ready to come forward with legislation of a more ambitious nature to address the central question, this party will be ready to stand up and debate and try to help the government come to a more sensible restructuring of business property taxation in Ontario.
Mr Mackenzie: I am pleased to rise in this House and speak briefly on Bill 37, An Act to amend the Assessment Act. I must state right off the start that it is one of the few occasions when I totally disagree with my colleague the member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen) and his comments that this particular bill does not stand the test in terms of priority legislation in this House. I think it does stand the test. I think it is a beautiful example of the Liberal priorities in Ontario at this particular point in time.
What have we got here? We have got here a bill before this House that the government claims is now a priority, that “provides for a reduction in the business assessment of land used by distilleries,” a reduction from 140 per cent assessment to 75 per cent assessment, a $4.25-million break, if you like, for the big liquor interests in Ontario. We get it very late. We get the printed copy two weeks ago, we get the compendium almost within a matter of days and we are told this is a priority bill that has got to go through.
Well, I do not know where you can get a better example of the Liberal priorities in Ontario. Is there priority pension indexing, which we have been arguing for two or three years now and on which we have had a study and a report? Lousy recommendations really, but asking for some move in terms of pension indexing for workers who need their pensions indexed. No, that is not the bill that is priority for the people of Ontario.
Is the priority health and safety, Bill 208, which workers across this province want because of the slaughter in the workplace in Ontario? No, we cannot get them to bring in that bill. Mind you, they have got an argument there. They say they do not want to bring that bill in until we have got rid of Bill 162. It is one of their other priorities, Bill 162, which is going to hurt injured workers across this province, cut the benefits that we have for workers in this province and allow deeming -- almost unbelievable.
Is the priority plant closure legislation in Ontario as we see an increasing raft of plants close, probably because of free trade in this province? There is no point in continuing with the small branch plants in Ontario. No, that is not the priority legislation, even though I might say, like the pension indexing, the Premier (Mr Peterson) put his name on an accord with this party that said that was one of 22 items which were going to be carried out when we gave the Liberals the chance to form the government back in 1985.
They would do a number of things, two of which have not been carried out: (1) the indexing of private pensions and a decision on whether or not the surpluses in those pensions funds belonged to the workers, and (2) legislation to help protect workers, to allow more notice, to allow public justification before plants could arbitrarily close, throwing hundreds and thousands of workers out of jobs in this province. Is either of those items before us as a priority item from this government? No.
Is the issue of fair taxes before us, the issue of whether or not instead of increasing the sales tax, an unfair tax, or this kind of a tax that gives a major break to the distilleries, do we have improvements in income tax, graduated income tax based on an ability to pay? Do we have speculation taxes to end some of the speculation in housing before us? No, that is not a priority of this government either. Do we have smoking in the workplace before us as a priority? No, that bill is obviously, if not down the tube totally, at least put on the back burner until next fall some time.
All of these items that many people might argue are priority items have not even seen the light of day in this Legislature. We have, on a matter of days’ notice, this government saying, “Hey, Bill 37 is now a priority item”--which incidentally it was not three weeks ago -- “and we now have to give a break of $4.25 million to the big distilleries in Ontario.”
I am the first to admit there is some rationale for the bill itself, but not as a priority. The only rationale I can give members for it is that I do not know how --
Mr Mackenzie: Oh, unions are responsible, are they? It is nice to hear that. We will tell the unions that they are responsible.
We find that the current rate for property taxes, the graded rate schedule for business assessment in Ontario, for car parks is 25 per cent. One of my colleagues said we are trying to stop the cars from coming downtown or the traffic in; we have real problems with traffic. Maybe we should be looking at why they are only paying at a 2.5 per cent rate.
We have professional practices at a 50 per cent rate. We have retail stores at a 50 per cent rate in Ontario. We have manufacturing at a 60 per cent rate. Incidentally, few of them ever pay that 60 per cent, but that is the rate they are assessed at. We have brewers at 75 per cent, and I guess here is the rationale: We have brewers taxed at a 75 per cent rate but we have the distilleries taxed at a 140 per cent rate. We have wholesale and warehousing at 75 per cent. We have financial institutions at 75 per cent, yet in terms of other taxes they get one of the biggest free rides in Ontario.
So where are the priorities? Even if there is some rationale between 140 and 75, does it take precedence over all of the other issues I have raised in these few comments here in this House? I do not think so at all. It tells me that we have a government that simply does not know where it is going, unless, of course, this bill is a priority, and I would raise it with members in this House, to give this additional $4.25-million tax break to the big distillers -- you look at the Reichmanns or some of the families that own them and you are talking about the most well-to-do and the wealthiest families in this country -- because of the tax breaks it gives these big liquor interests, who in turn are pretty friendly with this Liberal government.
We find an awful lot of interests these days that are making all kinds of donations, many of them illegal, like charities giving money, tax credit rebates, to Liberal candidates in elections. Is that why we have this bill before us as a priority, because if we started investigating the election returns we would find that there are some nice donations from the liquor companies?
I suspect we would find quite a few here in Ontario. Is it because of this payoff from them? I think they should have to file all of the donations made over the last five years from the liquor interests in conjunction with this particular bill so that we could find out if there is any reason for this at all or not.
Mr Mackenzie: The members opposite do not seem to like that, so I will repeat it. Is the tax break for these big liquor interests for the donations they are giving to this party? It raises a question. When you take a look at the kinds of tax breaks the government is insisting on giving to the liquor industry in Ontario, you have to ask yourself, how much is the liquor industry in Ontario paying to deal with the problems that are caused because of it?
I am not a teetotaller. I like a glass of Scotch or a bottle of beer as much as anybody, but tell me: Is it the liquor industry that is paying for the welfare costs or the health costs or the broken family costs or the law costs that we have as a result of problems that result? No. We do not see these charges, which we in this party have argued for for a long time, assessed against the interests that are in effect responsible because of the product they manufacture, and they are pushing it in terms of sales. Instead, we see this Liberal government -- not pensions, not safety and health legislation, but let’s give another big tax break to the liquor interests in Ontario.
The other thing I want to say to all the members in this House is this: Can anybody here deny that what this legislation is is yet another pass-through of taxes that would normally be raised from major corporate interests that we, the municipalities through property tax or the taxpayers themselves, are going to have to pick up through our taxes? There has been a tremendous transfer of taxes from corporate tax in this country on to low- and middle-income taxpayers and the workers of this province, and this will mean a further pass-through of costs on to individual taxpayers off the backs of the corporations.
Sitting in the standing committee on finance and economic affairs in recent weeks, we have had an interesting time of it. One of the things we have raised with the Treasurer and one of the things we found out in taking a look at where the income was coming from was that we saw the figures clearly verified exactly what I have said, that the corporations in this country are paying less and less of the tax load and individual taxpayers are paying more and more of it.
When we questioned the amount of money being raised by corporate taxes, one of the defences -- and I wish he was here -- that the Treasurer of this province put up was, “That’s not a totally fair argument, because as well as corporate taxes, many of these companies are paying capital taxes. There are substantial amounts of money there.”
We immediately asked the Treasury people to tell us where the capital taxes showed up in terms of the tax collection in the province of Ontario. Do members know the capital taxes are included in with corporate taxes? They were not separated in the documents. So the argument was a specious one to begin with that somehow or other this was an additional load of taxes.
The next question was obvious. We asked them what percentage -- and I forget the figures now; it is several billion dollars in total, but it is down from what it used to be -- of the corporate taxes was actually capital taxes and not corporate taxes. Do members know what it amounted to last year in Ontario? It was 11.8 per cent of the total collection from the companies. The capital tax argument that we got was a totally phoney one. It was 11.8 per cent of the money collected in the province of Ontario.
The point I am simply making here is that we are seeing a decrease in taxes from the major companies, and they are being offloaded on to the ordinary citizens in the province. It is a transfer through to individuals.
I simply say that anybody who can stand in this House and say that we have to rush this bill through -- and we have none of the others. It has overnight become a priority item in the province, when we are going to have municipal taxpayers once again picking up the taxes that the province will not be collecting from these companies. I say it is phoney and specious and it rather stinks, as do some of the other things that have been happening in Ontario over the past few weeks.
I certainly do not intend to support this particular bill.
Hon Mr Wrye: I had not intended to intervene, but I will very briefly, making a couple of comments about what I have just heard, which left me absolutely astounded.
The official opposition has apparently completely reversed a policy which it held during the minority Parliament and in committee. I am told that beyond my friend the member for Hamilton East (Mr Mackenzie), the member for Windsor-Riverside, whose riding is right next door to one of Windsor’s largest employers, has now reversed his position. The more than 1,000 employees at Hiram Walker will find that reversal of position to be an interesting one.
I just want to say that during the last couple of years we have had extensive discussions, most importantly with the municipalities, as we have attempted to ensure that there was a proper sensitivity as this quite proper piece of legislation was brought into place, a piece of legislation urged upon the Treasurer in the minority days by both opposition parties.
Of course it was important then, I say to the member for Hamilton East, for us to get on with this matter immediately. Now he stands in his place, and with the kind of innuendo we have all heard around this establishment in the last little while, he attempts to draw some kind of sleazy parallel between the quite proper change that is taking place here, urged upon this party and this government by the other two parties, and some kind of donation. I reject that out of hand.
The fact of the matter is that Hiram Walker is one of the major corporations, a major employer in my community, and from time to time over my eight years in politics, I have received minimal amounts of money from it. I do so quite legally. I do not stand up and accuse my friend or anybody else of doing wrong when he receives money from major unions. I would hope he would respect my right to receive money from whom I receive it.
Mr Mackenzie: Very briefly, I must have touched a raw nerve with the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr Wrye). He has not, let me make it clear, ever heard me in 14 years in this House get up and say that we should be proceeding with this particular kind of legislation or what is intended in this bill. He has not heard me say that once.
He has heard me clearly say that we should be proceeding in terms of legislation to protect workers who are getting hurt, in this case, more by the free trade agreement than by the assessments. He should not be surprised at that.
I am also pleased to hear that he does have donations from the liquor interests, although he says they are small amounts; maybe they are. I want to make it clear to this House that I do not. I also want to make it clear that when I get a donation, which I do occasionally, from a trade union, it is a donation that has been voted for by the membership of that local union. I defy the minister who just spoke to get up and say that any of the shareholders in any of these companies that have made these kinds of donations have ever voted on that donation to politicians.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Order. Other participants in the debate? If there are no other participants, does the Minister of Revenue care to conclude the debate with his reply?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I am surprised at how Bill 37 has been twisted and turned around in the last couple of days. I am very surprised because back in 1986 there was a general agreement, an all-party agreement between the Liberals, Tories and New Democrats, which agreed to look at a decrease of the business rate for distillers. That includes the NDP. I am surprised that those two members who sat on this committee are not in the House today. There are only three New Democrats and two Tories in the House today.
They say we bring in legislation at the last minute. Back in 1986, when Bill 131 was discussed in cabinet, it was approved at that time that we would negotiate, that we would try to bring a bill into this House to be debated and to look at the commercial rate. That is exactly what we did. Since 1986, we have been negotiating with the affected municipalities and we have reached an agreement.
Why did we start with distillers? We think being charged at a rate of 140 per cent was simply unjustified, especially when you look at the range of the six assessment rates from 25 per cent to 140 per cent. We wanted to start with the distillers because, again, we think it is unjustifiable to charge those rates.
I want to remind this House that at one time their rate was 150 per cent. Back in 1968, the Tories reduced that rate by 10 per cent, and they had some kind of agreement that it would be reduced by 10 per cent every year, but nothing was done after 1968.
The NDP might think that giving these people what they call a tax break is criminal. We are trying to protect jobs. That is what this bill tries to do. There has been a decrease in consumption in this province of close to 20 per cent in the last three years. These people have been negotiating with the previous government and this government for a reduction in their business rate. They said: “Well, look. We will close in Thorold and we might even close in Windsor.”
These people could not care less about jobs. “Close it down. Charge them 140 per cent. Let’s be unfair. We don’t care about jobs.” But we hear every day that we should protect jobs. That is exactly what we are trying to do. We think half a loaf is better than none. I find it very strange to hear that the NDP is voting against this bill, is voting against protecting jobs. That is what they are doing.
Again, they changed their minds. It was good enough in 1986, but in 1989 it is not good enough. At least I can say that the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope), the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman) and the member for Carleton all agree with Bill 37, and I am very pleased.
There is only one worry, though, and that is the member for Markham, who is going to vote against it because he is dead against it.
An hon member: He won’t be here.
Mr Pope: If that’s a problem we can have a recorded vote and wait till he gets here.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: He will not be here, like today, because he asked me seven questions and he is not even hear to get the answers, so maybe my friend the member for Cochrane South can pass on the information.
If I may, very, very briefly, I want to talk about the 14 municipalities that are affected, that will have a tax loss over the next three and five years. As I said, we asked the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and clerks from every municipality to get involved in this bill and try to negotiate, to come to a compromise, to find a common denominator. I think we have reached that common denominator. I am not saying it pleases every municipality. I am not saying that, but I think we have reached some kind of consensus that four townships -- Thorold, Collingwood, Maidstone and Amherstburg -- will be compensated over a five-year period and the remaining 10 municipalities will be compensated over a three-year period.
Why would the four townships be compensated over a five-year period? We have decided that if any of these 14 municipalities would lose more than two per cent of its total assessment in one year, we would carry on with the compensation.
If it took two and a half years to bring this bill to this House, a very good reason was to negotiate a program of compensation to these municipalities. There is much more I can say about this bill. A lot of things have been said about this bill, but very little on Bill 37. A lot was said. Free trade was mentioned and the price of beer and soon and so forth. Even the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr Charlton) was accusing shop owners of charging $40 and $45 a square foot and that was why their business rate was high. That is not how business rate or business tax is calculated. You use the commercial mill rate of the municipality and that is how taxes are determined, not by the assessment.
I think I have said enough about Bill 37. I think it is a good bill and a very reasonable bill and I encourage all my Tory friends and my Liberal friends to vote for it.
The Acting Speaker: Mr Grandmaître has moved second reading of Bill 37, An Act to amend the Assessment Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
House in committee of the whole.
ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Consideration of Bill 37, An Act to amend the Assessment Act.
The Chairman: At this point, are there any questions and comments or any amendments proposed, and if so, to which section? At this point, I would just like to list them.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: To Bill 37.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would like to make comments on the explanatory notes.
The Chairman: As was explained to me, explanatory notes are not part of the bill per se, but you can if you want to. Will the government have some proposals for changes?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: No amendments, Mr Chairman.
The Chairman: Will the official opposition have some proposals for amendments?
Mr Morin-Strom: Not at this time.
The Chairman: How about the third party?
Mr Pope: We will reserve our amendments at this time.
The Chairman: That is interesting. Are there questions or comments? Does anybody have comments to make, if not amendments or whatever?
Mr Morin-Strom: I have serious concerns about various sections of this bill. We can start with section 1 of the bill, in which case we have concerns with respect to why this bill and this particular section focus solely upon the liquor distilling industry in Ontario, and why the specific reductions in terms of their assessment rate have been established by this minister.
Surely the issue here, and it is a problem, with respect to the Assessment Act and the levels of assessment, not only for this industry but for industries across the province, is how we can make improvements that would be comprehensive in nature and address unfairness and inequities with respect to the tax structure in Ontario, not only for the liquor distilling industry but for all industries in the province.
Under section 1, the government is proposing to change the assessment base for the current fiscal year from the 140 per cent that it is today down to a level of 100 per cent, and then for successive years starting next year down to 75 per cent of assessed value. I would have to question how it is that the Minister of Revenue has come up with these particular changes and why he has not addressed the greater problem of assessment base for other industries in the province as well.
This reduction in this assessment base of course does not affect only the industries, but also property taxpayers and the running of municipalities and school boards in a number of communities, I believe 14 in total, across Ontario. This proposal is one that is going to have a serious impact in terms of revenues for each of these communities. The amounts of the impact have been assessed and will increase, at the end of the full implementation of this assessment reduction, to total some $3,830,629 annually.
This penalty to these municipalities and school boards surely is a severe one, which is being imposed solely for the government’s desire to address the assessment base issue having to do with one particular business in Ontario.
At the same time, the province is not proposing to compensate these municipalities and school boards in a reciprocal fashion. As a result, we are going to have a serious penalty to the school systems of these communities and to the ability of these municipalities to provide adequate services to their residents, as well as an additional tax burden on the property taxpayers of those communities.
The minister knows that a number of studies have been undertaken over the years to look at the issue of assessment in Ontario, and that the recommendations in the past have been that there is no basis for continuing a process of unequal assessment bases for communities across Ontario. In fact, as long ago as the mid-1960s, a major study was undertaken by a committee called the Ontario Committee on Taxation, which reported in 1967. It concluded, “The cardinal weakness of the Ontario business tax is the indefensible structure of its rate assessments.” It also reported at that time, “Nothing has emerged that lends support to a gradated rate structure.”
The proposal in section 1 of this bill, that the assessment base for the distilling industry be reduced on an arbitrary basis solely for that industry, surely does not move this province towards the elimination of a graded rate structure. As well, there is no indication that there is any logical purpose or reasonable assessment of the comparison of various industries across the province, and the ministry has not provided a rationale for the decision to make the adjustment on this industry and solely on this industry.
Surely one has to recognize that there are major problems with other industries in the province. One of the concerns must be at the other end of the scale too, where we have industries such as automobile parking lots that are currently assessed at one of the lowest rates, 25 per cent. Why should we tolerate that kind of handout benefit in terms of very low property tax assessment on an industry that surely other ministries in the government would not recognize as one that is most deserving of favoured status?
Surely we do not want to encourage more sprawling parking lots in our downtown areas and continue to encourage the expansion of the use of automobiles in urban centres. Surely we should be encouraging the use of transit, and taking the automobiles and the pollution that comes with them out of major centres such as Metropolitan Toronto.
This particular section does not address that anomaly. Instead, it comes to the objective of addressing an anomaly, as the minister apparently feels it is, with respect to one industry, the liquor distilling industry. One has to wonder why it is this particular industry is getting favoured status from this government, what it is about this particular industry that has got the attention of the Liberals in Ontario, and as a result is getting a proposal in terms of a new act of this Legislature that has been thrust upon us in such a short order of time and has been given such a priority by the government itself.
Certainly one of the concerns has to be whether this is related in fact, as the member for Cochrane South suggested a little earlier, to the trade policy, if there is such a thing, of the Liberal government in Ontario. We know this government has touted itself as a fighter of the free trade initiative that came from the federal Conservatives. However, we have never seen anything tangible from this government that has led us to believe it actually would ever do anything. They have never done anything with respect to the drastic and potentially calamitous event which occurred last year in Canada with the imposition of the free trade agreement.
However, two of the industries that have been major focuses of concern with respect to trade with the United States have been the brewing industry and the distilling industry. Here we have a specific initiative with respect to the distilling industry which is included under the terms of the free trade agreement.
We know the brewing industry was given a specific exemption from the free trade agreement and the distilling industry was not given a similar exemption. One has to wonder whether this particular initiative is some type of quid pro quo from this government in its relationship between those two industries.
I suppose it is an initiative which is related to the government’s hope to generate some kind of level playing field. I suspect that historically the brewing industry has been one of the strongest opponents of bringing the distilling industry down to the same assessment base as the brewing industry, and this bill, which proposes to do that in terms of moving from the 140 per cent of assessment base down to a 75 per cent assessment base, moves the liquor industry into the same assessment base as the brewing industry.
That is creating, in some sense, a level playing field from the perspective of the liquor industry, I guess, but one wonders whether in fact there were representations from the brewing industry, which was concerned about its being charged with having perhaps an unfair competitive advantage over another industry in this particular tax situation, where it was facing a lower tax rate than the liquor industry.
Really, what is missing throughout this bill which has been thrust upon the Legislature -- we received copies of it only last week -- is a very specific initiative having to do with one particular industry. The minister should be called upon to answer for his rationale for giving this kind of favoured treatment to one particular industry, and to answer why he has not gone the further step of overhauling the whole assessment base and looking at major property tax reform, as is surely required in Ontario so that a property tax system would be one that did reflect fairness and equity to all property taxpayers across the province, whether they are businesses or individuals.
Would it be appropriate at this point for me to ask the minister to respond as to why this particular initiative and the figures that were set out in subclause (i) were established by the province of Ontario and to provide us with the justification for this particular action which would benefit the liquor distilling industry?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I do not know where the member was five minutes ago, but in my closing remarks I did tell the House why it was simply unjustifiable for us to carry on with this kind of business rate. Back in 1986 at least two members of his own party agreed, while they were discussing Bill 131, to a reduction. I want to remind him of this.
The member did refer to the penalty to municipalities. Again, I did talk about the 14 municipalities affected by Bill 37. I do not know where he was. I did refer to the four most affected municipalities and the remaining 10. I think all of those explanations were given to this House 15 minutes ago, but the member was out.
Mr Charlton: On the same section and related to the same question which the minister was just supposed to be responding to and which he still has not responded to, my colleague the member for Sault Ste Marie has asked the minister for the rationalization, the justification. What criteria did he use to determine that the 140 percent was unfair? Has he applied those same criteria to the rest of the percentages that are set out in that same section of the act? Does he support the remaining gradations from 25 per cent to 75 percent as still being relevant, fair and applicable?
He made a comment -- this is one comment he did make in his closing remarks -- that this was the first he chose to do. Well, at that rate of progress -- four years for one change -- before we get all the inequities in this thing set out it is going to take the minister 25 years, and I doubt very much if he will still be here. Perhaps he could tell us what were the criteria, what were the rationalizations he used to determine that the 140 per cent was unfair but that the rest of the gradations were still acceptable, workable and reflected any kind of economic reality in Ontario.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Again, I did try to explain the reason or the rationale behind this move or Bill 37, but I will repeat it. When you look at these six different business rates, we think that distillers were being punished.
Mr Charlton: How did you determine that?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: For the simple reason that when you started to look at the six different classes, when you saw parking lots at 25 per cent, why would distillers be, let’s say, classified at 100 per cent and brewers at 75 per cent? We did not see any logic in this.
I want to remind the member this was started back in 1968. It was recognized in 1968 that the rate was too high. We have gone a long way since 1968 and nothing has been done. Now we are starting with the highest business rate at 140 per cent, and a committee is in place right now, chaired by my assistant deputy minister, with the administrator from the city of Sudbury, people from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and also the assistant deputy minister for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. We are looking at the rest of the schedule and I will be pleased to report back to the member as soon as the report is filed.
Mr Charlton: I do not think the minister has fully understood my question. He said it is the view of the minister and the ministry that the 140 per cent assessment rate charge in the distilling industry was unfair and unconscionable.
In looking at the question, did the ministry compare as a percentage of net profit, for example, the actual tax dollars that 140 per cent assessment charge for business taxes imposed on the distilling industry and look at how that compared to somebody else in a perhaps less profitable industry who may be paying the same rate even though they are only paying at 50 per cent of their assessed value?
Did the minister really look at the question of what the taxes levied mean in relation to those other percentages in those other industries and the profits those industries make? Was this tax really an unfair tax, or did the minister even look at that question?
Mr Black: That’s a silly question. Of course he looked at that.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I do not know what the member for Hamilton Mountain is driving at, but I am not involved in income tax. If they make profit, they will pay income tax for it. This bill is responsible for the business rate. That is what it is. A committee back in 1986 decided it was unjustified and two NDP members voted for it. That is his answer.
Mr Morin-Strom: I find it interesting that the minister contradicts directly what his own member, the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black), suggested the minister would have done, which is to look seriously at whether the basis for this tax change had any relationship to ability to pay.
Mr Black: You don’t make any sense before lunch and you don’t make any sense after.
The Deputy Chairman: Order, please. One member at a time.
Mr Morin-Strom: This morning we had the drug czar of Ontario suggesting that 80 per cent of public eating areas in the province should be the norm for smoking areas, when we have statistics that show some 28 per cent of the population are smokers. I think he is hardly an expert when it comes to restricting drugs and smoking, and even less so when it comes to tax matters.
The Deputy Chairman: Order, please. One member at a time. One member has the floor. This is committee of the whole.
Mr Morin-Strom: I think the minister would have been wise to take an honest look at the liquor distilling industry, and even if he was going to use as his basis for comparison the brewing industry and the fact that he wanted to bring the liquor distilling industry into line with the brewing industry, I think he might have taken a look at the profitability of the two industries, and particularly in a case like this the property tax assessment base that is generated.
If one looks at the volume of liquor that is produced in comparison with the volume of beer that is produced, the sizes of the plant infrastructure required for those two industries, one might easily come to the conclusion that the same assessment base for those two might result in a much higher property tax assessment for the brewing industry, because of the volume of product that has to come under that industry to provide the same dollars of revenue and the same dollars of income.
Has this minister taken a look at the volume of product of those two industries and made any kind of relationship between the property tax assessment base of those two industries in comparison to the total sales levels of those industries? Is this really a fair assessment base or not?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I know what the member is getting at. He is looking at profit, because profit is a dirty word for that party. I want to remind the honourable member that a company, an industry, does not have to make a profit to pay business tax. Everybody pays business tax. I want to remind the member that back in 1986 this initiative received all-party support. I am sure they took into consideration the distillers, the brewers, the wholesalers, parking lots and so on and so forth when they were looking at Bill 131. So a detailed study has been done.
I want to tell the member again that we think the rate of 140 per cent versus 25 per cent for parking lots was unreasonable and this is why the reduction to 75 per cent will take place in three consecutive years.
Mr Morin-Strom: I do not think the minister has addressed the issue of whether this assessment base he is proposing for the liquor industry has any relationship at all to the ability of that industry to pay, given the amount of property --
Hon Mr Grandmaître: That’s not the question.
Mr Morin-Strom: I am not talking about profit, I am talking about the amount of property and the value of the investment base they have to have in order to generate a given level of sales. Has the minister looked at the amount of property assessment of that industry in comparison with the sales level? Can he provide us with the figures with respect to the liquor industry in Ontario and the brewing industry in Ontario -- the amount of property assessment today and the level of sales of those industries?
Mr R. F. Johnston: That’s a very reasonable request.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Yes, very reasonable.
I did say 15 minutes ago -- and again, I do not know where the member was -- that the distillers’ business has gone down by 20 per cent over the last three years. So yes, it was taken into consideration. That is yes to his question.
Mr Mackenzie: I think there is a legitimate question that has not yet been answered clearly to my satisfaction.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Well, it’s hard to satisfy --
Mr Mackenzie: That may be the case, but I have the right in this House, as the minister does, to ask questions.
The minister keeps referring to the fact that there was an agreement by members of all parties in 1986 that we should be taking a look at the assessment of the distillery industry. I am not sure it was just the distillery industry, but I do not think it was exempted either. If that is the case, it is now 1989. How come almost overnight, in the last week, this is a priority now? The minister has had three years and he did not touch it. It seems to me also that he talked about a decrease from 150 per cent to 140 per cent, a 10 per cent decrease previously in this particular industry. When was that decrease?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: In 1968.
Mr Mackenzie: Okay, there was a 10 per cent decrease between 1968 and 1989. All of a sudden, we have to go from 140 per cent to 75 per cent? I do not think the minister has given us a rational argument on it at all.
I think the question my colleague was asking is a reasonable one. Has the minister taken a look? He says, “We think.” I do not accept “We think.” Has the minister taken a look at whether or not the losses in this particular industry are greater than the losses in some of the others that have different assessment rates?
If he can show us that that is the case, fine. It is not just the fact that there is a 20 per cent reduction in their sales. That may very well say that there is still a profit percentage that is almost as good because sales do not always directly reflect profit, as I am sure the minister knows. What kind of hard facts does he have that tell us that the distillery industry needed it more than any of the others that have the various rates?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The member is right that back in 1968, under the previous government, it was agreed to decrease the rate from 150 per cent to 140 per cent. I was not around back in 1968, but it was with the understanding that it would be decreased by 10 per cent in subsequent years. This was never done.
The industry, the distillers, have not lost money. I am not trying to tell the member that they have lost money, but consumption has gone down. I think it is a good thing. I think people are much more reasonable than 25 or 30 years ago.
It was back in 1904, if I am not mistaken, when 140 per cent was first thought of. I guess back in 1904 people thought that about booze and boozers: “Let’s tax them. Let’s have a sinners’ tax.” We live in 1989 and without looking at their profit sheet, I think it is only reasonable.
I think brewers make just as much as distillers, but that is not the reason for Bill 37. The reason for Bill 37 is to be reasonable with taxpayers and that is what it is doing and that is why we are decreasing it to a more reasonable rate, to 75 per cent over three years, equal to the brewers’ rate. I think this is very reasonable.
Again, the member did ask me how come we are addressing only the distillers. As I said to his friend the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom), there is a committee in place looking at the total business assessment rate and will be very pleased to introduce a new schedule a new series of business rates, whenever it becomes available.
Mr Morin-Strom: The minister still has not explained why he has reduced the rate to 75 per cent, but perhaps we could take the obverse situation and ask why the minister, instead of bringing the distillers down to the brewers’ rate, did not do the reverse and increase the brewers’ rate up to the distillers’ rate.
Surely the way the government has imposed this particular change is the one that results in a penalty on the municipalities and school boards of Ontario. If we were going to go forward with proposed changes to make the assessment rate basis fairer in the province, could the government not have done it in a fashion that would base resulted in municipalities and school boards gaining in terms of property tax base, not losing, and bringing some of those anomalies at the bottom up to reasonable levels of assessment base, rather than taking the action which is a handout to one industry and turns out to be quite a direct penalty?
The minister says he is going to pay off the municipalities in the short term with some subsidies on it, but it is phased out within three years for 10 of the municipalities and within five years for four of the municipalities. Then there is no compensation whatsoever for any municipalities or school boards after that.
There is a serious penalty in the long run of some $4 million a year in terms of the municipal tax base. Why would the minister not have moved forward in terms of generating some fairness in the assessment base by not taking the penalty out on municipalities and school boards, but instead putting the penalty on to some of those industries that have been subsidized for years and years with assessment bases that are unfairly low and brought them up instead to create a fairer and more just system? Why has the minister not taken that type of an approach?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Again, the honourable member is using the word “penalty.” I think this is wrong. I think there is a formula right before him. We are not penalizing municipalities.
Let me give him the city of Toronto, for instance. Let’s look at the city of Toronto. In 1989 they will lose $38,000, on a budget of how much? We will compensate the city of Toronto, and the education part of the municipal tax bill will be compensated too. We are being fair to 14 municipalities.
Mr Harris: The member for Cochrane South was unfortunately called out on other pressing business. Before he left, he asked me if I would follow up and ascertain from the minister, see if we could get some answers to the questions he raised in second reading of the bill as to whether the implications of free trade have been assessed by the minister -- as to whether this will be a subsidy, given that the distilling industry, as I think the member put it, is not exempt from the free trade agreement the same way the beer industry is. He had asked if I would follow up on that to determine whether he could report back to his father whether or not the ministry had been doing its homework with regard to the implications of free trade.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I am sure that the committee back in 1986 did not consider free trade. This is Bill 37. It is a reduction in the business rate for distillers. Again, I want to tell the honourable member he can pass on the information. I know the member for Cochrane South must be suffering, because he has stayed about three hours in this House today. He does need a break, but I want to tell him that free trade was never taken into consideration by the committee back in 1986.
Mr Harris: I could understand the committee not spending a great deal of time on it back in 1986. What concerns us and what concerns the member for Cochrane South is whether this government, as many have suspected, has just ignored free trade. We have suspected that, as we fall behind other provinces and other jurisdictions that are taking advantage of the positive aspects, preparing for some of the negative impacts of the free trade agreement and have accepted the reality that indeed the agreement exists.
Quite frankly, I find the minister’s answer unacceptable if he is saying that back in 1986 we did not consider it. We have been very critical of this government and his whole party in Ontario for trying to pretend that the free trade agreement does not exist. Indeed, we have been very critical that it has not examined the impact.
Mr Ballinger: That is because it is no good.
Mr Harris: Whether the member says it is no good or whether it is good really is not the issue at this particular point in time; it does exist. There is no point in burying our heads in the sand and ignoring that it does exist. I would suggest to the minister that he not fall into the trap that the Premier has fallen into of total inaction and pretending that it does not exist. We should prepare for advantages or protect ourselves from potential problems or prepare for any of the disadvantages that we all acknowledge can be there.
I would ask the minister, not from his 1986 perspective but from the 1989 perspective, whether in fact any checking has been done to determine whether this move of reduction of tax can be considered from an American distilling industry point of view as a subsidy, whether it can be considered as being countervailable and whether this, in combination with other pricing practices, will indeed perhaps be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
I do not know whether it does or not -- I am not an expert in it -- but I will tell members this: If I was in government, before I brought in a piece of legislation, I would want to know the answers to these questions. I think that was the view being expressed by the member for Cochrane South, and those are the answers he wants to find out. If it is the minister’s position that they really do not care and they did not bother to look at it, then he should just say that, but he should do not blame it on a committee in 1986.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The latest check that we have made on free trade is that since the introduction of free trade, Canada has lost 33,000 jobs.
Mr Harris: if the minister wants to be smarty about it, that is fine. Others can be smarty about it too. I think we are entitled to a simple answer, yes or no. What the minister seems to be saying to me is, “Look, you may have a point, but because our government’s policy has been to stick our head in the sand, I never considered free trade.”
If he is admitting that, then he should say that. If he has checked into it and he feels that in no way is this going to add to any countervailability, then he should say that. If he has checked into it and has found out, “Well, it may be possible but we’re not sure,” then he should say that. Which is it? Has he looked at it at all, yes or no?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I cannot answer that question.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I have a few comments and then I would like to ask some questions dealing with this section of the bill. This section of the bill essentially reduces assessment, reduces the amount of money that certain municipalities in Ontario can expect to receive to operate on.
Municipalities, some of which are large, as has been mentioned, Etobicoke, Toronto, Scarborough, and some of which are quite small, all have been stiffed by this government in terms of pass-through grants and having to rely further and further on property tax and raising property tax because they have no choice but to do that.
I do not know about other members’ constituents but my constituents are fed up with that unfair tax being increased because of this government’s failure to act. Here, for the sake of some sort of sop to the distilling industry, we have decided that we are going to reduce further the assessment of these various communities and, for some strange reason, have a phase-out of support to those municipalities as compensation over a period of time.
Whether it is in three years’ time for some municipalities or five years’ time for other municipalities, they are going to be stuck with an awful lot of money that they are going to have to raise if they are going to maintain the services they are used to at a time when they are already being stuck by this government and the federal government: that payroll tax the provincial government is hitting them with and federal government unemployment insurance changes that are forcing them to dig into their pockets more.
The school system today is in a terrible situation in terms of its economic base, its operational base, and this impacts on schools. This sop to the distilling industry has an impact on the quality of education. I find it very strange that this is a priority of this Liberal reform government, that Bill 37 should be brought in on 21 June and, all of a sudden, we should be told this thing has to be passed right away because we need to make this sop to the distilling industry. I would like to know what the principle is here. Does the minister think that taxpayers should pay one penny more in property tax than they are paying now?
The minister raises the fact that the impact of this assessment that will be lost in the city of Toronto is only $37,000. Does the minister want to say to the people of Toronto, whom this government has just decided to tax extra for driving in Toronto, for having to live here because that is where the economy is in Ontario -- they have set up special regional taxes for people who happen to live in the greater Toronto area -- not only that but as an extra little slap in their faces that in Toronto $37,000 will be spread over the property taxpayers, more than they would have expected last time? In some of these other communities it is going to be a heck of a lot more money than that.
What kind of message is this from a supposedly reformist Liberal government, which we are beginning to learn has gone through a major Toryfication? It has basically turned into a government which believes in regressive taxes and believes that it should be stiffing the average property taxpayer even further. Why is it that the government has decided to slip this thing through in the hot days of summer when nobody is paying attention, so that property taxpayers are going to be hit extra because the government wants to give the distilling industry an extra favour?
I think this is mind-boggling. This is the government which supposedly understands the problem we have got with drinking and driving, the problems we have got in terms of the cost to our health care system and our social services system because of excessive drinking in Ontario, and what are we going to do? We are going to reduce taxes for the distilling industry -- reduce taxes, for God’s sake.
Where is the common sense in that? Where is the coherence of a social policy or an economic policy in doing that sort of thing and then making the burden fall on a property taxpayer who is already paying too much? This section with this proposal of a reduction of assessment is a ludicrous thing to be proposing at this time and a slap in the face to every property taxpayer in Ontario.
Mr Wildman: You reduce the taxes on distilleries and you raise the price of beer.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The member raises a good point here, but he will get his chance to rise and make this on his own.
The minister says the impact on Toronto is $37,000, but I would like to know what the impact is on Thurlow, on Collingwood, on Maidstone, on Amherstburg.
Mr Black: Or on Muskoka.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It does not seem to be listed here; the minister has missed out on a distillery in Muskoka. If he has, that is too bad, because now the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay could be going back to his constituents and saying, “Hey, we are great Liberals here and we are going to increase your property taxes, because we are going to aid the distillery even further than the large profits that it already has in Ontario.”
The member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay is not able to go back to them to tell them that. Is it not unfortunate that he cannot take that message back to the community he represents as the members who represent Thurlow, Collingwood, Maidstone and Amherstburg are able to do?
Perhaps the minister can tell us what the impact on these communities is. What is their tax base? Why should individuals in those communities where they happen to own homes and who have chosen those places to live now have to get stuck with this extra cost in three to four years time, just because the minister wants to give a break to distillers?
In my view, the distillers still are not really paying the price that they should be paying for the havoc and cost to our social system that excess use of their product and the addictive nature of their product for certain people is causing to our society. What is the loss to those people?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: These questions were asked before, but I will repeat the answers. For the four municipalities that the member mentioned -- Thurlow, Collingwood, Maidstone, Amherstburg -- the total projected revenue shortfall in the year 1989 was $15,000 for Thurlow, $25,000 for Collingwood, $96,000 for Maidstone and $28,000 for Amherstburg; and in 1990, when the assessment rate decreases from 100 per cent to 75 per cent, $3,000 for Thurlow, plus $48,000 for Collingwood, $13,000 for Maidstone, plus $33,000 for Amherstburg. For the city of Windsor in the first year, a loss of $53,000; in the second year, 1990, a gain of $142,000.
The honourable member for Windsor-Riverside is against that. He is going to vote against the bill and against his own municipality.
The Chairman: Could I have one member at a time, please.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Perhaps the minister can explain how that gain takes place. Is this a one-time gain that will take place in that one year?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Here is why some municipalities gain. In 1989, the 1989 grant was 100 per cent of the lower-tier tax loss for that year; in 1990, the 1990 grant is 62.6 per cent of the lower-tier tax loss in 1989 plus 100 per cent of the lower-tier tax loss in 1990.
In 1991 -- again, I am talking about grants -- it is 33.3 per cent of the lower-tier tax loss in 1989 plus 62.6 per cent of the lower-tier tax loss in 1990, and that is the reason the city of Windsor will lose in 1989 but gain in 1990.
Mr D. S. Cooke: What about 1993?
Mr R. F. Johnston: My question is, what about 1993?
Mr Grandmaître: In 1993 the city of Windsor will not be part of the formula. There are only four municipalities, the most affected municipalities or those four municipalities that have lost more than two per cent of their total assessment. Four municipalities were losing two per cent. Windsor was not in that category.
Mr D. S. Cooke: There is certain language that cannot be used in the Legislature, but I am not sure that the minister is being totally honest with the local property taxpayers.
The minister is netting out the figures of grants. Can he explain to us what will be the properly tax loss after the grant program is complete for the city of Windsor, for example?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: It is very difficult for me to answer that question, because I do not know what the growth will be in Windsor.
Mr D. S. Cooke: That is not fair. They are losing assessment because of the changes under this legislation, so that is lost tax revenue. If the community grows and the assessment grows, that has nothing to do with Bill 37. They would have been further ahead.
I am asking the minister, specifically on the Hiram Walker property in the city of Windsor, how much tax loss will there be after his grant program is complete? The minister knows that. He can tell us that.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: No, I do not.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The city of Windsor says it is $874,000.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Going back to my original answer, my original answer, and I am sticking by it, is that there will be some growth in Windsor and this will balance out.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It has nothing to do with Bill 37.
The Chairman: Order, please.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: It might lose on one hand and gain on the other. He is asking me what the city of Windsor will lose. I cannot answer that, because I do not know what their growth will be in 1989 or 1990 or 1991.
The Chairman: Order, please. One member at a time. The member for Windsor-Riverside has the floor.
Mr D. S. Cooke: If the minister cannot give us that information, then I would suggest either he reconsider his response or perhaps this committee should not proceed with Bill 37 until the minister can provide us with that information.
He has those figures; they have been supplied by the municipalities as to how much money is lost on the pieces of property that are having their business assessments lowered as a result of this bill.
Do not confuse it with other growth, because that has nothing to do with Bill 37. Be honest with the taxpayers; indicate clearly what money will be lost and what will have to be picked up by the local ratepayers. If the minister cannot provide us with those figures, then I do not think we should proceed with Bill 37 today or any other day.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I know they want to stall and they want to be here until August, but I am ready and willing to stay until August to answer all his assumptions and his allegations.
I want to repeat what I told him a little while ago, that in 1989 the city of Windsor will lose $53,000 and will gain $142,000 in 1990. Those are the latest figures I have and those are the only figures I can give him.
Mr Morin-Strom: Surely the minister could be honest with the opposition party with respect to his figures. In fact, the minister knows --
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Is the member implying that I am not being honest?
The Chairman: Order, please. As all members are honourable, all members are honest. I would ask all members to make sure to stay in line with that, please.
Mr R. F. Johnston: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: The member was only asserting that the minister surely can be honest with us, and we would all agree with that.
The Chairman: I just thought that you needed some reminding -- all of you.
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a document here. The minister says those are the only figures he has, but I understand he has already provided some other figures and we are asking for some breakdown of those figures.
Our critic the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms Bryden) received from the minister a compendium called Compendium: Assessment Amendment Act, 1989. It has the minister’s name on the bottom and it was printed 15 May 1989 but we did not receive it until last week. The very last page of it is something called “Appendix B: Tax Loss and Grant Projections for Municipalities Experiencing Tax Losses from Proposed Business Tax Reduction of Distillers.”
We have a column in this document from the minister -- this is not our research department digging up these figures; the ministers own staff has the documentation -- on the “Ongoing Annual Tax Loss.” The minister’s own figures call it the ongoing annual tax loss and he has got the total figure for 10 municipalities, including the one the member for Windsor-Riverside asked about: the community of Windsor. It is one of those 10.
The city of Toronto is another one, as is Brampton, Burlington, Mississauga, Hamilton, Waterloo and so on. We have the total annual ongoing tax loss for the reduction from 140 per cent to 100 per cent tax base as $1,501,465. The minister’s own documentation also shows that the farther reduction from 100 per cent to 75 per cent will be an annual tax loss to those communities of $938,417. When one adds those two up, the loss to those 10 municipalities is $2,439,882 -- nearly $2.5 million to those 10 municipalities, which are recognized as the 10 larger ones.
We also have the data on the four smaller municipalities that are presumably more seriously impacted on a proportional basis, because as the minister has admitted, it reflects more than two per cent of their assessment base. For those municipalities we have tax losses from 140 per cent to 100 per cent base, under the minister’s own figures, of $855,845. The further reduction from 100 per cent to 75 per cent will be a further tax loss of $534,902, for a total tax loss to those four smaller municipalities of $1,390,747.
So we have 10 municipalities that are going to lose nearly $2.5 million in annual property tax revenues. Another four municipalities -- very small municipalities: Thorold, Collingwood, Maidstone and Amherstburg -- are going to lose nearly $1.4 million in annual tax.
The member for Windsor-Riverside asked for a particular community. The member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston) asked for some of the other municipalities. Could the minister now provide us with the breakdown of those 14 municipalities and how much the tax loss is going to be for each of them?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I did give out some original figures and they concerned the city of Windsor, and that was on the question from the member for Windsor-Riverside and that was my answer. Now, if the member wants me to go through it, because I have got all of those figures --
The Chairman: Order. One member at a time.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I can go through the 14 municipalities and I will. The city of Toronto: upper tier, $22,000 -- that is in the year 1989 -- with $19,000 for the tax loss; school board, $45,000, for a total of $85,000. In 1989, grants, lower tier, $19,000; school board, $29,000; total, $48,000. Projected revenue shortfall, $38,000.
The city of Scarborough: $1,900 in 1989; tax loss, upper tier, $1,800; school board, $4,000, for a total of $7,800. Lower tier will be $1,800 and $2,600, for a total of $4,424, for a total projected revenue shortfall of $3,400. I can go through the 14 municipalities.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Could the minister be helpful to the opposition? Now that he has given us the net figures, could he also tell us what the grant figure is for each of those municipalities in 1989? What is the compensating grant that the province is giving to each of the 14 municipalities in 1989?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The grant in 1989, for instance, for the city of Toronto, lower tier, is $19,000; school board, $29,000, for a total of $48,000. The projected shortfall is $38,000. For the city of Windsor, upper tier, first year, nil; lost tax to lower tier, $263,000; school board, $226,000, for a total of $490,000. Grants to the lower tier are $263,990 -- the tax loss and time grants for the first year, 1989, are equal -- and to the school board for the city of Windsor are $173,000, for total grants of $437,000.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Just so I understand more clearly, what the minister is saying is that, forgetting the school board, the municipal aspect of it is $263,000. When the grant program runs out, who makes up that money? Would the minister not agree that then has to be raised from the property taxpayers and therefore property taxes have to be raised to pay for Bill 37?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I did not talk about the growth of the city of Windsor. If the growth is not there, we do have a tax program; unconditional grants, conditional grants, resource equalization grants, general legislative grants -- all of these grants will certainly compensate the city of Windsor.
Mr D. S. Cooke: What would the minister say if we proposed an amendment to the legislation that no longer gave the minister the flexibility but simply said the municipalities would continue to be compensated by the province for the implementation of Bill 37, since obviously any growth that occurs in my community or any other community has absolutely nothing to do with that bill; that growth in assessment would occur regardless? If he had not implemented Bill 37, this $263,000 that might be raised through growth and increased assessment could be used instead to lower the property tax rate for individual families living in residential homes rather than lowering the property taxes for distillers.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: As I said previously, and I will repeat it, the 14 municipalities were consulted; they reached a consensus. What I have before me is the consensus, and I think it is a very reasonable one.
Mr Charlton: The minister is still avoiding the question that was raised by my colleague the member for Sault Ste Marie. The documents which the minister provided to the opposition parties set out the gross lost taxes to the municipalities as a result of Bill 37, after the phase-out of his grants. We have asked the minister for a breakdown for each of those municipalities in terms of the gross tax loss they will suffer after the grants that will run for either three or five years are finished. We would like the breakdown.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I know they want to drag this on and on. I just gave them what the tax loss will be in 1989, as well as the grants, not only in 1989 but in 1990. I cannot predict what the future will be in Windsor, in Scarborough or in any other municipality or even in the school boards. I cannot predict what the future will be as far as taxation is concerned.
Mr Charlton: The minister’s own documentation sets out clearly a total ongoing tax loss of $3,830,629. This is the minister’s own documentation provided to the opposition. It sets it out under the column called “Ongoing Annual Tax Loss.” We want the breakdown of that $3.8 million for each of the municipalities in the 14 so that we can have a look at the impact on those municipalities. The minister’s people have determined there is a tax loss. We want to know where it impacts.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I provided the honourable members with the latest figures and I gave them the tax loss, as well. The total tax loss, for instance, for the city of Windsor in the first year is $490,000 for the upper tier, lower tier and school board.
Mr Charlton: We want to know what the tax losses are in Windsor for the fourth year, not the first year.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I cannot predict what the fourth year is.
Mr Morin-Strom: I do not understand how the minister and his staff could come up with a figure down to the exact dollar; a figure of over $3.8 million for 14 municipalities, to the exact dollar. He has the breakdown from the 140 per cent to the 100 per cent and from the 100 per cent to the 75 per cent in the 10 municipalities versus the four. The minister has it to the exact dollar in total. Surely it is not just a ballpark figure that turned out to be $3,830,629. He must have the figures municipality by municipality.
Can the minister tell us what is going to happen in terms of the ongoing annual tax loss for these 14 municipalities? It is right in his own document.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Again, these projections are based on the 1988 mill rate. I cannot repeat it often enough. These figures are a projection for 1989 and 1990. Now they are asking me for 1993 and 1994 and I cannot provide them with those figures.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Perhaps the minister could tell us what the tax loss skill be this year, minus his grants. What would that figure be? What is the loss this year, minus the grants, per municipality? Might that not give us an idea? I am sorry -- for 1990. That will be a full year; 1990 will be a full year. It would be more useful.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: For 1989, for the 10 municipalities, the total loss at the upper tier, lower tier and school board is $1.5 million. So it is minus $452,000. That is on page 9 of the submission. The total less will be $452,626.
Mr R. F. Johnston: For all the municipalities?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The 10 municipalities -- Toronto. Scarborough, Etobicoke, Brampton, Burlington; the 10.
Mr Charlton: How much are the grants?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The grants are $1,048,000.
Mr Charlton: The total tax loss is $1.4 million.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The total tax loss is $1.5 million; the grants are $1.048 million, for a total shortfall or tax loss of $452,000 for the 10 municipalities.
Mr R. F. Johnston: What we seem to have learned then is that for those 10 municipalities, forgetting those smaller municipalities, it looks like the tax loss they would have would be $1.5 million if they did not have the offsetting grants this year. That gives us some idea, therefore, of what their loss is in generated assessment and what the minister will be stiffing the local property taxpayer with at the end of this process. Is that right?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: As I have said, it is $1.5 million in losses, and also the grants will compensate. That figure will diminish by $1.048 million, for a total loss of $452,000. That is in 1989.
Mr R. F. Johnston:: We are trying, again, to get to the bottom line here of what the property taxpayer is going to get stuck with in four years’ time, which is a legitimate question, it seems to me. We have a sense that people across the province will be stuck with an extra $3.8 million in local income which will have to be raised through the assessment because of the government’s gift to the distillers of Ontario. What we do not have at the moment is a clear idea of what that is by municipality. What we do know is that property taxpayers, who are already overburdened, are now going to get stuck with $3.8 million of extra property tax because the government is giving a gift to the distillers of Ontario.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Again, they want to call it a gift and say that we are penalizing municipalities. I am not going to go through these figures again. As I mentioned, the total loss for the 10 municipalities in 1989 will be $452,000. In 1990, there will be a plus-$35,000 -- for the 10 municipalities.
Mr Epp: As I understand it, this is not a gift, but this is a form of equalization on behalf of the government of Ontario for these various municipalities. We know, for instance, that my own constituency will be affected by this. It will equalize the amount of assessment that is accrued to the various municipalities.
We find, of course, in my own municipality that the distillery has been paying an excessive amount of taxes, 140 percent, which is not equal to any other industry. What we are trying to do is reduce that to 100 per cent and then to 75 per cent. What we are talking about here is fairness in the tax system, not unfairness. What the opposition keeps on saying is, “We want more unfairness, to give to one industry as opposed to all the other industries.”
Being the government that we are, we are trying to get some kind of equalization here. It is a very important principle that this government supports and one that we should all support. I fail to see why the opposition members keep on saying that it is a gift, as opposed to associating themselves with the principle of fairness.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I will be glad to respond. What we are basically finding, I say to the member for Waterloo North (Mr Epp), is that in those small communities -- Maidstone, Thurlow, etc -- what we are talking about at the end of this process is a two per cent increase in the tax to the local taxpayer, or more --
Mr D. S. Cooke: A two per cent loss of assessment.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Sorry, a greater than two per cent loss of assessment in those individual communities at the end of this process. That is no small amount.
At the end of the phase-out of the offsetting grants in four years time, those communities are going to get stuck with a two per cent loss in what they would have expected if the government had not done this to them. That is the difference. While the minister supposedly equalizes this for the distillers -- and I have made arguments that they do not need any equalization. In fact, I am not sure they are paying their full freight right now for the cost to society from their product. But in order to give that kind of gift to them, we are ending up by stiffing some of these communities with a two per cent drop in what they might have expected in their assessment, which is no small potatoes for those communities.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The member for Scarborough West has specifically referred to the four municipalities. We know from the minister’s figure that in the first year of the phase-in of the drop from 140 per cent of assessment down to 100 per cent that the loss for the four municipalities will be $855,845 in tax lost. In the second year, there will be an additional $534,000. Could the minister supply to us the breakdown of the tax loss of those four municipalities in the first and second years of his program under Bill 37?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Thurlow, at the upper tier, $6,600; tax loss at the lower tier, $7,400; school board, $44,000, for a total of $58,000.
Grants to lower tier, $7,000; school board, $35,000, for a total of $43,000. So, it is a shortfall of $15,000.
If I can use Thurlow again, in 1990, at the upper tier, tax loss will be $4,100; at the lower tier, $4,600; school board, $27,000, for a total of $36,000.
Grants to the lower tier -- this will offset the total loss -- $10,500; $22,300 for the school board, for a total of $32,000, for a total net loss of $3,500.
Mr D. S. Cooke: What about Maidstone and Amherstburg?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Maidstone, in 1989, $18,000 at the upper tier; lower tier, $63,000, and school board, $97,000, for a total of $178,000. Grants at the lower tier --
Mr Faubert: Amherstburg?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Amherstburg, yes. At the lower tier, $63,000. That is grants. School board grants will be $86,000, for a total of $150,000 in grants, for a total loss of $28,000.
Mr Charlton: We do not seem to be getting any further with the minister with this question about the final breakdown in terms of the tax losses his documents set out in gross numbers. But at any rate, perhaps the minister can explain something to the House in relation to a couple of traditions which the assessment branch of the ministry has held fairly dearly for many years.
In 1979, the former government set out its section 76 program, which as a result of renumbering in 1980 is now called the section 63 program. That program, and I refer to the questions which were raised by the member for Waterloo North, was an equalization program where there were some assessments that were overassessed and some assessments that were underassessed.
In each municipality that opted for a section 63 program, there were adjustments to accommodate. Those who were overassessed got reductions; those who were underassessed got increases. The municipalities did not lose any money in terms of the taxes that went to the municipalities, lower tier, upper tier or boards of education.
Now, the government has chosen to break that tradition and to take an inadequate tax scale for business taxes and fix what it thinks is one problem in that tax scale without adjusting the others, so the municipalities end up suffering a loss.
Instead of going the route that the member for Waterloo North suggested, of taking the business percentages and doing an equalization to eliminate the unfairnesses, why did the minister just choose to do the one and create a situation where there was a loss for the municipalities and school boards involved?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I think that question has been asked before. The reason was that we thought 140 per cent was unreasonable, and this is why we started with distillers. This was done back in 1986. I want to repeat it: There was an all-party support, including the member’s party.
I said that there is a committee in place to look at commercial business tax, chaired by the assistant deputy minister, property assessment, with the administrator of the city of Sudbury, Bill Rice, and also the assistant deputy minister of Municipal Affairs, Marcia Sypnowich. So we are looking at the total program of taxation. As I said before, they met for the first time in September 1988. As soon as I have a report, I will be pleased to report back to the House.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I am just trying to understand these figures, looking at these four communities and the money he just told us about, which perhaps totals $855,000. I was not able to scribble down everything fast enough to have accurate figures on this, which would be quite useful. Does this amount, the $855,000, include a loss to the school boards from their local tax base?
Mr D. S. Cooke: That’s not what your compendium says.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Yes, it does.
Mr R. F. Johnston: So these figures we are talking about here are both school board grants and municipalities, even though the minister has put them down as one in terms of his totals going to the municipalities.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Upper and lower is not school board.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Plus municipal.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Okay. So these total figures are the total loss across the board. Do these include the compensating grants to school boards, or how does that work into the minister’s compensation package here? I am not sure I understand that portion of it. He gives a tax-loss grant provision, but I am not exactly sure. He has them in parentheses here, but how does it work to the school boards? I am not sure. In exactly the same fashion? How does this relate to their general legislative grants, etc?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The GLGs are set and the other grants are 20-20 -- 20 per cent one year, 20, 20 and 20 -- but the GLGs remain stable.
Mr D. S. Cooke: What is 20, 20 and 20?
Mr Grandmaître: It is 20 per cent.
Mr D. S. Cooke: We are talking about municipalities?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Yes.
Mr D. S. Cooke: We are not talking about school boards?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: No. In addition, the education portion of the tax loss to the 14 affected municipalities will be offset proportionally, adjusted by provincial GLGs.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Do I understand then that a board that is operating within the ceilings of the GLGs at this point would benefit by some assistance, but a board that is over the level of the GLG ceilings at this point would get no compensation at all, or how does that work?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The level of approved spending for GLGs, but if they go beyond the approved expenditures it is their loss.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I know the minister is not responsible for school boards, but does he have any idea how many boards are working under ceiling these days, under approved costs?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: No.
Mr D. S. Cooke: How can the minister bring in a bill that affects school boards dramatically, but will only compensate them for their loss in assessment for the expenditures under the ceilings when he knows, I am sure, because he has met with municipalities and I assume he has met with some trustees about this matter --
Hon Mr Grandmaître: No.
Mr D. S. Cooke: He has not met with any trustees. If he had met with some trustees, he might find that there are only a couple of school boards in the entire province that spend at ceiling or below. Everybody else spends above spending ceiling. So what the minister is saying is that they are going to lose assessment and their compensation will not apply to the expenditures over the spending ceilings per student, which means the loss will be 100 per cent borne by the local ratepayers. There will be no compensation from the province whatsoever.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I never said that. I know the member wants to ramble on. As I previously said, this was negotiated with the 14 municipalities and what the members have before them are the negotiated figures.
Mr D. S. Cooke: How many school boards were involved?
Mr R. F. Johnston: How many school boards did the minister talk to?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: All school boards and the 14 municipalities were involved.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I thought the minister said he did not meet with many trustees. I know how the process of negotiations went about with the municipalities. I know some of the members of municipal council who attended some of the meetings. I know the minister met with municipal councillors, but if the minister has not met with trustees, who met with the trustees? Who is responsible for this aspect of education if the minister has not met with his counterparts at the elected level for school boards?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I did not meet with municipalities.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Sure you did. I attended a meeting that --
Hon Mr Grandmaître: That was when I was Minister of Municipal Affairs. That is when it all started. But staff of the Ministry of Revenue met with school board people and municipal officials.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Basically, the minister is telling us that the boards of Ontario that are included in this group, the 14 that have managed to pay over ceiling amounts probably because of the assessment of some of these companies that are involved, agreed and acquiesced to the notion that the government is not going to pick up the extra costs they are managing to pay through their local tax levy rather than through the GLGs at this point, that the minister is now depriving them of?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I am being told by staff -- I did say that we met with school boards, that staff met with school boards. I am being told that only municipal officials were involved in the negotiations.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Some consensus. The minister will not invite those people who do not agree.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I may be wrong, but I think the largest figures I heard in terms of loss as the minister went through them were not the upper tier or the lower tier, but they were the school board figures primarily. I remember some figures in the $200,000 range for a couple of municipalities there; Windsor, for instance, but even significant ones in Maidstone. The minister cannot tell me today whether or not Maidstone, Thurlow and the other two communities in that small group are above ceiling at this point and what the impact is going to be on those boards by this move once he imposes this on them.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The answer is, no, I do not know.
Mr R. F. Johnston: What was the figure and the effect on school board loss of tax that the minister mentioned for Maidstone again? Could he remind me of that?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Yes. For Maidstone, in the first year, it is $316,000, and in the second year $197,000, but the total taxes lost to Maidstone in the year 1990 will be $13,000.
Mr Morin-Strom: The minister had mentioned before that the fact the four municipalities were split off from the other 10 and given a five-year phase out of any compensating grants had to do with this industry representing more than two per cent of the assessment base of those municipalities, I believe. Could the minister tell us, for each of those four communities that are obviously most seriously affected, what specific percentage -- not just “more than two per cent” -- of the assessment base is represented by the liquor distilling industry in those communities of Thurlow, Collingwood, Maidstone and Amherstburg?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I had the figures but they are not before me. I can provide the member with a total list of the affected municipalities.
Mr Morin-Strom: Given the fact that the minister does not have some of his figures with him today, I suggest that perhaps we should stand down continuation of the discussion in committee of the whole until the minister has those figures.
The Deputy Chairman: Just before that, any other questions or comments on the bill as it stands? If the member for Sault Ste Marie cares to make a motion to that effect, he may do so.
Mr Morin-Strom moves that the committee rise and report progress.
Is it the pleasure of the committee that the motion carry?
All those in favour will say “aye.”
All those opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
The Deputy Chairman: We may now therefore proceed with the discussion on the bill. If there are no other comments or questions, the member for Sault Ste Marie.
Mr Morin-Strom: The minister says he does not have the figures in terms of the assessment base for the four smaller communities. I wonder if the minister would be able to provide us with the assessment base of the 10 larger communities that are also affected here. I believe they are Toronto, Scarborough, Brampton, Burlington, Mississauga, Hamilton, Waterloo, Windsor and Woolrich.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: Could I ask the honourable member to define what he means by “assessment base”?
Mr Morin-Strom: My concern is with respect to the amount of the assessment base that is being taken out of these municipalities. The smaller communities in particular are going to face a severe penalty with respect to their property taxpayers when they have more than two percent of their property tax base--it was the minister who brought up the figure representing more than two per cent of their assessment base. I guess I should be asking the minister what he meant when he mentioned that criterion.
The fact that a municipality would lose more than two per cent of its property tax base has to be of very serious concern to those municipalities particularly. Obviously, it means that if it was a two per cent loss -- for all we know it may be 10 percent of the assessment base for one or more of those communities. If one of those communities lost 10 per cent of its assessment base and had its compensating grants from the government and from this bill phased out over five years, then that property tax base would be gone and these property taxpayers would have to pay an additional 10 per cent at least on their property taxes to keep up to a given level of spending or service in those communities. I do not know what those percentages are.
We do know that they are at least two percent for four of the communities in Ontario that are directly impacted by this bill. I would like to know from the minister how much the property tax penalty is going to be for those municipalities. Surely the minister knows what that percentage penalty is going to be, and he should provide it to the committee.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I am trying to answer the member’s question but I still want to know what his definition of “assessment base” is. Then I can proceed to answer his full question. What does the member mean by “assessment base”?
Mr Morin-Strom: The minister is obviously unable to answer our queries. I do not believe it is the minister’s role to be asking me questions with respect to the definitions that he sets as the assessment base. It was the minister who said that these communities are the ones who are getting a five-year phase-out of compensation, rather than a three-year phase-out, because presumably the two per cent figure that the minister mentioned reflects a loss of property tax payments into those municipalities.
The impact on these communities has to be severe. These are not large cities. I do not believe they are even cities at all: Thurlow, Collingwood, Maidstone and Amherstburg. The minister is unwilling to assure us that they will get compensation for succeeding years. The minister’s own figures show us that those four very small communities are going to have an ongoing annual tax loss of $855,845 for this year. That is over $200,000 per community. Then for next year there is going to be a further loss of another $534,902 for those communities. It is well over another $100,000 for each of those four communities.
Again, the minister’s own figures document that the ongoing annual tax loss for those four communities is going to total $1,390,747. He has the figures to the exact dollar. He must know what they are for each of those four municipalities and be able to relate those property tax losses to what the property taxes currently collected by those municipalities are. If we knew what the property taxes collected by those municipalities are currently and if we knew individually what their losses are, we would know how much of an impact this bill is going to have on each of those communities.
Surely the minister cannot be trivializing the loss of $1.4 million in revenues to four communities in Ontario. I do not know how he can justify it. Can the minister justify the loss of $1.4 million in tax revenues on an ongoing basis to the communities of Thurlow, Collingwood, Maidstone and Amherstburg?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I am still trying to make out the member’s original question. This is what I want to get at because his follow-up question does not make sense until I really get the sense of his original question when I asked him what he meant. The question was, “Will they lose two per cent, 10 per cent of the assessment base?” My question was for him to define “assessment base” and he has not.
Mr Charlton: The minister obviously has none of the documentation with him here today to back the rationale for this bill. He has been unable to answer any of our questions here this afternoon.
On motion by Mr Charlton, the committee of the whole House reported progress.
Hon Mr Conway: If I might, just to remind everyone, by motion of the House we have agreed that tomorrow afternoon we will begin the proceedings here at 1:15 pm.
The House adjourned at 1801.