The House met at 1330.
CENTRE MÉDICO-SOCIAL COMMUNAUTAIRE
M. Allen : Hier matin, à l’ouverture du Centre médico-social communautaire de Toronto, j’ai eu l’honneur et le privilège d’apporter les félicitations de l’Opposition officielle de l’Ontario et de tous les néo-démocrates.
Il y a longtemps que notre parti a promu l’idée de tels centres communautaires comme institutions principales pour la livraison de services médicaux. Ce centre, qui est un exemple d’avant-garde, a été conçu à l’intention de toute personne francophone venant à Toronto pour y recevoir des services médicaux, de toute la population francophone du grand Toronto et de tous les francophones de passage également.
Il offre au public, entre autres, des services d’accueil et d’orientation, de traduction et d’interprétation à l’hôpital, d’hébergement à prix modique, de consultation et de suivi médical avec un médecin francophone, d’infirmières en clinique et dans la communauté, d’aide d’urgence, de liaison avec les ressources communautaires et de counselling.
Nous tenons à souhaiter bonne chance à la communauté francophone de Toronto et à tout le personnel du Centre médico-social communautaire de Toronto. Nous avons toujours été solidaires de leurs revendications et de leurs luttes en vue de recevoir des services en français. Nous sommes heureux que ces efforts aient enfin porté fruit.
Mr J. M. Johnson: This government has made a commitment to the people of Ontario to improve highway safety. I am very supportive of this initiative and would encourage the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) to consider using Highway 6 between Guelph and Owen Sound as a pilot project in highway safety.
This 130-kilometre stretch of highway connects the Niagara Peninsula with the Bruce Peninsula and carries an extremely heavy traffic flow every weekend. As well, it serves a very active rural area. carries heavy local traffic and connects two cities.
Highway 6 has many bridges, curves and hills. making passing extremely difficult and dangerous, especially in the winter months as this highway passes through a very heavy snow belt, an area that is subject to deep snow, heavy drifting and white-outs.
The Minister of Transportation should consider the feasibility of constructing appropriate passing lanes on this highway as there is not a single passing lane in place at this time. It is my contention that the construction of passing lanes would contribute immensely to making this highway much safer, and I would encourage the Minister of Transportation to immediately initiate a feasibility study of this project.
Mr Faubert: In 1988 in the province of Ontario, there were 203,000 automobile accidents resulting in 121,000 injuries. The cost of these injuries in terms of bodily injury claims amounted to $1.8 billion. The personal costs in terms of pain, suffering and even death for victims of accidents and their loved ones are even more devastating.
This week, the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) introduced legislation for the Ontario motorist protection plan, which will address the problems associated with the rising costs of driving in Ontario.
I would like to advise the Legislature of the efforts of one of my constituents which will assist in the effort to reduce the amount of accidents and injuries on our roads.
Ian Elder was involved with the Institute of Advanced Motorists in the United Kingdom, and he is attempting to establish a similar association here in Ontario. He has also taken on the task of attempting to set up an advanced driving association across Canada.
It is founded on the fact that when the driving skills of a motorist are improved, the result is fewer accidents and therefore fewer injuries and deaths on our roads. This fact is substantiated by professional drivers, who state that advanced driving skills are the most important component of safety on our roads.
This institution would be financially self-sustaining and would promote safer driving through its advanced driving tests and the activities of drivers who have successfully passed the test levels.
I commend Mr Elder for his efforts to improve the level of driving skills on our roads. I urge all members to support this and similar initiatives related to improving the safety of driving on Ontario’s highways.
Mr Philip: As of this morning, there were 694 inmates at the Metropolitan Toronto West Detention Centre. According to the Ministry of Correctional Services’ own statistics, operational capacity at the Metropolitan Toronto West Detention Centre is 456. Thus, as of this morning, the centre was 238 inmates over its operational capacity.
According to union figures, 67 correctional officers have been suspended for refusing to do work that can only be described as deplorable, dangerous and unsafe. Untrained personnel are now undertaking their work. The ministry claims 53 correctional officers have been suspended. Whatever the actual figure of suspension, these officers have, through their representatives, warned the ministry for some time that the situation at the Metro Toronto West Detention Centre is deteriorating.
As early as 1977, the Ombudsman of Ontario, Arthur Maloney. warned the government about the serious conditions in our detention centres. Since then, my colleagues and I in the New Democratic caucus have called on the ministry to deal with the problem.
Instead of punishing those who in desperation are using the only measure they have to get the government’s attention, the government should be responding to their concerns. I call on the Minister of Correctional Services (Mr Patten) to do so before we have a coroner’s inquest making recommendations similar to those that Arthur Maloney made in 1977.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr McLean: My statement concerns the current strike of more than 8.000 teachers at Ontario's 22 community colleges, which could jeopardize the academic year for about 100.000 students in this province.
Community colleges like Georgian College in Orillia are an extremely important part of the education system in Ontario. They provide a unique and useful hands-on learning experience for students. What the students learn at community colleges they actually do when they graduate and enter the workforce. As well, community colleges are an integral part of the communities they serve by offering both employment and educational opportunities.
The Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr Conway) has indicated that he prefers not to become involved in the dispute that is affecting this province’s 22 community colleges, but I think he should show some leadership and get involved now while there is still time for students to return to classes and not have their entire academic year wasted by a prolonged dispute.
A similar strike in 1984 lasted 17 days before the teachers were legislated back to work. At that time, 78 per cent of the teachers, librarians and counsellors voted to strike, compared to only 54 per cent in 1989. I think it is a clear indication that the collective will for a prolonged work stoppage is in question.
The Minister of Colleges and Universities should do everything in his power to get all the parties involved back to the table. Show some leadership and solve the strike.
Mr Polsinelli: If Canadian air travellers paid an additional $5 a ticket, over $50 million a year would be raised to fight terrorism at Canadian airports. So says a Toronto-based air consulting firm.
Consultair cites three major problems which exist at airports. They are an unqualified security staff, inadequate staff training and antiquated detection equipment.
The $60 million announced by the federal government in 1986 does not nearly go far enough to solve these problems, when you consider that the cost of one thermal neutron activation device, used to detect plastic explosives, is over $1 million.
We all recall with horror Air-India flight 182 exploding over the Atlantic Ocean. the CP flight 003 incident at Narita airport in Tokyo and, more recently, Pan-Am flight 103, which disintegrated over Lockerbie. Scotland.
Consultair has made a positive suggestion that would raise over $50 million a year for airport security. The federal government should consider it seriously.
Mr Laughren: On 18 July, in this House, I raised with the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) the rather despicable practice of some insurance companies which avoided the 7.6 per cent cap on the increase in premiums by simply transferring policies from one company to another within a single conglomeration.
I wrote later to the Minister of Financial Institutions, because he did not do anything about the problem, and I said this in my letter on 2 August:
“In response to my question on this matter during question period on July 18, you indicated that your ministry would be pleased to look into those ‘specific instances’ of consumer displeasure where this scam is practised. This kind of response indicates your ignorance of the breadth of the issue. This is a widespread problem which goes far beyond a few isolated cases. Numerous Ontarians are finding themselves with no options, or, at best, very costly options because of the deception that your legislation has inspired in the automobile insurance industry.
“It is indeed atrocious to see companies hike premiums by upwards of 30 per cent by merely shuffling paper from one corner of a desk to another. I would think your ministry would find it an affront to see its legislation so easily avoided. And I would hope that you would do your best to correct the situation as quickly as possible.”
That was on 2 August. On 14 September I wrote yet another letter to the Minister of Financial Institutions, and still I have not received a reply. What is going on with that minister? Surely to goodness he has an obligation to respond to concerns of so many Ontario citizens.
Mr Eves: I am pleased to inform the House that Pat Terry received angioplasty this morning. As everyone will recall, I raised Mr Terry’s case with the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) yesterday during question period. While waiting for an angiogram to determine the seriousness of his heart condition. Mr Terry had a heart attack. The heart attack happened in September. He could not be scheduled to receive life-saving angioplasty until November. even though his condition was very unstable and he was experiencing severe chest pains.
Last Thursday Mr Terry phoned me to ask me to raise his case with the minister because he was so concerned about his health. Yesterday the minister responded in a typical manner in which she never really answers questions or the concerns raised. I am sure it is not merely a coincidence that the very morning after I questioned the minister about Mr Terry, he miraculously received his angioplasty.
It is truly tragic that every time someone needs a life-saving procedure, the case has to be brought to the minister’s attention to get action. Doctors and patients should not have to bring their cases to the minister’s attention.
When is the minister going to realize that her policies are forcing hospitals to close acute care beds throughout the province? When is she going to address the shortage of intensive care unit nurses and other health care professionals so essential to our health care system? When is the minister going to do something to reduce waiting times for cardiac care so that individual cases do not have to be raised to receive her attention?
Hon Mrs Caplan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I cannot let the implication go un-challenged. I am very concerned that the member opposite has left the impression that I in some way interfered with a medical judgement and decision. That is not the case --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Eves: That’s not a point of order. It’s a point of fact.
Hon Mrs Caplan: That’s medical judgement.
The Speaker: Order. There are many occasions that I have noticed in the past in this House when members are of different opinions and have expressed different opinions. I really cannot find that a point of order.
ALENTEJO CULTURAL WEEK
Mr Ruprecht: I am delighted to be able to introduce to the Legislature a delegation from Portugal, from the province of Alentejo, which makes up a third of the land mass of Portugal. These members who are here today will be participating in the Alentejo cultural week. The delegation is being led by the mayor of Vidigueira, Carlos Gois, and the president of Casa do Alentejo is Manuel Brito.
The contribution made by Portuguese Canadians is really legendary, and the cultural week being organized by Casa do Alentejo not only shows the contribution that Portuguese culture is making within the Portuguese community, but the organization is understood to broaden their cultural attributes and to include others who have made a contribution as well.
I am delighted to be able to participate in this cultural week, as have other members of this Legislature. I am delighted to be able to greet them here, and I hope their cultural week is going to be a great success as it is the sixth annual cultural week of Casa do Alentejo.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for members’ statements.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr O’NeiI: I am pleased to table in the Legislature today a bill to amend Ontario’s Mining Act. This is legislation that reflects current conditions and concerns and will put the province and its mines and minerals industry in a competitive position for the 21st century.
Legislation can create a favourable investment climate in which industry can respond and grow. The Mines Act of 1906 has served the province well over the last 73 years. However, in today’s increasingly complex world, it is clear that the mineral exploration and mining industries have changed significantly. The province needs a new mining act to take it into the next decade and beyond.
This government committed itself to a thorough review of mining legislation two years ago. As a result of that commitment, my predecessor, the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway), released a green paper on mines and minerals policy and legislation last December. That green paper recommended revisions to Ontario’s Mining Act that maintain and enhance the development of the province’s mineral resources while accommodating the concerns of other sectors of the community.
It also addressed the question of land tenure and the right to mine, including measures to avoid claim disputes, and it made recommendations to help industry comply with government requirements while ensuring the responsibilities taken for environmentally sound mining operations.
In addition, the green paper dealt with the related issues of concern to the mineral exploration and mining industries such as the inclusion of certain industrial minerals in the Mining Act, the use of regulations and the proposal to retain the current provisions for domestic processing.
From its release until the end of March 1989, the deadline was set for submissions on the green paper proposals. The ministry initiated wide consultation with mineral exploration, mining organizations, environmental groups, municipalities, other special interest groups and the general public.
These comments have been taken into account by the government, and many of the suggestions have been incorporated into the bill. At the same time, we have retained green paper proposals that strengthen the legislation. For instance, the provisions of section 104 of the current act, which call for the domestic processing of Ontario’s mineral resources, remain unchanged.
Environmental concerns have also been firmly addressed; part 9 of the act has been expanded to cover the environmental effects of advanced exploration, development and closure. Notice to the public will be required of advanced exploration and mine development. Closure plans and related financial assurance will be required to ensure adequate rehabilitation takes place.
This new Mining Act will encourage the ongoing development of our mineral resources, attract new investment in the mining sector and protect the interests of those who are concerned about the impact of mining on the environment and their communities. With it, I believe Ontario has introduced legislation that looks ahead to the issues that will confront mining in the next decade, indeed the next century.
NORTHERN BUSINESS SERVICES AND MANUFACTURERS GUIDE / GUIDE DES SERVICES ET DES FABRICANTS DU NORD
Hon Mr Fontaine: This government is committed to promote the long-term competitiveness and stability of the northern Ontario economy. This commitment has been shown by the northern relocation program. The impact on the service sector of the province’s decision to relocate 1,600 positions to northern Ontario with an annual payroll of about $50 million is already starting to show benefits for northern-based suppliers.
Today, I am pleased to announce the release of the Northern Business Services and Manufacturers Guide as the next part of the government’s Buy North initiative. All members will receive a copy of this guide.
Le guide, une production conjointe de mon ministère et du ministère de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de la Technologie, catalogue plus de 2 500 pourvoyeurs de produits et de services du Nord et vise à aider les acheteurs du Nord à combler plus facilement leurs besoins.
Il sera posté à une grande variété d’acheteurs potentiels, autant du secteur public que du secteur privé, partout en Ontario. Il est disponible dans tous les bureaux des deux ministères.
This reference document will also serve to increase awareness in other regions of this province of the wide range of goods and business services available in northern Ontario and the rapidly expanding base of qualified suppliers across the north.
The document will be used in the government’s continuing series of selling-to-government seminars which are being held in northern centres including Sudbury. Timmins. North Bay, Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay. These seminars bring together private sector and government purchasers, with the goal being increased northern business opportunities. The seminars help inform northern companies about how to do business with the provincial government.
A consultant’s study, which evaluated the capabilities and existing business services in each of the five northern relocation centres, identified an estimated $11 million in total business service opportunities in the first year of the relocation.
Reconnaissant le potentiel commercial du nord de l’Ontario, le gouvernement a travaillé de concert avec les commerces du Nord sur le projet Achète Nord, qui encourage l’achat par la province, par d’autres agences publiques et par le secteur privé, de produits, d’équipement et de services des pourvoyeurs du nord de l’Ontario. Le projet Achète Nord créera de nouveaux emplois dans les commerces existants et dans les nouveaux commerces et contribuera à une plus grande diversification économique du nord de l’Ontario.
The Buy North program is an important element in a program that is intended to diversify northern economic activity through the relocation program, the strengthening of the existing resource base and the creation of new service and manufacturing industries.
Mr Pouliot: From the 19th to the 21st century by way of revamping the Mining Act: We welcome the announcement by the Minister of Mines. We want to wish him well in his tenure.
It takes some time to recognize the contribution the mining sector has made to Ontario. Of course, the minister’s proposal is not a bold proposal. It is not the answer to some of the problems that surround mining activities in Ontario. It is not a labour piece of legislation. He is not legislating environmental changes. But what he does do is attempt to better reflect 1989 by the securing of tenure, for instance.
Those of us who are fortunate to live there and are familiar therefore with the Hemlo gold field, the Hemlo situation, will realize that the minister is indeed to be commended for addressing the problem of claim jumping. Under his proposed legislation, this will not happen again.
Public notice for advanced exploration: The public has a right to be notified of activities concerning “their land,” and it is again a step in the right direction. A plant closure provision before he even cuts the ribbon, before he even opens the mine, before he is that much closer to extinction, because for every shovel you take out of the ground, you are that much closer to the day when you will close the doors. You will have a guarantee, a welcome guarantee that the environment will be better protected.
I take, not with some cynicism, with respect, but with a grain of salt the minister’s recommendation to keep section 104 of the Mining Act. For 73 years we have asked that the ore that is extracted, for instance, in Sudbury, be processed in Ontario and the minister has been able, by reason of ministerial discretion, to bypass the Mining Act. He has to ensure responsibility. He has to monitor compliance if he is to keep section 104 of the Mining Act. He is the guardian of the act and we would advise him either to bring forth an honest amendment to say there will be no more ministerial discretion or to monitor compliance and force people who are extracting minerals in Sudbury to process those minerals to phase 2.
NORTHERN BUSINESS SERVICES AND MANUFACTURERS GUIDE / GUIDE DES SERVICES ET DES FABRICANTS DU NORD
M. Pouliot : En ce qui concerne les paroles du ministre du Développement du Nord (M. Fontaine), il se souviendra sans doute que depuis au moins cinq ans -- et surtout depuis deux ans, avec la proclamation do trésorier de l’Ontario (M. R. F. Nixon) en ce qui concerne le Fonds du patrimoine du Nord de l'Ontario -- qu’on lui avait donné, s’il voulait améliorer la situation économique du Nord, des mesures précises comme des taux réduits du coût de l’électricité pour les entrepreneurs et les consommateurs du nord de l’Ontario.
On avait aussi suggéré que la taxe de vente de huit pour cent en Ontario sur les produits manufacturés expédiés vers le Nord soit réduite d’un pour cent chaque année. Enfin, nous avions conseillé de réduire de 0,02 $ par année chaque litre d’essence sur une période établie de quatre ou cinq ans, ce qui aurait un impact sur les consommateurs et les entrepreneurs de l’Ontario.
Those are real measures. Those are something you can relate to. They demand a lot of planning. The minister has the goodwill. A little more planning will bring us forward that much more to the day where we can look to the north, join the economic mainstream of the rest of Ontario and look to the future with confidence.
Mr Hampton: Responding to the statement by the Minister of Northern Development, I want to say that we welcome this new publication, the Northern Business Services and Manufacturers Guide. I only want to say to the minister that this was promised not in the last throne speech, but two throne speeches ago. I would say it is a little late in its production.
I want to say to the minister that if he wants to do something about the problem he makes the statement on, he should consider the impact of things such as the increases in gasoline taxes, which generally make many of the things that are manufactured in northern Ontario a little less competitive, simply because transportation in and transportation out is such a burden.
Second, a $5 tire tax: When you have roads such as we have in northern Ontario, a $5 tire tax on every tire is quite simply an obstruction to any kind of commercial trade.
I want to point out as well, though, that this government has to clean up its own house because we quite often find other obstacles equally as bad as those I mentioned.
Mr Harris: I want to respond first to the statement made by our Minister of Mines on the grand occasion of the introduction of changes to the Mining Act. I want to indicate to the House that at least we have a Minister of Mines who appears to be finally moving a little bit ahead.
Members will recall that last December the former Minister of Mines introduced a green paper. I said at that time that the proposed changes he was bringing forward in the green paper were those that had been circulated through the mining industry in the early 1980s, introduced in the form of a bill in this chamber by the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope) when he was the Minister of Natural Resources, responsible for mines, then reintroduced by myself when I was the minister responsible in 1985. In 1988, fully three years after that, the first move this administration had made was to go backwards in time and go to a green paper.
Now, five years later, we are back to where we were back in 1984 and 1985 with changes to the Mining Act. I think it says something about this government that when it comes to mining, resource industries and those of us in northern Ontario who have been so dependent on those -- not exclusively northern Ontario of course, but those parts of the province -- it has been fully five years in the making to reintroduce a bill that was first brought in in 1985. It tells us something about the importance this government and this administration has put on the whole issue of mining. It is a disgrace.
We have been calling for this in 1986, in 1987, in 1988 and in 1989. I see the former Minister of Mines, the former House leader, the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway), who is now back in his place. I hold him fully accountable for those delays throughout those years. So it is very difficult for me to congratulate this administration for bringing in something that should have been passed fully four or five years ago. It is really difficult for me to do.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Harris: I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that the violent reaction coming forth from the Liberal benches assures you and all those watching that I have hit a pretty sensitive cord in the lack of action and the lack of policy of this administration.
NORTHERN BUSINESS SERVICES AND MANUFACTURERS GUIDE
Mr Harris: Let me move on briefly to the statement by the Minister of Northern Development concerning the Northern Business and Services Manufacturers Guide. This is part of the Buy North program. As the member for Rainy River (Mr Hampton) pointed out, one of the great concerns we have -- it may surprise members to hear somebody so close to northern Ontario, indeed part of it, with some of my riding, say that we are not interested in Buy North at any cost. That is not what we are saying.
We want this government to buy as efficiently and at the lowest cost possible, and so as the member for Rainy River pointed out it is not Buy North at any price; it is how we help northern Ontario companies and northern Ontario businesses to be competitive so they will have the lowest price and can compete. We then talk about the transportation links in the north. We talk about gasoline prices. We talk about the competitiveness and the lack of interest in this government in helping them be competitive.
To just say. “We have a policy that you most Buy North,” does not make sense, not at any price. If there is a company in eastern Ontario that has the lowest price, we want the government to buy in eastern Ontario. We want it to buy at the lowest price, if that company is in western Ontario or even if it is in Toronto. So help the north to become competitive. That is what we are asking it to do.
Mr B. Rae: Mr Speaker, I want to advise you that I will be standing down one of my leadoff questions for the arrival of the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the Attorney General (Mr Scott), but with your consent I would like to ask one of my leadoff questions to the Minister of Correctional Services.
I wonder is the minister prepared to concede in this House that overcrowding is a significant problem and a reality in many of our correctional institutions today.
Hon Mr Patten: I do not know how much more clearly I can express this. I think that over the last matter of weeks I have acknowledged that especially around the Toronto watershed we do have extreme pressure on our system. I have also explained, and I think the member well knows, why we have that kind of pressure. We have some plans to deal with that and I believe the member is well aware of those plans as well.
Mr B. Rae: The only plan that has been put into effect is the suspension of dozens of correctional officers who have expressed their profound concern at their health and safety and at the health and safety of inmates in our correctional institutions.
Can the minister tell us why he would be saying that this is a recent problem when in fact, if you go back to 1977, Arthur Maloney, as Ombudsman of the day, presented a report to the government at that time setting out how serious the overcrowding problem was in our correctional institutions. It was in 1977. Dan Hill confirmed it a decade later when he talked about conditions in Whitby and Barrie. We now have a situation where there are 694 inmates at the Metropolitan Toronto West Detention Centre in a facility that is supposed to be there for 456 people. What kind of government allows conditions where you have 250 people more in a prison than are supposed to be there?
Hon Mr Patten: As to the facts the member expresses for 1977, that is over 12 years ago. I might remind the honourable Leader of the Opposition that since 1984-85 to the present. there has been only a five per cent increase in the adult population in our institutions.
For the same period of time, he has asked, “What have we done?” We have increased our staff by 32 per cent. We have made contributions. As a matter of fact, the budget for the Ministry of Correctional Services over that period of time has increased by 103 per cent. That is not insignificant. That amounts to $223 million. For the Leader of the Opposition to suggest we are not attempting to address this particular issue is a tad of an overstatement.
Mr B. Rae: Under the act that established the ministry, it states, “It is the function of the ministry to supervise the detention and release of inmates, parolees and probationers and to create for such persons a social environment in which they may achieve changes in attitude by providing training, treatment and services,” and so on.
I want to ask the minister, how can he seriously maintain that he is in fact performing his functions as minister and that his ministry is able to perform its functions when he has overcrowding by as much as 30 and 40 per cent in institutions, with four people in one cell? How can he possibly have rehabilitation when he has four people in a cell and when he has overcrowding to the point that people are having to book off sick?
Hon Mr Patten: The honourable member asks how we do this. I would like to point out something to the Leader of the Opposition. First, it is 14.7 per cent of the people who are sentenced who are in institutions. That means the vast majority of people are in communities where a great deal of success does take place. There are programs throughout our institutions as well. We have teachers, social workers, chaplains and various instructors of all kinds who provide programs for many of those inmates in those institutions.
To acknowledge the overcrowding, I must point out to the Leader of the Opposition that when he talks about a degree of overcrowding, he is talking about people who have to sleep in a particular cell. I do not like it. Nobody likes it. We all have to face that kind of pressure, but they are there only for a sleeping condition and during the daytime, if they are permitted, they go out for recreation or for their educational programs.
The Speaker: Just for the information of all members, the Leader of the Opposition has requested to stand down his second question until, I believe, the Premier or the Attorney General comes. The member for Sarnia.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the same minister. I wonder if the minister could share with us his thoughts and plans with respect to what I understand is a threat to bring in an injunction to force the workers and the guards at the detention centres to comply with their work schedules. Is that the minister’s intention? Does he in some fashion expect that is going to correct the overcrowded conditions?
Hon Mr Patten: Yes, it is my intention at the moment. We are seeking an injunction. Do I think that will immediately solve the overcrowding? No, I do not. I also believe that what will not solve the problem is by locking in prisoners. That would tend to incite other kinds of behaviour.
Mr Brandt: I think the minister is well aware of the figures as they relate to the various detention centres, and of the fact that the overcrowding has reached critical proportions in the Toronto area and that the busing of these inmates to other parts of Ontario is also putting pressure on the system right across this province. He has known about this problem and his government has been aware of it for at least the last 18 months. The severity and the increase in the numbers have accelerated very, very rapidly.
He stands up proudly and talks about the increases in his budget, but what has he done as a result of the immediate increases that are very directly related to the drug programs that are going on in our communities, primarily in Toronto, and of the most recent problems that have impacted on his ministry over the past year or year and a half?
The Speaker: Order; Minister.
Mr Brandt: That is the time when he should have been taking some action.
The Speaker: The questions have been asked.
Hon Mr Patten: I appreciate the acknowledgement of the issue. I suggest that this ministry cannot solve the whole problem and I think the honourable member would well know that. The problem has to be addressed by a variety of ministries: the Ministry of Health has a role, the Ministry of the Attorney General has a role, the Ministry of Correctional Services has a role, the Ministry of the Solicitor General, etc. People in communities have a role. Local police forces have a role and, indeed, we all have a particular role.
Members have heard of the Black commission, the new cabinet committee on drug abuse and the programs that will be announced relating to that particular initiative by this government. There are many initiatives that will take place that I believe in the longer term will deal with this particular problem.
Mr Brandt: I hold out hope that the minister has some solutions to the problem because apparently on the radio this morning he indicated he was waiting for a further report to indicate the kind of direction that he was intending to take with respect to some of these solutions.
I would suggest to the minister that we have violence in these jail cells; we have a group of employees who are guards at these facilities who are extremely upset because of their working conditions at the present time. What they want is a commitment from the minister, his ministry and his government that in fact he is concerned about the situation. They do not want a joke about working conditions such as the minister provided them the day they showed up here at Queen’s Park.
Will the minister meet with the guards and indicate the kinds of steps he is prepared to take so they can have confidence that he is concerned about the problem?
Hon Mr Patten: Along those lines, I have asked that each one of our superintendents meet with each of the local unions to discuss the issues they face and try -- at least for the short term, as we address the longer term -- to deal with the concerns we all share and we all have.
This will vary, of course, from institution to institution. Not all of the institutions, as the member well knows, are of the same size or of the same age. In the interim, I must tell the honourable leader of the third party that I have spent considerable time reviewing our 15-year capital plan precisely for the reason he has indicated, to address what we can do in the medium and short term. We are reviewing that. We are developing some alternatives and we are putting those forward for consideration.
The Speaker: I see the Attorney General has rushed right back for the question from the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr B. Rae: Can the Attorney General confirm that he is in receipt of a letter dated 28 September 1989, signed by the Chief Justice of Canada in his role as the head of the Canadian Judicial Council, and that attached to that letter is a document entitled Administration of Justice Committee Supplementary Report, in which certain comments are made with respect to the act to amend the Courts of Justice Act?
Hon Mr Scott: I can.
Mr B. Rae: I wonder if the Attorney General can tell us what his response is to the statement of the administration of justice committee, when it states, “Alterations in Ontario of standards that are common to superior courts are unacceptable,” to quote exactly from the report of the administration of justice committee.
Hon Mr Scott: The amendments that have been made to the bill, in my opinion, take care of the concerns.
Mr B. Rae: That is not the opinion one would conclude from a letter dated 28 September 1989 with respect to the bill. There are some very fundamental questions raised in the report about the constitutionality of the bill as it relates to the independence of the judiciary. In light of the concerns that have been raised and in light of the fact that judges are not able to either lobby or express themselves in the normal political course of events, would the Attorney General not agree that he would be wise to refer the entire subject matter of this bill to the Ontario Court of Appeal so that we might have some decision by it as to the constitutionality of what it is the Attorney General wants to do to the judges of Ontario?
Hon Mr Scott: The concern to which a number of judges have directed themselves -- very forcefully in dealing with the government, I may say -- has been that the management committees that are contemplated by the statute may not be advisory in character; that is to say that they may impose an obligation on judges to respond as the management committee directs. That has never been the language of the statute and the judges have conceded that the language of the statute is entirely satisfactory, as I understand it.
What they are concerned about is that in the original statute the committees were not going to be called ‘management advisory committees,’ which would make plain the view of the government and a view that the judges find consistent with their independence. That amendment is being made and I think the Leader of the Opposition will be satisfied, as will the judges, with the regime that the bill contemplates.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Colleges and Universities with respect to the labour dispute that is presently impacting on our college system. During the course of the past couple of days I have received contact, both by telephone and by mail, from a great number of nursing students at Lambton College in my own community of Sarnia who are very concerned about this dispute causing a delay in their graduation period.
The minister is well aware of the fact that nursing graduates are critically needed in the health system in this province, and the delays that may well be forthcoming as a direct result of the current labour dispute will have a serious effect on the date on which these particular students can graduate. Can he offer these students any assurance whatever that he is prepared to step in and at least try to help resolve the current dispute and to bring about a quicker settlement than might otherwise be the case, recognizing that the sides are not even talking at this current moment?
Hon Mr Conway: I thank my friend for giving me an opportunity to once again address the issue of the current difficulty between the Council of Regents and the community college teachers across Ontario. Of course, like all members, I share the concern of students caught in the midst of this difficulty, but I repeat, surely both parties, the parties who have it within their power to resolve this at the bargaining table, will appreciate the pressures that this current difficulty will create for such students as my friend the member for Sarnia has identified, and I expect that responsible parties accepting the collective bargaining process are going to want to address those difficulties by returning to the bargaining table and accepting the responsibilities which are properly theirs under the act which governs all of this.
I repeat, while I share the concern of all honourable members for students in this respect, I have absolutely no intention of absolving either party from its responsibility to resolve this under the act and at the bargaining table.
Mr Brandt: A position I might share with the minister is entirely different from the position put forward by his leader the Premier (Mr Peterson) just a few years ago when he was on the opposite side of this House. I add that only by way of background.
The minister is well aware that there are 600 clinical hours required by these nurses who are hoping to graduate. Their exams are going to be due and are fixed for 24 January. If those exams, in fact, are missed as a result of this dispute, it means that badly needed nurses will not be able to enter the health system of this province, further causing delays and surgical delays such as are going on at the current time with the long lineups that we bring to the attention of the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) on a regular basis. What assurance can the minister give us that these nurses will, in fact, have an opportunity to complete the clinical hours that they require --
The Speaker: Thank you. The questions have been put for some time.
Mr Brandt: -- and in addition will be able to write their exams on 24 January 1990?
Hon Mr Conway: The assurance that like the good, sensible people I believe them to be, both parties are going to understand the difficulties occasioned by withdrawal of services in this situation. They are going to do the right and proper thing, which is to get back to that bargaining table within the context of the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act and accept their responsibility to resolve this in the best interest of the students whose interest are quite properly observed by not only the member for Sarnia but all in this assembly.
Mr Brandt: I want to say to the minister, is his only response a response of non-involvement, nonaction, no concern whatever other than to stand by the side of the road and watch the parade go by while these students are missing their college year? Is that the minister’s only response to this problem?
Hon Mr Conway: You either support collective bargaining or you do not. My friend from Sarnia, as a former mayor of a large Ontario community, knows only too well that there are certain requirements that must be observed if you do support free collective bargaining. That is what we have granted by virtue of a statute passed by the old Tory regime.
I want to say again that of course I, like all members, share the concern about the nearly 100,000 students who are caught in the middle of this. That is a given. But if this is going to be resolved in the right and proper way it is going to have to be resolved by both parties accepting their responsibilities and, I repeat, I have no intention whatsoever of absolving either of those parties from their responsibilities under the process and the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question of the Minister of Housing, if I could have the minister’s attention. I would like to ask the minister about a rent review application concerning a building at 892 Eglinton Avenue, East York. Specifically. is the minister aware of this case, where the landlord has made an application for a 92 per cent increase in the rent in one year? Of course, the major reason for the application for rent increase is because of the exploitation of the minister’s capital expenditure loophole in his rent review legislation.
I would like to ask the minister whether he thinks this is fair, whether he is prepared to bring in amendments with regard to his rent review legislation so that people like Cynthia Roll and Karen Glassford, who are both tenants in this building and who are sitting in our gallery today, are not forced to move out of this building because of the loopholes in the minister’s rent review legislation.
Hon Mr Sweeney: My honourable friend is well aware of the fact that the last time the rent review legislation was changed it was done so as a co-ordinating effort between tenants and landlords. Each of them made their contribution as to what they wanted to see in it.
The agreement was that reasonable renovations to a building could be passed through. The hearing officer, as the member well knows, has the option of determining whether or not it should be passed through once or passed through over a phased-in period of time.
As the honourable member well knows, it is one thing for a landlord to ask for any increase he wants. That does not necessarily mean that the hearing officer in fact is going to grant that, but there is nothing within legislation to prohibit renovations and prohibit a landlord from asking for an increase.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I understand that the process may result in not the full 92 per cent, but this same landlord made an application for a building in Scarborough. They asked for 63 per cent; they got 62 per cent under the minister’s rent review legislation.
When the minister refers to capital expenditures and seems to indicate that only reasonable capital expenditures are accepted, he is wrong. There is no limitation at all in his rent review legislation.
Does he think it is appropriate that this landlord should be able, in order to get his base rent increase, to put in things like microwaves and new dishwashers which the tenants do not want? They just want a clean apartment, well kept, at an affordable rent. Is the minister prepared to do something with his rent review legislation or is he going to allow 92 per cent increases for tenants in this province?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I tend to agree with the member that in some people’s minds certain renovations and certain changes may be seen to be inappropriate or unnecessary. The honourable member is correct. There is nothing within the existing legislation that determines when a renovation is appropriate or not. The legislation clearly says that when renovations are done and the costs can be documented, the landlord has the opportunity to ask for an increase.
I guess my question back to the honourable member is on the difficulty of knowing how we are going to decide what is appropriate and what is not. To what extent are changes in a kitchen or washroom the thing that needs to be done? Who makes that decision? Is it going to be the tenants who make the decision? Is it going to be the hearing officer who makes the decision? Are we going to make this decision in redrafting legislation? I am sorry; I do not have the answer for that.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE
Mr Sterling: I have a question of the Attorney General. Last Wednesday I warned the Attorney General that many of the justices of the peace would walk out of work on Friday. On Friday, only 11 of 46 justices of the peace were on duty in Toronto. That meant that one justice of the peace had to handle seven courts and he simply remanded all the cases to the future. It was also necessary to arrange for five provincial court judges to deal with bail matters, which they do not normally deal with. I do not believe that I have ever experienced or heard of a part of our judiciary walking away from their jobs in a planned way.
What is the minister planning to do to address this very, very tense situation?
Hon Mr Scott: My honourable friend, who as critic is almost invariably helpful in matters relating to the justice system, let us all down a bit last week because he led this assault by asserting that the president and the secretary of the Justices of the Peace Association of Metropolitan Toronto had resigned their offices because of their inability to get a meeting with the ministry. That, regrettably, was not factual. They resigned because they were not prepared to support illegal activity with respect to the performance of duties by justices of the peace. I think that is entirely to their credit.
I am very proud to work in a system that numbers them as justices of the peace and I am very proud of those justices of the peace who appeared for work on Friday. Happily, the work was dealt with by making other arrangements, but what occurred was indeed a serious matter.
Mr Sterling: In response -- I have to respond -- I indicated publicly that the president of the Justices of the Peace Association resigned because of his frustration in being unable to deal with a very difficult --
Hon Mr Scott: That is not correct. Ask him.
Mr Sterling: Well, the Attorney General can look for the quotations.
As things stand now, there is no mechanism to resolve the problem dealing with justices of the peace, their salaries and working conditions. They have to go to the Attorney General on bended knee. Why does the minister not institute the same kind of systems that our provincial court judges have for resolving disputes?
I put forward that kind of amendment when Bill 93 was before this Legislature --
The Speaker: Thank you. That is the question.
Mr Sterling: That was rejected by the Attorney General and as a result we have a tense --
The Speaker: The member has placed the question.
Hon Mr Scott: There is always a tense situation. The tensions are not being reduced in any fashion by the kind of observation that my honourable friend makes. As he knows, Bill 93 was introduced and his amendments -- I am sure he regards this as an unhappy matter -- were rejected. It does not seem to me that at this stage they should be taken up again, as they did not meet with favour in the House.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Solicitor General. With Lake Simcoe running along almost the entire extent of my riding, boating is a matter of concern for the people who live there and with more than one million boats using our waterways in this province, it must be of concern to many others as well. I understand that an additional 25,000 boats hit our waterways every year. The police are telling me that they are hard pressed to keep an eye on all this increasing aquatic traffic.
I wonder if the minister today would share with us if he is planning to respond to this tremendously rapidly increasing waterway traffic in the province and what he is doing about the safety of people who use the waterways.
Hon Mr Offer: The member raises a very important matter and one that has received some comment in the media over the summer. I would like to indicate that in terms of waterway safety, there are basically three things that one has to address: first, the impaired boating issue; second. unsafe boating. and third, the whole question of waterways policing.
On the basis of the question of waterways policing, I would like to inform the member that there is indeed an interministerial committee looking at that whole issue right now and I expect it to report back to me in the very near future.
With respect to the whole question of impaired and unsafe boating, I would like to assure the member and members of the Legislature that there are currently OPP initiatives dealing with how best to present this whole message based on impaired boating and unsafe boating to the public. We do have measures such as a marine awareness program which has been running in the past and has been very successful. But I would like to make it clear that we are, through a --
The Speaker: Thank you. That seems like a fairly comprehensive answer.
Mr Owen: I understand that at the present time under the laws of this province, the only time there is an obligation to report a boating accident is if someone is killed. The police tell me that they estimate at least 60 per cent of the present boating accidents go unreported. This happens even when there are injuries. Of course, with automobiles, the minister is aware that reporting takes place if there is damage in excess of a certain figure or if there is injury.
I am wondering if the minister could advise us whether or not he and his ministry are contemplating applying that same approach to boating accidents as is now followed with regard to automobile accidents on our highways.
Hon Mr Offer: Right now under the Coroners Act there is a requirement that boating accidents that result in a fatality must be reported to the police. There is no other type of reporting mechanism. I would like to make it very clear that that is one of the issues which this interministerial committee is looking at, and to indicate to the member that mandatory reporting is certainly a requirement that I am in favour of and that will he brought forward in the whole range of the report from this interministerial committee.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mr B. Rae: I have a question to the Premier. The Premier was quoted outside this place on 20 October, in Friday’s newspaper, as saying on Thursday in the scrum -- he is quoted in the Globe and Mail, and other reporters have told me that this is in fact what the Premier said -- he is quoted as follows: “Premier David Peterson said, however, that the government will fight the band’s application in the Ontario Supreme Court on 26 October.... He said the government wanted to continue with its plans to build the road.”
The Bear Island band has now filed its notice of motion with the Supreme Court of Ontario, dealing directly with a request for an injunction on the construction of the road and dealing as well with a request that the logging of old red and white pine forests be enjoined. I wonder if the Premier can tell us whether it is still his position, as he stated on Thursday, that the government will fight the band’s application in court.
Hon Mr Peterson: The answer is yes. I think our position throughout this has been consistent. Everything that has been done has been with the approbation of the court. It has gone through several other injunctions, as my honourable friend knows, and the answer is yes, we are proceeding. But I think, as announced last week, we are suspending construction of the road pending the resolution of that injunction application which is taking place on Thursday of this week.
Mr Wildman: That certainly is not the statement made by the Attorney General (Mr Scott) yesterday in answer to my question. But since the Premier has said that the government intends to oppose the application before the court, could he indicate what the government’s response is to the position taken not just by the band, but also by Crandall A. Benson, associate professor of forestry at Lakehead University?
He says that if the government proceeds with logging of the old-growth red and white pine in the area, the government and all of us will he losing the only opportunity we have to study old-growth areas and to determine how we could develop a sustained-yield approach to logging in those kinds of areas. If this logging proceeds, according to Professor Benson, we will have lost that opportunity. Is the government prepared to ensure that we do not lose it?
Hon Mr Peterson: Yes. I think the member could tell Professor Benson that is not the intention of the government. Indeed, as I am sure my honourable friend is aware, there is a conference being held -- I believe in January -- in conjunction with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, with respect to the question of old growth. There are many different definitions of the question of old growth.
It is not the intention of the government to go in and clear-cut any of the sensitive areas.
Anything that will be done will be done under the auspices of an authority, and we have invited the Temagami Wilderness Society to join us in deciding which areas will be cut and how. So I think my honourable friend can tell his friend Dr Benson that he need not worry. Indeed, we would welcome his advice.
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Premier about his cabinet’s reaction to the tragic death of Stella Lacroix and the cabinet’s position on emergency service. The Premier’s new Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr Black) says in the Gravenhurst News that he sides with his fellow cabinet minister that money to ensure that hospital beds are available for emergency services could be better spent. The Minister of Tourism and Recreation says there is a tremendous cost in “having beds open and staff waiting for someone to drink a cup of acid.”
In expressing this view, I would like to know if the minister is indeed speaking for the Premier and his cabinet.
Hon Mr Peterson: I am not aware of any press reports or anything the minister has said, but I think that the minister has spoken on this issue, as have I in this House, and it is very regrettable what has happened. There is an inquest into the entire matter, and we talked about the system. We talked about the things that the minister is doing in response to critical care, and hopefully these kinds of things can be avoided, if it is possible to avoid them. I am not in a position to say whether that death was avoidable or not, hut certainly we would like to have a system that responds in every case as best as possibly and humanly can be done.
Mr Harris: When a minister of the crown says there is tremendous cost in having beds open and staff waiting for someone to drink a cup of acid, I suggest it tells us two things. One, this government does not understand that cost should not be the bottom line for emergency care in Ontario and that if we do not have emergency beds open and we do not have staff waiting, we are not in fact ready for emergencies. Two. I suggest to the Premier that by passing judgement on the nature of the emergency itself, it brings into question his minister’s understanding of just what is going on and just what happened in the tragic death of Ms Lacroix.
I want to know how in the world the Premier can justify sending this kind of message, this kind of signal, to the people of this province.
Hon Mr Peterson: Let me say that obviously we have a very elaborate health care system that is very expensive and there are a number of beds available. One of the questions, I believe, that was discussed during this most unfortunate incident is whether in fact there were critical care beds available on that occasion. I think, to the best of my knowledge, there in fact were critical care beds available.
There is some question about the capacity of the system to handle these difficult situations, and obviously, to the extent that we can improve the system, that is what we want to do. I think that is where the government stands and I think that the minister has spoken on that subject to my friend.
Mr Daigeler: My question is to the Solicitor General. Last week I asked about his ministry’s efforts towards crime prevention. Given the importance of this matter, I would like to continue this line of questioning and ask about the possibility of establishing a provincial council responsible for crime prevention. Such a council could have members from social agencies, churches, elected officials, police forces and other interested groups. Their mandate would be to analyse crime patterns and to address the socioeconomic conditions that nourish unlawful behaviour,
Is the minister, may I ask, prepared to act on such a proposal?
Hon Mr Offer: I would like to respond by indicating that crime prevention in Ontario certainly has my support as well as that of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. I think we should be clear when we talk about Crime Prevention Ontario, CPO, that it is an organization still in a developmental stage which has as a proposed mandate to be composed of police and community organizations on a proactive basis, dedicated to preventing crime through a sharing of crime prevention ideas. I think this is indicative of a new way of policing and it bodes well for the future.
Mr Daigeler: Recently I learned that there has been a decrease in fact in property crimes over the last five years, at least in the Ottawa area. This is good news and may be the result of the existing crime prevention programs with regard to private property. Can the minister advise this House whether similar programs are being developed to prevent violent crimes and what is being done to follow up on these unfortunate events?
Hon Mr Offer: Again, to the member, I would like to indicate that the ministry is currently involved in a number of programs, all designed to meet some of the issues of the day. I would like to indicate that of course we are involved in the whole question of direct grants to sexual assault centres. We are involved in pilot projects dealing with victims of crime.
We are involved in a number of programs dealing with greater training of police officers dealing with victims of sexual assault and, as well, a number of programs designed to encourage people to speak out to the community when they happen to be victims of a particular crime, be it sexual assault or spousal assault, to speak up loud and clear because the message is that spousal assault is indeed a crime which is going to be acted upon.
Mr Kormos: I have a question to the Minister of Financial Institutions: The government promised almost two years ago to deliver a plan that would reduce automobile insurance premiums. Now that promise is at rest with, “The cheque is in the mail.” The fact is that that promise has turned the phrase “Liberal promise” into a true oxymoron. It just does not exist.
What is equally horrendous is that after this significant attack on the right of millions of drivers in Ontario to be compensated for injuries suffered at the hand and at the vehicle of drunk or negligent drivers, the minister is now telling us that he is not only taking away people’s right to be compensated, he is taking away their right to be heard. He is telling us that he is not going to let drivers and insured people across Ontario speak out and comment on this proposed legislation at committee hearings, not just here in Toronto but across Ontario.
Would the minister please tell us that it is not true, that indeed he is going to let public hearings be held about this horrible legislation that he is proposing?
Hon Mr Elston: I am pleased that the honourable gentleman reads the Toronto Star and the headline which was included above the report of the reporter with whom I spoke. The headline is not correct. It is as clear as that. The committee will have the bill in front of it to examine its proposals.
I can tell the honourable gentleman that although we have spent a considerable amount of time and energy in examining the various alternatives and options in a very public forum in front of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, in front of the hearings by Dr Slater and by Justice Osborne, this committee of the Legislative Assembly, the people’s representatives from all parts of this province, will have an opportunity to examine the particular bill in the committee.
What I have indicated is that for the benefit of the people who are looking for the rates to come forward for 1990, I would hope that a passage of this bill could occur before this session ends in December. That seems like a very reasonable request, bearing in mind the length of time that we have been putting the pieces of this program together, hearing the public and getting all of the information in front of us in the form of a series of reports, and the fact that we have 130 members who represent all interests in the province.
Mr Kormos: What the minister is telling drivers across Ontario today is that he has no intention of letting people in this province speak out against legislation that is designed to ensure that workers do not get their full wage replacement, that is designed to ensure that innocent injured people do not get compensated for their pain and suffering. That is what the legislation is all about. He has neither the guts nor the gonads to let the people in Ontario speak out against it.
The question I want to ask him is we know the insurance industry told the minister what to put in the legislation. Is it the same insurance industry that is telling him not to let this go out into public committee?
Hon Mr Elston: That gentleman over there is not very accurate. He knows full well that the role of this Legislative Assembly is to represent the interests of the public and in front of a public committee, open hearings in terms of dealing with this bill will take place under this Legislative Assembly’s auspices. There will be an examination of the provisions.
Do not try to tell the people something that is not true. The Legislature will examine this legislation. There will be a second reading; there will be committee work on this. Let me make it as clear as I can to the member, the person who is the master of twisting words so that they bring out something that is not fair to the people.
Let me tell you this, Mr Speaker, once again, so that there will be a clear message across the province. This legislation will be examined in detail in committee and what I am doing is proceeding to do exactly what that gentleman does not want us to do, that is, to deliver a reasonably priced product which provides a reasonable level of benefit to the people of this province. I am not going to let him, his leader or anybody stand in the way of --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Vllleneuve: I have a question to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. For some months prior to and up until December 1988 milk from BST-treated cows was sold to Ontario consumers. Were officials of his ministry aware of this situation?
Hon Mr Ramsay: Yes, they were.
Mr Villeneuve: If indeed the dairy inspection branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food was aware of it, why then did it not make consumers and particularly producers of milk, nature’s most nearly perfect food, aware of what was happening? It would have prevented a lot of controversy which is now making a very concerned situation for not only producers but also consumers.
Hon Mr Ramsay: As the member knows, the University of Guelph had carried on research, which is no longer being carried on except for accumulating the data that were generated from the two test herds that the university had under way the last couple of years. And yes, milk at that time had been shipped to the dairy, as had been done in British Columbia.
The Ontario Milk Marketing Board had ordered a cease-and-desist order on that herd in June of last year and that milk is no longer being brought into the consumer pool in this province.
Mr Matrundola: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Over the past few years there has been some concern that there is no legislation covering the regulation of social workers in Ontario. Last May I was pleased to see his ministry release a consultation paper regarding regulation of social workers. The paper brought forward all the varying views on the subject and proposed the many options available to the ministry.
The paper asked for responses from interested people to be submitted to the ministry by 30 September 1989. Could the minister give us an idea as to the level of response to the consultation paper on the regulation of social workers?
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member has noted, we did release the consultation document, indeed sent out some 4,000 copies. A variety of groups approached the ministry at the end of the summer and early September to request that the period of time to reply to the consultation document be extended because of the time frame that originally had been set out.
After reviewing that situation, in my judgement, it was appropriate to extend the deadline. I have done that and 15 December is now the extension date we have given for responses to the consultation paper.
Mr Matrundola: I have received a number of letters and calls from social workers in my riding who are quite concerned about this issue. Can the minister tell us if he has an idea when he might bring forward specific proposals in this area.
Hon Mr Beer: I think it is fair to say there are a number of different positions on this particular issue. We want to make sure that when we have received all the responses to the consultation document, we will have an opportunity to review them very carefully, to work with the interested parties and then to bring forward what seems to be the best approach. All I can say at this point is that until we have all the responses in at the end of the year, I am not really in a position at this point to indicate precisely what date we would be prepared to bring in our final response.
Mr Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources. In view of the fact that the Ministry of Natural Resources started negotiations with Grand Council Treaty 3 and the bands in the northwest on the development of an Indian fishing agreement for co-management of the fisheries resource, and then subsequently suspended those negotiations in 1986 because of the need for public consultation with other interested groups, could the minister explain and indicate to us whether or not the cabinet, the executive council, has given her the go-ahead to recommence negotiations with Grand Council Treaty 3?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I have undertaken since coming to the ministry to review both the history of the fishing negotiations with Treaty 3 and also the report that was received, as the member knows, from a committee that was established. I am presently preparing to discuss with my colleagues how we might best resume negotiations with Treaty 3.
Mr Hampton: It has been some three years since those negotiations were suspended. The minister has received a number of notices from Grand Council Treaty 3 requesting that those negotiations begin again. I would like to ask the minister, by way of supplementary, is she going to begin negotiations soon on this issue with Grand Council Treaty 3 or is this going to proceed as this government has proceeded all too often with respect to native issues, into the courts where we may result with a decision that does not in effect amount to co-management of our fisheries resources, but amounts to a decision that does not please anyone? What is it going to be and when is she going to do it?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Please let me recognize, in responding to this question, that I am very aware of the very sensitive nature of the issue of negotiations with our native people on the particular matter of fishing rights. I recognize this is an issue that gives rise to a great deal of concern among native people, not only in the Grand Council Treaty 3 area but right across the province, and as well creates some concern for other user groups that have traditionally been involved with the fisheries. I would fully believe that it is possible for us to resume negotiations with due regard for all the concerns and that we will do that at as early a moment as possible.
Mr Brandt: A question to the Minister of Labour: It is in regard to a layoff that was announced at 10 o’clock this morning by Fiberglas Canada that will impact on the Sarnia community rather severely.
That there have been a number of layoffs and shutdowns that have occurred in my community over the course of the past year or so, the most recent being a C-I-L announcement to the effect that C-l-L will be laying off some of its staff. There is the Holmes Foundry shutdown, which resulted from a decision by Chrysler, and now more recently the problem with respect to Fiberglas. What response is the Ministry of Labour prepared to provide by way of assistance to these workers who will be impacted not only today as a result of this announcement but by a projected further announcement that will take place six months from now?
Hon Mr Phillips: Tragically, this is not the only situation we face in the province. My advice to the leader of the third party is, first, that he encourage workers and management to get together. Second, the federal government and the provincial government are quite prepared and anxious to help alleviate the problems through counselling. We now have, as I mentioned in the House about a week ago, a program of assistance to older workers. We have a program of training for older workers.
My advice to the member is to encourage the employees, the union and the management to get together and ask both the provincial government and the federal government for assistance. We unfortunately have a fair bit of experience in this now because of the number of plant closings in the province.
Mr Brandt: The corporation Fiberglas has indicated it is prepared to exceed the law with respect to severance requirements. I ask if the minister is prepared to commit that he will review that very carefully to make sure the corporation is living up to its requirements with respect to severance pay and layoff notification.
In addition, I ask that there be some discussion between his ministry and his colleague the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) to see whether there is some possibility that either different products or some other activities could be carried on at that plant, in conjunction with the Fiberglas ownership obviously, to attempt to keep some of those jobs active and ongoing. They have indicated that as a direct result of the slowdown --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Brandt: -- in the Ontario provincial economy, the slowdown in housing starts that this has caused --
The Speaker: The questions have been placed.
Hon Mr Phillips: Certainly a part of the program I am talking about in terms of employment adjustment would be to ensure that all the employees at least got the minimum requirements under the Employment Standards Act. I would be happy to ensure that happens. From what I understand of the company response to date, it has assured the workers that it will exceed those minimums by a fair bit.
On the second point, I think all of us have to begin to recognize that we are seeing a number of plant closures in the province. While the responsibility for this rests clearly with the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, who I know is working very hard to help to ensure that our future industries are vibrant, I suspect that will be one of the things he will consider as well, on the first point. I will ensure that does take place and I have some assurance from the company that it will exceed those requirements.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr Laughren: While we in this assembly yesterday afternoon were debating the Minister of Labour’s intentions to water down Bill 208, two more workers were killed in Ontario, in this case at the SkyDome. My question for the Minister of Labour flows from his opening statement on second reading when he stated that the government “will propose several measures to enhance the effectiveness of Bill 208 in the construction sector. First ... to raise the threshold at which certification is required to 50 workers and a project duration of six months.”
Can the Minister of Labour tell us what kind of logic is in his head to think that raising the threshold from 20 workers to 50 workers and from three months’ duration to six months’ duration for construction projects -- how in the world that enhances safety in construction workplaces?
Hon Mr Phillips: That was a tragic incident yesterday at the SkyDome in which two workers were killed. What I said yesterday in my remarks, and I will repeat them, is that currently in the construction industry I think we have well fewer than 10 joint health and safety committees. We are proposing to move that to approximately 5,000 joint health and safety committees in this province. We think that is a substantial improvement in terms of construction health and safety in this province, from fewer than 10 joint health and safety committees to well over 5,000.
We are also suggesting in the legislation that as the member said, for projects involving more than 50 workers we have a certified worker, but in all projects involving 20 or more workers -- this is a brand-new, major step forward in construction health and safety -- we will have joint health and safety committees on those projects.
Mr Laughren: I will choose my words carefully because that is a gross distortion of the facts. The minister knows full well that Bill 208, before it is amended, as it now is in place, states that in construction projects of 20 or more workers and projects of three months’ or more duration, 20 workers are required for certification for health and safety purposes. In other words, to shut a workplace down, for example, requires 20 workers and three months’ duration on the project.
The minister is proposing specific changes that will raise that from 20 workers to 50 and from projects of three months’ duration up to six months’ duration, so he should not tell us that the changes he is proposing in Bill 208 are an improvement. They are a grotesque watering down of the bill.
The Speaker: The question is, do you agree with the member.
Hon Mr Phillips: I will choose my words carefully, too, as I chose my words very carefully before. We will have joint health and safety committees on the projects involving 20 or more workers. That will mean we will have approximately 5,000 joint health and safety committees. That is what I said before. That is what I will say now, and I am choosing my words carefully.
Yesterday I said in the House that I would ask the committee to consider an amendment where certified workers of 50 or more -- the reason I said it, and I explained it yesterday in the House, is that often on projects involving 20 workers there may only be at one point in time two or three workers on that project. What I said yesterday was I would ask the committee to consider an amendment where the certified workers would be required on projects of 50 or more because it is the opinion of those who have been involved in the consultations that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to ensure there is a certified worker on a project smaller than 50.
I have asked the committee to examine that, but I have chosen my words very carefully: joint health and safety committees on projects of 20 or more, and believe me, it is going from fewer than 10 to over 5,000, so I do choose my words rather carefully and it is a substantial enhancement in occupational health and safety in the construction sector.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
Mr Sterling: I have a question of the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer or any of his colleagues undertaking studies or commissioning reports on the impact of the goods and services tax that is presently being proposed by our federal government, and will he immediately table any of those reports or studies in this Legislature so that we can see those reports?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The premiers commissioned the treasurers from across Canada to review the fiscal impact of the goods and services tax on our individual provinces. That report was established by the treasurers in Montreal last week and was handed on to the premiers for their deliberation. I consider it the premiers’ report at this time, but that information, which is a compendium of the fiscal impact across Canada, has been made available for their purposes.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
MINING AMENDMENT ACT. 1989
Mr O’Neil moved first reading of Bill 71, An Act to amend the Mining Act.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr R. F. Nixon moved resolution 23:
That the Treasurer of Ontario be authorized to pay the salaries of the civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing 1 November 1989 and ending 31 December 1989, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.
Hon R. F. Nixon: This is a routine motion which requests the approval of the House in support of the routine government programs beginning 1 November and ending 31 December. It contemplates the expenditure of $5.9 billion.
Mr Laughren: I am pleased to engage in this debate on the supply motion. We have a long tradition in this assembly of having wide-ranging debates on supply motion.
Hon R. F. Nixon: That sounds as if he is laying the groundwork for a speech that is out of order.
Mr Hampton: Only you would do that, Bob.
Mr Laughren: I can recall some of the present Treasurer’s speeches on interim supply when he was in opposition. He did go on for some time.
I want to talk primarily about fiscal responsibility and problems in the province, but before I do that I was provoked by the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) just a few minutes ago in this assembly and I must comment on what the Minister of Labour said. What better place than a supply motion to debate labour legislation?
The Speaker: I will listen carefully. I am just wondering if it refers to the --
Mr Laughren: Of course it refers to the expenditures of this province, on the number of government inspectors in the workplace that are going to be required out there if the Minister of Labour gets his way with Bill 208. I think the Speaker would agree that if the province intends to hire 4,000 inspectors to monitor safety in the workplace, that certainly falls within the ambit of a supply motion debate. I do not think there will be any question about that.
When I asked the Minister of Labour about his proposed amendments to Bill 208, which are going to dramatically water down the bill, the minister responded in a not very honest way, if I could put it delicately. The minister really made me angry when he responded. He made me most angry because we are talking about the health and safety of working people in this province and for the Minister of Labour to engage in the kind of response he did was truly grotesque.
What I said to the Minister of Labour was that the existing Bill 208 says there shall be certified health and safety representatives on the job who have the right to shut down a workplace if an operation is deemed to be unsafe. The Minister of Labour responded that, by the way, he is proposing changes that are going to raise that threshold from 20 workers to 50 in order to be certified as a certified health and safety representative, and that the duration of the job must be six months, not three months.
The Minister of Labour knows full well -- he is choosing his words very carefully; I suspect he has them memorized -- we are talking about the change between Bill 208 as it was introduced and Bill 208 in the way the minister proposes to change it, not the difference between the existing legislation now in the province and what Bill 208 is, after first reading or even after the proposed changes the minister has said he wants to make. What we are talking about here is Bill 208 as it was first introduced and agreed to by the labour movement in this province and by this party. We are talking about that difference, the difference between that and what the minister now proposes to do to gut that bill.
The minister is going to have to explain to me and to a lot of other people how going from 20 workers to 50 in order to have a certified health and safety worker on the job is an enhancement for safety legislation in the province on construction jobs. It makes absolutely no sense.
Mr Laughren: No. When the bill was introduced there would have been 5,000 health and safety committees on construction jobs.
Mr Laughren: The minister says that there are still going to be 5,000. How many of them will have certified workers who can shut down a dangerous place?
Mr Laughren: No, there will not be, because the threshold is 50 workers, not 20. I think the minister surely understands his own legislation. There will not be a certified health and safety worker and they are the only people who can shut down an unsafe workplace. You cannot have a certified worker unless there are 50 employees now under the minister’s proposed amendments.
That is what we are objecting to.
Why does the minister not leave it the way it was, the way Bill 208 was introduced? That is where he is doing a disservice and that is why I felt compelled to use the example of two workers killed yesterday while we are debating the minister’s intention to water down the bill. It is a sad commentary that nothing seems to sink in over there. If we are going to err on the side of a dispute between management and labour on health and safety, and that is what this is, we should be erring on the side of safety. That is not what the minister has said.
I thought the minister understood, but I am starting to wonder because you surely do not improve a bill when you move the threshold from 20 workers to 50 and the project duration from three months to six months in order to have a certified health and safety worker on the job. It surely does not improve health and safety on the job. It makes it more difficult for the workers on the job, a lot more difficult.
It is not appropriate for the minister to stand in his place and pretend that we are going from zero to 5,000 when we are --
Hon Mr Phillips: It is not pretending.
Mr Laughren: The minister is pretending, because what we are talking about is the difference between Bill 208 as it was introduced and the proposed changes that the minister has put before us. That is what is fundamentally wrong. If he had left Bill 208 in its place, there would not be a problem, but he insists. He has been bludgeoned into changing that bill and that is where he is fundamentally wrong. I personally think he is morally wrong to change the bill that way, but he is determined. It is a condition of employment where he is now, I understand that.
Hon Mr Phillips: Nonsense.
Mr Laughren: The minister can say it is nonsense if he likes, but the word is out and everybody understands. Everybody understands that the former Minister of Labour was dumped from that portfolio because he would not make the changes that this minister has been conned into making, to put it as bluntly as I can. That is common knowledge in the province of Ontario right now, I say to the minister.
Mr Laughren: I do not expect the minister to confess that he had to accept that as a condition of employment, but it is common knowledge out there in the province and the minister need only check around with some of his friends to understand that.
I do not want to spend the entire day on Bill 208 because we have already had a debate on that bill and it will be going to committee. I do want to talk about another element of fairness, though, and that has to do with the lack of a sense of fairness in the Treasurer when it comes to taxation in the province of Ontario.
I must say that since he became the Treasurer, there has been an amazing increase in reliance on a couple of forms of taxation. Those of course are consumption taxes and property taxes. The minister seems to take great delight in that. I must say that I find passing strange his meanderings -- I can only call them meanderings --
Hon R. F. Nixon: Maunderings.
Mr Laughren: -- his meanderings or wanderings about the federal goods and services tax, given his own behaviour in the province of Ontario. We will see as we go along just how serious the Treasurer is about his opposition to the goods and services tax.
It is interesting to note that in 1991, when the goods and services tax takes effect, if it does -- that is the anticipated date -- the Ontario retail sales tax will raise, almost identically, the amount of money that the goods and services tax will raise in Ontario. So the kettle is surely calling the pot black.
Last year. the Treasurer did not even blush when he raised the retail sales tax from seven per cent to eight per cent, which brought in almost an extra $1 billion to the province of Ontario’s revenues; almost $1 billion. Last year, the Treasurer’s provincial income tax revenues were about $1 billion over what he had budgeted. At the same time, what did the Treasurer do about food banks in the city of Toronto alone?
If my numbers are correct, there are 80 food banks in the province, which feed about 84,000 people a month. I wonder if the Treasurer knows, if he keeps track of questions that we put to him during this debate, if he can tell us if he knows how many food banks there were when he became the Treasurer. I would be interested in knowing that, to see if the Treasurer knows that.
Mr Wildman: He is not listening.
Mr Laughren: No. I wonder if the Treasurer will remember the question as to how many food banks there were in Toronto when he became the Treasurer. How many people were the food banks servicing, if I could use that word? It is 84,000 a month right now.
The Treasurer may get some satisfaction at seeing a Mercedes-Benz pull up to a food bank and drop off a box of canned goods. I do not. I find that terribly offensive, having a Mercedes-Benz pull up to a food bank, the occupant get out and drop off a box of canned goods. That is really offensive. That is truly offensive.
Hon R. F. Nixon: How about pulling up with an empty trunk and leaving with it full?
Mr Laughren: That is truly offensive.
Mr Wildman: Did you hear his comment?
Mr Laughren: Well, I do not know what the Treasurer is talking about. What I am saying is that it is offensive --
Mr Wildman: How many people go to food banks in a Mercedes-Benz to get food? Come on.
Mr Laughren: I think the Treasurer is saying that people go to the food banks and load up their trunk and leave. I do not know; I think that is what he said.
My point is that it is disgusting that in Ontario we have food banks, period. The Treasurer seems to be quite comfortable with that image of Toronto the rich with food banks in its core feeding 84,000 people a month. I cannot think of anything more offensive than watching people drop off food at a food bank, the fact that that is necessary in the province. Half the people that they are feeding are children in this province and in this city. I think that the Treasurer has got a lot of thinking to do about fairness in this province.
If we were in hard times, the Treasurer would be arguing that, “Well, you know, it is tough. revenues are down, unemployment is up. These are tough times.” If we cannot redistribute income in times like these, when can we? When will there ever be an element of redistribution in this province if not now? Well, the Treasurer knows that in the province of Ontario, according to Statscan, and I am sure the Treasurer knows this, the poverty level for a family of four is something over $24,000 a year. The Treasurer has seen fit in his own peculiar way to make sure that people earning $10,000 less than that pay provincial income taxes.
There is much that the Treasurer could do. It does not all involve actual handouts; it involves restructuring the tax system. The Treasurer knows that. He has been told that 100 times, I suppose, but nothing ever happens. I would be interested in knowing from the Treasurer, first of all, if he believes in redistribution of wealth in this jurisdiction over which he has some control, and second, when he thinks it will happen, if he believes in it. If he does not believe in it, of course, then we can go on to other matters.
But it really is strange to hear the Treasurer talking and bashing the federal government. Of course, he bashes them one day and he praises them the next. He likes the GST one day and he does not like it the next. I do not know what the Treasurer’s position is on the goods and services tax. He just does not like the idea that somebody else is dipping into the consumption taxes at the same level that he is, or perhaps even at a percentage higher. That is probably what offends the Treasurer so much, that they will get nine and he only gets eight.
The other thing I mentioned was property taxes. The Treasurer bemoans the effect of the GST on the price of homes and yet he has consistently refused in this jurisdiction to do anything about that. We have been asking him for some time to bring in a speculation tax on homes, not on people who own their home for a period of time, but on people who are flipping homes, who are speculating in homes, particularly in Toronto. The Treasurer will not do anything about that, but then he will bemoan the possibility of a goods and services tax that will increase the price of homes in the same area. There are contradictions between the Treasurer’s words and the Treasurer’s actions.
I asked the Treasurer during question period a week or so ago why it was that with $I billion more than he anticipated in provincial income tax revenues in one year, he could not take $150 million of that, 15 per cent only, and remove everybody below the poverty level from paying provincial income taxes. All it would have taken --
Mr Hampton: He is saving it for a giveaway in the next election campaign.
Mr Laughren: That is probably what he is doing.
Fifteen per cent of one tax, provincial income tax, $1 billion more than he thought he was going to get. Those are big dollars that people out there are paying, and I do not believe that people out there in the province of Ontario would object to 15 per cent of that $1 billion that the Treasurer did not even think he was going to get, above his budget -- I do not believe that the generous people in the province of Ontario would object. I know the member sitting beside the Treasurer would not object if everybody below the Statscan level of poverty were removed from the provincial income tax rolls. I believe that fair-minded people in the province of Ontario would accept that and that the Treasurer would not have any difficulty selling that to the province of Ontario, but he has got to sell it to himself first. Therein lies the rub, I fear. He has not convinced himself.
We have tried to be a responsible opposition when it comes to tax problems by not just saying, “Spend more here but do not raise taxes anywhere.” We have tried to be very careful that way and say: “Here are some new sources of revenue. This is where we think you should cut your revenues, and this is where we think you should increase them.”
We have tried to be very responsible that way but it reaches a point where you say to yourself, why bother trying to be responsible when the Treasurer just does his own thing anyway? Why do we not just stand in our place here and demand more, more, more, more for everything and cut taxes for everything? Because the Treasurer does not pay any attention anyway. He pays no attention whatsoever.
Hon R. F. Nixon: That is not true. Here I am listening to you, and there are only about four of us here.
Mr Laughren: That is right. Don’t you have any control over your members at all?
The Deputy Speaker: This is being said through the Speaker, of course.
Mr Laughren: Of course, through the Speaker.
Hon R. F. Nixon: There is one lonely socialist here listening to this.
Mr Laughren: There is no such thing as a lonely socialist.
The Deputy Speaker: No interjections. Order, please.
Mr Laughren: When we asked the Treasurer to consider imposing a wealth tax in the province of Ontario, his response was, “Not in my lifetime.”
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am a rather elderly person.
Mr Laughren: Perhaps we could start with his estate. It would go some ways towards building a little kitty for the people of the province of Ontario.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Pay off the national debt.
Mr Laughren: Pay off the election debt. That is right.
The fact is that there are only two countries out of the 24 in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD countries, that do not have a wealth tax. Even the United States has one. Australia and Canada are the only two without a wealth tax, and there is absolutely nothing to prevent the Treasurer -- we used to have one in Ontario and the Conservatives did away with it and here we have the Treasurer carrying on with that same Tory tradition of not having a wealth tax.
I really do wonder about what motivates the Treasurer, why he does not see himself as some kind of reformer. Why spend all those years in opposition only to get into power and carry on the policies of the people you have just replaced? Surely it is not enough having a car and driver. He had a car and driver as Leader of the Opposition anyway. There had to be something motivating the Treasurer in order to get to power and, hopefully. to change some policies. But I do not know what it is, because he has carried on the same fiscal philosophy as the previous government did. He made a couple of changes -- I do not want to be unfair. We will no longer have OHIP premiums after 1 January and that was a progressive move.
Hon R. F. Nixon: And we have reduced the deficit by $2.5 billion, of course.
Mr Laughren: Yes --
Hon R. F. Nixon: For you ready-money, no-down-payment people that doesn’t make any difference.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Laughren: -- and we have always told the minister where to get the money. At the same time, the Treasurer is underfunding the school system; he is underfunding the municipalities; the highways are a mess all across the province, and people are wondering where all the money has gone.
When the Treasurer came to office, I believe he was collecting in revenue from the sales tax about $5 billion. I could be out a little here, but the Treasurer was collecting about $5 billion in the retail sales tax. Now he collects about $9 billion; over $8 billion anyway, I believe.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Closer to $9 billion.
Mr Laughren: Closer to $9 billion, and provincial income tax is up dramatically. If they look at all this extra money that has flowed in, people are scratching their heads and saying, “How come so much of our infrastructure is underfunded, given all the money that the government has?”
Hon R. F. Nixon: Medicare has gone from $8 billion to close to $14 billion.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Laughren: We’ve told you you’re not managing that properly either.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Sure, we are.
Mr Laughren: You are not or it would not have gone that high.
The Deputy Speaker: Would the member ignore the interjections. please, and there will be no further interjections, and address his remarks solely through the Speaker?
Mr Laughren: We have tried --
Hon R. F. Nixon: How can you have that one both ways, Floyd? You have been in politics too long.
Mr Laughren: On that, I do not argue with the Treasurer. But I must say that we have tried very hard over the years not to give the impression we are trying to have it both ways, that there are moneys to be raised and there are better ways of spending them, but we have never laid before the Treasurer a package of suggested tax reforms that did not balance. We have always done that and we have not tried to have it both ways, as the Treasurer would imply. As a matter of fact, I could argue that the Treasurer has had it both ways -- he collects all his money and underfunds everything -- if I wanted to be simplistic about analysis in the province of Ontario, but I would not do that.
Hon Mr Elston: You didn’t mention members’ indemnities yet, Floyd.
Mr Laughren: No, I do not intend to get into members’ indemnities. We could start with the wealth tax. The Treasurer would not even have to dig as deep as most people to get to it.
There are a number of problems with the way the Treasurer views his responsibilities. Talk to municipal politicians in the province of Ontario and they will tell you what they think of this Treasurer and the way he has underfunded the municipalities. For example, he has frozen the grants to municipalities, he has frozen the grants on road maintenance and that is costing the municipalities. We know that in the province of Ontario --
Hon R. F. Nixon: Municipal grants were up about 8.4 per cent last year.
Mr Laughren: The unconditional grants are not up at all; they are frozen. The Treasurer freezes unconditional grants. Given our rate of inflation, he is automatically cutting them. The Treasurer knows that. He is playing games with words.
We know that local property taxes in Ontario are 36 per cent higher than the average for the other nine provinces compared to personal income taxes that are raised in the province. That is a regressive form of tax. I know that the Treasurer does not quake in his boots at the thought of a regressive tax; as a matter of fact, he trembles all over with anticipation, I think, when he thinks about a regressive tax.
I looked at some of the numbers for increased property taxes in some of the municipalities in the province. This is while the Treasurer is preaching restraint and holding grants, such as the unconditional grants, to zero level of increase. He is imposing on the municipalities the onerous task of sticking it to their property taxpayers, to their ratepayers. In Metropolitan Toronto the property taxes are going up 12.4 per cent, in Hamilton 8.9 percent, in Waterloo 10.4 per cent.
According to the municipalities, and I do not think I doubt their word, about half of those increases are because of the shifting burden of programs from the province to the municipal level. That was based on a survey that the AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, did in selected municipalities.
I do not want to dwell too long on the property tax information, but I do want to make sure that the Treasurer understood how unhappy we are with the way in which he is using his increased revenues.
it is simply not appropriate in Ontario for the Treasurer to be wallowing in money and not doing something about the distribution of wealth. We are living increasingly in a society that has extremes. You need only to come to Toronto to see that. I suspect the sales of luxury cars, luxury condominiums and luxury homes have increased dramatically at the same level as the incidence of poverty has increased dramatically.
I do not know how the Treasurer can sit and look at that and not want to do something about it. It is not as though it is going to cripple the economy. It is not as though doing something about it would kill initiative out there. That is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.
The combination of the federal Mulroney government and its measures against people, such as the unemployment insurance cuts and regional development cuts, along with this Treasurer’s parsimonious attitude towards sharing the wealth, has made our country a meaner one. That is surely not what we should be here for. One might expect that from the Mulroney Tories. One does not expect it from anybody who calls himself a Liberal. I know there is a big difference between a small-l liberal and a big-L Liberal. As a matter of fact, one of them just walked in.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Which is he?
Mr Laughren: The Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) is a small-l liberal and the Treasurer is a big-L Liberal who is really a Tory. That is really what the difference is. I was glad to enlighten --
Hon R. F. Nixon: The Premier (Mr Peterson) is thinking of changing our offices around.
Mr Laughren: There was a rumour that the Treasurer’s office would be empty very shortly. I do want to conclude my remarks to give other members an opportunity to engage in the debate this afternoon, but I want to make sure that the Treasurer is kept aware of our unhappiness with his tax measures. I hope that when he brings in his next budget, which presumably will be in the spring, whether it is his last budget or not, he will take into consideration some of the problems being faced by people out there in the province.
It would be very nice for the Treasurer’s commitment in the spring to wipe out the need for food banks in the city of Toronto. That truly is an insult to us as a wealthy society. To have even the presence of those food banks in our midst is an insult. The Treasurer should regard it as a personal insult since he has some control over whether or not those food banks remain as a necessity in Ontario and, in particular, in Toronto.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I will probably have a chance to finish up, but if I may. let me use the limited few moments now to respond to a couple of things the honourable member mentioned. By the way, I do pay attention to his speeches, and they are worth listening to.
I disagree with the honourable member on the food bank business. I do not like the fact that they are here. I guess I consider it much the same way as he does, but I am not sure that simply allocating more money to people in need is going to solve that situation since the food banks are growing.
The honourable member would know that our social assistance has increased by 20 per cent year over year to $2.3 billion. On top of that, we have placed $415 million in far-reaching reforms for social assistance, which the honourable member strongly supported, and properly so. The idea that somehow there is no effort to redistribute income is of course not on.
If he is talking about some broader job creation programs, there may be something more significant there, although fortunately under the leadership of this government we have one of the lowest levels of unemployment in our recent history. The quality of the jobs may very well be examined; not everybody can be a bank vice-president or a financial critic for an opposition party -- there are very few of those really good jobs around -- but there are a lot of jobs in these jurisdictions.
In housing, we have first-time home buyer assistance; under our Ontario home ownership savings plan, there is a rebate on the land transfer tax. Under Homes Now, we put an additional $1 billion in support of making those purchases.
Our programs for the disabled are here to be listed, and the honourable member knows that while he may think of these as times of constraint and restraint, still our expenditures in the past year have grown just under 10 per cent, which is higher by far than that of any other jurisdiction. Although our average expenditures, admittedly, are not the highest in Canada, we feel we are responding to the needs of the community.
Mr Laughren: I do not question the numbers that the Treasurer is using, but I am perplexed by his comment about the food banks. I am not sure what he means when he says the food banks are growing. The food banks are indeed growing, and so is the instance of poverty growing. Why the Treasurer would see that as some kind of contradiction, I do not know. I do know, though, he cannot ignore the Statistics Canada numbers on what constitutes a poverty level.
I know the Treasurer does not have to maintain a home in Toronto--I understand that -- and neither do I, but I think he should understand that people who do must have an enormous difficulty coping and that is why there are 84,000 people using the food banks every month. It is not because they have got more money than they need and they want to spend the money on something else. People do not go readily to a food bank for assistance. That surely is a last resort.
When the Treasurer dismisses the question of food banks by saying they are growing and therefore he does not want to do away with them. I am perplexed by that response.
Mr McLean: I want to participate in this debate because the Treasurer is looking for a $5.9-billion allotment of money, and I do not think it is a routine kind of motion that should slip through and just be voted on without some participation from the members of the Legislature.
The motion that the Treasurer be authorized to pay the salaries of civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing 1 November 1989 to 31 December 1989, which is only two months for almost $6 billion, involves a lot of money.
I have concerns with regard to the budgetary policies of this government, and I would like to relate some of them to members with regard to the critic’s position that I hold with regard to tourism and how this budget affects tourism in the province.
As my party’s Tourism and Recreation critic, I would like to focus some of my attention on the tourism and hospitality industry because this sector of Ontario’s economy creates employment. It captures a large percentage of foreign visitors to Canada and, I might add, increases revenues for the Treasurer; revenues that the Treasurer today wants to spend.
All of the above will happen if this very important and vibrant industry remains healthy. But the current government’s policies with respect to taxation and reduced spending for the tourism and hospitality industry are undermining the health and future of an industry that generates unparalleled employment and economic opportunities. It substantially reduces our provincial travel deficit and attracts our rightful share of world travel and tourism revenues.
Tourism represents a very real, new frontier of growth for the province, but this government appears to be doing everything in its power to choke off that growth. The government is choking that growth by increasing its own administration program spending and slamming the tourism and hospitality industry with exorbitant taxes.
I would like to take a few minutes to demonstrate how the taxes contained in the 1989 provincial budget will adversely affect the tourism industry. It should be noted that many if not all of these same taxes will adversely affect small business and individuals throughout the province, but not just the tourism industry.
The employer health levy, which is also known as the payroll tax, is aimed at replacing taxable OHIP premiums on individuals and families. I fear that employment rationalization, fewer jobs for temporary, part-time and casual labour, including students, will be one of the first noticeable results of this new tax. Ultimately, employees will end up paying as their employers reduce salary increases to compensate for the payroll tax. As well, this form of taxation is extremely inflationary and makes Ontario’s tourism industry less competitive in US markets.
The increased personal income tax will end up reducing net incomes for middle- and upper-income residents of Ontario, reducing discretionary consumer spending, reducing pleasure and vacation travel in this province and increasing pleasure and vacation travel by Ontarians to the US and other, less costly destinations.
Yes, the increased fuel taxes will result in fewer people travelling by automobiles to Ontario, and I expect we could very well see fewer Americans visiting here and more Ontarians visiting the United States.
Yes, increased alcohol taxes will end up reducing licensee sales of beverage alcohol, producing an increase in illicit importation of beverage alcohol from the United States and a decrease in tax revenues for the provincial Treasury.
We also have the increase in the motor vehicle taxes. Fees and licences will result in less discretionary income for all Ontario motorists. We will see less discretionary travel and spending on tourism and hospitality products and services, and it could result in more accidents as drivers keep their worn tires longer rather than paying the new tax, and a decrease in the number of new car sales will have a negative impact on Ontario’s economy as a whole.
The commercial concentration levy will result in higher hotel and parking costs, which will drive domestic and foreign visitors away from Toronto and the rest of Ontario, and that includes the valuable international convention and conference businesses.
Then we look at the increased municipal lot levies. They could very well result in much lower future development of tourism and hospitality facilities due to much higher infrastructure costs and municipal taxes as well. I expect that industry diversification and the development of new, competitive and innovative tourism products and services will cease unless financing costs are subsidized by associated commercial and residential development.
As members can clearly see, this government is doing its utmost to undermine Ontario’s tourism and hospitality industry through increased taxation. Instead of investing in the tourism industry’s future, the government has chosen to pump taxpayers’ money into increasing its ministry administration programs.
Based on a review of the expenditure of 25 government ministries, administration program spending has increased by a whopping 43.7 per cent since this government came to power in 1985-86. I would like to outline the shocking details of this increased administration program spending.
Relative to the 1985-86 ministry administration program spending levels, spending on this program in the current fiscal year is up by 50.7 percent. By comparison, total spending by these ministries has gone up 45.9 per cent over the same period. Spending on the administration program will account for 1.6 per cent of total spending by these ministries in fiscal 1989-90, the exact same share of total spending as in 1985-86. The increase in administration program spending accounts for 1.7 per cent of the total increase in expenditures by these ministries from 1985-86 to 1988-89.
Among the government’s line ministries, the big spenders show very little or no change in the percentage of total expenditures allocated to their administration programs. The administration program share of total expenditures has declined in Health, Community and Social Services, Education and Housing and is unchanged in Colleges and Universities. Also, in these ministries the increase in administration spending tends to be lower as a percentage of the total increase in spending than in the case of other portfolios.
The year-over-year changes in the administration or main office programs of 32 ministries and offices was reviewed for 1984-85 to 1988-89 and compared to changes in total government budgetary expenditures. Through this review we learned that spending on administration programs has increased at a higher rate than total budgetary spending in three of the five years surveyed. That happened while administration or main office expenditures in the sample increased by 69.6 per cent over the surveyed period.
This increase represented 1.9 per cent of the increase of $14.8 billion in total budgetary spending. I think we can see that the government’s decision to focus its financial attention on administration programs rather than supporting the tourism and hospitality industry is a clear sign that its spending priorities are unhealthy, unwise and a sad comment on the state of the financial affairs of the province.
The advertising promotion efforts of both public and private sectors in tourism should be broadened and intensified if the tourism industry is to maximize its business opportunity and its share of the market. Clearly, responsive and responsible public policies exert the greatest impact and influence on the fortunes of the tourism and hospitality industry, and that industry is looking to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr Black) and the government to provide leadership. counsel and assistance.
The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Ontario in spite of the policies of the current government. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the tourism and hospitality industry. This spirit can only survive and flourish as long as there is an appropriate level of co-operation and support from the government, and that means leadership, something we have not yet seen with this government when it comes to Ontario’s important tourism and hospitality industry.
Bill 119, with regard to the Ontario lottery program, where the Treasurer wants all the funding to go into the one pot, was before the standing committee on general government. The Minister of Tourism and Recreation did not see fit to speak on behalf of the groups and organizations like the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and AMO across this province to keep a third of that profit in that area for the sports, fitness and recreation groups that wanted to keep it there.
I believe the committee had about 98 per cent of its delegations objecting to the proposal, which I understand the government is going to carry through without amendments, and therefore the Treasurer will increase his revenues.
We have no objection to funds from Lottario and Wintario going to health care, but we do believe there should have been a specific amount there for sports and recreational groups so they would know they did have at least a third of the amount of money.
In the quarterly report of the Treasurer with regard to the budget plan and current outlook, it is interesting to note the amount of funds collected in gasoline tax, fuel tax and vehicle and driver registration fees. It totals $2.3 billion or a little better. We look at what is being spent on the roads today, and it amounts to about $726 million.
Where are the rest of the funds that are being raised in this province through our gasoline tax and licence fees to go into roads? They are going into the consolidated revenue fund and, therefore, not going hack to the roads, where they should be. At one time, about 34 per cent of the budget in the province went to roads. Today, I believe ii is about five per cent.
When we look at some of the figures, we see the amount of accumulated debt by the government has increased. The Treasurer indicates, “We have lowered our deficit.” But the way they have lowered the deficit is by not budgeting for as great a deficit as they were, although the total debt of the province has gone from about $23 billion in 1984-85 to approximately $40 billion. When we look at the budgetary policies of this government, it certainly leaves something to be desired.
I might as well now say I am sure that next year, six months before the next election, the Treasurer is going to bring in a budget which, with all these increased taxes that he has put on -- some 38 of them in the last four years -- will be a balanced budget for that year, although our debt in the province will still be over $40 billion. That will be about $4,100 for every man, woman and child. When they took office, it was about $2,300 for every man, woman and child. So the big talk will be that the Treasurer has balanced the budget in Ontario. That will be what the news will pick up, but they will forget that the same government has increased the debt in Ontario by double.
We look at some of the administration costs that have taken place in the ministries since this government has come to power. The Ministry of Northern Development’s main office has increased by 300 per cent -- yes. 300 per cent. The Ministry of Skills Development’s administration has gone up 220 per cent. The Ministry of Government Services’ main office administration has gone up 200 per cent. The senior citizens’ main office has increased by 150 per cent. The Ministry of Labour’s administration has gone up by 110 per cent -- and I am just talking about administration in the offices -- and, yes, the Ministry of Financial Institutions is up by 100 per cent and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, 100 per cent.
These are just examples of the increased spending of this government with regard to ministry offices. They have also hired approximately 8,000 new people. So instead of being fiscally responsible, they are spending the taxpayers’ money on administration and not on programs.
I want to put some of those remarks before this Legislature because when we are dealing with an almost $6-billion approval here of the budgetary process for this province, I think the policies of this government should be reviewed. I believe the members should have an opportunity to speak and to bring to the Treasurer’s attention some of the concerns that we are hearing in our own constituencies, and I would hope they will be of some value to the Treasurer.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Just to comment on one important item that the honourable member for Simcoe East referred to, he expressed a commonly voiced concern that the revenues from gasoline and licences are not all going back into the roads.
I would begin by saying that we do not have allocated revenues in that regard. The revenues go into the consolidated revenue fund and then the Legislature decides, with the guidance of the government, what the allocations will be year by year.
But this year, the allocation for the Ministry of Transportation went from about $2 billion to $2.3 billion, an increase of 11.9 per cent; that is this year over last year. Our revenues for gasoline and fuel together go to about $1.7 billion and if we add in $500 million from other licences, we are at about $2.2 billion. Those numbers are not far off.
I will admit that not all the money that goes to the Ministry of Transportation goes into buying asphalt and concrete. We have an allocation for the municipalities of about $700 million to $800 million for their road programs. Some of the municipalities feel it is still inadequate, if members can believe that, but in fact it is quite substantial and more than we spend on our own provincial roads. That is why this year we have a special allocation, beginning this year over the next five years, of an extra $2 billion. That led me to increase the gasoline tax.
I think the honourable member, as a good Progressive Conservative, would be glad to know something that I have mentioned in the House before, as a matter of fact, on every occasion that I got a chance to, and that is that for the government of Canada, Michael Wilson, the Minister of Finance, levies a higher gasoline tax in Ontario than the provincial government does. In other words, he takes more money out of Ontario into the federal Treasury from gasoline tax than goes into our fund, and he does not build any roads at all.
Mr McLean: Just briefly, I have had the opportunity to review the estimates of the Ministry of Transportation and the total budgetary estimate of that ministry is not as much as it is taking in in fuels, gasoline tax and licences. So what I am telling the Treasurer is the fact that the government is taking in more revenue in licences and fuel and gasoline tax than it is spending in the whole ministry. I believe that is a fact with regard to the estimates that I looked at. So when the Treasurer talks about the expenditures of the Ministry of Transportation, I have my views on it and of course he has his and it is a matter of opinion of who is correct. We probably both feel that we are.
On another aspect of his comment, I was surprised that he did not indicate what the price of fuel is at Earl’s Shell, although I can tell the Treasurer that in part of my constituency the fuel is 53 cents and in another part of my constituency it is 46 cents. I cannot for the life of me understand how, within 50 miles or less, it is always a different price with the same companies. The same companies own the service stations. I have no idea why the Treasurer does not do something about this problem that affects people in my riding.
With regard to his budgetary policies, I believe the Treasurer has gone wild with regard to hiring new people in administration and spending in administration and I would just hope he would learn some of the ways of we responsible Progressive Conservative members.
Mr Hampton: I always look forward to an opportunity to speak on supply motions because I know that the Treasurer listens with bated breath to everything we have to say and then usually responds by saying something altogether unrelated to the issues we wanted to bring to his attention.
I am particularly pleased to be able to take part in this debate today because now that this government has been entrenched in its majority for a little over two years, the results of its spending policies and the results of some of its other policies are starting to show. One of the most unpleasant tasks I have had in quite some time occurred just a couple of weeks ago when I met with representatives of some of the boards of education in my area. They delineated for me, chapter and verse, the kinds of choices that this government is forcing them to make.
Let me just give the spending background of this. As we all know, the province used to cover about 60 per cent of a local board of education’s spending. In other words, if a local board of education spent a dollar, the province usually covered 60 cents of that dollar. Over the last 10 years that has dropped significantly. It has dropped to the point where some of the boards of education that I spoke to earlier in September pointed out to me that the province is now covering only about 38 cents of every dollar they spend. In other words, they have to find from local taxpayers 62 cents of each educational dollar.
The first point they take issue on in this is simply that they are aware that the property tax is a most regressive and unfair tax. In fact, many board members have put it to me that in their view it is the most regressive tax of all because you are taxed not on what you earn, you are taxed not on what you have in the bank, you are taxed not on wealth, you are simply taxed on the home you own, the lot that your home is situated on or, if you are a farmer, you are taxed in some degree on the farm land that you own. The tax has no relation to income.
I do not think I need to remind the Treasurer that what is happening across northern Ontario is there is a depopulation of northern Ontario taking place. Since this government, as with the federal government, believes that the free market should rule, the free market should decide where jobs are located, where economic activity is located and therefore where people are located, what we see happening is industries moving out of northern Ontario. Many of them, thanks to the trade deal, are moving right out of the country, but industries are moving out of northern Ontario and as a result jobs are moving out of northern Ontario and we find more and more that many of our communities are retirement communities.
If you go to a town like Atikokan, for example, one community in my constituency, you will find that a very high percentage of the people are retired individuals on fixed incomes. If you go to the village of Rainy River, you will find the same situation. I would suggest if you go to Ear Falls you will find the same situation. Even if you go to Thunder Bay you will find the same situation. A very high proportion of the people who live there are senior citizens.
In addition, many of the people who try to live and work in northern Ontario today are unable to find full-time, permanent employment. You find more and more people who have to make do on seasonal incomes and therefore they do not have great incomes. But then along comes the board of education, which has been made poor by this government, and the board of education says, “We realize you have very little income with which to pay, we realize you have very little in the way of assets, but we must increase the property tax this year by seven per cent, by nine per cent, by 10 per cent, if we are to cover our education budget.”
Boards of education are not happy doing this, they are not happy at all, but the simple fact of the matter is that this government is not as generous with boards of education as it should be and as it said it would be. I need only go back into the political history of the Liberal Party and into the political history of this government to note for the Treasurer’s sake and for all Liberals’ sakes the fact that the Treasurer has repeated time and again in the past that he would increase provincial spending in local education to the point where he would cover 60 per cent of the costs of local education once again. That has not happened, and I want to say to the Treasurer that this government has created a great deal of hardship in many communities. It has created a great deal of hardship for many boards of education, and it has created a great deal of hardship for many people who cannot afford to pay the most unfair and regressive tax of all, the property tax.
There is another side to this argument, because while the province has not been forthcoming with the money, the province has found no problem whatsoever in saying to local boards of education: “You must provide mandatory sex education, or mandatory AIDS education, or mandatory drug and alcohol education. You must provide special education for individuals who have special needs.”
Another policy of this government, through the Ministry of Community and Social Services, is to deinstitutionalize many disadvantaged individuals and move them out of institutions and back into the local community and back into the local school system. Boards of education are being hit with added costs there as well. This government seems to have no problem in saying to boards of education, “You must do this, you must provide that, you must have a special program for this and you must have a special program for that over there,” but there is never any money coming along with it.
So local boards of education face a second very difficult problem. When it comes down to budget time, they realize they are going to get only so much money from the province -- not enough money from the province -- they realize they can tax only so much through the property tax and they realize that there is a limit on what people can pay through the property tax. They increase that to that limit and more, in some cases, but on top of that they then must make very difficult decisions as to where to cut the education budget and whom to cut.
The most painful process that I think the local board of education in my home town had to go through was in chopping several special-education teachers. It realized in doing that that it was going to be hurting the students in the system who needed help the most; that children with learning disabilities are not going to get the individual attention they need and other individual students in the system who for some reason were developmentally delayed were not going to get the kind of special attention they needed or the kinds of small classes they needed.
These are very painful things to have to do, to know that it is going to limit severely the degree to which a disadvantaged individual may proceed through life with dignity and with the kind of quality of life that we would wish for everyone; these are very difficult decisions for a local board of education. But, again, because this government has not lived up to its spending promises in terms of education funding, because this government has found it very easy at election time to make the promise of more support for local education and then after the election to back away from it, boards of education all over this province are being faced with those very painful decisions.
If you do not cut special education, then where else do you cut? Do you take it out of capital budget for your schools? Do you try to rework your capital allocations, take money out of capital and put it into programs? That is very shortsighted, because if that is the game you are going to play, again you wind up in the situation that many boards are in: the Dryden Board of Education, for example, having to forgo needed repairs and maintenance to its high school because it just does not have the money in the system and facing the situation where if it forgoes those needed repairs, two or three years down the line it is going to be very expensive indeed because it will not be facing a repair job then, it will be facing a rebuilding job.
Those are the kinds of situations and the kinds of pressures that boards of education face because of this government’s spending policies with respect to education. It has promised time and time again that it is going to support local school boards in terms of their spending requirements more than it has in the past. That simply has not happened. In fact, if one looks at its figures, and it is unanimous in its agreement on this, its record has got worse. In many cases it is below 40 per cent in terms of its support of local education.
It is sad to say that local boards of education are in that situation. It is sad to say that, but it is even sadder to note the situation that many local municipalities find themselves in, because their funding has been cut as well. Whether you look at streets and roads, whether you look at the unconditional grant system or whether you look at new responsibilities that this government has sloughed off on municipalities, the situation gets worse with each item you look at.
For example, earlier this summer the government forced on to local municipalities the cost and the responsibility of providing security in all court sessions. Whether they be provincial court, whether they be district court, Supreme Court, Small Claims Court, it is now the responsibility of local municipalities to provide security in these institutions.
What is so despicable about this is that this government had in its hands a report, an internal report that it wanted to keep confidential, which indicated that this was going to be a transfer of financial responsibility of at least $60 million on to municipalities; at least $60 million in costs was going to be added on to municipalities because of this transfer of responsibility. Have we seen any extra financial support, have we seen a grant of any kind to cover this added responsibility? None whatsoever.
The province knew it was dumping at least $60 million in costs on to local municipalities and there was absolutely no financial reparation and no financial assistance to deal with this. The province trotted out some very old language about what had happened five or six years ago, but it took only a couple of minutes at the standing committee on administration of justice to discover that what the province was talking about, if looked at in terms of inflation and if looked at in terms of the special needs for court security, just did not cover the bill.
There again, you have municipalities. Now where are the municipalities going to provide this court security? What are they going to do? They can go out and they can hire security guards. They can train security guards, bring them on as special constables or in some other capacity. However they do it, that is going to cost them money. What they could do otherwise is they could take policemen, regular police officers off the street and put them in the courthouse.
Now that sounds wonderful because we hear from the Solicitor General (Mr Offer) every day or at least every week a statement to the effect that we are going to see increased police effectiveness, that we are going to see more community policing. If you are taking officers off the street and you are putting them in the local courtroom to act as security officers, somewhere there is a hole in the policy.
Local municipalities are in a straitjacket. They have to hire new officers for the purpose of security, in which case they have to raise the money and where does the money come from? Again, it comes from local property taxes, the most unfair, the most regressive tax of all. That is just one example.
Let’s take streets and roads. I am sometimes amazed at the contortions that the federal Liberal Party and this Liberal government go through on the same issue. Across northern Ontario right now, you have a task force being run by some of the federal Liberal members, and they are looking at municipal infrastructure financing. They go into a community like Kenora or a community like Thunder Bay -- I am glad that one of the government members from Thunder Bay is here because he will know about this, he will be aware of this -- and they ask the municipal officials, “List for us all of your costs in terms of bridges, in terms of streets and roads, in terms of sewer and water,” and they say, “Isn’t it terrible that this federal government is not providing you with any funds to do this kind of work?”
At the same time, they conveniently ignore that the provincial government, which has created municipal governments by statute, has cut funding for these things. It is absolutely amazing how federal Liberals find it very easy to complain about the federal government in respect of its shortages and its lack of ability to assist municipalities and they totally ignore the absolutely terrible record of this provincial government in terms of assigning more and more responsibilities to municipal governments and at the same time cutting back on funding for municipal governments for local municipal services. It is absolutely incredible that they think they can get away with this. It is also absolutely incredible that this provincial government thinks it can get away with it.
We all know the game the government is playing. The Treasurer salts away $1 billion here on the sales tax and then he does a neat three-month operation in terms of double taxation for OHIP. People are paying premiums while businesses are paying the new OHIP payroll tax and he racks up another $500 million in double taxes and he has a neat little nest egg there that he can perhaps roll out in the next election campaign. That is what is going on here.
Hon R. F. Nixon: There is no extra money collected, no double revenue.
Mr Hampton: I find it interesting to compare what the Treasurer says in this House with what the Ministry of Health officials say to people on the telephone. The Treasurer comes in this House and says, “No double taxation.” Individuals get in the mail a bill from OHIP saying, “You owe us so much money for your OHIP premiums.” They also get a notice saying, “As of January you are going to have to start paying the payroll tax.”
So they phone up OHIP or they phone up the Treasurer’s office and they say. “Which one of these don’t I have to pay?” They are expecting that they are going to get an answer, “Well, ignore this one or ignore that one.” Instead what they get is they are told, “Well, you have to pay your premium and if you are subject to the payroll tax, you have to pay that as well.”
Will the Treasurer tell us who is wrong here, because thousands of people across this province are making that phone call to OHIP and they are saying: “This can’t be right. I can’t be held responsible for the payroll tax and at the same time be held responsible for the OHIP premium notice. Which is it?” The answer they get from his government is, “You are responsible for both.” I am asking the Treasurer to please explain to us why when people make that telephone call, they are being told, “You are responsible for both.”
We have quoted on the record some of his officials, officials from other ministries of his government, who are saying that the double taxation will amount to about $529 million for the first three months of 1990.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Wrong.
Mr Hampton: The Treasurer says it is wrong. Then why are people receiving that answer when they telephone ministries of his government? Why are they receiving the answer from his officials that they are responsible for paying both the OHIP premiums for January, February and March and the OHIP payroll tax for 1990?
Hon R. F. Nixon: You have heard the explanation in the House three times. What is the sense of giving it to you a fourth time?
Mr Hampton: The Treasurer says we have heard the explanation. Yes, we have heard the explanation, but if that is the explanation, why are individual citizens, when they phone his government’s offices, being told that they are still responsible for both?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Because they are.
Mr Hampton: He tells us they are responsible for both. I thank him. He finally admitted it. Does he tell us that that does not amount to double taxation then?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I tell you it does not amount to double taxation then.
Mr Hampton: I have always been aware that the Liberal Party could do wonderful things with the language, but this doublespeak I have to hear. I have to understand and I want this Treasurer to explain this doublespeak to us very carefully because there are thousands of people across the province who do not understand this doublespeak and they want to know.
But the point is --
Hon Mr Elston: Time to stop stickhandling and pass the puck.
Mr Hampton: Now we have the minister for insurance companies getting into the act here. He obviously does not want to know what is happening either.
The point is that what this government has done with its spending policies is it has transferred, it has pushed off, it has foisted upon municipal governments more and more of the crucial cost of keeping a civil society together, of meeting the needs of a civil society, of meeting the needs of our communities. They have pushed off more and more of the costs, whether we are talking about education costs, street and road cost, sewer and water costs, court security costs, those things are being passed on to local governments more and more.
At the same time, this government wants to claim credit for doing wonderful things in these areas. I say to the Treasurer and I say to this government in general, the kinds of difficult decisions that boards of education and local municipalities are having to make right now are evidence of exactly what they have been doing.
Those people have absolutely no room to talk, absolutely no room and no record to boast about because they have foisted on to local communities all kinds of hardships and all kinds of people out there in local communities are having to pay for it. Whether it comes from disabled children with special needs or whether it comes from property owners who are existing on limited incomes and are being hit with higher and higher property taxes, whichever end we look at, those people are hurting and this government is responsible because this government is the source of it.
Since we have got into this OHIP thing, I just want to comment a little further on this bit of wizardry from the Treasurer, because it really is a bit of wizardry. When I go back and I read any sort of textbook that talks about general principles of taxation, it talks about equity, it talks about the efficiency in terms of how efficiently the tax will raise income, the equity in terms of who will pay, who will be covered, whether the cost will be shared proportionately across society and so on.
Then I look at the new OHIP payroll tax and I find that if you can somehow disguise yourself as self-employed –
Hon R. F. Nixon: A lawyer or something like that.
Mr Hampton: Exactly, and I am glad the Treasurer picked an example of a lawyer. Let’s just go through some of these examples. If you are a self-employed lawyer, and let’s assume you have a lucrative real estate practice and you have one secretary, you pay her, as lawyers often do --
Hon R. F. Nixon: A pittance.
Mr Hampton: A pittance, that is right. You pay her $20,000 a year in income. That is the payroll tax that that self-employed lawyer will pay taxes on, pay his payroll tax on. So you take one per cent of $20,000. His own income or her own net income may be in the $80,000 or $90,000 category, but because of the mechanism the Treasurer has chosen, that person will not pay a payroll tax on his own income. What incredible people to give a free ride to.
Let’s take a real yuppie example, a real Toronto example, one of those folks in Toronto who has learned how to play the housing market, who has learned how to buy at $200,000 and hang on to it for six months or a year and sell it for $400,000 with a net turnover of $200,000. Are they going to pay any OHIP payroll tax? No, they are not going to pay any OHIP payroll tax on that.
Let’s take a dentist, let’s take a doctor who is able to say: “I am self-employed. I have one nurse. All of the rest of the people I work with. many of the people who do my work, don’t work for me, they work for the local hospital. My income may be $120,000 a year as a doctor, but I don’t have to pay payroll tax on my net income. I will pay for my one nurse.”
As well, doctors too often, I am sorry to say, do not pay the wages that we would like them to pay. So this doctor has one nurse. He pays her $25,000 a year. His contribution to OHIP will be one per cent of $25,000 a year. His own $125,000 net income he whistles away to the Bahamas with. He does not have to pay an OHIP payroll tax on that. Many of the people he relies upon to do his actual work work in a public hospital, and who is going to pay that? Public hospitals are going to pay that. Where is that going to come from? That is going to come out of the regular taxpayer again. Many of us support --
Hon R. F. Nixon: That is the next bill. You are going to have to do this speech again.
Mr Hampton: The Treasurer says I will have to give this speech again when we talk about the next bill. I want him to know I look forward to giving it again, because it illustrates fundamentally the unfairness and the regressiveness of the kinds of tax policies that his government is putting in place and has put in place. Those are the kinds of issues that the next election is going to be fought on, not what grants he can dole out here or dole out there conveniently at election time.
Mr Charlton: Bob Nixon, the man who finally nailed the coffin shut.
Mr Hampton: Yes. Now let me just point to the other side of the example for the Treasurer to make sure that he knows what it is about.
If you are a small logging operation -- and I will use one that I am comfortable with because the example has been brought to my attention. If you are a small logger and you have got six employees and you pay them $30,000 a year, and then you have got a secretary, so you are bumped up above the $200,000 a year mark, you are going to pay the OHIP payroll tax on everything you pay out. You may add a lot to the local economy in terms of the jobs you create, in terms of the production that you add to society; you may also add to the economy in terms of the value of the export of your lumber or your pulp and paper, but you are going to pay OHIP tax on the full range of your payroll.
If the Treasurer can explain the fairness behind a virtual exemption for the $80,000-a-year income of a self-employed lawyer and a $120,000-a-year self-employed doctor, why their wages and salaries should be exempted from the OHIP payroll tax, and why people who have six or seven employees have to pay the OHIP payroll tax. I want to hear that explanation. That, as I say, is another example of the skewed spending and taxing policies of this government. It is an example of the unfairness and the regressiveness of the spending and taxing policies of this government, an example that this government should not be allowed to get away with.
I want to hear from the Treasurer on this. If he is all talked out today, as he said, we will have another chance when we deal with the OHIP bill because there are many people out there who want to know how he justifies some of the workings of his proposed OHIP payroll tax, just as there are many boards of education who want to hear how he can justify promises he made in the last election about 60 per cent provincial support for board of education spending when he has now dropped that support to under 40 per cent. There are all kinds of local municipalities which want to know how they are going to pick up the additional responsibilities the Treasurer has placed on them, and yet, at the same time, he continues to cut his financial assistance to those communities.
If the Treasurer would honour us with his explanations of those, I would be most appreciative and I know that there are many communities out there and many individuals who would be most appreciative indeed because, as I said, I think what is happening here is fundamentally unfair, fundamentally regressive and is imposing a number of harsh hardships on people across the province of Ontario.
Hon R. F. Nixon: If I can use the two minutes that are allotted to me in this regard, I want to tell the honourable member that was quite a good speech, contrived out of very thin philosophical cloth. Since he does not have much to talk about, I want to compliment him in that regard.
I do not know whether to talk about the underfunding of municipalities or give an explanation, which is obvious to any thoughtful person, about the so-called overlap in OHIP and employer health tax premiums, which does not exist, or whether to talk about underfunding of education or the fact that the north is losing jobs. All of those things are a matter of good political grist and I think, since I have one minute and 15 seconds left, that will be enough to deal with the education funding, which is a matter of concern everywhere.
The honourable member would know that the percentage of support for various school boards is established on the basis of a formula which varies across the province. It depends on the education facilities required and particularly the assessment available.
The honourable member would know that in a municipality like Toronto with very high assessment our support is certainly below 60 per cent. As a matter of fact, it is approaching zero per cent. It is expected that next year they will owe the Treasury of Ontario money. It is a moot question as to how we are going to get it out of them. I am not spending a lot of time worrying about that, but the point is that for boards which have inadequate resources, we have paid far above 60 per cent.
It goes without saying that we would like to have more money for northern roads, northern schools, northern hospitals, northern lawyers and northern environmental programs, but in fact we have gone a long way to supporting education this year. including colleges and universities and skills development, $8.3 billion. While it is insufficient, it is a lot of money and does gives us a very good system.
Mr Laughren: I really must comment on my colleague’s remarks concerning double taxation. I forgot to do it when I was speaking.
The Treasurer is hard pressed to explain how it is possible for people to be paying premiums in December for the following three months, January, February and March, and then in January get a bill, to replace the health care premiums, for the month of January. I do not know how the Treasurer explains that away. I do not understand how the Treasurer can explain away such a blatant example of double taxation.
If the Treasurer had said -- I almost hesitate to give him this out, but when I saw the bill, I wondered why the Treasurer did not say, “Yes, employers are paying that premium” -- or anybody is paying that premium --
Hon R. F. Nixon: Or next April or May? That would satisfy the simplistic approach you would take.
Mr Laughren: I did not say that. He could have said that people are paying the tax for January, February and March and that in January they will be paying it for April, May and June. But the Treasurer caused himself a lot of grief because he felt he had to be honest and admit that he was basically double taxing people.
Mr Hampton: It is always a pleasure to get a response from the Treasurer. He says, “We’re spending $8 billion on skills development and schools this year.”
Hon R. F. Nixon: It’s $8.3 billion.
Mr Hampton: It is $8.3 billion, he says: “Isn’t this wonderful?” I realize the Treasurer has been here a long time. I realize he is a parsimonious fellow. I also want him to realize that times have changed a great deal and that the real issue here is that we have the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway), who is the Minister of Education, the Minister of College and Universities and the Minister of Skills Development, trotting across the province making wonderful announcements: “We’re going to do this in the 21st century of education. We have to provide for these skills. We’re going to do this.” Hardly a week goes by when the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Skills Development or the Ministry of Colleges and Universities does not make an announcement to this extent. Yet when you look at the announcements and then at what is being spent, the announcements too often do not carry with them any dollars from this government. That is the issue.
This government has forced upon local boards of education more and more mandatory programs and more and more expensive programs, but the money is not there to go with it. So the Treasurer should not say to us, “We put out $8.3 billion and that’s the end of the question.” The fact of the matter is that in the last five years, with what the government has said to boards of education in terms of what they must do, it has not come across with the money. So the figure of $8.3 billion is very meaningless indeed; it just does not match up with the requirements the government has placed on them.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Any further debate on the motion? The member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
Mr Vllleneuve: I too am pleased to participate this afternoon in the debate on interim supply. First, Mr Speaker, let me congratulate you on your ascension to the throne. You are a very knowledgeable person about the way the process occurs around here. I think your party made a very wise choice in selecting you as its representative at this level. I congratulate you. I know you will perform very well, and I look forward to participating in many more debates with you in the chair.
To the question at hand regarding interim supply, I will touch on a number of subjects. First and foremost, the one probably closest to my heart involves agriculture and the farmers here in Ontario. I know that both the present Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay) and the former minister had very little to do and say about the way the farm tax rebate process changed. It changed rather extensively. I know that the Treasurer was basically the one who was calling the shots and, indeed, created a means test for agriculture and the people who are involved in it.
I happen to have with me the 1989 Ontario farm tax rebate program brochure and the application for our farmers, who right at this particular point in time are probably faced with having to complete this little questionnaire. When you get down to question 13, it asks. “What is your main farm operation?” That is fairly simple. Then: “What is the total off-farm income of all registered owners?” A very good question. It is not a means test; at least that is what the Treasurer says, and that is what the Minister of Agriculture and Food says: “No, it is not a means test. But we want to know just how much money you make from sources other than farming.”
There is quite a grey area there because at one point the former Minister of Agriculture and Food mentioned that custom work done by a farmer with his farm equipment on someone else’s farm qualified as off-farm income. This seems to have changed recently when a statement came from the ministry that if it was done by a farmer who owns and operates his own farm, his custom work is now farm income. So there is a great deal of confusion.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture made some very strong recommendations recently to the Treasurer, the Premier and the Minister of Agriculture and Food -- strong suggestions that it was prepared to accept a 10 per cent reduction from the money extended last year, which was approximately $167 million, to the farm tax rebate. The reason it has gone up so extensively was touched on by a number of my colleagues who spoke before me. The Ministry of Education has reduced the funding of education, and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has flat-lined grants to municipalities. In order to maintain or keep up the kind of service wanted by the municipal people and municipal leaders, our school board trustees and, indeed, the entire school system, very substantial tax increases had to occur, and they did; in the area I represent. there was a 17 percent increase just to maintain a system of education and, in fact, certain programs had to be actually cut back.
That is why taxes at the municipal level, covering both municipal expenditures and school board expenditures, had to be increased quite extensively. The Treasurer says, “This $167-million farm tax rebate is too rich; it is costing our government too much and, therefore, we will cut it back to $140 million.” The Ontario Federation of Agriculture did make some recommendations: it was quite prepared to accept a 10 per cent reduction, which would have been $16 million. However, the Premier, the Treasurer and the Minister of Agriculture and Food would not have any part of it.
Hon R. F. Nixon: We want the farmers to get it, not the big capitalists who earn money off the farm.
Mr Villeneuve: The interesting thing is, if that is what the Treasurer was aiming for, he missed the target completely, because we have farmers who do rent from the so-called capitalists that the Treasurer suggests own farm land, and yes, the farmer was actually getting a break on the rent. The interesting thing is now we have a means test -- a means test that none of Ontario’s agriculture is happy with.
I ask the Treasurer, what is it going to cost to administer this famous means test and to see if all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed? We are going to run into a fairly extensive expenditure at the provincial level just to see if the information that is collected from the farmers out there is accurate. And Lord only knows, we may have to face a whole bunch of enforcement people from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to see how accurate this is.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Farmers always tell the truth. You know that, Noble.
Mr Villeneuve: The farmers always tell the truth. I am sure. However, why have this if it is not going to be verified? It is a bit redundant, is it not? The interesting thing is, why have it or impose it, if there is no enforcement? Interesting.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food last year, with a lot of pomp, ceremony and fanfare, underspent by $57 million moneys that were budgeted for the ministry and supposedly to go to Ontario’s farmers and the agriculture industry. It was the only mainline ministry that suffered a more than 10 per cent reduction in money that was budgeted but never spent where it was intended and supposed to go.
We had our fruit, vegetable and cash-crop producers on the lawn of Queen’s Park here several months ago trying to get a message across to the previous minister that in 1988 they did suffer extensive drought problems, particularly in south-central and eastern Ontario, but the minister of the day and the government did not recognize that and did not contribute to support for the drought relief program in 1988 for the cash-crop, fruit and vegetable growers, in spite of the fact that they had $57 million of unspent dollars that went to other ministries. That, I think, in a nutshell sums up the priority or the lack thereof that this government is providing to Ontario’s agriculture.
In the eastern Ontario section that I represent, we have a municipality that has run into some problems. I have touched on it with the Minister of the Environment, and I have also questioned the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr Sweeney). It is a municipality known as Charlottenburgh; it has a sewage and water treatment system in place. When I represented that area in 1984, prior to redistribution, the project was on the rails at an anticipated and estimated cost of $2.6 million; that was pretty heavy, but it was inevitable: there were major problems, major pollution problems and water quality problems.
We now have a system in place, some five years later, a system that has cost three times what was anticipated. We are now up to $7 million, and I say to the Treasurer, we have a very serious situation in that particular municipality. We have tax arrears in Charlottenburgh, particularly in the area of the Purcell Road subdivision, where this problem is being faced; 28 per cent of the residents and land owners are presently in arrears. What they are faced with is a 300 per cent to 500 per cent increase in municipal taxes.
I say to the Treasurer, as I have said to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of the Environment, there must be a form of aid program, a once-in-a-lifetime shot. We have to realize that this was not the municipality’s doing in any way, shape or form. However, we have many houses for sale, but we have no buyers. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs at present is actively looking into that situation, and I say to the Treasurer that we must provide some financial support to the residents of the Purcell subdivision.
Moving along to conservation authorities, I am proud to have three conservation authorities partly in the riding I represent. There is a problem with the South Nation Conservation Authority in that we have to rechannelize one of the tributaries to the South Nation River. It is mostly in Matilda township in Dundas county, where we have 12,000-plus acres of tile-drained land -- and the Treasurer would know all about that -- and we have a situation where the tiles are silting in simply because channelization has not occurred. Under the conservation authority’s mandate, it is not a threat to life and limb. However, it is very definitely a threat to support and farm income. It is deteriorating much more rapidly than should occur in that the tile drainage systems in place are silting in.
We have had a number of meetings with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Natural Resources. The problem is that no one seems to want to take the initiative. Yes, we are talking about a considerable sum of money. However, the benefits would be probably fourfold; in other words, for every dollar spent one would be getting back $4 of benefit. I say to the Treasurer, it is a project that must be looked at, it is a project that would probably be stretched over two or three years and it is a project that must be supported by at least two ministries, Natural Resources and Agriculture and Food.
We have a problem also with the Ministry of the Environment in that I have had at least a half a dozen business people who have applied to that ministry to have an anticipated project simply okayed. Let us say a sewage system is awaiting the green light from the Ministry of the Environment so that the owner can actually install the sewage disposal system, the septic system, or whatever, at no cost to the government of Ontario. It is simply a matter of having the ministry officials look at the plans, provide the additional technical advice needed or the asked-for technical adjustments in the project. But right now these are facing waiting periods of six to eight months.
I know of one situation where one of our larger businesses in eastern Ontario had to pay to have a septic system pumped out on a daily basis for over six months, while waiting for an okay from the Ministry of the Environment.
I know the Treasurer is aware that the number of civil servants has increased very dramatically over the last four years. As a matter of fact, it has increased by more than 12 per cent from what it was in 1985 to what it presently is. If we are going to increase the number by this type of volume, we at least need these people in the strategic areas that will allow our business people to conduct or expand their businesses, to install septic systems and whatever, to put them in place. I do not believe that six to eight months of waiting is reasonable, particularly when it is only to obtain the green light.
Funding for education, I touched on earlier; it certainly is an area where I believe this government has disappointed the public of Ontario. This government has built up anticipation that funding would go to 60 per cent of the total cost of education, and yet we are still somewhere in the 42 to 43 per cent range and likely to drop some more, as opposed to increasing. I am privileged to be a member of the select committee on education, and we will be making strong recommendations to the Minister of Education and to the government of Ontario oriented towards bringing equity and equilibrium back to the funding of education in this province.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food, as I was saying earlier, has cut back its support for agriculture quite extensively. I was a participant at a clean air management program here in the city of Toronto last week where the production of methanol-ethanol gas was discussed at some length. The benefits would be that it would not only result in a cleaner environment, a considerable reduction in carbon monoxide in the air, particularly in major cities such as Toronto, but also provide a ripple effect to agriculture.
As the Treasurer is well aware, we have a lot of corn going to market right now in Ontario at very soft prices. If methanol-ethanol were to be utilized for up to 10 per cent of the fuel used in our internal combustion engines in our cars, we would create not only a much cleaner environment, but we would be preserving the ozone layer, reducing carbon monoxide, and we would also be providing an alternative use for some of our grains that are produced in Ontario.
The amazing thing is that when we produce alcohol from grain -- corn, for instance -- we can go to the areas with less heat units, where one year in five we have inferior-quality grain, grain that may have some mould or some microtoxins, but the actual distilling process destroys these undesirable elements and produces an alcohol that is safe to burn in your vehicle, to be mixed with your regular gas as an octane enhancer. Indeed, what it winds up doing is providing additional income and stability to our agricultural community.
I think it is a project that is very, very worth looking into. I do not believe it would cost the government of Ontario a great amount of money to promote the production of a blended gasohol -- methanol, ethanol, conventional gas. I can see no negatives. The actual cost of the product would not be any more expensive than our regular fuel at some 52 or 54 cents a litre, as it presently is in the area of Ontario I come from.
Municipal spending has been flat-lined, as I mentioned earlier. I found it most interesting when the federal Liberal members of Parliament visited the city of Cornwall recently and actually sent a very clear message to the government of Ontario. Remember, these are Liberals at the federal level. They recognized that municipal infrastructure is being totally ignored by the government of Ontario. Their recommendations, believe it or not, were that the federal government should be providing funds. They did not say where the federal government would get these funds. However, they certainly recognized clearly and distinctly the fact that the province of Ontario, whose responsibility it is to fund municipal infrastructure, roads, sewage, garbage disposal, etc. was not doing its job.
Another area of what should be co-operation between the federal and provincial governments is the proposed goods and services tax, a tax that none of us likes and that none of us likes to talk about, except we find that again Liberals, both provincially and federally, are trying to make political hay.
Here in Ontario we have a tax collection system in place for the provincial sales tax, which incidentally was increased by the same Treasurer to eight per cent - I believe that down in his heart the Treasurer knows that yes, we should have an extra line on that provincial sales tax form that would look after any anticipated or future goods and service tax at whatever level it happens to settle in at, be it nine per cent, seven per cent or something other.
However, I think the advice from the second floor corner office, which is referred to and is the Premier’s office, has said, “This is not a good political game plan. We have to play a bit of political gamesmanship here and get up and speak against the GST. We know the popularity of the GST is very low. We are not going to supply you with alternative means of getting in tax money. We are simply going to jump all over you.” Of course. politically it has worked and we have seen some polls. However, I say to the Treasurer that co-operation is what we need in this regard, not additional civil servants, be they federal or provincial. We are already overbureaucracized. I am glad to see the Treasurer, I think, nod in agreement with that.
Finally, I want to re-emphasize the fact that municipalities are going through some very difficult times, with responsibilities that have traditionally and normally been those of the provincial government transferred without consultation, without funding and without even much prearranged warning to the municipalities. The provincial government has simply said: “It’s your problem, guys. Get along with it.”
In summary in this debate on interim supply, I say to the Treasurer that he had no hesitation in adding one per cent to the sales tax last May, almost a full $1 billion more income to the province. The budgetary income of this province will be in the area of $42 billion, yet we still have an annual deficit. We did not quite balance and it makes us all wonder, when indeed in good times we cannot balance our budget, what will happen when the tougher times come along?
It has been a pleasure participating in this debate. I say to the Treasurer that in the last budget that $5 tire tax to retailers in eastern Ontario was bad medicine indeed. We have many people going to Quebec to replace the tires on their automobiles, or they can go to New York state; both areas are less than a half-hour’s drive from anywhere in the riding I represent.
I say in summary that the Treasurer may well be against the GST and a number of federal initiatives. However, I think he has to look at his own house first and what has happened recently.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I want to respond briefly to the honourable member’s comments. I want to congratulate him actually for using specific cases. I believe that in the voting of supply traditionally it is an occasion where the honourable members exercise their right to bring a petition before the government, or at least an objection before the government on specific expenditure programs.
I would not say his colleagues in either opposition party have not done that, but the lengthy debate about the employees health tax is supposed to be on second reading of that bill which will follow interim supply when it is completed later in the week. I feel there is a certain duplication and therefore a waste of the valuable time of the House. I do not know how we can do much about that, but certainly we have to give some consideration to it.
The honourable member made specific reference, as is appropriate and expected, to the funding of agricultural programs. The honourable member would know that we expect to spend this year $527 million in general for agriculture, and once again while he and other thoughtful people might say this is insufficient, still it does give us a broad range of programs that support agriculture in this jurisdiction.
He would be aware that special funding was found in support of the farmers who lost their crops or their ability to produce crops this year because of the unnatural wet weather, and there is the fact that we have joined with the government of Canada in rather awkward circumstances, precipitated by the government of Canada, to see that drought relief based on the problems a year ago is payable to the farmers in the province.
While these things do not always go smoothly, they are associated with changes in agriculture. I just draw the honourable member’s attention to the wine business and the tobacco business where we have many hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars associated with the dislocation that we know of in those markets.
Mr McLean: I just want to comment briefly on my colleague’s statement here this afternoon addressing the $5.9-billion budgetary process, the approval this government is looking for. I want to compliment my colleague on the three main issues that I see he raised with regard to the farm tax rebate, education and municipal transfers.
When we look at those three areas, the government has actually cut back on what the farmers are going to receive. I do not know how they can expect farmers to stay in business when they are giving them less money than before. The farm tax rebate was due to the school educational portion of their taxes. That has not seen the eye of the Treasurer who I am sure meant in the first place -- I know he has the doings of changing that farm tax rebate.
I also must say that I am sure this is the very government that indicated it wanted to fund education to 60 per cent. Here it is asking for more money. They want to spend about $6 billion with this warrant and here they are cutting back on the educational costs.
Not only that, but they also took the opportunity to flat-line all of the municipal transfer payments. I understand they are announcing about $2 billion for 1990, so that is for the year 1990-91, but for 1989-90 that did not happen.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I don’t call 8.4 per cent flat-lining.
Mr McLean: My colleague brought those issues out. I know the Treasurer would want us to remind him of those budgetary processes that he has in place, with the cutbacks that have been made and the increased taxation they have put on the people of this province, with about 38 tax increases in the last four years.
It is all right for them to talk about the GST, but I suggest they should have their own house in order. If they want to cut back on expenditures here in the province, the 8,000 people that they hired could have not been hired.
Mr Villeneuve: To the Treasurer, last year the anticipated expenditures for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food were $579,691,000. The actual expenditures were $522 million, a difference of almost $57 million. The Treasurer is down into the low $500 millions this year. If it is cut back by 15 percent again, we will be down to where he is really not funding any of the very worthwhile projects of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
I want to thank my colleague the member for Simcoe East(Mr McLean) for also reminding the Treasurer of some of the things that really did happen, the flat-lining of municipalities. etc. One thing I neglected to mention that has been brought to my attention on a number of occasions, as I am sure it has to the Treasurer, is the new special occasion permit fees. I tell the Treasurer that for some of our service clubs, Lions clubs, what have you, at $60 for a social sale permit, I really do not know how these people who are fund-raising out of communities will be able to cover this.
The application for filing a fee-for-licence application requiring a public meeting to publicly licence premises is now $775. The application filing fee for licence applications not requiring public meetings is $650, and licence issuing fees are $225 for two years. These are all costs that have not only quadrupled; in some instances have gone up by 10-fold.
It is an area that is of grave concern to those people in rural Ontario. Particularly when we look at fund-raising activities that include a special occasion permit at $60, it is almost intolerable for some of our small community-minded service clubs in rural Ontario. I think it is a shame, and it was never even debated.
The Acting Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion?
Mr Charlton: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will take the opportunity as well, as some of my colleagues have done, to congratulate you on your new role in this chamber. I almost got around to doing that twice last week, but you left the chair before I managed to get to my feet, so we will take that occasion and wish you all the best and hope that we are not overly hard on you in your new role.
To the Treasurer, I have a number of comments to make this afternoon, but the comments that he ended off his last response with are perhaps a useful place for me to start because it was something that I had forgotten about for a few moments while I was preparing my comments for this afternoon.
The Treasurer commented, in response in that final exchange, about 8.4 per cent not being flat-lining. I think it would be useful if the Treasurer were to stop and approach some of his colleagues in the cabinet about what they have been forced to say to the various groups they serve as a result of his budget of last spring.
Specifically on the issue of municipal grants and flat-lining, perhaps the Treasurer should take the time to look at the opening statement of the Minister of Municipal Affairs in his estimates just last Tuesday, where he was being very apologetic about his understanding of the hardship that was being imposed on the municipalities in Ontario as a result of the action of this very Treasurer. I think it might be worth while, instead of just getting up in this House and blindly defending what he has done and denying any adverse effects of the decisions he has made, if he took the time to at least know what his colleagues are saying out there in the real world to those they are required to serve.
Having said that, it was also interesting to note that earlier this afternoon, in response to a question during question period around the issue of the goods and services tax that is proposed at the federal level, the Treasurer made reference that the provincial treasurers across the country had been directed by the premiers to look, in their own provinces, at the economic impact, the consequences of the GST proposal, and that this had been done and that those studies had been compiled into a document which had been provided to the 10 premiers.
That study will be an interesting one for us to see here in Ontario, and I guess, for that matter, in every province across the country. Having said that, it might be useful if the Treasurer were to provide to his own Premier and to this House an economic analysis of the basic impact of the last four Liberal budgets in Ontario. As members will recall, those budgets, as I recall it, have wrenched about an additional $4 billion or $4.5 billion out of the pockets and purses of the residents of this province. It would be interesting to see the Treasurer, instead of just spending his time doing a theoretical study on the consequences of the GST in the future, look at a serious economic analysis of the impact of his past four budgets on the economy of this province.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Fastest rate of growth in our history; lowest rate of unemployment in the last two decades.
Mr Charlton: The fastest rate of growth in our history. It would be interesting to know, for example, how much the Treasurer has contributed to the escalation of real estate values in the city of Toronto. Perhaps that is why he is not interested in a land speculation tax, because of knowing and understanding what the consequences of that might be for his Treasury. Taxes that do not work, as the Treasurer likes to call them, are taxes that do not collect a lot of money because they have an impact out there in terms of stalling speculation in land.
Back more specifically to the question of interim supply and the budget that creates the need for supply here this year, the Treasurer also made reference a few moments ago when he was responding to the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry that he thought there was a lot of duplication going on, that some of the taxes that were being discussed this afternoon are going to be discussed later this week.
Mr Speaker, you understand the process around here. The Treasurer brings in a budget, a budget that imposes taxes and that imposes tax increases in the case of the taxes we are talking about here, or the creation of new taxes, but the Minister of Revenue introduces the legislation and brings that legislation into the House for debate. The Treasurer, in most instances, will not be here when we debate the payroll tax later this week.
Hon R. F. Nixon: It is not my bill.
Mr Charlton: That is right, but the Treasurer is the one who created the problem even though he is not carrying the legislation.
Hon R. F. Nixon: You are supposed to debate it in the budget. We have rules to accommodate all you irrational people.
Mr Charlton: When was the last time we had a budget debate in the House? When was the last time the government House leader scheduled budget debate in the House?
Hon R. F. Nixon: What are you doing now?
Mr Charlton: I am speaking on interim supply because I have not had an opportunity to speak on the budget.
Hon R. F. Nixon: But you are not containing yourself to the issue.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Order, please. We will only remind the Treasurer that it is up to the Speaker to decide whether the honourable member is containing himself to the issue and I think he was doing a good job.
Mr Charlton: As I have just suggested, I am essentially speaking here this afternoon because I have not been afforded the opportunity by this government to make a speech directed at the budget. I have a number of comments that I made to the former Minister of Revenue and I will make them to the current Minister of Revenue in terms of some of the tax bills that we have to deal with emanating from that budget, but I am going to raise those same issues here today because I am going to raise them with the person who created my concerns.
I see the Treasurer just had a comment from his former Minister of Revenue and he will most assuredly --
Hon R. F. Nixon: He says he has heard it all before.
Mr Charlton: No, he has not heard all of this because we have not dealt with all these matters yet.
Let’s start out with the part he has heard but which the Treasurer has not. The Treasurer is aware, for example, that I spent a number of years -- four years as a matter of fact -- as our caucus’s Environment critic and I listened to the Treasurer make his budget speech last spring where he introduced the new tire tax; $5 a head on tires regardless of the value of those tires and regardless of the ability of the purchaser to pay it.
The Treasurer introduced that tire tax, members will recall, as an environmental tax and he stood in his place in this House and talked about the tires that continually get strewn in the ditches down the side road beside his farm. He said he was imposing this tax in order to clean up that mess of tires out there in the province of Ontario. On the other hand, when this caucus and the Progressive Conservative caucus stood together and proposed amendments to that tire tax legislation, asking that there be set up a specific fund into which the tire tax would go and that the fund be restricted in its use to the cleanup of used and discarded tires in the province, what was the response of the government of the day and of the Treasurer in question? The response was a refusal.
They said: “No. Trust us. This is an environ-mental tax. It is going to go into the general revenue fund. You will never be able to find out whether we use a single dollar of this tax to pick up a single tire in the province of Ontario, but trust us. We don’t need to set up a specific fund.”
As somebody who has spent four years as the Environment critic for my party would know, I know that not only was this tire tax unnecessary as an environmental measure in the province of Ontario, but if this Treasurer had half a brain in terms of environmental issues, if he had taken the time to talk to some of the environmentalists in this province who have made proposals around things like the use and recycling of used tires, he could have put in place a useful program in the province to recover and reuse those discarded tires and he could have made money for the province in the process.
At the same time, he would not have needed to impose an unfair and uneven tax on those who will likely make the wrong decisions as a result of that tax, those who are perhaps on very tight incomes and whose tires are wearing thin and need replacing, and with the additional charge of $20 over the cost of the four tires for their car, they may be deterred from buying new tires and in the process endanger themselves and perhaps somebody else along the way.
But instead of imposing that tax, this Treasurer could have taken the initiative, along with the Minister of the Environment, to set up a program of recovery, recycling and reuse of those discarded tires and could have made money for the province in the process and saved the taxpayers money all at the same time. But this Treasurer does not take the time to find out what his colleagues are even saying publicly about the taxes he imposes, let alone what alternatives there might have been to some of the measures he has taken in this budget.
We all recall the debate that went on in this Legislature a year ago around the increase this Treasurer imposed on the Ontario sales tax, when he increased the sales tax from seven per cent to eight per cent. We heard earlier. Mr Speaker, some of your colleagues in the third party making reference to the goods and services tax and a number of the other taxes this Treasurer has imposed provincially and the impact of those taxes on municipalities, on school boards, on university administrations, on public hospitals, where all of those kinds of public crown corporations and public institutions will have to pay additional dollars as a result of taxes imposed by the province of Ontario and taxes proposed by the government of Canada.
I recall back in 1981-82 when the predecessor government, the Conservative government, was making significant changes in the retail sales tax in Ontario in two successive budgets and the current Treasurer, when he received letters from the universities, the municipal corporations and the hospitals in this province, stood up in this House and decried any action that would be taken by the provincial government that would impose additional tax burdens on these hard-pressed public institutions, our municipalities, our school boards, our hospitals.
Do you recall those debates, Mr Speaker? I certainly recall them and I think deep down in his heart, even the Treasurer of Ontario recalls those debates. But he has become so caught up, so caught up in the rhetoric of balancing the budget as quickly as possible regardless of the impact of the action and regardless of the result on other public institutions, that he has forgotten the relevance and the correctness of his words from 1981-82.
In the latest poll, 88 per cent of the people of Canada are opposed to the federal government’s proposal for a goods and services tax. I think it was 88 per cent; it was over 80 per cent anyway. Why, we ask, are so many people opposed to this federal proposal when here in Ontario we have a Treasurer who does precisely the same kinds of things with tax policy and does not, for whatever reason, seem to feel that kind of wrath.
I guess the answer is quite simple. The federal government, and most of us, I think -- I am not sure about your position, Mr Speaker; I will not push you to give us your position here since you are neutral in the chair this afternoon -- most people in this country obviously oppose the goods and services tax proposed by the federal government as an unfair and unworkable tax that will add to inflation, that will hurt the poor and low- and middle-income people in Canada. and that is precisely the kind of thing this Treasurer has done consistently in four out of four budgets now.
The only difference is, I guess, however you look at it, the federal government has attempted to do it all in one package, which is up front as one package for debate, one tax. You can either sell it to the public so people know what they are getting or the public is going to force you to withdraw the proposal because people do not buy what you are telling them is a good and fair way to tax.
What this Treasurer has chosen to do in the province of Ontario is nickel-and-dime every unfair tax he can find, but never nickel-and-dime any one of those taxes enough to get the entire population up in arms. He does a little bit on retail sales, but he does not feel in the second year he can do it again so he creates a tire tax. When the tire tax is not enough, then he charges fees to Ontario Hydro for the debt guarantee.
All of those things that have been done in this budget and the last budget in Ontario add up to precisely the same unfair approach to taxation that is reflected by the goods and services tax proposed by Ottawa. Let’s talk about a couple of them for a minute. Firstly, let’s talk about the fees that are going to charged under the Power Corporation Act to Ontario Hydro in return for the provision by the province of Ontario of debt guarantee. Let’s understand what it is that we are talking about that we are charging Hydro for.
The government of Ontario provides a debt guarantee to Ontario Hydro. Should Ontario Hydro ever go broke, any debts which are outstanding by that corporation would be assumed by the government of Ontario. What does that mean? What is the government of Ontario? What does the government of Ontario represent? Who is it that provides the debt guarantee? Is it the Treasurer? Does he provide the debt guarantee? Is it the Premier? Does he provide the debt guarantee? We all know that is not the case. If Ontario Hydro goes broke, it is not the Treasurer who is going to pay Hydro’s debt and it is not the Premier either. It is the people of Ontario who are going to pay Hydro’s debt.
The people of Ontario are going to pay the debt if Hydro goes broke, so who is it that is providing the debt guarantee? It is the people of Ontario who are providing the debt guarantee. So what does the Treasurer of Ontario do? He brings in legislation that says Hydro is going to have to pay the government of Ontario for the debt guarantee which the people of Ontario provide to Ontario Hydro. Who is going to have to pay this cost that is now being charged by the government to Hydro? It is the people of Ontario, of course, because they are the ones who buy all the hydro. So the people of Ontario are going to be asked to pay for the debt guarantee that they provide to Ontario Hydro.
Is that not the ultimate gall, when a Treasurer, a tax collector, charges people a tax for something they provide for free? That is probably the most unfair and ludicrous approach to taxation that anybody anywhere has ever dreamed up. Charge yourself a fee for something you provide for free. That is taking us right to the very heights of new tax thinking, and I guess it is a reflection of the progressive reform nature of the Liberal Party. Perhaps next we will start to tax all the volunteers who work at our hospitals or in our mental health centres or for the United Way and the Heart and Stroke Foundation and all the rest of those charities out there in the province of Ontario. Maybe we will start taxing them on the value of their charitable contribution in time to that charity. It is analogous to the same thing.
If we are going to charge the people of Ontario for the guarantee they provide for free to the province of Ontario, what kind of indication does that give us of the direction this Treasurer and this government are heading down the road? It makes no sense and it has no end, unless somebody stands up and says: “Hey, we made a mistake. We did not understand what we were doing, and we have changed our minds.”
Let’s talk for a few minutes about the payroll tax. All of the Liberals that I have associated with in my life have never gone quite as far in terms of tax policy as the NDP goes, but they have always at least talked about tax fairness. Let’s talk about the payroll tax for a minute and talk about it in the context of fairness versus unfairness. OHIP premiums are unfair, so let’s eliminate them. Presumably when you eliminate something that is unfair, Mr Speaker, you want to replace it with something that is fair.
What do we replace it with in Ontario’? A payroll tax. What does a payroll tax do? In the case of the legislation that has been introduced here in this province, payroll tax does three things. One, it charges you tax based on the size of your gross payroll; not the number of people you employ, the size of your gross payroll. What does that represent? Gross payroll represents dollars, not people.
So we have two employers out there, both with very similar operations, both with roughly the same profit picture each year, both with the same number of employees, one who pays the minimum wage, $5 an hour to that number of employees, the other who pays $10 an hour to the same number of employees. So we have one employer who makes as much money as the other company, he could afford to pay more in wages but he pays only $5 an hour, and the second company that is paying $10 an hour is going to pay right off the top double the payroll tax for OHIP that the exploitive employer pays; double what the exploitive employer pays.
So who is it that this payroll tax benefits’? Those out there in the employment world who exploit. What do we do to make it even worse? We put a graduated scale on the tax. But how do we graduate the tax? We graduate it to gross payroll, of course, because the tax is based on gross payroll. So, all of a sudden, with two employers with roughly the same profit picture but one having a gross payroll only half the size of the other, we find that not only is the exploitive employer, the low-wage employer, going to pay only half the payroll tax because his wage bill is only half, but then to top it all off we give him a bonus of a lower tax rate because he fell under the step down in the graduated structure.
This is really going to encourage fairness out there in the wage sector, is it not? This is really going to encourage employers to pay good wages in Ontario. This is really going to help us as a province to see the prosperity we have always dreamed about become a reality for all of those people in the province who go to work and work their 40-hour week and would love to be able to buy a property and live a lovely, happy family life in Ontario. These are the kinds of decisions that are really going to promote and help that along the way, are they not? That really makes a lot of sense to me.
But one can take the debate around the payroll tax a lot farther. My colleague the member for Rainy River (Mr Hampton) made a number of comments about all of the private income which will avoid the payroll tax altogether. These are the very same people, I remind you, Mr Speaker, who do not pay any federal income taxes in large part because of the tax advantages they already have and who do not pay any provincial income taxes because the provincial income tax is based on the consequence of the federal legislation.
Now this province is setting up another tax, and most specifically a health care tax, which they are also going to be able to avoid because as individual professionals, they have no payroll, or if they do, it is a very small payroll. As my colleague suggested, you have a doctor with a fairly significant personal income, but he only has one nurse and/or one nurse and one receptionist or a part-time receptionist in his employ, and all of the money that goes through that operation or the vast majority of it avoids the payroll tax and avoids, therefore, a fair contribution to the health care system in the province of Ontario.
We agree that something had to be dealt with in terms of replacing the OHIP premiums. We do not agree that the payroll tax was the appropriate way to answer that question.
If you look for just a moment at the payroll tax and the other alternatives the Treasurer had, like the corporate income tax, for example, and why the Treasurer chose not to go the corporate income tax route but instead to impose a payroll tax -- and I want you to think about this, Mr Speaker -- it is because if we had gone the corporate income tax route in the province of Ontario to pay for the cost of the OHIP premiums that we were eliminating, it would have pushed the corporate income tax rate in the province of Ontario to the highest corporate income tax rate in Canada, and the Treasurer did not want that kind of record on his back.
On the other hand, we claim with this payroll tax to be ripping the same dollars out of the same sector. The only difference is we are not doing it in as fair a manner as we could have under the corporate income tax. Again, it is part of the game of shuffle and hide. You do not want people to say that Ontario has the highest corporate income tax rate in Canada, so you find another way presumably to get it out of the corporations. Unfortunately, that other way, so that it does not go on to the corporate income tax ledger, was a way that was far less fair in terms of the ability of corporations in this province to pay that levy than any other approach that could have been taken.
In winding up, my comments to the Treasurer are simply this: He has been here in this Legislature for a lot longer than I have, but I have been here long enough to have listened to him on enough occasions to suggest to him that it is time that he reached back into himself and touched his roots; time that he sought out the things that he expressed for so long in this House year after year after year, and time that he lived up to the commitments that he made so often to the people of Ontario, commitments that for four consecutive years in a row now he has deserted, commitments that for four consecutive years in a row now he has not only deserted but denied.
It is time that the Treasurer of Ontario came to terms with his past and himself for, as we all know, he is talking about retirement. His time around this place will not last much longer and it is time he come to terms with himself so that he can retire in comfort with a clear conscience.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I wish there was something I could do with that mixed metaphor my honourable friend was elaborating to the House just a few minutes ago. That is one of the best. The more I try, the more I realize I had better not.
I was glad to hear the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr Charlton), who has been around a while also -- as a matter of fact, he was around here when the budget was considerably less than $26 billion, which it was when we took office. Perhaps I should not say this in such a loud voice with so many members of the House present, but it is over $41 billion now.
While the honourable members may be able to make speeches, and in fact have been and will, about how badly that money is all mal-administered and wasted, in fact most of the growth has gone to the provision of health services, hospitals and doctors, with the rate of increase in the hospital sector not as fast as the rate of increase in the medical sector, but that has gone from about $8.5 billion to close to $13 billion in those four years.
The support for education -- while, just like the support for medicare, seriously insufficient as far as the opposition is concerned -- has already been referred to in the remarks I made following one of the previous speeches. The revenues available to the government have gone up rapidly because of the growth in the economy and because of three expansionary budgets -- I will use that adjective if members do not mind -- but the funds have gone not in support of anything that I consider wasteful but in the provision of social and economic services to the province which reflect in the historic rate of growth that we have experienced in the last four years in which I have a great deal of pride.
Mr Callahan: I would like to comment because I think the Treasurer makes a statement that is very significant for my community, in the fact that when we took office in 1985 there was very large growth in my community but very little being done about it. I am pleased that for the first time, I guess, in the history of government, it has been recognized that Peel was a fast-growing community, as with a few other areas.
I am very pleased that the moneys that were provided, particularly for education, although as the Treasurer said not enough yet, but certainly within the framework of the historical past, were megabucks, and I am grateful for that. I thank the Treasurer and I thank my government for it. I also thank them for a number of other areas in terms of health care and so on.
Mr Breaugh: This won’t get you in there either, Bobby.
Mr Callahan: I am not trying to get in there, Michael.
Hon R. F. Nixon: We want a lot more Liberal speeches in here.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Callahan: What I think is important is that we recognize, and I am sure the people of Ontario who are watching us recognize this, that when you have a budget in your own home, you cannot cry both ways. You cannot say, “Don’t increase taxes,” or “Don’t increase this,” and “Spend more money on this.” It does not make any sense. I think the people out there watching on television are eminently well guided in that regard. They recognize that the cries from the opposition are: “Don’t increase that, but spend more on this.”
I would like to know where the economic values of the member’s party have come from in that it can possibly understand how to do that. If the member has got a secret that I do not know about, I would like him to tell me about it so that we can inject it into our family budget.
Mr Charlton: I would like to respond to the member for Brampton South (Mr Callahan). He has a very distinct problem. He only listens to what he wants to hear. I very specifically got up here, for example, when I was making reference to the payroll tax, and not only said that I thought the payroll tax was wrong, but also what I thought the Treasurer should have done to raise taxes to pay the same bill.
So, yes, the member is right. When we are providing services, they have to be paid for. I suggested that if the Treasurer had the courage, he would have paid the cost of those OHIP premiums out of the corporate income tax and not set up a new tax to fudge the issue. That was what I said. I understand that. I just suggest that in future if the honourable member wants to make comments on speeches he should listen to them first.
Mr Runciman: In the brief time I have available to me, I would like to touch on a number of subjects. The first one, of concern to you as well, Mr Speaker, is eastern Ontario. I think you will agree that the Liberal attitude towards eastern Ontario is summed up in that old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” There is no question that Peterson’s Ontario seems to encompass only the territory that can be seen from the observation deck of the CN Tower.
Even a brief examination of this year’s throne speech, the budget and the cabinet shuffle, I think confirms to any observer that the Liberal government assigns a very low priority to the eastern Ontario region, its problems and its interests.
Mr Runciman: If members look back -- I will get into the cabinet shuffle a little later. I am sure the member will be interested in hearing my comments on that.
We talk about the one new program this government has brought in affecting eastern Ontario in the four and a half years it has been in office. It is something called the community economic development program, which is sup-posed to assign $25 million to what they define as “eastern Ontario” for a five-year program. That definition goes up into Peterborough, which in my way in no way is part of eastern Ontario.
As far as the Liberals are concerned, Mr Speaker, and again I am sure you are going to agree with me, eastern Ontario is simply that area the Premier has to fly over or drive through on his way to Quebec where his good friend Mr Bourassa will say nice things about him and encourage him to move to Ottawa.
If we take a look at this $25-million program and take a look at what -- by comparison, there is the $23.8 million that this Treasurer assigned in the last budget to the Ontario Film Development Corp and the Ontario film incentive program. In effect, what has happened is that this Treasurer has assigned more to the movie business in one year than to the economic development program in eastern Ontario for five years. That says an awful lot about this government’s priorities. It is more interested in giving money to Mickey Mouse than to Morrisburg.
Mr Runciman: That is a reality. I know it hurts.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Runciman: There are a couple of other things.
Sewage treatment: This is an important issue, as you know, Mr Speaker, as my colleague knows. Anyone representing eastern Ontario is very much familiar with the problem where we have development freezes in place. We have the government saying: “You have to do significant things with respect to upgrading your sewage treatment facilities, but we don’t have any money for you. We don’t have any money for you regardless of the fact” -- as the Treasurer made reference to earlier -- ”that there is more in taxes now than in 1984-85.” I think it is a $15-billion increase -- is that the right figure? -- a 101 per cent increase in the tax take since they assumed office; $41 billion in budgetary revenues but there is no money for upgrading sewage treatment facilities in eastern Ontario.
There is no problem finding $30 million for a domed stadium in downtown Toronto. There is no problem committing close to $70 million for an opera centre in downtown Toronto. But they cannot find $1 million for a sewage treatment facility in eastern Ontario. Where are its priorities? It does not care about eastern Ontario and the facts make that very clear.
I want to talk briefly about the cabinet shuffle. I think this has some bearing on how this government feels about eastern Ontario as well. We now have four cabinet ministers who supposedly represent eastern Ontario. Two of them are in junior portfolios, and as for the other two, there is the Minister of Mines (Mr O’Neil) from Quinte. who as Minister of Tourism and Recreation sat by while the government shafted the tourism industry in its last budget. He has been duly rewarded by being appointed to the portfolio responsible for shafts, the mines ministry.
We certainly had an active and ardent regional crusader in the gentleman sitting over here and he was one of the unfortunate ones bumped out of cabinet. We have the Minister of Education who has suggested to me --
Mr Grandmaître: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am not used to this good news from the member for Leeds-Grenville.
The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Mr Runciman: If the member for Ottawa East is offended by my calling him a good cabinet minister, I will withdraw those remarks.
We are down to the member for Renfrew North. Although we have been around this place for some time and respect that gentleman’s abilities, I think that in no way, shape or form can he be described as an ardent regional crusader. He just is not. Quite bluntly, we lack regional clout around the cabinet table. That is the bottom line. Eastern Ontario residents are going to have the opportunity to turn the tables in the next year or two. We are going to put the Liberal government out of sight, out of mind and out of office.
I want to touch on a couple of other subjects very quickly.
We talked about auto insurance and we had the Treasurer make a comment earlier in response to one of the speakers that he feels quite comfortable with the spending practices of this government. He feels there has been no waste during his tenure as Treasurer.
That is indicative of this government with respect to no shame, no embarrassment whatsoever. They get up and put on this brave face, “We feel very good about everything we have ever done in the past four and a half years.” We all know that is not the case.
I would like to hear the Treasurer make reference to the over $10 million that he and his colleagues have wasted on this auto insurance debacle over the past three and a half years. Let’s hear him talk about that. Let’s hear him make reference to the total waste of taxpayers’ dollars on this sham.
We go back to the Slater commission, which cost over $1 million. We had Mr Justice Coulter Osborne, a very respected justice, appointed to take a look at the auto insurance system, and what did the government do to him’? The government knee-capped the man. In the midst of his study it came out with this scheme for establishing a rate-setting board and significant intervention in the private sector in the automobile insurance field in this province.
We can go on from there with the government’s own appointee, a well-known Liberal, John Kruger. and the money poured into the hack-filled board. If members want, they can go over the resumés of all those Liberal appointees and their loyal dedication to the Liberal Party of Ontario and the significant per diems they received through that exercise in futility. Then what happened? They totally humiliated Mr Kruger, rejecting his recommendations.
By the way, since the former Minister of Natural Resources, the member for Niagara Falls (Mr Kerrio), is here, I want to say something about him. He is the only one who had the guts to get up and say: “I don’t care if these guys come in with a recommendation of 12, 14 or 15 per cent. The cabinet will have the final say. We are going to make this a political thing. We are going to overturn it.”
The Premier demanded that the Minister of Natural Resources apologize, and he did it; he is a good party guy, very loyal, a trooper. He gets up and apologizes the next day: “I was mistaken. The cabinet will not overturn that.” What happened? In the fullness of time, obviously the government and the cabinet intervened and overturned the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board’s recommendations. But we did not hear the Premier apologizing to the Minister of Natural Resources, did we?
The member for Niagara Falls had the guts to stand up and say, “I think I’ve made a mistake here.” But when his leader had made an obvious mistake, a public error, he did not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and do the same thing that the one member of his executive council did.
Mr Wildman: Instead, he threw him out of the cabinet.
Mr Runciman: That is right. That is how you get paid in the Liberal government of David Peterson for loyalty. You get turfed. I feel sorry for the member for Niagara Falls. After years of loyal service, after the good job he did in cabinet, to have that kind of treatment is really shameful.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Runciman: We are all very much concerned about where this government is taking us with respect to no-fault automobile insurance, a very socialist initiative undertaken by this government.
Mr Runciman: Talk to a gentleman by the name of Laurence Grafstein. This is indeed a very socialist initiative. But that is not surprising -- l have said this in the past -- when you take a look at some of the key players in this government. There is the Attorney General (Mr Scott) -- I love to remind members of this House -- who is a former fund-raiser for the New Democratic Party.
We have had the former Minister of Financial Institutions, now the Treasurer, standing up and indicating that he was not terribly concerned and would not be troubled by the prospect of a government-run automobile insurance program in this province. That is on the record. That is in Hansard. We can go on and on with respect to the key players in this government. It is not surprising that this kind of initiative is being considered and undertaken.
With respect to the ramifications for consumers and drivers in this province, I think we also have to look at what is happening with respect to taxpayers. What we have in effect is a subsidization of the insurance industry because of this initiative. We have close to a $150-million subsidization of the automobile insurance industry through this program, through the OHIP payment relief and through the tax relief program that has been instituted by this government.
What we are doing is saying: “Okay, we can’t follow through on the promise we made in 1987 to lower auto insurance rates” -- in fact. we have seen them increase by around 20 per cent -- ”so now we are going to tack on at least another eight percent. And by the way, you won’t be aware of this, but we are at the same time subsidizing the insurance industry to the tune of close to $150 million.”
That is a con job on the people of this province; it is a con job, and we are going to make them aware of it. Hopefully, they are not going to float through this one; they are going to have to bite the bullet, they are going to pay the price. Ultimately, the people of this province are going to be made aware of the flim-flam job presented by this government with respect to automobile insurance.
Mr Ballinger: We’ll let the public decide that.
Mr Laughren: We certainly will.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The member for Leeds-Grenville is the only one who has the floor.
Mr Runciman: I want to talk briefly about what my colleague had an opportunity to make reference to very briefly, and that is the increase in fees and licensing fees. He talked about special occasion permits. We can talk about a whole range of areas where this government has increased fees, licence fees, whatever, by astronomical amounts.
This government is obsessed with tightening its grip on the necks of Ontario small business men. Look at the government’s fees: $775 for a liquor licence application, and $650 for those that do not require public meetings. There was no fee at all for that previously. The issuing fee now has been boosted from $40 to $225, a 500-plus per cent increase. It is highway robbery.
We can talk about special occasion permits and the impact that is having on small legions and similar organizations in rural areas, which really feel the pinch of those kinds of 300 per cent or 400 per cent increases in licensing fees. It is the old tax-tax-tax and spend-spend-spend approach of this government. In fact, it is even more than tax, tax, tax and spend, spend, spend; it is gouge, gouge, gouge the taxpayers.
At the same time that we have seen all these enormous increases in fees for licences, etc, we have seen the per diems paid to the Liberal faithful who have been chucked into all of these appointed bodies throughout the province increased by astronomical figures as well. The chairman of the eastern Ontario mental health review board, back in 1984-85 when the Progressive Conservative government was in power, was receiving a per diem of about $150. I think now it is up to around $750 -- an enormous increase. The government is making up for the 42 years out of power, and it is trying to do it all in four or five years; it has increased those fees significantly.
The member for Brampton South was trying to appeal to the public of Ontario who are watching us on television that we are dealing with a responsible government here. In fact, ladies and gentlemen of Ontario, we are not dealing with a responsible government in respect of its taxing and spending policies; not at all.
The Treasurer was somewhat boastful about the fact that his tax expenditure level is around the $41-billion budgetary revenue figure. That is fine and good when we are in a healthy economic situation, but at some point we are going to see a downturn in the economy, and this government has made spending-level commitments that are going to be onerous to say the least, perhaps unbearably so if we see a really serious dip in the economic wellbeing of this province. A future government, whether it be Liberal, Progressive Conservative or New Democratic, is going to face that dilemma and perhaps in the not-too-distant future.
We have not been saving for a rainy day. Although the Treasurer will again boast that he has been reducing the deficit on an annual basis, the accumulated deficit has continued to grow. The government has had an opportunity in the past four years, governing in an unprecedented economic boom, to really cut into that accumulated deficit, to do something for our children and our grandchildren in years to come. But it has totally missed that opportunity because of its very shortsighted approach to winning votes in the 1987 election and, again, its irresponsible handling of taxes and spending policy in this province.
I think there is an agreement to have a voice vote dealing with this, so I am going to conclude my remarks right now.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I just want to thank the honourable members who participated for their
advice, and we will certainly respond in an effective way to all of those pearls.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 1800.