The House met at 1000.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Villeneuve moved resolution 29:
That in the opinion of this House, recognizing that the government of Ontario has failed Ontario’s agricultural sector by:
1. not providing a higher budgetary and program priority to agriculture;
2. not consulting with agricultural organizations prior to instituting major program changes;
3. having a dismal record of co-operation and consultation with the federal government;
4. providing no leadership within the government to promote alternative crop uses;
5. cancelling interest rate relief as interest rates have risen;
6. ignoring its own report concerning free trade;
7. failing to recognize in a timely manner the importance and implication of the current GATT round;
8. retreating from announced intentions to protect agricultural land, and
9. not having the policies and means to ensure a healthy industry for Ontario in the 1990s and beyond;
the government of Ontario should: provide a program to replace the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction while interest rates remain high; abandon the changes to the farm property tax rebate program at least until after consultations take place with the farming community; take a more active role on alternative crop uses, particularly in co-ordinating with other ministries, and establish a prebudgetary hearing process to better set agricultural spending priorities.
The Speaker: I am sure all members are familiar with standing order 94 setting out the procedure. I will recognize the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry for up to 10 minutes.
Mr Villeneuve: Agriculture is a very important part of this great province and probably one of the industries that has made this province great and economically more viable than probably any other part of this country and maybe even of this continent. But when it comes to agriculture and agricultural programs and budgeting, it is obvious that this provincial Liberal government here in Ontario has relegated both the minister and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to the back burner with low priorities.
As real interest rates increase, the government has called down and then ended its interest rate relief program. It has scaled it down from 100 per cent to, this year, no support at all. It makes no sense, but that is what has happened.
While the Liberal government campaigned in 1987 by telling Ontario farmers that free trade would destroy agriculture, at the same time it created the Ontario Farm-Start program with great fanfare to help new, beginning farmers. That was clearly little consistency because, if indeed free trade was going to destroy agriculture, why bring in new people? No one quite understood that one, but it went ahead.
Nothing, of course, was done pertaining to free trade, although the anticipation during the 1987 election campaign, ladies and gentlemen, was that agriculture as we know it will disappear. It will totally disappear. Ontario Farm-Start was brought in as a 1987 election campaign promise and, lo and behold, funds lasted for less than six months. Now we have no program to assist beginning farmers and on it goes.
We have seen the Premier (Mr Peterson) and ministers talk of expanding trade with the rest of the world, a very, very noble gesture indeed. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has a marketing and trade expansion program, which this party and I personally support very strongly. However, in spite of all this talk, the Premier, the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay) and the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) threaten to ignore the rulings of the GATT. That is interesting. We want to participate on a worldwide basis, but we will just disregard rulings of the GATT.
Does this government seriously expect to improve its trade relations with the rest of the world and, at the same time, threaten to ignore the rules of the game? That kind of behaviour is more suited to a spoiled child, a spoiled brat, than a responsible government. It is called playing crass politics, and it is sad but true.
Our party has supported the free trade agreement, although there were certain areas that we did not agree with and we said it. However, we never did say that we would overlook rulings and decisions by the GATT. We were not playing politics as the Premier and all of his elected officials and candidates played during the 1987 election campaign.
I would suggest a bit of crystal ball gazing; the same thing will happen in 1990 on the goods and services tax. I see it happening now. It served them well politically in the past and they are not about to turn around and turn over a new leaf. Instead, the Liberals succeeded in whipping farmers into a real frenzy over free trade with the real issues being totally ignored. It would seem that in recent years political expediency, rather than sound objectives, have come to dominate the agricultural policymaking of David Peterson’s Ontario.
I cite the elimination of the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program, a program that was very welcome across the province of Ontario, a program that helped those farmers with high debt load reduce their interest rates to eight per cent. The same government is now undermining the farm tax rebate program by reducing the payouts to farmers from $167 million to $140 million, again playing crass politics without even consulting farmers or their organizations. Ontario Farm-Start, to all intents and purposes, exists no longer. The budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food was chopped from $579 million to $522 million, or some $57 million less than had been budgeted for. If this is not crass political gamesmanship, then I do not know what is.
Anticipation has been built up to the point where they can never ever deliver and, indeed, they are not even trying to maintain what was in place prior to the 1985 and the 1987 elections.
I questioned the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) yesterday regarding alternative fuel uses. We out in rural Ontario can produce the renewable resources to replace the octane enhancers in our fuel that are actually undermining and deteriorating our environment to a great degree.
I attended a conference last week called a Clean Air Conference, which somehow or other the Minister of the Environment never even heard about, because in his answer to me yesterday he said he was not ready to ban MMT because the alternatives were even worse.
I have some advice for the Minister of the Environment that does not come from me; it comes from people who have studied the subject to a great degree. I will provide some answers for him and I hope either that somewhere his colleagues will relay the information to him or that he is watching on his monitor somewhere because he is not here today.
Some 75 to 90 per cent of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere today is a direct result of car emissions. Carbon monoxide is not a very good product to have our public inhale, particularly in those areas with heavy concentrations of population and cars, such as we have in the greater Toronto area. We have 4.5 million people living within a very small area, and carbon monoxide is one of the major problems in our atmosphere here in the city of Toronto.
The only way to reduce carbon monoxide emissions is by using fuel ethanol. It is the only way not only to reduce carbon monoxide but to protect the ozone layer, a product that can be produced by our grain producers here in the province of Ontario. Grain corn can be distilled without affecting the food chain. We are simply squeezing two per cent by weight alcohol out of the starch in corn, which can then be used as the octane enhancer. It will reduce our dependency on the mega oil projects in western Canada, in eastern Canada and, indeed, across the world and will provide a cleaner environment.
This government has seen fit to reduce the support for agriculture very dramatically by $57 million over the last year and by almost the same amount the previous year. Now I can foresee an election coming and I know that there is a request out there for ideas, ideas from the farming community. The Minister of Agriculture and Food cannot have all of the confidence of the Premier because he has now been supported by two parliamentary assistants. I hope that they can provide some input.
Mr Wildman: Who are they?
Mr Villeneuve: They are very dedicated members of this assembly and I hope that they have some input, but I wonder, because whenever the farm tax rebate changes, the former minister, the man who made a lot of noise and did a lot of boasting, was not even consulted. It came from Mr Nixon that there would be changes to the farm tax rebate and Mr Nixon decreed that it would be a maximum of $40,000 of off-farm income. Of course, the Minister of Agriculture and Food agreed and danced to the music.
I am afraid that we are going to see a lot of this as time goes on, that the shots are being called in the corner office, the Premier’s office, the Treasurer’s office. The minister and his two parliamentary assistants will say yes, will say no and will say maybe at the whims of whatever the corner office tells them. I am afraid that agriculture is being relegated to a very low priority as is now seen with the actual dollars that are being withheld indeed after having been budgeted to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Mr Speaker, I will keep the rest of my time to answer my colleagues.
The Speaker: I might just remind all members that when we refer to another member of this House, please do not use the surname. Please use the riding or the ministry.
I will now recognize the member for Cornwall.
Mr Cleary: I would like to begin by emphasizing that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food’s budget has increased significantly since this government has assumed office. For this current fiscal year, budget allocation has increased 65 per cent, that is, 35 per cent in real dollars, over the ministry budget of the previous government.
In addition, this government has introduced a number of new programs which have clearly assisted Ontario’s agriculture sector: to name only a few, Ontario Farm-Start, tripartite stabilization and Ontario soil conservation. These programs and many others have contributed to the competitiveness, protection, education and financial stability of the farmers in this province.
Clearly then, the growth in this ministry’s budget has slowed in the last year as an obvious reflection of the farm economy’s improvement. I would have to dispute with the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry reference of inadequate levels of consultation between the government of Ontario and the federal government.
Many of these shared issues have been discussed recently with the Minister of Agriculture and Food and Don Mazankowski. Some of the recent concerns were ice cream and yoghurt and crop insurance. There has also been much consultation with the former Minister of Agriculture and Food, the member for Huron (Mr Riddell), and the federal government over an issue I am sure the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry remembers quite well. These discussions concerned a municipal drain, the Payne Drain, right in his backyard quite close to the member’s home.
The former minister talked with the Conservative federal government which originally planned on equal sharing, one third federal, one third provincial and one third land owners. As a member from eastern Ontario concerned about the agriculture community, I had many meetings with the Minister of Agriculture and Food and he was very sympathetic to these farmers. This consultation resulted in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food not only paying its share but also paying the federal share in the amount of some $570,000.
I feel the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry must surely realize the means by which this government assists farmers on a day-to-day basis, especially when some of the things happen very close to his home.
After the election of 1985, it appeared that the former government in office had lost touch with agriculture. Frequently, the programs introduced at this time were mere rewrites of what already existed. Since the government of the day came to power, there has been a vision, a look towards the future. The present government initiated the OFFIRR program because it was fit for the times.
The OFFIRR program was introduced when interest rates were 19 per cent. The prime rate is now somewhat less, but then I am sure the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry is already aware of this information. I believe he had requested the information on the OFFIRR program here in the House on 21 June 1989. The member must realize the time has now come to move on to different initiatives in the farm finance area.
It seems incredible that the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry could be unaware of the major priority-setting process of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. This review will undertake ministry priorities in consultation with farmers, agribusiness, food processors and consumers.
May I share with the member the Ministry of Agriculture and Food’s Toward 2000, preparing for the future. In addition, a series of meetings with external groups will be held across this province. It is expected that some 400 people will provide input at these meetings.
May I take the opportunity to invite the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry to at least one of the two Toward 2000 consultation sessions which will be held in Alfred and Kemptville, very close to his home. It seems clear to me, as it should to the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has the means to ensure a healthy agricultural industry for Ontario in the 1990s. Not only do we have the outline I hold before him here; we have the assurance and capability of addressing the needs of the agrifood sector now and in the 1990s.
Mr Wildman: I rise to participate in this debate because I think it is a most important topic. I must say that I agree with some parts of the resolution, but have some difficulties with some of it as well. I will explain that in a moment. I think one of the major problems the farm community faces in Ontario today is the fact that both federal and provincial governments, both Tories and Liberals, have taken the farm community for granted and have not consulted with the farm community as they should have in developing programs to meet the needs of farmers, and have not responded to the problems that the agricultural community in Ontario, and for that matter in the country, is facing.
There are a couple of examples that were referred to by the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry to show lack of consultation by the provincial government. We have seen the discontinuance of OFFIRR -- the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program -- and the changes in the farm tax rebate program that took place without consultation, despite what the member for Cornwall (Mr Cleary) had to say.
Frankly, I regret this, and I say that sincerely, but I think the downfall of the member for Huron was a result of the poor consultation or lack of consultation and the poor communication, particularly between the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the ministry. I think that is one of the reasons he is no longer a member of the executive council.
Let’s not forget the fact that despite what the member for Cornwall had to say, we are still in a period of high interest rates. Certainly we are not at 19 per cent, but when members compare interest rates of 11 per cent, 12 per cent and 13 per cent with the current inflation rate, we are in the same situation. The difference between the interest rate and the inflation rate today is just as great as it was when we were at a 19 per cent interest rate.
In fact, as we see the development of the federal government’s policies, Tory policies in Ottawa are for a high interest rate approach to stemming inflation. When we see the implementation of the goods and services tax at the federal level and the inflationary pressures that will put on the economy of this country, despite what Mr Wilson says, the Bank of Canada is going to be tempted to increase interest rates even more.
No one can argue that OFFIRR was needed a few years ago but is no longer needed. The single major problem facing agriculture and farmers today is the credit crunch, the cost of financing their operations. Without a program that is going to lower interest rates and financing costs for farmers, the agricultural community in Ontario is in serious trouble, particularly when members consider that in other provinces those governments have instituted programs to help with farm financing. That puts Ontario farmers in a difficult competitive position, because this province has not continued the OFFIRR program.
Many people expected that the Liberal government would discontinue some of the programs that were in effect prior to their taking to power in 1985 because they were not their programs, but we also expected that when the Liberals did that, they would implement new programs, not discontinue them and not replace them with anything.
To argue, as the member for Cornwall just did, that a review of the government programs is somehow going to help farmers with financing is ridiculous. The farm tax rebate program, which was changed without even consulting with the Minister of Agriculture and Food, much less the agricultural community, is an example of this lack of consultation and the problems we face with it.
We have had the argument put forward in this House of the problems people who make $40,000 or more off the farm are going to have because they will not now be able to be eligible for the farm tax rebate. I am concerned about that, but I am even more concerned about those farmers who do not make that much money off the farm but who do rent a lot of land and what the effect of this change in the program is going to have on those people.
Obviously, in the past their neighbours, the property owners who are renting them the land, have counted the lease rate, the rental rate and the farm tax rebate as their income from their properties. Now that they are no longer eligible for the farm tax rebate, they are obviously going to increase the rental cost to the farmers. That is going to make it very difficult for a lot of farmers to continue farming the same acreage they now are farming because their rental rates are going to increase.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has argued that will not happen this year. Well, it will not happen this year simply because this program came in without any consultation, so nobody had any warning and the people who are renting the land could not increase their rates. They will next year and we are going to have a lot of agricultural land go out of production because farmers cannot afford to continue renting as much land.
In my view, the whole reason for this program was not to subsidize farmers in some way, but rather to encourage the continuation of the farming of land, an incentive to keep food land in agriculture. This government, without consultation, has removed that incentive to a large degree. I think that is an example of poor consultation and one that has to be changed.
This government has argued that it is in favour of improving land stewardship and agricultural methods and of having the land stewardship program. We know the land stewardship program is underfunded and oversubscribed. There are going to be fewer and fewer new applicants who are going to be able to get assistance.
In May, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food sent out 500 letters to applicants saying it could not give them any assistance under the program this year because the money was already spent. A lot of the applicants from this year are going to get money from next year’s program. The program runs out in August and we do not know if there is anything to replace it. Again, there has been no consultation with the agricultural community on what is coming on this except, I suppose, as the member for Cornwall referred to it, a review.
This government has retreated on the protection of food land. We have the Food Land Guidelines. We have not had any movement on ensuring that those guidelines are going to be put in municipal official plans, so they remain just guidelines, something that has to be referred to but something that is not enforceable.
We have farmers who have this credit crunch, who have these financial pressures facing them that are persuading many of them that perhaps it is better to get out of agriculture who are also under the pressure of the development industry, particularly in this part of the province. It becomes less and less likely that those farmers are going to be able to stave off the encroachment of urbanization into the farming areas.
I might say, though, that we have similar problems with the federal Tories. The member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry referred to the free trade agreement and the GATT. We all know the difficulties that free trade is presenting to the agricultural community. I will not go into that now, but let’s look at the GATT for a moment.
At the time the free trade agreement was proposed, the Conservatives argued that there would be a dispute settlement mechanism that would resolve problems in trade between the United States and Canada, but we now find that the new rules are all stacked against us because if the Americans cannot get what they want through the dispute settlement mechanism under the free trade agreement, they then go to GATT. The Americans have protection under GATT and we are stuck with rulings similar to the one that just came down on ice cream and yoghurt.
Obviously agriculture is threatened because the federal Tories have not taken into account the needs of agriculture, but the provincial Liberals are not in any way trying to counteract that. Neither of these two parties is consulting with the agricultural community as to what should be the best approach. I support the view that we should be moving to more alternative fuels and using ethanol to improve the market for things like that crop.
I will close by saying that if this government and the federal government really believe agriculture is important and should survive in Ontario, which is the major agricultural province in this country, then they must consult with the agricultural community in a serious way about how to develop programs that will meet the needs of agriculture in the modern situation, going into the 21st century.
In the past, this has not happened. The farm community has been disappointed by the lack of consultation and I think would be forgiven perhaps if the farmers said to both Liberals and Tories, “A plague on both your houses.”
Mr Pollock: I want to compliment the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry on his efforts to bring forth this resolution. It shows he is really concerned about agriculture, and his views of agriculture and the concerns of agriculture should be echoed in this House.
First, I want to share with the members some concerns I have about landfill sites going under prime agricultural land. I know of a particular municipality that was always considered an agricultural community and there are five landfill sites picked for that township. People are farming on every one of those landfills sites. Also, one of the criteria to get you off a landfill site designation is if you have water levels close to the top of the ground. All those sites have water levels close to the top of the ground.
There is also an ARDA map that says some of those sites are prime agricultural land, but the people in charge refer to some other particular map and they do not put any stock even in an ARDA map. It is a major concern to me. Some people prefer to put garbage in landfill sites rather than burn it, but there is no proof and over the next 50 or 100 years landfill sites might be as damaging to the environment as burning garbage.
I would also like to share with members a meeting I attended in Marmora last Saturday morning. The meeting was organized by a group which calls itself TNT. That stands for Take no Trash. There is a proposal out there to actually put Toronto’s garbage in the old Marmora iron ore mine. I am sure that will eventually pollute that whole area.
I would like to give members a little history of that old Marmora iron ore mine. When it was in operation back in 1978, there were pumps there running 24 hours a day trying to keep the water out of there. Also, they mentioned at the meeting Saturday morning that one fellow sank a shaft down there with an eight-inch drill, and when he pulled out that drill the water came in the full size of that eight-inch hole. Therefore, there is all kinds of water coming in there. There is now 350 feet of water in there. They claim there is over a billion gallons of water in there and they feel that if they ever start dumping Toronto’s garbage in there, that will pollute the water levels of all that area around there and really affect the farm community. Water is as important as land to the farm community.
I would also like to mention my concerns over the farm tax rebate. The farm tax rebate is very confusing to our senior citizens. A senior citizen is eligible to claim not only the farm tax rebate but also the senior citizens rebate. To claim the senior citizens rebate, he can just claim that on his house and lot. Therefore, he has to get that figure from the municipality in which he lives. He then claims for his senior citizens rebate. Then he can claim on his farm tax rebate on the farm and the farm buildings if he is producing any farm materials.
It is very confusing for senior citizens. They do not understand it. It makes it even worse if they have two properties and those properties happen to be in different municipalities, or if one property is in the husband’s name and maybe the other property is in the wife’s and the husband’s name. As I say, it is very confusing for senior citizens.
I got a letter from a person very concerned about this farm tax rebate. He worked on a job and that job eventually got phased out. Anyway, he was allowed so much severance pay. You are supposed to put all your earnings, including severance pay, on line 150, which he did. This put him way over the benchmark figure of $40,000. This fellow has been farming in a cow-calf operation for two years. He is a full-time farmer but he is not going to get any farm tax rebate because he has to enter that figure on line 150. It is a major concern to him. It does not seem fair to me either. He does not even have to pay income tax on that amount, but he has to enter it on that line.
Mr South: Farmers are making too much money. Have to tax their wealth.
Mr Pollock: I would like to also share with the members my concerns about the loss of our exports in grain. I have a chart here that indicates our grain sales for 1987-88 and 1988-89. With the exception of two, our grain sales are way down. We were up slightly in grain sales last year, for 1988-89, on oats and canola, but on the other five grains -- wheat, barley, rye, flax seed and corn -- we were way down. In fact, in corn we were down from 370,000 tons to 20,000 tons and that crop is primarily grown here in Ontario.
We are losing a lot of these export markets. This is a real concern to me and I am sure it is a real concern to the rest of the country because when you lose these markets, it takes a long time to actually get them back, if you ever get them back. Some other country takes it over. As I say, that is a major concern to me.
I might say that I also read in Maclean’s magazine -- I am getting back on the subject of garbage and the care of the land -- an article that stated that in Canada there are 270,000 tons of diapers going into landfill sites every year. It also mentioned that every 14 seconds one hectare of land in the world -- we lose one hectare of arable land. Our track record here in Ontario is no better than any other place in the world, even with all our technology and expertise.
These are some of the things that I wanted to share with you, Mr Speaker, and with the House. It is a major concern to me. Once again, I compliment the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry on his efforts to bring forth this resolution.
Mr McGuigan: I want to join my colleague the member for Cornwall in this debate. I find it rather strange that the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry suggests we have a dismal record of co-operation with the federal government. After all, it is his colleagues who have made every effort to claw back so many programs from rural Ontario. They are going to take back fuel tax rebates. Rural post offices are closing. We have Via Rail shutting down. We have a promise for no more drought payments, regardless of the weather.
Mr Villeneuve: You want to talk about drought payments, Jimmy? We will talk about drought payments.
Mr McGuigan: That is their promise. They are going to take back portions or all of the $300-million federal dairy subsidy and they are bringing about the end of the free cash advances on stored grain. These are just a few of the things that his federal friends are taking back.
If we seem to be at odds with the federal government, it is because it is that Tory government that brought free trade down on to this country, and this is despite our very strong opposition. That Tory government has not had the same interest that this Liberal government has had in protecting the Ontario farmer from international trading practices. I guess we do find it difficult to co-operate with them on these assaults.
You cannot disguise the fact that it was the federal Tories who made the 1988 drought payment promises. The Treasurer of this province will not, and the member would be the first to criticize him if he gave a blank cheque to other governments for their federal election promises.
However, I do think it is important for the member to know that earlier this month, the Minister of Agriculture and Food met with his federal counterpart, the Honourable Don Mazankowski. The minister made clear Ontario’s concern in some important areas, including crop insurance and the GATT panel ruling on ice cream and yoghurt. As well, an accord on soil and water was signed.
There are very many co-operative agreements that we have achieved in consultation with the federal government, but if the member thinks we should knuckle under on the free trade issue or that we should give in on the crop insurance question, I am afraid that is not what the farmer of Ontario would want, and we are going to consult with the farmer of Ontario.
I remind the member that it is this government that has offered tripartite funding on crop insurance. We are alone in this, but we are sticking with it because we see it as a better deal for the farmer, and it will not happen unless the federal government agrees. Those are the member’s partners.
This said, I should add that following the minister’s meeting with Mr Mazankowski, a great relationship was struck up. The ministers are holding regular telephone conversations and have agreed to meet again in the very near future.
I guess it is sad to hear the member’s comments that the government of Ontario has ignored its assessment of the impacts of the Canada-US free trade agreement on the Ontario agrifood sector. I would like to inform the member that the government has taken numerous measures to ensure that any losses to Ontario farmers and food processors as a result of free trade with the US are minimized and the benefits maximized.
In this regard, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food has been working with the Ontario food processing industry to develop and design measures that will ensure the long-term viability of food processing in the province.
Mr Villeneuve: That is why you shut down the Chatham plant.
Mr McGuigan: We have not shut down any plants.
We are committed to the revitalization of the Ontario grape industry through the Ontario grape and wine adjustment programs.
We support strongly the Ontario dairy and poultry industries in their bid to ensure that the strength of Canadian supply-management systems is not weakened by US competition.
I heard the member saying that we should abide by outside rulings. OMAF is providing direct input into the negotiations on technical standards to ensure that Canada’s quality grading regulations and high standards for plant, animal and human health are not undermined. I would remind the member that our standards are the highest in the world.
We have a group examining the present status of the vegetable processing industry with a view to enhancing its long-term competitiveness.
The member will want to know that consultations continue with the Ontario agrifood sector on the implementation of the FTA, most notably on the current negotiations to accelerate the reductions of specified tariffs on bilateral trade.
This government continues to actively represent the best interests of the Ontario agriculture and food sector in all agricultural trade disputes with the USA. For example, in response to the recent imposition of US countervail duties on Canadian pork, the government of Ontario will be making representation, along with the federal government, under article 19 of the FTA, to defend the trade policy interests of Canadian and Ontario hog producers and pork producers.
The government of Ontario opposes the FTA but we realize its existence cannot be ignored. We remain committed to ensuring that Canada-US bilateral trade regulations evolve to the benefit of Ontario farmers and food processors.
The Liberal ministers of agriculture and food have been consistent in their efforts to ensure that the federal government fulfils its responsibility. Ministry officials are directly involved in ongoing consultation on the implementation of the FTA and will continue to monitor trade developments with the USA.
The member has raised the question of alternative crops. Since being appointed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, I have raised this issue with the minister. He has agreed to allow me the opportunity to work in this area to expand on some ideas of his and mine for the north and all over the province.
I have some firsthand experience at developing and growing alternative crops. The Cedar Springs Cherry Growers Co-operative, Blenheim, of which I was a founding member and for several years president, began for the purpose of processing sour cherries and has since expanded to process and ship fresh peppers.
Omstead Foods in Wheatley started as a fish processor and has expanded to include many fruit, vegetable and cheese products. Many Essex-Kent growers supply cauliflower and Spanish onions to this market and a great deal of this production is shipped to the United States. Look around south Essex to see the agriculture producers who are now producing nursery stock. Go to Norfolk county to see the alternative crops now grown by former tobacco growers.
The Ontario crop introduction and expansion program has now been in operation four and a half years. The ministry, under this government, has been actively developing export markets. We are experimenting with new crops, but this is not enough. We must have the markets for those crops and we are working in that regard. We have an excellent record in this area.
I am surprised that the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry would suggest that this government has not protected agricultural lands. The Food Land Guidelines are in effect and they are working. In fact, I am surprised because I had remembered listening to the member discussing severances with the Minister of Agriculture and Food in the House before. I went to Hansard, 11 April 1988. Sure enough, we find the member suggesting that the guidelines should be breached.
The member supports application for severances on agricultural land and he supports the right to farm. Those are positions that do not sleep in the same bed.
Mr Villeneuve: On marginal land, of course. That is common sense.
Mr McGuigan: But it is not saving agricultural land and that is the matter he is criticizing of us.
Mr Villeneuve: Let’s bring a little common sense to it.
Mr McGuigan: If you had any common sense, you would have used this time period to bring forth an issue, and there are many, many issues out there in agriculture that need addressing. Instead of bringing forth a want of confidence motion and using this as a political exercise, you could have looked upon all those areas that are affecting agriculture: the European Community, the American 1985 Farm Act.
Mr Callahan: Interfering with the integrity of private members’ hour, that is what you are doing.
Mr McGuigan: That is right. You could look at assaults we are having on our food system.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Order, please. I hate to interrupt the member’s time, with so few seconds left, but we are getting into debate across the floor. I appreciate your directing your comments to the chair.
Mr McGuigan: As always, Mr Speaker, we kneel to your very wise counsel.
I just want to wind up by saying that I think we have missed today a good opportunity to advance some program that would help the Ontario farm community. There are many areas where the member could have picked out specific things. He could have picked out alternate fuels as one of them.
Mr Villeneuve: What do you think I was talking about?
Mr McGuigan: The member mentioned it, but we did not have a chance to debate it.
The Acting Speaker: Order. The member’s time has run out.
Mr Hampton: Mr Speaker, thank you for the time, finally, to speak. I thought for a minute that the member for Essex-Kent (Mr McGuigan) was going to give us a history of agriculture in Essex-Kent. I will thank him for one thing. He mentioned that what we should do in this hour is describe or talk about some of the things this government should do or should have done already, since it has been here for four years. I will use the time remaining to me just to talk about some of those things.
I want to re-emphasize what my colleague the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman) has already stated, that the situation out there now in terms of interest rates, and the comparison of the interest rate with the inflation rate, is as severe now as it was in 1982 and 1983. One can talk to any farmer, particularly farmers who are in the beef industry, to find out just how serious that situation is. Yet what has this government done? Away with the OFFIRR program; away with it without consultation, and away with it without recognizing the economic need for the program. That is an idea. It is still not too late for the government to reflect on its past error and do something about it.
My colleague has already mentioned the farm tax rebate program, again done without consultation. Let’s face it, no matter how members add it up, no matter how they cook the books, this is strictly a take from farmers. There is nothing reciprocal going back; it is simply a take. If I can perhaps paraphrase what the government member for Frontenac-Addington (Mr South) said, which he would not stand and say but which he said as a comment, it is the government’s view that farmers already make too much money. That is the only conclusion members can draw from what the government has done to the farm tax rebate.
Mr South: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member did not say it is government policy.
Mr Wildman: He just said it was your policy.
Mr Hampton: I stand corrected. One of the government members feels that farmers already make too much money. The farm property tax rebate program and what has been done to it is strictly and clearly a take from farmers with nothing reciprocal returned.
Let’s just look at a few of the other programs. Ideas, the member says. Let’s look at the red meat program. It is true, the red meat program was introduced by the former government. We can understand how this Liberal government might want to call it the green meat program or the blue meat program or the blue ribbon meat program or something. They might want to call it the red tie program. We do not really care, but when they changed the name, why did they have to screw up the program? Go talk to any beef farmer out there and he will tell you that the program that was there two years ago was much superior to the program that is there now. Why did they have to mess up the program? Go ahead, change the name so that it becomes recognized as a Liberal program, but do not put the screws to beef farmers in the process.
Just a couple of other ideas, okay? They reflect agricultural concerns in my part of the province. If you go to northern Ontario, which is increasingly becoming a beef-producing area and a milk-producing area for the province, you will find that there is a real problem with predator control. It is not unusual for a beef farmer, a dairy farmer or a sheep farmer to lose several head of stock a year to predators. Try to interest the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of this government in predator control and see how far you get; you are shown the door immediately. They are just not interested. Farmers can show you loss after loss after loss, and this government simply is not interested, either through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food or through the Ministry of Natural Resources, in talking about predator control. They do not want to even listen to the subject for one second.
The member for Cornwall mentioned that this government is operating on the frontier, looking to the next century in terms of agriculture. If it were, one of the things it would be interested in would be fish farming, a viable way, in northern Ontario especially, to diversify the local economy. Instead, this government says, “We don’t think it’s feasible.” I will tell the members something: The Norwegians and the Swedes have looked at the government’s feasibility study and they are saying “Nyet” to its feasibility study. They are going to do it. They will do it where this government has failed, and that is an example of some of the areas this government could move on and has failed to move on, and why there are a lot of farmers out there who are not happy with the government.
Mr McLean: I want to divide the time among myself, the member for Wellington (Mr J. M. Johnson) and our critic.
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to have this opportunity to say a few words in support of this resolution from my colleague the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. As a dairy farmer in Oro township, I know full well that this government has failed the people of Ontario in regard to the farm sector. The member for Essex-Kent had indicated that we should spend our time talking about some of the issues. I am sure that is exactly what we have been talking about.
We have been trying to bring the issues before the government, where it has failed the people of Ontario, the farmers of Ontario. We see this government’s failure to provide a higher budgetary program priority to agriculture. We see the government’s failure to engage in direct consultation with agricultural organizations prior to instituting major program cutbacks. The government fails to provide leadership in promoting alternate crop uses. This government cancels interest rate relief at a time when interest rates have risen. This government reneges on its intention to protect agricultural land. This government decides to alter the farm tax rebate program without consultation of any kind. It also failed to provide a replacement for the OFFIRR program. I simply cannot understand how we can expect farmers to stay in business when this government has such a dismal and shameful record with respect to farmers of Ontario.
I know of beef farmers who have gone out of business. The wife is a schoolteacher, trying to make money to pay off the debts they have accumulated. They no longer qualify for a farm tax rebate with regard to their taxes. I think it is a shame that the government would institute a program such as it has. I know of many young farmers who want to take over their fathers’ farms. That father will be in a position where that farm will no longer get a tax rebate even though it is a full-time farm in operation on a continual basis.
The attitude of this government with regard to consultation with the public is awful. They consulted with regard to Bill 19. They consulted with regard to Bill 113. The people were definitely opposed to what the government was doing, and yet it went ahead and instituted both of those programs. When the member for Essex-Kent gets up and says, “We should have spent this time more wisely,” I have to say that it is about time that somebody in this province spoke up for the farmers and the people who feed us. It is shame that these members are in here today indicating to us that they have done just that. They have failed us badly.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to commend the member’s resolution and, in the two minutes I have left, just highlight that the Liberal government promised open, consultative government and give an example.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture recommended in its report to the Ontario Treasury, 16 March 1989, that no changes be made in the farm tax program without consultation with farm organizations. The government went ahead and made changes. I would like to read into the record a few comments by the president of the OFA, Brigid Pyke.
The headlines in the Guelph Daily Mercury of 12 October read: “Farm Rebate Changes Are ‘Bastardization,’ Claims Pyke.” Mr Speaker, I hope you will allow that comment, because it is a quote.
“Changes to the Ontario farm tax rebate program constitute ‘a bastardization of the principles that underlie that rebate,’ says Ontario Federation of Agriculture President Brigid Pyke.
“Pyke, speaking to Wellington Federation of Agriculture members Wednesday night at Wellington Place” -- Fergus -- “said the provincial government’s changes to the farm tax rebate system seem rational ‘at first blush,’ but once their full effect is known the changes could be devastating for farmers.
“Since off-farm income is today necessary to keep a farm operating, penalizing that income is a ‘bastardization’ of the principles used to found farm tax rebates, said Pyke.
“Ontario Treasurer Robert Nixon maintains the changes are designed to keep people like his colleague Attorney General Ian Scott, who owns farm land, from collecting the rebates.”
I am sorry if the Treasurer has a problem with his Attorney General, but he should not penalize the farmers.
This is symbolic of this government’s “open, consultative process,” and I condemn it.
Mr Villeneuve: In summarizing, I want to thank all of those who participated: my Liberal colleagues the member for Cornwall and the member for Essex-Kent; certainly the official opposition members, the member for Algoma and the member for Rainy River (Mr Hampton); and certainly my colleagues who support this, the member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr Pollock), the member for Wellington and the member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean).
If we do not have unanimous support for this resolution, we have the Liberal members endorsing a $57-million cut in the agricultural budget that happened last year. They are giving their blessing to that, and the two parliamentary assistants got up and spoke about it. They are giving their blessing to continuing the reduction that started two years ago -- $57 million last year -- of money that was scheduled for agriculture but went elsewhere. They are giving their blessing to farm tax rebate reductions, a means test on the farm tax rebate and policing -- policing, if you will -- the income that people make to try to earn a living, trying to make ends meet on the farm.
They are giving their blessing to that. They are giving their blessing to a number of things I think are outrageous, cancelling the interest-rate relief program, which was initiated by this government as a political ploy before the 1985 election, and yes, it has reduced it.
I appreciate that there is a background paper circulating for the year 2000. It says that the government will consult. The government should try to take a page out of its own book and do it. The former Minister of Agriculture and Food, the member for Huron, said that he did not consult. He spoke to them at breakfast after the decision was made on changing the farm tax rebate program.
If the government goes against this resolution, it is ignoring its own report on free trade. The members of the government are certainly the people who benefited politically very, very extensively from fighting the free trade deal and then doing very, very little about it. The government is not even recognizing that there are GATT decisions that must be addressed by this government, so if it does not support this resolution, it is giving the approval to putting agriculture right off the map.
Mr M. C. Ray moved resolution 27:
That, in the opinion of this House, a select committee on urban growth should be established to examine and report on urban growth patterns in Ontario and to recommend a long-range provincial policy on urban growth. The select committee should consider: (1) variations in urban growth patterns in Ontario; (2) causes of this variation in urban growth patterns; (3) economic, financial, social and environmental consequences of such patterns; (4) short-range and long-range policy options available to the government, and (5) legislative, institutional and program changes required to implement an Ontario government policy on urban growth.
Mr M. C. Ray: In recent years, those of us from outside south central Ontario, the Golden Horseshoe, have marvelled at its growth and development and the evolution of Toronto as a cosmopolitan, dynamic and, some have called it, world-class city. We have envied the greater Toronto region its wealth, its role at the centre of the Canadian economy and its employment opportunities through its commercial and industrial expansion.
Indeed, there are some among us who are disturbed or even angered by the success of this metropolitan region of Toronto as we witness our children leaving smaller cities and towns of Ontario in search of jobs that cannot be found at home, in slower-growth areas of northern, eastern and western Ontario, areas which have not experienced the kind of economic expansion, even during the boom times of the last seven years.
We are distressed as we witness the relocation of our own factories and offices to the greater Toronto area, or as we hear and share the complaints from western Canada that growth in this greater Toronto area has been so phenomenal it has distorted even the whole of the Canadian economy and has caused higher interest rates in markets which do not require them, higher interest rates which make it impossible for our children to afford the purchase of their own homes.
We are disturbed as we witness boarded-up schools and even homes and underutilized municipal infrastructures. We are also disturbed as we hear Torontonians themselves complain about real estate values inflated by demand and speculative profits; about a housing crisis which renders it impossible for even the middle-class working people to afford their own homes -- indeed, about the lack of available housing and the lack of affordable rents; about transportation gridlock as Metro slowly grinds itself to a stop; about a school system which cannot build schools fast enough, notwithstanding a $1-billion school construction program of this government; about a health care system which cannot keep pace with the demand for hospital services.
We ask ourselves, as Metro residents must ask, does it make sense to be closing down schools in other areas of Ontario while installing portable classrooms in Toronto?
Does it make sense to be leaving industrial park land vacant and dormant in many areas of eastern, western and northern Ontario while grossly inflated prices on a comparative basis are paid for scarce land in Mississauga, North York and Markham? Does it make sense to be depopulating beautiful cities and towns across this province where the quality of life is high but the jobs are few?
And we ask, why is this concentration of commercial, industrial expansion occurring in only a few cities, simultaneous with the abandonment of nongrowth areas? How inter-related are these trends? More important, can anything be done about them?
Are we to leave our economic and social development to market forces? Have we not already conceded victory to market forces? Have urban renewal projects not won the day? And do we not see the overconcentration of population where development has overburdened municipal and provincial infrastructure?
Does this gridlock and stressed society not depend on the urbanization of adjoining rural areas for its expansion? Do we really want to see the same intrusion into our farm lands? Were not zoning bylaws and official plans introduced to control and manage change to counter market forces?
In Ontario, was not the design for development program introduced in 1966 intended to provide long-range planning for all regions of Ontario? How did some Ontario communities go astray? What long-range planning has been done in this province since the design for development program and the introduction of regional government in the 1970s?
Can we find reassurance from this present government? Project X, the leaked government document which the government denies is policy and is entitled Reforming Our Land Use and Development System, is a great deal more than a process document, a plan to streamline the land use approvals process.
Indeed, when one views the magnitude of development in the south-central Ontario area, one would hardly suspect there was difficulty in obtaining land use approvals. Nevertheless, Project X speaks of paralysis in decision-making, regulatory gridlock, as it seeks to minimize provincial intervention in local planning decisions and it warns, and I quote, “A strong government commitment will be required to demonstrate the benefits of reform to those concerned about weakening of the province’s environmental or planning standards.”
Project X is a dangerous document, particularly in its implications for that part of Ontario outside the greater Toronto area. It seeks to promote increased economic and population expansion of this greater Toronto area, which is already overburdened. Furthermore, it indicates implementing reform with little public consultation.
I ask, can periodic ministerial declarations of provincial interest or periodic issuance of ministerial policy statements substitute for comprehensive, long-range planning or are they ad hoc, piecemeal, reactive initiatives?
Look to recent history. Is not the announcement, two weeks ago, of a provincial freeze on development of the eastern portion of the Toronto waterfront a demonstration of the urgent need for the restoration of comprehensive planning? Is not the delegation of provincial review of the western portion of the Toronto waterfront to the federal royal commissioner, David Crombie, a demonstration of ad hoc, reactive dike-plugging which proves the need for comprehensive urban-regional land use planning?
Are the recent creations of the interprovincial railway task force and the Treasury office for the greater Toronto area comprehensive long-range planning or piecemeal reactions to crisis situations?
I believe the Ontario Legislature has a role to play in the re-establishment of long-term planning of the growth of this province and I believe the establishment of a select committee on urban growth will assist in this process. I believe legislators should examine urban growth patterns, how urban planning has been done in the past, the applicability of the principles we have developed, how other political jurisdictions and cities have planned, what international planning experts have to say. What about our own experts and ordinary people and what they have to say about the factors causing or influencing urban growth or nongrowth, about the consequences and implications of urban growth and nongrowth -- the transportation implications, the recreational open-space requirements and, of course, the impacts upon the environment?
We need to know the options available to us, and I believe a select committee on urban growth could undertake a nonpartisan study in which all parties can participate, to hear the concerns of experts and ordinary people, to provide a forum for public input, to assist the government in formulating urban development policy, infrastructure planning and program design and delivery. I am hopeful that the need for a select committee on urban growth is apparent to all members and that they will support this resolution.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I would like to thank the honourable member for Windsor-Walkerville and remind him that he has time for the conclusion of his remarks.
Mr Breaugh: I am pleased to support the resolution this morning.
I think it is a matter that is of growing concern to a number of people in municipal government and others who have begun to realize that the many attempts in Ontario to plan the growth of the province have not been successful.
There are those in this chamber who, like me, have been participants over the years in talking about a Toronto-centred region, in talking about regional government, in talking about a Toronto area transit operating authority, in seeing some of the framework that is necessary being established, some of it being developed. But I think even the most biased person would have to say that our attempt to plan successfully the development of Ontario has been an abominable failure. It has not succeeded in directing growth where we, the people of Ontario, get the most benefit from it. It has done nothing, for example, in addressing the very real problems of northern Ontario. It has done nothing in addressing the very real problems of eastern Ontario nor of southwestern Ontario. So the bulk of this province has emerged willy-nilly almost.
There are some inherent problems in the process that I would like to discuss a little bit this morning, and I would be anxious in fact that a select committee of the Legislature do what has not been done around here for some time.
When I was first a member here, the order of the day, quite frankly, was to strike a select committee on a matter that was of concern to the province, to give that committee some latitude, some strength to see other jurisdictions, to stay in operation for some considerable period of time and to report regularly to the Legislature. It is a process which I know to many people seems strange, and members were criticized because they did go to other jurisdictions.
I want to take one example of a select committee that I think has had an impact on Ontario, and it is still happening. When I was first a member, many of us served on a select committee on highway safety. We had an opportunity to see how other nations, other provinces and other states did things, to see how they attacked a very real problem of safety on the highway, to see the kind of sophisticated techniques that were unknown in Ontario at the time, to make suggestions and recommendations to the assembly of Ontario on some very practical things that could be done; and we did those. To this day, you will still see pieces of legislation being brought forward by this government, more than a decade after the committee made its final recommendations, that had their beginning back in that select committee.
I believe the select committee process, if it is given a little scope and a little bit of imagination, can serve this House well. I think the method the member has suggested is an extremely useful tool, but you have to recognize that a select committee does not work well if you say, “We want you to think about urban growth and report back here in three weeks.” That is silliness. It does not work well if you say: “We want you to think about how the world has attempted to grow and develop its urban centres, but we do not want you to go see any of those places. We do not want you to talk to those people. We want you to go sit in a room here and argue about it for four or five weeks and then report.”
If there is a commitment on the part of the government of Ontario to take the select committee process and let it work, let it do its job and recognize the scope of it, then we have a hope here that this concept in the resolution before us this morning would serve us well.
Now let me try to make my version of the argument as to why it is necessary. In and around Toronto, the place where most of us are perhaps more familiar with urban growth problems than anywhere else, you see growth in an urban sense strangling the population as a whole. Those are kind of harsh words, but I believe them to be true. If there is not a solution found for something as basic as garbage disposal in this community in the next couple of years, you are going to have to pile it on your front lawns, folks, because there is no place else for it to go.
If there is no solution for the transportation problems that have emerged in and around the Toronto region in the last decade, people might just as well take their brand-new Chevrolet and park it on the road because it is not going to go anywhere. As I came in this morning, that is what we did. Once again, as we do every day, we put our vehicles on a transportation system that is overloaded from day one, operating at well over 100 per cent of its estimated capacity so it has no chance to survive. One could argue that there is the framework of an intercity rail system, but as quickly as we see GO Transit developing into something that might actually function, we see another level of government tearing apart the same thing and then both of them arguing as to who ought to operate the rail system. The end result is nobody will. So somebody has to kind of understand that problem.
As you move around Ontario, one of the things that is unfortunate, and that I hope a select committee would address, is that though some members may not be aware of it, Ontario does not consist entirely of Metropolitan Toronto. There are other places here. There are other places in the province of Ontario where growth and development could be handled in a more sane and rational manner, but it is tough.
You cannot get to Peterborough until you have a transportation network that gets you there smoothly and efficiently. If you have gone up Highways 35 and 115 on a holiday weekend in the summer, you know that it looks very much like the Don Valley Parkway every morning. If there is an accident on a two-lane highway, it stops. When you go across northern Ontario and you see that phenomenon called the Trans-Canada Highway -- there are two-lane blacktops in Alabama that are better built than the Trans-Canada Highway. That surely is a disgrace.
You go through all of southwestern Ontario and you see the great potential that is there for growth and development and you see that it is struggling to kind of get a foothold. The municipalities are trying their best with the resources that they have to attract new industry, to rationally develop growth, to provide affordable housing, but it is a tough task for them and I would say an impossible task for the municipalities to do on their own.
You can come into my part of the country, eastern Ontario, and you can see some communities that have grown sanely, rationally, providing good housing, and that have a bit of a commercial and industrial base to their community, but it is not easy. A lot of what we are seeing is in one sense good and in one sense bad.
Let me give an example of the Goodyear move into my home town, Napanee. I can see a lot of good reasons why a corporation that owns a plot of land in the hottest real estate market in the world would like to sell the land -- and that is what it did -- and would like to move to a place where the federal, provincial and municipal governments will fall all over themselves to give it grants and exemptions and build roads and do all kinds of things. The end result is that the company comes up with world-class technology in a brand-new plant in a labour market that is pretty stable.
So they have the best of all worlds, but did we plan that? “Kind of, sort of” is about the best you could do for that. Maybe. Maybe some of the growth you see in places like Belleville and Trenton is planned, thoughtful growth; but if it is successful, it’s more likely to be in spite of the federal government and the provincial government rather than with their co-operation.
If you ask people, “Is there a plan for Ontario?” the province, for example, says to each of its municipalities, “We want to see your official plan. We want to see your growth estimates for the next five years. We want to see your financial forecast for the next five years. We want to know all of these things about you.”
Would it not be nifty if each of our municipalities could come to Queen’s Park and say: “Fine. Here’s our official plan. Where’s yours? Where is the official plan for the province? Where is your forecast for the next five years in economic development? Where is your plan to solve the great crises of the day?”
This government would probably stand up in the House and say, “We have this thing called the greater Toronto area.” Where did this come from? From a private meeting in the Premier’s office. Is there a legislative framework for the greater Toronto area? No. Is there an agenda to resolve the garbage crisis? It depends on whom you talk to. What is that resolution? No one knows. People are going back to the regional councils around Metro with ideas now, but they are ideas on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. What are the councils saying? “Leave it. If we’re not part of the decision-making process, don’t come to us with some solution and jam it down our throats.” That is going to be the problem.
If you believe in planning, as I do, if you believe in some rational way to grow and develop as an urban entity, you have to admit that you cannot do that in private. You cannot do it in private meetings with developers. You cannot do it in private meetings among the politicians. You have to acknowledge that. If we wanted to split off a parcel of land that we own for our son or our daughter to have a house, or if we wanted to rezone a little piece of property to put up a grocery store, we would go to our municipality and find out there is a need to have public notice and public hearings and public staff reports and public debate on whether that is a good idea or a bad idea. The same rules that apply to every farmer, every small business person and everybody who wants to build a tool shack on a conservation area piece of property ought to apply to the growth and development of the urban centres of Ontario as a whole.
In all of what I have tried to do in political life, there is a common theme, and that theme is expressed in this resolution. If we want a better society, if we ever hope to have a Lake Ontario that is not polluted with toxic chemicals, if we ever hope to have a sensible solution to a crisis in something like garbage, we have to stop and think our way through and plan the process and identify the factors that cause these problems.
After we have thought our way through that, then we have to express that in something like an official plan. Once we have gone through that thinking, caring, thoughtful analysis of what our problems are and what our solutions might be, we do not have to adhere to them in a fanatical way but use that as the direction post. That is the way we are going. That is how we are going to resolve that.
If you drive anywhere around any of our urban centres in Ontario, you can take some consolation in this. Compared to other jurisdictions, we are not awful -- particularly some that I have seen in the United States, for example, where planning is nonexistent. Most of our municipalities at least do not dump raw effluent into a local stream or river of their own volition, but it does happen here and we do have problems.
At the heart of all these problems is probably what is contained in this resolution. We need to stop and think about what causes growth, what growth means for our province -- not just for Toronto but for everybody else in Ontario -- and what are our priorities. I hope that is what this resolution will make us do. I think the format that is suggested in the resolution is a reasonable, proven technique that this House has used many times on many different matters. I support the member for bringing forward the resolution this morning, and I noted that in his remarks he was not falling all over the government.
I want to conclude with this brief thought: For each of us in here, if we did what the member for Windsor-Walkerville has done this morning, this would be a better place. If we set aside our partisan colours from time to time and said, “Here is an idea that my government, the government I belong to, hasn’t really addressed and it ought to,” members would be surprised at the amount of support that would come from all over this chamber for a good idea that will stand on its own no matter what party or what member might present it.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I will start by saying that I intend to support the resolution presented by the member for Windsor-Walkerville, and I will even go a step further and state that at the present time I am offering to serve on the select committee on urban growth. I can be the first candidate.
It is very appropriate that this resolution should be debated the same day as the member’s resolution from the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry expressing his concern about farm land agriculture uses in this province. The two are interchangeable, and the growth of urban municipalities impacts dramatically on farm land, so we have to equate the two together. Any study in urban growth must take into account that impact.
Paragraph 3 of the resolution states that we should study the economic, financial, social and environmental consequences of such patterns. That is one area that should be studied in relation to the impact on agricultural land.
Four years ago, on Thursday 28 November 1985, I introduced a private members’ resolution, and I would like to read that into the record now:
“That in the opinion of this House, recognizing the very serious limitations placed on our smaller rural municipalities in their ability to attract industrial growth, the government of Ontario should develop and implement an industrial strategy that would provide these municipalities with the much-needed expertise and financial resources necessary to enhance their position in this competitive field.”
I went on to say:
“For Ontario’s economy to strengthen and for a better distribution of the newly created wealth throughout the province, it only makes sense that development be encouraged in the smaller rural communities in this province.”
I submit that this resolution is very similar in nature and content to the resolution presented by the member for Windsor-Walkerville. It is four years since my resolution was passed, and there has been some movement in direction by this government. I would like to highlight just one example. That is a decision by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to transfer its office to the city of Guelph. It will mean a transfer of approximately 1,000 jobs to Guelph, which is in Wellington county and basically in the heartland of rural Ontario. It is only reasonable and sensible that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food should be located in such an area, and I commend the government for that initiative and hope it will continue in that thrust.
I would like to bring to the attention of this House an article that appeared in the Guelph Daily Mercury just a few days ago. It is overall rural population. I will quote this.
“Canada’s farm population continues to fall, but there has not been a similar exodus from rural communities, says an agriculture department spokesman.
“The population of small towns has remained stable -- about one quarter of the Canadian population....
“Towns and villages also owe their strength to Canadians’ willingness to commute long distances to work and the success of larger farms. And many farm people move into a nearby town for their retirement....
“Statistics Canada figures show the farm population has declined about three per cent a year throughout the past two decades. That means the farm population has gone from about 1.9 million in the late 1960s to less than half that 20 years later.”
These communities have not declined in population, but they have received growth from retiring people and people who contributed to the residential sector of the communities, but there is not enough commercial and industrial assessment to maintain the financial viability of these municipalities. They do need added growth; they need growth in the industrial and commercial sectors and, hopefully, that is what the resolution presented by the member for Windsor-Walkerville would take into consideration.
In his comments, he mentioned his concern for those growth patterns and I fully support that proposal. I think it would make a lot of eminently good common sense if the government were to establish such a select committee, an all-party committee composed of members who have interest in both rural and urban municipalities so they can give consideration to both aspects of the problem. We should always take into account the need to preserve our farm land and, as the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve) mentioned this morning, if we preserve our farmers we will not have too much problem preserving our farm land, but the two are intertwined.
Since our party is allowed only 15 minutes in this debate and there are two other members of my party who wish to speak, the member for Durham East (Mr Cureatz) and the member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean), I will accede to them at this time, with the hope that the member for Windsor-Walkerville, when he is commissioned by the Premier (Mr Peterson) to set up this committee, will give very serious consideration to appointing me to that committee.
Mr Tatham: I support the private member’s resolution from the member for Windsor-Walkerville. Josh Billings said it: “It is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.” We can cast our minds back to the 19th century and recall comments made by that brilliant parliamentarian John Bright, who spoke in Birmingham on 22 January 1876 about the land question.
He said that five million acres of land in Scotland, over one fourth of the whole of Scotland, were in the possession of 21 persons. After further calculation, he said that in point of fact, one proprietor in Scotland held nearly as much land as three million of its population.
What are the facts in Ontario today? Let’s look ahead to 1992 and SuperEurope. Andrew Clark says the amazing changes east and west could lead to a linking of two dozen European nations with half a billion people, enormous assets -- and liabilities. The prospect goes far beyond the 12-nation economic union of 1992. It offers the rest of the world vast new challenges and opportunities.
Clark backs up his suggestion by describing the visit of Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to the steelworkers in Dortmund, West Germany. Gorbachev ascended the dais, hands clenched overhead, to be met with a deafening roar of welcome from workers chanting, “Gorby, Gorby.” Let us recall that during what the Soviet historians term the great patriotic war, 20 million of their countrymen perished at the hands of Hitler’s armies.
Are we getting ready for 1992 and beyond?
Let’s go back to Smith’s Canadian Gazetteer, 1846: Markham, a township in the Home District, had 11 grist mills and 24 sawmills; its population in 1842 was 5,698; ratable property in the township was valued at 286,577 pounds.
The Statute Labour Act, RSO 1927, chapter 239, states that “councils of cities, towns, villages and townships may pass bylaws for levying and collecting an annual tax to be known as a poll tax of not less than $1 and not more than $5 from every male inhabitant.” Then it lists the qualifications.
Early this spring I parked in a no-parking zone in front of my apartment. The parking lot was under repair. Fifteen minutes later, my worldly goods were reduced by $40. Times change.
Almost 20 years ago, Barry Commoner wrote that the increase in per capita travel was at least in part related to the increased work-residence travel. At that time, Commoner said, “About 90 per cent of all automobile trips are 10 miles or less in length. This class of trip represents about 30 per cent of total automobile travellers.”
That brings me to our county government in Ontario review. We found that many people living in the rural areas now often travel to the urban areas for employment and recreation. For example, according to the 1981 census information, in Elgin county almost 60 per cent of the labour force actually worked in one municipality and lived in another. In Peterborough county, 75 per cent of the labour force crossed municipal boundaries to work.
My next-door neighbour in Woodstock leaves at 5:45 am every working day to drive to work at the Toronto-Lester B. Pearson International Airport. People move from Toronto to Kitchener, still working in Toronto. Kitchener workers are finding housing in Plattsville in the riding of Oxford.
This is the way things are happening at the present time. So are we asking the right questions? As Dr Samuel Johnson said, “It focuses a man’s mind marvellously when he is to be hanged in the morning.” Those who face a direct threat today are most willing to change in order to survive tomorrow. Do we not have to question the impact of 1992? Do we not have to question the gridlock at rush-hour in our Metro areas?
Sony chairman Akio Morita, who wrote in the New York Times, said American companies should shift their time horizons. The short-term orientation of corporate management in the United States encourages neglect of long-term investment vital to industry. The financial community in the United States seem to concentrate on 10-minute time frames.
The state of Illinois developed a document called Illinois: The Future -- 1980. There it is there. If you are a storekeeper, say, a hardware man, usually once a year you take inventory. How many bolts, drills, taps, dies, files, cap screws, nails, gloves? It is vital to your survival in business to know what stock you have. The late Lyndon Baines Johnson said the best manure a farmer could have on his property is his own footsteps, to be able to see, to be able to recognize what he has.
We keep talking about a global economy and it is happening. To appreciate the difference between the old international approach and the new global approach, look at the way firms such as Ford Motor Co, IBM, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co and the Procter and Gamble Co now operate. These companies design and develop their products wherever the required skills are most plentiful. They buy raw materials and component wherever they are the cheapest. They assemble finished products wherever they can achieve maximum economies and scale. And they sell everywhere.
If we are going to compete in the global marketplace, we have to outproduce our competition on cost, project a quality image and deliver a quality product. We have to build quality communities and I believe supporting this resolution will help show the way.
Mr Wildman: I have very little time. I just want to sincerely congratulate the member for Windsor-Walkerville for introducing this resolution for discussion this morning.
I wish there were some member of the Liberal government present -- there are none -- to hear the debate, because I think it is important for us to really question whether this government is challenging market forces or is prepared to deal with the question of urbanization and urban concentration, what I consider to be the Manhattanization of Toronto, the question of the need to provide affordable housing, transportation, dealing with waste, drugs and prostitution, homelessness, all of these problems that go with tremendous urban growth, uncontrolled growth, dependent on market forces.
As the member said, we continue to have a piecemeal, reactive approach. We even have discussion of deregulation and Project X at time when we should be moving in the other direction. We need planning. We need to have a concentrated effort to decentralize and to have development in places like northern Ontario. We cannot leave it to market forces. We need the government to become directly involved in planning and direct investment. I congratulate the member for bringing this matter before the House.
Mr Cureatz: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to have the opportunity of standing this morning, albeit for only a few moments, to speak to the member’s resolution.
I might add that in my dual role now, both serving as the Chair and as a private member. I have, as I indicated, toned down my enthusiasm on various aspects, because if one takes the Chair’s job seriously, I feel it is difficult to try to get the respect of all honourable members one hour and the next hour stand in one’s place and berate the government for all the things that are going wrong. That is not to say I will not do it from time to time; I will just be a little more cautious and judicious.
I said to myself when I saw this resolution, “Self, how can I go wrong with this one?” because I am sure everyone is going to be supporting it and I want to make sure I have the opportunity of doing the same for my colleague the member for Windsor-Walkerville, who, I might add, did, as we all know, an admirable job when he served as Deputy Speaker in the chair. Of course, it was of no particular circumstance that, suddenly, he was removed from that position; it was only because of the rule changes that were implemented over the session. So I wanted, on behalf of myself and my caucus, to thank him personally for his participation, serving as a member of administrating procedures of the House.
Turning to the resolution for a few moments. Interestingly enough, this goes to the heart and core of the matter. I really appreciated the comments of the member for Oshawa (Mr Breaugh), who gave, I think we all agree, a beautiful overview of the overall problem in terms of what is happening in Ontario and his supportive actions in terms of striking such a committee, of which I might add I am fully supportive.
I think this would be a great opportunity for us not to get particularly partisan in terms of what this kind of committee can do when, first, doing the kinds of investigations right here at Queen’s Park, secondly, travelling in Ontario, and yes, thirdly -- why not? -- travelling around the world in terms of what is happening in other jurisdictions.
Unlike the member for Oshawa, I want to get a little more particular and talk about the greater Toronto area. Right this very morning there is a meeting taking place at the Thunderbird golf course, which I think is just outside of my riding. I was invited to participate, to listen to some of the ideas that will be taking place about how this GTA is going to be implemented. Due to my new position and my participation in the debate this morning, I very regrettably had to indicate that I would not be in attendance, but at least it was the first sign of someone trying to get something together so we can talk about what is taking place around this Golden Horseshoe area.
We in opposition and, I suspect, many members in the back benches who represent a good part of that community -- even the member for Peterborough (Mr Adams) – remain relatively in the dark about what the overall strategy is in terms of garbage disposal, in terms of transportation, both rail and vehicle, and in terms of generation of power.
I have in my riding the Darlington nuclear generating station. I have just had the opportunity of speaking with the new chairman of the select committee on energy. We suspect the energy committee will be sitting in the winter to take a look at what Ontario Hydro will be proposing for the production of new electricity and where it is going to be putting a plant, if that is part of the proposal. Some have been talking about Darlington B. Maybe that is not the place for it after all in terms of what we are discussing here in this resolution.
What about Wesleyville, which is just down the road from me, in the riding of the member for Northumberland (Mrs Fawcett), who is here this morning? I am very disappointed that since Wesleyville was closed down, which I think was about 1978, I do not think a thing has been done with that property. We have hundreds of acres held by Ontario Hydro and what are they going to be doing with it? These are the kinds of things this committee could examine.
Right this moment in my own riding, St Marys Cement Corp is investigating the possibility of expansion in a larger harbour so that it could facilitate the various ships that are coming in for the carriage of limestone. There, of course, are protest groups and I have been hearing from both sides on the matter. This is the kind of thing that could help resolve those kinds of controversies.
I was very surprised and pleased, actually, to hear the Premier indicate the freeze of the waterfront from Bowmanville, which is in my riding, I think all the way around to Burlington.
How does that affect Ontario Hydro and the possibility of construction of Darlington B? How does that affect what St Marys Cement is proposing? These are the kinds of hard-core issues that I think cross political boundaries. We have got to get to what we are concerned about, and it is becoming evident every day as we all drive up and down Highway 401 -- you have to drive somewhere on it to get here to Queen’s Park; or even by train -- that we are getting quagmired in a situation that has to be resolved in a nonpartisan way. I could continue on at great length. I want to leave a bit of time to my colleagues.
That is not to say that we do not have those problems indicated by the member for Oshawa, agreed with by the member for Windsor-Walkerville, and existing in other parts of Ontario. The committee would also be able to investigate those kinds of situations.
I once again applaud the member for Windsor-Walkerville. I only suggest to all of the members -- as cynical as I am from time to time, I will just show a little bit of my colours from the old days -- that maybe this is just a trial balloon by the government and our honourable member is in cahoots with one of the ministers or the Office of the Premier, saying: “Let’s try this. If it works, then we are going to go for it.”
Even if it is a trial balloon, it is a great idea and we should be doing it.
Mr Adams: I too, like the previous speakers, would like to thank the member for Windsor-Walkerville for bringing this important matter to the attention of the House. He clearly brings to it his experience as an alderman in the city of Windsor and also his experience as a member of the committee on county government reform which addressed aspects of this problem.
I am interested in the topic, in part because it relates very closely to my own resolution of 19 January of this year. It seems to me that, arguably, urban development is the most important development problem facing our society today. In both the developed world and the Third World, increasingly people live in cities. In fact, it is not untrue to say that virtually all of us are urban people. We breathe urban air, most of us, whether we like it or not, and we drink urban water. Many people think, by the way, that it is better than rural water. We rarely walk, but we use various urban transportation systems. We all live in cities.
In ancient times, people thought of themselves as living in city-states. In fact, they actually did. They lived in cities which usually had quite small hinterlands which served the city and the city served the hinterland. Occasionally, like the great city of Rome, that small city had a huge hinterland which in fact was a great empire. We do not think of ourselves as living in city-states today, but in actual fact in many ways, much like the ancient Romans and Greeks, we do.
If you think of the great cities of New York, Boston and Washington and their hinterlands, both their immediate hinterlands and the entire continent, or if you think of the city of Tokyo today, they are city-states. Here today in the Legislature we are in Metropolitan Toronto; in many ways it is a city-state.
This particular city-state has a commuting hinterland which is the greater Toronto area plus some and then plus some. Also, it has a much larger hinterland than that, which is southern Ontario, the rest of Ontario, the Great Lakes basin, North America, however far one cares to go. So in many ways we are living in a city-state and we are talking about urban development. As we all live here, we are not, generally speaking -- at least not on this side of the House -- stupid people; we choose to live in urban areas.
We choose to live in urban areas because of the benefits there. We choose to live in urban areas because there are fulfilling and well-paid jobs in those areas. There are great educational opportunities in those areas. There are great recreational opportunities in urban areas. In fact, there is a tremendous quality of life in urban areas, and that is why 80 per cent or more of the population of Canada chooses to live in urban areas.
Cities, at their best, are highly efficient, pleasant, exciting places to live in. We owe a great deal to our cities in terms of the standard of living that we have. But, like weeds, cities tend to grow and grow and grow and spread and spread and spread. The population of the greater Toronto area is growing by 100,000 people a year. That is almost two cities of Peterborough a year. Some people say that housing construction is moving more quickly than the traffic. With this increasing size, and in particular with rapidly increasing size, come the problems that have been described by some of the previous speakers.
Travel problems, problems of overcrowding, problems of affordable housing, pollution problems, social stress and so on all combine to make these urban areas less efficient, less pleasant, less healthy places to live. The advantages of the cities, from the point of view of their own citizens, begin to disappear when cities grow too large or too quickly. This is what is being discussed by the member for Windsor-Walkerville.
I would like to point out that these things do not happen in isolation. The growth of Metropolitan Toronto is not simply something that affects the people of Metro. The growth of Metro has enormous impacts on the surrounding region, defined however one likes to define it. It has enormous impacts on the entire province. This growth impacts on our environment. Land is swallowed up which could be better used as farm land; the use of farm land becomes distorted because of speculation; environmentally important areas like wetlands and woodlands are jeopardized by the influence of city growth.
I would argue that problems which the member for Windsor-Walkerville described as problems of urban development bring together all the important problems of development in our society under one heading and that is why this resolution is so important. The growth of Metro affects our use of forests in northern Ontario. It stimulates activity in remote mines. It makes huge demands on resources we could use elsewhere. It affects other cities, other towns, other villages in the province. It affects the rural areas of the province. So it is not simply a matter for Metro. Urban growth is not simply a matter for urban people; it is a matter for the entire province.
I do believe that we as a province must have strategies for urban growth. Without them, we cannot control our future and help determine the type of Ontario we would like to leave for our children. I commend the member for Windsor-Walkerville for bringing this important matter to our attention.
Mr McLean: I want to speak briefly with regard to the resolution from the member for Windsor-Walkerville. With regard to the long-range provincial policy on urban growth or to have a select committee, I must indicate that it would be appropriate to have a short-range urban growth study also.
I see the Premier has appointed the area chairmen around Metro to look into the aspects of garbage disposal. I wonder if they are going to look into other aspects of the urban highways around Metro. There are many things within this resolution that the member for Windsor-Walkerville has indicated should be looked at.
However -- and I agree with the resolution that they should be looked at -- but the problem I see is that they are not being looked at soon enough. When we look at a long-range policy of urban growth -- and this morning we discussed the resolution from the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry with regards to agriculture -- these two resolutions fit very well together when we are looking at the whole aspects of urban growth into rural areas. When we are looking at roads for the future, garbage problems, plus the environmental problems that we have in this province, I think those should be short-term ideas that the government should be taking a very strong initiative on.
When we look at rural Ontario and how the expansion has taken place in most of the communities across this province with regard to growth, then our environmental aspect of that growth is going to be the most important with regard to the Ministry of the Environment. Funding capital projects, funding sewers, funding water, that area is one of the most important and it is one they should be looking at in a short-term view, not a long-term policy.
I commend the member for Windsor-Walkerville for bringing this resolution forward. I will be supporting it and I would hope that the government would see fit to bring in a short-term policy for many of our environmental and urban areas’ aspects.
Mr Kozyra: In the brief time available to me, I would like to also support the member for Windsor-Walkerville in his call for a select committee on urban growth, and focus on northern Ontario. Recent population projections have indicated growth in Ontario for the next 20 years of roughly 30 to 40 per cent. Only one region in the province, northern Ontario, would suffer a decline. That is of great concern to us.
Specifically, what we call outmigration in the north points to an even more serious problem than just a decline or stagnation in growth. That is the fact that the ratio of those leaving is 10 to one in the age group of 16 to 25. This creates a serious disproportion in what is happening to the age situation. The consequences are obvious. I recently attended a Red Cross seminar on this and, in terms of volunteer workers, it is predicted that northern communities will suffer tremendously as the aged increase and that base underneath them, the younger people, will not be there to serve in a volunteer capacity.
What are the implications on the political side? These are the very serious ones. At the present time, Metropolitan Toronto has about 40 members to five for the entire north, which occupies 90 per cent of the area. If this growth continues, the one-to-eight ratio now -- one northerner to eight members in the rest of the province -- will decrease to one to 13; a 50 per cent decrease in political influence.
The Speaker: The member for Windsor-Walkerville may wish to use up the final two minutes.
Mr M. C. Ray: I appreciate the comments of members of all parties in support of this resolution. I would like to acknowledge the participation of the research staff of the legislative library who have provided the two-page outline of possible specific issues that a committee on urban growth could examine.
I do hope that something can come of this resolution because I believe this government needs to be shaken in a couple of directions. This document which I have great fear of, Project X, needs some outside examination. I do not like some of what I see there and I do not think most members would if they read the document completely. I also think there is a role for this Legislature and its committee structure in long-range planning for this province.
I think a select committee on urban growth would have only beneficial effects and help to restore the role of this Legislature and draw us a bit away from Premier’s councils and outside administrative initiatives to determine long-range policy in this province. We, as legislators, have a function here and we can contribute to that process as well, calling outside experts into the Legislature here to state their views and have their views studied. I think there is at this time and place a need for that in Ontario and I would appreciate if all would support this resolution, even after it is passed.
The Speaker: Mr M. C. Ray has moved resolution 27.
Motion agreed to.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
The House divided on Mr Villeneuve’s resolution, which was negatived on the following vote:
Allen, Breaugh, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Cousens, Cunningham, Cureatz, Eves, Grier, Johnson, J. M., Laughren, Marland, Martel, McLean, Philip, E., Pollock, Pouliot, Villeneuve, Wildman.
Adams, Ballinger, Callahan, Cleary, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Curling, Eakins, Faubert, Fawcett, Ferraro, Fulton, Henderson, Hošek, Keyes, Kozyra, LeBourdais, Lipsett, Mahoney, Mancini, McGuigan, Miclash, Miller, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., O’Neill, Y., Oddie Munro, Owen, Pelissero, Polsinelli, Poole, Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Roberts, Smith, E. J., Sola, Sullivan, Tatham, Velshi.
Ayes 20; nays 39.
The House recessed at 1210.
The House resumed at 1330.
Mr Villeneuve: This statement is addressed to Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay). Ontario’s farmers are greatly concerned about the disappearance of prime agricultural farm land. Experts now believe there is an impending crisis here in Ontario.
There are a number of important facts we must remember when discussing this very important issue. It takes one acre of land to feed one person in Ontario for one year. There is currently just enough prime agricultural land in the province to feed our population of nine million. If production is shifted to lower-quality land in the northern parts of the province, the input costs would be twice as much as the production costs in the more central parts of Ontario. Between 1976 and 1981, approximately 50 per cent of land converted to urban use was prime agricultural land, and I emphasize “prime.”
The agricultural industry in Ontario contributes $5.6 billion to the economy and 26 per cent of the value of agricultural receipts of the economy of the entire country. We already import $3.6 billion worth of food for our citizens. We have had to draft Foodland Ontario preservation policy statements for almost four years now. The last Minister of Agriculture and Food said he would not bring it forward until the Farm Practices Protection Act was passed. The act is now in place. I am calling on the new Minister of Agriculture and Food to live up to his commitments and to preserve our prime farm land.
TERRY FOX RUNS
Mr Adams: I participated in two Terry Fox runs again this year in Havelock and Peterborough. It hardly seems nine years since I, like many others in the Peterborough area, had the privilege of meeting with and talking to Terry Fox. When I asked him why he was running through southern Ontario instead of taking the direct route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, he said quite openly that his primary purpose was to raise money for cancer research, not to break some sort of across-country record. Terry would be delighted to see the thriving plants which have grown from the seeds he planted.
In the tiny village of Havelock, one of many which Terry visited on his run, one young man who has participated in Terry Fox runs since he was a boy, raised over $4,000 this year on his own. He and others like him in our region took great pleasure again this fall in raising money for a good cause by running, jogging or walking for cancer research.
What a healthful way to raise money. What a pleasant way to make a public commitment to a cause. Every Canadian should try to visit the Terry Fox memorial on the Trans-Canada Highway near Thunder Bay. They should stand at that spot and say, “If Terry could run here from the east coast with one artificial leg and enjoy it as he did, I can participate in next year’s Terry Fox runs.” Cancer is being beaten.
GOVERNMENT SERVICE IN NORTHERN ONTARIO
Mr Hampton: Yesterday the Minister for Northern Development (Mr Fontaine) announced another program of the government which he said would forward and assist business in northern Ontario. In my reply to his statement, I indicated that so far, so good.
I want to point out to the government, though, some of the obstacles which business people in northern Ontario have to face because of this government. This example I have today is particularly instructive. If you are a credit union, a bank or any other financial institution, or just a business or an ordinary consumer, and you want to purchase goods from someone else, it is always wise to call the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and do a Personal Property Security Act search. It is always a wise thing to do.
But if you live in northern Ontario and you call the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, you may not be answered. You may face a line busy for most of the day or, when you get through, you may be put on hold for 40 minutes. I want to ask the government, in the kindest way I can, how can business in northern Ontario be forwarded, how can it progress, when such a basic act as this, such a basic, daily undertaking, cannot be completed because of government delay?
Mr McLean: My statement is directed to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr Black). He is no doubt aware that the standing committee on general government met for about three weeks here at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa, to consider Bill 119, An Act to amend the Ontario Lottery Corporation Act.
Numerous individuals and groups, like the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, voiced their opposition to this legislation that will see lottery funds diverted to the consolidated revenue fund. They stressed that a healthy lifestyle helps to reduce sickness and disease, and that reduces the strain on Ontario’s health care system.
I think that the minister will agree that physical fitness is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and that the promotion of a healthy lifestyle should be an important element in his ministry’s strategy to reduce the incidence of preventable disease and illness among the people of Ontario.
When the minister and his colleagues were first elected to govern, there were promises of no walls and no barriers, but I think we can all see that plenty of walls and barriers have been erected by his government. We saw it happen with Bill 113, An Act to amend the Retail Business Holidays Act, and it appears to have happened again with Bill 119.
In both cases there was little, if any, public support for the legislation, in both cases there were no amendments, and in the case of Bill 119, he failed in his responsibilities as minister in that he did not appear before the government committee to speak out against this legislation that will divert lottery funds from recreational purposes. The minister has not been supporting his own recreational groups.
PASSENGER RAIL SERVICES
Mr Tatham: From time to time one sees acts of kindness that raise the spirit. The other evening going home on the train, I watched as two young people helped an older citizen who had difficulty communicating, who also had lost his ticket and was having trouble with his baggage. So I thought I should write a letter. I wrote a letter to Ron Lawless, the president of Via Rail. I said:
“Dear Mr Lawless,
“I want to commend the young lady and gentleman who were looking after the passenger on Via train 659 from Toronto to London on October 10th.
“I appreciate the kindness shown by these young employees to an elderly passenger who was rather confused and was having difficulty with his ticket, luggage and where to get off the train.
“I observed the gracious activities of your officials as they helped this elderly man on his journey.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr R. F. Johnston: As all members, who have no doubt been called by constituents a lot in the last number of days since the community colleges’ strike began, will know, nothing seems to be happening, no movement seems to be taking place in what is a very serious situation potentially for 100,000 students in this province in the coming weeks.
It is important to put this in a context, which is what I want to do today. The minister has said that in fact his increases have been meeting the inflationary demands and that the number of students has not increased greatly. These things are only partially true.
I think it is important to note that since 1978-79, the increase in the percentage of grants to each college per student has been around 57 per cent. In the same period of time, the consumer index has risen by 83.9 per cent. This caused an enormous problem in the colleges, so much so that as many as 18 of the 22 colleges looked like they were facing a deficit in 1988. This is the real backdrop to the strike which is on at the moment.
There is a real need for the government itself to involve itself at this stage to help in a couple of the areas in terms of job security and sick leave and the remuneration question, so that this strike can be ended as quickly as possible and the lives of these students will not be unnecessarily jeopardized, as may be the case.
Mrs Cunningham: In those halcyon days of Ontario Liberalism back in 1985, long before scandals and resignations had taken the bloom off the rose and out of the cheeks of those new, eager cabinet ministers, the Premier (Mr Peterson) promised the people a government of compassion and competence. Today, that kinder, gentler, better-managed future continues to elude the grasp of this government and we are all frustrated.
Our jails are almost as overcrowded as our schools. Cancer and heart patients are dying for treatment in our world-class health care system and are forced to leave the province and sometimes the country, to obtain adequate care. Our courts are clogged up, the rent review system backed up, our roads jammed up, our taxes way up and the public generally fed up. We do not have enough nurses, teachers or community health workers, but we do seem to have more than enough labour unrest in the public sector, with college teachers, JPs and prison guards either on strike, working to rule or in a slowdown.
That is life in David Peterson’s Ontario. As long as you do not get sick, want an education, have to drive on the roads, and above all do not pay taxes, you might not mind living here. However, those who do not like living with the shortages, the backlogs, the gridlock and the waiting lists, who do not like a second-rate government for their tax dollars, may find life in David Peterson’s Ontario a bit too taxing.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I rise on a matter that I think will be of concern to all members in the Legislature today. I rise to pay tribute to Thomas Stelling, our Sergeant at Arms.
Tom, as he is affectionately known to all of us, has served over 25 years in the Legislature. He began his career a long time ago as a clerk-messenger and in 1976 graduated to his present position as Sergeant at Arms.
He has performed his duties with intelligence, discipline and hard work but, more important, Mr Speaker, I believe he has assisted you and through you this entire House with his civility, self-control and good humour. I am told by his staff that Tom’s humour has taken a decidedly curious turn in the last little while, perhaps as a result of his long-term association with the House.
He carries the mace as a symbol of authority and the sword as a symbol of justice and, although he has never had to use them, I certainly hope in the future that he never does have the need to use them on any of us, although I am sure be has been sorely tempted.
I wish Mr Stelling well for his 25 years of service and hope he spends another 25 years in this House with all of us.
The Speaker: I have two things I would like to do if I may. First, I would like introduce a guest and second, I would like to make a ruling that has been requested of me.
The Speaker: I would like to ask all members of the assembly to recognize in the Speaker’s gallery a deputy in the Congress of People’s Deputies in the USSR and deputy in the Republic of Lithuania’s Supreme Soviet, Zigmas Vaišvila. Please welcome our guest.
The next item will just be a little longer. I hope you will bear with me.
The Speaker: On Thursday last, the honourable member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr Pollock) rose to bring a question of privilege to my attention.
The honourable member stated that upon receiving a complaint from a constituent about a program put forward by Ontario Hydro, he had passed on the complaint to the minister. The matter had then been referred to Ontario Hydro by the minister and the chairman and president of Ontario Hydro had then answered the honourable member directly. Finally, that same letter appeared in two local newspapers in the “Letters to the Editor” section approximately two weeks later.
The honourable member is complaining that his privileges have been abused because someone in the ministry caused those letters to be published and the name of his constituent appears in the letter, thereby having an embarrassing effect on the person who complained to the member in the first place. As well, the member feels this may have a restraining effect in the future upon his constituents who might fear that their names would be published in local newspapers if they seek redress from their MPP.
Before I rule on this matter, I would like first of all to recommend to members that in the future, as has been our practice, they give the Speaker at least one hour’s notice of a proposed question of privilege, unless the matter that is being complained about is something that arises out of the proceedings of the House and in that case, the question of privilege should be presented immediately. Also, it is incumbent on members to present their case fully to the Speaker in the chamber and it is not satisfactory to present written submissions. The reason for this is to give other members the chance to participate if that is their wish.
As far as the case presented to the House by the honourable member last Thursday is concerned, I well understand the member’s concerns. In his presentation, he quoted Erskine May’s 20th edition at page 167 as follows:
“...the special position of a person providing information to a member for the exercise of his parliamentary duties has been regarded by the courts as enjoying qualified privilege at law.”
What the honourable member forgot to quote was the beginning of the sentence, which reads as follows:
“But while it appears unlikely that any question of an actual or constructive breach of parliamentary privilege could arise in these cases....”
This full quotation implies two things: first, that the breach complained about does not constitute a question of privilege and second, that the relationship between a member and his or her constituent is a special one to the point where members in a court of law have been able to use the defence that their communication with constituents was privileged.
In the present case, I cannot identify who gave the letters to the newspapers and have no intention of pursuing the matter, but I do want to emphasize the dual responsibility made clear by this case. First, the public service should treat matters dealing with constituents with the utmost discretion. Second, it might be useful if members ascertain from their constituents whether or not they wish the matter to remain confidential.
In order to emphasize this, I would like to quote the Right Honourable Winston Churchill, from 9 March 1954 in Westminster, who said:
“The matter cannot be dealt with by a general rule against disclosure. But clearly departments must exercise great discretion as to the circumstances in which disclosure is appropriate; and a reminder is being issued to departments in this sense.
“If I might make a practical suggestion, honourable members might also consider on occasion asking their correspondent, in the case of a letter on which they are contemplating an inquiry from the government, whether he is willing that it should be disclosed to a wider circle.”
Therefore, I thank the honourable member for bringing the matter to the attention of the House, but I must find that there is no prima facie case of privilege.
Mr Pollock: Mr Speaker, do I have an opportunity to comment?
The Speaker: Order. No, you do not and you do not have a chance to appeal it either.
Hon Mr Ward: I would seek the unanimous consent of the House for formal recognition of a long-time servant of this Legislature.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
The Speaker: Not the Treasurer again.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Ah, yes, it is one of those days again, gentlemen and ladies.
I would like to join with the honourable member for York Mills (Mr J. B. Nixon) in expressing our appreciation to Thomas Stelling for his 25 years of service to this House, a good part of that time as the Sergeant at Arms. Somebody has said that he has been responsible for turfing more people out of this place than the electorate. I am not sure I want to agree with the other Nixon, when he said that he hopes he does not have to use his sword in the future, because sometimes I have in mind some people who might get pierced.
Actually, I have been subjected to the tender ministrations of the Sergeant at Arms. On one black day when the Speaker had thought that I was overvociferous in my objections to the government’s undertaking time allocation, if members can imagine, the honourable Speaker of the day named me. Naturally, I was ready to do what I was told, but even before I could leave through the doors, the sergeant had come to assist me.
So that the story is complete and since there is no time limit on this discussion, I think perhaps I should tell the House, which would be interested in this, that a few minutes later the House, by its vote, reversed that decision and I and a couple of other worthies were ushered back into the House. I really forget the circumstances in detail, but yes, that was the time it happened, however unjust and however temporary. Thomas Stelling did his duty on that day, as he always does, with fairness, equanimity, justice for all and dispatch. I know we have counted on him to do that for all these years.
During one period of his tenure the responsibility for the general safeguarding of ourselves as members and the security of this House in general was put on his shoulders, and this is a special responsibility that I think has been carried out with a good deal of sensitivity and finesse. At least we are still here, not bloodied but somewhat bowed. In this connection he has shown a good deal of leadership that is much appreciated and valued by us all.
On an entirely different level, most of us, indeed I am sure all of us consider Thomas Stelling a good friend. He always has a cheery word and a comment and is helpful in many respects. We appreciate his friendship, we thank him for his service and we wish him well for many years in the future.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have been asked, and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to comment on Mr Stelling’s service to the people of Ontario and to this Legislature. The main reason I was chosen was not just because I am House Leader, but because in looking around, I think I am one of the few members of our caucus he has not thrown out.
Mr Eves: Yet.
Mr Pelissero: There is hope.
An hon member: We can fix that.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Now, anyone else who is missing, we can arrange that later, Tom.
It is an honour to participate. There are not many members of the Legislature and there are not many people who serve the Legislature who can put up with the elected members for 25 years. Mr Stelling has been around here since age 17, if I remember correctly from reading one of the press clippings, in a number of capacities, as a messboy, as an attendant in charge of the pages and now as Sergeant at Arms. I think he has served the Legislature and the ceremonial position of Sergeant at Arms with distinction and class.
He is a friend of all members of the Legislature. We in the New Democratic Party certainly wish him well and look forward to seeing him serve the Legislature for many years after all of us are gone. Even the member for Brant-Haldimand (Mr R. F. Nixon) will be gone and Tom Stelling will still be here.
Mr Harris: It is with pleasure that I rise on behalf of my party to honour Thomas Stelling, Sergeant at Arms. We are recognizing today two of Mr Stelling’s anniversaries: One is 25 years, of course, with the Ontario public service, and I believe the other is 13 years as Sergeant at Arms of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
I am told that when his service began on 17 August 1964 in the position of clerk-messenger --
Mr Rae: When he was eight years old.
Mr Harris: The leader of the New Democratic Party says when he was eight years old. I think that is in reference to how well you have retained your youth, Mr Sergeant at Arms. He began for the princely annual salary of $2,280.
Hon Mr Ramsay: Let’s bring back the good old days.
Mr Harris: Well, I have heard Thomas say on occasion that the good old days are still here with reference to his salary and it may be something that should be looked at. Quite frankly, with all the speeches I have made on restraint, I do not mind saying that I think he may be right and it is something that should be looked at.
Through a series of promotions he managed by 26 October 1976 to be appointed Sergeant at Arms. All of us in this Legislative Assembly know Mr Stelling well and have come, I believe to appreciate his dedication, his commitment to security and the administrative function of his office, and his good humour and friendship as well.
We know from time to time, as has been mentioned, that the odd member, Mr Speaker, has been named by you, and Mr Stelling has had the pleasure of escorting the named member out of the House. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has referred in his remarks to that one opportunity that he remembers so well. I suppose if there were any mistakes at all -- some suggest there were a lot that were made over a period of 42 years -- perhaps it was the one, which it appears to me the Treasurer has relayed, when the House reversed a Speaker’s ruling, which I would never suggest the House should ever do, and allowed the Treasurer back into the House. If there was a mistake made in 42 years, that may very well have been the highlight of mistakes.
However, it is just one example where Mr Stelling brings dignity to the House, where he reminds all members of the House of the honourable traditions of this chamber. On behalf of my caucus colleagues, I say that we look forward to having Thomas Stelling serve us well for many more years to come.
The Speaker: I will certainly see that the Sergeant at Arms gets a copy of Hansard in case he does not have access.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Mr Speaker, I think we also have unanimous consent to say a few words about our esteemed visitor today.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Mr R. F. Johnston: I want to be the first to be able to rise today and say how important I think it is for this Legislature that for the first time ever an elected representative -- since perestroika there have been some real elections take place in the Soviet Union and the republics it controls and for the first time in our chamber we have somebody from there who has been elected.
I think it is important for a number of reasons. We think of ourselves and the kinds of sacrifices we make to become elected, but I think it is important to think back to what Zigmas Vaišvila faced last winter when he made the decision to run, essentially in a by-election, for the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet.
He had not only all the kinds of decisions to make about leaving his professorship at Vilnius University where he was a physicist to work full time for the Sajudis movement, which is committed to reform and independence in Lithuania, but he also did it in the context of immediately following the Brezhnevian era, and with a history of persecution of the Lithuanian community that is something none of us have ever had to experience here and only know second hand from Lithuanians who came to Canada to escape that kind of persecution. I think for that reason it is especially important that we have somebody like Zigmas here today with us.
I had the pleasure of meeting him last summer when I was in Lithuania. I was overwhelmed by the incredible strides that have been made there in the course of just these last nine months or so, if you think about it. From having no respect at all for the Lithuanian reality, they now have their language as the official language of the country, or the republic as it is still known. Their flag is flown for the first time in 40 years. Their anthem has been legally sung again for the first time in 40 years in that country. The emotional release is just phenomenal to experience.
When we were there, there was the return of coffins from Siberia of people who had never even been recognized as having died in the deportations that took place so many years before. We saw a peaceful sit-in at a Russian air base with signs that made you think of the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations of the 1960s here, a remarkable kind of change.
For those of us who are in an established democracy, the most incredible thing was the vitality of the new democracy that is developing in Lithuania. It is absolutely phenomenal. Sajudis is a common front. These days it represents, without any doubt, about 85 per cent of the population of that country. When they think about taking on an undertaking, for instance, a petition program, they do not consider it a success unless over 50 per cent of the adult population signs the petition.
You think about it in the context of our democracy here and the apathetic approach to involvement we often face. You think of our situation and compare it to theirs where people linked arm and arm across several hundred kilometres of the country so that there was one linkage of people for independence across that nation. It is phenomenal and a wonderful thing for us to experience in our mature democracy that we have here today.
For the meetings that have been afforded Zigmas today, I would like to thank those people who have done it, from my leader, the leader of the official opposition, to the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) and the Premier (Mr Peterson). I think it is important to realize that in this February coming up, there will be the first real democratic elections in Lithuania to be held in full in over 40 years. There is every likelihood that Sajudis members will win 80 to 85 per cent of the vote. In other words, their representation is going to be even larger than that of the Liberal government in Ontario, if one can imagine such a phenomenon.
There are the problems they are going to face at the end of that period in making a transition to some kind of mixed market economy and a move towards democratic control of a bureaucracy that has been much more profoundly entrenched than the 42 years of Tory bureaucracy that the Liberal government faced when it came in. It is mind boggling to think about it.
I think we have a responsibility -- that is why it is so symbolically important that Zigmas is here today -- as an old, established democracy with an institution of Parliament that is so important, and with freedom of speech and a free market economy to understand our obligations to this new democracy as it develops in eastern Europe and to provide resources to Sajudis and other movements as they take power, to assist them in that transition, whether it is in terms of how to help a bureaucracy change and respond to a democratically elected House or whether it is how you bring about some kind of mixed economy in what was a totalitarian, totally controlled economic sphere.
I am hoping that all members in this House will look at this day as symbolically important in that fashion and that this is the first step to that kind of support that we can provide to Zigmas and the others who have been fighting so hard for independence in Lithuania.
Mr J. M. Johnson: On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, I would like to join my colleague the member for Scarborough West and all members of this Legislature in extending our best wishes to our distinguished guest from Lithuania. Zigmas Vaišvila is a deputy in the Lithuanian republic and also the Congress of People’s Deputies in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, he is also a leader in the environmental field.
Environment is so important to all of us, whether we live in Ontario or Lithuania or the USSR. Whatever you can do in Lithuania to help to solve the problem will be beneficial to all people in all parts of this world. We should all work together to see that we leave a safe environment to our future generations.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the USSR this past summer. I did not have the opportunity to go to Lithuania, but I was in Estonia for some days and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the fine people of that Baltic republic. I share many of the thoughts expressed by the member for Scarborough West and I know that the members of this Legislature will join with me in requesting that you bring back to the people of Lithuania, the Baltic republic, indeed the USSR, our very best wishes that a very peaceful solution can be found for their very important political problems.
Mr Fleet: I am delighted, on behalf of my colleagues in the Liberal Party, to be able to honour Zigmas Vaišvila. He is certainly in a very challenging and exciting role in his country and indeed in the world. I also want to acknowledge the initiative and the assistance of the member for Scarborough West, and certainly as well to acknowledge the interest of other members of my caucus. We have had a meeting with Zigmas, with the member for Hamilton Centre (Ms Oddie Munro), the member for Mississauga East (Mr Sola) and the member for Mississauga West (Mr Mahoney), as well as the Minister of the Environment, and of course there was also a meeting with the Premier.
I would also like to very much acknowledge the contribution that has been made by Canadians of Lithuanian descent. The Lithuanian-Canadian community has over the very long, dark period in Lithuanian history done everything it can here in Canada, first, to keep us reminded of the importance of the issues and the state of affairs in Lithuania, despite very difficult circumstances, and second, to directly help people in Lithuania.
Mr Speaker, I would ask that, as well, you provide a copy of these comments to your counterpart in the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet so that they have some sense of our acknowledgement of the importance of these issues and also to indicate that we are willing to help.
I have been provided with a document in English that has been translated by members of the Lithuanian-Canadian community that outlines the kinds of considerations that are being taken into account in Lithuania. Zigmas’s role, if members would consider it, is that he is in effect both a federal and provincial member of Parliament in his country, where they essentially have had no democratic rules and are building democracy from the ground up. That was the way the Premier put it and I think it is very accurate.
The challenge is astounding, exciting, fraught with many difficulties and I want to encourage everybody in Ontario to be sensitive to the human condition that involves, not simply political civil rights, although that is obviously fundamental but the very questions of nationality and the environment.
The amazing thing I found in this document outlining the activities of the common front movement, Sajudis, over in Lithuania is the impact of environmental considerations. In addition to being an active member now politically, Zigmas is the president of the board for the first Lithuanian green party. He is a founder of the ecological movement in Lithuania, all of which has come out into the open in only the last two or three years.
There are so many things they are in need of assistance on, and surely in the area of the environment, as well as the area of human rights, it is important that we have a sense of community in this world. The environmental problems that they have and we have are frequently similar. With the advances we have been able to make, I believe it is very important we try to share our knowledge, our technology, our experiences and to some extent the mistakes we have made, and to relate the benefits of our experience as freely as possible to all the people of Lithuania.
Fundamental to that, in the exercise of protecting their environment physically and culturally, is the independence of Lithuania and I, for one, cannot wait for the next set of elections to take place. The Ziodus movement will undoubtedly sweep to a victory and they are going to continue on that very exciting role of building a democracy and literally freeing people in so many ways.
I would like to reiterate on behalf of the members of the Liberal Party, and I think I can safely say on behalf of everybody in Ontario, that we are delighted Zigmas is here. We are encouraged by the activities. We want to help. We look forward to a very active partnership with a free people in Lithuania at the earliest opportunity.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS / AGENTS DES SERVICES CORRECTIONNELS
Hon Mr Patten: I am extremely pleased today to be able to report to this House that an agreement has been reached between the Ministry of Correctional Services and the correctional services officers represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
As members are aware, a number of Ontario’s correctional officers throughout the province have been involved in job action over the past four days. The agreement reached early this morning after a lengthy discussion with union leaders will see a return of correctional officers to their normal duties by no later than midnight tonight.
Comme fondement de l’entente, le ministère des Services correctionnels a accepté de prévoir des rencontres visant à examiner un certain nombre de questions qui préoccupent ses agents.
Mon ministère va étudier les questions de capacité et d’effectifs ; le ministère du Travail va se pencher sur les aspects maladie et sécurité du travail ; et le Secrétariat des ressources humaines va revoir les questions liées aux pensions et aux rentes de retraite.
In addition to returning institutions to normal operating conditions, the union executive has also agreed not to appeal the injunction against illegal strike action, which was granted to the ministry on Tuesday 24 October. Those officers who were suspended as a result of job action, or who called in sick and do not have a doctor’s certificate, will not be paid for time off from the job.
Je voudrais également souligner le rôle joué par les cadres supérieurs et par les agents des services correctionnels, qui ont travaillé pendant l’action syndicale afin d’assurer que les établissements demeurent sûrs.
I am confident that this agreement will provide us all with a basis to work together to address the challenging issues that face the ministry and face all of us in the near and long-term future.
Hon Mr Phillips: The government of Ontario is considering amendments to our workplace law on unpaid family leave. I would like to inform the members that the Ministry of Labour will begin consultations immediately on proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act that will help working people to balance their work and family responsibilities.
The federal government plans to change the Unemployment Insurance Act. Among the changes that it is planning is a proposal to introduce a new parental benefit policy, including increasing the maximum benefit entitlement for natural mothers from 15 weeks to 30 weeks.
The province is considering ways it can harmonize its job protection for workers with those proposed changes that we will see to the unemployment insurance benefits. The time frame for our review of these pregnancy and parental leaves is by necessity a short one, given that the changes to UI benefits will likely take effect 1 January 1990.
We have produced a discussion paper called New Directions for Workers with Family Responsibilities. The paper will be circulated to generate discussion and comment. The discussion paper proposes an unpaid family leave that would have two areas of focus. One would address the needs of parents at a time that a child is born or adopted. The second focuses on employees’ broader family needs.
I would like to take just a minute to explain why these issues are of relevance to all Ontarians. I think we all know that the nature of the workplace has changed. Women now in this province make up 45 per cent of the workforce and increasingly, women who have children are returning now to the workforce. Seventy per cent of Ontario’s families now have no stay-at-home parent. We also know that this generation of workers faces pressures with regard to the care of ageing parents and other dependants.
While these demographic figures are very established, we are only now realizing what they mean in terms of day-to-day lives of families, communities and our colleagues at work. Work life and family life are no longer separate. One family member is not exclusively assigned to one role. Rather, there is clearly an integration of roles in which work and family responsibilities are blended.
This clearly requires a different perspective by employees, employers and government. Employers are finding that there is a relationship between the increasing pressures of family life and employee absenteeism caused by stress. Firms are also clearly realizing that by introducing supportive measures, they are more likely to attract and to retain skilled workers.
This government believes that these sorts of contemporary actions are fundamentally important to the working people of this province. Before any legislative action is taken, we will conduct broad consultation on the measures, including meeting with groups from labour, from business as well as organizations that represent the interest of women and families. Copies of our discussion paper are available for the consideration of all the members.
CRIME PREVENTION WEEK
Hon Mr Offer: It is with great pleasure that I rise today to announce the commencement of Crime Prevention Week in Ontario. This year, Crime Prevention Week will begin on 29 October and run until 4 November.
This is the sixth year we have recognized Crime Prevention Week, and I wish to emphasize the importance which the government places on these activities.
During this week, officials from my ministry will be holding special seminars to emphasize the importance of crime prevention in our communities, and presenting awards to citizens who have made outstanding contributions to crime prevention in towns and cities right across the province.
The theme for Crime Prevention Week this year is “You Don’t Need a Uniform to Join Our Team.” I believe that you will see from the following examples that one truly does not need a uniform to make a significant contribution to crime prevention in our province.
The contributions that our citizens make to the crime prevention team take many forms. One example is the Wanup-Red Deer Lake area neighbourhood watch committee. The neighbourhood watch program in this region encompasses 300 residents living in scattered settlements along 60 miles of secondary roads. Criminal occurrences have been reduced by 70 per cent since the program began. In this case, the simple fact that neighbours look out for each other has made the community more safe and secure.
A similar award will be given to the Ottawa Regional Co-ordinating Committee on Wife Assault, which has helped increase public awareness of domestic violence issues, and which has provided comfort and support to the victims of this unacceptable crime.
These examples are only two of many across our province. The people who make up these organizations are the heroes who contribute in a very substantial way to the quality of life in their communities. They will be recognized at awards presentations right across our province.
During the course of this week, I, as well as officials from my ministry, will attend crime prevention seminars across the province. At these seminars, we will be discussing community policing programs such as neighbourhood watch programs and community participation in crime prevention. In addition, discussions will also focus on the issues of child abuse, drinking and driving, education programs in public and secondary schools, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.
I want to emphasize that these are all continuing programs. We recognize their importance in a formal way only once a year, but their benefits and their effects continue all year long. These programs are part of the reason that our cities and our towns are widely known as safe and secure places to live.
While we recognize only a few, they stand for the many thousands who volunteer their time and their efforts to make our cities safer and our communities more friendly, more welcoming and more secure. We welcome these people to our crime prevention team.
During Crime Prevention Week, my ministry will honour these people; but in truth, they honour us.
Mr B. Rae: It is my understanding that negotiations were held last night that did not include the Minister of Correctional Services (Mr Patten) but that included several deputy ministers. It is also my understanding that the union has agreed to the return to work under the conditions that no one will be paid for days missed but that there will be no further punitive action taken against any employee, and that guards who do in fact have a doctor’s certificate for days booked off sick will be paid for that time.
It is my further understanding, and we may need to ask the minister some questions about this, that the minister’s deputy and other deputies involved, including the Premier’s deputy, reached some understandings with the union with respect to the government’s commitments. I take it, when the minister says, for example, that, “Capacity and staffing issues are going to be addressed by my ministry,” the logic of that is that there is a commitment to new staff positions where it can be shown that new staff and resources are required, that he cannot address the problem without adding new staff.
It is also my understanding that the question of early retirement, in particular, which is not mentioned by the minister, was discussed in principle with Miss Todres and that Miss Todres agreed that would be the subject of the discussions in early November and that in fact, in principle, the government has accepted the notion that the needs of prison guards, who are under particular stress and whose jobs are particularly stressful, their needs with respect to early retirement will be recognized.
We have been critical of this minister for failing to meet. I continue to believe that if the minister had shown a personal willingness to meet with representatives of the union several days ago this matter could have been resolved, that the issues that led to this confrontation were not a secret to this government -- they are well known and well documented -- and that to this time, the minister himself has not even personally met with representatives of the union with regard to these issues, which I find a rather strange decision on his part, and I find it strange that he would be so out of touch with what in fact is going on within the prison system.
If in fact it is the case that the government has agreed to additional resources, has agreed to address the health and safety problem and has agreed to deal with the early retirement issue, I say that is a recognition on the part of this government that the concerns which led to the job action were based in fact, were justified and warranted a constructive response from the government. I think that is a significant statement and, as I say, this four-day crisis could well have been averted if the government had taken those steps earlier on.
Mr R. F. Johnston: In response to the statement by the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) about maternity and parental leave, I just want to say that I think the minister would be a little embarrassed to make this kind of announcement today for two reasons. He is announcing a proposal, a discussion paper, on one little portion of what is needed in employment standards, when the man sitting next to him, the past Minister of Labour, the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara), promised us last year a total overhaul of the employment standards legislation.
When I took him up on the fact that one of the things he did not seem to be considering at all was this question of maternity and parental leave, all of a sudden what we are getting, instead of the total overhaul, is a discussion paper on that particular matter itself. Not only are we getting that discussion paper only, we are getting that a week after the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues comes forward with precise recommendations, many of which are paralleled here and some of which go further, which should be used as the basis now for that incorporation within the overall Employment Standards Act.
So I would say the minister should be embarrassed. This is a time when he should be saying: “I concur with those recommendations. This will become part of the employment standards review and we will get that legislation” -- not a discussion paper, but the legislation -- “before this House at the earliest opportunity.”
Mr Cureatz: In as restrained a manner as I can, I would like to thank the minister for the statement with regard to the correctional services situation. I want to say to him, however, as indeed the leader of the official opposition has already indicated, it is obvious that over the last six months to a year, if not longer, these problems have been brewing in our correctional facilities.
If we look back to the last session, I had the opportunity of visiting, as an example, the Toronto Jail. I followed that with questions to the then Minister of Correctional Services, the member for Timiskaming (Mr Ramsay), and those questions were based right on the statement the minister has made in terms of negotiations for capacity, staffing, health and safety.
It grieves me to no end to think it took this kind of job action by the correctional staff to come forward finally with a negotiated settlement. I want to say to the minister that the feeling I had when I visited the Don Jail and spoke with the employees was one of sincerity on their part. They felt they had no one at the upper echelons of the correctional ministry listening to them, and do you know what? They still have that feeling with the minister.
He has a long road to go yet in terms of building a bridge so that the correctional staff feels confident that he is indeed, first, going to negotiate it in a fair-handed manner and, second, be able to convince his cabinet colleagues so he will be able to get the resources that are required to alleviate the concerns they have and that are going to be centred on over the next few weeks during the discussion period.
Mr B. Rae: I want to try to ask some questions of the Minister of Correctional Services about the statement he made today. First of all, can the minister tell us: Did he at any time meet with the representatives of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union with regard to this settlement.
Hon Mr Patten: No, I did not personally meet with them. However, my deputy minister indeed did.
Mr B. Rae: Can I take it, then, from the statement -- I am afraid that if the statement is ambiguous we are going to end up with more problems than we need, and I hope we can clear up any ambiguity if there is some.
When the statement says, “Capacity and staffing issues are going to be addressed by my ministry,” can I take it from that that the minister is admitting that overcrowding is a problem, that understaffing is a problem and that the ministry is prepared to commit resources to deal both with questions of capacity and with questions of understaffing? Is the minister prepared to deal both with capital expenditures on capacity as well as with the staffing problem, which is very real?
Hon Mr Patten: I can appreciate what the honourable Leader of the Opposition is trying to push towards. He must appreciate that we have plans and we have things that were already in the hopper to address some of these issues, prior to this particular set of circumstances occurring in the last week. I will tell him that he has a copy of the letter that was jointly signed early this morning. It is a letter that identifies concerns and says that there will be meaningful discussions and explorations addressing those.
I cannot preclude the specificity of the results of that, but obviously he can anticipate what may be concerns on both parties. The commitment here is to get on with it, to spend time together, to explore what is meaningful and important and see how we can resolve the issue.
Mr B. Rae: I can appreciate that the minister “cannot preclude the specificity of the results of that,” if I can quote back to him exactly what he said, because I have no idea what that means. I literally have no conception of what that means.
As I do not understand that statement, perhaps I can ask the minister this. My understanding is that there were some very specific discussions with respect to the question of early retirement. The phrase “early retirement” is not contained in the statement as made by the minister today. Can the minister tell us whether it is now the policy of his ministry that it is prepared to recognize that prison guards can get burned out early, that they face a particularly stressful job and that their request to be able to retire early is going to be recognized by this government, or at least that this is what the ministry is going to recommend to Management Board and to the Human Resources Secretariat?
Hon Mr Patten: The letter states fairly clearly that what was committed to was the arrangement of a meeting to look at specific areas, pensions and associated retirement concerns. It lists the date, it lists the hour. This was after discussion with the parties involved. They acknowledged that this was good progress and agreed to meet. I cannot speak on behalf of the Human Resources Secretariat or Management Board, as the honourable member knows. However, if he has some kind of optimism within him, then he would acknowledge that we have agreed to meet and will get on with the job.
Mr B. Rae: I would not be the leader of the New Democratic Party if I was not full of optimism all the time -- hope, optimism, faith, call it what you will.
Mrs Grier: Even some charity.
Mr B. Rae: Charity, all those qualities.
The Speaker: I have been hoping for a new question. The question is to which minister?
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN OF CANADA
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services, who is engaged in a conversation. I will take the opportunity to ask it as he returns to his seat.
Yesterday I asked the Premier (Mr Peterson) certain questions, which I am sure the minister had a chance to look at. The Premier said he did not know any of the answers. I wonder if the minister is in a position to answer my questions about the alleged overpayment to the National Council of Jewish Women, Toronto section. How much is the overpayment, what is it for, and when was it first discovered?
Hon Mr Beer: I think I can reply to the honourable member. The figure of $200,000 was mentioned in the article in the Globe and Mail and that is the amount we are looking at. What has happened is that we do an audit of all of the grants we provide to agencies and, in the process of doing that audit, we determined that amount of money had, in our view, not been spent on exactly the things we thought it was to be spent.
We are currently sitting with the agency to review that with it, to go over questions that we have and to ensure two things: (1) that for those dollars that have been spent inappropriately, we will work out a repayment, and (2) that we want to ensure that the services that were to be provided to the disabled persons for whom those moneys were initially set out will continue to be provided.
Mr B. Rae: There is also a question, I understand, of a separate grant from the Ministry of Citizenship which is, I am told on the basis of press report, the subject of an investigation by the fraud squad. I take it this overpayment is not the subject of a police investigation, but I wonder if the minister can tell us, since he has not said that, what the payment was supposed to be for and how the overpayment came about.
Hon Mr Beer: The amount of money came up as we were doing an audit of 1986, 1987, 1988. We had provided grants for programs for the physically disabled. Essentially, I would define it as attendant care programs. During the course of the audit, it was discovered that some of those funds -- and this is what we are trying to do a reconciliation of with the agency -- were spent on certain things which were not in the grant. We want to finalize that with the agency so that we can recover those funds that were not appropriately spent.
That audit that I am referring to began in the summer. It was, again, a regular audit that we do with all of the agencies. Once we have determined that funds have not been spent in the appropriate way, we then set out some form of repayment and we will be doing that with the agency.
Mr B. Rae: There are so many questions that are raised by this. Perhaps the minister could tell us how many other agencies were found to have been overpaid in the course of this regular audit and perhaps the minister could tell us -- he says that the funds in this case were spent on certain things which they should not have been spent on -- whether he is in a position to let us know what those certain things were.
Hon Mr Beer: There are two questions there.
In terms of other agencies, I do not have any information on whether there are others that have come up in terms of this year’s audit. I can certainly find that out.
In terms of the second part of the question, until we have finished our discussions with the agency to make sure that what we came up with in fact was fairly done and that there is not a discrepancy where perhaps we have missed something, I would wait until that is concluded and would certainly be prepared to share that with the honourable member. That will be within a very short while.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Jackson: I have a question of the Premier regarding the now nine-day-old community college strike in our province. The Premier will be aware that there has been no discussion between the parties for over a week. He would also know that no date has been set for the resumption of those discussions and, in fact, the provincial mediator, Terry Mancini, was quoted in this morning’s Globe and Mail as saying he sees no point in bringing the two sides to a meeting if they do not have anything substantial to discuss.
I believe there is a resolution at the bargaining table in this matter, but I further believe that the resolution can be achieved if the parties are encouraged by the Premier and his government to return to that bargaining table this weekend.
Would the Premier please indicate to this House what his government is doing to ensure that these two parties get back to the table as quickly as possible this weekend?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the minister could tell my friend the status of those discussions.
Hon Mr Conway: I want, first of all, to say to my colleague the member for Burlington South that I would take this opportunity, in a very public forum, to strongly encourage both responsible parties to, in the interests of the students, get back to that table immediately and take the opportunity of the provincial mediator to assist them in any way.
Mr B. Rae: You sound like Bette Stephenson.
Hon Mr Conway: For the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition, who must surely understand the dynamic of the collective bargaining process, I say that if it is going to work, it must work by pressure coming to bear on the responsible parties.
I repeat, I strongly encourage, in the interests of the students, both those responsible parties to get back to that table immediately and to take advantage of the presence of the mediator to resolve this immediately in the best interests of the students involved.
Mr Jackson: I suspect, after 10 days, that is some marginal progress on the part of the government. It has moved off its position that it has known where the solution should lie, at the bargaining table. We are now getting a clearer sense of how soon that should happen. I want to ask the minister to further clarify that statement.
I have looked at the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act and, the way I look at it, I see nothing in that act which the minister would offend or which would prevent him from getting on the phone, contacting these two parties and making arrangements this weekend to have both the parties return, with the mediator, to effect discussions at that table.
What is preventing the minister from making that kind of call to both parties to express very clearly his desire to have them return to the table immediately?
Hon Mr Conway: I have to believe that both the responsible parties are in fact responsible parties and that they do share the concern of the honourable members here present about the interests of the students. Surely the member for Burlington South cannot say, on the one hand, that he supports the collective bargaining process in statute as enacted by the Davis government some years ago and, on the other hand, ask for third-party intervention by the Minister of Colleges and Universities, which intervention he would know is entirely inappropriate.
I expect that both parties are, in the interests of students, going to accept their responsibilities. It would be very inappropriate for me to relieve the responsible parties of their obligations under both the act and the process.
Mr Jackson: The minister knows very clearly that what he is saying is that he feels it would be inappropriate to make such a call. It is clear that it would not be illegal and it would not offend the spirit of the act if the minister gave meaning to what he has just said in the answer to the question, and that was that he does in fact want the parties to return. If the minister does want that -- it has been done before, and by his government -- he should get on the telephone and encourage both those parties, not by making a statement in this forum but by contacting those parties and expressing to them clearly that they should be returning to the bargaining table in the best interests of this province.
I again ask the minister what is preventing him from making a simple phone call to give life and meaning to the statement he just made?
Hon Mr Conway: I do not think a phone call is necessary. I have to believe that both parties know where this government stands. I listen to the member for Burlington South and I recall the days when his former leader, the former member for St Andrew-St Patrick, used to stand in this place waving, and sometimes offering, a portable telephone. I do not believe in that kind of antic.
I believe we must get a settlement, and the settlement that is going to be a lasting one is one that is arrived at by both parties at the table. I repeat in this very public forum, it is to that table, with the assistance of the provincial mediator, that I expect both parties to return immediately in the best interests of the students.
Mr Cureatz: I have a question of the Premier; it is somewhat altered for his consideration. We congratulate him, of course, in terms of the settlement of the correctional difficulties that have taken place for the last few days. Would he confirm to the House that in fact the Minister of Correctional Services (Mr Patten) was not directly involved with the proposed settlement, and that it was actually through the Premier’s office staff that they came up with the settlement arrangement?
Hon Mr Peterson: Thank you very much for the fine compliment given by my friend opposite. They are all too rare these days, I find, and I am sure he feels somewhat unburdened expressing that view of the government. Let me tell him it was completely because of the leadership of the Minister of Correctional Services in this matter, and all my office does --
Hon Mr Peterson: Well, since I am on my feet, it is interesting that my friends opposite, generally speaking, cannot handle good news, with the exception of my friend -- where is he from, Sean?
Hon Mr Conway: Burlington?
Hon Mr Peterson: In the back row.
Hon Mr Conway: Oh, Durham East.
Hon Mr Peterson: -- because he has a certain magnanimity of spirit that does not generally infect some of his colleagues. I say to my friend, yesterday was a crisis, and sometimes we get the impression that our friends opposite are hoping for a crisis; that they really do not want to solve the problem. I think we would all have to recognize that the minister did an outstanding job in bringing the parties back together and will effect a resolution in the fullness of time.
Mr Cureatz: I am only sorry that the Premier forgot the great riding of Durham East that I represent and I know I will not forget his position when I am in the chair from time to time, when I have the opportunity of deciding whether he should be recognized or not.
Mr Cureatz: I say that only in jest to the Premier.
The Speaker: I hope the member is saying that in preparation of a supplementary.
Mr Cureatz: I was, and I concluded by saying I was saying it only in jest in terms of that position.
I want to say to the Premier, it is my understanding that the correctional officers had approached his office directly in terms of this settlement. That being the case, could he advise the House that he will do all in his power to assure the correctional officers that the necessary resources will be made available to alleviate those concerns that have been brought up in the minister’s statement, and more particularly, capacity, health and safety, and overstaffing.
Hon Mr Peterson: I can say to my friend opposite that I do not mind his threat. I get threatened regularly, daily, in my business and that is fair enough.
But let me say in response to my friend that there has been an agreement between the minister and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union at the present time and they are going to be sitting down and going through a number of these issues. I say to my friend that the government takes these matters seriously. I am not in a position to give a commitment now about the specifics, but I can assure my honourable friend that the minister and the government will work with good faith and I am sure the same thing will come forward from OPSEU in that regard, from Mr Clancy and his associates, and I think reasonable people can solve these kinds of problems.
We understand the pressures on the system, as do they. There is no desire to denigrate anybody’s position. They understand the finite nature of the resources in government, as does everyone else, but I think people of goodwill and good spirit can find those answers and I am very confident in the leadership of the Minister of Correctional Services to work this matter out.
Mr Cureatz: In terms of the pressure that appears to be taking place with the concerns about the drug problem in our urban areas and the hiring of more police officers which, indeed, then puts greater pressure on our courts and, finally, greater pressure on our correctional facilities, as we have seen over the last few days, could the Premier indicate whether he has directed the judicial ministries to co-ordinate a plan in terms of not having to have Band-Aid solutions, which this correctional problem could very well be?
In terms of a direct plan by the judicial ministries, if we are hiring more police officers who wind up clogging our courts and clogging the correctional facilities, surely there should be an overall approach as opposed to trying to resolve the correctional problem we have had in the last few days.
Hon Mr Peterson: I think my honourable friend makes a very good point. It is only one part of, shall we say, the drug problem and there are other aspects to it as well. As the member knows, we have a minister now responsible for coordinating that.
I can tell my honourable friend that the Attorney General (Mr Scott) took great leadership on this matter some couple of years ago when he started with the Zuber commission and then others. He is now implementing court reform that we think will have an influence on this, and I can tell the member that the Solicitor General (Mr Offer) is doing the same thing.
I want to tell my friend I cannot offer perfection every day on all matters, but we will do the best we can, and the ministers are working very hard to co-ordinate the response on these matters to make sure that we have the capacity to meet whatever the future brings.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mr B. Rae: I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources. Back at the beginning of October, the minister’s staff announced that an aboriginal campsite was found on the Red Squirrel Road construction site and that it could be as old as 3,000 years. Does the minister not feel that a discovery of this kind and of this significance really does raise very basic questions about the lack of a full environmental assessment hearing on the site in question; that if there had been such a hearing and such an assessment, we would be able to discover whether there are more sites or whether this is just the only one?
Hon Mrs McLeod: As the honourable member is well aware, there were many months of very intensive investigation and consideration of the intent to construct the Red Squirrel Road prior to the decision being made to go ahead with the construction. Having said that, I think what the honourable member has indicated in terms of more recent findings of important archaeological sites is an indicator that the ministry has continued to look at any issues of concern in its review of both the area involving the road and any potential harvesting area. That site was identified and steps were taken to look at the design of the road to specifically address that concern.
Mr Wildman: The minister will admit, I am sure, that the environmental assessment that was ordered for the Red Squirrel Road was very restricted and did not look at the kinds of social impacts that might have turned up this kind of information.
Now that we know there is a site there and there is an attempt to realign the road to avoid disruption of this valuable site, can the minister indicate what the government’s plans are with regard to the construction of that realignment if the court today does not deal with the request for an injunction, but that is put off to some later date?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think the honourable member recognizes the fact that the injunction hearing is before the courts today and I really think it would be inappropriate for me to either speculate on the outcome of that court decision or to consider any implications of what that outcome might be.
GOVERNMENT HIRING PRACTICES
Mr Harris: I have just found a question for the Premier about his government’s hiring practices. Today the Provincial Auditor released his report on the Dino Chiesa affair. The auditor expresses concern about the hiring process, stating, “It fell considerably short in demonstrating fair and equitable treatment of all considered candidates.”
This government is hiring more and more staff and consultants every day, some say at record levels. I would like to ask the Premier if he has reviewed the findings from the auditor and if he has any intention of changing his government’s hiring practices to end the unfairness that was cited by the auditor. If he is, what changes is he contemplating to end the unfairness that the auditor cited in his report?
Hon Mr Peterson: The minister has reviewed this matter, and I think he can share his views with the honourable member.
Hon Mr Sweeney: My understanding of the request that the Provincial Auditor review this situation was based on two questions. The first one was whether or not undue influence had been brought to bear by four different people who were mentioned. The second: was the interviewing process a fair and reasonable one?
The honourable member will be well aware of the fact that the auditor’s report clearly indicated there was no evidence of undue pressure brought to bear and, as I say, the four individuals who were questioned in the first place were all identified in the auditor’s report. So that one was settled.
There was still a difference of opinion between staff of my ministry and the auditor as to whether or not the interview process was done properly. That difference of opinion continued even this morning during the hearings.
Gardner Church, who was responsible to me for the greater Toronto area, was one of the people who was interviewed this morning. He clearly indicated, in the presence of the auditor, that the process was fair, that five people were interviewed, that four of the five indicated there were parts of the offering which they simply could not accede to and that Mr Chiesa was in fact the only one of the five who was willing to accede to all of the conditions and therefore was the one who went forward and got the job.
Mr Harris: Mr Speaker, I would like to remind both the minister and the Premier, through you, that the question really did not deal with the whole matter he has just answered. I wanted to know about what we are going to do in the future. I wanted to know whether the Premier is concerned when the auditor makes a statement that the process “did not treat all selected candidates fairly,” not about the individual case. We have the forum in the standing committee on public accounts, and we are looking at the individual case that is there. I am concerned about --
The Speaker: I would remind the member that the Minister of Housing was answering the question. You might pose your supplementary to the minister.
Mr Harris: Since you suggest that I will have to go to the minister, I will do that and see if he might like to refer back to the Premier.
Given the auditor’s statement that in this case the process “did not treat all selected candidates fairly” and the fact that the auditor had identified a serious problem, I would like to know if the Premier is prepared to recognize that the minister’s inaction in this case, and the Premier’s inaction dealing with all of the ministries and in fact with government hiring, is not a healthy signal that is being sent out to the public, and to recognize that action is required to correct this problem for the future.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I thought that in my original answer I had spoken to the member’s concern that the allegations that were brought up have not been substantiated, very simply. That was the reason for the original hearing; they are simply not substantiated.
The second point is that the auditor has indicated in his report -- maybe the honourable member has a copy in front of him; I do not, but I recall the words of the auditor being something to this effect: “While I believe that such was the case, in fact there is not proof for that.”
There is a clear and strong difference of opinion between the auditor and the members of my staff who were responsible for interviewing and finally hiring Mr Chiesa. That difference of opinion clearly indicates that the five people were all asked in the initial interview process whether or not they were prepared to accede to certain conditions. Four of them either said they could not or would not. It was as simple as that.
As a matter of fact, it is my understanding that two of those four would have been quite acceptable for the position had they been prepared to accede to all of the conditions that were laid down. The conditions were fair and open to everyone --
The Speaker: Thank you. Perhaps you could respond in writing.
Ms Oddie Munro: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. The recent cutbacks in Via Rail services announced by the federal government will impact on transportation programs and services in all provinces and particularly so, I believe, in Ontario. One of the ongoing transportation projects of importance to Hamiltonians is GO Transit. Will the minister indicate to what extent the decision on Via Rail will affect Hamilton’s plans to bring GO Transit in on schedule?
Hon Mr Wrye: Again, we have had an opportunity to meet with a number of the mayors of the affected communities, and some of the cuts which are taking place down in the Niagara Peninsula, while they are not a complete wiping out of services, certainly are very deep indeed.
As the honourable member knows, GO Transit currently operates three trains each way per day, and GO bus services continue all day. There are considerable plans under way and a lot of work under way to implement improved service to Hamilton by GO.
A detailed environmental assessment involving the ministry, GO and the municipalities involved and indeed a public consultation process has been undertaken. Because of that process, though, I cannot give the member an exact date, other than to say that we are moving these matters forward just as quickly as possible because of the volumes generally and particularly because of the Via cutbacks.
Ms Oddie Munro: The region and the city of Hamilton feel, however, that they have in place the infrastructure, the community input and the necessary compliances, such as the required environmental assessment, and that they can realistically look at the extension of GO Transit into Hamilton in 1992, somewhat ahead of schedule.
I guess what I am concerned about is that there will be a delay as a direct result of Via’s obvious burden on Ontario’s transportation services. I wonder if the minister would be willing to look at anticipated dates of the following nature: the starting and completion dates of construction and ancillary services and, finally, joy of all joys, the startup of expanded train service in and out of Hamilton.
Hon Mr Wrye: I can say to the honourable member that I believe our timetable, which calls for implementation in 1992 of all-day service extending as far as Burlington, is on track as of now. But we do not have, because of the environmental assessment work, firm dates for Hamilton.
Clearly, any time one gets into this kind of process involving not just the purchase of rolling stock, but often the laying of track, building of stations and that kind of very extensive work, and indeed a process which involves EAs, the timetable is quite elongated, perhaps more so than the honourable member and her constituents would want. But I want to give assurances to her and the people in Hamilton that we will move forward just as quickly as those processes will allow us to bring full GO Transit service into the Hamilton-Wentworth region.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. On 6 October 1989 the minister spoke to the annual meeting of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. Delegates to that convention were rather surprised to hear the minister state, and I quote, “The government can’t afford to build any more rental homes.” The minister went on to suggest that the new philosophy of the Liberal government was going to be to emphasize home ownership and de-emphasize the nonprofit housing sector.
In view of the fact that the waiting list for assisted housing in this province has gone from 23,000 families requesting help when he first took office to 43,000 families at the end of August 1989, how can the minister possibly justify decreasing the efforts by this government to put nonprofit and co-op housing on stream?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The words I spoke were slightly different from what the honourable member has suggested. I indicated very clearly that the government had invested substantially in the nonprofit and co-op housing programs across the province since 1985.
The honourable member will be aware of the fact that we have co-operated with the federal government in the allocation of about 6,000 units a year. We have established three different provincial programs: Project 3000, Project 3600 and, most recently, Homes Now, which is 30,000 units.
I indicated to the people at that conference that we were most appreciative of their support in enabling that to happen in the local areas, but that it was a very expensive program and that we could not rely just on that. As a matter of fact, I invited them to participate with me, and in fact I understand that earlier in the day they had discussed the very issue of looking at other ways in which we could deal with the whole question of affordable shelter.
I indicated to them that we were looking more intensely at increasing the possibility for affordable ownership as well -- not in place of but as well. I did indicate that the present program was very costly and we could not rely just on that one.
The Speaker: Thank you. I do not think the question was for the whole speech.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The minister will be aware that groups like the Labour Council Development Foundation up in Richmond Hill have applied for 181 units under the nonprofit housing program. There are applications for 54,000 units that could fill the need for nonprofit and co-op housing across this province if the government had the will to implement it and provide housing.
Can the minister assure this Legislature and the nonprofit and co-op housing groups across this province that when the new fiscal year comes around, the commitment from this government will be at least as substantial as last year, if not more substantial, to make sure that more nonprofit and co-op housing go into the market in Ontario to meet the need?
Hon Mr Sweeney: My honourable friend is well aware of the fact that the existing Homes Now program, which is 30,000 units, is intended to be phased in over a three-year period: last year, this year and next year. My friend is also aware of the fact -- I am sure he is -- that we will continue to participate with our federal colleagues in whatever they choose to allocate to the province of Ontario for this coming year. As he well knows, their allocation has been decreasing over the last three years, from about 6,700 per year to 5,400, I think, and we are looking at probably something less than 5,000 for the coming year. If the member is asking me, are we going to be as involved next year as we are this year, the answer is yes.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. On 7 June 1989 his predecessor announced the government’s intentions to plan fundamental changes to the long-term care system for the elderly and the disabled, a plan to be expected for early 1990. I wonder if at this time the minister would perhaps update this House on the nature and the progress of the consultative process.
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member mentions, in June my predecessor did announce a long-term care initiative. Since that time, the assistant deputy ministers in both my ministry and the Ministry of Health have been heading up a task force bringing together proposals around long-term care. Over the course of the summer and the early part of September they met with a number of organizations and individuals who are involved in services dealing with the elderly and the disabled. They are currently putting together a working paper on that.
It is our intention as a government to go forward with this. There will be more consultations around specific items, and it is our hope to be able to start the program in the next fiscal year.
Mrs Cunningham: I should advise the minister, and I hope he is already aware, that Partners in Care is not happy with the consultation process. That is a group of care givers who provide support services for over 35,000 seniors in the province, and they expected to be actively involved in the productive consultations. They state that government-sponsored meetings have been strictly information exchanges with neither an organized method of inviting feedback nor parameters for discussion.
They go on. I am sure the minister knows they say, “You cannot draft appropriate legislation without creative and effective input from the people who are actually providing the services.” They are very disturbed.
I do not think the public who are involved and the agencies and the care givers feel they have been consulted properly. For the purpose of the plan that will come out of this, I hope he agrees that there should be some sense of ownership around it. Is the minister prepared to improve upon this consultation process and especially reach out to Partners in Care for some meaningful input?
Hon Mr Beer: I think it is in all of our interests to ensure that there is consultation with all of the various groups that are going to be most affected by this whole issue of long-term care. I have made a note of the particular group, and I will certainly go back and see that the concerns of such groups and individuals are going to be brought to bear on the legislation we bring forward.
If this is to work, we are going to have to ensure that this kind of process brings about something that everybody can buy into. That is the intention of the review. I know it is the intention of the people working on the task force, and both the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and myself want to make sure that happens.
Mr Tatham: My question is to the Minister of Skills Development. We are having great growth in Ontario, and we need workers to build houses and industrial-commercial endeavours. My question is regarding apprenticeships.
I have had several requests from a plumbing business in Oxford. The man, a journeyman plumber, has one apprentice. He wants to take on another apprentice, but evidently you must have three more journeymen plumbers to do that. Could the minister explain the rationale and the thinking behind this type of requirement?
Hon Mr Conway: I thank my honourable friend the member for Oxford for his interest in this very important area of skills development in the province. Yes, there are ratios that are established under the legislation; they set out very clear frameworks on which the apprenticeship training must occur.
At the present moment we have a number of advisory bodies that are looking at these and related matters. We as a government are very sensitive to the need to increase the number of both apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities across the economy in this province. The Premier (Mr Peterson) has outlined a number of specific initiatives in this regard, which the House has the opportunity to debate on other occasions.
The ratio matter to which the honourable member directs his attention is a function of the legislation. The provincial advisory groups that advise on these matters are looking at ways and means of trying to address the concern of the honourable member’s question.
Mr Tatham: Apprenticeship programs have been part of the Ontario scene for over 60 years now. What is his ministry going to do to prepare programs for the 1990s and beyond? What are we going to do to get on with it?
Mr D. S. Cooke: Talk, talk, talk. That’s all it is.
Hon Mr Conway: The member for Windsor-Riverside says, “Talk, talk, talk.” Quite to the contrary, this government has recognized that action is required, and we have established a variety of new programs to encourage, for example, more women in the skilled trades including apprenticeships.
This fall, we as a government are developing and implementing apprenticeship programs in the high schools, which I think is an absolutely critical and positive step. We as a government are looking at ways and means of increasing the number of apprenticeships programs where the government plays a lead role as an employer.
We have a number of these and other initiatives. I am delighted to see, for example, that Local 27 of the carpenters’ union has just recently implemented a unique program to train 20 female apprentices.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I never thought you would go to briefing notes.
Hon Mr Conway: Well, I just want to say that some very exciting things are happening.
Yes, more needs to be done, and we as a government are going to look, not just to government but labour, business and others in the community, to assist in meeting this very important demand within the economy.
Mr Philip: I have a question for the Minister of Citizenship. Section 27 of the Ontario Human Rights Code requires the government to designate at least three members of the Ontario Human Rights Commission to constitute a race relations division of the commission and to select a commissioner of race relations.
I wonder if the minister can name the three members of the human rights commission who have been chosen, as required, by this act, or even if he can name the present commissioner of race relations, as required under section 27 of this act.
Hon Mr Wong: As the honourable member probably knows, recently the race relations division of the OHRC was transferred to the Ministry of Citizenship, where it could exercise a more useful, effective and powerful influence. Nevertheless, I understand what the honourable member is saying about section 27 and this is one of the matters I will be discussing with the new chief commissioner when I meet with her in the very near future.
Mr Philip: What the minister is saying is that he has transferred a matter that is set out by statute, without any kind of authority of the House, into a public service position. I ask the minister, how can he justify violating section 27 of his act without coming to the Legislature for permission to do so?
Hon Mr Wong: I do not think it is fair to say I have, or that we have, violated the spirit of the act. Let me say that the most important thing here is that we have strong protection of human rights in this province. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has that responsibility and, as I just explained, the division, the race relations directorate, which is now within the ministry, can be more effective under this structure.
Mr Villeneuve: In the absence of the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay) I will put this question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. A month ago the minister stated that the issue about agricultural land is: “It is not, is the land going to be developed or not? It is a matter of when is it going to be developed.” Is the minister aware of the draft Ontario food land preservation policy statement and what a statement like that from the Minister of Housing might mean to that draft policy?
Hon Mr Sweeney: My honourable friend is perhaps aware of the fact there is a new cabinet committee on housing and community development and that the Minister of Agriculture and Food, along with the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley), the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye), the Minister of Natural Resources (Mrs McLeod) and myself all jointly participate in the very kinds of decisions the member is talking about.
There is nothing at all to suggest that we are not aware of and continuing to be in support of the need for agricultural land and the agricultural guidelines of this province. What we are clearly saying, though, is that there is a need to review and to clearly identify what it is we want to protect, where and how we are going to do it.
In the area north of York region, we are looking at a number of municipalities that are concerned about farm land being gobbled up and we are helping them to restructure themselves municipally so, in fact, that will not happen.
Mr Villeneuve: While we have, in areas away from Metropolitan Toronto, many areas of marginal farm land just begging to be developed, begging to have the green light from many of the officials in different ministries, would the minister not consider that these areas should be developed, prior to going at some of our very good farm land in the immediate greater Toronto area?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would certainly agree, if there is land available in reasonable proximity, and if there are reasonable services available close to that land that is of a fourth or fifth quality, then by all means, that is what should be selected. But the honourable member will be well aware of the fact that other factors have to be considered. What are the transportation patterns? What is the opportunity for sewage and water? What is the opportunity for social services like schools, hospitals and things of that nature? All of those have to be factored in as well.
Even when we talked to members of the agricultural community, they are the first to realize that it is not just the land but a whole series of other things, but where we have the choice to do both at the same time, obviously we are going to recommend that land of lesser quality be used first.
PASSENGER RAIL SERVICES
Mrs Stoner: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. The recent announcements by Mr Bouchard, our federal Minister of Transport, that he intends to cut the Via Rail train lines to the Peterborough-Havelock area on 15 January has caused a great deal of concern and consternation in my community. A lot of people use that line and commute on it on a daily basis. In advance of that announcement and since that announcement, there has been a great deal of press speculation about just exactly what involvement the province of Ontario is going to have with respect to this announcement on the Havelock-Peterborough line. Can the minister bring us up to date on that situation?
Hon Mr Wrye: I can understand the concern that the honourable member has, and I think that is generally shared in parts of eastern Ontario by members, perhaps from all parties, because there has been particularly, and really only in that area around the affected corridors, the kind of discussion that perhaps the province would be stepping in and that perhaps there were negotiations under way.
As recently as last Thursday in the press in Durham and in the Peterborough area, there were reports that there were secret negotiations under way to take over the Havelock line. Those reports came from Ottawa, and some of the discussions came from the local members and quoted those members as saying these negotiations were under way. I want to say categorically to the honourable members of all parties from that area that there are no negotiations now under way, there were none and none are planned.
We have indicated to the office of the Minister of Transport our concern over the fact that such reports would continue to go forward. There are no negotiations. This is a federal responsibility, and I hope the people in that area of Ontario will be successful in persuading Mr Bouchard to reverse his decision.
Mrs Stoner: I appreciate the clarity of the minister’s statement, and I am sure my constituents do as well. The other question I have for the minister as a supplementary is that I understand he met with the mayors of the affected municipalities last week. Could he share with the House the discussion he had with mayors?
Hon Mr Wrye: We met again with another group of mayors of affected municipalities, so we have now had two meetings, and I think very positive discussions. We have offered to those mayors our expert advice and we have offered money as they put together briefs to go forward to the federal committee and to the federal Minister of Transport. We have asked them for their advice as to where we can help. It is currently my plan to get in touch with Mr Bouchard in the not-too-distant future and arrange a follow-up meeting. I felt there was a period of time needed after the discussions which we had with him prior to his announcement, to let some of this begin to take hold.
I can say that the mood of the mayors, who have been meeting over the last week or so, is hardening into a position of working very hard and working very co-operatively together. We are quite willing to help to attempt to reverse this decision. There is, I think, much greater vision among the municipalities that I have been involved with in the last couple of weeks as to what we need for a balanced transportation system than there has been in Ottawa for a very long time. I hope the very sensible position that the mayors have placed before me will convince Ottawa to reverse its stand.
Mr Allen: A question to the Minister of Community and Social Services: A spokesman for the minister has recently told the media that there is no crisis in community care for the developmentally handicapped. Has the minister not heard that in Hamilton there are 200 people on a waiting list for community living spaces in our city; that there would be 200 more on it except that the persons in charge of the list have closed it off because it would give them false hopes to put them on the list; that one of the people who was recently placed had been on that list for 11 years, and that last year there were only six new community living spaces created in Hamilton?
Does he not know that in Toronto there are 900 on waiting lists, and in the last two years only 67 new spaces were created for those people, and that there is an agency embargo in Toronto on expansion of services to those people because of the unavailability of staff? Would the minister kindly tell me, how does he define a crisis in this sector if this is not a crisis?
Hon Mr Beer: We are very aware of the situation with respect to the housing for the disabled around this issue and I think that, while we recognize that there is a great deal that we are still working on and needs to be done, it is important to recognize that over the last three years in the province we have been able to increase the number of spaces by some 25 per cent.
We recognize that even with that there are still needs in the community. Through our multi-year plan we are trying to address that, to find other dollars that we can get into particularly the highest areas of need, and certainly Metropolitan Toronto and large urban centres are among those.
I can assure the honourable member that we take this very, very seriously and are going to do as much as we possibly can in working with the various community groups to provide more housing and accommodation.
Mr Allen: It is going to take a lot of action at that end to overcome those kinds of backlogs. At the same time, what is particularly distressing about this situation is that there is a promise that his predecessor made to those who remained in institutions to create a more home-like setting in those institutions which I think is not being lived up to.
For example, in the Muskoka Centre, small cottage units are being closed and people are folded into ward situations. At the Rideau Regional Centre, two wards are being closed off at this point in time, funding withdrawn, with no placements available, with consequent expansion of numbers in the wards themselves and declining staff ratios. In fact, half of the persons in that centre do not receive regular day programs.
The minister has a crisis situation in the community and it is a deteriorating situation in the institutions. Does this not call for some --
The Speaker: That seems like a --
Hon Mr Beer: I believe we are recognizing the nature of the situation and working both with the facilities that come under the ministry in terms of Rideau, Muskoka and others, as well as trying to find the appropriate placements. The member is quite right that my predecessor noted that it was our goal to move people out of institutions and into community settings. We want to be sure that we do that when we have those community settings available and can provide the kind of support that people want.
In terms of the institutions, specifically with regard to Rideau, again there we are not going to move people willy-nilly out of that institution until we have the places, not necessarily in that immediate area but in the communities from which those people have come.
This is a multi-year program. I think we have seen that each year we have been able to move more out and that is going to continue to be our goal until we have been able to get all of those who are able to be outside of institutions into appropriate community settings.
CHAIRMAN OF ONTARIO PLACE CORP
Mr McLean: I thought it was about time the Minister of Tourism and Recreation had a question so I will make it an easy one. Who is the chairperson of Ontario Place and what is his or her salary?
Hon Mr Black: The chairman of Ontario Place is Clare Copeland and we will be addressing the question of his salary in communication with the member at some future date.
Mr McLean: Does the minister plan in the near future to appoint a full-time person to Ontario Place? If so, when does he plan on having an appointment and, in looking at the situation, as we do here, will it be a nonpolitical appointment or will it be a political appointment?
Hon Mr Black: The member for Simcoe East would be well aware of the fact that when this government makes appointments, it does so on the basis of merit, unlike some previous governments in this province. He would want me to tell him that any appointments that are made within my ministry or within other ministries of the government will be based on merit and ensuring that there are capable people providing leadership.
Mr Wildman: I have a question for the Ministry of Energy. Could the Minister of Energy indicate when this government intends to institute a program to encourage the use of ethanol fuel as an octane agent in order to lower emissions of unburned hydrocarbons, nitrogen, oxides and carbon monoxide in vehicles in this province, as a way of lowering ground-level ozone and smog? When does she intend to make the announcement and how much funding is she going to put into the program?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would be delighted to respond to the honourable member’s question in a somewhat more general way since I cannot give him an indication of when there would be such a specific announcement or program funding in place. We certainly do have a very active program of looking at alternative fuels and encouraging their use.
I can also tell him that is an ongoing program which involves considerable research and also work with the private and public transportation sectors. I can also tell the honourable member that we are extremely concerned about the whole issue of emissions from energy fuels and what we can do to ensure that we reduce those emissions to as great an extent as possible. He will know that we most recently had a conference of energy ministers of Canada at which we looked at CO2 emissions, which are of very real concern.
We have subsequently in Ontario held a meeting of stakeholders who are involved in energy use to look at how we can, in fact, bring about a reduction of emissions.
Mr Adams: I have a petition from citizens of the Peterborough area concerning Bill 8. It addresses the way in which the bill was enacted and implemented and it implies that the bill makes the province officially bilingual. I present this petition because it is properly addressed and because I believe that my constituents have the right to petition the Parliament of Ontario. However, I sign this petition only because I am required to do so under the standing orders. I do not agree with the intent of the petition and I find its wording misleading.
Mr Wildman: I have a petition which I can agree with. It is in the old form but, again, it was circulated in good faith and it is important. It is signed by 50 seasonal and permanent residents of Havilland Bay, north of Sault Ste Marie. They are petitioning the Ontario government to allocate the necessary funds to allow for extension of the present hours of operation of the Havilland waste disposal site during the summer season to include Sunday to accommodate both cottagers and permanent residents.
Mr Epp: I have a petition signed by 20 people, four of whom do not live in my riding, and it is in regard to Bill 8 and it asks that English be the only official language of this province and it has some other features with which I do not agree either. So I would be glad to submit this particular petition, but as one of the former members indicated, I do not agree with the intent or the wording of this petition either.
The Speaker: But the member has signed it?
Mr Epp: Yes.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
EMPLOYER HEALTH TAX ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 47, An Act to impose a Tax on Employers for the purpose of providing for Health Care and to revise the requirements respecting the payment of Premiums under the Health Insurance Act.
The Speaker: I believe the member for Cochrane South adjourned the debate. The member may wish to continue now.
Mr Pope: I believe when we left off yesterday we were in the midst of a full-blown riot that the Speaker was joyfully allowing to continue and build up steam, but I thought I would, by way of windup, just deal with a few of the more important issues that we think should be taken into consideration by the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini), and more importantly by the government as a whole, with respect to policy as it is reflected in this bill.
Of course, Ontario is not the only province that is implementing or is about to implement a health care payroll tax. We are aware that Manitoba and Quebec use a payroll tax to partially fund their health care services. The last two Manitoba budgets have, however -- I think this is interesting to note -- gone a long way towards dismantling the payroll tax system imposed in the province in 1982, so they are going the other way. I say that because in 1989 the Manitoba budget doubled the payroll tax exemption level. I am not talking about the lower rate, but it doubled the tax exemption level from $300,000 to $600,000 and it reduced the tax rate on payrolls between $600,000 and $1.2 million. We had an increase in the exemption level and we had a reduction in the payroll tax level in the last 1989 Manitoba budget.
As a result of the 1989 Manitoba budget measures -- I think these numbers should be put on the record as well -- of the 43,000 employers in the province on the payroll tax rolls, only 2,500 will be paying tax under the new system introduced by the Manitoba government in its past budget. Of those, 880 will pay tax at a lower rate and in general the rate will drop from the prebudget level of 2.25 per cent to 1.12 percent or 1.8 per cent, depending on the value of the payroll.
Only 1,620 or 3.8 per cent of all Manitoba employers will continue to pay the full rate of 2.25 per cent. A firm with an annual payroll of $600,000 -- that generally is 20 employees or under -- will save $13,500 in taxes as a result of the doubling of the exemption. The province will lose -- this has to be a consideration put on the record -- $3.8 million in the current fiscal year and an estimated $23.6 million in the full fiscal year.
We are of course aware that Quebec introduced a business surtax in May 1986 to offset the reduction in federal transfers for health and post-secondary education services. As part of the surtax program, Quebec imposes a tax on wages paid by employers which it treats as employer contributions to the health services fund. The Quebec tax is set at a flat rate, has no exemptions and is applied to corporations, co-operatives, unincorporated businesses and the broadly defined public sector at all levels.
The 1989 Quebec budget increased the tax rate from 3.22 per cent to 3.36 per cent, applied to all wages paid or deemed paid after the day of the budget speech. This increase in Quebec would raise an additional $107 million for the government in a full fiscal year. In spite of the 3.36 per cent Quebec payroll tax, however, the business tax gap between Quebec and Ontario as a result of budget measures over the past year has shrunk from 9.6 percent in 1985 to 1.8 percent in 1989. The reason I bring that to the attention of the minister and the government is because, as I referred to yesterday, Quebec is now parading its tax competitiveness vis-à-vis Ontario publicly and openly in order to attract investment dollars, industry and jobs to that province.
There is no doubt that the most controversial feature of this piece of legislation is its impact on small business. I dealt with it a bit yesterday, but I have some numbers I would like to share with the minister and his officials today.
But first, in terms of the way this has been handled vis-à-vis the small business sector, we have to voice our opposition to the way this has proceeded. In 1985 -- in fact, it was on 2 April 1985 -- the member for London Centre (Mr Peterson), in his capacity as leader of his party, indicated a small business policy that he would implement were he elected. For instance, in 1985 we had a promise to establish a $100 million employment tax credit plan for small businesses that would reimburse companies for a significant portion of the salary costs of a new worker. My recollection is that the program would have covered 25 per cent of the cost of hiring a new employee.
This employment tax credit program was never implemented. In fact, the employer health tax program will actually increase the cost of hiring new employees. So instead of providing small business with a $100-million tax break, this current administration will actually increase the payroll tax burden on small firms by about $170 million annually.
It was also part of that statement dated 2 April 1985 -- I have the statement itself here -- that there was a commitment by the then Liberal leader and now Premier (Mr Peterson) of the province to require public disclosure of a small business impact statement with any regulatory or tax changes. That was a commitment made in 1985.
We have attempted to ascertain through Treasury, through officials with the Ministry of Revenue and through officials with the small business advocacy section of the small business division at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology whether or not this impact statement exists. We have been told by all sources that in fact no financial impact analysis was done of the impact on small business, or of the impact generally of these tax measures.
Therefore, we believe the process that has been entered into by this administration with respect to this payroll tax is contrary to the commitments that were made by the Liberal Party of Ontario in 1985, and contrary, we believe, to sound policy development in the evolution of tax programs and economic policies in Ontario.
We believe that as a matter of course, and certainly when we were the government we did this, any new policy initiative, any new statutory initiative, when it is presented to the Policies and Priorities Board of Cabinet and when it is presented to the cabinet generally, should be accompanied by an economic impact statement.
That economic impact statement should take the proposal and analyse its impact, not only on government expenditures but also on the private sector. Clearly this was not done in this case and it should have been done in, of all matters, this payroll tax, a scheme that has been presented by the government of Ontario through the Minister of Revenue.
I say it should have been done because not only is it normal, good management of government and the issues that face government on a day-to-day basis, but also, I think, in making these decisions in the Legislature we should have the opportunity to examine these financial and economic impact statements. They should be part of the information base upon which we make an informed judgement on the value and worth of the proposals.
There is no doubt that the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology is growing ever increasingly concerned with the impact of the tax policies of its own government on small business in Ontario. In 1988, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology did an analysis. It was entitled The State of Small Business, 1988. I want to draw the attention of the minister to the table that appears in that report on page 49; it is table 3.6.
In there is an analysis of the small business payroll taxes in dollars per employee in Ontario between 1981 and 1988. We see that in 1981, the employers were paying deductions or taking payroll taxes that totalled $904 annually per employee, and that by 1988 that had grown to $1,871, an increase of 106.9 per cent in payroll taxes, in dollars per employee paid by the small business sector in this province.
Now we have, in addition to that, another payroll tax to add to that burden and clearly it will add a payroll tax burden on Ontario’s small business sector.
Just examine the impact of a 106.9 per cent increase in payroll taxes per employee paid per year, add on top of it the additional budgetary measures contained in the 1989 budget submitted by our Treasurer on behalf of the Liberal administration in Ontario, and we can begin to get a sense of the crushing impact of these additional taxes after taxes, new taxes and tax increases on the business community in Ontario.
That is why the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, small business advocates and chambers of commerce have begun a constant cry that these policies, deliberately entered into by the government of Ontario, are having a negative impact on the ability of businessmen to carry on business in Ontario, are having a negative impact on investment decision-making that we will all pay the price for down the line, and are having a crushing impact on employees who look at the net paycheque they take home and see, as many people across the province are seeing, that over half of their paycheque -- and in most instances, regardless of their position or their wages, over half of any wage increase they receive from their employer -- goes to the federal and provincial governments in direct deductions on various tax measures.
Clearly, we cannot afford to continue this slow but steady eroding of the spending power of working men and women in this province. We cannot continue this steady pace towards rendering our small business sector uncompetitive and unprepared to face the challenges it will face in the future.
The equivalence is not there. With these tax increases in the 1989 budget, we are paying more taxes than ever before in this province, even if you roll in the fact that OHIP premiums are no longer being paid. The net effect of tax measures introduced in the last budget is that we pay more. People have had it with paying more. They have had it with taking a wage increase and receiving 45 per cent of it in their pockets and the rest going to the governments. They have had it with the lack of accountability and inability of governments to answer basic questions about why this has been allowed to happen to them in their daily lives. The Treasurer certainly has not stepped forward to give those kinds of explanations we require.
The Treasurer may state, as he is wont to do on some occasions, that the tax will not be a serious impediment to the competitiveness of Ontario’s small business, in that the minimum wage rate -- the employer will pay less than five cents an hour in tax under the employer health tax system. It should be noted that a Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology survey found that of Ontario’s very small firms, those with fewer than nine employees, only 6.8 per cent had employees or some employees paid at the minimum wage rate.
I think it is important, in view of some of the comments that have been made by the members of the other opposition party when they talked about the graduated tax scale favouring small business, businesses of $200,000 or less in annual payroll, that they equated it with the minimum wage and gouging the workers of this province. In fact, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology’s own study showed that only 6.8 per cent of small businesses pay the minimum wage to their employees or some of them.
The rest of the small business sector, according to these studies, pay much more than the minimum wage and are not gougers. They are not trying to benefit by the minimum wage provisions and are not getting an undue advantage in the $200,000 cutoff in the lower tax rate in the employer health tax system. If the Minister of Revenue were on his feet, I think he would make exactly the same point in defence of the small business community.
There is no doubt, when all is said and done, that this payroll tax that is now being proposed will, by the government’s own studies, have a detrimental effect on small business. I want to quote from page 48 of The State of Small Business, 1988, published by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology:
“The burden of payroll tax affects all businesses, large and small. However, the effect upon small businesses is especially critical as it places a greater burden upon the segment of employers which creates the greatest number of new jobs each year. A policy which makes job creation more difficult increases the proportional burden of payroll taxes upon remaining jobs.”
Those are not my words. That is contained in a report produced by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology itself.
Again, in a document entitled Small Business Payroll Taxes, 1986, a report by the small business advocacy office, published by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology:
“Average payroll tax increases of 11.1 per cent over the last five years are already a serious concern to small businesses. Rising payroll taxes threaten to deter small firms from hiring and impair job creation.”
That is not my alarmist statement being made as a member of an opposition party in this assembly. That is a statement made by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology itself, a part of the government of Ontario.
From the Small Business Payroll Taxes, 1986:
“A new payroll tax would deter small firms from hiring and impair job creation. The study advises against the imposition of a wholly employer-paid payroll tax.”
In spite of these reports and these recommendations in 1986, 1987 and 1988, we have the government proceeding nevertheless with another payroll tax.
There is no doubt that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has made its thoughts well known. Mr Bulloch called the new payroll tax part of the overall mugging of the economy by governments and a “vicious attack on jobs.”
I have just tried to give some of our perspective on the impact of this tax on individual working men and women in this province who are having to meet the expenses of their daily lives with what is left of their paycheques after the governments take over half of it away. I have tried to deal with the impact on federal-provincial relations with unilateral actions being taken to siphon off dollars or to tax one level of government at the expense of the other or to the benefit of the other.
I have tried to indicate the impact on the business community generally and its impact on the competitiveness of Ontario industry vis-à-vis other jurisdictions on this continent. I have particularly tried to point the government towards the impact on small business, which its own ministries have drawn to its attention for three successive years.
There is no doubt there will be a significant impact on municipalities and many other public institutions in this province from the payroll tax requirements. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, for one, has brought this information to the attention of the Minister of Revenue, the Treasurer and the government of Ontario.
In spite of all this, in spite of all these opinions and all this information that has been made available to the Treasurer, he decided in his wisdom to proceed in any event. It will have a negative impact on our province, and most of all, it is just another additional tax that is robbing working men and women of their economic vitality, which is making it harder for them to live in comfort and in a way they have a right to expect in this great province of Ontario.
There are other tax measures that are particularly selecting the great region of Metropolitan Toronto for cruel and unusual taxes in addition to all of these taxes. We think this government is going the wrong way with $1.3 billion of tax increases for the second straight year. We believe these tax increases are unnecessary, and we do not believe it is a matter of paying down the deficit. We think this money is not being well spent, and the essentials that we have a right to expect from our government in fact are deteriorating.
So we are not happy with the priorities and economic policies of this government; and as they are reflected in this bill, we cannot support this legislation.
Mr Speaker, thank you, as always, for your deference and respect towards me.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Philip: I appreciate an opportunity to speak on this bill, because basically I think that a new government, if it is introducing taxes, should introduce taxes which are fair. A new government that says it wants to start with a new sweep with reforms surely has an onus on it, that when it introduces legislation, particularly tax legislation, it introduces legislation which is based on trying to create a fairer system and trying to create a system that actually is thought out well enough to know exactly what the impact will be.
Basically, my opposition to this bill is that it is one that has within it a basic unfairness. It means that higher-income people will pay no tax whatsoever while someone earning very little will pay substantially. So we have the situation, as my colleague the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope) pointed out yesterday, where you can have a lawyer with a very lucrative practice paying absolutely no premium or no tax whatsoever under this bill while a paralegal professional working for a legal aid clinic earning a quarter of the income will end up being taxed for this health system.
One would assume that the lawyer, doctor, dentist or the very highly paid professionals would have the same recourse to the use of the health services as do the paralegal or the person working for the minimum wage in McDonald’s, yet one will be able to escape under this bill from any kind of payment whereas the other basically ends up having it taken off at the employer level but inevitably out of his salary because there is only so much money that is available for the payroll.
The Ontario Real Estate Association correctly, I believe, pointed out in its submission on Bill 47 that, “Bill 47 will cost the employers millions of dollars over and above any OHIP premiums that they may now pay as employee benefits.” That association stated: “We do not believe this increase will be absorbed by the business community. Rather, it will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services and passed back to employees in the form of lower wage increases in the future.” That is a fairly astute criticism, and it is an admission by the business community that it is not the business community that is going to pay for this; it inevitably is going to be the employee.
If one looks at the criticisms that the federal Liberal Party is making in the House of Commons in Ottawa regarding Michael Wilson’s new tax, basically they are arguing the same thing. They are saying that in the long run it is the employee and the wage earner and, more particularly, the consumer who is going to pay. Thus, while the Liberals condemn Michael Wilson for the goods and services tax and point out the effect on the consumer, they in fact are engaged in the same kind of exercise at a provincial level.
This tax is basically unfair because it hits some industries harder than others regardless of the profitability of that industry. In the riding I represent, many of the people are employed in the hotel industry and also in the transportation industries. Both of these are labour intensive and therefore more directly affected by this tax than other more profitable industries which are less labour intensive.
This comes at a time when the transportation industries have been experiencing great turmoil. Some of that turmoil has been created by free trade. Some of it has been created by the deregulation introduced by this Liberal government and by the federal Progressive Conservative government in Ottawa. This tax is just one extra kick at an industry that is undergoing some considerable transition problems.
The hotel industry is receiving a double whammy from this government. Members will probably recall my concern when the content of Bill 46, which we will be debating later, was initially announced; at the massive expense that bill will be to the hotel industry and the number of jobs lost in that industry from Burlington on the west to the Oshawa border on the east.
The service sector has been the largest job generator in this decade. It contributes just over 60 per cent of the total Canadian economic output, but it employs 70 per cent of the workers. It is the one that is going to be heavily affected. What we have, thanks to this tax, is the unconscionable situation in which we can have a highly automated factory, a manufacturing company, right next door to a service industry; the manufacturing company could show huge profits and yet pay very little under this tax, while the service industry could actually be showing a loss and be paying very highly.
Bill 47 says that it does not matter whether you are making money. As an industry or as a small businessman, you are going to pay this tax anyway, depending on whether you have a certain number of employees. The more employees, the more jobs you are able to create, the more you are going to pay.
It would seem to me that at a time when the economists are saying -- and there is some disagreement, but a lot of the economists are saying there may be some shakedown in the market -- at a time when they are saying we are well on the verge of the heat-up stage, as a prelude to a possible recession, a regression, it does not make sense to attack the industries that stand the most chance of creating jobs. That simply does not make any sense whatsoever to me. And yet that is what that bill does. It says that if you automate, if you can lay off as many employees as you can, if you can do without people, then you are going to pay less tax than if you create jobs, because then we are going to hit you with an extra tax and with the bureaucracy and the extra costs of this extra tax.
It also says, and I think this is important as we start seeing the effects of free trade and the American influence and their less than adequate labour law situation in the United States, where employers who pay the lowest possible wages get rewarded under this tax by paying less for health services than those who pay higher wages -- one has to ask: Are the employees working for $5.50 or $6 an hour less subject to the use of the health facilities of this province than are the ones who are being paid $12, $14 or $18 an hour? If we believe many of the sociological studies, we know that the contrary is true, that the more lowly paid an employee is, the more likely he or she is to need the services of various kinds of health services, because poverty has an effect on one’s health, and indeed on one’s longevity.
I am voting against this because I have never in my 14 years in this House favoured regressive taxes. I have always believed that those who earn the most should pay the most, that corporations that earn the most should pay the most. That is the basis, I think, to most people in an enlightened, civilized society, who believe that the tax system should work. Maybe Michael Wilson does not believe that, maybe the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) does not believe that, but certainly the Liberals in opposition preached that taxes should be simple and fair.
What we have under this Liberal government is a series of taxes that is creating layer after layer of bureaucracy and complicating what should be a simple tax system, a simple process of saying:
“Let’s figure out a formula of how much money we need. Let’s figure out what percentage the people at the very top should pay, and then let’s work our way down so that he people at the bottom pay less.” That holds true of corporations; that holds true of individuals. This tax goes in exactly the opposite direction. It does not discriminate between those who are capable of paying and those who are less capable of paying. What this bill does is a replacement of revenue from the abolition of premiums, but surely if the government is going to do that, and it is an election promise, then it should replace it with a progressive tax system. It is possible to do that. Other countries do it. We even pay lipservice to doing it in Canada.
What this really does, too, is that it is one more addition to the process this Liberal government has done in several other tax schemes, namely, of transferring to the municipalities, to the voluntary organizations, to the colleges and universities, to all of those groups out there, extra taxes, and creating extra revenue for the central government. Let me give members a very concrete example of that. I asked Suzanne Hall, who is a trustee for the area I live in, with the Etobicoke board, what she would estimate that this tax would mean in Metro and in Etobicoke. She gave me the following figures. This is from trustee Hall in Etobicoke. She says the increase for Metro for the provincial payroll tax, otherwise known as the OHIP tax, was a $13.4-million increase over what we are actually paying now. In other words, what they have done is deducted whatever premiums they are paying and they have calculated what their extra costs will be as a result of this tax. For Etobicoke it will be approximately $1.4 million.
We have seen other schemes by this Liberal government that are increasing property taxes.
We have seen how they have been cutting back on transfer payments, how they have been cutting back on road payments, how the municipality is ending up paying for the security of the court system, which one had always assumed, under every government since Confederation in this province, was the responsibility of the central government. All of these end up simply being passed on to the home owner through property taxes and to the apartment dweller or the tenant through the taxes on the landlord. Even the Liberals would have to admit that the most regressive form of taxation is property taxes.
It does not discriminate against the widow who manages to have a home that she and her husband have paid for over the years and worked hard for and that may be worth, now, a couple of hundred thousand dollars, but who has very little income or very limited income; or the person who has a great deal of income. It basically penalizes in many cases the very people that this government says it is trying to assist.
I pointed out that big employers will likely pass this on through to its customers and consumers. Therefore, this tax can only be seen as inflationary.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has pointed this out in its comments on the tax. Small business may not be able to pass it through in a competitive situation as easily as large businesses that may have more of a monopoly on the market. So the small businessman will be directly impacted.
Employers who have been paying full OHIP premiums for employees get a benefit which may be completely offset by the cost of the tax. Those who did not pay employees’ premiums will simply have additional taxes added on.
The incidence on employees will be inequitable. Those who paid full premiums will have a substantial saving of $714 a year. Those whose premiums will be paid by their employer will no longer receive a taxable benefit and therefore have a reduction in taxable income.
However, if we look at what the Treasurer has done in his personal income tax increases, any gains that any employee, however few they may be, will be offset by the increase in the income tax. So the few people who think they are gaining something through this will have it given with one hand and removed with the other, but in fact the majority of people, including those least able to pay, are going to be the ones who are hit by this tax.
I think we have to see this tax grab not just as an individual tax discriminating against companies that are least able to pay, discriminating against individuals who are in lower incomes as distinct from professionals who, like the Speaker, as a lawyer can get away without paying this at all -- although of course he will pay it as long as he is a member of the Legislature -- but also you have to see this as part of the overall system of taxation which has been initiated by David Peterson’s Liberals.
Mr Speaker, you will be aware, knowing the area from which you come, that the Liberals have been concerned about what they called the treasury of the federal government’s nine per cent goods and services tax. But when it comes to raising taxes, the Premier can teach Brian Mulroney a thing or two.
Mr Pouliot: Or three.
Mr Philip: Or three, as my colleague points out.
In the first place, the Ontario Liberals added additional tax to residents and businesses in the Metropolitan Toronto and general area which other residents in Ontario will not be required to pay; we are going to be dealing with that in a few minutes, I understand, when we come to Bill 46. I think this form of economic apartheid is both offensive and unjust, and I will have a lot more to say about it when we come to that bill.
In addition to that, Ontario has proved to be a high-tax government for low- and middle-income families. Compared to just four years ago, the average family in Ontario will pay $400 more in higher sales tax. That is just in higher sales tax, which, along with property tax, is the most reactionary form of taxation you can possibly come up with. That is thanks to the Premier’s government.
What kind of tax is more unfair than that which is taken from people who are buying the necessities of life? That is what sales tax is all about. Sales tax hits low- and middle-income earners the hardest, because it is based simply on how much you have to buy, not on how much income you have.
For the Premier and the Liberals in Ottawa to attack the federal Conservatives and Michael Wilson can only be seen as sheer hypocrisy. They should look at what they are doing here in Ontario and see that they are part of the same scheme.
The Liberals have also introduced in this bill, the Employer Health Tax Act, what they claim is a way of eliminating OHIP premiums. But one has to ask, is there not a fairer way of doing that? In the prebudget statement of my colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren), we showed a number of ways that taxes could be obtained in a fairer way, a way which would be based on ability to pay, not on the way in which this tax hits everyone, particularly the middle-and lower-income people.
The new employer tax places a special levy on each person who is hired by a company. That strikes me as blatantly absurd. Why should a company that is creating jobs be punished? Here we have the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology on one side scurrying around, and I get these bulletins from the minister saying, “You will be happy to know that the government has decided to sponsor Mr So-and-so, who lives in your riding or who has a business in your riding, to attend a trade fair somewhere.”
An hon member: In Durham East.
Mr Philip: In Durham East or in Hong Kong or somewhere. They send this individual, at great expense to the taxpayer, in the hope that he is going to get more business and, in getting more business for his company, also create jobs. So while we are spending money out of one ministry to supposedly encourage businesses to create jobs, to find new contracts, the Treasurer comes along and says, “But if you create new jobs, we are going to sock it to you, and the more new jobs you create, the more we are going to sock it to you.”
If you decide, being an ambitious company, a company that shows some creativity, you are going to move into a fast-expansion stage, you are penalized. Whereas if you are a more conservative company -- I hope the members will forgive the word, it is not meant in a pejorative sense -- and wish not to take a chance, not to expand as quickly, then you do not end up with this kind of tax.
This is a reactionary tax. The government’s own figures say that the sales tax will raise more than $8.5 billion this year, an increase of more than 70 per cent from when David Peterson took office. The next time the people who may be watching this debate hear a Liberal say on TV or at a meeting that the federal government is taxing them to death or that they should have a protest and march up and down in front of Michael Wilson’s constituency office, they had better make a side trip to Queen’s Park and march up and down in front of the Liberals, because they are doing the identical thing. That is what this bill is doing. It is a reactionary bill. It hits those least able to pay. It hits small business and other businesses that show initiative and are trying to create jobs. It is a bill that does not deserve the support of this House.
Ms Bryden: I would like to comment on the additional facts the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale (Mr Philip) has brought to the House. There are so many facets to this bill that are objectionable. Members should be well aware how many of them will be producing bad economic effects on our economy and will be bringing in discriminatory legislation because the incidence of the tax has not been worked out fully, but we know that a great deal of it will be shifted.
I think his speech, along with some of the others from this side of the House, indicates there is a real need for a delay in implementing an unknown tax of this sort. The government should really go back to the drawing board and try to find alternative methods of taxation that are more progressive, so that we do not end up with a tax system that is becoming very regressive.
That does not fit in with the proposals of the Liberal Party when it came to power. They said we were going to get a progressive tax system, but taxes like this employer health tax are moving us further and further away from such a progressive tax system. I think we should be well aware of that when we are voting on this tax. We should not go jumping into a new method of taxation when we do not really know what its implications are.
Hon Mr Mancini: I would like to take about five minutes to wrap up the second reading debate here in the Legislature before we go to committee.
I want to remind all honourable members that many Ontarians will receive significant benefits with the abolition of OHIP premiums. I did not really expect any members of the opposition to bring this forward, but I happened to mention this in my opening remarks and I think it is worth repeating. It is a fact that the employer health tax will put $1 billion back into the pockets of the residents of this province. Individuals who pay directly to OHIP for their own coverage and that of their families will save $714 in the first year.
Mr Philip: It puts $1 billion back and then takes $2.1 billion out.
Hon Mr Mancini: That is not correct. You are wrong again, I say to my friend the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
People who have their OHIP premiums paid for them will realize a saving in taxable benefits equivalent to $665 in the first year. This is a saving of $550 million for people who pay direct and $450 million for people in group plans. This means very clearly, even in socialist economics, that the people of this province will have put back in their pockets $1 billion to use in whatever way they wish to. That is very clear. That is a fact. That is happening because we are eliminating OHIP premiums.
OHIP premiums are an unfair way to support the health care system and members of the opposition know that. They themselves, in many instances, have suggested that possibly OHIP premiums are not the way to support the health care system. That is why one of the first things this administration did upon its election in 1985 was to freeze premiums. We did that, and premiums have been frozen for the last four or five years.
The employer health tax, the employer health levy, will bring to the coffers of the Treasury some $2.1 billion. Had we not frozen OHIP premiums and had we done what the previous government had done on a yearly basis, we probably would be bringing into the Treasury more than $2.1 billion to support the health care system in a very unfair way. Some people paid their own, some people had their employer pay all of their premiums, some people had their employer pay part of their premiums, some people had to ask the government for financial assistance to have their premiums paid for. What a haphazard way to support the health care system.
Our elimination of OHIP premiums will put in place of the premiums a tax which is fair, which is dependable, which is easily administered. That is what my officials tell me, although the startup work is, I would say, very tremendous.
Let me say to the honourable members opposite, they want us to support the health care system which is growing anywhere from 10 to 12 per cent a year. When a $14-billion budget grows 10 to 12 per cent a year, it does not take a mathematician to know that we are in need of a solid way of financing these increases. The employer health levy will bring in less than 16 per cent of the total health expenditures.
We are facing many pressures. None of the honourable members mentioned the billions of dollars in cutbacks that we faced through actions by the government of Canada, through its unilateral decisions to diminish the established programs financing of our social systems here in Ontario and other parts of Canada.
This province has already lost billions of dollars. We expect to lose, within the next few years, at least another $3 billion in transfers. Not a single member of the opposition made note of that, not one, but they all said: “Yes, finance health care. Yes, provide more health care if you can. Yes, it’s the right of every person to have appropriate health care. But the money that you need to do this, don’t raise this money through taxation. Kind of wish that it will be found in the Treasury and then pay the bills that way.” That is basically what the opposition members have told us.
Mr Philip: That is simply not true.
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Speaker, I sat very quietly and listed to the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. I do not think I heckled him once during his speech.
Mr Philip: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am not the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Perhaps the member would get my riding name correct. If he is going to quote the opposition, would he please quote it accurately and not mislead the House in the way in which he is doing?
Mr Fleet: That is not a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am just trying to help you.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I know and I appreciate the assistance, although under the new standing orders it says members can explain, so I guess it was an explanation. In any event, I would ask the minister to be a little less controversial. Speak through the chair and get on with it.
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Speaker, I have been looking at you for the full five minutes I have been on my feet. We have been exchanging glances, and a number of other things.
The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale can feel any way he wishes to feel about the matter, but the bottom line is that the bills are coming to support one of the best health care systems in the world. The costs are increasing at a minimum of 10 or 11 per cent every year. There is not one member in the Legislature or in the opposition who will stand up and say we should spend less on health care, yet they do not want us to put health care on a sound financial footing. That is what this government is going to do.
They talked about varied ways to raise more money. They talked about possibly raising the corporation tax to fund this $2.1 billion that we are looking for. If we place this whole tax on the corporate income tax, the rate would go from 15.5 per cent to 24.5 per cent, making us probably the least competitive economy in the whole of North America.
They talked about raising income tax. If we put all of this on the income tax, Ontario’s present rate of 52 per cent would have to increase to at least 60 per cent. Maybe that is what the honourable members would rather have. If we put it on the sales tax, we would have to go to at least 10 per cent from eight per cent. Maybe that is what the honourable members would rather have.
I think what we have proposed, a fair employer health tax with half a rate for small business, is the fair way to go. It will ensure that every employer makes some contribution to the health care system, it will abolish premiums and it will put $1 billion back into the pockets of the taxpayers of the province of Ontario. That is a fair way to go.
The Acting Speaker: Mr Mancini has moved second reading of Bill 47.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
Ms Bryden: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Would the minister not indicate to us what length of public hearings are being considered, because I think it is very important that they be not just one day, but that they be adequate to allow the people who are opposed to this bill to have a chance, and they are a very diversified group. It should be at least a week.
The Acting Speaker: Speaking to the point of order, the member for Cochrane South.
Mr Pope: I wanted to ask for unanimous consent to waive the requirements of notice of section (c) of standing order 41 with respect to the events of next week, and the House leader for the government will be pleased to explain all that to the members of the House.
The Acting Speaker: Does that have to do with the first question? No.
The House leader may respond to the member. I know she is out of order, but it might help facilitate the workings of the House.
Hon Mr Ward: I will try to facilitate it, but the House leaders have had an understanding in terms of the committee referral, as far as I know. I do not think it would be particularly helpful if I agreed to her suggestion, because my understanding is that the committee intended to have it longer than the suggestion put forward, and I think that is where the matter can best be resolved.
The Acting Speaker: Since the minister and the House leader have been so kind as to clarify that for us, we appreciate it very much. The honourable member for Cochrane South had a point of order. He had indicated the House leader was going to respond to the point of order.
Mr Pope: Yes. What I wanted to do, on behalf of my party, was to seek unanimous consent of the House to waive the requirements of notice that are contained in section (c) of standing order 41, and that is to facilitate an opposition day next week.
Hon Mr Ward: Just by way of explanation -- we will of course provide consent from this party -- the notice in terms of the opposition day was not delivered in time under the rules. I just want to make it clear that we are waiving the notice provisions. It still counts as an opposition day as laid out by standing order 41. I am sure all parties will agree.
Mr Philip: We will certainly agree and we hope that in so doing we are assisting the member for Cochrane South in his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
The Acting Speaker: I would like to thank all honourable members. Under the workings of the new rules, it will take us all an opportunity of having a familiarity with them, of which I am a culprit as well.
COMMERCIAL CONCENTRATION TAX ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Mancini moved second reading of Bill 46, An Act to establish a Commercial Concentration Tax.
Hon Mr Mancini: Members will recall that Bill 46 was introduced 10 July 1989 to implement a proposal contained in the budget of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) of 18 May 1989. That proposal provides that large commercial structures and commercial parking lots and garages within the greater Toronto area be subject to a commercial concentration tax.
The greater Toronto area, as I am sure the members are aware, includes all of the municipalities in the regions of Durham, York, Halton, Peel and the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. Large commercial properties within this area receive significant benefits from the provincial expenditures on roads, the transportation systems and many other services.
To be able to maintain, update and improve this transportation network, including public transit and highways, additional revenues are required. These revenues should be obtained not from the individual taxpayer but from the corporate sector, the businesses that reap the greatest benefits from the provincial expenditures on these essential support services. The additional revenues will be used to ensure continued ready access for customers and suppliers of these businesses, specifically for improvements, expansion and accelerated construction of Highways 401, 403, 407, 410 and the Queen Elizabeth Way and an expansion of the GO Transit service to Milton, Georgetown, Richmond Hill, Stouffville and, I know you will be happy to hear, Mr Speaker, Oshawa.
As the then Minister of Transportation, the member for Scarborough East (Mr Fulton), announced in June, Ontario’s competitiveness and employment opportunities will be greatly promoted by the enhancement of the transportation system and transit programs within the greater Toronto area.
As the Treasurer had mentioned in the budget, the government’s commitment for this new transportation capital program is in the amount of $2 billion over five years. To accomplish this, to raise these revenues, owners of large commercial properties, such as shopping centres and offices, will pay a tax equal to $1 per square foot on the area of their properties that exceeds 200,000 square feet.
The types of properties that will be liable for the commercial concentration tax include stores, shopping centres, offices, restaurants, hotels and arenas. The tax is applicable only if the building is larger than 200,000 square feet and then is levied only on the area of the building that is over that basic amount.
For example, if a building -- and I see we have gone to metres here -- in a shopping centre has an area of 15,000 square metres, no commercial concentration tax would be payable. On the other hand, if a shopping centre measured 20,000 square metres, then it would be liable for the commercial concentration tax on 1,400 square metres; that is on its area in excess of the basic amount. It is very plain and simple: On the first 200,000 square feet, no taxes; on anything over that, $1 per square foot after the elimination of the first 200,000.
The commercial concentration tax will not apply to many types of properties. These properties not liable include residential properties, industrial properties, warehouses, trucking depots and research and development facilities.
In addition, other than municipally owned parking lots and garages, property that is exempt from municipal and school taxes will not be required to pay the commercial concentration tax.
The members will agree, I am sure, that this list of tax-exempt property clearly shows that there is no intent to burden any sector of the economy other than those which can be clearly demonstrated to contribute the greatest impact on the economic infrastructure of the greater Toronto area.
Beyond the direct pressure which is generated by these major commercial enterprises, the many thousands of commuters who travel into the greater Toronto area on a daily basis create a tremendous burden on the surface transportation system. The implementation of the government’s new transportation capital program demands a contribution from those who use the roads and highways. For this reason, the commercial concentration tax will also apply to parking lots and parking garages which are accessible to the public and for which a fee is charged.
In recognition of the essential services which shopping plazas and other commercial properties provide to the residents of the greater Toronto area, the bill which is currently before the House does not levy a tax on parking associated with these commercial properties unless it is public-access, fee-paid parking.
Because the fee-paid parking is largely used by commuters, it is appropriate that these facilities should also contribute to help offset the financial pressures which result from maintaining the surface transportation network within the greater Toronto area. Therefore, owners of parking lots and parking garages including those that are owned by local municipalities will pay the tax at a rate of $1 per square foot based on the entire area of the parking lot and/or garage.
There are other parking lots which do not, as a result of their seasonal nature, place the same burden on the transportation system within the greater Toronto area. In recognition of this, seasonal parking lots such as those at the CNE and Canada’s Wonderland will not be taxable.
The administration of the commercial concentration tax will not entail a significant expenditure to this government. The government has in place already an inventory of all properties liable for this new tax. This computer-based inventory exists within the property assessment program of my ministry and includes such relevant information as the name of the owner, property location and description and property size.
With this existing data base, the commercial concentration tax will be one of the least costly taxes to implement. In support of the introduction of this new tax, the property assessment program of my ministry will also take full advantage of its additional communication support activities to ensure that taxpayers will have every opportunity to investigate their assessment and to establish their need to take further action in the way of appeals.
Specifically, special open houses will be held after assessment notices are mailed. These will provide taxpayers with the opportunity to discuss their assessment and review the calculation of the areas of their properties. If taxpayers are not satisfied with their assessments, they have the right to appeal their assessments to the Assessment Review Board.
In ensuring the efficient administration of this tax, the appeal system has been designed to parallel the system that currently exists for property tax assessment purposes. Consequently, the appeals provisions will add minimal administrative costs above and beyond the existing appeal system.
Again, because the appeal system for the commercial concentration tax is being piggybacked on to the assessment appeal system, most of the owners of the properties liable for the commercial concentration tax are already familiar with their right of appeal. As in the case with property tax assessment appeals, staff from the property tax assessment program will be responsible for the presentation and defence of these appeals.
The support for this tax billing and revenue collection also currently exists within the Ministry of Revenue. As the members are aware, the framework for the tax billing and collection of all Ontario taxes falls within the responsibility of my ministry. This framework can readily incorporate this new tax.
Taxes will be billed in two instalments, with taxes due and payable the first day of February and the first day of October each year commencing 1990. Provisions exist for in-year adjustment of taxes including additional taxes for newly constructed buildings and reductions in taxes for buildings which are demolished. These provisions also parallel those currently in use for the municipal taxation purposes.
In summary, the commercial concentration tax will provide an opportunity for those who benefit significantly and directly from the provision of a new public infrastructure to make their contribution towards its cost.
A few technical and minor amendments to Bill 46 are required. Therefore, I would ask for the members’ co-operation and understanding when I introduce these administrative amendments in committee.
Ms Bryden: Once again, we have a brand-new tax before us. It seems the provincial Treasurer cannot make the old taxes work properly and cannot get a proper revenue out of them because he puts so many loopholes into them, because he does not always enforce them as well as he could and because he is always looking for the rainbow over the mountain that will bring him some new tax revenue that nobody else has tried.
He should know, from his long experience as Treasurer, that new taxes are headache taxes. They are an attempt to tax taxpayers who have not been taxed before, or to tax them in a different way and, in effect, they are laying new taxes on top of old taxes at an alarming rate.
This is building up tax revolt. There is no doubt about it. People feel that they are already heavily taxed, particularly the middle- and lower-income groups and that it is time the tax system was made fairer, so that the well-off groups and the big businesses pay their shares. Then the government would not need special taxes like this for any additional services. It could get, out of a fair tax system, the revenue that is needed to operate this province.
I notice that the minister tells us this tax is to pay for necessary improvements in the infrastructure in the greater Toronto area. He talks about a $2-billion allocation for transportation in that area. That $2 billion is the greatest phoney figure that has ever hit this House, because it was promised long before the present budget. It was promised about a year ago in a minister’s statement of what his transportation plans were for the next 18 months.
But practically all of the expenditures in there are only on the drawing board or a gleam in the minister’s eye. They are not likely to be spent for at least five years, and they are not going to bring the solutions to our problems: the shortage of GO Transit and the shortage of highways that are more efficient than the ones we have, and the rationalizing of our highway system so that, with further electronic monitoring, we can have them used more efficiently. Those are all in his dream of two years ago, and they were for the previous minister simply a dream. I have not seen any evidence that the new Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) is going to make any real changes.
But the Treasurer is still going to put on a tax that will raise over $2 billion for the payroll tax and an estimated $125 million for this tax and he says it is for infrastructure. I would be very surprised if any of it goes to infrastructure, because that is not the government’s priority. Its priority is to raise as much money for the Treasurer to put into his pet projects, his special task forces and the special task forces of the Premier (Mr Peterson), things like the medical council and the engineering technology council and things of that sort. But there is very little for helping the citizens of this province with their actual needs. Certainly, their needs do not call for a commercial concentration tax.
Let’s look first at the question of why we need a commercial concentration tax, because it is highly discriminatory taxation against one section of the population; that is all the people who live in the so-called greater Toronto area running from the municipalities of Durham, Halton, Peel, York and Metro Toronto; it includes Brampton and Markham; it goes as far west as Burlington and as far north as to include some of the shores of Lake Simcoe, and in the east part of the town of Newcastle.
This is simply a sweep to try to get a larger tax catchment area in order to provide for changes in the traffic infrastructure in the greater Toronto area, but so far we have not seen any real plans for changes in that traffic infrastructure; we certainly have not got any new GO trains yet. They are talking about them, but then they have had almost two years since the original announcement of that $12 million and most of it was supposed to go into the greater Toronto area.
The purpose of the bill, the minister said, is also to see that the people who live in Toronto pay for the extra services that Toronto needs, not just the transportation services but all the roads and public transit and other items that are absolutely essential if we are going to avoid gridlock. But there is not a uniform benefit to the residents of the greater Toronto area from those projects. Many people from outside use them; the commuters use them when they come in.
It is a discriminatory tax, this commercial concentration tax, to try to hit those who own buildings in the greater Toronto area. There should be a fair tax system so people would be paying tax on those facilities in all parts of the province. Taxation by geography is, I think, a very bad principle. I think most tax experts would say it is, because members cannot define exactly that all the people in a certain geographical area benefit from a certain tax. Tax incidence should be based on ability to pay and the benefits that are derived for that area.
It is very difficult in an area like the greater Toronto area to say that the needs are anything like homogeneous or that the population will stay very stable in the next few years and that these infrastructures that are being built up will benefit the people who are already there, or will they also allow for expansion in the greater Toronto area? The first thing that should be looked at is the question of decentralization. If we had more of the greater Toronto area with subcentres and with different transportation systems serving their subcentres, we would not need nearly the infrastructure that is now being designed and talked about for the greater Toronto area.
So this tax really is a phoney tax by the provincial Treasurer to get another big chunk of money into his control. It is not clear where it is going to go. Certainly there has been very little study of how it will impact on small businesses, on big businesses, on operators of parking lots, on people who use parking lots, and on people who shop in those businesses that will be paying this commercial concentration tax.
I think we can also make the same complaint about this tax, that it more or less came out of the blue in the last budget. There has been very little information provided on it to the critics since that budget last May, but the government wants to rush this through. The reason they want to rush it through is because the provincial Treasurer cannot avoid, apparently, having more money flow into his coffers even though he does not really know and has not specified what to do with it.
We are building up a very serious concentration, not a commercial concentration tax but a serious concentration of government revenue in the consolidated revenue fund, more or less not earmarked but hitting people in a very uneven way. I think that is a bad principle of taxation. It is time the Treasurer went back to the drawing board.
The question I asked yesterday about the employer health tax was, has the ministry looked at alternative sources of taxation? Has he looked at other ways of finding the funds he needs for replacement of premiums or finding the funds that he thinks he needs for the transportation needs of the greater Toronto area? Has he looked at bringing more progressive taxes into a comprehensive, fair tax system?
Has he looked at some new taxes I mentioned yesterday and my colleague has just mentioned today in the way of an increased corporation tax, because it has been going down steadily, in the way of a wealth tax such as they use in Sweden, in the way of getting back into succession duties where the estates have been let off? While we do need to let off the family farm and the family home because they may want to have some inheritance to pass on to their children, on the other hand, they should not be entitled to pass on everything without paying some part of their wealth to the state. That has been done in most countries but not in Ontario.
I think the Ministry of Revenue is going along with the provincial Treasurer in setting up new and untried taxes without providing us with sufficient information, without providing us with sufficient evaluation of their effect on the economy, on development and on location of housing. He really has very weak arguments for saying why we have to use either of these kinds of taxes. There is a much stronger argument for developing a fairer tax system in this province, and until we put that as our goal we are going to go on having these kinds of new taxes where the impact is unknown.
The point about this bill is that it not only hits all large commercial structures greater than 200,000 square feet, but it hits all commercial parking lots and garages within the greater Toronto area regardless of the number of square feet. If that tax is not going to increase parking lot fees and the amounts businesses that deliver goods and services will have to pay to use the parking lots, then I will be very surprised. That tax will be passed on straight through and it is not fair to pass it on to everybody in the greater Toronto area, because the needs are very different, the pressures for parking are very different and the rates are very different.
I understand universities may be free on their lots if they own, but if they lease a lot, as York University does in many cases, that will be taxed so that some students will end up paying this tax on their parking lot and others will not. The same is true of commuters. If the commuter parking lot is run by the Toronto Transit Commission it will be exempt, as a public body, but the leased ones will be taxable. It is going to have all sorts of anomalies and it is going to have all sorts of inequities hitting seniors who often come in from considerable distances but find a very large fee at the parking lot when they do come in.
I point out that commercial property is defined to include service stations, hotels, stores, shopping centres, theatres, offices and office buildings, restaurants, arenas and assembly halls. That is an extremely broad swath. It will affect a lot of groups that use parking lots for cultural activities, for restaurants and for assembly halls, and it will affect small business as well for whatever parking lots they have.
It is a completely inequitable tax. A large property may have a parking lot, but it may not have nearly the number of spaces the smaller ones have because of the nature of the business.
I would like to point out that racetracks are specifically excluded, along with pipelines, trucking depots, warehouses, and research and development facilities. All of those seem rather questionable. We do need R and D for the development of our economy, but it is not defined what the government means by R and D, whether it is R and D that will benefit the American market or something of that nature.
As far as the racetracks go, they have large parking lots and those lots provide spaces for people who attend the races. Why they should be exempt, I do not know. They are a commercial operation. They are assessed for property taxes on their land. It looks to me like favouritism for a particular industry that really has an opportunity to recoup any parking fees from its patrons, since they are out there to spend money, to lay wagers. I see no reason why that activity should be exempt from parking lot taxes.
Residential and industrial properties are not subject to the tax. That is one of the few exemptions. But condominiums that are part of a taxable commercial property are taxable on their portion of the commercial property. I understand that the amendments include new rules to make sure that the condominiums that are not registered yet still do not escape the tax on the unregistered units, as well as the registered units which are taxable from the minute they are registered. A new property that is just going up will be caught even before it is completed.
I very much question the $125 million in revenue that the minister put forward because I do not think he really knows exactly how much parking lot property there is and how much commercial property there is in this city. I understand they are doing a survey at the moment, but since the survey is not completed, we have a very large question mark behind that figure. If it is a lot more than $125 million, it will just be another windfall for the Treasurer to spend as he sees fit. It will be a windfall that could have been avoided and the needs of our transportation system and our other systems could have been met through more progressive taxes.
In this proposal we seem to be creating a new tier of government, namely the greater Toronto area and I think that is something this House should look at very carefully. We already have four and five tiers of government in this area, but this is going to be a unique one because it will have no accountability to the residents except through the provincial government. This tier of government will decide who pays the commercial concentration tax, collect it and give it to the provincial Treasurer.
I do not think there is even legislative authority for this kind of taxation without representation. That was the fight back in the reform days, no taxation without representation. This is giving the provincial government the complete say to set the rates; we set the rates by the legislation, but it is the complete say on what will be done with the money after it is collected.
None of this money apparently will go back to the municipalities, which have the greatest responsibility in the greater Toronto area for providing transportation and services and generally seeing that the residents who are affected by the taxation get some sort of compensation. We do not want this tax to put out of business many small businesses or small parking lots. We do not want this tax to put nonprofit day care centres that may have parking lots attached out of business.
Then, of course, we do not know whether the municipalities and the hospitals will be required to pay tax, as they are under the employers’ payroll tax. If so, it will be another area where the province will have to step up its grants.
It is the same with the universities. It is not clear yet from the legislation who is exempt. In the list we obtained from the legislation, I do not think universities are even mentioned as being covered or not covered. There is a real problem there. Universities cannot absorb any additional costs these days when the provincial government and the federal government are cutting back on their grants. To whack them with an additional parking lot charge is going to make it much more difficult for them to operate. They may have to pass the price on to the students.
I do not really see that there are any incentives built into this program to encourage decentralization. That is really what the minister should be doing, not necessarily through the tax system, but through grants and approvals for developments that will provide affordable housing and not provide million-dollar developments that are creating urban sprawl. It should be part of the planning process which the provincial government says it wants to join in with all the other municipalities in this area and make sure that the planning process produces both affordable housing and services for the people in the regions beyond the major centre.
It has not been determined whether the tax will be passed on directly to tenants if an employer has a parking lot on his apartment building. Most apartment owners have a clause in their lease that tax increases will be passed directly through. The same is true in shopping malls. It appears that there is a great opportunity for apartment owners and shopping centre owners to pass this tax on, and of course once you have a lease in either an apartment building or in a shopping centre, it is pretty hard to avoid paying the tax unless you can easily move out. We know that in the present situation that is not easy for any of the people.
The tax is inequitable because the 200,000-square-foot threshold is entirely arbitrary. Why should a record store in a shopping mall be subject to the tax when a record store across the street that is twice the size will not be subject to the tax?
The amendments the minister has mentioned, which will be coming for this act when we get into the committee stage, are not as innocuous as he says. There is one at the very end which is in line with what this government and the Conservative government have been doing to an increasing extent, and that is to declare that the Lieutenant Governor in Council, by regulation, can make almost any change in this act. It can change definitions. It can change exemptions. It can probably change rates of tax.
But such sweeping powers I think render the legislative process null and void, and that is something we should be protesting, because if we allow the ministry to change anything and everything in the act, there is nothing to prevent it from really just rewriting the act as a regulation passed by an order in council. Surely that is not democratic legislation. That is getting into the dictatorship stage, but I have seen it in more and more acts that are coming up.
Let me just read to members the clause that is in that amendment so they know what is there. They may decide to reject it when they do know what is there. The amendment to subsection 21(2) proposes: “The Lieutenant Governor in Council may pass regulations exempting commercial properties and commercial parking lots from the tax imposed by this act.” That is the bottom line. Then there is another one where the Lieutenant Governor in Council is empowered to rewrite the definitions as it sees fit.
I think those are the kinds of amendments we should be looking at. They are not as innocuous as the minister mentioned. There are others, too, that again give very sweeping powers to the minister, so that not only are we not getting tax reforms or decentralization, we are getting a very bad tax policy and a very poor opportunity to develop a progressive tax system and to have adequate input into the development of that tax system. That is why we are asking for public hearings on this bill, so that hopefully the potential taxpayers will realize what a dangerous bill it is. I suggest that we go the route we have been proposing for both this tax and the employer health tax, and that is that we get down to business preparing a fair tax system and that that will be the bottom line for any tax policy.
I am rather disappointed that our provincial Treasurer, with his long career in the House and his many years in opposition, appears to have now switched completely to favouring a regressive tax system and to favouring very large tax bites year after year, everything from sales tax to income tax, except on the corporations; and now these two new taxes as well. Plus, he does not appear to be opposing, at least openly, the goods and services tax, or thinks that some arrangement can be made. The Canadian people think the GST should not be proceeded with, according to the polls. But the Treasurer seems to be going for all these regressive taxes. I think he should be thinking that perhaps it is time to reverse his trend and try and keep the promise which was made in both of the last two elections: to produce fiscal responsibility and a fair tax system. He has not done either of those.
I will suggest that we look very carefully at this bill. Our party will be opposing it, because we think there are so many flaws in it and we will also in the committee stage oppose some of the amendments. But we do hope there will be public hearings.
Mr Philip: I think this tax bill and Bill 47, which we have been debating before this tax bill, certainly demonstrate one thing: If there was ever any belief in the eyes of the public that this government had any kind of tax policy, it surely is shattered with both of these bills. These bills show that the government is completely bankrupt when it comes to coming up with any consistent set of thought-out tax policies.
Let me just give a couple of examples of the absurdity found in this bill. I pointed out the contradictions in Bill 47. Let’s take a look at just some of the examples of the absurdities found in this legislation. If we take the city of Whitby, with which the Speaker is well familiar, since he represents a riding close to there, we see that the revenue the city of Whitby obtains through its parking facilities is $118,000 per year. Thanks to this tax bill, the city of Whitby will be charged $165,000 per year. I ask you, Mr Speaker, as someone who understands a lot about the city of Whitby and the surrounding area, does this make any sense? If you were the mayor of the city of Whitby, would you be able to justify this kind of absurdity? Here you have a choice where, if you want to come even near break-even, you have to increase your revenue from your parking by something like 120 per cent.
Obviously the government has not thought through what it is doing with this kind of legislation; and, as with the Sunday shopping and so many other bits of legislation it has introduced in an ad hoc fashion, it obviously has not consulted with the municipalities. Luckily, this bill is going out to committee and we will see the municipalities coming down here to Queen’s Park and telling this government exactly what it thinks about this kind of legislation, the same way as we are going to have the business people telling the government what it thinks of this unfair form of taxation.
We already know what Metro chairman Alan Tonks thinks about this bill and the previous bill. He commented on the budget. He said what an absurdity it was that this government could try to justify this kind of tax grab from residents in the greater Metro Toronto area by saying that it has to pay for increased transportation facilities. He points out very clearly that if you look at where the transportation budget is going, it is for the most part going outside Metro Toronto, not inside Metro Toronto. So to tax the people of Metro Toronto simply on the justification that somehow this is providing better transportation facilities is simply an absolute absurdity, if not an outright lie.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): I do hear members challenging the language that is being used. It is about as close as you can get without being unparliamentary, and I would appreciate it if you would not get that close again for the remainder of the afternoon. Proceed.
Mr Philip: Being an experienced chairman for a number of years, I know exactly how close I can get without going over the line and that was my intention.
Mr Philip: The budget that we have experienced chooses to tax the people of the greater Toronto area not just in this area but with other legislation. It decided that motorists living in the greater Toronto area should have their licence fees increased from $54 to $90, even though that is not going to be charged to people outside the Metro Toronto area. When asked about it, the Treasurer said, “After all, it’s a first-class city.” I believe, if I am not mistaken, the Treasurer drives in this first-class city. He drives with his low-rate auto registration fee while the people in the Metro Toronto area driving alongside him pay the higher fee.
Of course, the member for the riding just south of me says that what justifies this kind of economic apartheid -- and that is all it can be described as when you take one area and say: “It doesn’t matter what your income is. You’re going to pay more taxes than someone of similar income in another area.” That is certainly a discriminatory form of taxation. She says, and I quote her: “After all, we have facilities in Metropolitan Toronto. We have the Sick Kids Hospital.” I thought the Hospital for Sick Children was open to residents of all of Ontario; indeed, we have people coming in from all over the world to use the facilities of the Sick Children’s Hospital.
If you want a first-class city, you also have the problems of living in a first-class city. We have a great number of poor people in this first-class city. We see that by the fact that they are being fed in large numbers by food banks, and the Treasurer thinks that somehow it is a good idea to increase the taxes on people who are already living in a very expensive city. This kind of discrimination has never been done by any previous Treasurer.
Mr Fleet: How are we taxing more? That is right off the wall.
Mr Philip: I am sorry? I wish the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr Fleet) would get up and speak, because his residents are paying higher taxes than in other cities in Toronto, thanks to this government, and he is doing absolutely nothing to get up and talk against this kind of economic apartheid and discrimination against --
Mr Fleet: You don’t know what you’re talking about; not about what I do or about what the bill says.
Mr Philip: Instead, he would rather try to interrupt me, Mr Speaker, because he does not have the courage to get up and let his constituents actually see where he stands on this.
The Acting Speaker: I would remind members that this a place to say whatever you want to say and I would encourage you to do so. I would really appreciate it if you would stick to what your intentions are and what your views are and leave everybody else to be free to say whatever they want to say. That is the nature of the process, and you would help me a lot if you would stick to it. Proceed.
Mr Philip: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I trust I will have fewer interjections from the flipping gums of the member for High Park-Swansea, who does not have the courage to get up and let the people --
The Acting Speaker: I tried to be as gentle as I could. I am now going to ask you to withdraw that latter remark.
Mr Philip: I withdraw the remark, Mr Speaker.
Let me deal with some of the specifics of this bill and what it does. Some of the finest hotels in Metropolitan Toronto are located in the riding I represent. These hotels provide a great number of jobs to my constituents and indeed to a number of constituents in the surrounding areas.
The Treasurer in introducing this bill, Bill 46, has initiated a form of economic apartheid on the residents and businesses of the greater Metropolitan Toronto area by charging us far higher taxes than those of anywhere else in the province. His scheme will be particularly damaging on the hotel industry, which creates a lot of jobs. First, he hits it with Bill 47, as a result of his corporate concentration levy. He then hits it again with Bill 46.
The commercial concentration levy creates a real problem for the larger hotels in Etobicoke which are competing for convention businesses from other cities. A majority of these hotels are over 200,000 square feet in size and they will be directly impacted by this levy. The hotel managers I have met with claim this will mean an increase of $4 to $6 per night per room. There was a drop of 10 per cent in hotel bookings during July and August of this year and this can only add to the present burden they are facing in competing for the smaller conventions with other cities in Ontario and for the larger conventions with the United States.
The Treasurer is penny wise and dollar foolish. He and the Premier should go back to the drawing board and look at this $10-million tax grab and see exactly how it is going to affect the tourist industry in this province and see how much revenue he is actually going to lose as a result of this legislation and its effect on the service industries in this province.
Let me just read to members some excerpts from a letter from the Toronto Airport Holiday Inn. The general manager writes: “The Treasurer, Robert Nixon, has announced the creation of a commercial concentration levy to be effective 1 January 1990. This is an annual tax levy of $1 a foot to be assessed on all commercial properties, including hotels and associated parking, exceeding 200,000 square feet. The object of the CCL is to raise $125 million annually in those communities which realize considerable economic benefit from the provincial expenditures in infrastructure.
“The benefits are stated in the budget speech as capital gains from land and building value, increased income from tenants seeking prime locations, suppliers and employees using the existing transportation network. The Hotel Association of Metropolitan Toronto, on behalf of its 104 hotel members, is writing to you to express our deep concern and to seek an exemption for hotels, because this measure is, first, discriminatory and inequitable, and second, poses a grave threat to the integral role the hotel plays in Toronto’s multibillion-dollar tourist industry.”
Tourism is a $2.7-billion industry in Metropolitan Toronto, if we use the 1988 figures, of which $500 million was spent on accommodation alone and it is presently generating $25 million a year in room tax. The 17.6 million visitors who came to Toronto in 1988 and 108,000 person-years of employment are tied directly to this industry in Toronto, of which 200,000 are directly involved in the hotels themselves. What this is doing is helping to price these hotels out of any competitive business with both the hotels outside Metropolitan Toronto in Ontario, and outside the country.
I have talked to a number of the hotel operators in my riding and they point out that they have now frozen all future capital expenditures for the foreseeable future as a result of this tax. They have already been under pressure in competition with the United States, and now this is the finishing touch. Not one of them is prepared to put on another brick or dig another foundation or expand his hotel in the foreseeable future.
So what we are seeing is not only what they claim is a very strong possibility of layoffs in the hotel industry as a result of this tax, but also a direct effect on the construction industry and an indirect effect on the municipal taxpayer because, of course, it is the municipal taxpayer who benefits by the expansion of industry, be it the hotel industry or any other industry.
Let me just explain to the members for a minute the effect on one other business, another service business in my riding. Jet-A-Way Airport Parking is located at 200 Carlingview Drive in Rexdale. The owner wrote the following letter to me and I met with him.
He says: “I am writing to request your assistance in the fight to eliminate the proposed land concentration bill. This tax calls for a charge of $1 per square foot of usable parking space. I own and operate Jet-A-Way Airport Parking, which has in excess of 775,000 square feet of land. This tax will then require a payment of $775,000 per year. I lease this property from the federal government and therefore have high lease payments. If I am expected to pay this additional tax, I will be forced to close my business.”
This is what this government is doing. It is taxing the people of greater Metropolitan Toronto. It is not only having an effect on the consumers who use this kind of service, but it is putting this man out of business. This is a business that was established in 1985; it employs 75 staff members and has a payroll that exceeds $1 million. If the provincial government forces the closure of this business it will be a great loss to the staff, their families, the community of Rexdale and the thousands of clients who enjoy the service that it has provided.
He goes on to say, “It is unfortunate that after all these years of providing this many jobs, I am being forced out of business by the provincial government, the Liberal government of Ontario.”
If we look at the whole system we see the inequities of it. Just as we saw in the previous bill that some people will be able to escape the so-called health tax or employment tax even though their profits are very high, and others who have very low or modest profits will have it socked to them, so too this fails to discriminate in any way between the differences in the kind of concentrations that we find in the city. It is, first of all, unfair that the government says, “You are going to pay more because you happen to be located in a particular area than in another area,” but also within it, it fails to recognize that there are differences -- differences, for example, between hotels and commercial properties. In hotels, the client is transient and therefore may or may not come back depending on what the particular cost is, and we have said that in the case of hotels this will have a great inflationary effect on them, whereas commercial properties typically have five or 10 or 15 years or even longer terms in their leases.
Room occupancy of a hotel is typically 70 per cent, in comparison to other forms of commercial operations where the occupancy would be about 95 percent. Significant amounts of space integral to a hotel operation cannot be rented, but they have to provide these services. For example, food preparation areas, kitchen areas, convention space areas are all part of a large hotel’s operations, and many of these do not bring in a revenue, or at least do not meet the cost, but they must be provided none the less, whereas if we look at commercial space all usable space is available for retail or office use.
If we look at the situation in the hotel industry in this province we see that there is tremendous competition with hotels outside the greater Metropolitan Toronto area, but even more particularly in North America generally, whereas if we look at other commercial establishments, generally the competition is limited to the downtown Toronto area versus the suburbs or general GTA.
The hotel market tends to be priced very sensitively due to the need for capacity, or working as close to capacity as possible, and the fact that hotels can go under if that capacity drops by even a few percentage points, whereas the current demand for other types of commercial properties is more than met by the supply. Hotels typically operate on a single-digit, or certainly low double-digit, return, whereas commercial properties generally operate on a much higher rate of return.
So what we have is just one more set of examples of how this form of taxation is discriminatory. It discriminates, first, by location and then it treats everybody, regardless of their profitability, regardless of the kind and nature of their business and the market forces within that business in North America, all the same. What we have is the creation of a system of taxation that singles out one geographical area in the province and says, “If you live in this area you are going to pay more, if you go to a restaurant you are going to pay more, if you own certain types of business you are going to pay more than if you live or operate in another area.”
It is a tax which, once again, encroaches on municipal responsibilities and I gave members the example of the parking lots but it does not return anything to the municipality in response for this extra cost or this extra tax grab that it is taking out.
The revenues will be used for provincial priorities, not municipal priorities, and I think that luckily by having this bill go out for hearings we are going to hear what the municipalities have to say about that, not just Alan Tonks, a prominent Liberal who has voiced his concern about its effect on Metro Toronto.
No one disagrees with the need to create industry in different areas of the province, to decentralize, but if we look at the experience in other jurisdictions, we see that there are ways of doing this. Nobody has attempted, to my knowledge, to try to do it this way, in this kind of discriminatory way. It just does not make sense to charge a different tax on a parking lot in downtown Toronto than a tax in some other area.
Theoretically, the government says that the tax is on developers but we can see that it is not on developers. It hits everybody who happens to have the square footage. We see that a small businessman who is renting land and running an airport parking business with 75 employees is being put out of business and being hit with a tax the same way as the largest commercial enterprise in downtown Toronto would be hit. So it does not discriminate either by profitability or by the type of business that you are in.
It does not just hit the developers. That is the point that surely has to be made. A number of the shopping malls will be hit by this but will it be the developer who is hit? Most of the leases we find in the shopping malls -- and we know this because we have looked at a number of leases across the province when we were dealing with the Sunday shopping issue -- will have a fairly ironclad contract that the developer cannot get out of when it comes to the large corporate enterprise, the Bay and the very large stores.
But when it comes to the small business enterprise, these people invariably have a clause in it that says that any increases, municipal or otherwise, will be passed on to the tenant. So what we have is an unfair system of taxation in this bill which means that the small businessman in the mall is going to be affected more than the large businessman operating in the identical mall.
I spoke earlier about the failure of this government to have any tax policy and that is why it has this kind of ad hockery. I challenge the government to tell us what is magic about the number 200,000 square feet? How do they arrive at 200,000 square feet?
It certainly is not based on ability to pay. There are some businesses that will have that kind of square footage and have very low profitability; while others, a very small concentrated enterprise, under 200,000 square feet, have a very high profitability.
You can be a stockbroker in downtown Toronto and show very large profits and not be in any way affected by this if you have a certain type of office space. You can be a company such as Jet-A-Way Airport Parking with very low profitability and be dramatically affected by it.
I guess one has to ask also, what is the rationale on the boundary lines that are drawn? Here we have a government that has said, “If you live on this side of the line, you are going to pay this extra tax; if you live on the other side of the line, you do not.” Yet if you look at the areas that are covered by this special tax in the greater Metropolitan Toronto area, you see that those areas are not homogeneous by any means. So you can have an area that is on one side of the line that is more like the areas excluded than it is like the centre core perhaps of the city. So you have a system which basically has the inability to discriminate and in fact throws a whole bunch of apples and oranges into the same pot without any kind of selection process.
I think and I hope that the principle of tax differentiation on the basis of geography will be challenged in the courts. These taxes may be ruled discriminatory under the Charter of Rights, and I hope that some corporation or some groups of corporations or groups of individuals decide to have a court challenge on this.
This government has taken, under this act, huge powers under the regulatory section to make hundreds of administrative rules that are not contained in the bill. So what we have then is a bill that does not make any sense whatsoever and you are going to have a whole bunch of bureaucrats who are going to make even more decisions with a bad piece of legislation to start with.
There is no rationale in any of the exemptions. Why is it that if I decide that I want to have dinner and I go to the Jockey Club and I park my car at the racetrack, I am not going to be charged this extra tax, whereas if I go to another shopping centre with an equally good restaurant, I am going to pay it? It does not make any sense whatsoever. Why is it that if a family goes to a film, a movie, and therefore parks in a certain area to take in a film, they are going to be charged this extra levy, whereas if they take their children to the racetrack, they are not going to be taxed? Why is it that if I take my family to see a film on one side of the geographic boundary line, I am going to pay more for parking as a result of this tax than if I take them to a theatre on the other side? There is no rationale whatsoever.
This legislation is discriminatory. It says to the people of greater Metropolitan Toronto, “You are going to pay more taxes than people living elsewhere.” It has no foundation in any kind of rational plan that this province may have for decentralizing, otherwise we would see a package of other things that would go along with it. I say to the government that the people of greater Metropolitan Toronto resent this form of economic apartheid, this form of extra taxation on them which does not apply to other people in the province, this form of taxation that says, “It does not matter what the profitability is of your business or of your income, you are going to pay more taxes, not because you are earning more but because you live in a different area.” It is a form of taxation that says, “If you own one kind of business, you are going to pay an extra tax, whereas if you own another kind you are not going to pay this tax at all.”
I say to the government that the people of Metropolitan Toronto and area resent this form of taxation, they resent this kind of discrimination and the members of the committee are going to hear from those people of Metropolitan Toronto. I hope they also call the MPPs who are of the Liberal persuasion who are going to vote for this silly, discriminatory tax and that they will let those MPPs know exactly what they think of this kind of discrimination.
Mr Pope: Just to let the members know that I will be very brief on this. I will be speaking for 15 minutes. I say to the government members, the whip on duty is not here, so they may do as they wish.
I do want to make some very brief comments, but I know that some of my fellow caucus members, particularly the member for Markham (Mr Cousens), the member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) and the member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland), are going to be making comments on some of the details of this bill, I take it next week, and will be putting in some perspective some of the concerns that they have as members from urban areas of this province that might be affected by this kind of tax principle that has been implemented in this legislation.
I have been advised that it may not apply to Timmins or Iroquois Falls, or it may not even apply to Moosonee, but be that as it may, I think there is an important principle here that reflects itself in this legislation and there, of course, is no guarantee that there may not be similar types of principles applied at some other point in time by this government using the same rationale that would have an impact on Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, in Wellington or many other great ridings of this province.
First of all, I say to the minister I do not accept the equivalence argument that he advances and that has previously been advanced by the Treasurer of this province, by the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) and by many others. I do not think it is fair or just or an acceptable principle to say, “We justify the application of this commercial concentration tax regime because we’re going to spend money on roads and transportation in Metropolitan Toronto.”
It is a fundamental obligation of any provincial government to provide adequate transportation facilities for every urban area of this province and it is not a reason to apply a commercial concentration tax on Metropolitan Toronto and the greater Toronto area. It is not a rationale or an acceptable reason to say, “Without this we will not provide for the improvement to the transportation systems in Metropolitan Toronto,” whether or not there will a $2 billion package over five years.
We do not accept the equivalence argument that has been advanced by others. In meeting his obligations as he must now do in leaving the chamber, and we accept that, I know the minister will be reading the transcript of these remarks. I want to clearly put that on record because the Minister of the Environment tried to justify the new tire tax and so did the Treasurer by linking it to some environmental programs. We do not accept equivalence of program to special taxation in this province. We do not accept it. Nor do we accept the equation of a payroll tax, which we just dealt with in the previous legislation, the equivalence of that tax being paid and somehow that affects the quality of health care in Ontario.
It is a fundamental obligation of this administration to provide quality health care, to provide good environmental programs to provide acceptable transportation modes for the people of this community and throughout Ontario. From our point of view, it does not need extraordinary or special tax measures or tax laws to do it. Nor do we believe that it is a legitimate equivalence argument to be made.
There is no dedicated funding. The Treasurer has admitted that when he has been pressed by the opposition. A tire tax measure will not result in these dollars collected by that tire tax being directly channelled into the environment.
Getting back to the principle of this bill, it is not, I think, a fair representation of what will happen in the government that the commercial concentration tax will be applied directly to transportation projects in the greater Toronto area, in fact, it will go into the consolidated revenue fund, as all revenues do, with certain exceptions with respect to lottery funds. Even in hunting licences when they said it was going to go to improvement of hunting in Ontario, of course it did not go to that. It went in the consolidated revenue fund. The same thing is true for this particular tax proposed by this particular bill. It will go into consolidated revenue, and transportation in the greater Toronto area will take its chances, along with every other area of the province and every other program of this government in the province in the allocation process that Management Board, Treasury and cabinet goes through every year.
So let not the argument be advanced, as it was by the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) at the outset, that by virtue of this tax we will have $2 billion in transportation improvements spent over five years in the greater Toronto area. That argument is not accurate; it does not reflect current policies of the government now or in the foreseeable future. It is not the policy of the Treasurer to put that sort of equivalence theory forward and, of course, he will not allocate that money directly to the Minister of Transportation.
In the eight and half minutes left to me, I have to put on the record our concern about the ever-growing tax burdens faced by the people in the greater Toronto area. I talked briefly yesterday about the staggering escalation in housing costs. I talked about the staggering increases, uncontrolled, in rents being paid by the tenants of the greater Toronto area; in fact, under the regime given by the current administration, of course they are paying rents before the rent increases are even approved, and you have an 18-month and one-year wait for approval of those rent increases.
I have talked about the staggering increase in the cost of food over the past three years in the greater Toronto area, which relates to the availability of no-frills supermarkets and the lack thereof in the greater Toronto area and what is going on in the food distribution chain.
But on top of that we have this additional new tax in this specific measure. We also have reassessment going on in Metropolitan Toronto and the consequences of that little manoeuvre on the municipal tax bills that people will be paying in the next year. I remember when they said it would be revenue-neutral in Timmins. I remember that argument being made, and I remember an alderman being elected from Whitney township on the basis of the impact of this so-called revenue-neutral reassessment on the community of Whitney, of Porcupine Lake, in 1972, and I remember it costing a certain party and a certain candidate some votes in the provincial election of 1975, where that candidate was unsuccessful, regrettably. But that is life.
All I am saying is that most reassessments start off by saying they are going to be revenue-neutral, and of course they are not; in any event, they are not revenue-neutral to the person who pays a higher municipal tax as a result of the reassessment of his home. So now we have all of these additional staggering cost increases that people who live in High Park-Swansea, in all of these great ridings that form the greater Toronto area, all of these increases in the cost of their daily lives going on as a direct result of decisions of this government. And we get new tax measures: not only general budgetary policy of the Treasurer of Ontario with $1.3 billion in tax increases for two successive years; not only the new tire tax that I just obliquely referred to in passing; not only the tire tax, the payroll tax; not only the increase in personal income tax, but we also --
Mr Villeneuve: Sales tax.
Mr Pope: And the sales tax increase, as the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry quite rightly pointed out just now to me -- but we have this particular tax measure.
Mr Fleet: Don’t forget the one on the fuel-efficient cars.
Mr Pope: That is right. We also have that special tax on vehicles. I am glad the member for High Park-Swansea, who obviously is critical of these tax measures brought in by his own government, is raising it to my attention and asking me to bring it before the people of the province by reference. I thank him for his help. He has always been helpful to me in my speech-making in this House.
Not only do we have the lot levy measure that is now before the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, which will result in additional increases in the costs of housing and in rentals in this great community and many others across the province, but we have this commercial concentration levy. We feel that it is the wrong way to go.
Mr Fleet: You tell us to spend money all the time.
Mr Pope: We do not think, in answer to the member for High Park-Swansea, that you tell people, “You can’t have new schools built unless we have these new revenue taxes that you have to pay.” We do not think that that is the right approach.
We think you take your existing traditional revenue programs, your traditional tax programs. You use them. You come up front with what your financial needs are. You look at how you can prioritize capital spending and operational spending. You adopt a program of restraints in employment and in some of the nonsensical administrative cost increases we have seen over the past three years -- for this government, running at 45 per cent average in each ministry over the last three years, with no response from this government and the party in power to that information for a year and a half now.
We think there are other ways to go that do not have as dramatic an impact on the people of the province of Ontario.
Mr Furlong: What are they?
Mr Pope: “What are they?” the Liberals are asking now in this House. It is obvious that they do not have the answers. It is obvious they have never heard of sound financial management and planning. It is obvious they have not heard of administrative efficiencies when they have sat there and allowed government bureaucracies to grow by 7,000 people, when they have allowed administrative expenses to increase by 45 per cent over three years with no control or even indication of concern by the Liberal members of this House.
It is obvious that they do not understand what it takes to safeguard the tax dollars of working men and women in this province. It is obvious they do not understand what it takes to provide the basics in services to the people of Ontario and, at the same time, give them good value for their tax dollars.
They still have not figured it out. They have been in power for five years. They have not learned a thing, and we still have a crisis in virtually every basic government program provided by the provincial government of this province, whether it is education or health care or transportation. All of the basics are going to hell in a handbasket, but their administrative costs are going through the roof and no one over there is prepared to even talk about it, let alone do anything about it.
And so we have two times as many students in portables as we have ever had in provincial history. We have students who cannot get into community colleges. We have waiting lists in hospitals. But we have lots of tax measures. We have lots of additional bureaucrats, all of whom are dedicated to the public cause and all that, lots of additional administrative dollars, but in the meantime the basics are wanting.
Mr Pope: To say nothing of agriculture, as the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry indicates to me.
These are just a few of the general things that this particular piece of legislation brings to mind, which we must address in second reading. Mr Speaker is holding the bill up for me to remind me that it is the commercial concentration levy that we are dealing with. We are very concerned about the principles of this bill.
My friends the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale (Mr Philip) and the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms Bryden) indicated from a greater Toronto area perspective their concerns about the impact on their ridings, their constituents and their daily lives. I think this government should take their comments to heart. I think they should take this bill, bring it back, put it out for public comment, see what the reaction is. As a matter of fact, if they want some advice from the federal level, why do they not advertise it for a year and see what the reaction is?
I see the member for Mississauga West (Mr Mahoney) agrees with me on that point --
Mr Mahoney: I didn’t even hear what you said.
Mr Pope: -- and I urge him out of his concern for the small business sector to advertise this tax measure for the next year before the government implements it so that everyone will know what is coming --
Mr Villeneuve: Just before the election.
Mr Pope: -- and then implement it just before the election. We know that this is the kind of policy that has already moved one member to join our ranks this afternoon, to fight in this noble crusade against these unfair tax measures. We urge the government, as we run out of time, to take these measures to heart.
On motion by Mr Pope, the debate was adjourned.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Mr Ward: Pursuant to standing order 53, the business of the House for the upcoming week is as follows: On Monday 30 October, continuation of second-reading debate of Bill 46 and, time permitting, committee of the whole House on Bill 2 and Bill 3; on Tuesday 31 October, continuation of uncompleted business from Monday and then proceeding to second reading of Bill 36; Wednesday 1 November will be an opposition day on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party; Thursday 2 November will be the resumption of second-reading debate on Bill 36.
The House adjourned at 1801.