The House met at 1333.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Kormos: Since 18 October, the teachers, counsellors and librarians at Niagara College in Welland, and indeed at colleges across Ontario, have been on strike. It has been an unpleasant two weeks for the striking staff. They want to be back in their classrooms. It has been a frustrating two weeks for thousands of students and their families, because these students too want to be back in their classrooms. Many are fearful that the major investments they have made in their college educations will be effort and money wasted.
Our community college staff are outstanding people with a deep commitment to providing quality education. Surely we want our colleges to continue to attract leaders to the teaching profession. Clearly it was only as a last resort that these teachers chose strike action, and our Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr Conway) sits like Nero on the sidelines showing thorough disinterest in the welfare of either students or staff, indeed showing disregard for the wellbeing of our community college system.
It is silly for the minister to say he is waiting for the collective bargaining system to work when he knows the real issue here is the long-time underfunding of our colleges. Because of that, thousands of teachers, good teachers like Joan Hastings, Barry Sharpe, Phil Durrant and Dave Abraham are on the picket line, and good students who want educations are being denied just that. All the while, the Minister of Colleges and Universities just fiddles. It is time for this government to do all it can to bring the bargaining parties together and to ensure adequate funding so that they can reach a fair resolution.
Mrs Cunningham: “A blue-collar job may be okay for other children but my kid is going to be a doctor.” This statement appeared in the London Free Press this Friday 27 October. This is a common attitude among parents in Ontario today, contributing to a growing problem of shortages in skilled trades workers.
University of Guelph professor John Walsh has conducted a survey of thousands of Ontario’s students, parents and technology employers and employees. The results confirmed this discouraging trend.
Parents, children and teachers are ignoring the challenge, remuneration and satisfaction available for skilled tradespersons. It is time it is realized that university is not the be-all and end-all for all students. The key to achieving new priorities in the skills area is to educate parents, students and teachers. Changing attitudes towards skilled trades opportunities must take place at these core levels.
According to Professor Walsh’s survey, although parents said trades were important, interesting and well-paying, they still indicated that they wanted their children to go to university. The students interviewed followed the same line of thought with less than five per cent wanting to enter trades as apprentices.
Teachers must adopt the attitude that trades are not a second-hand choice for students. Teachers need this government’s support to provide many more programs for training in our schools and colleges. Only with the continued support of this government, parents and educators can this bias against skilled trades jobs be broken.
Mr Faubert: The water quality of Highland Creek has become a concern to a number of my constituents. The branches and tributaries of this local waterway extend throughout the city of Scarborough. A linear park system that is actively used by the residents of Scarborough has been developed along these creeks.
In response to my question in the House last week, the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) indicated that the government was moving on a number of fronts to address the cleanup of urban waterways.
These initiatives include (1) a $9.25-million allocation to support Metro waterway cleanup projects such as sewage treatment plant improvements; (2) the development of standards for storm water pollution control facilities that can reduce contaminated runoff; (3) the encouragement of municipalities by the ministry to develop sewer use control bylaws based on a provincial model bylaw; (4) as well, this government has funded in Scarborough the major portion of a $166,000 pollution source study on Highland Creek and the Rouge River.
In addition, the public can participate directly in this effort by immediately informing the city’s waste water management division of any unusual conditions when spotted in our urban streams so that the source of these pollutants can be quickly traced and corrected, and also by refraining from dumping paints, oils and solvents or any pollutants into the storm sewer system as they can quickly find their way into the water streams.
With the concerted effort of government, industry and the public, we can ensure that our urban waterways can and will be cleaned up.
Miss Martel: It seems the government has bought itself some time. Problems in Ontario’s correctional facilities are reaching crisis proportions. The events of last week only prove that the conflict between this government and correctional officers has deepened and will now be even more difficult to resolve.
The pattern of overcrowding of inmates, understaffing of correctional officers and higher than average Workers’ Compensation Board and long-term disability claims is common throughout the province. This pattern has been repeated at the Sudbury Jail.
The capacity of the jail is 172 inmates. On Tuesday last, there were 185 prisoners being held in the facility. On Wednesday 28 inmates were put on a bus and transferred to another centre to reduce the overcrowding. The correctional officers had no idea where the inmates were taken.
The population at the Sudbury Jail is very fluid. For months now, inmates have been transferred in and out of the facility to reduce overcrowding elsewhere or to ease overcrowding in Sudbury. Correctional officers have nicknamed the facility Jail on Wheels to emphasize how unstable the situation really is. They have no idea what to expect when they go to work every day.
The situation at Cecil Facer Youth Centre is also confusing. Last year the former minister put a cap on the number of young offenders per unit. At five units, the maximum number is 100 young offenders. Last week, there were 95 young offenders in the facility but tomorrow an entire unit is to be closed down for renovations. Last Wednesday night, correctional officers still did not know how the closure would be handled.
The government has an opportunity to finally deal with these concerns. Let’s hope the government does not blow it.
Mr Jackson: I rise to call the attention of all members of this House to the plight of Becky Till. Becky is a young girl who is disabled by cerebral palsy. Despite her disability, Becky is determined to attend her neighbourhood school in York region just like all of her friends. But because of the inaction of the Minister of Education (Mr Conway), under whose ministry responsibility for aide support to disabled children lies, Becky must be content to learn alone with her private tutor.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services, which is providing the tutor for Becky, agrees with her parents that she should be in an integrated placement where her support services would follow her, but cannot do anything until the Education minister acts first. In the words of Becky’s mother, “It’s morally wrong that the Minister of Education should be so unaccountable.”
To date, more than 100 letters on behalf of Becky have been sent to the minister from Hamilton-Wentworth students in grades 3 to 8 asking that the minister act swiftly and decisively to understand Becky’s wishes to be with her friends and her plea for justice from this government.
When is the minister going to stop shirking his responsibilities, which even his government’s Ministry of Community and Social Services says is his alone to exercise, and let young Becky Till go to school with her friends as she would like to do?
Mr Reycraft: Fourteen students from the London area recently took part in a unique experience at the United States Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. This space camp offers youngsters between the ages of 10 and 18 the opportunity to combine fun and learning in a way that is truly out of this world.
Space Camp is part of Alabama’s Space and Rocket Centre, a 450-acre exhibition of rockets and the history of the space centre program, next to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Marshall Space Flight Centre.
Over the course of five days, these students learned the principles of propulsion and gravity, experienced zero gravity and, finally, conducted a simulated space shuttle mission.
This pilot project is a good example of what can be accomplished through co-operation. In this case, the London Board of Education worked closely with local businesses, service clubs and private individuals to raise over $10,000 needed to send these kids to Space Camp.
Special recognition should be given to Dr Murray Kucherawy of the London Board of Education, who wanted to give students a reason to learn math and science. These kids also returned with a new appreciation for what will be the work world of the next generation: the world of space.
I would like to congratulate Dr Kucherawy, the community of London and especially the students for showing that they indeed have the right stuff. More students will need experiences like this if they are to face the technological challenges of the 21st century.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Farnan: The demands of our community college teachers are not unreasonable. With regard to job security, they are not seeking jobs for life; they are asking only for the kind of security that offers retraining in place of layoff and prevents colleges from cutting their costs by replacing experienced full-time faculty with part-time or less experienced teachers.
On the wage issue, they are seeking a settlement that will compensate them for some of the erosion their salaries have suffered over the last few years and that will also enable the college to attract and retrain the quality personnel the students deserve. Further, community college teachers are requesting that management remove from the bargaining table proposed changes in the sick leave plan that could jeopardize their accumulated benefits.
Something has to be terribly wrong when teachers withdraw their services. It is an action of last resort. A just settlement can be achieved only if the government of Ontario takes its share of the responsibility. Colleges have suffered from years of underfunding. If truly meaningful bargaining is to take place, more money has to be provided.
Community college teachers want to go back to work. Their students want to continue their studies. I am calling on the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr Conway) to get our community college students and teachers back into the classroom and to provide quality education by ensuring that our community college system gets its fair share of educational funding.
Mrs Marland: The bells-and-whistles approach of the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) to cleaning up car exhaust will do little to clean up our air unless there is a concurrent program to increase the use of alternative, cleaner fuels. We should stop pollution at its source, not monitor it after the fact with a high-tech computer. We should not have to depend on car manufacturers to clean the polluting exhaust from our cars. We should burn cleaner fuels that do not produce the pollution in the first place.
Ethanol fuels are made from a renewable resource and they actually reduce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions. They do not contribute to the greenhouse effect. The use of ethanol gasoline can actually result in a net reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. An ethanol fuel program in Colorado was responsible for reducing carbon monoxide pollution in the metro Denver area by 12 per cent last year.
The city of Toronto just released a report saying carbon levels in the air here are outrageously high. The Minister of the Environment should support a program to encourage the use of clean-burning ethanol fuels in urban areas. We do not need a high-technology solution that will take three years to develop; we need action now. The technology exists and it has been proven throughout the US that it works. Let’s get on with the solution now and have our cars fill up with cleaner fuels to clean our air.
Mr D. W. Smith: On 20 October 1989 I attended three ceremonies in my riding of Lambton to participate in the official opening of six homes for handicapped adults. These homes are located in the villages of Watford and Wyoming and the town of Forest.
I am pleased that the Minister of Housing (Mr Sweeney) and the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) supported the Nainstay Group in co-operation with the Lambton County Association for the Mentally Handicapped in developing and managing affordable residences for mentally disabled adults in communities around Sarnia-Lambton.
The Nainstay Group is a nonprofit charitable organization whose members offer their vision and commitment to the goal of providing affordable housing in Lambton. The Lambton County Association for the Mentally Handicapped has also demonstrated its commitment to addressing the needs of special citizens in Lambton communities. Together, the efforts of these two groups have resulted in the realization of a project which will provide 18 much-needed units for special care adults. This brings a total of 10 homes within the riding of Lambton that the Lambton County Association for the Mentally Handicapped and the Nainstay Group have constructed and are now operating.
At this time, I would like to acknowledge the many people involved in the creation and management of such a worthwhile project. Recognition goes to the efforts of the Lambton County Association for the Mentally Handicapped, the Nainstay Group, Lambton Design Consultants, Boelens Construction Ltd and Wellington Brothers of Forest Construction Ltd. I might add that after visiting these homes --
The Speaker: The member’s time has expired.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mrs Caplan: It is my pleasure to announce today that my ministry is embarking on a comprehensive approach towards improving the recruitment and retention of nurses in the province.
The findings of four recent reports by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Hospital Council of Metropolitan Toronto, the Ontario Nurses’ Association and my ministry’s Advisory Committee on Nursing Manpower all concluded that the quality of work life for nurses needs to be improved. It is with this in mind that my ministry is implementing a variety of steps to stimulate ways to increase job satisfaction among nurses.
More than $15 million in total will be spent on six major initiatives for at least the next five years; in other words, about $3 million per year.
We are establishing a five-year nursing innovation fund. We are establishing an ongoing nursing bursary program. We are creating the position of nursing co-ordinator in the ministry along with two nursing policy advisers. We will be restructuring and broadening the membership of the Advisory Committee on Nursing Manpower. We will be developing a nursing human resources data centre. We will be funding research into quality of worklife issues in nursing.
Through the five-year, $5-million nursing innovation fund, hospitals will be encouraged to address such issues as staffing and scheduling, while at the same time universities and community colleges will be funded for implementing new approaches in continuing education.
My ministry will support nursing schools in their efforts to attract high school students, including greater numbers of men, as well as immigrants with nursing degrees from other countries.
Individual registered nurses and registered nursing assistants will also be able to apply for assistance for travel or registration costs to attend courses or continuing education seminars.
My ministry is also anxious to address the need for more nurses in hospitals in northern Ontario and certain parts of southern Ontario. To this end, we are creating a nursing bursary program. Each year, up to $1.5 million in grants will be provided to nursing students in their last two years, and working registered nurses and registered nursing assistants in refresher or specialty training courses. In exchange for these bursaries, recipients must agree to work in a designated hospital or hospital unit after completing their courses.
As the members will recall, I announced last February the amendment of a regulation governing the administration of Ontario’s public hospitals to allow for the participation of nurses on hospital committees. Only hospitals which have implemented this change will be able to benefit from the return-of-service provision in the bursary program.
My ministry will also be committing at least $200,000 annually to a nursing human resource data centre for research and analysis of nursing issues. We will be negotiating a grant with the College of Nurses of Ontario and the University of Waterloo to develop such a centre. The University of Waterloo has been selected because it has particular interest in applied health research, systems analysis and computer applications.
My ministry will also provide $400,000 annually for research into quality-of-worklife issues in nursing. Collaborative proposals involving universities, community colleges and hospitals will be reviewed by a committee chaired by the nursing co-ordinator.
Nurses play a crucial role in our health care system, and we feel these varied initiatives that I am announcing today are innovative and flexible and will go some distance towards finding solutions to a number of challenges facing nursing, nurses and the nursing profession.
Mr Reville: In the kind of quaint tradition that comes before ministerial statements, we have members’ statements. I got a text today from the member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft) who told us a very interesting item about Space Camp. Clearly, he should have also told us that the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) was a camper at Space Camp recently.
I know this may be hard for you to get immediately, Mr Speaker, but if you bear with me, if you read or even listen to the statement made today by the Minister of Health, you will be able to come to no other conclusion than that she comes from outer space.
She talks about six major initiatives to address problems in nursing. These are some of the dopiest initiatives I have ever heard of, and I have heard a lot of dopey initiatives from this government. Of course, $3 million a year for the Ministry of Health is petty cash. It is probably kept in the upper right-hand drawer of the minister’s desk.
She cites, as though it might be referred to in the document, a collection of reports from people in the nursing business or people who know what they are talking about in nursing, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Hospital Council of Metropolitan Toronto, the Ontario Nurses’ Association and her own Advisory Committee on Nursing Manpower, and then has the unmitigated gall to go on and talk about initiatives and innovations, in the kind of sappy way this government does, which have nothing to do with the recommendations made by those four august bodies.
The minister has not addressed the fundamental problem in nursing, and that is that her government has failed and continues to fail to provide adequate money for their pay. These dopey little courses and this five-year nursing innovation fund will not address that problem in the slightest. One wonders whether the nursing innovation fund will include such courses as How to Become a Real Estate Agent, because in fact that kind of career seems increasingly attractive to people who are tired of getting the short end of the stick in our health care system.
There is a stick mentioned. She is going to beat the hospitals that have not implemented the regulation governing the administration of Ontario’s public hospitals to allow for the participation of nurses on hospital committees. The minister must have, as I do, a very bulging file full of outraged comment from nurses right across this province, in virtually every hospital of this province, who have been having the very devil of a time getting their hospital administrations to implement the very first and splendid initiative of this minister: to get nurses involved in the administration of their hospitals.
Some hospitals, Mr Speaker, and this I know you will find hard to believe, have in fact established the ability of nurses to serve on the committees, but then they established other committees on which nurses do not sit, to which those committees on which the nurses are must now report. Can you imagine anything more galling than that? This minister stands up and says, “We’re going to give $400,000 annually for research into worklife issues in nursing.” If she handed out a bag of quarters, nurses in Ontario would be glad to call her up and tell her what it is like to work in the health care system in Ontario, and if she had a little delay on her phone she would not have to hear some of the hotter language they would want to use.
This minister and this government continually disappoint in coming to grips with real issues in health care; this is another example.
While I am on my feet, I cannot help but mention the earlier statement of the minister, which came out in the form of a wonderfully glossy press kit about a quality assurance conference, 54 pieces of paper printed on one side, in loud defiance of government policy. All very interesting, all very esoteric, but it does not deal with the real problems in the health care system today. Why does this government not get on with the job?
Mr Eves: I will try to refrain from making the comments about Space Camp. I do want to point out that this is sort of a good and bad news story. I do want to point out the good points in the minister’s statement this afternoon. I think they are on page 2 of the minister’s statement, where she talks about her $5-million nursing innovation fund, where at least they are going to make a start towards staffing and scheduling, which are two underlying problems in the nursing profession that have been there for quite some time.
I also would like to acknowledge the statement that she is making with respect to her effort to attract students to the nursing profession in the province of Ontario. However, that is unfortunately about the end of the good news in the minister’s press release this afternoon.
We have waited many months now, in some cases as long as a year. There have been four major studies with almost unanimous recommendations in 14 or 15 major areas as to what actions have to be taken to address the nursing shortage in Ontario. Before today, the minister had addressed or tried to address exactly one of those 14 or 15, and that was by passing a regulation in February of this year that hospitals had to include nurses on important committees in hospitals by 30 September of this year.
The Speaker may recall, as I am sure other members will, that last Wednesday I asked the minister this very question, as to how many hospitals in the province had complied with regulation 83/89. We never did get an answer, but I presume from the minister’s roundabout answer to the question that the answer is zero. Not one single hospital in the province to date has complied with the regulation that she imposed as Minister of Health, which she should be making sure is complied with by every hospital in the province on the due date.
I would point out a few other problems in the nursing profession, which should go without saying but, obviously, seeing as how they are not addressed in the minister’s statement today, I might want to remind her and others of some of the more important points in the nursing shortage problem in Ontario.
The RNAO recommended the establishment of a health manpower institute for all health professions, which would be an independent body, although funded by the Ministry of Health, would be totally independent and would chose its own representatives from health professions around the province. To date the ministry has not seen fit to do this and instead chooses to go the rather at least semipolitical route of the Premier’s Council on Health Care Strategy, instead of getting down to some real solutions to some of the very real problems in our health care system today. I do not see anything in the minister’s statement about assistance in the form of money or compensating or rewarding nurses for their expertise and experience.
I found it rather shocking, actually, that a nurse with experience -- for example, an ICU nurse with 20 years’ experience -- makes somewhere in the neighbourhood of $4,200 to $4,300 a year more than a nursing graduate who graduated yesterday. I think that until we start to address some of these major issues in the nursing profession in the province we are going to be here just talking about airy-fairy ideals instead of real, commonsense, down-to-earth practical solutions to some very real problems.
As to the minister’s statement on the bottom of page 3 and top of page 4 about establishing $200,000 annually and $400,000 annually for more research, I would suggest to her that enough research has already been done on what the real acute problems in the nursing profession are in the province, and I would urge and encourage the minister to address some of those in some real and practical ways.
Mr Brandt: When the minister talks about improving job satisfaction for nurses, one of the things the minister is going to have to address is the fact that the nursing profession today is very frustrated because approximately one third of the total time they are on the job is spent performing non-nursing functions. That is one of the key frustrations that they have been faced with and which they have told the minister repeatedly they want to have corrected.
What she has announced today in no way addresses that particular point. As my colleague mentioned, the nurses in addition have a considerable amount of frustration with the fact that there is really no consideration given to those nurses who have particular expertise or experience after a long number of years in the profession and are in fact carrying out responsibilities that are well beyond that of a recently graduating nurse.
Time is not going to allow me to get into the next part of it, Mr Speaker. Thank you.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for ministerial statements and responses.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Solicitor General. He will, I know, be aware of the tragic circumstances over the weekend in which, a young woman named Sophia Cook was apparently shot by a police officer.
The question I have for the minister is this: His predecessor established a task force, the Clare Lewis task force, which had some very specific recommendations on the use of force and changes to the Police Act and also some very specific recommendations about post-shooting investigations. On that subject, I want to ask the minister this: The task force makes it very clear that to have the police investigating the police is not adequate, and he insists on the establishment of a new team which would be under the jurisdiction of the Solicitor General, under his responsibility, which would consist of police officers and of civilians who would be independent of any police force in the province --
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr B. Rae: -- and who would be responsible for reporting directly with respect to possible criminal charges. I want to ask the minister: Why has the government not proceeded at all with this particular recommendation?
Hon Mr Offer: First, let me indicate that the matter of last Friday is currently being investigated, as we know, by the OPP. They are conducting a full and exhaustive and speedy investigation into this matter.
Dealing with the task force report, I would like to indicate that the 57 recommendations are in the final stages of analysis. I have taken it upon myself as the Solicitor General to review the purpose and the object for each of those recommendations. They are now in their final stages. I expect to be making a full statement on all of those recommendations in the very near future.
Mr B. Rae: The report says, in referring to the fact that in other situations either the OPP is asked to investigate the Metropolitan Police Force or, alternatively, sometimes the Metro Police Force or the Windsor Police Force is asked to investigate the activities of the OPP -- I want to refer the minister specifically to what Mr Lewis had to say about this. He said, “...this variation does not go far enough in providing the necessary level of independence.”
That is a very direct response to what the government asked the task force to look at. The minister does not require changes in the Police Act in order to carry this out; all he requires is an administrative decision on his part with respect to what will happen when such incidents occur. We had the case of a young man who died after altercations with the police; we now have the case of a young woman who has been shot, in the last six weeks.
The Speaker: And the question might be?
Mr B. Rae: I would like to ask the minister, again coming back to this question: Does he believe that Mr Lewis is right when he says that we do not have an adequate independent investigation or is he saying that Mr Lewis is wrong? Which is it?
Hon Mr Offer: I think one has to keep in mind that the report dealt with 57 very important recommendations. I very much believe and agree with the general thrust of the report in terms of the direction and the road it leads us down, but it has to be stated that that is one of 57 recommendations.
I view it as my responsibility to examine each and every one of those recommendations with a view to what the purpose of the recommendation is, with a view to what the object of each of those recommendations is and to respond accordingly. I take that very seriously and I would like to indicate that I am in the final stages prior to a full decision on the matter. I expect to be making that decision and report in the very next while, but I do stress that it is one of 57 recommendations, each of which is very important, each of which is deserving of a response.
Mr B. Rae: This government has been saying since last December, nearly a year now, how important it is. His predecessor told us in December, speaking of discrimination: “Neither the reality, if such there be, nor the perception can be tolerated for one minute longer. I have asked Mr Lewis to provide me with a comprehensive report and the recommendations of the task force no later than two months from this day,” and she talks about recommendations with a view to their implementation. That was the commitment made by his predecessor last December.
I think we are entitled to an answer and I think the family of Miss Cook is entitled to an answer today from this minister. Does he or does he not feel that an independent investigation is required, or is he satisfied with the status quo which has not changed in the last 20, 30, 40 years, with the police simply investigating the police? Which is it?
The Speaker: Thank you. Minister?
Hon Mr Offer: Again, let me say that dealing with the report as a whole, dealing with some of the principles which it envisages, dealing with some of the direction it wants to take us, I am in agreement with that type of direction. I would like to indicate that there are 57 very important recommendations, all of which deserve no less than a full response by this government. It is our commitment that we will be making such a response, that I am in the final stage prior to such a response, and I expect to be making such a response in the very near future.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Health concerning cancer treatment. The House will be aware and the minister will be aware that last week the Toronto-Bayview Regional Cancer Centre sent out a letter to all referring physicians which basically said that patients who previously had been referred to the Bayview centre would have to join the Princess Margaret Hospital patients in terms of this province-wide, indeed Canada-wide, and in some cases North America-wide, referral system because of the backup in the system and the unacceptable delays in treatment which were being imposed on patients.
I want to ask the minister some very specific questions about the statements that were made by the director of the centre. The director of the centre says: “Obviously the necessity for this crisis plan has caused us much grief. We believe that the severe shortage of radiation treatment technologists will be resolved within six months and this is the likely duration of this emergency plan.”
I want to ask the minister: Can she tell this House categorically that in her opinion the shortage of radiation technologists will be resolved and this issue will be out of the way in six months?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that I understand the stress of cancer patients who must go through treatments. My priority is to ensure that all patients have the access to the treatment that they need when they need it. We are working together with all of our partners -- the doctors, the nurses, Princess Margaret Hospital and the eight Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation centres -- to ensure that people get the care they need. I want him to know that is the reason the referral centre was established.
He knows that many patients are referred to Metropolitan Toronto who could be treated in other centres and that we are acting together, not only on the human resources side to ensure we have the staff we need, but that we also work together to develop the kind of network within our system that will plan, not only for today but for the future, so that people can have that service as close to home as possible. But our priority is to make sure people get the service they need when they need it, and I want to tell him I am assured that in fact people are getting the treatment they need.
Mr B. Rae: Out of kindness to the minister, I asked her a very specific question. The minister knows, as we all know, that it is the shortage of radiation technologists that lies at the heart of the fact that we now have two machines at Princess Margaret that are not working, which is just an absolute tragedy when we consider the resources we have. The Bayview centre now says it is having to cut back its hours from 10 hours to eight.
I asked the minister a question. We are entitled to an answer. The doctors are being told by the director of this centre that in his opinion -- and I can only assume he is basing this opinion on some information he has from the ministry -- “We believe the severe shortage of radiation treatment technologists will be resolved within six months.”
Have any of the minister’s officials led Mr Jenkin or anyone else to believe that she has a plan to solve the radiation technologist shortage within six months? If she does have such a plan, could she kindly tell us what it is?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to share with the Leader of the Opposition and with all members of this House the information we have on how we are working together to address the many challenges facing us. For example, and this is just one example, we know that by January, Princess Margaret Hospital expects to have enough technologists to open the two machines which are presently not being staffed.
We know, as well, that early in the new year they will have five new people ready, arriving to help with the staffing situation at PMH, but this is just part of the overall plan to develop a network across the province. We are actively recruiting, with support from the ministry’s underserviced areas program, to support the kind of initiatives being taken by Princess Margaret Hospital, the Ontario Cancer Institute, and the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation co-operatively, which will help us to make sure people have the services they need when they need them.
Mr Reville: What we are trying to get from this minister is a base-line kind of comment. It is the kind of thing my friend the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore (Mrs Grier) was after her for in other matters. We want to know: Is this problem going to be resolved in six months? Does it require, as the director at Toronto-Bayview Regional Cancer Centre suggests, the creation of two additional regional cancer centres in the Metropolitan Toronto region? That is my question. Is she going to establish two additional regional cancer centres here?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows, we have announced the establishment of the Ontario Cancer Control Agency. We have done that with the co-operation of the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, the Ontario Cancer Institute and Princess Margaret Hospital, as an acknowledgement that we are taking a systems-wide approach, building a network, bringing all of our partners to work with us to make sure we respond appropriately to meet the needs of the people of this province. I want to tell the member, the referral service that is in place at Princess Margaret Hospital is ensuring people get the care they need when they need it.
Mr Brandt: My question is also to the Minister of Health. The Ontario Hospital Association recently conducted a poll which indicated that fully 50 per cent of the residents of this province are concerned about having quick access to major treatment in hospital, either heart surgery or cancer treatment, and a fully 50 per cent increase in the number of people who are dissatisfied with the health care system.
Surely it must bother the minister that there is a level of deteriorating confidence in the health care system as a result of these waiting lists that my colleagues have just talked about and the concerns that are developing in the health care system. Does the minister have a plan that will, in fact, reduce these waiting lists, and if so, would she share that with us?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The leader of the third party knows that, in fact, not only do we have a plan, but we are working with all of our partners in health care to ensure that we respond appropriately to the challenges facing us in partnership with the doctors, with the nurses, with the hospitals, their administrators, all of those who know that we can always do a little bit better tomorrow than we did yesterday, and that, in fact, by working co-operatively together, we can, I believe, look at the fact that 75 per cent of the people seem to be satisfied. I will never be satisfied until everyone feels that he is well served by the health care services delivered in this province.
Mr Brandt: Let me tell the minister why there is a continuing degree of dissatisfaction with the health care system, and that is that her ministry promised some 4,400 hospital beds and an expenditure of $850 million. Of those 4,400 beds there have been 300 new beds delivered, and at the selfsame time there have been 2,000 beds removed from the system, a reduction from 51,000 to 49,000 beds, so that we actually have fewer beds available in the system now than we had just about three years ago.
Can the minister tell us how this is going to shorten the waiting period for cancer treatment, for heart surgery or for other emergency services, when, in fact, we have fewer beds in the system to allow for those kinds of treatments to be available to the Ontario public?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member for the question because it gives me an opportunity, again, to talk about how we are focusing on people and the services that they need and the alternative ways of providing that service. One example is the Independent Health Facilities Act, which acknowledges that you can provide more services to more people on an outpatient and an ambulatory basis with safe, quality care in a community base setting than you can with one person in one bed.
Just a few years ago -- and we heard this at committee -- one person had to be in one bed for five days to have a cataract operation. Today that can be provided in an alternative setting where one person for one day has that done on an outpatient basis; therefore, five people can be accommodated. By looking at how services are provided, using new technologies and focusing on people, we know that beds are no longer the benchmark of services and that is important for us to focus on how we can provide those services to the people of this province not only in the most convenient location, close to home, but ensuring that they are getting the quality of care that we all want for the people of this province.
Mr Brandt: The minister, in fact, established beds as a benchmark back in 1986. It was the ministry’s announcement, made through the previous Minister of Health, and this government has not had the intestinal fortitude to come forward at this point in time and indicate whether it will even fund that program. The new benchmark for health care in this province is to be put on a waiting list. It has nothing to do with the kind of rhetoric that the minister shares with us in this House. Cancer patients are being flown out of the province; heart patients are leaving the country. A deal had to be made with the city of Detroit in the state of Michigan in order to look after patients from my end of the province, in Windsor and in Sarnia, because they cannot get any access to heart surgery.
When these problems are emerging on a daily basis, when people are, in fact -- and this is not an exaggeration -- dying on waiting lists, how can the minister stand up and completely ignore the promises her government made? When is the minister going to fulfil the commitment made to the people of this province?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The Premier’s Council on Health Strategy and others have brought to our attention the fact that services can be provided in alternative ways and that we should be looking at the expansion of community-based services. We are determined to do the right thing in the communities of this province, and we only have that opportunity to do that planning before the shovel goes in the ground.
I want the member to know that we are focusing on people, the services that they need and the alternative ways of being able to provide those services because we want the people of Ontario to know that we are going to be able to meet the real and changing needs of the people of this province.
Mr Brandt: My second question is for the Premier (Mr Peterson) who has not arrived yet. It will be asked by my colleague the member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson). I would ask that the question be stood down.
The Speaker: Is there agreement to stand down the second question? I believe it has been agreed; therefore, I will ask for another new question.
Mr Allen: I have a question of the Minister of Colleges and Universities. On 6 March this year in Sudbury, the then parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Colleges and Universities, the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mr Morin), made an announcement of a study that would be undertaken by the minister of the collegial needs of francophones in Ontario, thinking towards a college for the French community in the north. That commitment was reiterated again in April and a firm by the name of ACORD was commissioned to make the study. That study was deposited with the Minister of Colleges and Universities at the end of July, and from that moment on absolute silence has reigned.
Would the minister please tell us what is the long delay in making this report public? Why does the French community not have it in its hands so it can be thinking concretely about its prospects or the feasibility of such a project?
Hon Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, through you to my friend the member for Hamilton West, I shall try to be clear. The reports to which the honourable member makes reference are being prepared. I expect to release those reports very soon, and at the same time to indicate a process of consultation so that the material is not just released but that there is an opportunity for the community to see what is being suggested and to react to it, because, like my friend the member for Hamilton West, I am very anxious to proceed to make progress in this very important area of francophone education.
Mr Allen: I believe on both occasions when this study was announced there was a commitment made that there would be consultations this fall. Over the weekend a large number of francophone groups in the north met at Sault Ste Marie in order to consider this question of collegial services and the college for francophones in the north. To put it mildly, they are becoming very impatient with the fact that the process appears to have been delayed or held up.
Would the minister perhaps hazard a date on which he would be prepared to begin those consultations, and can he give us some sense of the time line for the development of a college for francophone northerners?
Hon Mr Conway: There are a couple of points. The production of the reports took a little longer than expected. I can appreciate the interest of the community, but I would say this to my friend the member for Hamilton West and to the francophone community: I think they will understand and they will appreciate the excellent sensitivity and progress that the Peterson government has made over the four years and four months it has been in office in addressing their real aspirations, and it will be the same in this respect.
I have very happy memories of working under the leadership of this Premier and with people like my friend the member for Hamilton West and the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot) to advance very significantly francophone education in a couple of other areas, and I am no less enthused about our opportunities to move forward in a co-operative and a consultative way in these matters as well.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Premier concerning the 13-day-old community college strike in our province. On Thursday last I asked a question of his Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr Conway), who agreed with me that both parties in this dispute should be returning to the bargaining table immediately, where a solution can be found, yet to date his minister has done nothing to assist and facilitate that.
This morning on the CBC, on the Metro Morning program, the minister told the students in this province that they should continue to put pressure evenly on both sides in this dispute so that they can get back to the bargaining table immediately.
My question to the Premier is, why are he and his government not practising the very advice that they are giving all the community college students in this province regarding this strike?
Hon Mr Peterson: I have every confidence in the minister, and I think he can respond to the member’s question about how he is handling this matter.
Hon Mr Conway: I had the opportunity, over the course of the weekend just concluded, to meet with a number of students and a number of instructors who are involved in this current withdrawal of services. I took that opportunity, as I did on a number of radio broadcasts today, to reiterate this government’s concern about the impact of this withdrawal of services upon the student community, about our belief that the free collective bargaining process is a right and appropriate course of action to resolve these disputes and my strongly held view that a settlement can and will be achieved by those responsible parties accepting their responsibilities under the process and under the act by returning immediately to the table to get on with the question that concerns all of us, ending this in the students’ interest immediately.
Mr Jackson: The reason I asked the Premier to look at the apparent contradiction in the minister’s approach in this conflict -- there was a reason for that -- is because there are legitimate contradictions in the way the minister is approaching this.
Again, on the CBC this morning, the minister admitted that he was going to be waiting for the College Relations Commission to inform him at what point students would be losing their school year.
On the one hand, how can he say that both parties should get back to the table and seek an immediate resolution in this impasse when his only publicly stated course of action to date is to sit and wait and find out when the students’ year is going to be in jeopardy? They contradict each other.
Hon Mr Conway: My learned friend the member for Burlington South is a very knowledgeable member of this Legislature and what he and his colleagues would want me to observe is what I observed this morning and on other occasions as to how the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act functions.
The question that was raised this morning, quite rightly, and that will continue to be raised as long as the dispute involves the withdrawal of services, is what about the students and their academic programs. I have made the point that is clearly spelled out in the act; that is, there is a body called the College Relations Commission, a group of very wise and knowledgeable people who monitor this kind of a dispute on a daily basis, and it is its statutory responsibility to ascertain whether there is a state of jeopardy. Should it so ascertain, it then makes that finding known to me or to whoever else happens to be the Minister of Colleges and Universities.
Mr Jackson: The minister knows that different college programs for different college students will be in jeopardy at different times. It is most inappropriate for the minister to hide behind that answer when this important issue must be addressed. It is his only course of action to date.
The minister has consistently denied in this House that his government has an interest at the bargaining table in this dispute. The mediator, Terry Mancini, is there on behalf of the province in the best interest of making sure both parties come together, and yet Ian McArdle is at that bargaining table as the minister’s specific ministry representative and he sits with the Council of Regents bargaining team.
Will the minister not now admit in this House that he is unwilling and his Premier is unwilling to help resolve this strike by encouraging the mediator Terry Mancini because, in fact, Ian McArdle sits at the table on the minister’s behalf representing him and the Council of Regents?
Hon Mr Conway: My learned friend is, surprisingly, wrong a second time. Mr McArdle does not represent me at that negotiating table. He is a resource person to the Council of Regents but he does not represent the minister.
I want to say that when the Davis government passed the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act, it rightly imagined that there ought to be a mechanism to ascertain jeopardy in the case of a withdrawal of services at the elementary, secondary or post-secondary level of education. The Davis government rightly observed and appropriately enacted that under the statute it would not be appropriate for members of the Legislature or members of the executive council to discharge that responsibility.
The Davis government wisely provided, in the appropriate legislation, that an independent body of expert individuals, namely, the College Relations Commission, should have that very important obligation, which is properly theirs under the statute -- I have every confidence, and I know, they are meeting that in every respect -- and no jeopardy finding has been so determined by that august group of men and women thus far.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. I would like to go back to the cancer treatment issue. This issue was first raised in the Legislature recently, on 14 June 1989, when we asked the minister about the problems at that time that were happening at Princess Margaret Hospital. Her response did not even mention a shortage of radiotherapy technologists. She talked about her director, Dr Aileen Clarke, going ahead with a new plan.
When the minister was asked again in the Legislature later in June and a couple of times in July, she indicated that her plan was to distribute the load of cancer patients to other centres around the province, namely, Kingston, which she mentioned. We now see that since the end of September some 90 patients have been referred to places such as Thunder Bay, Ottawa and Windsor and two patients to Halifax, some 30 in the last two weeks alone, as was pointed out, I believe, by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) earlier in question period.
Is this all part of her master plan to take care of cancer patients in the province?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to restate again that the first priority is and must be to see that people get the treatment and services they need when they need them. We are working together with the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, which has eight centres across this province. We are also working with the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Ontario Cancer Institute together to make sure that people have access to those services as close to home as possible.
The member knows, because we have discussed it in this House, that many issues facing health care are not unique to Ontario. Staffing considerations and availability of services are things which we want to make sure are developed by a comprehensive network approach so that people can be referred appropriately. That is why we established the patient referral centre at the Princess Margaret Hospital. I understand that the referral centre is working well and that people are receiving the treatment and services they need when they need them.
Mr Eves: It would appear that in July, when answering a similar type of question, the minister’s answer to “as close to home as possible” was Kingston. Now as close to home as possible is Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Windsor and Halifax. I would hate to think what is going to happen next month.
I have a letter, which I am sure the minister is aware of, from Dr Jenkin, the director of the Toronto-Bayview Regional Cancer Centre. He talks about how the Ministry of Health has been integrally involved in the initiation of this program; that is, to send patients elsewhere in Ontario, elsewhere in Canada and then to the United States -- Detroit, Cleveland, Rochester, New York, Philadelphia and Minneapolis are named, to name a few.
Dr Jenkin finds that “at the present time it is not uncommon for there to be an interval as long as three months between surgery and postoperative radiation in ‘well’ patients, as in early breast cancer, for example. This is an intolerable situation.” He goes on to say that we need at least two more regional centres in Metropolitan Toronto. Hamilton is in trouble. We need others elsewhere.
Does the minister have a specific plan, as asked by the Leader of the Opposition earlier, to address this very specific problem? And is she prepared to assure us that by the end of this year, all these problems for cancer patients will be solved?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to assure the member and all members of this House, and in fact all those who share my concern that we respond appropriately by setting our priority and making sure that people get the care they need when they need it. We appointed a cancer care co-ordinator, Dr Aileen Clarke, and a plan, in co-operation with all our partners in health care, is being developed not only for the short term, as the member is well aware, but also to make sure that in the longer term we work with the Ontario Cancer Control Agency to make sure that people will receive the services they need and that those services are provided as close to home as possible.
Ms Poole: My question is for the Minister of Housing. Several weeks ago I spoke to the minister regarding a disturbing trend affecting tenants in my riding. Increasingly, landlords have been seeking large rent increases based on questionable capital expenditures: 66 Broadway Avenue, 20 per cent approved; 365 Eglinton Avenue East, 37 per cent approved; 44 Dunfield Avenue and 33 Holly Street, 25 per cent requested; 221 Balliol Street and 265 Balliol Street, 39 per cent requested. All this is for new kitchens no one wants, new dishwashers no one needs, redecorated lobbies no one asked for and expensive upgrades no one can afford.
I would ask the minister if he would consider amending the regulations to give discretion to rent review administrators and appeal board members to disallow unnecessary, cosmetic or luxury renovations and repairs.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I appreciate the honourable member raising this particular issue, because a number of tenants have spoken to me about the same concern. Let me share with my honourable colleague the same thing I shared with them. It would appear that there are some unnecessary renovations. The difficulty we have in terms of changing the legislation is making a distinction between what is necessary and what is unnecessary.
The landlords in this province are required by legislation to keep their buildings in good repair, and in the existing legislation there is no distinction as to how they come to that conclusion. Since the buildings are their buildings and their assets, their responsibility is to see to it that they are kept up in a proper manner.
We recently had occasion to look at a very large renovation project, something in the neighbourhood of $800,000, and the complaint from a number of tenants was, “We are getting unnecessary microwave ovens.” However, on further investigation, the microwave ovens represented $10,000 of that $800,000; therefore, they were not significant in the entire project.
Yes, we are open, but the clear difficulty --
The Speaker: Thank you. Order.
Ms Poole: In consultation with tenant organizers, I have prepared a draft which proposes to change the regulation. If this change were adopted, only those capital expenditures necessary for maintaining a building in a good state of repair and fit for habitation would be allowed without the express agreement of the affected tenant or tenants.
I do not expect the minister to give me an instant answer, but I am going to have a page take over the exact wording of my proposed amendment to the minister. Will the minister undertake to examine this proposal with a view to offering tenants the protection they need?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I had previously asked my staff if they could come up with wording that would be acceptable and would work. Thus far, we have not been able to. I certainly will take this into consideration and ask them to examine it.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mr B. Rae: I have a question to the Premier about the situation in Temagami. It is my information that construction has started again on the Red Squirrel Road extension. I am sure the Premier will appreciate that this is seen by the native community and by many others as, I would say, even a provocative act in the sense that this is such a controversial issue.
By authorizing this continued construction, is the Premier saying in effect that he is not interested in further discussions and negotiations with the native people or with the environmental community about a possible compromise with respect to logging in the area?
Hon Mr Peterson: I regret that some would see it as a provocative act. My honourable friend may be right in the way he describes it -- I am not sure about that -- because it is not intended to be a provocative act by any stretch of the imagination.
I think the government showed its reasonableness when there was a court challenge on the injunction to stop the construction for a week. As the member knows, this has been through two courts at the present time, through the High Court of Ontario and the Supreme Court of Ontario. The Attorney General (Mr Scott) will help me out if I am wrong. It has had a number of applications for injunctions along the way. Everything the government has done has been with the approbation or the approval of the courts.
That does not address the second part of the member’s question with respect to the land claim. I can tell him that the offer is on the table. We will sit down any time to negotiate that land claim, and we are ready, willing and able. To the best of my knowledge, that was one of the first land claims ever offered by a government in the history of this province. We stand by ready to discuss that matter and hopefully we can come to a successful resolution.
Mr B. Rae: The Premier well knows that as long as the construction continues and plans are in place for logging directly in the area, which he knows is the case, that flies in the face of reaching a bona fide settlement with the Teme-Augama Anishnabai.
If the Supreme Court of Canada rules in favour of the band and against the government of Ontario in two years’ time, what will the Premier say to the band in terms of what it can do with the trees which he has authorized to be logged and cut down and with the land which he has authorized be used by the logging companies? Just exactly what will his response be to that band when the resources upon which it is relying for its economic future have already been used up under authorization of his government?
Hon Mr Peterson: The first message I will give is that this government will respect the law, and I think it is important that all members of this House signal accordingly that they would respect the law.
I understand that the outstanding claim has been going on for a long period of time. The Attorney General tells me he is willing to sit down any time on the land claim matter. The band apparently, at this moment, has decided not to talk about it, but we stand ready, willing and able to discuss the outstanding land claim.
Second, with respect to the management of the timber in that area, we have invited local participation, including the Temagami Wilderness Society, the environmentalists, to assist in that. There is no intention to go in and clear-cut sensitive areas. There will be a determination of what the sensitive areas are and how we can manage this as an ongoing resource for the benefit of not only the band but other people in the area.
I think our position has been enormously reasonable. I understand how polarized this matter has become, but I think my own sense is, as more and more people understand how this process has developed and the fact that we invite participation from all sides, that there can be a reasonable and thoughtful conclusion in this matter when everybody can win and we can work together to find a successful resolution.
Mrs Marland: My question is to the Minister of Health. I must say that the minister’s excuses are cold words of comfort to the Toronto-area cancer patients who have to be treated in other than local hospitals.
A constituent of mine is a new cancer treatment patient. This woman could not be accepted at Princess Margaret Hospital, where the shortage of radiation therapists has linear accelerators sitting idle. She has been referred to Ottawa for treatment. While in Ottawa, she will be unable to continue to work. She may have to travel alone or have her husband go with her, but he would have to give up his income in order to remain with her for the duration of her treatment so far from home.
Does the Minister of Health think it is reasonable for my constituent to have to lose income, for her husband to have to lose income and for her go without the important support of family and friends while being treated in Ottawa when radiation machines sit unused in Toronto?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I do not think there is anything more distressing to me personally than to see a member in this House rise and ask the kind of question that was just asked.
We want the people who need service to have it. We want them to have it when they need it. We want them to have it as close to home as possible. If during this time she is suggesting that we are not doing everything possible to accomplish that, then let her stand in her place and say so because that is wrong and she knows it is wrong.
Mrs Marland: What is wrong is that a patient in Ontario in 1989 has to go to Ottawa for treatment simply because we do not have the technical people in our city when we have the equipment here.
I want to further this question about this particular patient. With regard to the financing of this constituent’s radiation therapy in Ottawa, although OHIP will pay for the therapy and the transportation, the cost of accommodation and meals is being borne by the Canadian Cancer Society, which is only partially funded by the government.
If the treatments last several weeks and my constituent wants to return home between them she will have to pay for the travel and accommodation out of her own pocket. She may well need to return home, I would suggest to the minister, for some reinforcement and moral support.
The Speaker: And your question might be?
Mrs Marland: My question is this: Why is the government of Ontario not accepting full financial responsibility for this crisis in cancer care, which has been brought on by its mismanagement of the health care system? Why is the government not paying the full cost of my constituent’s cancer treatment?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite does a disservice to the people of this province and to the doctors and the nurses, to the boards of trustees, when she suggests that we are not working together, because in fact we are.
Her constituent, like every other patient in this province who requires care, is going to receive that in one of a number of centres across this province and, if necessary, outside this province, although we hope that is not going to be necessary. We are going to do that with the support and co-operation of the Canadian Cancer Society, to make sure that people do not have to bear the cost.
But we want them to know that whether they are treated in Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Hamilton, Sudbury, Kingston or Toronto, they will receive the care they need, fine-quality care by the doctors and the nurses working very hard to make sure they get the treatment they need and that it will be high-quality care.
Mrs Cunningham: Oh come on.
Hon Mr Scott: The high road to leadership, Dianne.
Mrs Cunningham: It’s a good thing it isn’t your mother, Mr Scott, or your neighbour.
The Speaker: There are other members waiting patiently to ask questions. Order. I wonder if the Attorney General is finished?
TRAFFIC DELAYS AT BORDER CROSSINGS
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. It concerns the impediments to highway traffic between the state of Michigan and the province of Ontario, the long delays in lineups at the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.
Members of the Legislature will know the importance of free-flowing highway transport to the Ontario tourist industry and to Ontario industry in general. The minister will have a special sensitivity to the needs of Windsor, the needs of our plants, the needs of our auto industry and auto parts plants for just-in-time delivery of inventory. The minister will also know of the special dependence of the city of Windsor tourist trade upon short-term visits from Michigan and Ohio and particularly convention business from the city of Detroit to our city.
In recent months there have been serious delays at the border crossings, and my question for the minister is could the minister advise the House on what he has done since taking office as Minister of Transportation to bring an end to these delays?
Hon Mr Wrye: The honourable member is obviously very sensitive to a problem, as I am, that has been occurring not only in the Windsor-Detroit area but also in the area of Sarnia and Port Huron with the Bluewater Bridge; that is, there has been a very sharp increase in the amount of traffic going in both directions, the instances of delays have been increasing and some of the delays have become very substantial indeed.
We have been working with the federal government in an effort to improve the movement of truck traffic, particularly off both ends of the two bridges, and have been urging that a study be undertaken. I can advise the honourable member that a $100,000 study is now under way, jointly funded by this government, the government of Canada and the state of Michigan, which is looking at the impact of this very serious problem of the flow of transportation at the two bridges and at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.
Mr M. C. Ray: With regard to the study, can the minister give us some reasonable estimate of when we can expect that study to be concluded and some action to be taken with respect to this problem?
Hon Mr Wrye: The study began in mid to late September. It should be completed by the middle part of January next year. So it is only two or three months away.
I can tell the honourable member that while the focus of the study is an attempt to ease the current problems, we are not only looking at the present infrastructure, we are looking in detail at the causes of the current problems and, indeed, where the greatest impacts are. Are they on tourism? For example, with the reopening of Windsor Raceway in my own community, what are the impacts on that raceway of the lineups at the bridge? Having looked at the problems and who is most affected, we are looking at the plans that are in place from both bridge organizations and the US Detroit-Windsor tunnel organization to solve the problems, as well as at other potential solutions. So we are trying to look at solutions without really getting into the building of a new bridge that will solve the problem into the 1990s.
Miss Martel: I have a question for the Minister of Health concerning the oncology beds promised for the cancer treatment centre in Sudbury.
On 28 September, the health and social services committee of the regional municipality met to discuss whether or not funding for the beds was actually going to be delivered as promised. On 13 October, both the minister and the Minister of Northern Development (Mr Fontaine) were in Sudbury at the centre itself and yet there was not an announcement made concerning funding for the beds. Last Friday, I spoke with the director of Laurentian Hospital and the director of the oncology department and confirmed there was still nothing in writing concerning when the beds were going to be approved.
I would like to ask the minister if she can tell the House when the oncology beds will in fact be approved.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, as the member knows, I was recently in Sudbury. We consider the service that Sudbury provides to cancer patients in the province of Ontario to be not only of fine quality but also to be a very important partner in the network of services across this province. She knows as well that active planning is under way at the present time to ensure that the centre in Sudbury will meet the needs of the people of the north, northeastern Ontario and those people who are referred as part of the network in Ontario.
I want to assure her that we are committed to making sure that the people of Sudbury and those who rely on Sudbury have the access to the services that they need and that active planning is under way at the present time to ensure that commitment is met.
Miss Martel: I am sure the minister will understand my scepticism if I refer back to the chronic care beds which were also promised for Laurentian Hospital. Over a year ago I received a letter from her ministry stating categorically that 60 chronic care beds would be placed at Laurentian Hospital and the minister will know that in fact most recently the hospital was told that in fact those beds would not go to Laurentian Hospital and there would be some community care in the end. So I am little sceptical when she says she is concerned, but we have nothing in writing to confirm we will get the beds. I guess the bottom line in the question I have for the minister is when, in fact, will the cheque be delivered?
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, it was the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Health Council that said to me: “Elinor, you should be focusing on people, the services that they need and the places that they need them and whether they can be provided. If services require inpatient care, we will provide inpatient services; and if people require outpatient and ambulatory and community-based care, we will provide those services; and if services can be provided through home care and other support services, we will do that.”
I want the member to know, as all members in this House should be aware, that my friend the member for Sudbury (Mr Campbell) has been a wonderful advocate for the people of Sudbury in saying to them, “Use this opportunity to look at how we can best meet the needs of people in Sudbury and how we can ensure that the services not only for today but for the future are met.”
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Minister of Health as well. I would like to advise the minister that in discussions that I have had recently with the people of the Haliburton and Peterborough area, they said to me that Elinor told them that they were going to get 88 chronic care beds. Now when is Elinor going to deliver?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am not sure specifically to what the member refers. If he likes, he could send me over the information.
I can tell him that in fact I have been meeting with people across this province. We have been talking about how we can best respond to meet their real and changing needs. I want to tell him how pleased I am with the response that I have had from people who say, “We want to work with you co-operatively and we want to make sure we are doing the right thing in our communities.”
Mr Brandt: I am very happy to help the minister and I want to be as enlightening as possible with respect to the problem in that area. I would just like to advise the minister that it was her ministry that promised 18 of the 88 beds to which I am referring, to the Haliburton Hospital and a further 70 chronic care beds to the Peterborough Civic Hospital. Those particular communities have raised the money in order to supplement the total capital required to undertake the projects that are required to service those communities adequately with hospital beds.
When does the minister intend to fulfil her commitment?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows full well, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community and Social Services are working together to develop a long-term care system, something which we have been told is long overdue; and he knows full well that we are working with communities as we discuss the principles of long-term care and to say to them that we want to make sure before we build that we review the options and alternatives to make sure we are meeting the real needs of communities.
The response from communities has been very, very clear. They are saying to us, “Yes, Health and the Ministry of Community and Social Services should work together and, yes, we want to make sure that we are doing the right thing in our communities.”
We have said that, as we review these situations, if in fact the need is for beds and beds alone then we will proceed; and if in fact there are alternatives that should be considered then in fact we are open to making sure that those alternatives are considered.
The Speaker: It just appears as if you are sort of carrying on a little conversation there, you two.
Mr Brandt: You know, I should ask you for a late show so we can discuss this.
The Speaker: Order. New question, the member for Oxford.
NATURAL GAS SUPPLY
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Energy and I think if any of us has read Blair’s Control of Oil or Samson’s The Seven Sisters, he will have an abiding understanding on matters of energy and perhaps an abiding interest.
I would like to ask the minister this question. I understand that the National Energy Board has recently granted a licence to allow the exportation of natural gas from the Mackenzie Delta. How will this affect Ontario gas customers and what role did Ontario take in the NEB hearings?
Hon Mrs McLeod: The Ministry of Energy did take a very active role at the hearings representing the interest of Ontario consumers. Ontario ultimately did support the application for export subject to the National Energy Board addressing a number of concerns that we had about access to those reserves for domestic markets.
It is our belief that the delta reserves could be a very significant source of supply for domestic markets in the future, but at the same time we recognize that the project is so vast and the cost of development and of construction of a pipeline is so great that the project could not be supported by domestic markets alone.
Mr Tatham: Was the NEB in fact allowing the easiest natural gas to get out of the delta, that is the top gas, to be sold to the United States and therefore jeopardizing the security of natural gas to future Canadian customers?
Hon Mrs McLeod: No, not at all. As I indicated, we believe that there can be an enhanced security of gas supply for domestic markets in the future with the development of the Mackenzie Delta reserves. We were concerned about access of domestic customers to those reserves, and in fact we were pleased that the National Energy Board, I think, addressed our concerns with the conditions that it attached to the export licence. I think we recognize that the National Energy Board does have a continued mandate to ensure that any exports are indeed surplus to domestic requirements.
REST AND RETIREMENT HOMES
Ms Bryden: My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs. I am sure the minister has heard about the horrifying attack by two male assailants on staff and residents at the Sunnycrest Retirement Villa in Whitby in the early hours of Sunday morning. The attendant was bound, gagged and robbed and forced to swallow a handful of sleeping pills so that she was not able to carry on her job any longer. The assailants then took an unknown amount of money and goods from some terrified elderly residents. The home was also ransacked and drugs and other equipment were taken. The attendant, incidentally, was hospitalized, is still there and is reported to be in stable condition.
This is another shocking indication of the continuing failure of the government to bring in stricter regulations governing both security, nursing standards, health and nutrition in retirement homes privately operated.
The Speaker: I believe your question is, “Do you agree?”
Ms Bryden: No, Mr Speaker, it is to get past the study stage on this very serious problem and get a commitment from his cabinet colleagues to bring in strict changes in the laws governing these homes and prevent future events of this soil.
Hon Mr Morin: When I learned about this incident, as my colleague was, I was also very upset and extremely concerned. As the member knows, the Durham Regional Police are currently investigating this case. It would be totally inappropriate for me to make any comments at this time.
Ms Bryden: It is not totally improper to start drafting laws that could be enforced to prevent this sort of incident. We also had a resident a while ago who walked out in the middle of the night, the door shut behind her and she died in the cold. We need stricter security regulations and we need a commitment from the minister. Will he give it to us?
Hon Mr Morin: This a very complex issue without an obvious solution. There is not even a definition of what a rest and retirement home is. As the member knows, we have received over 78 briefs concerning rest and retirement homes. There was a lack of consensus. They were not even capable of defining what a rest and retirement home was all about. As the member knows, the government is presently working on a plan to reform the long-term care system. This reform will have significant implication for rest and retirement homes. Until such time, I will be monitoring the issues.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr Ward moved that Mr Reville and Mr Breaugh exchange places in the order of precedence for private members’ public business and that notwithstanding standing order 94(h), the requirements for notice be waived with respect to ballot item 26.
Motion agreed to.
Ms Bryden: I have a petition to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It contains 50 names, it is in the form that was previously allowed under the rules, but it is the spirit of the new rules.
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
I have signed the petition and I support it. It has 50 names on it.
The Speaker: Any other petitions?
Ms Bryden: The petition is in the same wording, requesting legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment. It has 67 names on it and is addressed to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and I have signed it and support it.
Mr Ballinger: I am happy to know I have some friends here today.
This petition is addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
It is signed by 10 names and I have affixed my name thereto.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
TTICKET SPECULATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Farnan moved first reading of Bill 72, An Act to amend the Ticket Speculation Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Farnan: The explanation is very brief.
This amendment to section 2 of the act provides penalties that constitute real deterrents to ticket scalpers.
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Breaugh moved first reading of Bill 73, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Breaugh: This is a bill to provide for the licensing of motor boat operators. It applies to boats having at least to horsepower. It would allow the boats to be operated under the supervision of someone who has such a licence.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
COMMERCIAL CONCENTRATION TAX ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 46, An Act to establish a Commercial Concentration Tax.
The Speaker: The member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope) had the floor, but I guess that member has completed his remarks.
Mr Daigeler: It is my pleasure to briefly speak to the second reading of Bill 46, An Act to establish a Commercial Concentration Tax.
Ontario, as members probably know, is presently in its seventh consecutive year of economic expansion and for some time I am pleased to say Ontario has outpaced growth even in the United States and Europe.
In 1988, real economic output increased by 4.9 per cent, almost five per cent. This year it is a bit slower but nevertheless still an impressive 2.8 per cent.
Much of this growth in Ontario is happening in the financial and industrial centre of the greater Toronto area. This area has been very attractive to renewed business investment and it has been attractive because of its existing transportation network, its service and other infrastructure already in place. The greater Toronto area has, in addition, ready access to customers, suppliers and employees.
To respond to this continued growth in the greater Toronto area, the Ontario government is taking measures in the 1989 budget to improve and expand the transportation network serving this area. Altogether the provincial government will spend an additional $2 billion on the province’s transportation network.
Besides the improvements to highways already mentioned by the minister, an additional $33 million will be spent to expand the GO Transit system. The greater Toronto area will also benefit from a portion of the $200 million budgeted province-wide for improvements to major arterial roads and highway connecting links. As well, $44 million has been set aside for improvements to municipal transit systems. This includes, within the greater Toronto area, capacity improvements to the Yonge Street subway, station upgrading at Yonge and Sheppard and construction of the Harbourfront light rail transit.
Increased growth will inevitably lead to greater demands on surface transportation routes and public transit. The improvements just mentioned will address both congestion in and access to the GTA.
The attractiveness of Toronto and the surrounding area and the resulting necessary improvements to its infrastructure will lead to greater incomes for commercial property owners from tenants seeking prime locations. Also, property owners will profit from increased capital gains as land and building values increase.
Like the provincial government, these commercial properties must share in both the responsibilities and the rewards of continued economic expansion. The commercial concentration tax this government is putting forward ensures that areas that profit from economic expansion also share in the funding of the infrastructure necessary to sustain economic growth. I am therefore pleased to support Bill 46.
Mr Villeneuve: It is a pleasure to participate in the debate on second reading of Bill 46. Bill 46 intends to heavily tax businesses in heavily urbanized areas such as the city of Toronto and other major centres. I have great problems with that in that this government tells us, for example, that it does not want to lose business because of the free trade agreement, but this government tells us it does not want a goods and services tax because the GST would create problems for exactly the people it is going to be taxing under An Act to Establish a Commercial Concentration Tax.
I think we have a bit of a dichotomy here, with a government that says “the federal government is overtaxing” and yet “we here in Ontario are going to grab our share of the pie” and really provides no alternative for the federal government or for anyone else.
Ask the municipalities and they will pretty well all agree that there has been a major shift here, that taxing responsibilities are now becoming the bailiwick of the municipal people and the school boards. Again, this government is grabbing. The lot levies that will be in place are but an example. Certainly we have a lot of resentment to lot levies in rural Ontario. To create lots in rural Ontario has been a problem to say the least.
Mr Ballinger: Freedom of choice.
Mr Villeneuve: Freedom of choice, as the member opposite says, is most interesting, because freedom of choice with this government really is a thing of the past. Responsibility is what they shift from where it should be, with the provincial senior level of government, to municipalities and school boards, wherever.
I have a number of people in my riding on marginal land in rural Ontario, Mr Speaker, as you well know. You have a riding very similar to mine and in the same general area. We have a lot of marginal land. I will tell the members that I have seen a document from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food recommending that a retirement lot to a farmer not be granted if he worked on or off the farm. That is a terrible statement coming from a ministry. They are forbidding this farmer from working on or off the farm. That is dictatorial.
This is directly in relation to Bill 46, because we are out there looking to create lots to provide some residences for people who will have employment in rural Ontario. I say to the government that Bill 46, by going out and throwing an extra surtax on businesses that are in the urbanized areas is not the way to do it. We have to work together. I will cite some examples.
Mr Ballinger: Are you a marginal member?
Mr Villeneuve: There are marginal members on the back benches of the Liberals, I will tell you that, Mr Speaker. If the member for Durham-York wants to talk about marginal members, we can talk about that too, but we are working on Bill 46 right now.
We have in the city of Cornwall, recently moved from the downtown area of Toronto, a company known as Canadian Holidays. Canadian Holidays is affiliated with Canadian Pacific and was operating in downtown Toronto as a booking agent for Canadian Airlines International. They had a very heavy staff turnover, somewhere in the area of 80 per cent plus a year. They have decided to move to a less populated area of Ontario and I am very pleased to have had a small part to do in convincing them to come to rural eastern Ontario.
Mr J. B. Nixon: What does this have to do with Bill 46?
Mr Villeneuve: This has a great deal to do with Bill 46, because Bill 46 would have taxed these people. These people require simply an incentive. They do not want to be nailed to the cross, so to speak, taxwise. Whenever these companies decide, if indeed they so decide, “We are being overtaxed totally by the government of Ontario and we are going to move south,” do you know what this government will say, Mr Speaker? “Free trade. That is where the problem is. Free trade.” Yet this government will have been the first to come in and nail them on additional taxes based on what is happening here in Bill 46.
I say there are much better ways to provide incentives, to provide real, true reasons. In eastern Ontario we have a large workforce of available people, some trained people and some quite willing to be trained, and the service industry in particular should be looking to other areas than the greater Toronto area, with incentives provided by this government, not penalties for their being in the area.
An example again would be if this government were to provide retraining assistance to move people from the GTA with its 4.5-million population, to decentralize. Half the province of Ontario lives in the so-called GTA. In the greater Toronto area we have pollution problems, traffic problems, just about every problem you can imagine. Bill 46 will simply compound these problems. It will provide additional costs and a smaller margin of profit, again going at those companies big and small to provide more money to the coffers of the present Liberal government here in Ontario.
For example, the Liberals are trying to make political hay of the goods and services tax, no end of it. They do not talk about the 13.5 per cent manufacturers’ tax, which is a well-hidden tax initiated by the previous federal government. This is the type of operation this government likes to operate on: “Hide the taxes as much as you can and we will provide you with very little alternative.” The 13.5 per cent manufacturers’ tax is very discriminatory, it creates problems for manufacturers in Ontario. Bill 46 will create and compound additional problems.
The federal government, prior to 1984 a Liberal federal government -- Mr Speaker, would you believe it? -- was in favour of a value added tax. Iis that not something? All of a sudden in 1989 a value added tax is no longer: “We are now going to make political hay. Whatever the government decides, we are going to go against it, pure and simple. No alternative. We’re not going to provide any positive solution. We’re simply going to go negative.”
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. May I remind all members of the standing orders that call for one member at a time. If other members want to have questions or comments, the standing orders provide doing so afterwards, not during.
Mr Villeneuve: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Your advice is always sound and I have no problem at all in adhering to it.
Service industry is going to be the way of the future with clean industries that can and will provide well-paying jobs that can compete, provided you do not have to live in the greater Toronto area. Homes, for example, in the area where I come from, the area south of the city of Ottawa, we have affordable homes. We have affordable vacant lots if we can ever get severances. We have municipalities in favour of severances and marginal land that is available.
The best thing some of this marginal property can produce are single-family homes on one, two or three acres, whatever the need may be, but there is no end of problems, as I mentioned before, when we had the Ministry of Agriculture and Food prohibiting a retiring farmer from obtaining a retirement severance unless he met the criteria that he not work on or off the farm. I wonder what the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mr Morin) would say to that kind of statement coming from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. That would be a very interesting comment and I may well have the occasion to put that question to the minister in charge of senior citizens’ affairs. I am giving him fair warning.
Back to Bill 46, in closing, we have much better ways of encouraging decentralization than by simply charging additional funds to companies that will have difficulty competing, companies that want to stay here in Ontario, companies that want to employ Ontarians but have to compete in the real world. We have worldwide trade, not only with Americans; we have to compete with all the countries across and around the world. If we price ourselves out of the market, we will be the ones to lose. Our residents will be the ones to lose, and of course our governments will be held back from receiving income that they would have otherwise received through taxes.
Bill 46 should be revamped. Do not punish the people who have to operate in this area, but provide real incentives to have decentralization, particularly of the service industry. Mr Speaker, your area and mine are just begging to have the opportunity of catering to these industries. Again, I cite Canadian Holidays. Holiday tours will be providing some 75 full-time, year-round jobs and additional jobs during the wintertime, the off season, when many of our citizens here in Ontario travel to warmer climates. This is the type of endeavour that should be pursued by this government.
Mr Daigeler: I must say I had a bit of a hard time following the logic of the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve). I would have expected some criticism, possibly, from a member from the greater Toronto area, but I would have thought a member from eastern Ontario, and rural eastern Ontario in particular, would be highly supportive of this initiative.
As the member will know, in eastern Ontario, quite often we feel that the greater Toronto area gets the biggest share of the provincial funding pie and this bill, I think, will point out to the people in eastern Ontario and in other parts, in northern Ontario as well, that much of the money that is going into the Toronto area and into the greater Toronto area is coming out of that area. I think it is only fair that if we are raising taxes in that area, much of it goes back there.
I would have expected support for this initiative, especially from a member from eastern Ontario, because it should increase the incentives for industrial and business development in eastern Ontario. I think we are seeing some of that already happening with some of the recent announcements, in Napanee, Brockville and other areas. For one, I am very supportive of continued economic growth in eastern Ontario and I think this bill, while it is a small step in that way, should have been welcomed by the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
Mr Kerrio: I have to comment on the member’s discussion about doing that great old thing for the Ottawa Tories in protecting the goods and services tax and trying to legitimize it here. I do not know what it has to do with this bill, but he brought it forward. I just want to make certain that that is thoroughly understood, when he makes comments about the 13 per cent hidden tax on a manufactured item.
If you take a $10 item and you put 13 percent on it, you have $1 .30 tax, the way it stands. That item will retail for three times that money on the market; it will retail for $30. If you take your nine per cent goods and services tax, you have nearly doubled the amount of tax on the same item when you charge it at the retail level.
Let’s not try and sell the goods and services tax here in Ontario. It is going to end up, as the member describes, looking to more service industry. We need the kind of industry that made Ontario what it is. We do not need a lot of service industry to take the place of manufacturing and good solid jobs. If that is what the members are promoting from their benches over there, to protect the Ottawa scene on the goods and services tax, they should forget it.
Hon Mr Bradley: Very reasonable remarks.
Mr Villeneuve: Yes, reasonable coming from a Liberal who proposed and encouraged a value added tax at every move the manufacturers were doing. This is what was being promoted previously. I am not here to sell the GST; I am here to compare what those people have been trying to do.
To the member for Nepean (Mr Daigeler), and I thank him for his comments, I must tell him that I think he misunderstood to some degree what I was saying, that the confrontational approach, where you gouge, gouge, gouge, this has been the Liberal tradition since coming to power in 1985. We just go after them and gouge, gouge, gouge.
There is not one place in this bill that talks about eastern Ontario, not one place at all. It simply says we are going after more dollars. I say to the member for Nepean that if his comments were right, then there should be areas here that say: “All right. There is an alternative. We will charge you this tax or we will provide you with incentives to go to eastern Ontario or to northern Ontario.” But no, it is a matter of going after the dollars. There is nothing in this bill that says we are going to assist in any way, shape or form. It is a matter of gouging, gouging, gouging for more money, more money, more money for the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) so that -- well, I do not know what they are doing with it.
They have increased the budget from $28 billion in 1985 to almost $42 billion this year. As we heard in question period today, we have so many hospital beds right now that are not available. We have school boards that are asking us: “Where is the commitment, the 60 per cent? We’re down to 42 per cent and dropping.” The municipalities are telling us, “Hey, we’ve been flat-lined. We can’t even maintain the infrastructure,” which was built over 42 years by a previous government, I might add. That is what we are talking about. We are not here to sell the GST. We are here to compare what they are saying with what they are doing and they do not jibe.
Mr Charlton: I rise to address some comments to Bill 46, the government’s An Act to establish a Commercial Concentration Tax. I would like to start out my comments by saying that for me this bill, Bill 46, represents the absolute ultimate in gall on the part of this government. As well, it probably also represents the height of unfairness and extremely arbitrary stupidity on the part of this government.
Mr Villeneuve: He is being brutally honest.
Mr Charlton: I guess my comments flow out of the discrepancies between the stated intention or purpose of the tax and a real thorough look at what the tax does and where those taxes impact, in fact contradicting the very stated purpose of the tax itself.
Bill 46 is promoted by the government as a bill that is supposed to charge a new tax in the greater Toronto area, the GTA as we have come to call it, to help to pay for the costs of transportation in the GTA, costs which the government rightly points out are substantially higher than in any other part of the province.
Let’s start from that point. This government and its predecessor for the last 20 years have failed to make the hard planning and development decisions that needed to be made in order to start the decentralization of growth in the province, in order to stop the extraordinary growth that has been going on in the greater Toronto area and specifically in Metropolitan Toronto at the centre of all that.
As members are well aware, it has been part of the political debate in this province ever since 1970. That is when we first started talking in Ontario about stemming the growth of the greater Toronto area. That is when we started talking, and some of the members who are here this afternoon will recall those debates 15 and 20 years ago. It is the failure on the part of two successive provincial governments, the former Tory government and the present Liberal government, to come to terms with that issue that has led us to where we are.
It is the failure of the provincial government to deal with the planning and development aspects of what is going on in greater Toronto, and now the government stands up and says. “We failed, but we will punish you,” pointing a finger at the people of this province and, more specifically in this case, the people of the greater Toronto area.
As members know, it is individuals who pay taxes. It is not developers, and it is not ultimately even the retailers who rent space in the developers’ properties. It is the people who shop in the commercial complexes and park in the commercial parking lots who will pay this tax. This government is going to penalize specifically the people in the greater Toronto area for the failure on the part of the province to come to terms with unacceptable rates of growth in the greater Toronto area.
I see that, as I suggested earlier, as the ultimate in gall on the part of this government, to impose that kind of penalty on the very people whom it as a government has failed.
But even when we step beyond that pure gall and start looking at the specifics of the tax that is set out for us in Bill 46, we find some very strange anomalies coming from a party that professes to be the friend of business in Ontario. Very strange anomalies indeed coming from the government party that professes to be in favour of good, healthy economic growth; a government that is not prepared to put any planning structure in place so that that good, healthy economic growth happens in an orderly way, but a government that says that it is in favour of a strong industrial and commercial sector in the province.
But what do we do, having professed that belief? The government introduces a tax that pits one retailer against another in a very unfair way. Two malls: One of those malls just happens to be slightly under 200,000 square feet, and the one right across the street happens to be 300,000 square feet; similar shops in both malls right across the street from each other in the same municipality. One of those malls will pay this tax and the other unfortunately will not. Two men’s shops, two women’s shop, two T-shirt shops, two restaurants all competing with each other, one unfortunately competing unfairly because it has been assessed an additional cost that its competitor across the street does not have.
Both malls have parking lots. Both malls attract customers, depending on the customers tastes and preferences, but both malls attract customers and both sets of customers park an those parking lots. As a matter of fact, some of the customers who go to the smaller mall park in the parking lot of the larger mall right across the street when the smaller mall’s lot is full, but the larger mall is being penalized over and against the smaller mall strictly based on size, nothing else -- nothing rational, nothing understandable, nothing quantifiable, nothing calculable, just purely and specifically size; nothing that makes any commercial or economic sense, nothing that reflects ability to pay. In fact, as members well know, at is quite likely that the similar tenant in the larger mall is probably paying a somewhat larger rent already because of the larger size of the property and the larger size of the parking lot and therefore the larger tax that that developer is going to be charged on the overall property.
But, as I suggested, the tax is being opposed without any rational, understandable, calculable approach to a fair tax. Not only is there no rationale, but the government goes so far as to admit openly that although it estimates -- I think even using the word “estimate” is stretching it a bit; it guesstimates, in my view -- that the gross revenue from this new tax will be $125 million a year, it openly admits that they do not know that, because it has not done any inventory of the commercial space that it will be charged against or the parking lot space that it will be charged against.
I ask what kind of government just pulls a new tax out of the sky, out of nowhere, and imposes it without even knowing or understanding where the tax will impact, what kind of businesses will be affected by that tax, where those businesses are located in Metropolitan Toronto or outside of Metro Toronto in the other parts of the greater Toronto area? They are defined in this bill.
What kind of government imposes a tax without understanding what the tax will bring it in dollars and who it is that this tax is being imposed on? I say it is a government with little or no conscience and absolutely no understanding of the impact of taxes in economic terms especially in the retail sector.
I want members to think for a few moments about the arbitrary geographic nature of this tax. Just recently, I guess it was about two weeks ago. we had the member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson) -- and I assume he will be speaking later in this debate -- the member for the third party attacking this government in the media because it was imposing this commercial concentration tax on the greater Toronto area and specifically, on Burlington -- a neighbour of the municipality where I live, Hamilton -- but Hamilton is not included in the tax.
His point was that the kind of commercial development we have in Hamilton is very similar in nature to the kind of commercial development they have in Burlington. In fact, Burlington and Hamilton are very actively competitive when it comes to trying to attract shoppers, commercial customers. The malls in Burlington and the malls in Hamilton compete with each other. They always have and they probably always will. I am sure the same is true elsewhere in the GTA, but I do not wish to try to speak about areas I am not familiar with.
But I have talked to this House about the competition between Hamilton and Burlington before. I remember standing up during the store hours debate in this House and explaining to the members of this House how for 15 years Hamilton and Burlington played off against each other and how Burlington had finally gone to extended store hours, where their stores were open late five nights a week instead of just two. And that after four, five or six years of trying to compete with that, and trying to resist going to extended store hours on weeknights, the Hamilton-Wentworth regional council finally caved in and gave way to its commercial taxpayers. It gave in, because the Hamilton commercial taxpayers had to try to compete with their real competitors in Burlington.
Now the member for Burlington South is on his feet, saying that this government is imposing an additional tax on commercial taxpayers in Burlington that their Hamilton counterparts will not have to pay. He is right, because that is the arbitrary, stupid nature of this tax. On one side of the street, you pay the tax; on the other side of the street, you do not pay the tax.
These are businesses that are competitive. They are trying to compete with each other and this government hands a competitive advantage to one. It does not solve the transportation problem one iota, because these two enterprises are directly across the street from each other. But the arbitrary nature of the geographic boundary of the GTA is not soluble. If the member for Burlington South were to win his argument and Hamilton were to be included, then Hamilton would make the same argument about Stoney Creek. The Eastgate Mall in Hamilton is right across the street from the Fiesta Mall in Stoney Creek, and they compete. But this government would have an arbitrary boundary where on one side of the street you pay the tax and on the other side of the street you do not pay the tax.
This is a government that says it believes in free and fair competition, at the same time as it is prepared to impose a tax that says: “Fair competition is not an expectation that you have the right to expect, commercial operator, because you operate in Burlington and your competitor in Hamilton operates in Hamilton. So you don’t have the right to expect to be able to compete fairly and equitably in the marketplace.”
That is true any time you start to make arbitrary decisions and draw arbitrary lines. I would be willing to guess that when this government, specifically officials in the Ministry of Treasury, were trying to determine how to structure this commercial concentration tax, they started out with Metropolitan Toronto and nothing else, and then they started doing their guesstimates: “If we include outside of Metro Toronto, if we include Mississauga, that will bring us in this much more, as a guesstimate. Then if we include part of Durham, that will bring us in this much more. If we bring in Oakville, that will bring in -- “ Having had a figure in mind about how much in the way of tax dollars they were really looking for, they finally decided on what the GTA really represented.
I would like to give another example of that. This is an example that the member for Durham-York (Mr Ballinger) will understand. The member for Durham York was making comments earlier in the debate when the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry was on his feet. He is a member from an area that is part of this growth pattern, as opposed to myself, who comes from outside the area, and I am happily in the position of not having to represent constituents who are going to be hit with this tax. That does not make me any happier with the fairness or the sensibility of this kind of tax.
I understand, for example, how those developed communities strung along the Queen Elizabeth Way and strung along Highway 401 impact on the transportation costs that this government is concerned about. But it is really beyond me how an area like Halton Hills has any real impact in this debate at all, and yet Halton Hills is hit with this tax.
I do not represent those people; I am sure that if the member who represents Halton Hills has the best interests of his constituents at heart he will get up and say something during the course of this debate. But what, God tell me, does Halton Hills have to do with the transportation problems that this government claims it is trying to resolve with this tax or trying to at least pay for with this tax?
Mr Ballinger: This is where they all work.
Mr Charlton: There are not very many of them to start with. In Halton Hills, we are not talking about, on the one hand, huge commercial concentrations that draw people in or, on the other, the kinds of heavily concentrated residential development that we find more of in my community than you ever will in Halton Hills.
Mr Ballinger: We’re talking about constituents.
Mr Charlton: We are talking about transportation, remember?
Mr Ballinger: And the constituents that have to travel the roads.
Mr Charlton: That is right.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Charlton: This bill is about trying to pay for high transportation costs in the GTA. And yet, what have we done with this tax? We have put a tax on commercial parking lots presumably to discourage people from driving downtown into Metro Toronto, the downtown Toronto area, to park. The government is going to try to make it too expensive for people to come downtown and park.
There may be some validity in that kind of approach. Maybe we could tax parking lots in the downtown cores of all the major cities in the province. That might be a little fairer approach, but what have we done as a counter to that?
We have put the tax, a flat tax of $1 a square foot, on commercial parking lots in downtown Toronto. We have also put exactly the same tax on all of the parking lots where the car pools emanate in the GTA, all of the GO parking lots where people are parking to take public transit into the downtown area. We have put exactly the same $1 per square foot tax on those parking lots. Does that make any sense?
If we are worried about transportation problems and costs in the greater Toronto area, it would seem to me that once we put a tax on the commercial lots downtown, we would want to encourage people to stop at the GO lot or another car pool lot, park there and either come downtown as a group in one vehicle or get on the GO train and come into Toronto, but no; we have land in downtown Toronto that is worth 10 times the value of the land that some of these commuter parking lots outside of the heavily builtup area are on, yet we are applying precisely the same tax downtown as we apply in those outlying areas.
What is that going to discourage? Nothing. All it does is increase taxes. It costs people more money. It is going to continue to cost the government escalating amounts of money to pay for transportation because it has done nothing to change the way that transportation will happen.
I guess probably the worst part of this tax for me, aside from all the built-in unfairnesses and aside from all the contradictions in terms of policy direction -- a goal that the government is trying to accomplish in relation to stemming the undesirable rate of rapid growth in the greater Toronto area -- is that the government is encroaching on and moving into an area of taxation that to this point has been exclusively reserved for the municipalities.
As a matter of fact, Mr Speaker. and you are well aware of this, there has been a lot of criticism of property taxation in the province of Ontario and there has been a fair bit of debate, although no action, over the last 10 or 15 years about reforming the property tax system to make it fairer and perhaps give the municipalities access to additional tax dollars from provincial income tax or some other provincial tax source over which this province has jurisdiction.
That debate has gone on because the municipalities have been cut back in terms of transfers from the province and the provinces have been cut back in terms of transfers from the federal government, and the municipalities and school boards have had no one else to shift their shortfall on to, except the property taxpayers. But now -- and this is where the gall comes back in, I guess -- this provincial government moves into a jurisdiction which impacts directly on property. Not all property is covered by this bill; we have decided that it is going to be on commercial parking lots and commercial properties of over 200,000 square feet. But municipalities in the GTA where this tax is imposed are going to be in a real quandary when it comes to serving their already hard-pressed needs for tax dollars, and they will feel the guilt and the pressure of any tax increase they have to impose in addition to what this province is imposing in a jurisdiction which was once exclusively theirs.
Even worse than the fact that this government is intruding into an area in which it has no business is the fact that it is doing it in this unfair and inequitable way. Not only is it doing it in this unfair and inequitable way, but, at the very same time, this government has flat-lined and put caps in place in terms of the funds that it is transferring through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to the municipalities and the school boards. At the same time, this government in its dealing with municipalities is continuing to shift new and onerous responsibilities on to those municipalities.
Mr Speaker, that is a five-level comment I have just made. Does it sound to you as though this government has really thought through, in a really well planned way, its relationship with municipalities, that it has really thought through what this tax is all about and whether or not this is the best way to raise $125 million?
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that this is exactly how the game plan was evolved. They were near the end of the budgetary process, they had $125 million to find and the Treasurer said, “Find me that $125 million, even if you have to create a new tax,” and that is what they did. They worked back from the $125-million figure, defined the tax and then defined the area, and the area was defined by the number of dollars they guesstimated the tax would generate in certain given areas as they moved out from Metro Toronto.
So again, when the member for Burlington South stands up publicly and says it is not fair that commercial enterprises in Burlington have to compete with commercial enterprises in Hamilton -- Burlington has to pay the greater Toronto area tax and Hamilton does not -- he is right, that is unfair; but it would have been just as unfair if the line had ended at Oakville and Burlington was outside the GTA, competing with Oakville which had to pay the tax. It would have been just as unfair if the line had been Highway 427 or if it had been Keele Street or if it had been any other arbitrary boundary. We put competitors in unequal, disadvantaged situations by charging one competitor on one side of the street something that we do not charge his major source of competition on the other side of the street.
That does not sound to me like either good tax planning or a real understanding of the serious problems that exist in the whole area of property taxation and municipal finance. We have not heard the municipalities screaming loudly about this tax yet because they had enough other things to scream about in last spring’s budget.
I do not think anybody has really figured out in a clear way precisely what this tax is yet or how it will happen. Again, that has to do with a government that says: “We do not know exactly how much we will raise in the tax. We think about $125 million, but we really have not done an inventory of the commercial space on which this tax will be applied and the parking lot space on which this tax will be applied. So we really do not know.”
There is no information out there, there is no ability for a municipality like Burlington to say, “Jeez, not only is it affecting Burlington, but it is badly affecting this group of retail tenants in this area of our municipality, an area which has been in decline and where business has been down because of the new malls. But the new malls happen to be smaller and they are avoiding the tax, while this area where business has been in decline is getting hit with the tax just because of square footage.”
The municipalities are not in a position to do that yet because this government has not done the studies. It cannot yet tell them where the tax is going to impact and where it is not, or at least if it can, it certainly has not released any of that. Maybe Smiley over there is telling me that is exactly the case, but let’s be honest: when we propose a tax like this, give us all the data so that we can have a real look at tax incidence and impact. Where is the tax going to hit? Whom is it going to hit? What is the impact of that tax going to be?
One example of an unfairness problem with this tax, as you are well aware, Mr Speaker, is that tenants in malls are the ones who are going to pay the tax. Developers are not going to pay this tax. This is supposed to be a tax on developers, but developers do not pay taxes in Canada. You know that, Mr Speaker. Tenants pay taxes.
Unfortunately, in the affected areas in the greater Toronto area, under this tax, even all tenants will not get to pay the tax, because you know again what happens in large malls, Mr Speaker, you get two or three major anchor tenants in those malls. They are what hold the mall together; the Eaton’s, the Bay store, the Loblaws, the A and P. Whatever or whoever those anchor tenants happen to be, we have three or four major anchor tenants who hold the mall together. Those anchor tenants, because the developer needs them, get a lease that says whatever they want it to say. They get a lease that says: “No matter what happens to property taxes, no matter what happens to heating costs, no matter what happens to anything, this is the cap on my rent. That is the ceiling. That is the absolute tops I pay. I’m Eaton’s, I’m the Bay, and that’s all I pay.”
When they impose a new tax like this or when the property taxes go up by six or eight or 10 per cent, it is the little tenants in that mall who pick up the cost of those tax increases because their leases all say, “Your base rent is X, the property taxes in the year that you this lease are Y, and you will also pay any tax escalations that occur proportionately during this five-year lease, 10-year lease or whatever the case happens to be.”
So we are not only imposing a tax of $1 per square foot on parking lot and commercial space over 200,000 square feet, but on some of those small tenants where the large, anchor tenants in the mall are protected by their lease from having to pay any of this new tax; it is the small tenant who is going to pay not $1 a square foot extra but in some cases $1.10, $1.20 or $1.30, and maybe even as high as $1.40 a square foot. These are going to be the tenants who are high-turnover tenants in those malls, because they are only just hanging on by their teeth already.
We have imposed a tax that the large tenants who could likely afford this tax are not going to pay in general terms. They will get caught in a few instances somewhere, but in general terms the anchor tenants will not get caught. We have imposed not only the share of the large anchor tenants, but the basic tax on all of the small tenants in those malls.
This government wants us to believe that it has thought this whole thing through; that it understands how it will work: that it knows who is going to pay the tax and it knows it is not going to hurt anybody. But it has not released anything because it is afraid of the controversy that will evolve out there when people see in real terms who it is going to hit and how much it is going to cost.
Back to the arbitrary nature of this tax, we have a twofold arbitrariness here now. Because the government has this $125-million figure in its head that it worked back from to design the tax and the area this tax covers, we have the one unknown for the future, the one variable for the future. It has imposed an arbitrary tax rate of $1 per square foot. It is $1 per square foot in downtown Toronto, where, again, property values in those malls that we are talking about are 10 times what the values are in Burlington, but precisely the same tax per square foot is going to be imposed in Burlington: $1 per square foot.
Mr Speaker, I want you to think about what we know about taxes in Ontario, in Canada and in general. Once a tax is created, once we have a new tax, then the temptation as we move into the future is never to increase any one tax too much, but if we have to get a lot of money, we increase a whole bunch of taxes a little bit in every budget, precisely as we have seen from this Treasurer over the course of the last four years; little hits on every tax in sight.
Mr Farnan: And big hits.
Mr Charlton: And big hits from time to time, when he is really in the corner.
What we have here is a new tax where a lot of what they are going to do around that new tax is going to be in the regs, not here in the House for debate in the future. And it is going to go up; that is inevitable. Perhaps they will decide to keep it uniform for ever and charge the same tax throughout the area this legislation covers. So it will start out at $1 a square foot and some day down the road it is going to be $2 a square foot. That may not be the way the tax gets paid by individuals who get forced to pay it, but that is the way it is going to be charged by the province.
Maybe they will decide that because property in downtown Toronto really is a lot more valuable than property in Burlington, in the future, when they need their next increase, all of a sudden they are going to increase the tax in Metro and not out there and we will end up with some kind of a sliding scale; which might be slightly fairer, but I am not sure that in an arbitrary, unfair tax you can ever gain fairness by playing those kinds of games. But it is going to go up, we know that. It is going to go up.
The other variable we have with this tax is not just the tax rate, it is that it covers a geographic area which does not represent the whole province. We have a provincial jurisdiction taxing less than the whole province. So theoretically this government can get more money out of this commercial concentration tax by leaving the tax rate alone and making the area bigger. It goes out to the other side of Durham now. Who knows what is next? Maybe we will decide to take in the whole Golden Horseshoe eventually and the other major urban centres: London, Windsor, Sudbury, the Sault, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Cambridge.
An hon member: Hamilton.
Mr Charlton: I left out Hamilton because I want it to come last. When it comes to unfair taxes, I am not going to recommend my constituents for a hit, thank you very much, but I did include, as members heard, the riding of the member for Cambridge (Mr Farnan).
We have double jeopardy here. On the one hand, we have a government that we know is perfectly capable of increasing taxes without a whole lot of thought about the economic impact of those tax increases, but on the other hand, we have a government that can play a scam here and say: “Okay, we’ll increase the tax this year, but next year we’ll leave it alone. We’ll leave it alone for three years in a row, but each year we’ll add a chunk of the province on that isn’t now covered. We’ll get more money, nobody will notice except those few people in the new area, but I don’t have to get the whole province mad at me because I did a tax increase. I’m just going to get the people in Cambridge mad at me next year, because that’s all I’m adding on next year. We don’t hold the Cambridge seat anyway, so it is not going to cost us any votes in the next election.”
That is the most insidious kind of tax. Nobody has any real, clear understanding or control over it. There is no accountability. It is the kind of tax that you can play games with so easily and so perfectly that you may get away with the ultimate scam virtually for ever. I cannot support that kind of arbitrary, unexplainable, unfair approach to who should be paying for what when I see myself as a part of a province that, yes, has differences from one end to the other and has serious differences even across this expanse we have referred to in this bill as the GTA.
You know as well as I do, Mr Speaker, that Oshawa is not like Burlington and I know that none of the places in the GTA outside of Metro Toronto is like Metro Toronto. But we are all paying the same tax, $1 per square foot, under this package, with no reflection on the specific economic impact that this will have in the areas in question.
If $1 per square foot is an acceptable level in Metro Toronto -- and nobody knows that, or at least if anybody does, no one is saying because no studies not produced any on what the impact is and where it will be -- then it is unlikely that the same $1 per square foot is going to be an acceptable tax rate in Burlington because the values are far different in Burlington. The economic costs of development are far different in Burlington. The rents they pay are far different in Burlington. Those they are competing with are so substantially different from what is happening on Yonge Street and Bay Street and King Street in Toronto, that to ask them to pay the same tax per square foot as establishments in downtown Toronto is, I believe, going to have a serious economic impact on those establishments in areas where their whole retail structure is based on the fact that their property taxes, their rents and everything else are substantially different from Metro Toronto rents and taxes.
To go in and impose a tax that does not take any of that into account, that simply says a buck is a buck and a square foot is a square foot, no matter where it lives and what it looks like, or how bad a shape it is in, is not to understand the commercial retail sector in Ontario at all.
What we have is a tax that in so many ways just has not been thought about in any kind of planned way by a government whose only vision when it closed its eyes was how much it had to get that was not in the last package it ran by the Treasurer in terms of what the total budget would be and how much it still had to come up with and where that was going to come from.
This is the third occasion I have had to stand up in this House this year and debate of something new, just out of the blue, that this government has invented to try to play that game, a game that is a backward game, a game that works back from dollars instead of working forward through tax policy that is well thought out and designed in terms of its impact.
We saw it with the new tax on hydro where we are going to charge Ontario Hydro for the loan guarantee we give it. We are seeing the same thing with the payroll tax to pay for health care. We were afraid to increase corporate income tax in the province at the same time as we were saying we want the corporations to pay; so we have imposed the cost on corporations in that case but in the unfairest way we can possibly do it.
This is yet another example of a lost, unfair and, in my view, very stupid approach to how you should be creating tax policy in Ontario. For those reasons, I find myself in a position of not being able to support this bill.
Mr Farnan: I feel compelled to join the debate and make comment on the very splendid contribution to this issue that my colleague has just made.
We simply have to ask ourselves some very basic questions. Is this a progressive tax? The answer is no. Is it a fair tax? The answer is no. Is it a tax that can be logically argued and justified? The answer is no. Is this a tax grab? The answer is yes. Is this a tax grab that can be expanded and more money taken from the taxpayers of Ontario? The answer is yes.
My colleague the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr Charlton) is one of the finest experts in fiscal matters in this House, and I do hope that the government will heed the very substantive contribution he has made to this debate and heed him in such a way that it can go back and reflect and attempt to become progressive and fair in its taxing policy.
This government had an appearance, a semblance, a mirage of progressivity when it was in accord with the New Democratic Party. But since it has taken on its majority in government, unfortunately, the true colours are now showing. It is very clear that this is a government that is regressive in its tax policies and certainly cannot be justified to the people of Ontario.
Mr McGuigan: The member brought up the point that this was a transportation issue. I would like to make a comment on that.
I go back to an event of several years ago when the Ford Motor Co gave up its assembly plant in Windsor and moved to Oakville. That was the first time it was brought to my attention that the principle behind that is the fact that it is cheaper in the long run to ship finished goods than it is to ship the raw materials. Because a large chunk of the market was in the Toronto area it made economic sense from the standpoint of Ford Motor Co -- but very much to the regret of Windsor and southwestern Ontario -- to move to the Toronto area. It was cheaper to ship the finished vehicle, and it was closer to that large market to save distribution costs.
From our end of the province in southwestern Ontario, when the member talks about an even playing field, people in our part of the world say they approve of this move because, in their view, it is bringing some fairness and evenness to that playing field. Especially in the very smaller towns in southwestern Ontario, we see the stores that are vacant because young people are moving to the greater Toronto area to take advantages of the economics of scale and the huge market that is provided in this area.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Are there any further questions or comments?
Mr McGuigan: I was not quite finished.
The Acting Speaker: Yes, you are.
Mrs Marland: In rising today to speak to the motion for second reading of Bill 46, An Act to establish a Commercial Concentration Tax, I wish to say at the outset that, in my opinion, Bill 46 rates as one of the most unjust, illogical and, I would even go as far as to say, irresponsible tax measures introduced by this government.
What, might I ask the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini), is the logic or fairness of taxing only a limited number of large commercial enterprises in the greater Toronto area for the cost of maintaining and expanding the area’s transportation network? What have these commercial enterprises done to be singled out to bear this tax? What is the magic of the cutoff of area in terms of 200,000 square feet? Why should a mall of 200,000 square feet or over pay the tax when a competing mall of 199,000 square feet does not?
Why has the government singled out the greater Toronto area for tax punishment? Granted, Toronto has its special expenses, but so do other areas of the province. For instance, northern Ontario receives special transportation subsidies in recognition of its small population base, the largest distances between its settlements and the difficulties and costs of travel in the north.
Does the government plan to extend its warped logic and tax only certain large commercial enterprises in northern Ontario for the costs of maintaining northern highways? Does it plan to reduce northern assistance? This same logic, or lack thereof, was behind increasing motor vehicle registration fees from $54 to $90 for those who live in the greater Toronto area, but only from $54 to $66 for the rest of southern Ontario.
The cost of living in the Toronto area is already extremely high, without paying special Toronto taxes. These Toronto taxes are a very dangerous precedent. To my knowledge, until this recent budget, no government of Ontario had ever asked the House to impose a discriminatory and punitive tax on a special region of this province. What region will be singled out next for tax punishment?
If the minister wants to charge greater Toronto area residents extra for living in a first-class city, maybe he would like to restrict the use of the GTA roads and GO trains to those who live in the greater Toronto area. Maybe he thinks tourists should not be allowed to visit Toronto, the sick from rural areas should not be treated here and residents from beyond the GTA should not be allowed to shop here. Or does he have a plan for tollbooths at the borders of the greater Toronto area?
The honourable members opposite may scoff at these rhetorical suggestions, but the minister’s line of thinking leads to these ridiculous conclusions.
I also question the sense of the exemptions from the law. The minister must be aware that one of his Liberal colleagues, the honourable member for Mississauga North (Mr Offer), recently heard complaints from the Westwood Shopping Mall merchants’ association concerning this tax. These merchants had several concerns, one of them being the discrepancies that result from these exemptions. As an example, Andy Angastiniotis, president of the Westwood Shopping Mall Merchants’ Association, noted that the International Centre, located also in Malton, would be exempt, even though it holds trade shows and thereby is a retail organization. He pointed out that warehouses which hold flea markets, another retail activity, would also be exempt.
These exemptions are not only unfair; the definitions of the exemption categories are also unclear. The government is going to have problems deciding whether properties such as the International Centre should be subject to the tax. These problem definitions could tie up the dispute and appeals process mandated by this bill.
In addition to lacking equity and logic, this tax does not make fiscal sense. The minister knows, as it was clearly stated earlier in this debate by my colleague the honourable member for Cochrane South, that our party cannot accept the equivalence arguments that have been advanced by his government in support of this and other budgetary measures, such as the tire tax and vehicle registration fees. He knows that this is not how government budgeting is done.
The government sets its priorities based upon the total amount available in consolidated revenues, not upon the amount collected from a particular measure, such as the commercial concentration tax. We know the government cannot guarantee that the revenues collected through this tax will be applied to Toronto-area transportation.
The Treasurer in his budgetary remarks estimated that the revenues raised by this commercial concentration levy would amount to $125 million per year. However, I am going to show that the detrimental economic impact of the tax could very well outweigh the revenues it would generate.
In opening this debate, the Minister of Revenue -- and I appreciate that he is in the House at this time to hear my comments -- commented that the additional revenues required to maintain and expand greater Toronto’s transportation network should be obtained not from the individual taxpayer but from the corporate sector, the businesses that reap the greatest benefit from the provincial expenditures on these essential support services. I do not see any logic in this statement.
First of all, it is not just the commercial sector that benefits from our transportation infrastructure.
Secondly, the costs of doing business, including taxes, are passed on to individual taxpayers in the form of higher costs of consumer goods. The Westwood Mall Merchants’ Association in its recent meeting with the member for Mississauga North advised him that merchants will have to pass the costs of the tax on to their customers.
Thirdly, small businesses which are tenants in large commercial complexes will feel the pinch of this tax when it is passed on to them in the form of higher rents.
Finally, when this tax is charged to owners of parking lots and garages, it will most certainly be passed on to motorists through higher parking fees.
Therefore, this tax is inflationary and the greater Toronto area, with the highest inflation rate and the highest cost of living in the country, does not need yet another inflationary force.
Fred Schuringa, president of the Mississauga Real Estate Board, recently told me why the real estate board in my home city opposes the commercial concentration tax. Complaining that businesses are being taxed out of existence, he pointed out that if companies cannot afford to stay in business, the greater Toronto area municipalities will have to increase property taxes to make up the revenue shortfall. Corporate and individual taxpayers alike will feel the pinch. Yet the Minister of Revenue has the gall in his opening remarks in this debate to say that the additional revenues required to maintain and improve our transportation network should not be obtained from individual taxpayers.
Mr Schuringa also made the arguments I advanced earlier for this tax being inflationary, noting that Toronto already ranks among the top 10 cities in the world for housing costs. He said it will become harder and harder to live here.
Mr Schuringa has a piece of advice for this Liberal government: Cut back on its own expenses instead of making the taxpayer pay for government inefficiency and waste. I cannot help but speculate that this Liberal government is purposefully trying to scare people away from the greater Toronto area -- $125 million from this tax, $3.5 million in other special taxes on residents in the greater Toronto area. We are simply being taxed out of our provincial capital.
This tax could strangle our provincial economy. I quote from an editorial in the Globe and Mail of 19 May 1989: “With the economy expected to grow this year at only half the rate of 1988, Mr Nixon may live to regret slapping an extra tax burden on the region that has been the driving force behind the longest and strongest expansion of the province’s economy since the 1960s.”
The minister also made a feeble argument that the administration cost of the tax would be minimal. He noted that there already exists a computerized inventory of the properties liable for this tax, but we all know that such computerized databases require staff to run them. The minister surely must acknowledge that there will be added human resources costs, not only for updating the database and tracking the assessments but also for running the open houses he promises and for presenting and defending appeals. The minister said that the framework which exists in his ministry can incorporate the new tax, but he knows that a framework constitutes a minor part of the total expense of any program. I therefore cannot share his optimism regarding low administrative costs. From a fiscal point of view, then, the commercial concentration tax, as addressed in Bill 46, makes no sense because of the inflationary impact of the tax, combined with its administrative costs.
I would like to move on to the minister’s ridiculous logic regarding parking lots. I predict that this bill will result in fewer and more expensive public parking spots in the greater Toronto area for several reasons. First, let’s look at the inner city where many commercial structures are mixed office-shopping complexes which charge for parking. Consider the case of a company that plans to construct an inner-city commercial centre that would be less than 200,000 square feet without parking, but more than 200,000 square feet with parking. That company would have no incentive to provide parking for the general public unless the planned parking area were very large or, if it were smaller, the firm could charge and obtain a large parking fee. The reason: Unless a firm can raise the revenues that are greater than the commercial concentration tax that would be levied, it would not make financial sense to provide parking. The conclusion: Either less parking or more expensive parking, if not both.
Second, consider that by charging this commercial concentration tax only on developments over 200,000 square feet, this Liberal government is establishing a perverse economic incentive. Smaller enterprises would have more incentive to provide parking than larger enterprises, but the larger enterprises would generate more need for parking than the smaller ones.
There is a third problem which arises from the fact that this bill would levy a tax on parking associated with taxable commercial properties only if the parking is accessible to the public and fee-paid. There are several parking lots associated with large office complexes that provide, in addition to employee parking, some public parking. If the revenues raised from the public parking spots were less than what the commercial concentration tax would be, some firms would have no incentive to provide parking for the general public. This could result in parking being made available only to owners and employees. If this were to occur and more employees drove to work, putting even more wear and tear on Toronto’s transportation infrastructure and causing even more traffic congestion, would the Liberal government not be aggravating a situation it is supposedly trying to correct?
As the House knows, this backward logic extends to the commercial lots run by municipalities, since these lots would be subject to the tax. Some suburban municipalities will have to decide either to raise parking fees at their lots or not to charge for parking, since the revenues these lots generate are less than the amount of the commercial concentration tax that they will have to pay on the lots.
As the honourable member for Etobicoke-Rexdale (Mr Philip) pointed out earlier in this debate, the city of Whitby collects $118,000 per year from its parking lots, but would pay $165,000 per year in the commercial concentration tax on these same lots. It is not very difficult for the member who is waving to me to figure out that the commercial concentration tax is more by quite an amount.
The city of Mississauga, in which my riding is located, reconfirmed its opposition to the commercial concentration tax at a recent meeting. One of the reasons for Mississauga city council’s opposition to the commercial concentration tax is the application of the tax to commercial parking lots operated by municipalities. If the city of Mississauga ever establishes municipal lots and charges for them, as it plans and needs to do, it will have to pay the taxes. For a rapidly developing city such as Mississauga, which does need more parking, such a disincentive to building parking lots is a very serious problem.
As well, the city of Mississauga opposes the commercial concentration tax because it is an incursion into the realm of property tax, which has always been the exclusive domain of local governments. Again, we have here a dangerous precedent. As far as I know, this is the first time that any provincial government has directly levied a tax on the property of junior and lower tier governments. This government is perpetrating a tax grab on municipal coffers. This Liberal government is violating municipal autonomy.
This is not the only way that municipalities will suffer from this ill-conceived bill. I predict that in the more distant parts of Halton, Peel, York and Durham, where many new homes are being constructed, it will be next to impossible to attract the appropriate commercial services. Given this tax, why would a developer construct a major commercial complex in, say, northern Peel when just up the road in Dufferin county he could build the same centre and not pay the tax?
I am really encouraged. The member for Durham-York is really interested in this because I know that he understands the impact that it would have in Durham and I appreciate very much his silent concentration on this speech. It is very commendable. I really do appreciate it.
What kind of good urban planning incentive is that? We will have neighbourhoods lacking needed commercial services. Our suburban municipalities will fall to attract important commercial development and the tax base that is needed for essential services, including schools. As well, suburbs will develop even further from downtown workplaces, putting more strain on our transportation infrastructure and consuming more agricultural land.
I have yet another example of how this bill could have a negative impact upon urban planning. Subsection 2(5) states that “If a single commercial property contains two or more buildings that are not dependent on shared facilities, each building shall be separately assessed.” With our inclement winter climate, we all appreciate linked, shared commercial facilities that prevent our having to venture outside in the rain or snow.
Are we going to see fewer linked structures as developers, in an attempt to reduce building areas to less than the 200,000 square feet, will be hesitant to build walkways and other shared facilities? The commercial concentration tax is supposed to help pay for the greater Toronto area’s transportation network. Obviously then, this Liberal government acknowledges that many people are having to commute to Toronto from far away in order to obtain affordable housing. But through this tax, as well as higher gasoline taxes, the tire tax and the $90 vehicle registration fee, commuters are being targeted for special punishment because they must own motor vehicles.
Why does this Liberal government think it is a sin to drive an automobile and live in the greater Toronto area? Can it not understand that many of us drive to work out of necessity, not as a luxury? I am sure that the minister himself, who now is fortunate to have a vehicle where he is driven, recognizes that he has no alternative but to be in a motor vehicle. He happens to be in a car where he has a driver, and I certainly am the first to agree that cabinet ministers, with their schedules and their responsibilities, need that. I do not see that as a luxury.
What I am saying is just as it is not a luxury for this Minister of Revenue to be driven in an automobile with a chauffeur, nor is it a luxury for the rest of us to drive ourselves in our own automobiles. In this kind of development area in southern Ontario, it is a necessity.
Many greater-Toronto residents, primarily those who live in the suburbs, will also be punished for buying new houses. They have been singled out to bear a greater part of the cost of new schools through this Liberal government’s building lot levy.
As the member of provincial Parliament for Mississauga South, I live in a city which is in the greater Toronto area. I am proud of my city of Mississauga. I am also furious that this Liberal government is doing everything in its power to strangle development in my municipality, to rob its coffers and to reduce its autonomy.
The objectives of Bill 46 are clearly objectionable and the way in which these objectives are being pursued is totally inappropriate. This commercial concentration tax, like so many of this Liberal government’s tax measures, is grossly unfair and fiscally irresponsible.
The Minister of Revenue and the Treasurer are inviting a tax revolt. Tax revenues under this Liberal government have doubled from $15 billion to $30 billion since the member for Brant-Haldimand (Mr R. F. Nixon) became Treasurer in 1985. Taxes have gone up by 100 per cent during a period when the economy has grown by 56 per cent. I ask this Liberal government: How much more does it think the taxpayers, and in particular the Toronto taxpayers in the greater Toronto area, can pay? The minister himself has admitted that this bill is weakly drafted, requiring further technical amendments. This is not surprising. This measure is so poorly planned that from the time it was announced in the May budget the government has been clarifying and adjusting it.
The government had to clarify that the levy would not apply to the first 200,000 square feet of taxable area, it had to clarify that it would not apply to free parking, and it had to bring in about 15 amendments. But this bill does not just require some adjustments. It must be withdrawn. It is inflationary. It infringes upon municipal autonomy and finances. It will aggravate the Toronto area’s transportation problems, rather than alleviate them. It will have a detrimental impact on urban planning and perhaps most importantly it demonstrates a narrow and unacceptable vision of a divided Ontario, with no revenue sharing and no understanding of the special needs of our diverse regions. A government with such tunnel vision does not deserve to govern.
Mr Ballinger: First of all, in my preliminary comments I would like to say how much I enjoy listening to the member for Mississauga South. I think there is only one slight problem with the presentation today. The honourable member does much better when she does not work from a prepared text and she does much better when she is not so negative. I do not think the taxpayers sitting at home today who may be watching this are going to be fooled by an individual member of the House who stands up and is completely negative.
The honourable member mentioned that I was paying attention very intently today and the reason was I was waiting, I was hoping that there might be one slight positive comment come out of the member for Mississauga South. But, Mr Speaker, do you know, there was not one. Day after day I sit in this House as a member and I listen to that honourable member complain to the Treasurer saying there is not enough money being spent on education. She is always saying in her riding she has all these students who are in portables, there is never enough money spent on education.
Today she stood up in the House and started badgering the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) because there are not enough hospital beds for cancer patients and we are transporting them too far. Day after day she stands up in the House and talks about transportation congestion coming into the greater Toronto area from her riding. On social services, she stands up in the House on a constant basis and says this Liberal government is not spending enough money on social services. that there are far too many people falling through the cracks.
Just today again, her party stood in this House and was talking about the overcrowding of our correctional institutions. Every day, that Progressive Conservative caucus over there stands up in this House and says this Liberal government is not doing enough. Is it not interesting? Now we have a bill before the Legislature, Bill 46, and what is she doing? She is standing up and saying “Oh, you are taxing all those poor people.” I just think it is a bunch of bunk.
Mrs Marland: I hope I will have a little attention while I rebut this favourite member for Durham-York.
The one thing he said that was absolutely correct was to say the taxpayers are not going to be fooled. He is absolutely 100 per cent on, because come the next election his government will know that the taxpayers of Ontario have not been fooled. They have not been fooled for the last three years. They know what is going on.
What his government fails to understand is that we as Progressive Conservatives believe in equity. This bill does not demonstrate equity. This bill penalizes people who happen to choose to live and do business in the greater Toronto area. I would have thought he was someone who would have been an advocate for small businesses that need to rent space in these large commercial buildings that will now be penalized by this commercial concentration tax. Those are the people for whom I have a great deal of concern.
I want to correct one thing the member said. He said that I stood in this House today and asked for more beds for cancer patients. I did not. I stood in this House today and asked about a woman who happens to be a constituent of mine, who happens to need radiation treatment for which there exists equipment in Toronto today but no trained staff to operate it and who has to go to Ottawa for her treatment. I asked that this Liberal government at least pay the cost for her husband to be there and for her to return to her family for support between treatments. That is the kind of caring government our government will be, come the next election.
Mr McLean: My colleague the member for Markham (Mr Cousens) is not here today. I know he would have loved to have spoken on this bill. I thought I could probably take his place and speak for him.
This Bill 46 says a lot about the way this government runs this province. Nothing this bill has to say is good. It says a lot about this government’s appetite for tax dollars. It says a lot about this government’s attitude towards municipalities. It says a lot about the ad hoc approach to budget-making that we have seen this year.
I would like to take a few minutes to deal with each of these points.
First on taxation: This bill will implement another of the more than 30 tax and levy increases imposed by this government since it took office in 1985. Given that record, it amazes me that the Treasurer and the Premier of this province have the gall to lecture anyone, including the federal Minister of Finance, on the need for tax restraint. With this bill, the government will create an entirely new, and I would say a novel type of provincial tax in Ontario.
I say a novel tax for these reasons: First, it represents in my opinion a clear intrusion into municipal tax territory in that it involves the province in the taxation of a specific type of property. In addition, the tax is unique in that to the best of my knowledge it represents the first time the provincial government has directly levied a tax on the property of junior and lower-tier governments.
A second feature of this bill that makes this tax unique is the provision for regional application in a brand-new region in the province called the greater Toronto area or the GTA. For reasons I will touch on later, I think what the GTA really stands for is the greatest taxation area, but I will leave that matter aside for the moment.
As I was saying, the bill will impose this new tax only in this new region called the greater Toronto area and thus is a first in my experience since I have been in this place, the first time the Legislature has been called upon and asked to impose a punitive tax targeted on only one region of the province. Certainly, in the past we have provided tax breaks where regional or sectoral targeted tax breaks were designed to foster growth, development and employment in a region or industry, but in my years here I cannot recall the House ever being asked to support a regionally targeted increase in the tax burden that could potentially hamper growth, development and employment.
That is exactly what this bill is asking us to do, to impose a discriminatory and punitive tax in a region of the province that never existed until the Treasurer decided in his wisdom that he needed another cash cow to milk. With this bill, we are being asked to not only support this new tax, but also to legitimize this convenient administrative function called the GTA. We are being asked not only to create a new tax, but a whole new category of taxpayers.
As I mentioned earlier, this tax will be imposed only in the greater Toronto area, which this government seems bent on turning into the greatest taxation area in Ontario. The last budget certainly makes that clear with a raft of measures designed specifically to hit taxpayers in this new high-tax region.
In addition to this commercial concentration levy, we have a special higher vehicle registration fee for drivers in the GTA, who will also pay their share of the gasoline tax increases and will continue to pay for this government’s disgraceful bungling of the auto insurance problem.
Beyond that, we have changes to the land transfer tax that will impact most heavily in the GTA where the past tax policies of this government have already contributed to affordability and supply problems in the rental and ownership housing markets.
I recognize that this government wants to encourage development in other areas of the province aside from the GTA, but doing that by making the GTA unaffordable seems to be a very destructive and shortsighted way of achieving that goal.
I think the Globe and Mail hit the nail on the head when in an editorial on 19 May 1989 it stated: “There seems little economic logic or social justice in the new Toronto taxes imposed by the Ontario government.... Both the timing and the thinking are flawed... .With the economy expected to grow this year at only half the rate of 1988, Mr Nixon may live to regret slapping an extra tax burden on the region that has been the driving force behind the longest and strongest expansion of the province’s economy since the 1960s.”
As for the user-pay rhetoric the government has used to justify this bill and the other special GTA taxes, the Toronto Star made an excellent point when it addressed the question of why people in Thunder Bay should have to pay for a new school in Simcoe county.
The Star editorial of 19 May advised, “...Before you answer that question, also ask why Metro taxpayers should contribute their tax dollars to a waste treatment plant in London or a hospital in Thunder Bay.” It went on to state: “Surely the business of a provincial government isn’t to ensure that everyone gets exactly as much out of the system as he or she puts in. The business of government is to respond to social and community needs.” The editorial concludes, “Nixon’s rationale for making the people of greater Toronto alone pay special ... taxes and fees amounts to an admission that the Liberals don’t understand this responsibility to act as a cohesive social force.”
I believe that fact alone provides us with sufficient grounds to call for the withdrawal of this misguided and wrongheaded bill. This bill should also be opposed because it continues and perpetuates this government’s back-of-the-hand approach to dealing with our municipalities. This bill should also be opposed because it continues and perpetuates this government’s back-of-the-hand approach to dealing with our municipalities, and I say that again because of the reason with regard to the transfer of taxes. Municipalities are finding it very difficult.
Every municipality should be opposed to this. It is now limited to the GTA. It could well represent the thin edge of the wedge that the province will use to drive intermunicipal tax capacity.
Furthermore, this bill, which will levy the tax on off-street municipal parking, will impose a new tax liability on our municipalities in the greater Toronto area. I would hope the minister would be in a position to tell us just how much they will have to pay to his colleague the Treasurer as a result of this bill.
Let us not forget that this is only one of two new taxes this budget inflicts on municipalities in the greater Toronto area. They will also be responsible for paying the employer health tax. We are being asked to increase the provincial tax burden on municipalities at the same time the government has chosen to flat-line its unconditional grants and municipal road grants, at the same time the government continues to offload its responsibilities on to municipal councils, a pattern we have seen with Sunday shopping, courtroom security, housing policies, and if it had had its way, with beer and wine in corner stores.
Personally, I feel under no great compulsion to help this government give the shaft to the municipal councils in the GTA, many of whom, I suspect, rather resent being lumped into the GTA in the first place.
The final point I want to make, and I want to bring the members’ attention to this bill, is that it is a fine example of the type of ad hoc budget-making we have seen this year. This measure was so well planned and so well thought out that it was no sooner announced than the Treasurer was running around clarifying the fact that the levy would not apply to free parking. It was so well planned and thought out that the government itself has brought in 15 amendments or so, so far.
We have seen the same thing happen with a lot of legislation this government has introduced over the years. it does not seem to know where it is going until it gets there, and even then it is far from certain that it is where it wanted to be. This bill cannot be saved by amendment. The government should do itself a favour and do the people and municipalities in the GTA a favour and withdraw the bill. Bill 46 is a bill that in my estimation pits Toronto against the rest of the province, so to speak, with regard to a specific tax levy that is levied. What is the government going to do next, levy specific taxes in other areas of the province for specific reasons?
I think the minister should reconsider this bill, with the amount of amendments he has, and I just want to say that I am pleased I had the opportunity to present my points. I want to say to the minister that I congratulate him on his appointment and I look forward to working with him.
Hon Mr Mancini: If the honourable members are all finished making their contribution, I thought I might take a moment or two to wrap up the debate. If not, I would be happy to listen to what anyone else has to say, especially the members of the opposition, because they have been so very helpful in this last day and a half with two bills we have had in the House, particularly this last bill, the commercial concentration levy on large commercial buildings that we have in the greater Toronto region.
A lot of members have asked why we wish to proceed with this commercial concentration levy. Many of them may have missed my opening remarks, because I believe I outlined very clearly at that time why we wanted to go forward with this tax. I listed the numbers of highway projects and other works that were specifically targeted for the greater Toronto area, works that are required because of the heavy demand on our infrastructure.
I believe the bill has been put together in a very thoughtful way. It certainly gave full consideration to the matter of small operators and even large operators, as a matter of fact, in that the first 200,000 square feet of property is exempt from the $1-per-square-foot tax. It certainly gave consideration to facilities doing research and development, in that square footage which is used for that particular purpose, which is very important for our competitive environment, is exempt.
The Treasurer worked very diligently with a number of community organizations that made representations about the original idea. That is why a number of the amendments were made and that is why the bill changed somewhat from its earlier description.
I actually wanted to use this note, but I tell my honourable colleagues that I am not sure I can figure it out. If I figure it out during the next minute or two, I will be happy to use it.
The members asked about a couple of specific cases. I think the case of Jet-A-Way keeps coming up. Is that the name of the company? Jet-A-Way? That is the large concern that provides private parking for the use of families and business people and individuals who want to go to Pearson International Airport. I have read comments where Jet-A-Way is going to possibly go out of business, and I have read comments where the parking fees may go up to $3 or $4 per day and maybe even higher.
Hon Mr Mancini: Somebody over here said $6.50 per day. Unless we have not calculated the figures appropriately, we see the increase for that particular parking facility at approximately $1 per day per vehicle or per spot that is available. I see all of my outstanding advisers nodding in the affirmative, which means that we are in fact correct.
As I look across the floor and take note of a former public servant with the Ministry of Revenue and a person who is schooled in the art of assessment, he of all people should have been able to get these figures correct. I am quite surprised by his exaggeration of this particular situation.
One of my colleagues mentioned, about 15 or 20 minutes ago, our ability to deliver services needed by the general public. All honourable members know, because they go through a similar exercise themselves through their own constituency offices, that in order to meet the demands of the public and to provide the general public with a service that is needed, whether it be in health care, social services, transportation, natural resources or the environment, these endeavours that the government wishes to make on behalf of the population are very costly ones. Revenue-raising mechanisms are needed in order to support not only infrastructure but many other things that our province needs.
I hearken back to the constituency office, because I believe I remember general conversations, speeches or some committee meetings I attended where members of the opposition were informing the government that in order to meet the demands of constituents’ requests at their offices, they needed up-to-date equipment like computers, extra staff and extra postage. They needed all these things. Of course, the members were quite right. The constituents were making these demands and they did need all these things, but I truly wonder how the members were able to obtain these facilities and equipment and then to provide these services if it were not from the general tax levy.
I note that the honourable members opposite know that in order to provide services -- and I look at the former assessment officer when I say this -- you need tax dollars to do so. If you are unable to raise those tax dollars, you have two very simple choices: You say no to the services, let the infrastructure deteriorate and let the traffic problems grow worse, or you try to levy a tax which will --
Mr Charlton: Be fair. This one isn’t fair.
Hon Mr Mancini: We want to do it fairly and we are doing it fairly. That is why we have the exemption. That is why we have targeted the area that is demanding the greatest in expenditure as far as infrastructure requirements are concerned. Yes, we are doing it fairly. It is just as fair as giving a heritage fund to northern Ontario -- the honourable members support this, I know they do; I have heard their speeches -- and just as fair as giving northern Ontarians cheaper licence plates; that is fair. That is a specific tax policy for a specific region. I have not heard anybody complain about that. I have not heard a single honourable member from the opposition ask that that be withdrawn. Yet I have heard them make complaints about specific tax policies for specific parts of the province.
The honourable member who served as an assessor or was in the assessment department before he was elected to the Legislature knows that it is very important to give out the correct figures. Actually I would have made comments about all the honourable members’ speeches, but since this one particular member has stayed to listen to my remarks, I would like to focus on some of the things he said. He suggested that we were driving people out of business and suggested that these parking lots, particularly, would not be able to survive. He suggested increases in parking fees which he cannot substantiate. He plucked these figures out of the air in order to be dramatic. He mentioned the words, “We’re driving people out of business,” and he considered that to be his contribution to the debate.
Hon Mr Mancini: He asks me about records, what kind of records we have. To decide who is liable for the commercial concentration tax is not some kind of mystic, religious, complicated affair where we do not know what a building of greater than 200,000 square feet looks like. They are either long and wide and occupy more than 200,000 square feet, or they are tall and not so wide and occupy 200,000 square feet, or they are parking lots. As far as studies are concerned, it does not take a great deal of study to figure out what commercial buildings fall in this category. It is quite simple. We will provide that information to the member at the committee hearings. We will be happy to see him.
The other thing I wanted to point out, if I can find my notes: One of the honourable member’s colleagues kept referring to the commercial concentration tax on condominiums and apartments. I do not know whether all honourable members read the material we provide to them -- I do not know if they even read the bill -- but condominiums and residential dwellings were never contemplated to be in any way part of this tax.
The honourable members opposite, one of them, said something about parking lot fees being increased for university students, another complete distortion. Nowhere in the bill was it ever contemplated that parking lot fees for university students would in any way be affected. Universities are exempt by their own private legislation, and this exemption means very clearly that universities, including all their parking lots, will not be liable for the commercial concentration tax; specifically, York University and the University of Toronto, because I believe those two universities were mentioned. Their parking lots are not part of the legislation.
That is another example of the distortion I have heard from the other side. I do not necessarily believe that it is done on purpose or willingly; I just think that sometimes in the busy schedules of the honourable members, they think they have gone over all of their material when maybe they have not, or maybe they believe they read something that was not quite there.
We have agreed to have the legislation go to committee, hopefully for an appropriate length of time. Mr Speaker, you may or may not be there with us. I guess with your new duties in the Legislature, you may not be with us, but I know your well-read colleagues will be with us.
In closing, yes, the commercial concentration tax has changed somewhat since the announcement last May. Yes, there was a specific number of dollars that the Treasurer, the minister of finance, wished to raise. Yes, we have targeted in at around $115 million to $130 million, and yes, that money is going to be used to improve the infrastructure in the greater Toronto area so that economic prosperity can continue.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Mr Mancini has moved second reading of Bill 46, An Act to establish a Commercial Concentration Tax. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Mancini: I believe there has been an agreement with the House leaders that this bill would go to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
Bill ordered for standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
House in committee of the whole.
COURTS OF JUSTICE ACT, 1989
Consideration of Bill 2, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984.
Mr Polsinelli: I would like to move down to the front row, as I will be bringing in staff to assist me on this bill.
The Chair: At this moment I would like to list all questions and comments and I would like to list the sections to which members would like to have questions, make amendments, corrections or whatever.
Mr Sterling: I have just given to a page a copy of a list of amendments that I will be proposing. I also delivered, late last week, a copy of those amendments to the parliamentary assistant for the Attorney General and to my friend and colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) from the New Democratic Party.
The Chair: That list is identical? There have been no changes?
Mr Sterling: I believe it is. It will become evident if in fact there have been some changes. I do not think there have been any changes since that time.
The Chair: So all the proposed amendments that you have are to sections 2, 3, 9, 32a, 32b and 32c? Is that correct?
Mr Sterling: Yes.
Section 1 agreed to.
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that subsection 4(1) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, be amended by striking out “General Division” in the third line.
Mr Sterling further moves that the bill be amended by striking out “General Division” wherever it appears in the bill and inserting in lieu thereof in each case “Supreme Court Division.”
Mr Sterling: Under this bill, the Supreme Court of Ontario is basically done away with. The present section of the legislation basically does away with the whole notion of having a Supreme Court in the province. The name of the court is the Ontario Court of Justice and I just do not see the purpose in doing away with the generic name of the Supreme Court of Ontario and substituting it with the name the Ontario Court of Justice at this time. I believe the people of Ontario should understand that the highest trial division in the province should be named the Supreme Court of Ontario and that name should be maintained.
That is the basic thrust of this amendment.
Mr Polsinelli: The Ministry of the Attorney General and I would like to thank the opposition critic for supplying us with a copy of his amendments a number of days ago. We have had an opportunity to go through them and he will be happy to know that we will be supporting some of them. Unfortunately, this is not one of the ones we will be supporting. We feel that the trial court, as established under the Courts of Justice Amendment Act, is not a Supreme Court and in fact that name is misdescriptive.
One of the other things this act is trying to do is to avoid the hierarchical concept that is presently in existence under the existing Courts of Justice Act and we feel that reintegrating the name “Supreme” at this level of court would continue that hierarchical concept.
Another factor is also that some decisions have yet to be made. We may one day want to have a top appeals court in Ontario called the Supreme Court and we would like to leave the Ministry of the Attorney General at that time the discretion to do that. We will not be supporting this amendment.
The Chair: All those in favour of Mr Sterling’s amendment will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that subsection 4(1) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, be amended by striking out “Chief Judge” in the second line and inserting in lieu thereof “Chief Justice.”
Mr Sterling further moves that the bill be amended by striking out “Chief Judge” wherever that expression occurs referring to the Chief Judge of the Ontario Court and inserting in lieu thereof in each case “Chief Justice” and by striking out “Chief Judges” wherever the expression occurs referring to Chief Judges of the Ontario Court and inserting in lieu thereof in each case “Chief Justices.”
Mr Sterling: For those who are familiar with the hierarchy of the courts, the intent of the amendment is clear. It basically makes the highest judge of the Ontario Court a Chief Justice, rather than a Chief Judge. I think it is more appropriate than having it as it is now in the legislation.
Mr Polsinelli: The opposition critic will know that the ministry’s opinion on this is that it is in concurrence with this amendment. In fact, it is an amendment that has also been requested by Chief Justice Callahan and the federal minister and we will be supporting this amendment.
The Chair: 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.
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that section 10 of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, be amended by adding thereto the following subsections:
“(3) The General Division has exclusive jurisdiction in respect of family law proceedings, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, it has exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the provisions set out in the following table:
1. Annulment of Marriages Act (Ontario) (Canada)
2. Change of Name Act, 1986
3. Child and Family Services Act, 1984
Parts III, VI and VII
4. Children’s Law Reform Act
5. Divorce Act, 1985 (Canada)
6. Education Act
7. Family Law Act, 1986
8. Marriage Act
Sections 6 and 9
9. Minors’ Protection Act
10. Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act, 1982
11. Support and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, 1982
12. Young Offenders Act (Canada)
“(4) Subsection (3) comes into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.”
Mr Sterling: This is an addition to the act which would immediately put into place basically what we have had on a pilot basis for some period of time in the province of Ontario, and that is that this amendment will put into effect a Unified Family Court right across the province. We just think it should be implemented at this time or contained in this legislation so that the Attorney General (Mr Scott), when he gets the proper mandate from the federal government, which has to co-operate in taking this step, will be able to go ahead on proclamation and implement the Unified Family Court for all of Ontario. That is the effect of this particular amendment.
Mr Polsinelli: The Attorney General on 1 May 1989 announced a multi-stage reform of the court system in Ontario, and one of the things we want to do is to have a Unified Family Court in this province. It is an objective of the Attorney General and it is an objective that we hope will come to fruition when the phase 2 recommendations come into play.
The amendment we have before us today would strip the provincial division of all family jurisdiction and purport to create a province-wide Unified Family Court now. We feel it is premature to do that. We do not have the federal government’s concurrence to do this and, quite frankly, the workload that would be transferred from the existing provincial court judges to the judges of the General Division would be of such an amount that it would put inordinate pressure on the federal government to appoint new judges.
One of the things we feel is that this is the wrong way to proceed in terms of amending the court system. As the member knows, we are in partnership with the federal government in the administration of the courts in this province and we do not do things without first advising and having the concurrence of the federal government. As we move into phase 2, we would like to work with the federal government in terms of having its concurrence in developing a Unified Family Court for the province. Accordingly, we cannot support this amendment at this time.
Mr Kormos: This, like the other amendments, is one which we are generally supportive of. I have one particular concern, though; that is, the inclusion of the Young Offenders Act. It appeared to be part of the government’s design to have family court judges hearing all Young Offenders Act litigation or prosecutions. Indeed that was the message that was put out. That shocked people across the province because to a large extent they saw the Young Offenders Act as being misapplied in so many circumstances, in any event.
The prospect is that judges who did not have criminal expertise would be hearing prosecutions under the Young Offenders Act. Call it whatever you will, the fact is you are dealing with people who are committing robberies, thefts, rapes, murders, what have you. In my books, and in most people’s books, those are criminal offences. In fact, there is a wider scope of defences open to young offenders, for instance, when one considers section 46 alone. There is a whole new array of defences that are well more within the scope and capacity of a judge who is trained and whose background is in criminal matters.
My concern is that the government itself would have contemplated the utilization of family court judges either at the existing provincial level or down the road at the General Division level -- Unified Family Court judges doing young offender litigation. They are the judges who are least capable of doing it. Those judges have no background or tend not to have any background in criminal litigation. They tend not to have any background in criminal evidence and are unaware even of, let’s say, sentencing ranges.
I am concerned and I am curious. I am concerned as to why the government would have wanted family judges to be doing young offender litigation, and I am wondering why we have this amendment by the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling). As I say, I am in agreement with its general tone or its general thrust. I am wondering why the member for Carleton in his amendment would have similarly included the Young Offenders Act among those other statutes which are going to be dealt with by family court judges.
Let’s not mince words. We are talking once again about people who steal, people who rape, people who murder, people who rob. They to be under 18. In the old days not so long ago, those 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds who raped, robbed, murdered and stole were dealt with in criminal court and were the beneficiaries of principles enunciated in our Court of Appeal, that accorded leniency to youthful offenders.
In its wisdom -- I guess I was not being totally sincere when I said that -- or in whatever perverse approach the federal government took when it created the Young Offenders Act, it somehow decided that in treating kids up to 16 in that chamois-gloved manner, at least in this province, the Juvenile Delinquents Act was going to be extended up to 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. That was entirely inappropriate in my eyes and, I submit, in the eyes of the vast majority of people across the province.
I am wondering if the parliamentary assistant to the minister might help us a little with what the government’s long-term plans are about putting young criminals, under the guise of young offenders, into family courts as compared to criminal courts.
I wonder -- I do not know -- if the member for Carleton is prepared to vary his amendment to delete number 12 on his table so that exclusive jurisdiction was not given. “Exclusive” means precisely that. I have some real concerns about that. The member may share some of those concerns. I am not sure.
Mr Sterling: Let me try to persuade my colleague. Basically, this amendment would lift the whole family court structure into the General Division so that every judge who was sitting in the family court dealing with any of these matters would have the equivalent status of what we now know as a district court judge or a Supreme Court judge, all in one stage.
Therefore, the member’s remarks with regard to the seriousness of the offences he is talking about under the Young Offenders Act would be dealt with by what is in the General Division, or is assumed in this General Division, to be a district court judge or a Supreme Court judge. What you are doing is elevating all of the family court judges immediately into the General Division and elevating their status to that of a jointly appointed judge.
Therefore, I do not see it as demeaning the kind of offences that would be heard under the Young Offenders Act. At the same time, I do not know if that explains to him exactly what the amendment does. It lifts all of these judges up one notch, basically, and takes them to the second stage of court reform before it actually happens.
I find it passing strange that the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General and the Attorney General himself do not grab on to this amendment. Here is an amendment coming from the opposition side which is saying in effect -- although I hate to say it -- “We trust you to implement this whenever you see fit to implement it.” Because what it says is: “You have all the time in the world to make your peace with your federal brethren. Go ahead and make your peace, then proclaim it.”
I am just trying to save the time of the Legislature. How often does the government get that kind of offer from a member of the opposition? How often does it get that kind of offer? If this were a housing bill, I know the Minister of Housing (Mr Sweeney) would jump up and down and say, “Norm, you’re a great guy.” He wants me to be the critic for the Ministry of Housing now, I think. But notwithstanding that, I do not understand his reluctance to accept this.
I agree that the government has to get some approval from the federal government, because these judges no doubt would have to be jointly appointed under our present constitutional structure. But we have already done that in the city of Hamilton. We have a Unified Family Court there. Why is the government reluctant to take this legislative tool and hold it in abeyance until it gets that approval? I do not understand the government’s objection to a member of the opposition putting this forward. If it does not take it now, we may object to it later.
Mr Polsinelli: The opposition critic from the third party is already on record, and he would have a hard time objecting to it later, but I should point out that it is our feeling that the problems in terms of dealing with young offenders are with the Young Offenders Act itself and its penalties. The Attorney General is already on record as requesting the federal amendments, and there may be a willingness on the part of the cousins of the third party in Ottawa to amend that act.
In terms of dealing with whether the family court judges should have the authority to deal with the Young Offenders Act, we now have a case in Hamilton where the Unified Family Court presently exists, deals with the Young Offenders Act and deals with it very adequately.
Those are my comments.
Mr Sterling: Just before my friend stands up from the New Democratic Party, let me say that these particular statutes were included because they were the statutes that were included for the Unified Family Court in Hamilton and therefore they were lifted right out of the regulation -- I believe it is by regulation -- that was given in terms of jurisdiction to those jointly appointed judges in Hamilton.
The amendment of the Young Offenders Act has nothing to do with this amendment. The Young Offenders Act can be amended many times and still would fall within the mandate of this section.
Again, the member has not explained the government’s reluctance to take the power. I would have thought the government would have a positive statement to go to our federal government and say, “Look, not only did the government want to take another step in developing the Unified Family Court for all of Ontario but the opposition, your cousins down at Queen’s Park, put forward this amendment which gives us the right to proclaim this as soon as we get agreement from you.”
What will happen is the government will go and make its deal with the federal government, and then it will have to come back to this Legislature to change the law once again. That will take a longer time. Many areas of the province would benefit greatly from a Unified Family Court and, therefore, what I am trying to do is bring the time down to a more reasonable timetable. Again, I do not understand the government’s reluctance to accept this amendment.
Mr Kormos: Let me say just a couple of things, very briefly. One, we are not opposed to the concept of Unified Family Court. It is obvious that the intention of this amendment is to reinforce the likelihood of there being Unified Family Courts in this province in, let’s say, the foreseeable future. But our perspective of the need for Unified Family Courts is based on them performing precisely family law functions, which in our view excludes young offender functions.
Granted, these are what are now district court judges or Supreme Court or High Court judges. It remains that those very same judges tend to do work in a given area, and obviously in the case of those who are Unified Family Court judges, their area of expertise is in matrimonial and family law type of litigation, not in Young Offender Act litigation.
Again, that was our concern. The Young Offenders Act is criminal legislation or should be perceived as criminal legislation. This is where I have to comment once again, albeit briefly, on what the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General says. He stands up here and says the problem with the Young Offenders Act is what the feds did in terms of creating the act. He knows better than that. I know he does.
One of the problems with the Young Offenders Act is obviously here in the province in that judges do not have any places when they want to put these kids away to put them away to. The fact is that open-custody settings are unavailable in most parts of the province. What judges will be inclined to do when they are made aware that open-custody facilities are not available is send the kids back out on the street.
The fact remains that secure-custody facilities are pressed in the province and, although the physical buildings may be there, the programs are chimerical.
That gets to the final point, which is something perhaps of overriding and paramount concern, certainly for us here in the opposition. The government has this whole package of reforms, which was announced in the House on 1 May, May Day. A bill was presented some time after that. There was purported consultation during the summer just past. The government had available to it all sorts of expertise. I am talking about the Advocates’ Society, the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario, and the Criminal Lawyers Association, among others. Their first response, at least the first response on the part of most of them, was: “Whoa, this bill is very, very dangerous. You guys had better proceed with great caution or else you are liable to be jumping from the frying pan into the fire and you’re liable to be creating far more problems than you think you’re going to be solving, no two ways about it.’’
The government of course carried on during the committee hearings by saying, “Of course we want to hear what you have to say, but say it really fast, like in five minutes, and then get the hell out of here, because we haven’t got time to hear any more.” The government is doing some real sucking and blowing. They say they want to hear what these interested parties have got to say and then they send them away and tell them, “No, we didn’t really want to hear you; we were only joking.”
It remains that those same groups, the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario and the Criminal Lawyers Association, among others, said: “Please, give us, let’s say, two more months. Okay, we’ll settle for a month or a month and a half to consult with our membership, review the bills and, more important, review the amendments,” which were tossed in their faces the last minute, “so that we can provide some meaningful input into the preparation of this particular legislation, legislation that is going to have a significant impact on every person here in the province of Ontario for a long time yet to come.”
Again, we are talking about expertise, which if you had to buy it on the open market would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, available to the government for free. The government did not want it. The Attorney General shrugged them off. That is not unusual. He has shrugged off the justices of the peace in Ontario. He shrugged off the provincial judges. Heck, as recently as the last couple of weeks, he shrugged off the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. We talked to the Attorney General, at least tried to, here in the Legislature about the letter dated 28 September 1989 where not a JP, not a provincial judge, not a district court judge, but, my goodness, the Chief Justice of Canada, Chief Justice Dickson, takes time out of his schedule to write a letter to the Attorney General, saying: “We have taken a look at your legislation, and I am sorry but it looks horribly flawed. You had better proceed with some caution. Maybe we can help you a little bit, because you have created some really serious problems.”
The practical effect of that is that somebody down the road in the not too distant future, if the government rams this stuff through, somebody, a litigant in a matrimonial action, a litigant in a civil suit, perhaps somebody, just plain folk, trying to seek some redress through the court is going to be put to a whole lot of expense, an incredible expense, because the forum in which he or she choose to proceed with litigation is going to be challenged by the other party as being something that is contrary to, among other things, the Constitution.
The government cannot say it was not told so. They were told so by us and they were told so by the committee members from the Conservative Party. They were told so by the Chief Justice of Canada. But, as I say, the Attorney General prefers to shrug off, dismiss, the advice of the Chief Justice of Canada. That is pretty incredible. That is as arrogant as you could ever want to get. The Attorney General is a lawyer and he has been involved in a few courtroom bits of litigation and I know he has got lawyers working on his staff, but, holy cow, here he is; he is dismissing the Chief Justice of Canada as basically being a nobody. He is simply saying: “Who’s this Dickson guy? Chief Justice what? Supreme Court of Canada? What’s that? I am Ian Scott. I am the Attorney General of Ontario. What do I need to hear from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada for?”
There you go, free advice available to the government. Now the government wants to proceed with this stuff. It is going to ram it through with its majority, no two ways about it. But, holy cow, there is going to be a whole bunch of people over here saying “We told you so” when this thing blows up in its face. It is guaranteed to do that.
The Attorney General was in here during question period last week saying: “Okay, I know I got the letter from the Chief Justice of Canada, but we solved those problems. We made our little amendments solving the constitutional problems.” Well, bull feathers. He is no more believable in that respect than he is in so many other respects. The public of Ontario is not going to believe him and did not believe him when he told the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) that during question period. Quite frankly, the public of Ontario has a little more confidence in the opinion of the Chief Justice.
Mr Callahan: Mr Chairman, on a point of order.
The Chair: Order. You have a point of order to which standing order?
Mr Kormos: I am sorry, Mr Chairman, I did not see him. He is so far away.
Mr Callahan: The point of order is that the member has addressed an issue in terms of the believability of a member of this House. That is contrary to the standing orders and he should be required to retract that statement.
Mr Kormos: I never said I did not believe him, I am saying the public across Ontario is not believing him. I am only telling the member what I see and hear out there. My goodness, Mr Chairman, what more can I do but bring into this House my day-to-day experiences out there in the community I come from; good, honest folk who do not believe the Attorney General or the Premier (Mr Peterson), or the rest of that government as far as that goes.
Mr Callahan: I believe that a point of order is nondebatable, and he is debating it, but I would suggest that is not what he said. He deliberately made a statement about a member of this House in terms of the believability. That is contrary to the standing orders and he should withdraw it.
The Chair: I think it is rather debatable, but I would ask the member to be very careful, to make sure that he does not let that impression go by. The member may continue.
Mr Kormos: I am going to exercise as much caution as I can muster up on a Monday afternoon. I have looked in my little bank account under the caution deposits and, boy, I have used up a whole lot in the last while, but there is a little bit left that I will draw upon.
In any event, what we are talking about here is absolutely no consultation, absolutely none. The Attorney General had smart, capable people prepared to give it, and he had people appearing before the committee saying, “Yes, we are prepared to participate,” and we wanted to believe him when he said he was going to consult with us. Lord knows, we wanted to believe him, but how can we believe him when he says he wanted to consult with us but he sends us away when we ask for one more month to prepare our material, because he rammed this stuff through so quickly. The bill was not presented on 1 May, just the announcement, and of course, it is oh so flowery and sounds like it might fly, even to the extent where I stood up on behalf of the opposition and said: “Yes, in principle, we endorse these types of reforms. Indeed, these are reforms that should make the court system more accessible, less expensive for litigants, speedier.”
Lord knows, there will not be a whole lot of litigants, because what has happened recently -- this is what happens around here -- on the one hand they are saying, “We are going to try to make the courtrooms more accessible,” and on the other hand the government is trying to pass legislation that is going to make it impossible for 90 per cent to 95 per cent of motor vehicle accident victims here in the province to collect any compensation for their injuries. It is going to deny them the right even to go to court if they have to to get compensated, to seek compensation from guilty, negligent, drunken, careless driving parties. So I guess it is six of one and half a dozen of the other in that respect.
It remains that we are concerned, lawyers who have a stake in the system, because they know how the system works, quite frankly, and judges, because it was not just lawyers but it was district court judges, old county court judges, or young ones -- they used to be called county court judges, now district court judges -- who similarly wrote to the committee and said: “Slow down. Let us help you. Let us take a look at this legislation.”
The fact is that they were probably right and the fact is that it is probably simply going to be a matter of saying, “I told you so,” if it were not sadly also the case that somebody is going to get hurt in the process. Not any of the people in here, although a few Liberal members -- a few? holy cow, the way I hear it, a whole bunch are going to have their constituents turn on them in the next election -- but it remains that those innocent people who are forced to use the court system are going to be hurt by this legislation because the government has not presented well-thought-out legislation --
The Chair: May I suggest to the member that he move the committee rise and report, because we have to report to the Speaker?
On motion by Mr Kormos, the committee of the whole House reported progress.
The House adjourned at 1800.