36e législature, 1re session

L092 - Thu 20 Jun 1996 / Jeu 20 Jun 1996






The House met at 1004.




Mrs Ecker moved private member's notice of motion number 22:

That in the opinion of this House, the income tax system unfairly favours political over charitable donations of $200 or less; and

Since charitable organizations and the work of volunteers are a vital part of Ontario's communities that serve the needs of many individuals and enrich the quality of life we enjoy in Ontario; and

Since promoting the spirit of volunteerism and the work of charitable community organizations is a high priority for the government of Ontario; and

Since the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy has submitted to the federal government that there should be an increase in credits for charitable donations; and

Since studies indicate that increasing the tax credit can increase the amount donated by those who file for credits; and

Since tax credits for charitable donations are the responsibility of the government of Canada;

Therefore the government of Ontario should pursue discussions with the government of Canada to explore the feasibility of increasing charitable credits on contributions of $200 or less so that they are equivalent to credits for political donations.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member has 10 minutes.

Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): I am pleased to have the opportunity to present my private member's resolution today. It's a resolution which, if adopted, might ultimately result in changes in our system of tax credits for charitable donations which will help encourage individuals to donate money to the many charitable organizations which contribute so much to the betterment of our communities.

As it stands now, if you make a $200 contribution to a political party, you get a tax credit of about $150. That's a very nice incentive for those who may wish to financially support our democratic process and the party of their choice, but if you give that same amount to a charitable organization, you only get a credit of approximately $53. That's $97 less.

I believe that this situation is inequitable and it is time it should be addressed. Therefore, I am asking for the support of this House for my resolution. It asks our government to encourage the federal government to amend the Income Tax Act so that the tax credit on a charitable donation of $200 or less is increased to the same level one would receive for making an equivalent political donation. In other words, political and charitable donors will receive an equitable tax break.

This rather cumbersome mechanism is necessary because the authority for tax credits on charitable donations rests with Ottawa, while legislation governing political donations comes under both provincial and federal jurisdiction. Be that as it may, the net result of this initiative, if successful, will be to make it financially more attractive for individuals to make charitable donations.

I'd like to quote from some research that was done by the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, and I would be remiss if I did not thank them for their advice and the help and support they have given me in preparing this motion today. They are an organization which is dedicated to encouraging support for the volunteer in the charitable sector. In some recent research that they did, they found that charitable tax credits do indeed encourage donors to make larger gifts to charitable organizations. They found that on average those who claimed the tax credit donated three times as much as those who did not submit receipts. They also found that 80% of Canadians who are aware of the tax incentive to donate said it positively affects the amount that they will donate to charitable organizations.

The philanthropy centre has been lobbying Ottawa to provide more tax credits to encourage charitable giving and it appears that perhaps they are beginning to make some headway. The federal government has recognized the importance of supporting the charitable sector, and I understand the Department of Finance has recently announced that it will be exploring ways that it can do this. I hope they will take note of the resolution we are debating today.

Here in Ontario we've already taken many steps in this direction to help support the volunteer and the charitable sector. For example, there was the announcement of the breakfast program yesterday. The Premier supported that initiative. It's the partnership that we are able to have with the Canadian Living Foundation for Families and the grocery foundation together to launch such initiatives and I think it demonstrates the kind of government, volunteer and community and corporate partnership that is so important for continuing with this sector.

We introduced legislation to establish crown foundations for many public institutions. It's another initiative my colleague from St Andrew-St Patrick, Isabel Bassett, is to be commended for, for all her hard work in making that come to fruition. We've also in our budget mentioned many initiatives that will help charitable organizations to gain more resources, the kind of resources they need to keep their work going. I'd also like to mention the volunteer initiative that my colleague from Durham-York, Julia Munro, is working on as well.


Passage of this resolution today, I believe, will continue these worthwhile efforts to strengthen and encourage the support for our charitable organizations and the many volunteers who support them.

The inspiration to put forward this motion has come to me from many sources.

First, I must say I have come from a family where we were raised to give back to the community to the extent that we were able, and that is a principle I have tried to follow in my own life.

Second, my husband and I have the privilege of living in a community, Ajax-Pickering, that has a very strong volunteer and charitable sector, and over the years I've had the privilege of working with the many talented individuals who have given so freely of their time, their resources and their services to improve the quality of life in this community.

I'm very pleased to welcome to the members' gallery today Mrs Gale Mossman, who is from Durham region, who is the chair of the Durham Region Community Foundation, which is dedicated to raising substantial amounts of money for charitable operations within Durham region. She's vice-chair of the Ajax-Pickering hospital board, and also a past chair of the United Way. She has come today to lend her support for this resolution and I very much appreciate that. She has been an untiring and dedicated volunteer who I believe can truly say that her efforts have made a very real and positive difference.

Third, over the years I've seen it become more and more difficult for charitable organizations. As government has tried to take over more and more of the work of these groups, it's only served to undermine the sense of responsibility and commitment to our families and our communities, and it's actually also undermined the ability of charitable organizations to raise money or attract volunteers. Government pays a lot of attention to nurturing the private sector and the public sector, but frequently government has forgotten and neglected the volunteer and charitable sector. I've talked to organizations and individuals about how we can redress this, and encouraging donors to provide more donations has been one of the suggestions made to me.

Fourth, I must say I must credit some of our critics who, in an effort to fight our government's intention to provide a tax cut, promised they would give their rebate to charity. When I thought about it, I thought: "Why not? That makes sense." First of all, if they give that money back to the government we lose 20 cents on that dollar for the interest on the debt, so right away we're only dealing with 80 cents to give to charitable organizations. Also, charitable organizations can deliver front-line services more effectively: They understand the specific needs of their community better, and they're leaner and they're more efficient because they've had to be, so more money can go directly to services to help people. Finally, it gives people the choice to support the community organization they would like to support.

I see my honourable colleague from across the way laughing. I know they don't support giving people choices to do with their money what they would like to do with their money.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Sorry, Janet, I wasn't even listening to you.

Mrs Ecker: Well, she should be listening to this. It's very important, and it's a message I believe their government forgot in their rush to do what they thought was right when they thought the government could solve all these problems. What they ended up doing is undermining the commitment, the responsibility and the duty that many people in communities have had.

For all these reasons, I believe this resolution is worthy of support. In private members' hour we've often seen examples where we have put aside our partisan differences to support worthwhile initiatives --

Mrs Boyd: This is nice non-partisanship.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): What a joke.

Mrs Ecker: It's very interesting that they don't recognize the many times they've chosen to support private members' initiatives by members of this government or that we have chosen to support private members' initiatives from your side of the House. We do believe it is important sometimes, once in a while, in this place to set aside partisan differences. I know it's difficult for them to understand that.


Mrs Ecker: I sincerely hope -- but their outburst may mean I'm being overly optimistic today -- that this House is willing to do that again today and I look forward to listening to the debate.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm pleased to join the debate on the member's bill and to welcome also Mrs Mossman to the gallery.

I very much appreciate the work that charitable organizations do. Probably everyone in the Legislature has been involved at one time or another in community work. I was chairman of a hospital board, chairman of a hospital foundation. I would hope that the organizations Mrs Mossman's involved in also feel welcome to come down here and point out to the government some of its shortcomings as well. While I appreciate this bill, in my judgement we're dealing with a government that is undermining much of the work of our community organizations, and this has to be judged against the backdrop of everything else that's happening.

Last night we debated a bill to establish crown foundations. The government has gutted its support for projects in the cultural organizations, gutted its capital budget for health, cutting our capital support virtually in half in this province over a two-year period. And then, frankly to try and calm the organizations, we are passing a bill called the Crown Foundations Act, which the government itself said, for 99.9% of all donors, it will have no impact. They cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of support for hospitals and libraries, and then we pass a bill that the government says in its own backgrounder will not affect 99.9% of donors. We had in the gallery people from the library boards, from hospitals, supporting the bill, after their budgets had been gutted by this government -- a small bone thrown to them.

What we've got here today is a proposal to give back a small little bit to charitable organizations at the same time as this government is gutting its support for our social infrastructure. And why? Because the government is committed to giving a 30% tax cut that will benefit the most well-off, the most successful, the most prosperous people in this province. A 30% cut in personal income tax, and more than half of that will go to families earning more than $90,000 a year.

We see in the gallery today charitable organizations supporting this bill. I would just urge you to not stop now, to be back here holding this government accountable for the decimation of our social infrastructure in the province, and I use those words not lightly.

It is going to take several months, probably two to three years, before we see the full impact, but I guarantee it is happening. It's happening in my community, it's happening in every community across this province. Why? There is no doubt why. The government says, "We are going to implement our 30% cut in personal income tax." It will cost this province $5 billion in revenue and it is being funded on the backs of our most vulnerable.

We see a bill today that throws a small bone to our charitable organizations. I fully support what our charitable organizations do. At the same time, it is a government that is determined to gut our social services.

A small concern I have about this bill is that it will reduce the government's revenues, and the government says, "For every penny our revenue is cut, we will cut spending by the same amount." I will say to our social organizations that while many in our caucus as private members will be supporting this bill, there's a downside to it. The government has said, "We are dedicated to two things: We are going to implement the 30% tax cut and we are going to deliver on our deficit numbers." I guarantee you, for every penny less in tax coming to the province, they will cut an equal amount from our social services. It is a treadmill we get on in dealing with this resolution.

I say to our charitable organizations that are watching this, looking for it to pass, many in our caucus -- I can't speak for our caucus, but I can speak for myself -- will be supporting it, but I would urge you, for the real battle, to get down to Queen's Park and make your voices be heard. We are seeing a fundamental change in this province and, for our charitable organizations that do so much good work, your voices are needed then, more so than now for this bill.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I will be opposing the resolution introduced by the member for Durham West, and I want to explain why that is the case. Not that the resolution in itself is a bad one: What it speaks to in itself, isolated from what this government is doing, is a good thing. Who would be opposing, in general and in particular, the fact that individuals make a contribution, as individuals or as companies, to charities of their choice? No one is opposed to that.

What I'm opposed to is the resolution seen in the context of what this government is doing. If you see it in the larger picture of what this government represents and through its actions is doing, I say we need to oppose this resolution. What it does and what it's been doing is shifting the responsibilities away from government on to somebody else to deliver the service, either individuals or families or somebody else except government. That's what this resolution represents to me.

Remember this, for those who are listening: $8.3 billion will have been taken out of the government's budget by next year -- $8.3 billion. Remember that the NDP had taken out $6 billion already, and this government in its first year has announced $8.3 billion worth of cuts. Add to that the income tax cut this government has proposed, an income tax cut that goes to the wealthiest of Canadians. I use the bankers as a fine example of what I mean: Five bank presidents, who earn individually $1.5 million, collectively almost $5 million, will get back $420,000 on their income tax cut as a result of the measures this government is introducing. It is the wealthiest of bankers, it is the wealthiest of Canadians who get that money back.

That $8.3-billion cut from the government's budget and, as a result of the income tax cut, up to possibly $20 billion lost revenue means this government will be a lot poorer in its ability to deliver the essential services we need. And what are those essential services? They're in health, they're in education and social services: health, which constitutes $17.3 billion to $17.4 billion of our budget, social services $13 billion or so or more, and education $13 billion or so or more.

When you take $8.3 billion out of the budget of the government, you're affecting, as you already have, health, by taking $1.3 billion, education, by up to $1 billion already, and social services, billions of dollars already; plus the firing of thousands of civil servants to deliver the services people need.

Including the cuts to the income tax cut, where we'll see a shortfall of billions of dollars this government will not have to deliver its services, it will devastate what we have been doing in Ontario. It debilitates the ability of government to deliver the services we need. Who benefits from the services we provide? Everyone. Everyone benefits, but particularly the most vulnerable people that charities, presumably, are helping out.

That's the problem I have with this resolution, because it shifts the responsibility away from government, which they advocate daily. They say: "Government is too fat. Government is spending too much. We should let the private sector take care of our needs, take care of our economy, take care of employment." This government says, "We're not in the business of providing housing, we're not in the business of providing the kinds of services that individuals and families should be providing." I say that's wrong. I say the shift that this government is proposing as a Reform-minded government is wrong.

If the public out there believes and supports it, I say God bless. At the end of this term, if the public supports this direction, I say God bless. But I say that as people begin to see the effects of these cuts on their lives, they will change their minds. Charity giving and the giving to charity cannot fill the gap for what this government is doing through its cuts. They're attempting to do it, but it will not do it.

Voluntarism is something that is not new. We have been doing it for years. People have been giving of their time for years. Countless billions of dollars' worth of volunteer time has already been dedicated and donated by responsible individuals in our society. It's nothing new. But this government, by having the member for Durham West lead this glorious thing called voluntarism, pretends to suggest that it is something new. It is not. Voluntarism has been going on for years. Billions of dollars' worth of volunteer time is already being donated by people, but they are pretending and suggesting that with this new parliamentary assistant going out and talking about voluntarism, whatever she's doing, somehow we're going to take more time and more giving from people so that the services we're cutting as a government can be put back by more volunteers.

I suggest there isn't much more that people could be giving. Maybe there is, and so I hope you're right. I hope that we will have thousands and millions more people giving more of their money. But as you take, as you fire people, as the private sector downsizes, as unemployment continues to stay high and as people lose their income, they will have less money to give. The wealthy, who are already giving, hopefully will give more. Maybe that will be the case.

I suggest to you that you should tax them so that you, as a government, can give more money to those who need the services, as opposed to encouraging the tax credit that you're proposing, to have the wealthy corporations give more of their money to charities. Tax so that you can direct the money appropriately to the services that are essential to the general public.

The role of government is essential to good society, and you Reform-minded people on the other side are taking the role of government away for the good society to thrive. There will not be a good society in your government, in your term, because what you're proposing is an incredible gap between the rich and the poor. charity giving is not the answer. We need governments that are responsible and governments that are there to protect the vulnerable when the economy, as it is in this moment, is down and not doing very well. The economy is not expanding; it's diminishing.

What you are doing is abandoning those very people who, through this charity-type of motion, you're pretending to help. I suggest to you this is the wrong approach. I cannot support a motion that through the government's action denies and belies everything they pretend they're trying to do through this resolution. I reject it completely. I will not be supporting it.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I'm pleased to speak today on behalf of this resolution. The government always welcomes suggestions that encourage charitable giving. I want to thank my colleague from Durham West for her foresight and hard work in bringing forward this resolution.

As my colleagues in the House know, I have been very involved working on the Crown Foundations Act, Bill 71, which is before the House right now. It proposes to create crown foundations for cultural institutions, hospitals, libraries and other institutions that qualify for this status. The aim is to prompt greater giving by making more favourable tax credits.


Now I want to say right off the top of this that we do not see this as a panacea -- I said this last night in the House -- but we do see it as a help. It's better than nothing. We have a whole list of hospitals and cultural organizations lining up in hope that they can prompt greater giving and attract greater gifts, so on that note we are very supportive of anything that makes it more favourable for people to give.

Study after study shows that a more favourable tax credit makes people give to charities. It doesn't alter the fact that they're going to give; it alters the fact of how much they are going to give. This resolution is therefore extremely timely and in keeping with the government's general goal of encouraging volunteerism and charitable giving.

The current income tax rules are designed, as you know, to encourage larger donations, and they've been strengthened by the federal government in the most recent budget by increasing the 20% of your net income to 50% that you can deduct for a charitable gift.

While institutions rely on large donations, they certainly rely on the thousands of smaller donations that they receive annually from people right across this province. That's why exploring the feasibility of increasing charitable credits on contributions of $200 or less will give a much-needed boost to thousands of charities by providing a further incentive for people to make small donations. To the extent that tax benefits encourage people to give, this change could lead, and I hope it leads, to a larger number of smaller charitable gifts.

Because this resolution relies, though, on federal income tax rules, a federal agreement would be required whether Ontario created a new credit or wanted to change its existing rules, so we will be working, as the member has already pointed out, with the federal government in this area, and we are totally supportive of anything that anyone can come up with to work things out so this kind of resolution can be brought in.

The federal government is moving in this direction, as I said, and in the budget, for those who noted the federal budget, the Department of Finance has announced that it will be examining ways to further encourage charitable giving and charitable activities, particularly in areas where individuals and communities are being asked to do more because of the fiscal situation of governments today.

Anything we can do, and I'll close on this note, to loosen up dollars for the more than 26,000 registered charities in Ontario will benefit all of us. It'll benefit governments, charities and the people who rely on the services offered by these very valuable charitable institutions.

I thank my colleague from Durham West for her commitment to this worthy resolution and I look forward to working with her to explore the feasibility of increasing credits for charitable contributions of $200 or less. Anything I can do, I will certainly be there to help you.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It's with a fair bit of sadness that I address this bill today. I am new to this House, but I see very clearly that this government and the representatives of this government opposite are capable of a very great level of hypocrisy in addressing what ought properly to be non-partisan issues before this House.

The basic impulse of the charitable world, where I worked for the last 10 years, is based on trust, is based on people's belief in what those charities do. Only about the seventh or eighth factor in terms of what makes people donate has anything to do with the benefit they get from government, and the research, for example by Millward Brown, shows that.

But it's not that direction from the honourable member opposite that is most disturbing. The disturbing part of this resolution is where the government of Ontario proposes that it is interested in volunteerism and the work of charitable organizations. Instead, and I appreciate the presence of someone from the Durham Region Community Foundation, I think they will find very clearly that the work of this government already is well, well understood by charitable organizations in this province. Charitable organizations understand that what you've done is taken away a tremendous amount of interest on the part of the public in the people who need the help of charities. In other words, by cutting welfare, by saying that services aren't needed, you've taken away the ability of people to see that those requirements exist in society. In fact, you've had an attack on the very work that charities do in this society. It's extremely problematic that this government would seek to gain benefit from the exact work that other groups are going to have to do.

The other damage that is being done here of course is the direct attack that's been made on charities, the money that's been taken away in the dollars that charities do put to proper use. In my own riding of York South there are over 17 programs that have had to cancel because they've lost the seed money that came from government. Rather than have a government that's willing and prepared to listen to charities, to listen to what they find out in their communities, to what their volunteers and other people know about the needs they are addressing, you're choosing instead --


The Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Kennedy: -- thank you, Mr Speaker -- you're choosing instead to go for the easiest public relations part of what charities have. I am indeed sad that this is the necessary route this government has decided to take.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): So sad you are going to support it.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Brantford, come to order, please.

Mr Kennedy: The hypocrisy that is underlined in this bill is really shown by the fact that the government is asking the federal government to make a $64 contribution while its share would only increase by $34. I think when we talk about what is needed to make charities operate, what is needed is a partnership with government that is based on respect for what charities stand for. The values that charities stand for, which are tolerance, some fairness in society, some basic ability to provide for people when they can't provide for themselves because that's in the interests of society, are being undermined by the other actions of this government.

While the members of the NDP choose to not support this bill, I choose to support it --


Mr Kennedy: -- because I will not let this government use the manoeuvring that it does to take advantage of the sad fact that exists for charities out there for the next four years. For the next four years charities will need, precisely because of the actions of this government, every measure they can to survive.

The Deputy Speaker: There's too much noise in here. I can't hear the excellent debate. The rest of you will get your turn. I would appreciate you waiting for that turn.

Mr Kennedy: The amusement on the other side of the House of the various members makes it clear how little seriousness they put into their forethought for this particular bill and for the implications of what they're doing. The implications of this motion are simply to tell charities that the only way this government looks at them is as a sidebar to their other activity, that they don't respect their opinions about the direction that society has taken, they don't respect their opinions about the work that they're doing, because charity after charity has tried to get the ear of this government and has been unable.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The government was not laughing at the member. The government was laughing at a remark that was made by another member in the House. We would not laugh at something so serious, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order. The Chair recognizes the member for York South.

Mr Kennedy: I conclude my remarks by requesting that this government show its true intentions, if it is capable of those intentions. I believe it is. The government members are very defensive, but the good faith from charities cannot be bought. The good faith from charities will come from your actions, and this government should be sitting down with charities in this province and learning the true impact of its programs, because they will get a very different answer than some of that laughter and some of those smug smiles they're showing today.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I want to, before I put my thoughts on the record, read this piece of business today, this resolution, and give kudos as much as I can to the charitable organizations out there who are working in some very difficult circumstances to deliver programs in an environment that is very difficult and very problematic to anybody who cares about people in today's society, and to recognize the efforts they are making and the need they have of all of the resources they can get their hands on to do that very good work.

However, having said that, I must say that I support very clearly the comments of the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, who says this piece of work needs to be seen in its context, and the member for Fort York, who very specifically pointed to the shortcomings of this approach to dealing with very fundamental and systemic needs of people who live in civilized societies for food and clothing and opportunity for education and health care.

I would say to the people of Ontario and to the members of this House as we debate this particular issue and as we look at its merits perhaps on one hand and its difficulties on the other to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing, because this government has not in the short time that it's been in power shown in any particular way any legitimate, true concern at all for those among us in Ontario today who are in need or at risk or vulnerable or marginalized in any way. They have gutted programs and then on the other hand thrown a few crumbs or bones at them to say, "Well, you know, we aren't quite as bad as you perhaps thought we were."

I have to only for a moment reflect on the fact that in July 1995 all of us woke up one morning to realize that this government had taken almost 22% out of the pockets of the poorest and the most vulnerable and the most marginalized in our communities. Imagine you showing up at work one day and being told by your employer that for no good reason, no practical reason, because this province is still a very rich jurisdiction, you're going to lose 22% of your take-home pay and then having to go back home and talk to your family about that and the impact that's going to have on your life and your ability to be healthy and to take care of your very basic needs.

Then just a few weeks ago you declare in this House that you're going to set up a nutrition program for children. First of all you take away in a very major, fundamental and significant way the ability of parents to feed their children at home, and then you set up a program to feed them in schools and places outside of their home.

This is the thinking and the logic of this government. This is the thinking and the logic that goes into the resolution in front of us today. Unlike the Liberals, who will say one thing and then vote another, I will be sticking true to my principles as a New Democrat and I will be opposing this resolution.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It certainly gives me great pleasure to rise and support the resolution of the member for Durham West in her approach to the whole issue of involving the charitable and non-profit sector in contributing to the betterment and quality of life in this province. I think the same commendation has to go out to the member for St Andrew-St Patrick in bringing forth the Crown Foundations Act.

I'd spoken about this subject in my maiden speech. I'm particularly impressed with the way in which this government, unlike our friends across the aisle, have approached the whole issue of governance and assisting the charitable and non-profit sectors in this province.

I've been involved personally in a number of good causes like Big Brothers of Metro Toronto, the Salvation Army, Ernestine's Women's Shelter, the Humber Arboretum, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Youth without Shelter and many, many others. These organizations, both locally and provincially and nationally, provide assistance in finding cures for cancer, helping the needy and the impoverished, and granting a terminally ill child his or her wish to visit Disney World, if you were looking at it in the context of the Children's Wish Foundation.

People donate to these charities because they believe they can make a difference. Their contributions are valued and we appreciate both what the folks who volunteer in this sector and the donors do in terms of making things better in Ontario.

We hear from the members opposite, especially the member for York South, who says he is so sad to speak about this bill, and we hear from the folks next door, who are committed to the principle of higher debt and bigger government.

The member for Sault Ste Marie says he woke one morning in July of last year to find out that Ontario had changed. I wonder why. If he'd really looked back at the history of the whole situation, there is a very vital strategic linkage that needs to be made here, particularly in the context of this resolution; that is, if the two opposition parties, when they were in government, had minded the store a lot better than the record shows, there wouldn't have been the necessity to make the depth and scope of the change that we were forced to deal with.

That is the strategic reality which both these parties, particularly the folks who are opposed to this proposal and favour big government overall -- because that is part of the root problem in trying to help the non-profit and charitable sectors in this province, that government has pretty well taken over and become the big dominant so-called partner in dealing with the whole situation.

We need to put on the record that the members opposite really failed to deal with the strategic linkage of high debt, high taxation and stagnation that had arisen in this province. I know those are difficult concepts for some of our friends opposite to deal with.

However, to remove this a little from the partisanship into which we seem to have sunk, into which all of us have sunk, although I know those opposite don't like to use that word --

Mr Marchese: We like neutrality.

Mr Hastings: You do like the word "partisanship." All right. We'll accept it. At least the members of the third party are standing on principle, of bigger and fatter and more and more and more government, more bureaucrats to deal with everything.

I end by simply commending the member for Durham West, my colleague, for presenting this resolution. We hope to work with the federal government, that they will look at the prospects of what this proposal can do in terms of levelling the field between political tax credits and charitable tax credits. This is one desperately needed proposal that we need to get into reality. Let's hope that in the next federal budget we will see that in operation.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I will be supporting this bill this morning because I believe it's going to be necessary under the circumstances that face this province. Unfortunately, with the extremely drastic cuts this government has made to social service agencies in this province, it's going to be necessary for the volunteer sector to pick up a good deal of the slack. That's most unfortunate. In fact, you are creating business for the charities in this province.

I remember a letter from Bishop Asbil of the Anglican Church, the bishop of the Niagara Diocese. We were reading that in the House, and he made some very compelling points about what this government is all about in its attitude towards the most vulnerable and the poorest people in this province.


That letter really says why I have to support this resolution, because those people are even more downtrodden now, even more behind the eight ball, if you will, and it's going to require the volunteer sector, the charitable sector, to provide the needs for these individuals.

This I consider to be conscience money on the part of the government, and it's only one third conscience money. It's very clever. People in this province should know, if nothing else, this government is extremely clever politically. Those Republicans from the south who advise you are very clever people at manipulation of public opinion. I give you political credit for that, though I don't know whether I would give you other kinds of credit.

The second-stage funding for instance at Bethlehem Place in St Catharines, which is supported by virtually everybody in the community, was removed -- the counselling money. Now they have to go out and beg for money from others. They will do it, they will work very hard at it, but they're competing with so many others who've had their funding cut. That's what you're going to find out there, that the competition for that volunteer donation is extremely tough.

I see us moving to the American system. Not every state, but most states have a situation where the most vulnerable and the least powerful are at the mercy of those who are powerful and rich -- in other words, of the goodwill of others in a society. Sometimes that goodwill is forthcoming and people are assisted, and very often it is not forthcoming, and for that reason the polarization, the difference between the most vulnerable, the poorest in society and the richest and the most powerful continues to grow in the United States.

I find it's unfortunate that we are in this circumstance. I see no alternative except to support this bill under the circumstances which exist. Charitable organizations in this province have done an outstanding job over the years in meeting many of the needs that have been in this province, even without this government in power, but their role and responsibility will increase dramatically as a result of the mean-spirited cuts that I have seen by members of this government. You're very good at satisfying the people who already are the most powerful, people who already have the most money in our society, but you're not very good at assisting the people who are at the bottom and providing equality not of outcome but equality of opportunity so that people across this province have that equal chance to play a meaningful role in our society.

I'll support the bill only because it's necessary.

Mrs Boyd: I have only a few moments, so I'll be very direct in my comments. There is no one in this House, I think, who has not been part of the volunteer sector and who has not supported charitable enterprise, and none of us ought to be claiming that we're more likely to do that than the other. The reality is that we're all very privileged and we have the opportunity to do that.

What this resolution suggests is that those who have the opportunity to spend $200 or less directly on charity should get a further tax break. There are many who are being hurt by this government who would love to have the luxury of having $200 or less to give to charity. The don't have that because of the cuts that have been made.

It is the context for this bill, not the actuality of this bill, to which we object. We object to supporting a government in throwing a sop to those who have criticized their behaviour towards those who are most vulnerable by supporting a resolution like this.

There's a huge difference between being in receipt of charity and being in receipt of an entitlement. One of the things we see from this government is a further effort to denigrate the poor, to put them in a position of begging for their basic needs. That is what has happened in this province, and it makes absolutely no sense for this government to expect members of this House to support them in that form of hypocrisy.

It is really distressing to me that this is being portrayed by the member for Durham West as being some kind of a turning point in terms of how we look at people's belief in whether or not we ought to care for one another as part of the community. We believe we ought to care for one another, but it should not be on the basis of charity, and especially on the basis of charity because you expect to get some kind of return, but on the basis that all of us should expect and owe one another a decent and dignified lifestyle. We can do that only through the tax system and through government-run organizations.

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I appreciate this opportunity to participate in the debate today on ballot item 37, the resolution put forth by my colleague Janet Ecker, the MPP for Durham West.

I'll be supporting this resolution for several reasons, one of which is that I believe it will give charitable organizations a greater chance towards self-sufficiency so that they're not, as some might call them, government funding junkies. I'll also be supporting it because I believe more people will donate money to charitable organizations and that those people already donating money will give more. The more people make financial contributions to charitable organizations, the stronger the organization will be, and that only leads to a healthier future for these organizations.

The issue of increasing the charitable tax credits to match those of political tax credits for both provincial and federal parties, riding associations and campaigns is one that has been raised in my riding of Scarborough Centre on several occasions by many constituents. I'm sure the member for Durham West found the same thing in her riding.

One individual in particular who attended my pre-budget consultations and raised the issue there, the Reverend Kim Beard, is here in the members' gallery to listen to the debate today in the Legislature of Ontario. Reverend Beard has two congregations in Scarborough: St Crispin's and St Bede's. I know if the changes proposed in this resolution were enacted, many community groups or organizations like St Crispin's or St Bede's would benefit, just as other churches like St Boniface Church or St Theresa's or St Peter's or the Church of St George or Bendale Bible Chapel or Cliffcrest United Church or the Church of the Master and every other place of worship in Scarborough Centre and Ontario.

I think of the other organizations in my riding that would benefit from this change. I think of the Cliffcrest Community Centre, Coping in Tough Times, the YWCA LEAP program, the YWCA focus on change program, the Metropolitan Toronto Association for Community Living and organizations like Youth Assisting Youth, which, I should bring to the attention of this House, had a 100-hole golf marathon on Monday and raised $25,000. I know if these changes were made, that $25,000 might have been $50,000 in the first year of this event.

I will also be supporting the resolution because I believe it's consistent with the volunteer initiative being brought forth by the member for Durham-York, the parliamentary assistant to the Premier, Julia Munro.

Again, I'd like to commend the member for Durham West for bringing forth this resolution and to let the member know again that I will be supporting her resolution.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): It's certainly my pleasure to be able to offer support to this resolution this morning. I think there are a couple of comments I would like to make that come from the comments that have been previously made.

Something we all need to keep in mind is that in a democratic society, in a civil society, it is the mark of a civil society to have the contribution of its members, the contribution of its members to be able to support the quality of lifestyle that we all enjoy. When we look back on our cultural tradition in this province, it has been one of contribution to community.

I believe it's the role of government then to provide the opportunity for people to take responsibility within their own community. We're talking about public life, and democratic society rests on the encouragement, the nurturing, the opportunities that government can provide for people to take part in public life. What we see here then is a recognition of that opportunity in the resolution that is being presented to us today.

Many of the people who have spoken have talked about the context. I'd like to just offer two particular examples of context.

Many ministries support volunteer activities today and continue to do so. I have, for instance, figures from the Ministry of the Solicitor General, and there we see almost $200 million supporting volunteer work within the ministry. In the Ministry of Health, we're looking again at just under $200 million, and that doesn't include the 50,000 hours of volunteer help that go into every Toronto hospital.

I think we are looking at this in a context of a community that traditionally has provided support and taken a role in every community's life in this province.


Mrs Ecker: I thank very much my colleagues from St Andrew-St Patrick, Etobicoke-Rexdale, Scarborough Centre and Durham-York for their support and their advice on this. I also thank the members opposite for some very interesting comments and I thank those who will be supporting this resolution. I certainly appreciate it.

One thing we've seen very clearly here today is the fundamental difference in approach. Some members opposite believe that only government should be doing this, that somehow or other the government should be taking away the responsibility from families and communities. I don't think that's how we should do it. We've tried that over the last several years. It didn't work very well. It cost us more money; it was one thing that ran us into so much debt. It also undermined the responsibility of families and communities and helped to undermine the work of the organizations we all want to support.

The second issue is that somehow or other all this should be the responsibility of the tax system, that it should be on the tax structure to do some of this work. One thing I have great difficulty understanding from the members opposite is that somehow or other allowing people to contribute to help members of their own community is to be replaced by a government ripping away tax dollars from hardworking families that might well be able to support, to give donations, to work in community organizations if they hadn't had to work so darn hard in the last 10 years trying to keep their head above water just to pay the tax bill. I think that underlines very much the difference in how we are approaching this and how they have tried to approach it in the past.

I hope this will be of assistance if the resolution is adopted. I encourage the members opposite to support us in this and I thank them for that. I hope very much that this will be in some small way of assistance to all those many hardworking individuals out there who have made such a difference in our communities.


Mr Lalonde moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 60, An Act respecting the participation of workers and contractors from Quebec in Ontario's construction industry workforce / Projet de loi 60, Loi concernant la participation des travailleurs et entrepreneurs du Québec à la main-d'oeuvre de l'industrie de la construction de l'Ontario.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I would like to begin the discussion today by saying that the bottom line of Bill 60 is jobs, therefore I want to emphasize the fact that this must not be seen as a political issue but as an economic issue.

Over the past few months I have spoken with people from Prescott and Russell, Carleton, Nepean, from all ridings in Ottawa-Carleton, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Timiskaming, Cochrane North and South, Cornwall, and the list goes on and on. People talk about unfair practices, unemployment and lost contracts. Through all these discussions I have not met or spoken to a single person who is against Bill 60. To tell you the truth, I have never met anyone yet who is against job creation, and this is why people support Bill 60.

Les gens qui ont pris le temps de lire le projet de loi et qui comprennent vraiment pourquoi j'ai décidé de présenter cette législation s'accordent tous pour dire qu'il faut agir pour assurer la survie des travailleurs et de toute l'industrie de la construction en Ontario.

This government can no longer tolerate a situation that is responsible for massive layoffs and bankruptcies. Ontarians are losing jobs and contracts to Quebeckers on job sites in this province. In many cases, those contracts are funded by the province of Ontario, which says to me today that Ontario is actually creating jobs for workers living and paying taxes in Quebec. There are 10,000 Quebec residents working in Ontario for every 1,000 Ontario residents working in Quebec.

When we look at the criteria that Ontario workers and contractors have to meet in order to work in Quebec, we understand why so many Quebeckers come to Ontario while hardly any Ontarians manage to work in Quebec.

Here are some of the criteria for Ontario workers who want to work in Quebec: first, they have to obtain a competency certificate; second, pay a fee of $100 for this certificate; third, join a union; fourth, indicate in which region they wish to work; and fifth, complete the course Health and Safety on Construction Sites.

What are the criteria for Quebec workers working in Ontario? None.

Here are some of the criteria for Ontario building contractors working in Quebec: first, they have to register their company in Quebec; second, obtain an employer number for Quebec; third, obtain a building contractor's licence; fourth, register with the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail; fifth, register with the Fichier des employeurs de la Commission des normes du travail; sixth, register with the Commission de la construction du Québec; seventh, register with the Association of Building Contractors of Quebec; and eighth, appoint a Quebec attorney for service. All of this costing thousands of dollars and taking several months.

What are the criteria for a Quebec building contractor working in Ontario? Absolutely none. It's a free world.

I received recently a call from a man from Nipissing riding, saying that contract losses to Quebec contractors were slowly killing business. He said that the next year must provide hope for the future or many of them will have to close up shop and lay off more people. I have introduced Bill 60 to give hope not only to the construction workers in the north but to give hope to all construction workers in Ontario.

In eastern Ontario alone, at least 40% of the construction workforce is unemployed. In some trades, the unemployment rate runs as high as 55%, 60% or even 70%.

I would like to bring to your attention a few examples of hardship that have hit our construction people, and these are not situations that occurred 10 years ago; they are situations that our people have to deal with every day in Ontario.

As an example, Jean-Pierre Parisien of Hawkesbury Renovations, a well-known Ontario construction company, was the lowest bidder on a $100,000 job in Quebec. He could not obtain certificates by the required date. He then lost the contract to a Quebec company. Mr Marcel Desnoyers of Curran, Mr Gilles Dubois of Dubois Electrique in Hawkesbury, all the same situation.

Electrical Cab Renovations, a well-established company that has been in business in Ontario for the last 12 years: To do business in Quebec, they must complete a health and safety exam; they must study seven manuals; they recently had to send three employees for two days in Montreal at a cost of $280 each for the course alone. This is not including hotel rooms, meals and travel expenses. Two weeks later, they would like to do business in Quebec, but they are still waiting for their exam results.

Rolland Amyot of Orléans, that is a good one, worked in Quebec for over 28 years as a renovation specialist. I have a letter on file from his employer dated September 30, 1993, indicating he is a very good employee. In November 1993, he moves to Ontario. In May 1995, he advises his employer, a school board in Quebec, that he has moved to Ontario. In November 1995, he is no longer qualified for the job and fired. Why? Because he is now an Ontario resident.

Les enterprises Claude Major of Plantagenet: Claude received a phone call from his brother-in-law in Valleyfield, Quebec. In 1994, he went down to give him a hand to repair the siding on his house. On May 13, 1996, he received a notice in the mail to appear in court and was fined $715 under la Loi sur le bâtiment du Quebec. All this for giving a hand to a friend.


I know that some of you don't like to see barriers come up, and it is a concern I share with you, but we have looked at this issue from all sides, and what we need is a level playing field to negotiate one on one with the Quebec government. If we do not get a level playing field where rules are the same in both provinces, Quebec will never be interested in negotiating, because the actual situation is most favourable for their workers and their contractors. Once we have the same rules in both provinces, we will be able to negotiate to remove the barriers one by one.

Je désire vous assurer que le projet de loi 60 a en vue d'imposer aux travailleurs et aux entrepreneurs en construction du Québec les mêmes exigences que les travailleurs et les entrepreneurs de l'Ontario doivent remplir lorsqu'ils travaillent, ou encore tant d'obtenir des contrats dans la province voisine. Le projet de loi 60 n'interdit pas l'accès aux travailleurs québécois.

I also tell this House that I have received resolutions and letters supporting Bill 60 from municipalities, builders, contractors and workers. It is understood that Bill 60 is not perfect, and I am prepared to look at amendments brought forward by all parties to finally put an end to this discrimination. This is why I ask all members present here today to support Bill 60.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate?

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to join in the discussions on Bill 60. It's my intention, and I believe that of my colleagues, to support Bill 60. We think this is at least a positive step in the right direction. Members here will know this is a long-time-brewing issue that has been dealt with from time to time. As recently as 1994 there was an agreement reached by then-premiers Bob Rae and Daniel Johnson that attempted to ensure that the barriers that were in place were dropped so there was fairness and equity between construction workers in Quebec and in Ontario.

That, in and of itself, did not resolve all the problems, but it was another step in the right direction, and I'm pleased to see that the Minister of Labour is now activating the Ontario-Quebec monitoring board, which was a part of that agreement. We hope they pay a little more attention to this than they seem to have to date. Perhaps it will even come up as the first ministers meet this week.

I point out, however, that we think there's a problem with Bill 60 in terms of its enforceability. As the bill is now presented it leaves the enforcement mechanism with the Ministry of Labour's occupational health and safety inspectors. The problem there is that there are only 34 inspectors in place right now. Their priority has to be health and safety, and I know there's concern with some of the unions, and certainly we share those concerns, about the ability of this small group of inspectors to adequately enforce the permit system that is suggested within Bill 60.

We also need to realize that the issue of health and safety is on the chopping block as far as this government is concerned, and we know that the support mechanisms, the support staff and funding necessary to allow these inspectors to do their job properly, has been further eroded by this government's cutbacks within the Ministry of Labour. This gives us real concern about how effective that kind of enforcement mechanism can be. However, as I stated earlier, the general direction is one that we can support and one that we think would help improve the situation.

With regard to the lack of ability of these inspectors, I think it needs to be said during this discussion that while I understand some government members may even be supportive of this also, the current government, the Mike Harris government has been very active in attacking the health and safety rights that workers have in this province, and particularly the ability of the Ministry of Labour, which has responsibility for enforcing those rights, to carry out its functions. So I suggest there will be some hypocrisy involved should any government members decide to vote for this, although certainly any time we can get them to do something positive around jobs, we'll be supportive of doing that.

Government also will stand, I suspect, on the motherhood issue, that this is protecting Ontario jobs and therefore, "How could they possibly be opposed?" They're protecting Ontario jobs, and therefore they're obviously doing the right thing and the righteous thing. I'm going to be listening very carefully to comments from the government backbenchers as we continue to debate this.

I think what we need to point out when we listen to this government talk about supporting jobs is what kind of jobs we are talking about. They don't talk about the kind of jobs they are prepared to fight for in Ontario because they know that their agenda is totally indefensible when it comes to the kind of decent-paying jobs that Ontario workers are entitled to. Having attacked health and safety standards, having attacked health and safety training, having dismantled the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, this is a government that has attacked the Ministry of Labour's ability to enforce those regulations by withdrawing $40 million, over 400 jobs, the very dollars and jobs that would be necessary to enforce this bill and the other pieces of legislation that are there to provide basic, fundamental rights to workers in the workplace.

This is a government that has brought in its anti-worker Bill 7, which stripped workers of rights that they did not talk about in the election campaign. You won't find it mentioned in the Common Sense Revolution, but there it is in Bill 7, now the Ontario Labour Relations Act of this land, which, by the way, they did not allow any public comment on, not one minute. That is their legacy in terms of labour legislation in this province.

We know the Employment Standards Act bill is now going out across the province because we forced them into that when they said that was just housekeeping, just a few minor clarifications. When we held them accountable and said this was much more than that, that you're taking away fundamental rights from the workers' bill of rights, which is the way workers see the Employment Standards Act, we finally shamed them into admitting that, yes, there are major take-aways of workers' rights and, yes, we will agree to province-wide public hearings. Those are yet to come, but it's further evidence of this government's track record of attacking the rights of workers, trying to pull a fast one on the public. But now they're finally being caught out.

We saw what happened as a result of Bill 7 with the staff over at the Macdonald Block, just across the street from where we stand today: workers, most of them immigrant workers, most of them women who clean the offices, not the most glamorous jobs in the world, who one day were performing those tasks at a collective-agreement rate because they are unionized and there was a collective agreement in place, and on the following Monday, as a result of Bill 7, their rights were gone. The wage levels and benefits contained in their collective agreement were gone and they went to work working for a fraction of what they were earning the Friday before. That's what this government did. That's their agenda. They have to defend that track record. That's what they did to those workers.

Just this morning, right here in this Legislature, the staff who work in the cafeteria and in the restaurant and in the tuck shop have been advised that as a result of a vote last night by the Board of Internal Economy, where the Tories used their majority, and supported by the Liberals -- we were the only ones who opposed it -- this government has decided to take away decent wage levels and decent benefit levels that are paid to those staff. They're being told that in a few weeks they're coming back to work to perform the same jobs at almost half the wages and with slashed benefits. That's what this government did just today to working women and men who work in the cafeteria, who work in the tuck shop, who work in the restaurant, who work every day. This government has said, "You're not entitled to decent pay," and they're going to take away almost half their wages and they're going to let their friends in the corporate world come in and take over that business and they're going to make a tidy little profit off that. Where's that profit coming from? The backs of those workers. That's where that money's coming from.


That's the agenda of this government. When we listen to this government talk about protecting Ontario jobs, that's what they really mean. They mean jobs where the value of labour is watered down, where the ability of workers to form in a union in a democratic way is diminished, where the ability of workers to have their basic fundamental rights enforced is taken away, rights that this government did not tell the workers of Ontario they were going to take away if you elected them. Oh, no, they didn't talk about that. It's not in the Common Sense Revolution and you won't find it talked about in the campaign, in any of the videotapes or audiotapes or printed records. They didn't talk about that, but that's exactly what this government is doing.

So if we listen today to government members -- and we haven't heard them speak yet -- stand up and talk about protecting jobs and give one of their famous motherhood speeches, I ask the people of Ontario who are watching this to keep in mind the difference between what this government says and what it has done. Ask those workers downstairs right now who have just left the meeting where they've been told that their quality of life, their standard of living, has been slashed and their entitlement to decent, fundamental benefits has been slashed, and it's all in aid of allowing their corporate friends to come in and privatize and make a profit. The Liberals supported that. They thought that's fine. Go downstairs and ask those workers how they feel. Ask those workers who go in and clean the offices how they feel about going in and earning almost half of what they did the day before. Where's the fairness in that?

Then of course we've recently got the announcement of workfare, another idea the government has in terms of its vision of what work is. We're talking about forcing people to go out and work in communities because this government has to keep a promise that unfortunately appealed to some of the darker aspects of the way people feel at this time. We know this happened in the Depression. It happens in times of economic downturn when people are frightened and they're looking for someone or something to blame, and this government tapped into that.

They talk about workfare as some idea of creating jobs. You've got to go out and work almost in a chain gang so that you can eat and survive. That's creating jobs? Slashing the benefits and wages of people who clean offices for a living and work in a tuck shop: That's creating jobs? Quite the opposite.


The Deputy Speaker: I'd ask the members for Grey-Owen Sound and Nepean to come to order so that we can continue.

Mr Christopherson: Well, Mr Speaker, the best --

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): What's your platform? You don't have one. That's the problem.

The Deputy Speaker: I'll ask once more the member for Grey-Owen Sound to come to order or I'll --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Name them, Mr Speaker. Kick them out. No respect.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: The best that they can do -- and, please, I've only got a minute or two. Don't interrupt again. Let them go on; it doesn't matter. It's only their heckling. That's the best they can offer up because they can't stand in their place and offer an honourable defence of their attack on working people in this province, and the evidence is there day after day after day and we see it again this morning. You'll continue to do that as you enact your mean-spirited agenda that wants to harmonize us with the southern United States, with some of the worst labour practices in the world, the worst environmental protection in the world. That's what you mean by an even playing field.

In summary, if we hear government members talk in support of Bill 60 -- and I want to compliment my colleague for introducing this bill. I know that it's a particular problem in his part of the province, and I want to commend him. We were prepared to come in here today to make special exception to deal with this private members' hour so that we could deal with this important bill. I want to pay him the credit that he's due, and I do hope indeed the government does support it, because at least it's some indication that we can get through to you that you need to do something about jobs, real jobs.

You've said you're going to produce all kinds of jobs. First of all, we know you're not going to create the number of jobs you said you would. Your own budget documents show that. Just as important, there's the whole issue of the kinds of jobs. This government will at some point in its mandate have to go back to the people and explain and defend why it was okay to go after the poorest of the poor, to go after the disabled, to take away the rights of workers, to weaken unions, to weaken the value of labour, that somehow that's going to make this a better province, that that's our future. I don't think they can do it.

I think the legacy they'll leave behind will finally usurp the words they speak, because right now that's all that's happening: People are listening to the words. But the words are hollow; the actions matter. The actions matter, and the actions of this government have been to go after workers' rights, to go after the ability of the ordinary citizen in this province to have a decent standard of living. That's your agenda. The evidence is there. You continue to do it.

We know you're going to open up the Occupational Health and Safety Act. There's another review of the Employment Standards Act. That means more rights being ripped away from people. All of this will eventually catch up with you, and when it does, there will be a day of reckoning.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Before I begin my remarks on Bill 60, I think it's very important to put something on the record: This Minister of Labour and this government are committed to not reducing the number of health and safety inspectors. It's important to put on the record that Bob Rae cut the number of health and safety inspectors in this province by almost 8% in five years, and all of you voted for it. You cut health and safety inspectors and this minister didn't. The gall to stand in your place and say the things you do when you cut health and safety inspectors is incredible, just incredible.

C'est mon plaisir ce matin d'avoir l'opportunité de parler au sujet du projet de loi 60, qui était présenté par mon collègue le député de Prescott et Russell. Je voudrais féliciter mon collègue pour tous ses efforts dans le domaine de la main-d'oeuvre de l'industrie de la construction dans notre région de l'est de l'Ontario.

I certainly share the member's strong concern about fairness and equity for workers in Ontario. At the outset, I'd like to say that I'd rather we didn't have to deal with legislation of this nature, but the fact is that construction workers and contractors in eastern Ontario are not enjoying a level playing field and it's costing us jobs. This inequity has got to stop. This bill before us sends a very clear message to our friends in Quebec that we want and demand a more level playing field.

I would also like to indicate to the member opposite and to the House that my colleague the member for Carleton, regrettably, couldn't be here this morning as he had a previous commitment in the riding: He had a meeting with the Ontario Economic Development Corp at this hour. He sponsored a resolution on this issue back in 1993 and wanted me to personally put on the record his strong support on this issue. I should indicate that the member for Carleton has been a real asset to the people of eastern Ontario as we continue to work on this issue.

At a time when the federal Liberal government is seeking to build and expand upon the North American free trade agreement in Mexico and Chile and other parts of South America, it seems remarkable that we can't enjoy free trade within Canada or, for that matter, that we can't enjoy free trade even within the national capital region. That companies could have an easier time gaining access to New York state than to Quebec is unbelievable and outrageous.

I think most members want to see free trade between provinces because it will benefit people in Ontario, it will benefit people in Quebec and, for that matter, in the province of Manitoba.

Let me acknowledge in this debate the very hard work of the previous government and particularly the previous Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Frances Lankin, for her work in negotiating the Ontario-Quebec labour mobility agreement.


Regrettably, though, it was not as successful as we would all have hoped. No one in Ontario is satisfied that Ontario workers and contractors are getting appropriate access to workplaces in the province of Quebec. This government has accelerated discussions with Quebec to resolve what I believe are the very justifiable concerns about the access of Ontario workers and contractors to Quebec markets. Last month the Premier brought these concerns directly to the Premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard, who has made a commitment to act quickly to resolve this issue. But that commitment simply isn't good enough. Workers in Ottawa-Carleton want to see concrete actions from the provincial government in Quebec City.

Earlier this month the Minister of Labour established the monitoring body under the agreement's terms to provide the government with input and advice on the implementation of the agreement. I'm pleased today that Alex Lolua from the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario is in the gallery and to acknowledge what is going to be a tremendous amount of work on his part and the other members of the monitoring body. They'll monitor and provide input and advice on the implementation of the agreement, but that's only one step.

The establishment of clear objectives to market access and a specific timetable I believe are key to resolving this issue. There must be clear consequences to inaction or the lack of progress on meeting objectives and timetables.

I know at first hand from my discussions with both the Premier and the Minister of Labour that this government is committed to interprovincial trade and to labour mobility and that they are committed to working bilaterally with Quebec to ensure Ontario workers and contractors are treated fairly, to ensure that that level playing field for jobs is there. I know that if we don't see action on these issues from the provincial government in Quebec, pressure will build to strongly consider the full range of opportunities and options to pressure the other government to treat Ontario workers equitably.

While I'm supportive of the direction of the member for Prescott and Russell's bill, I do have some concerns and reservations about the bill's implications. That's why it would be more advisable for the government of Quebec to work with the Premier and the Ministry of Labour to break down the barriers for Ontario workers in Quebec. That's something I believe most members of this Legislature would prefer.

My concerns about Bill 60 are as follows:

Provisions in the bill would contravene the Ontario-Quebec labour mobility and procurement agreements, and in addition they would contravene the agreement on internal trade.

Provisions in the bill could well leave the province of Ontario vulnerable to a charter challenge.

Provisions in the bill could prove onerous and complex to implement and would introduce major changes to construction labour relations in the province of Ontario. For example, if the bill passed without amendment -- and I do appreciate the member opposite's desire to work with all parties and all members on this issue -- it could require mandatory unionization of certain sectors of the construction industry. This government has taken a long-standing view that the question of whether a worker would like or would not like to join a trade union is not a question for government; that's a question for the individual worker to decide. Our government and I know most members on this side of the House would not take a stand on that. Rather, we believe it should be up to the worker by secret ballot to decide.

Despite those strong concerns, however, I do support the member opposite's initiative in this regard. I think he's brought it forward in a constructive fashion, genuinely trying to contribute, to resolve this unacceptable situation.

I believe the bill sends a strong and clear message that the people of Ontario want fairness, they want equity, and they want a level playing field for jobs in eastern Ontario.

Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I am pleased to stand in support of my colleague's bill. However, like many members of this Legislature and like many of the constituents who have been bringing this issue to us for a long time, I am disappointed that this discussion needs to take place yet again.

Those of us who have been here for a few years know that members of each of the parties have, at one time or another, stood in defence of the construction workers of Ontario. As a result, this is not a political issue and should not be treated as such. Rather, the government should use Mr Lalonde's bill as an opportunity to right a long-standing wrong.

Unemployment in the construction industry is at an all-time high. The frustration of contractors and labourers in our border regions is intense. On a day-to-day basis, they are confronted by an imbalance of regulatory systems that loses them jobs while Ontario loses revenue.

What Ontario construction workers are asking for is not special treatment, but the chance to compete for work on a level playing field, a chance to let their excellence and true competitiveness win them the work they badly need.

Some would urge caution. Some say, "Let's not make waves, let's not incite separatist feelings in Quebec, let's negotiate and build further on the concession Premier Harris got from Premier Bouchard at their last meeting."

A letter from the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association, which represents 300 contractors and has opposed retaliatory action the past, states: "There are a number of people who suggest that continued negotiations with Quebec offer the best chance of obtaining more equitable access to Quebec construction projects. However, years of negotiations have produced little. In defiance of the interprovincial trade agreement of May, 1994, Quebec passed Bill 46 which re-regulated their residential construction industry and which now significantly restricts employment opportunities for Ontario residents.

"While it has been two years since the signing of the interprovincial trade agreement, Quebec has yet to enact the necessary regulations that eliminate the need for a guarantor in Quebec, another condition of the trade agreement. Quebec has clearly demonstrated their lack of motivation to abide by the interprovincial trade agreement and stronger actions are now required. Bill 60 is that stronger action."

A local contractor wrote to me and said: "The time for talking is over. We need action. We don't need words. No more negotiating. You are the people who can make it happen."

Ray Cyr Roofing and Sheet Metal Work Inc is just one of many firms that must conform to regulations not applied to Quebec contractors in Ontario and that impede their ability to bid for contracts. "Firms that want to work in Quebec must open their books to prove their financial solvency; provide substantial security deposits; take competency tests in administration, project management and health and safety; join a Quebec construction association and register with the Commission de la Construction du Québec."

In contrast, a publication produced for Quebec contractors seeking work in Ontario states that "a business licence may be required from each municipality in which he or she plans to do business or work...some municipalities may require those persons to demonstrate their capability in their trades by passing verbal or written examinations," and while "many home builder, contractor or construction associations operate at the provincial, regional and municipal levels, membership is not mandatory."

Lax enforcement of our retail sales tax allows Quebec contractors to underbid Ontario firms by the percentage of sales tax they are not obliged to pay either in Ontario or Quebec. Naturally, this results in a significant loss of work and of revenue for Ontario.

Similarly, fuel tax laws are strictly enforced in Quebec, but not so in Ontario. This situation must be rectified.

Experience shows that only action will bring results. I remind the members that the only progress that was achieved on this issue was the result of the last government's threat of sanctions in 1993. Ontario's three-month embargo on Quebec products and services mobilized both Ontario and Quebec businesses. Their combined pressure on the Quebec government led to significant concessions and a bilateral accord. As a result, we believe this kind of measure is not provocative, but reasonable and understood by Quebeckers as such.

That is not to suggest that trade barriers are anything but an interim solution. The bill states unequivocally that as the Quebec government drops each trade barrier, Ontario will do the same. What I believe all of us want to see is the removal of all barriers, the barriers that separate us into our little cells, that sap our strength as a country, that set neighbour against neighbour. Those barriers do not reflect the wishes of most working people. Individuals on all sides of the issue understand this. All they want is the chance to compete fairly.


What we ultimately want is to work together in the spirit of free enterprise. Canadians working together will always present a formidable challenge on the world stage. Those are our values, and that is our vision.

However, I believe that if we take this strategic step, the table will be cleared for real progress towards ensuring the free movement of labour between our provinces. Passage of Mr Lalonde's bill will strengthen Ontario's position at the bargaining table and eventually lead to the cooperative future we all want.

Je crois que c'est une responsabilité de tous et chacun ici aujourd'hui dans la Chambre et de tous ceux qui écoutent présentement d'appuyer d'une façon forte le projet de loi de mon collègue M. Lalonde.

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): First, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Prescott-Russell for introducing his very first bill in the House. I know he'll be successful at it. It is An Act respecting the participation of workers and contractors from Quebec in Ontario's construction industry workforce.

Mr Speaker, I want to assure you this is not a linguistic issue. This bill is about fairness, it's about equity and it's about jobs. Wouldn't it be nice if workers in Ontario or in Quebec, or in any other province for that matter, could say: "I'm a Canadian and I have free mobility inside Canada. I can choose where I want to work"? Unfortunately, this is not the case if you live in Ontario and you want to work in the province of Quebec.

I repeat, this issue is about fairness, and that's the way the members of this House should read this bill. I've read some Hansards dating back to 1979, when Dr Elgie was the Minister of Labour under Premier Bill Davis, and the same debate took place. The same debate was repeated, and it's repeated again. Nothing is resolved. I think 1996 is the year to do something.

As recently as 1993, I introduced a resolution which basically would have achieved what my colleague from Prescott-Russell is proposing today, and this resolution was voted on unanimously by all three parties. The result of this vote -- I must give credit to the former government and the former minister of economic development, Frances Lankin -- produced an agreement, and I'd like to quote Frances Lankin, the former minister:

"The provision on labour mobility means that experienced construction workers residing in Ontario will have access to jobs on construction sites in Quebec. Under the terms of the agreement, the Ontario and Quebec governments will fully recognize the qualifications, skills, and work experience of construction workers from the other province. The agreement also provides that Quebec recognizes Ontario's occupational health and safety training. The playing field has now been levelled."

I'd like to quote Mr Harris, who was the leader of the third party, on the very same issue brought up by Frances Lankin, the former minister:

"Bill Davis talked for four years that I was in this Legislature; David Peterson talked; you people talked for three years. Unfortunately, you talked your way through the summer, when the construction season was on. Finally, we have a government prepared to take the action required, as Frank McKenna did, and let's give him credit for being the first elected Premier and government to do so in Canada, to say: `Fair is fair. If you won't let us work in Quebec, you can't work in New Brunswick,'" or you can't work in Ontario. I appreciated Mr Harris's comments in those days, and I hope you will take my colleague's bill seriously and do something about it.

I have construction workers in my riding, contractors who are faced with $42,000 in fines for having worked in the province of Quebec. I can't remember when a Quebecker was fined for working in Ontario. We have 5,000 Quebeckers crossing our bridges every morning in the Ottawa-Carleton area, where we have approximately 500 to 600 workers from the Ontario side working in Quebec. We need a level playing field.

Quebec regulations make it practically impossible to win a tender, and if they do, Quebec regulations make it so costly that they simply give up while Quebec contractors win tenders in Ontario and pay very little tax or no tax at all. We lose millions of dollars. Those practices are unfair and must be stopped immediately. Close to 42% of our construction workers in the Ottawa-Carleton area are without a job.

Let me quote you from different trades: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 55% are out of work; the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, 40%; the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, 40%; the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, 40%; the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (Cornwall), 70%. Mr Speaker, 40% of construction workers in Ontario are out of work. We must resolve this situation and we should do it quickly.

La loi que présente mon collègue de Prescott et Russell est une loi juste qui veut avoir les mêmes conditions de travail que l'on offre aux Québécois en Ontario. C'est une loi qui va aider les deux peuples, le peuple de l'Ontario et le peuple du Québec, à mieux s'entendre et à mieux partager le petit nombre d'emplois qui existent dans les deux provinces. Alors, c'est injuste que des travailleurs, des entrepreneurs peuvent travailler en Ontario sans payer de taxes et que le gouvernement de l'Ontario est le plus grand perdant. J'ai entendu les membres avant moi dire que la présentation de cette loi est une de justice.

I'd also like to address my colleague from Nepean, who will be supporting the bill, and I'm forever grateful to the member. This is a non-partisan bill, and we are willing to work with the government and share amendments to put an end to this injustice to the workers of Ontario and also the workers of Quebec in our province.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Let me join in the accolades to the member for Prescott-Russell and tell him how pleased I am. I'm somewhat shocked that it comes from the member for Prescott-Russell. I have a 22-year relationship with this issue. It goes back to the mid-1970s, when I was practising law in Ottawa and my law partner was very concerned about the inequities of this situation.

As a result, it forced me to bring to regional council and to Ottawa city council this issue, and with the help of my seatmate at regional council, the mayor of Eastview -- pardon me; the mayor of Vanier -- in 1970, who now sits as the member for Ottawa East, and my law partner of that era, who now sits as the member for Ottawa West, I was dispatched here on behalf of council to deal with the then Premier and deal with this issue.


I remember the Premier telling me that the time had come for action, that there was an election coming in the province of Quebec in the mid-1970s, however, and it should wait until after that time. That was the election that saw René Lévesque come to power and saw this province and maybe the entire country shift into neutral, and it became politically incorrect even to deal with this issue in the Ottawa area. We had a Prime Minister at that time, as I recollect, who if you raised this particular issue you were called a bigot because it was deemed a linguistic issue.

I want to give credit too to the past government and the member for Beaches-Woodbine and the success she apparently achieved with the government of Quebec. What people forget is that not only were the regulations not introduced, as the member for Carleton East has mentioned, but the government of Mr Johnson, within weeks of signing that agreement with the Rae government, passed Bill 46, which re-entangled the issue at least as far as construction of residential properties in the province of Quebec were concerned.

I think the time for action has arrived. The question is whether this is the most appropriate action. Clearly, it is not. However, I agreed with the member for Carleton East when he said we have to deal with the issues and we have to play the cards we're dealt. Obviously it would be better to have the province of Quebec make the amendments to level the playing field, but that's clearly not going to happen.

We've heard some comments today about the imbalance or difficulties with regard to taxation. Let me outline for the House, because a question raised by the member for Renfrew North the other day zeroed in on that particular issue: In the Ottawa area right now we have Quebec contractors who buy their supplies in Ontario for jobs in the Ontario market, but they have them shipped to the province of Quebec and pay no provincial sales tax. They're supposed to pay it in their own province, but they apply for a credit and have it redeemed when they ship the products back to the Ontario job site. They then compete with our Ontario contractors for Ontario jobs, not having paid any provincial sales tax in either province. They're supposed to voluntarily pay it here, but there's no evidence of anybody having done that.

I think we should also look at other tax considerations. It isn't really a money issue, I know, but it is in some respects to the people, our constituents, who are making their living in the Ottawa-Carleton and eastern Ontario areas.

Someone mentioned earlier, I think it was the proponent from Prescott-Russell, the fuel tax. Routinely, on the Quebec side of the border in Ottawa-Carleton we're faced with people having their trucks impounded and the fuel tax levy of Quebec imposed. As a matter of fact, during the last campaign in May 1995 we had the truck of a food bank located in Ottawa but servicing both sides stopped, impounded and heavily fined during a few weeks before the June 8 election while delivering food in Gatineau because of that fuel tax law.

I suggest to you that if we tried to mirror that law and we were to impose it on Highway 417 this morning or any day, with Quebec licence plates, using our four-lane highway to travel between the nation's capital and Montreal, there would be an uprising and there would be a tremendous amount of revenue raised. I'm not suggesting that's appropriate at this point in time, but it's the next step.

I'd also like to tell you that taxation generally -- as I recollect, and I don't do a lot of that law any more -- the rule of taxation law is that corporations and self-employed people pay their tax where the money is earned, but salaried people and wage earners pay at their place of residence on December 31 of the taxation year.

With 40,000 or 50,000 people -- construction industry, civil servants -- coming across the border and only 4,000 or 5,000 going to work on the Quebec side, we have a very interesting situation. We have these thousands of people coming over, taking advantage of the services, the infrastructure, the police protection and other protective services provided by the province of Ontario, and then returning and paying their income tax to Quebec City, and at a time when a government in Quebec City is bent upon breaking up this country.

If you stop and estimate the dollars being lost, you know we're only a few months or a year away from imposing some kind of a withholding tax that will send shock waves through the province of Quebec. These are the steps I see forthcoming. I think they're natural extensions of what is contained in the member for Prescott and Russell's bill.

I waited for 22 years for the former mayor of Vanier to rise in this House in support of a motion such as this. I thought for certain in 1987, when he was in cabinet and my ex-partner was in that government --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Am I glad I didn't have to sit before you when you were a judge.

Mr Guzzo: You're lucky. You wouldn't be here today, my friend. I made mistakes on the bench, but I wouldn't have made one that day.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr Grandmaître: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member for Ottawa-Rideau mentioned that shortly after Mr Johnson came to power Bill 46 was introduced. I have a copy of Bill 46, which was introduced by M. Parizeau and not Mr Johnson. Would you please correct your notes?

Mr Guzzo: All right, I apologize. The bill introduced by Mr Parizeau was Bill 46; the one introduced by Mr Johnson was --

The Deputy Speaker: The point of order is taken. The member will do the action he sees fit.

The member for Prescott and Russell has two minutes.

Mr Lalonde: I really appreciate the points brought to my attention by the member for Ottawa-Rideau. I want to thank the members who spoke in favour of this bill.

Today, thousands of construction workers are sitting in front of their television screens watching this debate. The problem is not only in eastern Ontario; it's all over Ontario. Just this morning I received a phone call from a large contractor from Toronto. He was just the successful contractor for a dam on the Ontario-Quebec border. He had to go through so much paperwork that he had to end up hiring a consultant from Quebec at a cost of probably of $100,000. When he works on the Quebec side, only Quebec people will be allowed to work. We really want a level playing field on this one. We've said it many times.

I would like to bring to your attention a resolution presented by the member for Carleton in May 1993. Premier Harris had these comments when he spoke in favour of this resolution on interprovincial barriers:

"I think it's a chance for us to send a strong message. As none of our premiers, Progressive Conservative, Liberal or NDP, has had the guts or courage to stand up and fight for Ontario workers, it's a chance for us members to come together to send a strong message to this leadership at the top."

I will end my comments by saying that this bill will help reach the government goals in job creation.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We will deal first with ballot item number 37. If any members are opposed to a vote on this item at this time, they will please rise.

Mrs Ecker has moved private member's notice of motion number 22. Is it the pleasure of the House that this motion carry?

Those in favour, please say "aye."

Those opposed will say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We will now deal with ballot item number 38. If there are any members opposed to taking a vote on this item, they will now please rise.

Mr Lalonde has moved second reading of Bill 60. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

I declare it carried. The bill will be referred to the committee of the whole House.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): Mr Speaker, I would like this bill to be referred to the standing committee on general government.

The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the bill going to the general government committee, please rise.

Those opposed will please rise.

There is a majority opposed. The bill will then be referred to the committee of the whole House.

The business of this House being completed, it stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Monday 24 June.

The House adjourned at 1203.