L110 - Thu 24 Nov 1988 / Jeu 24 nov 1988
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
NONGOVERNMENTAL VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
ONTARIO ENERGY BOARD AMENDMENT ACT
NONGOVERNMENTAL VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
ONTARIO ENERGY BOARD AMENDMENT ACT
ESTONIA, LATVIA AND LITHUANIA
CONTROL OF SMOKING
MISSISSAUGA YOUNG MEN’S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM
MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM
MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM
ATTENDANCE OF PREMIER
TRADE WITH UNITED STATES
RETAIL SALES TAX
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
INTERVAL AND TRANSITION HOUSES
ATTENDANCE OF OPPOSITION MEMBERS
FEDERAL BROADCASTING LEGISLATION
SCHOOL OPENING EXERCISES
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
STANDING COMMITTEE ON
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
GEORGE A. MCNAMARA MEMORIAL FOUNDATION ACT
ORDERS OF THE DAY
RETAIL SALES TAX AMENDMENT ACT / LOI MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA TAXE DE VENTE AU DÉTAIL
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
The House met at 10 a.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
NONGOVERNMENTAL VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
Mr McClelland moved resolution 51:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should establish a framework within which a working partnership can be initiated and maintained on an ongoing basis with nongovernmental voluntary agencies involved in international relief and development.
The Deputy Speaker: The member has up to 20 minutes to make his presentation and may reserve any portion of it for the windup.
Mr McClelland: I want at the outset to put my resolution in somewhat of a context that may be helpful for my colleagues in this House, and indeed, for the people of Ontario.
Our government has recognized that we have an important role to play in international relations, particularly in the area of Third World and developing nations. Our Premier (Mr. Peterson) has initiated an inventory, a comprehensive review of what we are doing on the international scene with a view to having a holistic approach and analysis of the involvement of this government on the international scene as it pertains to Third World countries and our involvement therein.
Ontario is, in my opinion and, I think, the opinion of my colleagues in this House, among the finest places in the world to live. We enjoy one of the highest standards of living in this world and we are a very privileged people. We also have a proud history of being involved in a compassionate sense in responding to crisis situations around the world. It is on that foundation that this resolution is presented this morning.
Not only do we have a history of assisting our friends internationally in being a significant player on the international scene, but Ontario also has a historic and a current significant involvement in promoting international trade and involvement with Third World countries. I made reference a moment ago to our government’s involvement in the area of relief, particularly in situations of disaster. Two current ones that come to my mind, and certainly to the minds of my colleagues in this House, are recent initiatives and contributions in response to the devastation of hurricane Gilbert and, more recently, the devastation of hurricane Joan in Central America.
We have generously responded in situations like that as a government and, I think more important, as a people in this province. We have donated funds. We have donated goods in kind and seen to their distribution in those areas that have been adversely affected by international disaster.
One of the concerns I have is that our involvement is often done in a crisis response; if you will -- that we do it for the most part on an ad hoc basis. We have a policy of looking at international situations that require assistance, making an evaluation of the appropriateness of our contribution and responding. And, as I said earlier, we generally respond very generously.
My intention for this resolution, I think, is fairly clear. What I would hope is that our government would begin to move on completion of the inventory and the overview that is being taken now with respect to our involvement in international relief and development to establish an ongoing relationship with nongovernmental agencies.
I want to address at the outset some concerns that have been raised, I think genuine concerns, by some of my colleagues in this House. I have been asked if it would in fact create just another level of bureaucracy. Would we effectively be just setting up another arm of government that is not necessary?
I want to say very clearly in my opinion that what we would be doing by setting up an ongoing working relationship with nongovernmental organizations is in fact maximizing the utilization of the resources that we currently distribute to Third World and developing nations. It seems to me that those people who are involved on a continuing basis, those involved in agencies working around the world, have a much better sense of the immediate needs in communities and in the situations in those countries. They have, effectively, their fingers on the pulse of those communities.
More important, and I do not say this in any offhanded sense, rather than just plug money into a situation, those agencies and those involved in Third World relief and development, NGOs, on an ongoing basis are there for the long term. They are there to make sure we are not just doing Band-Aid work but trying to build a foundation and establish long-term relief and development.
I think the thrust of this government can be one of promoting and really looking at our involvement for long-term, sustainable development in those countries that need it.
We, as a government, provide generously in terms of expertise, employees to nations that request our assistance. We have been quick to second staff in projects, lending our expertise from the Ministry of Health, for example. My colleague the member for Guelph (Mr. Ferraro), the parliamentary assistant for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, is very much aware of our involvement in Third World countries with respect to the development of our trading relationship and really using our international profile in developing a network of international monetary exchange with countries that are in the early stages of developing their economy.
We share our expertise, we share our money and we respond in, I think, a very positive way, and it is within that context that the Premier has directed a review of what our government has been doing to date. Upon completion of that review, I would hope that, in response to this resolution, we would be prepared, as a government, to say, “Yes, we have a formal role to play in the world.”
Not only has our government been involved. I think that, as representatives of the people of Ontario, we should look at what the people have been doing. Many of Ontario’s residents give extremely generously in terms of their time and money to nongovernmental agencies and international voluntary development organizations. In 1985, approximately $35 million was distributed by the people of this province to international relief and development. I am told that this year we can expect somewhere in the order of $50 million from the people of this province. I think that speaks very well for the generosity and spirit of the people of our province.
I think it is also noteworthy that many of Ontario’s residents come from developing nations around the world, and they are providing the economic prosperity of this province. As they do that, we have the opportunity to enhance our linkage with the nations they represent.
Because of our blessed -- and I use that word advisedly -- situation in the world, I think we have a corresponding responsibility. In the light of that responsibility, I hope that we will look at what we can do on a long-term basis. We have a role of leadership to play internationally and certainly in this country. Other provinces in this country have formalized their involvement and commitment to the intent of the resolution we have before us this morning. Ontario, as the strongest economic component of this great country, ought to be in a position of leadership.
Many of us know that Ontario, if it stood alone as a country, would be approximately the 11th-largest economy in the world. Clearly we have an international role and we are to be considered on the international stage as a very significant player.
Our businesses in this country as well benefit very much from our role and our corresponding role with respect to international development.
As we benefit as a country, as a nation and as a people, I would say we also have a responsibility to address the environmental concerns we espouse in this country and in this province. We have shown leadership in our province, I believe, in the area of environmental concerns, but we also live in a global scene. We live in a shrinking world. The pressures that we are facing environmentally on the global scene are most significant.
Part of the reason for the difficulties we are facing internationally is the pressures that are brought to bear on people in developing nations. We often lament, for example, the quick destruction of the rain forests in Brazil, yet it is virtually impossible for us to speak with any sense of optimism that the problem can be addressed and stopped until the people of that country are in a position where they do not have to strip the forests for simple survival.
I think what we can do by assisting international relief and development -- and the key word is long-term development -- is to assist them in developing an economy and a structure that are sustainable in an environmentally and economically sound fashion. Our businesses benefit. We draw a lot of money from Third World countries. Our people benefit.
We have a history that I think has laid the foundation very clearly for our government’s involvement. I hope my colleagues in this House will join in supporting this resolution.
I am very concerned about our role as a government. I believe, as I have said many times this morning, that we have a tremendous opportunity to play a major role in helping people, helping our fellow man and mankind worldwide, and doing that in a significant, long-term way. One of the ways we can do that is by utilizing the existing agencies that are doing outstanding work and contributing to them in a meaningful way. I would be pleased if the resolution passed and set the framework upon which our government would move to establishing an ongoing relationship.
A colleague from our caucus will be speaking shortly, and any time that is left over I would like to reserve to address some of the comments by my friends opposite.
Mr. Wildman: I rise in support of the resolution presented by the member for Brampton North (Mr. McClelland). I must say that the resolution is worded somewhat vaguely. I was hoping that in the member’s comments he might have been a little more specific as to what kind of framework he envisaged to allow for ongoing aid involving the nongovernmental agencies with the government of Ontario for Third World assistance.
I support the member’s sentiments and congratulate him for his sincerity in presenting the resolution. I would agree with him in what I think is his view that this aid should be humanitarian in the first sense and should not be ideologically driven or economically driven from our point of view; that it should not just be Band-Aids, and that it should respond to the ongoing need of assistance for economic and social development in the Third World.
As the member indicated, we have a commendable record in this House of responding to disasters. We have had recently the example of the relief effort on behalf of Ontario in response to the hurricane that devastated Jamaica. I think that is a good example of how we do respond to disasters, but then the question arises as to what happens afterward for the ongoing economic development of the community involved, and I agree with the member.
I must say, though, that I was disappointed at the length of time it took for this House and the government of Ontario to respond to a similar disaster in Nicaragua. I suspect that the length of time it took had something to do with the ideology of that government as opposed to that of the Jamaican government. I think that is most unfortunate. I am glad that we have finally responded, and responded in a significant way, to the hurricane disaster in Nicaragua.
In that particular case, if I were to use that as an example, I understand there was something in the neighbourhood of $800 million in damage done to an economy that is very fragile in the first place, damage to buildings, homes, many people left homeless, communities that were completely obliterated by an enormous natural disaster.
I heard this morning on the radio on my way to the House that the disaster has been shown to have been even worse than was first suspected. Apparently, a tropical rain forest in Nicaragua of over 10,000 square kilometres was completely flattened, and it is only recently that this has become known, because the area is so remote and inaccessible. This area is larger than Prince Edward Island. There has been an enormous loss. That $800 million I mentioned before does not include the loss related to the destruction of this rain forest -- a tremendous economic loss with enormous ancient mahogany trees that have been blown over and completely flattened. Unless this timber is salvaged immediately, it will rot and there will be millions of dollars lost.
Also, of course, with the destruction of this kind of forest, we are going to see meteorological changes in Nicaragua in the future. A large number of endangered species, such as jaguars, have been killed by this destruction, and those that survived have left the area and will not return because there is no habitat surviving for them to live in.
I would prefer if we could be a little more specific in the House this morning. I would like the members of this House to express the view that we should respond immediately in Canada, since we have the expertise for road building in the wilderness and we certainly have the expertise for harvesting the forest, so that we could mount an immediate salvage operation in co-operation with our Nicaraguan friends so that the enormous economic value of the mahogany and the other timber that has been destroyed could be salvaged.
Then we could move from there, in co-operation with the nongovernmental agencies and with the Canadian government as well as other governments in the hemisphere and in Europe, using our expertise for a regeneration effort in the area that has been destroyed. We have the expertise. In most cases in the Third World they have the manpower and, if given the training and the technological assistance, they can do a great deal for themselves.
We have seen over the last 20 to 25 years what is called the green revolution in India. I can remember in the 1950s and 1960s predictions of enormous famine in the subcontinent, but because of the efforts of the world community -- and I am not talking just about government agencies but also about nongovernmental agencies -- we harnessed the agricultural expertise and the economic expertise and we have, indeed, a green revolution in the subcontinent to the point where India now exports foodstuffs. That is the kind of miracle that can be worked if we have the proper framework and the proper desire to assist Third World countries to develop and to provide for their own needs in their own ways.
I am fully in support of the resolution. I do reiterate that I would prefer for it to be a little more specific. To say that we are in favour of a framework does not really say a great deal. How is this framework to work? How are we, as a provincial government, to be able to co-operate with the federal government, the federal government’s international agencies, the nongovernmental agencies both in our own province and in our own country, and the international agencies such as the international Red Cross, the economic development agencies at the United Nations and the World Council of Churches and other charitable organizations such as that?
How would this framework work? I would hope that we would get some indication during the debate. I am not suggesting that we will know definitively, but I would like to know how it might work. I would reiterate as well that I believe the news that we heard this morning about the devastation in Central America gives us an opportunity once again to show how generous the people of Ontario can be in assisting people who have experienced enormous dislocation and devastation.
I call on the provincial government to respond positively and swiftly to the news that the rain forest has been destroyed and to try to provide not only the expertise and the technological assistance but also the equipment that would be needed to build the roads into an inaccessible area to harvest the mahogany and the other timber, and then to move on from there to ensure that there is a proper regeneration effort for replanting in that area. I think we can do it. I think that would be a concrete way of demonstrating what I think is the sentiment of all members of the House in favour of this resolution.
I would like to move beyond just expressing goodwill and desire to do something to actually doing something; and I think not only do we have the money and the capital, we have the knowledge, the technology and the ability, if we wish, to help the Nicaraguans meet this terrible crisis.
Mr. Runciman: I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate. I came here this morning really uncertain about what position I might take, and our caucus has not taken a formal position on the member’s resolution. I was hoping that his leadoff comments would convince me that this was the appropriate thing for this Legislature to be doing, and I must say that, up to this point, I have not been convinced.
It is kind of a motherhood issue, and it is difficult. I even see a group of people supporting it in my own church, the Presbyterian church. I am going to have difficulty voting against my own church, but I am prepared to do that if I do not feel comfortable, and I hope the member can give me a higher comfort level than he has to this point.
The member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) was talking about specifics, and I think that is a very valid concern. There is really nothing in this, and certainly nothing in terms of the comments of the member who opened the debate, other than saying something about Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but not really giving specifics of how he thinks this sort of thing might operate.
I guess a bit of confusion enters my mind in respect to my period as Minister of Government Services. I know, going back a number of years, the Ministry of Government Services has been very much involved in providing aid, especially in the Caribbean basin. This was initiated a number of years ago, primarily with the very energetic support of Clare Westcott in Premier Davis’s office.
I know that the ministry, on a regular basis, was supplying surplus goods and medical supplies to a host of Caribbean countries, and it has not been exclusively to the Caribbean. I know there are other instances where Third World countries have also been the beneficiaries of assistance from the Ontario government funnelled through the Ministry of Government Services.
Perhaps that framework is already in existence and it needs some refining, some modification, some enhancement, perhaps some modest enlargement, I am not sure. Perhaps the member himself is not aware of that activity of that ministry. It is certainly something that does not receive and has not received a great deal of publicity over the past 10 or 15 years.
I am not sure if the ministry currently is as actively involved as it has been in the past. I know from my own experience that the driving force, and the member of the administration who made sure that it continued to play an active role, was Clare Westcott, who was constantly at the ear of the Minister of Government Services to make sure that surplus goods, etc., were supplied to countries in need in the Caribbean especially.
Mr. Wildman: It certainly was nonideological, as I suggested.
Mr. Runciman: Very much so, and one of my regrets in leaving the ministry was that one of the opportunities that ministers of government services consistently had over the years was to travel to the Caribbean to visit the various countries, accompanying the delivery of surplus goods. I know from talking to some of my colleagues who served in that role in the past that it was a very enjoyable, worthwhile learning experience for them, and the recipients of the assistance from Ontario were always most grateful. As the members have said, especially in the Caribbean, Ontario and Canada have a real sense of good feelings. There is a well of good feelings in the Caribbean towards this country and towards the province.
I want to talk about a couple of other things, since I have the opportunity in respect to this bill, and those are the priorities of the government.
The member has talked about assistance to Third World countries, and there is no question that we want to be involved in providing that kind of assistance. But at the same time, we can talk about agencies or groups in this province who are requiring assistance and are certainly not being totally ignored but are not being given the audience that is, in my view, justified.
I want to zero in on one specific group which I think relates in some respect to this resolution. That is the volunteer bureaus in this province.
I think there are something like 37 of them. I know one in my own community has been in operation for a great many years and has been dealing with the provincial government. We have no ministry in the provincial government that wants even to acknowledge their presence, let alone accept any responsibility for assistance. We can take a look at the fight that has been going on for the past two or three years between the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture. We have the minister of that portfolio here today.
They have been looking for some modest core funding to allow the volunteer bureaus to continue to operate in this province. Without any core funding assistance, the volunteer bureau in my area is probably going to disappear early in the new year. They provide assistance to the most needy in our communities, people who simply do not have the resources. If there is an illness in the family, for example, those suffering from cancer who have to travel to Kingston 50 or 60 miles away, they provide transportation for them. They provide services for families, a whole range of important services that are provided on a volunteer basis. I want to emphasize that.
This government has totally, for the most part, ignored that very, very valuable service and is talking instead about co-ordinating efforts to spend more money on Third World countries. That has to raise some eyebrows around the province. The member talked about crisis response. It is totally crisis response on an ad hoc basis. As I said earlier, we have had services provided on an ongoing basis through the Ministry of Government Services and, indeed, we are reacting to a tornado in Nicaragua and devastation in Jamaica on an ad hoc basis, but I do not think there is anything inappropriate about that. These are particular cases where a country has suffered because of a storm, a tornado or what have you -- a natural disaster. There is a very immediate need for assistance, and Ontario has been receptive over the years, as has the government of Canada. I see nothing wrong with that.
I see what he is getting at in terms of having some sort of ongoing framework, but I think, as I have already emphasized on a number of occasions, that is already in place and perhaps needs some refinement, but it is there. A concern of mine, and the member attempted to address it, is the question of bureaucracy. He assures us that the establishment of something like this, apparently separate from the Ministry of Government Services, is not going to result in the growth of a new government bureaucracy. I have some trouble with that. I know these empires tend to start small. Once a bureaucrat gets an office and a secretary, there is always the pressure, in most instances, to want to enhance his or her own importance and salary. That results in the gradual growth of his or her responsibilities and the consequent parallel growth in the cost to government and the taxpayers of this province.
He talked about no funding. Sure, no funding at the start. I guess we could look at this as a carrot in this instance. He is frowning. Maybe I misinterpreted what he was saying in respect to funding. He will have an opportunity to address these concerns later on. Again, I think history proves me correct with regard to any assistance, any framework like this that starts with no funding or providing assurances of no funding. Once established, pressures will begin to grow in respect to additional needs that will be found, and demands and pressure, etc., will continue to grow in respect to funding eventually being provided.
If indeed he is saying that no funding will be required, I think whenever this sort of framework is put in place it also has to include some sort of binding requirement that indeed we are not going to be giving any serious consideration to future funding requests that may be generated after the establishment of the framework and the individuals who will be serving within that framework.
I took a look at the list of sponsors again, and by and large they are very credible and worthwhile agencies. There are a number in there -- I will not get into specifics -- that do cause me some concern. Making an exception to that, I will mention one, and that is Canadian University Service Overseas. I think that when we take a look at what is happening in respect to all of these agencies working throughout a framework, I think it is valuable, but we have to take a look at some of the positions they take that may be very much in violation of the way most Canadians and Ontarians feel.
Mrs. Cunningham: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: I would ask that I be allowed to speak to this motion. I think the member for Brampton North would allow me a few minutes of his time.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. M. C. Ray): The next speaker we have is the member for York North (Mr. Beer). We are going in rotation according to the allotted time, and if there is sufficient time, the member will be able to speak in due course. For now, the member for York North.
Mr. Beer: I rise in support of the resolution. In my remarks I would like to address some of the comments that have been raised about the framework and about the nature of that framework, because I think there are some models that we can look at which would meet some of the concerns that were raised by my colleague the member for Algoma.
I would like to say at the outset as a former volunteer with CUSO that I think it is an excellent organization that does extremely fine and good work in many parts of the world. Indeed, when one looks at the organizations in Ontario that are members of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, and thereby of the Ontario group, there are some 67. It is really a remarkable collection of all of the major churches and major voluntary organizations that exist within our country here in our province. I think the kind of work they are doing in the area of international development and relief work is first-rate.
As perhaps some members are aware, there are a number of provinces that are already involved in this kind of work and have created the means of carrying it out. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec are ones where I know they have established programs. They are not all operated in a similar fashion, although in the case of Saskatchewan and Manitoba I know that what they do there is that those governments, in effect, provide a percentage of funding to an umbrella organization that brings together all of the different Saskatchewan or Manitoba organizations involved in international relief and development.
In Alberta, essentially the way it works is that for every dollar the various groups raise within Alberta, the Alberta government matches that with a dollar and, if my understanding is correct, the Canadian International Development Agency then matches that, so in effect you have $1 that comes from the community that drives another $3 that come in and that produces the funding they have. In Alberta, as in the other provinces, they have laid out pretty clear criteria in terms of which nongovernmental organizations can participate. There is certainly solid protection in terms of the taxpayers’ dollar.
The interesting thing here, and I think what is particularly creative and compelling for me in terms of Ontario following this route, is that the other element of all of this, beyond the help we are then able to give to people in other countries on specific projects, is that by working with the nongovernmental sector, by working with the voluntary sector, we are then bringing back to our own country knowledge, understanding and awareness of the problems in developing countries; and those people who are, of course, residents of Ontario, citizens of Canada, increasingly play a role and affect the way we look on the kinds of projects and programs that we want to be dealing with in the developing countries.
The member for Algoma mentioned -- and it was a good example -- India’s progress over the last 25 years with respect to the green revolution. A great many people have been involved in that, but one of the groups, if you like, that has been very involved is the nongovernmental sector.
Canada participated in this in terms of various groups that have worked in that area. Of course, the fact that they are not always government agencies that are doing it also means that there is less a sense that this is being done by huge entities or that there are all sorts of strings that are necessarily attached. It really is much more people working with people. Particularly in the agricultural and educational areas in Canada, I think we can look with some pride at what we have been able to accomplish through a number of nongovernmental groups.
The member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr. Runciman) mentioned some of the things which Clare Westcott was involved with a number of years ago in the educational area. I can remember at the time being in some respects linked in a little way to that. Basically, what we did was find out when a C-130 was leaving Trenton and going down to the West Indies. It would be a training flight and we would load it up with desks. There was an eyeglass program that was going on. There were a number of very innovative projects -- low-key, if you like; not necessarily multibillion-dollar, but ones which had a real impact and a real people-to-people thrust.
Why then should -- and it is a legitimate question -- Ontario organize a specific framework in which to do this? I think it meets a couple of needs that we have. One is that as a province we do have expertise in certain areas. Yet, by dealing with it on a kind of ad hoc basis as we do now, I do not think we get the bang for the buck or bang for the program that we want to have and that we could have if we set out some criteria and worked with the Canadian Council for International Co-operation to set up a program whereby we would match dollars that were raised within Ontario by the various Ontario nongovernmental organizations. In that way, we could set out criteria. We could take advantage of the expertise which those nongovernmental bodies have and make sure that we do have some impact.
In a proposal that was put forward by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, it not only has suggested how a framework might work but has even indicated dollars and percentages of government dollars that would go with private donations. So whether we are looking at it on a dollar-for-dollar match or a percentage match, we are looking at several millions of dollars, perhaps upwards, ultimately, in the $20-million to $30-million range, where we could be assisting nongovernmental groups with specific projects in developing countries.
If we work and if the framework is to work with the nongovernmental sector and really have it administering the program, then we would avoid the problem of setting up a large bureaucracy, which is really not what we want to get into and, indeed, not what the nongovernmental organizations want to get into. I think if you look at most of the major nongovernmental groups, particularly the ones that participate in the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, they are very concerned about getting the money out into the project. They try to keep their administrative costs very low. I know Oxfam, which a number of members may have had some connection with, is very, very good at cutting down on its administrative costs and ensuring that the dollars that it spends are spent for the purposes it was set up for.
It is that kind of a co-operative mould, if you will, that I think will work. It will also mean -- and I think, again, in terms of the member for Algoma’s concerns about how we react to crises such as that in Nicaragua -- that we have a better focus. When something like that happens, while this nongovernmental group can be dealing on an ongoing and long-term basis with specific projects, it can also help us in reacting to the kinds of problems that are caused by disasters, where we need to come together quickly with the Red Cross and with other organizations that are at work in these countries.
I see a net benefit in terms of how we organize and how we expend our funds for development work; I see a net benefit in helping the nongovernmental organizations which, of course, are made up of Ontario residents, Canadian citizens, and I see a net benefit for our province and for our country in that the skills and the expertise which our people are both taking out to other countries and bringing back makes us, as a nation, a much stronger one as we try to come to grips with this world that grows ever smaller and where we have a responsibility to participate and work with our fellow men and our fellow women in the developing countries.
Mrs. Cunningham: I am pleased to rise in the House today and speak on the resolution of the member for Brampton North. The Ontario government has recently demonstrated its commitment to assisting people in Third World countries, providing emergency assistance to hurricane victims in Jamaica, Nicaragua and Bangladesh. I am proud to see that Ontario can be counted on and is committed to international development and assistance.
The government currently provides support to relief funding on an ad hoc basis. This resolution would establish a formal working partnership between nongovernmental voluntary agencies involved in international relief and development and the Ontario government. I am speaking in support of this motion with some reservations which I will share with the House at this time. Other provinces have taken the initiative to establish such working relationships. In trying to find out just how they did operate, we discovered that the Alberta government has an office of international aid and distributes just over $3 million to nongovernmental organizations.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba operate on a smaller scale and provide just under $1 million to these organizations. However, they do not have a specific office to administer the program. As my colleague the member for Leeds-Grenville would remind us, they do not have an additional bureaucracy and that is something we are all concerned about as we have spoken this morning. Instead, the nongovernmental organizations have committees which brief cabinet regularly. I think this is a very good model.
At the beginning of each year, the government commits a budget in support of relief funding and education -- education in this instance refers to agencies which provide seminars and workshops to those interested in international debt and Third World countries -- and the committee then submits a plan which frustrates the way in which the money is to be spent; a model worth looking at. I would like to stress that although Alberta seems to have an effective system in place, we should be striving for this model of Saskatchewan and Manitoba which I have just referred to. We do not need a larger bureaucracy. The one we have is already far too large.
The member for Brampton North should reassure us that his intent is to make certain that the committed dollars are to be spent on people and programs and not on administration. The London Cross Cultural Learner Centre is one of the 60 voluntary agencies involved in international development and education. It makes a wonderful contribution to our city and a wonderful contribution to world needs. It provides many services to the London community, including a newcomer and refugee resettlement program, temporary accommodation for refugees who are without a home, an interpreting service and many, many more support services.
These nongovernmental organizations are experts in their field, and I underline “experts.” We should be seeking their advice and supporting their extraordinary work. We should establish a committee to regularly brief our government, offering expert information and advice. We should work with these agencies, including the Red Cross, as well as all of the agencies represented through the Ontario region of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, to make certain that we are spending funds wisely and -- underlined -- efficiently. I am certain that there must be more administrative costs without the efficient framework that we are striving for today.
Again, I commend the government for its ongoing practice of making funds available for emergency relief assistance and for our role in international development and education. However, in supporting a formal working partnership with nongovernmental voluntary agencies, my intent would be to clarify Ontario’s involvement in international activities, clearly understand our commitment, distribute our funds more efficiently and effectively and, above all, give recognized support through a formal working partnership to the many nongovernmental volunteer agencies for their expertise and tireless efforts in support of international development.
We would expect the member for Brampton North to formalize in writing the structure of this partnership and the objectives of the advisory committee so that as elected members of this parliament we will be accountable and able to explain to our citizens, the people we represent, just precisely our formalized working relationship and the functions of any committee we may be supporting.
I would like to thank the member for Brampton North for his resolution and for his intent and offer him my support in accomplishing this very worthwhile formalized working relationship with the many voluntary agencies in our province.
Mr. McClelland: At the outset, I want to thank my colleagues and honourable members of this House who have spoken this morning for the thoughtful concerns they have raised and certainly for their support of the sentiment and intent of the resolution.
I hope that some of the concerns that were initially raised may have been touched on by my colleague the member for York North. I want to thank him as well. I recognize that my colleague the member for London North (Mrs. Cunningham) also made some reference to the possible type of framework within which we might operate.
The member for Algoma asked that question at the outset, what type of framework we are talking about and exactly what I mean. I would say to him that one of the concerns I have, quite frankly, is that I do not see there is a great deal of merit in duplicating something that already exists. I too share the concerns of the member for Leeds-Grenville and the member for London North that there is no merit in reinventing the wheel. In wording my resolution, I did so with that in mind.
I would say quite candidly to my friend the member for Algoma that I cannot tell him with any absolute precision the type of structure that I would envisage. There are certain elements that I would like to address, one being the issue of duplication. The other is to recognize that the expertise that has been referred to by the member for London North and other members is already in place. In short, I see a linkage, if you will, and a co-ordinated effort that we can pull together. The member for Leeds-Grenville mentioned that we already do have an ongoing involvement in a significant way. In fact, that is the case. I understand there are at least 17 Ontario government ministries that are involved in one way or another in what may be either directly or loosely referred to as Third World relief and development.
It is with that in mind that I see the framework that I am talking about in this resolution as one of a co-ordinating office. Whether it be an office or an individual of the government, I think it is important to wait and see the results of the current comprehensive review that is being undertaken at the present time. A principle that would guide me in that framework is not to duplicate what already exists to maximize the delivery of those funds and those dollars that we do currently distribute in disasters.
The member for Leeds-Grenville mentioned that we do respond very well to international disasters and said that was entirely appropriate. I agree wholeheartedly. At the same time, my friend from Algoma mentioned that there are times when the timeliness of that response raises some very significant questions. It is with that in mind that I would hope we could establish some sort of formal ongoing relationship so that we are plugged in to those people who are in the field delivering service and that we can effectively and in a timely fashion utilize those funds.
I am not here to criticize the distribution of funds that our government recently sent to Jamaica. I am told by some people who perhaps should know better than I that much of the funds was used effectively in setting up an administrative process that was already in place. That is one of the concerns that I have, that if we respond to international disasters on an ad hoc basis without an ongoing structure, we in fact use resources that could be used much more wisely.
The working relationship that my friend the member for London North spoke about is essential. We have made reference to the commitment. Each of the members who have spoken today has said that the principles set out in the resolution are laudable.
I do not presume to stand here and say that I have all the answers as to how we would set it up. I think the way it has to be set up is with a view to maximizing what we are doing, to linking the efforts that this government and the people of this province have already undertaken and demonstrated their commitment to.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to present this resolution, and recognizing that perhaps it is not perfect in its wording, I want to talk to the intent of it and say that I think we have a responsibility as a people and as a government to be involved and to demonstrate the commitment of our involvement in the area of international relief and development.
I do believe, and it sounds almost trite to say, that as our world shrinks, we not only have an obligation but also a tremendous opportunity to show leadership in a compassionate, sensitive, wise and prudent way. Accordingly, I would ask the members of this House to support the resolution this morning.
ONTARIO ENERGY BOARD AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Charlton moved second reading of Bill 184, An Act to amend the Ontario Energy Board Act.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. M. C. Ray): The member has 20 minutes for his presentation and he may reserve any portion thereof.
Mr Charlton: It is always a pleasure to participate in the private members’ portion of the operations of this Legislature. On the other hand, in introducing Bill 184 here in the House for the second year in a row -- although it was not Bill 184 last year, but was essentially the same bill -- it reflects on a problem that we have had in this institution for far too long.
Bill 184 is essentially a piece of legislation which would give to the Ontario Energy Board the authority, on the one hand, to regulate the rates that are charged by Ontario Hydro and, on the other hand, to have the authority to investigate a number of matters that are parts of the operation and planning process of Ontario Hydro -- matters of capacity, price and source of supply.
These are issues that have been controversial in Ontario for some 20 years now. When this government was elected, we heard a lot of talk about serious reform of the structures in which Ontario Hydro operates, around questions of accountability and regulation.
I think it would be fair to say that five or six years ago the issues dealt with in this bill could have been viewed as somewhat partisan in nature. They were opposed by the government of the day. They were supported by this party and have been for a long time. Parts of what is in this bill were, in fact, supported at that time by the present government, then in opposition.
It is also fair to say that the issues that are dealt with in this piece of legislation are no longer partisan issues. Each and every one of the items set out in this bill is based on the recommendations of the select committee on energy tabled in this House in July 1986 and supported by the members of that committee from all three parties.
I brought this bill forward last year because there was nothing forthcoming from the government. I brought it forward again this year because there is still nothing forthcoming from the government.
I would like to start out by dealing with the issue of regulating hydro rates. In spite of what some of the public think in terms of the fairness or unfairness of hydro rates in Ontario, it becomes a very complex issue that does not deal just with what Ontario Hydro’s costs are this year. The rate structure at Ontario Hydro is a rate structure that has evolved over 70 years. It is also a rate structure that is very complex internally and is substantially affected by decisions that were made 20 years ago, which are obviously far beyond our control at this stage.
The process starts with the way in which a utility -- Ontario Hydro in this case -- approaches the whole question of system planning and the mandate that is set out for it in legislation. Currently, under the power commission legislation in this province, Ontario Hydro is mandated to provide power to the people of Ontario at cost, and technically it accomplishes that goal. However, they do that by charging some people more than cost and others less than cost, so that the average price Hydro charges reflects the cost of producing that energy.
We have a rate structure that some of the Liberal members will recall one of their colleagues pursued with vehemence over the years. The former member for Grey-Bruce, Eddie Sargent, a friend of many of us, for many years pursued the issue of the declining rate structure. The declining rate structure is a structure that allows Ontario Hydro to charge those who use the least power in this province the highest rate for each kilowatt-hour they consume, while those who consume the most pay the least per kilowatt-hour.
I think you understand, Mr. Speaker, that inevitably that means those in this province who are conscientious enough to spend money on conservation pay more as a result. Those in this province who use less power because they are poor and therefore shut their lights off regularly, use their stove as little as possible, keep their hot-water heater set low and whatever else pay more per kilowatt-hour as a result.
Then there are those who, because they can get the power so cheap, have no incentive to conserve and be efficient in their use of power. Yes, those huge industries rely on power, and yes, to be competitive they need to have power that is cheaper than our competing jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere in Canada, but because it is so cheap they become inefficient in their use of power.
The householders in this province who pay the highest rates subsidize the inefficiencies of the rest of this society -- the institutional, commercial and industrial sectors, with the industrial sector being the worst offender. It is also true that the declining rate structure is an overall disincentive to conservation.
Many members will recall that we have had an ongoing debate for some 15 years now about where we are going with our energy future and whether we want to build more nuclear plants in this province. We have heard from the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) on many occasions in this House, both when he was the Leader of the Opposition and even more recently as Premier, that he does not particularly want to see the construction of any more nuclear plants in this province.
When we are in a system that is designed to promote consumption, if we are not prepared to change that system to build in the incentives for conservation, then we are going to be in a position of doing things that none of us want to have to do. That does not seem to me to make a lot of sense.
This bill would pass to the Ontario Energy Board the authority to regulate hydro rates, to set those rates after a hearing. I would like to refer members to this report. Although they probably do not have it with them, they can perhaps jot down a note and take the time to read through some sections of the select committee report from July 1986, because I am going to read a couple of sections that refer specifically to the matters around rate-setting.
Recommendation 13 of that select committee: “The Minister of Energy should request the Ontario Energy Board to hold a public hearing to determine the price which best reflects the value of parallel generation to the system, and to determine the desirable amount of parallel generation that could be added to the system within the current planning horizon.” The current planning horizon is the next 20 years.
The problem we have right now is that Ontario Hydro sets the rate it will pay to those who have gone out into the real world and developed small hydraulic sites that Ontario Hydro feels are too small and that it cannot be bothered operating. Hydro operated some of them in the past and shut them down. Others, they never bothered to operate.
We have small entrepreneurs in this province out there operating those very efficient and substantially environmentally safe small hydraulic sites. But Hydro pays those producers far less than what it would cost Hydro to build another major generation facility in this province. Hydro in fact pays those generators far less than the average cost on the system presently, because essentially it is in Hydro’s best interest, and not necessarily in the province’s best interest, to do so.
The decision-making around questions like parallel generation and industrial cogeneration, and what value that power has to the Ontario economy and to the Ontario electrical system has to be taken out of the hands of Ontario Hydro. The select committee was unanimous in making that recommendation.
Recommendation 16: “The Ontario Energy bard should be empowered to hold biannual public reviews of Ontario Hydro’s resource development plan, and publish a public report with recommendations to cabinet.”
That is the 16th recommendation of the select committee, 1986. It deals with an area where there presently is no formal process of review or regulation at all. The entire information process around Hydro’s long-range planning, its 20-year planning, is completely contained within the Hydro corporate structure. The Ministry of Energy presently has no significant ability to either do studies that check Ontario Hydro’s data or to substantially challenge the results Hydro finds. Neither does any other organization or institution in this province. There are lots of organizations, institutions, consulting firms and so on that have the capability, given the opportunity, to do the job, but there are presently none that do that job.
When Hydro presents its resource plan for the future to the government, we have made in the past what have been obviously very ineffective efforts to challenge parts of that, but there is no substantial ability to do that because there is no information base outside Ontario Hydro.
This recommendation is a recommendation that was intended to start to change that process, to bring the information out into the public domain so that in fact we would have a body of expertise outside of and independent of Ontario Hydro that could question and challenge the assertions being made by Ontario Hydro in terms of our future direction and the impacts that will have on us as individual consumers in this province and on our economy as a whole for the future.
Again, recommendation 16 was unanimously endorsed by all members of the select committee from all parties.
Recommendation 17: “The Ontario Energy Board should conduct a public review of the results of Ontario Hydro’s demand and supply options study.”
Unfortunately, that was another reference to the Ontario Energy Board that the government failed to accede to. We had a review again in a select committee earlier this year, in August and September. That committee hopefully will be reporting before Christmas, but again, although the select committee was able to acquire expertise in the form of consultants from outside of this place, we ended up with six weeks in which to do a job that probably requires six months of full-time work in terms of a hearing process.
Although I think that committee will come out with some good recommendations, the recommendations will be limited by the amount of time we had in the six weeks to look at a planning process that took Ontario Hydro three years to develop.
Recommendation 22 is the last recommendation I want to refer to from the select committee report and that is the recommendation that basically says, “The Ontario Energy Board Act should be amended to give the board the powers to regulate electricity rates.” That is the very specific ability to deal not only with such questions as what the average hydro rate in this province should be, but also with such questions as whether the declining rate structure, which rewards the inefficient and penalizes the efficient, is an appropriate rate structure, or whether we should have a flat rate structure in this province with everybody paying the same rate, or whether we might even want to move, over time, to an inclining rate structure where those who are the most efficient are rewarded and those who are the least efficient are penalized.
Those are all questions I do not have answers to. I do not know what would be best in the long run for the Ontario economy and for the people of Ontario, but we need a structure that can look at those options, that can weigh those options and that can apply some expertise and understanding to those options, so that we are making the right decisions for the future of Ontario and not necessarily for the future of Ontario Hydro and its ledger books in terms of its revenue versus its debt.
We have a situation where everybody in this province has been talking about making Ontario Hydro accountable, bringing Ontario Hydro under control and regulating Ontario Hydro in a fashion that is in the best interests of the people of Ontario.
The governing party, when in opposition, took firm positions on these issues. This government, since attaining power in 1985, has said it is going to be the government to do exactly that: to make Ontario Hydro accountable and more publicly accessible in terms of those issues that are most important to our future. The current Minister of Energy (Mr. Wong) has said openly to the press that he is going to be the minister who brings Ontario Hydro under control, and yet we spend roughly $1 million on a select committee study and it gets put on a shelf and nothing happens.
We do not need to study the studies; we have already done the studies. It is time to proceed to do what we have not only told the people of this province we are going to do, but what we have told each other we support wholeheartedly on behalf of the people of this province.
I would like to reserve the last three minutes of my time for the end of this debate.
Mr. Cureatz: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to stand in my place this morning to speak in favour of my colleague’s proposed bill. I have to say from the outset that I am suffering somewhat from a mild cold, so I cannot go in full flight --
Mr. Mahoney: Sam. I’m disappointed.
Mr. Cureatz: -- as I am sure the member for Mississauga West would like me to, but I am saving my energy, because within two or three weeks I want to tell the Premier that I am against his Sunday shopping legislation. Of course, I want to save my energy so I can tell the Premier and the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) that we do not want Metro’s garbage in my riding of Durham East or at the dump site.
Notwithstanding those concerns, it is interesting that we have some people in the galleries this morning who are wondering, I am sure, with great interest what this is all about. I want to give some depth, some history to this legislation. I know the people at home are busy working this morning, but many come up to me later and say, “We saw you on the rerun.” I think it is important for me to explain to everyone at home about Bill 184 and what it really means.
My colleague from the official opposition has adequately explained some of his concerns and how he has been working along these lines for a number of years. I want to tell all members of the assembly here that for the last 12 humble years that the good people of Durham East have sent me back to these hallowed chambers, I have sat on all the select committees on energy and Ontario Hydro, and what a learning experience it has been.
Goodness, I only have eight minutes left.
The interesting thing is that we did all kinds of studies and investigations in terms of the areas my colleague is centring in on. I can think of rate-setting and investigating Ontario Hydro. Looking back 12 years ago, I have to confess I probably was not sympathetic to those ideas.
As a newly elected member then and as we progressed through the various committees over the years, we had some interesting tours. Unlike going to Australia or New Zealand, we went to those glorious, fine places in Ontario like Deep River, where we investigated the Rolphton nuclear plant. We had a wonderful, full-blown session with our House leader, who was then in opposition, the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway), and his constituents about the concerns they had. What a hot night we had. They were all up in arms and angry as heck. It is a wonder he ever got re-elected with their concerns about that nuclear plant there.
We travelled virtually over the top of the transmission lines of Ontario Hydro by helicopter, from the Toronto airport up to the Bruce Peninsula. The Environment critic for the third party, (Mrs Grier) and I were closely strapped into this helicopter through a horrendous rainstorm. We were holding each other for dear life, thinking we would lose our lives on top of the transmission lines.
The committee toured up to Elliot Lake just recently and met with the mayor, the union and the chamber of commerce. They expressed their concerns about the mining of uranium and the troubles for the miners over the years, and I think resolved a lot of the difficulties they had expressed about the mining of uranium; and expressed their support, I might add, for Ontario Hydro and nuclear power.
This all shakes down to the problem the government is going to have to face within three years. As critic for the Ministry of Energy, I have been more than patient and I will be for another year. They have a year yet to play around with what they are going to do with the demand for electricity.
To refresh everybody’s memory, Ontario needs about 20,000 megawatts of electricity, more or less, a day; certainly at its peak. In the summer we saw that we had to have a cutdown of electricity because the demand was too great, with the heat spell and air-conditioning. In the wintertime, obviously, there are Christmas lights and the requirement for heat. In any event, we need 20,000 megawatts, of which more or less a third is produced by hydro power -- water falling into the turbines, turning the turbines and making electricity -- a third by coal and oil, and the other third by nuclear.
Right now we are meeting the requirement and we have a little bit of reserve. The question is, what do we do down the line to the year 2000? Everyone is looking into the crystal ball and some are saying we are going to be needing somewhere between 23,000 megawatts and 30,000 megawatts by the year 2000.
The recent select committee, over the past summertime and into the fall, had various witnesses come before it. I will tell members that we are going to be on the horns of a dilemma, if I can use that trite phrase, the reason being that we have concern about the production of electricity by fossil fuels. We all know why; and just to remind members, up the stack goes the smoke to cause acid rain.
We are only now getting to grips at the federal level, both the United States and Canada, with how to handle that problem. With all due credit to the Minister of the Environment, of whom I have been critical from time to time, he has certainly centred in on the area of acid rain as a banner-carrying concern of the government. Hydro has to consider what it is going to do abut that aspect of it.
If the greenhouse effect continues, there is a possibility of lowering of water in the Great Lakes. That means the turbines will not be able to turn as fast. That means we will not be able to produce as much electricity as we are now, one third of it, by hydro power. Do members know what that means? That means we are going to have to look to nuclear. I know my colleague and his party are not supportive of that. Our party has always been supportive. It is going to be very interesting to see where the Liberal Party is going to come from. I give them a year because that is all they have got. Then, two years after that, before the election, they are going to have to decide which manner they are going to make available for the production of more electricity. To my way of thinking, it is going to have to be nuclear.
Indeed, there has been a great amount of concern that there can be conservation, and I give credit to Hydro. Over the last 12 years I have seen them move ever so slowly from their steadfast position. Now they are talking a little bit about conservation and a wee little tiny bit about cogeneration and allowing entrepreneurs the opportunity of harnessing some smaller rivers in Ontario for the production of electricity. But I do not think that harnessing will give us more than maybe 1,000 megawatts; at the most 1,000 megawatts from those small lakes, rivers and streams.
I only have two minutes left, but I have seen over the last 12 years something interesting about Hydro. Even I cannot believe I am now standing in my place and saying it, but I am now feeling a little uncomfortable about Hydro. It brings back to mind Julian Reed, who was a Liberal member in opposition for years, who used to say, “Ontario Hydro is out of control,” and I thought he was a little exaggerated about it.
Now what does “out of control” mean? It does not mean that the people are whackos over at Hydro, as Frank Drea used to say. They are concerned, dedicated people, looking after probably the best electrical system in the world. What it does mean in terms of out of control is that they are answerable basically to the various departments within their own institution. After the 12 years, who did I see come before the committee again? Basically the same old gang from Ontario Hydro, talking basically the same old story with some movement, only I would think in some cases in recognition of -- yes, I would have to admit -- a change in government and maybe a new direction.
But governments change, as I found out. Ontario Hydro is still going to be there when these guys leave. There will come a time, mark my words --
Mr. Mahoney: I’ll be here.
Mr. Cureatz: Steve, you are gone after the next election.
Now when these guys go, all of us have to make sure that there is a body that is going to be in existence to monitor what is taking place at Ontario Hydro, be it, as my colleague’s explanatory note says, “to investigate matters such as capacity, price and source of supply.”
That is why I am now supporting my colleague’s legislation. I think it is time that we did. Goodness knows, we do not need another board or commission, but I think it is about time we did, to have a consistency of monitoring the concerns that we have about the method by which Ontario is going to be producing its electricity.
Mr. South: I would first like to thank the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton) for bringing this bill forward. I recognize that as the New Democratic Party’s Energy critic, the member has taken a keen interest in energy matters for a number of years and as a member of the recent select committee he has made some very worthy contributions to our discussions about energy concerns. That is why the government appreciates his interest in the issues he brings forward with his bill.
We are always interested in hearing from the member for Hamilton Mountain and, for that matter, from all members on energy matters. I think we would all have to agree that the access to reasonably inexpensive electrical energy has been one of the keystones to the great success of Ontario Hydro as much of the industrial engine of Ontario.
This is why this government has initiated such an extensive process for reviewing and opening up the whole Ontario Hydro planning process. We want to be sure that all opinion is taken into consideration as we work to open up the Ontario Hydro planning process and make Hydro more responsive to the concerns of the public and this government.
That being said, to support this bill now would be to deal only with certain specific, although high profile, aspects of Ontario Hydro and the Ontario Energy Board. There are many other aspects in this complex Ontario Hydro that have to be considered. This government does not want to deal with these specific items in isolation. This government plans to deal with the electrical issues addressed in Bill 184 in the context of its methodical approach to making Ontario Hydro more responsive to the concerns of the public and of the government and to opening up the Ontario Hydro planning process.
Part of the planned approach are comprehensive reviews of and amendments to the Power Corporation Act and the Ontario Energy Board Act, but before I delve into the process that we have undertaken, I want to talk about the current situation. I would like to describe how electricity rates are set.
At present, the Ontario Energy Board conducts independent public hearings into any proposed changes in Ontario Hydro’s bulk power rates to municipal utilities and direct industrial customers. These hearings take place at the direction of the minister and have historically taken place on an annual basis. These hearings are an essential element of the process in that they do provide a forum for the public to challenge Ontario Hydro. While the rate review process is complex, some consumer groups have developed expertise in it and they make worthy representation before the board on these Hydro hearings. Interveners, such as Energy Probe, the Consumers’ Association of Canada, major power users and municipal utilities, as well as board staff, look after the public interest.
While the Ontario Energy Board’s recommendations on electricity rates are advisory, Hydro’s board of directors does take them into careful consideration. It is important to point out at this stage that there is further public input. Hydro’s board of directors is a publicly appointed board.
I would like to now address the methodical review process that this government and the Ministry of Energy began last year. I will outline the steps that we have taken so far and those we plan to take. These are steps that will lead to a more open electricity planning process and a more responsive Hydro.
First, the Power Corporation Act review: In response to the final report and recommendations in 1986 of the select committee on energy, which has been referred to by the member for Hamilton Mountain, the Ministry of Energy began a major review of the Power Corporation Act last year. It is the intention of the Minister of Energy to soon introduce a bill in this Legislature to amend the Power Corporation Act. I want to assure the members that the goal of these amendments is to make Hydro more responsive to government policies and to public priorities.
Second, with regard to Ontario Hydro’s draft demand/supply planning strategy, last year the ministry also began reviews of that strategy, commonly known as the DSPS. One of these reviews was conducted by a dozen government ministries and another by an independent technical advisory panel. They looked at a number of factors that are high on the government’s and the public’s list of concerns. Among other things, they examined the issues of environmentally sound planning, conservation and efficiency, the maintenance of the Candu nuclear energy option and linkages with provincial economic development objectives.
The results of both reviews were submitted to the select committee on energy, which had determined that its first priority was to examine Hydro’s DSPS. This is the first time that a plan of Ontario Hydro has been put before such intensive cross-examination by some of the finest minds available, including those of the public. To further encourage this in-depth examination of Hydro’s DSPS, we have acted to provide the examiners with every piece of information possible. For example, the Electricity Planning Technical Advisory Panel to the Minister of Energy recommended a thorough inquiry into Candu nuclear costs before any new commitment is made to the nuclear option.
This review of Candu costs is now under way. It will carefully examine Hydro’s nuclear cost projections against other key electricity supply alternatives, such as fossil fuel or hydroelectric generation. It will also address the public concern about costs associated with decommissioning nuclear reactors and nuclear waste disposal. We are planning a study which will examine the social and environmental aspects of the Candu nuclear program and key alternatives.
Once all the reviews, including the review by the select committee, are complete, Ontario Hydro will be asked to submit alternative system development plans. This submission will include Hydro’s preferred plan. These plans will reflect not only Ontario Hydro’s interpretation of the reviews of the DSPS, but also guidance given Ontario Hydro by the government. This guidance, in turn, will be based on the present three reviews of DSPS and on past reviews and independent analysis conducted for and by the Ministry of Energy.
I would like to point out that Ontario Hydro already does many things right and, in the areas where the government wants change, is beginning to make change. This government would like to see more. Hydro can be an important tool for economic development for Ontario, a fact noted by the Premier’s Council in its report on Hydro. In recent years, Hydro’s purchasing people have begun to target key areas in which their procurement decisions can encourage opportunities for Ontario manufacturing. This is one of the most powerful economic tools at Hydro’s disposal.
This government wants Hydro to go further than it has indicated. To support this bill now, though, would be to thwart the extensive, methodical process this government has set in place. We would like the Legislature to review the comprehensive package that we will be bringing forward in the very near future. The goal of this package is to enshrine structural changes in Hydro’s planning process and to make Hydro more receptive to government and to public concerns.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I am pleased to be able to speak to Bill 184, the bill that my colleague the member for Hamilton Mountain has presented to the Legislature. Certainly private members’ business is a very important part of the Legislature, one which does not get the attention it should, particularly from the government we have been facing over the last year since the Liberals won their majority government.
In fact, I think it is an abuse of that governmental power when we have a parliamentary assistant stand up and make an address on a bill like this and speak not for himself as a private member, as is supposed to be happening on this bill, but instead come to a conclusion which is a government conclusion and state that the government feels this and that in terms of this bill.
This is supposed to be private members’ business and this member should be dealing with what he feels about this bill and whether it is a good bill or a bad bill and what should be done about it. He should not be a spokesman for cabinet in terms of a government position, on which he then dictates to the other private members in the government party on this particular bill. I think that is an affront to this Legislature; an affront to the whole principle of private members’ business.
This bill in fact is quite a simple bill. It proposes to make four changes which had been endorsed not only by members of our party but by members of all parties in a select committee report on energy in this province that was completed in July 1986. That committee arose out of an accord item when the Liberals took power from the previous Conservative government in the minority government of 1985.
The select committee on energy at that time looked extensively at a wide range of areas of concern in terms of energy generation in Ontario and the role that Ontario Hydro was playing in terms of energy and in terms of the economy of the province as a whole. The recommendations of that committee were extensive, and this particular bill primarily deals with four recommendations in the final report, July 1986 recommendations that were agreed to by every member of that committee. These recommendations were unanimous, agreed to by the Liberal members of that committee at that time.
I would just like to look at what some of those recommendations were. We are not asking for an endorsement of every one of the recommendations through this. This is an attempt to get some of the substantive items out of that report passed by this Legislature so that we can have some say in what Ontario Hydro is doing and ensure that Ontario Hydro’s activities are going to be to the benefit of the people of Ontario.
The first recommendation, number 13 from the compendium of recommendations, reads as follows: “The Minister of Energy should request the Ontario Energy Board to hold a public hearing to determine the price which best reflects the value of parallel generation to the system, and to determine the desirable amount of parallel generation that could be added to the system within the current planning horizon.”
Certainly we all know the concerns in terms of our energy future, the concerns about the possibility of having to go with future major installations of nuclear- or coal-powered generation, and the fact that much cheaper sources of energy could be found if we promoted the possibilities of cogeneration and of private, independent generation of power across Ontario. It is the low-cost alternative and we should not be in a situation where Ontario Hydro is discriminating and paying less than its own cost of energy for other sources that potentially are there in terms of cogeneration and independent generation of power. Ontario Hydro should have a mandate to provide power in the most efficient, effective way possible across this province. This recommendation, which was endorsed by all members of the committee, is one which we expect that all members, in addressing this bill today, would come to agree with.
This bill also would ensure that adequate public reviews of Ontario Hydro do take place, endorsing again recommendations 16 and 17 from the compendium of recommendations that the Ontario Energy Board should be empowered to hold biannual public reviews of Hydro’s resource development plan. The other one is that the Ontario Energy Board should conduct a public review of the results of Hydro’s Demand-Supply Options Study. Certainly the Ontario Energy Board should be the one conducting a serious, extensive review of the direction in which Hydro is planning to take this province. The concept of Hydro being totally independent of any public responsibility is one which we cannot continue to live with.
The final recommendation, and perhaps the most significant one that would be endorsed by the passage of this bill, is recommendation 22 from the select committee report. It reads, “The Ontario Energy Board Act should be amended to give the board the powers to regulate electricity rates.” Certainly we know the kinds of problems that have been created by Hydro. We have situations of discriminatory rates, where rural rates are much higher than urban rates, where rates in the north are higher than rates in southern Ontario, where rates to small customers are higher than rates to large customers. When we have customers or firms or individual households that are conserving energy and keeping their amounts of energy down, they are penalized with a higher rate than the massive users which are using the vastly greatest amounts of energy across the province.
The ability to regulate electricity rates is particularly important if we, in fact, are going to use Hydro as a tool for economic development in this province. Certainly why should we not? We as a province, as a people, own and control Hydro. Why would we not use that for the best interests of the province as a whole? There is much that could be done in terms of stimulating economic activity in various areas of this province -- I would refer particularly to northern Ontario -- that would be of benefit to regions that do not have the kinds of diversified economy, that do not have the balanced economy, that do not have the low rates of unemployment that we have here in Metropolitan Toronto.
Hydro should be used as a tool for economic development. In areas like northern Ontario, we pay a tremendous penalty for the geography of the region, for the distances that are involved, for the climate that results in higher energy costs through the winter months. Energy, being a major component of the cost of doing business, is one of the real disadvantages and really discouraging factors that results in less economic activity occurring in the north than might take place if we had an aggressive government policy that did stimulate economic activity in that area. One of the key areas that can be easily put within the realm of control of this province is energy pricing. We should be doing that through the tool of controlling the prices that Hydro is charging and using that as a major economic development tool.
I would ask that all members of this Legislature respect this proceeding as private members’ business and do what is best for the people of this province, not what is the perspective of just the cabinet minister responsible, and endorse this bill.
Mr. Runciman: The member for Durham East (Mr. Cureatz), our party’s critic for the Ministry of Energy -- and he is full of energy, as we all know -- indicated that we are going to be supporting the legislation. We do not necessarily agree with all of the positions of the official opposition in respect to Ontario Hydro and the generation options available to the province, but indeed, with this particular piece of legislation, we find that we can very much support it.
I have to share the official opposition’s regret in respect to the contribution made to this debate up to this point by the government representative, the parliamentary assistant for the Minister of Energy. I was hoping that the debate would be a harbinger of things to come in respect to the select committee’s report, which we will begin to debate starting next Monday I believe, and that we would have an indication of just where the government would be coming from. If the parliamentary assistant’s comments are an indication, it is going to be a very difficult time indeed with respect to coming to any unanimity in the committee in terms of meeting the future energy demands of this province.
Talking about the bill specifically, I think the select committee in 1986 clearly supported the recommendations that the member has incorporated in his bill. I want to say that giving the energy board the power to set the rates would be an effective mechanism to establish public control over Ontario Hydro, as it would, and will quote the report, “Establish control over Ontario Hydro’s costs; provide a check against the power of Ontario Hydro’s board of directors to establish capital budgets; and to co-ordinate the planning and decision-making, linking the critical functions of planning and rate review.”
There is no question that something is needed with respect to Ontario Hydro. It is a very large bureaucracy and the government seems to be having a very difficult time in coming to grips with the operation. In some respects that is understandable. I want to take a look at the lack of responsiveness on the part of the Ontario Hydro, and I will use as an example the Cresap study that was released some months ago, which pointed out in taking a look at only one aspect of Ontario Hydro’s operations, that Ontario Hydro in that particular branch of the operation had over 2,000 redundant managers.
What was Ontario Hydro’s response to that? They are simply going to keep these people on. They are going to look at, over a period of time and through attrition and what have you, being able to reassign these individuals with new responsibilities, and they think that is going to be adequate.
In the face of that report from Cresap, the consulting firm, they went ahead and made an announcement that they are going to construct a new edifice in honour of Ontario Hydro in North York, which is going to house approximately the same number of people that have been found to be redundant, a $200-million-plus building in North York to house redundant managers.
Of course, the real difficulty with that is not simply top management’s response to the Cresap study but also the fact that when you get out into the field in Ontario Hydro, especially going by the responses I am getting in eastern Ontario, they are facing manpower shortages and are not able to meet the demands that are placed upon them; but at the same time, we have redundant managers flooding the operation. Ontario Hydro seems to be simply unwilling to respond to those kinds of problems.
Another example is debt management. Approximately 50 per cent of Ontario Hydro’s revenues are now going to service debt, but that is no problem as far as the management is concerned. It is certainly no problem in terms of the impact on the province’s credit rating obviously, simply because they are guaranteed payment, because the Hydro debt is guaranteed by the provincial government. I think that is wrong. I think that is something that we as a select committee will be taking a look at, and we have to have a much more responsive approach on the part of Ontario Hydro with respect to the very significant debt.
We talk about ways of reducing that debt. I suggested one in this House a number of months ago based on recommendations from North York Hydro. The fact is that the crown corporation has a United States debt of about $9.5 billion. Payment of that debt is based on the projection that the Canadian dollar, over this fiscal year, was going to be valued at about 75 cents in relation to the United States dollar. Well, as we all know, the Canadian dollar has been in the 80-cent-plus range for most of this year and obviously, on the basis of the election, is going to stay in that range for the remainder of this fiscal year.
What does that mean to Ontario Hydro? It means a significant windfall to Ontario Hydro of well over $100 million. The suggestion was, “Well, let’s apply that one-time windfall to a significant reduction in their debt,” but they are not even prepared to do that.
There is simply no recognition, no concern over there with respect to what is happening with the capital debt of Ontario Hydro. I think by accepting the member’s proposal with Bill 184 and previous select committees’ recommendations with respect to this, perhaps we are going to start to get some control over the operations of that crown corporation.
I personally have no real difficulty with this versus the government position and the seeming reluctance to transfer these kinds of responsibilities to the Ontario Energy Board; and that is difficult to understand when you take a look at what the government did in the last year with the auto insurance industry in this province. They had no reservations whatsoever about a massive intervention into the private sector in the auto industry and establishing the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, which is doing what this member and the select committees of the past have suggested be done with the monopoly situation involving a crown corporation, but they have been reluctant to do it.
When you talk about the private sector, we have no trouble getting in there. The quasi-socialist bunch across the road is an antibusiness government and the business community knows it. They are going to feel it in the next provincial election as well. They are starting to recognize it.
The business community said in the past, “Well, this is an antibusiness government simply because of its reliance on the support of the New Democratic Party.” Now it has been in office with a majority for 14 months and it is still an antibusiness government. They cannot blame it on the NDP any longer. That message is getting out there, and they are going to pay the penalty in the months and years to come. They have no trouble at all with massive intervention into the private sector in the auto insurance field, but when it comes to a crown corporation with a monopoly, “Well, we’ve got to be very sensitive about this.”
Of course, the reality is that Ontario Hydro is such a powerful behemoth in this province that the government is obviously very reluctant to grapple with that power. Well, I think it has to start to grapple, and we have to deal with situations like breaking up that monopoly.
Let’s talk about the question of privatization. Even the member for Frontenac-Addington (Mr. South) has raised this, even though he made a Milquetoast speech in here today, really saying nothing. I know he has some personal views with respect to this which apparently the whip has convinced him not to express here today. We can understand that, but I think this government and this Legislature should be grappling with some of the very difficult issues facing this province with respect to energy generation and energy supply in the next 20 to 30 years.
One of the things we should be looking at is the possibility -- just the possibility; let’s consider it -- of privatization, breaking up Ontario Hydro in respect to its generation capability and transmission capability. Perhaps we should indeed be looking at the question of privatization of the generating arm of Ontario Hydro. Let’s get this organization, this crown corporation, down to manageable size. Right now it currently is not at manageable size, and this government and governments of the past have really not had a handle on its operation or any effective control over its operation. I have said quite clearly that past governments have had this problem as well. I think we are facing some very significant questions now.
The member’s bill also talks about authorizing the board to regulate the supply and prices to be paid to nonutility producers. This is a major problem. I can talk about a situation in my own riding where a company called Nitrochem, a producer of explosives and chemical fertilizers, has been attempting with Dupont to establish a cogeneration facility with the use of excess steam generated and gas in operations in their Maitland complexes. They have had virtually no co-operation from Ontario Hydro. Ontario Hydro has effectively killed that proposal.
Mr. Fleet: I am pleased to have an opportunity to address this resolution. There are a number of problems with the resolution, but one of the things I would like to touch upon is what is not dealt with. The government wants to encourage Hydro to act as a powerful force for the economic good of Ontario. One of the key government priorities has been to encourage the people of Ontario to use electricity far more efficiently and to conserve electric power.
As a result of the Liberal initiatives, Hydro’s attitude towards conservation has thawed. If the members do not believe me, I propose they should look at the refrigerator thermometer program to see just how much we have thawed.
On a larger scale, last year the Minister of Energy instructed Hydro to prepare a plan for energy conservation and efficiency. As a result, Hydro set targets to conserve 35,000 megawatts of electric power by the turn of the century. That is a particularly encouraging step because energy conservation and efficiency is going to play an increasingly important role as we meet our energy needs over the next 15-year period. We all know that conservation plays a key role in providing a safeguard for the environment.
Frankly, quite a bit more needs to be done. One of the problems with the matter that is before us today is that it is far too limited. It does not have the comprehensive scope that we know the government is considering. The member for Frontenac-Addington mentioned quite a number of the steps that are taking place as a broad review, but the important thing is that the government acknowledges that more needs to be done in respect of conserving electric power and that is what we are moving to do.
On another front, for instance, we find there are a greater number of independent electricity generators being supplied more and more to the grid. One step was an increase in the buyback rate, implemented by Hydro.
Mr. Charlton: I start out my windup comments by saying to the member for Leeds-Grenville and the member for Durham East that I thank them both for their support of this piece of legislation today. They are both correct that the three of us do not agree on what direction Hydro should take for the future or what methods or facilities Hydro should be using to accommodate that future. What we do agree on is setting up a mechanism to carefully review those questions so that perhaps we have the best possible opportunity to make the right decisions for Ontario’s future, whether they be nuclear or conservation and cogeneration.
To the member for Frontenac-Addington and the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Fleet), I want to emphasize what I have just said. This bill is about setting up a review mechanism to pull the information process outside of Hydro into the public domain so that we can more carefully look at the decisions that are made for a very important future.
This bill does not affect the review of the Power Corporation Act that the member for Frontenac-Addington referred to. This legislation in place would not affect the government’s ability to set energy policy for Ontario and to direct both Ontario Hydro and the Ontario Energy Board to take account of that energy policy and its decision-making process.
This legislation merely sets up the mechanism to ensure that the public review occurs. There is no mechanism in place now, and I go back to what the member for Durham East said during his comments on this piece of legislation. We are running out of time in Ontario. The major decisions that will affect this province for the next 20 or 25 years around Ontario Hydro have to be made within the next year to 18 months and the government is still in the middle of a massive review and not prepared to proceed.
If the decisions that affect the next 25 years are made before their legislative amendments are put in place, there will have been no serious governmental or public review of those decisions at all. It is far too important to leave any longer. They have to be in place so that as Hydro comes forward with its proposals over the next 12 months, we have a mechanism to take a careful, considered and expert look at those proposals, so that the decisions we make affecting our future are the correct ones.
Mr Speaker: That completes the allotted time for discussion on ballot item 43 and ballot item 44. We will deal first with Mr. McClelland’s resolution.
NONGOVERNMENTAL VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
Mr. Speaker: Mr. McClelland has moved resolution 51.
Motion agreed to.
ONTARIO ENERGY BOARD AMENDMENT ACT
The House divided on Mr. Charlton’s motion for second reading of Bill 184, which was negatived on the following vote:
Breaugh, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Cunningham, Cureatz, Farnan, Hampton, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, McLean, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pollock, Rae, B., Reville, Runciman, Wildman.
Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Brown, Cleary, Collins, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Dietsch, Elliot, Epp, Fawcett, Ferraro, Fleet, Furlong, Hart, Henderson, Kanter, Keyes, Kozyra, LeBourdais, Leone, Lipsett, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, Matrundola, McClelland, McGuigan, Miclash, Miller, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Oddie Munro, Patten, Reycraft, Smith, D. W., Sola, South, Stoner, Sullivan, Tatham, Wilson.
Ayes 21; nays 45.
The House recessed at 12:08 p.m.
The House resumed at 1:30 p.m.
Mr Mackenzie: The accident that killed 19-year-old John Ramos at 10 a.m. yesterday morning should not have happened. If there is any truth to newspaper stories beginning to emerge, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Sorbara) has a lot to answer for.
The minister has stalled, for over a year, action on health and safety amendments and mandatory safety committees on construction sites, which were promised in this province. For over a year, in spite of promised action, he and his government have done absolutely nothing in this particular area. People are beginning to realize that there is a lot of talk but no action, and that seems to have become the trademark of this Minister of Labour.
A safety and health committee on the site would probably have corrected the elevator fault. This minister and his government had better start understanding that they are not going to escape some personal responsibility for literal slaughter in the workplace when it is because of, at least to a degree, inaction in areas that they themselves have admitted are overdue.
There should have been action on the safety and health amendments. There should have been action on mandatory safety and health committees on construction sites. It has been promised for more than a year and it is continually delayed. That is one of the reasons that John Ramos is dead today.
ESTONIA, LATVIA AND LITHUANIA
Mr. Jackson: While we in Ontario often take for granted our democratic freedoms, at this very moment in the centre of Europe, nations are struggling to regain the freedom stolen from them by two of modern history’s most evil men. Stalin and Hitler lulled the west into accepting the Soviet takeover of the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This great deception is now known to the world and openly admitted to by the Kremlin with the publication of the Molotov-von Ribbentrop pact, which carved up Europe with the mere stroke of a pen.
Long ignored, the Baltic nations have now captured the attention of the world as the result of actions taken in Estonia, where practically half of the country’s citizens recently joined in a mass, peaceful demonstration to demand their inalienable right for freedom and self-determination.
Edmund Burke once wrote: “All that is required for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” The west can no longer ignore the plight of the Baltic nations at this critical moment in their history. Canada must now encourage the Soviet Union to resolve one of the most terrible injustices of this century by for ever renouncing her sovereign rights over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as it solemnly agreed to in peace treaties with these most deserving nations.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: One year ago this month, I first asked the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) to consider the legitimate concerns of a Kitchener-based incest survivors group, Survivors and Supporters Against Sexual Abuse. As members no doubt will recall, the SSASA decided to call for changes to the Limitations Act after Mr. Justice Maloney determined that a jury award of $50,000 for pain and suffering and punitive damages could not be collected by the plaintiff because of the four-year limitation period for assault. The plaintiff in this case was sexually abused by her father from age 8 to 16.
The Attorney General has indicated that a comprehensive review of the Limitations Act is taking into account the special concerns of these victims.
I want to share with this House that which I have learned through my involvement with SSASA’s cause. As many as one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused as children. Victims of incest are known to experience significant and unique damages resulting from abuse which prevent or contribute to the delay of court action by the victim. Labelled by one expert as a child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, typical reactions of the victim include repressed memory of sexual abuse, a sense of guilt, helplessness and/or shame and low self-esteem. Of course, physical damages also can occur, including reproductive and digestive system damages.
I want to thank the Attorney General for taking this into account in his review of the Limitations Act.
Mr. Reville: Mr. and Mrs. Danielsen were old and confused and sick, and Mrs. Danielsen bled to death in her home in Peel region last year.
This was a situation that should not have been allowed to happen and must not be allowed to happen again. It was not as though authorities did not know that the Danielsens were in need of help; it was that they were powerless to do anything because of the government’s delay in dealing with the recommendations of the Fram report.
In fact, the coroner urged the government to immediately set up an office of the public guardian which would provide substitute decision-making to make decisions for mentally incompetent persons and that the government immediately release the Fram report and act on its recommendations.
Mr. and Mrs. Danielsen are not the only elderly, confused and sick people living among us. I knew of five such cases in my own ward, when I was an alderman, of people who were virtually urban hermits, who were sick, who were not well cared for and who in fact had various health problems, some of which led to death, because of the gap in terms of substitute decision-making. This is a gap that must be plugged immediately.
CONTROL OF SMOKING
Mr. Sterling: Tomorrow morning the Student Movement Aimed at Restricting Tobacco, a University of Toronto faculty of law student group, will be holding a press conference here at Queen’s Park. The group will be comprised of the president of SMART, who is in the gallery today, and the presidents of the provincial young Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic parties.
Their primary concern is to restrict the sale to and subsequently the use of tobacco by minors. This is a very laudable goal, and it is refreshing to see that our youth can see beyond partisan lines to come together as one to voice their concerns on a very serious health question, unlike us in this Legislature.
How long must we debate the hazards of tobacco before we implement even minor restrictions? Under our present provincial law, tobacco cannot be sold to those under 18 years and those guilty of selling to people under 18 years face a fine of not less than $2 and not more than $50. Now, does that sanction strike fear into the retailer’s heart?
This government should take its lead from the youth of this province. They see the addictive threat of tobacco and the personal and financial costs involved. It is unfortunate that this government does not have their vision on this issue.
MISSISSAUGA YOUNG MEN’S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
Mr. Offer: I am pleased to rise today in order to recognize the special contribution made by the Young Men’s Christian Association volunteers in Mississauga.
Last Friday marked the sixth annual celebration and volunteer appreciation night for the YMCA. We are proud in Mississauga to be in the midst of constructing our first Y for the city.
During the evening, the many services provided by the Y were illustrated. It became clear that the Y is not just a place of gymnasiums and pools, but rather provides a large amount of other services; and these services are largely provided by volunteers who freely give their time for others.
I am pleased to indicate that Daryl Cook and Jack Doney have recently been honoured as volunteers of the year.
Daryl Cook was singled out for her distinguished role in securing the Peel Board of Education fee for service for the Youth Employment Service program. YES is a program run by the Y and supported by the government that allows councillors to give pre-employment training and job placement to unemployed youths between the ages of 16 and 24.
Jack Doney has been active with the Y since 1982 and has served on the YMCA Mississauga regional council for five years. A major accomplishment is his work with the annual community fund drive.
Volunteers play a very important role in every community, and I am particularly proud to recognize and congratulate these individuals from Mississauga.
Mr. McLean: My statement is directed to the Premier (Mr. Peterson). He is not here today, but a large number of taxpayers in my riding of Simcoe East were dismayed to learn recently that they can no longer find out exactly how much senior provincial officials are paid by his government. The latest edition of the Public Accounts of Ontario, a register of his government’s spending and revenue, has undergone a discreet form of censorship.
In the past, the accounts included a list of all government officials paid more than $50,000 annually and listed exactly how much each made, but those lists have been quietly dropped from the latest revision, covering the 1987-88 fiscal year. Instead, the accounts give salary ranges for deputy ministers and the top four executive levels below deputies. The censorship has not gone unnoticed by many of my constituents, and the backbencher’s salary is far less than those of a lot of the deputy ministers and senior civil servants.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM
Hon. Mr. Wong: Members may recall that in the most recent speech from the throne the government stated its intention to encourage greater municipal involvement in energy conservation. Today I am introducing a new $3-million energy efficiency program that will help the province’s municipalities to continue their involvement in energy efficiency and reduce their energy costs by millions of dollars every year.
Beginning in January 1989, the municipal buildings energy efficiency program will offer grants to improve the energy efficiency of municipal buildings and encourage energy-efficient operating practices. Through its new programs, the government hopes to help create the market forces that steer society towards environmentally responsible use of energy.
In reducing growth in demand by increasing energy efficiency, economic growth continues with less environmental damage. The government also recognizes that energy efficiency is extremely important in relation to competitiveness. Most other developed countries are far more efficient than we are. In fact, we lag behind our main competitors, including France, Japan, Italy, West Germany, Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States.
A report on world resources released earlier this week ranked Canada as the most energy-intensive country in the world. That means we use more energy than any other country to produce each unit of our gross national product. We must strive to make more efficient use of our energy resources, but it is not enough for one sector to go it alone. We must all share the responsibility.
Governments at all levels must set the example that all sectors will ultimately have to follow. I know our efforts will pay off. A 20 per cent improvement in energy efficiency across the board could result in savings of between $3 billion and $4 billion on our energy bill every year.
The program I am introducing today has been designed specifically to assist Ontario’s smaller communities. It follows the government’s successful municipal oil conversion and energy conservation program. Under MOCECP, over 400 municipalities implemented more than 1,400 projects that have helped to save energy and reduce operating costs. Estimated annual savings from that program were $6.3 million per year.
Under the new program, municipalities with populations under 10,000 will be eligible to receive capital assistance for up to 75 per cent of the cost of retrofitting buildings. Those with populations of between 10,000 and 50,000 can qualify for 50 per cent assistance.
The ministry will also provide technical training, information and advice in co-operation with the association of municipalities of Ontario through our joint energy program. Participating municipalities will be responsible for monitoring reductions in energy usage as a result of projects funded over the program. Program registration forms will be available to municipalities early in the new year.
By decreasing demand and using energy effectively through conservation and efficiency improvements, we can improve our security of supply and lessen the burden on the environment.
Every effort to safeguard our environment must rank high on our list of public priorities. The municipal sector realizes that energy efficiency makes good business sense. Our goal over the next three years is to help them make it a part of their normal business plans. The municipal buildings energy efficiency program contributes to all of these objectives and at the same time meets the needs of municipalities by reducing their energy costs.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: As members know, late last year and during the first part of this year, the standing committee on resources development conducted an extensive inquiry into mining safety. The result of their efforts was the tabling in July of a comprehensive report for the consideration of this Legislature. Today I am pleased to table the response of the Ministry of Labour to this document, a response which describes the specific actions being taken by my ministry to implement the report’s recommendations.
Mining safety is a difficult and complex subject. Underground mines and mining plants present special risks to the men and women who work in them. The task of providing leadership through legislation requires a specialized understanding of both the issues relating to occupational safety and the specialized conditions existing in Ontario’s mines. This is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour’s mining health and safety branch.
But while the principal legislative responsibility for health and safety of miners rests with the Ministry of Labour, the practice of developing safety regulations and acceptable standards for mines and mining plants is a co-operative and tripartite effort. The Mining Legislative Review Committee, the body responsible for this task, brings together mining trade union representatives, both the Ontario Mining Association and the Aggregate Producers’ Association of Ontario and, of course, officials from the Ministry of Labour. It was before this body that my ministry placed the committee’s report, asking that regulations be formulated where it was considered appropriate to do so.
In addition to the consultation process, a number of specific actions are being undertaken by the Ministry of Labour to respond to the committee’s recommendations. Where the committee report suggested that reports concerning the internal responsibility system or IRS be shared more widely, the ministry is both developing an IRS evaluation system designed to include input from industry and labour, and is co-ordinating development of a training/communications package within the mining industry.
Where the committee suggested that the mining health and safety branch inspectorate enjoy greater input into the deliberations of the Mining Legislative Review Committee, the mining health and safety branch is restructuring its internal regulation review committee to provide broader input from field staff and a more expedited passing of proposed amendments.
Where the committee suggested the adoption of a more streamlined procedure for the bringing of charges against transgressors of the act, the ministry has developed a computerized tracking system designed to overcome delays associated with prosecution decisions.
Furthermore, my ministry shares the committee’s view that those resources available to the mining health and safety branch continue to be sufficient to permit it to perform effectively. This is, of course, an ongoing responsibility of the Ministry of Labour.
These recommendations are the exclusive responsibility of this ministry and are being acted upon now. Other recommendations are part of an extensive review and modernization of the legislative framework for the regulation of occupational health and safety in Ontario, including those relating to higher fines and the role of worker safety representatives. Still others will require co-operation between the Ministry of Labour and other jurisdictions, a co-operation we are committed to developing.
A detailed account of this government’s response to the mining safety recommendations of the standing committee on resources development will be found within the document I intend to table later this afternoon. I would ask that all those who are truly concerned about health and safety in Ontario’s mines and for Ontario’s miners take the time to read it, as it strongly confirms the commitment of this government to assure a safe work environment for all miners.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the members of the standing committee on resources development for the fine work that they did in preparing their recommendations.
MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM
Mr. Charlton: I would like to take a few moments to respond to the statement by the Minister of Energy (Mr. Wong). Despite the comments he has made in his statement, the facts he has set out in terms of the potential for conservation in Ontario and the way he set out that we can both improve our security of energy supply in Ontario and reduce stress on the environment, I have to say that his announcement here today is a bit of a joke. He is correct that it is a program that works and it is a small step in the right direction. To put it in terms our children would put it, it is a pin step.
The select committee on energy two years ago set out four major recommendations on conservation initiatives in this province. None of those initiatives have been proceeded with, including three which called for fairly major demonstration projects in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors in this province.
The select committee just went through another set of hearings and what we learned during those hearings is that we have made absolutely no progress in terms of identifying the potentials and the costs of conservation in the three sectors that the select committee recommended we proceed in two years ago.
The minister has taken, as I said, a pin step in the right direction, but he set out for us what the reality that faces us is. I think his statement in itself clearly reflects the inadequacy of what it is he has announced today as a programmatic response. I refer specifically to his statement: “A report on world resources released earlier this week ranked Canada as the most energy-intensive country in the world. That means we use more energy than any other country to produce each unit of our gross national product.”
We have a horrendous situation facing us and a programmatic response that is so minute in the overall energy situation and the problem that no one will be able to identify the results.
Mr. Laughren: I would like to respond briefly to the response by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Sorbara) to the report of the standing committee on resources development on mining, health and safety.
The minister will know that the committee worked extremely hard to come up with a report that was unanimous in its recommendations. There were approximately 50 recommendations in that report. We await with great interest the tabling of the more comprehensive response by the minister. I hope that the minister, when he went through that report with his officials, took into consideration the fact that it was indeed a unanimous report.
There are a couple of ominous signs in the minister’s statement today, even though the minister shakes his head. Perhaps even shaking his head is an ominous sign.
The minister is simply looking at the question of higher fines and the role of worker safety representatives. The committee agreed that the internal responsibility system was a better system than going out and hiring an army of inspectors to inspect all the mining workplaces in Ontario. But we also felt very strongly that there should be full-time worker safety representatives on the job sites.
If the minister is still looking at that aspect and still looking at the question of higher penalties for infractions, then it does not bode well. Now, I do not want to prejudge what the minister has said in his more complicated --
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: Then why are you?
Mr. Laughren: Well, because of the statement that the minister made just a few minutes ago that he is still looking at that.
I hope that when the more comprehensive response has been tabled, it will include a firm commitment to proceed with the whole matter of compulsory worker safety representatives on the various job sites and, as well, that the whole question of infractions will be looked at in a very serious way.
Finally, I hope very much that the minister took into consideration the committee’s comments on the Mines Accident Prevention Association of Ontario. I know there have been some structural changes in that organization, but they have not gone nearly far enough. I hope the minister understands what the committee was saying in regard to that particular organization.
Mr. Sterling: I would like to join in responding to the statement of the Minister of Labour today with regard to the response to the standing committee on resources development.
I too would like to add congratulations to the resources development committee, which did come up with a unanimous report. It is noted we have not had an opportunity in this Legislature to debate that report, notwithstanding that we now have a response to it.
I would not prejudge the response that the Minister of Labour is tabling this afternoon but would only remark that our party stands strong on enhancing miner safety in the future. We have noted in the past that this government is one of studies and reports. We will insist that if the response is not adequate to meet the demands of that particular committee, we will demand it in this Legislature day after day.
MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM
Mr. Cureatz: As critic to the Minister of Energy (Mr. Wong), I would like to congratulate him on his statement involving efficiency. On his first page he says, “I am introducing a new $3-million energy efficiency program that will help the province’s municipalities....” and, of course, I support him on that.
Indeed, as a member for 12 years in these chambers, all of which time, I say to the House, I have sat on the various select committees on energy and Ontario Hydro, I have had the opportunity of a working experience, as my New Democrat Party colleague has, in terms of the appreciation of some of the problems at Ontario Hydro.
I want to tell the minister, and I am going to be reminding him about this over the next three years before the election, that he is going to have a very difficult choice to make. As I said this morning in private members’ hour, Ontario is producing electricity in the following three basic manners: from fossil fuels, coal and oil, from nuclear power and from hydro.
We found out from the committee again this summer and fall that indeed the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) has concerns about fossil fuels. Up the stack goes the smoke and we have acid rain concerns. Then we are told of the possibility of the greenhouse effect. We suffered this summer through a very intense two or three weeks of heat. That could cause a depletion of water in the Great Lakes and hence the depletion of the production of electricity by hydro power. That leaves the production of electricity by nuclear power.
The minister has started a report to investigate the costs of nuclear power, but no matter what the report comes back with, the minister is going to have to make the decision on what method he is going to be using for the production of electricity.
I say to the minister that we in Ontario can tolerate the lack of electricity in summer. Indeed, we were told that we could not meet the 20,000 megawatts that were demanded and the people across the province cut back. But we cannot tolerate a lack of electricity in winter in Ontario. The minister can play around for maybe a year talking about conservation, but these conservation methods are not going to be great enough to meet the future demands. They are talking somewhere between 23,000 megawatts and 30,000 megawatts by the turn of the century.
It is about time the minister started taking a look at banking of environmental approvals. If we need a Darlington B, he should first decide if we need the environmental approval and then get on with it. As the minister probably well knows after being here for a year, it takes some five, 10 or 15 years for the development of any kind of electrical plant, be it thermal or indeed be it nuclear. Darlington, in my riding, has taken 12 years and we do not have the first two units on stream yet, because we want to make sure that these plants are safe. By the same token, we want to make sure that Ontario will have enough electricity.
The minister has not yet come up with any kind of strategy on assuring the people of Ontario that we will have enough electricity. I give him one year to play around and have his investigations in-house with the Ministry of Energy and through Ontario Hydro, but after that, he had better come across and start telling us.
The official opposition is against nuclear power. Let’s see how much influence they are going to have on him, because he is going to have to make a very tough decision on it. We are not going to tolerate in this province being short of electricity. We are going to be having protests in the middle of winter demanding that he answer why, when we turn on the electric furnace and the electricity needed for our homes in the middle of winter, he has not made --
Mr. Speaker: The member’s time has expired.
ATTENDANCE OF PREMIER
Mr. B. Rae: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I understand that the Premier (Mr. Peterson) has scheduled a press conference for precisely the hour at which this House normally has question period, when the leader of the third party and the Leader of the Opposition normally address questions to the Premier and other senior ministers.
In that case, I think it is a most flagrant abuse of the traditions of this House to schedule a press conference at precisely that same time. I would also say that we have other questions for other ministers who are absent today. We have 10 or 11 ministers who are away. I suggest that we simply recess until the Premier has the courtesy to appear before the House.
Mr. Speaker: The government House leader.
Hon. Mr. Conway: The Premier of Ontario is meeting today with the Premier of Quebec. It was indicated to the opposition offices that the Premier would not be at question period today. I think it is fair to say that on the basis of his record, this Premier has been very good in his attendance at question period.
I want to repeat that the Premier has been here on a goodly number of days. He has certainly been here on the earlier days of this week. It was clearly indicated that because of the visit of the Premier of Quebec, the Premier of Ontario would not be here today. The indication was passed along earlier this afternoon. A goodly number of ministers are here.
I simply want to say that we are here to answer the questions put by the members of the House and I think we should get on with that business.
Mr. Brandt: On the same point of order, Mr. Speaker: The Premier’s office is located no more than 20 or 30 feet from this chamber. As members of this Legislature, we require a total of some four hours a week from the Premier to be here, prepared to answer the questions of the opposition. Today, as we look across at the empty chairs opposite, there are probably a dozen cabinet ministers who are not here, in addition to the Premier. I think the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition with respect to a recess until the Premier can find the time to come into this forum to respond to the legitimate questions of the members of the opposition is quite in order.
Mr. Speaker: I have listened very carefully to points made by the previous speakers representing each party. I appreciate the suggestion that was made by the leader of the official opposition. However, I must remind all members that the members of the House are the individuals who set out the standing orders. The standing orders only allow the Speaker to recess or adjourn the House because of grave disorder.
Mr. Laughren: It can be arranged.
Mr. Speaker: I do not see any grave disorder; therefore, I will recognize the Leader of the Opposition for the first question.
Mr. B. Rae: In light of what has happened, we are not going to be attending question period this afternoon.
The members of the opposition left the chamber.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Oral questions. The member for Wentworth East.
Ms. Collins: My question is for the Minister of Health.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: In the event that this transpires as it has unfolded before us, is there any way that it would be on the record that these people decided not to participate in the parliamentary procedure of this province? It seems to me that they have adequate time to do that. Is there any question about that situation?
Mr. Speaker: Order. I really do not think it is up to the Speaker to answer such a question. The Speaker does not answer questions. This is oral question period. I will recognize the member.
Ms. Collins: My question is for the Minister of Health. As the minister is aware, the national task force on suicide in Canada presented its report in 1987. Among its many recommendations, the report called for the establishment of a public education campaign to reduce the stigma attached to seeking treatment for states of depression. It also recommended the appointment of a senior provincial official responsible for suicide prevention, similar to Alberta’s suicidologist. Could the minister inform this House of the steps her ministry has taken in this regard?
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: I would like to acknowledge the member for Wentworth East and her interest in this very important subject. She has talked to me about this on several occasions and I know of her activity at the community level as well.
I believe she recognizes, as I hope that all members of this House would, the importance of education and community awareness in relation to suicide prevention and mental health issues generally. We have come a long way in this province in being able to talk about mental illness and in trying -- and I think we have tried quite successfully -- to remove the stigma of mental illness within our communities.
We have also come a long way in providing treatment at the community level and in welcoming ex-psychiatric patients into our communities from which they came. The ministry supports public education efforts and particularly the efforts of the Canadian Mental Health Association, which does a very fine job in raising public awareness on issues of mental illness generally and issues of suicide prevention specifically.
Ms. Collins: Many of the report’s recommendations focus on native people, students and prison inmates. These groups are easily reached. Mechanisms for suicide prevention can be relatively easy to implement. Will the minister share the report’s findings with her colleagues the minister responsible for native affairs (Mr. Scott), the Minister of Education (Mr. Ward) and the Minister of Correctional Services (Mr. Ramsay) and encourage them to implement the findings of this task force?
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: Suicide prevention is a very important component of our community-based mental health strategy and our community-based mental health programs. As well, efforts over the past three years have focused on programs both for youth and for residents of the north, which include native groups.
I know the member is aware of the efforts of our colleague the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr. Black), which have focused particularly on youth, and his report on drug abuse, illegal and illicit drug use in the province.
I can tell her that I visited in northern Ontario a program funded by the ministry, directed and run by the native community.
I want her to know that mental health and community mental health programming, the issue that she raised, is an example of the need for the Ministry of Health to go beyond the responsibility simply of treatment and to coordinate and work with other ministries in the view that health is far more than simply the treatment of illness.
Mr. Speaker: There are quite a number of private conversations. It is difficult to hear.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you. It seems like a fairly lengthy response.
Ms. Hart: I understand that the new commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police is also working along these lines as well. Can the minister give us some idea of what is happening in the OPP in this direction of multicultural policing?
Hon. Mrs. Smith: Once again answering on the two different levels, as far as the makeup of the police force is concerned, the OPP is examining its entrance requirements and making sure that in no subtle way are its requirements working against the entrance of ethnic groups into the police force. An example of this would be that they have removed height requirements, which had worked against multicultural policing.
As well as that, there are instruction courses at Aylmer and also delivered in retraining processes in Brampton and throughout the province in the police stations on the handling of problems around multicultural policing: how one avoids both the reality and the appearance of being unfair to people of other races. A very active program is under way on both levels.
Ms. Hart: My question is to the Solicitor General and it has to do with multicultural policing. I understand that there had been some new directions taken in her ministry with respect to this very sensitive area of multicultural policing, where we have had a lot of difficulties in the past. Could the minister please tell me the status of that and, since I am very concerned about it from special parts of my community, where is she going from here?
Hon. Mrs. Smith: I wish to thank the member for her question, because the whole subject of multicultural policing was given as my first priority of business when I became minister and indeed we have treated it as such all year. I was fortunate enough to have a very excellent parliamentary assistant, the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Kanter), and I assigned him this task of working with this multicultural policing as his chief responsibility.
Among the things we have done this year, we had an excellent symposium of police officers from across the province and multicultural groups from right around the province. This was planned with excellent speakers and followed up by groups meeting in small groups to discuss the issues at hand. It was held a month ago in Aylmer with great success.
As well as that, we have four individual, more localized, regional meetings on multiculturalism, one of which is in Thunder Bay this weekend. I am about to leave tomorrow to attend it, as is my parliamentary assistant.
The message is getting out loud and clear that the police forces must represent the people whom they are policing. They are part of that society and act on its behalf, and we want to see not only fair treatment to multicultural groups but also we want to see those groups represented in the force.
TRADE WITH UNITED STATES
Mr. Cordiano: I have a question of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. It is with respect to the newspaper article with regard to Gillette Canada and the closing down of its manufacturing operations here in Canada, obviously a direct result of the whole question of free trade and the question of the lowering of tariffs.
The article that I am referring to notes that there is a reduction in the tariff on razors, on blades and on fountain and felt pens by the year 1998. That obviously is going to have an impact on other manufacturing plants in the country.
Can the minister indicate how this might affect other plants with respect to tariff reduction in other sectors?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I thank the member for his question. I am sure all members will have read the story and will share the same concern that we have, and that is the possibility of a deindustrialization of our manufacturing capacity. As many, many multinational companies are rationalizing, we will see more and more of that.
As a matter of fact, during the free trade hearings we heard from a chief executive officer of one of the largest food processing companies in the world saying that in his opinion, once the free trade agreement goes through, any food product that has a shelf life of three weeks or longer will no longer be made in Canada. They will be made in other jurisdictions and all we will have is a distribution system here.
Mr. Cordiano: There are at least 60 people in Toronto who will be out of work with respect to these individuals. Will the minister intervene on their behalf to make sure that the federal government, which is now going to be responsible for the impact of all of these plant shutdowns, takes up its responsibility for the loss of these 60 jobs in Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The whole area of worker adjustment is one that we are very concerned about. It is the major issue that we are going to have to address as a result of this free trade agreement. I think members will know -- it is the indication to me anyway -- that the first ministers, in their meeting in February, will be dealing with this issue. It is an area in which we will be making representations to the federal government to make sure that it honours its responsibility.
As a result of this agreement, there are going to be massive adjustments required. It is the federal government’s responsibility. It is their responsibility to provide the financial wherewithal and the training programs to look after this adjustment problem.
Mr. McClelland: I have a question today for the Minister of Citizenship. The community that I represent, Brampton, and more particularly the riding of Brampton North, has undergone significant change in the past number of years.
Clearly, over the past decade the face, both figuratively and literally, of our riding has changed. We have had a massive influx of people from all around the world. In fact, today in our riding there are some 40-plus organizations that represent different ethnocultural backgrounds and I understand over 100 languages are spoken in our community. This is obviously bringing many pressures to bear in the community, and the member for York East (Ms. Hart) just addressed a specific question to the Solicitor General (Mrs. Smith).
More specifically to the Minister of Citizenship, I wonder if he would be kind enough to share with me today some of the programs that he has initiated to help us deal with the problems we are facing in communities such as Brampton North with regard to the real change in the diversity and multicultural makeup of our community.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I appreciate the question. Just to reinforce the magnitude of the situation, I think the members are probably aware, but I will make them aware if they are not, that this province each year attracts about 80,000 immigrants, and probably about two thirds of those now come from Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean. We are fortunate enough to be able to attract that number, but it does make a situation where we have to ensure that we have a climate where they are truly welcome and are made to feel totally at home.
The programs we are offering are in the Ministry of Education -- a very comprehensive program on race and ethnocultural policies in our school system, and Dr. Mavis Burke is responsible for implementing that. We have a comprehensive policy within the government on race relations and we have a regular group that meets to ensure that each ministry is adhering to that policy. Our Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek) has a race relations group within the Metro Toronto Housing Authority to ensure that in those programs we are meeting the needs.
I announced here about three weeks ago a new grant program to community groups to help ensure that they are creating a climate for positive race relations, as well as the employment equity program that our minister responsible for the Human Resources Secretariat is responsible for implementing.
The point I am making is that we must advance on all of those fronts.
Mr. McClelland: To the minister again, he has mentioned a number of programs, and the Solicitor General, in response to the member for York East, mentioned programs particularly dealing with police forces. One area of government that impacts people in a very practical way on a day-to-day basis, perhaps more so than any other level of government, is the municipal level of government. What programs or initiatives is the Ministry of Citizenship taking with respect to helping our colleagues at the municipal level to deal with the problems we are beginning to encounter in our cities and towns across this province?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The member is right in that some of our most successful programs are the ones that are initiated and implemented by municipal race relations committees. We are fortunate in this province that our municipalities have been very proactive in this area.
One thing our ministry is doing to further encourage the exchange of good ideas is to host a two-day conference involving municipal race relations groups across this province on December 2 and 3. I think over 50 different municipalities will be participating in this conference, which is designed to ensure that we are taking advantage of race relations activities that work in one municipality, that they are communicated to another municipality, and helping to encourage municipalities to expand their activities in this race relations area. This is an important conference that I think will accomplish for this province a good deal in advancing the cause of positive race relations.
Mr. Bossy: I would like to ask a question of the Attorney General. As there have been in the past several inspections made of our county courthouse, again we have had a panel that has toured the courthouse and has found the courthouse very wanting of repair. I am just wondering if the minister could tell me if the ministry is going to take action, because the people in Chatham have been asking for that for a considerable amount of time. I would like to know if there is going to be anything done towards rectifying the problems that exist at the courthouse.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I am very grateful for the question. As the honourable member from the county indicates, the public inspection panel, which meets once a year under the direction of the local judge, conducted an inspection of the county courthouse. They found that there were some repairs necessary. They found that a handrail on a stairway was loose, that a section of the building near the entrance had begun to subside as a result of some soil disturbance and a number of other matters. I am happy to tell the honourable member that my ministry, together with the Ministry of Government Services, has retained a consultant to deal with the subsidence question and the other matters will, in due course, be repaired locally.
Mr. Bossy: One of the critical areas is the fact that there is no access to the courthouse for the handicapped. I think that in itself would create the urgency that some action is taken. I hope the ministry -- as the minister has indicated, and I appreciate his response -- will be looking into this. The handicapped have called my office directly and made me aware of this, and I hope the Attorney General acts on that.
Hon. Mr. Scott: It is an important question because, as the honourable member knows, since this government came to office we have made it plain that access for the handicapped to government and private buildings is an important issue for us. I believe I am correct in saying that no buildings for which I am responsible have been commenced or completed since the 1985 election in which access for the handicapped is not available.
As the honourable member will also know, however, we have a large number of older courthouses, jails, legal aid clinics and commercial establishments which lack access for the handicapped: In so far as we can replace those facilities with facilities that are properly accessed, we are attempting to do so within the budgetary constraint by which we are all bound. We have made very considerable headway in the courthouses of Ontario, and I am grateful that the honourable member has brought the particular problem to my attention today.
RETAIL SALES TAX
Mr. Keyes: First of all, I think it is a great shame today that we have no representation from the two other parties of the House, particularly when we have 20 members of government here and 20 members of the very key --
Mr. Speaker: Order. Your question is to which minister?
Mr. Keyes: It is to the Minister of Revenue. Quite often we find, and I expect many members in this House have found the same thing, that people receive deliveries of furniture from a store and sometimes two things happen. First of all, if the furniture is delivered by the store owner through his own vehicles, seven per cent -- now eight per cent -- sales tax is added to the cost of delivery, which is then added to the total bill.
However, should the store choose, for one reason or another, to have the furniture delivered by a carter or jobber, there is no sales tax charged on that delivery. Citizens are saying, “Why must I pay sales tax on delivery charges when delivered by the store vehicle, whereas if it is done by a carter no charge exists?” Would the minister please give me the rationale behind that policy, which may be a holdover from the previous administration?
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: This tax has been in place, really, since 1961, and I will be introducing Bill 122 for second reading today, which will clarify the section of the retail sales tax and give a full explanation of the delivery charges.
The member is absolutely correct in saying that if you do use a common carrier there are no taxes added to the cost of delivery, whereas the owner of a truck or a vehicle used for delivery of these goods is taxable. What the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) or the Treasury decided some eight or more months ago is that the act was not too well defined, especially that section in that act. I want to remind the honourable member that this tax has been in place since 1961 and will continue to be applied as it was in 1961 or as it was supposed to be applied in 1961.
Mr. Keyes: I appreciate the comments from the minister and will look forward to the introduction of Bill 122. I hope it does clarify it because I know I have had a very difficult time trying to explain in a satisfactory manner the answer to the constituents on both sides of it: the store owner who is tempted to bring in on contract a carter or common carrier in order that he can save the charge against the constituent; and I have an equally difficult time telling my next-door neighbour why one delivery time he has to pay sales tax and not the next.
May I ask the minister if he will continue to re-evaluate this policy, to be sure that it is fair and equitable? I know that we have a reason, and fairly valid one, for charging sales tax on federal tax on telephone bills, which I accept, but this to me is an entirely different matter. Will the minister agree to review this thoroughly with his ministry officials?
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: The definition of fair value in Bill 122 includes delivery charges, but I want to assure the member that the Treasury and my ministry are continually looking at improving or making the Retail Sales Tax Act more comprehensive, more understandable, and we will make sure that that section of the act is reviewed annually, as it is.
Mr. Offer: I have a question to ask the Minister of Natural Resources. My question is with respect to his ministry’s position on the preservation of wetlands in this province. There is located in my riding a wetland complex of some importance and this area is referred to as the Creditview bog. It has been the subject a extensive meetings between myself and interested constituents -- who have a very firm commitment and determination to make certain that wetlands of some ecological importance are preserved in the city of great growth -- as well as meetings with the council of the city of Mississauga.
Many people see in this area a home for a variety of plant and animal life, and my question to the minister is: What is his ministry’s position on the acquisition of such lands?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Of course I am very anxious to identify with this very important question, not only as it relates to the question that is asked by the honourable member but, indeed, across all of Ontario. Many Ontarians feel that the wetlands and bogs are something less that desirable, but I, as the minister, must deliver a message so that they might understand that the wetlands and the bogs of the province are nature’s way of having a good habitat for wildlife and, indeed, to control the flow of water that falls from the skies in a way that we do not get flooding and adverse impact on our community.
This particular wetland that the honourable member asks about is not one that is of the highest order. What we have done in the province is to protect the wetlands in categories of type 1, 2 or 3, which are the most desirable to protect.
I am disappointed, in fact, that this one is in about a category 7, but I think the thing that I would do and encourage the member to do is to get the mayor from that riding to decide, if there are funds available there, that in the interim she could put up money to protect the type of wetland that my friend is interested in.
So it is a very important initiative that the government is taking. I am very pleased that the member has asked the question. It feels just a little bit like being in New Brunswick today. I think it is a very comfortable feeling.
Mr. Offer: By way of supplementary, I would like to get clarification as to what priority your ministry places on the protection of wetlands in this province.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Oh, I thought they were waiting for the quiet over there, Mr. Speaker. I am surprised.
Mr. Speaker: No, if you wish to respond.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Of course, I have placed very high priority on protecting wetlands. In fact one of the first initiatives that I took as a minister was to increase or improve opportunities to have a very valuable inventory across the province.
I was given as an undertaking by the former government a time frame of some four to five years to complete this inventory. I am pleased to say that with a little bit of initiative on the part of the new government, the people responded in a very positive way and we got the inventory done in less than half the time that had been allocated.
The first thing we have to do is to identify the areas in classes 1, 2 and 3 that have to be protected. As I said before, it is important that we move that forward by at least two years, but more like two and a half years, to get on with the inventory. I am pleased that has been done and that we are, in fact, now very able to identify the areas that are to be protected.
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
Mr. Campbell: I have looked at some of the problems in northern Ontario health care, and I am very much concerned, of course, that there are a couple of problems that exist.
I would like to ask the Minister of Health if she could comment on the issue of attracting and keeping young health professionals in northern Ontario to keep the standard of health care at a very high level. I wonder if the minister could comment on the steps she has taken.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: As the member for Sudbury knows, I was recently in Sudbury and made some announcements that I think will have an important effect on being able to respond to the very special needs of northern Ontario.
I know from my experience as I travelled through the north this summer and heard at first hand from the people in northern communities that, in fact, there are difficulties in attracting physicians particularly, but other health professionals as well, to some of the more remote and rural communities of this province, but particularly the remote northern communities.
I have established a northern health manpower committee, which will set as its priorities the opportunity to look at the needs of the north and to set its priorities for us, so that the underserviced area program, which I know the member is very familiar with, as well as our northern medical specialist incentive program and our northern initiatives, will be responded to in a fashion that includes those people who have the opportunity to give us advice. Included on this committee will be not only the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Northern Development but providers-of-care representatives from the medical profession, the nursing profession, planners and district health council representation. I am hoping this committee will help us to address the very significant issues facing the challenges of northern health services.
Mr. Campbell: I am concerned not only with the physicians but with other allied health programs such as physiotherapy, pharmacy and French-language services in other disciplines. You mentioned some, but I am wondering if the committee could look at some of the other allied health professionals and also at some of the steps that could be taken in the event that we can come to grips with some of the programs that we need in northern Ontario.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: I think we have made some progress, but we recognize that the needs of the north are far greater than just physician manpower. In fact, we have had bursaries for speech pathology, which were announced in August 1987, as well as a new program of grants initiated in 1987 for rehabilitation specialists, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, audiology and chiropody.
We know that what is especially important in the north is that many of those communities need services in the French language. I know the member heard when I was in Sudbury -- and I think this is extremely important -- that we have arranged for 100 seats in medicine, dentistry, allied health sciences, pharmacy and nursing, in co-operation with the universities in Quebec, so that we will be able to train the professionals to meet the needs of the north in the French language. I am hoping the appointment of a bilingual northern health care co-ordinator within the ministry will help us make sure that our efforts are appropriate and co-ordinated.
INTERVAL AND TRANSITION HOUSES
Ms. Poole: My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. As the minister is aware, the interval and transition houses in Ontario provide a very valuable service in serving battered women and their children in this province. In addition to providing emergency accommodation, transition houses also provide counselling and support for women and children who are staying in the shelter.
I understand the ministry has developed a new funding formula to assist transition houses in order to stabilize their funding. However, I understand that the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses has responded negatively to this proposal. Could the minister please outline for members what the current state of the minister’s negotiations with the OAITH is at this stage?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: In the past three years, the total number of dollars allocated by this ministry alone for family violence programs has gone from approximately $6 million to $26 million. With respect to transition houses alone and the shelters, our funding has gone from about $5 million to almost $19 million, so there has been a considerable recognition of the needs of transition houses and the service they provide.
A couple of years ago, the representatives of the transition houses came to see us and indicated that we should be allocating most of our resources to stabilizing the funding of the existing transition houses rather than to be putting new ones into place. We therefore sat down with them and over the past two years have worked out a change in the funding formula.
As the honourable member has indicated, there is some dissatisfaction with that, but let me briefly explain what it consists of. First of all, the transition houses will continue to get the basic per diem from the municipalities through our hostel program. Above and beyond that, the approved expenses will be covered by our ministry to the tune of 80 to 100 per cent, depending upon what other fund-raising resources they have.
Our initial job was to protect what was already in place. What the transition houses are now asking for is that we put more staff in place and that we increase the salaries of those staffs.
Ms. Poole: I would certainly like to commend the Minister of Community and Social Services for his work on behalf of transition and interval houses.
Mr. Speaker: Supplementary.
Ms. Poole: I do have one concern, though. I understand that the new funding proposal was to go into effect on April 1 of this year. Have arrangements been made for interim funding in the meantime?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: As of April 1, we have clearly indicated to each of the 78 transition houses across the province that we are prepared to sign an agreement with them on the basis of the new funding formula. The last figure I saw was that about three quarters of them, in fact, had signed; there are about 25 per cent who have not. We have indicated that we will certainly not see even those who have not signed in any kind of undue financial difficulty.
One of the steps that we have taken further, however, is to recognize that the organization itself, OAITH, wanted to do some further consultation with its members. I believe we provided something like about $10,000 to enable them to do that. Since then, we have provided additional funds to enable them to come forward with an alternative proposal themselves. We just received that alternative proposal about 10 days ago. Our ministry staff are now reviewing it at the present time and have indicated that they will make a response to OAITH within roughly the next two weeks.
Mr. Kozyra: I have a question for the Minister of Education. The minister is no doubt aware of the large amount of controversy that has existed in Thunder Bay over the possible closure and transfer of one of the high schools, namely Lakeview High School. The major bone of contention there has been, as stated both by board officials and by administration, that if that particular school is not transferred, there is danger of forfeiting the substantial amount of money that has been allocated by the ministry.
Can the minister clarify once and for all on the official record of the House whether this is so, whether there is a danger in that money being forfeited?
Hon. Mr. Ward: As the member points out, there has indeed been a considerable amount controversy over a proposed closure of the school, which was part of a settlement under the provisions of Bill 30, a settlement that was negotiated by all parties in good faith. I think, though, it is important to note that the capital allocation referred to was one that was made as result of that particular board’s capital expenditure forecasts submission.
Each year, boards throughout this province provide my ministry with a list of projects rated by priority. Determinations are made as to the appropriateness of those submissions and requests, and a judgement is made on the basis of the merits of the particular project itself. Now, I understand that part of the controversy up in the Lakehead also revolves around whether or not that capital expenditure itself, for elementary purposes, is appropriate, and the new board when it comes into office, I am sure will be able to make that determination as well.
Mr. Kozyra: As the minister may also be aware, because of that controversy a considerable number of members of the board were not re-elected, and we have a majority of those who would seem to be opposing this particular school closure and transfer. As a result, they have called for an independent study over and above the one that was done. Are the minister and the ministry in favour of or opposed to an independent study being conducted?
Hon. Mr. Ward: It would seem to me that the board is appropriately fulfilling its responsibility. That is a matter of choice for that particular board if it wishes to review positions previously taken as they relate to the closure of the high school.
In terms of the capital allocation and the elementary allocation made under the capital expenditure forecast, I want to reiterate that the funds that are committed are committed for a specific project as identified by that board. Should they have a change of mind or a change of heart in that particular matter, they can convey that through to my ministry during the current capital expenditure submissions.
Mrs. LeBourdais: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services. It has been reported in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore papers that there will be a public hearing to be held this coming Saturday, November 26, concerning the future development of the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital grounds. I am wondering if the minister can give me, and also the residents of that particular area, some assurance with regard to the green space which surrounds the property.
Hon. Mr. Patten: The question is a timely one, because on Saturday, indeed, there will be an open-house opportunity for residents of Lakeshore-Etobicoke to take a look at some proposals that are being put forward by Baird-Sampson Associates in terms of some options for the future development of that site. I would like to point out to the member that the original site was 63 acres large, and the provincial government has turned over to the conservation authority about 32 acres of this land for park land. In fact, the conservation authority is planning to develop this right down to the lakeside and add to that parcel of land.
According to the original study of the associates who have helped prepare our report and our alternatives this Saturday, housing is being considered: additional park land, office space and some housing on this particular piece of property.
Mrs. LeBourdais: Can the minister give us some indication as to the type of housing that will be going into this area and what will happen to the present old architecture of the buildings that exist there now?
Hon. Mr. Patten: Yes. The proposals, of course, are just that. We will listen very carefully to the feedback from the residents and from the various groups that have been invited to make comment. We will then review those comments and, like all land owners, we will be putting forward our best proposal to the city council, and other meetings with the public will ensue.
I suppose the important point to know is that we are talking about preserving the heritage of the beautiful buildings that are on this property. We are talking about preserving the health unit that exists there now and that people would like to see retained. We are talking about a mixed concept of housing that would include those who earn below $26,000 a year. About a quarter of the housing units would be for that. There would be about a quarter of the housing units that would be suitable for those within the $26,000-to-$40,000 salary range.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you. I am sure there might be someone else with a question.
Mr. Fleet: My question is for the Minister of Financial Institutions. The minister will know that I have an interest, and my constituents have a strong interest, in ensuring that there are fair car insurance rates in Ontario.
The government, in the last election, undertook to protect consumers across Ontario by establishing the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. The board has been having extensive hearings dealing with insurance rates and the structure of policies. I am wondering if the minister can provide some information about the operation of that board and, in particular, the cost of setting up and operating the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board.
Hon. Mr. Elston: I want to thank the member for the question, which I think is an important one for all of us, bearing in mind that there are some releases to be made later on this afternoon with respect to a rate-of-return formula out of one of the hearing processes that the auto insurance board is having.
The question of the budget for the board includes currently a staff of 31 people. The estimated full cost for the entire fiscal year is about $7 million, including about $2.6 million in onetime expenditures to provide a location at 5 Park Home Avenue for the board for offices. It includes as well the per diem for the six board members at $200 a day, plus a remuneration for the chair and two vice-chairs of the operation. In addition to that, we have a number of other operating expenditures being made, and I can provide further detail to the member, upon request.
Mr. Fleet: I am concerned about the cost of this, obviously, and I wonder if the minister can advise not only who is likely to be paying for the cost of this hearing but also whether there is any possibility of assisting the Consumers’ Association of Canada and the other consumer-oriented groups that have been making submissions to the board and helping to further the process to ensure fair rates of automobile insurance for all Ontarians.
Hon. Mr. Elston: The question from the member is an important one, and I can tell the honourable gentleman that we are looking at recovering as much as possible the cost of the hearings through the board request.
With respect to the presentations of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, we have found that it has provided a substantial presence in a number of the hearings, including cross-examination and the putting of evidence for us at the board. The board has indicated, along with the great co-operation it has received from members of the industry, that the overall process has worked quite well.
I am quite prepared to discuss, as I have on at least one occasion so far with the Consumers’ Association, potential for funding arrangements. I can advise the honourable member that I appreciate his advocacy on behalf of the association and I will get back to him after discussions proceed somewhat further.
ATTENDANCE OF OPPOSITION MEMBERS
Mr. Black: My question is for the Minister of Mines and the government House leader. I must comment that the benches on this side of the House have never looked as good and I would point out to members that the average intelligence has risen several points in the last hour. However, my question --
Mr. Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr. Black: Yes, I do have a question. I was just going to get to it.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you.
Mr. Black: Recognizing that the members of both opposition parties have decided not to take part in question period today leads me to suggest that there are two possible explanations. One would be that they are so supportive of the actions and policies of this government that they have no questions to ask. The second alternative would be that they are so lacking in intellect and wit that they were not able to frame any questions.
I wonder if the minister could give me his opinion on which of those two alternatives is the likely explanation.
Hon. Mr. Conway: If I might, I think the people of Ontario expect the duly elected members of this Legislature to meet in this place at the appointed hour each day to do the public’s business. There is no question that there are important issues before this Legislature. This government this afternoon had 22 ministers in their places when the Speaker called that order of business which is the daily question period.
I regret the actions of the honourable members of the opposition but, I think far more important we must all of us in public office accept our public responsibilities and deal with the issues before this province and before this Legislature. On behalf of the government, I want to make very clear: This government has an agenda. This Premier (Mr Peterson) has important business that he wants to put before and enact in this Legislature, and I think that is the concern of the people of Ontario and I hope that is the obligation that is faced by all members.
Mr. Black: Should we expect that the opposition may some day return for question period?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I think it is a reasonable expectation that reasonable men and women on all sides will take their responsibilities seriously and get on with the public’s business.
Mr. Elliot: I, too, have a question for the Minister of Mines. For some period of time now, the mining industry has been concentrating on the precious metal portion of that industry, and while it is doing this, the inventory of base metals is being seriously depleted throughout Ontario.
An attendant problem to this, brought to my attention by a number of people who reside in Halton North and have claims and mines is that when they try to get prospectors to actually go out and prospect to identify more resources, they find that the average age of prospectors now is something in the order of 80 years.
While I have nothing against experience, I do believe that the industry must do something fairly soon about training more prospectors. Is anything being done?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I thank the honourable member for his question. I can tell the honourable member that after a period when there was not a great deal of activity in the mineral development area, we have seen in the last number of years, largely as a result of the gold market, tremendous exploration and development. The honourable member is quite right that both at the prospecting end and for skilled miners we have faced a shortage as a result of tremendous surging activity in most of our mining communities.
The Minister of Skills Development (Mr. Curling) has been actively involved with the development of very positive programs, most of those under Ontario’s Training Strategy. We have been working with the community colleges, the local industrial training councils and, of course, the mining companies and labour to take additional measures.
Last evening I had the pleasure, with my friend opposite and other members on the other side of the House, to meet the miners at the Royal York Hotel. It is clear that more needs to be done and we are going to continue in a collaborative way to try to address the needs of this very important part of our resource community, which at the present time is expanding at a very attractive rate and producing very considerable new investment, wealth creation and employment in many communities across Ontario.
Mr. Elliot: My supplementary has to do with pointing out a specific program that has been very successful in the Ministry of Natural Resources, and that is the junior ranger program. Has there been any consideration given to starting such a program in the Ministry of Mines?
Hon. Mr. Conway: We have been looking at a number of ways and means of attracting new people to fill the opportunities that we know exist and will continue to be provided in the mineral development area. I know of the honourable member’s particular interest. I will be meeting shortly with the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, at which time I will be quite pleased to take up the suggestion. As well, I expect very shortly to be talking to a number of the leaders in the community colleges to see what we might do at that level to excite a greater interest among young people about the exciting career opportunities that exist in the area of exploration and development in our mining communities.
FEDERAL BROADCASTING LEGISLATION
Mrs. O’Neill: My question is to the Minister of Culture and Communications. There has been a bill at the federal level, Bill C-136, regarding broadcasting legislation and the relationship of the federal cabinet to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, especially regarding licensing. Would the minister please update this House on the status of this bill.
Hon. Ms. Oddie Munro: I thank the member very much. The new broadcasting legislation is indeed overdue. The Broadcasting Act, which is being amended, is dated 1968. In 1985, the Caplan-Sauvageau task force conducted a very comprehensive study. Ontario was part of the input. The Minister of Communications then turned that report over to the standing committee of culture and Ontario again had input to that committee.
The minister then undertook public hearings. It was at that point that this government made representation on those amendments which related to the CRTC, which is an arm’s-length institution with the responsibilities of extensive licensing as it relates both to telecommunications and broadcasting.
We were indeed alarmed about any movements the federal cabinet may acquire as the result of legislation which allowed it to intervene in that agency’s rights to disseminate licensing and, in fact, to deal with licensing requests through its board of commissioners.
Mrs. O’Neill: Would the minister be able to bring us up to date on the actual intervention that Ontario is presently taking on this bill?
Hon. Ms. Oddie Munro: As soon as the new minister of culture is named, of course we will continue to make the federal government aware of our concerns on the bill as a whole and also on CRTC’s powers. With new technologies again coming into the forefront, we are very much concerned about not only the intrusion on the CRTC by the federal cabinet, but also the giving to the CRTC of powers that it need not have which would allow it to be discriminatory and to stop any competition that is healthy, both for broadcasting and telecommunications.
We also have problems with some of the amendments that related to educational broadcasting and the power of the CRTC to define with the help of the federal cabinet what educational broadcasting is all about. We will be reminding the federal government that any powers in the Broadcasting Act cannot go beyond those powers relegated to provinces in the case of education. I would like to assure the member that this government will continue, through this ministry, to make Ontario’s concerns known.
Mr. Tatham: My question is for the Attorney General. Many people have been questioning the activities taking place during the last federal election. There are specific regulations for political parties and members as far as election expenses are concerned.
Mr. Ballinger: Speak up, Charlie.
Mr. Tatham: Can the member for Durham-York hear me over there? We want freedom of expression and democracy, but where is the line between freedom of expression and financial encouragement when you have third-party multimillion-dollar expenditures?
Hon. Mr. Scott: I thank the honourable member for the question. I was elected only three years ago and had never been in politics before.
I am frankly astounded at what we have seen here today. There is one example, though. When I was in grade 8 at Holy Cross convent school in Ottawa, our class stayed out when the end of recess was called and the mother superior, who was Sister Mary of Nazareth, came out with a switch and gave it to each of us on the hand. Those boys and girls would be in their seats today if Sister Mary of Nazareth were alive.
Mr. Speaker: I presume you are leading up to a response.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I am leading up to an answer, Mr. Speaker, but I just want to emphasize that a touch of the switch never did anybody any harm in my experience, and we could be using it.
Now, to answer the question, the honourable member wants to give a touch of the switch to the large companies that participated by advertising in the last election. There is a certain fairness in what he suggests, because there are limits on the amount of advertising that political parties can do, so large companies or large trade unions or other large groups that have the interest of a political party at heart get on side, evading the restrictions on the parties themselves, by placing their own ads.
Of course this Legislature has no jurisdiction to deal with the question in a federal election. In a provincial election we do, and I will take notice of the honourable member’s question and see how the issue can be presented so that, at least locally, we will be able to develop some response. A touch of the switch is very important, as the honourable member knows.
Mr. Tatham: I appreciate what the minister said and I just trust that he will take not only the switch, but two switches.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I take it now I can go as long as I want, because the clock is off, but I just want to thank the honourable member for his supplementary.
Mr. Speaker: That completes the allotted time for oral questions and responses. Petitions.
Mr. Speaker: if I could have your attention please, I have called for petitions.
SCHOOL OPENING EXERCISES
Mr McCague: I have a petition endorsed by 270 people from Stayner concerning the discontinued use of the Lord’s Prayer in our public schools.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We strongly protest the deletion of the Lord’s Prayer from the opening exercises in our school system.
“As taxpayers, we were not given the choice to vote on this issue, nor have any say whatsoever in this matter, which is of grave concern to us.
“Ethnic and other religious groups have always had the opportunity to leave prior to the daily saying of the Lord’s Prayer and have done so throughout the years.
“We feel this is an infringement of our rights and would like to see the Lord’s Prayer reinstated in our schools.”
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Mr. Elliot from the standing committee on general government reported the following resolution:
That supply in the following amounts and to defray the expenses of the Ministry of the Environment be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1989:
Ministry administration program, $30,099,500; environmental services program, $82,067,700; environmental control program, $77,190,800; utility planning and operations program, $253,089,400.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Mr. Epp from the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly reported the following resolution:
That supply in the following amount and to defray the expenses of the office of the chief election officer be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1989:
Office of the chief election officer program, $618,600.
Mr. Epp, from the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, presented a report on the process for reviewing election laws.
Mr. Epp: In April the chief election officer and the members of his staff came before the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to present a report on the proceedings and process of the last provincial election. Subsequently, they submitted a report to the Speaker and then appeared again before the committee on August 2.
In 1984, the Election Act was revised to provide in part that the chief election officer be an officer of the assembly. However, except for the requirements for the chief election officer to report on the conduct of an election, no formal reporting relationship between the Legislative Assembly and the chief election officer exists. As a result of that, the committee has made a number of proposals for changes to the Election Act which previously have not been in effect.
The committee is of the opinion that the time has come for modification in the approach to the review of changes to the Election Act and the election process, and proposes that the chief election officer bring a report to the committee and return to the House, that the House have an opportunity, on a regular basis, to study various amendments to the act, and that this be done immediately following a general election.
There is a particular resolution we are proposing to the House, and that resolution is as follows:
That the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly undertake a comprehensive review of the report of the chief election officer including recommended legislative changes 1988...and other areas relating to the election process and report to the House its observations and recommendations thereon following public meetings for the hearing of representations of interested persons, and that the chief election officer provide such assistance to the committee as may be required by the committee to discharge its duties.
What we are actually asking for is something to expand on some of the provisions of the chief election officer that were provided for in 1984, and that we implement a regular process to review the act as it now exists and in the future.
I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to have this two-page report on the process of reviewing election laws printed in today’s Votes and Proceedings.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
GEORGE A. MCNAMARA MEMORIAL FOUNDATION ACT
Mr Offer moved first reading of Bill Pr73, An Act to revive George A. McNamara Memorial Foundation.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
RETAIL SALES TAX AMENDMENT ACT / LOI MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA TAXE DE VENTE AU DÉTAIL
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître moved second reading of Bill 122, An Act to amend the Retail Sales Tax Act.
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: This bill includes an increase in the general rate of sales tax from seven per cent to eight per cent, as well as containing amendments that will clarify definitions, strengthen penalty provisions and ensure equitable tax treatment of advertising supplements and answers.
The effective date of this bill, being May 2, 1988, was designed to provide time to communicate the new rate to all taxpayers and allow vendors to make changes.
Ce projet de loi prévoit l’augmentation du taux général de la taxe de vente au détail, qui passera de sept à huit pour cent, ainsi que certains amendements d’ordre administratif. Il n’est entré en vigueur que le 2 mai 1988, pour permettre aux contribuables de la province de prendre connaissance des modifications et pour laisser le temps aux vendeurs d’effectuer les changements nécessaires.
Ms. Bryden: Bill 122, An Act to amend the Retail Sales Tax Act, is one of several tax changes arising from the April 20, 1988, budget of the provincial Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon).
The changes announced in that budget in our tax system really whacked Ontarians with the biggest tax increase in their history: $1.5 billion in new taxes. It follows a no-tax-increase pre-election budget. It seems to me that playing politics with the province’s finances in this way is not the fiscal responsibility that the Treasurer boasts about.
The budget mainly hits the low-income and middle-income people, who are already overtaxed. Raising the sales tax from seven per cent to eight per cent amounts to a 15 per cent hike and will hit low-income families and individuals the hardest, because it is still a regressive tax. Some people try to say that with the exemptions that are permitted and food not being covered, it is more of a proportionate tax than a regressive one. However, the trend in this province has been to remove exemptions rather than increase them and to extend the sales tax to all sorts of new services and new commodities that have not been taxed before.
What makes the debate on the retail sales tax increase from seven per cent to eight per cent really crucial today is that it is part of a larger picture facing the Canadian nation. The recent election has indicated to us that it is part of that picture, because during the campaign there was considerable discussion of the proposed national sales tax which the federal Minister of Finance is considering. There are estimates that it could raise taxes, if it is extended widely, by as much as $18 billion. In other words, whatever rate our sales tax is at would be simply a threshold for integrating our tax with a much more extensive national federal sales tax or, as it is sometimes called, a value-added tax or a national transaction tax.
We all know that during the election campaign, it was denied that it would be extended to food, but beyond that, the extensions would still be very extensive if they went as far as was suggested in terms of a turnover tax, as it is often called as well.
So when we are considering this bill, I think we have to consider whether we want to become part of that process of switching taxation greatly from its present mix of income and other taxes -- liquor taxes, various taxes of that sort -- to one that is mainly a consumer tax. This is what the issue is in this budget.
Regressivity means that taxes are not based on ability to pay. Certainly the present sales tax in Ontario is regressive. We noted that the first big step in the extension of that tax to a variety of items that were not covered was in the 1982 Miller budget, which was introduced by the Progressive Conservative government. That was when they put the tax on hot dogs, sanitary supplies and things of that sort. While those raised a lot of objections, they also extended it to a great many other services and things that had not been taxed before.
For instance, they put it on most municipal expenditures for supplies, bus repairs, parts, things incorporated into structures owned by schools, colleges, universities and public hospitals or owned by municipalities and local boards. This was a real grab at the municipal tax dollar. While the Treasurer says that the municipalities are compensated by the fact that they get larger grants from the province, there is no evidence that the grants they would have got take into account the extra costs of extending the tax to all these things purchased by municipalities and local governments.
When Mr. Miller brought his tax in, the current Premier (Mr. Peterson) rose in the House to ask a question, and the question was, “Are you extending this tax to hit the poor, because more of the extensions hit ordinary people buying small amounts than the larger ones?” The Premier expressed concern that he did not believe one should tax the poor. I had the Hansard clipping here, but I have not located it at the moment.
At any rate, in those days, the Liberal speeches were against the regressivity of the sales tax and against the extensions, but now they appear to have swung to the camp of Mr. Wilson, the federal Minister of Finance, because whenever the Treasurer has been asked if he is contemplating the proposed federal turnover tax, he does not deny that he is considering it. In fact, he says that he has people in his ministry who are looking at it. He has not asserted that he would not accept extension to food or the kinds of wide extensions that are being considered.
I think we have to consider the fact that the results of the federal election indicate that there are a lot of promises to be paid for there. If they are going to be paid for by more and more regressive sales taxes, then we are in for a very bad picture for the middle income, the low income and the poor in this country.
Now they talk about a refundable tax credit to offset that tax, and the province has enriched in this most recent budget the sales tax credit, but if you examine it closely, it is really peanuts that is being offered and nothing similar to what is needed to offset the burden that the new sales tax is going to put on the ordinary income earner.
The new tax credit program, according to the Treasurer, is going to cost $84 million more. He is lumping together a new property tax credit as well as the sales tax credit, so it is not a very true figure of the sales tax extra cost, and he shows only the joint figure in his budget.
The point is that to compensate average people, especially those who are below the poverty line, would require at least $400 million just to bring the property tax credits up to the position of their original value. To compensate the people who would be affected by Mr. Nixon-Wilson’s joint new national sales tax, which they may bring in, would be hundreds of millions of dollars to give them any sort of offset to that kind of taxation.
I think we are moving in this country to much too great a reliance on consumer taxes and much too little on increased corporation taxes, for one thing. In the last provincial Treasurer’s budget there was not one increase in the corporation taxes; in fact, there were decreases. There were additional tax concessions handed out to the corporations, and there was no minimum corporation tax introduced. Even the United States has a minimum corporation tax now, but outside of the very minor capital tax on corporations, there is no minimum corporation tax in this country, so that the percentage of tax revenue received from the corporations is continually going down while the percentage from income tax and sales tax is going up radically. This is why we must stop this trend towards relying on consumer taxes of all kinds -- gasoline taxes as well, which always penalize the person who has to use his car the most, possibly for his work. He may not be a high-income earner, he may not be driving a Cadillac, but his costs will be much higher than those of the ordinary person who just drives his car for pleasure.
In the north, of course, it is an additional penalty because of the great distances, yet we still have the same gasoline tax in both northern and southern Ontario. The sales tax also hits the northerners greatly, because they not only pay the eight per cent tax on everything they consume that is not exempt from the sales tax but they also pay the tax on the freight costs, which are worked into the prices of their goods and services. That is a very great burden on the north, because of the distances and because of the high freight rates that are allowed in that area. There is a double burden on the northern people in relation to this sales tax.
There is a small increase in the income tax in this budget, one per cent on the basic federal tax in 1988 and one percent in 1989, but this is really not going to compensate for the lower tax rates that are being enjoyed under the federal budget at the moment, the lowering of tax rates. It really means that Ontario is just grabbing a piece of the current federal reduction in income tax rates. Nobody is gaining from them. In addition, they are now paying more sales tax. The inclusion of a couple of surtax points on the income tax is not a real change in the proportion contributed by income taxes in this province as compared to the very large proportion that is going to be contributed by sales taxes.
The whole question of what will come out of the recent election was discussed in the newspapers in the last two or three days. I think they point out that if all these promises are to be fulfilled, where will the government get the money? Will it go to additional corporation tax, or will it say that, under free trade, it will be a decrease in competitive position if it taxes the corporations further? They have built into this free trade agreement that is being promoted by the government that won the election -- it is not necessarily a majority of the Canadian people -- but those who voted for a majority government will have the whole question put to them of whether you should increase income taxes or corporation taxes at all put to them when it comes to the question of deciding how we pay for all these promises and whether we are able to tax businesses more if their competitive position will be impaired? I think that is a very serious question and indicates that this province, at least, should be looking for a fairer tax system. We certainly are departing radically from that, budget by budget.
The sales tax has an interesting history in that it was first established in 1967 at three per cent, and has gone up to eight per cent since then. It was started sooner in other provinces. Interestingly enough, Alberta was the first province to get into it, but stayed in only about six months, which indicates that Alberta needed it to solve a temporary problem of relief payments in the Depression, but decided that it was better to rely on its other sources of wealth such as the oil and tax industry and the middle classes.
The previous government was tending towards more and more regressive taxes as well, but in this budget we have outdone anything that it did by extending the tax and taking this $1.5 billion extra.
We should look at the impact of this new sales tax on the housing industry since we are in a period of great housing shortage, particularly in this section of the province. If Mr. Wilson’s tax comes in, it will add literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to what home buyers are going to have to pay on the materials going into the houses, on the services that are provided, on the mortgage costs and all those angles that will be covered. The eight per cent is no small increase in the cost of a house so that, in effect, we are pricing more and more people out of the housing market.
Another area that will be badly affected by this sales tax will be that of students at colleges and universities. First, the costs of the universities will go up since they will have to pay sales tax on many of the materials they buy and on the buildings that must be renovated, repaired or replaced. The universities already are greatly underfunded, but this will simply take a larger piece of their revenues for contributions to the provincial Treasurer.
It is the provincial Treasurer who has put them in their present underfunded position. Enrolment is going up at the universities and colleges, but people are being forced to use classrooms that are too small for the number there and services are being cut. The size of the classes is being increased and, generally, the whole educational system is very badly affected by this kind of taxation.
Really, since we need trained people in this province to develop our economy and to be able to keep industry competitive here, the province should be contributing a great deal more to education than it is. If it takes the proceeds of this extra one per cent sales tax and does not apply it to any substantial increases in university funding and university facilities, it is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul; that is, robbing the taxpayers but not providing additional funding for the areas where it should be moving more resources into an area.
We are very disappointed in how this extra one per cent is being spent at the moment. There seems to be more money for rather wild ideas like the IDEA Corp. and other promotions of new, experimental industries or the attempt to develop new industries, but not enough background in the way of research and development in the universities and training for people who are going to be able to bring us really new development.
We would have liked to have seen the Treasurer not increase the sales tax but to go to the corporations and to the higher-income earners for additional sources of revenue to see that these areas are looked after.
Then, of course, there is the whole question of health care. We all know it is badly underfunded, yet the Treasurer seems to be talking about covering it through taking control of the lottery funds that are available.
If you take a chunk of the lottery funds that are now used for sports and recreation and culture, you have less money for those bodies and more for hospitals perhaps, but the hospital crisis is so great that the half a million that appears to come from lottery proceeds -- or even with the expanded lotteries -- would not nearly touch the real needs of the hospitals and of the health care system.
Therefore, to lead people to think that simply giving control of the lottery funds to the Treasurer will provide a solution to the hospital deficit problem, and the hospital bed problem and the hospital services that we need, is really being very misleading and does not justify increasing the sales tax, because the Treasurer is going to have to find money for sports and recreation and culture as well.
We think it is time that the Treasurer took a good look at the revenue sources of this province and tried to develop them into sources that would be fair taxation. At the moment, the middle class and the lower groups are still paying far more than their fair share.
When the province amended the corporation tax earlier, it not only did not decrease the tax concessions that were available, it increased them for mines and the corporations and it did not decrease the exemption for capital gains, in spite of the fact that the federal government was also giving a very big concession to capital gains earners. That is another source of revenue that could be looked at. We are not getting what we would expect in that area.
I would like to remind the minister that Ontario did issue a tax expenditure survey in 1986. That was after the Liberal government came in. It was something that we had been requesting for a considerable time. The federal government had pioneered in this field and had released a tax expenditure report. The definition of “tax expenditure” is somewhat of a matter of controversy, but in the book it defines it as representing a deferral of taxes payable rather than an absolute reduction or providing an incentive to encourage certain types of behaviour that government regards as desirable.
The main point is that a tax expenditure is a grant, but it is a grant not in the form of an outright cheque being issued to a company applying for it. It is a back-door grant which is not reported to the Legislature in detail by the company receiving it and it is not passed or voted on by the Legislative Assembly. It is simply taking money out of the tax system and giving it to a company as some sort of an incentive or concession or reduction in tax, and the rest of us make up the difference. So, if the Treasurer’s budget calls for X dollars and 10 percent of this is going out in tax expenditures, we never vote on that 10 per cent of his total expenditures. That is not really budgetary control.
I think the hidden benefits bestowed by governments are something that we must open up and it would give us the opportunity to develop a fairer tax system if we had an annual report on the amount of tax expenditures and to what categories of companies they were going. if they are deferred taxes, at what stage will they ever be repaid or are they simply really a forgivable tax that goes on in perpetuity? It is time we got up to date and produced reports of this type.
I find it difficult to see very much difference between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives in their tax policies. They seem to think that the objective is to tax where they can with the least squawks rather than to develop a tax system that will be truly an incentive to invest in things that will create jobs and to invest in the future of our province and our people.
To use the complete marketplace approach that we appear to be adopting now and that will come in an even greater amount after this so-called free trade deal goes through, is really to change the whole concept of what role taxes play in our economy. This is why I think we should oppose this increase at the present time and insist on a much greater review of the whole tax system.
On the history of the sales tax, I was mentioning how ancient it is, but the first retail sales tax in Canada came in on May 1, 1935, in Montreal, because it had a very high relief debt at that time. In Alberta, it came in May 1, 1936; the same sort of Depression problem, to try to pay the extra costs of a recession or depression. We think that is not a reason for having a sales tax. It is a reason for having some action to create employment, to create jobs. But the Alberta tax only lasted from May 1, 1936, to August 6, 1937, so it was very short-lived.
In 1961, Ontario imposed its first sales tax at three per cent, in 1969 raised it to five per cent and then in 1973 to seven per cent. But during the restraint period it reduced the seven per cent to five per cent as Ontario’s contribution, and this was from April 18, 1975, to October 31, 1975, a very short period. A lot of the transactions were, I think, postponed or the dates were adjusted so that they would not come in on the higher tax any sooner than they had to.
Anyway, in 1976 it went back to seven per cent, until this Liberal government jumped it again to eight per cent; so it has been with us a long time, but we have not looked sufficiently at alternatives to it. Instead, we are getting locked into more and more consumer taxes and sales taxes, and these are what we have to start challenging.
Also, we are being told that sales taxes are not bad if you have a refundable tax credit, but if you look at the history of those tax credits, they benefit only the very poor. The person who is just above the threshold is very seriously taxed, because if you are $1 over the threshold you get the full tax and if you are under, you get the refundable tax credit. That makes for a very unfair adjustment at that level, and sometimes it amounts really to a confiscation of any additional earning until you get quite a bit above the threshold. So I think we have to question whether the refundable tax credits are the real answer to the regressiveness of the retail sales tax.
I did want to recall to the Legislature that when this tax increase first was brought in as part of the budget on April 20, we, the New Democrats, voted against it on first reading and asked that after second reading there be public hearings across the province on the question of whether the tax should go through. You may recall that the government first refused to guarantee any public hearings, outside the House particularly and around the province. It took a whole week of protests and switching the business of the House to other business before the government would give any assurance that there would be public hearings. You may recall it was considered pressure tactics to read petitions into the record instead of getting on with the business.
But when members of the Legislature are not satisfied with the way the business is being conducted and they are not getting any assurances that democracy will be served, that there will be opportunities for public hearings on a very controversial bill of this sort, I think those tactics are justified. They may vary from time to time. I am not necessarily saying they would always be petition-reading or that there would sometimes be longer bell-ringing than one would expect, but the thing is, a government that promised in its election campaigns that it would be open was departing radically from that position when it refused to guarantee public hearings.
While the House leader claimed that he had never denied public hearings, he had certainly denied public hearings outside the House, and preferably during the recess when there would be time for the committee to travel.
Finally, after about 10 days of pressure, the government did climb down and agree to public hearings. I think the public of Ontario can be thankful that one more element of democracy in this province was preserved as a result of our actions in making sure that this bill does go out to public hearings around the province.
The Progressive Conservatives supported us on this, so that when you have two oppositions saying that this is not a democratic process that is going on here and that you are ramming through very unfair taxes and very unfair tax increases, then I think it is time to say that the public must be heard before you make this decision. We are hoping that after the hearings perhaps the government might decide to withdraw the extra one per cent increase and impose some more taxes on corporations that have been really getting off scott-free in this province for so many years.
The fact that there are literally thousands, 40,000 or 50,000 corporations in this province that pay no federal or provincial income tax indicates that we have a very weak system of getting their share into the provincial Treasury. And as long as we keep electing governments that are prepared to prolong this kind of tax unfairness, we are going to have governments that are not representative of the wishes of the majority of the people but are representative only of the business groups that can qualify for these tax-free situations. That is getting to the stage where we do not have fairness and we do not have the openness that was promised by this government in the election campaigns of 1985 and 1987.
This is a time to reconsider and to take a very serious look at this proposed national turnover tax -- whatever you want to call it -- before we make any further changes in our regressive taxes. Therefore, I think this is a good reason for voting against this bill at this stage, or asking the government to withdraw it until we see much more clearly where we are going in this country on new tax policies.
Ed Broadbent said he represented the average Canadian. Well, the average Canadian is going to be badly hurt by any turnover tax, and it will affect a lot of people who have very low incomes as well: single parents, the disabled and those on assistance who do not get enough to offset all the extra costs they will be facing under a turnover tax. They will not be assured of any offsetting compensation until it is all worked through the various provincial legislatures as well as the federal parliament.
I think this is not an area where we should be taking a leap in the dark. We should be holding our tax position and working towards greater fairness. That, I would hope, would mean reducing sales tax over time and replacing it by more progressive provincial taxes and less regressive taxes.
On that note, I will suggest that the government consider withdrawing the bill or suggesting a fairer tax system for Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: The member for Beaches-Woodbine has put a lot of emphasis on this increase in the retail sales tax, that this government does not care for poor people or the low-income families of this province. I just wanted to remind her that on page 12 of the budget -- and I think I should read this part of the budget of April 20, the Ontario tax assistance programs; it is only three short paragraphs -- it says:
“Federal tax reform changed several key definitions used in calculating the benefits from Ontario’s tax credit program, tax reduction program and OHIP premium assistance.
“As the Ontario government wishes to maintain and enhance its assistance and to ensure that low-income people can continue to rely on the important protection under these programs, I am proposing to introduce revisions to compensate for the effects of the federal tax reform to enrich benefits. The significant support that these programs will provide to people who most need it will help to improve the fairness of Ontario’s tax system.
“The new property and sales tax credit programs will deliver $444 million in tax credit benefits to over 1.8 million low-income Ontarians to ensure fairer property and sales tax burdens.
“Sales tax credits will be set at $100 per adult and $50 per child, more than doubling the total benefits for low-income households under this program.”
I can go on, Mr. Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired.
Ms. Bryden: I mentioned that the budget lumps together the increase in property tax credits and sales tax credits, and it amounts to only $84 million for the two. It has been estimated that we would need $400 million to bring the property tax credit just up to its original value when it was established many years ago.
Actually, the new property tax credit is increased only from $230 to $250 per family, but fewer will qualify, because the new rate is based on total family income and goes down as the total family, including others living in the household, are counted. So while the maximum credit is increased from $500 to $1,000, the rental amount goes up from $230 to $50. That is right there in the budget.
We still do not know how much the sales tax credit will amount to as a compensation for the new sales tax, but certainly $100 per person and $50 per child is really peanuts compared to what it is going to cost the people who spend practically all of their income on consumable items, whereas the person who has a lot of disposable income after taxes and does not have to spend nearly as much on food, housing and shelter will not pay an equivalent percentage of his income on sales tax. So, in effect, it really is still a very regressive tax. The fact that a richer person spends more money on housing and so on, does not indicate that they are paying their fair share.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. M. C. Ray): The member’s time has expired. The next speaker is the member for Simcoe West.
Mr. McCague: Thank you, Mr. Acting Speaker, and congratulations on your recent appointment.
I have been listening carefully this afternoon both to the New Democratic Party response and to the remarks made by the minister. I had understood earlier that we were considering Bill 122, which is An Act to amend the Retail Sales Tax Act, but I did notice in the comments from my colleague in the NDP and in the response of the minister that really what we are discussing here is the budget, because the chair did not interrupt at any point in time and bring to the attention of the House that it was Bill 122 that we were discussing and he let anything go as far as budget was concerned. I think I can take from that a signal that I can talk about anything I wish over the next three or four hours on the budget.
There was a nod to that.
I must say that I feel a little sympathy for the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Grandmaître), whose bill this really is not. It is a bill that originates from the budget, the statement made by the Treasurer, which the minister is now obliged to defend. I always thought that was an unfair system. If the Treasurer thinks it was worth doing, he should be here to defend his own actions. Of course, seldom did we see any criticism of the Minister of Revenue in the articles in the paper, the editorials and so forth, but rather criticism of the Treasurer and, in particular, of the government as a whole.
The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Faubert) seems to agree with that. However, the two of them, as much as they are rather an odd couple, will, I am sure, defend Bill 122, even though we and the NDP would like to see him withdraw the one per-cent increase in the retail sales tax, which, incidentally, is little understood by most people to be about a 15 per cent increase in the amount of retail sales tax levied.
With those few opening remarks, I would like to have a chat with the Minister of Revenue and his assistant this afternoon and whenever next.
Everybody is saying that the retail sales tax is regressive. It is applied regardless of one’s ability to pay. Thus, it has a much larger impact on the poor and the low-income persons than it does on the well-to-do.
In 1982, in response to a budget by our party which expanded the retail sales tax but which did not increase the tax rate, the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) described the measure as regressive and inflationary and said that it would signal “a change in the philosophy of taxation. We saw a move away from the progressive system which we, as Liberals, believe in passionately, taxation that is based on the ability to pay, and we saw a major move towards flat consumption and regressive taxes.”
Mr. Mackenzie: It is called say one thing and mean another.
Mr. McCague: The member is certainly right on.
The Liberals’ own record shows that they left their passionate belief in progressive taxation behind them on the opposition benches. The families most likely to be hardest hit by this budget, and particularly by the sales tax increase, are likely to be those who make just over $25,000 a year, the income cutoff for taxation credits, and up to $60,000 a year, the income level above which the impact of sales tax decreases. Thus, those on a low income and the middle class are going to bear the brunt of this tax increase.
Sales taxes, as the minister well knows, are inflationary. The increase will probably increase the province’s inflation rate by one half of a percentage point. Even the analysis of the Treasurer shows the Ontario consumer price index increasing from 4.3 per cent to 4.7 per cent as a consequence of the budget measures. The Liberals have done nothing to help control inflation or to reduce inflationary expectations. On the expenditures side, they have increased their spending at a rate double the average rate of inflation. Their tax policies have put upward pressure on the inflation rate. The Liberal government has a policy of inflation by example.
The sales tax increases were unnecessary, I would suggest to the minister, If, just if, he had decided that he was going to raise the sales tax by one per cent and dedicate that as an increase in the activity in the health sector, he might have gotten away with it. But there is nothing that has yet been shown to us in the opposition parties to indicate that the one per cent increase in retail sales tax was necessary.
Even if the Liberals had not increased one single solitary tax in the 1988-89 budget, government revenues would have increased by 8.2 per cent, or by $2.8 billion, over last year’s inflows -- $2.8 billion more for him to toy with over there. In other words, economic growth alone would have given the government nearly $3 billion more to spend this year than it had last year. But that was not enough for the Liberals, who have adopted a tax, tax, spend, spend approach to fiscal management. This year the Ontario government tax revenues will be 72 per cent greater than they were in 1984-85. The retail sales tax collection will be up more than 75 per cent over the same period.
The Treasurer should follow the advice that the Premier gave the Progressive Conservative Treasurer during the 1982 budget debate. At that point, he said: “He has lots of options. If he had not given money away, he would not have had to raise money. You always have to look at your expenditure side if you are going to look at your revenue side. He did not have to go to a regressive, flat consumption sales tax in order to raise that revenue.” It is amazing how those words come home to haunt one.
If a person wanted to read through a massive number of Hansards and quote back to the Treasurer the things he said about the budgets that he had to criticize, it would be amazing. The Treasurer has often come to me and said: “Please, George, do not read that stuff back to me. I just hate it.” I know why he hates it, because he completely changed his mind over a period of six weeks.
The government maintains that it is committed to an affordable housing policy -- indeed, that affordable housing is one of its top priorities. However, it has pursued tax policies that have directly contributed to increased housing prices. In his first budget, the current Treasurer increased the land transfer tax. That tax now equals almost one per cent of the value of the real estate conveyed. According to a former president of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, this government made an extra $200 million this year alone from the increased land transfer tax.
It has been estimated that the measures proposed in Bill 122 will increase the cost of building a house by between $1,500 and $2,000. The minister grabbed $200 million more in land transfer tax. Now he is trying to grab about another $75 million, I estimate, in this tax as it applies to the increased value of houses.
It has been estimated that the application of the sales tax to ready mix and asphalt mix will increase the cost of the average $200,000 house by $900. Thus, the government’s tax policies have contributed directly to increasing the cost of home ownership and have allowed the government to profiteer in a hot housing market to the point where it has been suggested that the government should think of imposing a speculation tax on itself, a speculation tax not, as is being advocated by some people here in the House, on others but on itself.
The Liberal concept of fiscal responsibility seems to depend entirely on the number of seats they have in the House. In 1987, when the Liberals were in a minority position, the Treasurer tabled a pre-election budget in which fiscal responsibility meant -- and listen to this -- no new taxes or tax increases. In 1988, with the red tie party comfortably in control of the House, fiscal responsibility means the biggest tax grab in Ontario’s history. Again, the Premier’s own words best describe the switch. In 1982, he said of the budgetary policies of the former government:
“There is no integrity of fiscal policy or fiscal philosophy. The only integrity demonstrated is an integrity to get themselves elected. They distort in the billions of dollars and are prepared to use unlimited taxpayers’ funds to subvert them to public purposes. That is why people in opposition, those of us who see their shenanigans daily, get a little bit cynical.”
End of the present Premier’s quote. Shame. The sales tax increase and other tax increases in the budget are nothing less than a bushwhack attack on the Ontario taxpayer. Last fall the Liberals managed to get through the entire election campaign without once mentioning even a possibility of a tax increase, let alone the possibility that a majority Liberal government would cost an additional $1.3 billion a year in new taxes. I am not sure what you call that. There are names for it.
Mr. Mackenzie: And we do not even see any shame over this direct reversal.
Mr. McCague: The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere keeps his head down and the Minister of Revenue is going to tell me he did not write the budget. However, we will have a chat with him in any event.
The increase in the retail sales tax, along with the increase in the personal income tax rate, will reduce the benefits of federal tax reform to the Ontario taxpayer. Apparently the Liberal government could not bear the thought that the taxpayer could end up with a few more dollars in his pocket instead of in the provincial coffers. This is particularly galling, since over the next five years Ontario Treasury savings from federal tax reform will add up to more than $500 million, primarily due to increases in the corporate tax.
The Treasurer -- and I am sure the minister will convey this -- should be reminded that when leader of the official opposition, he seconded a motion condemning the 1973 budget for a number of reasons, among them being primarily “the imposition of tax increases of any kind which counteract the initiatives taken by the federal government to spur the economy through the reduction of taxes.”
I am not exactly sure, but I think in 1973 they probably had a different kind of government in Ottawa, a different kind of government here and the Treasurer felt quite comfortable in making a statement like the one I just quoted, and this is it again, condemning “the imposition of tax increases of any kind which counteract the initiatives taken by the federal government to spur the economy through the reduction of taxes.”
Now, is that not terrible? What a change of mind. The Liberals are so desperate for cash that the bill will impose a tax on a tax and, in so doing, will add $20 million a year to the phone bills of Ontario consumers. We had witnesses before us at the standing committee on finance and economic affairs last week who estimate that when the tax on a phone bill is totalled up, if your bill is $100, you are paying around $25 in tax. That is a lot of money.
Before the budget, phone charges were subject to the federal sales tax and the provincial sales tax. However, the Ontario government has now applied its tax not only to the amounts charged by Bell Canada but also to the federal tax on those amounts. This is a most unfair tax, since it treats a sales tax by one level of government as consumption, even though consumers derive no direct benefit from it and have no choice with regard to incurring the tax expense.
It should also be noted that, while other federal sales and excise taxes are included in the retail price on which provinces apply their sales taxes, they are imposed at the manufacturers’ or wholesale level. The Liberals have taken Bell Canada at its word and reached out and touched someone -- in this case, the consumers. They have touched them for an additional $20 million a year.
The Treasurer’s contribution to the federal election campaign consisted of ruminations on the amount of additional revenue that might be raised by the federal government if a national sales tax were instituted. The Treasurer justified his intervention by saying, “It seems to me that taxpayers ought to be aware at least of some of the aspects that may very well be enacted before we have a chance to pass judgement again as electors.”
While this is a noble sentiment, it begs the question of why the Treasurer did not feel compelled to be as forthcoming with Ontario electors during the last provincial election campaign, when he had every opportunity to tell them that a Liberal government would cost them $1.3 billion in new taxes.
Also, the Treasurer has never ruled out participating in the national sales tax program and has in fact outlined the conditions which would have to be met for Ontario to consider participating in such a program.
In February 1987, the Treasurer was speculating that the federal tax proposals could enable the province to reduce its sales tax rate, which was then seven per cent. It would be interesting to learn if the Treasurer still thinks that is a possibility. If he does, we could probably do it during consideration of this bill.
This bill will increase the cost to major transfer-of-payment recipients and especially to municipalities. I think the minister has heard this before, but as a result of this bill, the city of London will pay an additional $607,000 a year in provincial taxes; Windsor, for instance, $744,000; Durham region $250,000; Sudbury region $135,000, and Waterloo region $355,000.
The Treasurer should know that he has increased the provincial tax bill for Ontario municipalities by anywhere from $100,000 to $480,000 in this fiscal year and that the annualized cost of additional taxes on a municipality can run as high as $607,000, as I mentioned.
I believe that raising the retail sales tax from seven to eight per cent will raise an additional $820 million in this fiscal year and close to $1 billion in a full year. This increase will cost a married couple with two children, earning $35,000 a year, an additional $112. It is odd that with the buoyant economy and with the seven per cent tax that has been in effect since 1973 the Treasurer would find it necessary to make the increase when everything is going so well with the economy.
I am sure that during the consideration of the budget earlier on and with the introduction of these bills and the tabling of the budget, all members of this House received many letters from constituents expressing their opinion about the increase from seven to eight per cent. For the information of the minister and his assistant, I would like to read one or two of these complimentary letters into the record. This is to the Treasurer:
“Your budget is one more example of a government that is out of touch with the people. It is hard enough to make ends meet now without raising the tax to eight per cent and increasing taxes on gasoline. These steps only take money away from the low- and middle-income families without having a substantial effect on high-income earners and corporations.
“I am sure that you will be getting more letters such as this one due to your unfair budget.”
A letter which the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt) received from a Mr. Vangeloff in St. Catharines reads:
“Dear Mr. Brandt,
“Here is a sensational headline to be repeated in all newspapers except the Toronto Daily Red Star.
“1. The budget must have been drawn up by a drunken sailor who had just got his pay, spent it all and now is trying to get an advance.
“2. One per cent more on sales tax. Does he realize how much of one’s disposable income diminishes over a year? We all have budgets to which we must adhere like the pygmy peacock Premier, his Merlin Treasurer and 94 turkeys pull in their ministers’ belts.
“3. Another cent a litre on gasoline. Does the Grit administration realize how much that will add to operating costs of transportation for all of us as well as add to the cost of transporting goods to the consumers?
“4. The SkyDome. Let Mr. Peterson and his cabinet consider cutting the spending of taxpayers’ money on this costly venture. Let private enterprise finish the job. It has been reported as being six weeks behind and now the unions are striking. May I suggest that they stay out on strike and let the SkyDome stand until they come back begging for work. As a taxpayer” --
Mr. Pouliot: Oh, come on.
Mr. McCague: I am reading a letter.
“As a taxpayer I am tired of subsidizing certain people. If they feel so much for the workers, let them stop picking their paycheques.
“The provincial government has set up a bad example by igniting the inflation spiral by taking money out of the individual taxpayers and private industry. The buoyant economy of Ontario will suddenly skid to a trickle as the consumer closes his or her purse as his or her budget is thrown out. The final result before the year is out will be private business cutting expenses by laying off part-time and even full-time workers.
“Then there is the income tax increase -- one per cent a year until it is 52 per cent of the Dominion income tax. Now, as the church lady would say, ‘Isn’t that special.’”
“The Premier and his Grits better open the gates of fortress Ontario to free trade. That is the only way they may increase revenue.”
No problem understanding what that fellow has to say at least.
Mr. Faubert: Not that we agree with it.
Mr. McCague: I was quoting, I say to the parliamentary assistant.
Mr. South: Was it on blue paper?
Mr. McCague: It is white. Please remind the member not to interject, Mr. Speaker.
The single largest beneficiary of the six-year economic boom that we have enjoyed in this province has been the Ontario Liberal government. Strong economic growth and hefty tax increases have bloated government coffers, and the Liberals’ love of spending the taxpayers’ money seems surpassed only by their desire to tax it.
Two of the four budgets tabled by the Liberal government, the 1985-86 budget and the 1988-89 budget, have included substantial increases, and the Liberal government clearly shows that it is an ardent supporter of capital punishment: If you have any capital, they will punish you for it.
The 1988-89 budget proposes the single largest tax grab in Ontario history, a fact not changed by the Treasurer’s frenzied efforts to minimize the size of the tax grab by using statistical gymnastics to inflate the magnitude of tax increases contained in some previous Progressive Conservative budgets.
In his eagerness to convince the taxpayer that the 1988-89 revenue ripoff is not nearly as bad or as big as everyone else seems to think it is, the Treasurer has forgotten one essential fact. Unlike the current Treasurer, no previous Treasurer in this decade enjoyed the luxury of bringing down a budget after six successive years of economic expansion. In point of fact, previous Treasurers had to deal with the impact of the longest and most severe international recession since the Depression of the 1930s.
Far from having to deal with the problems of growth -- a sweet headache, as the Premier has referred to them -- PC governments had to cope with the real pain of economic contraction, high unemployment and interest rates and the impact of these on the province’s revenues and costs of social and employment support services.
Nor does the Treasurer make any mention of the fact that the last PC budget of 1984-85, which was the only one introduced when the recovery was well entrenched, did not increase a single one of the province’s major taxes.
By comparison, a Treasurer who has never known anything except boom times has imposed two rounds of major tax increases in the province. The Liberal record during an economic boom begs the question of how they will manage if the economy turns down. The Premier and his colleagues in the Liberal Party managed to get through the entire 1987-88 election campaign without mentioning what they were going to do, as I repeat.
While the 1988-89 budget hits just about everyone, the long-suffering middle class bears the brunt of the Liberal tax looting. As a consequence of the budget, a taxpayer earning $40,000 will be hit with taxes in the neighbourhood of $150.
One of the taxes, while it does have an environmental plus, is the equalizing of the leaded and unleaded taxes. For example, in the main, you have lower-income people driving cars which probably use leaded gas and you have people in the higher-income brackets driving cars which use unleaded gas, so the penalty really hit at the lower-income people in that particular case.
A two-income family of four which owns its own home with one spouse earning $35,000 and the other $18,000 will pay an additional $59 this year in provincial income tax and an additional $153 in retail sales tax. Their only salvation lies in the fact that the federal tax reform will reduce their provincial income tax bill by $182, giving them a net increase of $30.
Even the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Revenue, the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere, must feel ashamed to have the federal government give people something on one hand and have his Treasurer and his Minister of Revenue take all of it, plus $30, away.
Again, the additional tax bill will be higher if the couple smokes, drinks, drives or makes any big-ticket purchases. For example, if they were to buy a car for $14,000, the Treasurer and company would nail them for an additional $140. Smokers, drinkers and drivers were hard hit. A driver who uses leaded fuel in his car will have to fork over an additional four cents a litre in tax, three cents more than his friend in the car next to him, which uses unleaded fuel, who will have to pay only an additional cent a litre in tax. As a result of the budget, a 45-litre fill-up with leaded fuel will cost an extra $1.80 and the same fill-up with unleaded will cost an additional 45 cents.
As he sits in traffic, fuming over the fact that the budget will cost him an additional $96 a year in gasoline taxes, our taxpayer can light up a smoke, which will now cost him an extra quarter for a pack of 25. It is enough to drive a person to drink. But drinking is no way to escape from this budget, as it will cost an additional 50 cents in taxes to buy a case of 24 beer and another 10 cents in taxes to buy a standard bottle of liquor or wine. This poor fellow can just kiss goodbye any savings he hoped to realize as a result of federal tax reform. His money will simply end up in the provincial pocket by a different route.
Couples looking to buy a new home will no doubt be thrilled to learn that the cost of a new home in Metropolitan Toronto can be expected to increase by up to $2,000 as a result of the budget. If they do buy a home and have to furnish it, they can look forward to paying an additional $150 in sales tax on $15,000 of spending on furniture, appliances and fixtures. All of this is in addition to having to pay the increased land transfer tax, which the Liberals hiked in their 1985-86 budget, a measure that added $355 in additional land transfer taxes to the cost of an average home in Metro.
As can be seen from the above, life in David Peterson’s Ontario is a very taxing matter. Taxpayers horrified by the budget may have forgotten that this is the second time the Premier has hit them where it hurts. In its first budget, of 1985-86, the Liberal government hit the taxpayer with 13 tax increases and other measures designed to enrich its coffers, which included a four per cent increase in the personal income tax rate. From 1985-86 to the end of the fiscal year 1988-89, the 1985-86 budget measures will have raised an estimated $2.5 billion in revenue for the government, including $892 million this year.
Those items I have mentioned are quite often forgotten by the average taxpayer who walks up to the till, asks how much a certain item is or brings up how much a certain item is and pays the bill. But until the taxes are brought to his attention, he sometimes does not complain about it.
I know in our discussions in the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, it has been mentioned that the 12 per cent federal tax on some items is a hidden tax, and the then seven per cent and now eight per cent tax is a more visible tax. While that is true, I think a lot of people pay the bill without really understanding or stopping to think about what the impact of it is. That does not mean that the government, while it may have the right, should be allowed to increase those taxes at will.
It was interesting during the discussions we had in committee that some people suggested the federal government should not institute a value added tax or a national sales tax without a referendum in the country. It did not seem to bother the provincial Liberal government to increase our retail sales tax from seven to eight per cent, which as I have said is a 15 per cent increase.
I could read to the minister all the nice things that were said about the Treasurer’s budget by various people in the newspapers, editorial writers and special column writers. They are very revealing. They are just as appropriate today as they were back in April. One that is kind of amusing, which the minister may have memorized by now, is from the Toronto Sun, written by Lorrie Goldstein, who used to be here.
He refers to the Treasurer -- I presume that is who he is referring to -- as: “ a parsimonious old farmer, my foot. Treasurer Bob Nixon yesterday plowed taxpayers into the ground and then stuck it to them with a gilt-edged pitchfork. But this budget also employs the oldest political trick in the book. It sticks it to the taxpayer in the first year of a majority government in the belief that the public has a short memory. A year ago, when the Liberals had only 51 seats in a minority government, Nixon said in his pre-election budget that fiscal responsibility meant no new taxes. Yesterday, with the economy still strong and the social needs precisely the same, Nixon argued that fiscal responsibility demanded the biggest tax grab in history.”
I would not expect the minister to entirely subscribe to that, but it is an interesting quote to read, especially when you are in opposition. The Treasurer would completely understand that. As I said earlier, the Treasurer’s quotes were very interesting when he was on this side and he had somebody else’s budget to criticize.
If the Minister of Revenue does not feel like withdrawing this one per cent increase, this increase from seven to eight per cent, it will not be too long before we will be over there and he will be reading back some of the things I said about the fine folk over there today. I guess that is politics. I do not know why we are trying to persuade the Treasurer that the tax should stay at seven per cent, because the way he is going it just makes the time much shorter before we will be back over there. I guess we are more interested in the taxpayers than getting back over there to try to clean up all the mess this government has made.
Here is another item, this one from the Globe and Mail. The other one was from the Toronto Sun. The Globe and Mail has always been a very fair paper and has said it the way it saw it. Here is one by Peter Cook in the Globe and Mail of April 21, 1988.
“Here is what Ontario Treasurer Robert Nixon’s $38-billion tax-and-spend budget is bad for:
“1. It is bad for ordinary Canadians.
“2. It is bad for the cause of responsible government. There is an extraordinary quotient of either artifice or arrogance in this government’s approach to fiscal management.
“3. It is bad for a stable, growing and competitive economy. Ontario will pay for this budget and not just through higher taxes.”
That sort of underlines the point I was trying to make.
Mr. Furlong: Which expert of the paper?
Mr. McCague: This is Peter Cook from the Globe and Mail. I do not know the gentleman, but he is certainly right on.
Then we have an interesting one written by a chap named Garth Turner of the Toronto Sun.
Mr. Furlong: Oh, yes, let’s talk about him.
Mr. McCague: Out in Halton they have heard of him.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. McCague: He said on April 21, 1988: “It was open season on the middle class yesterday and Bob Nixon turned out armed to the teeth. Never before has an Ontario government sucked this much money, $1.3 billion, in a single year out of the provincial economy. Because we are being bought off with our money, Nixon outrageously plans to spend an additional 8.6 per cent this year, which is more than double the inflation rate. Add it all up and Nixon has buried his knife to the hilt. Welcome to the real Peterson years, folks.”
Mr. Faubert: Garth doesn’t like any taxes. Remind him next year.
Mr. McCague: Mr. Speaker, there are interjections about what Mr. Turner likes and does not like. I do not know him that well to be able to agree or disagree with the member. All I do know is that in the most recent federal election there were a lot of people who liked him and I just want to add my congratulations to all those that I am sure he has received. I am sure the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere has already sent him a letter of congratulations.
As I said during my remarks, I believe that had the Treasurer decided, as he is now trying to figure out, that health care needed more money, as is the case in his consideration of Bill 119, where he is deciding how he wants to divvy up the lottery funds, had he decided that it was necessary to increase the sales tax from seven per cent to eight per cent and that money was going to be dedicated to health care in the province, over and above what is normally spent on health care, people would not have objected to the extent that they have. However, there is no dedication of these funds, it is obvious.
We hear from the Treasurer that he put $850 million over five years into hospital construction. I have asked him many times if that is $850 million more than would have gone into health construction if he flat-lined what was going into it in 1984-85. It is becoming increasingly apparent that my suspicion was right. What he did was multiply what was going into the health construction area in 1984-85 when he took over and said that over five years we were going to spend $850 million. That is a trick, and he may not be the first Treasurer to have ever used that.
Mr. South: He had good teachers.
Mr. McCague: I am not sure about that, but by the same token, when he has been faced with the question, “Is this $850 million you are talking about adding up what you intended to put in over five years or is it $850 million plus $850 million?” those members who listened will know that the Treasurer has refused consistently to answer that question. So my suspicion is that we are right and that all he simply did was flat-line it.
What I am saying to the Minister of Revenue is, had he decided to put this 15 per cent increase in retail sales tax into increases in the health care system and were it not of a customary nature, then I think the public would have bought it. It is just what many people say in editorials, in letters and in comments; it is a grab. We do not see anything coming from that; oh, we do see the odd thing. Ministers’ staffs have almost doubled since the government took over.
Mr. Faubert: Is that numbers or size?
Mr. McCague: We have 8,000 or 9,000 more civil servants. I took a lot of pride, in almost seven years when I was Chairman of Management Board, in a job that I was given by the government of the day: that was to cut the civil service by a percentage that reflected the constraints which we were under in those times.
Mr. Faubert: Who did you fire?
Mr. McCague: We did not fire. Attrition takes care of a lot of that.
Mr. Faubert: That doesn’t take care of anything.
Mr. McCague: Oh, yes, it does.
Mr. Faubert: You weren’t supplying much-needed services.
Mr. McCague: We were doing a lot more. The honourable member says that if you do it by attrition, that is not doing anything. I would like to know what the hell it is he is doing when he is going up 7,000 or 8,000. If I was doing nothing, what he is doing is nonsense.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. McCague: As I was saying, I took great pride in getting those numbers down by about 8,000 over a period of six to seven years.
The Acting Speaker: Could the honourable member please address his remarks through the chair, and not in a manner which invites interjection on the other side, and could the government side terminate the interjections?
Mr. McCague: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am glad to see you are going to be a very stern Speaker. I do not mind at all being called to order, which you have done, as long as the people on the other side are asked to do the same.
Mr. Epp: George, you even phased out your own job.
Mr. McCague: Which?
Mr. Epp: You even phased out your own position.
The Acting Speaker: Through the chair, please.
Mr. McCague: However, as I was saying, it is not apparent to the taxpayer or to us on the opposition benches that in fact the government needed this money, this one per cent increase -- from seven to eight, I want to keep saying -- in sales tax, because we are not seeing any results for it. I was explaining, Mr. Speaker, when you felt obliged to bring me to order, that it was going to some things that we on this side of the House are not very happy about: the increase of almost 10 per cent in the number of civil servants, the increase of 30, 40, 50 per cent in the minister’s personal staff. We cannot find out what the real facts are as to how many those are. These are the kinds of things the money is being spent on and we object strenuously.
I would not say for a moment that the government is dishonest, or whatever, about where this money is being spent. What I would say, though, is that it is very difficult for opposition parties to find out what they are doing about it. We ask questions in the House; vague answers. We put questions on Orders and Notices; in most cases, no answers. You will have heard of the difficulty, Mr. Speaker, mentioned by my colleague the member for Simcoe East (Mr. McLean) just a few days ago about questions that have been on the Orders and Notices paper for over a year. We would like to get the information and hopefully will, either in the Treasurer’s estimates or in the estimates of the Chairman of Management Board.
It will be no secret to you, Mr. Speaker, that we will be obliged to oppose this bill on the basis that it is a 15 per cent increase in money raised. Why the increase was necessary has not been adequately explained. Certainly if it had been designated, as I said, to health care, I think the public would have bought it. But if the Minister of Revenue wants to assist in the demise of the Liberal Party as the government, maybe we should not be so hard on him.
The Acting Speaker: Are there any questions or comments arising out of the statements of the member for Simcoe West (Mr. McCague)?
Mr. Cousens: In listening to the member for Simcoe West, I think the House has finally had an insight into some of the problems that have been created by the government with its tax grab. I think it is one of the most responsible statements I have heard in an awfully long time from this former Chairman of Management Board who, from his extensive experience not only at the provincial level but also at the municipal level, is able to share some of these insights with us.
I think it is significant that what he is saying are key points that have not been heard in this House for some time, primarily because the government has been so late in bringing this legislation forward. I would just like to know -- this is a question to the previous speaker, the member for Simcoe West -- if he could comment on the timing of the implementation of this tax on the public, and number two, on the fact that they just could not wait to get their hands on our money and, therefore, almost the first thing they did when they got their majority was to levy a tax that would bring in $1 billion for the government and hope that in four years people would forget it.
The one thing is the timing of the announcement of this increase in taxes. The honourable member’s experience again, I think, exceeds that of any member who is currently in the House right now, unless the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms. Bryden) has been here longer, but I am not just sure. But could the member for Simcoe West comment on having to debate this bill some six or eight months after it was brought in?
I do not think it is totally fair, ethical or right that the government would wait this long, having already gone ahead and made the people of Ontario pay the bill and now, so much later in time, having a chance to debate it. I think there is something rather wrong that this should have happened. I would appreciate it very much if the member for Simcoe West could give some comment on these remarks.
The Acting Speaker: Before that, are there any comments or questions arising out of the speech by the member for Simcoe West? Does the member for Simcoe West wish to respond?
Mr. McCague: It is interesting that only my colleague would wish to comment. The members opposite are always very quick to say things. I could pick out particular ones over there. I see some who are not in their own seats. That is maybe why they cannot speak.
However, as to what my colleague asked me to answer, I think I should follow the traditions of this House and of the government of the day and not answer any questions that are asked of me. That is the way they operate on the other side of the House. I would not want my colleague to think that if he wants something answered, he could ask me. But he is right. I am not answering his question. I am just saying he is right. It has been a pleasure to have had an opportunity to answer a few interjections and comment on Bill 122.
The Acting Speaker: Are there any other members who wish to participate in the debate?
Mr. Laughren: It would be impossible to let an increase in the sales tax go by without commenting on it. When I was thinking about the ramifications of this bill and what must be going through the Treasurer’s mind, I went back and looked at the statement that the Treasurer made just about a week ago when he was talking about federal tax reform. The Treasurer said:
“My intention is to continue to study the federal changes and to listen to the advice of interested individuals and groups about the appropriateness of the reforms. Ontario’s response to these changes will be guided by the need to maintain the ability of the tax system to deliver adequate revenues in a fair, competitive and simple fashion.”
I thought that I would address my remarks on the sales tax bill based on those three criteria, namely, fair, competitive and simple. I do not think the Treasurer meant simple-minded. I think he meant simple to administer, and I regret very much that the Treasurer and the Minister of Revenue did not keep those three criteria in mind when they were applying their own new levels of taxes.
I think that there is general agreement among people who look at taxes in a fairly conceptual way that sales taxes are regressive taxes, and it does not really make sense for the Minister of Revenue or the Treasurer to say, “Well, that’s why we have sales tax credits.” It is the shallowest of all possible arguments to say that sales tax credits are there to remove the regressivity from sales tax. Not everyone gets the sales tax credits to start with, so it is regressive for everyone who does not get them.
The Toronto Star, certainly a publication not unknown to Liberals in this province, had this to say, “A sales tax is aimed at consumption. Consumption means just about everything you spend your money on, everything except savings. Guess who saves a lot? Right. Not the poor. Why would we want a tax which provides an incentive for the rich to save more?” Surely to goodness the Minister of Revenue understands that the poor are the ones who spend all their money and, therefore, everything they spend is taxed. The rich do not spend all their money, so all their earnings are not taxed.
For example, the average family spends about 38 per cent of its income on basic food, shelter and clothing. The rich spend a lower proportion. But families whose incomes are less than half of the average income, those below the poverty line, in other words, spend at least 58 per cent of their income on these same basics, and often much more. Imposing taxes on these basics would hit low-income people harder than others and, in effect, would increase the level of real poverty in the country.
It should be clear to a government that used to be reform-minded, when it had to be, of course, that it is not possible to have a progressive sales tax. For this government to be increasingly dependent on it simply does not make sense.
If I could quote from someone else --
Mr. Faubert: Unsigned.
Mr. Laughren: No, this is from Havi Echenberg, who is executive director of the National Anti-Poverty Organization, an organization that members opposite might feel uncomfortable hearing from. Nevertheless, they have a legitimate voice and they should be heard. She said: “Since the poor have no option but to spend all of their income, the regressivity of the sales tax is doubled. The poor have to spend everything. Let’s have the people who can afford to pay pay.”
Once again we have people who understand the spending habits of people in our society concluding that sales tax is the most regressive, and the sales tax credits are simply a ruse to fool people into thinking that we do have a sales tax, but is not as regressive as it would be if we did not have these sales tax credits.
First of all, I think that all members would agree that if you just had a straight sales tax, it would be very regressive if you did not have the sales tax credits. Therefore, they argue the sales tax credit makes it a little more acceptable. Well, not in our books, it does not. It is still a regressive tax and is not necessary in a society as rich as the one we have here in Ontario.
The Treasurer knows that. He has been around long enough to understand that. When he was asked by a reporter from the Toronto Star if he thought that the proposed federal sales tax increases would hit lower- and middle-income earners the hardest, the Treasurer said, “You might make your own conclusions.”
Why would the Treasurer, when he is talking about the federal sales tax not say: “Yes, that is exactly what it is going to do. It is going to hit the middle-income earner the hardest.” I can tell the House why he would not say that, because he is in the middle of proposing his own sales tax increase. If anybody has ever been an accomplice to the national sales tax program, it is the Treasurer of this province.
First, he put this one per cent increase on everything, so that when a federal sales tax does come in, he attaches himself to it and gets a higher percentage than he would have a year ago. Talk about talking out of both sides of your mouth. That is exactly what this Treasurer is doing and, by association, the Minister of Revenue is just as guilty. What he has really done is take the easy way out in increasing his revenues.
As a matter of fact, it was strange when they asked Don Blenkarn about the tax increases. He said “This sort of change” -- talking about a new national sales tax – “can only be undertaken by a government with a majority since it will have to ride roughshod over an enraged populace when the details of the scheme are understood.”
If that is what this majority wants to associate itself with -- that kind of majority with that kind of attitude towards raising taxes -- I suppose that is its right to do so, but it is a long way from the reforming Liberal Party that people thought they were electing in 1987, because that truly is a regressive way of raising revenues.
This party has always said that governments need revenues in order to deliver the programs. We are up here every day demanding that there be proper funding for various programs and we understand that, but we have never backed away from where the new revenues should come from.
We have often given examples. Every budget, we lay out before the Treasurer where we think the new revenues should be raised in order to deliver the programs that we all demand. It is not a case of pretending that we want programs and we do not want to have to pay for them. We understand that, but there are fairer ways of raising revenues in this province and this government simply does not seem to understand that. They continue to raise the most regressive taxes.
As a matter of fact, it was one of the oddities of the recent federal election that we went through the entire election and dwelt very little on the federal government’s new tax reform proposals. I regret that. The whole election became polarized around the free trade question, which is important and I am not minimizing that, but does seem sad that this government was elected with a majority without ever having to detail its tax reform proposals to the electorate.
I think that the electorate will regret that. I do not think that the government will regret it. They will simply say that they had already detailed what their tax reform proposals were and that therefore they now have a mandate to proceed with them. I suppose technically they do, but I still regret very much what the federal government is doing with these new sales tax proposals.
We had examples of the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister contradicting the chairman of the finance committee, Mr. Blenkarn, on how much new revenue would be raised by the new federal sales tax proposals. I do not mind telling the House whom I believed in that whole debate. It certainly was not Mr. Wilson or Mr Mulroney.
Mr. Cousens: A lot of other people did, though.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, they did believe then but perhaps you were not listening to what I said.
Mr. Cousens: You saw that on Monday night.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Laughren: I do not trust Mr Mulroney to do anything but impose ever more regressive taxes on ordinary Canadians. I will tell you it will be the middle-income earners and the low-income earners that take the brunt of the Tory tax proposals at the federal level. Mark my words.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Nickel Belt will address his remarks through the Speaker.
Mr. Cousens: He’s all mixed up, isn’t he?
Mr. Laughren: I understand the member for Markham (Mr. Cousens) does not give a sweet hoot about low- and middle-income earners.
Mr. Cousens: No, that is wrong and you know it.
Mr. Laughren: It is not wrong --
Mr. Cousens: That’s just a slanderous slur. Come on. That’s not right at all.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Laughren: -- or he would not even be in the caucus he is in and he would not be supporting his federal party.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The member for Nickel Belt has the floor and he will address his remarks through the Speaker.
Mr. Laughren: I will try, Mr. Speaker. The Treasurer of Ontario says very strange things when he talks about the sales tax. He says: “We think sales tax is a fair tax, it’s up front, it’s democratic and people know where it comes from. Believe me, people know where it comes from,” said the Treasurer, who had been criticized for raising Ontario sales tax one point to eight per cent.
Because it is visible and because people know who has done it to them, what has that got to do with fairness? It is totally irrelevant. Yet there he is pretending that because he said that, that somehow makes it fair because it is up front. It has nothing to do with fairness; absolutely nothing at all. The Treasurer is simply playing with words.
We all understand that this government has made some commitments to increasing certain services in the province and that it is still having difficulty funding a lot of them and needs revenues. That is not the issue. The issue is where it is going to get the new moneys.
The standing committee on finance and economic affairs had this to say in recommendation 22: “Separate hearings should be held on tax reform in order to undertake a comprehensive study of the tax system, including the issue of developing a more progressive tax base.”
What is happening with that? Why would the government proceed with this increase in the sales tax while ignoring that recommendation? If the government had those separate hearings in order to investigate the possibility of a broader, more progressive tax base, and that committee concluded that this was the way to go, then the government would have an argument on its side.
But when the government has not done that, when it simply goes ahead and imposes the eight per cent, it makes a mockery of the standing committee’s recommendations. I just do not know how long this government expects to have committees grind out the work day after day, even when the House is not in session, and then have the government ignore their recommendations.
The committee said: “Doubts were also expressed that in doing so, the province would be supporting a tax system that was less progressive than it would wish” -- in other words, in supporting the federal scheme. “In this case, a progressive system based on ability to pay was deemed to be of more importance than simplification and efficiency.”
I hope the Minister of Revenue heard that: “A progressive system based on ability to pay was deemed to be of more importance than simplification and efficiency.” I have a very strong suspicion that when the time came to look for new revenues they thought, “What is simple and what is efficient?” in terms of collecting the revenues; not what is fair, or we would not be staring this sales tax increase in the face. For those reasons the government proceeded: not because it was the right thing to do but because it was the easy thing to do.
Mr. Cousens: Well, they had the power.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, they had the power to do it, just like the federal government is going to have the power to impose its national sales tax.
I said earlier that the Treasurer had talked about how the sales tax was so visible and that made it fair somehow. I still do not know how he came to that conclusion. I am trying to think of the link between being visible and being fair. At some point the Treasurer, I hope, will explain what he meant by that.
When he was being pursued about the national sales tax, he said: “It is hard for me to find anybody now who does not approve of raising money for this purpose as long as it is allocated to the programs of the province in a fair and judicious way.” What the Treasurer is saying is that nobody really objects to an increase in the sales tax as long as the moneys that are raised are spent in a fair and judicious way. I do not think the Treasurer has been listening to anybody except his friends in his own caucus, and perhaps the Tories, because there are all sorts of --
Mr. Cousens: Don’t keep saying that.
Mr. Laughren: The Tories have never objected to sales tax, ever. It is in complete keeping with their philosophy --
An hon. member: What did Frank Miller do a few years ago?
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: Leslie Frost started it in 1961.
Mr. Epp: Three per cent and they called it the Frost-bite.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I think the one Tory left in the House is creating a tremendous disruption; maybe he should be asked to leave.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. One member at a time.
Mr. Laughren: I do recall that when Frank Miller expanded the tax base and brought in a lot of additional items to be taxed, nobody was more incensed than the Liberals.
As a matter of fact, in May of that year, the Liberals rang the bells for three days in protest against the first reading of the sales tax bill which increased the base. It did not increase revenues by almost $1 billion, which this bill is going to do. I do not see any Liberals walking out now. But in those days, they pretended it was a highly principled position. I have some quotes here from the opposition critic of the day who happens to be the Treasurer of this day.
In those days, it was a highly principled position to take, but now in government, of course it is different.
Mr. South: Times change.
Mr. Laughren: Principles go down the tube is what happens, I say to the member for Frontenac-Addington (Mr. South). That is exactly what happened in this case, because one year the Liberals are screaming that sales taxes are unfair, and the next year they are increasing them by one percentage point as well.
We do not like the way the sales taxes are being imposed. Before I get on to that, I wanted to quote the Treasurer. As a matter of fact, I will not even quote the Treasurer; I will quote the Premier.
Hon. Mr. Curling: You fellows are so right that nobody voted for you.
Mr. Laughren: They will.
Mr. Faubert: They did not last week.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Laughren: if I could quote from the present Premier, who was then not the Premier but leader of his party. He said in 1982: “What we saw in that budget was a change in the philosophy of taxation. We saw a move away from the progressive system which we, as Liberals, believe in passionately, taxation that is based on the ability to pay, and saw a major move toward flat consumption and regressive taxes. We saw a shift on to the poor, the lower income families who have less capacity to deal with these taxes than people at higher income scales. As a party we chose, as a rather dramatic signal of our displeasure, not to show up to vote for a couple of days.”
That was in opposition to increased sales taxes. And now we have the Premier putting his stamp of approval on this sales tax increase. I suppose nobody has ever accused a Liberal of consistency, and certainly this government is no different, no different at all.
I see some of my learned friends here who will appreciate a quote from John Stuart Mill this afternoon. He said a very pithy thing. He said, “Equality in taxation means equality of sacrifice.” if you think of what that means, then surely you will conclude that this sales tax bill is not worthy of your support, because nobody ever pretended that sales tax means equality of sacrifice. It definitely does not. So, if you believe in the progressive tax system and equality of sacrifice, then you cannot support a retail sales tax.
If, on the other hand, you have decided that ease of collection and efficiency is more important than having an equitable tax system, then I urge you all to support this bill. If what you are really after is to get your grubby hands on more of the middle- and low-income taxpayers’ money, go right ahead and vote for this bill, because that is exactly what it does. But they have thrown out the window any pretence at equality in our taxation system in the province of Ontario, and it will be remembered.
This is not the only province where sales taxes are being levied at, I think, an unfair rate. We know that Canada as a whole has become overly dependent on sales taxes as a major source of government revenue. Whereas nearly 35 per cent of major revenues come from sales taxes in Canada -- that includes the provinces -- the comparable figure is only 17 per cent in the United States and 26 per cent for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.
Here we have a case of some countries that, generally speaking, are not traditionally viewed as being as progressive as Canada, such as the US, collecting only 17 per cent of their revenue from sales taxes. In Canada it is twice that, at 35 per cent. In the OECD European countries it is 26 per cent, whereas it is 35 per cent here. It is a disquieting trend to see our ever increasing reliance on the regressive sales taxes.
One of the criteria on which the Treasurer said he wished to base any kind of reaction to the federal government was simplicity. Simple for whom? Whom was he thinking about when he talked about collecting taxes? I would like to quote once again from the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. They said:
“We are concerned that the provincial government is falling into a tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend approach to financial management which could undermine the province’s fiscal position in the near term and surely will undermine it in the long term.”
In April of this year, the business editor of the Toronto Sun said: “Unable to control spending and make some tough decisions, they wimp out and just go back to robbing those who are least organized and too polite to bitch. That is us, the middle, the people with the fewest means of avoiding taxation and those who least feed from the palm of the government.”
People are becoming increasingly aware that this government has lost its zeal for any kind of reform measures when it comes to taxation. It is just a simple case of getting their hands on ever more money. We are not opposed to having a more simplified tax system, but if you can only do it through regressivity, then we are opposed to it.
Sales taxes are easy to raise. One little number, one little bit and the first thing you know the amount of sales tax being collected by the government in Ontario is up by 14 per cent. By going from seven per cent to eight per cent, that means an increase of over 14 per cent. Surely there are other ways of raising that money, and we have laid out those ways to the Treasurer on many occasions.
The concern we have about the sales tax is not simply what it does today, but what the potential is in the future for sales taxes. It is so simple to simply ratchet up the sales tax another point at any given time, such as we are facing right now. There are no controls over that. A majority government simply does it and gets its huge new revenues.
As the Toronto Star says, “This tax is a mammoth money machine that could be turned on whenever the government wanted to increase its take.” Of course, that is exactly what they have done. They also go on to say, just about three weeks ago:
“There is still another reason why many Canadians worry about the sales tax. While six per cent on most goods and services might be equivalent to 12 per cent on a smaller base, an extra few percentage points can turn into a multibillion-dollar tax grab when it is applied to almost every good and service that people buy. And access to that kind of money machine would be a great temptation for a cash-starved government.”
They are talking about the federal sales tax, but every comment about the federal sales tax can be applied to the provincial sales tax as well, because it really is the same principle.
I fear very much that the Treasurer and the Premier are falling into that temptation just to crank up the old tax grab machine that is there whenever they need new revenues, without going through any kind of arduous process to see where the loopholes are, to see if there are new ways of raising moneys that are more progressive, to see what way in which the whole system needs to be reformed.
We know that all sorts of reforms could be made, but does the Treasurer tackle those? No. In his budget last year, what was radically new or even reform-minded about his budget? Nothing. He did not work hard at bringing in a budget. He simply ratcheted up a few tax points and that was it -- no attempt to really change the tax system in this province. I do not think that is what the people expect from a Liberal government, but that is what they are getting.
I cannot speak on this bill without referring to what has happened federally and what I fear will happen provincially as well. Since 1984, when the Tories were first elected, the sources of revenue went up as follows. Consumption taxes are up 46 per cent -- that is in four years -- personal income taxes are up 31 per cent and corporate income taxes are down eight per cent. Here we have a case where the federal Tories raised consumption taxes 46 per cent and personal income taxes 31 per cent and corporate taxes are down eight per cent. That is some kind of tax reform, is it not? I do not think the Canadian federal Tories have their new majority. I fear that trend is also present at the provincial level. I can only try to sound warning bells, because the government has its majority here as well.
As a matter of fact, I was reading Rosemary Speirs’s article of October 3, in which she said: “Nixon was interested from the beginning” -- she is talking about the federal sales tax – “Although he balked...at the idea of such a large federal intrusion into the sales tax field (traditionally provincial), he couldn’t help but be attracted by the idea of getting someone else to collect his taxes.
“Ontario’s eight per cent sales tax would disappear and be folded into the national tax. Ottawa would collect all the sales taxes for all the provinces. And, Nixon would hope, taxpayers who were angry when he raised the sales tax now would blame the federal government.”
I think that is not a luxury the Treasurer is going to have, because if the Treasurer joins in with the federal government on its new sales tax proposals, he will be as guilty as Michael Wilson for that program. There is absolutely no reason why this Treasurer and the Premier, or the Minister of Revenue, should go along with the federal government’s national sales tax proposals. They are being had.
I know he thinks it is easy. He thinks it is an easy way out to just join in and let them collect the tax.
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: No.
Mr. Laughren: Oh, yes. Why else has he gone up one per cent? So he will get a bigger chunk of what the federal government collects. That is exactly why he has done it.
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: To give it back to the people.
Mr. Laughren: We will see. I have not heard a denial yet from the Premier or the Treasurer on the national sales tax proposal and Ontario’s intentions about joining it. I would like to hear the Minister of Revenue when he responds. I would like to hear him stand in his place and say categorically, “This province will not co-operate with a national sales tax program.” I want him to say that. I want to hear him say that. It would be nice if he also said that he has reconsidered this bill too and that he is prepared to withdraw it, because the Treasurer is quoted as saying that he is not opposed to the idea in principle of the national sales tax.
In principle, he is not opposed to it. I do not know how any Liberal-maybe I am thinking small l-liberal. No small-l liberal could possibly be in favour of that sales tax. I know they are big L-Liberals on that side and that does change things. They are big-L Liberals and small-c conservatives. That is what they are.
When you think about it, for the Treasurer to say he is not opposed to it in principle is a bit startling, because it is that very principle that he should be opposed to as a Liberal. He should be opposed to that principle of a sales tax which is nothing more than a huge tax grab.
I can remember when Don Blenkarn said that the new revenues that would flow into the national Treasury as a result of the sales tax proposals would be $10 billion, he was jumped on all over by his Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, who said, “No, no, it is revenue neutral; it is revenue neutral.” If the members believe that the federal Tories are going to do anything that is revenue neutral, I hope they explain it to me and explain to me why they would do it. To make it more progressive? You have to be kidding. With the federal Tories?
Then, of course, the Treasurer jumps on the bandwagon and says, “No, no, it is not revenue neutral; no, no, it is not $10 billion extra. It is $14 billion extra,” according to the Treasurer. It seems to me that whether it is $10 billion or $14 billion, or even if it is revenue neutral, it is unfair. It is not an equitable tax regime that has been developed by the federal government. For this government to even talk about going along with it is ridiculous.
I am really anxious to hear the Minister of Revenue say, since he is the minister of the day on this bill, that he is not interested in co-operating with the federal government on its new national sales tax program because what we are going to witness is a national tax added on to this to make one glorious, huge national sales tax on all sorts of goods and services. People will be paying -- the estimate that is being bandied about is up to 17 per cent sales tax in Ontario; 17 per cent sales tax that we would have here. Start adding that on to the price of a house, not to mention all other products as well.
In case the members opposite were wondering, I am opposed to this bill and intend to vote against it. We intend to try to hold the Treasurer to his promise. I remind the members what he said: “Many concerns have been expressed about the possible impact of a new broad-based sales tax on low-income Canadians. This government will not enter into an agreement on a new national sales tax unless we are provided the flexibility to ensure its fair application for low-income individuals and families through a system of tax credits or exemptions.”
What the Treasurer is saying in that quote is that he will only go into the national sales tax program if there are sales tax credits attached to it. That is really what he is saying. The Minister of Revenue is shaking his head. I will say it again: “This government will not enter into an agreement on a new national sales tax unless we are provided the flexibility to ensure its fair application for low-income individuals and families through a system of tax credits or exemptions.” That is what he is saying. He is not denying the fact that this government would join in with the federal government in its new federal sales tax proposals. He is saying, “If we do go in, we want to make sure there are tax credits or exemptions attached to it.” What I am saying to the Minister of Revenue is: That is not good enough.
A sales tax is, by definition, regressive because poor people spend all of their income. People with high incomes do not spend all their income. Therefore, poor people pay a sales tax on everything; virtually all of their income. They pay a sales tax because they spend it all. They have no choice. People in a much higher income bracket can save all sorts of money and put it into tax-saving -- they can put it into tax dodges as well and pay no sales tax on whatever they do not spent on consumer goods. The minister should know that, for heaven’s sake. I do not know why he is being so obtuse.
Mr. Faubert: Where did you learn that one?
Mr. Laughren: Well, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Sorbara) has been known to accuse others of being obtuse.
With those few comments, I will take my place, but I do want to hear the Minister of Revenue categorically deny that his government will take part in a national sales tax program.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments?
Mr. South: I would like to make a few observations and first say that I am very inexperienced and do not have too much knowledge in regard to tax, other than being a taxpayer. My education has been enlarged significantly by being in this House, even learning about the term “regressive tax”; that is intriguing.
Some of the members opposite speak in terms of absolutes. I am an engineer. I have learned a few things in engineering. There are not too many absolutes. There are a couple of them, maybe, that I would express to you from an engineering point of view: You cannot push a rope, and water runs downhill. Those are things I learned in engineering.
With regard to tax, the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) says sales tax is absolutely regressive and is absolutely unfair. I would ask him to pause to think that there are a lot of entrepreneurs in our economy who are completely unknown to the income tax man. They are making a lot of money. We see them out on Yonge Street and on Bloor Street. They are not the only ones. I am sure the income tax man gets none of their income.
I tell members that it is a truth I think I believe in: The higher you put income tax, the more of the economy you drive underground. Those people then make no contribution to the tax system when it is solely based on income and the so-called ability to pay.
There is no absolute to the so-called regressive sales tax. There is a certain fairness.
The Deputy Speaker: The member’s time is up. Do other members wish to make comments or ask questions? Does the member wish to respond?
Mr. Laughren: I am not buying the argument of the member for Frontenac-Addington about absolutes. I can see a couple of absolute zeros right from where I am standing right now. To be fair to the member, I did appreciate his comments. I am not quarrelling with his assertion that there are all sorts of people out there who are making money and not paying taxes. I agree with that. But I think the route for those people is through the tightening up of the income tax system, not through an increase in the sales tax.
I do not know whether those people he is talking about who sell their goods on Yonge Street are collecting sales tax and turning it over to the government. I do not know that. I would not want to get into a debate on all the goods that are sold on Yonge Street and whether or not they should be taxed.
I do know that I was waiting patiently for the Minister of Revenue to rise in his place in response to my request that he categorically reject any kind of co-operation with the federal government vis-à-vis its sales tax program. I did not get that, so I can assume the Minister of Revenue is not prepared to stand in his place and tell us that he wants no part of the national sales tax program. If he fails to do that, then I suppose we have to assume he is prepared to go ahead and join that most regressive of all regimes, the sale tax regime as imposed by the most regressive of all governments, the federal Tories.
Mr. Philip: I would like to start off by reminding people of the words of my colleague the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman), who on June 21, 1982, dealing with the sales tax increase at that time, described that bill in this way, “I oppose this bill for the obvious reason that it is the epitome of Tory tax philosophy.” That was about the sales tax increase when it was much lower than what the Liberal government wants to do with this one. He said, “The philosophy, as shown in this bill, is to tax the little guy and to let the big shots off. It is a ripoff.
“This bill implements a budgetary policy of the Treasurer which basically means that the ordinary families of Ontario will be paying more for goods and services that they require and the corporate sector will have an even greater opportunity to avail itself of grants and whatever this government is providing for the corporate sector without paying its fair share.”
He went on to say, “This is a regressive form of taxation,” and dealt with the whole concept of what sales tax does to ordinary people.
Those sentiments about sales tax were not only shared by the member for Algoma. Indeed, the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Wrye), who is now a member of this government, said in dealing with sales tax increases, “Mr. Speaker, I want to start off by saying I think the bill we are considering tonight...is the real outrage.” Remember, that was a bill that was raising sales tax to a level lower than what this government is now doing.
He was a little less moderate than the member for Algoma was in his attack on the whole concept of sales tax. The member for Windsor-Sandwich said it was a real outrage and went on to say, “...the most outrageous part of this Retail Sales Tax Act is that it in no way shows any understanding of those communities which are being harder hit than others.”
He then went on to explain the differences in this province, the differences in the poverty levels and the differences in how some communities are worse off than others, and he argued that sales tax merely perpetuates these differences. That was the member for Windsor-Sandwich arguing in opposition, in 1982, to sales tax increases at that time.
What does this bill do? The main principle of the bill is found, I believe, in section 2. The provisions of this simply raise the tax to eight per cent on the purchase of tangible personal property and on taxable services other than transient accommodation, so the main purpose of this bill is to raise the sales tax by one percentage point, from seven to eight per cent. On a full-year basis, this will increase government revenues by an estimated $986 million, by far the largest single tax increase in recent memory.
Because I was a member of the House at that time, I recall when the Liberals walked out of this House in 1982 and let the bells ring for four days because they were so outraged, at a time when the member for Windsor-Sandwich was talking about a much more modest tax increase of this kind as an outrage. They walked out when the Tories broadened the retail sales tax by bringing in an extra $350 million using this method; $350 million then was an outrage that caused the Liberals to walk out of this House and keep those bells ringing for four days, compared to $986 million today.
My, what a difference we have in a few years. What a difference between the kinds of platitudes, the kinds of statements the Liberals made while in opposition and what they now say when they are the government. Of course, the Treasurer’s rationalization is interesting. On April 25, he gave his rationalization for the sales tax -- of course, he had claimed in the newspapers it was a fair form of taxation; notice the difference: In opposition it was an outrage, and now in government it is a fair form of taxation. His rationalization was that five provinces had higher sales taxes than we did.
That is a great rationalization. We have a rationalization that somehow the Grant Devines of this world, the ultra right-wing Tories are even harder on the poor than we Liberals here in Ontario are on our people, in this very rich province, a province that has so much more that we could use to enact a progressive tax.
If I may take the members back to those days in 1982, when the then honourable Mr. Ashe, who is no longer around -- the taxpayers, I guess, caught up with him -- introduced this tax. He said:
“The tax base to which retail sales tax is applied has been significantly altered through the withdrawal of a number of exemptions of tax and by changing the composition of other exemptions. In addition, the tax will now apply to insulation, to repair and maintenance, labour performed on articles which are not or will not become part of real property.”
Well, my goodness, were the Liberals ever incensed by that. If there was anything that caused self-righteous outcry, it was from the Liberal Party, which argued that at that time we were committing an environmental catastrophe. What were we doing? We were taxing insulation.
We were taxing the very things that were needed to encourage conservation and to clean up our environment.
Now in government, of course they not only have not reduced these, as they said they would have done and indeed as they moved a motion to do at that time, but they are increasing them even more. The Conservatives were absolutely environmentally irresponsible, according to the Liberals, in 1982, when they introduced their sales tax increase, but somehow the Treasurer says the sales tax is a fair tax now and is acceptable and nobody mentions the environment.
I notice that the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) has not participated in this debate, at least to my knowledge. As the Minister of the Environment, he would surely be interested in this and perhaps in moving some of the very amendments that were moved by his colleagues and him in 1982.
The Treasurer, as I said, says this is a fairer tax, but that is not the conclusion the National Council of Welfare has come to. In a paper it turned out in June 1987, the government of Canada’s National Council of Welfare talks about sales tax. They say, “Sales and excise taxes are regressive, which means that they put their heaviest burden on the poor and take least in percentage terms from the rich.”
It says: “Families with earnings of $5,000 pay an estimated $980 or 14.4 per cent of their income in the form of federal sales and excise tax and duties in contrast to only 4.4 per cent of those at the exclusive $100,000 level. The higher the income, the lower the bite of commodity taxes. The federal sales and excise tax increases detailed above have hurt the poorest the most.”
It goes on then to give several examples of what happens to families in different income brackets when we see what happens using a sales tax increase, as distinct from a more progressive form of taxation. That is what the government of Canada’s National Council of Welfare thinks about sales tax as a form of taxation.
If we go on, there is an interesting article in Business Today that deals with the same problem, and it says, “The problem is that it is extremely regressive.” Here they are talking about business transfer tax, which is essentially the same problem we are talking about. “Pensioners, the poor and low-income Canadians will pay the same for the basic necessities of life as the wealthy.”
What do the Liberals say about that? John Turner says: “During the last four years, middle-income families have been gouged by the Mulroney government. Now the Conservatives want to inflict Canadians with the most massive consumption tax in the history of our nation. A Liberal government would not implement this new sales tax which hits the middle class.”
Well, he is wrong. A Liberal government would implement that kind of tax. They are implementing it here. They are implementing it in this chamber in Ontario. Indeed, when the Minister of Revenue was challenged by my colleague earlier today to get up and say, “We will not associate ourselves, we will not piggyback on the federal government’s plan for a tax gouge on the middle- and low-income earners,” he refused to get up and dissociate himself from that.
Of course, that is what the Treasurer did; the Treasurer refused. As reported in the November 3 issue of the Toronto Star, the Treasurer said:
“Nixon estimated that the tax proposed by federal Finance minister Michael Wilson would net Ottawa an extra $14 billion in revenue and double the amount raised by the current 12 per cent federal manufacturing tax. But Nixon also talked about the pros and cons of the national sales tax proposed by the federal Progressive Conservatives and has not taken a definite position. If he were to take a clear position in favour, he would be in opposition to federal Liberal leader John Turner, who says that he wants the tax plan scrapped.”
What we have is a political game where the government today has a bill that is clearly a way of hitchhiking on the regressive policies of the Mulroney-Wilson regime and refuses to dissociate itself from it before an election but really is associating itself in this bill. That is what is happening. They do not want to be seen as being contradictory to John Turner before an election, but they have legislation that is clearly in the same direction.
What have people said about sales tax in the past? Let me quote from one person I am sure members will be aware of, a person who gave a very eloquent speech on July 7, 1982: the now Premier. In talking about sales tax as a form of taxation, here are some of the kinds of things he said:
“We saw a shift” -- this is the sales tax increase, remember – “on to the poor, the low-income families who have less capacity to deal with these taxes than people at higher income scales. I suspect to people at higher income levels a lot of these taxes are a nuisance, but a large sector of society today, an already beleaguered population, will be adversely affected. Mr. Speaker, in your capacity as a constituency politician, which ultimately all of us including the Premier” -- and the Premier he was talking about at that time was Mr. Davis, not himself -- ”are, you will know literally thousands of individual families who are adversely affected by this unfair budget.”
I do not see him in the House here saying that they are going to be adversely affected by building on that increased burden. Here we have a tax system which was so objectionable in 1982 that he rang the bells for four days and he said that all these poor people were going to be affected. Now, he wants to increase that very sales tax, that very same system.
Indeed, he went on to say that they would be moving an amendment which would have massive exemptions. Where are the massive exemptions? The number of exemptions that he listed -- he listed a number and I do not want to list them here: energy conservation, alternative energy devices, labour and the passing of taxation on to municipalities and school boards -- where are these exemptions? Where is the position of the Premier now that he had in 1982? Why is he so silent, not just in his absence today but in his absence in this legislation? Why are the views that he held so firmly in 1982 so sadly missing as he goes contrary to this?
We, of course, can expect that kind of thing. This is the same Premier who said that he was firmly opposed to Sunday shopping during the election and then introduced Sunday shopping legislation after the election. This is the Premier who said that he would veto free trade and then introduced free trade legislation in the trucking industry. This is the same Premier who has said so many things before the election and then has made a flip-flop.
But this is not something to be taken lightly, because these are things which he has used such strong adjectives on that one would have thought that such a change of heart would be, indeed, blasphemous to the Liberal Party and, indeed, so objectionable to the Premier that he would have to look at himself in the mirror and call himself the very names that he was calling the Tories when they did the same thing in 1982.
Instead, the Treasurer says this is a fair form of taxation. What balderdash. if it was blatantly unfair in 1982, if it was so bad in 1982 that they all had to walk out of the House and ring the bells, then why is it that it is okay today?
I think that in 1982 the present Premier summarized very well the then same policies of the Tory government that he is now implementing today in this bill. He said -- and in case some members think this is so extreme I am making it up, I encourage them to look at page 3574 in Hansard of 1982 – “There is no integrity of fiscal policy or fiscal philosophy. The only integrity demonstrated is an integrity to get themselves elected.”
That is fairly clear and that is what this is -- an attempt by this Liberal government to blame the Conservatives and to get a large tax grab through the back door by attaching themselves on to the very regressive policies of the former Conservative government and, indeed, by implementing the exact policies that the Conservative government introduced in 1982 and which these people were so adamantly opposed to.
I guess I have to ask, if these policies were so wrong in 1982, why are they so right today? Why did the present House leader walk out of this House and ring the bells for four days in 1982 --
Hon. Mr. Conway: I didn’t.
Mr. Philip: Oh; was he not elected in 1982?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I was in Hong Kong.
Mr. Philip: I am sorry. I know that if he had not been in Hong Kong at that time -- and I am sure he was promoting the interest of the taxpayers, because I know members of this House who travel to different countries always promote the interest of this province --
Hon. Mr. Conway: For your information, it was one of those pay-your-own-way trips.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Philip: Being a single man, I am sure he is able to pay his own way, but I am sure that had he been here he would have been as outraged as the present Premier was about the increase in the sales tax. He would have been as outraged as the present Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Wrye) was. He probably would have wanted to walk out. Even though he personally objects to bell-ringing, he would have walked out with the crew and let the bells ring for four days.
But now it is a fair tax. What a difference a few years make.
I say this is simply a regressive form of taxation. It is as regressive a form of taxation to the municipalities, to the poor and to the middle-class people as it was in 1982. Indeed, I think it may encourage what the Premier was afraid of.
In 1982, the Premier -- I am trying to find the quote. I will paraphrase him, if necessary, because it deals with an issue raised by my colleague in the Liberal Party in response to the member for Nickel Belt earlier.
The Premier said in 1982 that sales tax increases would basically encourage an underground type of economy. The theme there was that the only fair form of taxation was corporate and progressive income taxes and that the moment you start relying more and more on the sales tax, you in fact drive things underground. It is exactly opposite to the comments that were made by the hon member for Frontenac-Addington earlier. And it is exactly contrary to what the now Premier is saying. Indeed, I have found the quote. He says:
“But when blatantly unfair laws are brought in” -- and the blatantly unfair law he is talking about is an increase of one per cent in the sales tax, remember – “a lot of people do not feel obliged to follow them and the cheating is encouraged. When cheating in tax laws is encouraged -- and there are certain elements of society, certain economists who now suggest that some 10 per cent of our economy is in the so-called black economy, and that runs outside the normal tax jurisdictions -- then we encourage the erosion of faith in our system. I use this retail tax law as an example of the Treasurer having contributed to a further erosion of the system.”
I say with all honesty that the Premier was right at that time. It was an erosion of the system. It is an erosion also of fairness. That is exactly the same kind of legislation he is bringing in now, except that he is compounding the error he so rightfully condemned in 1982. One has to ask where the policy of this government is, where the consistency of this government is and, indeed, where its ethics are.
Hon. Mr. Conway: Lest there was any confusion about the comments made by my friend the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale (Mr. Philip), whose interventions I always appreciate, I just want him to be clear, and I want the record to be clear, that the trip to which he made reference -- the trip that came out of our little conversation, was one that was entirely a matter of my own payment, my own scheduling, to the Far East some years ago.
I would not want the honourable member to be under any wrong impression that I would ever expect the taxpayers to pay my way to that part of the globe, although I am sure there might be good reason to do so. I do not mean to be facetious, but on that occasion I was away; I had nothing to do with the strategy that rang the bells for however many hours and days that the honourable member referred to.
Mr. Philip: I appreciate the intervention from my colleague the Minister of Mines. I know that had he been here in 1982 instead of in Hong Kong or China or wherever at his own expense -- this sales tax policy I am sure was not something he found or discovered in China -- he would have been as outraged as the present Premier was and we would have had similar statements from him that I could have quoted back.
I deeply regret that he was in China at the time because I would dearly have loved to have reminded him of the position his colleagues took from his own mouth, rather than from the mouth of the present Premier and from other cabinet ministers.
On motion by Mr. Philip, the debate was adjourned.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Conway: I would like to indicate the business of the House for most of next week.
On Monday, November 28, we will continue with the estimates of the Ministry of Health.
On Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, we will deal with the tax bills or the revenue bills, beginning on Tuesday with the adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 122. Expecting that to conclude, we will move on to second reading of Bill 121, An Act to amend the Gasoline Tax Act. Expecting that perhaps to be concluded, at least at the second reading stage, we will then move on to second reading debate of Bill 120, An Act to amend the Tobacco Tax Act.
Assuming, but not guaranteeing, that we conclude the debates on those three items at the second reading stage, pursuant to an agreement this morning, we will stack the votes and take the votes -- assuming we conclude -- on Wednesday afternoon of next week at 5:45.
On Thursday, December 1, in the morning we will deal with private members’ business standing in the names of Mr. Ballinger and Mr. Hampton. Next Thursday afternoon’s business is to be decided and announced, hopefully, early next week.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.