Mr Kormos: Sadly and tragically, earlier today Noranda Forest Recycled Papers announced a layoff of 95 employees at its Thorold operation. These 95 employees are to be terminated by the end of August 1990. It constitutes 16 per cent of the total workforce at Noranda Forest Recycled Papers in Thorold. This is going to have grave consequences for those workers, for their families and indeed for the community of Thorold.
It is imperative that the Ministry of Labour and this government get involved immediately to ensure that all that can be done indeed is being done and to ensure that those workers’ interests, their families’ interests and the interests of the city of Thorold are safeguarded as best as can be.
Members should also know that Noranda is committed to the prospect of developing recycling programs. A recycling plant is potentially planned for the Thorold area. Noranda is awaiting Ministry of the Environment approval for two locations that it has proposed so that the potential impact of the layoff of these 95 workers can be offset. It is imperative as well that the Ministry of the Environment facilitate the approval process, speed it up as much it as can in an effort to speed up the development of those recycling plants on Noranda’s part, with the view to keeping those 95 staff persons, both salaried and hourly, on the payroll.
Mr Jackson: I rise to call the attention of all members of the House to the fact that tomorrow, 26 April, marks the fourth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in the Ukraine, the worst ever recorded in modern history.
That disaster saw tonnes of radioactive core blown into the atmosphere. Thousands died, while still hundreds of thousands more, including many children, became chronically ill with diseases such as cancer, due to the fact that they ate, and must continue to eat, food and drink milk produced in contaminated agricultural areas.
The tragic human and environmental aftermath of Chernobyl continues. Ontario has a distinguished world record as a leader in nuclear development. With that, however, comes the responsibility for leadership in terms of support for victims of nuclear disasters when they occur.
I would like to take this opportunity to call on both the federal and provincial governments to come to the assistance of the Chernobyl victims in their time of crisis and suffering. On their behalf, I call on Canada to help train medical teams from the Ukraine in the use of advanced drugs useful in treating radiation-related illnesses. We should also accept for treatment the many critically ill children and should also prepare to participate in the International Red Cross Chernobyl appeal.
Mr Velshi: On 26 March the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario announced revised guidelines for the beverage alcohol industry which came into effect on 2 April. These revisions are replacing many licence board directives on advertising that have governed the industry for the past 18 years. Those regulations not revised have been clarified and articulated to reflect today’s standards.
I recognize that the intent of these revisions is to make the guidelines more timely, effective and representative of today’s values. However, I feel that some of these revisions are ambiguous in light of the liquor licensing board’s policy position.
At the announcement a few weeks ago, the chairman of the board stated “The document reflects the board’s intent to create a cohesive and consistent set of guidelines that are realistic and focused.” I ask all members of this House, how can the guidelines allowing the depiction of liquor consumption in print media be construed as responsible advertising?
The province of Ontario, through the Ministry of the Attorney General, has funded liquor awareness programs in high schools in my riding of Don Mills. It is my intent to solicit their opinion and those of other schools regarding these new guidelines. I do not support this guideline as I feel it contradicts our existing mandate regarding responsible alcohol use. By relaxing these regulations, the licensing board has now become a marketing and advertising arm of the liquor industry.
Mr Morin-Strom: Yesterday’s stand-pat, do-nothing budget flagrantly ignores 800,000 northerners. The Liberal budget contains no measures to deal with the thousands of working families in northern Ontario who face the hardship of unemployment as companies reduce their operations or close their mines and mills. Rio Algom and Denison are throwing over 2,000 workers into the streets of Elliot Lake. Dofasco has recently closed its mines, the towns’ largest employer, in Kirkland Lake and Temagami. Nothing in the Liberal budget addresses the problems facing these workers and others across northern Ontario. So even though the Liberals predict more hardship, they propose to do nothing about it.
If the Liberals were serious about long-term development in the north, they would be creating a real northern Ontario heritage fund. Despite the millions that the government takes out of the north in measures specific to northern industries like mining and forestry, there is very little going back in. Road construction and improvement is a vital priority in the north, but Metropolitan Toronto gets a $5-billion commitment for its transportation network while the north gets nothing for the four-laning of the Trans-Canada Highway.
As well, this budget has nothing for the high cost of gasoline paid by northerners, leaving us at a serious competitive disadvantage. The Liberal budget is a bad-news budget for northerners, and northerners are damned mad about it.
Mr McLean: My statement concerns the Treasurer’s budget, which failed to address the concerns of Ontario’s tourism and hospitality industry. In fact, the budget completely ignores this province’s third-largest industry, which has seen its revenue drop $3.25 billion and the loss of 30,000 full-time jobs in 1989. As well, trips by Ontarians within their own province declined by 27.8 per cent, while the number of Ontarians visiting the United States increased by 38 per cent last year.
The Treasurer knows the tourism industry asked him to establish a Premier’s council on tourism development, and he gave it nothing. The tourism industry asked him to eliminate the five per cent provincial sales tax on motel and resort accommodation, as promised by the Premier on 3 April 1985, and to repeal the commercial concentration tax imposed on large hotels in the greater Toronto area, and he gave it nothing.
The tourism industry asked the Treasurer to reduce the employer health tax for tourism and hospitality enterprises, and he gave it nothing. The tourism industry asked the Treasurer to reinvest all provincial revenues collected through road taxes in the improvement and expansion of Ontario roads. Once again, he gave it nothing.
The Treasurer’s budget indicates to me that his government has decided not to co-operate with, support or even recognize what was once a vital industry in this province. When the election is called, I hope they give him nothing.
Mr Adams: On Sunday my constituents celebrated Earth Day. This year’s celebration was the 20th anniversary of this event. Initially it was largely an American event, credited with the passage of the US Clean Air Act and the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Events previous to Earth Day in my riding included tree planting, cleaning the Indian River, composting lunch waste, eating garbage-free lunches, performing a play called To Touch the Earth, creating songs, posters and so on. On Sunday, Peter-borough Square hosted an Eco-Fair, including display booths, entertainment and kit building.
But we must view Earth Day for what it is: a chance to see that men, women and children of all ages, all occupations, all nationalities and races share this planet with other living creatures, savour the fascination of nature and reflect on the mystery of that blue and white globe hung in the dark sky.
A truly successful Earth Day would mean no more poisons spewing into lakes and rivers, no more chemical clouds blocking out the sun. It would mean switching to environmentally sound manufacturing methods. It would mean giving up conveniences which we take for granted.
But who thought three years ago that the vast majority of Peterborough residents would be separating cans, glass and newspapers from their regular household garbage? Who thought that cloth shopping bags would be making a comeback? No one individual can save the earth, but millions of individuals --
Miss Martel: On 3 April I raised the workers’ compensation case of Gojko Toljagic. Mr Toljagic was a caretaker at North Toronto Collegiate for 22½ years before he died of mesothelioma in October 1989. The family applied for compensation, but this was denied as the board claimed the worker would have had very little, if any, exposure to asbestos fibres.
On 22 April the Workers’ Compensation Board again denied the claim. The board decision stated, “While there is evidence of the presence of loose asbestos fibres, it has not been shown that there was intense exposure to airborne fibres during the course of the employment; combined with the latency factor, it is difficult to relate the onset of this disease to employment at North Toronto Collegiate.”
According to Dr Rolland Wong at the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers, the disease mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused from exposure to asbestos. Further, there is a latency period of 20 years between the first exposure to asbestos and the appearance of mesothelioma, and this worker meets that criterion. Dr Wong concluded that the board should accept the claim now because it will ultimately be won at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal, but that appeal process will take some two years.
An increase of 22 per cent over last year for the environment sounds enticing, but then we see the ministry’s budget is only 1.3 per cent of government spending. That is an increase of just 0.2 per cent since the Liberals took office five years ago. During the same period, taxes rose 132 per cent. Is our environment not worth more than 1.3 per cent of the government’s attention?
I am very unhappy with the announcement of the water and sewer crown corporation. Next year, the Ministry of the Environment will lose $341 million of its budget to the corporation through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The corporation will pass on the costs of sewer and water construction to the municipalities, users and developers. This is how the Liberal government balances its budget -- by downloading costs to municipalities and their ratepayers.
The corporation will be allowed to use lot levies collected to cover the costs of new development. This will raise the price of new homes and lean the corporation towards new development rather than infrastructure renewal.
I will, however, congratulate the government on one thing: taking the advice of our party four years ago to move the Niagara Escarpment Commission from Municipal Affairs to the Environment portfolio. It is about time the government gave priority to conserving the escarpment rather than developing it.
Mr D. R. Cooke: Once again last night, as I have regularly for many years, along with about 6,000 other Kitchenerites, I enjoyed another thrilling Ontario Hockey League game as the Kitchener Rangers defeated the Oshawa Generals three to two to take a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the OHL finals.
As members know, the Rangers run by far the best Junior A franchise in Canada, the most successful one in so far as membership is concerned. As I watch National Hockey League hockey, I am always reminded that every team in that league is dominated by OHL graduates. This year the Rangers, typically, have been underestimated. They were not listed among the 10 top teams in Canada for most of the year, yet it is obvious now that they are on their way to the Memorial Cup.
Joe McDonell, our coach and general manager, started three years ago, at the age of 25, as the youngest Junior A coach in Canada. Last year the Rangers topped the OHL standings and Joe was chosen as coach of the OHL all-stars.
The Rangers are a subscriber-owned team. There are 40 directors elected by those of us who are subscribers, so it is a very democratic team -- we do not have a Yolanda Ballard to contend with -- and the team plays good hockey. I am sure that all members of the Legislature will join me in congratulating and wishing continued good luck to Joe McDonell and the Rangers.
Hon Mr Beer: On behalf of myself and my colleagues the Minister of Health, the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs, I am pleased to inform this House of our implementation plans for long-term care, plans that will make major changes in both facilities and in-home services and will allow elderly people and people with disabilities to stay in their own homes in communities as long as possible.
Je suis heureux de pouvoir informer l’Assemblée de nos projets de mise en oeuvre des soins de longue durée, projets qui auront des incidences importantes, tant dans les établissements qu’à domicile, et qui permettront aux personnes âgées et aux personnes handicapées de demeurer chez elles au sein de leur communauté aussi longtemps que possible.
À l’intérieur des établissements, nous offrirons des choix plus étendus aux clients, et le nouveau système à point d’accès unique permettra aux bénéficiaires de trouver tous les services qu’ils recherchent en un seul lieu.
I want to underline the significance of these changes. Over the next six years, we will be investing a total of $2 billion in new money in the long-term care system. By the fiscal year 1996-97, new funding will rise to $640 million annually. Of these new dollars, an estimated $460 million will come directly from the provincial government, while $180 million will be recovered through co-payments from consumers.
In the current fiscal year, we shall dedicate $52 million to the reform of long-term care in Ontario. In September, money will begin flowing to enhance community-based, long-term care services. Let me mention a few: $10.9 million will go to improve wages and benefits paid to homemakers; $7.4 million to homemaking agencies to help them cover the costs of providing services; $7.4 million will fund almost 1,000 new spaces in attendant care outreach and enhanced supported living; $4 million will go to agencies providing home support, Alzheimer’s programs and to elderly persons’ centres to improve and expand their services; $10 million will be available immediately to provide community supports and in-home services such as home care where these are urgently needed.
This funding is in addition to the 5.5 per cent increase for social service agencies that I announced earlier this month, and an additional $6.1 million to be allocated to improve salaries and benefits for attendant care and home support workers. This is part of the agency compensation package outlined in yesterday’s budget.
As members know, many people in long-term care facilities or in the community currently pay all or part of the costs of services provided to them. We are going to continue this policy, but people who cannot afford to pay will not be required to pay any portion of the costs of services they receive. I believe this is fair and compassionate.
These consumer co-payments will not apply to health or personal care. Co-payments, based on ability to pay, will apply only to housekeeping and other similar services, community support services such as Meals on Wheels, and the cost of accommodation in facilities, all of which, of course, is presently done.
The principle of affordability will be honoured for all who make use of the long-term care system. Those individuals with incomes of approximately $20,000 will not pay any portion of the cost of these community services. Those people with moderate incomes will pay on a sliding scale. We anticipate that only those people with incomes in excess of $50,000 will pay the full cost of community services.
In facilities, residents will continue to pay towards the cost of their accommodation. Again, only those who can pay will pay. This policy recognizes the high cost of providing long-term care services while ensuring that people who need those services receive them, whether they can pay for them or not.
This new division brings together for the first time such programs as community health, public health, community mental health and health promotion, as well as policy and operations units to support long-term care. Now it is time to begin working with our partners in the community, activating the plans we have made.
Last December I announced that we would complete a strategic plan by spring to identify subjects that require further consultation and to put local planning activities in place. That plan is scheduled for release in mid-May, thanks to co-operation among the communities, district health councils and area offices.
We are well on our way. We made a major commitment to reform long-term care, to provide the resources needed by our elderly citizens and people with physical disabilities. We are fulfilling that pledge.
The goal is within view and we shall attain it. In the future, senior citizens and people with disabilities will be better able to retain their dignity and to live as they wish in their homes and communities, close to friends and families.
New business investment is vital to Ontario’s future industrial competitiveness. New investment means our economy is growing, our technology is being updated and our productive processes are being improved. One of the major long-term benefits is that new investment strengthens the foundation on which Ontario’s social and economic programs are built.
Business investment in plant and equipment has been the fastest-growing component of the provincial economy in recent years, reaching $31.4 billion in 1989. This year we expect it to remain the leading sector of the economy, expanding by an estimated 6.1 per cent in real terms.
However, this rate is down from the average 12.2 per cent growth over the previous two years. Rising interest rates and a high Canadian dollar are challenging our ability to compete in US markets and threatening to undermine our attractiveness to new investors.
The doubling of the Ontario current cost adjustment rate to 30 per cent provides an additional deduction from income for Ontario tax purposes. The adjustment is based on the level of investment in manufacturing machinery and equipment.
The improvements announced in Tuesday’s budget will raise the level of annual support provided through the current cost adjustment for investment in new manufacturing machinery and equipment and pollution control equipment to $280 million.
The enhanced incentive should send a clear signal to the province’s business community and potential investors that Ontario is an attractive location for new investment and that our businesses are prepared to compete in the global economy.
Hon Mr Scott: As Attorney General of Ontario it gives me great pleasure to announce to the House today the appointment of Sidney Bryan Linden as the Chief Judge of Ontario’s provincial court (criminal division). Chief Judge Linden was nominated as a judge of the provincial court (criminal division) by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee.
I am also pleased to announce that upon the proclamation of Bill 2, which merges the provincial court (criminal division) and the provincial court (family division), Chief Judge Linden will become the Chief Judge of the newly merged court.
It is appropriate to note that Chief Judge Linden replaces Chief Judge Frederick C. Hayes, who was appointed a district court judge 12 April 1990. Chief Judge Hayes has, as I have noted elsewhere, given stellar service to the court and to the public for many years, and he is entitled to the thanks of the province and the public he has served with such dedication.
Throughout his career, the new Chief Judge has distinguished himself as an innovative reformer, a pragmatic administrator and a conscientious and principled adjudicator. These qualities will prove invaluable in his new role.
I have every confidence that Chief Judge Linden will rise to the historic challenges we face in reforming our court system. Under his leadership, major court reform initiatives and delay reduction projects will streamline the administration of justice in Ontario.
Chief Judge Linden brings with him a proven commitment to improving the justice process in Ontario. He has played a crucial role in the successful implementation of a number of innovative programs and initiatives.
Most recently, as Ontario’s first Information and Privacy Commissioner, Mr Linden has established the province’s first appeal process to review decisions made by government institutions. His work has been critical to ensuring a more open government and affirming the protection of individual privacy.
As executive director of the Canadian Auto Workers’ legal services plan, Mr Linden was instrumental in establishing Ontario’s first major pre-paid legal services scheme. As the public complaints commissioner and chairman of the Police Complaints Board, he established and successfully administered a new system for handling complaints against the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force. Chief Judge Linden is already recognized as a leader in the field of civilian review of law enforcement.
In his other roles as project director of the Toronto bail project, general counsel and executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and in private practice, Chief Judge Linden established his commitment to improving the administration of justice in Ontario. Indeed, since being called to the bar he has been unwavering in his contributions to the development of a more accessible system in the province.
His vision, dedicated service and outstanding abilities are assets that will help us meet the challenges of the 1990s. On behalf of the citizens of Ontario and all the members of the assembly, I would like to congratulate Chief Judge Linden and welcome him to his new position.
Mr B. Rae: I want to join in the congratulations expressed today by the Attorney General to Chief Judge Sidney Linden. We look forward to working with him. We have all worked with him in the past in his various responsibilities. He is a man of great good humour and great ability. We look forward to working with him in his new role on the unified court.
Mr Laughren: I want to respond briefly to the Treasurer’s statement on the Ontario current cost adjustment doubling. I found it strange that this is the one tax expenditure the Treasurer decided to rise at his place today and talk about as the follow-up on his budget.
There is another tax expenditure that, as most members know, is money the government does not collect because of an exemption. He did not talk about the income tax reduction of $38 million. Is that because the Treasurer felt a little strange about announcing $140 million of new money to the corporate sector and $38 million of new money to look after those who are most needy in our society? Is that why the Treasurer chose to pick only one and not talk about the other expenditure he announced in his budget statement yesterday?
Mr Allen: I want to respond to the announcement by the Minister of Community and Social Services on the subject of long-term care. Let me first address one minor particular and then go to the larger subject.
I am sure that the visiting homemakers will be glad to see another few dollars flowing into their pockets as a result of this particular reform and the $10.9 million that will improve their wages and benefits. I only want to note that the 6,000 homemakers out there, if you take an example of a single mother who has two children, will now be a little bit closer to the poverty line as a result of this announcement.
In one respect it is difficult to assess this announcement. The ministry talks in terms of billions of dollars over half a dozen years of time. It talks about the merging of various programs from various ministries into a single long-term care program. One would have to analyse what programs are being displaced, what guidelines are being applied and how people will access this in detail to be able specifically to critique it with any real solidity.
Yet I think all of us will remember the years we went through hearing about the problems of an aging population and the need for integrated service. We got the integrated homemakers program. We got a few of those established. Running into the last election -- I note there is an election coming up; there is a lot of talk of that in the air -- we heard that the existing centres were going to be expanded, that there would be 10 more integrated homemakers programs, and that then after that there would be another 10 and we would complete the whole provincial cycle.
Suddenly, what happened? People began to use the program, and the government panicked and said, “We have to put a cap on this thing.” The next thing they said was, “We have to restrain the guidelines and we have to limit the qualifications.” That whole program has been on hold ever since the last election. There has not been one new integrated homemakers unit established across this province since the last election.
One has to ask oneself just how serious this exercise is. Is this another piece of another election program, another glowing promise, another multi-year endeavour, another grandiose announcement that gives the impression this government will be here for ever and will do all those great, marvellous Technicolor programs that we have been hearing about in recent years and in recent months? I will believe it when I see it.
Mr Reville: Further to the remarks by my colleague the member for Hamilton West, the improvements to the wages of homemakers, I think, amount to about $1 an hour for a homemaker. I do not believe this government should feel it can buy an election for $1 an hour. The $4 million that is going to home support agencies is a payback from money that was cut from the 1988 budget. It was $4.3 million. I figure they owe us $0.3 million on 1988 still.
Mr Pope: On behalf of our Progressive Conservative Party, I would like to add our own comments on the appointment of Chief Judge Linden. As the Attorney General quite rightly pointed out, he is a man of obvious experience and ability who will bring, I think, much credit to the position he will occupy.
We want to express our best wishes to him as he begins his new duties and our thanks to him for agreeing to make this commitment to the public of Ontario as Chief Judge of the unified court. We know he will do his work well, as he has done everything in the past that he has been involved in. We wish him all the best in his work to improve the court system for the benefit of all residents of the province of Ontario and thank the Attorney General for that appointment.
Mr Pope: On the other hand, I have to say to the Treasurer, nice try, but it will take more than one statement from the Treasurer to improve the reputation that this government has vis-à-vis the investment climate and investment opportunity in North America.
We have already heard John Bulloch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business saying that Ontario has the most antibusiness government in Canada. We have already seen recent reports that have concluded that Ontario is the worst jurisdiction in North America in which to locate auto parts manufacturing facilities. We have seen 34,000 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector in Ontario in the last year alone.
The Treasurer’s own budget shows a slackening in the creation of jobs in the province. It shows a rise in the rate of unemployment. It shows economic growth, even at the rosiest, growing 1.7 per cent, and the announcement of the Treasurer today even casts doubt on the 1.7 per cent that he was trumpeting just yesterday.
It is true that this government must take initiatives to encourage private sector investment in Ontario. The damage has been done by this government and its anti-business, anti-investment measures, its tax regime installed over the past three years with $2.6 billion in tax grabs. We are now paying the price for it in slackened investment, slackened economic opportunity and reduced job opportunities that all people in Ontario are suffering from.
We have seen the chicanery of this Treasurer yesterday, using accounting gymnastics to the tune of $1.2 billion, trying to say that he balanced his budget when we know he has not. Without those accounting allocations, he is at a $1-billion deficit and he knows it; they are unique and unexplained accounting allocations.
We now see that he is going to treat the manufacturing sector in a way that he will not treat the mining sector in this province. If the Treasurer would encourage the same kind of investment in the mining sector by using the Ontario income tax regime, we would not be forced to go with the halfhearted efforts that were announced yesterday to aid the mining communities in northern Ontario. It is not good enough. It is not going to do the trick.
The Treasurer is known as being anti-investment, anti-business and anti-economic-growth. He has done it with his own tax policies to the tune of $2.6 billion and he is not going to change it with one announcement today.
Mrs Marland: If there is one thing this Liberal government is a world champion in, it is reannouncements. That is all they keep doing, reannouncing, and then they cancel the programs when they find they are too expensive.
I want to say that those agencies, like the Victorian Order of Nurses, the Saint Elizabeth Visiting Nurses Association of Ontario and the Red Cross homemakers, who had to go with their backs to the wall last year, almost to the point of cancelling their programs, will not be convinced that these wage and benefit improvements are going to solve their problems. If you are going to offload the responsibility for health care on to community-based services, you have to make sure they exist. We hope this minister will make a real commitment to fulfilling this announcement, and not have it be just another announcement.
The fact of the matter is that this government is in court. It is in court in a case that it has no business being in. I give the example of the Mary Mather case. That is a situation where it has failed to deal fairly with seniors in terms of their long-term care facilities.
The truth is that the Treasurer speaks of expanding services, of broadening the base of support services. However, in his budget he stated yesterday that the government expects a greater level of financial contribution from seniors in need of chronic care.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question today for the Treasurer. I am sure the Treasurer will understand the feelings of millions of people in this province who feel that they are being subjected to an extraordinarily unfair tax in the form of the goods and services tax by the federal Conservative Party.
The Minister of Finance of British Columbia also produced a balanced budget -- one might say also produced a balanced budget with perhaps similar political aims in mind. The Minister of Finance of British Columbia, a member of a government which I had never before regarded as being in the forefront of progressive activity, had this to say with respect to the GST:
“This tax is unacceptable to British Columbia. Mr Speaker, a tax on a tax is unfair. I am announcing today that when the GST is implemented, the provincial tax will not apply on top of the federal tax; the provincial tax will apply to prices excluding the federal tax.”
Hon R. F. Nixon: The answer is that such a statement would have cost the consolidated revenue fund of the province $600 million, and anyone who suggests that we should not continue the procedure that has been established here since sales tax began in 1961 must surely be in favour of raising the sales tax by about 0.6 per cent. It does not make sense that we would do that.
I would love to announce a reduction of all the taxes, but the honourable members know that we have a continuing and expanding responsibility to pay for our services in a fair and equitable way. I hope that is a clear and sufficient answer to the honourable member’s comment.
Mr B. Rae: The Treasurer cannot have it both ways. He cannot, try as he might. The hard fact of the matter is that the Liberal government of Ontario has commissioned a poll saying, “How can we add on to the GST?” That is the government’s poll, nobody else’s. The government commissioned a poll asking that question, and when presented with a choice as to whether it would or would not add its taxes on to the GST, it made the decision that the money was better off in its pocket than in the pockets of consumers across Ontario. That is the government’s decision.
If, as he says, he has no plans and indeed will never have any plans to integrate the GST with his sales tax -- and I cannot wait to see him continue to say that -- if he is so opposed to the GST, why would he not recognize the unfairness of adding the government’s tax on the tax when the Treasurer himself is saying it is worth $600 million to the government?
On the other hand, this tax has grown in its size and breadth to the point where I would be the first to say it is the most unpopular tax we have, but it returns $9 billion to the provincial Treasury. This is a substantial amount towards paying for the costs of a wide variety of programs in all parts of the province and in every area of provincial responsibility and endeavour.
The honourable member must be well aware that, while we have a productive tax system, we believe that it is fair and equitable. It has an additional virtue, and that is that it pays our bills, and we have now had two balanced budgets, with the first reduction in the debt in 43 years.
On that basis, I see my responsibility as Treasurer as not only to report to the people and this House as to the economic position of the province but as to our spending programs and how we are going to pay the bills. In yesterday’s budget, I indicated how we are going to do that. We are going to pay our bills this year. We are going to pay them all. We are going to end up with a small surplus and we are going to reduce our deficit.
Mr B. Rae: The Treasurer would rather live off the avails of the goods and services tax, which is exactly what he is doing, than have a tax system that is fair. He is hiding a $600-million tax increase from the consumers of Ontario faced with the GST and he is hiding that $600-million tax increase by putting a tax on a tax.
I say to the Treasurer again, if he were really opposed to the GST, he would not be adding the eight per cent retail sales tax on to the GST. If he is so interested in a fair tax system and he is so worried about the economy of Ontario and he recognizes that we are heading for a recession, why is he taking $600 million out of the pockets of consumers of Ontario when they are faced with the most unfair tax in Canadian history in the form of the goods and services tax?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am interested in the blinding light that has converted the honourable member. He used to be the budget critic in Ottawa on matters of federal finance. He must surely have been aware, if he is sensitive at all, that the federal tax of 13.5 per cent is embedded in many of the goods that are taxed in Ontario.
In that regard, I want to say very clearly that there is no $600-million windfall and the fact that the NDP persists in repeating this in material that is totally incorrect is an indication of its irresponsibility.
Mr Laughren: Could the Treasurer tell us why, after his sixth budget, a single person in this province earning the minimum wage of $5 an hour still has to pay provincial income taxes of about $360 a year?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I know the honourable member would like the House to also recall the fact that in yesterday’s budget an additional $44 million was allocated to our tax reduction program, which means that 115,000 families with low incomes and with children will be relieved of an additional $200 in taxes payable, and the same is true of anyone who is disabled and who is cared for in the home. We feel we have moved along with a number of initiatives to relieve the tax burdens on low-income people.
As a matter of fact, this is the first year they have not had to pay either all or part of their OHIP premiums, and there is a clear $1-billion improvement to the taxpayers of the province this year in that regard.
I think the member will also go through the budget carefully and refer to other advantages that have accrued to low-income people, working or otherwise, which I will continue to list as the honourable member proceeds with his comments.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer did not tell me how he justifies someone earning $5 an hour in Ontario paying $360 a year in provincial income taxes. He did not alter that fact one iota in yesterday’s budget statement, not one iota, that single person earning $5 an hour paying $360 a year in provincial income taxes. Yesterday’s budget did absolutely nothing for that.
While he is trying to think of a way to justify that rather perverse tax policy, could the Treasurer tell us as well how he was able to dredge up only $44 million -- the figure he uses -- for the income tax reduction plan when, at the same time, he was able to come up with $660 million as a tax break for Ontario’s wealthiest citizens because of his preferential treatment of the capital gains tax. How does he put those two things together and sleep at night?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member knows that we have a fair and equitable tax system, in spite of his views, and he is aware that there are substantial improvements, not only to low-income taxpayers but those who are unemployed, those who are in receipt of social assistance. In fact, we feel that it is an appropriate position in establishing a personal income tax regimen that its responsibilities are distributed.
In this particular instance, the honourable member would be aware that we are going to be getting close to $14 billion from personal income tax sources. This is an important, and really the most important, basis for paying for all of our programs, in which all of the people participate.
Mr Laughren: The fact remains that the Treasurer has not been able to explain how he justifies someone earning $5 an hour, the minimum wage in the province, paying $360 a year in provincial income tax. I await his response at some future time perhaps.
Let me get this straight. The Treasurer is telling us that despite the $660-million windfall to people with capital gains, despite the $140-million current cost adjustment, which he just reiterated in his statement a few minutes ago, compared to the $38 million -- I think it is a $38-million expenditure for those at low incomes, not the $44 million; that is a full-year figure -- despite those facts, this is the Treasurer’s concept of tax fairness in Ontario. Is that correct?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member would know that since we took office, we have removed 500,000 individuals from the tax rolls, people who normally pay personal income tax. We have moved in the tax reduction program in a way that is appropriate and widely supported in the province. The fact that it is not fast enough for the honourable member is a source of continuing regret for me, but these are the facts.
I want to advise the House that we have a recently revised atlas, the Peterson-Nixon atlas for eastern Ontario and the rest of Ontario. Members of the House will notice there is nothing in the east; it is vacant. The Liberal government does not know where eastern Ontario is, apparently, if you look at the budget tabled yesterday. It simply does not exist: out of sight, out of mind, out of luck. Will the Treasurer explain to the people of eastern Ontario why he neglected to make any reference to eastern Ontario in his budget yesterday?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member should concentrate on his opposition to the goods and services tax in his re-election program, because he is the one who is brandishing in this House a map of Ontario with the eastern part of it shown blank. Certainly it is not blank in the minds of this government or this ministry.
The honourable member would know that the allocations for roads, for schools, for new hospitals and for a wide range of programs have recognized the needs of eastern Ontario and its many fine centres, from Kingston to Cornwall and to Ottawa, and even Brockville. The citizens in those areas are very well involved and very generously involved in the wide variety of programs made available.
Mr Runciman: It is a wonder the Treasurer can keep a straight face when he delivers that kind of response. We can talk about 12 deaths on Highway 17 this year. We can talk about the closure of five parks by the St Lawrence Parks Commission.
This is an old case. This government has a Ministry of Northern Affairs. They have an assistant deputy minister for the north in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology. They have two bureaucrats at the deputy level for Metro Toronto. And -- the appointment to end all appointments -- they have an adviser to the Premier on eastern Europe. Eastern Ontario does not have a ministry; it does not have a deputy; it does not have an ADM; and it certainly does not have an adviser to the Premier.
I want to ask the minister how he can get up in this House and justify that they are making a contribution to eastern Ontario. It is not clearly indicated in this budget or ones of the past, and it certainly is not indicated by the actions of the government in appointing a senior bureaucrat to advise the Premier and cabinet on concerns in eastern Ontario.
But the honourable member seems somehow to feel that eastern Ontario is not sharing in the buoyant economy of this province. I do not believe that that is the case. It is not appropriate for me to talk about the new sewage development in Ottawa commanding the largest share of the capital that is available this year, or the speeded-up commitment for Highway 417 or the busway, or the fact that there are developments in all parts of the province in the eastern area, including Napanee. I believe that the only vacancy as far as blankness is concerned is in the area of Leeds because of the inadequate representation of the honourable member.
Mr Runciman: The minister is boasting. We have not heard him mention the economic development fund that they announced on a grandiose scale a number of years ago. They have spent $3 million in the past three years. At the same time, the greater Toronto area office of this government will spend $2.5 million this year alone. They spent $24 million on the Ontario Film Development Corp -- more in one year than in eastern Ontario in five years. They have virtually given a blank cheque to the Toronto Olympics. They have committed $70 million to an opera centre in Metropolitan Toronto.
I would like to have the Treasurer respond to the people of this region: Why is this kind of spending more important than creating jobs in eastern Ontario? Why is that kind of spending more important to him and his government?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The Eastern Ontario Development Corp, as the honourable member has indicated, has a special fund with $25 million available to assist the communities there in their efforts to improve their job opportunities and their expansion. The success has been quite phenomenal, and the honourable member is aware of that. His own city is one of the most prosperous, with he and his friends ensconced on the shore of the St Lawrence in their mansions as they watch their yachts bobbing at moor waiting for them to go out on a fishing trip.
When it comes to advice in eastern Ontario, the Premier and the members of the cabinet are very well served by our colleagues in the cabinet and the representation from eastern Ontario from the Liberal Party. We are very proud of this because it has been effective, it has been sensitive and it has cost a lot of money.
Mr Eves: I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development. In view of the fact that there is not one single new initiative in yesterday’s budget for northern Ontario, is he satisfied that the problems of people in northern Ontario are being addressed?
L’hon M. Fontaine : En réponse à la question du député de Parry Sound, j’aimerais lui rappeler que je suis satisfait du budget parce que le Nord de l’Ontario y est couvert dans tous les domaines : la santé, les services sociaux, les transports, les fermiers, l’éducation, l’université. En plus, je voudrais lui rappeler qu’il y a bien des projets qui existent dans le Nord qui ont été mis en place il y a un an et demi ou deux ans.
Mr Eves: Those are all very interesting facts, but the question has not been addressed. The question was in regard to the fact that there is not one single new initiative that this government has made towards northern Ontario in this budget that was introduced yesterday. There are some serious problems in northern Ontario, as I am sure the minister is more than aware.
Dofasco in Kirkland Lake has recently laid off 700 people. Closing this mine is going to eliminate over $40 million in revenue to that community alone. Dofasco is also shutting down an iron ore mine in Temagami. Virginiatown is losing its major employer, a gold mine. Hearst faces bankruptcy of another log mill, and last year we saw a mill close there, putting 300 people out of work. The Algoma iron ore mine in Wawa faces closure and the town of Marathon is also facing the proposed loss of a proposed pulp project.
L’hon M. Fontaine: Premièrement, je ne peux pas comprendre la question du député de Parry Sound parce que -- I guess it has only been a few months he has been part of the north. Maybe that is why he did not look at what we did the last four years, before today’s economic problem.
First of all, the member for Parry Sound did nothing when he was there for northern Ontario either, so he should not give me a lesson. Parry Sound was not even in northern Ontario. We put it in. He had a small budget for the roads, about $55 million. Today we have $130 million for roads. We have the northern Ontario heritage fund. We have got the communications going. We have communication with the municipalities and with the federal government.
Today, the problem in northern Ontario is not a provincial problem; it is the monetary problem of this country, which is directed by Mr Wilson and Mr Crow. That is the problem with northern Ontario, the high interest rate and the high dollar. That is all.
Mr Eves: I am glad the minister brought up a couple of those subjects. If he wants to talk about the northern Ontario heritage fund which was announced, $30 million a year was supposed to be spent. The last two years, he has spent a total of $5 million out of the $60 million. Where did the other $55 million go? He talks about $55 million for roads in the north and he is proud of that. His colleague the Minister of Transportation announced a couple of weeks ago a $5-billion program for Metropolitan Toronto. What is the minister worth? Where is his $5 billion for northern Ontario?
Hon Mr Fontaine: I do not have to take anything from the member for Parry Sound, because the mayor wrote me some letters of congratulation, telling me that I was doing the best job for the construction of highways. Why should I take that from the member?
I would like to remind the member of when we took over the government. I would like to say where Highway 69 was. At least we are spending millions of dollars on this highway, which they did not do when they were there, and it was the time in the 1960s and the l970s to rebuild that highway, not in 1980. We were 10 years late in building highways in the member’s area on account of his government. Their budget was as low as the 1972 budget for transportation.
I would like to remind you, Mr Speaker, that the Via cuts were not our initiative. The cuts originated in Ottawa, and we are going to try to revive the night train to give a chance of better transportation.
Mr Hampton: My question is for the Treasurer. I appreciate all that the Minister of Northern Development had to say. The fact of the matter is that the memo from the Deputy Minister of Northern Development, Brock Smith, to the cabinet secretary was dated 11 January 1990. In other words, on 11 January his government had all of the information that has been listed here already: mine closures in Kirkland Lake, mine closures in Elliot Lake, the risk to important industry in North Bay, further closures in Temagami and problems in Thunder Bay with that as a transportation centre. All of these things were known to his government as of 11 January. His government in this budget gives some very nice tax breaks to big business in southern Ontario --
Mr Hampton: Given all that his government knew, and it knew it some time ago, why is there nothing in this budget to address the growing unemployment problems in northern Ontario and the growing problems of the northern Ontario economy?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member is aware of what is being provided for the north by way of economic stimulation and assistance to the people. The honourable member is aware that the northern Ontario heritage fund received, without even a mention in the budget this year, an additional $30 million, which is about $100 million that has gone there in three years, which is spent directly under the control of northerners for the benefit of the economy there.
The honourable member is aware that over the past two years, and continuing this year, we are providing for 1,600 to 1,700 permanent civil service jobs in the north, together with the capital that goes to house those jobs and provide the infrastructure to make them effective; that there are six new buildings being built in the centres of the north from Thunder Bay right through to Timmins and North Bay, with Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury being strongly featured. This is a capital commitment of an additional $300 million.
The honourable member is aware of our road program, which fair people and perceptive people realize is effectively serving the needs of the north; that education is expanding and improving; that our colleges and our universities are --
Mr Hampton: It is interesting that the Treasurer always refers to the 1,600 civil service jobs, which it is true are going to Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and Timmins. I sometimes think that is about as far as his scope of northern Ontario extends.
Let me just raise with the Treasurer another issue. The Northwestern Ontario Chambers of Commerce, the Northwestern Ontario Tourism Association and many MPPs have asked him to lower the gas tax rate in northern Ontario because it renders all of the products we bring in higher in price and much of what we send out becomes higher in price. If he could give $140 million to big business in southern Ontario, why could he not have at least lowered the gas tax so that what we produce is a little more competitive on the world market?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member knows that the government already provides licences to drive cars at a reduced rate, at half the standard rate, and that the actual price of the gas, which is normally provided to me in my briefing book, is just as it has been every other time it has been raised an average of a cent per litre, or perhaps two cents at the most, over what the costs are elsewhere.
The fact that there are long distances there -- and the honourable member may feel that he has to drive from home to Emo or Thunder Bay -- is an indication that one would certainly have additional travelling responsibilities. We try to make up for that in a fair way by providing drivers’ licences at half price.
Mr Villeneuve: My question is also to the Treasurer. The Treasurer knows that farmers in this province are not doing very well. Farm cash receipts are down, net farm cash receipts are down and realized net farm income is down again this year for the third year in a row. Why did the Treasurer and his government not provide long-term interest relief instead of just a one-year shot to get them over this election?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I can understand the cynicism of the honourable member, being a member of the party that he is, when he would think that anything is done just simply to get people over a rough political period. This is not so. The honourable member will know that in the five years we have been in office our assistance to farmers by way of direct programs has been increased by well over 100 per cent.
The fact that the honourable member has been pushing for interest rate assistance simply reflects what others have said from the New Democratic Party and what others have said from the Liberal Party and what the Minister of Agriculture and Food has indicated is the feeling across the province. That is why it is in the budget, and it is $48 million to provide that assistance as the farmers face the challenges that the honourable member is aware of as well as anyone.
Mr Villeneuve: Transfer payments to farmers, for instance, in the 1988-89 fiscal year were reduced by $51 million. That is a very substantial amount of money, and that is from the government that the Treasurer tells us has done marvels and wonders for farmers -- a $51-million cutback.
The prices of grains right now are less than they were 10 years ago and the cost of operation has gone up tremendously. With 75,000 farmers in Ontario, $48 million is slightly more than $600 per farm. Does the Treasurer think that $600 per farm is sufficient?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member must surely in his experience know some farmers who are still prosperous and who are having success in meeting their community and family responsibilities. This money is focused on those who are victims of the high interest rate policy of the government of Canada, which is of course felt by farmers as well as by people in any endeavour. This money is designed to assist them in those unexpectedly high interest requirements as they finance their crops and go forward to being as productive as they possibly can.
The honourable member also is aware that on a world scale, farmers are having significant difficulty in meeting the low prices at the world level. It sometimes gives us all concern when we hear of people starving in other places of the world, at a time when because of pricing and the economics of the situation our farmers are only producing at probably 25 per cent of their capability.
Mr Kanter: I have a question for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. Several recent surveys have indicated that an increasing number of people feel unsafe walking in their neighbourhoods at night. A recent Gallup poll and a study just released by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics both show that women who live in large cities are most likely to be concerned about their personal safety. Can the minister advise what the Ontario government is doing to make women feel safer on our streets?
Hon Mrs Wilson: My ministry is working on an integrated strategy with other ministries. The government recently announced $28.8 million in funds to address the problems of sexual assault. This indicates this government’s firm commitment to reducing the incidence of violence against women.
Our comprehensive three-part plan was developed by a provincial committee of 13 ministries. It includes services to victims, justice initiatives, prevention and education. I believe this integrated strategy means this government has recognized the need to decrease sexual violence against women on our streets.
Mr Kanter: I thank the minister for the information about the government strategy. But I want to point out to her that in my riding a community-based group called the Annex Women’s Action Committee is working very hard producing a pamphlet entitled Women Protecting Themselves, to help women live safely in downtown Toronto and other downtown communities.
Clearly, I believe that the government must work in partnership with community groups like the Annex Women’s Action Committee to prevent violence against women. Could I ask the minister how the government is encouraging this partnership?
Hon Mrs Wilson: The government has encouraged this partnership by meaningful assistance. What do I mean by “meaningful”? I mean over $1.7 million in funds to raise awareness and change attitudes about sexual assault.
Assistance will also be provided to help communities develop strategies and local networks to co-ordinate activities and services which are related to sexual assault. Also, grants to community organizations of over $200,000 per year acknowledge the important role of local communities in raising public awareness and dispelling the myths that surround sexual assault.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Treasurer. The most glaring omission of his budget yesterday is in the area of housing. I would like to ask the Treasurer how he could possibly justify no new program to provide housing in this province when the facts are clear that in this city there are 10,000 to 20,000 people who are homeless; that there are 41,000 households, representing 71,000 people in this province, on waiting lists for assisted housing; that the apartment vacancy rate across the province is 0.8 per cent and one third of the tenants of this province are paying over 30 per cent of their monthly income on housing.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member will recall the debates in this House. When the government first took office, the honourable member for Scarborough North and the honourable member for Oakwood were Housing ministers and established a broad and productive program of building housing of the rent-geared-to-income, subsidized, non-profit type.
We have established at least 30,000 new units, properly funded, and in the year coming up, there will be 10,000 more open. On a year-by-year basis of supporting those, we are getting close to $1 billion -- close to $910 million -- in the actual year-to-year support.
I would suggest to the member that these programs, which were inaugurated five years ago, four years ago and three years ago, are now very productive, developing these units in this community, in Toronto and across the province, and we are very proud of that accomplishment.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The Treasurer can throw out whatever statistics he wants. The fact of the matter is that his programs have not met the need. There are still homeless people in this province and people living in housing where they cannot afford those rents. Then, on the other hand, he taxes those same people while he gives money away to corporations.
The need is desperate in this province. While there have been some things accomplished in the last few years, the need is still desperate. The vacancy rates across this province are clear: Hamilton, 0.4 per cent; Toronto, 0.4 per cent; Oshawa, 0.2 per cent.
Why has the Treasurer written those people off when he knows that this is one social problem where, if the government had any integrity, it would be able to solve that problem over the next five or six years if he instituted another program? Why has he written those people off?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not agree with the honourable member that the problem would be solved in the next five years if we instituted another program. We have a wide variety of carefully constructed, well-thought-out and well-financed programs that are effectively providing rent-geared-to-income housing and subsidized housing in all of these communities. We find that the programs have been quite spectacular in their success. As Treasurer, I have already indicated to the honourable member that the cost of supporting the programs on an ongoing basis, not a capital basis, is about $900 million.
Mr Brandt: My question is in fact to the Treasurer. While we are talking about programs of spectacular success, I want to point out to him a program that has had less than spectacular success. That is the attention in the budget which he brought in yesterday that he has not given to an area of this province which at one time enjoyed a very buoyant economy and a great deal of success, and that is southwestern Ontario.
As a result of the auto layoffs and industrial restructuring that is going on in Sarnia, Chatham, Windsor and other areas of southwestern Ontario, the unemployment rate is increasing rather rapidly. Why would the Treasurer not do something for southwestern Ontario, recognizing that this part of the province is in need at the moment?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member should be well aware of the fact that the budget, being a classic and admirable example of fiscal responsibility, is surely one of the best things we can do to stimulate business confidence and to attract new investment into this provincial jurisdiction. Southwestern Ontario, where I live and where the honourable member lives, has been fortunate, perhaps more fortunate than the other areas in the province in the past, with this sort of expansion and job opportunities.
The honourable member knows that Toyota, Suzuki in conjunction with General Motors, and many other car manufacturers, including the traditional North American manufacturers, continue to invest money and are even now contemplating expansions which we certainly hope will come to this jurisdiction. That is one of the reasons why it is important for us to maintain the competitive stance we have had, which really means that capital around the world looks at Ontario as one of the most attractive places in which to expand or locate operations.
The honourable member will be aware that the budget plans and indicates that there will be about 61,000 to 64,000 new jobs established, and I would suggest to the honourable member that a large proportion of them will be in the geographic area which he and I represent.
Mr Brandt: As the Treasurer is aware, a hospital was promised for Windsor which has not yet come to pass. That particular community is suffering very directly from auto layoffs related to the slowdown in auto sales. My own community has suffered either complete shutdowns, as is the case with Holmes Foundry, or partial shutdowns and extensive layoffs with plants like Fiberglas Canada.
Yet at the same time as he is ignoring that part of southwestern Ontario, he gives $5 billion to a new transit system for Toronto and a blank cheque to any overruns that are going to occur with respect to the Olympics. This is where most of the development is occurring now and where perhaps a little less attention might be given, recognizing that other parts of the province are developing at a much slower rate and in fact are suffering from higher rates of unemployment.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Our efforts to maintain economic buoyancy are made more difficult by the Progressive Conservative policy of high interest rates and the high value of the Canadian dollar. It was Progressive Conservative leadership that led us into the free trade agreement, which is probably having as much of an impact on the honourable member’s city as it is anywhere else.
I think we are rather valiant in our attempts to see that in spite of these unnecessary and in many respects artificial pressures and tensions, Ontario is still an attractive place in which businesses should locate and expand. We are confident that they will do so and that our economy will continue to grow.
Mr Kozyra: This question is to the Minister of Health. Recently the questions of two members of the opposition in the House have raised considerable concern and even more confusion in my home constituency of Port Arthur, in Thunder Bay. Specifically the confusion surrounds the assistance that is available to cancer patients as they have to travel in other centres in Ontario for treatment. Can the minister clarify this confusion by explaining just what assistance has been and is available to those people who have to travel for this treatment?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to thank the member for Port Arthur for this question. As an advocate on behalf of his constituents, he has made a point of getting the facts, and I am pleased to share them with him today.
There are eight cancer treatment centres across the province. The Canadian Cancer Society offers a program to assist people in financial need with their travel and accommodation. This assistance is available to all those in financial need, whether they live in northern or southern Ontario, eastern or western Ontario, when they travel to the eight provincial regional cancer treatment centres.
Last fall, when we were experiencing pressure in downtown Toronto, the Princess Margaret Hospital, through the patient referral office, offered financial assistance to patients who had to travel to other centres --
It is really important to note that the northern health travel grant program is distinct from the programs which I have outlined. The programs I outlined are available to all the people of Ontario and are administered by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Princess Margaret Hospital, and the Ministry of Health supports those two previous programs by reimbursing those organizations.
The northern travel grant program is especially important to the people of northern Ontario. As members know, it is a longstanding and successful program from the Ministry of Health. Northern residents have had and will continue to have this benefit for a wide range of treatments that go beyond the treatment of cancer. As well as our other policies, we are continuously reviewing the northern travel grant program and evaluating it to ensure that if we have the opportunity to improve it, as we do other programs, we will indeed ensure that it is as equitable as possible.
Mr Reville: My question is to the Treasurer. The Treasurer today has shown us the future of long-term care in the province, and the future is $180 million in user fees. Yet the communiqué that accompanies the budget documents says, “This long-term care reform is the most significant improvement since the introduction of medicare.” How does the Treasurer get off comparing a user-pay program with medicare, which is free?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member knows the government, along with the opposition, and in fact the law of Canada, requires that health services be without direct charge. We support that concept and we have gone to bat for it on more than one occasion, and the honourable member knows that.
There are, however, already co-payment fees required for people in care, for the housekeeping aspects of that care. I think it has been made clear by the excellent statement by the Minister of Community and Social Services that no fees will be charged to those people who are without sufficient resources and, as a matter of fact, full fees will not be paid or required until the income is at the $50,000 level, which I suggest to the honourable member is probably higher than even his own income.
It also is apparent that the expense of this program is very large indeed and, in order to see that it is going to be spread equitably to all parts of the province, the policy is that those who may pay and who can pay and who have incomes over $50,000 will be required to pay not for the medical aspects, nor the drugs, nor the nursing, nor the doctor, but for the aspects of care provided in their own home of a housekeeping nature.
Mr Reville: The Treasurer is trying to reassure us that if you cannot pay you will not pay. But this is the same Treasurer who observes that a $5 minimum wage in this city would require you to go to a food bank; the same Treasurer who likes to stop your $360 in taxes for that same minimum wage which will require you to go to a food bank. He is saying we should rely on him to make sure that those who cannot pay do not pay. Give me a break.
Hon R. F. Nixon: In case there was a question there, I want to reiterate to the honourable member, who seems to be somewhat glassy-eyed in this particular area, that if he feels that those of us who have taxable incomes of $50,000 -- and it would not include me -- should have this home care provided free -- not the doctor, not the nurse, not the drugs, but simply the housekeeping home care -- then he is more a glassy-eyed socialist than I thought and, frankly, more so than I have ever met.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Education. Given that the Minister of Health has recognized the risk associated with asbestos in our schools and given that the Minister of Labour has recognized the health risk to children with the presence of asbestos in our schools, can the minister indicate that he and his ministry equally recognize the risk to children and the danger they are in when they are exposed to asbestos in the air they breathe and that the necessary repairs will be made to our schools immediately?
Hon Mr Conway: As I have indicated to the House on previous occasions, the Ontario government in all respects takes very seriously its responsibilities in helping the community meet the challenge of asbestos abatement. At the Ministry of Education over the past number of years we have, through our capital plan, paid out something in the neighbourhood of $40 million to help school boards deal with the asbestos problem.
I can assure my friend the member for Burlington South that we stand by, ready and willing to receive requests through the capital expenditure forecast submitted annually by school boards across the province to assist them in the most appropriate way in ensuring that the asbestos difficulty that has been identified is most appropriately dealt with.
Mr Jackson: I do not doubt that the minister is standing by, but he never picks up the phone and answers. The truth is that there are over $200 million worth of these kinds of repairs and retrofits going on in schools all across Ontario that are not being supported by the government, that the taxpayers are paying completely out of their own pockets.
The Metropolitan Toronto School Board and Metro boards have indicated they have an immediate need of about $64 million to deal with Harbourfront expansion and needs of schools for asbestos repairs and for updating of fire regulations, but with regard to the Treasurer’s budget there is absolutely no reference in this budget for this year to assist school boards with the increased demands for renovation and repairs as it relates to asbestos. The minister has a standard --
Let me just say, non-provocatively, that this budget, under the leadership of this Treasurer, yet again provides hundreds of millions of dollars -- $300 million, to be specific -- in the fifth year of the now $1.5-billion commitment in provincial grants from Queen’s Park to assist school boards from Burlington to Barry’s Bay with their real needs, needs that were not met by the antediluvian Tories, who had responsibilities for all those years and did so very little.
Miss Roberts: My question today is for the Minister of Labour. Recently it was announced that some 50 employees at the Clevite elastomer plant in St Thomas would lose their jobs as a result of the company moving its assembly operation to the United States. Like the many workers in assembly plants in my riding, I am very concerned about this type of activity, which is seen to be a direct result of the free trade agreement.
Can the minister please tell me and inform the House today what programs or services are available to help these 50 employees when they find themselves out of a job, unemployed, on 1 June of this year?
In terms of the advice that I would recommend to the member for Elgin in dealing with this situation, I think the first thing to do is to recognize there is a financial need for these individuals. There is in our Employment Standards Act a requirement for termination notice and for severance pay. I believe this would meet the requirements of severance pay. They should be dealing with our employment standards people to ensure that happens.
The second thing is that in cases like this we set up what we call an industrial adjustment committee in conjunction with the federal government. That would be the second thing I would recommend to them, that they establish that committee, which can be helpful in terms of helping the individuals in counselling and in determining what training programs are available.
The third thing is that our ministry does have a program called Transitions, which is a training opportunity for workers who are 45 years of age and older, and some of these individuals may qualify for that.
Miss Roberts: What is the ministry doing to prevent future actions by American-owned companies located in Ontario from picking up and moving their jobs to the United States? How do we stop this? What procedures can we take?
Hon Mr Phillips: I guess the thrust that we are pursuing is what the Treasurer said earlier and that is to make Ontario an attractive place in which to invest. I was particularly attracted to the words in the budget yesterday, because I think it is kind of a guiding principle of the kinds of jobs that we want in this province.
The Treasurer said yesterday: “Ontario does not seek to compete through low wages, inadequate environmental standards or poor protection of the public interest. On the contrary, the government believes those who make the investment decisions on a global basis are not looking for sweatshop conditions.”
We are looking to develop quality jobs for this province. That is why the Premier established the Premier’s Council. They recommended that we establish a fund and we have invested about $1 billion of the Ontario taxpayers’ money in helping to develop the kind of technology for those quality jobs.
Mr Allen: I have a question for the Treasurer with respect to the fading shadow of the Social Assistance Review Committee’s social assistance reforms. His government committed itself last year to a major overhaul of social assistance, yet already he has lapsed into tinkering with poverty.
He has already in this budget programmed himself for failure in the food bank strategy recommended by the standing committee on social development: only a five per cent increase in social assistance rates across the board, when inflation, plus the goods and services tax, will equal 8.1 per cent next year.
For the second year in a row he has ignored singles on welfare. He has ignored the disabled, who are in a desperate income strait. He has ignored the minimum wage; wage earners earn 22 per cent less in real dollars than they did in 1975. There is nothing for housing to make up for the food money problem.
Mr Allen: Is the Treasurer prepared to tell the food bank volunteers and their supporters: No, no, you keep on working away. We are not prepared to do anything here in the government. We are prepared to tax you” --
Hon R. F. Nixon: I find the tenor of the question almost unacceptable. The indication is that members of this House and the members of this government are not as concerned with the problems experienced by low-income people as is the honourable member, in some sort of a mindless religious crusade which he embarks on from time to time.
The honourable member should surely be aware that, from a more impartial and perhaps better informed approach, the commitment to our Social Assistance Review Committee recommendations, which began last year, is expanded this year, and we expect to spend an additional $403 million on these social programs. Whether the honourable member thinks that is significant or not is important to himself, but any objective assessment must see that this is an extremely large additional payment to assist those less fortunate than the honourable member and myself.
Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I thought that the House and yourself would like to recognize the Citizens of Plympton Against Landfill who are in the gallery this afternoon. Elizabeth Tenhoeve, the deputy reeve --
The Speaker: I must remind the honourable member it is not a point of order. The member knows that she may do that under members’ statements and she may like to recall that at some future time when she wants to make a member’s statement. Thank you.
Mr Brandt: I am pleased to table a petition to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by approximately 360 residents of the great community of Thunder Bay and area, which reads in part as follows: “This is a strong objection to the continuing rise in education costs. This can no longer be tolerated by the ratepayers.” I have appropriately signed the petition.
Mr Laughren: Before I begin my response to the 1990 budget, I did want to assure any viewers across the province who might be tuned in to this parliamentary channel that the member for Welland-Thorold will return at a later date. He has not finished his discussion of the time allocation motion on Bill 68, the auto insurance bill. I know that there are a lot of people out there anxious to mail in their cancelled Liberal membership cards to Mr Kormos so that they can receive a copy of a very important and interesting book. I trust that viewers across the province --
Mr Laughren: I thought that we had a long-standing tradition in this place, Mr Speaker, that budget debate was wide-ranging and encompassed virtually everything that went on in the province of Ontario. Certainly if you want me to deal with the auto insurance bill I could, but I thought that I would stick more specifically to the budget of the Treasurer as he presented it yesterday.
The Liberal members are trying to make light of the contribution of the member for Welland-Thorold in this regard, but I do think it is important that we all understand what he is doing and that he will be resuming the debate on time allocation on the auto insurance bill at the earliest opportunity. As soon as the government schedules that item of business, he will be here talking to the people of Ontario about the ridiculous auto insurance bill that this government has introduced.
This is the sixth budget that the member for Brant-Haldimand has brought down as Treasurer of Ontario, and while some members of the Liberal Party will clap their hands -- I suppose there are people in this province who get joy out of misery; misery of other people, of course, not themselves -- I want to tell members that if there is one thing this budget does, it is that it ignores the misery in our society. It pretends that there is none. That is exactly what this budget does. So to all Liberals who are applauding this budget, they should keep that in mind. That is exactly what this budget represents.
I am glad to see that the Liberals are still applauding the fact that this budget continues to have people in this province living in misery. It ensures that people will continue to be homeless in this province and that people will still continue to be hungry.
This budget’s big lacking, once again, is the element of fairness. There really is no element of fairness in this budget whatsoever. The Treasurer seems to not even have a comprehension about what a balanced tax policy is for a jurisdiction like Ontario. He has avoided ruffling any of the feathers in the business community by increasing the amount of corporate giveaways and by continuing to ignore the need for a minimum corporate tax. We know that is a very real possibility and yet he has ignored that again.
He has avoided the reality of poverty, hunger and homelessness in this province by giving no further consideration to the Social Assistance Review Committee proposals in the Transitions report which was brought down a year or so ago.
He has given no consideration to the housing crisis, as was mentioned by my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside earlier this afternoon in question period. My colleague said that this is the most glaring inadequacy in the budget. I must agree with him. There was no mention of housing at all. I do not know how the Treasurer could do that. I do not know how the Minister of Housing could sit back and allow that to happen. If I were that Minister of Housing, I would be handing in my resignation to the Premier. However, I will not hold my breath in that regard.
The Treasurer has avoided dealing at all with the adjustments that are inevitably going to be associated with the free trade agreement. Virtually all economists tell us there is going to be some kind of recession in the months to come, and the Treasurer is blindly ignoring that fact.
He has also largely avoided the environmental crisis in Ontario in what was prematurely called a green budget, and the Treasurer allowed people to talk that way. He sort of hinted, even, that he was a great friend of the environment. There were newspaper columns indicating that he was going to be a hero of the environmental movement. That certainly is not the case after they have seen this budget. It occurred to me that the only green in this budget was the mould on the old Liberal corporate ties. That is the only green in this entire budget.
I would call this budget an avoidance budget more than anything else. The Treasurer has taken great care to avoid any kind of trouble with the influential in this province. He has been very, very careful. He has taken a total lack of care towards the very real difficulties being faced by the people who are having it tough, not just in Metropolitan Toronto but all across the province. So while the ripples on the surface appear very small, they tell a great deal about the undercurrent of this Liberal government.
I would like to spend a few moments talking about tax fairness. It is not a new issue with us. We have talked to the Treasurer every year about the need for introducing an element of fairness into our tax system. There is absolutely no legitimate excuse for the kind of tax system we have in Ontario. We have laid before the Treasurer, every year, very specific examples of what could be done to make the tax system fair. We have been very, very careful and, if I might say so, very responsible in making sure that for everything we said was going to cost money, there was a source of revenue to balance that cost without disrupting the province in any way. As a matter of fact, in most cases what we have recommended has already been done in one jurisdiction or another. We have been very, very careful to balance our spending proposals with our proposals for new revenue so that the Treasurer could not claim that we were just simply big spenders.
In the past five years, this government has increased the retail sales tax to eight per cent, forced up property taxes and introduced or boosted a whole host of consumption taxes. Because everyone pays the same rate regardless of income, these taxes consume a larger proportion of the income of low- and middle-income earners than that of the income of the wealthy in our society. Add to this the erosion of the tax credits, housing prices forced up through speculation and the fact that even people living below the poverty line must still pay income tax, and the result is an economy of hardship for the average Ontarian.
Earlier, in the question period, I asked the Treasurer three different times how he can justify extracting from a single person earning $5 an hour, which is the minimum wage in this province, $360 in provincial income tax every year. The Treasurer did not answer. The Treasurer responded with a bunch of bafflegab but did not even attempt to justify or explain how he justifies someone earning $5 an hour paying $360 a year in provincial income tax. I do not know how he can live with himself -- $5 an hour and these people pay provincial income tax. I want to hear some Liberal stand in his place during this budget debate over the next few days and explain to us how he justifies someone earning the minimum wage paying $360 in provincial income tax to the Liberal government. I do not understand that at all.
On the other side of the scale, high-income families benefit from the capital gains exemption and the lack of both a wealth tax and a tax to control real estate speculation. While 297,000 Ontarians earning less than $10,000 paid provincial income tax in 1987, not a cent of income tax was paid by over 1,100 individuals who earned over $50,000. The impending economic slowdown promises to widen the gap between the rich and the poor in this province.
The Treasurer gave no consideration to lightening the impact of the federal GST on Ontarians. In fact, he confirmed that he is going to be piggybacking his sales tax on top of the GST. Our leader asked the Treasurer earlier today as well why he would not follow the lead of the British Columbia government, which is not going to apply the provincial sales tax there on top of the GST. It can be done. The Treasurer knows full well why he is doing it: It provides him with the windfall he wants without having to be blamed for it. I think that is not going to work. The people in Ontario will resent very much having to pay a tax on a tax, the way the Treasurer is setting about to do it. We think that is going to be about $600 million a year in windfall to the provincial Treasury.
The Treasurer stands in his place one day and says it is $170 million he is going to make, the next day he says it is going to cost him $600 million if he does not do it and another day in his budget he says he is not going to make any money on the GST. I have no idea where the Treasurer is getting his numbers on how much money he is going to get from tax on the GST, absolutely no idea.
Mr Laughren: On the back of an envelope perhaps. It is really strange. The Treasurer, out of one side of his mouth, says that he is opposed to the GST, he does not like the GST, it is a bad tax. He is always sticking it to the Conservatives here in Ontario about their brethren in Ottawa imposing the GST. At the same time, out of the other side of his mouth he is very quick to say he wants to tax that GST and we get a windfall that he is playing games with in terms of the absolute numbers.
We know that as of 1 January 1991, everyone, rich and poor, will be paying tax on tax. In his budget, he tried to show that he might even lose money by doing that. That really, really was a bit much. Nobody is going to buy that argument -- nobody -- because you can bet your bottom dollar, if the Treasurer was not making money on the GST, he would not be imposing his tax on top of it. He would be doing exactly what British Columbia is doing. He is making big bucks on the GST. That is why he is putting the tax on top of the tax. There is no question about that at all, because politically that is not a popular thing to do. So why would he do it if he were not making big bucks as a result of doing it?
We suggested before the budget was brought down that he reduce the sales tax to seven per cent. Then he could stand in his place and say: “I have reduced the sales tax to seven per cent. That is about $1 billion in revenue.” But because he has this windfall of about half a billion -- $600 million on the full eight per cent of the seven per cent GST, but if it is seven per cent of the seven per cent GST, it is about half a billion dollars -- it is not as though it is going to cost the Treasury a full billion dollars by reducing it one point. It would cost the Treasury about half a billion. We know that could be made up simply by imposing a minimum corporate tax.
It is not as though we are saying that something outrageous should be done that is going to bankrupt the Treasury of Ontario. On the contrary, it is a most reasonable request. If the Treasurer were at all fair about this process, he could have done that and then he could have justified the tax on the tax, and I think people in Ontario perhaps would have accepted it. But the people of Ontario will not accept the tax on the tax. That is grossly unfair and we will not accept the games he is playing with the numbers. They simply are not factual. The people of Ontario are not so stupid as to believe that.
It does not seem to bother the Treasurer either that in 1987 -- this is the latest year for which we could obtain the numbers -- there were over 40,000 corporations in Ontario that paid no taxes whatsoever, although their profits, their positive revenues, were over $11 billion. They managed to write down those profits to the point where they had to pay no corporate taxes at all.
On top of that, we know that about 25 years ago, for every $1 in corporate taxes collected in the province, $2 was collected by the income tax system. Today it is three to one. For every $1 that the corporations pay, individuals pay $3, so we have had a shift from individuals paying twice as much as the corporate sector to individuals paying three times as much as the corporate sector. Of course, the Treasurer has not done anything to change that. As a matter of fact, he is reinforcing that trend.
Because Ontario administers its own corporate income tax, the Treasurer had the opportunity to ensure that corporations pay their own share. He still has. He can do that any time he wants. We have suggested that a minimum corporate tax at 50 per cent of the statutory rate -- and for those people who do not know about those things, the statutory rate in the province now for ordinary businesses is 15.5 per cent, so a minimum corporate tax at 50 per cent of the statutory rate would be half of that.
Even the United States has a minimum corporate tax. The story goes that Ronald Reagan was told one day that a bank teller paid more tax than the bank that employed her. Even Ronald Reagan was incensed by that. He said there must be a minimum corporate tax.
Here we have the Treasurer of Ontario being outflanked by Bill Vander Zalm and Ronald Reagan. That puts him in strange company. Perhaps it does not bother the Treasurer, but it is a strange position for a Liberal party and surely must give the Treasurer pause for thought.
We know that a minimum corporate tax by our estimates would raise about $1 billion a year and would not cripple the private sector. They pay it in other places; they could pay it here. It is not a question of being antibusiness; it is a question of having a fairer tax system than we have now.
The Treasurer, however, instead of even doing that, increased the benefits to the corporate sector by doubling the Ontario current cost adjustment rate to 30 per cent. It was 50 per cent and now it is bumped up to 30 per cent. That of course means another $140 million a year in benefits to the private sector.
Mr Laughren: I think the Treasurer would not have done it if he did not think there would be investment to warrant it. Presumably he introduces these measures because he thinks there is going to be a return on them.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer stood in his place this afternoon and talked about the $140 million -- no, I must correct that. He did not mention the term “new $140 million.” It was not in his statement at all. He simply said that --
Mr Laughren: I really do not understand how the Treasurer can announce $38 million for the income tax reduction plan at the same time and in the same budget as he announces the $140 million I just talked about, and ignore the $660-million preferential treatment of capital gains. That is money --
Mr Laughren: You can talk about all of them if you want. I am quite happy to talk about all of them. The $140 million is brand-new money in this budget, as is the $38 million. If you wants to just compare what is in this budget rather than talk about all the programs and expenditures that are in place, that is fine by me.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer cannot have it both ways. He cannot stand up in his place and say that he is going to do great things for the corporate sector with $140 million, and then sit in his chair and say it is not going to cost anything. He must make up his mind. I do wish that he would be --
Mr Laughren: I can understand why the Treasurer is so defensive. I do not know how he justifies the kind of tax system we have in this province. As a matter of fact, he put it right in his budget statement that a single parent with two children at an income level of $18,700 will pay provincial income tax. He seems to be proud of that -- $18,700. That is because there are two children. If it is a single person earning $5 an hour, the minimum wage, that person will pay $360 in provincial income tax this year.
The Treasurer has a strange set of values when it comes to fairness in taxes. Even that $18,700 he talks about with the single parent and two children is a figure that is about $6,000 below the poverty level as established by Statistics Canada. I do not know, just in the interest of fairness, how the Treasurer can justify anyone living below the poverty level -- that is not established by us, but by Statscan -- paying any provincial income tax at all.
He is quoted in the press as saying -- when we were pushing him for an increase in the minimum wage, and the press was, I gather, yesterday -- “Well, people can’t live on the $5 minimum wage anyway. They have to go to food banks.” The Treasurer seems to accept the fact that somebody at the minimum wage in Metropolitan Toronto earning $5 an hour cannot live on that and has to go to food banks at the same time as he has taken $360 out of their pocket in provincial income tax. How in the world does he justify that? How can he say that someone at his minimum wage, set by him at $5 an hour, cannot live on that and has to go to food banks, and at the same time he is willing to extract $360 from that person through his provincial income tax system. That really is a perverse tax policy. That really is.
We think there is no reason for anyone below the poverty level to pay provincial income tax. We have costed that out. We think the cost of that is about $200 million. The Treasurer did not blush when he threw $140 million at the private sector on the current cost adjustment increase yesterday, but he would not even think about the $200 million to take everybody below the poverty level from his income tax rolls.
That is not an outrageous amount in the province of Ontario, $200 million. As a matter of fact it is less than a third of the preferential treatment for wealthy capital gains people who would take advantage of the capital gains. By not taxing capital gains, by not picking up that portion, the Treasurer costs the province of Ontario $660 million. That is big money.
The Treasurer gives those people $660 million and gives the people at the bottom end of the scale $38 million. That is what it comes down to. He could remove everybody below the poverty level from paying income tax for $200 million -- less than $200 million. At the same time he has given $660 million to Ontario’s wealthiest citizens. That surely is outrageous.
We have told the Treasurer that there are other ways to do it. He could impose a wealth tax on the net wealth, with all the appropriate exemptions of course like family farm, private residence, cars, insurance, pensions. He could make the appropriate exemptions, but net wealth is very often actually a better measure of people’s wellbeing or material wealth than is income.
There are 24 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Twenty-two of them impose a wealth tax, either a tax on net wealth or an inheritance act, one or the other -- 22 out of 24. Only Australia and Canada do not have a wealth tax; only those two. Even the United States has one. Yet the Treasurer does not see that this would be a reasonable reform of the tax system. It would not have to be onerous. As a matter of fact, it represents a very small percentage and we have laid before the Treasurer the numbers where he could easily raise about $500 million a year without crippling anybody and still have in place all the exemptions that are appropriate, which I mentioned a few minutes ago; no problem at all. Yet this Treasurer simply will not do that.
I want to move for a moment to talk about the municipalities. If there is one level of government that is most vulnerable, it is the bottom tier, the municipalities. The Treasurer screams like a stuck pig when the federal -- it is just an expression, unfortunate perhaps; anyway, the Treasurer does not like it when the federal government cuts back grants to the provinces, but at the same time he does not mind at all passing on cutbacks to the municipalities. It does not seem to bother him at all. He does not see that there is a double standard there, to complain about what the federal government does to the province and then turn around and do the very same thing to the level of government underneath us, namely, the municipalities.
I looked at the unconditional grants, for example. They have increased by only 4.8 per cent in the two years. They were frozen last year, members will recall. Taking into account the growth in population in the municipalities and inflation, unconditional grants have actually declined by 10 per cent over the last two years. That surely is inappropriate to the municipalities, because the municipalities have nowhere else to turn. The Treasurer can turn to the municipalities and pass costs on to them. The municipalities have nowhere else to turn. They simply have to raise property taxes, and of course they are regressive in turn.
Road grants, which cover the operating costs of maintaining municipal roads -- I am not talking about building them -- were frozen in 1988 and 1989. With this year’s grants the increase in road grants over two years is 10.9 per cent, but even the inflation levels were 11.5 per cent over that same period of time. So municipalities have lost both in the unconditional grants and in the road grants.
In just the same way that the federal government can pass on costs to the province, the province can pass on costs to the municipalities. My only point is that the federal government can do it to the provinces and the provinces can do it to the municipalities, but when the Treasurer complains about the federal government, he has surely got a double standard when he then turns around and does the same thing to the municipalities. That is what I am saying. We know the municipalities are the most vulnerable level of government that there is. While costs continue to go up at the municipal level, the funding levels being provided by this government are not keeping pace.
Not only has the Treasurer continued to force up property taxes and not only has he held to a retail sales tax rate of eight per cent, but he has avoided facing up to the need that these unfair taxes have created by neglecting to restore the existing system of provincial property and sales tax credits. Mr Speaker, I know you will remember that those property and sales tax credits were created in 1974 by the previous government. They were created to provide relief to the lowest income earners from property taxes and sales taxes, which are regressive almost by definition because they are not related to your ability to pay.
They were created in 1974 by the previous government. When they were created they were to the tune of $374 million. In 1989 the value of these credits was $949 million, almost three times the value of the credits, but the combined retail sales and property tax revenues were $3.5 billion in 1974 and $18.4 billion in 1989.
The reason those numbers are important is that tax revenues through property and sales taxes have gone up three times as fast as the credits have. So this government is not even keeping up with that at all, and this year there is absolutely no increase in the property and sales tax credits; absolutely zero. How does the Treasurer justify that? That is to protect the lowest income earners in the province of Ontario, and there is no increase at all in the sales tax credits.
We called upon the Treasurer to make a major increase in the tax credits. That was one way. He could have said: “Look, I know that you’re going to be paying more sales taxes through the GST, the goods and services tax. I know that we increased our sales tax from seven to eight per cent as well, and we are going to be charging tax on tax in January 1991. Here is a way of easing that burden somewhat for the lowest-income earners, by increasing the sales and property tax credits.”
Did he do it? No, not at all; zero. He did not mind giving $140 million to companies. He did not mind giving $860 million to the wealthy people who take advantage of the capital gains exemption. He did not hesitate to do that at all, but is there anything for low income earners on the sales and property tax credits? Zero once again; it is truly remarkable.
Prior to his budget I know the Treasurer had meetings with a lot of groups of people who presented their case to him. In some cases we met with the same groups and we know what they told him. He ignored virtually all of those groups if they had anything to do with fairness in the system. He also ignored a lot of the recommendations of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. I know that the groups that appeared before him talked about the problems of poverty, the environment, housing, labour force training and adjustment programs. We know that. There is no evidence the Treasurer listened to any of those suggestions seriously. It makes you wonder about his consultative process.
There is no mention of funding for school meal programs, which of course should only be a stopgap measure because it is demeaning to children. It does not reach the elderly. It does not reach young children at home. Still, as long as low income families pay income tax and suffer with escalated housing costs, children must be fed.
There is no extra money to fund school nurses and other professionals such as social workers and psychiatrists. Poverty has great implications for children’s health. For example, a bad diet can ruin children’s teeth and cause hyperactivity and behavioural problems and so forth. As long as there is poverty, these needs must be met.
I do not believe -- I am sure most members do not -- that feeding the children of Ontario has to be justified or subjected to a cost-benefit analysis. However, I do know that when the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario made its presentation to the Treasurer in his pre-budget consultation, they pointed out, “All the studies indicate that for every dollar we spend on young children, we save up to $7 later on in social welfare, prison, psychiatric treatment and all the rest of it.”
There is no recognition by the Treasurer that he understands that, none at all. There is absolutely no awareness in this budget that the Treasurer understands the problems of children in poverty, absolutely no recognition whatsoever.
There is also nothing in this budget to address the feminization of poverty, because children in single-parent, mother-led families are more likely to be poor than children of two-parent or father-led families.
Poverty can also be addressed through other measures such as accessible, affordable day care. I must say I commend the government for expanding its child care expenditures by 27 per cent to compensate for the federal government’s decision not to proceed with the national child care program. I hasten to add that child care services in this province have a long way to go. The Treasurer’s unwillingness to fund child care at anything approaching adequate levels leaves many working families without child care and is forcing child care providers in centres across the province to cut subsidized spaces and lay off staff.
There is a need to provide better training opportunities for women. I really wonder just how much of the $11 million in his budget that is going to in-school training of apprentices will affect the women of Ontario. I suspect not very much.
Also, as a general poverty fighting measure, the minimum wage should be raised. If this government was serious about fighting poverty, it would have announced an increase in the minimum wage this year to 65 per cent of the average industrial wage. I am pleased that my colleague the member for Hamilton East is here. He had a private member’s bill in this assembly not too long ago that would have done just that. I am sure I have heard the Treasurer say that he knows nobody can live on $5 an hour, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto but nowhere else either. It is an outrageous level for a minimum wage, absolutely outrageous. It says a great deal about the priorities of this government. The Treasurer always says it is the highest in Canada. Is that not wonderful? Here is the Treasurer saying that $5 a hour is the highest level in Canada.
Mr Laughren: Yes. I guess that is why the Treasurer taxes it. There must be some reason; maybe that is why. He is saying: “You guys, you’ve got the highest minimum wage in Canada. We’re going to tax you.” The Treasurer knows that, particularly in a place like Toronto, $5 an hour is a sad joke. He acknowledges that, and he acknowledges that the people even have to go to food banks, for heaven’s sake.
We think that in Ontario roughly 400,000 workers work for $5 an hour, or $10,400 per year. For a family of four, that is 14,000 below the poverty line established by Statscan. We think that is ridiculous, and yet the Treasurer did not mention the minimum wage in this budget.
That is rather ominous. A year ago he mentioned the minimum wage and indicated in the budget that it was going to be raised as of 1 October 1989. This year, no mention in the budget at all of the minimum wage. Perhaps it will get raised on 1 October, but there is no commitment to do that on the part of the government. Why not? It is an obscene level for a minimum wage.
On social assistance spending, the Treasurer has increased social assistance spending by five per cent, effective 1 January 1991. That is an important date. Why did he announce it for January 1991? By setting it for that date, the Treasurer is ignoring the impact of the inflation rate of 1990, the year we are in now, or the effect next year of the goods and services tax. As a result, the poor are going to be left even further behind in 1991 than they are now.
Besides the erosion of this funding by inflation, a great deal of the funding will quickly be eaten up by the 6.2 per cent increase in the number of social assistance cases between January 1989 and January 1990. The Treasurer must know that the increasing case load is going to eat up a big chunk of that five per cent increase, so it is not even going to be really a five per cent increase. That, combined with the way inflation gnaws away at it, is going to make that a really paltry increase. So there is no reason to believe that we have seen the end of food banks in this province.
The other thing that makes me angry, quite frankly, is even the presence of food banks in our community. If I could use the expression, food banks have mushroomed since this government came to power in 1985. There are many, many times more food banks now than there were in 1985.
I do not know how a government, a Liberal government, can live with the presence of food banks in this community. I do not know how it accepts it. I do not know why there is not an uprising by Liberal backbenchers saying that food banks are an embarrassment to this jurisdiction, a complete embarrassment. I do not know how they can accept it. We might argue over the level of benefits; we might argue over the level of minimum wage; we might argue over the level of assistance to municipalities. How can we possibly argue over the presence of food banks in our community? How can they accept that? That is something that I have great difficulty comprehending. It truly is an embarrassment.
The Treasurer could have stood in his place yesterday and said, “We are hereby making a commitment to make food banks nothing but an embarrassing memory in the province of Ontario.” That is what he should have done. He has the wherewithal to do it, he has the revenues to do it, but he did not do it. Therefore, I do not want to be unfair, but I can only assume that they do not bother the Treasurer or his government, that the presence of food banks are an acceptable phenomenon in the province of Ontario. I do not know; perhaps some day the Treasurer will be able to explain all that.
I would like to turn for a moment to the problem of housing in the province of Ontario. I know that the Treasurer had meetings with the housing interest groups. I know that prior to the presentation of his budget, I assume, anyway, he was aware of the vigil that took place outside this building. It was an all-night vigil where the homeless camped out in tents, and people who are lobbying on their behalf did as well, because the last number I saw, there were about 10,000 homeless people just in this city.
Yet the government’s failure to announce any new housing programs indicates a level of smugness that is difficult to comprehend. Maybe they think they have solved the housing problem in Ontario. The statistics, though, tell us something else.
There are over 200,000 households caught in the cycle of homelessness in this province. Over 41,000 households, representing at least 71,000 people, are on the waiting list for assisted housing. There is an apartment vacancy rate for Ontario of 0.8 per cent. That is eight vacant apartments for every 1,000, and they are not vacant for very long at any given point. That is 0.3 per cent in Metropolitan Toronto.
One third of Ontario’s tenant households pay over 30 per cent of their income on rent, and this will likely increase as more tenants are hit with large rent increases because of this government’s perverse rent review system.
From 1985 to 1989, average house prices increased in Ontario by 114 per cent, from $86,000 to $184,000, putting home ownership beyond the means of most families. For 1990, there will be less than 5,000 new non-profit and co-op housing allocations.
I noticed that this afternoon, when the Treasurer was responding to my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside, he literally -- I am not making this up -- choked trying to get out the words “non-profit” and “co-op.” He could not say the words. He had great difficulty saying those words. He cannot accept the fact that that is a legitimate form of housing in the province of Ontario.
The province has not announced a new housing supply program since the spring of 1988. The allocations of 30,000 units in the Homes Now program of 1988 are all used up. The Treasurer ignored the recommendations of the Legislature’s standing committee on finance and economic affairs to introduce a follow-up program to Homes Now.
I am not sure why the Treasurer goes through the pretence of attending the standing committee on finance and economic affairs or why he pretends to put any stock at all in its reports, because he does not do anything that it recommends, and that is a committee dominated by his Liberal colleagues, of course.
There is still no introduction of a property speculation tax. For several years, the Liberal government has turned a blind eye to the speculation that was making housing prices soar. They insisted that the prices had peaked. The Treasurer was the one who always said that. We had hoped that by now the Treasurer would have learned that the time for prevention is before a crisis arises.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer says, “I was right, wasn’t I?” No, the Treasurer was wrong, dead wrong. Does the Treasurer really think that prices will never go up again, that we will not see any more speculative increases in the price of homes and land? Nonsense. Absolute nonsense. The Treasurer says it all the time, every year he says it, and then when prices level off for a while, he says, “Aha, now the heat is off; I don’t have to do anything.”
The Treasurer will not do it, I assume. I do not know why. We do not see it as a revenue producer; we see it as a preventive measure. It is not a tax grab. An appropriate speculation tax would not bring in revenue to the province, it would simply prevent the kind of outrageous speculation that has gone on.
There is nothing in this budget for people who live in unsafe, insecure rooming houses. I remind the Treasurer of the tragic Rupert Hotel fire. There is an obvious need, and despite the recommendation once again of the Legislature’s finance committee that special attention be given to the housing needs of singles currently living in rooming houses, the Ministry of Housing spending in 1991 is estimated to be $666 million.
That sounds like a lot of money. It is 1.5 per cent of total provincial expenditures. In the mid-1970s, housing got four per cent of the provincial budget. This Treasurer is allocating 1.5 per cent. In the middle of a housing crisis, the Treasurer’s allocation of housing is less than half what it was back in the 1970s. So the Treasurer does not need to say, “I am doing a lot, I am putting a lot of money into it.” As a percentage of the provincial budget, it is less than half of what it was back in the mid-1970s.
All of the housing groups who made presentations to us, and I am sure to the Treasurer as well, stressed the fact that we had to get up at least to the three per cent level if we are going to address at all seriously problems of the homeless and the underhoused in the province of Ontario.
I would like to turn for a moment to problems with working people all across the province. This Liberal budget does nothing for them if they are facing unemployment. As a matter of fact, it has already happened to a lot of people. Layoffs are rippling through the Ontario workforce. Auto workers are off the line for a few weeks at a time. Steelworkers are out of a job because of reduced demand. Construction cutbacks, particularly in residential housing so desperately needed in the province, are leaving working families without paycheques.
The downturn in the northern mining and forestry industries is the subject of high-level government memos. The Treasurer surely will recall the memo which stated that the northern economy was headed for some rough times in the months to come. There is no indication that the Treasurer is aware of that or is prepared to do anything about it.
What is in the 1990 Liberal budget for those facing unemployment? There is absolutely nothing except for the $11 million for in-house apprenticeship training. There are no adjustment funds, no community development funds and no measures to deal with the human effects of unemployment, which even the budget predicts to rise in Ontario by 10 per cent over its present level.
The Liberals have not forgotten their friends in big business, however. The 1990 budget has given a $140-million windfall to manufacturing corporations by increasing their write-off of new equipment expenditures. The uranium miner in Elliot Lake, the iron miner in Temagami or Kirkland Lake, the auto worker in Windsor or Oshawa or the steelworker in Hamilton or Sault Ste Marie surely do not get that kind of treatment.
By holding the balance of power in 1985-87, we forced the adoption of a number of labour initiatives, including the indexing to the cost of living of Workers’ Compensation Board pensions, the legal right to know about toxic substances in the workplace, improved severance pay and notice of layoffs, pension reform, including portability, and the first-contract arbitration.
Since its September 1987 election, the Liberal government has shown its true colours. It has done nothing for working people. The 1990 budget confirms that the Liberals, like the Tories before them, are simply a government of big business.
Mr Laughren: Yes, they were supposed to reform the Workers’ Compensation Board, and if you talk to most members, I suspect if the Treasurer even talked to his own colleagues, they would tell him that the Workers’ Compensation Board has never been in a worse mess than it is today. It is in a complete shambles. Unless he addresses the problem at the compensation board, it is going to get worse. It is a mess. It is a complete mess, and the government has to do something about that.
Mr Laughren: The big danger, of course, is that replacing the people at the top of the compensation board with a couple of other people will simply give the impression that change has taken place when it may not be.
Mr Laughren: There is an option. I will not get into this, because it is not in the Treasurer’s budget, but I want to say it is time -- and I have heard this Treasurer even say himself that he believes that at some point we should have a universal sickness and accident system in this province. I have heard the Treasurer say that. We would all prefer that it was a federal plan, but let us not wait for the federal Tories to do anything that progressive.
I want to tell members, our industrial system is too complex, diseases are too complex, for a compensation system like we have to cope with it. It simply cannot be done. No one knows what causes some diseases. So keeping that dinosaur of the Workers’ Compensation Board simply is not appropriate.
Mr Laughren: That is correct -- some diseases. That is why the compensation board cannot handle it. They do not want to handle it. It is a mess. It is a complete mess, and the government really should be dealing with that.
I do not want to spend much time on it, but a couple of years ago the Premier announced the Premier’s Council. I know that the Treasurer is a great fan of the Premier’s Council. The Premier’s Council has made some contribution to the debate out there, if we could get a debate on it. Perhaps that is something we should debate in this assembly some day, the Premier’s Council reports.
I think they have made some contribution in that they strike a responsive chord in me, in some ways, because they do call for a more interventionist role for government in the private sector in terms of establishing goals and so forth.
I am not sure, though, that the government is listening at all. I think they are totally ignored. I know that the Treasurer is responsible for the overall industrial policy of the province; I assume he accepts that responsibility. I think that there should be a more serious consideration of the recommendations of the Premier’s Council report. It does call for some interesting kinds of intervention.
If the Treasurer were to look at how other countries have done it, whether it is Japan or whether it is West Germany or whether it is the United States, in each case there was a central role for government to play. Whether it was working with the banking system or the leading manufacturers or having a contract with the labour movement and industries, or in the case of the United States with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, there has been a central leading role by government.
In this province, that has not happened yet. It is very ad hoc. If government provides any kind of direction, it tends to be in response to a problem rather than as an initiative, and I think, as we are into the 1990s, with the free trade with the United States and with the more global trade, the provincial government is simply going to have to get off the sidelines and into the game. The government has shown no indication that it understands that, that it intends to do it. I know that part of the problem is that this Treasurer is very much an opponent of very much government intervention. Perhaps I should not use the word “intervention,” that makes the Treasurer nervous -- government leadership, to work with the private sector so that we are well placed in the 1990s.
This government has placed a lot of emphasis on the need for an educated, skilled workforce but has not followed through with the financial commitment necessary to restore Ontario’s colleges and universities to the level they should be. It seems that the Treasurer has taken a step towards understanding the crisis in our post-secondary institutions with the $18-million increase in funding for new equipment and library materials and so forth. He must have got some of the message that the Ontario Federation of Students and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations presented to him regarding the inadequacy of the $1.8-billion funding for universities that he announced last November.
I fear, however, that the mere 8.7 per cent increase in funding will be quickly eaten up by inflation, by the Ontario employer health tax, by pay equity adjustments and the cost of servicing enrolment growth.
Government underfunding means tuition hikes, and the eight per cent increase in tuition fees advocated by the government places an increasingly large financial barrier to access, negating much of the impact of measures to increase accessibility for women and minority groups to post-secondary education.
The extra $18 million announced in this budget will not cover the costs associated with the physical upkeep and needed expansion of our colleges and universities, let alone relieve the financial stress of the impending faculty shortage. Without a major commitment to faculty renewal in Ontario, student-faculty ratios will increase and institutions will be forced to place additional quotas on enrolments, thus forcing down both quality and access.
At the primary and secondary level -- this surprised me, as a matter of fact, in the budget yesterday -- there was the extension of the $300-million annual capital construction program. The Treasurer basically flat-lined that $300 million. He has basically frozen that, as though there was not a real world out there where costs did not freeze in time. There was no consideration of the impact of inflation on these funds.
The announcement at the end of March of the general legislative grants for elementary and secondary education showed a continuing decline in the provincial share of funding. I recall that when the Liberals came to power in 1985, the provincial share of funding was 47.8 per cent. In 1990, the province is projecting a drop in its share to 40.8 per cent.
Mr Laughren: The promise of this government was that it would fund 60 per cent, back where it used to be. It used to be 60 per cent. When this government was campaigning for election, it said, “We think the province should pay 60 per cent of the cost of education.” Ever since they got into power, it has gone totally down. It was over 47 per cent when they were elected and it is down to 40 per cent now. What kind of commitment is that to an election promise? So much for promises.
Mr Laughren: That is right. Here is another way of passing on costs to the hard-pressed property taxpayer, another regressive tax. I find it really hard to accept on something like education, which is primarily a provincial responsibility. Yet here they are passing the buck on to the local school boards and from them to the local property taxpayers.
The underfunding has contributed to cuts in some existing educational programs in various school boards and has also caused the education proportion of the regressive property tax bill to increase above the rate of inflation for the past few years. It is important to note that over half of the 8.7 per cent of the increase in GLGs will be used up on provincial initiatives such as smaller grade I and grade 2 classes.
I am not quarrelling with that. I support it. At the same time, those were provincial initiatives, not local school board initiatives. Together with an enrolment increase of 1.5 per cent, the school boards ended up with a real per-pupil funding increase of 2.5 per cent, half the rate of inflation. So the government is cutting back to the school boards as well as to the municipalities.
I come now to a part of the budget that I simply must deal with. It has to do with the north. As I like to think, I do not have a completely parochial view of the province of Ontario, but I am a northerner, and I must say I was taken aback by what was not in the budget for the north.
I could not help but think to myself: This Treasurer has, to give him advice, a Minister of Northern Development. He has, to give him advice, a bunch of Liberal MPPs from northern Ontario. What did those people say to the Treasurer? I know what he did in response: nothing, virtually nothing.
Does the Treasurer have no compassion for all those Liberal MPPs who are going to run around in the next election and say, “You need a member on the government side”? Do members know what the response of the electorate in northern Ontario is going to be when they say that? They will say: “Why? We had one and he didn’t do anything.”
Mr Laughren: Ah, come on, listen to the Liberals over there. Absolutely nothing for northern Ontario. I am telling them, every Liberal member of northern Ontario is going to be in trouble in the next election. Mark my words. They will see what will happen to northern Liberal MPPs in the next election, because there is no reason to support a Liberal in northern Ontario, absolutely none.
The budget contains no measures to deal with the thousands of working families in northern Ontario who face the hardship of unemployment as companies reduce their operations or close their mines and mills. The British and Canadian uranium barons, Rio Algom and Denison, are throwing over 2,000 workers into the streets of Elliot Lake. To help the Treasurer with that number, 2,000 people are going to be on the streets in Elliot Lake. That is over 10 per cent of the population of Elliot Lake.
Can members imagine the uproar in Toronto if 200,000 people were thrown on to the streets by unemployment in Metropolitan Toronto? Can members imagine what would happen? The minister would not allow it to happen. He would move heaven and earth to do something about it. But when 10 per cent of the population of Elliot Lake gets thrown on the streets, he does nothing, absolutely nothing.
There was not a single announcement in this budget to deal with those problems in northern Ontario. The minister knows the problems are coming. He even had a memo from the deputy minister telling him about it. Nothing, no acknowledgement of that in this budget at all. Why? If I were a Liberal member from northern Ontario -- maybe that is why there are none in here this afternoon. They are embarrassed by it.
If the Liberals were serious about long-term job development in the north, they would put -- we have suggested a figure -- $600 million into the northern Ontario heritage fund over the next three years. They seem to have little regard for the north, however, because there is no new money for the fund in this year’s southern Ontario budget.
Let me dwell on that heritage fund for a moment. The heritage fund was announced, with great fanfare: $360 million over 12 years. Aha, quick arithmetic: $30 million a year for 12 years. Mr Speaker, how do you think a northern Ontario resident feels when he looks at that $30 million for the heritage fund for the north, and here is an announcement out of Toronto that there is a $5-billion program for transportation for this area alone? How do you think the northern Ontario resident feels? That northern Ontario resident knows that he or she is helping to pay for that $5 billion too. They know that; they are not stupid.
I want to tell you, Mr Speaker, that the government made a mistake by not funding the heritage fund properly. Do you know why they should have done it? It would have been politically smart as well as economically smart because with the heritage fund you have maximum flexibility with what you do with that money. You put it in there, and if there is a problem in Elliot Lake, you deal with it. If there is a problem with a road, you deal with it. If there is a problem with a company in a small community, you deal with that. Ultimate flexibility. It is really silly not to have done it. I do not know why they did not.
Maybe we are back to the louder voices again, and the Liberal MPPs in northern Ontario whispered to the Treasurer while everybody else yelled at him. He did not hear the whispers. I do not know what those Liberal MPPs were doing. I do not know what they are doing now. I suspect the reason that there are none in here is that they are back in their ridings trying to shore up support. They have got to be in trouble. The minister need not take my word for it; he can go and ask them. The next time he sees the member for Sudbury, he should ask him whether he feels comfortable.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer just put the final nail in it. I do not understand why the minister would do that to his own colleagues from northern Ontario. I know the minister knows there are not many seats in the north. There are twice as many seats in Metropolitan Toronto as there are in all of northern Ontario. We understand that very well, but I think it is a cruel and unusual punishment the minister is imposing on his colleagues from northern Ontario.
Despite the millions that the government takes out of the north in measures specific to northern industries, like mining and forestry, it is sad to see so little going back in. Stumpage fees and other forestry revenues are estimated to be about $100 million in 1989-90. The budget proposes new funding of only $18 million for the Canada-Ontario forest resource development agreement. The budget estimates that the mining profit tax will provide $197 million in revenue in the fiscal year 1989-90 alone, yet only $10 million of new money a year for the next three years is being allocated for exploration.
If the Treasurer put those mining revenues, $197 million for 1989-90 -- does he know how much Inco made last year in profit alone? They did not hit $1 billion, but they were not too far from $1 billion. The minister put $30 million into the heritage fund, for heaven’s sake, and he takes $197 million out in the form of mining revenues.
The Treasurer is in trouble in the north. He may think that having a balanced budget covers all the ills that are contained in the budget. It will not. Good headlines the day of and the day after the budget, but when it sinks in out there what the Treasurer has not done and what a budget of avoidance this is, it will not sell as well as it is selling today. Mark my words.
Mr Laughren: Because the cameras are not on the member, I think our viewers should at least know that what the Liberal backbencher is saying is that having a balanced budget will get a lot more votes out there in Ontario than any kind of proposals that I am suggesting would get. That is exactly the point that we have been making. This is an election budget; simply a political pre-election budget. That is all it is.
Mr Speaker, I digress a bit, but I want to tell you something. This is the Treasurer’s sixth budget. Two of them have not had any tax increases, one prior to the election in 1987 and this one: only the two. Do I detect a pattern? Is a pattern already developing? Six budgets, and only two of them did not have massive tax increases: 1987, prior to the election, and this one.
I am not saying that the Treasurer is so cynical that he simply brings in a no-tax-increase budget prior to an election and then sticks it to them immediately after an election. I would not say that because there is no guarantee that he will be the Treasurer after the next election or that his government will be in power after the next election anyway. I am not suggesting that, but I think people in Ontario might detect a pattern here if there are increases only after elections and none immediately prior to an election.
I am going to get back to northern Ontario. I got off the topic by the Liberal backbenchers. Road construction improvement is a vital priority in the north where the long distances and sparse population force people to travel more than they travel in the south. The budget has no specific proposals for northerners. The budget also does nothing to reduce the higher costs of gasoline paid by northerners.
The budget did touch on transportation by talking about the rail transportation to the northeast. The government announced that it is going to open talks with the federal government to establish a night train service to the north. I found that very interesting because I had written a letter to the Minister of Northern Development suggesting that this government, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, should take over the small milk-run service.
I wrote to the minister. What did the minister write back to me? It is a very interesting letter. I had said to him, to be very specific, that the provincial government should look into having ONTC look after rail service that was being cut back by Via. The Minister of Northern Development wrote back to me and said, “I would suggest that you communicate your views on this subject to the Honourable Doug Lewis, federal Minister of Transport, who is in a position to address your concerns.” Here is the interesting sentence: “Should Mr Lewis be receptive to your suggestion of a service agreement between Via and Ontario Northland, I am confident that the commission will be interested in discussing such an arrangement.”
I thought that is what we were paying the Minister of Northern Development and the Minister of Transportation for here in the province. Here he is commissioning me to open discussions with the federal Minister of Transport on the provision of a rail service.
I then wrote to the Honourable Doug Lewis. I better have the letter here after saying this. I cannot find it. That is terrible. I did write to the federal minister. Here it is, to the Honourable Doug Lewis:
“As you will gather from the Honourable René Fontaine’s letter of March 2, I have been commissioned to initiate negotiations between your ministry and its provincial counterpart in Ontario. These negotiations would concern the development of a co-operative service agreement between Ontario Northland and Via Rail, an agreement which would guarantee an adequate level of rail service to the citizens of northern Ontario.
“Equipment breakdowns and infrequent service pose serious problems for the residents of northern Ontario who must of necessity rely on the rail as a lifeline. I believe that northern Ontario would be better served if Via Rail and Ontario Northland would combine their resources and work together.
I have not heard back from Mr Lewis, but I want to say that it is not often that a minister of this government abdicates his responsibility and passes it on to me. As a matter of fact, I would hope that the Treasurer would take a page out of the minister’s book and give me the assignment of devising a tax strategy for the province of Ontario. If the Minister of Northern Development can give me the responsibility of negotiating with the federal government to provide rail service, what is wrong with the Treasurer saying to me: “All right, you think you know a lot about taxes. You are always hammering me on it. Why don’t you devise a tax system?”
I want to say that I am glad that there is a northern member here now from the Liberals, the member for Port Arthur. I am really pleased to see him here. I see the member for Port Arthur rise to his feet occasionally and ask questions. They are invariably good questions, and I think that he must be as unhappy with the answers he gets, as we are with the answers that we get from the ministers. So I think that the member for Port Arthur is going to be hard-pressed to sell this budget back home, as will all other Liberal MPPs.
Anyway, I did not want to spend too long on the problems of northern Ontario. I want to turn to the environment for a moment. We called on the Treasurer to use the means available to him to join in an effort to restore the balance in the natural environment. Green tax policies have proven successful in encouraging the production and consumption of environmentally friendly goods and services. When coupled with regulation and adequate employment support and adjustment programs, the evidence suggests that green taxes can be used effectively in the battle for environmental balance. Yet there is not a single green tax in this budget; in fact, it is as ungreen as a budget could possibly be.
There are no green taxes on packaging or on environmentally unfriendly products, no resolution to the garbage crisis. It is landfill, incineration and recycling all the way. That is what it is. No mention of sorely needed increased funds to the environmental contingency fund. No announcement of badly needed increased funding for the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, known as MISA, or the clean air program.
We know that MISA is badly behind schedule and we know that the Ministry of the Environment is understaffed and generally speaking quite burned out. There is no mention of better funding for environmental assessment programs, despite the oft-stated concern that MOE is the bottleneck in the environmental assessment process.
It is not hard to see that the 22 per cent increase in funding announced in this budget will not go far in addressing the true needs out there, and the environmental measures actually taken by the government are truly scary. Our leader raised the sewer and waste crown corporation matter with the Treasurer just the other day. The Toronto Star, not known to be too hard on the Liberals, called this proposal “the biggest setback for the environment that Ontario has seen in five years.” That was 23 April.
We are very nervous about the setup of this crown corporation. We do not see why a pro-development ministry like the Ministry of Municipal Affairs should have responsibility for this crown corporation. What guarantee do we have that the focus will not be shifted entirely away from sewer and water renewal and towards satisfying the innermost needs of Mr Muzzo and his friends?
I really do not know what it means when the Treasurer talks about this new facility working in co-operation with municipalities and the private sector. What is the role of the private sector going to be in this? It makes us very nervous indeed.
On waste management this government demonstrates truly disgusting inconsistency by indicating that the funding will go largely to recycling and new incineration facilities. We thought the Minister of the Environment was dead set against incineration, and here he is putting money into it.
On the transfer of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, we agree that it should be transferred to MOE from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. We have been advocating it all along, but to do so without increasing or even at least doubling the budget of the escarpment commission means it is not going to be able to fulfil its mandate either.
On the whole question of the environment I believe very strongly that people in the province of Ontario will accept the imposition of green taxes if they truly believe that those taxes will be used for environmental protection and enhancement.
I must confess that I come late to the belief that some taxes can be designated. I have always felt as the Treasurer did: that taxes should go into the consolidated revenue fund and then the government establishes priorities for those funds. I do think, however, in this case, with environmental protection, given the seriousness of the problem and given the need to get the support of the public at large, we should start designating taxes that are raised to go directly for environmental enhancement and protection.
I know that is a break with the past. I know it would be traumatic for the Treasurer, but I really believe that the public will support what are known as green taxes if they believe and have trust in a government that those taxes will truly go towards environmental enhancement and protection. But if it goes into the consolidated revenue fund, they do not believe the government. They do not believe any government, because of what they have seen in the past.
But environmental taxes are ones that can be designated. I believe as well that environmental taxes should not be a tax grab. I believe they can be revenue-neutral. But I do believe it is time the Treasurer look at a package that included some green taxes.
I would not be able to complete a response to the budget of Ontario without talking about health care. I am pleased to see that the government has finally seen fit to put some money into community-based home care. Unfortunately, they have limited this measure to the care of the elderly and disabled and not to health care in general.
While the province boasts of these long-term care initiatives and manages to find a few million dollars to boost inadequate wages for home care providers, it also has managed to find an additional $250 million a year for new capital spending. Until the government takes a new approach to health care, making the province less dependent on institutional care, this imbalance and its drain on the budget will continue to grow unabated.
I feel obliged to comment on the lack of attention given to the health concerns of northerners, as was outlined in our report called Operation Critical: The Report of the New Democrat Task Force on Northern Health Care Issues. In dealing with the specific problems of a sparse population of about 800,000 in the north, spread over three quarters of Ontario’s land mass, Operation Critical called for a decentralized northern medical school as a key way to address the problems of recruitment and retention of health care professionals in northern Ontario, increased travelling clinics, an improved transportation system and improvements to the northern health travel grant. The Liberal response was nothing.
In summarizing the over 250 presentations drawn from dozens of northern communities in our task force, we called for a doubling of the health budget for community and preventive programs to shift the emphasis in the health care system to prevention and to community delivery.
I wanted to speak very briefly about the northern medical school. The reason we want a medical school in the north is because we do not think the model used in southern Ontario is appropriate for northern Ontario. We want a medical school in the north based on a totally different model, one that would emphasize community-based care and preventive care, involve the francophone community and native people and train more paramedics, nurse practitioners and so forth. We feel very strongly that we need a new model. That way, we will be able to train people in the north and we will retain health care professionals in the north. The present system is not working.
We also think that if the government could design that new model for the north, some day we would see that it is even the appropriate model for the south. I think there is a beautiful opportunity to develop a different kind of medical school that would show the way for the rest of Ontario and provide much-needed improvements in the health care system in northern Ontario. I do not think it is an unreasonable request. I think it is most reasonable and the government should think seriously about it.
Once again, I do not know whether the Liberal MPPs from northern Ontario tried to talk the Treasurer into that or not. They sure have been quiet; I did not hear a word. I think the Liberal MPPs from the north have to learn that they do not get anywhere by whispering into the Treasurer’s ear. They have to hit him over the head with a two-by-four and then yell into his ear. That is the only way he listens. He does not know any other way. They have to do that. That has been the fundamental flaw in the approach of Liberal MPPs all across northern Ontario. They do not know how to talk to this Treasurer. He brushes them aside like fleas. He pays no attention.
Mr Laughren: Oh, from time to time he listens to us. At least we could bring to the attention of the public the inadequacies of his policies. The Liberal MPPs cannot even do that. They cannot even draw to the attention of their communities in the north the inadequacies of his policies. They are not allowed to do that. They get kicked in the head if they do it.
Mr Laughren: No, I am not expecting that. I am not even suggesting it. As a matter of fact, we would have to look very carefully at anybody who even attempted to do such a thing. We are very fussy over here.
The total estimated 1989-90 budget for community and personal health is just over $1 billion; less than eight per cent of the total health care spending of $13.6 billion. This is for northern Ontario. This funding covers a wide gamut of services including community mental health, drug dependency programs, funding for local health agencies, speech and audiology programs, family planning, disease prevention and control, as well as home care assistance.
On 25 May 1989, the Ontario Legislature -- Liberals, Tories and New Democrats -- voted together to adopt a motion calling for these initiatives. By not including any of these measures in the 1990 budget, the government has chosen to ignore both the will of northerners and the will of this Legislature itself.
Similarly, native health care is given no mention in this budget; none. After visiting first nations communities throughout northern Ontario and hearing many native presentations, in the New Democratic report, our report on native health care, First Come, Last Served, we called for self-government for first nations, aboriginal control of services and provincial resources to be controlled by native people to ensure minimum standards, the same as those found in all non-native Ontario communities. We asked for the provision of minimum standards such as running water, sewage treatment, garbage disposal, adequate housing, ambulance service, care for elders, midwifery service, education, preventive programs and programs to deal with family violence, mental health and substance abuse.
On 7 December 1989, the Ontario Legislature, again with the support of all three parties, adopted a motion by my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon that called for the same level of health care services for first nations as for other Ontarians, as well as an end to jurisdictional fights between the federal and provincial governments and a process to giving first nations control over the delivery of health care services. They are sick and tired of being treated with ping-pong diplomacy, as the feds blame the province, the province blames the feds and in the meantime nothing happens. It truly is disgraceful.
In conclusion, I have tried to point out the most glaring holes in this budget. I am sure that an exhaustive exposition on the fiscal failures of this government would take longer than a debate on the motion of closure on Bill 68, the auto insurance bill.
This government has had very little feedback in the press and in general on the content of this budget, and I do want to set the record straight. This government has turned a blind eye to some of the realities in this province. It has turned a blind eye to the problem of poverty, of homelessness, of hunger -- as an example, the food banks -- of an unfair tax system, of inadequate education funding, unemployment, inadequate training programs, the poor state of health care across the province, endangered environment and 800,000 northerners whom the Liberals seem to be trying to forget.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr Laughren moves that the resolution moved by the Treasurer on Tuesday 24 April 1990, “That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government,” be amended by deleting the words following “that” and adding thereto the following:
“Giving away more tax dollars to corporations, while exploiting the Conservative government’s regressive GST and increasing the tax burden on consumers by charging the provincial sales tax on top of the GST;
“While acknowledging impending slowdowns in construction and increases in unemployment, failing to respond in any meaningful way to the shutdowns and layoffs that are occurring across the industrial base of Ontario;