Mr Kormos: As members know, the Niagara Falls provincial courthouse was shut down by the province a few weeks ago. Now the Welland county courthouse, a majestic building over a century old, is rumoured to be similarly shut down two days from now, on Wednesday. This building accommodates the district court, the Supreme Court, the registrar’s office and judges’ chambers. It is crucial to the administration of justice in Niagara South.
We are told that the Ministry of Labour has concerns around fire safety in the building and that an order will be obtained under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. For months and years now, the city of Welland has been looking to the province for a commitment around the renovation and ongoing use of this city-owned building. All that has happened to date is a lot of fudging around with no effective communication between Welland city council and the provincial government.
The Attorney General has expressed his commitment to an ongoing court presence in the city of Welland; quite properly, the Attorney General recognizes the historical and practical significance of Welland as a county, and now a district, seat. Welland is eager to accommodate Ministry of the Attorney General. If the ministry finds the renovation plans for the existing courthouse acceptable, then it should say so, so that work can get under way. If they are not acceptable, then it should similarly say so, so that alternative sites can be investigated and proposed by the city of Welland.
Time is of the essence. Today is not too soon to start discussing courthouse plans for Welland. We in Welland look forward to being able to sit down with the Attorney General and his staff and engage in some meaningful and productive dialogue.
Mrs Marland: I would like to call attention to the celebration of Arbour Week, which started on Friday and continues until 6 May. This tradition dates back more than 100 years and continues its goal to encourage the planting and preservation of trees. Today that goal is more important than ever, as we realize the damage that pollution has done to our planet. Trees can play a vital role in reversing that damage and maintaining the delicate balance of the earth’s ecosystems.
Many communities across the province already have tree planting programs, and we urge others to take up the challenge of Arbour Week. Planting trees is a natural way to clean up our air and an opportunity to preserve and protect our environment for future generations. Trees offer a variety of benefits, many of which are crucial to our wellbeing. They regulate worldwide atmospheric systems, filter air pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, reduce noise pollution, provide recreational opportunities, prevent soil erosion, provide wind breaks, conserve energy by shading buildings and increase property values.
Mr Tatham: On 5 December 1989, an electrically powered train, number 325 of the TGV Atlantique, broke the world record for rail speed at 482.4 kilometres per hour. Will high-speed, 200- to 500-kilometre-per-hour, ground transportation play a role in the North American intercity transportation system of the 21st century?
“Electric street railways continue to multiply remarkably. The number of these roads in operation in the United States in January is stated at 162 and numerous other lines are under construction or projected. In towns and cities where the traffic is not heavy it seems to be demonstrated that electricity forms a more economical and satisfactory motor than horses for streetcar propulsion, although it is liable to occasional eccentricities. The great majority of the lines thus far constituted use the overhead wire system, although storage batteries are used in a few cases, and the plan of running the electric conductor in a conduit under the car has certain evident advantages.”
Donald Smiley of York University spent his long career researching, writing and reflecting on the nature of Canadian federalism. The list of his works comprises six full pages of print and includes 17 books.
He was a gentle man, always more concerned with understanding than with controversy, but his feelings ran deep for Canada, as our select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs had occasion to learn as recently as two weeks ago when he came before us.
Smiley recognized that it required hard work and hard thinking to keep Canada together, but it was very much worth doing. He was therefore always in tune with what was going on, and always from the perspective of classical liberalism.
He was long a vice-president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and his delight in Canadian federalism was the manner in which it could preserve the liberties of the subject and peoples and regions over and against the power of majorities and undue centralization.
In 1980 he found federalism and sovereignty association incompatible. In 1990 he believed Meech Lake offered an accommodation with Quebec well worth the risks entailed, but he believed a Senate of equal provinces would deny the nation’s historic duality.
While I am concerned about all of these students and that they all get back to school, I am particularly concerned with the 200 severely handicapped students who cannot attend school at this time. The Ottawa Board of Education, in its wisdom, and probably in a very responsible manner, closed the Clifford Bowey school because of the very special needs of those students. Parents of these students unfortunately are not in a position to provide for alternative care for these students. Unfortunately, the teachers of that particular school would not return to the classroom to take care of these very special students.
I am not sure who is at fault in this dispute with regard to both sides, either the teachers or the board, but perhaps it is time to reconsider the right to strike of teachers who are caring for these very special students when a dispute arises between a board of education and teachers. I do not propose that with regard to right to strike of all teachers, but perhaps this is an essential service which we have to take care of in the future. Maybe it is time for a legislative change.
Mr Neumann: I would like to tell members of the House about an exciting new company in Brantford which recently held its official opening. I had the pleasure of participating in the ribbon-cutting for Resource Plastics Corp and was amazed by the technology which has been developed by this company.
Many have called this the most advanced plastics recycling plant on the continent. Recently, Resource Plastics became the first North American company to be able to recycle waste containing more than one type of plastic. As members will be aware, this has been one of the difficulties with this recycling process up to now, because waste had to be very specifically sorted. This company also has the ability to recycle starch-filled scrap from the manufacture of garbage bags and diapers.
Most of the waste recycled at the plant is produced into pellet form which is then sold to other companies for conversion into finished products. It is incredible to hear that this new technology has allowed the conversion of the foil-like material on the outside of potato chip bags, to be made into flower pots, and coffee cream containers, to be made into windshield scrapers.
During a period when we are all becoming more conscious of the 4Rs, I am tremendously pleased that a local company is at the forefront in the recycling of plastics. While efforts to reduce waste must continue, it is good to know we are developing technology right here in Ontario which is in the forefront in our world.
Mr Hampton: As the environmental assessment hearings to assess the timber management program of the Ministry of Natural Resources continue in Thunder Bay, the lack of adequate reforestation planning is evidenced day after day. The ministry recently acknowledged that it has little knowledge of the reforestation success rates, though at the hearings it was estimated that there is a regeneration gap of nearly 1,000 square kilometres annually in Ontario of trees cut and not replanted.
A former MNR regeneration specialist testified that the government emphasizes the number of acres treated, not the number of acres successfully treated. Further questioning has revealed that there was no province-wide objective for the ministry’s regeneration program, no complete information on success rates of either natural or artificial regeneration plans and no documentation of whether industry is starting to use newer equipment which is less damaging to the forest floor.
Three and a half years ago, the dean of the University of New Brunswick school of forestry, Gordon Baskerville, said that the Ontario MNR functioned as a bureaucracy of the worst kind, misusing statistics, failing to listen to the public and cutting 23 per cent of the province’s most productive forest area without a management plan. Clearly the situation has not changed much. As a result, the evidence grows that the public has little faith in these hearings, because right now there are 10 outstanding requests for individual assessments above and beyond the class assessment.
Mr Eves: It is a pleasure for me to rise in the House this afternoon and welcome three of my constituents from the Mattawa Arts Council: Judy Duval, representing the executive; Clermont Duval, a renowned artist in northern Ontario, and David Barrer, an artist in his own right who also owns Timeless Art Editions in Mattawa.
I would urge the people on the government benches to consider these people when they are talking about the northern Ontario relocation program arts steering committee for works by northern Ontario artists. Here are two of Clermont Duval’s most recent pieces of work. He has become quite a renowned artist, not only in the province of Ontario but all over.
I think it is a real tribute to people in Ontario that we have such dedicated and talented people in our midst. They have made a habit of coming to Queen’s Park and displaying some of their paintings in my office from time to time. I welcome them and I would urge all other members of the Legislative Assembly to drop by my office at any time and see their great works.
Mr Kanter: On behalf of the government of Ontario, I rise today to acknowledge a special anniversary, the establishment of the state of Israel 42 years ago, on 14 May 1948. I want to recognize the presence of Benjamin Abileah, the consul general of Israel, his wife, Ruth, and some leaders of Ontario’s Jewish community who are in the gallery in recognition of this important day.
Of course, the state of Israel has ancient roots. Thousands of years ago, its law provided an early model for the democratic state of Israel. The establishment of the modern state was a matter of life itself for victims of the Holocaust. It was also a profound moment for Jews in Ontario and throughout the world. The creation of the state of Israel helped Jews to move beyond prejudice and quotas into full participation in all aspects of Ontario’s life.
During the years since 1948, Israel succeeded in integrating hundreds of thousands of new residents from virtually every country of the world, and today again faces the challenges of accepting and integrating up to a million new residents from the Soviet Union who are leaving in a modern-day exodus.
On 13 December 1989 what was wrong at Harbourfront was about to be set for ever in a wall of concrete and steel. As members will remember, it was on that day that the government imposed a zoning order on the Harbourfront area, under section 46 of the Planning Act. The zoning order provided an opportunity to change the face of the waterfront. This government was determined to ensure that an open, accessible waterfront was maintained for the enjoyment of the people of Ontario.
Second, I agreed with many in the arts and cultural community that good programs should not depend on bad buildings. Harbourfront must be financed or endowed sufficiently to permit its excellent core cultural, recreation and educational programming activities to continue.
The provincial team submitted its report and recommendations to me on 23 March. I immediately presented the provincial report and recommendations to the Honourable Elmer MacKay, federal Minister of Public Works. The federal minister requested time to consider the report’s recommendations prior to public release.
I wish to report to the House that the federal minister today announced the appointment of Darcy McKeough. former Treasurer of Ontario, to represent the federal government in the implementation of the provincial government report. I am today releasing the provincial government report so that all citizens of Ontario will be aware of the issues with which Mr McKeough will be working.
The historic report, which I am tabling today, is a blueprint for protecting our waterfront. Simply stated, public access to the waterfront is assured. Under the provincial proposal, no further buildings will be built south of Queen’s Quay. In fact, the total density of the Harbourfront site will be significantly reduced. The people of Toronto will also receive their parks and green space in Harbourfront. In addition, important site transportation services will be implemented.
Harbourfront’s excellent cultural programs will continue with the establishment of a $50-million endowment fund. Revenues from this fund will guarantee Harbourfront’s lasting cultural legacy. No longer will good programs depend upon inappropriate development.
The federal government and its partners, the city and Metropolitan Toronto governments, have a working blueprint which will ensure a bright and promising future for Harbourfront. In order to ensure an orderly implementation, I will maintain my zoning order until such time as I am assured by the partners that they have reached agreement on the implementation details of the final plan.
In closing, Mr Speaker, please allow me to congratulate the provincial team under the direction of Deputy Minister Duncan Allan for this outcome. I am proud of the role the province has played on behalf of the people of Toronto and of all Ontario.
Hon Mr Beer: I would like to inform members of the House that the government is undertaking a review of procedures currently in place to ensure the safety and protection of children in residential placements across the province. Over the past number of weeks, serious allegations have emerged regarding physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children in training schools in the early 1960s.
As a government, our response to these reports has been threefold. Our first response was to accelerate the police investigation by doubling the number of investigators and establishing an OPP hotline. Our second response was to ensure that support and counselling were available to anyone who may have come forward regarding these matters. Our third response relates to the question of public confidence in the system as it exists today.
Au cours des 30 dernières années, notre système de soins en établissement dispensés aux enfants a connu de nombreuses modifications, modifications qui visent à faire en sorte que les enfants et les jeunes soient mieux protégés contre les mauvais traitements et les agressions.
Depuis la fin des années 1970, tous les paliers de gouvernement se sont efforcés, ensemble, de prévenir les mauvais traitements infligés aux enfants à l‘aide de campagnes de sensibilisation du public sur une grande échelle et de cours d’éducation et de formation à l‘intention des professionnels concernés.
Nous disposons, à l’heure actuelle, de garanties considérables, à la fois aux niveaux législatif et administratif, pour veiller à ce que les enfants placés dans des programmes en établissement soient protégés contre toute forme de mauvais traitements et d’agression.
In the last 30 years many changes have been made to our system of residential care for children, changes which ensure that children and youth are better protected against abuse and assault. Since the late 1970s there has been a concerted, committed effort by all governments to prevent child abuse through extensive public awareness and professional education and training.
Our current legislative and administrative safeguards for protecting children from abuse and assault in residential programs are extensive. Every child, when admitted to any form of residential care, whether to a group home, foster home or one of our secure custody facilities, is instructed and given information on individual rights and how to make a complaint if he or she is dissatisfied with treatment.
All children and youth in residential care have direct access to the provincial child advocate or the provincial Ombudsman. The roles and responsibilities of children’s aid societies and police authorities in responding to allegations of abuse are also clearly set out.
Our current safeguards are extensive, but we cannot be complacent. The general public and the parents of children and youth who are placed in residential programs in Ontario need to be assured that safeguards are in place and are effective.
I am therefore announcing that Joanne Campbell, the current chairperson of the Social Assistance Review Board, will conduct an examination of the safeguards and procedures that are currently in place. This examination will determine the effectiveness and adequacy of the safeguards which are intended to protect children in residential facilities against physical, sexual and emotional abuse and assault; ensure that, if allegations of abuse are made, the systems are in place to deal with these complaints in a responsive and effective manner, and provide recommendations for any improvements in safeguards which may be necessary.
This review will encompass all residential programs provided to children and youth under the Child and Family Services Act and young offender placements under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act. These programs include group homes, foster care and institutions operated by the government and through children’s aid societies, young offender services, child treatment and child and family intervention programs and associations for community living.
I have asked Ms Campbell to submit her report by the end of October. I might add that she has reviewed her contract as chairperson of the Social Assistance Review Board but, during the period of the review, many of her duties will be performed by a vice-chairperson.
Comme je l’ai précisé, les procédures actuellement en place pour faire enquête sur les mauvais traitements infligés aux enfants sont plus considérables et strictes que celles qui existaient par le passé. Je tiens, par conséquent, à rassurer l’Assemblée que le bien-être de nos enfants est quelque chose que nous ne tiendrons certainement pas pour acquis.
As I have indicated, the procedures currently in place to investigate child abuse are far more extensive and rigorous than those in the past, but we want to assure this House that we will not take for granted the future welfare of our children.
We have, as a society, made significant progress in our understanding of the impact of child abuse and the measures intended to prevent the abuse of children and youth. However, we must be vigilant and, as a government, we are committed to use every means available to prevent the abuse of our children.
These were the largest failures ever experienced in Ontario’s travel industry, and a number of steps were taken to deal with the resulting disruption of consumers’ travel plans. In a very short space of time, 12 flights were arranged to bring stranded travellers home and more are being scheduled.
In that regard, I would like to thank in particular Dennis Gill and Robby Goldberg of the Canadian Association of Tour Operators and John Kennedy and Mark Grummett of the Alliance of Canadian Travel Associations for their part in making this airlift such a success.
An estimated 5,000 travellers outside of Canada required alternative transportation to return. About 3,000 of those will have been brought home by later today. We expect most of the remainder will have been repatriated within the next couple of weeks when their holiday plans come to an end. Those who have had to pay additional money for hotel bills or travel will be able to make a claim on the Ontario travel industry compensation fund.
As well, the ministry will be issuing information tomorrow to advise consumers affected by the receiverships on how those eligible will be able to make a claim against the travel compensation fund. The appropriate claims forms are expected to be in the hands of travel agents by the end of this week. In the meantime, the ministry is advising affected consumers to contact their travel agent at the end of this week to begin the application process.
Mr B. Rae: The consumers and the travellers may be partially compensated for their loss of enjoyment and for the problems they have faced, but I want to tell the minister -- and I hope he will talk about this with his colleague sitting right next to him -- that the employees from these companies have been shafted. In some cases, they have been working for as long as two or three weeks for free because they were told that the cheque was in the mail and everything was going to be okay, and they are now left with absolutely nothing. In fact, the employees who are working to bring the people home are putting in free time at the moment in order to bring those people home.
So I say to the minister that it just will not do for the thousands of Ontario employees who are and have been affected by bankruptcies this year, and the number is increasing because of the change in the economy, for this government to sit on its hands as it has done for the last seven years in the face of this issue. That is something which must be addressed.
We must get a handle on what is happening to workers in this province whose wages, vacation pay and severance pay is so badly affected by the collapse of these businesses. It is a disgrace that the government has failed to act on the bankruptcy front with the same speed with which it has acted in helping the travellers who have been affected and inconvenienced by the bankruptcy of these companies.
For four and a half years, this Liberal government slept at the switch while its developer friends made millions of dollars erecting a wall of concrete and steel on the waterfront. It is as though suddenly, after four and a half years, the Premier stood up and said: “There shall be no shed. I have a very specific plan to lower the height of the buildings on the waterfront.” Is he planning to demolish the Admiral Hotel? Should guests pack in a hurry, one wonders?
This zoning control was a phoney because in fact they froze the zoning on an area on which no development was contemplated at all. The Minister of Municipal Affairs has had to make the statement. Too bad for him.
MrAllen: Regarding the Minister of Community and Social Services’ announcement of an investigation or study of the safeguards and protection of children and youth in residential placements, the statement of the minister observes that, “Since the late 1970s there has been a concerted, committed effort by all governments to prevent child abuse through extensive public awareness and professional education and training.”
However, one would have to observe, for example, that with a provincial child advocate arrangement in Ontario which has one party at work in the field and is massively underfunded, it is not surprising that there is relatively little access to it or a great deal of action that results from that particular endeavour.
Also, one makes the observation that the provincial reviews that were the subject of the report in the Globe and Mail this morning of children in care as crown wards do not bother to ask the children themselves about their sense of the quality of care. That being so, it is no wonder that perhaps there is some more information that comes out more periodically and more regularly on this particular question.
The problem throughout this whole structure of institutions is the difficulty of securing foster homes and of finding staff who will work at the pay levels that are available in those institutions such as group homes, and therefore the constant turnover of staff. You have the problem that children’s aid societies, half of them per year, are under exceptional reviews, in the sense that many have overexpended their budgets and therefore, obviously, are under major pressures.
Case loads are phenomenal where people are dealing with children in care, and the result is that it is very difficult for the institutions to keep track of what they are doing, what is happening to the kids. The whole system badly needs an overview. One would wonder perhaps if some of the institutions of private-home child care might not be included in it and the review broadened. But this is necessary and it must be pursued very vigorously, with results intended to take place at the end of it.
Mr Runciman: I have a brief response to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. We are also pleased that the travel industry compensation fund established by the Conservative government was able to assist the consumers who were found in difficult circumstances, to say the least, by the collapse of Odyssey.
I gather that the minister has some concerns, but I think we need more than concerns here in respect to determining why consumers were placed in jeopardy, why the rug was pulled out by the banks putting them in this situation.
Obviously there has been some speculation in respect to the ministry’s knowledge of the circumstances Odyssey faced prior to this occurring, and in fact discussions were under way with the banks. If indeed that is the case, I think there is a significant degree of responsibility that falls upon the government’s shoulders in respect to what happened to those consumers who found themselves without transportation back from various points south.
I want to add my thanks and my party’s thanks to those workers who found themselves without jobs overnight and who have volunteered their services over the weekend to try to facilitate the return of those many travellers.
The minister may not have to look too far in respect to weaknesses. I can point to the Prescott situation with the significant number of child abuse cases and the problems faced by the children’s aid society in my region in respect to funding. Last year, there was a deficit approaching $700,000. A joint provincial-municipal committee was established to determine who was responsible for that deficit. The bulk of the deficit was deemed to be the responsibility of the provincial government. None of those funds have flowed to the CAS up to this point; none of those funds have flowed in respect to that deficit.
We also have the funding for the ongoing investigation and the additional burden placed upon the CAS in response to the Prescott situation. Again, this is a case of getting down on bended knee and pulling teeth to get those funds flowing.
I want to say, while I have this opportunity, that I am very complimentary of the Prescott police, the OPP, who have been involved in those investigations and the Lanark and Leeds-Grenville children’s aid societies who have worked many long hours, very dedicated people working under very difficult circumstances indeed.
Mr McCague: I have a couple of comments on the statement made by the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I am sure that the minister would want me to acknowledge the appointment of Darcy McKeough, a person who is very much respected, disagreed with from time to time, but admired for his foresight and determination. Foresight is something I hope he is able to instil into this government as a natural attribute.
The minister, it appears, has this issue in fairly good hands, more so than the member for Riverdale would wish to acknowledge. I know that with the honourable minister and Mr McKeough working together, we can expect great things on the harbourfront.
Mr Kormos: I have a question of the Premier, just a short one. During the evening and morning of 26-27 April, we received 700 phone calls here at Queen’s Park. These phone calls were from all over Ontario, and every one objected to the government’s auto insurance scheme, Bill 68. Every one of them objected to the Liberals’ time allocation motion.
The Premier may believe in his own special way that there has been enough debate on Bill 68, but those people phoning in -- and that represents thousands and thousands and tens of thousands of Ontarians -- do not. In view of that, would the Premier please instruct his House leader to withdraw the time allocation motion so that Bill 68 can be debated as the people of Ontario want it to be debated?
Mr Kormos: That answer does not particularly surprise me. The ultimate inquiry would be to investigate how the government of Ontario, the Premier of Ontario, the Liberals of Ontario, could show such disregard for the wishes of the people of Ontario. The Liberal Party of Ontario received $152,387.50 from the insurance industry in 1987. The Liberal Parry of Ontario received $85,695 from the insurance industry in 1988. This does not include specific donations to specific candidates.
Mr Kormos: That is almost $250,000 in a two-year period from the insurance industry. Is that why this government is so beholden to that same auto insurance industry and will not permit full debate on such an important piece of legislation?
We can show that there are groups, ranging from the police association to groups representing the disabled, that believe profoundly that this bill is discriminatory, that this bill discriminates against people who have emotional disabilities and that it discriminates against many, many people who will not be receiving benefits, which is the only reason the insurance companies like it and are in favour of it. They are going to end up having to pay out less in benefits. I would like to ask the Premier if he can tell us why he is so afraid of a free and full debate on this subject.
Hon Mr Peterson: I would argue that we have had a fulsome debate on this entire matter. It has gone on some 28 days. It has been in committee. It has been debated for a long period of time. Good Lord, the debates are all there. Our members have been putting forward their points of view, as have his, but to have a decent debate one has to make some sense in the debate. Frankly, they have not been making their contribution in that regard.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Premier. He will know that the signs of a recession in the building industry are already there. Thousands of construction workers are now out of work. The projections are that in the middle of the summer there could be as many as 35,000 workers in the construction industry out of work because of the complete collapse of the home housing market in this province.
I want to ask the Premier how he could possibly condone a budget from his Treasurer that makes no mention at all of this housing crisis and makes no mention at all of the need for a new program. Why would his budget have completely failed to introduce any new measures for non-profit and affordable housing, which would not only provide housing for people who are now homeless but would also provide jobs for those thousands of construction workers who are now out of work?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think my honourable friend is getting carried away with, shall we say, the overexuberance of some of his colleagues and is prone to more and more irrational statements all the time on some of the weighty matters of the day.
I would tell my honourable friend that the Treasurer has put forward a budget that I think is responsible in all regards. As the member knows, 10,000 non-profit units will be constructed this year from ongoing programs.
My honourable friend has such a short-term view of life. If I were him, probably I would have the same kind of situation. But $3 billion was put into housing in the last two budgets. Those programs are ongoing. My honourable friend speaks of the slowdown in housing, and he is right, even though the Treasury is now predicting 80,000 new starts this year. My honourable friend is aware that a lot of this has to do with the high interest rates, which are a function of the federal government’s policy.
I think that for my honourable friend to stand in this House and repeat the same old line about nothing happening is just factually incorrect. He wants to make sure that when he is presenting his arguments he uses all the facts that are available.
Mr B. Rae: Let me try to bring this down to earth for the Premier and say to him that if he looks at the budget, he will find no new response in the budget to the housing crisis that is there. If the Premier wants to pick up the phone and speak to the co-op and non-profit people, he will find from them that there are literally thousands of units waiting to go. All they are waiting for is the approval and the money from the provincial government. That is what they are waiting for. Those housing units are ready, up and waiting to go. What they are waiting for is the leadership of the government in dealing with this crisis.
If the Premier wants to say that the Toronto home builders are being irresponsible, if he wants to say that the construction workers are completely inaccurate when they say that they are unemployed, well, fine, let him stand up and say that they are wrong. The fact of the matter is the housing market is crashing down, yes in part because of interest rates, but that is precisely why the provincial government has to bring in a new program in order to begin to deal with a gap that is obviously being left by the inactivity and the failures of the Tory party nationally.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend has a very short sense of history. He is not aware perhaps, and I can tell him, of the programs that have gone on in this province over the last couple of years. That is what the member does not understand. Things are put in place and they continue to operate: 10,000 units this year; the housing budget alone this year is up some 27 per cent. I am sure the member is probably not aware of this, or he would not ask the question the way he does. The housing budget is up 245 per cent since 1984-85. Those are very significant numbers.
There are ongoing programs that are working effectively as well, and I repeat to my honourable friend that the Treasurer has put $3 billion into housing in the last little while. I could tell him about Seaton. It is going to build a substantial number of more units. I think my honourable friend is catering to some who prefer not see reality in the situation.
Mr B. Rae: The Premier said the Treasurer has put in $3 billion. It is not his money; he has allowed people to borrow from the Canada pension plan up to $3 billion. Let’s be accurate. The Premier wants to be accurate? Let him be accurate. They are already talking about 35,000 construction workers being unemployed this summer. That is not an invention of ours. That is a fact of life. We are looking at interest rates that are at a historic high. That is a fact of life. It is precisely at that point that every economist of the right and of the left would say that this is when government should be intervening and taking a leadership role. We have 70,000 people, including lots of kids, who are on a waiting list for affordable housing right now. Those are not fictitious people. Those are real people.
Hon Mr Peterson: The member obviously chooses to overlook some of the initiatives in Seaton that will provide 34,000 units. I can tell my honourable friend that there are ongoing programs that are under way here. This housing budget is some $640-odd million, up very substantially, and these programs are all there.
My honourable friend also speaks about the historically high interest rates, which is not correct. He will be aware that they were higher earlier in the 1980s. We know the pressures that we are dealing with. I can tell him that I think the minister and the Treasurer are dealing in a very sensitive way with these questions.
Let me say one other thing to my honourable friend in conclusion. I think what he saw from the Treasurer was an extremely responsible budget. I would not expect that he would understand or respect that kind of budget, because that is not the NDP view of the world or life. But I can tell him that the Treasurer has built in substantial flexibility to his budget to deal with whatever problems develop in the future if in fact they do. I can tell him that the Treasurer is in extremely good control of the situation and I think understands the pressures on the system better than anyone, including my friend opposite.
Mr Brandt: My question as well is for the Premier and it relates to the position that was taken by the Attorney General with respect to the Houlden inquiry. The Premier will be aware that at the time the Supreme Court decision was brought down the Attorney General took the position that this would in fact impact on all other inquiries and that it would have an influence over any future inquiries that may be undertaken by the province of Ontario.
That being the case, we now have a ruling by Judge Coulter with respect to the investigation into the Niagara police force regarding certain allegations of wrongdoing in that connection, and it has been decided by the good judge that it is quite proper and appropriate for them to proceed with respect to the Coulter inquiry. On the basis of this decision that has now been brought down and is contrary, frankly, to what the Attorney General said, is the Premier prepared to reconstitute the terms of reference of the Houlden inquiry and put it back in place again?
Hon Mr Peterson: As I understand it, Judge Coulter, highly respected judge that he is, has made the decision with respect to his own inquiry. He is the hearing officer in that matter and he has interpreted the law in the context of that particular inquiry, as he has every right to do. Someone may appeal that, someone may not -- I have no idea -- but that is a judgement with respect to a particular inquiry.
Mr Brandt: He also makes specific reference to the fact that in the inquiry, when comparing both the Coulter and the Houlden inquiries, in the case of the Coulter inquiry it could proceed because there were no names mentioned. It was not a narrowly based inquiry, but a broadly based inquiry, which was more general in nature. Specifically, what the judge said was exactly what both opposition parties indicated at the time the original inquiry was put in position, namely, that if it was a broadly based inquiry and did not take a narrow view such as proposed by the Attorney General, it should have been able to proceed. Judge Coulter is saying exactly what we said.
Is the Premier prepared simply to broaden the inquiry, look at a wider field of reference and draft it according to the direction laid down by both the Supreme Court of Canada and the advice being given by Judge Coulter?
Hon Mr Peterson: I appreciate that there is a difference, and the difference is that the Supreme Court of Canada has pronounced on the Houlden inquiry, and then we have the hearing officer himself pronouncing on his own inquiry. There is a profound difference. I am sure my honourable friend respects that
Mr Brandt: With respect, I understand there is a profound difference between the two inquiries; there is not, however, a profound difference between inquiries per se. In analysing the position that was put forth by the Supreme Court of Canada, Judge Coulter has now said quite specifically that an inquiry is appropriate as long as the terms of reference are very general, broadly based and do not name individuals. On those grounds, the inquiry that was undertaken by Houlden can be undertaken with the same terms of reference as were put forward in the suggestions by Judge Coulter.
I ask the Premier again, in order to restore confidence in the system we have here in the province of Ontario, is he prepared to reconsider, do what is right and provide the necessary framework for an inquiry in Ontario?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think my honourable friend wants to be very careful when he speaks for another judge with respect to a legal interpretation. The Supreme Court of Canada has spoken on this matter. Now, the member may know more than the Supreme Court of Canada. As he knows, the Divisional Court as well as the Court of Appeal of Ontario spoke on the matter with the highest authority and came down with their judgment on the matter. The Attorney General has interpreted that, and the member feels his interpretation may be superior to that. I understand that as well. But as I understand it, that judgement also said that you cannot do indirectly what you cannot do directly. That is why the matter is proceeding as it is.
Mr Laughren: I have a question for the Treasurer on his incredible tax regime in the province of Ontario. The Treasurer should know that in 1988, Tridel Enterprises Inc had profits of $65.9 million. They also managed to pay $16.1 million in dividends to their shareholders, but managed to pay zero corporate taxes, absolutely zero. Also, Bramalea in 1989 had income of $123.1 million, distributed dividends to shareholders of $37.5 million and also paid absolutely zero income taxes because it took advantage of the difference between the capital cost allowance and depreciation.
Hon R. F. Nixon: These corporations pay a capital tax, as the honourable member knows, and whether or not they make any taxable income, the capital tax is payable. The honourable member chooses to ignore that as he repeats questions of this type day after day.
The honourable member is also aware that under the Income Tax Act for corporations of Canada, which the province parallels by our law, there are encouragements and enticements for corporations to reinvest their income in properties in the case of development corporations, and other indications of a continuation of operation that makes employment and development. Even the honourable member is not suggesting that the tax is being evaded, but I would agree with him that it is avoided.
At the same time that those two big, companies, Bramalea and Tridel, are paying no corporate taxes whatsoever, a single person in this province earning the minimum wage of $5 an hour will pay $360 in income tax to the Treasurer, and a single mother earning $18,700 will also pay provincial income tax to the Treasurer. How in the name of heaven does the Treasurer justify a tax system that perverse?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member knows that whatever he thinks about the aims of these corporations, they do provide employment for construction workers that has given us a level of employment in this province really second to none in North America. His leader, a person to whom he might speak now and then, has expressed his concern at his most sincere, and that is very sincere indeed, that the level of employment in this regard is sagging. The only way we can make this employment is through the development industry, which has been profitable as the honourable member is aware, but much of this profit has been reinvested.
Mr Runciman: My question is for the Minister of Financial Institutions and it concerns Bill 68. I have here a copy of a pamphlet from Law Insurance Brokers of Markham which advises its clients of changes they can expect under the government’s no-fault auto insurance legislation. I will send a copy over to the minister if I can have a page here to take it over.
For example, it cites a standard auto policy and states, “Where the driver has an income replacement plan, the insurance company would pay $300 per week in benefits, whereas for a driver without income replacement, the company would pay $600 a week.”
If Bill 68 creates an incentive for insurance companies to insure only those with income replacement plans at their workplace, this is known, as the minister is aware, as cherry-picking. It could leave untold numbers of drivers resorting to the costly Facility Association for their insurance coverage. Will the minister tell us what steps the government is taking to ensure this does not happen?
Hon Mr Elston: First of all, I should apologize. The House leader advised me that the question was coming, but I was dealing with some constituency matters for the folks of Bruce county and I apologize for being late in coming in.
With respect to this particular item, let me advise the honourable gentleman that with the introduction of Bill 68 and its passage, the Ontario Insurance Commission will have broader powers to deal with consumer-oriented insurance items, more so than the superintendent and others have had authority to deal with in the past.
On these types of practices, I have been assured, when this question was originally raised some time ago by a member here who speaks at length and with great feeling about this particular bill from time to time, earlier last year, I think probably in December, it was indicated to me by the industry that it was not looking at doing things like this at all as underwriting practices.
I take it, although not having had the time to review what this says, that in fact the material in front of me is just an indication or an example of how the insurance payments will be made under a collateral source rule which was changed in October by this House to indicate that people would not be able to collect twice on the same loss. In fact, it represents a good indication of how we want to have the insurance system fairer.
Mr Runciman: Wrong again. This pamphlet also addressed the issue of motorists having to purchase extra insurance coverage because Bill 68 limits the amount of compensation a driver can expect to receive from his insurance company. Again I quote: “Your new automobile policy may require increased coverage to properly protect you. For anyone whose gross annual income exceeds $39,000 they may require a customized policy.”
Given that the minister has bragged about an average eight per cent premium increase in urban areas, can he now tell the House how much more than eight per cent drivers will pay for extra insurance coverage?
Hon Mr Elston: What we have decided with respect to this program is that there would be what would be seen as a basic policy for pricing purposes. In fact, I was one person who has argued, and my colleagues support the idea, that a person who earns at the very lowest level, say $200 a week, should not be forced to pay a premium which would allow some other person to collect $1,000 or $1,500 a week. It would be grossly unfair, in fact, to have a person at the low end of income-earning ability subsidizing the people who earn substantially more.
We made a decision originally to include the benefit at $450 per week, tax-free, but we were shown through committee hearings and, in fact, took the initiative to change from the $450 to the $600 level, although I still hold very clearly the opinion that a person who earns $200 a week ought not to be asked to subsidize the people who would earn and receive more back on that policy. Six hundred dollars a week or $39,000 a year seems to be a demarcation where, in fact, people will be able to make an additional purchase without asking somebody at the lower end of the income scale to subsidize those people.
The minister will want to know that my staff contacted the chairman designate of the insurance commission to find out how much extra coverage insurance would cost, and his response was, “That is not public information.” Bill 68 affects more than six million Ontario motorists, and the head of the insurance commission says, “That is not public information.”
Will the minister commit to telling the House and the public of Ontario exactly how much this extra coverage is going to cost Ontario motorists and how much higher than eight per cent the true average premium increase will be in urban areas?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman asks a very good question. In fact, he could assist us quite reasonably, although having what are usually very helpful remarks about our current debate, if he could make those remarks none the less very briefly so that we, in fact, could allow the bill to be put in place so that we could do the work that has to be done to get all the material ready to introduce the legislation in working form in the marketplace.
We have done everything we can to try and move forward with implementation within the bounds that are acceptable when we do not have the legislative backdrop to allow us to go further. We have done preliminary work in receiving filings and we have done preliminary work in trying to set up some form work, but we cannot go forward and finalize all the logistics required to implement this system while Her Majesty’s loyal opposition talks for a month at a time and prevents us from processing the legislation, while there are some timely, I am sure, but perhaps extended remarks to be heard yet from the third party.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Treasurer. The Treasurer has probably heard some of the criticisms with respect to the budget document that he brought in, namely, that the document was more a political document than an economic document, when in fact the latter, namely, an economic document, is what this province needs at this time.
The Treasurer is no doubt aware that we have had two months of contracted growth in this province and throughout the country which indicates that we have some very difficult economic times looming on the horizon. That being the case, why were the projections in his budget estimates, which are going to be required in order to balance the budget, so overly optimistic when compared with virtually every other economist, who indicates the slowdowns are going to be much more severe than he has indicated?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member knows my erudite background as well as anyone. I am not an economist. However, as Treasurer, I have at my disposal the advice of very well experienced, very well educated and disinterested -- that is in the best sense -- economists in the Ministry of Economics. They review this matter on a continuing basis.
The member may recall in the projections made to the House in the so-called grey paper last November-December, the projection was for real growth of two per cent during this calendar year. Naturally, they review the projections and economic indicators on a daily basis, and for the purposes of this budget exercise they reduced that projection to 1.7 per cent. Following the indications the honourable member is reflecting, they did reduce the level of real growth expected.
I am pleased to say that their projections in this regard are as good as those of any economists the honourable member may want to point to. On that basis the fiscal projections here are based on real growth of 1.7 per cent. He would see that corporate profits are not projected to grow and that certain other numbers in the budget indicate that we know that real growth is going to be minimal but, we believe, positive.
Mr Brandt: Some would suggest, and I name myself among that group, that a more stimulative budget was necessary in order to offset some of the problems we are going to experience with respect to growth. The Premier promised some time ago that he was prepared, in order to stimulate the tourist industry, to remove the five per cent accommodation tax as one method of perhaps attracting more business to this province and creating more jobs. Will the Treasurer consider, at some later point, if the slowdown is more severe than anticipated in his projections, the removal of the five per cent accommodation tax and/or some other stimulative measures that may be considered in order to create some jobs at a time when I believe they are going to be badly needed in this province?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I appreciate the references made by the honourable member. He is aware that the five per cent accommodation tax is as low as any he would find in any of the destination centres in North America, particularly those which expect to have a major share of conventions. He need only look at Los Angeles, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Chicago and Montreal, and the list is not complete at that level, to show that all of them have higher taxes than ours. I wish ours were less, but at five per cent it is competitive.
A company with operations in Woodstock recently went into receivership, with its line of credit for the Bank of Nova Scotia being recalled. The ex-employees of this company attended a meeting of creditors in Toronto on 11 April. They were told that there was no obligation for anyone to answer their questions about their livelihood and their means of secure retirement. I am afraid I cannot agree. These people want to know why their wages and pensions are not treated as secured creditor.
Hon Mr Phillips: It is a question that many members in the House are keenly interested in. While it is not a lot of comfort to the member’s constituents, the matter of bankruptcy does indeed come under the federal government. It comes under the federal Bankruptcy Act. We, as a provincial government, have been urging the federal government to respond to the needs of people for wage protection under the Bankruptcy Act.
The federal government has promised reform in this area for some time. I, as the Minister of Labour, have urged them to act on it. Our Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has also urged them to act on it. While we may not appreciate the answer, the fact is that it is a federal matter under the Bankruptcy Act and we must get the federal government to respond to this matter.
Mr Tatham: That is very interesting, but hardly surprising that this area would rest with the federal government, particularly considering the glaring lack of activity on the problem to date. I think, however, that the actions undertaken at the provincial level are at the very least a beginning and illustrate a concern for the welfare of these people. I am disappointed that the federal government of this country sees fit to protect the financial investment of the banks but not the investment of hours of work and pensions that belong to average working persons.
I would like to ask the minister, on behalf of the ex-employees of TAG, apart from what his ministry has already done on this issue, is there anything else they could look forward to in the immediate future from the minister? Have they any hope that this will change?
Hon Mr Phillips: I will just go over the things that we are doing. Our employment standards branch is working to ensure that the back wages of those individuals, if we possibly can get them, will be collected. We also are establishing an adjustment committee that will work with the affected employers to assist them in counselling and finding new jobs.
Also, as I have mentioned in the House before, our Premier’s Council is looking at other ways that we may be of help to workers affected in such a way. It is not a situation we are particularly happy with, of course, seeing individuals in a circumstance like this. We will continue to urge the federal government to act on what it has been promising it will act on, and that is wage protection under the Bankruptcy Act. We will continue to act on that. In the meantime our ministry will do everything we possibly can to assist the constituents of the member for Oxford.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. I assume the minister is now aware that another plant closure has been announced in the Windsor-Essex area. This company is Sheller-Globe, which is owned, not by a small corporation but by United Technologies. They announced late last week that 300 jobs would be gone out of the town of Kingsville. They are an auto parts supplier.
The situation in my community is 13 per cent unemployment and growing daily with the devastation that is taking place in the auto parts sector, thanks to the free trade agreement, high interest rates and a high dollar. What is the minister prepared to do to save these jobs and to stop the erosion of jobs and the ever-increasing unemployment rate in the Windsor-Essex area?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I am sure the member realizes that none of the three factors that he just outlined, the free trade agreement, high interest rates and the exchange on the dollar, is within the purview of the provincial government. But I should tell the member that we have been looking at Windsor. We are working with various companies in that area trying to get new industry in there. We, as a government, are planning to transfer some of our jobs there. We have had various programs in conjunction with the city of Windsor, the city of Detroit, to bring in foreign investors, to make sure that we can improve the situation in that community.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It is funny that the minister here today says that free trade is not part of the government’s mandate, when it went to the people in 1987 and got a mandate to stop the free trade agreement. It is good enough during an election; it is good enough to calm the voters during an election. One might say it is good enough for the Liberal Party to lie to the voters during an election but it is not good enough to do anything about the job loss that results from those kinds of promises.
I am asking the minister if he would specifically intervene in this particular plant closure at Sheller-Globe as well as the plant closure of a week ago at Welles Corp and see if there is any way we can save those jobs. The minister might know that in the Sheller-Globe instance the company is saying one of the reasons it is moving the 300 jobs to Mexico is because it would rather pay people $1 to $1.50 an hour. It is an issue that he has tat address. Would he intervene in these two plant closures?
Hon Mr Kwinter: In any of these plant closures we try to come up with some resolution where we can be of help. If the company specifically says, “If you can do this for us, we will keep that plant in operation,” we do that all the time and on a regular basis; but in other instances a corporate decision has been made and it is a decision that has been made in the context of its corporate planning. There is nothing that we can do. We cannot go to it and say, “You must change your corporate planning.”
Hen Mr Kwinter: I would be happy to contact them; we have been in contact with them. We have to make sure that the employees who are dislocated by that move have got adequate compensation as far as severance and notice are concerned. The other thing we can do and are doing is trying to encourage other companies to establish in that area.
Mr Cureatz: I have a question to the Minister of Energy. The increase of the infestation of zebra mussels has been brought to everyone’s attention. My understanding is that at the Nanticoke generating station there is increasing concern of the possibility of this little pesky beast clogging up the intake pipes to such a degree that the station might be closed down.
What anticipated plans is she making in terms of ensuring that Ontario Hydro generating stations will not be limited in capacity for the production of electricity because of the zebra mussel infestation?
Hon Mrs McLeod: The honourable member is quite right to recognize the very serious problem that is being presented by the infestation of zebra mussels in our waters. In fact, it is a concern that has been raised on previous occasions by our colleague the member for Hastings-Peterborough.
There are a number of initiatives which we are taking within the government to co-ordinate the actions of involved ministries, because the zebra mussel does affect a number of municipal and industrial water facilities as well as those of Ontario Hydro. Specifically in relation to Ontario Hydro, the honourable member will be interested in knowing that Hydro itself has taken a very aggressive role, spending some S4 million on research, and plans to spend some $10 million in new technologies that will eradicate the problem of zebra mussels in their particular facilities.
Mr Cureatz: I am pleased the minister avoided referring to the Ministry of Natural Resources guidelines. We are asking specifically about Ontario Hydro. My note says, “Hold up poster.” So here is the poster, “Wanted: dead mussels.” I have to tell the minister and the Premier, now that he has looked this way, dead is serious business, of which I have some working familiarity since the --
I want to ask the minister, can she assure this House that Ontario will not be close to any blackouts or brownouts because of the possibility of our generating stations being closed down because of the infestation of zebra mussels?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I have already made reference to the action that Ontario Hydro itself has taken to deal with this problem, and I would acknowledge the fact that it has responded very quickly to a problem which has emerged at a very rapid rate.
I did not specifically mention the work of the Ministry of Natural Resources because the member was asking his earlier question more directly about Ontario Hydro, but what I would want to assure the honourable member is that we are trying to deal with what is a very serious problem indeed by stringing together different ministries that do have an involvement to deal with the issue, not just as it affects Ontario Hydro but as it does affect other municipal and industrial water facilities and also our fisheries, with all the corresponding economic and tourism impacts of that impact.
We do have an interministerial committee, chaired by my parliamentary assistant, so I will make reference to that. It does involve the Ministry of the Environment as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, and we are looking at international research and how we can develop environmentally acceptable methods of control.
Mr Miller: My question is to the Solicitor General. As the Solicitor General will know, Bill 107, the Police Services Act, proposes that all municipalities that maintain a police force will be responsible for the establishment of a municipal police services board. Under the present Police Act municipalities with a population of less than 15,000 are now required to establish a board Why does the Solicitor General want every municipality that maintains a police force to establish an independent police services board?
Under the Police Services Act we have set out to strengthen the role of the police services board. The proposed act is guided by the principle of an enhanced level of interaction between the police and the community and to make our police services more reflective of the community they serve. This will be accomplished through the new Police Services Act by making it mandatory that there be a municipal services board throughout the province.
It is my belief that the existing police commissions throughout the province provide a vital link between the community and the police, and through the expansion of these boards, by making them mandatory in every area where there is a municipal and/or regional police force, we expect that the municipalities will expand and enhance this very important link.
Mr Miller: I would also like to ask the Solicitor General why he seeks to have the province appoint the chairperson of the local police commission instead of maintaining the present system where the chair is elected by the members of the board.
Hon Mr Offer: The honourable member brings up an issue which has been brought to my attention. In every police services board, the chairman serves an important function in dealing with the interaction, as a member of the board and a chairperson, and the function that the board provides as a link between the community and the police services board.
Currently, we are looking at that particular aspect of the legislation, the requirement that the chairperson be appointed by the province. I expect and hope that after second reading this matter will be referred to committee for hearing so that we may talk to that particular issue in greater detail, but I certainly do understand and acknowledge the issue as brought forward by the honourable member and it is one which I certainly want to continue the discussion and the dialogue on to further determine the concerns that have been raised in dealing with this one issue.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment and it concerns a company called Barg Transport International, which tomorrow plans to begin transporting dangerous chemicals by barge across the Detroit River from Detroit to Windsor.
On 5 April, the Minister of the Environment was quoted in the Windsor Star as saying that he was seeking cabinet approval for an environmental assessment because part of the land where the barge will be landing in Windsor falls under his jurisdiction. Last week, a spokesman for the company claimed, “No level of Canadian government could stop the barge from operating by the end of the month.”
Hon Mr Bradley: Before the member for Riverdale moans and groans about this, I have indicated that Ontario will place under environmental assessment any component of this particular proposal that it is possible to put under the Environmental Assessment Act.
Apparently, some communications have taken place between the Ontario government and the government of Canada on this, as international waterways come under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and we are attempting to assess on an environmental basis any component at all that we could find that would be of a provincial nature and I have given that particular commitment. The government of Ontario will have no problem with that, but we do hope as well that we can convince the federal government to have an environmental assessment, perhaps, of those areas which are under federal jurisdiction.
Mrs Grier: I suspected that he would find that there was some federal responsibility rather than his responsibility. My hope had been that this minister would announce an environmental assessment of the portions that come under his control, rather than waiting for his federal cousins, but in anticipation of his answer, we talked to Ottawa today. The information we got back from the Department of National Revenue, under whose jurisdiction this project falls, is that it has asked for input from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and has not yet received anything back from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
I do not know to whom the minister is communicating, but can he explain why he is allegedly communicating with someone who says they have not heard from him and why he has not publicly announced that he has an order in council that says there will be a provincial environmental assessment?
Hon Mr Bradley: Before the other member as well gets up on his high horse about this, we have been the only game in town on this, the feds have been nowhere to be found but we would be pleased to have the federal government use its powers in the area over which it has jurisdiction. Obviously, we deal with our counterpart ministry. We do not deal with the Department of National Revenue; we deal with our counterpart ministry when we are dealing with the federal government.
I am the one who has announced that we are placing under environmental assessment any component that is a provincial component. Clearly, any objective observer who would look at this would say overwhelmingly it is within federal jurisdiction but, despite this, I have stated that the provincial government is prepared to place under environmental assessment any component that is in provincial jurisdiction.
Mrs Marland: My question is to the Minister of Health. It is about a case she is fully familiar with. It concerns a two-year-old girl who has a port-wine-stain birthmark over 75 per cent of her face, one arm, one leg and much of her torso and she requires a tunable pulse dye laser treatment, which really makes a difference in the condition of this child. She needs the treatment twice a month.
The treatment is very expensive and it has only been available in two locations in Ontario. Unfortunately, one location is a clinic in Ottawa and it has been shut down because under Bill 147 the doctor could not get a licence from the Ministry of Health to operate. The treatment had been taking place at this clinic in Ottawa at the expense of the parents until it was shut down. Now negotiations are under way for this child to have the treatment in Montreal and at the cost of OHIP, but still the family will have to pay the travel expenses.
Mrs Marland: My question to the minister is this: Given that a laser machine is available in Toronto and that a doctor wants to offer the treatment in Ottawa, does the minister really think it is acceptable that this child should have to be treated out-of-province and her family pay the travel expenses?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member, I am very aware of this particular case. This is an example of new and emerging technologies that are allowing new procedures to be provided in alternative ways and that in fact is what the Independent Health Facilities Act is about. The clinic that she mentions is not eligible for grandfathering under that legislation because it started operation after the date of the tabling of that legislation, fully aware of the legislation. She should know that the ministry has begun a process to consider requests for proposals which will license practitioners to provide pulse dye laser services in Ontario.
Mrs Marland: The fact remains that, whether this clinic is eligible for grandfathering or not, we are playing with a child and that child’s future and having an opportunity for a normal life. Every week that she does not have access to this treatment for this birthmark, the birthmark grows, as do the other parts of the body that are affected.
Mrs Marland: I am going to ask the minister once more: Instead of going through the technicalities of what is eligible for grandfathering and what is not, and instead of wasting the taxpayers’ money sending this child to Montreal or Edmonton for treatment --
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite that this particular treatment is an insured service only when medically necessary and not for cosmetic purposes. In the interim, as we go out with a request for proposal to have the services provided in Ontario, the ministry will ensure that patients continue to receive the treatment. Access may be provided through the Hospital for Sick Children, which began service in January 1990, and if that is not available, then with prior approval from the ministry, funding will be provided for medical causes associated with the provision of this treatment outside of Ontario.
Mr D. R. Cooke: My question is for the Minister of Labour. I mentioned in the House a week or so ago that in March 1987, a serious chemical fire occurred at Horticultural Technologies in Kitchener. Emergency service personnel fought the blaze for more than an hour before the plant manager arrived to tell them what was inside.
As I previously reported to the House, of 69 firefighters and 16 policemen involved in the fire, one has since died of cancer and more than a dozen others were seriously ill with kidney, liver or gall bladder problems. I regret to report to the House that, since that time, the president of the Kitchener firefighters’ association has also succumbed to cancer.
Firefighters and police are worried that illnesses are perhaps more than coincidental. I am wondering if the minister can assure the residents of Kitchener that an investigation is being launched into the circumstances surrounding this tragic fire and assuage our fears.
Hon Mr Phillips: I appreciate this is a matter of intense interest to the residents of Kitchener and to the member and of course to the firefighters and the police involved, and I want to assure the member and the members of the House that we indeed are in the process now of a full investigation. It will be conducted by our health and safety services branch.
I think of particular importance to the member is that we will involve both the firefighters’ association and the firefighters’ management. As well, if the police are also involved in it, we would be happy to involve them so they are aware of the exact procedure that we will follow, of the investigation that we will follow, and that each step of the way they understand what is happening and have input and participation in that so at the end of the study they feel comforted that there has been a full investigation, they are aware of the circumstances and they understand and have been part of the results.
Mr D. R. Cooke: I was at the beginning of a meeting that occurred and was continuing on into this question period at the minister’s occupational health and safety branch. There were representatives there from our fire department, our firefighters’ association, our police association and our police chief. I got the feeling that there was a good sense of rapport between officials from occupational health and safety and the people involved.
I want the minister’s assurance, if we can have it, that the investigation will be exhaustive and that no stone will be left unturned in attempting to determine whether or not there is a correlation and to try to prevent this sort of situation from recurring.
Hon Mr Phillips: I would like to provide that assurance. In circumstances like this, it is extremely sensitive for the people involved and is obviously of utmost urgency, and yet these studies often take some time because we are dealing with the need to look thoroughly at the medical background of the people involved.
The two assurances I can give the member are that it will be thorough and that they will be involved at each step of the way so that they understand, as I said before, the process we are following and they feel they have been part of it and they will be able to understand the results and feel comforted that there has been a thorough investigation that they have some confidence in. So those two assurances I would be happy to provide the member and, through him, the fire and police departments in Kitchener.
Mr Wildman: I have a question of the Treasurer re the announcement in the budget of a $48-million program to help to lower interest rates for farmers in this province. Given that the Conference Board of Canada, as well as other economic analysts, believes that high interest rates will last in this country beyond the end of this year, probably two to three years, can the Treasurer explain why the farm interest rate reduction program is slated to last only one year?
Hon R. F. Nixon: We thought it was reasonable to make an announcement of $48 million that would be available this year. The Minister of Agriculture and Food will be making a detailed announcement of how that money is to be spent, what the formula will be and how it will benefit farmers who have been particularly stressed by the unexpected high level of interest rates at the present time.
Mr Wildman: Given that for every additional point of interest on the prime rate, approximately $9 million extra in interest costs are facing the agricultural sector in this province, can the minister explain how much this will work out to for most farmers who are having to face high interest rates in Ontario?
Hon R. F. Nixon: No, I cannot, but I think he would be aware, from his personal knowledge in this important matter, that many farmers are still coping with these matters in a reasonably successful way.
The member will notice also that the comment in the budget invites the federal Minister of Agriculture to match that amount of $48 million. He has indicated he is allocating $500 million to support new provincial programs in support of farm requirements. Having read very carefully all his comments, I feel that he tends to focus that money in western Canada, but this is a new program. It is specifically designed to meet special requirements for farmers, particularly as they meet the problems associated with high interest rates, totally a federal responsibility. This is a clear instance where the money should be matched dollar for dollar from the federal Treasury.
Hon Mr Ward: Through prior agreement, the official response of the third party was to be given today. I would suggest that notwithstanding the rotation that is currently under way, we now hear from the leader of the third party.
Mr D. S. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There certainly has been a prior agreement, but I would like to raise one concern. Last week, when we started going the rotation, I raised with you, Mr Speaker, and with the House leader for the government that the Conservative Party had stood down its official response and therefore, in my view, the next person in the rotation was from the Liberal Party, since the official response from the Conservative Party was being stood down. You and the government House leader said that that was inappropriate.
In order to make sure that one party does not get an additional place in the rotation, I would suggest, and I am sure the Conservatives would agree, that, as we go around in the rotation, the next time round the Conservatives should miss one spot on the rotation; otherwise, at the end they will have received an additional speaker compared to the other two parties.
The Speaker: As I recall the other day, I made the decision because I felt that the standing order said that the first two speakers in the opposition parties would be allowed to speak in that order. I did go around in rotation. The request now is that the member for Sarnia have the opportunity to speak; in other words, missing the official opposition. The request has been made by the House leader of the official opposition that in the next round the Conservative Party miss a speaker. If there is unanimous consent, I am always agreeable to do what the House wishes.
Hon Mr Ward: I do not want to complicate the issue. I am sure a determination can be made to ensure, as the House leader for the official opposition says, that no one gets an extra round. I would want to point out, though, that the last speaker on Thursday has not concluded his remarks, and the rotation, I expect, would go to him following the leader of the third party and continue so that no one gets an advantage.
This budget, as I said, is about challenge. It has been a challenge, I am sure, for the Treasurer to give to Ontarians when he has so much less federal assistance. It would have been so easy to explain our cut programs by pointing to cut transfer payments. It would have been easy for our Treasurer to seek new taxes by revealing lost federal revenues. These answers would not have faced up to the challenge, and Willowdale would not have benefited.
Instead, we have been given a balanced budget; instead, we have seen yet another consecutive year of economic, growth; instead, we have an operating surplus of $3.2 billion. That is meeting the challenge.
There are so many items in this budget which I believe please the people of Ontario. I think our able Treasurer believes in what Henry Ford once said when he was building his car and people were telling him that he would never be able to build that car, and even if he did people would not be able to afford it. Henry Ford replied, “Think that you can or think that you can’t, either way you’ll be right, either way.” The Treasurer told us that he could and he did it. He gave us a balanced budget and a surplus as well.
Mr Speaker, I would also like to tell you a 10-word phrase, each word containing only two letters, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I believe this was the attitude of our Treasurer when he set out to balance the budget. He knew it was up to him and he did it.
As I said earlier, the riding of Willowdale is well served by this budget. It is a riding of rather upper-middle-class people, with many professionals and business people, a riding which is so rich and diverse in population and heritage that it is rather difficult to sum up. As I said in this House in response to a previous budget, Willowdale is a unique area. Its people and the issues, however, are not unique. The problems facing all of this province face Willowdale; likewise, the solutions posed by the Ontario government for all of the province apply to Willowdale as well.
I would like to close by recalling our activities on Sunday 22 April, Earth Day. Earth Day is supposed to be something to remind us that we have an environment and we must work to save our environment. Unfortunately, all too many of us forget the message as soon as the day passes. This budget shows that Ontario’s government remains concerned. It considers protecting and preserving our natural environment as one of its key priorities. Funding for the Ministry of the Environment is being increased; not just a little, but by 22 per cent over last year. That is a major facing-up to a challenge, a challenge that few of us are really doing very much about.
As I said at the beginning, I am proud to be able to stand here today in this Legislature and contribute to the process of government. I am made even prouder when I see the solutions presented in this budget, especially towards the problems we all face with our environment. It is just that -- our environment. And our provincial government is indeed working towards making that environment a better place.
On behalf of the citizens of Willowdale, I wish to commend this Liberal government for presenting a balanced view and a balanced budget that all of the people of Ontario can be justifiably pleased with.
I wish to remind everyone that we were elected to serve, to serve the people of our respective ridings and the people of Ontario as a whole, and we must never lose sight of ourselves, our responsibilities and our sense of direction. We must continuously maintain and earn the trust and confidence of the people we represent and render to them quick, efficient and caring service, because the service we render is the rent we pay for the space we occupy.
Mr Brandt: To my colleague the member for Hamilton Mountain, I appreciate his allowing me to proceed in this order. I appreciate also the members of the House, in my absence last week, allowing me to take my opportunity in rotation today to respond to the budget that was brought in by the Treasurer.
I am also pleased to have an opportunity to perhaps share some thoughts with the Treasurer and the members of the Legislative Assembly with respect to some of, I guess, my reflections, my views and maybe even some helpful suggestions that I might have in connection with the budget.
A budget, I think, reflects a great deal about the government that brings that budget in and places it before us here in the Legislative Assembly. One of the things I look for in a budget, as an example, is whether or not the projections in the budget are in fact realistic, because those projections have got to be based on sound, economic principles.
Also, I think it is only reasonable to say that, in connection with any forecasting done by the government, it has to take into account as well what the community generally, outside of government, is saying about the period of time that we face in the near future, the next 12-month period.
So I looked at what the Treasurer had to say in connection with his projections, and I have to say that I have some serious concerns, as I indicated in question period today, as to the authenticity and the accuracy of the Treasurer’s numbers.
As well, the second thing that I look for in a budget that is brought in and placed before this House is the entire question of the vision that the government has in terms of where it wants to see the province go in the future. There are really only two documents that we can deal with in this Assembly that give us some hint, some idea, some suggestion of where the government may wish to head in connection with the coming 12 months and beyond.
One of those, of course, is the throne speech, and for reasons that are best known to this government and to the present Premier, the decision was made that a throne speech would in fact not be read before the House this year. When I found that to be the decision of the government, I quickly came to the conclusion that there would be some projections that would be in the budget that would give us a kind of quasi-throne speech, a sort of document that would at least give us a road map as to where the government was going to go. l want to talk during the course of my remarks as it relates to this vision of the future that I see in this particular budget.
There is no question that every budget brought in by a Treasurer is built upon the foundation of all other budgets that have been brought in by that Treasurer, and he or she inherits the past budgets and the strength or the lack of strength of the economic performance of the jurisdiction that he or she represents, in this case the province of Ontario. But this Treasurer in particular is without question building upon the foundation of other budgets that he has drafted and placed before the Legislature. We had a former Liberal member speak very fondly and very supportively about the fact that this is an excellent -- his words -- Liberal budget brought in by the Treasurer.
I hope during the course of my remarks, without being overly negative -- because it is the role of the opposition, obviously, to oppose, but I like to do that in a constructive way if I can, and I do believe that there are some elements of this budget that cause me concern with respect to the projections and with respect to the kind of road map that we have for the future that the Treasurer has proposed as a form of combination throne speech and budget that we are dealing with this afternoon. So the five previous budgets that were brought in by the Treasurer of this province also provide part of the foundation of this particular budget. Let me analyse for a moment how realistic those projections are.
The Treasurer has quite accurately, I think, forecast a considerable slowdown in the economy. I might take issue with him over how quickly that is going to occur or how rapidly that slowdown is going to set in. Certainly there are many voices that are not political in nature but representing major financial institutions, economists, which have voiced their concern about the economy, which indicate that rather rapidly we are going into some very difficult times.
The Treasurer has projected in his budget a 1.7 per cent rate of growth. He has projected that jobs will fall by about 23,000 over the number of jobs created in the last fiscal year; namely, some 87,000. So he anticipates that there will be a lower rate of growth, a slowed-down rate of growth; however, still a modest amount of additional growth.
Second, he has indicated that there will be a rather significant slowdown in the number of jobs created, which will obviously result in the realities of the level of unemployment increasing by about half a per cent. So there will be many more thousands of people who will be unemployed as a result of the slowdown in the economy, and that is, I think, rather accurately forecast in the Treasurer’s budget.
What I take exception to, and where I think we are going to have some difficulties as this next 12-month period unfolds, is that I believe the Treasurer’s projections are far rosier that those of others who have spoken on this particular period of time that we are in, in terms of the Ontario economy. Not only did the number of housing starts fall rather dramatically right across Canada, but, for the first time in many years, the worst reduction, the most significant, the most dramatic decline in housing starts anywhere in the country is occurring right here in the province of Ontario.
That is a rather serious matter of concern which I think gives the minister some indication of how quickly and how rapidly a very tough economic period can set in. Of the 12 major cities in Canada that experienced significant drops in housing, eight of them, two thirds of them, were right here in the province of Ontario. I think that is an indication, a very clear signal, that we have some problems on the horizon.
What does that mean in terms of provincial revenues in this vaunted balanced budget that we keep hearing about from those voices on the other side? First of all, with the reduction in the number of housing sales and housing starts that ultimately relate to those housing sales, there is going to be a significant reduction in the revenues that will go into the pockets of the Treasurer. I do not believe that his budget truly reflects in any accurate sense the kind of real reduction that is going to occur in just that one category of his budget alone.
Corporate profits have plunged by about 26 per cent in Ontario. That particular reduction in corporate profits, I might add, came at a time when the economy was somewhat more buoyant than the period that we are heading into. In other words, there is a rougher road ahead.
It has been said by some of my colleagues and repeated by other spokesmen many times that in fact it is relatively easy to govern during good economic times. When we have revenues pouring in, when the economy is buoyant, when there is a positive feeling among the people of this province and of this country, then it is a good time to be governing.
It takes an entirely different application of rules to govern during the tough times. The Treasurer has to make some really difficult decisions, and I would suggest to him, with respect, that he has not made those tough decisions in this budget. He has ignored them. Business as usual is his approach. “Don’t worry, be happy,” is the byword that is used in this budget. Everything will unfold according to the kind of story line that has been developed on the other side of the House, and no one need be overly concerned about the tough period coming ahead.
I do not want to be someone who is going to give the Treasurer a series of words about doom and gloom, but I can tell him that all one has to do is read reports from the business community. The Ernst and Young economic bulletin talks about business conditions. Those business conditions do not look good. All the trend lines are down. The headline in today’s Toronto Star indicates very clearly that we are in for a difficult economic period.
What does that mean? In my view it means, when we look at those numbers seriously, that the Treasurer has been overly optimistic, that he has not been realistic in his projections and that we are going to not only be unable to achieve a balanced budget but also have some very serious difficulties in holding the line with respect to the growing deficit.
Let me talk about the spending in this budget in a period when government programs have to be analysed and weighed very carefully because of their impact on the provincial economy. The Treasurer, who has consistently spent at double the rate of inflation, somewhere in the range of 10 per cent when the rate of inflation was about five per cent, now comes up with what he calls a restraint budget.
A restraint budget in Liberal terms means you slow down the rate of government spending. You do not stop it; you do not hold the line; but you slow it down. Is it still in fact above the rate of inflation? Is it above the kind of increases that people are receiving in wages in their own pockets? Is it in fact inflationary in that the government is extracting more and more money from the pockets of taxpayers?
You bet your boots it is, because once again, even projecting an extremely slow-growth period, the Treasurer has very optimistically put forward another seven per cent increase. That is 10 per cent on 10 per cent on 10 per cent, compounded on 10 per cent again and again and now, for the first time, we have a restraint budget showing only a seven per cent increase
What is so bad about that? The Treasurer has said to us today, during the course of the discussion in question period, that he is not an economist, but he says that he seeks out and receives advice from the best economic minds the Treasurer’s ministry can hire. I have great respect for those people who are on that staff and for the projections that they normally bring forward, but I can tell members that this political budget -- because it is not an economic budget, not a budget which recognizes the economic realities of 1990 -- is a budget which was put in place with the singular purpose of paving the road towards an election call when it is to the advantage of this Premier and this government. It has no consideration whatever for the economic needs of the people of Ontario. That is the reality.
I have problems with that kind of a budget because a seven per cent budget, as I said, coming on the heels of all these 10 per cent increases, has extracted more and more money from the pockets of the taxpayers of this province. Do members know that, having moved from being one of the lowest provinces in per capita taxation when the present government took over, we are already in second place, the second highest taxed province per capita in the country?
We are the richest province. We are the province with the greatest resources, with the largest and most significant industrial infrastructure in all of Canada. Yet we are taxing our people to the point where you now have to work until well into July to pay your taxes in Ontario, fully weeks and in some instances a month or more longer than in other jurisdictions.
That is just not right. As any economist worth his salt will tell you, one of the ways that you can stimulate a local economy is by leaving more money in the taxpayers’ pockets. If you leave them some money, they will spend it. But if you keep taking the money out of the taxpayers’ pockets, if you continue to remove it through this attitude that only the government can stimulate the economy through spending -- people who go out anal work hard to earn a living and to take some money home deserve to have some of that money left in their own pockets.
How many tax increases have we had in Ontario in the last four or five years? We have had 34 tax increases. No other jurisdiction anywhere in the country has had that level of increase; not only the percentages, but the number of taxes.
Mr Brandt: Thirty-four taxes, if members can believe that, have been increased over the past four or five years. All of a sudden, consumer spending starts to go down. Are we selling as many automobiles as we were a couple of years ago? No. Are we selling as many houses as we were a couple of years ago? No. Are consumer sales down? Yes, right across the entire province. Why? Because there is no money left. There is no money left in the economy to spend on some of these necessities because that money has already been extracted.
I just think it is wrong. I think it is wrong when one looks at the way in which this government has proceeded to raise tax after tax after tax. The Treasurer talks about the impact of the federal GST. Our party provincially is not overly enamoured with the present proposals in regard to the GST either, and we have called upon the Treasurer to find a way to work co-operatively with the federal government to drive the number down to a more realistic level.
How can that be done? Number one, by not increasing the size of the bureaucracy. If you have people out there collecting taxes and then somebody else walking in the door the minute those people leave to collect even more taxes, the cost of that bureaucratic administrative foot shuffling goes up rather dramatically. We could find a way to give the poor, overburdened taxpayer a little bit of a break if we administered this tax in a more realistic and sensible fashion, but we are not going to do that obviously.
Politically it makes sense for this Treasurer to distance himself from what is an unpopular tax. Well, all taxes are unpopular, and I am going to point out a few unpopular provincial taxes in just a few moments. I want to talk in terms that I hope will assist some of the members opposite to see why our concerns are so deeply founded with respect to the whole question of a balanced budget. Has the Treasurer in fact brought in a balanced budget in 1990?
Mr Brandt: No, he has not. My colleagues unanimously, if I counted all of the voices correctly, said no. He did not bring in a balanced budget. Where did he go wrong, and perhaps inadvertently, because I know that he would do this in an honest and forthright and a kind of a Brantfordite approach in terms of not attempting to mislead the people of Ontario?
But let me give the Treasurer a couple of items that concern me in the budget. There are about $800 million in preflow payments that go back as far as two years ago. He talks about creative bookkeeping. He talks about using numbers --
Mr Brandt: Smoke and mirrors, as suggested by the Treasurer, is something that I can relate to as being a part of this budget. Yes, there are some approaches towards the whole method of using smoke and mirrors to put it over the taxpayer in this budget: $800 million pre-paid because of some windfalls in part that came to the Treasurer by the federal government, as he will recall. Because he got that money up to a couple of years ago, he has conveniently rolled that money into this budget.
Wow, what an approach. That is creative bookkeeping of the first order. Another thing that he has done, in order to balance this year’s budget, is first of all set the position that there will only be a bad tax increase -- that bad tax being the sin tax and that sin tax being the tobacco tax -- and that will be the only tax increase that the people of Ontario are going to have to experience in this fiscal year.
We have, I guess, rather innocently overlooked some of the most notorious, some of the largest, some of the most oppressive, some of the most unacceptable tax increases in the history of this province when he brought all --
Mr Brandt: My friends in the Conservative Party want to know what those tax increases are. Let me just tell them those that I can think of off the top of my head. There are many, but I will only share a few with them.
We have the personal income tax which of course is operative as of 1 January 1990. But the Treasurer says that is not a 1990 tax. That was a 1989 tax, a 1989 tax introduced to be operative as of 1 January 1990. I call that a 1990 tax; that is a 1990 tax.
Mr Brandt: I am glad the Treasurer said that. He says it is the third lowest in Canada, the personal income tax. I want to tell the Treasurer a little secret. When he took over as Treasurer it was the lowest in Canada, not the third lowest. It was the lowest in the entire country as a stimulant to consumer spending in this province. That is only one tax.
Mr Brandt: Oh, many others. I do not have time in the limited number of hours that I have this afternoon to go through all of these taxes. I am going to go through a number of them, though, because I do not want to disappoint my colleagues, many of whom wish to have their memories refreshed with respect to some of these taxes.
Another one that I want to bring to attention of the Treasurer was introduced in 1989, but when does it become operative? In 1990, 1 January. That is the fuel tax. We wonder why tourism is falling off at a dramatic rate in the province of Ontario. My colleagues in caucus and in the corridors and as they speak to me in my office say, “What can we do to help the province of Ontario stimulate tourism?” Do you know what the Conservative approach to stimulating tourism is, Mr Speaker? You reduce taxes. What you do is bring the tax rate down
The Premier of this province said: “Well, we are going to reduce the five per cent accommodation tax. In that way, we will offer an inducement for people to come into Ontario and to spend their hard-earned tourist dollars in our province.” Did they do that? No. What they did was increase liquor taxes, increase sales taxes, increase tobacco taxes, increase every single tax one could think of.
Mr Brandt: The Tories in Ottawa have not introduced the tax that the Treasurer seems to be so concerned about. The reduction in tourist activity occurred fully a year or two years prior to the introduction of another tax that he wishes to talk about. I am talking about his taxes and what he has done.
The Treasurer has introduced all of these taxes and he has of course been able to acquire a very substantial increase in the amount of revenue that the government has been able to pull in. It has been literally billions of dollars. In the past five years alone, the provincial Treasurer’s reach into the taxpayer’s pocket has been so extensive that his revenues have more than doubled. That is just as a result of his tax increases.
The problem with the Treasurer’s calculations as they relate to this is that when you look at any other province -- and there are nine other provinces you can make comparisons with -- when you look at the federal government, not one other jurisdiction has increased its spending as rapidly as this Treasurer and this government. They can say what they like. The fact of the matter is that they are helping to spend us into a recession.
Second, by their prolifically high level of spending, they are causing and aggravating an inflationary trend, which is the very reason that we have a high Canadian dollar, high interest rates and an inflationary level which is totally unacceptable to anyone.
This problem is one that is not addressed in this budget at all. At a time when this country and this province in particular badly need some stimulus in order to keep job growth and economic growth on track, what we have is more and more money being extracted from the economy, and I say that is wrong.
Mr Brandt: This is another inflationary tax. It is another tax which the Treasurer did not put in this particular budget, because of course he wants to have an election budget that he can go to the people with rather than an economic budget, which this province needs at the present time.
But back in 1989, when the Treasurer brought in last year’s budget, and I indicated at the outset of my remarks that in fact this budget is the outgrowth of other budgets that were brought in by the Treasurer in years past -- you have to build on a foundation -- he started to construct a foundation for a new tax never before heard of in this province, a tax that was going to replace the Ontario health insurance plan tax. Do the members remember that one?
Mr Brandt: OHIP was going to be eliminated by this Treasurer, and as a result of the elimination of that particular program there would be another program brought in. Our party, to the best of my knowledge, is the only one that has spoken out against it strongly of all the parties in this House, and that is the new employer health levy.
This is a bad tax even in good times, but I tell members that when you have bad times, when you have a tough economic period, here is the very tax that will become the most severe, the most critical killer of jobs of any tax introduced by this Treasurer.
I want to tell members why. Is this a tax on profits? No. Is it a tax on growth or is it a tax on any kind of net gains in our economy? No. Do members know what it is a tax on? I think even my friends in the New Democratic Party will agree on this. This is a tax on jobs. It is a tax on jobs. You take the sum total of the payroll of a given company, add up what everybody receives and you tax that.
I say to my good friend the member from Brampton, what happens when you hire another employee or two or three? What happens is that your tax goes up. The more people you hire, the more tax you pay. What kind of an incentive is this if you are trying to build a vigorous economy? It is the most nonsensical move that I have ever heard of.
What does an employer do? An employer looks at his costs, looks carefully at what he can afford and says the only way -- if members think this is a figment of my imagination, they should talk to some of the employers in their own ridings. If they have 15 or 20 or 25 people on staff, they say, “In order to offset the introduction of this new two per cent that the Treasurer is going to charge me for the employer health levy, I will tell you what I am going to do.” As a businessman, he has one fundamental instinct and that is financial survival. He has to survive financially because nobody else is going to help him. So he takes a look at his costs and he says, “I can reduce my costs in order to offset this two per cent by letting somebody go, by cutting a job or two jobs out,” by rationalizing employment, if you will, in that particular company. What happens is that we lose jobs as a result of the employer health levy.
It does not help one single bit to have that tax there if you are trying to overcome unemployment, if you are trying to reduce the number of people who are looking for jobs and if you are trying to stimulate the economy. It absolutely the wrong way to go.
By the way, the tax was so badly introduced. Do members know that some of the wealthiest professionals in our entire province do not pay? How fair can that be when somebody who makes $100,000 or $200,000 a year pays zero under this government, when in fact a small employer perhaps--listen to this one: You can have a net loss, you can have a construction company in Niagara Falls operating close to the wire, operating right on the fine edge with very little profit, and what happens? The application of this two per cent on top of its payroll could drive it into a deficit position. It is absolutely, exactly what happens.
Mr Brandt: I want to suggest to the Treasurer that there are some big construction guys in Niagara Falls too. I know of them. Some of them are close friends of mine who reside in that community. Does the Treasurer want to know what they are saying to me? They are saying that this tax will cause two things to happen: first, a slowdown of new employment, because they will not hire people since they simply have to pay taxes for those people when they come on staff; second, if business gets bad, they are going to have to cut back on the number of employees they have, because that is the only way in which they can meet the additional cost of either one or two per cent.
I do not think, quite frankly, that the Treasurer has balanced the budget in order to come to this point and put before the people of Ontario a document which suggests not only that he is going to balance the budget, but that he is going to -- I think he has referred to this as deficit reduction -- actually reduce the deficit.
Mr Brandt: The member for Brampton South, whom we can always count upon to make some remark with respect to matters pertaining to the business of this House, has indicated that for the first time in history --
During the term of office of this Treasurer, the debt, during a period of unprecedented growth, has accelerated and grown more rapidly than at any time in the history of the province of Ontario, namely, $10 billion. Here we have unprecedented taxation, unprecedented new revenues. We have a period of time when the Treasurer should get on his knees and kiss the very ground that the consumers and the citizens of this province walk on, because they have created an economic climate of buoyancy that was unheard of anywhere else in this country. But what did he do? He wasted those five years by increasing the debt load of this province by $10 billion. It went from $30 billion to $40 billion. I am rounding the numbers; I know it is in the range of $39 billion to $40 billion.
The fact of the matter is that this was a period of time when the debt should have been coming down. Now, in 1990, is there a relationship, I ask the Treasurer, in the fact that there is a very modest reduction in the debt during a year in which there may well be a discussion that will be called with the people of Ontario? How naïve does he think we are on this side of the House? Does he think this so-called balanced budget, this so-called debt reduction, this prepayment on accounts that he has rolled into this document, all of that, does not send a clear message out to the people of Ontario and particularly to those of us in political life? That is absolute nonsense.
We know exactly what he is up to. What he is up to is what I said in question period today and what I state emphatically in this budget debate this afternoon: He has put forward a political document when this province needed an economic growth document. That is what we should have had.
Let me talk to the Treasurer a little about some of the promises. People wonder why, when opinion polls and surveys are taken of what the people of Ontario think about politicians, normally we rank somewhere down there with riverboat gamblers in terms of our acceptance by the people of Canada, and this goes for politicians throughout many jurisdictions in the world. That kind of concerns me a little because I believe this to be an honest profession. I believe it to be a profession in which you can do a great deal of good for the people who elected us to serve. I believe this to be a profession where you really are in a position to make a difference. Yet we wonder why people hold politicians in low esteem all too frequently. I will tell the members why.
In 1986 the government of Ontario, just before the last provincial election, said, “We’re going to invest $850 million to construct 4,400 new hospital beds.” Being someone who believes in the integrity of the process, who believes in the honesty of the statements made, even by those whom I may be struggling with in a political confrontation of some kind, I believe their statements to be rather sacrosanct in that once having been made, they should be carried out at all cost.
What did we get as a result of that $850-million promise and those 4,400 hospital beds that were specifically to be allocated in ridings, regions, towns, villages and cities right across this province? What happened? All of a sudden the 1987 election passed. The promise was made in 1986. The people of Ontario were convinced to vote a very substantial majority for the government that sits opposite. What happened to the promise? The promise has been buried in a very deep and very dark hole somewhere in this province. I have not been able to find it, but it is buried, it is done away with and I am sure that its demise is going to be deeply resented by those hospital administrators and health care workers who were promised specific beds, specific capital investment in specific communities.
This was not just $850 million and 4,400 beds across Ontario; it was X number of millions of dollars and so many beds in Guelph. The member for Guelph, a government member, is embarrassed about what this government has done, to the extent that one of my colleagues showed me a newspaper article the other day. He says, “I do not know how I can get re-elected in this community as a result of the broken promise that was made with respect to the Guelph hospitals.” He is very concerned about that.
As I look at the Pickering-Ajax hospitals and I look at the hospital up in the Midland area, in Orillia, promises were made and broken. What is the government’s response to all this? They said what we have --
Mr Brandt: I could name many communities. They are right. London was promised a hospital. Sarnia was promised some additional money. Windsor in particular: I know my friends from Windsor have brought this up on many occasions. We could name dozens and dozens of communities, but time will not allow us to do that this afternoon in outlining where those promises were broken.
What did the government do in order to get off the hook? What did the government do in order to say to the people of Ontario, “Well, we fooled you back in 1986. In 1986 we did not really mean it when we said $850 million and 4,400 hospital beds. What we meant was this: We are going to scatter around a few million dollars throughout the province on some renovations and a few additional beds in some areas.” In fact, when 1990 rolls around, do you know what the bottom line is, Mr Speaker? Can you believe that the bottom line is no, we did not get an increase of 4,400 hospital beds. We actually got a reduction of 2,000 hospital beds. In other words, we are now 6,400 hospital beds below the promise made by the Premier, by the Treasurer and by the Minister of Health, all of whom went to the people and said, “This is what we are going to do.”
To add insult to injury, what have they done in this new, shiny, updated 1990 budget document? They have said, “We have a new plan.” Well, I say, with respect, that I saw their plan in 1986. They fooled us in opposition too, because do they know what my colleagues did? They applauded the decision to build those 4,400 hospital beds. We were unanimous in this party. I do not blame the member for Brampton South for hiding. If I were the government that brought in this budget, I would hide as well. I would hide. I would go back to my riding and beg for mercy to my constituents for bringing in this kind of a nonsensical document.
What really concerns me is that not only has the government cut back on hospital beds and not followed through on its promise, but it has recycled the thing in this new budget and said: “We have a new program. It is going to be for $1.5 billion dollars.” In the way in which this Treasurer operates, he has put together a very long-term projection so that he cannot be held accountable in any single year for the spending of any money or for the accomplishments of any particular programs that he has finalized. He comes up with three-, five- and 10-year projections for a particular amount of money and it is very difficult to pin him down, because even he does not know where he is going. In particular, he does not know where he is going with this so-called $1.3 billion over four years. I correct the record, Mr Speaker; I said $1.5 billion. I am being a little too ambitious, but the Treasurer puts me in that kind of mood.
The fact of the matter is that I do not believe that $1.3 billion over the next four years will see the light of day. I think we will see the Minister of Health stand up, as she has done day after day in this House, and say, “The matter is under review,” or, “We have not made a decision yet.”
My colleague the member for Parry Sound, the very capable member who is the Health critic, has stood up and tried to get from the Minister of Health a straight answer with respect to the question of what is going to happen with hospital construction. What is going to happen with the fact that not only are we not adding more beds to the system, but that we are cutting beds out of the system? The Minister of Health says, “That is all under review.” The only thing she has not said is: “We were just teasing back in 1986,” -- I could accept that as a more honest answer “we fooled you politically. We knew there was an election coming up in 1987, so in 1986 we promised you the world and delivered you nothing. We promised you the world in hospital beds and we actually cut 2,000 of them.”
How can we believe a government that now says, “There is a new day dawning.” What is this, some kind of a mea culpa, some kind of a request for forgiveness on the part of the Treasurer? He says: “The first one did not work; when I promised you $850 million, so I guess what I’ve got to do is up the ante. What I’ve got to do now is increase the stakes and make it a little richer.” So he increases the stakes to $1.3 billion and he expects 9.5 million Ontario citizens to believe him? I say no, they will not believe him, because the fact of the matter is he fooled them once and they will not be fooled a second time.
Mr Brandt: Yes, and I will give him a copy of my speech, I say to the member for Niagara Falls. I know that when he goes back to that riding of his, especially when he gets home early enough, he likes to tuck himself into bed and lie there and read Hansard, so he can get caught up on anything he might miss during the course of a working day here at Queen’s Park. I say to the member for Niagara Falls, because he is a good friend and someone whom I admire greatly, that I would be more than happy to send him an autographed copy of the Hansard of this particular speech, with which he can do what he will. I know what he will probably do with it.
There are a couple of other things, Mr Speaker. Forgive me for not addressing the chair. Sometimes I get rather animated and agitated, and I turn in the wrong direction, but that is something I will catch myself on in the future. I want to look at the chair. It is something I prefer to do, as a matter of fact, because it is much more enjoyable to look at than other locations I might pick in this House.
Let me talk about a couple of other things that are of concern to me. Our party has consistently told this government about the problems related to passing on taxes and responsibilities to other levels of government. The Treasurer, in his musings about this matter during statements he has made over the course of the past few years, has even gone so far as to indicate that the municipalities of Ontario have a very substantial amount of borrowing capacity and therefore there is no real significant problem in passing on to them these added financial responsibilities.
The current Minister of Municipal Affairs is doing his level best to try to keep them as cool and contained as possible, but l was with them at a meeting in Windsor on Friday of this past week, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs was there as well, and they are concerned about a couple of new initiatives announced in this budget that they fear ultimately are going to result in more costs being passed on to local municipalities.
The government kind of tricked them with courtroom security. The Attorney General stood up and said, “This isn’t going to cost you any more money,” and it did. It cost them millions of dollars right across the province.
Then the government brought in a whole bunch of new environmental initiatives and stood up and pontificated about the importance of a clean environment and said, “We’re in favour of improving environmental controls and pollution abatement programs.” We all said, in all parties, “We agree it should be done.” Then the government took the whole package and passed it on, through the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement program and others, to the local municipalities. The government left them alone with landfill sites. The government left them alone with their sewage treatment plants and their water treatment problems and did zip all for them, nothing, and yet took all of the accolades, all of the applause, all of the positive responses that were made by the media as though the government was in fact carrying out some of these environmental improvements.
The government tricked the municipalities again when it came to that one, and it tricked them with a whole series of things, and now there are a couple of initiatives in this budget that concern them very deeply. One of them is the new sewer and water corporation.
The sewer and water corporation, as I understand it, was established for a couple of reasons, one of which is relatively sound, and that is, the way it is structured today the Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the policing and for the establishment of standards, but it is also responsible for the grant allocation, the capital works and the construction of some of these projects related to environmental controls, like sewer and water construction.
What in fact has occurred in the past is that the Ministry of the Environment has come along and said to a municipality, “You’ve got to improve on the treatment of your effluent and the treatment of your discharge,” and the municipality has said, “We don’t have any money.” And they go to the Ministry of the Environment, to another door, to another officer, to another director of the ministry and they say, “Can we have some money in order to carry out a project?” like the regional sewage treatment plant in Niagara region.
The member for Niagara Falls will recall that when I was the Minister of the Environment I helped him finance that. He may recall that that was a badly needed project and we were able to put together a co-operative deal between the three levels of government. The feds came in at that time for one third; the province came in for one third; the region of Niagara came in for one third. We put together a very sensible, logical program that will benefit the people of that area. I was pleased to be of help to my colleague and good friend the member for Niagara Falls back many, many long years ago -- in fact, too many for me to remember clearly now. It is all a distant, foggy past that I do not see very clearly as it relates to that particular ministry and that particular time frame.
But what has happened in connection with this new corporation is that the province is now suggesting that it will establish an arm’s-length deal. That arm’s-length deal is going to be one in which the construction and the grants, the approvals, the allocation process will be handled by someone other than this newly constructed entity, which will be different and completely removed from the Ministry of the Environment. They will be given approximately the same amount of money the Ministry of the Environment is getting -- roughly $250 million or $260 million -- and that money will then be used by municipalities in order to undertake their needed capital works.
I cannot take issue with what is being proposed by the government, because on the surface I see some good things in what is being proposed. What I am going to take issue with is if there is a trap in here, if in fact there is another suggestion, hidden at the moment, on the part of the Treasurer that over a period of time he is going to expect the private sector and the municipalities to pick up more and more of the funding required to undertake these needed capital works and allow the province to back off over a period of time in quite the selfsame way it has done with education. That is exactly what they have done with education: made all kinds of promises and delivered something in the opposite direction. They said, “We’re going to fund education at 60 per cent.” When they took over it was 45 or 46 per cent. It is now in the range of 40 per cent and falling, and they say they are doing a good job.
I have got to tell members that the numbers simply do not support the contention the government makes that it is doing a good job with education, and I worry, as do the municipalities, I really worry that what we are going to get here is a rerun, a sense of déjà vu, about what is going to happen in connection with the future as we look at the track record of this government in the past.
I concern myself with this government’s simply passing the buck, simply passing the responsibility, but more particularly passing on the financial demands to the local municipalities at a time when across this province the taxpayer is suffering from exhaustion. The taxpayer has had it right up to his neck with governments, for whatever reason, justifying taking more money out of his pocket, and I do not care whether it is local, provincial or federal.
That is why our party has been talking about a tax freeze and about no increases long before this Treasurer ever thought of the idea. But we are talking about it not only in 1990, when it will be politically expedient to bring in a no-increase budget; we are prepared in our party to promise that kind of performance in 1991 and 1992 at the very least as well, because we think a freeze has got to be put into place now in order to put this province back on the road to recovery where it should be.
So our concern with the sewer and watemain construction corporation, or whatever it is ultimately going to be called, is that it might become another local responsibility. We say that is wrong. We want to get it on the record because we believe there could well be a hidden plan on the part of the government to proceed in that direction.
The same thing is true of the new assessment corporation. Municipalities did assessment years ago; they were responsible for it. It was passed over to the province; the province took over the responsibility. Now, all of a sudden, the province is saying we are going to have a new, arm’s-length corporation and going to fund it at the rate of $108 million, I believe is the rate that it will be receiving. But if you are in an urban area or a high-growth area and you need an accelerated review of your assessment in that municipality, what happens? Did members read the budget carefully when it talked about that ? It said you are going to have to pay for it yourself. It did not use those words, but the implication is very clear. The message is very, very open and direct. What it says is that if there is a cost over and above the $108 million as a result of the assessment function in this province, somebody else, not this Treasurer and not this government, is going to pick up that cost. They have frozen their cost. That is what they did, and they said it is somebody else’s responsibility.
I say that is wrong. If that is how they bring in a balanced budget, by simply passing on costs to someone else, by passing on programs and responsibilities to a third party, the victim of the decisions made by the Treasurer of this province, then I say that those victims have a reason to be upset, to be angry, as they are, and I say that those victims deserve a better shake from the government and a more honest relationship in a true partnership between municipal and provincial governments, which is not in place but should be.
I fear that this particular document we are debating today in this House does not put forward any kind of incentives to stimulate the economy during a period of time when that is absolutely essential. I mentioned during the course of my question to the Treasurer today the need for some stimulus in the tourist industry. There is a whole host of things that could be done. I only mentioned one of them. Of course, the knee-jerk response from across the floor was: “Our accommodation tax is lower than most. We’re quite competitive with our accommodation tax at the present time, so why remove it?”
Has the Treasurer of this province looked at the difference in gasoline taxes and the cost of gasoline between New York state and Ontario, between Michigan and Ontario? Has he looked at the reason why Ontario residents who do not even want to go visiting an American state go over there for a short period of time, fill up their tanks with gasoline and come home again because they can save a considerable amount of money? That is the very same reason that Americans do not want to come to Ontario, because our taxes are too high. Has he looked at the cost of the sales taxes in the province of Ontario compared to Michigan and compared to New York? Has he looked at the cost of doing business in this province, like the new employer health levy that forces prices up? The tourist industry, which is reeling under all of these costs because it is a very labour-intensive industry, is saying before it drowns completely, “Give us a little bit of help.”
Who was it who asked for some relief from the five per cent accommodation tax? Was it the member for Sarnia? No, I was only the conduit, I was only the relay point for a group that knows a lot more about tourism, I say with the greatest of respect, than either the Treasurer or I. That is the tourist industry itself. What it has said is: “Give us a break, Mr Treasurer. Give us a break in this budget. All of our taxes are higher than our competitors’. We are simply not competing on a level playing field. We have problems in that we have the most dramatic downturn in tourist activity on a percentage basis in the history of this province.”
Mr Brandt: I want to say to the member for Lincoln, who has joined in this debate for the first time, that if government spending is not inflationary, if that has absolutely no impact ultimately on the rate of inflation and the value of the Canadian dollar, then he had better go back and review Economics 101 at the university of his choice, because he is wrong.
Mr Brandt: I am not going to debate this in economic terms although I would be more than happy to so do with some of my colleagues, but those who would suggest that a deficit and servicing that deficit is inflationary but excessive government spending as a result of expanding programs or enlarging government services, for whatever reason, is not inflationary are whistling as they walk past the graveyard.
I want to tell my colleagues it boils down to the total amount of spending that is done by a particular government for whatever reason. I agree that servicing the debt is in fact inflationary or part of the inflationary cycle, but so is the sum total of government spending for whatever reason. It is also inflationary. For the Treasurer to suggest anything other than that is simply not accurate, because it is the sum total of money the government is extracting from the economy It is extracting that money from the economy whether it is extracting it for debt purposes or whether it is extracting it for program purposes. I would suggest to government members, whether you are servicing one or the other, it still adds to the inflationary pressures in a jurisdiction simply because it is the sum total of all of those dollars that are flowing in.
If, in fact, over the past four or five years -- and it has slowed down a little bit in this budget, but it is not anywhere near being under control -- we have had a $10-billion increase in the debt of this government, then I guess the very argument that the members opposite would want to put forward, that servicing debt is inflationary, holds true in a very real sense in the province of Ontario. Because the only way one could carry that additional debt -- namely, the increase from $30 billion to $40 billion, which has been the result of the actions of this Treasurer -- is by taking more money out of the economy, which is exactly what he is doing. He is paying such an infinitesimal amount down on that debt --
Mr Brandt: Come on. The only way they got $430 million -- that is one per cent of their $45 billion budget. They cannot tell me it is some great, tremendous move towards a more fiscally balanced budget. It just is not the case. What the Treasurer has done is shadow-box his way through this budget. He brought in $800 million in pre-paid accounts that he rolled in, he increased taxes as of the beginning of 1990 by billions of dollars and then he comes along to the taxpayer and says: “Well, there’s no increase and we’ve balanced the books. We’re going to pay off the debt.”
I have to tell him, the truth is not really an inherent part of this budget. There is some creative bookkeeping in this budget. There are some areas of fancy fiscal footwork, but the budgets leaves a lot to be desired in terms of being a straightforward accurate assessment of the current condition of this government and the future direction in which this government is going.
Mr Brandt: I could go on longer if you would like. I have a great deal more that I wanted to share with the Treasurer, but I thought perhaps members where becoming a little weary of my sharing the truth with the Treasurer.
Mr Brandt: We have in our party some very real concerns about the document tabled by the Treasured We feel that the document is in fact inflationary. We feel that it is excessive in terms of new taxation programs that were introduced at the beginning of 1990. We feel that there are pass-ons of responsibilities and costs to local boards of education and local municipalities. We really feel that at a time when the budget of the province of Ontario should be stimulating the economy, should be finding ways to help workers who are being laid off to retrain or to find new positions, there should be assistance for our northern communities, some of which have been devastated by shutdowns and plant closings and economic problems in their areas.
There is just very little in this budget to help any of those areas. In eastern Ontario the amounts of money that have been set aside in the past and the broken promises related to what this government said it was going to do and what it actually delivered are just not acceptable. Once again, there is very little for eastern Ontario or for the citizens of that part of our province who are also experiencing very substantial shutdowns, layoffs and a general overall slowdown in the economy.
The only response, if members can believe this, I have seen on the part of the government of Ontario is to shut down some additional parks in the St Lawrence parkway system. What kind of nonsense is that? At a time when an area is in dire economic need of some kind of stimulus, what did they do? They shut down some more parks, some areas where there may have been the possibility of encouraging some more tourist traffic.
So I say to the members, when you take a look across this great province of ours, when you look at southwestern Ontario, which used to be the industrial heartland of this province, and you take a look at the unemployment rates that are starting to creep up rather rapidly in places like Windsor and Chatham and Sarnia, communities that had a very strong and vibrant industrial and economic base, and you see now that the unemployment rate in Windsor is not only double-digit but is creeping about halfway up into the range of 13 or 14 per cent unemployment -- my own community is in around the range of nine per cent, and some have suggested that perhaps the statistical database that is being used is inaccurate and the number is much higher than that -- and you take a look at the slowdowns related particularly to the automotive industry in places like Chatham and elsewhere in southwestern Ontario, it is not only the east and the north that are in trouble, it is also southwestern Ontario. In virtually every community across this province, with perhaps the singular exception of Metropolitan Toronto, there are some very serious economic problems, problems that are, I think, very deep and problems that are very serious and that require some response on the part of government.
If that is the only reason for us being here, I think it is a very shallow and a very unacceptable reason indeed. I thought we were elected, all 130 of us, to attempt to make life a little easier for the people of Ontario, to attempt to raise the standard of living and the quality of life for the people we are elected to serve, not simply to work out the economic document that can best get one elected between one election and the other. There is more to it than that. There is an important responsibility, at a time when an economic document was needed in this province, to address the question of the necessary stimulus that our economy needs.
We could take industries like the tourist industry, and through some reasonable adjustments that the government could make, we could stimulate that industry in order to provide more jobs during a period of slow economic growth and we could do that very simply, but did we do any of those things in this budget?
No, all we did was outline a budget that I think quite inappropriately suggests there are no increases, and there are billions of dollars of increases in this budget. Second, they said that this budget was in fact a budget that would reduce the debt. I do not believe this budget reduces the debt one iota. What it has done is adjusted some numbers on a page, but it has not honestly, directly and truthfully reduced the debt. Most important, at a time when we should be stimulating the economy, this budget has simply not done anything to address the serious economic times that I see in the not-too-distant future.
For all of those reasons -- and I want to say to the Treasurer that we in our party came to this place and reviewed very sensitively the budget that was put forward. We tried desperately, with an open mind and a pragmatic point of view, to find it in the goodness of our heart to support this budget in some fashion.
It is not all bad, it is just that most of it is so bad. We tried to find even those areas where we could support some of the things the Treasurer was saying. We tried to enlarge that so that we could, as a party, say, “We’re in favour of what the Treasurer has proposed for the people of Ontario.”
But, Mr Speaker, I have to tell you, we cannot do that. l say that to you because the members of my party have looked at this budget and they have determined that it is a bad document. It is a bad document during normal times. It is a particularly offensive and bad document during tough economic times when much more was needed than what was given to us by the Treasurer of this province.
It is for that reason, and I say this with great reluctance and almost, but not quite, an apology to the Treasurer, that we are not going to be able to support this particular budget. We will be voting against the document, simply because we believe that the document falls far short, far short indeed, of what is needed by the people of Ontario at this point in time.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): We are in the afternoon sitting of orders of the day, resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government of Ontario.
It does not give me a great deal of pleasure to have to stand today to address this budget, and it does not give me a great deal of pleasure for a number of reasons that have not yet been discussed in this debate. The leader of the third party in his comments and obviously others in their comments will address what are for many individual people and groups of people in this province important questions, but most of issues that have been addressed in the budget and in the responses to date are peanuts, they are little mud puddles, compared to the issues that the government is ignoring totally.
This budget is a budget which becomes a perfect reflection of this government’s almost total lack of understanding about what is happening here in Ontario, in the Ontario economy, to the Ontario economy, with Ontario Hydro and with this province’s economic future. The very future of the economy of this province has been completely ignored in the budget that the Treasurer put before us last week.
I can recall a time when this Treasurer would have at least perked up at the thought of Ontario Hydro, for example, spending $80 billion or $100 billion in capital investment. As a matter of fact, I remember in the middle 1970s when Hydro was proposing to do precisely that, this Treasurer, then in opposition, stood on his feet in this House and talked about how that kind of capital investment by Ontario Hydro would bankrupt the province of Ontario.
How quickly he gets lulled to sleep in the corridors of power, or to coin a phrase from one of their former colleagues, a former Minister of Energy, how quickly it is they get mugged by Hydro in the corridors of power.
Just prior to Christmas, we had Ontario Hydro announce to this government and to the public of this province a 25-year plan, supposedly to meet the energy needs of the province of Ontario. In that plan they announced, at a very minimum, $61 billion in capital investment over the next 25 years.
Mr Speaker, I want you to think back. Just a very short 10 years ago, there was a debate going on in Canada about a pipeline, the Mackenzie Delta pipeline debate. You will recall; they had a royal commission over it. The pipeline never went ahead, but that pipeline had a price tag of about $20 billion, and the financial analysts in this country said, “To proceed with that pipeline in Canada at a cost of $20 billion would bring this country, this whole nation, to the verge of bankruptcy.”
Now let’s talk for a few moments about what that $61 billion means. Mr Speaker, you know a little bit about the Darlington nuclear station because it is not too far from your home, and you will recall, for example, that when Ontario Hydro originally announced Darlington, it announced it at a cost of $3.4 billion. That would scratch your memory a little? It was that low; $3.4 billion was the cost of Darlington.
We do not know what the final cost is because it is still not finished yet, but the cost has gone from $3.4 billion to $12.7 currently and growing, because, as you know, Mr Speaker, the plant is not yet finished and there is still a good three to four years of construction left before the last reactor is finally in service. That is an increase over the original estimated cost of 3 7 times.
Mr Charlton: The member for Yorkview likes to talk about the jobs it created. I would like the member for Yorkview to tell us, just based on the Darlington performance as a reflection of Hydro’s ability to estimate real costs, where we in this province are going to come up with $225.7 billion. That is what happens to Hydro’s $61 billion proposed capital expenditure if you just multiply it by 3.7, which is exactly their record on Darlington -- $225 billion.
The government has not commented, it has hidden. The Treasurer has not commented, he has hidden. I do not wish to hand any undue applause to the former Conservative administration in this province, but there was a time when the Treasurer of this province in the former administration had the brains and the guts to stand up to Ontario Hydro and to rein it in when its capital program got out of hand.
Mr Charlton: That is right. The former member for -- I cannot even recall his riding now -- Mr McKeough, the former Treasurer, seriously reined in Hydro when its capital expenditure programs got out of hand. This Treasurer sits by in absolute stunned silence. He has had nothing at all to say about a proposed capital expenditure program that this province will never be able to meet -- never.
To be fair, perhaps it is a little too simplistic to take Hydro’s $61 billion and to multiply by the 3.7 which reflects its lack of performance in terms of predicting the real costs of Darlington. Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration into the future. The financial analysts and the energy experts out there in the province are saying that perhaps that is the case, it is a slight exaggeration to take it all the way to $225 billion. In fact, financial analysts are predicting that the real cost of Hydro’s plan will be in the neighbourhood of $200 billion. That is just as unacceptable, that kind of a level; $200 billion is just as unmanageable for this province as taking the straight 3.7 multiplication of Hydro’s $61 billion proposal.
The money does not exist. The borrowing power of this province does not extend to $200 billion. Hydro’s plan is a pipedream, and this government sits silent, without making a single comment, not even a cough or a hackle.
I think if you understand the impact of that kind of borrowing that Hydro has proposed, even for somebody like you, Mr Speaker, who has over the years been supportive of at least some of what Hydro has done, and certainly supportive of, as the member for Yorkview would say, the jobs that were created in the construction of Darlington, especially those jobs that directly affected your community, even you would understand the impact of that magnitude of borrowing on the rest of the economy in this province. Even the member for York Mills understands the scope and impact of borrowing of that magnitude.
We talked earlier, when the leader of the third party was speaking, about the impact of numbers like $430 million that we are paying off the debt on and the inflationary nature of the debt at $44 billion or $45 billion or whatever it is and the inflationary nature of a budget --
Mr Charlton: Well, what we are talking about here is precisely that, a demand for new money in Hydro’s terms $61 billion. Financial analysts say $200 billion. In either case, or whether the real answer is somewhere halfway in between, they are all unacceptable because they are all unmanageable in this province without serious, significant damage to the rest of the Ontario economy. That kind of borrowing power does not exist for our whole economy, let alone just for Ontario Hydro. There would be absolutely nothing left for anybody else to borrow to invest.
On the other side of the question, though, piddling around, as they do, with trying to make the people of this province believe that they have balanced a budget, members will recall that just last year in the budget they instituted a new charge against Ontario Hydro. They called it the “debt guarantee fee charge.” The Treasurer said, “Because the government of Ontario guarantees the debts of Ontario Hydro, we’re going to charge it for that debt guarantee, we’re going to charge it for that protection we provide to them.” They brought in a bill, Bill 19, which amended the Power Corporation Act and imposed that debt guarantee fee charge.
Mr Speaker, you might recall that the fee charge was set at a very low rate initially. The Treasurer made a big point of saying that it was going to be only half of one per cent of their capital debt. In the first year, 1989, it would raise something in the neighbourhood of only $80 million -- that was only a part-year -- and it would raise only $138 million in a full year.
That is all very true. Those comments were not untrue, but, Mr Speaker, you cannot tell me that this government did not know, because Hydro had been involved in it for three years at that point. It had been involved for three years in the development of this new plan, the plan that was released just before Christmas. You cannot tell me that this government never consulted with Hydro during that development process, and you certainly cannot make me believe that it did not know, when it instituted this debt guarantee fee charge, that there were going to be major, huge capital construction proposals in that Hydro plan when it was finally released. They may not have known the precise, exact number, but there had been consultations ongoing between Ontario Hydro and the member for Niagara Falls when he was the Minister of Energy, his successor, the member for Fort York, and his successor, the member for Thunder Bay, the current Minister of Energy and Minister of Natural Resources.
Mr Speaker, you cannot tell me that those three ministers of energy and this government did not know there were going to be proposals for major, for significant, for monstrous capital expenditures on the part of Hydro. What does that mean? You know how the system works, Mr Speaker. All of Hydro’s capital construction is done based on debt. Hydro is not a profit-making corporation, never has been and never will be. So when Hydro wants to build $61-billion worth of facilities, it has to go out and borrow $61 billion. It is borrowed over time perhaps, not all in one upfront consumer loan, but it all gets borrowed, every single penny. Is that not right, Mr Speaker? And they cannot even start paying off those debts until the facilities for which the money was borrowed are put into full service and are pumping out electricity into the Ontario grid. So they not only borrow, based on Hydro’s proposal, $61 billion; they start to accumulate interest all throughout the 25 years of the construction program. The debt is in fact, right off the top, much larger than $61 billion.
Then we get into the discussion of Hydro’s ability to predict accurately the real cost of that capital program. As I have said, the financial analysts are saying about $200 billion. I do not have the expertise to know precisely what the real number is. I can tell you, though, based on Hydro’s performance, that it is certainly going to be significantly more than the $61 billion that is set out in Hydro’s plan.
What does that mean in terms of this new tax which the government imposed just last year, before Hydro announced its proposed massive capital program? If Hydro leaves the fee charge at half of one per cent, as it was set out last year in the original imposition of this new tax, new fee charge, and Hydro is right that over the next 25 years the capital borrowing is only $61 billion, then this tax that the government said would bring in only $138 million a year all of sudden and will be bringing in $443 million a year. But we all know that is not going to happen, because we know that Hydro is not going to be able to keep the game over the next 25 years to that $61 billion that it has set out in its plan. If the financial analysts are right, and Hydro’s borrowing to implement the plan it has proposed reaches $200 billion, then all of a sudden the Treasurer of Ontario no longer has a $138-million-a-year tax; he has got a $1-billion-a-year tax.
Think about this. What a beautiful kind of corner to get yourself caught in. You have got the Minister of Energy saying energy efficiency and energy conservation have to be the top priorities. They are saying that in the Ministry of Energy now. As the critic, you would understand that, Mr Speaker. We have also got the Minister of the Environment telling us we have got to dramatically reduce our consumption of fuels, of all kinds, because world scientists are telling us by the middle of the next century we will have to reduce our overall consumption of energy by 50 per cent in order to even start to address the global warming problem. We were talking about taxes earlier. When we get to talking about the global warming problem we are talking about the very future of this planet, not just who will be adversely affected by a payroll tax, or who will be adversely affected by a fee charge to Ontario Hydro for a debt guarantee. We are talking about the very survival of the planet Earth.
So we have the Minister of Energy telling us energy efficiency has to be the top priority and the Minister of the Environment telling us we have got to deal, and deal very severely, with the consumption of energy in this country in order to meet the kind of targets that international scientists are setting for us, at the same time as we have the Treasurer imposing a debt guarantee fee charge that gives exactly the opposite incentive.
When the Treasurer looks at capital investment by Hydro versus energy efficiency, which looks better to the Treasurer? Remember what I just said a few minutes ago. If Hydro invests the $61 billion it has predicted, his tax triples just like that. If Hydro is wrong though and the financial analysts are right, and the investment required to implement the Hydro plan is not $61 billion, it is really $200 billion, all of a sudden the Treasurer’s tax has gone up almost 10-fold. So he says, “That could be a $1-billion tax for me down the road, $1 billion I could use for some of these environmental things and some of these energy things everybody is talking about that I do not understand, but I could use some of those dollars, couldn’t I?” That is what he is saying to himself.
Think about it. He has created himself a tax that creates an incentive for this Treasurer and this government to see Ontario Hydro spend dollars on capital investment, and the more dollars it spends, the more taxes the Treasurer takes in. So the Treasurer sits back and applauds when Hydro says, it is $61 billion in capital investment. The Treasurer says, “Wow, that will pay off a little more than the provincial debt,” without even thinking about the consequences for the overall Ontario economy of that kind of heavy borrowing on the part of Ontario Hydro.
I remember when the member for Niagara Falls was the Energy critic for the opposition party. He used to stand up in this House and criticize the huge capital borrowing of Ontario Hydro and the impact that capital borrowing was having. I also remember when he and the member for Grey-Bruce stood in this House and criticized the kind of irresponsible things that were done around uranium contracts and the $600-million interest-free loan that was given to those companies. This is the same kind of thing that is happening right now. The Liberals are all sitting there with their fingers in their ears because they do not want to hear what is going on.
To make the situation even worse, you will recall, Mr Speaker, that when the Treasurer implemented that debt guarantee fee charge last year, he made sure it was a tax that he would never have to come back to this Legislature to get increases on, because it is a tax that can increase two ways. You will recall again that a few moments ago I said that the debt guarantee fee charge in the initial round was set at one half of one per cent. Unfortunately, it was not set by the amendments to the Power Corporation Act; it was set by order in council. Any increases in that fee charge in the future will not be debatable here in this Legislature. They will not ever come before this House. So if the Treasurer decides that his potential $1-billion tax really should be a $2-billion tax, he just says to the Premier: “We’ve got to pass an order in council. I need some bucks in a hurry. Let’s up the debt guarantee fee from half of one per cent to one per cent.” All of a sudden, that tax that is going to bring him in $138 million this year would bring him in $276 million this year, next year, the year after or whenever they decide.
So we have a tax that goes up two ways. Every time Ontario Hydro borrows to build a dam, or borrows to upgrade the hydraulic system we have down on the Niagara River, or borrows to put in a new hydraulic site in northern Ontario, or borrows to retrofit one of our coal-fired plants with scrubbers to clean up the emissions that are coming out of the stack, or borrows to build a new plant of any kind -- whether it is coal, gas, oil or perhaps gas turbines, which are some of the new, smaller-sized technology we are seeing put in more localized areas rather than the big kinds of plants we have seen in the past -- any kind of borrowing that Hydro does increases the Treasurer’s tax because the tax is based on the total capital debt of Ontario Hydro, a capital debt which last year, when he set the tax in place, was $27.6 billion. That debt has increased somewhat since then and, if Hydro has its way, through its new 25-year proposed plan, will increase dramatically and rapidly over the next 15 years, up to and including the end of the 25-year plan.
We have the government ignoring what is probably the major economic consideration this government should be involved in, and that is understanding what it is that Hydro has proposed and what the resulting impact will be if Hydro’s plan is approved, either at $61 billion or $200 billion or somewhere in between. This province cannot afford that kind of capital borrowing, that kind of capital expenditure.
Have we seen anything in this budget that even begins to address those questions? Was there a single new energy efficiency initiative in the budget? Was there a single new dollar of government funding assigned to energy efficiency programs? No. Two weeks ago, Mr Speaker, when I got up in the House, the Minister of Energy unfortunately was absent that day, so I asked my question of the Premier. You will recall, because I think you were here that day -- as a matter of fact, I know you were here that day; you asked the question right after me, because here you are in Hansard.
But the basic question I asked the Premier was why it was that he and Ontario Hydro were bragging about the fact that Ontario Hydro’s energy efficiency initiatives were the most aggressive of any utility in North America when in fact that was not the case? The Premier responded to me, in his second answer to my second question: “My honourable friend equates results to spending. That is one of the structural problems of the New Democratic Party.”
This member does not equate spending with results in the way that the Premier does. As a matter of fact, his answer to my question was a reflection of his attitude and his problem with the energy efficiency issue. My question related to the fact that Ontario Hydro did not in fact have the most aggressive energy efficiency program on the continent.
The reason the Premier was tricked into believing that it had the most aggressive energy efficiency program on the continent was because it had the biggest dollar numbers. It was he who was equating results with spending, not me. In reality, Ontario Hydro, because it happens to be one of the biggest utilities on the continent, had an energy efficiency program whose total dollars were bigger than many others.
The question I had raised with the Premier was about a utility, Central Maine Power in the state of Maine in the United States. It is a privately owned utility, not a public utility, I should add. Central Maine Power is only 10 per cent as large as Ontario Hydro, one tenth the size of Ontario Hydro, yet it is spending twice as much money this year as Ontario Hydro is spending on energy efficiency. Why is that important? Is it important just because it is spending twice as much money? Of course not.
It is the program and the results of the program, it is the energy efficiency gains per dollar of expenditure that are important, especially if they are all cost-effective; in other words, none of those energy efficiency gains have any net cost in the long run because they pay for themselves.
What we have is a small utility in the state of Maine, one tenth the size of Ontario Hydro, that in the last six years has eliminated 300 million kilowatt-hours from its system. It has saved 300 million kilowatt-hours. That works out to pretty close to 15 per cent of its overall system.
What have we done in the same six years in the province of Ontario, where we are supposed to have the most aggressive energy efficiency program on the continent? That is what the Premier said. That is what Hydro says. What have we done in that same six years? We have allowed our system to grow for four of those six years at five per cent a year and for two of those six years at better than two and a half per cent.
That is something around 2.6 or 2.7 for the first two of the six and five per cent a year since then at the same time as a little utility, without any of the brain power or clout that Ontario Hydro supposedly has, cuts its overall demand by 15 per cent and saves 300 million kilowatt-hours. It is all done cost effectively, therefore, at no cost to the electrical energy consumers in the state of Maine. Why no cost? Because they are cost-effective; they pay for themselves.
But Ontario Hydro says that it cannot do that here in the province of Ontario, that it is beyond its mandate under the Power Corporation Act. The president of Ontario Hydro writes to the current minister and tells her that when I make a proposal. But does the Minister of Energy do anything to change the act, to allow this same kind of sane, useful economic initiative to go on? No. “No comment; we are studying it.”
Like everything else that this Liberal government is doing, it is studying that. They will study it for the next 25 years until we have built four new Darlington-size nuclear plants in this province and we have spent the $200 billion that we could not afford to spend and we have totally decimated the Ontario economy in the process. That is the kind of understanding that this government has of what is happening in the Ontario economy, what is happening with the kind of proposals that Ontario Hydro is making and where this government is leading us in terms of our economic future.
It is just like last week when my colleagues from Hamilton and I got up -- I guess it was on the day the budget was delivered because our leader was in the lockup along with our Treasury critic. My colleagues the member for Hamilton East and the member for Hamilton West and I got up on the leader’s question, so we had a question and two supplementaries.
Our question related to the announcement by Stelco that it would be laying off 800 people and essentially -- because the 800 people was just the nub of the announcement -- its announcement got into serious discussion of the economic hard times that lay ahead of us. As a matter of fact, the spokesman for Stelco was the first major industrial spokesman in Canada to seriously set out in real terms just how hard the times around the corner are going to be.
Up until now everybody has been saying: “Yes, there’s going to be a recession. There will be a slight slowing down. It’ll be like a little bump in the road. Nobody’ll hardly feel it, but it won’t be anything to worry about.” For the first time we had a spokesman for a major industry in this country saying, “Our best indications are that this one is going to be really nasty.” As a matter of fact, the Stelco spokesman used terms like “the unbelievable bungling of Detroit last year.”
We are going to see some major, major economic downturn resulting from downturn in the auto industry, with its impact on steel, and spinning from there out right through the parts industry. This Treasurer is saying, “Hey, we’re going to create jobs in the next year.” He is wearing a blindfold and he is going to shoot himself in the foot. This government does nothing in its budget but attempt to tell the people of this province, “We balanced the budget and for the first time in 43 years we paid a little, wee, piddly piece off the provincial debt.”
The Deputy Speaker: As I am trying to request, the member for Hamilton Mountain will address only the Speaker as per the standing orders, and other members will recognize that only one member has the floor.
Mr Charlton: You are so right, Mr Speaker. It just upsets me so much when I hear members say things that so clearly indicate their lack of understanding about what is happening here in the province of Ontario, where on the one hand they equate half a billion dollars as something significant at the same time as they sit around and ignore $61 billion.
That is exactly the problem I find with this budget. The comments that are coming from over there are a precise reflection of what is in the budget. There is no understanding of what is happening to the economy in this province; instead a budget that attempts to brag about a piddly little thing like half a billion dollars when the real consequences are sitting out there unaddressed and unattended by this government.
The government has chosen not even to be involved directly in the hearings that are reviewing Hydro’s plan. There are a lot of good advocates from across the province who will be involved. I will be there and even the critic for the third party will be there, but this government will not be there.
At any rate, let me just wrap up my comments by saying that the greatest failing I find with this budget is the silence, the absolute and total silence, around what are the most important economic issues confronting the future of this province’s economy.
We have not even seen minimal recognition of, not a single new initiative on energy efficiency, not a single new comment on a new direction, no mention of how this government is going to respond to Hydro’s proposal to spend at a minimum--and I say “a minimum” because they are Hydro’s figures and its record in terms of predicting accurately is not the best -- at a very minimum $61 billion in capital investment that this province and the economy of this province cannot afford.
We have seen absolutely no understanding of the fact that the $61 billion is likely far closer to $200 billion and that that kind of capital borrowing taken out of the ability of this province and of all of the industrial and commercial enterprise in this province to expand will devastate the economy of Ontario. But this government makes no comment.
That is the biggest single failing of this budget. It is the lack of recognition of the very serious consequences that are evolving for our economic future and the inability of this government to recognize them or to address them any way, shape or form.
Mr Ballinger: I am very pleased to rise this afternoon in support of the Treasurer’s budget. In the three years that I have been in the House, this of course being the third budget, I always find it uniquely interesting to be on this side of the House. I liken what transpires in here to a hockey game. We all cheer for our team regardless of whether we are the best team or not.
But I am amazed, this year especially, when we really do have a balanced budget and we have paid down for the first time in 43 years almost $500 million in capital debt, to listen to a member on the other side say it is a piddly little amount and means absolutely nothing. Three years ago when I came in, there was a $3 billion shortfall in balancing the day-to-day operations of the province of Ontario.
The leader of the third party spoke a little earlier and said that he was disappointed the Treasurer has not been tough enough. Quite frankly, I just do not know how anybody can make that statement. The Treasurer has been extremely tough in the last three budgets he has brought forth. He has balanced the budget.
If any one of us sitting in the Legislature here today thinks that Ontario is not better served in 1990 than it was in 1985 when the NDP and the Liberal Party formed a very good coalition to change 42 years of history in this province to get rid of the Tories, I am absolutely amazed to listen to some of the members of the official opposition argue that there are so many shortfalls in this budget in the ways the government has not addressed the real issues. I find it --
Mr Ballinger: Quite frankly, the member for Nickel Belt is always right in there from an economic point of view, duking it up with the Treasurer, and I enjoy his comments. I do not always agree with them.
I guess the interesting part from my perspective is, after spending 10 years in municipal government, the last five as mayor of my own community in Uxbridge, a growing community, I can remember back in the early 1980s when our community could not give a building permit away. Last year our community issued about 1,500 new building permits for new home construction. My riding, Durham-York, in the greater Toronto area, is just one of the many communities that have been put under tremendous growth.
We, as the government of Ontario, have tried to meet the needs of those growing communities. There is no question that we have raised taxes, but let me give members just one small example -- education. Before 1985, the capital money being transferred down from the provincial government to the school boards was around $68 million. In the last five years, we have transferred down to the school boards, annualized, $300 million each year. I was really happy to see in the budget this year that the Treasurer included an additional $300 million, which brings that total to $1.5 billion for new school construction.
Mr Ballinger: The member for Nickel Belt sits over there and yells and screams about flat-lining. That is not flat-lining, to go from $65 million to $300 million each and every year five years in a row. He calls that flat-lining. That is the trouble with NDP mathematics. They just simply cannot count. I mean, it is so fundamental when you look at that. As the member for the riding of Durham-York, I am proud of what the Treasurer has been doing for new school construction, and I am more than happy this year because that additional $300 million will take some of our students out of portables and put them into the classrooms.
The leader of the third party was jamming away here about the Treasurer’s magic with balancing the budget, and he was blaming us for everything. Interestingly enough, we do not set the interest rates in this country. That is a federal monetary policy. He was arguing about the increase in the Canadian dollar pegged to the United States dollar. That is not our policy. That is a federal Tory policy.
He says that our budgets have increased and will fuel inflation. If anything will fuel inflation in this country, it certainly is the high interest rates. He wants to go out into the ridings and speak to the home builders. They will tell him what is causing the inflation in this country, and it is not the provincial budget. It certainly is not the provincial budget.
Mr Ballinger: I do not mind being heckled by the member for Nickel Belt. I quite enjoy participating in that myself once in a while. Since he is not any taller than I am, it is quite easy for me to meet him at eye level and I do not have to stand on the pedestal to argue with him.
I guess all of us, most of us, spend Fridays in our constituency offices. Some days are good days and some days are very frustrating days, and only from the point of view that most of us deal with a whole host of constituency problems. I find that when I am dealing with constituents in my office and I look at where we have come in the last five years in social policy, as an example, and our commitment to the various social programs --
Mr Ballinger: Yes, and even in health care. I am proud of our health care system, proud of the commitment of our minister. It is not easy, in health care especially, to operate with a balanced budget.
I want to get back to this point about the constituency office. As the mayor of a community, I used to deal with all kinds of issues, but never did I realize, coming to the provincial level, the agony and the tough situations in which some of our people out there in Ontario find themselves. A lot of times they fall through the cracks where there is not a provincial program.
In the last five years, and I am a firm believer of this, as we have addressed those issues collectively, brought to the attention of the government either by us or by the other two parties, we have reached out to meet those needs and you cannot do that for nothing. There will be lots of people who say we are not doing enough and that is fair, but we are doing a heck of a lot more in Ontario, this Liberal government, than the previous Tory government ever dreamed about when it comes to social policy.
For me it is very simple. In our family, we have dealt with that on a very personal level. I know that five years ago, in our own family, the government’s addressing of an issue was not there; it was non-existent. It has been addressed in the past five years and it was done under the member for Kitchener-Wilmot, one of the best ministers of Community and Social Services this province has ever seen, very aptly followed by the member for York North, who is a similar type of personality, who is a humanist and has a social conscience, who believes that what we are doing as a government in spending on those programs is really important.
The frustrating part, I find, is when the opposition members get up and say we are not doing enough in social policy. Then on the other hand they get up and they say, “Well, you know, you are raising taxes.” Now, if there was ever a conflict- --
That happens time and time again in here. I view my role as a Liberal government member to stand up and defend what I believe is one heck of a good budget, one I am proud of and one with which I am more than happy to go back to the constituents in my riding of Durham York, made up of five communities -- Uxbridge, Brock, East Gwillimbury, Georgina and Whitchurch-Stouffville -- and say to the people who elected me that I have no difficulty in defending a budget like this, and I can break it down in many ways.
Last Thursday morning, in the little hamlet of Sunderland, we had 80 farmers from across the riding show up to a little country breakfast with the member for Timiskaming, the Minister of Agriculture and Food. We had a very fruitful discussion, whether the people on the opposite side care to know about this, and the feedback I got is that Ontario has not abandoned the farmers at all. We have not abandoned the farmers.
In fact, we started out discussing the budget, the $48 million in the interest reduction, the $48 million for the land stewardship program, and the farmers spent most of their time discussing federal issues. It is not the Ontario government that has abandoned the farmers. It is the federal government that has abandoned the farmers.
Mr Ballinger: Free trade -- absolutely right -- was the number one issue. Supply management? The farmers are concerned. The latest issue is the feds allowing the soya bean import into Ontario, where the Ontario farmer now cannot compete because of the subsidized soya beans that are coming into our province, all done by the feds, not by the province of Ontario.
Mr Ballinger: No, to defend what I believe we should be defending and I am up here today because this is a good budget, an awfully good budget. I have not heard, Mr Speaker, with the greatest respect, one member on the opposition side say anything constructive about this budget, not one. Even the point the previous speaker mentioned, the piddly little amount of reducing the capital debt of $500 million -- the first time in 43 years that debt has been reduced by anyone and it was reduced by this Treasurer, and what do those guys say? “Oh, a piddly little amount. It does not mean a hill of beans. It does not even contribute to anything.” But the point is that he has done it, and if there has been any fiscal responsibility done in this province, it has been done by the Treasurer of Ontario, on whose back --
I want to pick up where I left off before I was so rudely interrupted. Coming from a riding like mine that is in the greater Toronto area, we feel those economic pressures, transportation pressures, education pressures, health care pressures, social service pressures. They are all there. The riding I represent is about 90,000 people, an increase of about 10,000 or 12,000 since the election in 1987. I am sure that before too long my riding will be made up of about 100,000, mostly commuters, mostly working in the greater Toronto area -- the Markham area, the Richmond Hill area, Toronto.
Mr Ballinger: I sat in the House that day. I was somewhat perplexed, to put it quite mildly, that the opposition members’ response to an announcement like that was: “Well, it’s so-so. Yes, there were some good initiatives but it was not good enough.” Then the problem you get into, and I understand it, is you get the regional arguments. You get members getting up from other parts of Ontario saying, “That is okay for the GTA, but what are you doing for my part?” Then you get somebody holding a map up in here and saying: “What, did you forget about us?”
Mr Ballinger: It is to represent the constituents of my riding and to ensure that in all of those areas of education, transportation, health care, social services, we get our share. That is fair. Every member in here has a similar problem.
I do not think some of the other areas of Ontario that have not seen or felt the tremendous growth have any idea about the pressures that the municipalities, school boards, hospitals and the transportation authorities are undergoing right now. For people who commute, I know when we raised the licence fee in last year’s budget from $60 to $90 in the GTA, I received a fair number of letters and phone calls from constituents who were not very pleased about that. I do not blame taxpayers for being upset about paying a tax if they cannot see the results of the revenue.
But that $5-billion announcement in the greater Toronto area has a substantive impact on my riding. In the short run, in the immediate run, it is going to take some while to get up and running, but in the long run it is going to be very helpful to my riding. Increasing the number of trains in Whitchurch-Stouffville, as an example: If you come from the north end of my riding in either Brock or Uxbridge township, prior to putting the Stouffville train on the line, you would have had to drive to Pickering. Pickering was the only stop where you could get on the GO train. We have now extended that out to Ajax and Whitby, with a commitment to Oshawa and as far away as Bowmanville. That will make a substantive difference to my commuters. It means they do not have to go to Pickering. They can go to any one of those stations or else they can go to Stouffville.
Just the other day, I was going through Whitchurch-Stouffville and I noticed GO Transit now has doubledecker trains on the track in Whitchurch-Stouffville that are new, which means that the taxpayers, the commuters, are responding to the initiatives. If they were not responding to the initiatives, there would be no need for doubledecker trains and no need for additional hours, varying the hours so that there would be more flexible schedules for the commuters. We are doing that now, which means the commuters are responding, which means that initiative has been well received. Consequently, as to the increased taxes that went with that, the people can physically see, and they can taste and they can smell where their taxes are going.
I have had good response from my taxpayers, saying: “It is about time. Finally, we have a government that realizes the needs of the communities in the greater Toronto area.” Until we took office here, there was no such thing as a GTA. There was no co-ordination. The previous Tory government had no idea what it was doing. It was like sitting on a big stewpot that kept bubbling over and bubbling over. They did not even know how to respond to that. We have responded to that. We have raised taxes to do that, but when you raise taxes, people say “Where does the money go?” It does not go into thin air. It goes to improve our communities across this province. Since I represent one close to Toronto, I can only speak on behalf of my riding, the five communities I represent and the 90,000 people who live there.
Nobody likes to pay more taxes, but the federal Tories are classic guys who have raised taxes and raised the debt. They blamed the Trudeau era when they took over in 1985 or 1984, but they have doubled the debt in the five and a half years they have been there. They have not reduced that debt one cent. What have we got here in Ontario? We have a provincial Treasurer who reduced the current debt almost $3 billion and is now starting to work on the capital debt this year of an additional $500 million.
How can the opposition sit over there with a straight face and say, “The Treasurer’s financial policies are out to lunch”? I will tell you, Mr Speaker, who is out to lunch in this Legislature, and it is not the Treasurer -- far from it. He is the first Treasurer in this province to even have a vision of what his responsibility is, in balancing budgets, providing necessary programs for the people in need in this province and meeting the needs of the future citizens of Ontario. He has done that extremely well.
I have not heard one group over there say, “Treasurer, you’ve done a good job.” In fact, the leader of the third party was saying today that the Treasurer has missed the mark. If anybody missed the mark, it was the Tory government when it was in power. I lived through 10 years of that as a municipal politician, and if you did not play their game 10 years ago, you did not play in the game. We do not play that way; we do not play that way at all.
Mr Ballinger: That is right. It does not matter whether you are a Tory or a Liberal in a riding, the government serves you. That is their job and their responsibility. That is what we are attempting to do.
The leader of the third party also made a statement that really intrigued me. His point was that anybody can govern when times are good. I say to the members, then, what happened to Brian Mulroney? Do members want to talk about a 15 percenter? There is a 15 percenter. He was elected when times were good and he has botched up everything he has ever put his hand on. So for the Tories to come into the House and say that the Treasurer does not know what he is doing is a joke; absolutely a joke.
Mr Ballinger: No, there is a lot of farm land still there, but not a lot of good farmers. It is tough to farm anywhere across Canada today. It takes more than just one level of government to respond to the needs of the farmer.
I guess there is a disappointing part, as I view it anyway. I went there with my provincial agriculture minister with a real good provincial agricultural budget to discuss agricultural issues. Lo and behold, almost every issue that came out that day was another level of government’s issue. People get confused.
Mr Ballinger: I apologize, Mr Speaker. I find it somewhat frustrating to stand here giving my speech on the budget and being heckled by a Tory member of the Legislature who is saying there are more bankruptcies now than there ever were. Well, do not look to us. We say, talk to your federal Tories in Ottawa. They are the ones who do not care about the family farm. It sure is not the province of Ontario. The treasurer’s commitment to the family farm is unprecedented in Ontario. We spend more on agriculture in Ontario than another province in Canada. What are your buddies up in Ottawa doing? Sitting on their fannies.
I have a businessman in one of my communities who owns four car dealerships. Whenever there is a downturn in the economy, and we could tell today in question period, when we get questions about automobile afterparts, factories and slowdown in sales, obviously the first industry, when it starts to slow down it has the biggest effect on our economy, is the auto industry. This gentleman has four car dealerships, has been 40 years in business, knows the cycles well, knows when to hold them and when to fold them, as they say in a poker game.
I find somewhat interesting all the doom and gloom we have been reading in the papers lately. Newspapers sell advertising. They encourage you to buy ads in the paper and they encourage you to spend money to advertise your product. Then on the front page they tell you nobody is buying anything. The economy has gone for a you-know-what. So what you have to do to really get the check and balance in there, the benchmark, is to go and speak to the people who are in the business.
This gentleman told me the other day that there is no question there is a tailing off right now in the economy. Certainly, it is not as bad as what some of the opposition members would like us to believe in here today. It is there; there is no question it is there. The businessman today who watches that and monitors it and governs himself accordingly is the one who will survive.
The last recession, as we know, was in the early 1980s. This gentleman told me that it took 18 months in Ontario to come out of that recession in the automobile business. In the United States it took four years to come out of the same recession. He has been around in this business for 40 years. He says it is a trend, it is always a cycle, and all you have to do is watch for it and prepare yourself for it. It is coming, but it certainly is not as bad as what everyone in here would like us to believe.
I think the budget did respond to that. I think the Treasurer monitored very closely through all his economic advice what we should be doing as a province. There is no tax increase, as we know, except for the one cent on cigarettes. Of course then, as we all know over on this side of the House, we are being accused of it being an election budget. Last year we were being accused of the highest increase in spending in the history of the province of Ontario. This year there is no increase, and what do they tell us guys over here? It is an election budget. “You guys must have a secret plan because you did not raise taxes, so we can’t nail you on the increase in taxes, we’ll have to get at you another way.” So they are going to get at us by telling us, “Yes, precisely what you folks are doing is putting forth an election budget.”
I think the role of a government is to have a feel for the people out there whom it represents. There is no question people feel they are paying enough taxes. Our responsibility here as a government is to provide the services for those communities across Ontario with the money we have raised, and what the Treasurer is saying this year, quite simply, is, “I’m going to raise $44 billion and I’m going to spend $44 billion and I’m going to leave a little surplus.” He has been working on that, in the three years that I have been here and the two years before that, to balance the budget -- the first Treasurer to do that in Ontario for some time. Prior to 1985. when the Tories were in power, they said they were in a recession. Well. the recession was in 1980-81, the recession was not in 1984, when they were in power, and yet they had a $2.6-billion deficit.
You cannot sort of sit on the fence and not raise taxes because it is politically unpopular but still spend the money you do not have. That is something the Treasurer has gotten away from, and that is good fiscal management. It is the way most of us would like to run our own homes. We earn the money and then we spend the money, and if we have got a little in the bank at the end of the year, that is great. The average citizen would like to manage his own household budget in the same fashion. But the criticism is just unbelievable from the opposition.
I know, I said before that I view our role as to propose, our role is to govern, and their role is to oppose regardless. It does not necessarily only happen in finance; it happens every day here. I sat through question period today. I did not hear anything but negative comments from the opposition. That is their role, and I understand that, but all of us collectively on this side and this year have a responsibility out there in Ontario to say to the people of Ontario: “This is what we’ve done. This is what we’ve done in the last five years, the last four years. the last three years, the last two years and the last one year.”
I am quite happy to do that, as a member of the Liberal government, and if there is an election this fall, I will be more than happy to hit the bricks like everybody else in here. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, there will be a lot of blood on the highway before I give up the riding of Durham-York. I am very proud to represent that riding and I am very proud to be a part of this government. I have no difficulty whatsoever in defending those issues that I believe are important steps that we have made as a government, not only in fiscal responsibility but in areas of health care, in areas of transportation, in areas of agriculture, in areas of social services, in areas of education, all very important, again, to my riding because of the growth pressures that we are constantly under in Durham-York.
Mr Ballinger: I do not mind the nattering over there from the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, because he has never been a municipal politician so he does not know what he is talking about, but quite frankly, as a municipal politician of 10 years --
Mr Ballinger: As a municipal taxpayer, I have always viewed my role as being an equity partner in a corporation. Let me just give members an example of how those areas within the greater Toronto area have benefited from some of the government initiatives over the last few years.
I have lived in the same house on the same street for 20 years. The value of my property, as Toronto and the GTA has grown, which has created a whole market out there for people to be able to move out to Uxbridge and commute into Toronto, has increased about 12 or 13 times from my original purchase price in 1970, but my realty taxes have only gone up about five times, and we are on market value assessment, and if you really believe in a market value assessment as I do, you pay according to what the value of your land is. There will be a substantial difference if the municipality, in its wisdom, invokes another section 63 so that in fact it could update the market value of the property, but in the interim, anyone who has owned a house in the GTA in the last five years has seen tremendous increase in equity, not only because of provincial initiatives, but a lot of it has to do with provincial initiatives.
When people move into a community like mine, the first thing they want to look at is the school. We have a lot of young families moving in; they want to look at the school. They want to know, if the school is not there, when it is going to be built, where the commitment is. I have had some good success in my riding, and some not so good, because the communities have grown far faster than either the province or the school board can fiscally respond to in terms of -- one community not very far from me put 800 homes up and they sold almost over night. Then we start worrying about the school, and the province has been trying to respond to those particular needs, but it is not only in education.
In transportation, as I said earlier, the expansion of GO Transit has just made a tremendous difference. It means now that some people only have to have one car instead of two, because, as we all know, in most families today it takes two people to work. Consequently, the government has a responsibility to provide day care so that both members of the family can go out and work. If we are providing the day care it allows them to do that, to have that additional income which certainly allows them to live in communities outside of that Metropolitan Toronto area but within commuting distance.
I want to get back to the municipal comment that I was going to make earlier before I was interrupted. That is, I have five mayors and five councils. We work very closely together, as I did when I was a mayor. I worked very closely with my provincial member and I worked very closely with my federal member, for that matter, even though I do not see them as often as I see --
There is no question that we have been involved with some programs that municipalities disagree with, and I think that is fair, just as the feds are involved with programs that we disagree with. The important thing is, we all represent the same taxpayer and the bottom line is, collectively, between all three levels of government, are we providing the necessary service to the taxpayers? If we are, then we can all fight about whose responsibility it is or whose money we should be spending, but it all comes out of the same pocket.
In my area, because of the diversification of the communities -- I have some farm areas I spoke about earlier, I have got growth areas right next door to Markham, and the Whitchurch-Stouffville area, which are feeling those pressures from Markham, which has been line of the fastest-growing municipalities in Ontario. In areas of public transportation, we are feeling those pressures that, if GO Transit were there -- but there is not any municipal public transportation, for which there is very quickly becoming a need.
We are seeing pressure for health care. I am really lucky in my riding. We just opened a new hospital. The Markham Stouffville Hospital was opened officially by the minister a month ago now, I guess. I made a statement in the House of how proud I was as the member, of the first hospital to be opened in Ontario in about the last five or six years. The commitment from our government was over $30 million and it was a joint partnership between the province, the region and the local municipality as well as a fundraising group. So those needs of that community have been met, and met very greatly.
When people move into a community they look at that, the health care facilities. If I were going to move into this community, I would ask, “Has the government provided the necessary service for me?” In Whitchurch-Stouffville it certainly has. I know that the people in Whitchurch-Stouffville now are about a 10-minute drive away from the hospital where before they had to go either to Scarborough or over into Richmond Hill, to York Centre. So now that is a real asset.
That money did not come out of the air. That money came from a commitment from the Ministry of Health, and we did that from taxpayers. If you are raising taxes and you are not showing the taxpayers what we are doing with the money, then they absolutely have the right to take issue with the government. But when you raise taxes, you balance the budget and you provide those necessary services for the community, then you are doing your job. In this particular case, we have done that.
I just want to thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to bring forth my ideas. Since the House leader wants to make a comment, I just want to say how happy I am to represent Durham-York, how pleased I am with the Treasurer and how we will have absolutely no difficulty in supporting this budget if we are on the hustings this fall.