Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I wish to pay tribute today to a man who has made quite an impact on thousands of lives. I am referring to Bill McNeil, host of the popular CBC radio program Fresh Air. I know Mr McNeil personally and I have had the pleasure of listening to his excellent program since 1970.
Bill McNeil was a friend to many who tuned in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. His program was much more than just a breath of fresh air. It was a familiar presence, reassuring, and it always accentuated the positive. It presented the good side of life. I don't think we can ever hear too much good news.
Mr McNeil believed that the listeners' interests mattered. He asked his audience what it wanted to hear and complied with its wishes. He talked about the way things were, about the good old days. He also profiled great Canadians. He drew attention to people who, in his view, built this country.
There are so many ways a person can contribute to his or her society. In his own special manner, Bill McNeil made his corner of the world just a little bit brighter. It saddens me that in these times of frequent turbulent change, another familiar voice is fading away.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I would like to make members of this Legislature aware of the opening and incorporation of the non-profit charitable organization, the Orangeville Food Bank: Caring for the Community.
This group of 15 on the hard-working board of directors has banded together to form a non-profit organization to help the people of Halton, Caledon and Orangeville. The sad statement is that we need food banks to help make ends meet in these tough economic times. The committed and combined individuals of the Orangeville Food Bank are here to help out families in need.
This non-profit organization also needs our help. They have put together a depot for dropping off groceries and moneys to get the food bank started. If you'd like to help out with either a donation of non-perishable foodstuffs or money to help get them started, please drop by 78 Centennial Road in Orangeville.
The food bank will officially open on May 23 to serve the people of Caledon, Alton and Orangeville. They would appreciate your support. In these tough economic times, we need to work together to see the Orangeville Food Bank serve 100 families within Caledon, Alton and Orangeville.
Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): In the last war everyone was encouraged to dig for victory and plant vegetables to share with others. Today we are in another war, the war against the recession, and once again we can turn to the garden for help.
In my constituency of Durham East we are launching a community garden food-share program. This program, put into place by my constituency assistants, is to ask all gardeners to plant a little extra this year and to share that extra produce with others in the community. The produce produced by local gardeners will be going to area hostels, emergency shelters, emergency residences and food banks.
This innovative food-share program allows for many ways in which we can pull together to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Today, through the debate on television here, I'm encouraging all residents across Ontario to dig, to plant and to help others who are less fortunate in this severe recession.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): It was with justifiable pride and satisfaction that the employees of Port Weller Dry Docks witnessed the christening of the Jiimaan, the ferry built at the St Catharines facility to serve Pelee Island. As usual, the vessel was produced within budget, on time and with the outstanding quality for which Canadian shipbuilding and engineering has become so well known.
It was more than parochial pride that caused me to support the designation of Port Weller Dry Docks as the builder of this vessel when I was a member of the previous Liberal government, and it was more than working to ensure that residents of my community would gain employment that prompted me to urge the new government to proceed with this project. I knew what every objective observer of the shipbuilding industry in Canada knows, that Port Weller Dry Docks can be counted upon to produce a quality product, within schedule, within budget and within the specifications of the customer, in this case the taxpayers of Ontario.
While federal government contracts are awarded to facilities elsewhere that are often over the tendered price, late in production and of questionable quality, Port Weller is passed over for apparent political reasons. We would welcome more provincial government business and at least our fair share of federal government business at a shipbuilding operation where we have the expertise, the experience and the commitment to produce the very best for the customer -- Port Weller Dry Docks.
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I rise today to recognize the government for having met with Mayor Howard Haramis of Renfrew to work out an acceptable substitute for the provincial transfer of the Ontario Heritage Foundation along with 60 jobs to that community.
More important, the government has recognized the mayor for putting together a marketing team made up of council and industrial commissioners that is second to none in the valley. The have worked together with the Capital Hill Group to establish an industrial strategy that will lead Renfrew and area into a well-based, modern and prosperous community. They deserve the financial assistance, and I compliment the members involved for their part in negotiating a final solution in replacement for the provincial heritage foundation.
I am also pleased to announce that the Perth Great War Memorial Hospital emergency inpatients unit project has received Ministry of Health funding for the $17-million project. This is great news for the community and the hospital's board of directors who started this project in 1981.
Mr Strange represented Brantford for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, known as the CCF, from 1943 to 1945. In fact, he was the first CCF member elected in the city of Brantford. Mr Strange moved with his family to Simcoe in 1947 and was employed at the American Can company. American Can was later sold and was known as Ball Packaging before it closed last year. He worked in personnel at American Can and helped out with the bowling team. He also organized the children's Christmas party. Charles Strange was very active in the community.
Mr Strange was a long-time member of the St John Ambulance and also helped revitalize the Simcoe and District Humane Society. Charles was a person who shared of himself. His way of dealing with problems was to sit in on a discussion, listen, then help out and put everything into focus. He was a good man and an excellent representative for the working people in Brantford at Queen's Park.
A short while ago, Kevin Keefe, a 36-year-old father of infant twins, was driving to work where he was to work the night shift. Unbeknownst to Mr Keefe, a heavy steel cable was stretched taut across the road in front of him. Attached to one end of the cable in a ditch was a truck. The other end of the cable was attached to the towing rig on a tow truck which was in the process of towing the truck out of the ditch. No flares were on the road to warn of the cable's presence. No flagpersons wearing reflective clothing or waving lights were present. The cable tore the roof off Mr Keefe's truck and he died instantly.
The jury which heard the evidence relating to that fateful night learned that the tow-truck industry is the only emergency response industry in Ontario that is not regulated. The jury made the following recommendations to us: that mandatory training and certification programs be developed for tow-truck operators, that safety and traffic control procedures be established for tow-truck operators, and that the laws governing minimum lighting requirements for tow trucks be reviewed.
I ask the members of government, particularly the Minister of Transportation and the Attorney General, to carefully examine the jury's recommendations and take the necessary steps to prevent the recurrence of any further accidents of this nature.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): Today marks the beginning of Police Week. On behalf of the Conservative Party, it's a pleasure to salute the accomplishments and dedication of the police officers of Ontario. They stand second to no one in the world in efficiency, professionalism and fairness. Without them our civilized, tolerant and progressive way of life would not be possible. They and the people of Ontario must, however, view Police Week 1992 with very mixed feelings.
Our police have to do their jobs while dealing with a government that second-guesses their actions on a regular basis; a government whose Premier chose to talk extensively about racism in relation to the shooting of a suspected drug dealer, putting forward sly innuendoes that the Metropolitan Toronto Police were racist despite the total lack of evidence of racial motive; a government whose Attorney General bemoans the fact that he and his staff were unable to find any justification for re-laying charges against two Peel region officers found not guilty in the shooting death of a man driving a stolen car.
It's nothing short of disgusting that at the very time police are being faced with increased levels of crime such as assaults, drug use, drug-related crimes and street gangs, the government of Ontario is turning its back on the police.
Ordinary citizens, in marking Police Week, can continue to speak up on behalf of the police, or the NDP and various self-styled organizations claiming to speak for large segments of society will irresponsibly damage police morale, severely handicap their ability to fight crime and ultimately damage public safety.
Mr George Mammoliti (Yorkview): Honourable members, I would like to welcome a very special group of people visiting our Legislature today. Joining us today in the east gallery are individuals from my riding of Yorkview. They soon hope to become Canadian citizens.
As you know, one must learn a great deal about Canada's culture and its institutions in order to be successful at the citizenship hearings. I am very happy to offer classes in my constituency office to help prepare candidates for this important moment. These students have worked very hard towards achieving their goal. They have taken the time to attend classes weekly to learn about our great country.
Fellow members, please join me in commending their efforts and wishing them the very best of luck at their hearings. I would also like to thank the instructor, Ms Terry Fernandes Castro, for her hard work and dedication in preparing her students.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): To all members in the House, I invite you to welcome to our assembly this afternoon a very special group of visiting parliamentarians. We have with us today parliamentarians who are here to study the parliamentary process from the parliaments of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation and the Ukraine. Please welcome them very warmly to our chamber.
Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): It's with great honour that I stand today and pay the final respects of our party to James Noble Allan, or Jimmie Allan as he was known to his friends and colleagues in this Legislature and his friends in his riding. He died Saturday at the age of 97.
He was first elected as a Progressive Conservative member for the riding of Haldimand-Norfolk in 1951 and sat in this House till 1975. He had the honour of serving under three distinguished premiers: Leslie Frost, John Robarts and Bill Davis.
During his career as a provincial legislator, James held many posts. In 1955 he became the Minister of Highways at a time when highways were politics and "highways" was the word of the future for Ontario. He oversaw a budget of $200 million and 8,000 employees, and in doing so created more than 10,000 miles of Ontario highways. This was the largest single department in the Ontario government during that period of time.
From 1958 until 1966, James was the Treasurer of Ontario. Although he introduced the first sales tax in Ontario, at 3%, he was also the last Treasurer to report a surplus budget, Mr Laughren, of more than $28 million. It would amount to much more than that in today's terms.
Jim was an active member in his community. He served on church and hospital boards, on the municipal councils of the townships of Canborough and Dunnville, as mayor of Dunnville and as a past warden of Haldimand county.
In 1967, Jim was appointed chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission, which he held until 1988 when he was well into the 90th year of his life. During his years as the "czar of the parks," he guided it through a period of expansion by applying common sense and tight-purse policies.
I can remember hearing and talking to some members of the commission, and he refused to give them a pay increase over any period of years, and I think they were being paid a mileage allowance of something like eight or nine cents in 1988 or 1989 when most people were being paid much more. He had only one answer: "If you want to sit on the Niagara Parks Commission, you either do it as an honour or you don't sit on the board." He was awarded yet again by being appointed the honorary chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission, a position he held until his death on Saturday.
James Allan had a colourful political career. He was highly respected and liked by members of all parties. He was honoured for his outstanding service several times. He was named an honorary Mohawk chief by the Six Nations Indians, a 113-acre park near Dunnville has been named after him, and on the occasion of his 90th birthday the Burlington Bay Skyway bridge was renamed the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway.
For the past 17 years, members of my party and friends have held a birthday party for Jim Allan each year in November. The large number of members and former members and former political allies says a lot about the respect that Jim Allan had during his political life.
I can only remember that a year and a half ago at his birthday party he was as up-to-date with the political issues as anyone in this Legislature, at least on that side of the House. I think his death is the loss of a great politician and, most of all, a loss of a great friend to our party and to members of this Legislature.
Hon Floyd Laughren (Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister of Economics): I would like to rise and say a few words on behalf of the government concerning the passing of James Allan. It's hard for me to believe that I'm the only one in the assembly who actually sat with him here, but that is indeed the case.
My first encounter with Mr Allan was not in this assembly. I was working my way through college, as they say, at a wallboard plant when suddenly the line came to a halt -- and that line never came to a halt -- and there appeared shaking hands with people on the line none other than James Allan, as it was an election time. I asked the foreman a little later, "Well, we saw Mr Allan; when are we going to see the candidates from the other parties?" and the foreman said, "If you have to ask that question, you're probably too stupid to be working here." I hope you won't comment on that.
My next real encounter with him was indeed in the assembly when I served on a committee, and I remember it was a committee with a lot of emotional involvement in it. It had to do with health and safety and workers' compensation, and I believe the Elliot Lake mine workers was an issue on the committee.
It got fairly heated and I took what can only be described as a cheap shot at Jimmie Allan. That was not the right thing to do, of course, and he reprimanded me and said, "Young man" -- I repeat, he said -- "Young man, you will get a lot further around this place and you will accomplish a lot more if you will for ever avoid personal shots." I don't think I've lived up to the letter of his advice totally in the last 20 years, but I certainly have remembered it and if I haven't lived up to it, it wasn't because of the good advice he gave me.
There's no question that he played an enormous role in the political life of this province and made an enormous contribution. I indeed do remember, when I first came here, the respect in which he was held, not by just his own colleagues but by all members of the assembly.
I realize he lived a full and rich life, to the age of 97, I believe, but even so, that's a life that should be celebrated, and on behalf of the government I would like to express my condolences to the family.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I would like, on behalf of my colleagues in the Liberal Party, to join with the member for Carleton and the member for Nickel Belt in expressing to the Allan family our condolences on the passing of James N. Allan.
As has been mentioned, few people served in this assembly over the years with such distinction as Jimmie Allan. He will, I suppose, be remembered always for that first sales tax -- it was affectionately known as the "Frostbite" at 3%, he of course being finance minister to Leslie M. Frost -- but he served in a number of capacities, as has been mentioned by previous speakers.
I remember Bob Nixon saying to me that in his, that is, Bob Nixon's rather long public life, he, Bob Nixon, never met anyone he felt epitomized the highest qualities of public service as did Jimmie Allan. Bob and Jim were neighbours down in that part of southwestern Ontario for many years. In talking to people like Gord Miller, who succeeded Jim Allan as the member there in 1975, and Vince Kerrio, the member for Niagara Falls, with whom I know Jimmie had some dealings at the Niagara Parks Commission, all of my former colleagues who had involvement with Jim Allan certainly had the same summary of characteristics: He was courtly, genial, very much a good listener, a man of the people, someone who had served in very high office, but never one to forget who he was and where he'd come from.
He, I think, in one way that has not been commented upon, is a really excellent model in this respect. Jim Allan, as the member for Carleton observed, went to cabinet in 1955 and served in very senior portfolios, certainly six or seven years as minister of finance. One of Jim Allan's great habits was to name his budgets, I say to my friend the member for Nickel Belt. He had a "sunshine" budget and he had a "get well" budget. I don't remember all the various titles, but every year he was the finance minister he would name his budget with a certain phrase that identified it.
He left the finance portfolio in 1966 and served nine years afterwards, most of those years as a private member. Too often we think in this place that if one is not in cabinet, if one is not thirsting to be in cabinet, then there's nothing to live for, there's nothing to do. I think the member for Nickel Belt is very helpful in remembering that when he was first elected in 1971, Jim Allan served in that Parliament for four years as a very active and constructive member of the Legislature as a private member. He served on three extremely difficult and contentious committees, from the government's point of view, not just the workers' compensation reference, but the famous reference to the new Hydro building, and one other that escapes me at the moment. But they were two or three very important references he was involved in, making the point very powerfully that just because one has served in senior cabinet government is no reason to believe one cannot continue as a member of the Legislature. Jim Allan did that with great effect and great distinction.
I have said many times that our most fundamental goal is to preserve medicare. We have one of the finest systems in the world, but we must admit that it isn't perfect. There hasn't always been a close check on how money has been spent. We haven't had the management systems in place to assure the money being spent was actually resulting in better health for our citizens. And in a massive system that serves 10 million people, with a budget of more than $17 billion a year, wastefulness can add up to important amounts fairly quickly. Management mechanisms must be put in place to help us keep health care affordable and working for the people of Ontario.
But good, quality health care is about more than cost-effectiveness. It's about people, about keeping them well, and it's about returning them to health when they do fall ill. In short, it's about responding appropriately to people's needs.
That means the system must change. As a friend of our Canadian health care system says, and I've been quoting him a lot recently, "If we don't change it, we'll lose it." My pledge is that we will not lose it.
As a government, our plans were laid out before the House by the Treasurer on April 30: Create jobs, preserve services, keep the deficit under control. Our pre-budget consultations with the public told us that these were the priorities of Ontarians. My ministry takes these priorities very seriously.
This paper we are tabling today is a review of the key areas we have worked on in the past year. It is a look at some of our intentions for the coming 12 months. It deals with the methods of providing accessible, affordable, appropriate health services for all. Let me assure all the members of this House that this paper is not, as some have predicted, a list of harsh cuts to the services available through OHIP or the Ontario drug benefit plan. No one will wake up tomorrow morning to find that a medically necessary service is gone.
In the paper I am releasing today, members of the House and all Ontarians will see that we have major reviews under way in a number of areas where we think we can save, where we think we can reform and restructure the health care system and maintain service, if not improve it.
For example, our restructuring of hospital funding continues. A very good example is that just last week our government announced a grant of $500,000 to the Essex County District Health Council to help local officials plan the rationalization of acute hospital services in the Windsor area.
We will carry on our search for the best and most cost-efficient ways to serve the public through the Ontario drug benefit plan. We have established a guideline of 2% for drug price increases this year. Products with a proposed increase over 2% will be subject to review and possible removal from the Drug Benefit Formulary.
Prescriptions and dispensing in larger quantities will be encouraged for well-established ODB recipients on long-term therapy. This is a follow-through of a commitment we made last year. This will result in greater patient and prescriber convenience and will reduce the number of dispensing fees paid by this government.
We are also launching a major review of the use of commercial laboratories, to assure top value for our money. As well, the existing discount factors for large volumes of tests will be increased and expanded to include tests ordered by specialists.
The ministry will implement a new utilization sharing formula effective April 1, 1993. It will reduce payments to commercial laboratories by 50% when the number of tests grows more than 2% per year. We expect to save $11 million through these measures.
With respect to OHIP, together with the Ontario Medical Association we are reviewing the OHIP schedule of benefits to promote more appropriate care and ensure that medically necessary services are available to all.
Together with physicians and other health ministries across the country we will seek ways to address issues surrounding physician human resource planning. Some parts of Ontario are underserviced whereas other parts are overserviced. This simply isn't fair.
To address these concerns, the government will work toward better aligning the educational supply of physicians to health care needs of the province; modifying the medical education experience to better prepare physicians for the settings in which they will eventually practise; exploring ways to better distribute physician human resources geographically and by health care setting, and creating a system of linked, regional, multidisciplinary referral networks to effect a mix and distribution of physicians that provides a more rational means of accessing health care providers.
We will begin a review of payments to practitioners other than physicians. In order to better manage the growth in these payments, the existing payment policy for chiropractic, podiatry and osteopathic services will be frozen until the review is complete.
The list of reforms we have already begun is long. I speak of reforms to long-term care and mental health; new strategies on cancer, tobacco, community health and diabetes; improvements to redress inequities in aboriginal health, women's issues and children's health, and we've begun new work on AIDS and in rehabilitation services.
Our better management initiatives have saved $176 million in 1991-92. These included individual thresholds under our agreement with the Ontario Medical Association, changes to our payments policy on out-of-country claims, a review of OHIP benefits and changes to the ODB. This year we expect to save $246 million.
As the Treasurer said in his budget address, "Maintaining the quality of Ontario's health care system while reducing rapid expenditure growth is essential to preserving medicare." Saving medicare means managing it well. That is what we are doing. We aim to prove that our excellent system can be managed well, so that it runs efficiently and effectively.
Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): In responding to the statement of the Minister of Health, I want first to acknowledge her courtesy in providing her statement to me a few minutes before the House came into session. We appreciated that because we believe this is an important paper and one eagerly awaited by everybody in Ontario.
As the minister has indicated, medicare is a part of all our lives and the way we define ourselves. Since the introduction of medicare, in my view, there's never been such a deep unease and concern about the approach and direction of a government with respect to health care delivery. This paper brings with it an $832-million chop in health care services. The implications of those cuts are indeed profound.
Health care practitioners, consumers, institutions and families are all disturbed about the signals they're receiving from the government about changes which will be thrust upon them. There's little communication about the rationale for many of the changes which have been signalled and there's definitely no sense that the stakeholders themselves have been involved in designing the changes that will answer the real and perceived needs and problems that face us. As well, there's frequently little confidence that the government has any real understanding of the impacts and implications of the cuts it's made to date or will make in the future.
It appears to us that the current government has approached these issues by looking at cost containment rather than cost-effectiveness and health quality. This is a matter of serious concern. It's rarely seen to accept advice that could assist it in understanding the issues. As a consequence, it has made unilateral decisions that have sometimes had an adverse effect on patient care and at other times have not made the cost savings the government hoped to achieve.
We've seen unilateral decisions in the past to change access to certain ODB drugs with a clear indication that neither the Ministry of Health nor the Treasurer had full information on the use of those drugs. In one case which came before the House elderly patients with shingles, a painful and debilitating illness, would have had to wait several weeks for access to the drug that would have assisted them.
Now we have, in the absence of any further apparent action on Dr Lowy's report, a new directive that prescriptions must be issued in larger quantities, supposedly to save costs on pharmacists' dispensing fees. We know, however, that one of the serious problems in dealing with the elderly patient is the overprescription of drugs. When drugs are prescribed in larger quantities, the problem could well be exacerbated. Patient monitoring will be less frequent and the threat of increased damage to the patient is extremely high. As well, the issue of appropriate and safe disposal of unused medication becomes a problem of increasing importance. The impacts have clearly not been fully examined in this area.
We've also seen blanket statements that no new drugs, no matter how advantageous for patient care, can be added to the Drug Benefit Formulary, whether or not those chemical therapies may have enabled the patient to stay out of a more costly setting, such as a hospital or other institution. As well, with the prospect of removal over-the-counter medications from the formulary, we may well see more expensive prescription medications used as their replacement.
What's singular and significant about these changes is that there has been no serious attempt to bring together the pharmacists, the pharmaceutical manufacturers, the physicians who prescribe drugs and others to look at the full range of issues associated with therapeutic drug treatment.
The cost of the drug benefit plan, the efficacy and effectiveness of specific drug therapies and the life-cycle cost to the health care system need thorough analysis with all the players at the table. What do we get instead? A unilateral decision to cut $59 million from the Ontario drug benefit plan. But that approach isn't unique to the drug section. The same could be said for laboratory medicine, where laboratory fees are the lowest in Ontario and yet a unilateral cut has placed them out of the ballpark and probably out of business.
The specialists who are now being added to the cap really ought to be enabled to continue their play, and I'm thinking of the situation particularly with the AIDS patients, sexually transmitted diseases, where in fact the cap will intervene and interfere with adequate patient care.
There are some positive thrusts in this paper in concept and in practice. To the people of Ontario, however, I want to underline, medicare is sacrosanct, the changes and issues that should be discussed have not been adequately discussed with all of the players, the choices have not been made with the expertise available, and medicare, in the end, will suffer.
Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): I'm pleased to respond to the announcement today by the Minister of Health. I can only conclude, after many meetings with groups, thousands of job losses and bed closures and huge waiting lists for treatment, that this NDP government has no comprehensive health care management plan. This is the case despite an abundance of rhetoric to the contrary. Minister, I say cut the rhetoric, not the services.
For the past 18 months you've run around the province, along with your Treasurer and Premier, talking about the very serious problems with costs in Ontario's health care system, but after 18 months your government still can't give us some answers on how these problems are being addressed.
I call today's paper "A Beginner's Guide to Health Care." We'd expect more from a government that's been around as long as your government has. You should be much further down the road in the reform of our health care system than is evident today by this very vague document.
There continue to be uncertainties out there concerning which OHIP services are to be cut and what drugs will be delisted. I see no plan in this document to counteract the 4,000 jobs that will be lost and the 2,300 beds that are to be closed this year in our hospital system. The lack of government policy and direction is causing serious planning and budgetary difficulties for Ontario's hospitals, and I've repeatedly asked the minister for a prescription that would enable hospitals to plan properly for the future.
While we've known for some time that the reform of the Ontario drug benefit plan is in the works, you've not bothered to consult with pharmacists or drug manufacturers, and I've heard that from them very directly. Surely you must realize that front-line workers and those who provide pharmaceuticals should be consulted in the reform process. It's illogical that those who provide these services are not involved.
It's time you consulted with the public on issues currently being dealt with behind closed doors. We know you're considering user fees in the ODB program and we know you are talking behind closed doors with the Ontario Medical Association about what health services residents in this province may have to pay for in the very near future. We do not dispute the fact that medical practitioners should be consulted with respect to services that should be covered under the Ontario health insurance plan, but we believe that the public should also have a voice.
I sincerely hope you open up a dialogue with commercial laboratories. They would very much like to work with you, and I see no reason why you should feel obligated to bureaucratize yet another private industry.
I'm pleased to hear you're working with the Ontario Medical Association on the supply of physicians. I hope something binding will be worked out in the very near future. We have to ensure that citizens in all areas of the province have access to specialized medical care.
You mentioned that you've already begun the process of improving children's mental health treatment. How can this be the case when more than 12,000 children continue to wait on waiting lists for mental health services across the province?
The bottom line is that there's been no public consultation. The subtext of today's announcement is that you're going to ration health care, you have no plans for extensive public input, you're taking a scalpel to the health care system behind closed doors and you'll be introducing, we know, more user fees in the future.
Cuts are occurring in a clandestine way. You're taking a stealth bomber approach to health care. People go to the hospital only to find out that you've cut services without prior warning, and after today's announcement there's no indication where you'll strike next.
Again, we plead with you that, before you make any more cuts to our health care system, you consult widely with the public. Today's announcement is simply a softening up of the public for the major cuts you're indicating are coming in both the extent of services and the delivery of services in Ontario. You must consult widely. You've only spent time with the Ontario Medical Association, the executives of the physicians' association. You've not consulted with the Ontario Pharmacists' Association or individual pharmacists.
I was in Thunder Bay this weekend, as you were, and hospital boards are very uncertain of what the future is in health care. You have to bring forward a comprehensive management plan. You can't just tell us you have one without actually telling us what it is. We call that rhetoric. This document is not rhetoric; it's simply a beginner's guide to health care. We'd expect more from a minister of your competence.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): Mr Speaker, I have a point of privilege I'd like to raise for your consideration. It says on page 14 of our rules: "Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by the members of the House individually conferred by the Legislative Assembly Act and other statutes, or by practice, precedent, usage and custom." I refer you back, if you don't feel that my point follows under the "by practice" category, to section 1(b), which says: "In all contingencies not provided for in the standing orders the question shall be decided by the Speaker or Chair, and in making the ruling the Speaker or Chair shall base the decision on the usages and precedents of the Legislature and parliamentary tradition."
One of the privileges we enjoy collectively on this side of the House is to hold the government accountable. I would point out to you, sir, that absent from this Legislature today in addition to the Premier -- and particularly in light of our guests from eastern Europe -- are the Attorney General, the Minister of Community and Social Services, the Minister of Colleges and Universities, the Minister of Agriculture and Food, the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Northern Development, the Minister of Transportation, the Minister of Revenue and the Minister of Natural Resources. That means 10 ministers, fully 40% of the cabinet, are absent from question period. I don't know how we can be expected to perform our duty of holding these people accountable to the public when they won't attend question period.
I would ask that you, sir, perhaps consider talking to the government House leader. Maybe we should reschedule question period to some other time that's more convenient to the members of the government so that they don't need to fill in their empty benches with backbenchers from the rest of their party. How can we perform our duties when they simply won't come to work?
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): To the member for Mississauga West, first of all, I appreciate the point of order he has raised, and indeed he has cited some appropriate references with respect to what happens within the chamber. I must, however, draw the member's attention to the fact that question period allows members of the opposition an opportunity to ask questions, and cabinet ministers who are present the opportunity to respond. There is not, however, as regrettable as the member may view it, anything in the standing orders which would allow the Speaker to compel the attendance of any member of the House.
I will close by saying that I am of course most sensitive to the point which he raises, because indeed question period is the focus point for the opposition, the one period of time set aside where members have the opportunity to question the government policy of the day very directly. For that purpose it is of great assistance to the members of the House when the cabinet ministers are in full attendance, but you are asking the Speaker to do something which is not within the Speaker's power: to compel the attendance of cabinet ministers.
Mr Mahoney: Mr Speaker, could I just refer to something for your consideration? The last two words in section 1(b) under "Conduct of Business" are "parliamentary tradition." Would you not agree, sir, that it is parliamentary tradition in this place to have a one-hour session of question period where opposition members have the privilege and the right of questioning members of the government? Clearly members of the government are only those members who occupy a cabinet seat. The backbenchers are simply members of this Legislature who traditionally are in support of the government, but they indeed are not part of the government. The government is the cabinet. Some 40% of the government refuses to come to question period. How can we do our job effectively on behalf of all our constituents?
The Speaker: The member for Mississauga West raises a very interesting and intriguing point, and indeed I'll be most pleased to take a look at this and to report back. The member knows that questions can be directed only to cabinet ministers, that they cannot be directed to any other member of the government, and hence it would be helpful if cabinet ministers were present.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): A very brief point of order, Mr Speaker: When you're taking this into consideration, would you take into consideration the fact that the government refused to come back into session until April 6 of this year, when the parliamentary calendar would normally call for it to be back March 9, and when those of us in opposition would have liked to see it back in January of this year? The Premier and his ministers can hide somewhere else, but surely their prime responsibility is to be here in the House to be questioned.
The Speaker: I will be pleased to provide something for the member: The member, being an experienced member, I am sure is aware that once the House is prorogued, the recall of the House is at the pleasure of the government.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I'll direct my first question to the Solicitor General, who is here today. Last week, members of the opposition asked the government ministers a number of questions about what we thought were widespread rumours that the government might be planning changes to its Sunday shopping legislation. We were of course assured categorically that there were no changes planned.
Then on Friday, it suddenly became very apparent that the government is indeed planning changes to its Sunday shopping legislation. We're pleased that those reassurances have been provided. I would just ask the minister if he will now tell us what changes his government is planning to introduce to its legislation.
Hon Allan Pilkey (Solicitor General): In response to the leader of the official opposition, I'm here every day at question period except if I'm on government business. I am pleased to report that I did return from Sudbury this morning just so I could be here. I want to convey to the member that I assume other ministers are not here because, perhaps, their flights and connections did not allow.
Hon Mr Pilkey: More directly to the response, there is no alteration to the government position with respect to the common pause day legislation and the legislation that provides for worker protection.
Mrs McLeod: I suppose that raises the question of on what basis retailers of this province believed they had received some commitment from members of this government and, on that basis, changed proposed action that they were planning to take. I think the retailers were under the impression that some commitments had been made. We would like to know on what basis they had that kind of reassurance and what changes they might have been anticipating.
Hon Mr Pilkey: The House is well aware of the amendments that were brought forward with respect to the Retail Business Holidays Act, I believe just prior to Christmas, and the clarity the government brought to that particular issue. It is fair to say that I and other members of the government have indicated in recent weeks that we were quite aware of the increase in the polls, the shift in public position, and of course we have met with the retailers at their request to understand their ongoing concern with respect to their bottom line, which is not improving in this recessionary period. But beyond that, no assurances have been given. The government will continue to monitor the situation, and if and when there is any alteration in the position, it will so advise this House.
Mrs McLeod: It seems that once again people are just being lost in a wealth of words, with absolutely no action to follow any of the words that are used. I would gather from what the Solicitor General has told us that he is essentially saying to the people of this province that there are no changes proposed to the Sunday shopping legislation; that communities will not be given the option of deciding to open their stores on Sunday; that there is no possibility that municipalities will be able to make that choice and that retailers will be able to open their stores in time for summer hours. Will the minister assure us, then, that this is the government's final statement, so that we all clearly understand what his government is saying and can act accordingly?
Hon Mr Pilkey: I can indicate to the House again the amendments that were made. I'm very pleased that retailers who had previously announced that they had intended to break the law this Sunday reconsidered their position and decided not to and to support, as good corporate citizens, the laws of this land. Beyond that I can only repeat, as I indicated to the leader of the third party, that if and when there is any additional news or change or disposition that is different from the existing, we will so advise the House. Beyond that, the law is the law. We expect corporate citizens and citizenry alike to follow it. At this particular time there's nothing else to add.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Let me turn to another set of words in the endless attempt to find out this government's intentions. I'll direct my second question to the Minister of Education. According to the Minister of Education, and I believe I'm quoting accurately, "The best solution to any dispute, particularly one like this" -- referring to the Carleton school board strike -- "is in fact one in which the parties are able to resolve their differences between themselves."
Although the minister made that statement, it is our belief that he has at least indirectly intervened in the bargaining process with his earlier statements on transitional funding. It is possible that this kind of intervention, without any clarity as to what's intended, has made local resolution of this particular strike, or perhaps any other strike, virtually impossible.
I ask the minister whether he has defined for the Carleton Board of Education what a balanced collective agreement would be in this situation, what kind of tradeoff the board would be expected to make for this balanced agreement and what kind of transitional funding the Carleton board might receive if it were to reach a settlement under the minister's guidelines.
Hon Tony Silipo (Minister of Education): No, I have not done that in terms of any specific discussions I've had with anyone at the Carleton Board of Education. I don't think it is appropriate for me to do that. I have given indications to the education community at large in terms of the kinds of things I believe both teachers' federations and school boards should be doing in the collective bargaining process -- and outside of the collective bargaining process, for that matter -- but to answer specifically the member's question, the answer would be no.
Mrs McLeod: Surely the minister is aware that any kinds of directives or guidelines given to the school system at large also apply to specific local situations and that it is absolutely essential that there be clarity as to what the minister's intentions are if he does not wish to at least indirectly intervene in the ability of local parties to work out a local solution to a dispute.
In the meantime we have a situation in which students in Carleton have lost 26 school days as a result of this strike. The end of the term is approaching. Students are worried that they're going to lose their school year. This concern becomes particularly significant for students who are waiting for information as to whether they will be accepted to a post-secondary educational institution next year. I ask the minister, while he waits for a report from the Education Relations Commission and as the anxiety and the frustration of the students and the parents gets greater and greater, what is he doing to respond to that sense of urgency that everyone else is feeling in this situation?
Hon Mr Silipo: Let me assure the member that I've been following the proceedings very closely in the Carleton negotiations. It was my hope, as I believe it was everyone's hope, that in fact a settlement would have been possible over the weekend, which has not happened.
As the Leader of the Opposition alluded to, the Education Relations Commission is meeting later this afternoon to deal with the issue of jeopardy. I'm expecting to hear from them later in the day. We have been talking, obviously, about the options available to us as a government and will continue those discussions later in the day. Obviously we'll be in a position to make some further clarifications on that as the day unfolds and into tomorrow.
The other point I wanted to address was with respect to the school year. I've had discussions with my officials around what things we should be doing and could be doing with respect to that and with respect to indicating very clearly to the school board in the Carleton situation, but also in the Ottawa situation, that we expect to have the issue of the school year addressed in a way that will not jeopardize the school year for students who are either continuing secondary school education next year or going on to post-secondary education.
Mrs McLeod: The minister clearly understands the process. We talk about the process, but the reality is that the students and parents in the Carleton district do not understand the process; they only understand that the students are not in school. The other reality is that even elementary school students are now joining in the protest and they're concerned about the importance of education and how that's being jeopardized.
May I understand from the minister's response to the last supplementary that he is assuring the students and the parents of the Carleton system that he will take action to protect their interests, that at the very least he is giving them an assurance they will not lose their school year and their entry to post-secondary education institutions will not be jeopardized? If he is giving that assurance, I would ask him to give us some explanation of how he can follow through on that.
Hon Mr Silipo: I have been giving that assurance in the House for the last few weeks, as I have been asked these questions. I have no trouble in reiterating that today and in saying we will do, and I will do, whatever is necessary to make that happen up to and including having the school day extended, if that's what's necessary, to complete the time that's necessary and having whatever discussions are necessary with post-secondary education institutions to ensure, in terms of students being accepted, that isn't affected by the strike situation.
The Minister of Education will know I have had on the order paper for over three weeks now the only solution he has left at his disposal, that is, ordering the teachers back to work by legislation and settling the dispute later. I'm getting calls from both sides, the teacher side and the board side, saying they have failed to come to a conclusion in the negotiations they have undertaken. Why do you not take that step this afternoon?
Hon Mr Silipo: As I indicated earlier in answer to the question from the leader of the official opposition, the Education Relations Commission is meeting later this afternoon. I'm expecting to hear from them later in the day. We're continuing to look, obviously, at the various options we have before us, which I think clearly include the question of legislation as a possibility.
I had a chance earlier this afternoon to speak with the chair of the Carleton board. I have not yet had a chance to speak with the head of the teachers' federation, which I also want to do, in terms of getting a sense directly from the federation around where things are and what might still be possible. I want to be able to have the rest of the day to pull all that information together, obviously, for the discussions to continue within the government in terms of how we are going to respond and react to the situation.
Mr Sterling: What have you been doing for the last five weeks if you haven't been considering the options? Do you have to have the rest of today to figure out what the options are? What options do you have other than legislating the teachers back to work?
Hon Mr Silipo: As the member would know, in these situations there are always other options in terms of looking at the issues that caused the breakdown in negotiations to occur over the weekend and whether there is any way to reconcile those differences. Clearly, we aren't talking about a process that is going to drag on from this point. I have been monitoring the situation and looking at all the options, as things have been unfolding, but I think, given the point at which we are now, it's incumbent upon me to take a look at all of the options and put those options before the cabinet in terms of decisions that can be made. That's what we're in the process of doing.
Mr Sterling: The minister is dithering. The Liberals have dithered on this thing. They haven't said what they would do if they were sitting over there. We have clearly said what we would do through my private member's bill.
Mr Minister, we are tired of hearing you say, "I'm monitoring the situation, I'm considering the options." There are no other options. Legislate them back this afternoon so the kids can be in school tomorrow. Why don't you do the right thing and show a little bit of leadership, even at this late date?
Hon Mr Silipo: It's clear that the member and I have different definitions of what leadership entails, and that's fine. I'm quite happy to leave it at that. He clearly has stated his position with respect to how he would have dealt with this issue probably a month ago in terms of instituting wage controls. I've never believed that's the way to resolve these kinds of situations.
We believe the collective bargaining process needs to be respected, sustained and encouraged to work. Obviously we come up against situations like this, where it's put to the test in a very real way and it may or may not work. But I think we need to look at all the options as we make the kinds of decisions we need to make as a government in terms of what next steps we might want to take.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): My question is to the Solicitor General. Last week both you and the Treasurer gave assurances to this House that you were not changing your regressive Sunday shopping legislation. There were reports in there, and I'm quoting from one of the executives from Woolco who said, "There are some indications that I can't go into detail on that the government is reviewing their position." Have you had a chance to chit-chat with the Premier's office and find out what deal was struck and what your position on Sunday shopping is today?
Hon Allan Pilkey (Solicitor General): There's been no deal struck as the member opposite alleges. The response I gave to the Leader of the opposition is the government response with respect to the matter.
Mr Carr: I think what is driving it is a quote from the Treasurer, who said, "I suspect there will be some increased revenues to governments because of Sunday shopping, because people do spend more." That quote was attributed to your Treasurer.
Something made them change their minds. All the reports are that they were going to open, and apparently what happened -- I'll refer to one of the other articles that says: "And sources say MPPs have been told that the issue of Sunday shopping will be on the caucus agenda tomorrow," so you'd better prepare for your answers tomorrow, members of the NDP.
Hon Mr Pilkey: If and when that eventuality comes to pass, I certainly will advise them and all members of the House. Beyond that, I've indicated we are monitoring the situation in terms of public opinion and the concerns of retailers of this province during this very difficult recessionary period. If there is to be any alteration at any given time in the future, we obviously will advise the House.
Mr Carr: I wish we could have the Premier's office come in here; we might get some answers. In fact, deals were being cut across the province. They decided not to open and we can't get any answers in this Legislature from the Solicitor General. You flip-flop on all the other issues: auto insurance, the casinos and the entire Agenda for People. When will you say to the retailers in this province that you have changed your mind and that you're going to open? Will you tell us when you're going to make that announcement, Mr Solicitor General?
Hon Mr Pilkey: The government will make all announcements after cabinet and this government decide on any changes on any issues in the normal consequence of this House and will so advise it at that time on this and any other issue when any changes may become appropriate.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Treasurer. It has to do with an important matter, that is, jobs. The Treasurer is probably aware that we discussed jobs in the Legislature last week and that the Premier said, "Everyone's credibility is on the line." The Premier said he was quite proud of the record of creating jobs. He said, "Those are real jobs, and that's the truth and those are the facts." That was on Thursday.
On Friday we saw the highest level of unemployment in Ontario in nine years. We saw 75,000 more people out of work in April than in April a year ago. I think those are the facts and that's the truth. My question to the Treasurer is this: Will he now acknowledge that last year's budget was a failure and that new approaches are required to lower the unacceptable level of unemployment that we have in Ontario?
Mr Phillips: I'm not sure how far back to go. The Premier last week was quite proud of the job creation record of the government. He said that you have created jobs; that's the truth and those are the facts. On Friday, Treasurer, as you know, we saw the unemployment level for Ontario, the highest level we've seen in nine years. We see 75,000 more people out of work this April than in April of a year ago, when you brought in your first budget.
My question to you is this: Was that budget, which the Premier was talking about as having been successful in creating jobs for the province of Ontario, the budget you're using as your foundation for this year's budget? I think it would be helpful if you would now acknowledge that that budget was a mistake, it was a failure, it didn't work, and that we need some new approaches to lower the level of unemployment in this province.
Hon Mr Laughren: The member for Scarborough-Agincourt is surely stretching the cloth a bit to imply that because we're in a recession, the heaviest and deepest recession this province has had since the big Depression, and because unemployment is high, it's the fault of the provincial budget. I think that really is stretching the point a lot.
What we did last year was incur a deficit of over $10 billion, which at least supported and created jobs in the province. If we had listened to some of the advice from some of your colleagues and all of the advice from the third party we would have slashed jobs even more, because that's the message you've been giving us.
Mr Phillips: Again I go back to credibility and the credibility of the budget. I will just say to the Treasurer this: Last year you said you would spend $700 million on an anti-recession program. In your budget you have cut $400 million out of the capital budget, out of the anti-recession program. So that's credibility.
Ontario had the lowest rate of unemployment in the country a mere 18 months ago. We now see Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia all with substantially better levels of unemployment than we have. On page 51 in your budget, Treasurer, you say, "Job Gains Expected to Resume in Spring" -- right now. I go back to credibility of your planning and your budget work. "Job gains are expected to resume in the spring of 1992 as economic growth takes place," yet we see a third of the spring's over. We've now seen one month of spring. We've actually lost 17,000 jobs.
My question to you is this, Treasurer: Are you sticking with this budget? Will we see real job growth beginning in the next month in this province, or do you agree with us that we are going to need more activity, we're going to need better plans to get the economy going, than we see in your budget here?
Hon Mr Laughren: When we were drawing up the budget and putting in the forecasts of jobs and economic growth we didn't pull those numbers out of the air. Those numbers came from not just treasury board staff but other independent and objective forecasters out there in the province. I think if you will cast your mind back for a couple of months, virtually everybody who's an objective observer, a knowledgeable observer, was predicting and is still predicting that there's going to be an economic recovery this spring. That doesn't mean that, a week after the budget is brought down and there isn't the increase in jobs that everyone's predicting, the budget document is a failure. I think that really is stretching credulity to the point of no return.
Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): I have a question for the Treasurer and Deputy Premier. With the appointment of Stephen Lewis to look into the circumstances of last Monday evening's demonstrations, we will begin to see some results from his studies in the next four to five weeks. Certainly if the government thinks that what happened then is totally racially based, it will have missed a major point.
What happened a week ago today were the acts of disenfranchised youths angered and frustrated with a system that has chosen to ignore them. Even last Thursday, out on the lawn here at Queen's Park the crowd called for jobs. Jobs today are needed for our youth in order for them to feel part of our society, so they can be responsible and productive. We don't have six weeks to wait for a report that is going to start indicating the need for jobs for these youths.
The government does not have six weeks to review job opportunities for youth. In fact, by then summer will be well under way and there still won't be more jobs for them. There must be a commitment today to solve youth unemployment. I ask the Treasurer, how many jobs for young people will your government create this year?
Hon Floyd Laughren (Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister of Economics): The member asks an important question. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that high unemployment is a contributing factor to the kinds of problems we've seen in this province and this city. I would simply say to the member opposite -- and this ties in to a question from the member for Scarborough-Agincourt as well -- I don't want to be defensive about it, but in this budget just brought down we've been either creating through new programs or continuing to fund through existing programs about 90,000 jobs this year. Everyone would like to be able to do more, we all understand that, but I think the member opposite would be one of the first on his feet if we were to think there were any quick fixes to the problems to which he refers.
Mr Cousens: Looking at the youth situation here in the province right now, 18% of young people between 16 and 25 are unemployed. It's one of the largest groups of unemployed. There is nothing specific in your budget, which highlights all the good news possible, for youth unemployment. Your own youth budget has been straightlined the same as last year: $8.3 million to $8.5 million for youth employment again this year. The number of weeks they'll work this summer, Mr Treasurer, is going to be on average about nine weeks rather than 16 to 18 weeks, which would allow them to earn some money either to go back to school or do something else or get their feet on the ground.
We need specifics for young people. If we get jobs for them, then they'll have a chance to begin to get on their feet. There's got to be a commitment from your government. I ask you specifically, can you now, today, begin to take concrete steps to help them get going and find a job for this summer rather than just putting it aside for another four or five weeks? It's a time for action. These young people are looking for help from somewhere. Will it be from you?
Hon Mr Laughren: The member will recall that just last week the Premier announced that the member for St Andrew-St Patrick was being appointed as his parliamentary assistant with a very specific mandate to look at this very problem. At the same time, there is a government committee that consists of the federal government, the provincial government and the two levels of the municipal government.
I did want to outline some of the initiatives we've undertaken. We announced a $6-million increase to expand apprenticeship training, including improvements to the student work apprenticeship program for this year. The environmental youth program will employ about 3,000 young people in 1992-93. The student venture will provide approximately 1,000 students with an interest-free loan of up to $3,000 to start a business this summer. The Futures program will employ and train about 24,500 young people in 1992-93 and approximately $95 million will be provided for that program by the province. So there are a number of initiatives.
I'm not suggesting for a minute that we can rest on what we've done. That's precisely why the Premier has appointed the very capable member for St Andrew-St Patrick to aid in seeking a solution to this very thorny problem.
Mr George Mammoliti (Yorkview): My question is to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. For the past few weeks there have been a number of newspaper articles regarding the International Space University. These articles link the ISU to the United States government's Star Wars military research. Is there any truth to the charge that the government is using taxpayers' money to support the US defence industry?
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology): As the member for St Catharines has said, the answer is no. The bid supported by this government does not contain a defence or military research component, either classified or unclassified. As a matter of fact, we consider this to be fundamental to the bid and a fundamental strength of Ontario's bid. The decision to support the bid was made after an in-depth cost-benefit study.
With regard to the Ontario taxpayers question, this government is not supporting the initiative on its own but rather with financial participation from International Space University. On an annual basis, ISU will contribute $4 million, rising to $8.5 million a year by the fifth year in full operation, and the benefits such as research grants and contracts awarded to Ontario companies, and such as those arising from the ISU initiatives and royalties from ISU patents. The bid is still at the proposal stage. If it's accepted, many months of negotiation will go on before the contracts are signed.
Mr Mammoliti: The other charge that has been and is of great concern is that in supporting a bid for the ISU, this government is supporting the establishment of a private university. Minister, who will be able to attend this university, and will it be a private institution?
Hon Mr Philip: I believe the Minister of Colleges and Universities has already made it clear that the ISU facility in Ontario will be a public institution. As an educational facility, it will be an affiliate college of York University with the same authority, role and responsibilities of other affiliated colleges. The ISU will be unique. Its international students will be on scholarships from their own countries. Canada has pledged some $500,000 toward scholarships.
The bottom line is support for and development of Ontario's technological infrastructure. We believe this will be a valuable contribution to that, even though members of the Conservative Party don't want to hear that.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): My question is to the Minister of Education. Minister, you'll recall coming out to visit the folks in Peel dealing with their crisis in budgeting. You made a number of statements at the time about people working together to resolve the problem and suggestions that the union should work with the board etc. You also said you were going to announce some funding from the transition funding allotment of $160 million, and I have a news release communiqué wherein you announce $50.2 million for education.
You refer in there to a number of criteria for eligibility. The first one refers to labour adjustment initiatives to make the collective bargaining process more flexible. The second one refers to employer-employee plans to restructure school board operations. You also say in there that to receive funding -- and this is key -- proposals "must be developed through employer-employee cooperation." My question is, can you tell us exactly what "must be developed through employer-employee cooperation" means? What do you mean by that, Minister?
Hon Tony Silipo (Minister of Education): What that means is what I think it says, that what we would expect to see are proposals that come forward either from school boards along with their employee federations or that indicate very clearly that there's been discussion and that there's some general sense of agreement in terms of the proposals that are coming forward. That's one of the issues we will be looking for in making those determinations.
I also tell the member that we are working through the details of the criteria. We're having a meeting tomorrow in fact, which involves representatives from school boards, teachers' federations and other employee groups to flesh out the details of this as well as to set up a process for approving the proposals that will come to us from school boards. I anticipate having some more information from the school boards later this week on the basis of the discussions we're holding tomorrow.
Mr Mahoney: The minister might be surprised to know that I'm aware of that even though I got it through a confidential document from the ministry which outlined the proposed time line in the process. One of the pages of this document marked "confidential" deals with the application for transition assistance fund. Mr Speaker, to the minister, item 5 says, "School boards are asked to provide detailed statements of intent in addressing each of the criteria preconditions for funding, using separate pages if space on the application is insufficient."
Under the second criterion, dealing with employer-employee cooperation in the development of the proposed project, it says, "Attach a statement describing the employer-employee cooperation, signed by both groups." I interpret that to say the union must sign the application along with the school board to receive any transition funds. Of course the other side of that argument is --
Mr Mahoney: -- that if the union refuses to sign the document, the application will not be considered. Minister, you're giving the union a veto over the elected trustees on the school board and their right and responsibility to represent the parents --
Hon Mr Silipo: Let me assure the member that he hasn't revealed any great secrets. The document he's referring to, I believe, is a working document, if I can surmise from the parts he has quoted from it, a working document that is being used in the ministry as we are looking at the various options and will probably be part of what goes to the group tomorrow in terms of the discussions I indicated in answer earlier.
There is an interest, very clearly, on our part in wanting to be sure that as the proposals come forward we know whether these are coming forward by agreement between the board and the teachers' federations and the support staff unions, because it applies to them as well. If that isn't the case, we believe it's important for us to know the degree of agreement that is or isn't between the parties, because so much of the funds we have available we are pegging in the area of labour relations and improved labour relations --
Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): A question for the Minister of Citizenship: On April 20 this year, you appointed to your Ontario Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group a Mr Lennox Farrell as cochair. In his role, he will work to combat racism, demonstrate joint leadership and share in the responsibility of all sectors of society to develop anti-racist policies.
On Monday night last week, Mr Farrell was charged with breaching the peace, a charge not synonymous with demonstrating responsible leadership. Has Mr Farrell been asked to step aside from his role as cochair of the anti-racism advisory group pending the outcome of the charges against him?
Hon Elaine Ziemba (Minister Responsible for Race Relations): First of all, I would like to give you a brief background of what the advisory committee has been appointed to do. The advisory committee has been set up with 18 people who have been asked to sit on the committee to look into and to make sure that the policies being devised by the government and the funding that is going to be given to committees are looked at in a way that the community has good input.
I think the advisory committee has had a good process of looking at all the people we have had the opportunity to interview. I personally interviewed 38 people before we chose the 18 people to sit on the advisory committee. I think we have made a very good selection in making sure we have had good representation: gender balance, region balance, labour has been represented and employers have been represented as well.
Hon Ms Ziemba: With respect to whether we should look at who we've appointed to co-chair, even the Toronto Sun said that until somebody's day in court is held, we should certainly give people the opportunity. We still have in this country, I think, the ability to believe that people have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. I think we would want to make sure that those rights of all individuals --
Mr Cousens: Very simply, the question was, has Mr Lennox Farrell been asked to step aside from his role as co-chair of the anti-racism advisory group pending the outcome of charges against him? I wasn't passing judgement. There are charges against him. If a policeman has charges pending against him, he steps aside while allegations are being considered. If cabinet ministers -- before your government took over -- had charges against them, they would step aside during an investigation. Will you not ask Mr Farrell to step aside while these charges are pending?
I have to say that this is a very sensitive issue, and I would like to have the opportunity to answer this question. At this point in time, we are not looking at asking this gentleman to step aside, because we have to first of all ascertain if charges have been laid. I have not been given information that charges actually have been laid, and until I have actually been given that information, I think we would like to make sure that somebody's freedom of speech and the freedom to be able to be proven guilty first before having those charges looked into --
Hon Ms Ziemba: I have to say to somebody who's yelling from across the floor that it's not a matter of phoning the police. We don't have to do that. We have been told that there might not be charges laid, and I don't think we should preclude any of that information. I don't think you would want a cabinet minister to phone the police. I think that's totally out of order. I certainly remember Joan Smith.
Mr David Winninger (London South): My question is for the Minister of Culture and Communications. Madam Minister, for quite some time now your ministry has been working on changes to the Ontario Heritage Act in an attempt to create new legislation that is more representative of the heritage of many of the peoples of Ontario.
Last session you spoke to me in the House in addressing one of my concerns, which is the preservation of historic buildings. As you know, in my riding of London South a precious strip of historically significant buildings was demolished to make room for new development. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you expedite new heritage legislation so that incidents like this can never happen again.
Hon Karen Haslam (Minister of Culture and Communications): Yes, we did have an advisory group. As a matter of fact, the parliamentary assistant in my ministry is chairing that group. It has been looking at proposals that we had put forward, which did take into consideration those that were published by the previous government in 1990.
Feedback on the proposals has been very useful as they are looking over some of those things and working them out. They would like to go back to the constituents they represent to review what they've been working on. I'm expecting them to give a final report to me at the end of the summer.
Hon Mrs Haslam: It is a major concern for many people out there -- I'm well aware of that -- but I am looking forward to this report coming in at the end of summer. We will have a chance to review it and draw up legislation at that time. I am hoping to introduce a new bill for legislation in the winter of 1992-93.
Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Health. She has presented to the House today a budget document that refers, among other things, to the Ontario Medical Association joint management agreement. That agreement has been in effect for an adequate period of time for the results of the first year to be publicly available. It's important, I believe, to all Ontarians that, as the agreement defines the relationship between the government and our doctors, the results of that first year be known and the issues be very clear. Indeed, the chart on page 23 of the document, it seems to me, further confuses the issue.
Would the minister therefore advise the House of the results of the components of the first year of the agreement and the specific cost to the province of the sharing of utilization controls, which we've heard outside this document are substantially above the minister's predictions when the agreement was first signed? Would the minister further advise the House if as a result of the first year of operations she has put forward to the OMA a new proposal to revise the utilization for handling in its current negotiations? If yes, what is that new formula proposal?
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Health): I can give a partial answer to the member's question and try and forward the rest of the information to her as soon as possible. I can tell her that with respect to last year there are still a number of billing accounts outstanding. She will understand that our relationship with doctors in the processing of bills does happen on a lag basis, some time following the fiscal year, so in order to give her full figures, I will have to take that part of the question under advisement.
I can tell her the parts of the agreement we found successful. With respect to the threshold, about $33 million was saved last year and we expect about the same this year. We've projected that; you can see that in the budget. With respect to the utilization formula, our experience is that for last year the sharing of the utilization produced a $50-million repayment to the government. Because we had to wait until we had seen most of the figures for last year to be able to assess and apply the formula, those dollars are actually going to be retrieved in this year. You can see that we have both this year's projected amount of $50 million plus the amount from last year.
The other thing that's backed out of the OHIP vote for this year is the one-time retroactive payment that was paid out in a lump sum last year, of $138 million. With respect to the numbers that have been bandied around, the member may be referring to the projections in the press of an increase around 11% to 14%. If she looks earlier on in the document she will see a table which shows the increased costs year over year --
Hon Ms Lankin: I will attempt to, Mr Speaker, but I was asked a very specific question about numbers and I'm attempting to respond. I'll conclude by saying that with regard to the year over year, you will see that as we have tried to back out the one-time payment to give you a more accurate reflection, the increase of the total OHIP vote was about some 7%. I will have to get back to you with a breakdown of what portion of that was attributable to other payments, like out-of-country and other practitioners, which are not part of the OMA agreement.
Mrs Sullivan: My second question relates to another agreement which was made by the Minister of Health in October of last year when she announced that $1.31 per resident per day would be paid to nursing homes to begin a formula of equivalency of care with homes for the aged. A second payment was due on April 1, 1992. That payment has not been made. I'm asking the minister if she will advise the House why the payment has not been made and when it will be made.
Hon Ms Lankin: I assume that this is supplementary in the vein of being related to the overall budget document and expenditures for the year, and with a little bit of latitude, we'll get into the second question the member has. It's a very good question --
Two points here: First of all, I'm allowing the supplementary. It is vaguely related to the first question in that it has to do with expenditures. Second, ministers should be aware that if a lot of details can be supplied in addition to a normal response; items can be tabled as well.
Hon Ms Lankin: Thank you, Mr Speaker. This is not the first time I have been chastised by the Speaker for my lengthy answers. I do, however, try to provide real information when questions are asked. You can't win: If you don't give the information you get accused by the opposition of ducking the question.
However, to try to be brief with respect to the question asked, the member is quite correct that the implementation date announced was April 1. In the ministry's normal course of events, that would have been paid out May 1. There is always a one-month process. Apparently -- and I didn't find this out until we got the calls from the association directly -- the ministry changed accounting procedures. I was unaware of this and the payment will be paid out on June 1.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): My question is to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. Since early this year, media reports have been circulating that the government is considering introducing video lottery terminals, or VLTs, as they are known. When asked about this issue, many cabinet ministers have continued to assert that the VLT idea was being discussed in cabinet but that no decision had been reached.
Mr Speaker, I have a letter from the minister dated February 6. The letter states that the minister was awaiting a VLT report from the Ontario Lottery Corp and that he expected to receive the report in two months' time, which was about a month ago. Will the minister indicate the status of the Ontario Lottery Corp report and indicate what plans he has for the introduction of video lotteries in Ontario?
Hon Peter North (Minister of Tourism and Recreation): I would like to indicate to the members of the House and to the member across the floor that the government has no intention of going ahead with the VLTs at this time.
Mr Arnott: In the response, if I heard it correctly, the minister has indicated that the government does not intend to go ahead at this time, but I'm not sure if he's talking about tomorrow or next week, so I will continue with my supplementary.
The recent budget states that the government is committed to consulting with affected parties on the introduction of casinos. However, recent experiences with groups associated with video lotteries demonstrate the opposite. The Coin Operators Lottery Association has requested meetings with the Minister of Tourism and Recreation, the Treasurer, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet to discuss the impact video lotteries may have on their operations. This organization represents over 70 operators of video amusements who may be adversely affected if the government proceeds without thorough consultation.
Minister, the Coin Operators Lottery Association has been writing to you for six months requesting a meeting. Will you follow up with your commitment to public consultation and meet with them before the week is out?
Hon Mr North: Over the course of the last few months we have attempted to have an opportunity to talk to as many different people as we can about anything the government was contemplating as far as gaming in this province is concerned. We have had an opportunity to talk to various groups about ideas concerning gaming.
Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): Mr Speaker, you are aware that within the city of North York today, residents are receiving their property tax bills and in the city of North York the mayor has circulated a --
The mayor for the city of North York, as I was drawing to your attention, is circulating a flyer which quite frankly is misleading and blames every other level of government for property tax increases other than his own. Given that in Metropolitan Toronto there are six local municipalities --
Mr Perruzza: Thank you. I believe the Reichmanns live in the riding of the member for York Mills, so that's why he's not concerned about property taxes. But in my riding, they're very concerned and I wish he would listen.
Given that in Metropolitan Toronto -- I'll try it again -- there are six local municipalities and one regional government, it should come as no surprise that this often contributes to much of the confusion experienced by taxpayers about who is responsible for what service. Will the minister give some indication that he is looking at Metropolitan Toronto government with particular attention to the cost-saving aspects that could be achieved by consolidating the services under one level of government for the entire Metropolitan Toronto area?
Hon David S. Cooke (Minister of Municipal Affairs): The member indicated when he was asking the question that he asking me in the absence of the minister responsible for the greater Toronto area. I would like to indicate to the member that I will certainly relay the question to the minister responsible for the greater Toronto area, and I'm sure she would want to respond at the appropriate time.
Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): My question is to the Minister of Housing. Over six weeks ago the Ontario March of Dimes, which provides attendant care services to support service live-in units in at least 10 centres across Ontario, began to ask questions about this government's commitment to supportive housing for the disabled.
"Central Place in Hamilton developed by the Pilgrim United Church and Kin Village in Markham developed by the Kinsmen are ready for occupancy immediately. When the provincial Ministry of Housing committed funding for the construction of these projects, they did so with the expectation that the Ministry of Community and Social Services would make funding available to provide attendant services to the projects' disabled tenants."
Are you willing, Madam Minister, to permit these specially designed units to be rented to tenants who do not need the many special features built in rather than fulfil your government's commitment to supportive housing for disabled individuals who want to live independently in this province?
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): There have been, as the member points out, a number of projects in which concerns have arisen about arrangements for support services, when the sponsorship by the March of Dimes seemed to indicate to them that they were in a position to be able to say this was going to be supportive housing in which people could, for example, expect attendant services.
It has long been the practice of the ministry, which the member will be aware of, that there is an obligation on the part of the applicant, the sponsor of the housing, to provide information about any special supportive services which are supposed to be incorporated into such a development and to be able to assure the Ministry of Housing when such a project is moving ahead, with the understanding of the Ministry of Housing that those supportive services are indeed going to be funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. That was not the case in these projects.
Mrs O'Neill: I am having a lot of difficulty understanding that answer. I really am. Central Place in Hamilton and Kin Village in Markham were built on a promise that support service live-in units would be provided with attendant care services -- that was part of the approval process and I have checked that as late as noon today -- to meet the basic needs of the active disabled people who can live independently in their own communities. For over two months Central Place and Kin Village have waited for an answer from this NDP government.
The hopes of 34 disabled individuals are in jeopardy. Perhaps they have even been dashed, or should I say, after that answer, trashed. Madam Minister, will you and the Minister of Community and Social Services move immediately to restore affordable, accessible and supportive housing to the disabled in Hamilton and in Markham as they have so long awaited?
Hon Ms Gigantes: To put it very simply, the Ministry of Housing agrees to build housing; it does not provide services. The group which sponsors the project is responsible for having the agreement. When the member says the group was promised, the group was certainly promised housing, which the Ministry of Housing has delivered, as she pointed out. It is the responsibility of the group, however, to make sure that support services are available when they are making promises to people to whom they make promises.
In this case the Ministry of Housing has been working with the March of Dimes to try to see if in some of these cases, and there have been more than two projects involved -- in some of these cases we have been able to work out arrangements; in others it hasn't happened yet.
Mrs Elizabeth Witmer (Waterloo North): My question is for the Minister of Labour. On November 21, 1991, in response to a question I asked you regarding the Workers' Compensation Board and the hearings it is conducting on the inclusion of stress, you indicated, "The member understands that the Workers' Compensation Board operates on its own; it has an arm's-length relationship with the government," and I agree it should.
In light of this arm's-length relationship between the WCB and the government, can you explain why a new pilot project was recently announced, as part of the Ontario government relocation program for Windsor, which will see the expansion of the WCB bureaucracy by some 150 to 200 positions, thereby using the WCB levies on employers to fulfil the government's political commitments?
Mr Will Ferguson (Kitchener): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Prior to the start of question period today the member for Mississauga West stood on a point of order, and we on this side of the House think it's important in so far as you've decided to look at it.
But, Mr Speaker, we also want to point out, and we would hope you would consider, that during the entire question period over half of the Liberal caucus in fact was not present. We on this side of the House encourage them to attend so at least they would take the opportunity, on behalf of their constituents whom they're supposed to be representing, to ask questions of the ministers of the crown and in order to obtain the necessary information.
We recognize that with the nice weather it's very difficult to get an early tee-off time on days like this unless you book far enough in advance. What we want to suggest to the members opposite is that, this being the case, they should be looking at booking some tee-off times so they get an earlier tee-off time much further in advance.
To the member for Kitchener, I appreciate the contribution and his advice and, as I had indicated earlier, a point was raised by the member for Mississauga West. I undertook to review the matter and to report back as soon as possible.
Mr Mahoney: I don't know if it's even worth responding so I won't, but on a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to make it absolutely clear that my point of order was based, to you, sir, on a question that surrounds parliamentary tradition. Parliamentary tradition is that the opposition compiles a list of questions that it wishes to ask and that we share House duty among all of our colleagues throughout the week.
The tradition also requires that members of the government -- the cabinet forms the government -- be here so that we indeed have the opportunity to ask those questions. We meet each morning to discuss who will be up and who will be asking the questions.
All this member is showing is that he's completely insensitive to the parliamentary traditions that are long-standing in this place. They do not include having 40% of the government being absent. We were here prepared to do our job, organized, set up with our questions so that we could ask the government and hold it accountable, and it's completely irresponsible that 40% of the cabinet --
"Whereas the implementation of the arbitrator's report will lead to a destruction of the way of life enjoyed by the current residents of the county of Middlesex and will result in the remnant portions of Middlesex potentially not being economically viable;
"That the Legislature of Ontario reject the arbitrator's report for the greater London area in its entirety, condemn the arbitration process to resolve municipal boundary issues as being patently an undemocratic process and reject the recommendations of a massive annexation of land by the city of London."
"To scrap the proposed Rent Control Act; to encourage the government of Ontario to work with tenants, landlords and all interested parties to develop a new law which will be fair to all; and to ensure that in this new legislation the interests of housing affordability and tenant protection are balanced with the recognition of the importance of allowing needed repairs to rental apartment buildings to be financed and completed."
"Whereas the implementation of the arbitrator's report will lead to a destruction of the way of life enjoyed by the current residents of the county of Middlesex and will result in the remnant portions of Middlesex potentially not being economically viable;
"That the Legislature of Ontario reject the arbitrator's report for the greater London area in its entirety, condemn the arbitration process to resolve municipal boundary issues as being patently an undemocratic process and reject the recommendations of a massive annexation of land by the city of London."
Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): I have a petition signed by not a large number of people -- there are about 20 here -- but it has come to me through -- I'm not sure how I got it, but it is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Let me just grab my Agenda for People. This document enters into this debate on a very interesting level. The level it interests me at is that during the 1990 election there was much talk made at that time of taxation, of who was going to be taxed, how they would be taxed, how this government was going to pay for the multitude of promises it made on the campaign trail.
Not once in the Agenda for People, the document the member for York South used to outline his ideas of government, was it ever mentioned about a gasoline tax. In fact, Mr Speaker, if you check the Hansards when this government was in opposition, you will find there was much made about a fair billing, a fair gas price across the province of Ontario.
As recently as a few days ago in this House the member for Kitchener was standing in his place as the public apologist for the oil companies, arguing about the cost of transportation and the disproportionate pricing in certain areas in this province. So let me say right off the top that the policy this government had in opposition is very, very different from the policy it has in government.
When we analyse the taxes they spoke of on those fateful days in August and early September 1990 we see a minimum corporate tax, the old minimum corporate tax, which seems to have fallen through the cracks in this government's manifesto. No longer are we discussing minimum corporate tax, because what happened was very surprising. The member who is the Treasurer today has now found very clearly that those companies he was hoping to extract literally hundreds of millions of dollars from -- and in some cases, he was adding this up to be billions of dollars -- were in fact not paying the taxes for very fair, legal and responsible reasons. So today we have a Treasurer who does nothing short of the public backstroke when it comes to minimum corporate tax.
We have the tax fairness for the working poor promise that I am not certain this government has lived up to. In fact, in the last budget it increased taxes on people earning somewhere in the range of $20,000 a year.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): I wish to remind the honourable member for Etobicoke West that Bill 86, an increase in gasoline tax, is the subject matter. I would really appreciate it if he could limit his remarks to Bill 86.
Mr Stockwell: In a very broad sense, I am dealing with the tax implications and the tax promises, and then in fact the taxes levied by this government, so in a broad sense we must examine this debate from many angles. One of the most important angles that I think you can measure any debate from is the angle of what this government promised during a campaign period and what this government in fact delivered.
The point I'm trying to make to you, Mr Speaker, is that what this government promised during the 1990 campaign and what this government is in fact delivering are two very different, distinctly different things.
We talk about succession duties on estates of the rich and the superrich: not to be heard of. The speculation tax: We haven't heard a thing about the spec tax and so on and so forth. But what we have had from this government are 22 tax increases -- changes in taxes -- in two years. Not one of those tax changes, not one of those revenue changes they've introduced has dealt at all with the promises they made in that election of 1990. Some are saying on the streets -- they're saying it in Etobicoke and I know they're saying it in Scarborough and probably in some of the ridings of members from across the floor -- that maybe --
Mr Stockwell: I know exactly what they're saying. I speak with a number of citizens across Metropolitan Toronto and in Ontario as well. Some are saying that maybe these promises they made with respect to tax fairness were not considered, that maybe some of these promises were simply echoed without much thought and that maybe some of these promises were deceitful. That's what some of the people are saying.
When it comes to Bill 86 the same kind of conversation has been had. The same kind of concern is brought forward. Not once during that campaign in August and September 1990 did the government across the floor talk about increasing the gas tax. Yet here we are today, after seeing two budgets -- if you include the real deficit, probably $22 billion to $25 billion in deficit financing -- and we'll see an increase in the gas tax and the alcohol tax and the cigarette tax and the tax on the working poor. This budget very clearly has included a tax on the working poor; in fact, so much so that if you earn somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20,000 a year you'll be paying as much as $40 to $45 more a year in taxes. This was never debated.
What do we mete out by this? Where does the debate turn in this House when we have Bill 86 coming forward? A tax on the union worker, a tax on the car retailer and a tax on an industry that is staggering from this economic upheaval. And we've increased the tax on the gasoline that will do nothing at all to rejuvenate this struggling industry. What do we take from that? What I take is this: What the government of today said in the 1990 election isn't worth the powder to blow it to Haiti. It's becoming very apparent when we discuss Sunday shopping and their total abdication of that promise. We discuss casino gambling and no-fault auto insurance and we talk about all the promises made by this pack. This pack -- and I use that word -- of socialists, during the 1990 debate, has all eroded and basically flip-flops have taken place in this House.
Mr Stockwell: I'm doing my best, Mr Speaker; I know they're getting restless. But there will be some debate from across the floor that they've entered into a very difficult economic recession. The answer must be put to them that there are issues involved in the Agenda for People, not the least of which is Bill 86 and the gas tax, that have nothing to do with fiscal responsibility and revenue generation and tax. They simply are to do with the principles and values that the government held dear on this side of the House, and that it apparently, much to the chagrin of the rank and file NDPers of this province, no longer does.
The other point I think should be made very clear is that the government across the floor seems to think tax increases are inevitable. They sell this tax hike as, "We must use it to raise revenue." I think that's the basic mistake, the basic flaw in the argument of the socialists. They assume that taxes and tax increases are inevitable.
I think the debate we need to centre on today is not the Bill 86s of the world, not the increase in the surtax, not reducing the wealth tax from $83,000 to $53,000; that's not the debate we must enter into. The debate that must take place is taking the same revenue pie, and rather than adding to that pie through new taxes or increases in licences to camp in the province of Ontario -- which is another interesting method they've got in raising more revenue -- you must take the same pie and spend it differently. You must have priorities.
This is where the Bill 86 debate is centred around a discussion that we have in this House and that they do not have in the general public. The general public isn't talking about new ways of taxation and new ways of extracting money from their pockets. They're asking me, and I believe they're asking the members opposite, to take the same revenues, take the same amount of money you've had in the past, and spend it differently. If they have priorities over there, Mr Speaker, they should take from those that aren't so important and spend it on their priorities. This is why this debate we have in this House is so totally excluded from reality, because no one in the general public is talking about --
Mr Stockwell: Ah, they suggest reality. No one in the general public is talking about new ways to tax. They're not talking about new sources of revenue. They're not talking about how the government can access any more of the money I make. They're talking about how government can change its spending priorities, how government can economize and become more efficient so that maybe it takes less money to operate, or you can take money from one area and put it into another if that's what your priority is.
In effect we're living in a bubble here. We're living in the bubble because we have members who are talking about tax hikes on gasoline and what's an acceptable level. You often hear from the other side of the House, "It's only 1.7 cents, and it's 3.4 cents according to the two hits we're going to give them." Somebody's got to get through to this government and tell it very clearly: It matters not if it was 0.4 cents; it matters not if it was one cent; the simple fact is that people are sick of paying taxes and they're sick of paying increased taxes.
You can debate all you want about previous governments. We saw the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology stand in this House the other day and in my opinion put forward one of the most foolish arguments that any member today could put forward. He defended the tax hike on the gas tax --
He defended his decision on the gas tax hike because he said previous governments have increased it by more. That's the best defence this government can offer: Previous governments did it, so we're going to do it. That's as much thought, as much background and as much work as they've done to defend the decisions of increased taxes on the people of the province today. It's absolutely asinine. It's insane to tell me the best defence you have for increasing gas taxes is that previous governments did it.
When I go across Ontario and Metropolitan Toronto and through Etobicoke and I say to them that as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology offered, the defence for increases in gas tax and alcohol and cigarettes and personal income tax is, "The governments previous to us have done that; therefore, we have a right to do it too," their response, I will say, is categorical. It's right across the board, no matter what party of people you talk to. They say to them, "That's unacceptable, it's irresponsible and it's schoolyard logic: Because he can do it, I can do it." That's exactly what's harming this province today: the shortsighted, ill-conceived debate that we get from opposite. The best this government comes up with is, "Previous governments did it, so we should do it too."
Not only is this the wrong time -- and much has been made about the best time for taxes and the worst time for taxes; when it's acceptable to increase taxes and when it isn't. I will say categorically right now that I don't think in the next 10 years you'll find a government elected in this province that will be able to raise taxes of any significant proportion at all; otherwise, in my opinion, they'll be kicked out of office. I think the people of Ontario are that fed up. The point has clearly been missed by the members opposite. It was clearly missed in this budget and it was clearly missed in portions of the last budget.
To measure the impact of this gas hike, you only have to go to places like Windsor, Niagara Falls, St Catharines and Cornwall and you can measure the devastation of this kind of tax. What it does is breed cross-border shopping. It breeds an attitude by our constituents, the people of Ontario, that justifies in their minds a right to shop outside the province. That right is justified in their minds because we are so overtaxed, so overregulated. "I should be able to go across the border, because I can't get a fair price in this country." That's the justification the taxpayers use. When you add more gas tax, when you add more cigarette tax and alcohol tax, you're just breeding that contempt.
I don't want to go on at great length, because I think it's been discussed. Clearly, I get the impression that it matters not the arguments you put forward in this House. They've got an agenda. They're sticking to this agenda, which is completely different from the agenda they ran on, and it's absolutely pointless to continue pointing out the folly of their ways.
I was on a debate the other night with one of the members across the floor. They're going to insist, as in that debate, that this budget they've brought forward is a good budget for the people of Ontario. In fact, they're going to insist that the numbers they have used in the budget are accurate, they're going to insist that the numbers they have added are truthful. Anyone who has the capacity to add and subtract -- and I'm certain some of those backbenchers there can do it -- knows full well that this budget is a house of cards, and on Bill 86 it's the same debate.
This budget will collapse when the deficit is in fact noted. It will be at $12 billion, $13 billion or $14 billion. Considering that casino gambling is coming along, I would gladly accept any wager from any member across the floor as to whether your deficit will be $9.9 billion come the end of the year. Just like the gas tax, this is another folly, another shortsighted mistake by this government which thinks it can kid the people.
Because eventually, like the gas tax, the price goes up at the pump. Eventually the Treasurer is going to have to come back to this House in a few short months and admit publicly, not only to the opposition members but to the members of his own party, who so blindly believe him -- like lap dogs, they believe these numbers he puts out; they blindly trust him -- without any capacity to debate, he is going to have to admit that the numbers he put into the 1992-93 budget are fantasy. The budget itself should have started with the line "Once upon a time," because that's how much credibility and credence it will have.
Mr Speaker, not to belabour it, I thank you for your attention. To the few members across the floor, I thank you. I would only ask that when you examine these tax hikes on gasoline, alcohol, personal income tax, taxing the poor, hitting the middle class, when you send out your next newsletter -- I don't send them out, as I think they are propaganda and wasteful, but if you across the floor do send them out, why don't you ask your constituents whether they agree with the tax hikes in your budget, whether they agree with increased taxes on gasoline, whether they agree with increased taxes on alcohol and cigarettes etc? I think the response you will get will either shock you or you will begin to question the pulse your leadership has on the community known as the province of Ontario.
Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): I know I have only two very short minutes to respond to some of the member's comments. What you've heard from the member for Etobicoke West is a classic Conservative response whenever you talk about any tax measures: the finger-pointing. "You promised. How can you raise taxes? How can you do this? How can you go into the pockets of Ontario residents? How can you extract the last dollars they have jingling around in their pockets?"
There's no polite and nice way to talk about taxes. When you talk about any kinds of tax measures, whether they be gas tax measures, income tax measures, property tax measures, I'm sure if you went around and asked each member in this House individually, "Do you support raising taxes?" each and every one of us will say no. But you have to live within certain fiscal realities.
Obviously, if you want to provide some of the services you need to provide in the province for some of our needier residents, you're always going to have to look at some tax measures to be able to deliver on responsible government. What you've seen happen in our budget is, for the first time, a lessening of the burden on what I would call middle-income earners and workers in the province, because you'll quite clearly see that their incomes and their income taxes will not change within the coming year.
You hear from George Bush, "No new taxes," and he raised taxes; from Mulroney's Conservatives, "Elect us, we're not going to raise any taxes," then you get the GST. This is another one of those Conservative arguments.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I know precedent in this House suggests I should not comment on the incorrect statements by the member for Downsview, so I will not. I'll leave it to his constituents to determine how accurate his last statement was.
But on the remarks of the member for Etobicoke West, I suggest that he makes a very good point, that this budget that has been presented is all about confidence and credibility: confidence in the NDP Rae government and the credibility of not only Treasurer Laughren but also Premier Bob Rae.
All we have to do is look at last year's budget, where the Treasurer predicted an outrageous deficit of $9.7 billion and missed that target by $1 billion. This year they are predicting $9.9 billion, again a deficit which I think the people of the province have cause to be very concerned about, concerned not only by the size of the deficit but also by the accuracy of those projections.
I've been reviewing over the last few days analyses by the major banks: Bank of Nova Scotia and Bank of Montreal, to be specific. Both placed the real number in the $12-billion range, which I believe is of real concern as this will cause many to question the credibility of the Treasurer.
We on the Liberal side of the House and our leader Lyn McLeod have questioned repeatedly the Treasurer and the Premier about what we have referred to as questionable accounting practices. If the people of this province -- small business, entrepreneurs and those who would invest here -- look at this budget and look at the performance of Premier Rae, Treasurer Laughren and the NDP government, it's my concern they may come to the conclusion that this budget has no credibility. I thank the member for Etobicoke West for pointing this out.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I want to comment briefly on the member for Etobicoke West's statement. I've been here in this Legislature some 11 years now. This is the first time I've ever seen us deal with a budget after another budget has already been read. I find it totally unacceptable that this government cannot proceed with legislation and have the bills passed in this House within one year of a budget being read.
I remember sitting here listening to the member, the now Treasurer, indicating to us that gas tax has got to be the same across this province. I remember hearing the Treasurer adamantly saying: "The people in the north are not being treated fairly. We've got to have the same price of fuel right across this province." His leader was saying the same thing.
Here we are, dealing with Bill 86, a gasoline tax act of the 1991 budget. We're not dealing with the 1992 budget here; we're still dealing with the 1991 budget in which this government wants to increase the price of fuel for the taxpayers of this province. As a matter of fact, they just increased it again as of January 1. Nobody heard about that.
This is the government that last year predicted a $9.7-billion deficit. What did it come in at? Almost $11 billion. You never heard or read about that in the budget. What you read was, "We're going to bring in a deficit this year of $9.9 billion," after last year's was $11 billion. The debt of this province is some $62 billion now, thanks to the new government in Ontario. I can tell you, if we continue along the same line as what I've seen, we're in for a real surprise by the time the next two years are up because it will be over $80 billion. Our grandchildren can thank this government for what it's doing.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the time to respond to the comments made by the member from Etobicoke. I want to bring to the House's attention, as well as the people tuning in, just a couple of the points he raised in order to put them into some perspective.
One of the criticisms I heard in his address to Bill 86 was that this was a bill that was carried forward from last year, and why couldn't it be dealt with in the 1990-91 budget year? Sure, you'd like to be able to do that, but the reality is that this is a normal practice that happens within the assembly. I can remember two bills just off the top of my head from the time we took government that were carryover bills from budgetary bills from previous governments, some of them dating back as far as three budgets before. Because the legislative agenda, as people well understand in this House, is such that you have limited time in the House, some bills don't get before us on the order paper as quickly as we would like. I would draw to your attention, for example, that the Liberal's Bill 216, that was reintroduced as Bill 10 here, dealt with budget considerations from the 1988, the 1989 and the 1990 budgets.
On the second point, with regard to the tax increases, I understand and I hear what the member is saying, because what the member is saying to a certain extent is important. Nobody out there in the society of Ontario or Canada wants new taxes. There's no question about that. If we all had our druthers, all of us in this assembly and all of us out here as people of the public of Ontario would say in the perfect world, in the optimum world, we would have no new taxes, and we would be able to bring in a budget during the middle of a recession at a 0% increase and at the same time have no deficit.
The reality is that we don't live in that perfect world. The reality is that governments need to have revenue in order to provide those services people want and expect from their governments. For the Conservatives, quite frankly, to stand here and preach to us on the revenue of taxes, I think they only need to look at the federal government's record.
Mr Stockwell: The members for Cochrane South and Downsview offer the perfect, classic example of exactly what I was talking about. Here are two members who stand to make comment on the speech I offered this House. What do they do? First of all, they talk about the inevitability of taxes; exactly what I was talking about. The member for Cochrane South talks about the length of time it takes to introduce the bills. Clearly he wasn't listening; I didn't talk about that.
Second, what do the members for Cochrane South and Downsview talk about? They talk about other Conservative governments which have done what they did. They can't even accept the responsibility themselves for the broken promises they had during the campaign, so they block it off to other levels of government. They have no ability to accept responsibility, even when they break their promises. "Everybody does it," they say, "so we can do it too."
Exactly the point I was making perfectly transpired here; the analogy was perfect from the members for Cochrane South and Downsview. They don't even know when they're doing it, they do it so often. They've forgotten to think. All they do is stand up and reiterate the same stuff they've been saying for two years. I just commented on that, and yet you got up and proved I was right.
The other point that needs to be made is -- the perfect example of another argument I made in my statement was that the member for Downsview stood in his place and started talking about taxes. I said at one point in my debate or discussion that if you read the budget and you simply examine the numbers you know they're different from what the Treasurer's saying. He stood up and said Ontarians would be taxed less with this budget. It's categorically proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're charging more in taxes in all walks of life in Ontario. I should thank them, they're living proof that I'm right.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to participate in the third reading of a bill resulting from a budget which took place last year. The unfortunate thing for those of us who would like to elaborate considerably on this bill is that, as the Speaker would point out, third reading limits the debate to whether or not this bill should be read for a third time. That's considerably different in our parliamentary rules than second reading, which allows a speaker to be more liberal in his interpretation of what is relevant to the bill, so I will endeavour to respect that. It will probably limit my speech to somewhat less than an hour, unaccustomed as I am to that short a speech. Nevertheless, I will try to limit it and try to persuade the government that it should not read this bill for the third time.
The first argument against this tax that I think is quite relevant is the timing of the tax. While members have appropriately pointed out that there is never a good time for a tax to be implemented in the province, in the midst of a deep recession -- most would concede the deepest recession, the most serious recession we've had since the Great Depression of the 1930s -- it's inappropriate to be levying taxes which will take money out of the hands of potential consumers and spenders and place it in the coffers of the government.
I believe that one of the ways to get out of a recession is to allow people and encourage people to spend their money on consumer goods and services that will be required at some time or other. The best time for them to undertake these would be during a recession. They're going to get better prices, quite obviously, and they're going to have more people available to do that, but they have to have the money to do so.
If you look at the previous budget, it had, it seems to me -- I could be wrong in this -- some 11 tax increases and about $1 billion if you took a full year into effect. The new one, subsequent to this bill, has 12 tax increases and then a lot of other charges that nobody sees until they go to purchase something or get a service from the government -- but about 12 taxes in addition to this.
The net effect -- perhaps it's better to say the cumulative effect -- of that is to take more and more money out of the hands of the consumers who could assist us in getting out of this recession. Because all of us want to be out of this recession. Often there is a feeling out there that those in opposition enjoy a recession because it proves the government can't somehow manage the economy.
I don't think it helps anybody, however, and I've always hoped there would be issues I could pursue rather than issues that related to the hardship experienced by people. The timing is not appropriate for this tax, if indeed there is ever an appropriate timing for a tax. I guess the public never likes it, but I think this is inappropriate.
Second, the effect on cross-border shopping is probably felt more by those of us who represent communities in close proximity to the American border. The member for Sault Ste Marie would experience this -- the member for Cornwall and even the area you represent, Mr Speaker, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and other parts of the province add on to that.
People make the trip to the United States, make purchases and then come back. Windsor's another area I think of that's quite prominent in that regard. Anywhere in close proximity to the American border we find more and more people making the trip to the United States to make purchases.
This is not a new phenomenon as far as cross-border shopping is concerned, but in the past the reasons seem to have been that because a certain item wasn't available in Canada, people tended to go to the United States; or there might have been the odd item that might have been significantly cheaper. But today it's become a habit.
I suggest to the House that if this bill is allowed to pass and if this tax increase is not abandoned, it's going to encourage more people to go south of the border because they go for three loss-leaders, as I call them. Stores put loss-leaders up in the window. They advertise them. They don't make much money on them but they get people into the store and then they'll make other purchases. Those three loss-leaders are gasoline, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes.
In the past, at least two of them were seen to be sin taxes and the third, "Well, if you tax gasoline I guess it's not bad because it somehow discourages people from using their vehicles and the environment will be better and so on." But what has happened is that the impact on the Ontario economy has been dramatic in that people are now heading to the other side of the border primarily to make that gasoline purchase. While they're there they purchase cigarettes and alcoholic beverages and perhaps consume a meal over there and perhaps make other purchases. So what may seem to have been a fair and reasonable or at least a sustainable tax in the past has in fact had a bad net effect on the province. That's why I think it would be unwise to have this bill proceed through third reading and be proclaimed and put into effect, just as I will be speaking to the so-called gas guzzler tax, Bill 130, which I believe is in the same category and would not be wise to proceed with.
Every time we increase the taxes on gasoline we increase the cost of doing business in the province. Again, when the economy booms, people will still complain about it, but when the economy booms people tend to be able to make their purchase in any event. They tend to be able to operate their businesses in any event as long as that burden isn't too great from too many different directions. But we are in a situation where we're increasing the cost of doing business for the private sector in Ontario. That's why I think there's a compelling reason for not proceeding with this tax in third reading.
As I left St Catharines this morning, I saw that in every service station the price of gasoline coincidentally had gone up to 55.9 cents a litre, I believe. It has always been a mystery to me how it's not against the Competition Act of Canada for gasoline stations in Ontario, retailers, to all put their gas up to exactly the same price or within a 10th of a cent.
You've sat in this House for some 11 years, I believe, Mr Speaker; it could be even longer than that. I know you've heard the same argument I have. I divert only very momentarily in this direction, because I've heard all the different ministers over the last 15 years give the answer on why the price of gasoline is what it is. We had a Conservative minister, Bob Elgie. I remember asking him the question years ago. He gave me the answer about monitoring it and that it was due to several reasons, and I won't get into that at this time.
Then people asked the Liberal ministers, Vince Kerrio and Lyn McLeod, about the price of gasoline. Lo and behold, the same notebook was in front of them, because they gave the same answer. Then it was asked of the member for Peterborough and the member for Kitchener -- the member for Hamilton Mountain hasn't had that question yet -- and coincidentally the answer was the same every time. A Tory government, a Liberal government and an NDP government, and the answer in the answer book of the minister is the same.
So there is a concern about the price of gasoline. My friend the member for Renfrew North makes a point perhaps more valid than some of us in close proximity to Toronto, that when you go down into eastern Ontario into a more rural area of the province and when indeed we get into your area, Mr Speaker, people have to use their vehicles. There isn't GO Transit there, there are no buses running on an hourly basis and the trains don't run as often as they used to. To do business, to visit the doctor or whatever they have to do, people must use their vehicles. That tax is a tax on everyone in the province, whether they are rich people or poorer people, in terms of the amount of money and resources and assets they have. So I see that coming forward.
I have not seen an answer to the fixing of gas prices in Ontario. I would have expected that, of all governments, an NDP government would have had the answer to that. I can just imagine the speeches that were made in certain halls across the province about what they were going to do about those gas companies when they got into power. Then, if I were being provocative, I would say they end up being in the pockets of the gas companies. I don't want to be provocative this afternoon, so I won't say that.
It must be difficult for my friends in the New Democratic Party and their supporters to be defending the government at the present time, because everything that the government stood for in its platform and in opposition seems to be fading away. The same people who used to harshly criticize Liberal and Conservative governments on taxes of this kind and other measures, people who are strong activists, now have to be apologists for the government of Ontario. It must be difficult for those people of principle who genuinely believe in those policies to now watch those policies changing.
We get hints now -- we don't see it on this tax; I wish we did -- that the government is going to be backpedalling and retreating on its Sunday shopping stand. I remember editorials in a lot of publications among those who support the NDP which were very much in support of the former position, I think now, of the NDP on that position, and the same could be said of casino gambling.
But I do want to deal with this tax in a more narrow sense: how it affects everyone in the province. It affects the operation of the government of Ontario because we have to pay taxes on our own gasoline, and it affects the municipalities, which are finding it tough now to make ends meet. There was a time when people would say, "Well, municipalities, like every other level of government, probably have some fat in the budget." They could say that of provincial, federal and local governments. Suffice it to say today that most of the fat that was there, if there was any fat, has been removed, and so our regional government, our city government, our boards of education, our various agencies, boards and commissions must spend additional money in their operation because they have to pay this additional tax on gasoline.
The only way they can raise funds other than going to the provincial government, which has been quite miserly this year in terms of the 1% it is prepared to give them, is to raise property taxes, and all of us know that property taxes are not fair in that they do not take into account a person's ability to pay. I think someone once said, "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." I remember seeing that somewhere in some literature years ago when I was studying the New Democratic Party and international socialism. I can remember great speeches by Tommy Douglas in the past that included that particular phraseology, and there was something compelling in that to many people in this province. But we are seeing now, through this tax, the government of Ontario imposing new costs on local government, costs which can only be handled by cutting needed services or by raising the property tax, which is a regressive tax.
I also look at tourism. In your part of the province -- indeed, to be fair, in most parts of the province -- tourism's an important industry. Our American friends come to Ontario and one of the things they notice immediately is the cost of gasoline, and so that starts to deter some of them.
By the way, I'm glad the government did not increase certain other measures it was talking about that may hit tourism, because I remember some of the speculation about it. But in this specific case the cost of gasoline, whether it's in Fort Erie, represented by the chief government whip, or St Catharines, or Chatham-Kent, which is a tourist mecca, to be sure, or Wallaceburg and others, we all know that people would normally come to this part of the province, even with the representation that exists for that area at the present time, if only it didn't cost so much for gasoline.
There is a lot of potential. They would even come to the edges of Algonquin Park. Now they couldn't go into Algonquin Park. Mind you, they're liable to run into the saws that are cutting the trees down in Algonquin Park along that logging road the government financed, but we won't get into that issue at the present time, as the member from Pembroke turns his head and looks in an accusatory manner at the member for St Catharines.
I was surprised, quite frankly, as you may have been, Mr Speaker, that the NDP government, or at least the party, which has been noted in the past for talking about the rights of Parliament, the rights of this Legislature, was about to impose closure the other afternoon. When the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology got up, he wanted to impose a closure motion after only short hours of debate on this important issue. That certainly surprised me, and it must have surprised the individual in the chair who was Speaker at the time, because he ruled against the opportunity to impose closure at that time. But I can remember many a speech, some eloquent speeches, made by members of the New Democratic Party in opposition about the dastardly -- that's spelled with a "d" -- use of the tool known as closure.
I don't know how I can fit consumer gambling into this speech; I somehow don't think I can. Maybe I could say that I suppose if the government were to impose this tax, it could avoid casino gambling in the province. But it looks as though Mr Woodsworth, Mel Swart, Fred Young, so many of the New Democrats of the past who have been opposed to it -- Jimmy Porter, a strong supporter of the New Democratic Party; you could name anybody. I'm sure I could name the member for Chatham-Kent as a person who in the past would have been opposed to consumer gambling. Maybe he thought that if this tax passed, his government wouldn't have to bring in consumer gambling. Mr Temple, who used to be the conscience of the New Democratic Party in matters of alcohol and gambling, was an individual who would have been surprised to hear that this would be contemplated, let alone that it would be contained in an NDP budget.
So the old CCFers, the people I admired so much, people I could name one after another from years gone by, people for whom some of my relatives voted over the years, would be very shocked and surprised at the fact that this government is now resorting to casino gambling.
You will recall when the previous government just brought a different lottery in -- the same lottery operation, but a different lottery -- the scorn and ridicule from the now Minister of the Environment and the now Premier about that. Yet I see that one of the editorials -- I wouldn't call a person this, because I'm polite in this House -- calls the Premier of the province "Blackjack Bob" because he wishes to bring in casino gambling.
But I don't know if this tax is going to influence that decision, so I won't dwell on it other than to say that I found it interesting that Rob Martin of London, Ontario, wrote a long article in the London Free Press about why he does not support the New Democratic Party any more. Maybe in the budget debate --
Mr Bradley: We will see what happens. In any event, in another speech I will get into attacking this government from the left, which is very easy to do now that the government has brought in this measure and is abandoning all of its principles. That's when it's most fun: attacking an NDP government from the left.
Anyway, we have the NDP tax commission -- I don't call it the Fair Tax Commission; I call it the NDP tax commission -- which is stacked with people who might want new and different taxes. I hope the NDP tax commission looks at this tax and informs the government that it is a regressive tax which is not going to be beneficial to Ontario.
As I mentioned, many people don't have mass transit. In Toronto there is mass transit, and I really like the TTC. I know it's had to cut back its services, but it has been one of the leaders, I think, in North America in terms of mass transit. I certainly support the government supporting that kind of mass transit. We don't have it in St Catharines. There are some people who'd like to see it there. We do have some trains that come in there, but there are so many areas in the province that do not have government-subsidized mass transit and rely upon gas that it shows how regressive this tax can be.
I listened to some of the interventions in response to the member for Etobicoke West about taxes and so on. I guess the point I continue to make in this House is not that the New Democratic Party is worse, in terms of public morality, than the other parties. It's just that it is no better than the other parties, and it always pretended to be.
I think the sanctimony -- I try to be not as provocative as I could -- of the Premier's pronouncements in opposition, on the campaign trail and in his previous life when he was not in government come back to haunt him. That sanctimony comes back to haunt him because we now see that the same government which in opposition criticized taxes of this kind is in fact implementing those kinds of taxes. The whole point is that the NDP was going to be different. That's another speech I can get into, on how I genuinely believed -- and I've never considered myself to be politically naïve -- that the NDP was going to be different.
One thing I want to commend them on, as the Minister for Transportation comes in, is following through on Liberal policy. This relates to this gas tax because it's transportation. I was pleased to see the Minister of Transportation in our city last Thursday. He had announced, for the seventh time, that jobs were going to come to the city of St Catharines. I was very pleased because there was a site, two signs were erected there, and the minister's name wasn't on either sign. I commend him for that, because that was always propaganda we saw from previous governments that I never thought was necessary. The minister's name is not on them, but there were two signs there, one in French and one in English. The minister was very kind in his remarks on the platform that day.
I want to commend the government for following through on the Liberal announcement to move the 1,400 Ministry of Transportation jobs to St Catharines. They will be moving just in time for after the election, when either the member for St Catharines-Brock, if the NDP is returned, or the member for St Catharines can safely assume the position of Minister of Transportation and not have to come to Toronto all that often. I was interested to know that the former Deputy Minister of the Environment is moving to Transportation. I can tell the Minister of Transportation that he has gained an asset in Gary Posen coming to his ministry to work with him.
I was also pleased, in a mode of transportation -- because this doesn't take gasoline, I don't think; it probably uses a different fuel -- that he was there to have his wife give the christening of the Pelee Island ferry, which is called the Jiimann. We were all very pleased, the sun was shining, the workers were very proud of this. Once again, a policy which was supported by the previous Liberal government moving in that direction was followed through on by the New Democratic Party.
So one can't always be critical of the government. There are occasions when we have a government following through on previous policies. I think it's only appropriate that I commend this Minister of Transportation and the Chair of Management Board for proceeding with those two policies.
We were delighted to see the minister in town. He was his usual cordial self. He was witty, as always, urbane for a fellow from Manitouwadge, where we expect he's going to be closer to the earth and the grass roots, but he's still urbane when it calls for it. He did share with us the problems I could see in his riding with this tax, the largest riding in all the province of Ontario, the riding of Lake Nipigon, where I don't think there are many places I could go where I wouldn't need a car; he has other places he can't even get to by car. I could see that his constituents would be hit by this tax and I strongly suspect that within the confines of cabinet he is recommending against third reading of this particular bill, although I cannot say that I speak for him. But I did want to say some nice things about him because he was, I thought, very appropriately kind and well received in the city of St Catharines. He'll always be welcome in our community.
I regret that the Premier is not in the House for this debate. We're not supposed to say who's in the House and who's not, but the Premier is not in the country; let's put it that way. He is travelling the world once again for some reason or other that he can justify; I won't get into being critical of that. But it's unfortunate. The House sits only a short period of time. It was supposed to reconvene on March 9 of this year. I was eager to have it come back in January so I could deal with important issues of the day, but I was unable to. I thought: "It's coming back on March 9, in any event. I'll be able to deal with this gas tax and persuade the government not to have third reading." Instead, they postponed it to March 23. Then finally on April 6 they got up enough nerve to come back into the Legislature and be subject to the very detailed and sharp questioning of members of the opposition. Therefore, we see that the government is afraid to deal with these matters.
If you wonder why this tax hasn't been dealt with before, one of the reasons is that the government refused to bring the House back into session. Again, many of the people in opposition who were strong supporters of the communities wanted to come back early so they could deal with matters of a tax nature.
We also understand why the government may need some of this money. They may need it so that they can have the polls they conduct. They have different polls they take. I listened as the Minister of Transportation said the other day that 70% cent of the people wanted something; he was quoting something. I heard the Solicitor General quoting polls. When they were in opposition I thought they were different. The Liberals conducted polls.
Mr Bradley: The member for Chatham-Kent mentions the new CAT scan. The full cost will be assumed by the people of St Catharines in a fund-raising drive if it were in St Catharines. In this case it's in Welland and the people of Welland will have to pay the full capital cost of that. There is a major cost. There was a big fight on the government side over where it was going, whether to Niagara Falls or Welland. The member for Niagara South is smiling so we know where it did go. The member for Niagara Falls will be working hard to see that it goes there.
I, on the other hand, was not parochial at all. I was just pleased to see that we had a second one somewhere in the Niagara region to meet the needs of the people. The people of Niagara region will pay the full capital cost of that and none of this gas tax will be utilized for that purpose.
I thought they may have said we should proceed with third reading of this bill so they could have money to do polling. I remember when the Premier of this province knew where he stood on every issue, knew what the province needed and wasn't waiting for the latest puff of wind to tell him which way the flag was flying, which way the wind direction indicated it was pointing at that time. It's unfortunate that he has continued the policy of other governments -- again, he was going to be different -- of conducting public opinion polls at the public's expense with the taxes derived from this particular tax, if it passes, and of course refusing to share the results with members of this Legislature in a timely fashion.
I know the Premier is in Europe now. The Minister of the Environment is in Europe, so she can't hear this speech. I know she'd be very interested in it. Who knows who else will be travelling over there at public expense soon while we're debating this important issue?
Or the money could be applied, I suppose, to the consultation committee. It has four Cs in it -- I forget what they stand for. All I know is that they were going to use lists creatively. Something came out of the chief government whip's office that said, "Use these lists creatively," so we can be sure that everybody will be on the NDP mailing list now for fund-raising and other purposes. I think some of the money must be coming from this tax, or they anticipate they're going to pass this tax in third reading so they would have it. I hope they abandon that kind of public manipulation and self-serving advertising, and they will abandon it surely if they abandon this tax. That's another reason I think it's important that it be abandoned.
We can't say this government has been different this year than other governments. The newly elected NDP government in British Columbia has applied all kinds of new taxes, none of which was mentioned in the election campaign. The government of Saskatchewan, newly elected with an NDP Premier, has applied all kinds of new taxes in the province of Saskatchewan; again, none of those taxes mentioned in the election campaign.
Where is Tommy Douglas? Where is Stanley Knowles? Where are the pillars of the CCF from years gone by: Mr Winch, a strong supporter; Bob Carlin, before they kicked him out of the party? Bob Carlin was a little too left for the party. I think my father voted for Bob Carlin in Sudbury when we lived up there, but he was a little too radical for the party so they kicked him out because he didn't adhere to all of its policies. In those days, of course, it was really something to be left of the CCF. Today it wouldn't be very hard to be left of the NDP, according to some members of the New Democratic Party.
Anyway, I must ask what those people would think of this transformation of the New Democratic Party to what it is, because it used to be a party -- I admired a lot of them. As I say, I used to think of the riding of Kootenay East and Vancouver East, Winnipeg North Centre and Winnipeg North. They had only eight ridings at one time, in the Diefenbaker years. All those people in those ridings, if they could be here today -- some of them, may their souls rest in peace, are no longer with us. But were they here they would certainly be opposed to the third reading of this bill.
I indicated to members of the House that on this occasion I did not expect I would be going beyond half an hour. I think I've outlined a number of reasons within the confines of third reading, the confines being the rules of the House, as to why I do not believe this tax should be proceeded with, why it should not proceed to third reading. I only hope the government -- as I hope it does with Bill 130, the tax on auto workers -- will withdraw this tax and that tax and that we will have as a result a better province of Ontario.
Mrs Caplan: I've had the opportunity to hear the remarks by my colleague from St Catharines. I've had the opportunity as well to work with him since 1985. Once again, I think the Legislature today and the people watching have been treated to an excellent debate on this piece of legislation.
I know the member for St Catharines has always acted in the interests of his constituents. When he had the opportunity to serve in cabinet the environment was well-served during his term as Minister of the Environment. His emphasis and concerns on the implications of the gas tax, the tax on auto workers and his positive suggestion to the Treasurer of an alternative to this type of tax, which would be in the interests of the environment, would serve not only his constituents in St Catharines well -- his constituents who are now suffering because of the decisions of GM -- but also the people of this province.
He is to be complimented and commended not only for his years of service to his community but I think for the excellence of his presentation today, which really addressed the issues that are before us here in this Legislature. I would say here in the House how proud I was to hear the remarks of the member for St Catharines and how proud I've been since 1985 to have the opportunity to serve with a man of his stature and calibre.
The speech he made today is a very good example of his commitment to issues that are before us on the legislative agenda. The presentation he made, I think that his constituents in the riding of St Catharines will be interested to know, has been balanced, thoughtful and clear.
The most important point I think the member for St Catharines made during his discussion -- and being from an automotive town, to some degree -- was the tax and the implications on the union workers with respect to this kind of tax.
There's no doubt in my mind, when you levy taxes on the automotive industry, whether it's the environmental tax, the gas guzzler tax -- which they've tried to palm off as the environmental tax; much debate was had about that, whether you want to make it an oppressive tax or an incentive tax -- and the air-conditioning tax, with the PST, the GST etc, that the automotive industry is facing a very difficult period of time. It's one of the most heavily taxed industries of all, so when you deal with increases, whether it be in gas or whether it be on certain parts and so on and so forth, you're penalizing a group of people who don't have any control, and they are the union workers who assemble or manufacture these cars.
There's no question about it; no one can make the debate. There's a straight correlation between the amount of tax on a car and the number of cars sold. Clearly, when you increase taxes there's a dip in units that are retailed. When you have a dip in the units that are retailed, clearly the union workers involved in assembling or building these cars are affected, because there are job losses. That argument is as simple as time and it's as old as time. It's supply and demand and government intervention etc.
That point should be taken very carefully by this government. In future -- and I'm glad we didn't see it in this budget -- before any more taxes are levied on gasoline or cars in general, they should think back to the arguments made by the member for St Catharines. These kinds of taxes cost union jobs.
Mr Hope: It's my pleasure to stand up after the member for St Catharines, who talks about the tax on auto workers. I heard he was in here since 1985, when his government taxed us to death as auto workers and as every worker in this province, as we've seen with the offloading the Liberal government had done.
I think it's important that if they were good economic times from 1985 to 1990, the member said we could have used those dollars in a worthwhile way. I'll refresh his memory about a pipeline that supplied clean water for the people. If we used appropriate calculations we would probably find out that those communities would have benefited much more if the revenues they were taking from the people of the province in good economic times were put to better use. We would have been able to see clean water being supplied to the constituents of my area, who were having to drink contaminated water. So I think it's important.
He also went on to the casino gambling a bit. It's important that he look back into his previous documents about the Liberal government. The Liberal government looked at casino gambling in the past too, and I think that's important to put forward. I think it's important that as this government proceeds under tough economic times one of the things we're doing is taking tax dollars and we are going to regenerate them into jobs, as has been indicated in this budget. This is a budget that we're dealing with where, in the past, every projection was there saying that in one year this recession would turn around. A lot of us knew it wouldn't turn around in one year because of the policies of the federal government and what they were doing to our auto sector and our manufacturing sector. But I think it's important, as we look at creative ideas, like this budget has indicated, to make sure that tax revenues are put back into the community to promote more jobs. I think that is very beneficial.
A lot of the comments the member made are legitimate ones. It's unfortunate that he couldn't have implemented those policies when he was in government, and that we've got to make up for five years of bad government in order to try to turn this economy around and make sure it's more prosperous for the working people of this province.
Hon Gilles Pouliot (Minister of Transportation): I seldom get the impression that you meet your best friend every three, four or five minutes in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. In fact, I've heard it said on many occasions that we aren't always kind to one another. Yet you can't take that as a given, because it's liable to change at a moment's notice.
I wish to depart from the form that is espoused by both parties of Her Majesty's loyal opposition to thank the member for St Catharines for the good deeds vis-à-vis the 1,400 jobs that are being transferred from Renfrew to the community of St Catharines and the $115 million that will put construction workers back to work. Those are infrastructural endeavours that have meaning. The member stood and paid a compliment, and I want to make sure that there is some sort of reciprocity in these times of only-too-rare gestures.
The member for Oriole, though, could not resist, Mr Speaker. They have a relationship in the political context, of course, and I know you will wish to send the answer to the Bradley family so that it can keep it for posterity -- a rare moment. I don't think that the member, the chef du jour of yesterday, has gone soft, but like many good things in life it begins in the spring. Those were complimentary words indeed, and I hope they don't leave the member when he needs them the most in the fall session.
Mr Bradley: I was delighted to hear the interventions of various members of the Legislature, some in great praise and others in appropriate chastisement, from their point of view. I say the member for Oriole was extremely kind in her comments, most assuredly. The member for Etobicoke West is acutely aware of these matters related to taxes and their effect on his community and my community. I always appreciate his interventions in the House. I think they're in the interests of trying to get business going in the province. The member for Chatham-Kent has been most appropriately defending the interests of his constituency. He will recall that when I was the Minister of the Environment I made a commitment, which was on the table, to pay the overwhelming cost of a pipeline which was to be built in his constituency. I assume that since we have an NDP government it's probably completed and he has cut the ribbon.
There has been progress made; there's no doubt about that. The precedents set in the funding of that pipeline by this government will come back to -- I won't say "haunt" -- but will be drawn to the attention of this government on many occasions. I would venture to say -- I don't want to say I would bet -- if the present Environment minister thought for a moment there was a chance they were going to win that election, she would not have made a commitment that's going to come back. The people in Manitouwadge will want the same deal, as will the people throughout the province.
Finally, I would like to thank my friend the member for Lake Nipigon, the Minister of Transportation, for his kind words. It is the spring of the year, but no doubt we will have our differences from time to time.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I am pleased to join in this debate today. It is a tradition of opposition parties to dump on governments about the budgets they bring in. Everybody knows this. The government of the day knows it, the people out there who are watching this show know it. Everybody knows that is part of parliamentary act.
What we're talking about today is the fact that this province is simply overtaxed. We went past the point of being able to tolerate it some length of time ago. In fact it's probable, when we look at Bill 86, that we can say in relationship to the last government that the reason it lost the last election was that it kept piling the taxes on. We know that the past Liberal government had 33 tax increases in those five short years it was in power.
Now this government, in 18 months, is trying to beat their record. They've already added, with the Liberals, up to a total of 55 tax increases, so in six and a half years, the people of Ontario have seen 55 tax increases, which have taken us, in relationship to Bill 86, from a relatively low-tax province to being the most heavily burdened. Indeed we see that the job losses in Ontario have accelerated way beyond the point which any other province has seen and, to a great extent, it's the direction of the government.
We cannot entirely blame the government for the fact that people ask for various handouts. Indeed there's no party in this province that would suggest we should not help the people truly in need. But at a certain point we've got to say, do we get value for our dollars invested? We have seen that the deficit, both last year -- I refer to last year because indeed this gas tax that we're debating today in Bill 86 relates to last year's budget, not this year's budget. Through bad management of the government, we haven't even finished debate of the previous year's budget.
Mr Turnbull: This is the first time in history. For the sake of the people who are watching this program, it's worth noting that we were willing to debate this in the normal parliamentary schedule, but this government decided we weren't going to be called back on to the normal parliamentary schedule, because indeed we know that all the polls they were looking at were saying they were doing extremely badly.
The effect of gasoline taxes is to hurt people in northern Ontario, to hurt people in rural Ontario, to hurt the people who are least able to pay taxes. Gasoline taxes have always been considered to be one of the cash cows and they've been lumped in with the sin taxes, but the difference between alcohol and tobacco and gasoline is that it isn't a sin, it's something that merely takes people to work. We have a huge province, with the people predominantly clustered around southern Ontario. Consequently, all the rural areas absolutely rely on automobiles to get to work, so this is a tax against these people.
I can't help being struck by the strange aspect that the government, which ran on this so-called Agenda for People, should be bringing in so many tax increases. The very first page of the Agenda for People talks about "a minimum corporate tax." We haven't seen any of that, thank goodness. "Tax fairness for the working poor." We certainly approve of that. "Succession duties on estates of the rich and superrich." There are not that many rich and superrich left in this province, and if you do bring in succession duties, we'll see them going.
Turning back to Bill 86, I'm struck by the document that was put out by the NDP accompanying the Agenda for People. On page 2, I was struck by a line which says, "Ontario should lead a tax revolt." They were talking about the GST, but it's curious that the tax revolt they wanted to lead ignores the fact that other people in this province might feel like a tax revolt against this government, a government which in this year's budget has brought in more than $1 billion worth of increases in taxes that are going to hit the middle class and the working poor. It is certainly not something that was contemplated in the Agenda for People. I would suggest that had it been in the Agenda for People, I don't think the people would have voted for a gas tax that is regressive and hurts the very people the government purports to help.
We've had it suggested that this in some way is an environmental tax. This is pure nonsense. We know that half the pollution from cars is caused by 10% of the vehicles. If the government was serious about doing anything about it, it wouldn't tax cars across the board, it would try to address the specific problem. By having a heavy gas tax, you are not addressing the pollution problem. So we know that one goes out the window.
We know the government, from all the taxes it gathers with respect to transportation, raises something in the order of $2.8 billion. That's gasoline tax, fuel tax for diesels, licences and all those permit things that pertain to operating automobiles and trucks.
This is a government that is not spending the money it collects in the name of the road on roads, yet here we see another increase in taxes. We saw last year, after this budget, a 1.7-cent-per-litre increase in taxes. The government talks about the fact that we haven't had an increase in this year's budget on gasoline. They don't need to put it in this year's budget; they already put it through in January of this year, because this was a two-step increase with the introduction in January of 1.7 cents a litre. I hope the government doesn't seriously believe that the people who watch this program or the people who follow this Legislature are duped by that kind of misrepresentation.
We know one of the greatest reasons for cross-border shopping is trips for gasoline, alcohol and tobacco. Indeed, we are seeing a tremendous loss of income to this province because of cross-border shopping. We have to say, "Is there any way we can address this?" We know with respect to alcohol and tobacco, these are very consciously put on as taxes, in some ways as a disincentive and at the same time to pay for many social programs. I don't think any of us would want to see the kind of social structure they have in the United States and therefore we have to pay for our programs. But quite frankly, when we have a loss of revenue on the scale we've got due to cross-border shopping, the government has got to look seriously at this problem.
There was a study done by Ernst and Young which identified -- and that study was done before last year's budget was brought in -- that one of the key components for people crossing the border was for gasoline. Once they get across the border for gasoline and alcohol, then indeed they do shop for other things. That takes away job opportunities for our working people in Ontario. It also takes away some tax revenues that we could otherwise be collecting.
We cannot hang our hats on some vague reason that we need it for environmental reasons. We know that when the Liberals brought in the tire tax they suggested it was for environmental reasons. They've collected in excess of $100 million on that and they've invested less than $5 million in environmental technology. In other words, it was just another tax grab. I think it's worth saying that, much as opposition parties like to oppose, we have to have a broader message which goes out beyond all political parties in saying that we cannot allow deficit spending and therefore we have to come together and realize that certain programs probably will have to be cut.
When we're seeing that the government, both last year and this year in the budget, has annual deficits of the order of two fifths of the total budget that the last Conservative government in this province had, you get an idea of the magnitude of the problem. We have gone on a tax binge par excellence. All members of this Legislature, and I don't care which party, have to go out and speak to their constituents and look them in the eye. Let me first of all state that if I went down to Bay Street to the towers of the banks and asked them, "Do you think that you're paying too much tax?" they would say yes. If I went to a union hall and I asked them, "Do you think you're paying too much tax?" they would say yes. Both parties would be equally correct in that assertion.
We know that both parties feel aggrieved. We know that everybody in Ontario feels they're paying too many taxes. It's no good thinking that somebody else is going to pay. We have to come up with the realization that governments cannot be all things to all people. Governments should have tough regulatory policy to ensure that our environment is kept clean. We must make sure that we have a safety net that truly helps the needy. But it shouldn't be a disincentive for people to work. We should not always believe that somebody else is going to pay the taxes. Indeed as my leader, Mr Harris, has said on many occasions, this document, An Agenda for People, would have people believe that.
We were told that the Liberals were awful people who were charging too much tax. I agreed. But the New Democrats suggested, yes, they wouldn't charge the taxes to you but there was some other mysterious person who was going to pay the taxes, because they never talked about cuts. Indeed only the Conservative Party ran a fiscally responsible election campaign. I have to say, maybe the people of Ontario want to be fooled, because they didn't want to vote for that platform. It may have sounded miserly but it was economically viable. We wouldn't have had to have some wild change of direction had we had that kind of platform to govern on today. But unfortunately you don't have that kind of platform.
You made wild statements and now you have to live with those: a corporate minimum tax which will drive companies out of the province, succession duties which will drive the rich and the not-so-rich out of the province, and a speculation tax which will also be a disincentive for people to invest with after-tax dollars. That is the bottom line: that when we start talking about company investment, companies are grounded with after-tax dollars. The companies take the risks in full knowledge that they may lose it all. Then, when they do succeed, they are taxed at a very high rate by the government.
They are full partners. The government is a full partner of a successful corporation but an unsuccessful corporation becomes an orphan. That is the bottom line. Hopefully that is the message that is soaking through to the Treasurer today: that corporations do indeed have to make profits and we shouldn't drive them out of the province, because if we drive them out of the province, it's the workers who suffer. It's the disadvantaged who suffer, because there won't be any money left in the pot.
Having said that, I go back to the fact that every member of every party of this Legislature has got to go back and eyeball their keenest supporters and say, "What services can you do without?" That is the only way we will ever be able to control expenditures in such a way that we'll be able to get on an even keel. If I were to go home and say to my kids, "Well, you know, we've been fairly tight for years, and I think your mother and I are going to just spend like crazy. We're going to have a great time, but we're not going to pay for it. We're going to add up debt and we're going to leave that debt for you kids," I suggest to you my children probably would be a little bit perturbed. That indeed is the parallel, that the taxpayers' children should be rather perturbed that we all are spending beyond our means.
When you have a deficit of two fifths of the total Progressive Conservative budget when we left office, you know you've got a serious problem. I don't know where the members across the floor think the money is going to come from. Is it going to be manna from heaven? You can say, "That's why we're raising taxes." That is the logical argument, but you've got to the point where it's diminishing returns because people are leaving and people are cross-border shopping. There are many people, and I am indeed speaking to the gasoline tax bill, Bill 86, who cannot pay. There are a lot of people who are looking for jobs. They need to put gasoline in their cars, and this kind of tax grab just further exacerbates the situation.
I'm not sure if there's enough will among the government members to go out as I have suggested and speak to their constituents about where their constituents can tighten their belts. I am doing my part. I'm going out to my supporters and those who are not my supporters in my community and I am saying: "We cannot always ask somebody else to shoulder the burden. We have to look at ourselves, because we're all part and parcel of the problem."
We need jobs in this province, and we need good education, and yes, we need to be able to have taxes to pay for the welfare for people out of work. But this is not the way to raise money. Be honest and say, "We cannot do all things." Governments have got too large, and this government, to its credit, has suggested in the last budget that it is going to reduce some of the huge amount of extra civil servants that the Liberals added to the payroll during their five years in office, the 9,000 extra civil servants who are, I'm sure, good and productive people but who have to be paid out of taxes, taxes which we cannot afford to raise any more.
So when we speak about gasoline taxes, the same theme carries through everything: We cannot afford it. We know that the tourist industry is being negatively affected by the high cost of coming to Ontario. We need a tourist industry; it is a very major industry in this province. I don't think by tinkering around with advertising campaigns we're going to solve that problem. We need to get our costs down for tourists so they want to come back to this province.
I don't think that by adding casinos we're going to solve the problem. So many poor Ontarians will be negatively impacted by casinos. I never, ever believed that the New Democratic Party would bring in casinos. I am absolutely shocked and amazed, and I know that an awful lot of people who have been supporters of the NDP all of their lives are shocked. I'm sure they're shocked at this tax increase which they brought in last year, and they once again hit us this year at 1.7 cents per litre.
I really believe that having the highest gasoline tax in the country is not conducive to building a solid economy. It certainly doesn't help the people of northern Ontario, nor does it help the people of York Mills, my own constituency, who are struggling at this time.
Mr Bisson: I was listening to the debate on the part of the Conservative member, and he raised an analogy I thought was interesting. He used an analogy in regard to what happens within a family should the wage earner lose his or her income. What he was basically trying to say was that the wage earner couldn't do what the government is doing, which is spend willy-nilly and just get its way through the crisis by spending money it doesn't have.
I thought it was interesting because it's always the same, and I really don't want to use this tone. The position put forward by the Conservative caucus is what I guess you can term a simple message. The reality is that there are many families in Ontario that are in exactly the situation the member talked about of not having an income, but certain bills remain: If you lose your job, you still have to pay your rent, you still have to pay for your groceries, you've still got to pay your Hydro and, yes, you still have to pay your phone. Some would argue, "You can do without that, because it's not a necessity," but how is somebody going to get hold of you for work if you haven't got a phone?
The point I'm trying to make is that there are certain necessities the government, like that family, must maintain in time of a recession. To suggest for one second that the government, like the family, would turn around and say, "Listen, you can't have a deficit in a time of recession; you must come in at 0%," and actually legislate that kind of stuff, would hamstring the government, to the detriment of the people of Ontario, or the people of whatever jurisdiction would be responsible, because in the time of recession that family has to pay those particular bills. They can't go to the grocery store and say, "I'm not paying for my groceries today because I'm not working." They can't turn around and say, "I'm not going to pay my rent." If they do that, they get evicted.
We, like that family, must maintain those essential services so that the people of Ontario do not go through the hardships they would if we were to do exactly what you ask us to do, which is to say: "Forget that there's a recession on. Bring in the budget at 0% increase and don't have any increase." It would be an ideal thing, but you cannot do it. The hardship would be too terrible.
Mrs Caplan: I would like to comment on the remarks of the member for York Mills and perhaps ask him the question of whether he agrees that the first and probably one of the most significant mistakes of the new NDP government over a year ago was to increase the rate of government expenditure to an all-time high, at over 14%, in the first budget and, more specifically, to increase public sector wages by 5.8%. That had the effect, in my opinion, of raising expectations throughout the broader public sector by teachers, municipal workers, hospital workers, university employees and so forth of high wage increases.
When the member for York Mills says he's prepared to go out to people and say, "What services can you do without?" I suggest to him that we wouldn't have to ask those kinds of questions if the government had maintained spending levels a year ago, if it had contained wage demands at a time when we were entering a recession and the economy couldn't support and sustain those kinds of wage increases.
Wouldn't he agree that those teachers and municipal workers and nurses in hospitals who are being laid off are a direct result of the misguided fiscal policies of the NDP in its first budget a year ago, and that at this time now, as we are dealing with gasoline tax, it is to pay for many of those misguided fiscal policies and wage policies of a year ago? Wouldn't he rather be able to go to his constituents and say, "We don't want to have to cut out anything except government's wasteful expenditures, not needed and important services"?
Mr McLean: I want to comment briefly on the remarks made by my colleague from York Mills. I want to direct my comments to this bill we're debating, Bill 86, the Gasoline Tax Act. The Minister of Transportation has to be very disappointed in the budgetary polices of the government, because the revenue side of the gasoline tax, fuel tax, vehicle and driver registration fees totals some $2.6 billion or a little better, and the government sees fit to allow the ministry to spend about $850 million. We have a difference here of almost $2 billion that is taken in by the government in revenues through the gas tax and those taxes I had indicated and only $850 million goes back out to repair the roads. So is it any wonder the roads in the province are in the state and the condition we see today? How come we're not fast-tracking the twinning of Highway 11 or Highway 400 north to Sudbury?
The Treasurer does not have his priorities right when he cuts back the Ministry of Transportation, which raises all these funds that go into general revenues. This gasoline tax is supposed to be going to build roads. The budgetary policies of this government are wrong. They are increasing the debt in order to try to see fit to carry on governing this province in a way that most of us will pay for in many years to come.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I was very much impressed this afternoon by the presentation of my colleague the member for York Mills. He talked about the increase in gasoline tax as something that's going to be very damaging to our economy and already has been: 1.7 cents per litre twice, 3.4 cents in total, a 10% increase in the tax. He talked about the concern in rural Ontario, northern Ontario and the tourism sector with respect to tax increases like this one and including this one.
There are a number of different taxes that have been increased in the last year and a half by this government, and not just tax increases. We find the fishing licence for non-residents is going up to $45. The price of beer has gone up, the price of gasoline is going up. All of these increases send a signal to our potential tourist customers that Ontario is not the sort of place they want to come to. We have a very expensive product and we're making it more and more expensive as we go, so this sort of thing is going to be very damaging to our tourist sector.
In rural Ontario we don't have access to extensive transit systems, so we have no choice but to use our cars. Many of the people in my riding drive older cars. They have less fuel-efficient cars and they have no choice but to buy gas. So this tax once again kicks them in the teeth.
I am very disappointed in the presentations that have come forward from the government side this afternoon. They've continued to justify this tax increase as absolutely inevitable, when, as we know, if they would only limit their spending, as our party has calculated, to 1% this year, we wouldn't have to be seeing any tax increases. In fact, we could have seen a tax cut of $1 billion. So once again we see the government in a rather pathetic attempt to defend its taxation policies.
Mr Turnbull: I would comment briefly on my friend the member for Cochrane South. He seems to have missed the point. I was not suggesting that in one fell swoop we reduce the deficit to 0%. What I was saying is that we have to slowly get into balanced budgets. We must; it's essential, but you're not going in that direction at all. If we had seized the opportunity this year we would have had the potential for a reduction in taxes of $1 billion, instead of an increase of $1 billion.
The member for Oriole suggested that the NDP was at fault, but I have to say that it was the Liberal government that increased the spending. In the best years we've had in the last 50 they ran a deficit. We understand that you might run some deficit in bad times, but the Liberals added $10 billion to the deficit. That is something you inherited. We know that; we accept that; but don't emulate the doing so by the Liberal Party. Let us make sure you're going in the right direction.
The only way is to start spending more wisely. Some of the ways this government is spending are totally misplaced. You should've put a cap on the transfer agencies. You gave them a 1% increase. You should have capped their wages, because it's the only way, when you're downloading like that, that you can control local taxes. Unless you control that, we're going to see huge property tax increases. It's your fault. There's nobody else to blame. You've been in opposition for so many years blaming people, but this is on you. You are increasing property taxes, whether you like it or not. You missed the boat on this budget, as you did on the last one.
Mrs Caplan: A point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: The member for York Mills has suggested that the information I gave to the House was not truthful. In fact, it was truthful. The Liberal government ran balanced operating budgets, and for the member to suggest that is not true is an affront to me personally.
Mr Bisson: We are finally getting to the end of the debate on last year's budget bill in regard to the gasoline tax, Bill 86. I'm glad to see that the opposition wants to move this along speedily. If you give me the time, I'll take only about five minutes.
I thought it would be remiss of me not to get up and say just a couple of things on this in order to put it into perspective. We've sat in the House -- for those people who have tuned in and been watching us on the parliamentary channel for some two or three days -- to talk about Bill 86, a bill in order to increase the gasoline tax last year.
I want to make a couple of points very quickly. The first thing is that the role of the opposition obviously is to take a look at what the government's doing and make sure we do it on the straight and narrow. That I buy. Our government, the NDP, sat in opposition for many years and did that with such finesse that one day we found ourselves in government, I guess. It was part of the thing.
But for the opposition to sit there -- I have a problem with this -- and say that we shouldn't have raised those particular taxes, we should've left the taxes alone when it comes to gasoline, I think is fairly interesting in light of the record of both the Liberal government when it was in power and the Conservative government when it was in power. They had no remorse whatsoever in raising gasoline taxes to the point that -- everybody remembers what they were paying for gas; in 1981 we in the north were paying somewhere about 4.6 cents a litre for regular unleaded gas -- we find ourselves today at 17.7 cents a litre just in the taxation portion of what we pay for gas.
Of the move from 4.6 cents in 1981 to the 17.7 cents we find ourselves with in 1992, the NDP is responsible for roughly about 1.5 cents. For both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party to stand in this House and chastise the government of Ontario for raising the retail sales tax I think doesn't stick with the people of Ontario, because the people of Ontario remember. They don't have short memories. They were driving and going to the gas pumps for years in the 1970s and the 1980s as they watched these taxes go up.
Yes, they will also remember the NDP government, because we did raise gasoline taxes by 1.5 cents per litre. But the point I am making is that for the opposition parties to sit there and take the position that if they had been in government they would've never done this, I think is somewhat -- I'm not going to say it because I'd be ruled out of order for being unparliamentary, but I think you can get my general drift.
What's the old saying? Those who have not sinned can cast the first stone. I don't think there's anybody in this House who can do that. It brings us to the whole discussion about taxation. The increase of roughly 1.5 cents per litre in gasoline tax last year was done for a reason. Sure, everybody in Ontario, including people from the steelworkers' halls to the Canadian Auto Workers' halls to the corporate executives on Bay Street, would not like to see any new taxes. There's no question about that. Of the 130 members who sit in this Legislature and represent the people from their ridings, none would like to see new taxes.
But the reality is that there are services for the people of this province that were put in place by the Conservative caucus when it was in government for some 40-some-odd years. Many of those services are very good ones and very good programs that were put in place to serve the people of this province. The Liberals, in government for five years, also added services for the people of Ontario.
What happens? Those things cost money, and because they cost money we have to pay the bill. You just cannot turn around all of a sudden, when you have moved from expenditures of some $30 billion back in the 1980s to where we're at $50 billion because of the new programs that were put in place by both the Conservative and Liberal governments and us, to a certain extent, and also take into account that there have been a lot of inflationary cost increases to all these programs, and say, "You can't go out and tax and you can't go out and get money in order to pay for these things," because the converse is that you'd have to take them away.
I don't see anybody in my constituency -- I think the 130 members who sit here could say the same -- who would come in and say we don't need those particular services. What people say to members is, "We want you to manage judiciously." There is no question, but I think we can talk about that at greater length in another debate, because it would go away from the subject of Bill 86. The point I'm getting at is that you just don't get to the point of saying all of a sudden: "Boom. Take $10 billion out of the budget and don't worry about how you do it, because it can't be done that way." It does take some time to manage the cost of government, and I would ask people to look at their own experience of being able to manage within their own households with the funds they have.
The whole question of taxation of gas I guess is interesting because most people in this province are drivers and most of these drivers own their own automobiles. Every day, every two days or every week we need to go to the friendly gas station on the corner. We've got to pick up gasoline at those pumps because that's what fuels our cars. We, the 130 politicians who sit here, understand that every time the taxpayer goes to fill up his gas tank he sees more taxes and somehow gets upset. I think all of us at one time probably got upset going to that same pump, but I come back to the point that we must pay for those services.
I want to just touch on one thing very quickly on the expenditure side. One of the members said in a previous debate that we really missed a golden opportunity: the government could have come in and capped wages and done a varied amount of things in order to keep expenditures down so that we didn't have to put a gasoline tax on last year.
The reality is that when you look at the experience of what happened with wage controls back in the 1970s, yes, we managed over a short period of time by capping the wages of the public service, and that transcended into the private sector to keep those collective agreements down and keep the raises down. There's no question about that. That happened for a couple of years.
But let's think back to what happened once the wage controls came off. Workers came back with a vengeance and said: "Listen, I had to take the brunt of this thing for two years. Now it's my chance to go back to try to make up the losses that I had."
The point is that we must deal openly with our people in the workplace in order to try to find ways of finding solutions to very difficult problems. Collective bargaining, at its best, is a difficult target at times, but we must work together in order to get there.
I'm not going to say any more on this point. I think I've gone about as long as I'm going to go on this. The only point I want to make is that for a member of the opposition to stand in this House and preach through the assembly to the people of this province that if it were the government it wouldn't have done this as far as raising taxes on gas as we did in the 1990-91 budget, I think is not quite fair. They only need to look at their own record, because they both formed governments and went on to tax increases.
The Conservative government raised gas taxes four times per year from 1981 to 1985. They went from 4.6 cents a litre at the beginning of 1981 and boosted it up to 5.4 cents by the end of May. By July 1 they had it up to 6 cents a litre as far as tax, by the end of October to 6.3 cents, and the list goes on. It's a litany. Every quarter they would raise the price of gas by some half a cent a litre, one cent a litre, just creeping up there to bring the price up, hoping people wouldn't notice. But I think people did notice.
Then the Liberals will stand and say: "We were better, we would never do that in a time of recession because in a time of recession you don't add new taxes. If you do that, it will scare the economy." If you take a look at it, in a time of recession they did the exact same thing.
The Liberals came to power in 1985, if my memory serves correct. The tax on gas in 1985 when the Liberals came to power was eight cents per litre. That's what we were paying for one litre of unleaded regular gas. By the time they came out of office in 1990 the tax on gas was 16 cents a litre for that same litre. It had doubled in five years of Liberal government.
So to sit here and chastise us on this, I think, is somewhat hard to take, not only as a government member but also as a person who lives in this province as a citizen. Nobody on this thing is squeaky clean. I'll put it as bluntly as that. With that I'll give the floor, if anybody has any questions, and I would end debate at that point. I urge us to get on with this bill, to pass it at third reading and move on with the business of Ontario.
Mrs Caplan: The comment I would like to make is that the member for Cochrane South seems not to understand the criticisms that have been brought forward by members of the official opposition to the government's fiscal policy. I bring his attention to pages 88 and 89 in this budget. The concern we have is that the trend of government expenditure as a percentage of GDP -- as the trend of the total debt as a percentage of GDP -- is going in the wrong direction. My concern is that we have a pattern of both expenditure and debt financing by this NDP government which runs totally contrary to governments, both Conservative and Liberal, in the past. This budget document shows that trend from 1983-84 right through the budget plan of 1992-93.
I'd point out further to the member that in the following statement at the end of the budget the Treasurer has in fact acknowledged that the trend is more than worrisome, it is a real concern. In the debate of this gasoline tax it is exactly that concern we are expressing and I am expressing, that this government's expenditure pattern began 18 months ago with a 14% expenditure increase; has resulted in the kind of trend which has caused us to see a reduction in our credit rating, and has resulted in the kind of trend which has created concern in the investment climate, the business community and those who would look to Ontario as a safe and secure place for future investment.
Mr Turnbull: The member for Cochrane South seems to have missed the whole flow of this discussion we're having. He talks about Liberal and Conservative governments having raised taxes in the past. We did. We probably raised them too much. I wasn't around here so I wasn't to blame. Nevertheless, what you're missing in this is that taxes are cumulative. The tax increases you are bringing in now are on top of the existing tax increases that both the Liberal and Conservative governments in the past have raised. You are still raising those taxes, so you are doubly guilty.
We see a reduction in the credit rating simply because the bond rating agencies do not have confidence in the way you're conducting your government, and I go back to the inflation you speak about that you have to adjust for in gas prices. Inflation, to a great extent, was fuelled by governments in both the 1980s and now. As a matter of fact, the only inflation that's in the economy is from governments. We have a very low inflation rate this year. This year's budget deficit, your increase in revenues, is two and a half times the inflation rate, so governments are causing that inflation.
Don't talk to us about the fact that you need to increase to adjust for inflation. This is not an adjustment for inflation, this is a cumulative amount of taxes you are gathering. Maybe the Conservatives were bad and the Liberals were bad, but you are now the government and you have the responsibility to react to that, and don't say, "We're fixing it," by raising taxes. That isn't addressing the issue. It misses the fundamental question of taxation when you suggest that we were raising taxes. Yes, but you are raising them on top of that.
Mr Perruzza: Once again, I have a bit of pleasure to be able to participate in this debate. Once again, I want to reiterate how difficult it is to participate in any tax debate. I would urge some of the opposition members, both the Liberals and Conservatives, to remove the mothballs from their ears because obviously they're not listening.
I think I can speak for all members of the House that when we talk about taxes and when we talk about the issue of raising taxes each individual member of this place would strongly oppose any increase in any tax measure. Obviously it is a very difficult thing to do, but you have to live within certain fiscal realities. One of the realities in the province of Ontario right now is that there's such a dramatic drop in revenues that in order to sustain any kind of program or any level of programming, you obviously have to look at the tax side of the equation and look at it seriously and try to do the least amount of damage possible when you try to address those very specific tax issues.
Again, I want to point to a fallacy, the myth that Conservatives and Liberals -- especially from what I'm hearing today, and they're pointing the fingers. Their traditional answer to this kind of a debate is that they level accusations at the government. But I look at other Conservative governments, at municipal levels, at school board levels, and quite frankly they raise taxes and then lay the blame at someone else's doorstep.
This has been a Conservative and Liberal trend, not only from province to province to province, but from municipal school board governments, provincial governments, the federal government. Quite frankly, I think we should all accept a little bit of the blame.
Mr Stockwell: When we debate tax increases and revenue sources, there is a certain inevitability that the government members offer. Why is the inevitability offered? Well, when you look at a P&L from every business, major corporation or government --
Mr Stockwell: When you examine a P&L, you have to ask, "Why is this revenue needed?" and you will automatically go to the expenditure side of a P&L and you'll look at spending. If you examine spending from this government, you'll see that 18.5% increase in spending in two years compounded probably over 20%, so that's where the insatiable need for revenues comes from. You can't increase spending by some 20% in two years without a direct need for more revenue.
There are only two sources of revenue: You either raise taxes or licences or you acquire debt. Those are the only two ways government has of getting revenue. So where does the problem begin? It all begins back on the spending side. If you weren't increasing spending by over 20% in two years, you wouldn't need to generate the revenue, and you generate the revenue through taxes or increases in deficit. It's a very simple process that all businesses understand and accept and householders, any householder. It's kitchen table economics.
Mr Stockwell: A mortgage is a capital expenditure. You borrow for it, understood, but you pay it off. These deficits aren't paid off, they're accrued. You pile on top of deficit after deficit. The final analysis is that you have to raise the taxes. You have to increase the taxes or your debt because they can't stop spending.
Mr Bisson: Just very quickly, first of all, I'll start with the member for Etobicoke West. The member talks about in business what you do is look at the expenditure side whenever you start getting in a position where you are losing your profit or you are getting into a deficit situation. Yes, that is an exercise you go through within a business, that you obviously look at the expenditure side. That is why this government has looked at the expenditure side and is keeping on looking at it and working at it, and up to this year we have found $3 billion in savings in the government operations. That is a significant amount of money.
Mr Bisson: The point is that you also look at your revenue side if you're in business. You take a look at, "How much can I raise it and how much will the market bear?" That's what you sit down and you take a look it, and if you make the determination that the market won't bear it, you take a look at the revenue side. You look at the expenditure side, no question --
Mr Bisson: The member for York Mills raised a very interesting argument. People come into my constituency office and they ask me, "How come the Conservative Party puts forward such simple ideas to what are supposedly complex problems?" "They don't make any sense," they tell me. This is one of these cases. He says somehow we are doubly sinful because we have raised taxes on gasoline and we shouldn't have done it because other governments have done it before. Because other governments have done it before, for us to do it is somehow double jeopardy for us. What an argument. Where that comes from, I really cannot fathom.
On the member for Oriole, I've got a couple of seconds left. She spoke on issues that I didn't raise in the debate, so I will reserve comment on whatever she had to say to another debate. But again, he who has not sinned can throw the first stone. Everybody who has been in government in this House has done the exact same things, but they did it with a vengeance. All we did is one and a half cents.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): This debate has gone on for some time now and it's my hope that I'll be able to contribute something a bit different. I think for those people who are just joining us, it might do well for me to remind them we're talking about Bill 86, the Gasoline Tax Amendment Act. That's a piece of legislation which increased the taxes on our gasoline by 1.7 cents per litre effective April 30, 1991, and another increase in the same amount effective January 1, 1992. The net result was a 30% increase in the gas taxes.
The perspective I want to take at the outset is one which deals with the wording with which this tax was introduced to us. Some of the most powerful people in politics today are the wordsmiths, those people who know how to pick the right words, put them in the right order and thereby increase the comfort factor for the listener or the reader, notwithstanding the facts. I am sure you will agree that's a very powerful art.
I want to look at the words that were used in introducing this tax to us in the budget of April 1991. In here it says, "To promote greater fuel conservation, we are increasing the rates of tax on gasoline and diesel fuel immediately by 1.7 cents per litre and by an additional 1.7 cents on January 1, 1992."
Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think the people in the House would like to hear the comments by the member for Ottawa South and I do not believe at this point in time we have a legal quorum.
Mr McGuinty: I was saying that it is interesting to note the wording that was used in the 1991 budget, where it's stated, "To promote greater fuel conservation, we are increasing the rates of tax on gasoline and diesel fuel immediately by 1.7 cents per litre and by an additional 1.7 cents on January 1, 1992."
It goes on to say: "We wish to be sensitive to the recession -- which is why these increases are in two stages. But the message is clear: We want to encourage the efficient use of energy." It then goes on to provide, "To reinforce the environmental message, I am announcing changes to the gas guzzler tax rates as of July 1, 1991."
I think the key wording in here for our purposes, in terms of the argument I'm about to make, are the words, "To promote greater fuel conservation." It goes on to say, "But the message is clear: We want to encourage the efficient use of energy," and then, "To reinforce the environmental message." The thrust of these words, of course, is to colour this tax, so to speak, as a green tax.
I think in so doing we're getting into an area here that is fairly controversial. Many people in the marketing industry now are colouring various products, labelling them somehow as being green, as being beneficial to the environment, in the hope of capitalizing on the genuine and sincere interest our public has in promoting products that are beneficial to the environment, or at least not overly harmful.
The Treasurer would have us believe, essentially, through that wording that the reason he's introducing this tax is for the good of the environment. A couple of questions arise from that: Surely, if that is in fact the case, how many of these revenues are going to be dedicated specifically to environmental programs? I think the answer to that is very clear: none. Furthermore, we can ask, what studies did the Treasurer do with respect to these measures to ensure there were going to be some environmental benefits accruing from the tax? Again, it's my understanding that there are none.
I think it would be worth our while to look at a debate that took place back in December 1988. At that time, the then Liberal government had introduced a tax bill similar to this one, only it was introducing a tax by one cent and not the 3.4 cents here. I want to quote to you, Mr Speaker, some of the observations at the time made by our esteemed Treasurer of the day. I'm quoting from December 7, 1988.
He says: "If this government wants to make some impact on the environment in a positive sense, let it do so but not under the guise of an environmental act that simply is designed to increase revenues from the long-suffering motorists in Ontario."
He goes on to say: "This is not simply we, as opposition members, complaining about this sales tax grab. It really is just an extension of the sales tax. It really has nothing to do with the environment."
He goes on: "This is not an environmental bill at all and for the minister to pretend it is -- if he were really serious about it, I would accuse him of misleading the House, but I do not think he is serious when he says it is an environmental bill and therefore I will not accuse him of misleading the House and the Canadian public."
"When I say I oppose this bill, I do so not simply because it is going to increase revenues to the government. If we are honest with ourselves, we know governments must raise taxes to provide the programs they deliver, and I have no problem with that, but what I do have a problem with is when something is done under the pretence of something else, as in this case, for example.
"The Minister of the Environment said this is an environmental bill. That is absolute hogwash. This is simply a way of increasing tax revenues to the government, and the government is not doing with it what it should be doing."
I say those words were well spoken and they have just as much merit today as they did then. Of course, they come from a very reliable source, our esteemed Treasurer. He obviously at the time was advocating honesty with respect to the imposition of taxes and essentially said, "If you're going to tax people, then don't pretend you're doing something else."
I want to quote a couple of other passages arising from that debate, one from the member for Lake Nipigon -- I want to take advantage of his presence here -- and one from the member for Rainy River, the Attorney General. Again, these arise out of a debate relating to Bill 121, introduced in a budget of 1988 by the then Liberal government, where they were increasing tax on gasoline by one cent. Again I want to quote some of the very cogent, capable arguments made by the member for Lake Nipigon.
He said, "I really take no pleasure in standing up today to talk about Bill 121, which is another systematic, deliberate and punitive measure to grab more money out of the consumers, especially those less fortunate in northern Ontario." A very capable argument, very well said.
"Where will it end? We are talking about a necessity, not a luxury. We do not have public transportation systems. Every time we go to the marketplace, we have to use the car to go shopping. We travel to Thunder Bay, in our case, for medical services. Every time we leave home, we take our car to go to work. We take our car to go downtown and check the mail -- while we still have a postal system. We go to Thunder Bay, we visit relatives, we drive back and forth. We are constantly driving. We should get a tax break, but we are not getting a tax break. We are paying $400 more a year on average to drive a car in northern Ontario than they are in southern Ontario."
"When we are talking about Bill 121, it is a very sad day for the people of the north. I share the feeling of many of my constituents that there was no need for this. It represents government at its worst. The government of the day will be judged very harshly because this does not begin to do justice." Again, very well spoken.
We should keep in mind that those arguments were made regarding a tax bill that was increasing the tax by one cent. Bill 86 raises the tax by 3.4 cents in addition to that one cent, and it is raising those funds in the context of a very severe recession.
"For those individuals who are engaged in the practice of logging transportation, or indeed any other kind of transportation in northwestern Ontario, this tax bill and this increase in the gasoline tax is a direct attack on his quality of life, his standard of living and his capacity to make a living. In that sense, it is a grossly unfair attack on people who have to earn their livelihoods in the field of transportation."
"If the government wants to help the environment, it should go after some of the paper companies and the mining companies who have specialized in polluting the environment for years and years. Do not go after some guy who is making the minimum wage plus 10 cents an hour."
"I say again to the government, the small business people who are trying to sell gasoline in many of the border communities cannot afford this gasoline tax, they cannot afford the unfair impact, they cannot afford to see their customers flee across the border to northern Minnesota.
"The government is simply taking money out of the pockets of those people who are already hard-pressed, who already have a hard time paying the tax bite that is there. It is simply robbing them of a quality of life, a standard of living, that is below the average of Ontario and a standard of living they already have to work too hard at, and devote too many hours of the day to to preserve it in any way.
Again, words well spoken. The issue, of course, is that that was then and this is now. I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, what has happened since that time? What kind of preternatural transformation do we undergo when you and I, Mr Speaker, move from this side of the House to that side of the House? Is there something about sitting on your right hand that somehow is a function of what we say and do, as opposed to sitting on your left? Is it sitting in government or in opposition that somehow we are expected to say different things? I'm not sure if that is acceptable any longer to the public, assuming it ever was.
George Orwell, in his classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, coined a couple of terms which I always thought were fairly staggering in their implications. You've probably read this, Mr Speaker, and are familiar with these: He talked about "doublespeak" and "doublethink." In that novel, the author tells us that the government, which controls the characters -- Big Brother is how government is referred to there -- is at war with one country one day and at war with another one the next, and the one with which it had previously been at war is now its friend. So something that was good suddenly becomes something that is bad and vice versa; something that was acceptable suddenly becomes unacceptable. Those transitions are not dependent on the facts, but rather the facts remain the same and that transition is based merely on the interpretation given to those facts.
I see some very dangerous signs of doublethink and doublespeak in this government. I'm going to relate a few of the issues. One of them of course is this gas tax. I've just highlighted for you some of the passages in an earlier debate in this House, back in 1988, when those members of the government were members of the opposition and decried the tax as being totally unacceptable and wreaking tremendous hardship on various communities in the province, particularly northern communities. That was one example of doublespeak and doublethink. What was unacceptable at the time is now today suddenly acceptable.
Mr McGuinty: I appreciate your direction in that regard, Mr Speaker. I think perhaps something that's a bit closer to the heart of the member for Lake Nipigon is that in the provincial campaign we underwent, the Premier indicated quite clearly, as did members of the opposition now sitting in government, that he was in favour of equalizing gasoline prices throughout the province or of regulating them in one manner or another. Of course it was advocated at the time, but now that they sit in government that is no longer the case.
In fact, they've indicated, I think quite rightly, that this would not be the proper approach to take; that is, to equalize. The fact of the matter is that the gasoline prices and the factors influencing those are fairly sophisticated. It's not as simple as saying we are going to regulate these kinds of things. Nova Scotia has provided us with an example in that regard, where that kind of experience simply did not work out. As a result, the government has decided to do away with that kind of regulation. In fact, at the time the regulation was in effect, Nova Scotians, as I understand it, were paying more for gasoline than anybody else in the country.
The tragic fallout effect of this doublethink and doublespeak is that they add to the credibility gap between politicians and the electorate. It just adds fuel to the fire. It tells our public, as far as it's concerned, that we're giving it more evidence of just how unworthy we are of its support, trust and faith. Of course, Mr Speaker, what it does to both you and I and every member of this House is interfere with our ability to perform our jobs.
Every time any one of us tells a different story when the facts haven't changed, then we end up not only causing difficulty for ourselves, if we ourselves have told that story, but causing difficulty for our fellow politicians, because most people don't distinguish between politicians. They don't distinguish between those who sit in government and those who sit in opposition, those who are members of one party or another, those who are members of different levels of government. As far as our public is concerned, by and large a politician is a politician is a politician.
If any one of us breaches that privileged trust we have with our public, then we all sooner or later pay for it. It's my hope in recounting those passages that all of us can lend our minds to the kinds of difficulties that arise when we say one thing in opposition and another in government.
Lest I be criticized as having opposed everything and proposed nothing, I just want, in light of fact that the Treasurer has made of this an issue as to this being an environmental tax, to highlight a few of the ideas that are floating around out there that in fact would be very worthwhile, I believe, for the government and the Minister of Energy to explore. These are different methods. I'm not advocating any in particular, but I'm recommending them all generally to the government for study.
One of the things the studies in the United States have shown is that half the pollution generated by motor vehicles is produced by 10% of the fleet, and that 10% is improperly maintained and tuned. Most of those pollution-generating cars are 10 years and older.
One of the ideas that has been adopted in California is a bounty program, and that's where the government pays a bounty on older, less efficient cars. If we were to consider doing that, then we would want to do it possibly hand in hand with a gas tax such as this one in order to fund that bounty.
The other thing we could be doing, if our sincere desire is to minimize the amount of damage being caused by motor vehicles to the environment, is to promote the use of alternate fuels. Of course I'm talking about natural gas and propane. We have electric vehicles, which are coming along quite nicely in terms of their technological development. There's even, I understand, a BMW being produced right now which is being fuelled by hydrogen.
The other thing we should be looking at is special lanes for car poolers. That's another program that exists in parts of California, which provides that we can in fact allow certain lanes to be occupied primarily or only by emergency vehicles and people who are pooling their vehicles.
Road pricing is another aspect, more controversial, which has been tried in Singapore and which is now about to be implemented in Cambridge, England. That's a rather fascinating one. That's where you're not charging for the car and the size of the engine but rather for the usage. It's one thing for us to charge a gas guzzler tax for someone who buys an automobile with a large engine, but if that person merely buys the car to drive to church on Sundays, for instance, then they're not really using it that much. So what we should be trying to target in many ways is usage.
This road pricing approach provides that when a car enters a certain portion of a city -- in Singapore there's a mechanism which is located under the hood, which registers with a beacon located at one part of the city and switches on the mechanism on the way in, and it switches it off when you leave the city. It makes a record of how much time is spent inside the core. The special charge is levied for taking your car into the core of a particular city.
The other thing we can do, of course, which has much to recommend itself to us, is simply promote bicycling. I know this government is presently reviewing its policy with respect to bicycling generally and its funding of bicycle lanes. Bicycling is surely a winner in all aspects. Not only does it promote health; it doesn't pollute and it doesn't cost much. So I'm certainly hoping that we'll hear more from that.
The other program that's in place, I believe in Vancouver and also at the present time in California, is an inspection maintenance program that provides that all cars up to 20 years old have to undergo a smog test every two years before they can be reregistered. These smog stations are privately owned. It also recognizes the fact that even a new car, if not properly tuned or calibrated, is as potentially harmful to the environment as an older vehicle, and therefore California has found that that particular program is a necessary supplement to any bounty program.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and/or comments? Since there are no questions or comments, further debate? I see no further debate. Concluding remarks by the parliamentary assistant. We're very close to 6 o'clock. I would ask the honourable parliamentary assistant to remember that.
Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): As announced in the Treasurer's budget of last year, Bill 86 puts into place the tax increases on gasoline and aviation fuel. Comments have been made during the debate on this bill concerning the related issues, which the minister has responded to.
Bill 86 also contains important provisions that parallel Bill 85, the Fuel Tax Act, concerning amendments to tighten controls on the sale of motor fuels in Ontario and set heavier penalties to eliminate deliberate tax evasion practices. Importers, exporters and transporters of gasoline, aviation fuel or propane now have to be registered and bonded. Those not registered could face prosecution, fines and possible jail terms.
By introducing amendments that will increase monitoring activities and penalties, we are adding to the efficiency of the tax collection and compliance system. In doing so, we will be increasing provincial revenue by millions of dollars a year.
I have just received a motion of deferral: "Pursuant to standing order 27(g), I request that the vote on the motion by the Honourable S. Wark-Martyn for third reading of Bill 86, An Act to amend the Gasoline Tax Act, be deferred until immediately following routine proceedings on Tuesday, May 12, 1992." It is signed by Shirley Coppen, MPP, chief government whip and member for Niagara South. The vote is accordingly deferred.