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Ontario Hansard - 01-October2009

TAXATION


Mr. David Zimmer: I move that, in the opinion of this House, in response to the current economic climate, the Ontario government should heed the recommendations of federal finance minister Jim Flaherty with respect to sales tax harmonization, and the recommendation of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario contained in their 2009 pre-budget consultation submission before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs with respect to Ontario's tax competitiveness, and implement a harmonized sales tax.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Mr. David Zimmer: The Ontario Conservative Party has taken, in my view, a duplicitous position on the harmonization of sales tax. It's duplicitous, it's disingenuous-

Mr. Michael Prue: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I do not believe the word that was used is parliamentary.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): Member from Willowdale, do you withdraw?

Mr. David Zimmer: I withdraw that.

Their current position on the proposed HST harmonization is a contradiction. It's in contradiction to their position for at least the last 14 years. Going back as far as April 11, 1986, then finance minister Ernie Eves, referring to the harmonization of sales tax: "[O]bviously it makes sense to harmonize."

Then we skip forward to June 7, 1995. Premier Mike Harris, in the Toronto Star: "It seems ludicrous to us to have two different" sales "taxes, two different bureaucracies to collect it and more paperwork." Then it continues on with the next leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario, John Tory, in a scrum on November 14, 2007: "The business community would say that the biggest thing to be done to assist their competitive position would be to have this harmonized tax because it would help them to buy, incent them to buy equipment and re-equip themselves to compete more effectively."

We have to ask ourselves why the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party suddenly, in the last couple of months, has done an about-face on that position that it has maintained for 15 years. It's not just those leaders that I've just quoted; the current leadership of the party and the current senior membership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus have, over that same 13- or 14-year time frame, right up to just the last couple of months, supported, endorsed and encouraged Ontario to move to a harmonized sales tax regime.

Jim Flaherty, the former Ontario finance minister, now the federal finance minister, said that the single sales tax "is the single most important step that provinces ... could take to stimulate new business investment, create jobs and improve Canada's overall economic competitiveness."

Jim Flaherty, Toronto Star, March 27, 2009: "I'm quite encouraged by the fact that the government of Ontario decided to harmonize the PST with the GST. This is jobs; this is investment; this is good economic policy."

That's very interesting. Now let me offer some quotes from the current leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. You see, I was trained as a trial lawyer, and one of the things that you do when you want to confront an about-face, either of a witness or in this case a political party, is, guess what? Confront them with their prior statements which are inconsistent with the position they take today in a courtroom or, in this case, the position they take in the Legislature.

So what's the most recent position of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party? Tim Hudak launches his leadership campaign, April 2, 2009: "You know, certainly we have called for business tax reductions for five years."

And, "Now, I know that some business leaders support the harmonized sales tax, and to be clear, I believe that there's little sense in allowing two separate governments to apply two separate sets of taxes and policies and collect two separate groups of sales tax." The leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party also made that same point, using the same words, speaking to the Economic Club of Toronto on April 23, 2009.

Mr. Hudak made an appearance before the Progressive Conservative Don Valley West annual general meeting, on March 24, 2009. He said, "You know, well, we understand that, uh, you can relieve some of the taxes on businesses, right? In the manufacturing sector, the problem with the PST is it cascades, so every step along the way there's tax on tax on tax, which raises the cost of goods and ... punishes exporters. So we understand" what we need to do to "help the economy."

Tim Hudak on Radio AM980, speaking in support of business groups that have said they want to see a harmonized sales tax regime, said, on August 13, 2009, "In some areas there's no doubt that businesses will say this is better for them because, uh, they don't have the cascading impacts like in the manufacturing...."

But it's not just the leader of the Ontario Conservative Party; the senior members of the caucus have also, over the years, pushed and endorsed the harmonized sales tax. Let me just run through a few of the senior leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus who are in this House day after day after day.

John O'Toole, speaking in Scugog on January 28, 2009: "I think (the province is) going to do it and I think it should ... be done."

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John O'Toole on a website, Staying In Touch, June 24 to July 4-he had an item on the website: "Most Ontarians have no difficulty with PST and GST being harmonized in order to help businesses avoid duplication and red tape."

Let's see what the interim leader of the Ontario Conservative Party, Bob Runciman, said in a scrum on March 24: "I think, in theory ... our party is supportive of ... harmonization."

In a scrum the next day, on March 25, 2009-so he had overnight to think it through, to see if he really meant it the day before, and he came back the day after and said, after an evening of full and mature thought, that he thinks "it's something that should occur," referring to the harmonization of the HST.

What does another senior member of the Progressive Conservative caucus, Peter Shurman, say? In a scrum on March 24, 2009: "If there's an announcement on Thursday that what we're going for is harmonization, I am not saying that harmonization ultimately is a bad idea."

The list goes on. Let me quote from a very distinguished senior member of the Conservative caucus, Christine Elliott, who has a relationship of sorts with the federal finance minister-

Interjections.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): Can I ask people just to settle down?

I think that we just want to calm the timbre down. Member from Willowdale, can you continue and not talk about the relationships of other people outside the House?


Mr. David Zimmer: The relationship of Christine Elliott is one of membership in the same political party as Mr. Flaherty.

Christine Elliott said, at a PC leadership debate in London, on May 21, 2009, "We would need to take a look at what the situation is when we take government in 2011." I think the question that was asked was, "Would she rescind the sales tax if they formed the government?" Not prepared to make a commitment.

Christine Elliott again in the debate on May 21, 2009, in London: "So it would depend very much on"-she hesitates-"there are many variables at play here and I don't think anyone at this point can speculate on what the situation would be in 2011."

So now you see that we're moving from strong endorsement of the HST, then a change in policy on HST-they're not in favour of it-and now we're moving to sort of a third position, where, if they did form the government in 2011, they're ambivalent as to whether they would rescind the HST or not. Talk about wanting it both ways-in this case, three ways.

I could go on and offer another hour or hour and a half of quotes from the senior leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. The gist of each of those quotes is that they have strongly, over the years-over at least 13 or 14 years-endorsed the rationale and have supported the HST. It's only recently, when this government brought forward the harmonization regime and has proposed it, that they've suddenly, overnight, changed their minds and opposed it.

So the question remains: Why would a responsible political party do that in the face of all of the evidence and in the face of all of the statements from the senior leadership of their caucus, former finance ministers and former Premiers? Why are they doing that? It seems to me that they're doing it because they know that it's at least getting them media attention. It's a media initiative. It's an attempt to grab the headlines. It's an attempt to create controversy. You know, that may be good for the Conservative Party, in the sense that they're getting ink in the press and they're getting on television and on the radio, but that's a very selfish reason. They should ask themselves: What is in the best interests of Ontario? What is in the best interests of Ontario's economy? And that is, we should harmonize the sales tax.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): The member from Nepean-Carleton.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It's a pleasure to be able to take part in the debate on the Dalton sales tax.

I notice that this motion by the member from Willowdale is craftily worded to drive a wedge between those who oppose the Dalton sales tax, but I won't be deterred in my assessment of his tax grab. Indeed, it's a facile and, I might say, farcical attempt to gain support for the Liberals' ill-conceived and horrifically timed $3-billion tax grab on the middle class and on seniors that Mr. McGuinty has locked us into for five years, with no ability to reduce the tax for two years.

As the revenue critic for the Progressive Conservative Party, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to focus on the particular line in the resolution, "and implement a harmonized sales tax," because I'm going to criticize Dalton's sales tax for the next six minutes. I only wish I had more time.

I might remind the member that since his government took office a few short years ago-I believe it was six-we have gone from first to worst in economic growth. We've lost over 300,000 manufacturing jobs, and for the first time since Confederation, Ontario is accepting welfare payments from the rest of Canada. We're a have-not province. Our taxes are the highest they've ever been in our history, and our debt and deficit are climbing at rates that would make Bob Rae blush. This is not the time to raise taxes, unless of course you are a government that cannot control your spending.

This government looks at every hockey mother, retired police officer and granny as its personal ATM. Indeed, while Ontarians are penny-pinching, Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Zimmer are nickel-and-diming them. How else can you explain their decision to add an 8% tax increase on home heating, Internet access fees, plumber and electrician fees and cellphone bills? And that's before I even leave the house. Then I'm going to find that they're going to increase taxes by 8% on landscaping fees and snow removal fees, and they're even going to find another way to tax the gas in my car. That's all before he takes another 8% from me on my mutual fund savings, my dog's veterinary bills, my Tim Hortons coffee and even my kid's soccer registration. And not only is Mr. McGuinty trying to tax me and the rest of Ontario to death; he's going to tax us in death. He's going to tax us in death. Funeral services are now going to increase by 8%.

This isn't even a complete list of the Dalton sales tax. Ontarians who are watching this at home can go to Daltonsalestax.com to find a complete list. They can even go to a calculator we've got to show them that this tax is going to cost them anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000 more a year.

And what about the bribe they're going to give you, the $1,000 bribe right before an election to offset the cost of the HST? What is that really doing? It's offsetting the cost of the health tax they told us they weren't going to bring in the first time they raised our taxes. Of course, the next time, they did.

Mr. McGuinty is trying to communicate this as good economic policy, as is Mr. Zimmer, but a $3-billion tax grab on Ontarians is the worst thing to do for the economy. This deal is so bad that even Mr. McGuinty doesn't, or should I say didn't, agree with the harmonization of taxes.

I have a few quotes for Mr. Zimmer. Let me share with you Mr. McGuinty's own words. I'm not sure if they let you know about his previous position, but of course he does have a record of flip-flopping from time to time.

He said in 1994, after speaking to Bob Rae, whom I think he now agrees with, "People have had it up to here and beyond when it comes to taxes." Then he said in 1999, before he became Premier of Ontario: "All of the information that I have received tells me that harmonization ... would lead to a net increase in taxes for the province of Ontario and for Ontarians. There's going to be a net loss here to the province of Ontario if we proceed with that harmonization, and that's why I will not go ahead with that."

Then he just keeps on digging that hole. Again in 1999, he said he "won't do it because it's going to come at an economic disadvantage to the province of Ontario. I can't see it happening unless our taxes go up.... In fact, we'll have a net loss. So I'm not going to be harmonizing our taxes."

There's more, but I've got to tell you something: I don't have the time; I have to split my time with my colleague the finance critic. But I wonder what's changed, and I'll tell you what's changed: Dalton McGuinty is broke. He doesn't want to stop spending. He just wants to take more money from us. And his caucus doesn't even like it. I'm sure a couple of anonymous folks over there have said this: "If they can't give me a 30-second sound bite on why this is a good thing to do, then I'm screwed"-that, says one Liberal MPP in the Toronto Star.

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Another, in the same paper two days later, says, "Voters are not stupid. People will figure out that we're bribing them with their own money." My favourite personal quote from a Liberal MPP is this one: "As soon as we say you're going to get a cheque, the reaction we're all getting is people are pissed. They say Ernie Eves tried it and it inflames them even more."

And even Mr. Zimmer's own constituents detest this tax. I just received this today: "We have been working on sending letters to our local MPP (David Zimmer) and to Dalton McGuinty. David did visit our condominium with a member of the finance department.... It was not productive at all. It showed us that the employees of the ministry are going along with Dalton's sales tax, deceiving the public as to the fact that this is helping businesses ... etc."

Mr. Zimmer, that e-mail comes under the category, "It inflames them every time."

I'm out of time, so thank you, Madam Speaker. We're going to continue to stop this tax.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): The member from Beaches-East York.

Mr. Michael Prue: Where do you go from here? You've got the pot calling the kettle black and the kettle calling the pot blacker: A pox on both your houses, because the reality is that the Liberals for years said they would never do such a thing and did it; the Conservatives said for years that they wanted it done, and when it happens, they don't want it.

I have to tell you, the reality is that only the people of Ontario know that this is a bad tax. They know that politicians will say whatever they want to say to get elected, if you're a Liberal, and they'll say whatever they can say if you're a Conservative to pretend that it's not your problem and you never thought it up in the first place.

I have to say, I am extremely disappointed in both of my colleagues' parties. I'm very disappointed in what they're doing, digging up all this stuff. Come and talk about what the tax is actually going to do to Ontarians. Tell Ontarians exactly what they are going to pay for now that they didn't have to pay before.

My colleague read some of them out but I have a list that I think might be exhaustive and I think-if anybody's watching-it includes: gasoline for your car; hydro and home heating; the Internet; veterinary care; newspapers and magazines; prepared foods under $4; personal care services; hair styling; professional services; legal and mutual fund fees; campgrounds; taxi fares; real estate commissions; ice rink rentals; dry cleaning; labour costs for your home renovations; car rentals; funerals; domestic air, rail and bus tickets; vitamins; new homes over $400,000; and commercial property rentals.

That's what's included. That's where the taxes are going to come from. You can say all you want that it's going to help business and I have no doubt it's going to help some business, but it's going to hurt consumers. It's going to hurt the very people who voted for you in the last election and the very people you told you wouldn't do it. That's who's going to be hurt. If you look at them and you tell them honestly, and look at what is going to happen, we know that with condo fees-and I've got a quote here from Murray Johnson, regional manager with Brookfield Residential. On condo fees: "When we ran the computer simulation of budgets we were able to consistently arrive at the overall 6.8% increase to the annual budget and thereby the monthly fees. We are somewhat reassured that our numbers are correct in that we have heard our major competitors have arrived at the same figures."

So if you live in a condo, you are looking at a 6.8% increase. I heard a question asked the other day, and what a question: Are rents going to go up? No, the rents can't go up and the rents aren't going to go up, but the cost to the people who own the apartment buildings are going to go up approximately 3%, and they are going to apply to have that rent increased. You know and I know it's going to happen.

David Murrell of the University of New Brunswick has done a study on this already, and he suggested that, over the next few years, Ontario consumers will pay $7.1 billion more annually. It works out to $1,560 per household. The consumers aren't being fooled. They know who's going to pay: They're going to pay. And it doesn't matter whether Jim Flaherty likes it or Dalton McGuinty was once opposed to it. In the end, the people who are going to pay are the consumers, and they are not going to forget come the next election. They are not going to forget what is happening here in this Legislature and what is being debated.

In fact, when we informed some of the 100,000 people who have signed our petition of the debate here today and what Mr. Zimmer was putting forward, we received literally 1,000 e-mails. I'd like to read a couple of them, because this is what ordinary people out there think of this whole debate.

The first one is from Sandy Allan. "My wife and I are both senior citizens; we live in a condo. If this tax goes through we may have to sell up and move into rental accommodation; our condo fees are high enough as it is."

The next one, from Joni Bottos: "Say no to HST! In today's economy, we should be doing all we can to promote commerce. The introduction of HST will only cause people to think twice about spending money."

Or how about from Richard Reilly and Euna Branch from Innisfil, Ontario, who said, "While I am aware of recent government deficits and the need for new sources of tax, I find that for retired persons such as myself, there will be a very significant increase in my cost of living, as much as $500, which I can ill afford."

Or how about Tanya Loeffen from Scotia Plaza: "In my opinion, by adding additional tax to services that are not currently taxed, i.e. haircuts, the government will do damage to the already rocky economy."

Or how about Gary Dinkel: "Another tax is simply unacceptable. As a senior on limited income, you will make everyday living even more expensive. I say no to this tax. Put yourself in our shoes."

Or how about Krysia Steinberg, who writes: "I cannot afford an additional increase in hydro, water, gas, repairs."

Or how about Cary Roy: "Once again a family that is just making it by will have to dish out more money to taxes, and once again the working class has to bear the brunt of the majority of the costs to implement this money grab."

I want to leave some time for my friend, but a couple more: "As a resident of Ontario, I am appalled that you would even consider bringing in the HST next year or any year for that matter.

"The people of this province are struggling enough to keep their heads above water. The jobless rate is at its highest and the welfare lines are growing and the food banks are empty....

"Shame on you!" from Maureen Fitzpatrick from Grimsby, Ontario.

Last but not least: "Please do not harmonize the GST and PST taxes.

"I do not appreciate the tax grab. Those of us working are already struggling with higher food and energy costs," from Karen Martini, from Mississauga, Ontario.

I've got lots. The time is limited. I just want to say that the people of Ontario are not being fooled. They're not being dragged into what Jim Flaherty wants, what Dalton McGuinty wants, what Tim Hudak said 10 years ago. They want not to be taxed in a way that this government is doing it, and they are telling this government that they are putting themselves at risk by continuing to do so.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): The member from Mississauga-Streetsville.

Mr. Bob Delaney: I want to say hello to Ontario, and especially those of you who are watching this at Heritage Square in Meadowvale.

Now that we're all together, I do want to talk. Once upon a time, a long time ago, in fact, it was back in 1961, a Premier of Ontario raised taxes. His name was Leslie Frost, and later that year, he was succeeded by a young guy named John Robarts. That government instituted a retail sales tax. I think it was supposed to be called the RST, but the government of the day was worried it would be called the Robarts Sales Tax, so it became known as the PST, for provincial sales tax. Way back then there was no such expression as, say, "service sector." Just to give you an idea: John F. Kennedy was in his first year as president, and the Chicago Blackhawks had just beaten the Detroit Red Wings for the Stanley Cup.

How many of us still live in the same house we occupied in 1961? How many of us still drive the same car? How many of us wear the same clothes we did in 1961? More importantly, how many of us still do business like we did in 1961? Now, those of you who are meeting with other seniors at the older adult centre in Square One might want to really pay attention to this. The Conservative Party in Ontario would have us continue to pay taxes like we did in 1961. Now, the rest of the world has moved on, it's modernized, and Ontario simply seeks to do the same. Since Conservative Premier Leslie Frost brought in the sales tax at 3%, and Conservative Premiers John Robarts and Bill Davis increased the tax to 8%, Ontario has changed and so has the world.

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Supply chains are longer. The service sector is a vital part of our business. Now, logistics and storage are a vital part of that supply chain. So what has happened to the Robarts sales tax that you pay at 8% every day? Too much of it, ladies and gentlemen, is stuck in the price that you pay. For example, all of the PST or the Robarts sales tax that you pay in a business on such things as furniture, office equipment, supplies, employee food, coffee and every single thing that you use in your business is stuck in your business. You have to pass this sales tax along in the form of higher costs. That extra tax burden amounts to between 2% and 5% of your total business costs. And who pays for that? You do. You do, if you're chatting with your sister on Bartley Bull Parkway in Peel Village. You do, if you're sitting there petting the cat in your den in Leaside.

Let me give you an example. Let's look at a typical supply chain. You have a bunch of suppliers who will supply a manufacturer; who passes his goods to a wholesaler; who puts it into a distribution channel which is the retail chain, the franchisor, the corporate store, the jobbers; who puts it into a retail store from which you buy it. Now let's follow the hidden tax. Let's say there's between 2% and 5%. Let's start with the suppliers: 2% and 5%. It goes to the manufacturer. Now, compound interest is a great thing to collect. Compound expense is a terrible thing to pay, but the Conservatives and the NDP want you to pay it.

Now, when we compound the 1.02, times 1.02, by the time you get to the manufacturer that's 4% to 10¼%. When it goes to the wholesaler, the tax stuck in your business is between 6⅛% and-wait for it-15¾%. When it gets through the distribution channel, it's between 8¼% and 21½%. By the time it gets to the retailer, the embedded tax in the price that you're paying is between 10.4% and 27⅝%. On top of that, you pay 8%, and when you compound that, that works out to between 19¼% and 375/6% that the Conservatives and the NDP say you should continue to pay and this government says, "All we want from you is 8%; we do not want between 19¼% and 375/6%." You can do the math. You'll end up at the same place that I did.

So let's get this straight. The Tories and the NDP want you to continue to pay a price that includes embedded sales tax of between 19¼% and 375/6%. Ontario's move to harmonize your taxes means that the price on so many things that you buy every day will go down, not up.

To my colleagues, let me quote what Ernie Eves said. Let's quote directly. "If the federal government can come to us with a proposal that will harmonize and at least be revenue-neutral in terms of its impact on consumers in the business community, or preferably from my point of view, save taxpayers money"-which is exactly what we're doing-"heaven forbid, then obviously it makes sense to harmonize." Who said that? Ernie Eves. He didn't say it after he retired; Ernie Eves said that while he was Ontario's finance minister.

Ontario will raise your benefits and cut your taxes. You get that? If you're flipping the remote on Squire Drive in Richmond Hill, Ontario will raise your benefits and cut your taxes. This province is going to cut your personal income taxes on January 1 next year, six months ahead of the introduction of the single sales tax. The Tories and the NDP are going to vote against cutting your taxes permanently.

You guys who are watching in the auto body shop off of Royal Windsor Drive in Oakville: Pay attention to this. Effective January 1, your small business surtax will be permanently eliminated. Ontario is the only province in Canada to do so. You guys are going to be able to grow your business better. But the Conservatives and the NDP will vote against cutting your small business surtax permanently.

To the lady who's doing her ironing in Humber Valley Village, you're getting a new permanent sales tax credit. Despite the long list of tax-exempt items and despite the price reductions that you can expect on so many of the products that you buy every day, this is going to help offset those things for those services whose price may go up. But the Conservatives and the NDP will vote against your best interests.

To the ladies doing their knitting nestled in their homes on the Queensway, your senior homeowner's property tax credit is going to be doubled from $250 to $500 on January 1, six months before the single sales tax comes into effect. You are going to be able to stay in your own home longer. But the Conservatives and the NDP are going to vote against that.

What it comes down to is this: Ontario is changing the way that we collect tax. We are not going to stay stuck in the year 1961. We are going to say this very clearly: It took the federal government some $4.3 billion to offset the revenue that will no longer come out of your pocket. That's the amount that's going to stay in your pocket beginning next year, which includes the conversion to a single sales tax.

For the people who are selling things to others, what that also means is that you're no longer going to have to face the complete insanity of one transaction being subject to two different taxes by two layers of government at two separate rates under two different sets of rules, where you deal with two independent sets of bureaucrats who often don't talk to one another. It's estimated that you people in business across Ontario are going to save some $500 million in tax compliance expenses.

My colleague across the way, Ms. Munro, the member for York-Simcoe, just finished a resolution in which she asked, "What are we doing to help businesses?" How about $500 million in tax savings? That's exactly what she asked for.

For those of you people who are surfing the net and switching channels in Brantford, just hang with me for another two minutes here. Across the world, some 130 countries and about 90% of Canada's population, when we implement the single sales tax, will all be in step, with much the same set of rules. People came into my constituency office, especially when I was the parliamentary assistant for research and innovation, and they would sit down with me and talk about the many advantages of doing business here in Ontario and say, "You know, you have so many things going for you," listing off our universities, our proximity to the United States, our abundant, inexpensive electricity, whatever. But then they would say to me, "Why in heaven's name do you people in Ontario still retain this stupid, idiotic, archaic way of collecting tax?" All I could do at the time was shrug my shoulders and say, "Because we've always done it." But now we're going to get in step with the rest of the world.

Should Canada choose to pursue its course in a free trade agreement with Europe, we then get access to that market, which is larger than our largest trading partner, which is the United States. To give you an idea of what size of a market that is, one US company alone, Home Depot, does more business with Canada than all of France. What kind of place do you want your children and your grandchildren to grow up in-a place that can't do business with the progressive economies in Europe and in Asia because our tax rules are so antiquated or a place that continues to be the most competitive, aggressive place to start a business, to grow a business and to enable people in our province to compete on a level playing field? The people who have been signing my petitions in western Mississauga who say, "We want to hear the whole story, not just half the story"-they're the ones who know that.

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I think what we're trying to say here is, if what you heard are the doomsday scenarios, say no to the half-the-story Tories. Ask to hear the whole story. That is the difference. Canada's population will be in step with the rest of the world, and only the Ontario Conservatives will be out of line.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): The member from Parry Sound-Muskoks.

Mr. Norm Miller: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to add my comments on this resolution today. Since it is apparent the McGuinty government isn't listening to the people of Ontario, I'm going to speak on the adverse impact that the proposed harmonized sales tax will have on three principal groups: the public, small business and the larger provincial economy. I'd like to thank my new intern, Greg Anthony, who's just finishing his first week, for his help with notes today.

First of all, the member from Willowdale used quotes from individual PC members speculating about a harmonized sales tax. I know that we quoted Premier McGuinty when he was a member of opposition. I think the true measure of what you intend to do is what you did when you were in government.

The PC Party was in government for eight years. For a good part of those eight years, the finance minister was Ernie Eves. The member from Mississauga-Streetsville quoted Ernie Eves, but I went and met with the past finance minister last week. I asked him about the HST, and his reaction was, "This is a tax grab by the McGuinty government." He told me how, when he was finance minister, he met with Paul Martin, then finance minister of the federal government, and made a proposal to him, which they carefully evaluated, and they decided that it wasn't good for Ontario.

Ernie's words to me last week when I met with him were, "Why do you think the McGuinty government wants to bring in this tax? Do you think they would be doing it if it wasn't going to bring in more tax revenues?" And of course, the answer is, "No." This is a tax grab by a government that's addicted to spending, a government that is wasteful in its spending. We just need to look at the recent revelations to do with eHealth-and it has been well-documented-with OLG and now with the WSIB's extravagant spending that's coming out. We know for a fact that this government has increased spending by some 60% over the time they've been in government, average program spending increasing 7.4% every year. They have to find new sources of revenue when their spending increases so dramatically every year.

The negative impact this tax grab will have on the citizens of Ontario seems to be obvious to everyone but the Liberals. A poll conducted by the government earlier this year found that nearly 70% of those surveyed were opposed to a new harmonized sales tax. It's an understandable sentiment, given the difficult economic climate. Ontarians are working hard, but with this latest tax grab, paid for on backs of the middle class and seniors, it will be even harder for people of this province to balance their finances. Ontarians are being punished at a time when they can least afford it because of the reckless fiscal policies of the McGuinty government.

Price increases on everything from heating oil to electricity, Internet services to haircuts will make everyday living for Ontarians much more costly. Condo owners will also be hard hit; their fees will be increased 7% to 8% if the HST comes into effect. This tax hike would also be applied to recreational facility rentals such as hockey arenas, baseball diamonds and soccer fields.

As a former minor hockey coach in Bracebridge, the idea of a tax hike affecting all parents whose children play minor hockey and other organized sports is simply unacceptable. The government should be encouraging Ontario's children to lead healthy, active lifestyles. Instead, they are imposing taxes that make playing hockey and other sports unaffordable to parents.

The riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka depends a great deal on seasonal tourism. I've had first-hand experience with this, being a former resort owner myself. With this new HST, visitors will be paying more for gasoline, lunches, golf fees and even their Tim Hortons coffee. The tax rebates and income tax changes will simply not cover all these added expenses, despite what the government has said to the contrary.

In the short couple of minutes or minute and a half I have left, I'd like to just illustrate two other points. One is that this government is imposing this tax on mutual funds. When I met with the financial industry, they told me we'd be the only jurisdiction in the world that would be taxing the management fees on mutual funds. That one change would be a $300-million to $500-million increase in tax for people: for seniors and for individuals trying to save for retirement. Ontario would be unique in applying this tax to the management fees on mutual funds.

I'd also like to point out in the short minute I have left that one of the sales pitches to business on this is that they can claim the tax back. They can have input tax credits. Well, on page 134 in the budget, you see "Temporary ITC restrictions for business," and then you find out that billions of dollars in input tax credits will be denied to business. So they're going to be denied. That's up to eight years. In year 3, it's $1.3 billion. Well, they won't get it back, and that will affect especially big business-businesses with sales over $10 million-on energy, telecommunications, road vehicles-all the sales forces-on food, beverages and entertainment. That's a hidden part of this, where one of the advantages for businesses will be denied.

Unfortunately, I'm out of time, but it's clear where we stand on this issue.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): The member from Parkdale-High Park.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Boy, oh, boy, are we being kept awake this afternoon in the House. We have Zany Delaney and his voodoo economics over there.

Let's be really clear here.


Mr. Bob Delaney: On a point of order, Speaker: The standing orders specifically state that members are to be referred to by their riding names. Nor may a member make an allegation against another member.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): The member from Parkdale-High Park, could you refrain from upsetting the other member?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Sure, I will.

Quite frankly, as a New Democrat-this is the adage: Liberals, Tories, same old stories. Here we have Liberals blaming Tories, Tories blaming Liberals, but the reality is, here we have a government that gave $4 billion away to corporations and has to make up the tax shortfall somewhere. They have opted, and everyone in Ontario knows this, to take it out of your pockets, if you're listening.

How have they opted to do that? It's called the HST. It is not a progressive tax-there is such a thing; it is a regressive tax. That means that those who can least afford it are taxed the most. Unlike progressive income taxes, where if you make more money, you pay a greater percentage of tax, this levies a tax on those who can afford it least, at the same rate as that on those who can afford it most. Thereby it is regressive, so end of argument there.

Will it help small business? Absolutely not. I would challenge this government to come forward with small business owners who say this tax is going to help them. That's not what we hear from the CFIB. That's not what we hear from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. That's not what we hear from the BIAs in our neighbourhoods. And that is not what we're hearing from thousands of e-mails: tens of thousands of e-mails from individuals, thousands of e-mails from small business owners, ones like this:

"I simply can't afford this. I'm stretched to the max. As a business person, I've seen how the HST has had a negative effect on sales in Halifax." That's from Deborah Clark.

"As a small business person who provides services to my clients, I strongly oppose the implementation of the HST." Cheryl Sellers on Oak Street.

I could go on. There are literally thousands of them. Why? Because they know it's going to hurt business.

Not only is it going to hurt business, but we are getting letters from condo owners who say they simply cannot afford what amounts to an increase of more than 6% in what it is going to cost them for their condos.

This is the worst possible time in the history of the economy of Ontario to levy a regressive tax on those who can afford it least.

One might ask-because we're asked, "Well, what about St. Paul's? What about the by-election?" Quite frankly, the impact has not hit and will not hit renters, single mothers with families or anybody else until next July 2010, and then stand back, because then, despite this government's attempt to bribe the electorate with the little $1,000 give-out just before the election, these folks will know because they'll be paying it out of their pockets. Of course it's not added onto rent. Of course landlords will download the extra cost, because they can. It's completely within their right to download the cost of utilities to their renters.

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This is absurd, and the attempts to justify it are absurd. At least stand up and say, "We need the money. We're a government running an outrageous deficit. We need the money. We're going after the people who won't come back at us at our fundraising dinners and blame us for it." That's the little people, the people in Ontario, not the big corporations-the corporations, who are friends of this government, who are getting the money from this government by way of huge, multi-billion-dollar handout tax cuts, not to mention the untendered contracts. Thank you to my colleague here.

Suffice to say, let's hear real justification of the tax. Let's hear the truth. Let's hear, "We need the money, and we're frightened to get it from the big corporations. We need their money to help support us and get re-elected. So we're going to hit you, the little people of Ontario," and the little people of Ontario know that. They know it. Small business knows it. Seniors know it. Condo owners know it. Everyone knows it except the people across the way.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): Seeing no further speakers, the member from Willowdale has two minutes to reply.

Mr. David Zimmer: I urge the voters who are watching this debate, I urge the voters who will read the record in Hansard tomorrow, who will read the reports in the press tomorrow, to pay attention to the position of the Ontario Conservative Party.

For 14 years, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party has called upon and promoted and urged harmonized sales tax, and that position continues. That position continues with the senior leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus.

In closing, I'm just going to offer three or four more quotes to drive the point home. If the people out there think that if this Conservative Party were to form a government in 2011 and they're going to carry through on their position today, which is no harmonization, that is just a pipe dream.

Tim Hudak, speaking to the Economic Club of Toronto on April 23, 2009: "I know that some business leaders support the harmonized sales tax, and, to be clear"-he said that for emphasis-I believe that there is little sense in allowing two separate governments to apply two separate sets of taxes."

Bob Runciman in a scrum, March 25, 2009: "I think in theory our party is supportive of the harmonization. In principle, we think it's something that should occur."

Peter Shurman in the scrum, March 24: "If there's an announcement on Thursday, that's where we're going to go on harmonization. I'm not saying that harmonization is ultimately a bad thing."

Christine Elliott, in the St. Catharines Standard-


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): Thank you. The time provided for private members' public business has expired.

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