14 MAI 1992 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
The House met at 1004.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr Wilson (Kingston and The Islands) moved resolution 9:
That, in the opinion of this House, the Ministry of the Environment should adopt a policy of composting at the place the organic waste is generated -- homes, schools etc -- as the most effective way of reaching our province's target of diverting 50% of solid waste from landfill sites by the year 2000. The policy should emphasize the need for composting to take place at source wherever possible, for two reasons:
1. It is more cost-effective as there is no need to transport the organic materials and as there would be less need to build central composting facilities throughout the province.
2. It also eliminates the ongoing contamination problem central composting facilities must deal with as non-compostables become mixed with compostables.
The term NIMBY has been coined to highlight the way we've been dealing with waste removal to this point. NIMBY of course means "not in my backyard." It means in somebody else's backyard. The problem is that once we do that, then we as individuals lose sight of the garbage we're creating and what is being done to deal with it. Certainly it is not helping us deal with the kinds of resources we have to save if we're going to have the kind of society we're trying to build.
One of my answers is IMBY. Just drop the "N" and you end up with "in my backyard" or at-source composting. I hope the debate on my resolution will show the need for programs to promote composting as near as possible to where the organic waste is created. I think it's clear the more backyard composting is done the more it will reduce the need for central facilities. In fact, we'll need smaller central facilities, which will reduce the problems they create.
However, let's first be clear on what we're talking about. Composting deals with organic wastes, which are food wastes from households, commercial establishments and institutions, yard wastes such as leaves and grass clippings and wood waste products. The Ministry of the Environment defines composting as the biological decomposition of organic waste materials to produce a stable humus or soil-like product. We have to remember that food is fundamentally soil and that it's one of the most complete recycling processes available to us. Once the food is dealt with, it can be decomposed and put back into the soil in a very productive and safe manner.
Composting isn't new. In fact, it's an ancient practice that many of us are familiar with through gardening. Either we've done it ourselves or members of our family have done it. That's how I was introduced to it, in that my father was a dedicated composter up in northern Ontario, which puts to rest the myth that this can't be done in cold weather. On an individual basis it's a very feasible manner of dealing with all kinds of organic waste. I think the important part there, though, is the example that is set at the home. In one of my proposals I'll be suggesting that schools also should look to composting at site, at the location of the school wherever possible, because again that generates the interest and, I would say, enthusiasm for composting.
A consultant's study in the Kingston area showed organic materials make up 40% of the waste stream. That finding is similar to the rest of the province. That's a considerable amount when we remember that Ontario's landfill sites receive over 10 million tonnes of solid waste annually. With numbers like these, the inclination is to look at central facilities to deal with processing such large amounts of organic wastes. However, I think it's crucial to remember that composting is essentially a low-tech activity and can be done in the backyard. If we put our emphasis there, we'll reduce the need for the larger facilities.
Some of the problems with the central facilities are simply that a place has to be found to put them and the larger they are, the more difficult it will be simply to find the space. But also there can be problems with things like rodents, because of the meat products, and odour. The importance is to keep the central facilities as small as possible; again that need will be met with more backyard composting.
There are more sophisticated models of this low-tech methodology, and they come very expensive. Not only do they have to be built but they also have to be maintained, and that costs a lot of money. Less sophisticated models are labour-intensive and that means there are training costs associated and you have to make sure you have the staff available to run them.
Canadian winters do slow decomposition, because it does require heat, or it works better in hot circumstances. So that will slow the effectiveness of the central facilities.
When there are contaminants in the organic waste, if you're not careful what goes into the organic waste, things like table scraps and food remains, then you'll end up with compost that can't be used in any but very restricted circumstances. For instance, poor sorting can mean there'll be plastic or glass in the compost that's left and that will cut down its use, first of all lowering the nutritional value of its return to the soil but also as a threat to grazing animals, which can of course cut themselves.
When high energy consumption is considered in the case of the sophisticated facility, the cost of processing waste has been calculated at over $100 a tonne, and that's after it's been collected. You can see it's not a cheap process. By comparison, a study in Durham region estimates the operating cost of the backyard composter to be $23.18. This calculation is based on free distribution and delivery of the composter, administrative costs and the cost of the study itself. I have a quote here from Ken Donnelly, waste reduction manager for the region of Durham:
"The cost of backyard composting is so attractive that municipalities should definitely be looking at giving composters to everyone in their jurisdictions. Costs can be recovered in a short time."
In my own area, the Kingston Environmental Action Project presented a cost-benefit analysis to the Kingston Area Recycling Corp. Based on giving every single household a composting unit, the analysis shows that the program would pay for itself in one year. As you can see, it's a very cost-effective way of approaching this severe problem.
The study also found that the estimated costs of collecting organic waste for landfill or for the central facility was $65, with the added cost for tipping fee, and of course in some areas, like my own, that is a very high amount at $150 a tonne. Then again there is the operation of the plant, which in the more sophisticated models is $100.
But the benefits are not just in waste diversion. By composting, you have an opportunity to add nutrition to homegrown vegetables. For example, the average Canadian family throws away every year as much iron as you'd find in 500 eggs, as much protein as there is in 65 steaks and vitamins equal to the contents of 95 glasses of orange juice. That's just in the potato peelings that family threw out.
Compost provides three main nutrients needed for plant growth: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Unlike commercial fertilizers, they're returned to the soil in a gradual manner that prevents burning and is a much more moderate and beneficial way of providing this nutrition.
I think most people understand how the backyard composter would work. Maybe when we get into larger units like schools and apartment buildings it's not quite so clear, but still that can be done. As I mentioned, in schools it's a very good way of encouraging our children to take this method seriously. For apartments, especially smaller units, several bins can be set up to take the waste and it could be returned to the apartment dwellers themselves for use in potting plants or else distributed in the immediate neighbourhood for gardens and for mulch.
It can be seen that this method would bring neighbourhoods together. Certainly in the apartment buildings where this kind of interaction occurred, it would bring the people from neighbouring houses together with the people in the apartments, but it also, even in neighbourhoods that are composed of houses, brings people together where they are composting as a group. Of course they would share their experiences and maybe their compost.
I think the most important aspect of this is that it puts the onus for waste control on the people who are creating it, and that is us as individuals. No longer can we afford to simply ship this out of sight where there's no indication of what happens to it. It will force us to take responsibility for the waste we create. I think, more positively, it encourages in us the idea of stewardship: that we are responsible for our natural resources and what we do with them. Certainly the most fundamental resource we have is the food we eat, and the importance of agriculture as a system and how composting fits in with the renewal of agriculture where we're losing billions of tonnes of topsoil. This is a way of returning that topsoil to guarantee that we will have a future.
I am pleased to introduce this debate on this important resolution and I look forward to what my colleagues have to say. I will sum up after that's over.
I welcome this opportunity to say a few words in support of this resolution put forward by my colleague the member for Kingston and The Islands. In simple terms, this resolution calls on the Ministry of the Environment to adopt a policy of composting at the place where the organic waste is generated, such as schools and homes. That is the most efficient way of reaching the province's target of diverting 50% of solid waste from landfill sites by the year 2000.
This policy should emphasize the need for composting at source because it is more cost-effective as there is no need to transport organic materials and less need to build central composting facilities throughout the province. As well, it would eliminate the ongoing contamination problem that central composting facilities must deal with when non-compostables are mixed with compostables.
This resolution highlights the fact that the environment and its protection and preservation continues to be one of the most discussed issues of our time. To an individual composting may seen very minimal, but if enough of us compost our leaves and kitchen scraps, it will make a world of difference.
My wife and I have a composter in our home in Orillia. By composting, we feel that we really do have a role to play in the preservation and protection of the environment for our children and our grandchildren.
While I support the principle of this resolution, I'm disappointed that it does not address the issue of excess packaging on the many products we buy each and every day. The provincial government should bring forward some form of responsible packaging act that would prohibit the use of materials that are environmentally irresponsible when alternatives exist. It should also be extended to serve industries such as fast-food outlets and dry-cleaners, where there clearly exists an immediate need for improvement.
This packaging reduction program could include a hotline for consumers to report bad examples of excessive packaging to bring the public and the government's attention to it. The goal of a program like this would be to mobilize consumers, industry and environmental experts to reach a target of 20% reduction in waste packaging by 1993 and 50% by the year 2000.
I believe Canadian municipalities could save as much as $50 million per year in collection and disposal fees with a 20% reduction in packaging waste, and I believe the price of the products we buy could also be reduced as a result of less packaging. This should have been part of this resolution. I'm disappointed in that aspect of it because I remember during the election campaign in 1990 there was a lot of discussion around the extra packaging we have.
Each year the world population increases and the amount of topsoil needed for food production decreases. Because the scale of these problems seems much larger than any of us or our communities, some people must realize they have only one option and that is to raise their hands in despair, but there's a role for each of us to play in correcting the problems. If we play our part right, we will ensure that our actions lead to a good quality of life for future generations.
Everything is related: recycling aluminum cans, reusing plastic bags from the produce section of the supermarket, substituting household chemical solvents with baking soda and composting our wet garbage. People must be educated that a conserver does not buy overly packaged goods. If you need a bolt or washer and you can only find it in packages or a half-dozen wrapped in plastic, point out to the store manager that you require only one and it does not need to be overly packaged. Point out that the item is made of metal and a plastic wrap will not keep it fresh or preserve its life.
I had the opportunity to buy a flashlight in one of the hardware stores not long ago. This flashlight had a string attached to it to hang it up with. For the life of me I couldn't believe why this was packaged and wrapped in the largest measure of waste I've ever seen. That light could have been hung on the wall with that string just as simply as being packaged and hung up by the package. That, to me, is what we should be aiming at here and I would love to have seen that as part of this resolution: to reduce packaging.
I know what our composter at home is all about and I know how much we've used. I know that packaging would reduce our landfill sites by far more than what composting is going to do.
So as I said earlier, I support the principle of this composting resolution from the member for Kingston and The Islands. It would not require the unnecessary expenditure of taxpayers' money and it would get everyone involved in preserving and protecting our environment. As I said, I hope in the future we will see a resolution in this House and I hope the Minister of the Environment will bring forward a resolution, as a government minister, to reduce packaging in this province, because I believe that is a major issue facing us today.
I want to thank you once again for the opportunity to speak at this time and I will be supporting the member's resolution.
He says he's disappointed there isn't more in this resolution about packaging and reducing waste. I want to remind him about Bill 143. Although that bill had a lot to do with the waste management problem in the greater Toronto area, it did have the regulation-making authority for the minister to reduce packaging and it also requires businesses to conduct waste audits. So I know that's going to address the issues he's raised.
I live in Essex county and, like most parts of Ontario, that's an area that's in the midst of a waste disposal crisis. The main landfill we currently use is located in the riding of my colleague the member for Essex-Kent, Pat Hayes, and it's scheduled to close at the end of this year. In fact, one of the alternatives to take the place of that closed landfill is also in the riding of the member for Essex-Kent. So this is a problem he is very seriously concerned about.
As a result of facing that landfill closing, it's been imperative that we've had to become very serious and pursue an active policy of reducing the amount of waste we produce, and also recycling and reusing. The Essex-Windsor waste management committee has been at the forefront of the pursuit of this goal. They've done things like ban the disposal of cardboard, wooden pallets and also automobile tires in the landfill site. They've also in the last two years sponsored a tremendously successful program of selling backyard composters. They've sold over 12,000 since they began that program and have a goal of 25,000 to be sold. That would cover approximately 25% of the households in the county. They've been encouraging the use of their composters through educational campaigns, demonstration projects at malls and attending at schools and things like that.
The most important part of this program is the price they're selling the composters at. They have names like the Barclay Soilsaver, the Earth Machine and one product that's produced locally called the Resource Saver. These are devices that would usually be sold retail for about $75 to $100 but, because of the Essex waste management committee's efforts and also through the support of the Ministry of the Environment, which I am very proud of, those devices are able to be sold for under $25. The result has been that over 400 truckloads of residential waste has been diverted from landfill.
I want to add that my wife Nancy and I have two composters in our yard. Last week my wife was telling me that she was cleaning out the composter -- of course, you know I'm not home often enough to help her as often as I would in doing these sorts of chores -- and how impressed she was at the quality of the material that came from the composter and how good it looked when she spread it around in the garden. So I know that if the Essex-Windsor waste management committee ever decided to start collecting organic wastes and take it to some other facility, it is never likely to get my organic waste as a result of what I've seen as a positive step from composting. I'm sure this is going to be similar for other people who have been converted to composting in their own yard and have been impressed by those results.
That concerns me about the prospect of having centralized composting facilities. This is the approach that, in fact, the Essex waste management committee is taking. They've discussed this on several occasions and it is their position that they really need to set up one central site to see how it works out before they even consider having smaller sites spread out in various areas of the city and the county. That is going to be enormously costly to establish. There are construction costs, collection costs and the trucks and drivers that would have to be provided. This would be part of a change in waste disposal and collection. It would involve actually having to pick up three streams of waste. There would also be the objections of people who may be located near this proposed facility.
This is one of the reasons I am attracted to the resolution that's been presented by my friend. He specifically mentions schools. Those have large areas of land around them and I know that in my travels through schools in the city there are quite a number of children who are very concerned about the environment. I think this is an area that we could really follow their leadership in. This would be an obvious place for reduction through composting and I want to commend my friend for bringing this resolution to the House and encouraging people to use their backyard composter. I know I am going to continue to do that.
My friend the member for Scarborough North has recently been visiting a few schools, particularly through the course of Education Week last week, as I'm sure many of my colleagues were. He noted that in virtually every school he visited, indeed perhaps every classroom in some of the schools, there were initiatives being undertaken by students who were doing such things as composting programs right in their schools, from the worm composting programs, which are very interesting, to the traditional composting programs we use as well, and putting it back into their own yards.
I was at a school last week -- I'll mention it and pay tribute to the young men and women at Williams Parkway Senior Public School in Brampton -- and they took great delight in showing me some of the projects they were doing in Education Week, not only in the science fair they had, but tying that in specifically with their environmental initiatives.
They happen to have an interesting group which calls itself the CAPE Crusaders. I think, Mr Speaker, you will give me the indulgence that normally we would use for private members' statements to pay tribute to the CAPE Crusaders. They came up with that little acronym. It's for Citizens Against Pollution Everywhere -- the CAPE Crusaders from Williams Parkway Senior Public School. They began with their idea simply by doing a composting project in their classrooms. It was delightful to watch them and see the enthusiasm they brought to that task. I say, as my friend the member for Windsor-Walkerville said, that I think we can learn very much from the young people, who are very sensitive, and rightly so, in terms of the world we are leaving them, and are challenging us to fulfil our responsibility in terms of the legacy and the stewardship of the world God has given us.
To the member for Kingston and The Islands, I congratulate you, sir, for bringing this forth. It is an opportunity for discussion and yet again promoting the concept that each one of us can do our share and do what we can in a local way that will ultimately have an impact in global terms.
It's been often said -- in fact, the member for Peterborough said this last week in a resolution brought in this House by one of our colleagues -- that what we do environmentally not only impacts us here, but has implications for men and women literally around the world. I think that happens for a variety of reasons. I think it becomes a process that feeds itself, if you will. When somebody does it, it challenges a neighbour and a neighbour does it. As you indicated, Mr Wilson, it brings people together. It's a positive opportunity, and we all know how much we need that in our communities and our neighbourhoods today. What better way of doing it than working on projects? It not only brings people together, but has a positive result that contributes today and for the future both in terms of waste management and the attitudes that are prevalent in our society.
Other people mentioned, and the member for Simcoe East touched on the issue, that you begin to develop a mindset, so that as people begin to take an initiative in one area, it spills over into other areas. Composting is relatively simple. In our paper that's published three times a week in my community of Brampton, I saw an advertisement that was taken out by the Ministry of the Environment. It had a stopwatch and it said, "In 58 seconds, you too can begin composting."
A very effective ad, and it says it doesn't take very much to begin it. It sets out the very basic steps of doing it. You need not have a composter per se. You can do it just in the open field or in your backyard. I think it's those kinds of things. This particular ad went on to say that you can spend from zero to "?" dollars in doing this. So it can be done for literally no money, making a very positive contribution. Or you can have, as our friend the member for Windsor-Walkerville has indicated he has, a couple of composters in your backyard. I think that's again indicative of the beginning of setting mindsets and attitudes that will drive initiatives in a variety of areas, packaging being but one of them.
I think that as we begin to do that, we begin to look at the things we do, the kinds of services we employ in our lifestyle, the kinds of products we use and the kinds of things we demand. But in our reasoning, I think, we often mix up our desires and our needs. I think we've lost sight from time to time in our society. We say we need things, and I think that as we begin to do things like composting in our homes, it challenges us to be a little bit more sensitive in a variety of areas in our lives in terms of our stewardship for the world we have.
I have said this in committee, my friend the member for Windsor-Walkerville being present: I'm challenged from time to time by a little five-year-old man, a young fellow. My son is five years old and he catches me doing things that I shouldn't be doing. Again, that comes back to what Mr Wilson is saying and the general philosophy that underlines his resolution today, that it's the beginning of changing a mindset and changing an attitude. Old habits die hard. If I can say this, at the risk of sounding self-serving -- I hope I don't sound that way -- I think I'm relatively sensitive in terms of environmental issues. Yet I get caught by a five-year-old doing things that aren't necessarily the best or the appropriate things to do. I used this example perhaps in committee. Forgive me if I'm repeating it to some of the people who might've heard it.
I recall not too long ago I was rushing out to some event and taking my son. I was quickly making sandwiches for him; I think they were tuna salad sandwiches. I had the can and I went to throw it into the garbage, a sort of instinctive reaction. I was rushing, I wasn't really thinking. My son picked up on it right away in the inimitable fashion of five-year-olds and said: "Daddy, you shouldn't do that. That's supposed to go in the blue box." In a sense, he chastised me, if you will, not in a condescending way but just the way that children do, by example.
I think that one little story is indicative of what you, Mr Wilson, are saying, that if we'd begin to do it we'd begin to alter our mindsets. It's an example for the kids. It becomes a lifestyle that's adopted by them.
One of the great ironies as well is that many of us -- I hope nobody will take offence at the fact that I'm going to include us all in more or less the same generation although there are people here who have come from different backgrounds and different lifestyles whether they be rural or different parts of the world -- most of us in this House are of a particular generation that got caught up in the lifestyle of the 1970s: that was really the throwaway, the convenience society. We got caught up in that. We bought into it, literally and figuratively. We're paying the price for that in many ways right now.
In some senses, by going forward we're going back. When you think back, in terms of my family, to my mom and dad as young people through the era of the Depression, they learned to maximize everything they had. They didn't have the conveniences we had. In some respects they were more, if you will, environmentally sensitive and environmentally advanced perhaps by necessity. Now we have an opportunity to do it by choice and by leadership. I think the member for Kingston and The Islands is bringing that kind of leadership to this place today.
I want to talk very briefly about how we can help people. I mentioned that the Ministry of the Environment was running an ad that I saw in my local paper yesterday indicating that you need not spend any money to have a composter. But some people would desire to have it for a variety of reasons. It might be aesthetic reasons or just for a matter of convenience. And there may be certain properties that don't lend themselves to having just an on-the-ground composting system. We've implemented a program that the member for Windsor-Walkerville alluded to where the Ministry of the Environment subsidizes the purchases of composters, backyard composters for residents in the province of Ontario.
In terms of the logistics of how that happens, I would urge those of us who work here and those of us who have dealings with the Ministry of the Environment to look for a system, as it becomes more accepted at municipal and regional governments, that is more consumer-friendly, people-friendly, if you will. I can only indicate without getting into a whole lot of detail that the Peel regional council had considerable difficulty in terms of implementing that program this year. I don't think it's appropriate, because it's old news. In fact, at the end of the day I think the matter was resolved to most people's satisfaction.
If we're going to do these kinds of things we should look at ways that would make it easier for people to access the product. I'm not putting blame on anybody in particular; I will simply say that the regime that was set up to implement the program created almost as many problems as it solved, to the point where many people kind of threw up their hands and said, "Let's not even bother with it" at the local level, not bother with the program because it's causing too much difficulty.
I would ask the member for Kingston and The Islands, who is obviously showing leadership in his caucus in this regard, together with his other colleagues who are genuinely very, very much concerned, to look at the implementation of the program that would help residents get their backyard composting. I'd be happy to share with him some of the details that cause problems, particularly in Peel.
Simply said, if I could sum it up in this way, I think we should leave it open for consumers to make choices -- and the retailers, if we are in fact going to work through the retail sector. It doesn't have to be in competition. It can be done in harmony with them. It doesn't have to be done at their expense. We can find a system, perhaps a variety of systems that are not seen to be in competition with the local store, whether it be our -- am I allowed to use names of various operators, Mr Speaker? -- friendly Mills Hardware or perhaps Morrow Hardware down the street. We wouldn't want to be in competition with them. We would allow them the opportunity of maintaining their businesses, yet giving them the benefit of the program and the subsidies that are available. I think they can be brought together and married, if you will, in terms of advancing the objective of the resolution and the intent of the resolution as put forward by the member for Kingston and The Islands.
There are a variety of ways of composting and we kind of touched on them very briefly in terms of the hierarchy. Certainly we want to do it as close as possible so we can each participate. I think therein lies the wisdom of the resolution brought forward today by the member, Mr Wilson, because as we begin to do it, I hope in some sense to reflect upon the sense that as we do those kinds of things, it generates other ideas and generates a sensitivity that spills over into our lifestyle generally. The member for Kingston and The Islands mentioned apartment buildings, how there are opportunities there to do things collectively and cooperatively on that level of community.
Having said all that, I think we have to bear in mind that there are commercial opportunities as well. Not to appear small-minded -- I say this and I hope it will be accepted with the sincerity I say it -- I would like to add a word to your resolution, Mr Wilson, and that would be simply to say, "That, in the opinion of this House, we should adopt a policy of promoting composting at the place the waste is generated."
I'm not trying to play word games here; we'd just get caught up in a semantic argument. What I'm trying to say is that at the end of the day there will be materials that will be left over that need to be dealt with on a larger scale, whether it be from the industrial or commercial sector -- I think of restaurants, institutions, hospitals, nursing homes and so on, and hotels, the hospitality industry generally -- so there would be an opportunity as well for commercial operation, where appropriate, in the area of waste management, composting being a component of waste management.
I just want to share or add that view, that I think that as we do it close to home, which is in terms of the hierarchy the appropriate place for us to begin to do it, and for each one of us to accept responsibility for ourselves and our families and then in our neighbourhoods, that does not exclude the operation of commercial enterprises, where it's appropriate, to deal with the broader community as well. I don't want to imply by any means that the intent of the member for Kingston and The Islands was to exclude that concept; I just want to highlight that as an option I think we have to keep open.
As well, though, we have to realize there are costs involved in setting up programs, but in my view and I think in the view of members here the cost-benefits far outweigh the dollars and cents, not only in the long-term return on dollars-and-cents value in the community but the value of what we have, the world we have to leave for our kids.
Again, I say to the member for Kingston and The Islands, thank you for bringing forward this resolution, for helping us to again revisit a challenge we each have individually. Every one of us -- pages, staff people, men and women who are working in this place as members -- has the opportunity to do something and we can begin by doing a very simple concept of composting at home, as you have indicated this morning. For that, I congratulate you and wish you well.
I note the resolution urges the Minister of the Environment to adopt a policy of composting at the place the organic waste is generated in order to best meet the province's target of diverting 50% of solid waste from landfill sites by the year 2000. The member points out in his resolution two primary reasons for this, number one being it's more cost-effective to compost at source and, second, it eliminates contamination problems that occur at central composting facilities when non-compostables become mixed with compostable materials.
I would point out, though, that my preference would be to ask the member for Kingston and The Islands to really work with the Minister of the Environment to perhaps bring in legislation around this issue rather than simply a private member's resolution this morning. While I am supportive of the resolution, I think it would have more teeth if the government were to bring in legislation similar to that of the principle contained in this morning's resolution.
I also think the NDP government should do more to promote the virtues of composting. It is difficult to force citizens of Ontario -- because they are the electorate, they are our bosses -- with a heavy-handed approach to compost, but perhaps the government could do more to promote the virtues of composting so that people will want to compost. They've done, as did the Liberal government before them, a number of things to encourage people to compost, but clearly more can be done in that area.
I want to speak for a couple of moments about the environment and landfill sites. One of the reasons I support the principle of this resolution is that it will perhaps do a little bit to take the pressure off landfill sites. Currently, as every member of this Legislature knows, there's tremendous pressure on our existing landfill sites, and I want to bring to the attention of this House once again the pressures we're experiencing in my riding of Simcoe West at the Wasaga Beach landfill site.
I want to give a little history on that particular site to the members. On November 1, 1990, the Minister of the Environment, Mrs Grier, granted the county of Simcoe an emergency certificate of approval which permitted six north Simcoe municipalities to dump their garbage in Wasaga Beach. This certificate enabled the county to operate the Wasaga Beach landfill site for a period of 18 months.
The minister did this even though she possessed studies -- and I raised this matter in the House on previous occasions -- which indicated that the site might have been environmentally unsound. Even before the minister signed the certificate, there existed a 1990 hydrogeological study which outlined that a trail of contaminated leachate had moved almost one half a kilometre from the Wasaga Beach landfill site. The minister went ahead and granted approval, even though she was aware that the dump was enlarged by 30% on land that was never previously used for landfill.
The minister refused to respond to four letters that I wrote to her and five letters that were written to her by the mayor of Wasaga Beach, Mr Walter Borthwick. In each letter we pleaded with the minister to do the environmentally appropriate thing and halt the additional dumping to the site until an environmental assessment was completed that showed the impact of this added dumping on the site.
The minister stood firm in her silence, I point out, and almost six months after granting the emergency certificate, the Minister of the Environment was quoted in a March 1991 edition of the Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin newspaper as saying that she was "hoping" that the county of Simcoe would provide hydrogeological studies measuring the impact of additional dumping at the site. She said, "I hope that the county will get going on this as quickly as possible...they have to submit (the reports) by the 30th of April."
It's shameful that after allowing an emergency certificate which permitted a sixfold increase without an environmental assessment, the minister could "hope" that a study was being done six months later.
Just to prove that some NDP ministers don't seem to learn from their mistakes and that the environment is sometimes dealt with more as an expedient issue rather than a priority, the Minister of the Environment has recently approved an extension of the emergency certificate for another 18 months. I note in a letter of two days ago, May 12, to the mayor of Wasaga Beach, the minister writes:
"The service area of the site has been expanded for an additional 18 months ending November 1, 1993, to include the towns of Midland and Penetanguishene, the townships of Tay and Tiny and the villages of Port McNicoll and Victoria Harbour."
Again, we have another expansion without an environmental assessment. They don't compost at that site either. That's one reason I want to relate this experience to today's resolution.
I want to continue, though. In granting the extension the minister once again reneged on a commitment to the environment. It's a commitment she made not only to me in this House but to Wasaga Beach council and the citizens of Wasaga Beach. In a letter of January 1992, the mayor of Wasaga Beach wrote to the Minister of the Environment:
"At the time of your meeting with us (May 1991), you will recall that considerable discussion took place with regards to the circumstances surrounding the county's expanded use of the Wasaga Beach site. Ultimately, I believe, we all agreed that, at that point, there was nothing to be gained by further hand-wringing or soul-searching regarding events that already had taken place. Instead council took comfort in your assurances that the landfill would not be expanded nor would the life of the emergency certificate of approval be extended, without the county of Simcoe proceeding through the normal process and having the Environmental Assessment Board hold a hearing under part V of the Environmental Protection Act."
The promised hearing was never held, yet an extension of the emergency certificate was granted recently. The town of Wasaga Beach relies on tourism, as all members know. It has become an innocent victim of environmental politics, because the minister has not exercised leadership on the environment, and the result is that North Simcoe has no motivation to resolve its environmental problems as long as Wasaga Beach is there to accept its garbage.
I also want to point out that the minister is again now promising that in the next 18 months there will be an environmental assessment. We aren't very encouraged by yet another promise, given that in the last 18 months no environmental assessment was done.
I want to point out to members that this particular site is very close to North America's largest freshwater beach. It has never had an environmental assessment, because it was established years before that requirement was brought into law. There's certainly very much a concern among the citizens of Wasaga Beach. I wanted to take the opportunity to mention that in the context of today's resolution, because I support the resolution in principle. It may take some pressure off existing landfill sites like Wasaga Beach, but I ask the member, in addition to the principle brought forward in his resolution today -- I know he means well -- to sit down with his Minister of the Environment and solve problems that exist at Wasaga Beach.
I think it's very important. The NDP candidate in that area said there'd never be an extension without an environmental assessment. He got that right out of the rule book in the Agenda for People that the candidates used during the election. I ask the government to live up to those commitments: not to simply continue the rhetoric on the environment, but to make firm commitments and take the action the people of Ontario want.
Like my colleague the member for Windsor-Walkerville, we are a two-composter family. I can see this is going to be a mark of political correctness. We got our composters through the facilities of the Ministry of the Environment and Metropolitan Toronto at a subsidized price. Many members of Metropolitan Toronto are taking advantage of this. It is obviously a very popular program so far, but this resolution is going to help the acceptability and the desire of more people to participate in this.
I'm very pleased to notice emphasis on local approaches. As the member says, if one can keep the compost locally, we can use it to reclaim urban land, even to develop urban food production, which is something I have become very interested in. The more I talk about it the more I find that members of my community in Scarborough East get very excited about it.
One thing I would mention around getting the composter is that at the same time you sign a consent to participate in some study. I think this is something to be complimented and to emphasize that we need information about how it's being used and the long-term effects. I know that the feedback, as it were, goes to well-qualified environmentalists working with the ministry and Metro Toronto. I think it's very important as we develop these initiatives to find out what's the overall impact on it to confirm our expectations that this is going to improve the quality of urban soil.
I'm also very pleased to note the way my colleague the member for Kingston and The Islands emphasizes other settings such as schools. As the member from across the floor said, there's considerable interest in schools. If you go to schools in my riding they ask you, "What are you doing to preserve farm land?" I fully support his comments that it really grabs the attention of school children; they feel part of it. I'm very pleased to see that as part of this resolution.
Before I finish, I must admit to one personal problem which I think needs considerable research and development. Every morning I take out my companion animal, who was himself recycled from the Scarborough animal shelter. There is the problem of his organic waste which, of course, being a public figure, I have to remove and take home, but I have to take it in a non-compostable plastic bag. I would ask for guidance and intensive research on this topic, but I am very pleased to support this resolution.
The first thing I thought about composting is to save resources and, as the member for Kingston and The Islands said, not to mix the compostable with the non-compostable materials is the essential step. In the last couple of years I moved to the historic village of Chippawa in the south end of Niagara Falls and was very surprised at the soil there. I was out there last weekend trying to dig into it and it is clay. It's almost like bricks of clay, so everything I can I try to put into this soil to try to make it a little bit better so that I can do something with it.
The city of Niagara Falls, I believe, is way ahead of the rest of the province. At least I always thought that, but I think we're all getting on the bandwagon and going in the right direction. I used to think we were great leaders, probably because we were forward-thinking, but I realize now that it's probably because we had a very difficult crunch with regard to our landfill site. When that happens, all of the communities across this province have to look at alternatives and that's probably what forced us to look in other directions.
Every June we have Environment Day within the city and in the past couple of years we've had a wonderful display of various things and panel debates on environmental issues at Kingsbridge Park. All kinds of things go on on Environment Day and over the past couple of years we have sold composters: 929 were sold to the public in 1990; 780 were sold in 1991; 13 worm composters were sold in 1991, three of these to schools. The city also operated a home composting demonstration site in October 1991.
How does this happen? It's of course in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment, which supplies two thirds of the cost, and then the people who buy these only have to pay one third of the cost. It's very reasonable. I remember when this first happened two years ago on Environment Day, people were lined up at 8 in the morning to try to buy these composters. So it's a very popular thing.
I also wanted to mention that in Niagara Falls in the last couple of years we have started composting leaves. The actual city of Niagara Falls does this as a demonstration project at our Mountain Road landfill site. We collect the leaves in the fall from across the city and put them at this site. Now it's becoming very good compost and hopefully is going to be used very soon.
The caution I have for this, as the member for Kingston and the Islands mentioned, is that it has to be done closer to the source, because the cost of this type of thing to the city is substantial. If we are trying to do other pickup of compostable material, which the city was going to implement this year and had to stop because of budget constraints -- it did not put the money forward to do pickup of other compostable materials. I think it points to the bare fact that in this kind of economy it just makes real sense that you do it in your own backyard, as the member has said.
I also want to mention that as a science teacher, I taught grade 9 science a couple of years ago and the students are really eager to get involved in all kinds of environmental concerns. They are the ones in our school who decided we had to have the blue boxes to put their pop cans in. They decided they wanted to lead the way, so they urged the city to do this. The city said, "No, we can't do that," but now we've got blue boxes in apartments and schools, and now we're getting the restaurants, with all the excess food in Niagara Falls, to try to compost and recycle. We're also trying to get the Niagara Parks Commission to recycle as well.
I would like to mention just a couple of the remarks that were made. The member for Brampton North, for instance, highlighted the aspect of how our children are such an important element here. His son was correcting him on some of his habits, and while I don't expect that to extend to the political sphere, at least it's good that it's now at the composting stage and will become habitual for us.
I think the remarks can be said to have been made in a cooperative spirit. Some of the items that were mentioned about what our government is doing highlight the importance of our work in the area of composting. By coming together in this fairly simple procedure, we can move on to more thorny issues and deal with them also in a cooperative way.
Again, we want to highlight through composting that how we deal with our waste is a personal responsibility for all of us. By taking on composting, we are dealing with it at a personal level.
Some of the speakers mentioned that it is very important to get composters out into the community. I think the member for Scarborough East mentioned the follow-up that is so important, to see that people are using them and what their experience is with them. I think from the remarks that were made here, there is a lot of knowledge about composting and a lot of support. We can come together as neighbourhoods to support this activity for each other.
In conclusion, I just want to say that composting is a simple thing but it will lead to a different way of looking at the world. We will take on that stewardship that will extend to all our natural resources.
ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Mr Brown moved resolution 8:
That in the opinion of this House, the government should establish immediately a select committee on energy and the environment to investigate the following factors and make recommendations:
In view of the increasing evidence of the contribution of combustion of fossil fuels to global warming, among other contributors, substantial understanding of the implications of climatic change on the environment and economy of Ontario and on human activity, and widespread public concern regarding these issues, and in view of the fact that energy policy has a direct bearing on these issues because of its impact on the mix, level and efficiency of use of all types of primary energy resources, to identify the extent to which current provincial energy policy affects carbon dioxide emissions, the potential for controlling, stabilizing or reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and the types of public policy or program initiatives to achieve the objectives of limiting the adverse environmental and economic impacts of carbon dioxide emissions, and to consider:
(i) all energy sources, including oil, natural gas, coal, electricity and alternative energy sources, with an emphasis on energy produced by the combustion of fossil fuels to provide heat or motive power;
(ii) in the case of electricity and alternative energy sources, both the direct use of fossil fuels and the economic potential for non-combustion energy sources;
(iii) demand management initiatives, including energy efficiency, with respect to their roles as non-carbon dioxide-forming sources of energy, and
(iv) all sectors of energy applications, including the industrial, commercial, residential, institutional and transportation sectors.
All I have done here is to reiterate the mandate of the former committee. I did that because it is important that we build upon the work that was done by that committee. It is important that we take advantage of the research that was done by the committee, the information that was provided and the expertise the committee had. That explains, at least in part, why it took me so long to read that particular resolution.
I think that when we talk about global warming we should all be disturbed, because we have a tremendous problem. If we ask the people of Ontario what the most important environmental issues in their minds are, they will list a number of things. They will talk about waste disposal, recycling, water quality and air quality, but the polls tell us -- and yes, I read polls -- that global warming is not at the top of the agenda. If we asked the scientific community what it thinks is the most important environmental issue facing the planet today, it will say global warming.
So we have a problem, and that's why I think we as legislators have to do our part in raising the public consciousness about this very important issue. Somehow we have to be able to lead, but in this business you can never lead by being too far in front. We have to be able to get the public, the people we represent, on the same wavelength as us as parliamentarians, as legislators, in order that we can encourage them to become part of the solution, because the solution may in fact involve some changes to our lifestyle and some changes to the way we do business.
I think perhaps we should take a moment and talk about what global warming is. Global warming is just the warming of the planet. We know that for the last 10,000 years the planet has been warming. It's a natural occurrence -- nothing to get too greatly excited about. It's been happening. Over 10,000 years the planet has warmed about five degrees Celsius. The scientific estimates tell us, however, that we are beginning to warm at a much more rapid rate and that within the next 50 years we will warm -- the estimates vary a bit -- they tell us, between 1.5 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius. If it is at the upper end of that band, this planet will warm the same in 50 years as it has done in the previous 10,000 years. That to me will cause great and difficult circumstances for everyone inhabiting this planet.
Some of the consequences people think might occur are: Sea levels will rise but the Great Lakes levels will fall. Storms may become more prolonged and intense. Floods and erosion may increase. Summer dry periods may lengthen. Groundwater levels may fall and water quality may suffer. The northern permafrost may melt and turn to bogs. Previously trapped greenhouse gases like methane could be released in large amounts and it would accelerate the warming. Plant and animal species may have to adapt and change habitats.
In fact, we have seen the effects of global warming slowly over time. We have seen agricultural land that was once good agricultural land become what is now desert. The problem is the rapidity of the change.
Having said that, we know there is a relationship between greenhouse gases and how warm the planet is on average. We know that relationship exists. We know that carbon dioxide, methane, nitric oxide and ozone all contribute to the warming of the planet, and we all know that the levels of those gases in the atmosphere are rising dramatically. It's not a question; we know that. We also know where those gases come from primarily. Mr Speaker, as you will know, they come from the burning of all fossil fuels. Some are better than others, but nevertheless all fossil fuels are the main contributor to the global warming effect.
We have done some things in this province to consider that. A ministerial report on global warming with a series of recommendations and challenges was issued, I believe, in 1989 by the then Minister of Energy, the Honourable Lyn McLeod, who is presently our leader. At the same time we had initiated the select committee on energy which was, I think, a very non-partisan sort of committee. It was a committee that did what I think we as legislators should do; that is, meet, examine the facts, get the experts in, have them tell the committee what should be done, tell the committee what the options really are, so that we as legislators can provide at least agreement on the facts. I'm not sure we'll ever agree on all the solutions, but I think we could agree as legislators on what the problem is, what the gases are, what can be done and at what cost, because of course that's the other part of the equation.
At the same time in Toronto in 1988 we had -- let me get this right -- the Conference on the Changing Environment. It was a worldwide conference held right here in this city. I want to read you the conclusion they came to:
"Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to global nuclear war. The Earth's atmosphere is being changed at an unprecedented rate by pollutants resulting from human activities, inefficient and wasteful fossil fuel use and the effects of rapid population growth in many regions. These changes represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe."
What I'm calling on us to do is to take advantage of what a previous legislative committee has done. We should take advantage of those resources as we try to put Ontario at the forefront of this battle. We have countries like the Netherlands that are leading the world in its policies regarding global warming. They have very ambitious targets and are working very hard to meet them.
I find myself feeling somewhat like a hypocrite as I talk about maybe the greatest global warming issue that we all talk about, and that's the Amazon rain forest. We all stand there and say: "Gee, they shouldn't cut those trees. They shouldn't farm that land. They shouldn't burn those trees. It's going to have a devastating effect on the environment." At the same time, I stand here right now in the middle of one of the largest clear-cuts in the world, which we call the city of Toronto, or I stand out 10 miles from here in another huge clear-cut we call farms, and say to these people, "You can't do it."
What I'm saying is that we have to understand that in Ontario we produce, each one of us, four tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. We are fourth in the world in terms of doing this. We have to gain the moral authority to say to these folks, "Yes, you've got to watch what you're doing," but we've got to be sure we're giving them the right message in that we ourselves are doing it at home, or we will have no effect on world opinion.
As I conclude my remarks, I would say I'm going to listen very intently to what other members have to say on this issue and would urge their support.
I would like at this time to speak in support of the resolution by the member for Algoma-Manitoulin. I think it's a very important resolution. Actually, what he's asking the government to do is to re-establish the select committee on energy and the environment. This was an excellent method, in our opinion, of dealing with this issue.
As you know, Bill 118 will soon be coming before the House for third reading. During the time it was before the standing committee on resources development we travelled across Ontario to the different locations in northern Ontario and southern Ontario. The complete province, you might say, had an opportunity to debate that bill. We did not find in any location people who were involved in business or who understood the bill or who in any way had an understanding of the relationship of fossil fuels and their net effect on the environment -- none of these people were in favour of Bill 118, basically because it gave the government the power to place a moratorium on nuclear energy.
The sad part is that during the environmental hearings the government very quickly, through Ontario Hydro, brought forth a new demand-supply plan. Basically, what they did in those five short months in preparing that plan was to take into account the recession that we are going through in Ontario, take into account the conservation programs that they've been initiating, planning to spend $6 billion on conservation. Six billion dollars is half the price of the Darlington generating station; $6 billion is the amount of money that the opposition party caused as a loss to the people of Ontario by delaying Darlington by two years. That's actually what it cost the people of Ontario to delay that project for two years, and still we go on and try to blame the cost of Darlington on problems related to nuclear, which they are not.
The reason I'm talking about Darlington is that the select committee on energy and Ontario Hydro -- which has an excellent research department; it has its own environmental studies within the corporation, and it is a very conscientious group relative to the environment -- for approximately five years studied what the best way was to supply electricity at a reasonable cost to the people of Ontario and keep the environment in mind.
The result of that study was that the base load should be nuclear, not fossil fuels, which give more CO2 into the air. The only problem with nuclear was how to store the spent bundles of fuel that are presently immersed in a water tank. There is permanent storage now available. All we need is a positive approach to it and a committee set up to decide on a site for that.
Ontario Hydro then took that plan across the province as the plan that would be most friendly to the environment and yet give the people of the province the electricity they would require. Unfortunately the government, without study, when it assumed power placed a moratorium on the whole question.
I see my friend across waving at me; I'm sure he got the same message as we took Bill 118 across the province. Our final position on it was: Please withdraw the bill and refer energy in Ontario to a committee. It was basically agreeable to the committee that we would do that, because I think it's important that we can have certainty of supply and certainty of cost and do it in such a way that we have the least effect on the environment.
To use natural gas because we can say, "Well, we can bring the generation on-line in maybe four years as compared to approximately 12 years to bring on a uranium-fired steam plant" -- and I would like to refer to our nuclear base as that, uranium-fired steam plants. I might mention that the problems at Darlington that I have been advised of and have looked into are mechanical problems; they are not related to heating the water with uranium. There is a problem with the shaft of the large generator that's causing a vibration, but that would be the same regardless of how we heated the water to make the steam.
The other problem is in the tubing itself. The tubing at Darlington is designed in such a way that it's creating what you can refer to as air locks or hammer locks in the system, which under pressure over time could cause a problem in that tubing. They are correcting that now. They have the design changed and ready to go into place, as I understand it. So outside of the previous government delaying it for two years and increasing the cost by $6 billion, I can't see us continually pointing at Darlington as the reason our hydro rates are high and are going to continue to be high.
That 25-year demand-supply plan went across the province to every municipality, and every county government had a chance to give input. It was accepted as being the least harmful to the environment yet making use of any hydraulic site that was feasible and making use of natural gas where required, but establishing the base supply with the energy that is the least harmful to the environment.
I welcome the member's resolution today to re-establish this committee. This is the same idea we had in the hearings on Bill 118: re-establish this committee or call the committee whatever you like, but that it be a select committee to study energy in Ontario and to study the effects of the CO2 and the global warming that's going to take place if we follow this government's plan to provide electricity for the people in Ontario.
In northern Ontario, he might be aware, there are currently about 225 hectares of low-to-medium radioactive mine tailings lying on the ground that nobody seems to want to take responsibility for -- not the mine, not the company, not the federal government. It appears that the responsibility and the buck is going to stop here with the province of Ontario.
In any event I do welcome the member's resolution. I want to remind the members that a committee is already in existence of assistant deputy ministers who are studying exactly what the member for Algoma-Manitoulin has asked for in his resolution. While I don't have strong feelings in opposition to the resolution, I do want to tell you that I believe such a committee would be somewhat of a duplication. At this point in time the committee is preparing a report that I understand cabinet will be considering in the near future.
I think we have to recognize that Ontario has the highest spending on conservation as well as demand-supply management activities in the entire country. While we're all concerned about the greenhouse effect I think we also have to recognize that the greenhouse effect relates directly to the amount of energy that is consumed, used and expended here in this country. The Ontario Ministry of Energy has spent over $13 million on energy program activities, real programs that people can readily utilize and readily access.
We're not talking about running a few commercials on television suggesting people turn off their lights if they go out of their homes for the evening. We're not talking about running advertisements. I think one featured a gangly furnace that suggested it consumed far too much oil and people ought to switch off that energy source on to another. We're talking about real programs that are meaningful, that people can access and utilize and that will make a difference to the bottom line for their energy costs, be it for their homes, their places of business, places of work or during their recreational activities.
This government recognized that and, as a result, in 1990 we announced the New Energy Directions and it was issued. This has been a continual follow-up and implementation of that very broad-brushed general direction. This was the first province to adopt an Energy Efficiency Act. Let's give some credit where credit is due: It was brought about by the previous government. I applaud them for that. It has been the model that other provinces across this country have accepted. Other provinces are well on their way. Either they have implemented or they're in the process of implementing new energy efficiency acts. So we recognize the importance of providing hard-core programs that people can readily access.
In addition, I think for the first time in the life of this province, we also recognize the important role Ontario Hydro has to play in the energy field. Surely to goodness, given the role it plays in the province, it ought not to be ignored. We have given it a significant role by way of Bill 118, the amendments to the Power Corporation Act, that for the first time will give Hydro the authority and power it needs in order to follow the directions as established by this government.
The member for Algoma-Manitoulin suggested that the select committee on energy in fact did table its report and that this would be a natural extension and follow-up to that report. I want to tell you a little bit about that report.
The committee heard that the global climate change is a prime example of an environmental effect that, I think we all recognize, disregards national and provincial boundaries. Greenhouse gases, of course, know no boundaries; acid rain knows no boundaries. Without question, the energy policy of this province is an important component of the efforts to achieve some climate stability, but I think we also have to recognize that of course Ontario can't do it alone. Ontario needs the cooperation and assistance of the other provinces across Canada. Let's also recognize that at least within the last 18 months Ontario has indeed led the way. I'm proud and I think everybody in this House is proud that Ontario has been the model to follow, but as this country is very energy-intensive by world standards and is among the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide on a per capita basis, without question we have to take concrete action.
You will know that earlier this year the federal proposals were examined by this government and weren't supported. They weren't supported for some very clear reasons, although targets were established by the year 2000. Quite frankly, I don't know what the magic is in the year 2000 and I'm not exactly sure why the year 2000 has been chosen, but although targets have been established for the year 2000, a pretty important piece of information was left out of that: What was left out is how we're going to achieve the target that was set for the year 2000.
I had the pleasure and the opportunity to attend the energy ministers' conference late last year in the Maritimes. What was interesting was talking with my colleagues at the time across the country. We talked about what standards should be developed and set. Each and every one of them said they were extremely concerned about the reaction of the business community, and from their viewpoint the business community continually said it can't afford to set a standard that would not be achievable, in its view, and could not be afforded.
This province has taken some concrete initiatives, as I said originally, to address the energy question which relates, obviously, to the emission problem we have. I just wanted to run very briefly through some of the major programs we've put in place.
Under the industrial retrofit grants programs, grants are provided to help install energy-efficient equipment in the manufacturing process. A number of firms across this province have accessed that grant, and it does two things: It reduces their fuel costs, which of course reduces the amount of emissions; it also improves their bottom line and makes them all that much more cost-competitive.
Ontario Hydro, under the direction of this government and on its own initiative as well, has developed a number of programs, such as the power saver energy audit program, which will provide electrical audits that help identify energy saving opportunities. They have a number of financial assistance programs that provide outright grants and rebates for the purchase of much more efficient and effective electric motors, refrigeration equipment, lighting and process equipment.
Ontario Hydro has also been involved in a very significant way in load shifting. Under load shifting they reward companies when they shift to use electricity during periods of much lower consumption. The electricity rates of course are priced much more cheaply when electrical demand is lower, during the off-peak hours.
The Ministry of Energy's programs have been welcomed by the general public. They've been looking for something a little more meaningful than a few TV advertisements suggesting what they should or shouldn't do. The commercial buildings energy management program has to date saved more than 49 billion kilowatt-hours of power. The energy-efficient communities program, which communities are now accessing, has been extremely successful in very real terms, being operated by the chambers of commerce in a number of communities. With regard to government energy management itself, this government is looking at the buildings it operates to upgrade those facilities, this precinct being one of those; I think we all recognize that this has to be one of the most energy-inefficient buildings in the province. In addition, we have put together an energy education package.
What I really am most impressed with is the number of industrial programs to assist the industrial sector. Not only will it become much more cost-competitive but reduce the consumption, not for one year but for ensuing years as well.
Although I have no difficulty supporting the resolution of the member across the way, I want to suggest that, given the work of the ADMs and the report they are currently working on and will be submitting to cabinet, I really think it would be somewhat counterproductive and very much a duplication of the members' time if in fact we did establish the select committee once again to examine the report that past governments have tended to leave sitting on shelves.
I served as Chair of the select committee on energy when the identical mandate of Mr Brown's resolution was put forward. That mandate was drafted to ensure that the committee would have a broad range of activity and examination as it looked at the entire question of global warming.
There were many members of the House who are in government now who also sat on that committee. The current Minister of the Environment, Ruth Grier, was a member of the committee and the current Minister of Energy, Mr Charlton, was a member of that committee, and it seems to me that the issues that were raised and the matters that were discussed should be uppermost in their minds today.
The mandate of the committee evolved from the work of international bodies in this area and from the thought that one should think globally and act globally. As a result of that, the Minister of Energy at the time -- my colleague referred to Mrs McLeod -- acted on the notion that the province should assess its potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and analyse the potential economic impacts of doing so.
She knew at the time, in 1989, that Ontario's contribution to the concentration of greenhouse gases was about 1% of the world total, but she also knew that Ontario's contribution did not lessen the importance of our contribution to either the problem or the solution.
Ontario, as the largest energy user in Canada, must share the responsibility for what is happening in the global atmosphere, and there are side benefits of action as well. Many of the steps that can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are beneficial in their own right. They include increasing energy efficiency as well as the side benefit of decreasing pollution.
When Mrs McLeod was Energy minister the province adopted targets of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1988 levels by the year 2000. The former Minister of Energy asked why the year 2000 was picked. I would have thought he would know that target followed the framework of the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere. It was not a simple one to meet. With increased energy usage, even stabilizing greenhouse gases would require directed effort and heavy cost, and the target was set to reduce the major greenhouse gas emission, carbon dioxide.
The select committee on energy was to take government targets further and look at the reality of where in the industrial sector the highest greenhouse gases were produced, where the potential for reduction of those gases existed and what that potential was.
The mandate of the committee was commenced at that time in what I think was a creditable way and was envisaged at the time to be the work of more than one session. Unfortunately, an election intervened and work has stopped. I believe that is a sad misstep.
I think in its initial approach the committee was creative, and I hope that if the Legislature passes this resolution, a similarly creative approach would be taken. All of us in the House know what resources are available to us as members, and to those of us on the committee the mandate that was before us was a daunting one indeed. It required considerable specialized research resources, it required access to provincial, national and international expertise and it required an intensive learning period for each one of us.
One of the things I'm proud of and which, in my experience here, marked the committee as being singularly unique was that it required each of the members to approach the issue as a way to understand the debate that was occurring not only in Ontario but around the world; as an area of public policy where making political points wasn't a pre-eminent goal; as a way that each of us could be informed ambassadors and resource people in explaining the issues and the policy choices, and as a way to ensure that the individual committee members had the potential to frame a final report that would influence government action.
We did some things differently. Global warming experts with international prestige live just across the road from me. I think of Ken Hare, a distinguished academic with opinions and a demanding intellectual and practical approach. But the experts live also in Ottawa and work for the federal government. They live in Amsterdam, they live in London, they live in Germany, they live in California.
If our committee were to get a full picture of the current research, the facts, the myths, the options, it was important for us to talk to those people. So instead of opting for a trip, we invited those experts to appear before us. Perhaps because they thought it was so unusual that a legislative committee wanted their views, they came.
The legislative members had the chance to question the experts about the causes, the potential effects, the action alternatives, the ice age and the economic choices. Some of our questions were naïve; some were sophisticated. Some led to changes in our preconceptions and some made us dig in our heels. But what we wanted to do was to participate in the development of a preventive strategy.
The committee engaged the Royal Society of Canada to conduct particular research for us. This was the first time a legislative committee had been involved in this kind of working relationship with an acknowledged body of outside expertise. For the Royal Society, it was a new experience as well, one that I hope it thinks was fruitful.
I get tired frankly around this place of too much opinion formed as a result of reception conversation. I think people who spend the greater part of their lives working seriously on matters of great public importance get tired of listening to legislators who reach conclusions based on too little information and too much opinion. So when it's possible to draw on that expertise, that concentrated learning in our work, I think it ennobles us all and makes a positive contribution to decision-making.
The Royal Society prepared a report for us on the technical potential for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions for major industrial energy users in Ontario. That report was to have been circulated to those users as a preliminary document so they could participate in a public hearing process and put their own research findings on the public agenda.
One of the things we discovered was that there was an enormous amount of private sector research done in this field as well. Steel companies, automobile manufacturers and companies in the energy sector have all done significant research, most of it directed to practical outcomes, technical and technological change. We thought we might reach a meeting of the minds between academic analysis and the technical and economic feasibility as we continued our work.
As a result of the studies, we have seen no action from the government and we see no initiative being taken in this key environmental area. I believe the select committee should be reconstructed to pursue the excellent work the first committee has done. Scientists tell us the effect of a hand clap can be heard at the farthest side of the farthest star. If we begin work and continue work here in Ontario, we will be adding, on the whole, to the world perspective on global warming.
The principle of this resolution is certainly admirable. I cannot think of one single member of this Legislature who is not concerned about the increasing evidence of the contribution the combustion of fossil fuels is making to global warming. There's not one of us here who can claim he or she is not aware of the implications of climate change on the environment and the economy of the province or on human activity.
However, I have some serious reservations about this resolution because common sense tells us that economic opportunity, social justice and health care cannot be attained by just tossing money around. Common sense tells me that the taxpayers of Ontario do not want their hard-earned money tossed to make another select committee of this province look at the aspects of this resolution. I believe there are plenty of reports on shelves just waiting to be looked at, and mainly they're collecting dust.
Our social structure is stretched to the limit by our soaring costs for health, education and welfare. It is time, when the NDP budget has brought more of the same for our taxpayers in Ontario, more tax hikes and more deficit increases, which they also gave us last year.
Instead of improving Ontario's ability to attract investment, create jobs and retain those we already have, the Treasurer decided to continue with his government's tax-spend-borrow approach to fiscal management. The reason I'm saying this is that a select committee does cost money when the Treasurer has a deficit of $9.9 billion, which is only an estimate, at a time when the government's spending increases this year by 4.9% to $54.8 billion; at a time when Ontario's net debt will grow to $82 billion by 1995-96; at a time when every man, woman and child in Ontario owes $8,200.
As I said earlier, I support this resolution in principle because I believe there has to be a look at what is taking place with regard to energy. But not only that, I had the opportunity some years ago to sit on a select committee on energy. At that time we looked at the Lakeview generating station and at concerns that many of the people had raised and brought to our attention about the coal being burnt to run that generating station, up to 2,000 tonnes a day. We were looking at the aspect of putting the scrubbers on that very facility and to this day I've no idea why those scrubbers have not been placed on that energy-generating facility, other than the fact that they cost $50 million. But what are we doing with the pollution we're putting into the air?
I had the opportunity to travel to northern Ontario and look at the Kakabeka Falls with regard to the power that station was generating. There are lots of places across this province, some in my own riding and some in the riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay, where fuel, hydro and energy can be provided with regard to water power. They have redone the Big Chute. That is a facility -- and anybody who travels on a boat through the Trent-Severn system will have the opportunity to go by that facility -- that they're redoing to make generation more feasible and to increase the generation that's going to come from that facility.
As we look at the energy we can put in place in this province through the use of man-made generating stations, small ones -- I'm sure, Mr Speaker, there are some in your riding of Victoria-Haliburton that at the present time are already being used for that very purpose -- to strike a select committee to look into a lot of the aspects of generating energy for fossil-fuel emissions, I say to you that there are lots of studies sitting on the shelves.
I think the intentions of the member bringing this resolution forward in the riding he represents in northern Ontario -- there's probably every indication that there are facilities there that can be updated and brought up to standard whereby they would produce an awful lot more energy. While I have some reservations with regard to the resolution, in the end I don't find a lot of problem supporting it because I believe his intentions are good. If it's going to create fuel through the use of water power then I'm all for it. I commend the member for Algoma-Manitoulin and I also commend the member for Lanark-Renfrew who spoke before me with his knowledge and background. I appreciate it.
I also want to point out that nuclear power, in spite of anything the member for Lanark-Renfrew has to say, is not a solution for global warming problems. Possible scenarios have been exhaustively studied. Nuclear power stations need vast amounts of fossil fuel input to get built in the first place, and I've heard that this can cancel out as much as 12 years of what they subsequently produce. They are very expensive indeed, we have not solved the problem of waste disposal, and however slight the risk of accident may be, the resulting catastrophe is such that it cannot be contemplated. Nuclear power presupposes political and societal stability, and the mining of uranium is hazardous.
I used to watch with a great deal of interest as the lead story on television or radio newscasts would be an environmental story, an issue of some kind being dealt with, sometimes in depth and sometimes on an emergency basis, or when I used to see headlines in the newspapers dealing with environmental issues and we saw some think pieces on environmental issues that allowed people to make judgements based on extensive information provided to them.
I must say I'm very discouraged today that this in fact is not happening and that the environment has been, by circumstance or otherwise, pushed clearly into the background. I can remember that when I was Minister of the Environment, CBC Radio Noon -- some people call it NDP Radio Noon -- used to call the office from time to time looking for somebody to comment on something. Today it seems to be preoccupied with, "What was your memory of your first prom?" 17 different ways to wash your windows, how to keep your garden in good shape and how to entertain the kids during the holidays.
A lot of the investigative work that used to be done has just disappeared now as we seem to be dealing with a lot of other issues. I say that not in a partisan sense. I say it lamenting the fact -- and you, Mr Speaker, have a great interest, I know, in environmental issues -- that we don't have that emphasis in the news media or in the general public, it seems, on environmental issues. Yet I think if you scratch the surface, you will find that people still have that genuine concern about the environment.
Another program I used to listen to was Metro Morning. Now I listen to the Minister of Health for an hour of free time where lobbed-ball questions are fired at her and no opposition people are allowed on to make any comments. At least I would say that they had a health care issue being discussed on Metro Morning, but we don't have the environmental issues there any more.
The environmentalists who used to be in the Legislature, very often with press conferences and extremely critical of governments that were actually doing an awful lot to address issues on the environment, seem to have disappeared. I think they're experiencing perhaps the same problem as everybody else, that there is not that degree of interest within the news media on the issues, so they can't present it.
I can't believe that some are simply playing out a socialist agenda first and an environmental agenda second. I can't believe it because I know too many people in the environmental groups who were very concerned about the issues and not simply about the political stripe of the party that happened to be in power.
I notice that the Ministry of the Environment is having a difficult time with budgets. There was a tremendous growth in the budgets over a period of about five years, well over 100% growth. Today, as treasury board exercises its initiatives, we're seeing cuts in that. I lament that for the sake of the Minister of the Environment. I know the Minister of the Environment. I know she has a strong commitment to the environment. I'm sure she would like to have more resources available to her. I'm sure she would not want to be elbowed aside by other ministries.
I notice, for instance, that the acid rain office appears to have disappeared in the Ministry of the Environment, and that's of concern to the people in northern and central Ontario particularly. There appears to be nothing happening in clean air at all. A clean air program was announced in July or August, 1990. There appears to be no progress on that at all in Ontario; virtually nothing appears to be happening. I attribute that first to the economy and the emphasis on the economy, and second to the fact that there's a lack of pressure and a lack of interest.
This is where I think this committee can have a positive effect. The committee can focus attention once again on environmental issues. Every minister -- and I can recall this -- really needs, although it sometimes causes sleepless nights, this outside pressure to assist the minister in furthering the environmental agenda within government, because there are many other ministers who have an agenda to present to the cabinet, to the caucus and to the Legislature. I believe the resurrection of the energy and environment committee would have a positive effect of once again placing the environment high on the agenda instead of where it is at the present time.
There is a need for this because when we see project X reappear, for instance -- and I remember all the stories and the newscasts and the questions from this side of the House about project X. Project X has in effect been implemented by the government of Ontario, by an NDP government. It reminds me that only the Republicans could end a war against the communists. It appears that only an NDP government could push through something which would elbow aside in many ways the Environmental Assessment Act and environmental approvals in favour of other ministries which have an agenda to get the economy going again.
I'm very strongly supportive of the reimplementation, of the resurrection of this particular committee. I think there are members of all parties who would like to serve on that committee, who have something positive to contribute, something positive to say. I'm glad to put together within that committee the energy and the environment issues, because there are people who have served in that capacity as Environment minister or Energy minister who would recognize there's a strong relationship between the two.
I want to commend the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for bringing this resolution forward and I commend it to all members of the House for support.
That is exactly what this resolution is about. I think this is a significant issue. I think this is an issue that the public has to be involved in. I think it's an issue that legislators have to be involved in. I think it's something that cannot be done behind the closed doors of a bureaucracy and have much credibility in the public view. I think one of the things we must do is bring the public, the politicians and the policymakers closer together on this issue so that we can address it in a meaningful way.
The member for Kitchener also pointed out that this is an international effort, and I fully recognize that. There's not much impact we'll make all by ourselves, but we have to be able to argue from a position of moral strength that we are doing something about it and let the international community follow us, I would hope.
I thank the member for Halton Centre, who was Chair of the previous committee, and who was, I think, a driving force behind establishing the initial committee. I think her work is well recognized among the legislators here and I commend her for her comments, which were a little bit more to the point than mine at times, I guess.
I would also note that one of the things about this debate is the difference of opinion between the member for Lanark-Renfrew and the member for Peterborough. I don't think we should be in that debate. I think we should be talking about establishing the facts and then getting on with doing what is reasonable to do, after a committee of this Legislature has heard the experts, has understood the situation and can make rational judgements on the facts that are before it. I hope all members will support this resolution.
Mr Gary Wilson has moved private member's resolution 9. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
Motion agreed to.
ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The House divided on Mr Brown's motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ayes -- 33
Arnott, Bradley, Brown, Caplan, Carter, Curling, Dadamo, Duignan, Ferguson, Frankford, Haeck, Harnick, Harrington, Hayes, Jordan, Lessard, MacKinnon, Mancini, Marchese, McClelland, O'Connor, Owens, Perruzza, Poole, Ruprecht, Sullivan, Tilson, Villeneuve, Waters, Wilson, G., Wilson, J., Winninger, Witmer.
Nays -- 4
Bisson, Cooper, Martin, Murdock, S.
The House recessed at 1213.
The House resumed at 1330.
CANADIAN WOMEN'S HOCKEY TEAM
I'm sure that all members of this House, the people of Ontario, and indeed all Canadians are extremely proud of each and every member of our national women's hockey team. Their pure-gold accomplishment in Finland marked the second consecutive world title for women's hockey for Canada.
While the past 1990 team was dominated by players from English Canada, including 12 from Ontario, this time, of the 20-player roster there were seven players from Quebec and a francophone woman from Alberta. The team was as diverse and as unique as all the people from all across Canada.
The players' display of team unity and spirit of collaboration are a lesson for all Canadians. Upon reaching Finland for a week-long camp prior to the playoffs, any French-English cultural and language barriers that may have existed simply disappeared. The team united quickly as one group and worked as a truly fine example of what Canada is all about: unity and common effort.
As the member for Brampton North, it's my particular honour to inform this House and the people of the province that two of the players, Ms Heather Ginzel and Ms Sue Scherer, are Brampton residents. They were also members of the 1990 team which won gold in the Ottawa championships.
During the recent championships in Finland, Ms Ginzel and Ms Scherer played an important role. Both players contributed to the inspiring Canadian performance by scoring goals and making assists, and said that team unity was the major reason for the outstanding performance.
I know all members of this assembly join me in expressing gratitude and appreciation to members of the Canadian women's hockey team not only for their award-winning performance, but also for their fine example of Canadian unity and working together.
In an open letter to the Premier, the North York Chamber of Commerce stated:
"What Ontario needs is not reform to present legislation, but rather a boost in consumer confidence and provision of labour stability.... The reforms you are proposing will limit the opportunities and choices available to workers since there will be fewer employers to provide jobs after they have assessed the damage resulting from the reforms....
"The business community in North York feels that no other single piece of legislation has ever been as damaging to the economy of this province as your proposed Labour Relations Act. As a result, we urge you to withdraw these amendments immediately."
In addition to the chamber's statement, the economic development department of the city of North York stated:
"The Ontario government's proposed amendments to the Ontario Labour Relations Act could potentially have far-reaching and damaging impacts on the ability of Ontario and the city of North York to attract new investment and to be highly competitive with other economic areas....
"At a time when Ontario and North York's economy is searching for a positive economic action to stimulate growth, any new changes in legislation that make Ontario less competitive will slow down the economic recovery and the creation of new jobs or investment in the province."
I urge the government to listen to the people of North York and withdraw these proposed amendments immediately.
Let me tell you about Saturday evening. We started in the historic cellars of Brights Wines with champagne and fondue, followed by a bus ride to Table Rock at the brink of the falls to watch a fantastic display of fireworks over the falls.
Hundreds of award-winning wines from around the world are available to sample during these nine days of May. There are opportunities to talk with internationally renowned winemakers, exhibits throughout the picturesque region at the peak of blossom time, winery tours, bicycling and picnicking. Intervin, or "The Nine Days of May," continues this week from May 9 to May 17. It is an annual opportunity to sample the very best of Niagara. You don't have to go to California for a wine tour. Come and enjoy.
We all know the role they play has greatly expanded. They have a lot greater responsibilities, bigger challenges, and we know that changes in lifestyles have made enforcement sometimes even more difficult. They take on other jobs. I think of the police forces in my area working with service clubs, going into different schools that are there, and also this past weekend working in such things as bicycle rodeos. Yet these police forces are working under budgets that have been slashed. I would encourage the government to re-examine its policies to make sure these police forces are properly funded.
Also, as I mentioned, I go back to some of the police forces in my own area, in Belleville and Trenton, and the OPP that service different communities. I am very proud of those forces and the job they do.
Especially in these present days when many criticisms are being levelled against police forces, we must all understand that it is a very difficult job and we must work with them in a common cause.
My riding of Dufferin-Peel is especially blessed with natural and historical attractions that appeal to many people. The travel counsellors in this area are Danielle Mink and Debbie Whitten, and they are always pleased to help anyone who is looking for something interesting and exciting to do in the beautiful Dufferin-Peel area.
The caboose will be open weekends until July 1 and then daily until September 1. I urge anyone with specific questions or just general curiosity to make use of this valuable resource that we all can enjoy. I hope to see all of you enjoying your Ontario summer in Dufferin-Peel.
CITY OF WINDSOR CLEANUP
This effort was an example of an event that included all members of our community. It helped us realize that we all have a responsibility for the amount of waste we produce. It also proves that Windsor citizens take those kinds of responsibilities and commitment to the community quite seriously.
It's important for us to recognize those who helped make this day a success. This group included Merchant Paper, which supplied refuse bags; Windsor Sportsmen, which supplied hot dogs and soft drinks; Burger King, which supplied orange drinks and meals, and the Essex-Windsor Waste Management Committee.
Of course, it's the volunteers who really made the day a success. People like Bill Lacasse from the city's public works department, the old midtown business improvement area, students from the Begley school and physically challenged students from the community living program at Walkerville high school.
I would like to personally thank all those who made the Pitch-In campaign such a success in Windsor. This is really the most appropriate place for me to do that, because for me to thank everyone individually would be next to impossible. It would be impossible because over 25,000 people participated. In fact, this turnout has earned the city of Windsor a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most volunteers in a single-day civic cleanup.
PROTECTION OF IN-CARE RESIDENTS
A key document written in 1976 by a corrections ministry investigator, which indeed triggered the closing of Grandview, was discovered in February 1992, yet it's being kept from the public and the victims. There is evidence of five unexplained deaths of residents of Grandview, deaths that have been alleged to have been caused by guards. Secrecy is a matter that makes this more serious, and it's bound to reinforce suspicion.
Not one charge has been laid, even though this report was uncovered in February. There are many questions arising from this report and its presentation: Why are there no charges being laid? Why did most records vanish? Why was it so very difficult to obtain this report? What individuals were involved in its presentation? To whom is it being distributed? I could go on and on.
Protective functions of the provincial government are being given as one reason for non-disclosure. I ask: Is this government protecting itself or the victims?
As a member of the Commonwealth, Canada is heir to a tradition of cultural tolerance and understanding which has led to the development of close international ties with other countries around the world. This week all Canadians should reflect on the fact that they share a Queen with 49 other nations, all with different cultural and racial backgrounds, and that the Queen of Canada is also the Queen of Jamaica and of Australia.
Royal Week festivities will culminate with the Queen's birthday parade, which will be held on Monday, May 18, Victoria Day. The parade promises to be a truly grand event, with participants representing a wide cross-section of Canadian society, including members of the Canadian armed forces, veterans' associations, Her Majesty's civil forces, first nations bands and multicultural groups.
I am proud to announce that the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus is sponsoring the Governor General's Horse Guards regimental band, and I should also like to publicly thank you, Mr Speaker, for so graciously consenting to participate in the Queen's birthday parade. I know your presence will be greatly appreciated by all, as it will add significantly to the day's celebrations.
I invite all members of the House to join me in marking this, Her Majesty's ruby jubilee year as our Queen and sovereign. May she reign in health and happiness for many more years to come.
Kin Clubs represent the largest all-Canadian national service club. They are active in Oxford county; in fact, the current national Kinette president, Gail Malcolm, is from Ingersoll. Kinsmen and Kinettes across Canada have organized this tour in an effort to promote our awareness of the positive aspects of being Canadian, aspects which we often take for granted.
They especially want to foster a sense of heritage and pride in being Canadian in our children. The project will involve over two and a half million school children in 600 communities across the country in flag-signing and flag-raising ceremonies.
On January 1, two flags from the Peace Tower started from opposite coasts on a six-month trek across the country. They are visiting 250 communities and will meet in Thunder Bay on June 20. In other communities, designated flags are being signed and raised by school children. One flag from each province will be presented to the Prime Minister when the Peace Tower flags are returned to Ottawa on July 1.
In addition to Tillsonburg, I will be participating again on May 21 when the tour visits Victory Memorial School in Ingersoll.
These events represent an important opportunity for the children of Ontario to join with others across the country in a national celebration of the rights, privileges and freedoms that, as Canadians, we all enjoy.
I encourage all members to participate in and show their support for the Proud to Be Canadian tour as it makes its way across the province.
WITHDRAWAL OF BILL 18
I must advise all honourable members that this matter contravenes section 37(d) of our standing orders in that it is in improper form. I must therefore rule this bill out of order and it must be omitted from the order paper.
Edith Hurst, her mother, who is here from Fort William and with us in the audience, and Jessie Cook, her aunt from Ajax, who is with us also, in the gallery east, advised me that under a grave disorder -- of course, daughter and niece respectively never were in grave disorder -- it would certainly be unbecoming for all of us and a breach of privileges if we were unable to offer to the member for Hamilton Mountain, the Minister of Energy, congratulations on his about-to-come-up big event, his marriage.
I wish him well. I thought that if we were unable to do that it would cause grave disorder among all the members, and that your ruling on this matter might be worthwhile to take into consideration until all of us receive our invitations to the reception. That, too, might cause grave disorder, but if I might, to a fellow colleague, elected in 1977, who has been here longer than I, we just wish to extend him our best wishes. With the advice of Edith Hurst and Jessie Cook, my leader's aunt and mother, we think we have come to a conclusion that will allow us to proceed effectively with the business of the day.
I thank these women for their advice to me and also offer the advice they have given to my leader, which has carried her into such a great position of prestige. They have done a very successful job and they have helped me bring this issue to a successful conclusion as well.
This coming Saturday I and many of my friends and others will be in Hamilton to celebrate their wedding. I want to say I've worked closely with both Brian and Chris -- Brian for an awful lot of years and Chris was a graduate of the intern program here at Queen's Park. I'm proud to be able to stand and wish them both best wishes and wish that they'll have a happy future.
The member for Bruce raised the issue of grave disorder, and perhaps that speaks to the question of invitations, which he also raised. A filibuster this weekend may in fact lead to an inconclusive day, but we don't intend to allow that to happen.
Having said that, I very much appreciate the comments and I think my fianceé, Chris Happel, also appreciates the sentiments that were expressed today. I thank everybody very much. We're looking forward to a very long and happy marriage, so thank you all.
ATTENDANCE OF MINISTERS
This is not the first time it has happened. It is one in a series of occasions on which it has happened. It is without any doubt the worst record of attendance I've seen since 1985. The participants who watch this proceeding on television ought to know that the members of their government do not attend the House, even though some of them are in the city.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
I rise today to inform the House of changes to regulations under the Mortgage Brokers Act. I'm pleased to announce that these changes will significantly increase the level of consumer protection for people using the services of mortgage brokers in the province of Ontario. These changes will affect people who both borrow and invest through mortgage brokers.
The financial services sector has changed significantly over the past two decades since the Mortgage Brokers Act of 1971. Today's marketplace is much more competitive, consumers have many more choices and increasing numbers of people are looking for alternatives when trying to secure mortgages or investment opportunities.
Although the act has undergone some minor changes during the past two decades, it has simply not kept up with the times. The mortgage broker industry is aware of the complexity of today's financial services marketplace and it too is anxious for a regulatory system that responds to current needs.
The changes I am announcing today go a long way to resolving problems associated with mortgage brokers and mortgage syndications. They provide a larger measure of protection for people who use their services.
Mortgage syndications have been the largest source of investor losses in mortgage broker failures. Therefore, in addition to the significant changes I am introducing today, my ministry is also pursuing further options for fuller disclosure and regulatory controls dealing with mortgage syndications.
The new regulations place a greater responsibility on mortgage brokers. By making compulsory what many brokers do already, we are providing a higher level of consumer protection on a mandatory basis. But like any investments, I caution that all investments carry a degree of risk. Mortgage investments cannot be guaranteed by a mortgage broker or anyone else.
As I already indicated, these changes will affect both investors and borrowers. Let me deal first with investors. Our changes provide for a new 48-hour period where information about the property, the borrower and the broker's fees must be provided before any agreement can be signed, thus enabling a prospective investor to get independent advice.
Once a mortgage is paid off, brokers will be required to pay the investor in full. Under the new regulations the funds cannot be rolled over without the consent of the investor.
For prospective borrowers the regulations permit up to a 72-hour cooling-off period. A statement detailing all charges and fees borrowers can expect to pay will have to be provided to the borrower.
Brokers will not be allowed to take advance fees or deposits from a borrower before an investor is found. These regulations will apply to mortgages of $200,000 or less, as compared to the current $40,000 limit.
In addition, our changes prohibit mortgage brokers from issuing false or misleading advertising about mortgages. Full disclosure about the quality and availability of mortgages, legal procedures and costs or consequences of mortgage transactions will now be mandatory.
Brokers who violate these regulations may lose their registration to operate in Ontario.
It is my ministry's mandate to help protect consumers. Both borrowers and investors require more information than they are entitled to under the current Mortgage Brokers Act so that investments can be made prudently and any associated risks are clear. I believe we have achieved this through our changes. These changes will afford an unprecedented level of consumer information and protection for the clients of mortgage brokers.
My ministry will continue to work with the industry to ensure consumers receive the highest degree of protection in the current financial marketplace as it evolves. We will monitor the effectiveness of the measures closely. We are committed to enforcing and, if necessary, strengthening the rules that enhance the integrity of Ontario's financial services marketplace.
In the short time I have been the official opposition critic for Financial Institutions, most of my time has been used dealing with individuals across this province who have brought to my attention concerns regarding mortgage brokers, specifically mortgage brokers who do not adhere to the law and who use whatever means possible, it appears, to try to take advantage of consumers who are unaware of their rights or who, in one way or another, manipulate the law.
I want to make it very clear that this is a minority of the mortgage brokers. The vast majority of the people in the industry want to have a professional and well-run industry and want to do the best they can for the people they are serving.
While I agree with the minister that all investments carry a degree of risk, as he said in his statement, and therefore people must be careful what they do with their money, I should say to the minister at this time that if we're going to get into this type of extensive monitoring, legislation, regulations, then it's going to be incumbent upon the government to make it very clear that if in fact it is because of regulatory mismanagement within the government and if people lose money because of this regulatory mismanagement, then it's going to be the responsibility of the government to pay the people who have lost their money. I want to make that very clear.
The other point I want to make clear is that I believe the matter should be referred to a legislative committee for public hearings. I believe there are a number of important things that people in the general public, on both sides of the issue, should tell members of the Legislature in an organized and cohesive way.
There are a couple of other points I would like to mention to the minister.
There is no mention in his statement this afternoon about improved education and training in the mortgage brokering industry even though the industry itself has called for these improvements. These improvements are overdue.
There has been no mention by the minister of what he intends to do about those individuals, many senior citizens, who have already seen their money evaporate because of the misdeeds of some mortgage brokers. What are you going to do for them, Mr Minister?
The minister has mentioned the areas where there will be new amendments, but he has not mentioned how the government will in fact monitor and regulate these new amendments. Is the ministry going to ask for stronger staff? Is the ministry going to ask for more staff? Is the ministry going to ask for more resources to in fact regulate and manage these new amendments, or is the minister just going to pass regulations so that the very few in the industry who do not want to follow these regulations will have more laws to circumvent?
There's no mention in the minister's statement of the area of financial planning. As the minister knows, now anyone can call himself a financial planner. This is another grossly unregulated sector of the financial community, and we need some protection for the consumers in this area.
I look forward to the public hearings that are necessary in this regard, I look forward to further cooperating with the minister, and I look forward to strengthening the law to protect the ordinary Ontario citizens who are entrusting their long-saved and hard-earned funds into the hands of people who they hope are properly trained and properly regulated and can do the job they promised.
You will recall, Mr Speaker, when you were in the House previously, the Re-Mor/Astra situation. We've had Falloncrest recently in the Niagara Peninsula. A number of people have lost their life savings as a result of misadventures on the part of those who have been involved in these financial institutions. I would hope that while the minister is considering these changes, indeed there would be changes to the act to strengthen the security those people who wish to invest might have. I hope to see that in the near future from this minister.
It has probably taken comments from the Provincial Auditor, criticism towards the Ministry of Financial Institutions, to bring forward this legislation. I don't believe the minister has adequately responded to many of the challenges put forward by the Provincial Auditor. There's no question that there is need for better disclosure, there is need to educate the public and the consumer on very complicated mortgage and consumer matters. Contracts are required to be signed with a broker. Commercial activities are becoming more and more difficult to understand, and certainly these regulations are long needed.
The major criticism I have of this specific proposal being put forward by the minister is that you can have all the regulations in the world to deal with this matter, but until you put forward legislation that can better enforce these regulations then they're meaningless, they don't mean boo. So Mr Speaker, I'd hope the minister would create a bill that would tell the public exactly how these matters can be properly enforced, and until that takes place these proposals are probably rather meaningless.
What is interesting, though, is that the Minister of the Environment didn't alert this House to the royal commission. Mr Crombie held a press conference that I understand the minister attended. They had quite an interesting discussion and debate, yet not a word was spoken in this House about it, which is very discouraging. All the right words were used in the press conference regarding this and --
RETAIL STORE HOURS
The mayor of Wallaceburg wrote to the Premier today and said: "We have spent days preparing our case and waiting patiently for our hearing, only to be caught up in the bureaucracy of Bill 115, a law which does not work. The time to act is now. How many of our businesses have to go under before you act?"
My question for the Solicitor General is the same question as the mayor has asked: How many businesses have to go under before you act? How long will this confusion have to continue?
I would just ask the Solicitor General to hear the reality and to listen to people like the mayor of Sarnia and to the people of Wallaceburg. Yesterday, the Solicitor General talked about consultation and assured us that the only reason for delay in this government bringing in changes to its Sunday shopping legislation was that it wanted to take time for consultation. We know very well that the consultation they're waiting for is consultation with the governing council of the New Democratic Party.
Seventy per cent of the people in Wallaceburg support Sunday shopping. If this government is really prepared to consult and then to act, why will it not respond to the wishes of 70% of the people in Wallaceburg who want to be able to shop on Sunday? Why will it not repeal its legislation and introduce legislation which gives the people of Wallaceburg and the people of Sarnia and the people of other communities the right to choose whether they want to shop on Sunday?
This is the first long weekend of the summer, Mr Solicitor General. A lot of retailers and communities are afraid they won't survive the recession and cross-border shopping without Sunday shopping. But the Solicitor General has said many times that the law is the law, no matter how many businesses go under because of it, and that the police will enforce it.
It was on September 19, 1989, when he was being led away by the police, arrested during an illegal blockade of the Temagami forest, that Bob Rae justified breaking the law by saying, "You have to do what you have to do."
What will the Solicitor General do if shopkeepers across the province emulate the Premier and say they'll do what they have to do to survive and open for business this holiday weekend?
What are we to tell those 7,500 workers in terms of what the government has been doing to work with those workers and the owners of those businesses, those 52 plants? Will you assure the House you have sat down with each of those organizations, talked to them about their plans to close and done everything possible to work with the groups to ensure they stayed open? Can you assure the House you did that in those 52 different plant closures?
I really do regard it as a serious question. All I can assure the member opposite is that we will work as closely as is possible. Many of these decisions, I'm sure you know, are made unilaterally in the private sector. We're ready and available to help, and the Ministry of Labour has a process set up when this occurs --
For example, Treasurer, you know already -- it's already been announced -- that in May there are going to be 13 more plants closing in Ontario. You know there's going to be a plant closing in Perth, Kitchener, Hamilton, Braeside, Barrie and Brantford. You've got two pages of plants that will be closing. You know they're going to happen.
My question was this: Will you assure the House that in each of those cases, the government has sat down with the owners and with the workers to see if there wasn't some way to prevent the closing? They've announced they're going to close; 52 of them announced they were going to close. My question was: Will you assure the House that you have sat down in each of those cases and seen if there wasn't some way to prevent the closing?
In view of the fact that the Fort Erie Race Track brings in millions of tourist dollars to the province, and in view of the fact that many of the individuals who are employed in this industry are individuals who might have a very difficult time obtaining other gainful employment, and in view of the fact that the Niagara region has already lost or is about to lose thousands of other jobs, would the minister assure the House that the government of Ontario will not allow the Fort Erie Race Track to close and that the government will not implement any new policies or measures which would be designed to be detrimental to the horse racing industry in general and to the Fort Erie Race Track directly?
On the other part of that question, I would point out that we don't have a policy yet on stress in Ontario. The board has decided it's worth taking a look at, and that's what we're in the process of doing.
Minister, given your relationship with the business community on the labour relations changes, given the difference in WCB, given the difference in taxation and in the attitude towards business, can you give me one reason why a business, a company wanting to invest in Canada, would want to come to Ontario instead of Manitoba? One reason.
I'd like to read from the Barrie Examiner about John Smith: "John Smith supports his wife and three small children with a $39,300 annual income and a $164 monthly welfare cheque. Although Smith is fully employed, Ontario's welfare system says he's eligible for a top-up."
Mr Deputy Premier and Mr Treasurer responsible for paying these bills, something is wrong with a system that tops up the income of a family making $40,000 in a county where the average combined family income is under $30,000. Treasurer, for the benefit of families trying to plan for the future, could you tell them if it is your intention to top up all families in the province of Ontario that make less than $40,000 a year?
A Simcoe county social services administrator has calculated that a family with six children making $65,000 a year is eligible for $534 per month in welfare top-ups. According to this and by my calculation, if the MPP for York Centre, right here in this Legislature today, did not have any outside income, he would be eligible for welfare assistance in Simcoe county.
Treasurer, how can we afford a system that provides welfare assistance in top-ups to those who are employed and who have never been on welfare before in their life, including an MPP of this Legislature?
My colleague the member for Simcoe West is receiving phone calls in his office from people who are making $40,000 a year, who have never been unemployed or on welfare and who want to know how they receive their welfare top-up. We are already spending $6.2 billion on social assistance. We have a $10-billion deficit. We have many people needing shelter and food banks and many who are unemployed, who do need more help, as the Treasurer and I both know.
Don't you agree with me that there is something wrong when at $53,000 a year you're rich and famous in this province, you're rich enough to pay a surtax to support your government's spending habits, but you're also eligible for welfare? Isn't there something wrong when $53,000 a year is a surtaxable income and also eligible for welfare?
ONTARIO STUDENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
We globally project some kind of budget that we think will attach to the numbers we expect, but as the numbers come in they all get their support. What we did do was say, for example, that in terms of the eligibility criteria students who managed to find a job this summer and who work this summer would be asked to pay $10 more than the $70 they now pay out of each week they work. Now they would pay $80 out of each week they work. They would be required in the plan to contribute that much to the cost of their education. By extending that by $10 -- if you worked all summer that would work out to about three extra dollars per week all across the year --
Earlier, the very same minister stated that every student would be guaranteed a place in a college program. I assume he meant every student who was applying. By March 1, 1991, colleges had received 15,370 applications. By the same time in 1992 they had received 20,043 applications. This is an increase of 25%. The minister is well aware that at the same time, his government has given historically low transfer payments to colleges and universities of 1%, and colleges are telling us that it's simply not true that every student will find a position in an Ontario college. There won't be space for everyone.
This minister continues to give false assurances to students across this province. I would wonder if the reason the minister can speak with such confidence that they will be able to provide funding for 35,000 additional students is because they know there will be fewer students in our colleges and universities this fall, not more students.
I would ask the minister how he can guarantee that every student will get a space. How can the minister explain how colleges and universities can take more students with less money?
With respect to the enrolment question, I think the Leader of the Opposition appears not to understand that there is no limit to the number of colleges or programs you can apply to on the part of individual students. In a normal year, for every four applicants only one normally finds his place as a real enrollee at the end of the day. In terms of individual programs, there are closed enrolment programs that, maybe for 40 students in a single institution, will have 800 applicants, and in the course of the next months all of that works itself out.
I have not ever said I would guarantee every student a place in the system. What I said is that I think that at the end of the day there will be a place in some program in some college, in some university, for all those who want to get there. I'm sure those who run the colleges and the universities will manage to see that happens at the end of the day.
TRANSPORTATION OF WASTE
My question to you is very straightforward, Madam Minister: Why is it that regional governments such as Metro, Durham, York and Peel cannot transport their garbage from one region to the next but it's okay for private haulers to take Metro garbage to the United States, where it's either landfilled or incinerated and blown back across the border into Canada?
What this government has done is to indicate that within the GTA we will develop a comprehensive system of waste management which will involve giving the regional governments what they have wanted for some time: the right to deal with the flow of waste within their borders.
In consultation with my colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs we have out for consultation at this very moment a discussion paper, as part of the waste reduction office's initiatives papers, that raises ways in which upper-tier municipalities can be given just that kind of power and way of taking action. I can assure the member that once that consultation is completed there will be amendments to the legislation in the House that will do just what he's suggesting.
The minister knows how to resolve the problem. It's very simple. As part of the certificate of approval for private haulers, you just insist that where they pick up they must dump within the same region. You know you can do that. You have the legal right to do that. You could do that tomorrow. You don't need any committees etc to study the issue.
You knew this in opposition. You know this in government. You can resolve the problem. Why have you got one rule for municipalities and a completely different rule for the private haulers? Don't you find this slightly hypocritical?
Contrary to the suggestion the member is making, we do not intend to arbitrarily move in and make that --
Let me also assure the honourable member that, contrary to what he said in the preface to his question, our calculations of the amount of capacity available in sites and the kinds of calculations we have done in dealing with the short-term problems of the GTA do not take into account continuing export, because, in addition to dealing with the issue in Ontario, I have met with representatives of New York state and of the state of Indiana and they don't want Metro's garbage any more than anybody else does.
HUNTING AND FISHING IN ALGONQUIN PARK
My question is about Algonquin Park and the interim agreement on hunting with the people of Golden Lake. If memory serves me right, there was an agreed-upon season for hunting and that time has now lapsed. My question to the minister would be therefore, could he give us an update on how the hunting went this winter in Algonquin Park?
The coordinating committee has published the statistics on the hunt for 1991-92. The results of the hunt clearly show that both the province and the Algonquins are committed to conservation of wildlife and preservation of the values of Algonquin Park. These are the figures. The agreement, as you know, allowed for the harvesting of 175 deer and 100 moose. The Algonquins, according to the coordinating committee, took 34 deer and 47 moose.
Ministers may respond if they wish and there is no rule that prevents anyone from reading an answer from a piece of paper.
The figures are that in the total claim area, 13,599 deer were harvested. Of those, 34 were taken by Algonquins, or 0.25%. In the total claim area, 410 moose were taken, of which 47 were taken by Algonquins, or 12%. I think this indicates that the Algonquins and the Ministry of Natural Resources have taken a very responsible approach to the whole question of the moose and deer hunt in the region.
Over the last two weekends, the minister's parliamentary assistant, Mr Wood, and I have been travelling through the north dealing with moose hunting and the tourism industry, and one of the questions that kept coming up was moose hunting by natives. I would ask the minister, where do we go from here?
The interim hunting agreement has been completed. Any renewal will be subject to negotiation. We are currently still attempting to finalize the negotiation of an interim fishing agreement. We will approach these matters seriously to protect park values and to ensure the conservation of the fish and game stocks in the region.
Clearly today the paramount concern that all of us must have is for the students and their academic year. The minister yesterday stated that "the successful completion of the students' academic year" is critical now and that we must focus on that, because this is an academic year in which, as the Education Relations Commission said on Monday, that year was in jeopardy. It is a year where there are fewer instructional days left than days that were taken out of the students' academic year because of the strike. You stated in the House yesterday that over the course of the next couple of days, modifications would be made to the school year to ensure what you term the "successful completion" of the year.
You're also aware, I am sure, that a senior official of the Carleton board has stated that neither the school day nor the school year will be extended. Minister, will you tell the House, but particularly the students and parents in Carleton, exactly and precisely how you plan to modify the students' academic year under these circumstances?
Let me say seriously on the issue that he raises, which is of course a very serious issue, that I will be meeting later this afternoon with my officials to get an update on the discussions that have been going on and to see what plans are coming forward from the school board with respect to the modification to the school year.
I want to say very clearly that I will not take it for granted that what the member has said is what will happen in terms of what my position will be. I will make a determination, obviously, on the basis of the advice that will come forward. If need be, we will take action to direct that something different be done, which may include an extension of the school days from here until the end of the school year. As I say, I'm not in a position now to provide a detailed answer to the member, but obviously I would be pleased to make sure that he and other members who are interested receive detailed information as that is developed.
Minister, with regard to this specific issue, yesterday in the draft bill that you were going to present to this House, clearly in what were subsections 5(1) and 5(2), you recognized that you did not have any authority by which to ensure that the school day, the instructional time, could be altered. You were prepared yesterday to bring this legislation to the House and to make sure you had the power so that students who are at the OAC level or students with special needs would be able to get the instructional time they require.
Minister, my question is very simple, and it is the same question. Given all of these facts -- that you have not introduced any legislation, that you have given us no clear sign what it is you either intend to do or can do -- I ask you again: What specific steps are you going to take to ensure the completion of the students' academic year, and not just the completion but the successful completion, which is going to mean there's a need for more instructional time. What action are you going to take?
I believe I have the authority necessary within the regulations, as they exist, to make the modifications necessary to the school year to ensure that the students' year is protected. The modifications we had suggested yesterday in the legislation were, quite frankly, there to alleviate any concerns about that being the case, but the right exists there through regulation. If there's a need to amend those regulations, I'm sure the member knows full well that we can do that, and we will do that.
I will be expecting to hear over the next couple of days from the school board with the plans it has, but I will not hesitate to amend those plans and to direct otherwise if I'm not satisfied that they've adequately addressed the issue of the school year for the students.
There will, I'm sure, be a statement in this House when the government has come to a conclusion on the specific recommendations and developed government policy with respect to those recommendations, but I'm delighted to be able to say to the House today that we are very pleased with and proud of the report of the royal commission. We think the principles that have been enunciated, the approach that has been taken, are very consistent with the work that this government has been doing through the Sewell commission, through the development of a wetlands policy, through the Ontario round table, through the GTA Vision document.
The Crombie report is a landmark document about the future of the waterfront and the rivers that feed that waterfront within the GTA bioregion. We very much support the approach and principles embodied in that report, and we have moved to implement --
I am delighted that all of the municipalities within the GTA have adopted the model sewer use bylaw that was developed by my predecessor the member for St Catharines. That goes some way to preventing the discharge of contaminants that have been hitherto going straight through the sewage treatment plants. In dealing with beaches, we have cleanup programs that contributed to fewer beach closings last year. Looking at land use, at urban water runoff, at the separation of storm sewers, all those kinds of actions, will contribute to a cleaner, greener waterfront in the GTA.
I am asking the Deputy Premier to speak honestly, succinctly and with clarity and advise the House and the people of Ontario if it is the intention of this government to eliminate the private sector in the delivery of health care services in these or other sectors.
I am asking the Deputy Premier, as the person in the House today who speaks for the government as a whole, if he will confirm that the government intends to eliminate the private sector in health care delivery and tell us the timetable, the cost and the method of doing so.
USE OF QUESTION PERIOD
I would ask you to look under section 31 in the document by which you, sir, are to run this place and to analyse whether or not it is fair that they are simply allowed to stand up and filibuster and go on congratulating the minister, being absolutely disrespectful of you, I suggest, of the rules and of the role of the opposition.
VITAL STATISTICS REGISTRATION
I'd like to tell the minister a very brief story with respect to the efficiency that's going on in the office of the registrar general. Richard Reeves of Waterloo put an application in to the registrar general's office after the birth of his daughter. The birth certificate came back two months later stating that his daughter was born in Kapuskasing. She wasn't born in Kapuskasing; she was born in Kitchener.
Two months after that, after making further inquiries, he received a corrected birth certificate stating that his daughter had become a son. After six months of frustration in trying to correct all that, he called the registrar general's office in Thunder Bay. He was told that there was a fast way and slow way of correcting these matters. The fast way was to fill out a new application form and pay again -- pay again for a mistake made by your ministry in the first place. He was then told he would have to make a decision.
I think it's time the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations made a decision. When are you going to solve the painfully obvious problems all of us in this House are experiencing and all of us are experiencing around this province with respect to the birth certificates and death certificates that are so badly needed?
I'm happy to say things are improving. I have been taking --
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
Point of order, the member for York Centre first.
USE OF QUESTION PERIOD
I asked the minister responsible for the greater Toronto area whether she was going to make a statement today concerning the tabling of this document. She responded to me privately that indeed she was not, that she didn't want to speak about it until she had had an opportunity to table the document, which I understand she is going to do later today. Notwithstanding that, I noticed an arrangement between her and the member for Fort York prior to his question, which was on this very document.
There is a basic rule of law that states, "Thou shalt not be allowed to do indirectly what one cannot do directly." It is against our standing orders to make a ministerial statement during question period, and the reason we have that rule is simple. Our standing orders -- and you'll see it in section 31 -- provide that when a minister makes a ministerial statement, we as opposition members are allowed five minutes, not very much time, to respond to that statement.
All of us in the House were shocked that the minister responsible for the greater Toronto area refused to make a statement about this document. It's a terribly important planning document. It is going to affect the life of virtually every single resident in the greater Toronto area, and that's about four million people.
It is my view, and I submit to you, sir, that what the minister did today with the question from the member for Fort York was to create for herself an opportunity, through her answer to the question, to make a statement in this Legislature and to the thousands and thousands of people who are watching this Legislature relating to this report. But what she denied, in doing it during question period, was the opportunity for those of us who are here in this Legislature to offer a slightly different perspective, an opportunity to comment on the statement that she made.
I invite you, sir, to do a couple of things: to review very carefully the Hansard of today's question period and note in the questioning between the member for Fort York and the minister for the greater Toronto area that if you take away the words "May I ask the minister," what you will see is the basis of a ministerial statement.
We on this side will not tolerate being denied over and over again an opportunity to comment, under the rules of this House, on government business. If you review that material you will see that it's a minister's statement, and I ask you to, under section 31, bring the Minister of the Environment to order and require her in the future to make her minister's statements in ministers' statements time in this Legislature.
Mr Speaker, what happens to the government in the House is that if we had made a ministerial statement tabling the report, the same member who just complained would get up and complain that there was nothing of substance in the ministerial statement because there hadn't been a government policy developed yet. You can't win around this place. I thought Lyn McLeod was going to lead a different type of opposition party instead of always complaining and opposing.
I note today that there were about 15 minutes left during ministerial statements. There were two ministers here today who obviously could have used those 15 minutes, ie, the Minister of Natural Resources and the minister responsible for the greater Toronto area. I would submit to you that is the more appropriate place for these ministers to make their statements, so that the opposition is not denied their right to respond.
One of my colleagues earlier today was criticized by the government because he was commenting on the non-statement that the minister for the greater Toronto area did not make today. Then, after berating him, she used one of her own colleagues to make the statement that she should have made during ministerial statements, and this is indeed an abuse of the opposition's right to respond to government statements and ministers of the crown.
Now, I would ask you to seriously look at this overall picture, because this isn't the first time this has happened, and I feel that matter has to be dealt with.
I understand fully the point raised by the member for York Centre. All members of the House may recall that on previous occasions I have indeed requested, although the Speaker cannot compel it, that ministers take every opportunity to make statements to the House during that period of time allotted for ministerial statements.
At the same time, however, I am pleased to take a look at Hansard, at all that has taken place today, and to review the standing orders and any other information that will assist me and report back to the House as soon as possible. But I must reiterate that I understand fully the points raised by the members of the opposition and have considerable sympathy for what it is they're raising.
Something additional? First the member for York Centre, then the member for Mississauga East.
He also suggested another point which I think needs clarification, particularly given the fact that you are going to direct some attention to this matter.
Surely that standing order says that the matter may be one of policy. It may be one of action, including the tabling of a report or the reception of a report, and the minister herself was at the press conference this morning when the report was made public.
Under standing order 31(a), and I would ask you to specifically direct your attention to (a), (c) and (d), it reads that, "A minister of the crown may make a short factual statement relating to government policy, ministry action or other similar matters of which the House should be informed."
I think if you review Hansard, you will see that the response by the Minister of Natural Resources was in fact government policy.
Under 31(c), I would remind you, Mr Speaker, that with respect to a ministerial statement, two copies of that ministerial statement are to be given to both the opposition and the third party. By not making a ministerial statement, not only has that not be done, but indeed we have not been given a statement.
The third aspect is, of course, the time permitted for us to comment, which was up to five minutes according to the rules of procedure.
With respect to the question that was lodged by the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay to the Minister of Natural Resources, we used up time in question period, which is for all members of the Legislature. It was on a matter which I would suggest falls directly within 31(a) and would be the subject matter of a ministerial statement, and we have also been refused our time to comment.
Fourth, I would direct your attention to the last line of standing order 32(a), which states that if there are any lengthy statements, they should be made under statements by the ministry. I believe the response made by the minister to the question was also of a lengthy nature and should have been used within the time period allocated to ministerial statements --
Mr Speaker, I am giving you notice under standing order 33(a) that I am not content with the answer to the question from the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay. Mr Speaker, just to give you notice, the requisite of written notice will be delivered, and I would like to see you deliberate on this because the standing orders are quite precise about "a member" and "an oral question."
As a member in this House since 1985, I believe you will find many precedents when ministers of the crown in fact made statements relating to "other similar matters of which the House should be informed" and which the opposition then had the opportunity to respond thereto. In your review of those matters, Mr Speaker, I think it would be helpful in ending the --
This may require interpretation, I'm not sure; it seems very clear to me. I raised a point earlier that the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay -- if you look at Hansard, you will see that the interrogative part of the question was, "Can the minister give us an update?" and the interrogative part of the supplementary was, "Where do we go from here?" Both of those interrogative questions were preceded by congratulatory remarks to the minister about what a wonderful job he was doing in relationship to the subject matter.
Section 32(a) of the standing orders of this Legislative Assembly, in addition to the information about the length of question period being 60 minutes long etc, clearly says -- and I've highlighted this -- "If in the opinion of the minister or the Speaker the question requires a lengthy answer, either the minister or the Speaker may require it to be placed on the Orders and Notices paper as a written inquiry of the ministry. The minister may take an oral question as notice to be answered orally on a future sessional day but where any reserved answer requires a lengthy statement, the statement" -- and this is a key point -- "shall be given" -- not may be given -- "under 'Statements by the Ministry and Responses.'" To me, sir, it is very clear.
It also says earlier that "the Speaker shall disallow any question which he or she does not consider urgent or of public importance." That's an earlier statement in that same section 32(a) of this document.
How you could ever consider, "Give us an update, Minister, and where do we go from here," to be of any significance or importance is totally beyond me. How you can suggest that you do not have the authority to require a minister who has to stand up and read from a press release information for this Legislature -- which, I might add, we are all interested in hearing -- or whether, on the other issue, the Minister of the Environment can stand up and give an answer to a document she's tabling and refuses to give a ministerial statement -- I suggest to you that you do have the authority under section 32(a) of this document that we all try to go by and that you're not exercising that authority, with respect, in directing the government.
As long as you, sir, continue to allow this government to play these games, and you know they're games, where they throw a lob agreed to prior to question period, this is going to be nothing but a dust-up in this place. There will be no business conducted by the government. You have the authority to control that.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas investment and job creation are essential for Ontario's economic recovery,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To instruct the Minister of Labour to table the results of independent, empirical studies of the impact that amendments to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs before proceeding with those amendments."
It's signed by a number of individuals, and I will affix my name thereto.
"Whereas the tragic disaster at the Westray coal mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia, is affecting many former Ontario miners and their families, including at least four who worked in the mines in Elliot Lake, which is in my riding;
"Whereas a tremendous outpouring of concern for all of the families affected has prompted mining communities across the country, including Elliot Lake, to respond with fund-raising campaigns and messages of encouragement and sympathy;
"Whereas many Ontario miners went to Westray following mine downsizing and layoffs in the Ontario mining industry,
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To formally express the province's awareness and concern for all of the miners and their families affected by the Nova Scotia disaster, with particular acknowledgement of all former Ontario miners who must leave the province to find work wherever they can find it."
I concur with this petition.
REAL ESTATE GAINS
"Whereas the government of Ontario has promised to introduce a new tax on real estate gains; and
"Whereas there is simply no evidence to suggest that real estate gains taxes either contribute to lower land and housing prices or raise significant revenue for the government; and
"Whereas in some cases a new tax on real estate gains may even raise prices by reducing supply; and
"Whereas the tax as proposed in the NDP's Agenda for People will adversely affect the entire real estate market in our community; and
"Whereas real estate gains are already subject to heavy taxation from federal and provincial governments,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to urge the Honourable Floyd Laughren, Treasurer of Ontario, not to proceed with an additional tax on real estate gains."
I'm affixing my signature to this.
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:
"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 recommendation of a massive annexation of land by the city of London."
It is signed by 22 persons of the area and signed by myself.
REVENUE FROM GAMING
"We, the undersigned, part of the 50,000 people Ontario directly employed in horse racing, wish to convey our extreme concern regarding the opening of casinos and the introduction of video lottery terminals. As has been shown by the experience of other jurisdictions, the resulting reduction in parimutuel wagering at racetracks will cause immediate job losses and increased demands on UI benefits and social assistance.
"Ontario currently taxes racing at a higher rate than all other jurisdictions in North America. Our industry has already suffered an 11% reduction in revenue as a result of government-sponsored lotteries.
"Racetracks and horsemen are barely surviving now. If either casinos or video lotteries are introduced in Ontario, the result will be a racing industry so weakened that not only will government tax revenues fall immediately but many of us will no longer be employed.
"We ask that you inform yourselves of the ramifications of your decisions on these issues."
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas investment and job creation are essential for Ontario's economic recovery,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To instruct the Minister of Labour to table the results of independent, empirical studies of the impact that amendments to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs before proceeding with those amendments."
I have signed my name.
REVENUE FROM GAMING
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Ontario government has indicated it has plans to open gambling establishments in Niagara and other locations in Ontario,
"As a result, we, the undersigned, petition the Parliament to do the following:
"To abandon such plans for legalized gambling."
I have affixed my signature to this and am in support of this particular petition.
"Whereas investment and job creation are essential for Ontario's economic recovery,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To instruct the Minister of Labour to table the results of independent, empirical studies of the impact that amendments to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs before proceeding with those amendments."
Those have been signed by members and employees of Vanroboys Enterprises Ltd, and I affix my name.
I have a further petition on the absolute same subject matter. It has been provided to me by Huron Middlesex Engineering Ltd employees, and I will affix my name thereto.
On the same issue, dealing with a request for the Minister of Labour to table results of independent empirical studies on the impact that amendments to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs before proceeding with those amendments, I have a petition signed by employees of Irvin Industries Canada Ltd and I will affix my name to this petition.
I have a further petition on the same subject matter provided to me by employees of Lafarge Canada Inc, and I am pleased to affix my signature to this petition.
I have a further petition on the same subject matter, dealing with the need for empirical studies to the impact of Labour Relations Act amendments. It is signed by employees of Lennox Industries Canada Ltd and I affix my signature thereto.
I have a petition signed by employees of Peachtree Doors Canada, division of Indal Ltd, signed by members who are concerned about the impact that amendments to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs, and I affix my name thereto.
I have a petition on the same subject matter provided to me by employees of Truck and Tractor Equipment Ltd and I will affix my signature thereto.
I have a further petition by employees of Wilson Display. They are signing a petition which indicates their concern about the impact amendments to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs, and ask the Minister of Labour to table results of independent empirical studies before proceeding with those amendments, and I affix my signature thereto.
I have a further petition on the same subject matter provided to me by members and employees of Colonial Tool Textron, which is a division of Textron Canada Ltd, and I affix my signature thereto.
Once more, I have a petition on the same subject matter provided to me by M & T Harshaw Quality Plating Technologies, again by members concerned with respect to the impact that changes to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs, and I affix my signature thereto.
Again, a further petition, this by employees of Stewart Construction Inc, and I affix my signature.
I have a petition which has been signed by members of Buddsteel Architectural Products Ltd, individuals who are concerned with respect to the impact that changes to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs, and I affix my signature thereto.
I have a petition signed by members of New Vision Construction Co Ltd. It is by individuals concerned with respect to the impact that changes to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs, and I affix my signature thereto.
I noticed that the member for Cochrane South was questioning these petitions. I can assure you that these are petitions by concerned individuals from a great many companies and employees.
This is a petition signed by employees of Ingersoll-Rand Door Hardware, members who are concerned about the impact of changes to the Labour Relations Act on investment and jobs, and I affix my signature thereto.
I have a petition on the same subject matter signed by members of Sullivan Strong Scott, and I affix my signature thereto.
I have a petition on the same subject matter, same wording, signed by members of Chil-Con Products Ltd who are concerned with the impact that changes to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs, and I have signed my name.
I have a petition signed by members of Sullivan Strong Scott, again with respect to changes and their concern as to the impact these will have on jobs and investment, and I have signed my name.
I have a petition signed by members of Reliance Comm/Tec, again the subject matter being the same, and I have signed my name to this petition.
I have a petition by the same company, Reliance Comm/Tec, and employees of that company on the same subject matter, and I have signed my name.
I have a petition signed by members of Tokheim of Canada Ltd, again on the same subject matter, expressing concern with respect to the impact the Labour Relations Act will have on jobs and investment, and I have signed my name.
I have a further petition signed by members of Sullivan Strong Scott on the issue of changes to the Labour Relations Act, and I have signed my name.
I have a petition signed by members of Danko Brothers Construction Ltd, which reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas investment and job creation are essential for Ontario's economic recovery,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To instruct the Minister of Labour to table the results of independent, empirical studies of the effect that amendments to the Labour Relations Act will have on investment and jobs before proceeding with those amendments."
I have signed my name to this petition. I would like to thank the pages.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
HUMAN TISSUE GIFT AMENDMENT ACT, 1992 / LOI DE 1992 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LE DON DE TISSUS HUMAINS
Mr Henderson moved first reading of Bill 19, An Act to amend the Human Tissue Gift Act / Loi modifiant la Loi sur le don de tissus humains.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
RETAIL SALES TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1992 / LOI DE 1992 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA TAXE DE VENTE AU DÉTAIL
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for third reading of Bill 130, An Act to amend the Retail Sales Tax Act / Loi modifiant la Loi sur la taxe de vente au détail.
This particular bill and the purpose of this debate is to determine whether the government should complete third reading or proceed with third reading of this bill. As I indicated yesterday, I recognize this means it's a narrower debate than perhaps some of us would like, but that opportunity was presented on second reading. I wanted to touch on a few more items that I think are relevant to this particular issue and attempt to encourage members of the governing side to agree with me and with the other opposition party that this bill should not be proceeded with.
I should indicate at the beginning of my remarks that this is a bill which results from the last budget of Ontario, the one the Treasurer presented in 1991, not the one he presented in 1992. The reason I say that is that it's important to note there was some considerable pressure placed on the government not to proceed with certain recommendations that came from the NDP tax commission, which suggested that not only should this tax not be removed but it should be expanded. The result of that expansion would be even more detrimental than the tax itself.
The history of the tax, to touch on that extremely briefly, is that in the budget a measure was presented for consideration of the House which indicated it should be a very extensive tax, and a very expensive tax at the same time. There was considerable pressure from the automotive industry, from representatives of the Canadian Auto Workers union, particularly at the local levels but also from the national level. Also there was some considerable opposition from those who are involved in car dealerships and those who work in car dealerships.
I indicated to the Treasurer at the time that if he were to modify it in such a manner as I could agree with, I would not call the retreat. There were some modifications that took place; however, those modifications were insufficient to alleviate the concerns of those of us in the opposition and I'm sure of many who reside in auto-making communities or communities where parts for automobiles are manufactured. That is why I have referred to it on many occasions as a tax on auto workers, because ultimately I think that's what it amounts to. It is not placed on auto workers as a punitive tax; quite obviously that's not the goal of the tax. But the result of the implementation of this tax measure is what I'm concerned about, and I think it would be a tax on those who work in the automotive industry.
It's interesting that there aren't many occasions where, publicly, representatives of both the Canadian Auto Workers union and the automotive industry itself, in plants organized by the CAW, are in agreement on a number of issues out there, but there is agreement on this issue, that this tax can have a detrimental effect on the automotive industry.
I indicated yesterday the importance of that industry, and I don't want to go into detail on that again. Suffice it to say that everyone in Canada and people of all parties who have served in the Legislature recognize the importance of the automotive industry.
The Speaker is from Scarborough. The Scarborough van plant is scheduled to close in the not too distant future, and of course that has an effect on the people who are there.
When General Motors or other companies are making a decision as to where they're going to maintain their investment or where they're going to place new investment, they look at a number of factors. Those factors are sometimes influenced by the provincial government, sometimes by the federal government, sometimes by local authorities.
We are elected in this Legislature to deal with provincial issues. I know there are many who would say, "Why don't you deal with the other problems out there? Why don't you deal with free trade, the high dollar," and those things that are often referred to in this House. I did in fact make reference to that yesterday, but those of us who are elected to the Legislative Assembly, I believe, should as much as possible confine ourselves to those areas where we have specific jurisdiction.
I thought that some of the information that General Motors provided was extremely helpful to us and I thought some of the remarks of people within the trade union movement, the Canadian Auto Workers, were indeed helpful as well.
I saw a particular paragraph in a letter I received from Maureen Kempston Darkes, who is a representative of General Motors. This particular paragraph, I thought, capsulizes the concern of General Motors when she says the following:
"Sales of new vehicles in Canada are at their lowest levels since 1983. Automotive dealerships have been severely impacted by this downturn. In fact, based on a recent Ontario treasury report, employment in all car dealerships was 24.9% lower in the first six months of 1991 compared to the same period in 1990. We believe that the provincial government must focus on policies which will stimulate consumer confidence, generate new vehicle sales and accelerate Ontario's overall recovery."
It's interesting even for the whole country. We in Ontario have been hit particularly hard in this recession. That hasn't always been the case. In other recessions, other parts of the country have often been hit harder than we have. In this recession Ontario, as the Premier has stated on a number of occasions, has been particularly hard hit. When he's been in contact with and in conversation with representatives of the federal government, he has appropriately pointed this out, and indicated that in the past Ontario was perhaps able to climb out of a recession by itself, but in this case it will require some assistance from the federal government.
However, some of the suggestions that have come forward from the auto makers have been very valuable in helping us decide in this Legislature whether we should proceed with this bill. They talked about the tax for fuel conservation that was proposed and is part of this whole debate. They made some salient points, I think, about the tax for fuel conservation. I'll use the terminology TFFC, which stands for tax for fuel conservation, to limit the amount of debate. They said the following:
"The TFFC does not promote reduced fuel use. We have analysed this tax from an economic and environmental perspective and have identified a number of fundamental flaws which we believe makes it ineffective for promoting fuel conservation and for improving the environment."
As I say, they make basically five points here that I think are very helpful in this particular debate.
First: "The underlying problem with the TFFC is that it has no impact on the most important factor determining overall vehicle fuel consumption -- the price of gasoline. Since the TFFC is based on the fuel economy level of new vehicles and not on the price of fuel, it has no effect on how these vehicles are used. Indeed, because it does nothing to address the cost of driving, any fuel economy improvements induced by it are partially 'taken back' through more miles driven."
I make a second point: "Additionally, the TFFC is a very narrowly focused policy measure. Because the tax only impacts purchasers of new vehicles, it can at best only affect the fuel economy level of the on-road new vehicle fleet. New vehicles represent less than 10% of all vehicles driven in Ontario. While an effective program would influence the fuel use of all vehicles in the province, the TFFC only impacts a very small proportion of the total vehicle population."
I make a third point: "Over the last two decades, manufacturers have dramatically improved the fuel economy of new vehicles. Today's new passenger cars are over 125% more fuel-efficient than they were in the early 1970s. Likewise, vehicle emissions have also been reduced by 90% on average from uncontrolled levels. Government programs such as the TFFC which increase the capital and financing cost of new vehicles, slow down their introduction into the marketplace, delaying the positive impact new technology has on the environment."
Fourth point: "The TFFC has the potential to influence customer choice towards import products. This is because customers continue to perceive these vehicles as more fuel-efficient than North American products. While this is not the case, consumer perceptions are slow to change. Any tax which unfairly distorts the market in favour of foreign vehicles must be avoided.
"Finally," and the fifth point they make, "the TFFC ignores the fact that vehicles which have certain features such as four-wheel drive, cargo- and passenger-carrying capacity and the capacity to tow other vehicles provide specific utility to consumers, and may actually be extremely fuel-efficient. Moreover, many of these vehicles have commercial applications and are purchased by businesses, as well as provincial and municipal government bodies, including police forces, because of the unique features they provide."
They conclude by saying the following: "In short, the TFFC is an ineffective mechanism for promoting fuel conservation. Indeed, there are other policy measures which the government could implement which would provide greater and more immediate environmental benefits and the same amount of revenue to the government without negatively impacting the automotive industry."
I think they've made some good points in this particular presentation that they have made to us. Very often you say, "Well, they're self-serving because they're an industry which benefits from consumers making those purchases," but I look at it from the point of view of the number of people who are employed by the automotive industry in the province of Ontario, and I know that those people are extremely concerned about the future of their jobs.
I'm not going to read into the record the exhibits that they provide, but they do provide some excellent exhibits which talk about the vehicles registered in Ontario in July 1990, which they use as their year. I'll just pick a couple of figures out of this, that in 1990 -- I guess the model year 1990 -- there were 255,325 cars and 105,324 light-duty trucks. Let me compare this with the other end of the graph, rather than go right down the graph: For pre-1983 vehicles, there are 1,439,987 cars and 344,997 light-duty trucks.
If you consider that, it looks like a lot of people are retaining vehicles which are previous to 1983. That means they're driving vehicles which do not have good fuel efficiency in the first case, and that means in the second case that the emission controls on those vehicles are considerably inferior to the new vehicles that we have in the province.
They have some charts that talk about the emissions from vehicles, and I won't go into the details of those, except to say that there have been some substantial improvements in emissions over the years. They have several exhibits, I think, which are very helpful to those of us in the assembly.
I appreciate that General Motors has done this, but it affects all industries in the city of St Catharines. We have Hayes Dana, which produces parts for North American vehicles; we have TRW, Thomas Products Division, the same thing.
I guess we would say that in the automotive industry in the city of St Catharines alone -- I know that in Niagara Falls and the adjacent area there's the Ford glass plant -- but in St Catharines alone we would have well over 10,000 people who are directly employed in the automotive industry, about 8,500 in General Motors itself before the regional announcements, and of course, as I mentioned, with Hayes Dana and TRW and several of the plants that service the major auto parts manufacturers in our area, you can see that it's an important industry.
The tax is a deterrent to sales. I was talking to one of our own members who had listened to at least a portion of my speech yesterday and she mentioned that one of her relatives was about to -- wanted to at least -- make a purchase of a new vehicle, and when she looked at the potential cost, all taxes in, not just this tax, discovered that it was just not possible to make that purchase this year, so that has been postponed.
That means a lot of the decisions made by the auto-making companies are being made based to a certain extent on present sales. If we had an immediate boost to those sales in the province of Ontario, I think we would see perhaps a bit of a different approach by the automotive companies, as they could see some light at the end of the tunnel. That light is not very visible at the present. It's a bit of a flicker, and we're all hopeful it will return to good times.
Nobody relishes what's happening in Ontario or Canada at the present time in terms of the recession. I mentioned previously in another debate that some people believe that people in opposition always hope the worst is going to happen and the government hopes the best is going to happen. I happen to be a person who hopes the best is always going to happen. There will always be issues we are able to challenge the government on and we always hope it's not based on the misery of people in our own communities, as it is at the present time.
I mentioned as well that there is some considerable opposition, and has been for several months, from some representatives of the Canadian Auto Workers. When there was a suggestion that this tax would be expanded, for instance, Mr Harold Stubbert, who is the chairman of Local 199 bargaining unit, was asked by the local newspaper to make a comment on it. Mr Stubbert came forward with the following suggestion. Instead of another tax, he suggested some kind of program that would encourage owners to give up their older vehicles for newer, more fuel-efficient models. I think that is a view that is shared by those who work in the automotive industry and by those of us who know the importance of the automotive industry to our communities.
General Motors made an observation which said the following, "It will discourage consumers from buying new vehicles, resulting in the older, less fuel-efficient vehicles staying on the road longer." That was a press release put out by George Peapples, a statement he had made on a Thursday in March. He added, "Today's passenger cars have more than doubled their fuel efficiency since the 1970s and vehicle emissions have also been reduced by an average of 90%."
Mr Peapples has said that. Mr Stubbert has had an observation to make. I'm sure that on many occasions there are individuals who would agree with a lot of what the government of Ontario is doing. They have isolated this as an area where they have some disagreement.
Members will know of some of the more colourful observations that were made about this tax when it was first announced. We have to remember sometimes, putting it in the proper context, that we are dealing with a tax from last year's budget and not this year's budget, which in itself is rather interesting.
There was an open letter sent to the Premier of Ontario. I quote from an open letter to the Premier and the Treasurer from General Motors Local 199 bargaining unit in St Catharines at the time the original tax was introduced: "Lower emission standards are the answer to saving the environment, not higher taxes." I could not agree more with that particular statement.
It also said GM workers' jobs in St Catharines could be threatened because they produce the V-6 and V-8 engines for vehicles that are subject to the tax:
"Auto workers, as individuals or through their unions, played a major role in the election of the government and contributed tens of thousands of dollars from their wages to that end. We don't expect special treatment, but we do expect fair treatment and not to find our jobs threatened by ludicrous tax policies.'"
That is what the Local 199 bargaining unit had to say when this tax was first introduced, and again I agree with that particular contention. It's worded in quite a strong fashion, but certainly I think everyone in our community could agree with the particular contention that is brought forward.
John Clout, who used to be president of the Local 199 bargaining unit and is now working for the national union CAW, was even more strong in his comments when this tax was first announced. He had written a letter to the editor, in fact, publicly.
Mr Clout, as I have indicated to members of this House on many occasions, is a person who doesn't pull his punches. It doesn't matter what party's in power, he is not an apologist for anybody. He doesn't simply say, "Well, it's an NDP government so I'll just apologize for whatever they do and defend whatever they do." Tory governments have felt his wrath, Liberal governments have felt his wrath and in this case an NDP government, because he speaks his mind as he sees the issue and its importance to auto workers in his area.
He said the following in a letter to the editor:
"While I still hope for some good things from this government, its stupidity and incompetence is quickly leading me to lose faith, as I know it is many of our members. This government, in particular our local MPPs, had better understand that we are workers and unionists first and NDP members or supporters second. So they better get their act together and rescind this tax," and put it where it belongs.
I indicated previously that I agreed with his contention. I'm one of the local members, so I suppose this is aimed at me as much as it is at anybody else. I certainly agree with his contention on this specific issue. He worded it very strongly and perhaps the ears of some of the members of the government were burning; nevertheless, he's a very straightforward individual.
He had the following to say as well. I quoted him back on May 14, 1991, as saying the following:
"Imposing this tax at this time on an industry that represents the industrial base of our community and province and which is reeling already from the free trade agreement is mind-boggling, to say the least, and this from a government that draws its support from workers' wages and votes. One can only assume that our policymakers are a bunch of incompetent so-called intellectuals who haven't got a clue of what goes on in the real world of industrial labour."
The reason he worded that so strongly is because I think he felt at the time -- it's an initial reaction to a tax -- that indeed this was going to have a very detrimental effect on the automotive industry and on the jobs of auto workers. As an individual who is prepared to express himself in that way, in a colourful fashion, a forthright fashion, he made that observation.
I think things have cooled down somewhat since then. As I say, the Treasurer made a modification to the tax, which was welcomed by some. I don't think the modification was sufficient to make it a tax that could be supported by the opposition, but it was a step in the right direction, in my view, and I commend all of those who made representations. I asked several questions in the House, as did others, so that provides some influence on the government, but I think it's important that people outside the House -- the Canadian Auto Workers union and the companies that, almost together, made representations -- had an effect on the government.
I hope, with the arguments I have proposed today and yesterday in this debate, that the government would reconsider this tax. I've personally indicated to the Treasurer, as I did yesterday as well, that I was happy to see that he did not proceed with the new tax that had been suggested by the NDP tax commission. I think it would have been an inappropriate time. I know the goal of it is enviable. My friend the Minister of the Environment is here today, and I say to her in a practical sense that a lot of things are really hard to accomplish, particularly in the midst of a recession. I don't envy the difficult circumstances she faces as budgets are cut throughout the government, and what you'd like to have happen can't happen because there are other ministers who say we must get the economy rolling and so on.
But one measure that could have an immediate impact on the environment, as I've contended on many occasions, is having people replace their old clunkers of cars with new vehicles. I hope the government would follow that proposal. I hope, in addition to not proceeding with third reading, that they would remove the sales tax on new cars to be sold in the province for a temporary period. I hope they would undertake other measures that would ensure that nothing the government was going to do would be detrimental to the automotive industry, that we would have continued investment in Scarborough, St Catharines, Windsor and other areas.
I know Windsor has lost a substantial number of jobs as well over the years. We've had some good news in Oakville and in Windsor of some replacement jobs for those that have been lost, and I think everybody welcomes that. I'd love to see that happening on a daily basis. Who knows? When the economy turns around, that might happen.
Until that does, I think the government should reconsider this tax. I hope a sufficient number of members of the government caucus will speak to the Treasurer and the Premier, speak to the advisers of the Premier, and suggest that this tax be abandoned. I suspect that this tax is being collected at present; usually what happens is that they collect the taxes based on the fact that the bill is going to pass. I don't know whether we can give rebates to those people, but certainly a discontinuation of the collection of this tax would be at least something to be recommended.
In summation, may I make the following suggestion: There's an Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment. That round table looks at both the economic benefits and the environmental benefits to the province of Ontario of any measures to be taken or policies to be followed. For once, I can see a very practical environmental step forward and an economic step forward at the same time: By having everyone purchase new vehicles, or as many people as possible purchase new vehicles, we help the economy; we help the automotive industry particularly, and jobs there, with the spinoff effects, are very beneficial to the whole economy.
Second, we help the environment: The quality of air would improve significantly if there were big sales of automobiles in this province, and fuel efficiency would improve considerably. That would be in keeping with the stated goals of the government in terms of both fuel efficiency and pollution control in the province.
I hope everyone recognizes that there isn't a tax that goes into anything other than the consolidated revenue fund. There are people out there who actually believe that taxes governments levy go to specific purposes. I notice the New Democratic Party, having been elected now for 18 months, has not ensured that all the money collected by the tire tax, which was implemented for that purpose, goes in fact to deal with that environmental measure. I thought they were going to be different. I said to the Treasurer, who implemented this tax, "I believe if the New Democratic Party were in power and had control of the tire tax, it would quickly ensure that every penny collected from that tire tax would be applied to dealing with tire recycling and with the tire problem."
But it hasn't happened. I support the Minister of the Environment on that. I know she would like to see that happen. I know how the Treasurer used to say, "It's all going into the environment." That's what they would say. But we all know it all goes into the consolidated revenue fund, just as the lottery revenues all go into the consolidated revenue fund.
I saw an example of this when the previous Treasurer, a friend of yours and mine, Mr Speaker, tried so hard to get project X through the government. I fought him on this and he fought with me on this. The government did not proceed. Lo and behold, it was announced by a combination of the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, side by side, talking about elbowing aside the environmental assessment process and easing the environmental process for approvals, and both with a smile on their face.
I know what it's like. I have empathy with the Minister of the Environment having to fight those battles that are to be fought with treasurers and ministers of Municipal Affairs and others in the province.
I did not want to divert far. The Speaker has been very kind in allowing me to divert just gently with that. But I did want to tell the people of Ontario and the people of this Legislature that all taxes go into one pot, the consolidated revenue fund.
We have what is essentially a tax measure here; a tax grab, if I wanted to use more colourful language, by the Treasurer. I know he needs the money; I know he wants the money. In 18 months now, we've had 23 tax increases by the new government. This would be a chance for them to show there are only 22 instead of 23, and they would be applauded by many people in Ontario. I put it in the context of the deepest recession we've experienced since the 1930s. I put it in the context of unprecedented competition from offshore and other places in North America as this tax is implemented in Ontario.
So I implore the government and I implore everyone on the governing side to reconsider this tax, to not proceed with third reading of this particular bill. There's a chance for a conversion on the road to, if not Damascus, Kapuskasing or somewhere in the province. There is a chance for the government to earn the praise of the opposition.
I assure you, Mr Speaker, if this government did not proceed with third reading, I would personally rise in the House to commend the Treasurer and the Premier of this province for being enlightened people. I would give that assurance. It's on the record now that I would be prepared to do so. I would not say, "Sound the bugles of retreat." I would not say they had been battered into a new position. I would say it was an enlightened new policy on behalf of the government of Ontario, that it had listened to the opposition; that it had listened to the Canadian Auto Workers; that it had listened to the automotive companies; that it had listened to so many in the province who want to see this tax removed and to see a revitalization of the automotive industry.
So I say, as I come close to the conclusion of my remarks -- the member for Carleton is patiently waiting. He will have a very good speech. Actually, he thinks I've been up longer than 15 minutes. I don't think I have. There were a lot of petitions which were presented while you were out of the room. But I assure the member for Carleton that I want to leave sufficient time for him to deal with this issue, because it's something that's near and dear to him as well as a tax measure.
So to all of you, through the Speaker, to all of you in the government caucus, I urge you to use the same pressure you're using on other issues, have a full debate within caucus on this; insist that the Treasurer and the Premier and the other perpetrators of this tax stand before you to answer the questions you would have and to accept the representations you would make on behalf of withdrawing this tax.
Mr Speaker, you are neutral in terms of political affiliation as you sit in the chair, but I know that your riding and the people of your riding would appreciate the removal of this tax, and it would be beneficial for all of us in the province of Ontario.
I have faith in our system to the extent that I believe people can change their minds. I know my colleagues in the Niagara Peninsula in their heart of hearts, as the Premier would say, probably agree with what I'm saying and would hope that there would be a change in attitude on the part of the government.
Withdraw this tax. You, the government, will earn the applause of the entire province. If you do not withdraw it, you put another nail in the coffin of the automotive industry in the province of Ontario.
I think many of the issues he brought up have a great deal of merit. I want, however, to point out to him a slight error in his speech. He referred to the NDP Fair Tax Commission. The Fair Tax Commission of course is not a part of the New Democratic Party. It is not a part even of the Treasurer's arm of government, but rather has an arm's-length relationship.
When he speaks of the environmental working group of that, he would, I'm sure, be aware that many of the people who sat on that are about as far from the New Democratic Party as the member opposite is. My guess is that perhaps he's not familiar with the idea of an arm's-length relationship between government and an advisory or consultative body.
Certainly the Minister of the Environment has established a couple of groups like that; for example, the Interim Waste Authority, and Bill 143 which established that body. It will establish a fair process in terms of selection of waste sites in the greater Toronto area.
The whole issue the member brought up in terms of faith in the system is one which our government is going to have a great deal of difficulty re-encouraging, because of course there has been a tremendous blow to a sense of faith in the system.
I would again remind the member that perhaps the Treasurer did not choose to accept the recommendations of the Fair Tax Commission's working group, and I think that has been to the benefit of areas like his own and my own.
To make a long story short, let me simply say this. If the auto workers are being taxed, if the economic recovery cannot take place simply because there are too few cars that are not going to be sold, then I think this is the wrong tax at the wrong time.
The member for St Catharines talks about tax increases, and I think it's important to note that tax increases are a very difficult thing for any party, whether it's an opposition party or a government party, to deal with and implement. I certainly feel this way, and I suspect that many of my colleagues in the NDP also feel this way, that they wouldn't want to go to any tax increases whatsoever. In fact, if you note our budget and our budget statements over the last several years, you'll note that in the first budget statement -- in fact not in the budget but just before the budget -- we introduced what was called at the time Bill 1, where we separated the calculation of the PST from the GST. What that did was it saved Ontario taxpayers about $700 million. We kept that money in their pockets.
You'll note that in the last budget statement we stayed away from middle-income earners and working people by not raising their personal income taxes in one of the worse recessions in this province's history. I say that to the Liberals when they talk about their 33 tax increases over five years.
One of the things I'd like to do before I go to that is comment on the member for Downsview's reference to the commercial concentration tax as being an incentive for people to drive their cars into the city. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact it was the opposite. Because of the commercial concentration tax, the parking lots actually had fees that went up and fewer people drove their cars in because they had to pay a larger amount for parking. So contrary to what he said, that is not what the purpose was and it certainly had the opposite result.
When we talk about the gas guzzler tax, one of the things you have to look at is whether this is actually going to encourage people to buy fuel-efficient vehicles. When the Liberals first introduced another version of the gas guzzler tax, it only addressed those vehicles which actually were great guzzlers of gas and which should not be representative of what people are driving on the roads in these environmentally sensitive times.
But what the Treasurer has done, even with the revised gas guzzler tax, is hit a lot of vehicles that are actually quite fuel-efficient. I just bought a General Motors car yesterday that was built in Oshawa, and I'm glad to say I noticed on this table that mine is a fuel-efficient car, and I got the lowest of the taxes, $75. That being said, I think this government should rethink this bill. They should withdraw it and go back to the drawing-board.
What I want to implore the members of the government to be aware of is that they should not simply be apologists for the Treasurer and the Premier and the members of the cabinet. If they're in the cabinet, they have to support the policy; I understand that. I don't expect any member of the cabinet to be outside saying, "This tax should be withdrawn." They have to support that. But there is a unique opportunity, I think a growing opportunity within this Legislature and within parliaments around Canada, for people to be a little more independent-minded in their thinking.
If they're looking to get into the cabinet and they don't want to perhaps offend the Premier and don't want to offend the Treasurer and the movers and shakers in the Premier's office, I understand that they may not want to be openly critical of the tax. All I'm asking of members of the government is that behind the closed doors of the caucus room they take advantage of the opportunity to direct some tough questions to the cabinet about this, particularly to the Treasurer and the Minister of Revenue, and that they attempt to encourage them to abandon this tax.
I think they can certainly earn a lot of the credit. Some will say the opposition influenced them, some will say people outside the government influenced them, but they will know in their own minds -- in the Premier's favourite words, in their own heart of hearts -- that they have in fact had an influence on government policy.
I see a lot of people here who were apologists for no one in their life before they got into this Legislature, and I simply urge them to have that same degree of zeal in protecting the auto workers in the province, in protecting the people of the province and in persuading the government not to proceed with third reading of this tax.
I want to talk in more general terms about two or three issues. One issue relates to the fact that this bill in its original form, when introduced some years ago, was in fact more sound in terms of supporting itself or justifying itself in the environmental sense, because when Bill 130 was originally introduced it had the tax that was levied against a new vehicle proportional to the amount of gasoline that vehicle used.
The original intent of the bill was, if you used, for instance, less than nine litres of gas for 100 kilometres, you were taxed a certain amount, and it didn't matter whether you were driving a car or you were driving a sports vehicle; it didn't matter whether you were driving a passenger car or a jeep or a truck or a Mercedes-Benz or one of these sportier vehicles. Therefore I guess there could be some justification for the government saying that the motivation behind this tax was environmental, conservation-oriented. But then came the loud outcry of the Ontario Federation of Labour, our motor vehicle parts producers and our motor vehicle plants, which argued that this bill was going to put a lot of auto workers out of work.
What was the government's reaction? The government's reaction was to look at what was produced in Canada and then redraft the bill sort of in a sneaky way to exempt from the very strict requirements of the former bill those vehicles that were made here and to create a new class of vehicle called a sport utility vehicle. It was really a shameful hiding of the fact that this government was protecting Ontario and Canadian interests versus other interests and abandoning the whole concept of a gas guzzler tax being related to conservation or environmental issues.
I say to the government that when it sold itself out in amending Bill 130 it really showed its hand. As the St Catharines Standard said in its June 26 editorial, a tax is a tax is a tax, and what was a regressive tax on Ontario's troubled auto industry remains a regressive tax but is spread over a wider range of vehicles than was originally proposed, and the main victim is still our own industry. What the government really did by revamping Bill 130 was to show its hand. They wanted more money and they thought they could trick the public by saying that this is related to energy and conservation and this is related to environmental issues. It really is not.
The other thing the public should know is that the money from the gas guzzler tax doesn't go into a special account to deal with environmental matters. The question often asked in polls is, "Would you pay more taxes for the environment?" A lot of people will say, "Yes, I'd pay more taxes for the environment." Politicians know this. Governments know this. The last government introduced the tire tax, as you can remember. But people out there should know that the gas guzzler tax doesn't go into a special bank account to deal with environmental issues. It goes into the same bank account your personal income tax goes into, it goes into the same bank account sales tax goes into, and it goes into the same bank account land transfer tax and all the other taxes go into.
This whole idea of duping the public into thinking that maybe it's okay if the government introduced a new tax if it put an environmental tag on it was introduced by the former Liberal government under the auspices of the previous speaker, the member for St Catharines, who brought in the famous tire tax. You remember, Mr Speaker, we had great speeches in the budget that the reason for the $5-a-tire tax was to take care of the disposal or waste of these tires. We've learned since then that the money that was taken from the tire tax went into the Treasurer's general bank account and the Treasurer actually never spent anywhere near equal the amount that was collected under the guise of the tire tax on disposal of tires or dealing with the whole waste question dealing with waste tires.
Another trick that was tried by the former government, Mr Speaker, was through the Ontario Lottery Corp. You can remember that there was this new lottery introduced about a month before the last election. I think it was just a coincidence. I don't think it could have possibly been planned that the former Minister of the Environment got together with the former Minister of Tourism and Recreation, who runs the lottery business here. I don't think he could have possibly thought about introducing the Cleansweep lottery.
I don't know if you remember it, but I used to drive down the Gardiner Expressway here in Toronto. There was a big sign there with Cleansweep. The television ad started in July, I believe, and then in August 1990 we saw the wonderful things this new lottery was going to do. It was going to clean up. Actually, from the TV ads, I thought this lottery was going to clean up all Ontario. It looked that good. It really looked that good. But actually they didn't get bought on that one. Eventually Cleansweep really didn't relate to cleaning up the environment of Ontario; it related to cleaning up the Liberal government which invented the Cleansweep. It sort of swept them out of office.
It was kind of ironic that after it had swept them out of office, the lottery corporation withdrew that lottery concept from TV. All the money wasted on the ads on TV, which was a lot of money -- I can remember trying to turn on the TV after coming in from campaigning and all I could see was Cleansweep, Ontario was wonderful and all the rest of it.
At any rate, that was another example of a government trying to set up an advertising program based on the fact that it was going to do something with the taxpayers' dollar. But in fact there's no commitment to do anything with that taxpayers' dollar. I really believe that the next Provincial Auditor should rein in a Treasurer or another minister who brings in what I call a misrepresentation of the facts as to where that money is going to end up. Again we have, in terms of this gas guzzler tax, another example of a tax which is supposed to be going towards environmental matters. It's supposed to help us clean up our environment, but there isn't anything which guarantees that. It's going into the same bank account, as I said, as everything else.
I think I've made my two major points. I wanted first of all to say that as a treasury critic I'm very much concerned with the amount of hype that's going in a lot of political circles with regard to the introduction of new taxes. Another one, just in passing before I wind up, was the employer health tax, which was introduced by the last Liberal government. They seemed to introduce this concept of naming taxes but not really putting the money into that particular endeavour. The employer health tax has nothing to do with health. It has to do with collecting more money, because it goes into the same bank account as the commercial concentration tax, our personal income tax, sales tax and indeed the gas guzzler tax.
They all go into the same bank account. Each year the Treasurer decides, unilaterally or with his cabinet colleagues, that he's going to take this much out of the bank account for that, this much out for that. He's not bound by the fact that $2 billion may have come from the employer health tax so he must spend that $2 billion on health. He's not bound by the fact that the gas guzzler tax produced -- I don't know what the figure is -- $300 or $400 million to put that money into environmental purposes. He can spend that on anything he wants -- social programs. He can spend it on giveaways to whomever he should choose.
I think it's time the Provincial Auditor got to the bottom of this. Unless the Treasurer is willing to dedicate revenue, unless he's willing to put it in a separate bank account, he should not be allowed to name a tax which is misrepresentative of where that money may enter. That's basically the point I wanted to make.
The last thing I want to say is that I'm very sorry for the border communities this government has chosen, through this tax, to penalize further. When we compare the combined federal and provincial taxes in Ontario, we have approximately 15 cents of taxes per litre provincial tax and about seven cents federal tax, making somewhere around 21 to 22 cents total tax per litre on the consumer in Ontario.
Go across into Michigan and I believe it's seven or eights cents total taxes per litre of gasoline and, of course, that converts into gallons over there. On a litre-per-litre basis we are taxing in this province about 13 to 14 cents per litre more than the state of Michigan which of course we're competing with in terms of shopping, commerce, tourism etc.
When government makes taxation policy it can't, as the Treasurer did one year ago, turn a blind eye to what's happening around it. If he does so, he takes the consequences, which have been shown in our border communities. I think it's callous disregard for the communities in that area.
I want to sum up by saying that the debate on this bill has gone on far too long. In 15 years of being here it's the first time we have been actually carrying on debate in the Legislature with regard to bills from a previous budget after the subsequent budget was introduced. I don't blame the government in particular. I blame the Legislature as a whole for being unable to wrestle with that particular issue. I only hope all parties will take that into consideration when dealing with budget bills that are going to emanate from the April 30, 1992, budget.
I do not think it is fair to the public to hold up legislation this long and I say, in particular, our opposition parties will be more reasonable with regard to the taxation legislation coming from the Treasurer emanating out of the 1992 budget.
I got up at one point in this debate and pointed out to the House that this is obviously not the first time. This happened on a number of occasions. I know, for example, we came in and debated budgetary items from 1987, 1988 and 1989 that were not passed in those particular years because of difficulties they were having in the Legislature trying to get them through. They were passed on to subsequent years. So I think you need to clarify that is not the first time it has happened.
His insights have been well documented and well researched. I know full well that the member for Carleton has spent many hours on many of these taxation issues and comes at it with a very knowledgeable and what I will say is a forthright approach. It's not simply partisan politics. He's offered what I consider to be reasonable alternatives to the tax increase and it would behoove the government to listen to some of the offers made by the opposition. I think the member for Carleton is clearly one of those members who needs to be listened to.
I don't think it's right for us to introduce a tax on May 1, 1991, or around that period of time, and then retroactively put it into law a year and a half later. If we have done it before, and I think we have -- as I acknowledged, the member for Cochrane South has corrected me and he is right -- I do want to say that I don't approve of what has happened in the past, but it has been much rarer in the past. I think in most cases it hasn't been a tax which affects so many people as in this case. I think it has dealt with things like airplane fuel and something of that nature, which really didn't impact on the general public.
Before I sit down, I just want to note that this is the last day for our pages and I just want to thank Amanda Sully from Carp, who came down here from my riding. All the pages have done a wonderful job this term. Thank you very much.
First, on the whole question of taxation, I guess we could get into another debate at another time. I think I mentioned on Bill 86 last week, when we were debating here in the House, the whole question about taxation and about services that governments must provide. If I understand, a lot of times there are convoluted messages coming from the opposition. On the one hand, they tell us they want us to spend money on one question; in the next question they want us to save money. I guess the only thing I'd have to say to that is I wish they would get their message straight so that they can give direction to the government. That's what they're here to do and I wish they would have that message straight. It's quite confusing to listen at times to one question going one way and the other going the other way.
Back to the debate: On the question of the taxation on the fuel conservation tax, there are just a couple of things I want to leave. There was an assumption, I guess, a sort of point made in the debate. I was listening to one of the previous members speak in regard to how this would affect the Canadian manufacturing industry that makes automobiles here in Ontario. I have here before me a list of all the cars that are applicable to this tax that are made in Ontario, in North America, for that matter, or in Japan or Europe. Here's the whole list. If you take a look at the list, some 89% of the cars that are made here in Ontario follow the minimum portion of that tax. The government was conscious, when it was putting this together, that it didn't want to put its particular industry at peril. But on the other hand, at the same time we need to find a mechanism in order to encourage manufacturers to build cars that are more fuel-efficient in the long run.
I think we can look back and most of us can remember that during the gas crisis we had in 1976, I think it was, there was a real shortage of fuel because of what was happening within the Arab states in regard to the supply of oil to North America. Prior to that, the North American car manufacturing sector was making cars that were very inefficient on gas. We had the big, old V-8s -- very heavy, very difficult on gas -- but we consumers in Ontario didn't mind.
We didn't mind as consumers in North America, because we went out and bought those cars and at the time we paid some 20 cents or 30 cents or 40 cents a gallon for that particular gas. We really didn't have a care. But when the crunch came -- and that's the point I'm trying to make -- where the price of gas started to go up, it put the manufacturers of automobiles in a position where they had to compete with foreign producers, so they had to make cars that became more fuel-efficient.
Was that bad? I think in the long run most people would say that is good. You can now buy something like a Chevy Lumina or a Buick LeSabre, still very large cars, very solid cars, cars made in North America that I think are good quality but have gas consumption far, far better they did than 10 or 15 years ago. The point is that if the consumers, by their purchasing power, had not put them in the position of making these cars more fuel-efficient, they wouldn't be around. The point is what we've ended up with. There are cars that are better quality and cars that are cheaper on gas.
If you look at the numbers, as I said a little while ago, 89% of the cars made here in Ontario are under the minimum portion of this tax compared to 63% of those cars that are foreign-made. If you look at Buick as a good example, the Century 2.5-litre -- basically all the Buick cars fit under the minimum portion of the tax of $75. I think if you're purchasing a car for some $15,000, $18,000 or $20,000, depending on the model, $75 is not going to scare you away from that sale.
I would agree with most members in this Legislature and most people in the province that if given our choice and given our druthers none of us would like to pay taxes. I don't think that's an issue; I think all of us agree with that. The reality, on the other hand, is that the people of the province say to us: "We want services. We want hospitals. We want roads. We want schools. We want day care." We need all these things in order to live within the society we call North America, we call Ontario. We as a government have a responsibility to provide those services to the people. Yes, we collect taxes, but for those taxes there's some value.
I really have a difficult time, and I'm sure members opposite have the same difficulty, when you listen to the debate on taxation. Nobody will argue otherwise than trying to find a fairer tax system and bring those taxes down. Nobody would argue with that. Yes, we can find efficiencies in the system. But to say that on the one hand we should bring all the taxes down but on the other hand we should increase expenditures, excuse me, you don't have to be a mathematician to figure out that's a fairly difficult exercise.
Just to go through some of the other cars, the Chrysler cars, for example, most of these which are made here in Ontario: again, the Daytona, the 5th Avenue, the LeBaron, the Imperial, all fall within the $75 provision of this tax. Chevrolet: the Beretta, the Camaro, the Caprice, the Cavalier, the Corsica, the Lumina -- $75.
Which cars are affected by the higher increase? Obviously those cars that are not as efficient on gas. If you take a look at the numbers of cars that come in at the next portion of tax, which is $250, 7% of the cars made in Ontario fall underneath that particular provision compared to some 10% of the foreign cars. If you look at the numbers, the numbers actually favour the Ontario market and favour those cars produced here in Ontario.
Let's look at some of the foreign cars, the BMWs, which are not made here in North America, not made here in Ontario. Sure, they fall in the $1,200 provisions of the tax, the $250 provision of the tax. The M5, for example, is $1,200; the 850iA is $1,200; a couple of them fall under the $75.
If we go through this list and look at other cars -- the Lamborghini. I couldn't afford one of those. I don't think most of the members in this Legislature can afford it, but $2,400. Take a look at the Mazda 626/MX. It falls under the $250. They have some cars that fall under $75.
The point I'm making is that when you look at this list and the cars on it, clearly the majority of the cars made here in North America, here in Ontario, 89% of them fall under the minimum provision of the tax. There are some cars, yes, that fall otherwise, at the $250 level and some of them even at $1,200. If you take a look at the list, only 2% of those cars produced in Ontario fall in the $1,200 category. As far as the other portions of the tax are concerned, none of them does. What I'm saying is that the government was fairly careful, when it put this together, to make sure we didn't put at jeopardy, by and large, those cars made here in Ontario, because the Ontario market seems to have its niche in producing cars that are fairly efficient on gas.
What most people in Ontario would recognize and support, I think, is that we need to find ways within the automotive manufacturing sector to make cars that are more efficient on gas, that get more miles to the gallon and that the consumer who is the driver of that car has fewer operating expenses to operate that car. Clearly what this does is put the manufacturer of the car in a position where it wants to make a car that's even more efficient on gas. The more efficient it is, the less you pay. At some points you actually get a credit if you can bring it down to a certain threshold level.
If I were to listen to the members of the opposition and not to look at any of this information, if I were John and Joe Public sitting at home without these lists in front of me, I would think all the cars made in Ontario fell under the maximum or medium provisions of the tax. Clearly, that's not true. Again, 89% of those passenger cars made here in Ontario fall within the minimum portion of the tax, which is the $75 limit, and 7% of those domestic cars in the passenger class service fall within the $250 limit.
Again I say, if I'm going to buy a car that's $20,000 or $25,000 and I'm paying an extra $75 or $250 on the car, that's not what's going to scare me away. I'll buy the argument that people would like not to pay any taxes. In a perfect world that would be great, but it's not that way. People demand services.
If you take a look at the sport and utility vehicles made here in Ontario, that ratio is much the same.
That is the point I would like to make. I'm not going to take any more time in the debate. I'd welcome any comments on what I've had to say and I'll cede the floor for that.
The member for Cochrane South talked about the need for raising taxes, the fact that we have a lot of services we have to pay for in Ontario, such as hospitals, schools and child care, and taxation is obviously the way we do that. I certainly agree with him on that point, but the point I'd like to make is that this legislation was billed by the government, by the Minister of the Environment, as an environmental tax. This was going to be a tax that would benefit the environment, but if you look at where the revenues from this tax are going, they are not being dedicated to the environment, they are going into general revenue.
When this tax was first introduced by the Liberals, it was a mechanism to deal with the worst of the gas guzzlers. At that stage, I think it generated about $8 million worth of revenue. It was anticipated that once it was revived, this tax would generate somewhere in the neighbourhood of $45 million.
You could defend this if you were saying the revenues were going to the environment or if the revenues were really going to solve some of our environmental problems, but that's not what it is. This is a tax grab and it cannot be painted as an environmental tax. It's not an environmentally friendly tax from that perspective, because you are covering a vast majority of the vehicles in this province.
I say to the member for Cochrane South who represents Matheson, where I come from, that northerners use many of the vehicles that would have one of the higher taxes, because they are heavy-duty vehicles. I think he should take this into consideration.
The member for Cochrane South said the right thing in terms of raising taxes. He says, "Sure, we have to provide day care services, we have to provide housing, we have to provide for welfare, we have to obviously provide for a number of services." But at the same time, let's have a look at what an additional tax does to increase prices.
I'm looking especially to the member for Cochrane South. The reason many of our Canadian citizens are going south, not to Cochrane South but south across the border to the United States, to purchase products -- and we ask ourselves, what can we do to stop that haemorrhage? -- is that the kind of products that are being provided in the US, Mr Speaker, you would agree even being non-partisan, are obviously much cheaper than products we can produce right here in Ontario.
Why is that? I'm not saying it is totally the fault of this NDP government that the prices are being raised out of reach for most of our citizens, but certainly we have to look at our competitiveness across the broad range of products we are making in Ontario. I might add, we should be proud of our manufacturing base, but when you look at tax after tax after tax, whether it's provincial tax, concentration tax, income tax, we know we are unable to compete in the international marketplace.
The point is that what's happened over the years is that successive governments -- the Liberal government that was here for some five years from 1985 to 1990 and Tory governments before that for some 40 years and federal governments of two stripes, Liberals and Tories -- have built the tax regime we have here in Ontario and we have here in Canada.
For the members opposite to sit here and blame the NDP government for a tax regime that was tailor-made and built by both the Tories and Liberals, both in this Legislature and in the federal House, I have a difficult time with. I will just stop at that. I would love to get into a debate about that.
With regard to the member for Carleton, I wish I had written some notes because I was listening to what the member for Carleton was talking about. It was quite amusing. I won't make any comment because I guess it doesn't deserve any. I don't want to be mean, but I'm not going to get into that.
The member for Eglinton talked about the environmental tax, saying that if this is truly an environmental tax, what the government should be doing is taking that money directly and giving it to my colleague the Minister of the Environment in order to set up programs for the environment.
Remember the tire tax, Mr Speaker, introduced by the Liberals? Did that money go into the environment? It went into general revenue. That's the way the government operates. It collects taxes at various levels and then takes the money and puts it into general revenue and then divvies the money back out to the various ministries.
With that, I end the debate.
I can recall, and I think some of the members over here will recall, that following the introduction of that budget one year ago, the comments initially about this tax from the labour unions in this province were quite neutral. As a matter of fact, I think they were positive. But as the CAW thought about this for a while and Bob White, who was initially supportive, thought about it for a while, it became quite apparent that he had to go and call on the Treasurer and Mr Rae and change the bill. I believe that was productive. I think it was productive that the bosses of this government went to see their servants and got a change in this bill.
However, I think it's important to note, as a northern MPP, as somebody who represents a northern riding, as somebody who is here to share the concerns of my constituents and the constituents across the north, we have to look at what the provisions of this bill mean to the people I represent. More than that, we have to look at what the combination of taxes that were introduced in that budget one year ago represent to the people I represent.
We know this government found it necessary to increase the taxes on gasoline by 30%, 3.4 cents in one year, the largest gasoline tax raise, to my knowledge anyway, that affected my constituents. On top of that, they come with a tax that if they purchase a new vehicle which is likely to be more fuel-efficient, likely to be a lot better than the car they were driving in terms of fuel efficiency and therefore the environment, they're going to be penalized. So what you do is make it more expensive to drive a car in the first place and then you try to discourage them from buying it. I think there's logic there, but I'm not sure where.
So what have we got? We get taxes.The first level is $75. I'll tell you, I know a lot of car dealers in my area; I also know a lot of people who buy cars. In our area, in the rural north, people tend to buy larger vehicles. Why do they do that? As you would know, Mr Speaker, in the north we have greater distances to drive, our roads are often not quite as good. As a matter of fact, some of the country roads in my neck of the woods are really not very good, in the wintertime especially.
I'm not just suggesting this. I know this. You can just drive through downtown Mindemoya or through Manitowaning or you can choose to go over to Spanish on the shore, and you will see that these are the kinds of vehicles people choose. It's not because my constituents are less environmentally concerned; it's because you must do these things. It's a choice you have to make.
So we have a tax that unduly penalizes people who live in the north, and in the rural north especially. I ask Mr Laughren, the Treasurer, someone who represents the riding adjoining mine, a riding that is quite similar in geography, whether his constituents would think this is a fair way to approach the taxation in this province. I would suggest they would tell him the very same thing my constituents tell me: "This tax is unfair to us. We understand you have to tax, but we don't understand why the government needs to discriminate against people in the north."
I think Mr Laughren's constituents would say that. I think the Minister of Northern Development's constituents would tell her that. I think the constituents of the Minister of Natural Resources, whose riding is on the other side of my riding, would tell him the same thing: "This tax discriminates against us. What did we do to deserve a 30% increase in gasoline tax, and on top of that, paying $250 or more to buy the vehicle not that we want, but that we need?"
In my part of the world it's not uncommon for people to purchase so-called sport utility vehicles, four-by-fours. They're not a luxury; they're not so you can look good driving down Yonge Street on Saturday night. They are good and needed because that's what's demanded with our climate, our geography and, yes, our roads.
We might be able to understand that we will be penalized for having to drive bigger cars --
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.
I recall, Mr Speaker, as I'm sure you do and other members of this Legislature do who have been here for a little bit of time, when we listened to New Democrats in opposition. In opposition, New Democrats told us over and over in this place, told Conservative governments and Liberal governments, that what we needed was more spending on northern roads. "You take all this money out of the northern economy," they would say, "and you put back no asphalt." The cries and the anguish over this were tremendous.
I want to tell you, Mr Speaker, and I bet you didn't know, that they're spending less money on northern roads and highways than when former governments were in power. Yet they have the nerve to come here and tell us that we should pay more for our vehicles; we should pay more for our fuel. I can't make this add up.
If I had voted New Democrat in the last election -- perish the thought -- I would have been believing the north would be a parking lot within three years of them coming to government, because they were going to pave everything. They were literally going to pave everything. They promised they would four-lane -- spend $200 million a year, I think it was, on the Trans-Canada alone. But of course, highways 69 and 11 in the northwestern part of the province were also going to be four-laned. The cost was no object.
You didn't have to raise taxes when other governments were there. They never worried about that. As a matter of fact, I don't recall them ever voting for any tax bill of any kind. But certainly you should spend the money. So for New Democrats now to come to us and say: "Yes, northerners, guess what? We're going to spend less money on your roads" -- I asked the Minister of Northern Development at estimates, "How many kilometres of four-laning did you do last year?" She rose proudly in her seat and announced, I think, four kilometres. I said, "Where?"
I find that appalling from a government that had said exactly the opposite. They said they were for the north and yet they're spending less and less money in the north. They're helping our citizens less and less. We have the highest unemployment rate in the province. I represent Elliot Lake. Our unemployment rate is huge. I don't know the exact percentage, but when you lose 3,400 jobs out of 4,000 in the mining industry, your unemployment rate goes right through the roof.
I want somebody on the other side to talk a little bit about how this helps create jobs for these people. Tell me, how is adding taxes creating jobs for the people I serve, especially when they're not building roads? A lot of the people in Elliot Lake have trained on heavy equipment in the past year. You can't work in the heavy equipment field unless there's a road being built to work on. They're not building the roads. They're increasing our taxes on both fuel and vehicles, and we're upset.
To change gears for a moment, I want to tell you who else they're attacking. They're attacking people like me who have families. We cannot put our families in a Sprint. If you have four children and a spouse, you can't get them in a Sprint. It won't work. I think maybe we did it at university with another kind of car about that size, but I don't think you'd want to go very far.
There are many people in this province who didn't have, what is it, 1.9 children? Is that the average? We didn't. We had four.
I am standing here bewildered by this. As a northerner, it doesn't work for me. I can't understand it. There is no way this is what we thought a New Democratic government would have done. It is almost not conceivable. If you understand that there are families in this province with four or five children, maybe six, you're not going to get them into a vehicle that this particular tax is at least a little softer on.
So I stand here totally wondering what was on the Treasurer's mind, and I can only come to one conclusion. The Treasurer thought, "The province needs money and I'll grab it from those fat cats who are going to buy new cars." He didn't care about the people who make the cars.
If I think back -- maybe it's back many years in Ontario -- I remember that governments would actually take tax holidays on cars. Does anybody remember that, when they would drop the provincial sales tax for --
I think it would have behooved the government to do some things to stimulate the economy. One of the big kind of fibs in this place is that there are only three ways to balance your books: to raise taxes, reduce spending or increase the deficit. But what they don't talk about is if you encourage the economy to grow, if you do things that increase employment, make the place a good place to invest, you get more taxes, not less. I think that's just common sense.
What the government has to do is cause this economy to get rolling again. Sometimes it's like a store. When things aren't going well, generally you don't put the price up; you have a sale. Maybe that's what we need to be thinking about in this province.
With those few remarks, I will take my seat. I would welcome the comments of other members.
I am delighted to see the government House leader here today, because he does play an important role in cabinet decision-making and he might even be influencing the Treasurer on this. The question I ask today is on consultation. When this tax was introduced, what did the House leader do? Did he say to the Treasurer, "Let's consult the very industry that is directly affected by this tax?" or did he say, "No, we're going to do it like we did it with Meech Lake"? I can only think of one issue where this possibly did happen, and that was Meech Lake and I think we made a mistake.
Obviously, when we introduce a tax and we make a promise to consult the people before we make a decision, we might get some help in terms of refining the decision, making it better so residents have an idea they're being listened to.
What happened here? What happened was that the exact opposite took place. The industry was not consulted, but rather the decision was made and forced upon that industry. I would only hope this government will not do that in the future.
When you were in power, what did you do with David Peterson to tell him to do something right? I didn't see you standing up then speaking as eloquently about the Liberals, but now you can be so sanctimonious at the expense of the New Democrats. The poor people, they don't know what they're doing, and for you to come along and start beating up on such incompetents isn't really fair, because if they knew any better, they'd be standing up raising Cain and telling the real facts the way they are.
There isn't any doubt that this government's lost its principles. It doesn't have any. It has forgone them.
The member for Algoma-Manitoulin brought forward a number of concerns about northern Ontario, and I'll tell you, as somebody who lived for many years in the north, he has made a lot of very valid points.
The first one is that in the north you use heavy-duty vehicles, four-wheel-drive vehicles, utility vehicles, full-size vehicles, not because it looks good, not because it's more comfortable, but because of necessity. It's a matter of safety in many cases. If you have driven in northern Ontario in winter conditions you know how inclement the weather can be, and you know that as a matter of safety, the heavier the vehicle, the greater propensity it is that you are going to have a safe vehicle.
But this government has not considered this. They have in fact penalized people from northern Ontario because of the way of life they have to lead. Anybody who's travelled the vast expanses of northern Ontario knows how important it is to have a vehicle that is not only heavy but safe. These are the very vehicles that the gas tax penalizes, so the real reason this government did it was for a tax grab, not to be fair to the people of the north.
The most blatant example is right in here: penalizing northerners for buying the cars northerners have to have. But he knows that. He knows they raised the gas tax by 30%. He knows the only thing that's in this budget this year for northern Ontario is a $30-million commitment to the northern heritage fund. Isn't that great? That was a pledge made by a Liberal government. The northern heritage fund is something his party voted against, and it voted against it for one reason: because $30 million a year was peanuts, they said.
Now we come to this budget, and what do they say? "The only thing we can do for you guys is that we're going to cut the regular budget down. You don't need that money. You've got too much. We're going to tax you some more." But guess what, Mr Speaker? "We're going to give you $30 million in the heritage fund. Aren't we a great bunch of guys?"
The northerners are not going to believe that. Northerners are not going to like this tax. They already don't like this tax; they've been paying it for a year and a half. Nonsense over there.
We know on the question of tax revenue that successive governments -- this government's no different in the sense that it's grabbing more taxes. Where they are different is the level at which they're taking taxes. They're going to say, "Oh, we haven't raised taxes as much as the Liberals." It's true they haven't raised taxes as much as the Liberals, but they're piggybacking all of the taxes they are raising on top of the taxes the Liberals raised.
We know the Liberals had 33 tax increases in the five years they were in power. I remember listening to the NDP saying they were against many of these taxes. We know that. But in the time they've been in power they've piled on the taxes. We've now got 55 different tax increases. When we count together all the socialist taxes of the socialist Liberals and socialist NDP, we have 55 tax increases in seven years. How can we live with this?
The NDP said it was against the tire tax. They said it should be spent on the environment. They're not spending it on the environment. They said they were against the commercial concentration tax. We've even heard one of their members get up today and dump on the Liberals about the commercial concentration tax. You've been in power long enough; you could have taken it away. You promised you were going to take it away, but it's like all of the other promises. They weren't worth the paper they were printed on.
That Agenda for People: it was a crime against humanity that they could possibly be elected on that flimsy document. But they're hanging by it, because now as they squeeze the people and take more and more taxes out of the economy, people are beginning to realize what a bunch of socialists they've got and what they're doing to this province. They're driving jobs out of the province.
When we look at the environmental argument, what on earth is this government doing to help the environment? They brought in, first of all, a tax which was just for the biggest gas guzzlers, the big cars. But their pal, Bobby White, looked at this and said: "This is going to cost some money to your party. We're not going to contribute to you if you do this." So Bob pulled the strings with the other Bob, and the Premier said, "Okay, we'll spread it all over the cars." There are only three automobiles you can buy that aren't taxed by this tax. That is absolutely ludicrous.
What on earth do we do for the environment? There are only three automobiles that are not taxed by this tax, and they are made in the United States and in Japan. They're not made in Ontario, so that's not helping to create jobs in this province. I think essentially this government should go back and rethink all its plans like it's having to rethink Sunday shopping and almost everything else it did.
The Treasurer is most concerned at the fact that he appointed a Fair Tax Commission and every single report of the Fair Tax Commission does not meet eye to eye with what the Treasurer's political agenda is. Now he's having to twist in the wind and he doesn't want to listen to it. I'll tell you, the members across there are going to listen to this. They're killing this province.
Yes, it's the Thursday before a holiday and we're having a little fun in the House and that's appropriate, but there's a serious aspect to this. The serious aspect is that this is a government which is doing nothing to stimulate the economy. They are doing nothing to create jobs because the bottom line is they are taking more and more money out of the economy and it means that people cannot spend on goods, which would stimulate the economy and get us back to the prosperity this province had during the 42 years of good Conservative rule.
If indeed we wanted to get cars to be efficient and to be environmentally sensitive, we would encourage people to buy new cars. We wouldn't tax people from buying them. We would say, "Let's get rid of all of the old clunkers." Something like 10% of all the automobiles in this province are old and causing the pollution, and these are the people who can't afford it because they're poor, the people the NDP supposedly represent, but it's doing a very poor job of representing them.
That's because they don't understand the problem. We have a government of people who have never managed before. That's the bottom line. Unless you've met a payroll, you probably don't know what the basic problem is. That's what your Premier is finding out in Japan; people are not too enamoured with your way of governing. When he was in Germany last year he had difficulty. The trade missions: This province has had difficulty getting people to go to some of the meetings to hear this Premier speaking because they have no trust in this Premier and they have no trust in this government.
On the point of Bill 130, Mr Speaker, because I know you're about to remind me that we're speaking about the gas guzzler tax, here is a government that revamped its bill because a union leader said, "Hey, it's going to cost us some jobs." That might have been some good advice if it had been to say, "Okay, let's get rid of the level of taxation we've got and let's encourage people to buy automobiles."
I remember back in the good old days of Tory rule, long before I was involved in politics, when I went out and bought a new automobile. I squeezed out that extra bit of money because there was a tax holiday. I reached and spent a little more money and it helped the economy, and that's something this government doesn't understand.
We know this is a government that said it could be all things to all people, that it could reduce taxes. It said: "Yes, we're overtaxed, but don't worry. We won't take any services away." This is a government that isn't prepared to take the hard decisions, and the hard decisions involve getting rid of the 9,000 extra civil servants the Liberals added. Instead of doing that, it has added more civil servants and it is guaranteeing the civil servants their jobs. It is saying to the public, "Don't worry, we're only paying them a 1% increase." I have to say bullfeathers to that.
On top of a 1% increase, the people are getting merit increases. Last year alone, they spent 14.5% on increases to civil servants when other people in Ontario were suffering and were pleased to have the same amount of pay as the year before. That's how they're squandering their money and that is why they are having to gather these tax grabs.
I see the Treasurer coming in. He should almost have a black hood over his face because he's a highway robber. He's probably been away in his ministry scheming as to where he can grab some more taxes from hardworking, middle-class people and the working poor, instead of doing something sensible, and that is getting the tax burden down for the people of Ontario.
Let's put away any of this nonsense about suggesting this is an environmentally sensitive tax. It does nothing for the environment. We want to help people to buy environmentally efficient cars; we don't want to say the poor people who cannot afford to replace their old gas guzzling cars should be penalized, but that's something this government doesn't understand.
When we look at the economy of Ontario, it's in tatters. It's not at all the province I came to, and that's why I am so exercised when I speak about these issues, because this is a province that was the envy of the world. It isn't the envy of the world today. I can tell you, when I speak to German bankers they say, "We won't allow our customers who ask our advice to invest in Ontario." All I hear from the government is, "Speak to bankers." Of course I speak to bankers, because the only way you'll ever understand the economy is by speaking to bankers, economists and business people who create the jobs of this province, instead of speaking to your union buddies who are trying to destroy this province. Bob White is pulling the strings and the workers who work in this province are the worse off for it.
The majority of workers in this province are not unionized workers. These are the people you're not interested in and you won't consult with. You will only consult with the union bosses and they do not speak for Ontario. You'd better wake up because your tax-gouging is having a profound effect on the Ontario economy. It's not just you who are going to suffer, it's the people we represent. It's our children and your children, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.
I think at some point he talked about taxes and about what our record is with respect to taxes. I'd like to remind the member that what we did as one of our first acts of government was to separate the calculation of the PST from the GST, which in fact saved Ontario residents about $700 million. The federal Conservatives, his friends, his colleagues up in Ottawa, went for the tax grab, the big one, the mother of all tax grabs, the GST, the one that not only Ontario residents pay but residents across this country from shore to shore -- a tax grab they're not likely to forget. People are finally beginning to read through traditional Conservative rhetoric.
I remember in 1984 and again in 1988 when Mulroney went from shore to shore trumpeting the message that he was not only going to roll back taxes but cut away at the debt. What did he do? In fact he raised the national debt of this country. Worse, he raised taxes from shore to shore to a level and a magnitude that residents in Canada, quite frankly, are never going to forget. I'm certainly never going to forget it. I would encourage my Conservative friend across the way to get on the phone today to his friend Mr Mulroney and get him to roll back the GST.
That's stuff we would expect from the hordes in office today. That's not stuff we would have expected from people who purport to represent the business community when they're in opposition, who have a leader we all have come to know and love as Taxfighter Mike. Boy, he's out there just going to fight everything. They try to have it both ways. They're not prepared to look at issues of concern to the people in how to raise revenues.
The real enemy -- and these guys don't seem to understand it. They sort of can't shoot straight; they stand up to shoot over there and they always go like this. You've got to keep your sights over there, guys. That's the enemy. The people in Ontario understand that. Liberals understand that. You fellows get confused. You can't keep your sights straight; you keep going like this. I don't understand it. You've got to recognize it's not just taxation; it's the fear this government has put into the business community and into every community and even into many facets of the labour community. That's the problem.
So when the member for York Mills brings forward the reason for the change, that in fact you really only have three cars that are imports now that escape this tax, it makes one wonder whom this government is trying to help. It sure isn't the people in Oshawa and Oakville and other parts of our country that are building cars.
We have to be concerned about generating business and industry. Remember, there was a day back in the early 1980s when there were more cars on the lots, and Frank Miller brought in a tax rebate on the Ontario provincial sales tax so that the cars could get off those lots and be sold to people. We're finding now that instead of making investment in their cars or in new products in Ontario, people are holding on to their money. They're keeping their cars for a much longer period of time because it's prohibitively expensive for them to get them.
I just want to say thanks once again to the member for York Mills. His involvement in this debate has brought some sanity where there wasn't any either by the Liberals or by the New Democrats. I appreciate what he had to say. Thank you very much.
The second point is that only business people can run the government and only business people can make decisions. That is contempt for other people in this province and other people in this country who have a stake in what happened in the government.
The other thing in regard to the business --
I was talking to a person in my riding, who is a person of the business community, who had a little discussion with me in regard to some of the information he had been receiving from the Conservative Party, and ways of discrediting what this government is trying to do with business. I wish I could bring that information forward. Unfortunately he doesn't want to come forward. But for you people to stand here and allow that to happen -- you people have done more to scare business out of this province, with the rhetoric that you give in this House every day, than we have ever done. Get on the ticket. Get on with us. Let's build Ontario and let's see the Conservative Party work to build Ontario and work to bring business along.
With respect to what my colleague the member for Mississauga West --
Moving to the question of any disdain for workers, we have no disdain for workers. We are supportive of workers. We do have disdain for union leadership that is strangling this province and telling you your marching orders. That is what we have disdain for. Get the record straight. Get a copy of Hansard. Read what I said. I never said anything which was disdain for workers. I am a worker. I've worked all of my life. I appreciate that people work hard for their money. You're trying to tax it away from them.
We will proceed with the late show. However, prior to doing that, on behalf of all members of this Legislature I want to say thank you to the pages who served us so diligently over the past six weeks. They came from all parts of this great province. I am sure they are returning to their respective homes with good souvenirs of this Legislature. I wish them well. I know they will be given a copy of Hansard. I hope they have a very successful school year, and maybe some of them will return to replace some of us at some future time.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
On Monday, May 25, we will continue with discussion of Bill 130 and then go on to committee of the whole consideration of Bill 121.
On Tuesday, May 26, there's an opposition day in the name of the leader of the official opposition.
On Wednesday we will continue with discussion on Bill 130 and Bill 121, followed by Bill 136 and Bill 118, and the same business for Thursday afternoon.
Thursday morning, May 28, we'll deal with ballot item 9 standing in the name of the member for Grey and ballot item 10 standing in the name of the member for Wentworth East.
Yesterday in the House, as you'll recall, Mr Speaker, I asked the Treasurer: "Seeing as public money has been clearly used to misrepresent the budget and to mislead the people of Ontario, I would like to know from you, Treasurer, what steps you are going to take to ensure this misrepresentation is corrected by the members of your government." In response to that, the Treasurer did not indicate any steps he planned to take. So that's what I will be looking for today when the Treasurer responds.
In terms of the substance of my concern, in the publicly funded mailing the member for Dovercourt, the Minister of Education, sent out, he said, "Ontarians making $53,000 a year or more will see increases in their personal income taxes; the other 90% of Ontarians making less than $53,000 will not be affected by the changes."
This is simply not true. The facts of the matter are that in 1992, the tax year we're in, if you're making $40,000 a year, your personal income tax will go up; if you're making $30,000, your personal income tax will go up; if you're making $25,000 a year, $20,000 a year, $10,000 a year, your personal income tax will go up. The member for Dovercourt is shaking his head no, but that is not the case. It will go up.
The really ironic part of this, for me at least -- and I think it will be ironic for many of the viewers out there who are watching this -- if you can believe this, Mulroney actually reduced the taxes for these people. Mulroney actually reduced personal income taxes for low-income people. Then if you can believe this, the Treasurer stepped in, and for every dollar Mulroney cut out of the personal income tax this year, the Treasurer is taxing back $3. He didn't just take back what Mulroney had given; for every dollar Mulroney gave to the people, the Treasurer taxed back $3. So for those of you out there who thought this year you were going to pay lower personal income tax, you have a very rude shock coming. Not only will your taxes not stay the same, although Mulroney has reduced them; you are going to be paying more personal income tax.
Frankly, that's why I got so angry when I saw the member for Dovercourt's householder. It is factually incorrect. It does you a lot of harm, Treasurer. I will say this to the House: One of the strengths of this government is the Treasurer's personal credibility. I have not a lot of confidence in the rest of the government, but his personal credibility has never been in question. That's why I was so surprised to see the member for Dovercourt do so much to undermine the Treasurer's personal credibility.
I would say again to all the viewers out there, this was the same government that ran on the famed Agenda for People. In the Agenda for People it says: "Tax fairness for the working poor. We are proposing that individuals or families living at or below the poverty line should not pay Ontario income tax." Then in the first move, one could hardly believe it -- Mulroney had moved to reduce the taxes for these people -- the Treasurer moved in and taxed all that back and then a lot more.
That is the reason I had hoped yesterday that the Treasurer would indicate to the House the steps he was going to take to ensure that the money the public had spent for this misrepresentation of the budget would be corrected. He would undertake to say to the House: "I realize a mistake has been made. I am going to tell our government members to fix that mistake, to correct that distortion of the budget." That's the most charitable word I could use. I think it's a gross misrepresentation of the facts.
I look forward to the Treasurer telling the House tonight how he is going to assure those people out there that they have the real information.
Since the member for Scarborough-Agincourt raised the matter yesterday, I have had a look at the leaflet put out by the member for Dovercourt, who, just to put the record straight, has enormous credibility and strength in this government as well. To imply that the member for Dovercourt would undermine the credibility of me or anyone else in government is preposterous. You may not have agreed with the way he handled educational matters, but I can tell you he is enormously competent and has done an extremely good job.
Let me say, on the leaflet put out by the member for Dovercourt, that the line in question -- and I think the member for Scarborough-Agincourt has a good point -- does need to be clarified. More than "corrected," I'd use the word "clarified." What's in the leaflet says, "Ontarians making $53,000 a year or more will see increases in their personal income taxes; the other 90% of Ontarians making less than $53,000 will not be affected by these changes." There does need to be a clarification as to what year that is.
Rather than use the words, which were terribly pejorative, that the member for Scarborough-Agincourt used, I think it would have been more accurate to have indicated that a clarification as to the words here should be made. Because it's talking about the 1992-93 budget, that is the impression that would be left from these words. I have no quarrel with that at all.
I cannot help but respond to the comment the member for Scarborough-Agincourt made about our moving in and picking up the tax room vacated by the Tories. I want to tell you, member for Scarborough-Agincourt, if we in this government walked away from our obligations on post-secondary education and health care the way the Mulroney government has, we could reduce taxes too. I can tell you that much.
My concluding comment is that I've listened very carefully since the budget was brought down and I've heard members opposite, from both parties, call time and time again for lower taxes, a lower deficit and more spending on essential public services. I'm telling you, my friends, you're going to be caught out. You cannot have it both ways for ever. You can't for ever call for lower taxes and more spending on programs that happen to suit your fancy.
The House adjourned at 1820.
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