Again, I know they don’t like to hear this, because they have always talked negatively about the Auditor General’s reports; they have from the beginning. Ever since I was first here, they have continued to act disrespectfully towards the auditor and made comments that are disparaging. I’ve heard them; we’ve all heard them. I was in the media studio when the Deputy Premier said that she didn’t agree with the auditor’s numbers when the auditor came out. They were more disparaging than that, but I’ll leave it at that. I could look it up in the book and quote, and I might do that before the end here.
The bottom line is, the Auditor General told us that she is not going to allow them to borrow that money through OPG and not list it as debt. What that will mean in Ontario is that the debt and deficit will be skyrocketing here unless they try to pull yet another fast one and defy the Auditor General. At that point, what we might find is that the auditor will not be signing the reports again this year. She would not sign last October—the first time in the history of Ontario that our accounts were filed without a signature from an Auditor General. That tells you the validity of the numbers that this government is presenting, when an Auditor General will not sign off on the numbers provided by the Liberal Party of Ontario. That’s pretty telling that there’s something wrong with their numbers. The Financial Accountability Officer tells us their numbers are wrong. The Auditor General says your numbers are wrong now, and you’re trying to bring more wrong numbers in, and, “I’m not going to let you,” she said. So we’ll see how this develops.
What that does is it tells you that this plan, this foreign homebuyers’ tax that they’re introducing, is written on the back of a napkin. I intend to talk to you, Speaker, and tell you some of the comments that came to us during the briefing that we had. It was quite alarming.
First of all, let’s just talk about what this foreign homebuyers’ tax is and where it is. It covers the greater Golden Horseshoe region. I will tell you that it includes the city of Barrie, county of Brant, city of Brantford, county of Dufferin, regional municipality of Dufferin, city of Guelph, Haldimand county, regional municipality of Halton, city of Hamilton, city of Kawartha Lakes, regional municipality of Niagara, county of Northumberland, city of Orillia, regional municipality of Peel, city of Peterborough, county of Peterborough, county of Simcoe, city of Toronto, regional municipality of Waterloo, county of Wellington and regional municipality of York. Those are the communities that are included.
In what’s called the technical briefing, where we sat with the Ministry of Finance experts and they talked to us and gave us the breakdown, we asked them, “Why there? Why in those particular communities?”
Their answer was, “It was a political decision.” That’s a quote. I wrote that down as the words were said.
We asked, “What does that mean?” They said, “Well, we followed the BC model.”
We said, “Well, again, what does that mean?” They said, “That’s areas where the greatest price increase occurred.”
We asked, “Well, how did that work there? And why are you modelling ours after that one?” The answer was, “We heard they did it in the greater Vancouver area.” That’s why they’ve picked the greater Golden Horseshoe area. I don’t know; maybe the word “greater” was in both of them. That might be the reason. But it’s obviously written on the back of a napkin.
We asked if there was any data. The answer was no, but I’ll get to the data in a moment.
We asked a little bit deeper about the greater Golden Horseshoe, and if this is going to work in Kawartha, Simcoe and other communities. The answer was—again, I wrote it down, and I’ll quote—“Well, we’ll see what happens.” That is our technical briefing. This is what we’re getting.
“It was a political decision.” To hear that—also, another comment, when we asked why the Golden Horseshoe, was, “Well, that’s the area where the greatest price increase occurred,” and that’s where they said, “We heard they did it in the greater Vancouver area.”
There’s not a lot of solid data here. In fact, that in itself should be ringing alarm bells all over the place.
I’m not being critical of the ministry staff; I know they were doing their job. But, in their words, it’s a political decision, so they’ve got to do the best they can do, given the circumstances that the Liberals put them in. Plain and simple, Speaker, that’s exactly what we’re seeing here.
As we carry on a little bit further, we now know that the foreign homebuyers’ tax means foreign nationals—that’s their definition here—foreign corporations and individuals. This is a foreign homebuyers’ tax on individuals as well. Let’s not make any mistake about that.
I know that we asked questions, and we talked about the fact that in Hong Kong, already there are ads running that basically say, “Come on over here anyway. We’ll cover the tax.” That is the attitude that we’re seeing in this ill-planned project.
We asked about the why. Again, one of the answers was, “This is the only way to achieve a measure of equity under the circumstances.” Where I want to go with that, before I go back to the data, is the circumstances and how we got ourselves into the mess that the Liberals have created.
First of all, we need to appreciate that there’s no data. There’s just no credible data. I’ll get to that in a moment, because we asked about that as well. There is no credible data on foreign buyers in the housing market. They’re bringing in a foreign homebuyers’ tax, that they wrote on the back of a napkin, as yet another one of their quick reactions to a problem that they created.
When you really look at the problem that the Liberal government created, it’s all about red tape and regulations. For instance, in Aurora now, I can talk about how long it takes to do a simple rezoning. The Liberal government has doubled the approval times for housing applications in Aurora. It now takes some 19 months. In Ajax, it’s the same: 19 months. In Toronto and Hamilton, it’s 17 months. Why not address that? Why not go to the root of the problem?
It’s like this hydro solution they came up with. They’ve got a magic financing solution that’s going to bankrupt Ontario and Ontario families. But instead of fixing the problem at hydro—we still make twice as much power every day as we use in Ontario, mostly because they gutted the manufacturing sector. So we have a problem. They don’t fix it; they just wave a wand and bring up a magic financing solution instead. So here, instead of fixing the problem that they’ve created, they’re coming up with a foreign homebuyers’ tax and saying that’s going to solve it all—with no data, by the way. Why not address the problem?
We met with some developers who told us that, from the day they drive by a farm and look at that and say, “Wouldn’t that make a great subdivision for people who are in need of a home?”—from that day to the day the first toilet flushes, in Ontario, can be 16 to 20 years. That’s the reality. That’s all the Wynne government regulations and red tape that they just piled on in Ontario. If you look back at 2007, there were 18,400 single-family homes on the market; this year, 1,524. I’m talking about what we call ground-oriented homes; these are single-family homes on a piece of property—18,400. You talk about ground-oriented? We’ve ground to a halt here—1,524. It takes that long for all of these rules, regulations and red tape that this government added—ridiculous amounts.
We’ve all heard Kathleen Wynne; she said it in this Legislature: “I want to build up and not out.” They don’t want families in single-family homes. They don’t. That is part of their ideology. As a result, now we’ve got this problem that they’ve created, and so what they’re doing is creating a foreign homebuyers’ tax to paper over the issue that they themselves created.
We’ve seen that red tape is slowing down development. We’ve seen that in Ontario. But we’ve also seen so many other problems. When you have a Premier who goes out and muses out loud about these solutions—she has caused a chill in the marketplace. She has caused extreme worry with families. They’re the problem, Speaker. They are the problem. A foreign homebuyers’ tax is not the solution to the problem that they created. In their 16-point plan, not once—not once—did they propose fixing the problem, which is red tape and regulation, that they created. Not once did they talk about that. Instead, they’ve put fear in people’s minds, and they’ve created a chill in the marketplace.
I’ll tell you a story: When I was mayor of the city of North Bay—it’s this lack of thinking that I’m going to—it was called the Strong Communities Act. I remember it well. I thought, “Wow, great-sounding name.” As I’ve learned in the six years I’ve been here now, the Liberals put a great-sounding name on everything so that when you vote against it, it’s, “Oh, my gosh. You voted against the protecting puppies act. How bad are you.” So they’re great at putting these names. The Strong Communities Act sounds great, but do you know what it did, Speaker? We spent tens of millions of dollars in North Bay building an industrial park. The provincial government joined us in those tens of millions, as did the feds. It was a joint project. We’ve got streets, intersections, sewer and water, fully serviced lots all ready to go, high-speed Internet, fire hydrants everywhere. This is a model industrial park. It’s built on a wetland in northern Ontario.
In the north, you have either rock or wetland. There isn’t a Mississauga or a Vaughan where everything is beautiful and flat. You’ve got big rock and low wetland. That’s all we have. That is the north. That is the beauty of the north. We love that.
So the conservation authority got together with the communities in the north and developed a plan where you can build on wetlands in the north. You can’t build on those in the GTA, and you never should. There are very few of them and they’re far between, so you don’t touch that. Everybody agrees on that.
North of the French River, we have a different set of rules—we used to have a different set of rules. North of the French River—