This exchange was heard today in the Ontario Provincial Parliament (from hansard):
Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): In the 2003 election, Premier McGuinty signed a pledge not to raise taxes and to abide by the Taxpayer Protection Act. We all know the Liberals broke their promise in about six months, instituting the largest tax hike in Ontario's history, known as the health tax. Now they want to break their promise again by eliminating any requirement for the people to be consulted if the province allows a municipality to charge a new tax.
What does this mean for taxpayers? If the McGuinty Liberals let municipalities charge you a sales tax, you will have no say. If they allow a local income tax, you will have no say. If they allow any other kind of new tax, people across Ontario will have no say.
Ontarians are already upset at rising income taxes, property taxes and hydro rates. They don't want any more taxes from any level of government. We all know this bill is a lead-up to giving new tax powers to the city of Toronto. This government should be on notice that our party will continue to stand up for the taxpayers of Toronto and the taxpayers of Ontario. They are already paying too much.
Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): My question is to the Premier. Sadly, yesterday I watched as you broke another election promise. After promising to abide by the provisions of the Taxpayer Protection Act, you broke your promise and raised taxes by $2.4 billion. Now again you have broken that same promise by giving authority to municipalities to levy taxes. I'm not going to cast any aspersions on that, because maybe they need to. But my question to you is very simple: Will you admit today that you have no intention whatsoever of honouring your signature to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Hon. John Gerretsen (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I must admit I find this question rather puzzling from an individual who is in this House who served as a mayor of parts of this municipality, in East York at one point in time. He well knows that in the 21st century we are in now, it's absolutely essential that municipalities, including the city of Toronto, and most of all the city of Toronto, which, after all, is the economic engine of this province, have the capacity and the ability to look after their own affairs. That's what we are trying to accomplish with the City of Toronto Act.
The mayor has asked for these powers. AMO has endorsed these kinds of powers. The task force that was set up between the ministry and the staff at city hall asked for these powers. The external review board that the mayor set up to give him advice has asked for these powers. We think that this is the right thing to do. And if the member doesn't like it, then maybe he should say why he's against the city of Toronto having the types of powers it needs to function properly in the 21st century.
Mr. Prue: What this member doesn't like is your party and your leader trying to have it two ways: signing the Taxpayer Protection Act and then doing something to the opposite. You have to choose which side you are on. You can't be part of this and then part of that; you have to be one or the other. You can't have a happy, smiling face with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and a happy, smiling face with the mayor.
I have to repeat my question to you: Do you admit that you were wrong in signing to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and do you promise not to abide by what you promised them in September 2003?
Hon. Mr. Gerretsen: I think the much more relevant question is whether or not that member over there, as a representative here in the city of Toronto, supports the people of Toronto and supports the city of Toronto in wanting a new City of Toronto Act. That's what it's all about in the long run. The people of Toronto want to know where you stand as their representative in this city as to whether or not you believe that the city of Toronto should have more powers, both at the fiscal end and at the legislative end, in order to restructure itself-
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Order, Minister. Thank you.
I would like to hear the reply as well as the question, so you'll be helpful if you do that.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. Premier, on September 11, 2003, you signed the following pledge: "I, Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, promise ... that I will not raise taxes or implement" any "new taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters...." And further, "I promise to abide by the Taxpayer Protection and Balanced Budget Act."
Premier, why did you sign this pledge? [ed: indeed why DID he sign our pledge?]
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I can only divine from that question that what the leader of the official opposition is getting at is the Respect for Municipalities Act and, in particular, our party's and our government's support for the city of Toronto. I assume that's what he's getting at.
There is no doubt about it: We are strongly in favour of doing everything we reasonably can to put the city of Toronto on a stronger footing, because we understand on this side of the House that a strong Toronto makes for a stronger Ontario. Now the leader of the official opposition may not be in favour of that. He may choose to disregard that reality.
We are working hard, and I'm proud to say we're working well with the city of Toronto. We've had in place a process that has been very effective. It has culminated in a very substantive report, which we're now carefully considering. Shortly, we'll be introducing new legislation that will have the effect of putting the city of Toronto on a stronger footing.
Mr. Tory: Of course we all support the need for a strong Toronto, but that was not the question. That was not the question.
You have introduced, at the last minute, your so-called Respect for Municipalities Act, which really should be called the disrespect for municipal taxpayers act, and you are removing through that bill one important test that was to precede the introduction of new taxing powers given by the provincial government. You supported that test in writing when you said you would support the Taxpayer Protection Act.
Your new bill gives to municipalities, or will give to municipalities, the right to raise taxes on top of the $2,000 in new taxes and charges and fees and hydro bills that have been brought in by the McGuinty Liberal government. When I asked about this issue two week ago, your minister refused to rule out any municipal tax hikes on your watch, and we now see why. Are you prepared to look taxpayers in the eye, then, and say you were wrong to sign the Taxpayer Protection Act pledge in 2003? Were you wrong to do that?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: It is hard to determine just on which side of the City of Toronto Act Mr. Tory stands, because he's not prepared to do what is absolutely essential to recognize their distinction as a mature responsible level of government that we're prepared to work with and put on a stronger footing. He's not prepared to recognize that, although, on May 7, 2004, he said the following: "We have to re-examine completely the relationship between the municipal and provincial government to give city governments more latitude to raise some of their own revenue if they choose to do so."
I agree with the statement made by Mr. Tory then. Perhaps he would stand up and tell us why it is that he's now decided that he's not prepared to support the city of Toronto in putting that city on a stronger footing for the benefit of all Ontarians.
Mr. Tory: The question was why you signed the Taxpayer Protection Act, saying you would submit any proposed new taxation power to a referendum before it was done-why you did that. The question was not whether I support it or not, the reform in the relationship between Toronto and the provincial government.
At least one city councillor in Toronto has talked even today about raising taxes for people in this city thanks to the powers that you're giving to them. He had this to say: "I've never been worried at being first at the trough." "If you can afford to drive a car, you can afford an extra five bucks or so"-in taxes-"to go to public transit."
This bill was introduced in a hurry. Your people are telling us you want to get it through in a hurry and you're about to strip away something you signed up for, which was to give individual taxpayers the right to have their say before you gave this power to municipalities. I'm only asking if you're prepared to take away the meaning of your own signature. Would you at least guarantee some hearings so people could come and be heard on this piece of legislation and on what you are doing, which goes back on what you signed?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I would ask the leader of the official opposition to reflect upon the conversation that he would have had with Mayor Miller, wherein he indicated that he would be supporting the new City of Toronto Act. He might want to give some thought to that. But in case he's forgotten, I'll quote from a letter that Mr. Miller sent to me. He said, "Toronto's fiscal sustainability is in part related to the new revenue tools at its disposal. It would be regrettable indeed if the bold, visionary initiative of your government is hamstrung by the ongoing impact of the actions of the previous government. I would like to encourage the provincial government to take action to eliminate the impediment to reform of Ontario's enabling legislation and future option for Toronto's overall fiscal framework."
I say to the leader of the official opposition, he cannot have it both ways. We've decided to do what is essential to ensure that the city of Toronto is put on a stronger financial footing. We're prepared to do that because we believe in Toronto and we believe that a stronger Toronto makes for a stronger Ontario.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
This exchange was heard today in the Ontario Provincial Parliament (from hansard):
Posted by David MacLean at 3:37 PM