QUEEN’S PARK – The Ontario Legislature shifted back into action on Monday after the summer recess. The opposition parties wasted little time in pouncing on Premier McGuinty in person, after a summer of what the Opposition spent telling Ontarians that the Premier is “out of touch”.
Here is the transcript from Queen’s Park:
Mr. Tim Hudak: My question is for the Premier. Last week, Premier, you said, “It’s not too soon for us to consider the choice we’re going to have next October.” I could not agree more. But where Dalton and I disagree is on what choice Ontario families will face in the next provincial election. Dalton McGuinty believes that families have an endless ability to pay for every idea he dreams up and passes down the bill.
The Ontario PCs will stand on the side of hard-working Ontario families who have to deal with the $1,000 HST tax grab alone. Premier, you hit them with the HST, the eco tax, higher auto insurance and hydro rate hikes. How did you become so dramatically out of touch with the needs of Ontario families?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: It’s good to be back, Speaker, it’s good to be back. It’s good to hear from my honourable colleague, and I welcome all members back to the Legislature.
I want to remind my honourable colleague of just a little bit of his record in this Legislature. When we moved ahead with the personal income tax cut for Ontario families, which means that on average every mother and father will get a $200 permanent annual tax cut, he voted against that. When we moved ahead with our new sales tax credit that could benefit a four-person family $1,040 every year on a permanent basis, they voted against that. The northern Ontario energy credit, for example—$200 for a family—again my honourable colleague voted against that. He says he’s in favour of helping out families when it comes to dollars, but apparently he’s not.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Well, quite frankly, I think that shows how dramatically out of touch—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The members will please come to order. Order, Minister of Economic Development and the member from Nepean–Carleton and the member from Simcoe North and the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Thank you, Speaker.
Frankly, Premier, that kind of answer just shows how dramatically out of touch you and the Ontario Liberal caucus have become with Ontario families.
Let’s look at what happened to Ontario families this summer. Dalton McGuinty nailed them on the HST, and then he brought in an eco tax on 9,000 items that families use each and every day. Hydro bills are going through the roof, tuition is up, auto insurance is up. And then Dalton McGuinty throws out this $50 tax credit on things that became more expensive because of his HST. Sir, that is no tax credit; that is an insult to hard-working Ontario families who got stuck with the bill.
Let me ask the Premier again: What kind of world do you live in where you believe it’s okay for Ontario families to pay more and more and get less and less in return?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again my honourable colleague’s words would have us conclude one thing, but his actions speak volumes and lead us in another direction entirely. He says that he’s in favour of helping out families. Shortly we’ll be introducing in this Legislature a provision to provide families with a children’s activity tax credit.
My honourable colleague says he wants to help out families, but I’d have to make the—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The member from Renfrew and the member from Nepean–Carleton will please come to order, and the member from Simcoe–Grey as well, and the member from Halton and the member from Timmins–James Bay. Thank you for allowing me to refresh my memory with the riding names.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, it’s a modest provision. It will provide some modest help to families, but we believe that families in fact welcome this additional support. I think that shortly we’re going to learn where the official opposition stands on this particular matter. Are they going to support this government’s continuing efforts to help Ontario families or not? Will they support the new children’s tax credit or not? Shortly we’ll learn a bit more about that.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Final supplementary.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Premier, let’s get this straight: You slapped down the HST on things like arenas that are driving up the cost of hockey registration, on baseball fields, on gas for parents to get to the games. You increased taxes like that to the tune of up to $1,000 for your HST and then you have the nerve to throw back some cheap $50 tax credit. It’s an insult to Ontario families, Premier, and you know it.
After seven years it has become very clear: Premier McGuinty believes in his heart that Ontario families have an infinite capacity to pay for every idea that your team dreams up. They can’t keep up with your hydro bills; they can’t keep up with your HST increase; they can’t keep up with your eco taxes. Families need a break today, and, Premier, why don’t you get it?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’ve provided a brief list—there’s much more—with respect to new initiatives that support families when it comes to their taxes, but here’s another measure that we’ve moved ahead with, which the official opposition continues to oppose: We cut the price of generic drugs in Ontario in half. That’s a very important measure for Ontario families. This was a very good opportunity to learn whether they’re on the side of big business or Ontario families. They’ve decided to stand up with big pharmacies against the interests of Ontario families. If Ontario families want to know whose side they’re on, I’d ask them to cast their minds to the issue of drug costs in Ontario. We lowered them. They want to keep them up.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): New question.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Back to the Premier: Let’s look at Dalton McGuinty’s so-called priorities for Ontario families. You began this spring with a sex ed curriculum that would start sex classes with six-year-olds at a time they would begin learning their ABCs and how to tie their shoes. Then you brought in the HST tax grab. By the way, since Dalton McGuinty nailed families with his HST tax grab, we have lost some 60,000 full-time private sector jobs in the last two months alone. You brought in an eco tax that put a tax on 9,000 items that families use each and every day like bath soap and bath toys for their kids, and a green energy experiment that has enormously increased the size of the bureaucracy and increased bills up and up and up. Premier, why don’t you just call it off on all these tax grabs and give families a chance to catch a breath?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My honourable colleague has a particularly distorted view of families. He sees them as nothing more and nothing less than an economic enterprise concerned exclusively with revenues and expenditures. We understand that costs and family budgeting are very important to our families, and that’s why we’ve moved ahead with a number of tax cuts.
But I would argue, as well, that our families are very concerned about the education of their children. We’re moving ahead with a brand new initiative, the first of its kind in North America: full-day kindergarten for our four- and five-year-olds. They oppose that. They call it a frill. They say it is big, shiny, unnecessary and too expensive.
We’re going to continue to invest in the future of this province by investing in our children. That’s something Ontario families should know: When it comes to their children and their schools, we’re on their side.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Stop the clock.
Start the clock. Supplementary.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Let me try to bring the Premier back to the real world, because Dalton McGuinty simply does not understand the world that Ontario families live in any longer.
While Ontario families are working hard and playing by the rules, this summer saw Dalton McGuinty’s hand-picked friends at the LHINs hold illegal meetings, collect bloated salaries, hand out sweetheart consulting deals and try to close down health services across this province. And instead of taking this on, the Premier defends his bloated LHIN bureaucracy. He won’t stand up for patients who are now waiting 17 hours for ER care in places like London, Ontario. We’d close down those LHINs and put that money into front-line health care instead.
Premier, why don’t you give up on all this waste out there, help invest in front-line services first, and give Ontario families the break and the high quality of services they work so hard for and need?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: What my honourable colleague is proposing is that he will shut down 14 LHINs. He wants to revive the extensive government bureaucracy that was there in the past: all the regional health offices, all the district health councils.
Let’s understand what their record is when it comes to health care—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Order. Premier?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My honourable colleague, of late, has not been so front-and-centre with his plan, which remains very solid, which is to eliminate the Ontario health premium. That’s $3 billion.
I need people to understand that when they were in government they closed 28 hospitals. We’re building 14 new hospitals; they closed 28 hospitals. They fired 6,200 nurses; we’ve hired over 10,000 nurses and over 2,300 doctors. So when this gentleman gets up and talks about health care, Ontario families better ask themselves what their secret agenda is when it comes to their health care and what’s going to happen to their hospitals, their nurses and their doctors.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Stop the clock.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Ontario families know that this is an election year, and they’ve seen Dalton McGuinty’s act before. This is a man who will promise anything, say anything, to try to maintain his power in the province of Ontario. But what Dalton McGuinty forgets is that Ontario families are the ones who have to pay for each and every one of the ideas he dreams up. He wants to talk about his pie-in-the-sky ideas, his out-of-touch priorities like the sex ed curriculum, while there is an immediate and pressing need for Ontario families today to get a break so they can catch up; so they can spend money in the local economy; so they can help create jobs again.
Premier, this summer we saw what you’re all about: the HST, an eco tax grab on 9,000 items that families use every day, hydro rates going through the roof, and paying more and getting less in auto insurance. Premier, you’re out of touch. You’ve lost touch with families in our province. We need change in the province of Ontario because we can’t afford—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Premier?
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Member from Durham. Member from Lanark. Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: There’s nothing quite as invigorating as a spontaneous standing ovation, Speaker.
I read this summer—and I’ll give my colleague an opportunity to speak to this at some point in time—that their plan ultimately is to cut taxes in Ontario by $8 billion. I would ask Ontarians to understand the consequences of that kind of tax cut.
I want to revisit their record again. In order to do what they did before, they closed 28 hospitals. They closed 7,100 beds. They fired 6,200 nurses. Funding went down for our schools by $1 billion in the first two years. We lost 26 million learning days. If my honourable colleague wants to talk about movies we’ve seen before, we have seen that one. Ontarians gave it a thumbs-down. There’s no desire to revisit