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Queen's Park Report: Bill 148 could raise taxes in rural communities

By MPP Jim McDonell

Published on October 7, 2017

Jim McDonell

QUEEN'S PARK - Several items of legislation passed Second Reading this week and were referred on to Committee. On Monday, I offered my remarks on Bill 154, which the Government markets as a red tape reduction Bill. 

The Bill only establishes certain reporting goals for Ministries but has no tangible measure of how burden reductions will be measured. By their own numbers, this bill will only clear $8 million of red tape costs from an $8 billion problem.  Businesses and individuals in Ontario deserve more than just talking points to tackle the record cost of red tape, which when added to the high cost of power and property taxes, is forcing businesses to leave this province, taking their jobs with them. Instead, we see more of the same: lofty goals but little material change.

Bill 142, the Prompt Payment Act, also moved to committee. Prompt payment in the construction industry has long been advocated for and I am pleased to see it finally moving forward. What this principle has been expanded to, however, should be debated and criticized fairly. The government is creating a whole new authority whose duty will be to pick arbitrators in a prompt payment dispute. This is unnecessary, as those who are sufficiently qualified to be arbitrators in Ontario today are more than qualified to arbitrate a dispute under this new Act. We see little reason to add an extra selection step.

On Thursday I reminded the Minister of Energy in Question Period that he is allowing an unneeded and unwanted wind contract to proceed in North Stormont. Our Province has a massive surplus of energy as it is, and we do not need more supply from wind and solar generators. The inflated electricity price paid to suppliers under those contracts should be enough on its own to scupper this plan. However this government insists on forcing unwilling communities to take an unneeded energy project. It makes no sense. I will continue advocating against the project until they drive in the last bolt, if necessary.

Rural municipalities have come forward regarding Bill 148. If it is implemented as written, they face the prospect of having to raise their tax rate. The extra cost of stand-by volunteer firefighters alone will drive the township’s tax bills up by an average of 36%.  When other road, recreation and government services costs are added, the final total will be devastating. It is time for the government to sit down and listen to those who drive and sustain growth before imposing reforms that may hamper our prospects.

The 14th anniversary of this government coming to power gave us reason to reflect on their record. Unfortunately, too many stains tarnish it: a doubled debt load, doubled taxes, 5 OPP investigations, 300,000 lost manufacturing jobs, the highest proportion of the workforce on minimum wage, many closed schools and a raft of expensive scandals such as E-Health and the gas plants. Ontarians deserve better management of the Province and it is time the government delivered it.

I take this opportunity to wish all a happy Thanksgiving.