Conservative Premier Ernie Eves today announced major revisions to his Government's 2003 pseudo-budget, released just last week.
In a move he described as "a significant new step in transparency and clarity" in policy for his Government, Premier Eves has introduced three new pseudo-bills which re-cast virtually every major action of his Government and that of his predecessor, former Premier Mike Harris.
The legislation was given first reading today on a specially convened internet video link-up of selected guys named Bill from all walks of life in Ontario.
"I am confident that all the Bills will like the bills", Premier Eves said.
Bill 1, the Upside-down Equity Act, rewrites Ontario's signature income tax policy of the last eight years, making it absolutely clear who actually benefited from the income tax changes of the Harris-Eves era. All income tax rates have been restored to their level in 1995 and the savings to date converted to equivalent direct grants to individual taxpayers.
"It may sound odd for a Government to be saying, up front, that it is making grants averaging more than $30,000 to each taxpayer with an income over $250,000 while giving the average taxpayer with a minimum wage income a grant of just over $400, but that just underlines my commitment to open and transparent government", Premier Eves said.
"The total value of the grants is estimated to be $13.6 billion dollars, corresponding to the cost of Ontario's income tax cuts since 1995. 32% of the money will go to taxpayers with incomes over $100,000 (the top 5% of taxpayers). 15% will go to taxpayers with below-average incomes (the bottom 50%)."
The long title of the Upside-down Equity Act is "An Act to Provide for Transfers to Taxpayers in Inverse Proportion to their Ability to Pay".
Bill 2, the Boondoggle Act, establishes the same principle for the Government's dozens of less well-publicized tax give-aways to corporations. Instead of simply claiming these give-aways on their almost-never-audited income tax returns, corporations will actually have to apply for the money and say what they are going to do with it.
"The Government is very proud of this legislation", Premier Eves said. "Not only will it make it clear to the citizens of this province what their government is doing, it could save us money. We estimate that half the corporations currently receiving the tax benefits would decide not to apply to a grant, if they actually had to do something with the money. The Government has not yet decided whether or not to invoke this requirement. In the meantime, any corporation that meets the criteria and applies will get the money.
The long title of the Boondoggle Act is "An Act to Distribute Public Money Far and Wide in the Corporate Sector for no Particular Purpose".
Bill 3, the Crisis Invention Act, brings together previously separately enacted policies governing Hydro, health, education and child care, thereby bringing together three key areas of public policy in which the government sought to destabilize public services through budget cuts, thereby creating a case for privatization. "This bill makes it clear that John Snobolen was not just speaking for himself, or just about education, when he talked about inventing a crisis in education", Premier Eves said.
The Premier also indicated that the bill may be amended in Committee, as its policy on Hydro is still being made up.
The long title of the Crisis Invention Act is "An Act to Provide for the Invention of Crises in Hydro, Health, Education and Child Care as a Foundation for Increased Privatization".
Bill 4, the Tell it like it is Act, is an omnibus bill that renames dozens of bills whose titles, as originally introduced, were designed to mislead as to their actual effect. For example, the Tenant Protection Act, long title "An Act to Provide for Greater Protection for Tenants", has been renamed the Tenant Submission Act.
This name better reflects the dramatic shift in the balance of power towards landlords implemented by the Act, a shift that has caused rents and economic evictions to skyrocket. The long title of the bill will be "An Act to Raise Rents, Reduce Tenant Security and Make Evictions Easier for Landlords".
"I was frankly disturbed when the Orwellian titles of many of the pieces of legislation our government has introduced over the years were explained to me. This practice must stop. To ensure that this practice does indeed stop, I intend to disband the Ministry of Truth, as soon as I can find it", Premier Eves said.
The bills are to be introduced today, April 1, 2003.
Hugh Mackenzie is co-chair of the Ontario Alternative Budget and Research Director at the United Steelworkers of America.