Government scams need taxpayers money to feed the beast
QUEEN’S PARK – Haldimand-Norfolk’s MPP didn’t pull any punches at the Ontario Legislature when it came to describing the Metrolinx campaign to grab taxpayer’s money.
“It puts me in mind of the phone scams, the email scams, taking advantage of those who can least afford it – there is a very sad story locally, reported in our daily newspaper last Friday, a well-written report on the breakdown of a very large scam, a fraud,” Barrett recalled as he highlighted similarities to the development of the Metrolinx tax-grab. “Indeed, we should all be looking at our savings as a province and as individuals. After five years of study, we see a government that recently announced a $50-billion plan to build subsidized subways and Toronto transit.
“My question: Who will be paying for this? It’s something I think we should all be asking, just like the hapless victims in what reports refer to as ‘Nigerian-style scams’.”
Barrett had earlier noted that the ongoing schemes to separate Ontarians from their hard-earned money are a symptom of a government desperate to feed its need to spend.
“You know, the first step to recovery is admission—admission of the problem -…I think of the very simple words: “My name is Kathleen and I’m a spendaholic.” It would do us all well to reflect on that phrase,” stated Barrett. “Ms. Wynne has made it very clear she will continue the legacy of one Dalton McGuinty, also known as ‘Dalton the Debt Doubler’, one who introduced a new affliction of dependence in the lexicon, a phrase known locally as the Dalton Deficit Disorder.”
The Haldimand-Norfolk representative went on to relate the nature and history of the latest transit scheme that has left local taxpayers with little more than empty wallets.
“I don’t think I’ve run into anybody in my riding of Haldimand–Norfolk who rides the subway or rides the rocket – for years, locally, we’ve been paying provincial gas taxes to fund public transit, but we haven’t had any public transit in our riding,” Barrett reported. “I’m suggesting that the Metrolinx tale could well read like a well-managed scam of the like I’ve been reading in my local paper. Much as our rural taxpayers have been sending their money to Toronto for nothing in return, so, too, the unfortunate victims of email- and telephone-type scams agree to play along.”
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For more information contact
Toby Barrett 519-428-0446 or 1-800-903-8629
ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY HANSARD
Mr. Toby Barrett: As we know this afternoon, we’re told that the substantive motion we’re debating is designed to speed up the passage of the budget bill and get it through the House and get it through committee. Given the Wynne budget’s recipe for more bilking of taxpayers—again, to pay for a continued, 10-year spending spree—that’s about the last thing I want to see happen right now.
In fact, instead of supporting this government, instead of supporting this budget, I feel we should be supporting our friends opposite, on the government side. Perhaps we can offer some suggestions for help with respect to the spending problems we’ve seen over the past 10 years. You know, the first step to recovery is admission—admission of the problem. We have a new Premier—unelected—and as the saying goes, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” I think of the very simple words: “My name is Kathleen and I’m a spendaholic.”
It would do us all well to reflect on that phrase. Ms. Wynne has made it very clear she will continue the legacy of one Dalton McGuinty, also known as Dalton the debt doubler, one who introduced a new affliction of dependence in the lexicon, a phrase known locally as the “Dalton deficit disorder.” As we know, Ontario’s projected $411.4-billion debt is largely the result of 10 years of accumulated deficits.
Speaker, I suggest we are all enablers if we condone not attempting to pay down these shortfalls, these deficits, if we are in a continued position of irresponsibly leaving these accumulated deficits and this particular debt to our children. We do see signs of addiction with every new money grab that this government is taking, willing to use any means necessary to feed that addiction, bilking those very same taxpayers it purports to represent.
It puts me in mind of the phone scams, the email scams, taking advantage of those who can least afford it. I mention this—there is a very sad story locally, reported in our daily newspaper last Friday, a well-written report on the breakdown of a very large scam, a fraud. Again, I make the analogy to what I’m seeing with the subtraction of money from taxpayers by this particular government. I think of Metrolinx. I’m thinking back to the Simcoe Reformer headlines that I was reading on Friday about an unfortunate victim. This lady lost well over $700,000 to a “Nigerian-style scam.” I’m really concerned about 20 years of Metrolinx. We know the projected subtraction from taxpayers will be $50 billion.
I’m concerned that I may read some future headlines like, “The Ontario Taxpayer Thought She Found Love. Instead, She Was Bilked out of $50 Billion.” We have seen many of these kinds of newspaper headlines. Here’s another phrase I was reading on Friday: “The fraud was sophisticated, elaborate, and clever, and started out small.” Oftentimes they start out large. When the victim objects or gets suspicious, they backtrack a bit and ask for slightly less money. Regrettably, oftentimes they get the money.
Again, in this newspaper article—and I was thinking of Metrolinx when I was reading the story—“by the time it was over,” she “was out of her life savings.” Indeed, we should all be looking at our savings as a province and as individuals. After five years of study, we see a government that recently announced a $50-billion plan to build subsidized subways and Toronto transit.
My question: Who will be paying for this? It’s something I think we should all be asking, just like the hapless victims in what reports refer to as Nigerian-style scams. The designers of this plan are obviously taking aim directly at our wallets. Of the $16 billion spent so far on Toronto’s transit, $13 billion came from the Ontario taxpayer. As for the remaining $34 billion, again I suggest to the people of Ontario: Hang on to your wallet.
Most of Toronto’s Metrolinx spending so far came, again, from the Ontario taxpayer, not from the Toronto region—no regionalization there. As we know, the best predictor of future behaviour—we’re talking about a 20-year plan—is past behaviour. These are the kinds of schemes a provincial government dreams up to feed its need to spend more, and we have the figures from this year’s budget: $3.6 billion more in this budget alone.
When I speak to this substantive motion, it is with a concern over the possibility that if we don’t speak out now and we don’t draw a line in the sand, we in fact all become enablers, and essentially taxed-out enablers and financially drained enablers at that.
Again, Metrolinx could be an example of what I’m talking about. The lion’s share of that cost is proposed to come from a 5% increase in gas taxes and a 1% increase in the sales tax, taking the HST up to 14%. We’ve recently heard the federal finance minister already draw the line on that one. That, as we know, was not part of the original deal to bring the HST to the province of Ontario. People in my riding and, I would suggest, much of rural and northern Ontario are concerned that they will again be digging into their pockets to help feed this government’s spending problem.
I recall reading a tweet a year ago or so from an area columnist, a journalist, Monte Sonnenberg. He was talking about reaching into his pocket to grab some change and ending up shaking hands with Dalton McGuinty. That’s an analogy of what we have been seeing for the last 10 years, and I suggest it’s something we’re going to see over the 20 years of this Metrolinx project alone.
I don’t think I’ve run into anybody in my riding of Haldimand–Norfolk who rides the subway or rides the rocket. For years, locally, we’ve been paying provincial gas taxes to fund public transit, but we haven’t had any public transit in our riding. We get nothing back in return.
I suggest that people in my riding are starting to figure this out. I’m suggesting that the Metrolinx tale could well read like a well-managed scam of the like I’ve been reading in my local paper. Much as our rural taxpayers have been sending their money to Toronto for nothing in return,, so, too, the unfortunate victims of email- and telephone-type scams agree to play along. There are roadblocks—they rationalize; they justify—which they requested for more taxes, additional fees, and eventually the sum gets larger and larger.
1700 Newspaper reports indicate that the victim in my riding was asked to send thousands of dollars to cover costs, with the promise that she would be reimbursed later. Each time, the amount needed was upped, and she complied until her fortune was cleaned out.
Speaker, it puts us in mind of this government’s decade-long efforts, seemingly aimed at cleaning out our bank accounts with very little to show for it. I think of the health tax; eHealth, obviously; Ornge; Caledonia—that was a very expensive scandal; the gas plants. And, again, will it be Metrolinx? Will we read headlines 10 years from now, 20 years from now? You can do a lot that’s good; you can do a lot that’s bad by subtracting $50 billion from taxpayers in Ontario.
In the tradition of a regime that we see here that has yet to meet a new tax or a toll or a levy that it didn’t like, this plan for the Metrolinx transit plan—the Big Move, as it has been dubbed—proposed billing to the tune of $500 a year for each family. That bill quickly rises to $1,000 a year if you are a family of five with two cars, so that comes out to about $20,000 over the 20-year life of this proposal.
How can we legislators, in good conscience, support a substantive motion that would push along a budget, would support a government that’s overspending and allowing free rein to move forward, for example, with this recently announced Metrolinx proposal? Government representatives are suggesting a “regionalization” of the Metrolinx tax hikes: make the gas tax regional; make the sales tax addition regional; limit it to the greater Toronto and Hamilton area. In my view, that’s either naive or they think the Ontario taxpayer is naive.
Last night I was speaking with people in my riding, while door-knocking, actually, in Canfield. It’s in Haldimand county. They have a provincial highway right through the centre of the village. The highway now is something like four feet higher than the sidewalk and the front lawns of the houses. Obviously, there’s flooding. We had a lot of rain just the other night.
Here’s an example of a village in my riding—they have a transit issue. It’s a provincial highway. They have issues with flooding. Anyone I talked to last night really wasn’t concerned about more money for a Toronto subway. They don’t use the subway, but they use this provincial highway. This has to be fixed. It is being fixed. They’re going to dig out that highway. They’re going to lower that highway four feet. They’ve put in new hydro poles and telephone poles. It’s odd; the poles are right in the centre of the sidewalk from one end of the village to the other, but I think that’s going to get worked out in time as well.
These are the kinds of things you come across when you’re out door-knocking. It’s a good way to really find out what’s going on, of course, as we all know.
Again, a substantive motion—my concern is it’s really just going to go further to enhance this addiction to spending that we’re seeing now. Like the victim in that local scam down our way—I obviously don’t believe the Premier is motivated by greed. With respect to Metrolinx, I’m concerned she is going to get hooked on the story presented to her by her sense of wanting to do good, perhaps her feeling of wanting to not only leave a legacy, but to continue the legacy of her predecessor.
But when you look behind the scenes, the story doesn’t seem to add up with Metrolinx. I really wonder who are the middlemen—who are the money mules—that we see in these Internet scams. The Premier herself may well be a victim in the end; perhaps she’s being led to believe that she’s engaging in legitimate work. Again, we have be ever, ever vigilant. We’ve got to help out on this.
I will say, I found this last night at the door: People in my area are skeptical. You really don’t pull the wool over their eyes. They see many of these government plans, this budget, these cash calls, really for what they are. They see past the headlines. They understand that—going back to Metrolinx once again—government is demanding people—I’ll make reference to Canfield, the village that I was in last night. They have no subways there, obviously; no streetcars. They have no choice but to drive. Asking people in that particular village and throughout my riding to fund transportation needs of their big-city cousins—that gives them reason to have concern.
I know that people down my way will say things like, “We’ll believe the musings of money for rural roads and bridges when we see the promised two-cents-a-litre tax to be sent back to our two counties.” Again, they know they haven’t seen the money yet and they know that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. They are wary. They know the track record of broken promises from this government.
Everyone remembers the McGuinty health tax, the $1.7-billion tax that “would be dedicated entirely to health.” Ten years later, I think everyone realizes it was an income tax grab. It now comes in at $3.4 billion a years, flows into general revenues, as you know, Speaker, and is allocated by this government to whatever catches this government’s fancy.
So you can understand why people would be a little gun-shy of a proposal, a $50-billion scheme that’s been recently hatched, in part because so many people are having a tough time paying the bills. They pay enough in existing taxes for transit and are very concerned what percentage of those taxes are wasted. Again, I’m thinking of eHealth, of Ornge, Caledonia and the gas plants. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction to pick taxpayers’ pockets, government should be seeking efficiencies within its own. Cut red tape. Cut the waste before thinking of tapping out taxpayers who are already tapped out. I see in this government the opposite path that opens the door to future schemes. It’s only been a month or two since the government was read in the House that we hear this call for a $50-billion expenditure of more taxpayers’ money. I take the opportunity—take a look at some of that old-school advice, the advice that comes out of so many of these Internet scams that so many of us are subjected to.
I go back to the Simcoe Reformer article, our local daily paper. Here’s some advice if you were considering Metrolinx, for example, or any previous boondoggles and scandals, whether it be eHealth or the gas plant. It says, “Don’t be afraid to come forward if you’ve been taken—or think you’ve been taken—in a scam….” Here’s some more advice from the local paper: “Embarrassment is a common feeling, but remember these are professionals who have carefully thought out and planned their frauds….”
Some more advice: “They gain your trust and then take advantage of you…. “‘They really … know what buttons to push….’” Last bit of advice: Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. And they go on to say, “Reporting frauds is important because it gives authorities a clearer picture of how widespread the problem is and where to put resources….” 1710 The local newspaper report indicates, “‘Sometimes it takes years for people to report it’ as victims continue to believe their rewards are still on their way to them.” Again, whether I’m thinking of Metrolinx or the eHealth tax, in many ways many people down my way feel they kind of got taken for a ride.
I know I only have about a minute left, Speaker. Many opposition members have been speaking about their concern with respect to physiotherapists and the impact that this will have on seniors, particularly in long-term-care homes. There’s concern—the impact this would have on people who are on disability. I have spoken in the House about concerns with what I feel are unnecessary layoffs, unnecessary program cuts to our children’s aid societies, including my local children’s aid society. I’ve only got 19 seconds left, hardly enough time to talk about the ongoing US Steel lockout down at Nanticoke. We find that the government seems suffocated, the government seems stymied by this when there’s no assistance available.