PRIME MINISTER ELECT
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
PHOTOGRAPHS ON DRIVERS’ LICENCES
REPORT ON THE LAW OF TRUSTS
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT BILL
PROVINCIAL OFFENCES AMENDMENT BILL
RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT BILL
ELECTRICAL WORKERS’ DISPUTE
RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS
FAMILY BENEFITS ASSISTANCE
SALE OF BEER AND WINE
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT
PROVINCIAL OFFENCES AMENDMENT ACT
SECURITIES AMENDMENT ACT
TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE ACT
TRIBUTE TO ALEX BAUMANN
ORDERS OF THE DAY
FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT ACT
ONTARIO LOAN ACT (CONCLUDED)
LAND REGISTRATION REFORM ACT
The House met at 2 p.m.
PRIME MINISTER ELECT
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I would like very briefly to extend my congratulations to Mr. Turner, the Prime Minister elect of this country, and wish him well in his responsibilities. In the process of communicating to Mr. Turner, as chairman of the group of ministers in this country, I will bring him up to date on matters that are current and I will probably raise with him one or two matters relating strictly to Ontario.
Being Prime Minister of this country is a very difficult and onerous responsibility. It is a tremendous country, but one that is not necessarily easy to govern. On behalf of the government of this province, I would express our best wishes to the Prime Minister elect.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I would like to join with the Premier in extending our good wishes--
Mr. Nixon: Without reservation.
Mr. Peterson: -- without reservation to the new Prime Minister, who will be installed very shortly, I expect. I can tell the Premier I have already extended his personal good wishes to the new Prime Minister, but I am sure he would want to do that in his own words as well.
I can tell the House from personal experience it was a great convention. It was a great rebirth of Liberalism right across this country, as I am sure is obvious. I guess the happiest moment of the entire convention for me came after the victory was announced, when I saw the face of Norman Atkins drop. I had a particularly good vantage point to watch his face at that time, and it was a great occasion.
Mr. Nixon: The last time Norman Atkins’s face dropped was when Al Lawrence was 44 votes short.
Hon. Mr. Davis: He certainly was smiling in 1971, 1975, 1977 and 1981 -- a big smile.
Mr. Bradley: Not in 1975 and 1977.
Mr. Nixon: Sorry about that.
Mr. Peterson: It is not my intention to be partisan, but my colleague has some personal reminiscences of all those great times in our country.
As the Premier said, the new Prime Minister is embarking on a great set of challenges that face this country, and I know the man well enough to know that petty partisan concerns will not be his first priority. I know he will deal with the Premier of this province with the respect he deserves.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Peterson: I know he is going to be prepared to work with the Premier of this province to forge a consensus to face some of the great problems that not only this province but also this country faces. It is a time when we must put some of the petty bickering behind us. I know he is that kind of person, that kind of Prime Minister.
The Premier obviously has absolutely no understanding of what I am talking about; either that or he is embarrassed. But it was a great occasion for this country. I thought the federal Liberal Party distinguished itself. I am one of those who will be working with the new Prime Minister and with other Canadians of goodwill to bring about a new era of federal-provincial co-operation as we build the new Canada together.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I would like to join in this festive occasion from all sides of the House. I certainly want to express my good wishes to Mr. Turner on assuming the leadership of the Liberal Party. It is an onerous and difficult task to give that party some direction. On behalf of our party, I want to extend to Mr. Turner our very best personal wishes.
Rather than engage in a lengthy discussion on what kind of Prime Minister Mr. Turner will or will not be, I think it might be a wise idea for us to look forward to an election which will finally clear the air and determine who will form the government of Canada. Of course, we will be working in a very co-operative and positive way with whatever government that happens to be.
Mr. O’Neil: Mr. Speaker, on this same matter, I have just taken off my John Turner button. I wonder if I could send it over to the Premier to wear with pride today.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I was given a button by one of the member’s friends, only she was not his friend. She was from Metropolitan Toronto. Some three or four weeks ago when I was attending another event, there happened to be a Metro Toronto caucus member who asked me to wear this button. She said at the same time, “But of course we will all be voting for you when the provincial election comes.”
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
PHOTOGRAPHS ON DRIVERS’ LICENCES
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, on this joyous occasion, I would like to take a few moments to inform members of the House that we are going ahead with a system to place photographs on drivers’ licences. The issue of photo licences has been edging its way to the forefront since the mid-1970s and for a number of very good reasons. Let me highlight some of them for members.
It is one of the best ways to prevent suspended drivers from borrowing, or even stealing, someone else’s driver’s licence to continue driving. Now, if they are stopped by police they can produce another person’s licence and police have no positive way of knowing it does not belong to that driver. Even if police check the record of the person named on the licence, if the record is clear the driver is free to go.
One serious concern is drivers who have been suspended for serious offences such as criminal negligence, careless driving or driving while impaired, and who beg, borrow or steal another person’s licence to get back on the road while suspended. Among this group are repeat offenders of these serious crimes. Their driving privilege has been temporarily removed not only to reprimand them, but for the safety of all other drivers on the road. This deliberate flouting of the law endangers all other motorists, who have the right to be protected. Photographs on licences will help keep these drivers off the road.
Another concern is drivers who use a lost or stolen licence and are convicted of driving offences that may result in fines or demerit points. These convictions are then recorded against an innocent person. Without a photo on a driver’s licence, an experienced driver may substitute for an inexperienced driver to obtain a driver’s licence on his behalf.
Based on these and many other reasons, it is no surprise that for many years the police throughout this province have been strongly behind photographs on drivers’ licences to ensure positive identification of the driver and to improve enforcement.
I want to assure my honourable colleagues in the House and the general public that every effort will be made to create a service that is as convenient as possible. I realize that because of the necessity to take a picture, there will be some degree of inconvenience to the motorist; however, I believe the advantage of having safer highways far outweighs this inconvenience.
Every driver examination centre and licence issuing office, nearly 400 in total, will be equipped to take colour photographs. We are also looking into a process which will allow those living temporarily outside the province or in remote areas to renew their licences by mail.
We are proposing a two-part licence. Part 1 will contain the photograph and part 2 will contain information similar to what is on the present driver’s licence. Once the system is in place, only part 2 will be replaced by drivers reporting a change of information. The photograph and licence will be replaced every three years to match the present three-year renewal cycle, or if the person’s name is changed. It will take three to four years to complete the phase-in of the system, beginning January 1, 1986.
I trust the introduction of photographs on drivers’ licences will make our roads safer and provide the police with adequate means for proper identification.
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, there appears to have been some critical misinterpretation of my statement to this House a week ago today, during which, in part, I outlined the status of regional plans for GO advanced light rail transit as they concerned northern Metropolitan Toronto. Consequently, I would like to take a minute or so to separate the facts from the fiction for the benefit of honourable members.
I said, as I have from the very beginning, the planning for the interregional transit line across north Metro will be completed. Simply stated, that insists that the appropriate and most cost-efficient corridor must be determined now if we are to be in a position to respond to the predicted long-term transit needs in this expanding area. I also said as far back as October 1982 that the province would work together with the Toronto Transit Commission, Metro Toronto and other affected municipalities to select all possible alignments for the service.
In a planning report, the TTC indicated its immediate concern is the Sheppard Avenue corridor, already overloaded and still expanding. That report calls for a rapid transit service along Sheppard to link the Scarborough Civic Centre and a proposed station on an extended Spadina subway line. It suggests another line to run west along Eglinton between the Spadina station and the vicinity of the airport, eventually connecting with the Mississauga City Centre and Oakville by the GO-ALRT system.
I said I was prepared to support the TTC, for I concur with the report’s observation that these proposed links will meet the more immediate transit demands and quickly improve north Metro’s overall transit capacity. I did not say we would abandon our long-term regional planning objectives for the simple reason that we must be ready to move to meet our interregional transit needs as they develop.
Finally, some of the criticism of the TTC proposal can only be termed speculative because the details of the Sheppard-Eglinton east-west line have not been determined. I personally believe the TTC with its long history of expertise in transit can work out those details to the ultimate satisfaction of its ridership.
REPORT ON THE LAW OF TRUSTS
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time today I will be tabling the Ontario Law Reform Commission’s two-volume Report on the Law of Trusts, which was recently submitted to me. The review of the law of trusts was started a number of years ago by the commission as part of its undertaking to review the whole of the law of property in Ontario. The completion of this report means that a substantial part of the project has now been concluded.
The modern law of trusts in Ontario is a combination of statute and common law. It is a settled body of law, but in a number of respects it has become outdated and in need of change. While the commission decided against a complete codification of trust law, it has recommended extensive revision of the Trustee Act. The statute’s present character as enabling legislation that is supportive of the common law would be retained but modernized to accommodate contemporary needs. In areas where the law is out of date, the commission suggests codification be attempted.
I would like to take a couple of minutes to outline some of the report’s more notable recommendations. First, the commission proposes to codify the general duty of care governing the exercise of power and discharge of duty by trustees. It would adopt as the standard “that degree of care, diligence and skill that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise in dealing with the property of another person.” Nonprofessional trustees would be held only to this general standard, while professional trustees would be governed by a somewhat higher standard.
Second, the commission feels that the efficient management of trusts would be facilitated by including provisions in the revised Trustee Act to ensure that the death, retirement or removal of a trustee does not unnecessarily disrupt the ongoing management of the trust. The commission considers court applications expensive and time-consuming and would discourage their use by implementing simple, nonjudicial mechanisms for the appointment and discharge of trustees.
With respect to a trustee’s power of investment, the commission recommends the abolition of the statutory list of authorized investments. Subject to the prudent person duty and to certain statutory guidelines, trustees should be able to invest trust money in any kind of property.
I would like to point out that the report of the Ontario Law Reform Commission does not deal with the law of charitable trusts. My ministry is currently considering ways in which a review of this important area of law might be conducted in consultation with charities and their advisers and other concerned groups and persons.
Obviously, I have touched on only a few points contained in this important report. The government intends to review the recommendations and to seek comments from interested groups and individuals. I look forward to an interesting debate on the many issues raised in the report. I would like to express my appreciation to the Ontario Law Reform Commission for its continuing commitment to the improvement of the laws of this province.
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT BILL
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, later today I will be introducing a bill that will improve the collection of fines for provincial offences. An amendment to the Highway Traffic Act will permit the automation of procedures involved in the suspension of drivers’ licences for nonpayment of fines. The amendment will remove the need for a court order before a suspended licence can be reinstated and will also facilitate communication by computer among the courts, the defaulted fines control centre and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
One important effect of these changes will be that persons whose licences have been suspended for nonpayment of a fine will be able to pay that fine at any court location in the province. At the moment, the need for a reinstatement order requires that the fine be paid at the court which issued the original suspension order. Additionally, we anticipate the increased speed and efficiency that automation will bring about will increase the deterrent effect of licence suspensions for nonpayment of fines.
PROVINCIAL OFFENCES AMENDMENT BILL
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I will also be introducing an amendment to the Provincial Offences Act to permit the establishment by regulation of fees for fines that go into default. Most people pay their fines on time, but those who do not do so cause the taxpayers a considerable financial burden in record-keeping and other administrative expenses. The purpose of the administrative fee is to place the burden of those expenses on those whose actions have caused them.
In connection with this bill and the aforementioned Highway Traffic Amendment Act, I want to stress that they relate only to defaulted fines. Under the Provincial Offences Act, a fine does not go into default until the last extension of time for payment has expired. The Provincial Offences Act requires that extensions of time be granted unless the justice is satisfied that a request for an extension is not made in good faith or that the extension would likely be used to evade payment. There is no arbitrary limit on the number of extensions that can be obtained.
I believe these bills will improve the collection of fines for provincial offences and will reduce the burden placed on the taxpayer by those who refuse to pay their fines. In the light of the noncontroversial nature of the amendments, I ask all members to co-operate in securing expedited passage.
RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT BILL
Hon. Mr. Sterling: Mr. Speaker, later today I will be tabling the Resources Development Statute Law Amendment Act. Essentially, the bill represents a compendium of minor amendments contained in more than 30 acts from eight different ministries in the resources policy field. In this respect, the bill does not attempt to make significant changes in policy.
The primary purpose of this act is to increase the productivity of time spent in the Legislature and to provide for better management in government. In other words, through minimizing the focus on housekeeping amendments in one bill, greater time and emphasis can be placed by the Legislature on significant policy matters.
As well, I am sure all members have found in the past, due to time constraints, it was evident that this kind of amendment was often postponed until major issues were addressed. Although this prioritization is certainly understandable, I believe the net result behind this bill will not only be a time saver, but will also improve the overall management of our government.
Members may recall I first introduced the concept of this bill in my June 1983 estimates as Provincial Secretary for Justice and more recently in October 1983 during the estimates of my current responsibility. I believe this could be a very worthwhile function of the secretariats.
Clearly, the success of this process depends on an open approach. It is for this reason that discussions with my colleagues, the opposition critics, have been held in advance. In this regard, I have asked those members to explain the process and legislation to their respective caucuses. Should it be the feeling of any party of the Legislature that sections of the bill are not necessarily housekeeping in nature and have policy implications, those sections will be withdrawn and introduced by the responsible minister at a later date. Because I am acting with delegated authority, it will be difficult for me to entertain amendments or additions during the process.
In short, the Resources Development Statute Law Amendment Act must involve the participation and support of all members in this Legislature if it is to be successful. Although this step is an innovative one, it can be a worthwhile mechanism, a mechanism that will benefit this Legislature and provide for the good management of our government.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. No doubt the minister is aware of reports published over the weekend, when finally a report became public with respect to polychlorinated biphenyls being found in the Devlin household well near Stouffville. After many discussions in the House on this subject, he will also be aware that each subsequent report tends to reveal there is movement of the plume. This new report raises very serious questions about the safety of drinking water as the plume is moving.
What assurances can the minister give this House and, more important, the residents of Whitchurch-Stouffville that their drinking water is not in any jeopardy?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker, the ministry has already taken steps to supply drinking water where there is any slight suspicion of or concern about even potential contamination of a well. I share the concern of the Leader of the Opposition in connection with the finding of PCBs in the Devlin well, but at this time we have not determined -- it is our monitoring that is bringing out this information; the record should show that.
With respect to the Devlin well, the level of PCBs is well below the drinking water standard already established for Ontario. If that standard of PCBs were reached and the well were being used for drinking water, it would still not present a hazard. The Devlins have already been supplied with a communal water system and are being given piped water at this time. There is not a difficulty with that well.
Mr. Peterson: Is the minister aware that many people question the standard for PCB levels created by his ministry? By many measures, it is an arbitrary standard. There is additional very disturbing evidence in that report. It says there are trace amounts of pesticides in the raw drinking water in Whitchurch-Stouffville’s well number five. There are also trace amounts in the east branch of the Holland River. There is zinc in the Barker house drinking well water, 43 milligrams per litre. The evidence, compounding on a daily, annual or semi-annual basis, is showing the movement of that plume in a southwesterly direction.
My question to the minister was not answered the first time, and I will ask it again. What assurances can he give to the residents of Whitchurch-Stouffville that there will be no threat to their drinking water?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: We are monitoring those wells and the movement of any plume migrating offsite in the Stouffville area. The assurance I can give the member is that we are watching and monitoring the situation very carefully. We will be aware of any movement that occurs. If it is necessary for us to take some action with respect to other wells, we will do so.
At this point, I believe the degree of concern that the member is indicating is somewhat exaggerated based on the present evidence, but I will share the information with him as it becomes available from my ministry. We are quite prepared to drill additional monitoring wells in that area to make absolutely certain that under no conditions will any water end up in wells in a contaminated form that is going to affect those residents.
I can assure the member I share his concerns in that respect, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure those wells are totally, completely and unquestionably safe. That is the best guarantee I can give.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows perfectly well that there is no drinking water standard for PCBs. If he is not aware of that, he should be. The Ministry of the Environment’s own blue book establishes that PCBs are a substance with a zero tolerance limit.
Given that this evidence with respect to PCBs is unprecedented and has not been found before in the drinking water in the area, it is an occurrence that should cause the minister real concern. It is not simply a question of providing bottled water to a number of residents; it is a question of whether the funds are available from the company itself to stop the flow of the plume. By the way, the minister should know that even at the Waste Management Inc. head office, the office on the site, they are now providing their own employees with bottled water.
Can the minister point to the agreement that was reached with WMI and tell us where in that agreement is the assurance that the company, which has been responsible for the pollution of the drinking water and the threat to the environment in this part of Ontario, is going to be held responsible and legally accountable for the real damage it has caused to the environment in this province?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker, first, let me straighten out the leader of the third party with respect to the comments he made in connection with PCB levels.
I want to share with the honourable member that we do have a guideline which indicates a safe level for PCBs in drinking water. That guideline indicates the level of PCBs found in the Devlin well is well below the guideline we have established in Ontario. There are jurisdictions that have absolutely no guideline whatever. To make absolutely certain that drinking water is safe in this province, our guideline is really quite stringent. Part of that guideline incorporates a level of allowability for PCBs.
Second, whenever it is proved that a company has contaminated a landfill site, which ultimately or at some future time migrates offsite and causes contamination of adjacent well water, we do everything we possibly can from a legal standpoint to hold the company accountable. It will be done in connection with the Stouffville site or any other single site in the province. I give the member that assurance.
Mr. Peterson: Unless it is appealed; then the minister backs off. He has already contradicted himself. He said there was no contamination in the wells. He is very much against all that, and yet every time we have a new report --
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Peterson: -- there is more evidence of new forms of contamination in the wells, and it is spreading in a direction that is dangerous. Surely he must be aware of that. He cannot use the same arguments his predecessors used for a couple of years in this House --
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Peterson: -- saying there are no problems when the evidence is mounting against him daily.
Hon. Mr. Brandt: The member is wrong.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Peterson: The minister is wrong. He was wrong; they were all wrong.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Peterson: The minister is no doubt aware that 27,000 gallons per day of contaminated leachate are flowing from that site. The time has come to stop any more leachate from coming out of that site. Surely the minister cannot fool around with any more appeals, dragging it on, when the evidence is mounting against him. Why is the minister not stopping it now?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: I have indicated to the Leader of the Opposition that we are monitoring that site on a regular basis. We have stepped up our monitoring substantially. We in the ministry are spending a lot of money to make absolutely certain we know about any migration that might occur off that site before it becomes a problem. We are on top of the matter with the best scientific technology we can apply to that site.
I have seen the Leader of the Opposition do this before, and I really think he should be very careful about some of the figures he throws around. I do not think it is in the best interests of that community for him to get into hysteria about a problem that might occur when there is no evidence that it is occurring at the present time. I think he should use a little caution when he makes some of those comments.
Mr. Peterson: It strains credibility for the minister to go on passively the same way day after day; meanwhile the evidence is mounting against him and he sticks his head in the sand.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. The minister will be aware that we had a discussion in this House a little while ago with his colleague the vice-chairman of the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development, the Minister of Industry and Trade (Mr. F. S. Miller), with respect to the grant to Topaz, and he was not aware of the situation. He was aware only, I gather, that somehow or other the officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food squashed that grant or prevented that Canadian company from getting a little assistance. Meanwhile, the ministry went on and helped a foreign multinational.
Why is his ministry so hostile to Canadian enterprise, to domestic small business, when his colleague is so much in favour of it? Why did his former deputy minister call the Canadian businessmen whiners and complainers? Why would he not help this company, Topaz, which has a demonstrated good record, when he went on to help a foreign multinational? Why is he holding this whole matter up?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the matter has not been held up; the company in question has been approved for a BILD grant.
Just to go back over the history of this program, it was established in 1981 to promote the replacement of imports of tomato paste, a food commodity that enjoys a rather rapid annual growth in consumption. Since that time we have approved grants to a number of companies, including several Canadian companies, such as the Primo company in the riding of Essex North, which is obviously a well-known and, to the best of my knowledge, 100 per cent Canadian-owned company.
The program was aimed at the replacement of imports of this commodity. The company in question made an application some time ago. The original application was turned down on a number of grounds, not the least of them being our dissatisfaction with the marketing plan it was able to present to us at the time and the inability of the company to meet the overall criteria of the program, namely, the replacement of imports.
It came back to us with a second application, which I told it I was prepared to entertain, for a subsequent phase of its project. In that application we were able to offer it a reduced grant because again, unlike other Canadian companies, such as Primo, it was not able to meet the full criteria of the program.
Mr. Peterson: It asked for $772,000; the government gave it $28,000, which is admitted by everyone to be peanuts, a mere token, and which does not qualify it for a discount on the price of tomatoes. The minister knows that and I know that. He also knows that for some reason we cannot understand, and that I do not think his colleagues can understand, he is discriminating against this company when it has a proven record and has been struggling valiantly.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Peterson: The minister has not been specific. Why has he held up the grant to this company? Why would he not assist it when he is assisting its peers? At least 30 or 35 tomato farmers depend on it. It has a proven record. Surely there is no more reason to hold up on it.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The fact that the BILD program exists does not mean every company is entitled to a grant. There are specific criteria for this program, specifically the replacement of imports. This company was not able, in its first application, to show an effective marketing plan that would meet the criteria of the program.
The amount of money to which the Leader of the Opposition refers, I believe, is 20 per cent of the total cost of everything this company has done. Representatives of this company sat in my office a year ago and said they were not concerned about the percentage figure. What they were concerned about was gaining access to the preferential pricing granted by the Ontario Vegetable Growers’ Marketing Board. They were quite specific in that regard with a number of witnesses in my office.
We have approved a grant for them. My position is that if they are not satisfied, I will be happy to take an order in council to cabinet to rescind it.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, the grant is peanuts. Specifically, what criteria did they not meet? The minister talked about a marketing plan and made some vague references to it. Surely the minister should be able to justify before this House why he refused a substantial grant to them and tell us the major criteria they did not meet.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, it is not unlike another large multinational which was also turned down under this program about three or four months ago. They were simply unable to show how they could reasonably guarantee that significant amounts of imports would be replaced.
Other companies in question -- Primo, for example -- had heretofore been importing large amounts of tomato paste to use in their product lines. By constructing this facility, they were able to eliminate the imports and at the same time significantly increase the acreage of tomatoes being grown to replace those imports. This company was not able to do that.
I remind the honourable member that they made a second application. They came to see me, appealing the fact that they were turned down on the first. I said: “All right. I will entertain a second application, but you had better have a better marketing plan.” Strictly speaking, they were not able to meet the full criteria, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt, which in hindsight may have been a mistake.
Mr. Peterson: It is ridiculous. The minister had Peter Barnard and Associates -- I gather in an untendered contract -- analyse these various applications. Is he aware that in the course of that investigation Peter Barnard had no contact with the company? His investigation, if he did one, was so superficial that it is no wonder he is not familiar with what they are doing. That is a reality.
For some reason there is discrimination, either by the minister or his officials, against this company. They have a proven record. They have struggled extremely well, given the disadvantage they have had, against many larger companies and foreign multinationals. Is it because the minister thinks they are whiners and complainers? Or does he favour foreign multinationals because they know better what they are doing than the Canadian entrepreneurs?
If the minister investigated the facts himself he would know he is wrong. I am asking him to reconsider all of this and move with dispatch so he does not discriminate against this good Canadian company.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I have already mentioned that several Canadian companies, notably the one I mentioned before, have been approved under the program. There have also been companies, multinationals or otherwise, large and small, turned down under this program because they could not meet the criteria. There are a number of companies that have begun operations in Ontario in recent years but have not qualified for any of the Agriculture and Food components of the BILD program.
I underline that because the fact that it is a new company does not mean it is automatically entitled to a grant from the government; it has to meet certain specific criteria. This company was not able to meet them in the first instance. It was only marginally able to show the possibility of meeting them in the second instance. Therefore, they were offered a reduced grant, which was in large part based on their own indication to me, in my very own office a year ago, that the percentage grant was not a factor to them.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier about the domed stadium. Given the announcement that the Premier made last week, will he commit himself and his government to a full environmental assessment of the construction of the dome, particularly if the dome is to be built out on the water on a new landfill site? Can he give us that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to give that commitment at this point. As I tried to say at the press conference, every potential site has advantages and disadvantages. It is quite obvious that no one would build the stadium on that created land if there was any possibility of an environmental problem. The principles are fairly similar to those at Ontario Place where no environmental concern has since emerged. I think it might be one of those sites where an environmental problem is either there from day one, which they could ascertain, or there is none at all.
I looked at one or two other sites where I felt there might be more need for environmental consideration than at that one. Until the corporation does its assessment and makes its recommendations, I do not want to get into a debate as to whether there will or will not be. One can look at the Woodbine site as another possibility that would need an environmental assessment. I would be hard pressed to understand the reason for it.
In terms of planning and the attitudes of the city of Toronto with respect to the possibility of the Canadian National site, I do not know whether an environmental assessment is needed. I can only assume there would be some discussion about the CN site as to whether it can transfer densities for housing from one part of the total CN holdings to another.
I hope the corporation will move with enthusiasm and some measure of rapidity. As they get closer to this, I will be quite prepared to answer the question at that time. I think we are sort of guessing at things at the moment.
Mr. Rae: It is the Premier himself who gave rise to speculation about the lakefill site. I would like to refer the Premier to the Environmental Assessment Act hearing that took place concerning the Colonel Samuel Smith waterfront area, a previous lakefill site about which officials of the Ministry of the Environment stated, “These witnesses were of the opinion that the undertaking as proposed would result in water quality degradation both inside and outside the boat basin.”
There is substantial evidence that the lakefill projects that have taken place over the last decade have caused a problem. The Minister of the Environment (Mr. Brandt) indicated in the House when I asked him a question on this that there was some substantial evidence that they have caused a problem with respect to the flow of water, the stagnation of water, the quality of water on the beaches, and with a potential impact -- I repeat the words “potential impact” -- on the quality of drinking water from Lake Ontario.
Can the Premier at least give us the assurance that a blanket exemption will not be granted to the dome corporation with respect to the construction of this site, because very real questions are raised about the use of the beaches and the alternative uses of the lakefront area on the quality of drinking water?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I do not purport to be an expert in this area. In fairness, if one is using the argument of alternative use for that frontage, at least part of the alternative use at this moment is by the Toronto Harbour Commissioners for the anchorage of sailboats; there may be other than sailboats there. I do not think one should be concerned about an alternative use because the use at the moment, if one has to make a choice, is between a facility of this nature and X number of anchorages for boats. In terms of impact on any beach area, the water flow through the western gap would not be altered, as I understand it.
I should also point out to the honourable member that it is not a question of total landfill, per se, as it was with the creation of the spit off the east end. This engineering project would have some landfill, but a good part of it would be the actual pumping out of water and the creation of a facility a good part of which would be below lake level. It is not a question of filling; it is a question of putting up a breakwater and then pumping out the water. My recollection is that somewhere around 50 per cent of the actual stadium would be below lake level. It is not a question of filling up nine or 10 acres with new fill.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier will not give his assurance that there will be a full environmental assessment, may I ask him what his time lines are? I gather he has instructed his colleague to move with dispatch. Why is he in such a hurry that he is not prepared to commit himself to understanding fully all the ramifications of the new site, particularly as to environmental impact? What is his time frame? How fast is he moving on this thing? When does he expect to have the report?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I want to clear up any misunderstanding on the part of the Leader of the Opposition. The corporation, of course, will be very concerned about environmental matters. I just pointed out as a layman that it is not a question of landfill for X number of acres, nor is it one of an alternative use. But I did point out what the present use is, and that is that a part of it, at least, is used for the anchorage of boats, some of them behind the breakwater. As a boater, I am sometimes hard pressed to establish priorities, but I would think a facility of this nature might have some degree of priority over X number of yacht moorings.
I can assure the honourable member, with respect to its environmental acceptability, that no one is going to build a stadium of this nature that is not environmentally suitable. My view is that as the work progresses, these concerns can be dealt with; and obviously, if there is a major potential problem, then the corporation will be looking at alternatives.
As far as the time frame is concerned -- and I should point this out to the member for York South (Mr. Rae) -- while I did make the determination that, rather than have two press conferences, I would announce this latest proposal at the same time, I made it abundantly clear that I do not have a preference out of the five or so that have now been put on the table. I made this clear with respect to Canadian National, and it is also true with respect to the most recent one.
I cannot give the Leader of the Opposition exact time frames. I think that if this facility is to proceed, there is great merit in moving it ahead as expeditiously and as intelligently as possible. I should point out to both leaders of opposition parties that there would be many hundreds of construction jobs available if this facility were to proceed and if at the same time it were perceived that the economics of it make sense to do it sooner rather than later. I cannot tell the time frame because I think there is one major piece of work that needs to be done very carefully, and that is an assessment of the engineering, or whatever it is, as it relates to the retractability of the roof itself.
My own view, and I expressed this the day the Macaulay committee was appointed, is that it makes sense for a stadium of this nature to have a retractable roof or covering, and this view has been supported by a lot of people who have commented on this issue. I think we all understand we do not have one we can draw upon, and that may take a bit of time to sort out.
Mr. Rae: There are some among us who feel that the timing of the dome may have far more to do with the issuing of a writ than with anything else, but I think we should be permitted that kind of scepticism about the government’s goodwill in this matter.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: In the last number of years the government has presided over the construction of six lakefill projects -- from Bluffers Park in Scarborough, which is well known to the Conservative Party, all the way down to Lake Promenade Park next to the Lakeview generating station -- none of which have had an environmental assessment hearing and all of which, according to the hearing that was held in the case of the recent one at Colonel Samuel Smith Park in the west end of Metro, have been found to have had an impact on water currents and on water quality.
It is really a question of what the commitment of the government of Ontario is to water quality. What is the problem? If there is such substantial evidence with respect to earlier lakefill sites, as the Minister of the Environment admitted, what possible objection could the Premier have to an environmental hearing with respect to this particular site if this site is chosen and if the government intends to go ahead with it?
What is the problem? Is water quality not important to the government of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I think this really calls for a fairly lengthy answer as to how important water quality is to the government of Ontario. It really gives me the occasion to recite to the leader of the New Democratic Party how much this government has accomplished with respect to water quality.
If one goes back in the history of water quality in this province, one may find it was the government of this province that initiated discussions with the states of the union and that it had a very major role in the execution of the water quality agreement between Canada and the United States.
If the leader of the third party were somewhat more mature chronologically, he would recall the days when many people said Lake Erie was a dead lake; today you catch fish there. It is fair to state that water quality in Lake Ontario was not sufficient some years ago to envisage the growth of salmon. Some time late this summer, the member may want to go to the salmon hunt. He may think he will get his picture in the paper and it is as relevant as playing the piano. The member may wish to do it to get a photograph taken. I can recall when some people said we would never have fish in the Credit River any more, but we now have fish there.
Our commitment to water quality is not only there as a matter of record; it is an ongoing process. I can assure the member our record with respect to water quality surpasses that of any jurisdiction in North America -- on this issue, I would say in the world, without any question whatsoever.
I want to assure the member we cannot make comparisons. I do not object to an environmental assessment. All I am saying to the leader of the New Democratic Party is that he should be patient. I do not even know if this is the site that will be selected. I do draw a distinction between this sort of operation and some of the landfill projects that have gone on. I should point out the one at Leslie Street was a federal undertaking, in any event.
Mr. Bradley: Is the member for York South sorry he asked now?
Mr. Rae: No, I am not sorry. I was looking for a Gene Whelan imitation and I got it. I am not upset.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Health a question about the water quality in Whitchurch-Stouffville. The minister will be aware that a very long time ago, Dr. Ronald Lees, the director of the Occupational Health and Safety Resource Centre at Queen’s University, was asked to do a study, and did a very particular study on 50 families.
He said that in his view there should be a major study conducted of the residents in that area. He said: “I cannot say that the illness pattern is as it should be. There may be something unusual happening.” He went on to say, “Something must be done and done quickly to clarify the situation.” He said this on January 12, 1983.
On June 27, 1983, the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman), who was Minister of Health at that time, wrote a letter to the chairman of the health committee of the Concerned Citizens of Stouffville saying the government was committed to seeing that study go ahead. Since that time, the community has not been contacted. I would like to ask the minister what has happened to the health study in connection with which, over a year and a half ago, the doctor who recommended it said something must “be done and done quickly.” What has been done, and has it been done quickly?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I am not in a position to respond in detail to the member’s question because I cannot say with certainty at what stage the review that was undertaken by my staff in the ministry at the time of the receipt of the report from the team from Queen’s University is at the moment. I will, however, undertake to follow up with the staff of my ministry in order to find out.
As I most recently heard of it, I know there were meetings about the study with the medical officer of health in the area. As the member might recall, the study was not actually undertaken by my ministry, but under the auspices of the office of the medical officer of health. I do not know at this point whether specific recommendations have been received from the medical officer of health, but I will check.
Mr. Rae: In the same report in January 1983, a year and a half ago, the associate medical officer of health of York region said, “There is every reason to look damned hard at a situation where a landfill site is located over an aquifer.” Given this kind of statement from the associate medical officer of health for York region and given the statement by Dr. Lees, I would like to ask the minister what possible justification there can be from him for the delay we have seen.
If something had to “be done and done quickly,” why has it apparently taken a year and a half, according to what the minister has said or not said today -- and it is not clear what he has said or has not said -- to get this study off the ground’? We know the study is going to take some time to complete. Why has it taken so damned long to get started?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I shall try to use more restrained and parliamentary language in my response to the member. I have, in the course of listening to the subsequent question, located some updated information in my material. I would be quite happy to share it with the honourable member.
At a more recent stage the proposal has reached following the receipt of the original report, it was requested that a formal study proposal be submitted to the health unit and in turn to the Ministry of Health for consideration for funding and for peer review, as is the normal course of action in reviewing research proposals in the ministry. That proposal has been received and was sent for review to outside reviewers at, among other places, McGill University and the University of Western Ontario, so it has been progressing.
I do not know whether the responses and recommendations for the next phase of that study have been received from the external reviewers.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, we know the study has been stalled, but even when it goes through, how does the minister expect his government to have any credibility on this issue when a similar study of the Upper Ottawa Street dump in Hamilton-Wentworth was totally ignored by the government?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that is the case and I think the citizens of both Hamilton and Stouffville will demonstrate that is not their perception of the behaviour of this government.
Mr. Rae: What the minister has just told us needs a translation.
Over a year and a half ago, a study of 50 people was completed; it was of sufficient concern to the person making the study that he said something had to be done, and done quickly, to clarify the situation. A year and a half later, we are listening to a minister first saying he did not know anything about it, then consulting his notes and saying the proposal has been received and gone out for peer review. It has taken this government a year and a half; 18 long months have passed and this government has done boo-all to give assurance to the local residents that something is going to be done.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: I would like to ask the minister the reason for the delay. Why has he taken so long to complete and get something on the road that should have been started many months ago?
Hon. Mr. Norton: There are times when I think it might be helpful for the leader of the third party to take at least a crash course in scientific procedure, or if not that, then at least to consult someone knowledgeable in the field and get some advice. There was a time when he might have had one such person in his own caucus to advise him. I do not suppose he has today.
The fact of the matter is that ensuring appropriate scientific and investigative procedures are followed does require the involvement of recognized experts in the field of scientific research. That is why the process of peer review is used in all research funded by the Ministry of Health.
Mr. Rae: It has been a year and a half.
Hon. Mr. Norton: It has not been a year and half, it has taken only a matter of a few months. The proposal was not received until the end of last year and the proposal is different from the initial report to which the member referred in his initial question.
A report was received on the preliminary study. Subsequent to that, a proposal for further research was received. Having been received around the end of last year, that was sent out for peer review. That is not doing “boo-all,” as I recall the member having said a few moments ago. Progress has been made.
As soon as I can get that information, I shall undertake to bring the member fully up to date on exactly where it is.
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, once again you can see why we need television coverage here in the House under the auspices of the Speaker. We have 26 minutes left in the question period and our friends in the electronic media have already decided to leave.
Mr. Martel: The Premier left and everyone went with him, like every day.
Mr. Speaker: Now to the question.
Mr. Mancini: Our friends in the print media are still here, that is correct.
Mr. Wildman: Watch it. That will scare them out.
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. The minister will no doubt be aware that during his illness in the fall the acting Minister of Health, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells), in an exchange regarding informing patients who used our health services of extra billing, said, “The college takes a very dim view and has alerted doctors by letter that this business of trying to inform patients two minutes before they go into an operating room is not acceptable.” Despite the view of the College of Physicians and Surgeons that the practice is not acceptable, it still continues across the province.
I have received a letter from a constituent as follows: “I really resented Dr. L. W. Hersey, as he approached me as I was being taken into the operating room and informed me that I would have to pay him as he was off OHIP. That made me angry as he had the opportunity to come to my room and to approach me there or speak to my husband.”
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Mancini: Surely the minister finds this practice completely unacceptable. What is he going to do in a very serious way to prevent this from happening again?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I believe the member knows from earlier discussions on the subject there is a procedure in place for dealing with matters such as that and it is working.
Ms. Copps: It is not working.
Hon. Mr. Norton: The member for Hamilton Centre (Ms. Copps) is still recovering from the weekend. She is not hearing very well.
The fact is that in almost all such cases the matters are resolved to the satisfaction of both parties if they are brought to the attention of the Ontario Medical Association. If the member wants to give me the information, I will see that it gets to the medical association for appropriate resolution.
Mr. Mancini: The assurances we have received from the minister are ones we have heard before. What we have here is a senior citizen who is being wheeled into the operating room for an operation being approached by her doctor, the anaesthesiologist, and told she will have to pay extra.
Mr. Speaker: Now for the question.
Mr. Mancini: Surely the minister will agree with me that it is time for the province to end the practice of extra billing and to assure our senior citizens and others they will be treated in a very humane fashion when they need the medical services the province and the doctors have to offer.
Hon. Mr. Norton: If the facts of the case are as described by the member, namely, first, if the individual involved is a senior citizen and, second, if the notice occurred just prior to entering the operating theatre for surgery, then I have no doubt the matter can he resolved very quickly.
The point I do not understand is this. If the member is saying the system is not working, then of course it is not going to work if he does not advise his constituent to use the appropriate mechanism that has already been set up. If he had suggested that his constituent immediately forward the complaint to me or to the Ontario Medical Association, perhaps it could have been resolved by now.
I do not approve of that kind of thing. I think it is unconscionable that any physician would wait until that point in the course of treatment of a patient to notify the patient. By the same token, it is not helping the system to work by withholding that information from me only to use it in question period as opposed to trying to help the constituent.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the minister could tell me what advice he would give to a parent who, upon taking a child who had been prepared for some time for a day operation at the Hospital for Sick Children -- such that the child had no food overnight because of orders in terms of what the operation would entail, namely, that the child would receive a general anaesthetic that day
-- received a standard form, not from the hospital but from the consulting firm that covers all the anaesthetists together, informing that parent of an extra charge.
What advice would the minister give to that parent? Would he advise the parent to cancel the operation that day? Would he advise the parent to engage in a dispute with the anaesthetist just as the child was about to go in for the operation? Would he suggest the parent have a dispute in the small claims court months down the road? I would like to hear from the minister what advice he would give the parent in that situation.
Mr. Eakins: In 30 seconds or less.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Is the member going to time me?
Mr. Speaker, I do not think it appropriate that I start giving advice in every situation, whether it be hypothetical or otherwise. I do not know whether this is a hypothetical situation.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: This is not a hypothetical situation. It happened to me last week.
Hon. Mr. Norton: In that case, I am sure the honourable member does not need my advice. I am sure he is quite capable of making that kind of determination himself. I know very well what I would do in that situation, but if I were to say that, it would not be necessarily by way of advice to everyone else. There are times when individuals have to make those decisions themselves. Once again, if the information was communicated as he described it, after a general anaesthetic had been administered to the child --
Mr. Rae: Just before.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Just before. I thought he said it was after his child received a general anaesthetic. In that situation, the member is in a position where he can make that decision without any advice from me. I do not think he needs to stand here in the House -- I doubt he would accept my advice even if it were as sound as I believe it to be.
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. I hope he will attempt to answer this one. The minister will probably be aware that the 1982 throne speech promised, “We will be developing special advanced training programs for ambulance personnel and begin the establishment of a province-wide program of utilization of these services.”
Two years after the throne speech and nine years after the Ministry of Health discussion paper on emergency services and primary care, which said 2,000 patients could have been saved if paramedics had been available, we still have only a pilot program.
Last week the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians issued a press release, which stated in part, “It is incredible to think that, depending on where you might be, what city, what part of a city and when, your life may or may not be saved if you collapse depending on whether paramedics are in place.”
With all the evidence from the Ministry of Health’s own paper of the mid-1970s, the promise made in the throne speech and the programs that have been in place in the United States for years, why are we operating with only a pilot project with paramedics? Why do we not go gung-ho and get these programs in place across the province and make an ongoing commitment to train ambulance personnel so that we can have paramedics not only in Toronto, Hamilton and a few select areas but across Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member had been attentive at the time of the announcement by my predecessor at the introduction of the pilot projects in Hamilton and Toronto, he would have understood that the purpose of the pilot projects was directed primarily to the development of what we hope and believe will be the best and most advanced training system for paramedics in any jurisdiction.
The time lapse between the announcement in the speech from the throne in the spring of 1982 -- I do not recall the specific date, but obviously the member has it from his research -- and the announcement a year ago by the Treasurer (Mr. Grossman) was largely due to the necessary preliminary work that had to go into the development of the program, for example, the development of the training program, which is not being done, wisely so, entirely within the ministry. It was developed after extensive consultation and review of the experience of other jurisdictions in the training and putting into the field of paramedics. A great deal of necessary preliminary work had to be done.
We are now in the phasing-in period of that program. We are monitoring our training program carefully, which, as I said, we believe to be the best available. We will try to make sure it is. I caution the member, as I have before in this House, that he not assume that any one component of the emergency health system in this province is in itself --
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, minister.
Mr. Cooke: The people we talked to when we went to Sunnybrook Medical Centre a couple of weeks ago indicated there is no need for a pilot project --
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Cooke: -- and that the program has proved itself and needs to be extended rapidly.
Is the minister indicating there will be ongoing money past March 1985 to continue the training of ambulance drivers so that they will be upgraded to paramedics? Is he saying this program is going to be expanded right across the province? Is he prepared today to say it is no longer a pilot project, but is an ongoing program of training with the goal of having paramedic services right across the province?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I think it is clear that the programs currently under way in Hamilton and Toronto are pilot projects for the reasons I indicated in the response to the first question the honourable member asked.
I believe it is also clear from what I have said and from what my predecessors have said that it is the intention of the government to proceed with the development of emergency health services across the province. The model being advanced by us is a three-tiered-response model. It is one that does not depend solely on the use of paramedics or solely on the use of trauma units in hospitals. It is a complex system that we believe will result in the finest emergency health service to the people of Ontario that can be developed.
By the same token, it must be approached carefully and methodically in its development and not by some shotgun method. I do not mean to create any further controversy with the member or the people he consults, but I do not particularly care who suggests that what we should be doing at the moment is running with paramedics and forgetting about the other important components. The system must be developed methodically. There are a number of important steps that can be taken by each --
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, minister.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding all the bugs that have to be worked out of the system, does the minister at least have a target date, as John Kennedy had a target to get a man on the moon, for the full implementation of emergency medical care, attendant 3 paramedics across Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, obviously, any target for the completion of the development of a system as expensive as an emergency health system across this large province is something that will depend on a number of things, not the least of which is the rate at which we can train the personnel and get the physical and other resources in place and the availability of financial resources. I would not want to establish an arbitrary target. I can only say we plan to proceed with as great efficiency as possible.
ELECTRICAL WORKERS’ DISPUTE
Mr. Hennessy: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Labour. Local 1788 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 402 and other workers have been locked out at the Atikokan Hydro plant by Ontario Hydro and have been unable to negotiate for the past five weeks. Will the minister use his good offices to get Ontario Hydro and the unions together at the bargaining table as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, circumstances have not changed in this dispute. The two parties are polarized in their positions. We have brought a very able and highly respected mediator out of early retirement in the person of Mr. Mancini to mediate this. Incidentally, for the record, that is not the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini).
At the moment, we require both parties to indicate that they wish to negotiate before we can do anything.
Mr. Hennessy: The minister has mentioned the parties are at loggerheads. I fail to see this. I had the union representatives in my office and they are more than willing to sit down and negotiate. They accuse Hydro of locking out the union.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Hennessy: Will the minister intervene in this matter, please?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I think we are taking the necessary steps of intervention when we have a mediator in constant consultation on a daily basis with the parties to see if he can get them together. Until one or the other party changes its position, I am afraid it is very difficult to mediate the dispute.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that the bone of contention seems to be the living expenses for Hydro workers and construction people? Is he aware that apparently Hydro and the government have settled with the Canadian Union of Public Employees to provide living expenses for people who have to work outside their home towns? Having made an agreement with one union, Hydro apparently will not make an agreement with the Hydro electrical workers’ union for the same thing. Does the minister not think that is unfair, inequitable and stupid in view of the fact that programs are being delayed?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, I do not understand it that way at all. My understanding is that Hydro has offered to the electricians the same kind of agreement it has offered to other construction trades. The electricians are not prepared to accept the offer that has been accepted by the other construction trades. It is not a case of two different unions. It is a case of the construction trades.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Energy. I would like to know whether the minister agrees with the Ontario Hydro guidelines regarding residential rates across Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Andrewes: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to provide the honourable member with some information. She has given me notice of this question. I am glad I am not her target today. The Minister of Health (Mr. Norton) will continue to be her target.
In response to the member’s question, I would have to acknowledge there are indeed residential guidelines for credit collection. I am assuming that is what she is referring to. These guidelines were reviewed most recently in 1978. There was a consensus reached among Ontario Hydro, its member utilities and the electrical and natural gas utilities of the province. Although those guidelines within the framework of the local area operations do have some flexibility, they are generally followed by most municipal utilities.
Ms. Copps: I am frankly shocked that in a government supposedly committed to five per cent annual increases the Minister of Energy would agree with a residential rate that would allow a late payment charge of five per cent on a monthly bill. Does the minister not feel a yearly potential late payment charge, which is only one point short of a violation of the Criminal Code, is excessive?
This government, which alleges to be committed to five per cent increases on an annual basis, should not be party to approving this kind of ripoff of the taxpayers of Ontario and absolute gouging not only by Ontario Hydro but also by utilities such as Hamilton Hydro in my own community.
Hon. Mr. Andrewes: I want the member clearly to understand that the late payment charge of five per cent is a one-time charge. It is not compounded monthly as are most overdue accounts. As I understand it, the account to which the member was referring was a two-month account of some $60, and the five per cent charge is imposed for late payment to offset the cost of collecting those accounts. A $3 charge in today’s administrative cycle -- it would not be a 12-month account; it would require six payments yearly -- would potentially mean $18 per year if the member’s constituent continued to fail to pay the account.
I can only reiterate that the charge is made to reflect the cost of handling overdue accounts and was developed after fairly close consultation with a number of utilities.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the earlier questions on the Stouffville dump. Is the minister aware that the agreement reached a year and a half ago to extend the life of the Stouffville site and the resulting provisional certificate of approval contain the development of closure plans for that site? The closure plans are all based on contouring and capping that site.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Charlton: The report that was released recently indicated polychlorinated biphenyls are escaping from the site. Those PCBs are escaping from lagoon number five, which is already contoured and capped. Is the minister aware the whole direction of security for that site is now indicated to be inadequate? What is he prepared to do to start having a new look at how we have to deal with that site in the future?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker, some of the questions raised by the honourable member are somewhat premature. The hydrogeological studies on the site are not completed. The company does have some requirement to have those completed by this fall. Once the scientific studies are completed, I assure the member that he will have the evidence to indicate what further steps we have to take.
In the fall of this year, if the company does not comply with the requirements of my ministry, it will have to put up a very substantial bond to ascertain the future viability of that site from a safety standpoint, and we are going to take all necessary steps and all necessary precautions.
RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: Again, I rise under standing order 81 on the issue of the approach of the Treasury benches to answering questions in Orders and Notices. I specifically draw your attention to questions 236 through 247, which I tabled on March 27, requesting information from the Ministry of Labour.
After an interim answer, it took the ministry two months to respond. Specifically, questions 242 through 247 requested a list of all companies subject to each of the designated substances regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the minister’s replies did not provide that information. Also, the minister did not provide a list of the unions involved, as was requested in my written question.
In answers to questions 236 through 241, the information had obviously been logged by the ministry’s legal department; so the question arises, why did it take two months to provide that information to us?
If I were cynical, I might come to the conclusion that the material provided was designed more to obscure than to inform. It did not clearly delineate the information asked for and did not distinguish between a number of things we asked for, such as accidents and non-accidents, unionized and unorganized work places.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for your direction. How are we as a Legislature, and as members of the Legislature, to have some kind of control over the way ministers of the crown respond to written questions in Orders and Notices?
We have had situations in the past, and they continue with the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope), where ministers refuse to answer at all, even with interim answers. Now we have a situation where the Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay) has responded but has not answered the questions that were asked.
Mr. Speaker: I think you have already done it.
Mr. Kolyn: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member representing the constituency of Cambridge (Mr. Barlow), I table the following petition:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to appeal to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
“The supporters of Rockway Mennonite Collegiate cannot accept the fact that the government of Ontario can boost its support for Catholic and Franco-Ontarian schools while continuing to neglect to support other educational communities.
“In a democratic, multicultural society, choice in education should not provide some schools of choice funding while denying the same rights to others. In at least five Canadian provinces, independent schools are recognized as providing a public service and they receive various forms of financial grants. In Ontario, legislators act as if the 80,000 children in independent schools do not exist.
“Parents and supporters pay the total cost for their education while also paying taxes at the same level as everyone else for public schools they do not use. In fact, in the past five years, parents of children in independent schools have contributed $1 billion to educate other people’s children in Ontario.
“When will their children receive some benefit from public education tax dollars? When will this government accept its responsibility to recognize the value of these schools and provide support for them as it does for Franco-Ontarian and Catholic schools? When will this denigrating blot be removed from our democratic, multicultural province?”
FAMILY BENEFITS ASSISTANCE
Mr. Kolyn: Mr. Speaker, I wish to table a petition from 14 residents of Ontario concerning the interpretation by the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Drea) of regulation 424/82 under the Family Benefits Act; it is addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
SALE OF BEER AND WINE
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, I knew you were probably wondering why I had not tabled a petition in two days; so here I am.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the government and the Legislative Assembly to support the private member’s bill of Don Boudria, MPP, to permit the sale of beer and Ontario wine in small, independent grocery stores.
“Pétition adressée au Lieutenant-gouverneur en Conseil et à l’Assemblée législative de l’Ontario:
“Nous, soussignés, par la présente pétition, demandons à l’Assemblée législative et au gouvernement d’appuyer les projets de loi du député Don Boudria qui permettraient aux petites épiceries indépendantes de vendre de la bière et du vin ontarien.”
Mr. Speaker, these petitions are signed by 500 people, bringing the grand total to 11,577 people.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Sterling moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Elgie, first reading of Bill 106, An Act to amend Certain Statutes in the Resources Development Policy Field.
Motion agreed to.
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Wells, first reading of Bill 107, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.
Motion agreed to.
PROVINCIAL OFFENCES AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Wells, first reading of Bill 108, An Act to amend the Provincial Offences Act.
Motion agreed to.
SECURITIES AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Elgie moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Gregory, first reading of Bill 109, An Act to amend the Securities Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing for first reading amendments to the Securities Act that extend the act to Her Majesty in the right of Canada, Ontario and other provinces and the territories as well as to the agents and servants of Her Majesty in each of these jurisdictions.
What this means is that crown corporations will be required to abide by the Securities Act like any other investor trading in Ontario’s capital markets, including the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The act makes the crown, its agents and servants immediately subject to the same rules of the marketplace as are private investors who participate in Ontario’s capital market for publicly traded securities.
However, crown agencies will continue to have certain exemptions under the act, including the ability of government to sell securities without complying with registration or prospectus requirements.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: Pursuant to standing order 32(c), I think it is the standing order of this Legislature that bills have to be introduced and a compendium shall be supplied to the respective critics of the opposition parties. I am sure it is only an inadvertence, but the Securities Amendment Act does not have such a compendium.
Mr. Speaker: I am sure the minister will provide one.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I will make sure. It was tabled last year, and I will be glad to table it again. Perhaps it will add to the honourable member’s library.
TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE ACT
Mr. Cassidy moved, seconded by Mr. Foulds, first reading of Bill 110, An Act respecting Technological Change in the Work Place.
M. Cassidy a proposé, supporté par M. Foulds, la première lecture du Projet de loi 110, Une loi concernant les changements technologiques au lieu du travail.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Kolyn: This must be one of the honourable member’s last bills.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, my friend is suggesting that this may be my swan song in politics. I would suggest that this bill would be as effective federally as it would be provincially, and I certainly hope to take it to Parliament in a very short time.
This bill was developed last year and was first introduced last December after an extensive process of consultation with people within the New Democratic Party, with experts in the area of technological change and with people in the labour movement and in business. On further reflection, the contents of the bill were closely studied during the work of the NDP caucus task force on work, people and technological change.
Our task force confirmed the need for this kind of legislation in view of the risk of rapid job loss because of the impact of technological change in Ontario. The fact that we may be facing an increase in unemployment to above the 20 per cent level because of new technologies between now and the beginning of the next decade indicates, in our view, the need for action to protect workers and to provide for economic democracy in the work place.
The bill itself provides for advance notice of 180 days of the introduction of new technology; an opportunity for workers to discuss changes that are proposed for their work place; an opportunity for workers to participate in adjustment measures; full sharing of information by employers with their workers as a means of ensuring economic democracy in the work place; the right of both organized and unorganized workers to form joint technological change committees; the right of organized workers to negotiate technological change and to strike if necessary, and a strengthening of those rights of workers by means of access to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The bill provides for a minimum of one week’s severance pay for every year of service.
It is at least a first start in terms of what is needed to be done in Ontario. In our view, it is unfortunate that the Conservative government has given us only a budget entitled Economic Transformation and a committee studying the subject, but not any of the necessary legislation. This legislation is required. Otherwise, we will have a clear recipe for both social distress and economic weakness if we do not act now.
TRIBUTE TO ALEX BAUMANN
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: I am astounded that no member of the government saw fit to rise at the beginning of the proceedings today to pay tribute to perhaps Canada’s finest athlete, Alex Baumann, who over the weekend set a world record for the 400 individual medley. It augurs well for Mr. Baumann’s chances at the Olympics and it augurs well for Canada’s swim team in those Olympics. As a person who has some small interest in swimming as a sport, I am astounded that a tribute has not been paid today to this fine athlete.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of the whole.
FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT ACT
Consideration of Bill 88, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act.
Sections 1 to 10, inclusive, agreed to.
On section 11:
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Chairman, I understand the desire of the Treasury to have section 10 of the Public Officers Act repealed, which is what section 11 of the bill currently before us will do. However, I have some reservations about this.
I fully understand that public officers have not had to file a security in the province since 1969. However, as I read the Public Officers Act, which is administered by the Attorney General’s ministry, it would appear that under sections 7 and 8, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may still at some future time require securities to be filed by public officers. If that is the case, I suggest the reporting mechanism, section 10 of the original act, should remain and section 11 of the bill before us should be dropped from the legislation.
It is my understanding that the Treasurer has made the commitment that he would rather withdraw the section and file the piece of paper each year than allow a simple housekeeping amendment to take up further time in the House. I wonder if I could have a response from the parliamentary assistant.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Treleaven): Before the parliamentary assistant replies, may I read a document? It is the decision of the chair regarding the proposal of the member for Port Arthur:
On Tuesday, June 12, the member for Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid) and the member for Port Arthur (Mr. Foulds) raised the question of whether section 11 of Bill 88, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act, is in order. Section 11 of the bill proposes to repeal section 10 of the Public Officers Act. I have reviewed the bill and section 10 of the Public Officers Act, as well as the parliamentary law text. Beauchesne’s fifth edition states:
‘Although there is no specific set of rules or guidelines governing the content of a bill, there should be a theme of relevancy amongst the contents of a bill. They must be relevant to and subject to the umbrella which is raised by the terminology of the long title of the bill. The long title sets out in general terms the purposes of the bill. It should cover everything in the bill.’
“I find there is no ‘theme of relevancy’ between section 11 of the bill, which amends the Public Officers Act, and the other sections of the bill, which amend the Financial Administration Act. Section 11 of the bill is not complementary to the rest of the bill and I therefore find the section to be out of order and I ask the parliamentary assistant to move the deletion of the section.”
Mr. Stevenson: That ends the discussion on that section. We are willing to do that.
The Acting Chairman: Mr. Stevenson moves that section 11 of the bill be deleted and that sections 12 and 13 be respectively renumbered as sections 11 and 12.
Is there any discussion on the motion of the parliamentary assistant?
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Chairman, we will not take this withdrawal by the parliamentary assistant as a matter of confidence. We can assure the House that we will be voting for the deletion and we will not require the resignation of the Treasurer (Mr. Grossman) over this inappropriate action on his part.
Motion agreed to.
Sections 11 and 12, as renumbered, agreed to.
Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Wells, the committee of the whole House reported one bill with a certain amendment.
ONTARIO LOAN ACT (CONCLUDED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 74, An Act to authorize the Raising of Money on the Credit of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I should like to answer the items that the opposition Treasury critics in particular have raised. The member for Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid) asked when repayment to the Canada pension plan and the teachers’ superannuation fund will commence.
Repayments to CPP commence the next fiscal year in the amount of about $20 million, and to TSF in 1987-88 for one year followed by no years of repayment, just because of the way the money was borrowed.
The member requested what he called a guesstimate of the interest rate cost of refinancing the Treasury bill issues over the last year. The best way to answer that question is to refer to our most recent auctions of Treasury bills which have been in the 11.6 per cent range for a few weeks.
The member indicated that under cumulative net borrowing for Ontario Hydro, the budget papers themselves showed it was not available for 1984-85 and he therefore suggested, facetiously I know, that we were obscuring the Hydro debt.
Mr. T. P. Reid: I do not think I said that.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: He did say that, but in any event I should point out that the first item that is listed “not available” lies beside the listing of Ontario’s borrowings in the United States on behalf of Hydro. This is not a forecast in the budget as it relates to Hydro’s operations. It is determined accordingly during the course of the year as market conditions develop.
The second “not available” listing in the budget refers to all contingent liabilities, not just Ontario Hydro’s. When we have agencies such as the Ontario development corporations issuing guarantees, it is not possible for us to forecast at this time what these other guarantees will amount to during the year; so we must put in “not available” at this stage.
The member for Port Arthur (Mr. Foulds) indicated that Ontario had a provincial debt of $1.9 billion in 1975 and that this had risen to $24.5 billion this year. I believe the honourable member inadvertently picked the wrong number from 1975-76; $1.9 billion was the publicly held debt then outstanding, I know that for fair comparative purposes he would want the record to show that the total debt was $9.8 billion in 1975-76, rising to $24.5 billion. If that were broken out and translated into constant dollars, it would be quite a different proposition.
Finally, the member for Rainy River introduced an amendment to reduce the Ontario Loan Act amount from $2.6 billion to $2.1 billion to approximate fiscal 1984-85’s net cash requirements. The reasons for adopting the 18-month duration of the loan act go back to the time it was first started in 1979. The extension at that time was adopted to cover the event of any delay in the passage of the subsequent year’s loan act and to ensure there would be sufficient authority to cover borrowing requirements until the next act was passed.
Each year there is a built-in delay of up to three months, because the fiscal year begins April 1 and the loan act is usually passed, as is the case now, some time in June. Having worked here for some years, we all know that although June passage is the experience, House business could conceivably delay the schedule. That becomes quite important, since Canada pension plan funds play such a major role in our financing plans. Therefore, it is important to have the six-month extension to allow sufficient provision for the drawing down of those funds when they are available and offered, else we miss our opportunity and they are lent elsewhere.
That reviews the new and different items raised by my friends opposite on the loan act itself. Accordingly, I urge all members to defeat the modest amendment.
Mr. T. P. Reid: How does the Treasurer define “deficit”?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Before I conclude, the member for Rainy River was trying to get an answer to the question of net debt. Net debt, as we calculate it, represents the net result of accumulated deficits and surpluses since Confederation. That is the way business would do it. It equals the difference between the assets and liabilities on the province’s balance sheets. That would be how one would define it. I know the honourable member will find that edifying in the days to come.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): All those in favour of the motion for second reading of Bill 74 will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
Hon. Mr. Grossman moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Wells, resolution 6:
That the Treasurer of Ontario be authorized to pay the salaries of civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing July 1, 1984, and ending October 31, 1984, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, last March, when I was proposing the previous motion of interim supply, the opposition members suggested it might be appropriate for me to make a short statement setting out the need for the supply motion, the amounts of money that would be required and a brief outline of the state of the economy and our finances. Responsive as always to opposition requests and suggestions, we have done that in a brief way this afternoon.
As members will of course all be aware, spending authority other than for payments authorized by a specific statute is granted to the government by the Legislature by debate on concurrences in estimates followed by the Supply Act. Since the Supply Act is not generally passed until late in the fiscal year, interim authority for government expenditure is sought by a motion of interim supply. Until the mid-1970s, the motion covered the full fiscal year, and since that time House rules have limited the period to no more than six months.
The first interim supply motion for this fiscal year covered April 1 to June 30, 1984. The motion I am introducing today covers the period July 1 to October 31, 1984. Taking into consideration the expenditure estimates of some $2 billion already debated, I would estimate the amounts of money required for this period to be approximately $8 billion.
The current state of the economy and the outlook for 1984 have not changed significantly since the May 15 budget. Indicators of current economic activity suggest that the expansion of the economy is continuing. Employment increased again in May, rising by 11,000 jobs. Ontario employment is currently higher than it has ever been. Manufacturing shipments in the first quarter of 1984 are 24.9 per cent higher than in the same period a year ago; retail sales are 10.7 per cent higher than in the same period a year earlier.
For 1984 the Ontario economy is forecast to expand by 4.7 per cent in real terms. Strong export growth, particularly to the United States, will continue to be a major contributor to the expansion. Increased consumer spending will provide significant additional impetus.
Although machinery and equipment investment has been growing in real terms, overall business investment growth continues to lag the expansion. Nevertheless, there are some bright spots in the investment outlook. Corporate balance sheets are strengthened and capacity utilization rates have risen. The real growth in machinery and equipment investment is expected to continue. As well, the three recently announced auto sector investments totalling over $1 billion, are of course an encouraging indicator that the investment outlook is improving.
The province’s general fiscal situation is improving in line with our expectations reported in the May 15 budget. A detailed financial picture will be available in late July with the publication of the first quarter Ontario Finances, but I can report at this time on the first two months of this fiscal year.
The revenue picture is currently holding to our budget forecast of $24.8 billion, and we still expect it to continue through the year. Expenditures, however, are expected to increase by $11 million this fiscal year because of the commencement of construction on the new American Motors auto plant announced by the Premier (Mr. Davis) earlier this month. This investment is part of a $60-million, five-year commitment that will be recouped in future years.
There is nothing further to add at this time, this motion for interim supply following so relatively shortly after the lengthy presentation in the budget itself on our economic and fiscal circumstances.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the motion. As the Treasurer has pointed out, we have had the budget, we have had the Ontario Loan Act and perhaps we have covered a great deal of some of these matters. However, there is a matter that has been concerning me for some time. I could not help but be spurred on to say a few well-chosen words in view of the Treasurer’s approach to the bills we just discussed, this resolution and the complete and utter lack of enthusiasm and approach in the House.
I am going to speak about the process of approving the estimates and the amount of money we vote here in the Legislature for the needs of the province each and every year. If I may, I want to spend about three minutes saying that in my view the whole system in this Legislature is falling apart. It has been my view for some years that there is not very much accountability on the part of the government for the expenditures it makes.
That is partly the fault of the opposition. There is no doubt about that. Instead of asking questions about money, we tend to go off in all kinds of different policy directions or talk about constituency or parochial problems rather than dealing with the finances of the province. Of course, cabinet ministers have learned very well how to waste time in estimates themselves by reading a two- or three-hour report on their ministries in which they tell us all the great things they have done.
Here we are in the House where there may be a quorum. We dealt with the Ontario Loan Act for a couple of nights. There was a corporal’s guard at best in here and little interest was shown by the Treasurer or this side of the House in this particular matter.
If I may be philosophical about it, part of the problem is that too much power has flowed into the hands of the executive, particularly the Premier. A fellow came up to me after the Premier’s announcement about extending aid to separate schools. He was all in a flap and said: “There is no accountability in this process. How is the public or interested parties going to have any input into this process?” I said to that particular fellow, a close observer of this place, “That problem has been with us for ages.”
It may be just a natural extension of the way the economy and Ontario have grown. But even though we have the procedural affairs committee and other committees looking at it, this Legislature has not kept up.
Let me talk about accountability. I will use three examples.
The Premier and some of his cronies -- very few of them on the government benches -- decided to buy a quarter interest in an oil company at an expenditure of a paltry $650 million. There was no real discussion of that matter in this House. There certainly was very little information other than the Premier announcing it.
The Premier and the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) went to Ottawa and played the constitutional game. The Premier threw his constitutional chip on the table. This Legislature had never discussed any of the matters relating to that or what Ontario’s position would be. Perhaps it was not possible that those matters be discussed fully in this chamber. Regardless of the reason, it was not discussed either before or, probably worse, after the fact.
The third matter that comes to mind is the Premier’s announcement last week of extending aid to separate schools. I have no particular quarrel with that. I was among those who 13 years ago suggested it was only just that it be done. It is interesting that the Premier in his comments said: “I have decided. I have changed my mind.” It was not “we,” it was not “the government”; I found the interesting thing in those remarks was that it was “I.”
I am standing here to express my frustration with the way the system does not work. I am going to appear shortly before the Board of Internal Economy to discuss some work of the public accounts committee, about which I am also frustrated. The Board of Internal Economy has suggested that our full committee should not travel to Westminster. I do not know what the motion was. I presume the reason was that full committees should not travel overseas.
I want to point out that the Camp commission in its five-volume report was most concerned about the role of the private member of the Legislature on all sides of the House, the government back-benchers as well as the opposition members.
On page 9 of its first report the Camp commission stated: “What we have sketched about the member’s role has not stressed the demands on him within the Legislature itself. It is there that much of the skimping and shortfall in performance is taking place. Put most brutally, government and its administration steadily increases in complexity, size and resource. Reports, studies and expertise proliferate. Few legislative proposals are simple and clear-cut. The ministries are sustained by an increasingly impressive array of talent and organizational ability to which the ordinary member of government or opposition has limited access and few ready rights of use. Surely the time has come to recognize that the disbalance, not so much towards the government but towards its highly knowledgeable bureaucracies, must be countered by stepping up the resources, facilities and services of the Legislature and the legislator.”
I thought the commission made an interesting point. I believe committee travel generally, but not in all cases, is useful and beneficial to the members because they have to increase their expertise. In any case, I am not going to get at the Treasurer for all the shortcomings of the government. I simply suggest that, to a large extent, these debates have become charades and a waste of everybody’s time. We seem to have committees looking at procedures all the time, but something has to be done to redress the imbalance between the power the Premier and the executive have and the power of the ordinary member of the Legislature who does not happen to be a member of the executive council.
There also has to be some sharpening of the lines of accountability and responsibility. I am aware of the commissioning of Price Waterhouse Associates and the Canada Consulting Group by the Chairman of Management Board (Mr. McCague) on this very thing. I really found the last week or so to be an exercise in futility. I think the Treasurer would agree with that as well. Some way has to be found to make this whole process a little more meaningful for all of us. Otherwise, we all stand to die of boredom in this place.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, it is not often I find myself in agreement with my colleague the member for Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid), but I would like to associate myself entirely with his remarks when he talks about the increasing irrelevancy of the legislative debate, the increasing irrelevancy of debating motions such as this and the increasing accumulation of power in what I call the imperial-style cabinet of the Premier. It is an imperial-style cabinet in that the decisions are taken not even by cabinet as a whole, as I understand it, but by a small group of cabinet ministers. Although I entirely agree with the decision to extend aid to separate schools, as I did some 13 years ago, the cabinet did not consider that as a whole.
As the member for Rainy River pointed out time and time again in his continuing battle against Suncor, about which I do not have such strong feelings, the decision was made by four or five cabinet ministers, a few key deputies and Malcolm Rowan. That decision was transferred or communicated to the cabinet. We have the reductio ad absurdum today in that we have passed two bills having to do with the Treasurer (Mr. Grossman) dealing with interim supply, and we have the House leaders of all three parties scrambling to do other business.
I do not intend to speak at great length because, as the Treasurer indicated, we just had the budget. Most of what we have had to say we have said in the budget debate and there has not been a great deal of change since then. But there are a number of key points I would like to make very briefly and very quickly. I want to reiterate that the budget is a budget of vague promises. Even today when the Treasurer gave his interim statement, he indicated that the growth rate was 4.7 per cent. If I am not mistaken, he predicted the real growth rate would be 5.2 per cent in his budget.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: It was always 4.7 per cent.
Mr. Foulds: It was 4.7 per cent. In other words, he considers it to be right on target, but he is not indicating where that figure comes from.
What disappointed me in the budget and in the weeks since we have had the budget is that we have not had a series of concrete steps taken in a number of key areas. Let me deal with three of them.
There have been no concrete steps taken to provide for older workers. We have not seen positive steps in this Legislature to encourage early retirement or a shorter work week. We have not seen a remedy for the continuing inadequacy of a number of the private pension plans. We have not seen a widening, an enhancing or a strengthening of the laws having to do with severance notice and the justification for closure of positions, let alone plant closures.
We have not had adequate pension protection and reform, let alone some courageous steps of providing bridging pensions for those workers who wish to take retirement early and thus free up a number of positions for young men and women in this province and give them opportunities. We have not had courageous action to encourage early retirement so those people who take early retirement could have adequate pensions.
We often get into debates about overtime. I would like to see very tough steps taken so that rates for double and triple time would have to be paid after four hours. This would discourage excessive use of overtime by employers who now find it more beneficial to pay time and a half for overtime than to take on a new work force when that is entirely justified in some cases.
I would like to see some courageous steps in those regards. If we do not have the courage to talk about them in this House, I think that is a very sad state indeed. We have not seen courageous steps taken by this government with regard to equal pay for work of equal value for women in this province. We have not seen courageous and concrete steps taken with regard to youth unemployment; we continue to have high levels of youth unemployment.
The Treasurer, in particular, is fond of saying he and his government reject the so-called quick fix and short-term remedies, but he equally rejects long-term remedies and structural changes. Instead, what we have from the budget, and since the budget we have had nothing concrete with regard to the young people, is what the Treasurer likes to call an opportunity. He has been out on the supper circuit begging private business to take up the challenge and provide the opportunities.
All I would say is that if the budget provides the youth an opportunity, so does Wintario. We know the odds are eight million to one against a person who buys a Wintario ticket, and the reward most of the time is another free book of tickets, which does not get us very far along the road to full-term employment. Before this House reconvenes in the fall, I would beg the Treasurer to bring in a program with some concrete steps and some genuine action to remedy both the short-term and long-term problems of youth unemployment.
I believe youth unemployment and the unemployment of our older workers are connected. If we could take a series of steps that encourage a shorter work week and shorter work time over the lifetime of a person, with early retirement and bridging pensions, we could begin to solve the problem of youth unemployment, because jobs in the work force would be freed up for the unemployed young people of Ontario who so desperately need work.
I reiterate what I said to the Treasurer or to the Premier. How many times can we expect a young person to take no for an answer when he or she goes searching for a job? How many years can we expect a young person to take no for an answer when searching for a job? I believe very profoundly if that carries on for one, two or three years, then something fundamental happens to that person. I believe very strongly that work itself shapes our personality, growth and identity. Without the hardening influence of some kind of genuine work experience, the human being deteriorates and suffers.
One might even say with some caution, but in all sincerity, that unless we provide the opportunity for work for our young people, we will face in this province, in quiet Ontario, genuine social unrest among those young people.
I want to conclude these remarks by quickly touching on four other areas. One has nothing to do with the Treasurer, but I want to mention it anyway because it has to do with the government, and that is freedom of information. Surely if ever there has been a joke in this Legislature, it has been the freedom of information bill brought in by the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development (Mr. Sterling). It is perhaps the greatest gag bill, masquerading as a freedom of information bill, that has been brought into the House.
I want to mention education because I believe there is a genuine concern, a continuing alarm about the drop in what we used to call technical education in our high schools -- the number of high school students who are dropping technical training as an option in the high schools. I think that is a real danger in two ways. Not only are those skills useful in developing practical skills perhaps for the work force, they are also useful as what I call urban survival skills. Having a little electrical, carpentry or plumbing training helps you to survive in an urban environment in a very real way; it helps you to repair your house in a very real way.
But I am concerned more about the de-emphasis -- I hate that word -- of technical education in our secondary school system, because I think that if young men and women in our high schools have a taste of creative, good and challenging technical education in those years, they will continue those interests and skills and the opportunity for that skill development in their college or university years.
Of course, the lack of interest in technical education in our high schools and the continuing drop in enrolment in technical education in our high schools have led to the threat of a number of layoffs of technical teachers in our school system because of the problems created with respect to redundancy.
I want to talk about Ontario Hydro for a few minutes, because I believe the government’s continuing obsession with nuclear technology has shown itself to be a genuine obsession and a flaw with respect to the development the province should be making in the production of electricity.
My argument since I became somewhat familiar with the energy field during my stint as the Energy critic for our party has been that this province is best served by a mix of hydraulic, nuclear and some thermal generation, that the obsession of Ontario Hydro with going to 60 or 80 per cent nuclear is expensive in capital terms and that we are seeing it as increasingly expensive in operational terms.
While it may have been legitimate 10 or 12 years ago to think these plants were going to run risk-free or problem-free, we have found after 10 or 12 years that enormous problems do develop. Frankly, the retubing at Pickering units A and B, I believe it is, is going to cost as much as the four units did at the time of their construction. This shows us not only the escalating cost in actual dollars because of inflation, etc., but also the cost to the whole system because of the retubing, the refurbishing and the reconstruction of the system, which we did not expect to occur until after 20 or 30 years.
It is a very serious matter for the Treasurer to look at simply with respect to where the money has to come from. I know Hydro funding does not come directly from the general revenues of the province; but when Hydro has to go out in the capital market and ask for huge loans, then that money is withdrawn from the capital market altogether.
Finally, before the Treasurer nods off under the gallery, I want to conclude by saying that I believe one of the best short-term solutions to the problem of job creation is to provide adequate low-cost housing for the people of this province. We need adequate social housing programs, and that in itself does two things: it provides us with a benefit and an investment in the future of Ontario. If you build social housing owned by nonprofit corporations, by the province itself in some cases perhaps, or by co-operatives, you have an investment in the future and in housing; you also satisfy what is becoming increasingly a very real social need in all of our urban communities in Ontario.
With those remarks I would like to bring those issues and areas to the attention of the Treasurer. I hope we will have more concrete action, particularly with regard to job creation for unemployed youth and for older workers. I would like to have particular action with regard to housing, and I would like to see Hydro finally brought under control by this Treasurer, who has an eye on the Premier’s job.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, I want to participate very briefly in the debate on this motion. The last person who spoke raised the issue of social housing, which is a very big concern in all parts of the province. Needless to say, it is a major concern in my constituency, which the Treasurer will know is not a very wealthy one; we are experiencing financial difficulty, and the need for social housing is much greater than in certain other areas.
The member for Port Arthur (Mr. Foulds) reflected on the need for urban areas to have social housing; that is a need, not only of urban areas but of our small towns and villages as well. I am sure the minister, having travelled the province as he has on many occasions, is aware that is not just a problem of large urban communities.
One of the difficulties we have in rural areas is getting housing for our elderly. In certain large municipalities there are at least apartments on the market that people can rent. In many of our small villages, once the elderly are no longer able to live in their own houses, once they cannot mow the lawn and sweep the steps and shovel the snow, there is no other accommodation to which they can go. There are no apartment buildings at any price.
It is not a matter of being able, if living in a small village like L’Orignal or Rockland or other communities in my constituency, to say, “I am not able to take care of my house any more, but I can always go over to that building and rent myself an apartment.” They cannot do that because there are none.
I bring this to the attention of the Treasurer in view of a letter I recently wrote to the minister’s colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Mr. Bennett). I will not bore the Treasurer with all the details of the letter. Needless to say, the reply of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was less than adequate. I will be generous in leaving it at that.
The minister indicated the federal government allows the allocation and it is the federal government’s fault that we do not have housing. What he did not say was, if the federal government allowed allocation, why he does not allow allocation for social housing as well. He stated that 1,980 apartment units had been approved for Ontario by the federal government, forgetting to mention that the provincial government had not approved any. He then blamed the federal government for not allowing enough that we could distribute them throughout the province.
The Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs is totally missing the point, which should not surprise anyone here. A minister with a greater ability to comprehend such matters, such as the Treasurer, should encourage his colleague to allow some funds for the creation of social housing in small municipalities across this province.
I see members representing rural constituencies sitting on the government side. I am sure they have the same concerns about providing adequate social housing, especially for our families and our elderly, across this province. It is a very difficult area in our smaller municipalities. The private sector is not building very much housing, as the minister knows. The taxes are now very high in some of our small municipalities, because assessment is increasing. There are serious difficulties in trying to create more adequate housing. Only intervention by governments will solve that.
The Treasurer will probably talk about the federal government allowing only 1,980 units across this province, but I would suggest that if we had had 1,980 units approved by the provincial government as well, we would have tackled much of the shortfall we have in units across the province. I encourage the minister to stress the important of this to his colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Very briefly, I would like to raise another issue with the minister; he will be aware of it, since I wrote him a letter about it. It concerns the eastern Ontario development agreement between the provincial government and the federal government. I see the minister is making notes. No doubt he is thinking about the fact that the agreement has now expired, not in terms of time but in terms of funds, although it will expire later this year in terms of time as well. The federal government has not demonstrated too much interest in renewing it, I know. Nevertheless, I understand there are still negotiations between the federal government and the province; at least that is what I was informed by the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Timbrell) in a letter to me last week.
A portion of the eastern Ontario development agreement was for agriculture, some $10 million initially. Through negotiations with the Minister of Agriculture and Food and the Honourable Edward Lumley, some funds were transferred within the agreement and the $10 million changed to $11 million. Since then, another $300,000 or $1.3 million -- something like that -- has been added. However, there is still a shortfall in terms of projects that were started when there were funds in the agreement but have not yet come to fruition.
The difficulty is that many municipalities find themselves with an engineering bill of, say, $100,000, and a project that cannot go ahead. There are two choices; one is to take that engineering bill and tack it on to the farmers who signed the original petition, not giving them any drainage at all and just abandoning the project. The alternative is that the municipality can take that from its own funds; it can also proceed with the drain with only one third of the grant instead of two thirds.
The effect is not just that the cost of producing the drain will be doubled. The minister will know that the method by which this is calculated has many people, especially at the lower end of drainage areas, receiving moneys for damages once a municipal drain is constructed. Since the net amount is deducted from that, sometimes there is a drain -- for instance, under the previous scheme of two-thirds funding -- which would have cost a farmer $2,000 and the farmer was willing to proceed, thinking he would have an additional expense of $2,000. However, not being able to get the other one-third grant, that bill might jump from $2,000 to $25,000, and whereas many farmers could have afforded the $2,000 bill, a bill that is 10, 15 or 20 times the original estimate is a far different story.
They have a choice of paying for engineering and not getting anything constructed -- the municipality could absorb the bill, but many of them are not in a position to do that -- or the farmers could proceed with the drain and hope that somehow they would manage to scrape up the dough to be able to proceed.
In eastern Ontario, according to estimates made by the Minister of Agriculture and Food, some $1,067,765 would be needed to be added to the agreement to complete the drains already started. I am sure the Minister of Agriculture and Food has brought that to the attention of the minister.
There are nine drains that have to be constructed; all of them are in eastern Ontario. I understand four of those nine are in my own riding. There is also one in the township of Roxborough, one in the township of Winchester, one in the township of Finch and two in the township of Lochiel, which is of course part of the constituency of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Those nine drains would require an additional $1,067,765, as I expressed earlier.
We had the same situation in 1979. I do not know whether the minister will recall it. At that time, the then Minister of Agriculture and Food --
Mr. Ruston: Bill Newman.
Mr. Boudria: Yes, I believe it was Mr. Newman who came to eastern Ontario in 1979 -- I wonder if I could have the minister’s attention for this, because it is important; I am willing to wait until the private conversations are over before I proceed.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): I do not know whether the Treasurer is going to give full attention to the member for Prescott-Russell. The House is waiting.
Mr. Boudria: In 1979, when this same situation happened, we were short of funds as well, and the province, through the Minister of Agriculture and Food at the time, advanced funds towards the completion of the drains that had already been started. I understand the amount was roughly similar to what we have outstanding at the present time. In 1979 the provincial government somehow found within its coffers the funds necessary to complete the drains that had already been started under a previous agreement and the funds had run out in a manner not totally dissimilar to the present one.
What I am asking of the Treasurer today is the following: In view of the fact that we have a situation whereby the farmers of eastern Ontario will be saddled with this $1-million bill, would it not be possible now to advance those funds to the farmers pending a future agreement being signed between the province and the federal government?
The minister might say he is not sure such an agreement will be signed. In 1979 the minister was not sure of that either, and he protected the farmers against those very heavy costs at that time. I am asking the minister whether there could be any way to find those funds within the province’s coffers to assist the drains in eastern Ontario. It is an amount of $1,067,000, as I said previously. I know it is a lot of money, but in comparison with the total budgetary expenditures of this government, it is not a very large amount.
Farmers have seen bills grow 15 or 20 times, and this could be a matter that will cause some farmers in my constituency to go bankrupt. They are in a very difficult situation. Such farmers are not only in my constituency, as I said earlier; they are in three or four ridings across the province. That situation is unique in that area of eastern Ontario. Those farmers are stuck with it through no fault of their own. Somebody has to come to their assistance. The farmers of eastern Ontario would like to count on the minister and his colleague the Treasurer to come to their rescue at a particularly difficult time.
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few moments to comment generally on the fiscal arrangements of this province. Although I could bring up some very specific concerns and situations that affect the constituency of Essex South, I will refrain from doing so now and take the opportunity at a more appropriate date.
I want to have it on the record that basically the system we use in the Legislature, which allows the Treasurer to borrow and spend billions of dollars on behalf of the citizenry of Ontario, is unjust. Government members come before the House and inform the House how much money is needed and necessary; then they go ahead and spend it as they like. We do get spending estimates, and government members sometimes provide written information which explains how this money is spent, but at the end of the fiscal year one may see, as has happened, several major adjustments to those spending estimates.
I want to bring to the minister’s attention one in particular. It was this government across the floor of the House that decided to spend about $500 million of the taxpayers’ money to purchase a share of Sun Co. of Pennsylvania, better known here in Ontario as Suncor. Who is to say that, once we allot these billions of dollars the Treasurer requires, he and his colleagues will not go out and commit another blunder similar to the purchase of Suncor, similar to specific situations such as Suncor and other such investments? We think of Minaki Lodge in the north and the time the Premier wanted to buy a personal jet for $10 million.
These billions of dollars are borrowed by the government under the pretext that it is going to use this money to run the business of the province. When one sits down and considers what the business of the province should be, the jet does not come to mind, Minaki Lodge does not come to mind and Suncor does not come to mind.
I think it would be a better legislative process if, when the Treasurer came before us to ask for our approval -- I guess asking us for our approval is not really correct because this is a majority government and, if 70 Conservative members decide to stand, it does not need our approval for anything; we go through the process just the same -- when the government comes to the Legislature to ask for our approval to borrow these billions of dollars, it should use that money for the policy that has been outlined by the government itself. If it wishes to deviate seriously from that policy, such as buying Suncor, it should come back and inform the Legislature, and possibly have a debate or a vote.
I may let my name stand in favour of having the Treasurer borrow money to conduct the business of the province, but I certainly was not in favour of the Treasurer and his colleagues buying Suncor. Who knows? They may buy another 25 per cent next month and I am certainly not in favour of that. I resent having to approve in general huge sums of money for the Treasurer when he may use that money for purposes other than stated government policy. Whether or not we agree with the policy is one thing, but I think we all agree that the business of the province should carry on.
I must also say that in the past and even up until now, I think we have been very easy on the Treasurer in allowing him and his colleagues to receive these billions of dollars. He comes to the House, we have a few days of debate and off he goes with another truckful of money. I think things should change. I really believe the Treasurer, when he comes before us, should not only ask for our approval in a legislative sense here in the chamber, but I would not be averse to having a committee of the Legislature meet with the Treasurer on a specific item, such as the one we are debating now for the Treasurer to borrow all this money for the consolidated revenue fund.
We can look back and see the truly wasteful practice this government has endeavoured to make part of its legacy. The advertising expenditures almost make one -- I do not want to use the word “sick” but I guess maybe that is the word -- sick to look at. We are asking for nursing home and chronic care beds. We are saying to the Treasurer, “Take this money,” and we really know deep down in our hearts what the government is going to use the money for. The prime purpose is to further the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. If it has to celebrate a bicentennial, that will be done.
Mr. Ruston: Even if it is not 200 years.
Mr. Mancini: My colleague the member for Essex North (Mr. Ruston) makes a good point. If it has to buy billboards in the middle of winter to express to the people of Ontario that they should buy Ontario strawberries, it will do that.
If it has to increase its advertising budgets by 10, 20 and 30 per cent, as it has done over the past years, it will do that. The hospital beds, the chronic care beds and all the other needs the people of Ontario have can just go wanting.
I believe I have said this before. The once grand Conservative Party of Ontario has turned itself into a public relations firm. That is what it has now evolved into. If one takes a cynical view of politics, perhaps that is what it needs for its electoral success in the province. It is certainly my belief that because the government has dug so deeply into the pockets of the taxpayers, so deeply it is down at their knees, there is going to be a lot more public scrutiny, there is going to be a lot more said, and the public will be watching more closely.
As we travel across Ontario and meet residents of the province, they tell us their property taxes for modest homes are $1,000, $1,500 and $1,800 a year. Any time they want to improve their homes, which improves the neighbourhood and society in general, they are tagged again. The Treasurer’s hand is in there again. I firmly believe the people are at the point where they are very willing to look at Queen’s Park and ask:
“What has that government been doing? What does it do with those billions of dollars? Does it promote the needs of the people, of the cities, of the towns and the neighbourhoods, or does it promote the Progressive Conservative Party? They buy Suncor when a poll says they should buy Suncor. They buy a jet when they think people are not watching.”
These things will finally be brought together. I am sorry to say I believe the government has fallen into such a rut it will never be able to change its current practices. The only thing that will change what is going on at Queen’s Park is a change of government, and I think the day for that is forthcoming.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the common theme running through the responses and comments today has been with regard to the process. I might say to the members opposite no one would be happier to look at the process of approval for the Ontario Loan Act and interim supply than I would.
I should remind members I have now sat through 10 or 11 sets of estimates in four ministries. I have found some of the estimate processes to be quite constructive. I have found they can be useful. Most of the time they are useful when members opposite choose to focus on specific issues, to speak to them in a well-informed way and to deal with specific spending items that sometimes have been drawn to our attention in advance. Rather than have it become simply a political exercise to get comments on the record, the government may put its view and explanation on the record and have a constructive dialogue thereafter.
I can only say to honourable members, particularly to the member for Port Arthur, since the member for Rainy River is absent at the moment, that if he and the member for Rainy River would like to propose a way in which we might use this time we all share in the House more constructively with regard to the matters of general spending approval that come before us, I would be delighted. I would be very interested in discussing that matter further with them.
We might perhaps pick a couple of items to focus on and allow a useful discussion of those items, rather than having the kind of scatter-gun approach the last speaker chose to adopt. There has been some suggestion that all these problems or most of these problems lie on the Treasury benches. In response, might I say I have found when opposition members have wanted to take the time to raise matters, not for party or political positioning but to encourage a debate on or discussion of important matters, we have really been able to use that time most constructively.
In my time in estimates, I have learned a great deal on the occasions opposition members have chosen to come with some specific problem that merited both philosophical and program discussion. Sometimes I have been accused by opposition members of stealing their ideas. I would admit I have learned during these processes. I believe this House could be used far more constructively, but that would require a great deal of commitment, determination and some willpower to use this kind of time not for party positioning, as private members’ hour has gone back to, but in order to get some valid and important discussion on the record.
Mr. Foulds: Sometimes opposition positions are valid and important discussions.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I would say there is a time and place for it. The reason we started private members’ ballot items was to encourage something different from party positioning. Unfortunately, it has been used for other reasons.
In any case, I should like to repeat for a moment or two the themes of the budget and the fact they are at this moment being implemented. I heard what the member for Port Arthur said about older workers and some of the suggestions he offered. They are quite radical suggestions. They would cause a great deal of dislocation if they were to be implemented, yet I would be wrong to say all are totally inappropriate. One of the things we ought to think about is a way in which some of those things could be debated and discussed in a constructive way in this assembly, rather than trying to discuss them while both sides of the House have to be careful to protect their political flanks and be totally mesmerized by the political risks involved in that discussion.
It takes some commitment from all sides of this House to mount debates on those topics and to do so without a view or an eye towards the political manoeuvring for a while, but instead to have the kind of important, in-depth discussion that those alternatives warrant for the most part.
Notwithstanding the suggestion we go back to some of our quick-fix kinds of opposition solutions, we are going to reject those continually. It is not a long shot that the budget will provide opportunities for young people. The responses to date have been extremely encouraging and I suspect that later on this year and next year, we will be able to report a quite significant response to those budget items.
I make no apologies for looking to the private sector to provide those opportunities. As I said earlier, those are more valuable and constructive in the long term than putting some of these young people on government payroll and pretending the problem has been solved. It just has not in that way.
The member for Prescott-Russell (Mr. Boudria) has suggested that certain moneys be advanced in the light of the expiry of the eastern Ontario subsidiary agreement. Obviously, the minister and I are both sympathetic to the situation. I know the member for Prescott-Russell will understand when I say this.
So far, the federal government has not been able to agree with us, nor is it prepared to sign a number of agreements, including this one. I regret that. I made it quite clear in my last meeting with the Honourable Don Johnston that Ontario stood ready to sign a number of agreements.
I would admit, quite openly, that my message was: “Let us not sign general agreements which have no real meaning. Let us sit down and agree on a series of implementing agreements, not just agreements to agree. Let us get down to it and do it.”
So far, we have not been able to get to that circumstance. I regret that. I hope with the changing of the guard, as a result of last weekend, there will be some reorganization, at least for the next few months. I think the reorganization last undertaken in Ottawa has caused a disorganization and dysfunction in Ottawa. It has crippled it and made it unable to sign those agreements.
We are facing this kind of circumstance in a number of areas. Many of the member’s colleagues have spoken to us about the Canada-Ontario employment development program problems. My colleagues certainly have. This government was anxious to extend the COED program. The federal government declined.
Mr. Boudria: Yes, but these are already approved.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: If we are to step into the breach, as it were, and provide these kinds of moneys, two things happen.
One, the Ontario taxpayer -- about whom the member’s colleague a moment ago was professing to care deeply -- takes all of the burden. There is no mistake about that; there is only one source for the revenues. That is patently unfair because the national government has equal responsibilities throughout the land. It would be transferring those dollars to other jurisdictions and, thus, the Ontario taxpayer would be paying twice. That does not help the tax situation in Ontario.
Mr. Boudria: Yes, but it was done in 1979.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I am talking about the current problems we face and the broad number of matters I have to negotiate with the federal government on behalf of the Ontario taxpayer.
The second thing that happens is a clear message goes out to the federal government. That is: In the case of Ontario, one does not have to step into the breach, one does not have to sign agreements. Once there are political problems out there, once there are real problems out there, we are not to worry because the Ontario government and Ontario taxpayer will step into the breach and the federal government can then move to other provinces where that does not occur.
Mr. Boudria: What is the difference? It was done in 1979.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I cannot speak for 1979. I can only say it is quite clear to me, acting on behalf of the Ontario taxpayer, that every time we send a message to Ottawa that we are prepared to step into the breach, Ottawa smiles and says happily, “There is another $100,000, $200,000, $300,000 or $10 million or $20 million off our backs in Ottawa and now we will go merrily along.” It will never make it up. It will never flow the money. That is the way it happens.
Mr. Mancini: That is a preposterous position --
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Finally, I would say to the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini) who spoke last, appropriately, that if he took a moment to look at the history of negotiating with the federal government and the problems we face financially, he would understand that, politics and party affiliation notwithstanding, the tale I have recited is unfortunately factual.
It is precisely what happens. If the government in Ottawa feels it can avoid a responsibility because the Ontario government has stepped in and filled it, it will happily do so. That may be understandable, given the dire state of its financial affairs, but that does not make it right. We do not expect a disproportionate share for Ontarians but a fair share and a fair and equitable deal. We do not expect a circumstance where the federal government withdraws to wait and see whether Ontario taxpayers will step into the breach and then, if we do, just walk away happily having saved it some dollars.
Finally, might I say to the member for Essex South, I usually do not join into the kinds of issues he has chosen to use House time to raise, things such as what he alleges to be the Premier’s purchase of “a personal jet.” I can only comment that by using those minutes to go over a list of unfounded and unusual accusations, to say the least, he reaffirms the view of the member for Rainy River in talking about how the time of this House can be used well with respect to debating the real items of expenditure and not wanting to posture here for repetitive personal advantage.
I can only conclude, having listened to the member for Essex South on previous occasions when he rose with something to say, if only on behalf of his very important constituents, that perhaps the last five days in Ottawa at the Liberal convention had the unfortunate effect of scrambling his brains, scrambling momentarily his thoughts if not his brains.
I hope Mr. Turner may have the opportunity over the next period, particularly after the election when he will have so much time on his hands, to explain balance sheets, deficits and federal-provincial financing to the member. As he has lived in the shadow of Eugene Whelan and Mark MacGuigan for a long time, I know those things would be very foreign to the honourable member, so I understand this problem. None the less, I am sure the member will find Mr. Turner more edifying than Eugene or Mark or, for that matter, even Herb.
Motion agreed to.
LAND REGISTRATION REFORM ACT
Mr. Williams moved, on behalf of Hon. Mr. Elgie, second reading of Bill 66, An Act respecting Conveyancing Documents and Procedures and the Recording of Title to Real Property.
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, the Land Registration Reform Act before you today for second reading will allow us to improve and modernize one of Ontario’s oldest institutions. Under the proposed legislation, land registration documents will be shortened and standardized, record keeping will be automated and a new property mapping system will be introduced.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to disturb the parliamentary assistant, but we do not have a cabinet minister in the House and, in my view, we do not have 20 members.
Mr. Speaker ordered the bells to be rung.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rotenberg): The clerk has reported that a quorum is present. The member for Oriole may continue.
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, after being so rudely interrupted, I will get back to where we were.
Mr. Boudria: We did not rudely interrupt the member. It is up to the government to maintain a quorum.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for Oriole has the floor.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: With all due respect, I do not think I have been rude to the parliamentary assistant. I asked for a quorum to be called. It is the duty of this government to have a quorum in this House. If it cannot do that, maybe it can let somebody else run this place.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. I think you are aware that is not a point of order. The member for Oriole may continue.
Hon. Mr. Leluk: Members opposite do not have a quorum half the time.
Mr. Mancini: It is the government’s job to keep the House going.
Mr. Boudria: Who is in charge? There are 70 government members. There were four in here.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Oriole has the floor. Will all members please refrain from cross-talk so we may proceed with the business of the House.
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, for the record --
Mr. Foulds: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: It is difficult to proceed with government business when there is no member of the government in the House; that is, when there is no cabinet minister in the House.
The Acting Speaker: There is a member of the government in the House at present. There is nothing in the standing orders that requires a member of the government to be in the House.
The member for Oriole may continue.
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that the series of legal and operational changes proposed in this bill will reduce the work load for staff and clients by simplifying the registration of land at the province’s 65 land registry offices.
The bill will put into place many of the proposals made in a 1971 report of the Ontario Law Reform Commission and the Polaris project for the automation of the land registration system. Polaris, which is an acronym for the province of Ontario land registration and information system, was established in 1980.
The Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations has established a prototype office in Oxford county in the city of Woodstock where all the integrated changes will be tested. Only the township of Dereham and the town of Tillsonburg will be directly affected initially.
In the test area, changes to the registration system, including the use of the new documents, automated record-keeping and property mapping, will be monitored and modified if necessary. When satisfactory operation is assured, the system will be extended to the other registry offices in the province.
The act is divided into four parts.
Part I contains substantive changes, which require the use of new, shorter forms, the replacement or elimination of present affidavits and the introduction of a new, optional method for the registration of mortgages or charges. Four forms will accommodate all documents presently registered.
Part II of the act authorizes the introduction of property mapping and an automated recording system in areas of the province where part I is already in force.
Part III of the act contains amendments to existing legislation required for the introduction of the new documents and registration process. Existing legislation requiring change includes the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act, the Family Law Reform Act, the Land Titles Act, the Land Transfer Tax Act, the Mortgages Act, the Planning Act, the Registry Act, the Short Forms of Conveyances Act and the Short Forms of Mortgages Act.
Part IV simply says the act will come into force on proclamation.
Parts I and II will be extended to the Oxford county test area as soon as the act is proclaimed. Further, it is planned to introduce part I incrementally throughout the province as soon as the documents prove their worth in Oxford county. The part II designation that will introduce automated record-keeping and property mapping would be made for individual offices as they are converted.
I am sure this act, developed in close co-operation with the Law Society of Upper Canada, will be well received. Changes already made by the Polaris project to reduce the length of title searching were well received by users. Reduction in the size and complexity of documents and an automated facility can only assist them further.
I am looking forward to the co-operation of members on all sides of the House to ensure speedy passage of this legislation.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill 66, the Land Registration Reform Act.
As described in the compendium to the act and as further expounded by the parliamentary assistant today, this legislation authorizes the computerization of the land registration system across Ontario. I do have a few concerns and I hope the parliamentary assistant can assist in giving us more details of the project.
A number of members had the privilege of visiting the Polaris project office through the good auspices of the parliamentary assistant a few weeks ago, and I would like to thank him for making that available to members of the Legislature. I understand there were two days for that. He called one day for the critics of the ministry and on the second day I believe he invited all lawyers in the Legislature to attend. I would have hoped he would have invited all members rather than all lawyers because, even if one is not a lawyer -- I never apologize for not being a lawyer -- this does interest a lot of people.
The land registration system in Ontario needs to be simplified, not for the benefit of lawyers, but for the benefit of those of us who are not, so that the ordinary mortal can actually understand what a deed is. For many people, that still remains a very mysterious thing.
Mr. Williams: If I had not extended an invitation to all members of the House, I would accept the criticism as levelled, but the fact is three invitations were extended: first to the critics, then to the lawyers, who I thought would take a special interest in the project, and then to the members at large. That was done over a 10-day period. The critics were first and then the lawyers were two days later. The invitation was extended to all members of the House for the following Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Boudria: I apologize for that and I am glad to know all members were invited. I had asked a few members and they did not recall receiving the invitation. So much the better then if all members were invited to view the system. Frankly, I was very impressed with what the system looked like. It is interesting to see that we will some day be able to pinpoint every piece of property in Ontario with this system.
I do have a few concerns. How long will it take before the system is implemented throughout the whole province? I do not believe that was addressed today in the remarks of the parliamentary assistant, nor was it raised at the time of the introduction of the bill, to the best of my knowledge.
Perhaps the parliamentary assistant could describe to us the tentative schedule for doing the whole province under this new system. I recognize that may be more a guesstimate than an estimate at this point, because obviously he will be better able to assess the success of this once the two townships in question have been done.
I have just referred to the two townships in question. I understand the Oxford test area consists of just the two municipalities in that office, if my memory is right, or a number thereabouts. If we do only two now and have to phase in the townships by twos, it would take a long time to do the whole province.
I recognize that for the parts of the province under the land titles system it could be a much speedier process than for other areas. Therefore, we cannot necessarily say we will only be doing two offices a year; otherwise, it would take the next 400 years before the project would be completed, and I am sure that is not the target date. I am sure there is a target date much sooner than that.
I understand the Ontario Lawyers Weekly publication recently reported that the Law Society of Upper Canada was monitoring this process and that it was very pleased with it and supportive of it. But again the society stated it was looking for speedy passage of this bill and even speedier implementation of it.
I also understand that a system somewhat similar to this exists in the Maritimes and that it benefited from federal government funding at the time it was established there. I am wondering whether any grants from the federal government were afforded to Ontario to implement this kind of a system and whether such grants were afforded to other provinces in the past.
If the parliamentary assistant does not have that information today, it is not particularly important to have it now. At some time in the future when we are discussing the bill, it would be interesting to know whether any federal funding went into this project.
I would like to talk about the cost benefits of this system. Once we have completed the whole province under the Land Registration Reform Act -- that target date of X years which the parliamentary assistant will describe to us later -- we will still have two land registration systems in this province. Then, of course, we have to go to the second step once we have done that. It is to be hoped that in the future we will have put the whole province under land titles.
There is a second step to this whole project even beyond what we are doing today in having this whole province under one uniform, computerized land registration system. From the meeting we had in the offices of the Polaris project, a decision had not been made as to whether we wanted to go under land titles for the whole province. That decision had not been made. We know now that we want to go on computer for the whole province at some date in the future, which I previously talked about, but I understand we do not know yet whether we want to put the whole province under land titles.
If we do only this part here and not the other, we have an unsatisfactory situation; we will not have true guaranteed titles for all properties in Ontario. The process we will have under this new system will be able to provide what the member referred to as “good title” or a better system where one has the Registry Act in place. That will also provide that the time lawyers spend in registry offices will be shortened. That is very fine as well.
One can only hope, and I say this for the record and for the Law Society of Upper Canada to hear, that whatever time and money is saved by this will be passed on to consumers in this province. That is what we are here for. We as a Legislature represent the consumers of this province. It is nice to know this will benefit the lawyers, but I hope that if they save $100 worth of time doing this it will be indicated on the bill: “Less $100, because the Polaris project is now in force in this particular registry office.” I am looking forward to the day when I see a lawyer’s bill that has such a discount on it because he has saved time with this project.
I am not holding my breath, but the member for Oxford (Mr. Treleaven), who is a lawyer and who represents the Oxford area, will undoubtedly pass on these savings to the consumers of his constituency who will benefit from this system. I see him nodding his head meaning yes. We can all look forward to the day when such discounts will be given to the consumers of that area. The member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini) will monitor closely this situation to ensure those discounts are passed on to the consumers in that area.
I would like to find out from the minister the cost of this project. I believe we were told in 1979, if my memory is right, that it would cost something in the order of $3 million to establish this project in the design and concept stage. Perhaps the parliamentary assistant can tell us how far that $3 million will go.
Is that just to set up what we have seen in the ministry’s offices? Does that include the installation in the Oxford area? Will it go even further? What will the total cost be to install Polaris in all the registry offices in Ontario? I am sure the minister must have forecasts with respect to that.
We know the $3 million cannot be to convert the whole system in the province on to that computer and turn everything over on land titles as well. As I understand it, the cost of doing it in the Maritimes was $78 million. It is highly unlikely it can be done for $3 million in this province.
Perhaps the parliamentary assistant can indicate to us how much the government intends to spend on this project to see its full implementation with respect to computerization. If he has the figures, how much would it cost beyond that to put the whole system under land titles?
The second question that immediately comes to my mind is, had the government not gone ahead with the Polaris project at all, had it not touched it, never even thought of the thing and put all that money into converting the land registration system under the land titles system, how far would it have got us? Would we have done half the province if we had spent that money elsewhere, i.e., converting everything to land titles? Would we have done the whole province, or is it considerably more expensive than that?
Has the government done a cost-benefit analysis of doing those two things, putting everything on computer and converting everything to land titles, both and each of them individually? Were cost-benefit analyses done in that area?
I understand as well that this new system will cost quite a bit more, where it is implemented, to the person utilizing the facility. If I were to walk into the Oxford office and do a property search under this new system, the cost will be greater than it is now. I am told this new cost is based upon the fact that everyone knows it will take less time at the registry office and that time saved is worth something. That is of course true. Everyone will acknowledge that if one can do an hour’s work in five minutes, obviously the new system which enables one to do everything in five minutes should cost more.
I want to know how the formula for the new prices was arrived at. Is it an estimate of the saving of time for people, and what was the formula that was used, i.e., what hourly salary was used to divide by? Was it a lawyer’s salary or the salary of a legal assistant, who usually goes to a registry office on behalf of a lawyer?
I understand lawyers do not always do it personally. Some do in my constituency in small municipalities, but if one were to go to the land registry offices for this city, I do not think he would find many lawyers there personally. I am sure that, if one were to evaluate the percentages, there would be a far greater number of people there who were not lawyers and who were working on behalf of lawyers, such as legal students and so forth.
I would be curious to know how the government arrived at that price using a person’s salary divided by time saved. Which person’s salary was used to arrive at that? That of a lawyer or the average person working in a lawyer’s office?
Those are some of the questions I have on this. I hope the parliamentary assistant can clarify some of those concerns. We do not want to delay the bill unduly. We are of the opinion that the existing system in this province is not a very modern one. It is time we moved onto something better. In saying that, we do want to ensure any change effected will ultimately benefit the consumer and is done in such a manner as to obtain the greatest cost benefit for the taxpayers’ money that is expended in doing this.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few comments about the bill. My comments will fall mainly in an area not covered by the member for Prescott-Russell (Mr. Boudria). I am reminded a bit of the reform of the assessment system which led to a period of seven years when assessments were not open to review, scrutiny or appeal. When the process finally came out in the open, a lot of problems emerged. This may happen in this case as well.
A lot of the technicalities involved here are by their nature administrative matters. I too would appreciate some estimates coming from the parliamentary assistant as to the cost of these changes. I would appreciate them partly because of the inadequacy of the compendium with which we were supplied, which talks about the legal niceties of the bill but which does not talk at all about the costs, the benefits and what this will actually mean to the people who have to use the present land registration system. How is it going to benefit the ultimate consumers, the purchasers of homes and the people who are doing business in Ontario?
In one view, it could be said this is going to take some jobs away from law clerks and title searchers. At the same time, it will sweep some of the cobwebs out of a system that was established in this province in the 19th century and has essentially had very little change or reform since then.
In general, there are a number of ideas here that are welcome. The use of short forms of standard mortgages is going to save a fair amount of rather useless clerical work that was not required without removing any protections from the public as far as they involve access to land registry documents.
I am concerned about the fact that central as the ownership of land is to a lot of social institutions in this province in many respects, an assumption seems to have been made here by the lawyers with whom the ministry has consulted and by the people involved in land titles work and so on that the precision of the title is what counts and not the obligation of the land owner to the province, to the jurisdiction that enables an individual or corporation to have title to land and the relative security that the title is safe.
It is interesting that the existing law says, “The registered land shall be described in such a manner as the land registrar considers is best calculated to secure accuracy.” There is no precision there with regard to how the land will be described, and that is continued in this act. There is, however, a fair amount of verbiage with regard to what the land registrar will be able to do using the Polaris system. I do not want to go into it in detail, partly because it is very complex and partly because I was regretfully unable to accept the minister’s offer to have a look at the system a week or two ago.
I am concerned that despite the experiences of the last year and a half or two years, no effort has been made by the ministry to acknowledge the difficulties that have been created because of the ability of land owners to hide behind corporate anonymity in their ownership of land in Ontario. I believe that is a very serious error. Among other things, it is an error that has led to the loss of some $650 million because of the failure of trust companies that got diddled by unscrupulous owners and, in many cases, by unscrupulous owners who were using the device of numbered companies to trade in a speculative fashion in land. I think it was in an illegal fashion as well, but that remains to be seen and to be decided by the courts.
The fact is that there was a great use of numbered companies and that it proved to be impossible for the agents of the crown to pierce the veil those companies were using to find out what the devil was taking place; it also proved impossible for the trust companies, had they wanted to do so. Some of the proprietors of the trust companies, such as Mr. Player, said they themselves were diddled, although I rather doubt that particular claim. If you sup with the Devil, you had better have a long spoon, and Mr. Player did not have a long spoon.
Mr. Foulds: He had other things.
Mr. Cassidy: He had other things.
I am suggesting now that we are having a fairly major change in the land registry system in Ontario. Now that we are moving from the pen and quill age, before the typewriter was invented, to the electronic age when records are going to be kept on computer, it seems appropriate to look at the question of whether there should be any public obligation with respect to what right the public should have to know about the ownership of land.
When the land registry system was established originally, this was a much simpler society. Our population in Ontario must have been less than a million back in the 1850s or 1860s, one eighth or one ninth of what it is today. Most people who owned land were, relatively speaking, more stable than people are today. Certainly the kind of flightiness of corporate investment that exists today was nowhere near as evident in those days as it is now. Corporations were known by name rather than by number. Today you are obliged to have a corporate number in Ontario; you are not obliged to have a name for your company, and often you are discouraged from it because of the coincidence of your name with that of some other company.
This means that when the original system was set up, it was usually possible, from the name and the address for service of a corporation or the single name of an individual owner, to know who the owner of a particular piece of property happened to be. That is not the case any more, and it seems to me that, just as there are public obligations that should be attached to the right of limited liability in a corporation in Ontario, so too should there be public obligations that attach to the ownership of land.
Those are obligations that I do not mind accepting as the owner of a house and a small piece of land in the country. I am quite happy for people to know my street address or to know the arrangement between my wife and me with respect to how we own land; I have nothing to hide in that respect.
The people who have something to hide are people who want to speculate in land or people who want to avoid other areas where there is a public interest in the ownership of land as expressed in provincial legislation. There has been a great deal of interest, for example, in the question of foreign ownership of land in Ontario; it has been shared by my colleagues in the Liberal Party. At present all we have is a very weak system of registration in which, if there is a foreign owner, there has to be a certain modest type of registration; I think that is all that is required, a monitoring system.
But there are no teeth in that monitoring system, particularly since it is possible for a numbered company to own a numbered company that owns a numbered company that is the registered owner of the land. Who the devil is the beneficial owner? It is impossible to find out through the land registry system.
We had an instance in Ottawa, for example, at the time of the Cadillac Fairview collapse, in which a numbered company was taking over ownership of apartments, and the tenants had no knowledge of and no means of knowing who the beneficial owners of that property happened to be. All they have the right to know is the address for service of that corporation. If they go to the corporation’s registry, they can find out the share ownership of the company and, if they are lucky, they can find out the original incorporators and the original directors of the company.
I am not sure whether the current directors even have to be listed, and certainly a company is not required to give adequate information so that an individual can find out who really controls that company and what it is he is on about.
In today’s complex society, we have a substantially greater proportion of people who are in a rental relationship as either residential or business tenants. Through this Legislature, we have sought to restrict some of the rights that pertain to the ownership of land by means of such things as the rent review system in Ontario. There has to be recognition of what has changed in the land registry system. That implies there should have been amendments in this particular set of amendments to ensure a more full, complete, reliable and workable system of identifying who the beneficial owners of land happen to be.
When we come to the committee stage, I will have some amendments to one of the sections of the bill which are both appropriate and entirely in order as far as this House is concerned.
When one arrives at the fact that tenants represent some 40 per cent of the population of this province, their need to know, at the very least, who the owners of the building are is a very legitimate kind of need.
After all, the relationship of owner and tenant in a building is something more permanent than the relationship of a business which is dealing with some customer or client. If the customers do not want to do business then they can take the business elsewhere. They can sign a new contract or go somewhere else.
In the case of a tenancy, however, the tenant is often the weaker partner and not in the position to say, “Before I sign this lease I want to know who the devil your company represents, and who is behind it.”
In the Ottawa area, where the vacancy rate is 0.8 per cent, one cannot say that because the landlord will simply say: “Mac, I do not want anything to do with you. You are asking too many probing questions. Why do you not take your business elsewhere and do not stay here and do business with us.” Tenants are in a position where they have to take it or leave it. They have no recourse.
Once a tenant has transferred or moved into either a residential or a business property, he is in a very difficult situation. Other contracts, if broken, can perhaps be settled in the courts or by negotiation. The parties to the contract can take their business elsewhere, but it is a little tougher to take your business elsewhere if you have to move physically.
I happen to be in the process of moving physically right now because of a move back to my home in Ottawa. If I were in a situation of being kicked out by a landlord, or being dealt with unfairly by a landlord, I would be in a very weak negotiating position because of the number of packing cases I would have to assemble before I could actually pull up roots and go somewhere else.
This is not recognized in this bill. I spoke with the parliamentary assistant with respect to whether the government would be prepared to accept any particular changes. I am afraid the reaction I got was rather tepid. It was not even lukewarm; in fact, it seemed positively negative.
I subsequently had a look at some of the fine print of the bill. I would point out to the parliamentary assistant that clause 16(6)(a) of the bill indicates quite clearly that even the requirement that there be an address for service of corporations to which land is transferred is now being removed in the case of property which comes under this new land registration reform. It appears that it will not even be a legislative requirement that an address for service be given. That may be in the regulations but, frankly, the regulations are not the legislation. They can be changed at any time.
While I appreciate the government probably has the right to require that there be identification of the beneficial ownership of corporations which register, or take a transfer of land in Ontario, the history of this government has been that if it is not in the legislation, it is not prepared to do it. We have had this kind of land registry system for 140-odd years in Ontario, and this Conservative Party which has had many decades of opportunity to make these reforms, has not done so.
That indicates to me that it is not particularly interested in the rights of tenants, in the rights of ordinary people and in the rights of small businessmen and businesswomen, who are the people most affected by this corporate nondisclosure which is a feature of this particular bill.
I would recall to the parliamentary assistant that the rent review tribunal has dealt with this case as well. Eventually in some cases, it basically ruled it is helpless when it comes to deciding whether or not arm’s-length transactions have taken place which should justify the possibility of an increase in rent because of the increased cost of running a property.
Let me put to you, Mr. Speaker, the kind of thing that can occur now entirely legally and which is not stopped because of the amendments in the land registration system proposed here. Owners of apartments can decide they are unhappy with the return they are getting on their property and blame it all on rent control. Rather than trying to do a deal with somebody else and dispose of the property, they decide they will try to find a way to evade the law and set up a dummy corporation they own.
The dummy corporation has directors who come from a law office, perhaps a legal secretary and a couple of lawyers. The incorporators are the founding directors. The real owner of the corporation is not revealed in any of the documents filed with the corporate registry in Ontario. That company then purchases the property at an inflated price and, having done so, proceeds to apply to rent review for a very substantial increase in rents, based on the need to carry increased mortgages, increased financing costs and those kinds of things. The members of the rent review tribunal are in a hopeless position because they cannot pierce the corporate veil. Even if they smell a rat and know something is wrong, they probably cannot prove it.
As far as the tenants are concerned, as members probably know, they are reduced to scooping up letters off lawyers’ desks to find out what is really going on and listening to gossip from the superintendent. They take in circumstantial evidence that the superintendent has not changed, the people who provide the oil have not been changed, the people who do the major repairs have not changed, and the same landlord seems to be coming around from time to time, even although the ownership of the place seems to have changed. That is all circumstantial evidence and they cannot pierce the corporate veil to establish whether a legitimate transfer has taken place.
These days there are probably too many lawyers running around Ontario looking for ways of making money. One of the things they are doing is concocting innovative and, I sometimes think, very questionable schemes to enable their clients to try to make more money. One of the things they are doing is finding new and innovative and, I suggest, often sleazy forms of land ownership or land transfers that would permit their clients to make money, often at the expense of sitting tenants who have been protected up until now by rent review.
The government is failing to address this situation, and in this particular case is condoning that kind of low-life activity. It does so at the expense of ordinary people, who are hanging on to their accommodation in places such as Ottawa or Toronto right now, but who are threatened by that kind of questionable activity, which, frankly, I believe the government surreptitiously supports.
I would point to one final case which I think affects the taxpayers very directly and should have been addressed in this bill. As the parliamentary assistant pointed out, the Polaris scheme has been under study since 1971 when there was a report from the Ontario Law Reform Commission recommending major changes in the land registration system in Ontario. Over that period, one would think that questions affecting the taxpayers might somehow impinge on what the government wanted to do, but it seems to me that is not the case at all.
We have no indication of how much this is going to cost or save. In addition to that, I draw attention to the fact that the Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. has now allocated $650 million to bail out the losses it has incurred on trust companies, almost all of which were operating in Ontario and were involved in the great trust companies caper of a couple of years ago. The trust companies caper was largely due to inadequate regulation by this province and this ministry. It occurred in part because of the failure to be vigilant and the failure to pierce the corporate veil and find out which numbered companies were doing what to whom in terms of ownership and transfers of rental property.
Even the loss of $650 million was not enough to persuade the government it should at least reconsider the failure to balance a reform of the land titles system with a reform of the disclosure requirements, which would be entirely appropriate given the changing nature of ownership between the 1840s and today.
I am not even sure whether I will have a chance to say many more words in this Legislature because I hope to be in another place by the fall. I would just say that, when I came into this Legislature back in 1971, one of the key issues that concerned me was to ensure an adequate balance between the rights of owners of land and the rights of people who were tenants, in a society where, for a large proportion of the citizens, tenancy had become a way of life by choice or by necessity.
It is interesting and perhaps ironic that I should be having to raise this question today in June 1984, almost 13 years after I first came into this House. The attitude of the government today is no different from the attitude of the government back in 1971.
From time to time, it can and will be forced into acknowledging that people beyond the owners of land have rights. It is a grudging acknowledgement arrived at with difficulty, mainly enforced at a time either of strong political pressure, as in the 1981 election campaign, or at a time of minority government, when it is prepared to listen more closely to points of view being put by people on our side.
It is certainly a fact that in the theory of ownership, whether we are talking about the ownership of land or a corporate ownership, there is a great deal more acknowledgement today than there was many generations ago that ownership is not an indivisible right. Ownership carries responsibilities as well as rights and privileges. Those responsibilities have to be recognized not just by custom and tradition, but also in the law.
We have passed a number of laws to limit and constrain the rights of owners of capital investment. For example, people who have manufacturing enterprises have to adhere to health and safety legislation, tax legislation and so on. We have done the same thing with certain aspects of ownership such as through the Planning Act, which puts planning and zoning restrictions on the use of land.
We have not done so, however, when it comes to the question of disclosure; either disclosure of the activities of private corporations, which are almost totally immune to disclosure in Ontario, or, it would appear, of disclosure of the activities or essential ownership of corporations that happen to own land. I will talk a bit more about this when we come to the committee stage.
Let me serve notice, however, that as far as our party is concerned, this is an important issue and one to which the government should give very serious consideration. It is not good enough to computerize a system that was conceived in the 1840s and 1850s but which otherwise has essentially not been changed.
Mr. Cunningham: Mr. Speaker, in the very few minutes left I would like to make a few comments on this legislation that indicate my very serious concern about a glaring inadequacy. That is the inability to deal with the increasing problem of foreign ownership of farm land in this province and this country. In my view, a number of documented cases have been raised in this House, particularly by the member for Huron-Middlesex (Mr. Riddell), our agriculture critic of long standing.
These cases indicate the government is very well aware of deficiencies in the legislation and in the administration of the legislation that enable, by way of a loophole, non-Canadians and nonresidents to acquire access to family farms in Ontario. They sometimes allow them to lie fallow, sometimes to remain productive in order to avoid the payment of land transfer tax and to escape the monitoring and control that many of us in this House feel would be in the public interest.
Quite often, these types of ventures are speculative and have very little to do with enhancing the quality of agricultural life. In my view, they contribute to a very dangerous trend and that is a movement away from the local, traditional family farm. When interest rates are so high and when commodity prices vary from year to year, it would be a great temptation for individuals to take a look at a very lucrative offer from offshore and even to be part of some kind of corporate vehicle that would permit one Canadian to remain on the board of a numbered company, avoid the transfer aspect and the payment of taxes to the crown and, more important, avoid the monitoring aspect that most of us, at least on this side of the House in the Liberal Party, feel to be most useful.
For my part I welcome legitimate Canadian investment in our country, particularly in small businesses and in our corporations; but I believe this growing trend to foreign ownership of our farm land is an unwelcome trend and one that, frankly, we should do something to monitor. Unfortunately, this legislation does not address itself to that, and I think we are going to have more and more difficulties, particularly as farmers are finding it difficult to sustain themselves in the current economic environment.
With those remarks I hope the parliamentary assistant will take it upon himself to convey at least my thoughts as an individual member of the Legislature to his minister and to his friends in the cabinet with a view to seeing what we can do to bring in some legislation that will abate this very unfortunate trend in agriculture today.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, as my colleague has indicated, I have expressed concern about nonresident foreign ownership of farm land, which this bill does not address, unfortunately.
I have talked about this for years. As a matter of fact, I introduced a private members bill calling for the registration of all nonresident foreign ownership of land, which the government eventually decided to introduce two or three years after I had debated my bill in the Legislature.
Unfortunately, the business of foreign speculators buying our land has not been stopped by the registration bill. Shortly after that bill was passed, we dealt with the Land Transfer Tax Act, which tightened some of the loopholes that existed in that act and did require that nonresident foreign owners pay the land transfer tax.
But that was a bit of a joke as far as the nonresident foreign owners were concerned, because they felt the purchase of our land was one of the best investments they could make. They seemed to have all kinds of money in order to pay high prices for our land, and to have to pay a 20 per cent land transfer tax did not curtail their interest in our land at all.
So the practice is still going on; it will continue, I am sure. When we see a recovery in the economy and when the economies of some of these other countries start to pick up, the nonresident foreign owners are again going to be tremendously interested in our farm land.
They are interested in it for a number of reasons. As I indicated, they consider it to be a good investment. They are investing in a capitalistic country where they know the price of land will likely take off once again; it will increase in price, and there they are, sitting on something that is going to return them a tremendous profit.
But it is preventing our own young people from investing in this land. There are many young Canadians who would like to own and operate their own farms, but they have to compete against the big money from the foreign investors. They simply cannot pay the prices that the foreign investors are prepared to pay if they ever hope to meet their obligations, repay the mortgages and still make enough to live on when they do start to farm.
A typical example of what is taking place happened in my own riding, where there were three families operating a farm in Huron county. They were good farmers. The reason I know they were good farmers is I dealt with them for many years as the owner and operator of a livestock sales business in Huron county. These farmers did exactly as the government told them to do, did exactly as the banks told them to do, and that was to get bigger and more efficient or get out.
I can well recall a report that was commissioned by a former Minister of Agriculture and Food, Bill Stewart, on farm incomes. The report, called The Challenge of Abundance, recommended to farmers that they get bigger than they were and get more efficient or get right out of the business.
Those farmers did exactly that. They were prepared to borrow the money, to take the risk of buying more land and to become more mechanized in their farming operations. They got caught in the spiralling interest rates that took place two or three years ago. They are the very farmers who are now being forced out of business.
Twenty per cent of the farmers in the province produce 80 per cent of the food. It is the farmers within that 20 per cent who are going bankrupt, and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
On motion by Mr. Riddell, the debate was adjourned.
The House recessed at 6 p.m.