The House resumed at 8 p.m.
RETAIL BUSINESS HOLIDAYS ACT (CONCLUDED)
Mr. Speaker: Before we proceed with the debate, I would like to give the Solicitor General an opportunity to introduce some guests in the gallery.
Hon. Mr. MacBeth: Thanks, Mr. Speaker, I thought I needed a little moral support. I would ask you and the other members of the House to recognize some 18 young ladies from the 124th Girl Guide Company, under the leadership of Mrs. D. Saston, from Islington United Church, who are with us this evening in the west gallery.
Mr. Speaker: When we adjourned at 6, the hon. member for High Park-Swansea had the floor.
Mr. Ziemba: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The other example of legislation favouring the government’s monopoly friends is section 6 of the Assessment Amendment Act, 1974, which amends section 17, subsection 3, of the Assessment Act so that it now reads as follows:
“The value of an assessment of an entire parcel of real property that is occupied by more than one person to be assessed under this Act shall be apportioned on the assessment roll among the occupants of the entire real property who are to be assessed, in that proportion that the fair market rent of the space occupied by each occupant bears to the fair market rent of the entire parcel of real property, so that the sum of the values apportioned to each occupant shall be equal to the value of the assessment of the entire parcel of real property.”
This means, of course, that tenants paying high rent per square foot would pay more in both property and business taxes. The large tenants, the chains of course, would have their taxes reduced because being a drawing card or an anchor, as it is referred to in the retail trade, in an area, they would enjoy the minimum square foot rent. As a result, some small tenants are paying tax at 10 times the rate of the largest, compliments of the Conservative government of this province, the champions of free enterprise.
The provincial store hours law is supported by the Ontario Retail Gasoline and Automotive Service Association, the Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Retail Hardware Association, the Retail Merchants Association of Ontario, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Association of Consumers and the Ontario Federation of Labour. If the business people and the consumers and labour are for controlled store hours, who is against? Who has persuaded the government to drag its feet for the past five long years and even now to present this halfway legislation? It has been suggested that Eaton’s, Woolco and K-Mart are the reasons we do not have province-wide uniform store hours here in Ontario. If this is the case, surely the government should act to return reason to retail store hours?
The vast majority of retailers in Ontario would like to think that when they remain closed on Sundays or holidays or some other nights of the week, their competition won’t put them out of business. Surely when we have enlightened labour legislation to prevent the exploitation of labour by employers over long hours, we can provide the same for retail workers? Surely there are reasonable limits which should be imposed that still offer shopping opportunities without condemning retailers and their employees to long hours of labour. Surely the time of wage control and efforts to keep prices down by compressing the hours of operation and striving for maximum efficiency is called for.
Surely this government can recognize the service that many small businesses provide in our communities. Surely these people who live and work in our communities, these people whose children go to our local schools, these people who feel the social obligation of dealing face to face with their neighbours and sharing their problems and concerns, deserve more than they’ve been getting from this government. I believe the interests of the small retailers and their employees, the consumers of this province, would be best served by immediate legislation not only to regulate holiday closings but to regulate store hours on a province-wide basis.
Mr. Cunningham: Mr. Speaker, it is with interest that I note the great, and I am sure sincere, interest on the part of the gentleman to the right of me on behalf of small business people of Ontario. It seems to be a rather radical departure from their posture in the past. However, as a private-enterprise individual myself, I would say that I welcome their change of heart.
Mr. Young: Since when?
Mr. Ziemba: No one has represented them previously.
Mr. Warner: -- dated 1967.
Mr. Cunningham: Initially, I would like to say that I agree with the decision by the law reform commissioners and those of my learned colleagues in their request for a uniform day of rest throughout the Province of Ontario, which I guess has been determined to be Sunday. But I would like to point out my objection on behalf of my constituents for section 3, subsection 2, part (d), where it refers to fresh fruit or vegetables for sale between April 1 and Oct. 31.
There are a number of reasons why I find it necessary to point out to the hon. minister that, first of all, in my particular riding, because of the hardship that farmers, especially, have faced in the light of regional government, they find it necessary to stay open with stands in front of their farms and appendages to their farms to promote the sale of fruit and vegetables, much of which they find they import.
I would say to you that this provides an interesting Sunday outing for so many of the people of Ontario who find it pleasurable to travel through my riding. Further to that, it also provides a great source of fresh fruit and vegetables for purchase on that day. Notwithstanding the fact that these people are, in fact, small businessmen, they cannot afford the elaborate refrigeration equipment that so many of the larger enterprises have. I would ask the hon. minister to reconsider this posture that he has taken and apply an exemption to these particular individuals so that they may sell the fresh fruit and vegetables that they import on a daily basis throughout the whole year. I think this would be fair to people who have, I think, demonstrated an interest in the tourism industry as well as on behalf of the citizens of their community.
I would say one thing further about the people to whom I think we are trying to direct this legislation, the employee who should be entitled to a day of rest on this particular occasion. So many of the people who work in this particular industry are in fact students; students who are trying to pay their own way; students who, in fact, would like to earn a little extra money and possibly not avail themselves of student loans and what not. They find themselves in the position where they can work in these stands.
I know there are many in my riding and in neighbouring ridings, and I think I speak quite objectively and in a non-partisan fashion on behalf of these people. I hope that the House, in its wisdom, would reconsider this particular posture as it applies to these small businessmen. Thank you very much.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. member for Stormont.
Mr. Samis: Cornwall, Mr. Speaker, with redistribution.
Mr. Speaker: Cornwall, then.
Mr. Samis: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First of all I want to extend my congratulations to the minister upon his appointment. I suppose it’s a welcome change in his eyes from the hot-seat, or somewhat lukewarm seat, of the Minister of Labour. However, we congratulate him on the move anyway.
One of the key points of this whole thing is why do we have this bill before us now? It was very obvious it was needed many years ago, whether you talked with merchants or anyone else in the community. I think the need was there five years ago, and I think it’s typical of the general Tory philosophy that you only move when the problem is so serious that you finally and absolutely have to do something. Then when you do handle the situation, do as little as possible. That’s good classical Toryism and I think this bill is an excellent demonstration of that.
I wonder if it is a total coincidence that we get this bill only when the supermarkets themselves are complaining about the whole problem of Sunday store openings. I wonder if the supermarkets had taken a stand against this whether we would ever have seen the light of this bill. I notice that there was a lot of pressure put on the government before the election, yet they said wait until after the election and we will deal with it then. So, we do have a bill but it is emasculated and it is a skeleton of what we really need in society.
I keep asking the question: Why did it take so long? This problem has been studied to death through a variety of reports through various ministers, as my colleague from Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) and other speakers have mentioned. My essential reaction to the bill is that it is just a piecemeal solution to an overall problem. The problem isn’t confined to Sunday; Sunday is the easiest one to solve; Sunday is the one that the government can move on most easily. But the whole question of store closing hours around the province, seven days a week -- not just on Sunday -- is something that we have to deal with.
This government wants it in and seems to be shoving the whole problem under the rug. They will do the Sunday thing and then they will hope that public concern, pressure and discussion regarding the question of uniform store closing hours will fall by the wayside -- in view of the questions of inflation, possible teacher strikes and the housing issue.
I wonder why the Province of Ontario finds it so difficult to resolve this problem. Other jurisdictions have done so. I specifically refer to the Oct. 11 edition of the Montreal Star -- an article entitled “Survey Backs Current Store Hours.” I think I will quote from that and read it into the record, because I think some of the things in it are very important:
“Quebec consumers, merchants and store employees do not want store opening and closing hours changed, according to a province-wide survey. All three are opposed to store openings for business on Sundays, extending Thursday and Friday closing hours from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., or providing telephone order service on a 24-hour basis. The poll was conducted by CO-GEM Inc., a Montreal-based firm, on behalf of the provincial department of industry and commerce. The poll takers interpreted replies as expressing satisfaction on the part of the three groups with the present law governing store hours. The sampling included interviews with 1,226 consumers including housewives, representatives of consumer groups and 517 merchants varying from small store owners to representatives of large chains.”
Living as I do in a riding right alongside the border of the Province of Quebec, I wonder why Ontario can’t resolve its problem. If the merchants, the consumers and the employees of Quebec expressed satisfaction with the way the problem was resolved there, then I again ask the question: Why has it taken Ontario so long to come to terms with this problem? Why can’t we deal with it? Why are we continually shoving it under the rug?
Mr. Nixon: Your constituents go over and see them.
Mr. Samis: Oh no, they go east now; east not south.
Mr. Nixon: Over there probably.
Mr. Samis: That’s just the visiting officials of the party. I didn’t say which party.
I would also like to point out the damage the existing situation has caused. I think when people openly flout the law and the very few who are prosecuted are given such minuscule fines, it makes an absolute travesty and farce of the law and it breeds considerable disrespect for it. What we have had in Ontario is piecemeal Sunday shopping by the backdoor.
The previous Solicitor General has told the House that he had more than 1,200 requests to prosecute. If the average man gets caught stealing, cheating on his income tax, lighting a fire of some sort in his backyard, he is prosecuted immediately. But these big chains get away with violations, and sometimes it is amusing. These people, who are the financial interests behind the chains, frequently are the ones who associate with those who say what we need in our society is law and order. What is happening to the moral fibre of Ontario and of Canada? Yet they themselves sometimes are involved in flouting, violating and sometimes even making a mockery of our laws.
We paid a price for the government inaction. I think the public’s estimation of the legal system has gone down considerably. The police have been put in a very difficult situation and are very sceptical as to what the Legislature really means about laws and how serious we are about implementing laws and enforcing them. Some small merchants who have chosen to observe the laws, who have chosen to abide by the legal system have suffered while some of their competitors, the law-breakers, have got away with extra profits and no particular shame, and in some cases, some sense of smugness or satisfaction that they have beaten the system and got the cash register to back it up.
So we paid a price for the present system of tolerance and the present system of closing the eye to the violators. As to the actual bill itself, I commend the minister for bringing in something to deal with the existing problem, even if it is piecemeal. Like my colleague from Oshawa, my two concerns revolve around the question of penalties and municipal exemptions. I don’t see why the hon. minister is afraid -- and I assume it’s not an oversight -- to put in minimum fines or penalties for conviction?
Surely if we mean business on this, surely if this isn’t going to be another travesty in the sense of the Lord’s Day Act whereby the lettering is nice, the law is on the books, but it is not really going to be enforced, surely if we are serious we’ve got to have good, tough minimum fines. I would suggest that one consideration for the Solicitor General might be something along the lines of making a fine for the first conviction equivalent to half the gross take of that particular violator on that particular day of violation. Another possible consideration would be a minimum of $1,000 for the first violation.
Another consideration brought up by my colleague from Oshawa has been the whole question of enforcement. Let’s give the police the power to enforce this law. If they are going to crack down in a variety of other areas, let’s not let the big boys get free. Let’s not encumber the police. If we are going to write a law, let’s make sure that they have full jurisdiction to enforce it.
The question of municipal exemptions, I’m afraid, leaves us wide open to the possibility of abuse. I can realize the minister was sincere in the way he has proposed this. There is legitimate self-interest and concern about the tourism industry. Our concern is that we have a situation where two municipalities within close travelling distance would possibly be in competition for this same tourist dollar. If one had special attractions, the other might be very seriously tempted to designate itself as a tourist area and therefore allow all sorts of stores to open up to try and catch up with the competing municipality in terms of business and attracting customers.
I don’t think we should allow municipalities to make these special exemptions. I think the example we have in the Province of Quebec, where it’s centralized with exceptions written into the bill, is a far better system than allowing the municipalities to make special exemptions because frequently they arc subject to heavy lobbying. I doubt that there is one municipality in Ontario that doesn’t consider itself to be a tourist area, that doesn’t consider the tourist industry to be important, and doesn’t pride itself upon some sense that it has tourist attractions that can compete with any other municipality.
My own area, which is an industrial area, still considers itself a tourist area at the same time. I am sure every industrial community in Ontario feels that it, too, has its tourist attractions and therefore considers the tourist industry important.
I am glad to see that my colleague from Oshawa brought up the question of designating the first Monday in September as Labour Day. I am sure the Solicitor General, as a former Minister of Labour, wouldn’t find it too painful to put right in the actual legislation that it is Labour Day.
Mr. Renwick: He would find it more painful than you think. It would be traumatic for him. He was the one who changed it from Labour Day to the first Monday in September.
Mr. Samis: I don’t know. Maybe with the minority government that trauma will be somewhat less. In view of some of the flip-flop done in housing and rent control, I wouldn’t think this one would be too difficult for the minister to accomplish.
I noticed in the Quebec legislation that they make Boxing Day and Jan. 2, half-day holidays, not full holidays.
Mr. Kerrio: Haven’t you got any in BC that you can quote?
Mr. Samis: We are sticking close to home now. We don’t want to wander too far.
An hon. member: You guys have trouble understanding.
Mr. Cunningham: They gave you Sundays.
Mr. Samis: I think there are two possible advantages for the consideration of the Solicitor General on that particular item. One is that it does give families who do have to go back to work in the stores some time at least the following day. If we make it a full shopping day then their holiday is limited to that one particular day. I noticed in the survey that I quoted from the Montreal Star, the respondents indicated they would like to see Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 added to the list of nine official holidays in the Province of Quebec. I would ask the Solicitor General that he consider that possibility for making Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 half days of operation for our stores.
Section 3. I commend the Solicitor General for taking the initiative to try to define what a small business is. That, I think, is important. To that extent, I think he’s gone beyond the Quebec legislation and I congratulate him on it. Twenty-four hundred feet might possible be generous, but at least he’s drawing the line and I think we could live with that particular definition.
My colleague from Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) has already spoken about the question of the three employees and the possible confusion that may arise from that. I would hope that the Solicitor General would possibly clear up our sense of confusion.
As to the general categories of merchandise in types of stores, I notice it is quite similar to the Quebec legislation. Nothing is radical or particularly different about that and I think it is fairly acceptable.
I would point out one concern. I think my colleague to the left has already mentioned this. It is a general question of outdoor stores, whether they be fruit or vegetable or antique or things of this sort. When they use special stands, when they have a store area behind, will they come under the full impact of the legislation? If the store calls itself a fruit and vegetable store but beyond the stand is a full time market operation, will they be completely under the jurisdiction of this legislation?
I appreciate the hon. minister’s concern about applying the same space restrictions to these types of storage. I’d be interested to hear his views. Are the restrictions tight enough to prevent any abuses from any chain operation that would want to set up a chain of smaller operations with a possible front, whether it is a fruit and vegetable operation, antique store, or anything of this particular type?
One final consideration. I sometimes ask myself: Why are we dealing with this bill in the first place in terms of Sunday shopping? Nobody has proved that there is any need for stores to be open on Sunday. The loudest proponents of Sunday openings -- and I’ve read their various submissions, their articles, their publications -- have failed to demonstrate any need for Sunday openings on a mass basis. They fail to prove that there is any general desire for a Sunday opening. That will be the question that comes up: If there is no proven need, no proven desire, why do we have to confront this problem anyway? It would seem to me that plain old-fashioned greed must be the basic problem causing us to deal with this new legislation.
To some people, this bill may not be all that significant. But I think what we are dealing with is not just the bill on the store hours. We are dealing with a bill that says: “What type of society do we want? What type of lifestyle do we want in our leisure time?” I think that’s the greater issue. I would suggest that if we move towards Sunday opening we are changing the type of society that we are living in. We’re evolving into some version of a California-type society, where they pioneered the idea of night-time shopping, greater weekend shopping. And now you have the ultimate in materialism and crass commercialism: 24-hour shopping, parking lot to parking lot, wall to wall, 365 days a year. I think that kind of society and those kinds of values are repugnant to all classes of Ontario society -- working men, businessmen, consumers and senior citizens. We don’t want that kind of society.
It is not just a question of allowing store openings. There is a more fundamental question. Do we want to change our lifestyles? Do we want to modify our traditions of Sunday to that extent? Do we really want to commercialize this particular phase of our lifestyle? Or do we want to keep Sunday different from the other days? To me, if we did allow widespread opening of stores on Sunday, it would be tantamount to a surrender to the forces of materialism, commercialism and outright greed -- and be virtually baptizing them the new Trinity of our age. I’m not arguing for preserving Sunday on the basis of religious or moral grounds per se. In fact in my view, Sunday is more secular and philosophical. I think it’s in the best interests of our society that we preserve Sunday as a day of rest -- different from the other days, freed from the pressures of commercialism, with many activities revolving around the family --
Mr. Cunningham: But they gave you Wednesday.
Mr. Samis: No, that’s you -- think of the people outside of this building.
The fact that we have many family activities which traditionally centre around the concept that everybody in the family is free on Sunday; the fact that virtually every major world religion has acknowledged the need for some form of a day of rest whether it’s on theological grounds or other grounds; the fact that societies that pay no particular attention to religious values still acknowledge and cherish the ideas of --
Mr. Ruston: Are you free on Sunday?
Mr. Samis: -- the importance of a day of rest, points to the idea that every society wants some sort of break from the usual routine. I’d point out that we must live in the most commercial, most exploitive, most materialistic society of any on the face of the human earth. We have more saturation advertising, more pressures towards commercialism, greed and materialism than most other societies in the world. When we turn on a television set, we can’t watch a programme without being saturated with ads. We turn on the radio -- except for that favourite institution of R. B. Bennett, the CBC -- we’re constantly bombarded with ads --
Mr. Ruston: On the socialistic TV and radio at public expense.
Mr. Samis: We read the newspapers, we can’t escape -- ads. We drive along our highways, whether it’s in Ontario or any other province, we can’t escape -- ads. We take a subway train, we can’t escape -- ads. We sit on a bus, we can’t escape -- ads. We go to a hockey game, we can’t escape -- ads. Even if we go to a civic centre in a small community, we can’t escape -- ads. The time has come to say: Capitalism six days of the week we can take, but one day of rest we need.
Mr. Nixon: One day of socialism.
Mr. Bullbrook: Mr. Speaker would you permit an alleged point of order that might stretch your charity to let me advise you that a good friend of yours and mine, a former colleague of many of us, is sitting under your gallery -- the mayor of Niagara Falls, George Bukator.
Hon. W. Newman: A very fine man. Fine man, especially after he gave up the Liberal Party.
Mr. Sargent: Mr. Speaker, my very brief comments on this bill.
On the side, I saw the Clerk of the House talking to George, no doubt getting some advice how to carry on this very difficult situation here. The new members may not know it, but Mr. Bukator was a thorn in the side of the government for many years as the Hydro critic. We’re so pleased to have you here, George.
Mr. Speaker, the Solicitor General at long last is bringing this before the House -- I’m glad to see the minister kicked upstairs -- the bill is long overdue. I think your motivation is that it’s politically expedient, or you wouldn’t be bringing it in -- the public wants it. The motivation might also be to help the small independent, fast becoming another endangered species. And if this is so, I suggest that we’re not correcting it by allowing Becker’s Milk and Mac’s Milk to run high, wide and handsome because in effect they have a blank cheque in this legislation.
How to solve it, I don’t know. But I would like to suggest that somewhere along the line we should do as the member for Cornwall (Mr. Samis) recommends, and as they do in Quebec, that the small entrepreneurs, the small independents should be allowed to sell beer in grocery stores if we want to help the small guy out.
Mr. Samis: Now you’re talking.
Mr. Moffatt: Nothing has changed, has it, Mr. Bukator?
Mr. Sargent: I don’t know how we are going to correct the fact that the large chains like Becker and Mac’s, which are certainly not small operations; Silverwood’s owns Mac’s, I believe --
Mr. Nixon: Gordon Carton runs them.
Mr. Sargent: -- being given a blank cheque in this legislation. How do we get around this? The convenience store business is a must in our society, but to let these guys have the whole ball game to themselves is not the answer, unless we can say to the small entrepreneur, the small independent, “We, the government of Ontario, will allow you to sell beer in grocery stores but not in the supermarkets.”
Mr. Nixon: Sounds like a good idea.
Mr. Sargent: I don’t know what other contribution I can make, other than to say that it worries me to see us passing legislation giving a blank cheque to a couple of big chains.
Mr. Deans: I don’t have many remarks to make with regard to the bill, but I do want to say two or three things that have been on my mind. They haven’t been on my mind for a long time, frankly. Some of them came to my attention as a result of the efforts of the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick).
I don’t know what it is that motivates the government. I find it difficult to understand exactly why the government does the things that it does. I don’t know whether they do it because they believe in free enterprise or whether they do it because they are now moving slowly towards regulating society. But whatever motivates them to bring in this kind of legislation, frankly I think it’s worthwhile.
I have always believed that no matter what one did to the retail hours, there were only so many dollars available to be spent in any given period of time and because the public, generally speaking, purchase only those things that they required and would purchase them when the stores were open, would continue to spend the same number of dollars. If you were open six days a week, they would spend X dollars in six days. If you opened seven days a week, they would spend the same number of dollars; they would simply spend them in seven days. If you were open from 9 to 6, five days a week, they would probably spend them in five days. Therefore, we are not serving anyone well by opening up the retailing outlets more than is necessary.
I have travelled, perhaps not extensively, but I have travelled through some parts of the world, and I’ve got to tell you that there is a certain civilized feeling about the way other jurisdictions deal with the opening and closing of retail outlets. It goes beyond that, there is a certain civilized feeling about the way they deal with the distribution of the wholesale product in the community. So I’ve got to say that when I look at this legislation, I think it makes a lot of good sense that we should try to recognize at the outset that by closing on Sundays and holidays we will not in any way detrimentally affect the amounts of dollars that will be spent in the marketplace to purchase those things we should normally purchase.
If we start from that premise then we can move on, because I think that is the general concern of a great number of people who might oppose this kind of legislation. I think they might oppose it because they feel that somehow or other they are not going to get their share of the consumer dollar. I want to set their mind at ease. I don’t think that a year from now, when we look back, we’ll find that there are any fewer consumer dollars being spent in the province. I think we will probably find that there are as many, maybe even more consumer dollars being spent, but certainly no fewer.
I also think it makes some sense to standardize the week. I realize that there are pressures to find ways to accommodate a number of groups, and I fully appreciate the difficulties that they might encounter. Nevertheless, it’s not on the basis of who can purchase when, but rather that the business, the retailing of produce and products has to be conducted to satisfy consumer demand, and consumer demand will be satisfied if people are able to buy six out of seven days. There’s something about having a day when nothing happens, or virtually nothing happens in retail trade.
My colleague, the member for Cornwall, was mentioning the general feeling of the California syndrome. In Hamilton we have two or three developments that don’t please me. There’s a couple of the large food outlets which are now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One of them, for the benefit of my hon. friend, who lives in Burlington but who represents Hamilton West, is at the corner of Upper Wellington St. and Mohawk Rd. It’s open 24 hours a day. I know they don’t have these things in Burlington, so I wanted to bring it to his attention in case he wants to shop in Hamilton.
Mr. Cunningham: That’s another riding.
Mr. Deans: No, it is mine. The member would probably learn too if he found out where the boundaries were.
I want to tell you that I don’t think it’s necessary. In fact I don’t even think it is desirable. And so what’s being proposed at this point is generally acceptable to us -- although we might want to amend it to bring it even more into conformity with what we think is desirable in terms of public acceptance over the long haul.
Let me tell you about one point; I want to dwell on it for a minute. The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Handleman), in an interjection this afternoon, made the point that Labour Day wasn’t a holiday. I want to share with you some of the background to it, because I think at the end of this you’ll probably agree with me that it’s a bit of a slur, a slight. It might even be considered an outright affront on the part of this government to put in under section 1(a), “the first Monday in September.”
Hon. Mr. Handleman: I am on the member’s side -- just show me where it is.
Mr. Deans: I’m going to tell the minister in a minute.
Mr. Moffatt: Keep listening.
Mr. Deans: I find this government can’t seem to draw itself out from the 1800s. Maybe it’s something to do with the general approach of the government toward people who are in the labouring force. But they can find a way to set out that New Year’s Day should be a holiday. They can find a way to set out that Good Friday should be a holiday --
Mr. Sargent: Are you for it or against it?
Mr. Deans: -- that Dominion Day should be a holiday --
Mr. Moffatt: Take your pick.
Mr. Deans: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you would tell that gentleman sitting in the gallery that he ought not to interject.
Mr. Deans: -- that Christmas Day should be a holiday; that Victoria Day should be a holiday; that Thanksgiving Day should be a holiday; that Sunday should be a holiday. But somehow or other they can’t bring themselves to say that Labour Day should be a holiday.
Mr. Deans: Why didn’t the current Solicitor General, who previously pretended to represent Labour in some form or other; why is it that he couldn’t bring himself to say that section 4 should say “Labour Day”?
Hon. Mr. MacBeth: We wanted it to be known as the Deans’ amendment.
Mr. Deans: I want to help the minister --
Hon. Mr. Handleman: How about May Day?
Mr. Deans: I want to help the minister to justify the position that he inevitably must take. I don t want him to think that he’s going to do it without good and solid justification. I want to read to you from a book that’s in the library, for those members who know where the library is. It’s not far from the washroom, I might tell the member for Hamilton West (Mr. S. Smith).
Mr. Shore: Why don’t you take him out and show him?
Mr. Good: Right near the fire hydrant.
Mr. Deans: I say that because the member for Hamilton West in the paper indicated that he didn’t find, and didn’t know, where the washroom was and I didn’t want him to feel that he couldn’t find the library.
In a book called, “High Days and Holidays in Canada” --
Mr. Good: Right near the fire hydrant.
Mr. Deans: -- it says in chapter 9 -- September -- to be found on page 57 of the book: “In Canada and the United States Labour Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.”
Mr. Deans: It says: “In Canada, the provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Yukon observe it by law [would you believe] while Quebec, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia observe it by proclamation.”
Mr. Peterson: I am glad we got that straightened out.
Mr. Deans: Let me, for the benefit of the Liberal members who have difficulty identifying labour from anything else, point out to them that Labour Day has no connection, as some believe, with the older May Day. No connection. Just so you understand that, because I realize not many of you have any knowledge of these things.
Mr. Speaker: Will the member for Wentworth address his remarks to the Chair, please?
Mr. Deans: Mr. Speaker, you know me well enough to know that everything I say from this point on, whether or not I --
Mr. Ruston: He knows you too well, that is the trouble.
Mr. Deans: -- specifically mention you, is addressed through the Chair.
Mr. Speaker: I appreciate that.
Mr. S. Smith: The member speaks through the Chair and through his hat.
Mr. Deans: It says, in fact: “The first proposal of a Labour Day was made by Peter J. McQuire in 1882 when he was the president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, one of the leaders of the Knights of Labour. In Canada, Labour Day was made a statutory holiday by Act of Parliament on July 23, 1894.” It has been around a while. It is not something new. I can appreciate the Solicitor General (Mr. MacBeth) with very little background in labour might have missed it and I can fully understand that the Liberals wouldn’t have appreciated it, but I want to tell you that it is a fact. In Canada, Labour Day has been a statutory holiday since 1894 and it seems a shame that somehow or other this government has missed the point and missed understanding the important part that Labour Day has played in the social order of the country.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: He agrees to change it.
Mr. Lewis: Has he conceded? Is he prepared to stand up and repent?
Hon. Mr. MacBeth: Mr. Speaker, I repent.
Mr. Deans: I want to know before I go any further: Is the minister going to change the bill?
Hon. Mr. MacBeth: May I interject, Mr. Speaker? With the member’s help we will change the bill.
Mr. Deans: I want the minister to realize before he changes it that the Liberals will likely oppose it.
Mr. Sargent: If the member will sit down now, he will fix it up.
Mr. Deans: But that is because they don’t understand. But I will tell you what I will do. Rather than take the time of the House to explain all the background -- which now the minister and I and a number of us on this side appreciate and understand --
Mr. Deans: -- I am prepared to duplicate the information that I have and to make it available to the Liberal caucus so that they can fully understand the importance of Labour Day too.
Mr. Ruston: Did you ever have a Labour Day, Ian?
Mr. Speaker: It is my pleasure to be able to recognize the member for Armourdale.
Mr. Givens: I simply want to address myself to the one question, not of materialism or commercialism or greed, but the one question of minority religious rights. I am very surprised that this minister, the Solicitor General, knowing of his general fair mindedness, should take the attitude: “Go away, boy, you are bothering me; sorry, this bill is so neat and so tidy”; when it happens to be so shot through with exemptions present and exemptions which will be coming in the future. I am surprised that there is nothing he can do about it to accommodate the people of minority religious rights.
I make a plea for the people in my riding, particularly the Seventh Day Adventists, because they have a general hospital on the border of my riding, Branson Hospital; and for the people of the Jewish faith who genuinely and sincerely spend their Sabbath Day on Saturday in observation, contemplation and prayers. They feel that it is a very serious disability, and a very serious imposition on them, if they cannot keep their businesses open, particularly on Sunday.
I’m very surprised because the consideration for minorities’ religious rights in this country have been generally observed with a great deal of sensitivity and understanding and compassion. I remember when, after the federal election, the Prime Minister of this country announced that the Parliament of Canada would open on a certain day and a certain date. He was informed that that day would be the Jewish Day of Atonement, after he made the announcement to the country. Because he thought it would embarrass the chief justice of this country, who was then standing in for the Governor General, and a handful of members of Parliament because of their faith, he changed that day.
Indeed, in the last provincial election it came to the attention of the Premier of this province (Mr. Davis) that one of the polling days of the advanced poll was going to fall on the Day of Atonement. The Premier went to the trouble of instructing the clerk of this House -- or the chief electoral officer, I don’t know who it was -- to designate an additional day which would only affect a handful of people. He was understanding, sensitive and mindful of the fact that it would impinge on the minority religious rights of a certain number of people, so he changed that day.
Consequently, I find it incredible that the Solicitor General should take the position, having regard for the fact that this bill impinges on the rights of minority groups -- a bill which is already shot through with exemptions and will continue to be shot through with exemptions by its very composition -- that he cannot make allowances for these people; these observant people who are genuinely and sincerely affected by this bill. It will not change the pith and substance of this bill one iota to take their problems into consideration.
I say that it is a paradox that this statute -- and you may stand on your head and wiggle your ears -- is a secular statute and has nothing to do with a religious observance. The fact of the matter is that, originally, this statute, this observance of Sunday, was based on religious principles. Should this statute, which was originally founded on religious principles, cause a disability to the people who are minority religious believers?
It is also ironic to me that this statute should cause a disability to people who, 3,500 years ago, gave to the world the concept of the day of Sabbath rest. That they should be the ones who are penalized by this kind of situation seems to me ironic.
The kind of bill which permits people to go to a burlesque show and watch Cupcakes Cassidy twirl her tassels cannot make an exemption for people of minority religious beliefs? They spend their Sabbath Day in contemplation and prayer so that they can keep their small businesses open on Sunday. It would be a terrible impingement on their economic ability to function as business people. I suggest, with great respect, that this is unfair. This is wrong. This is inequitable. So that the Solicitor General must see to it that this exemption is made I will either make an amendment at the proper time or I will support the amendment of my friend from Wilson Heights. I appeal to the Solicitor General to see to it that this amendment is embodied when this bill is passed.
Mr. Lewis: How can it be ultra vires?
Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, may I first say that I think the Solicitor General made it fairly clear in his presentation that this bill does not carry with it those overtones which I hear creeping around this chamber, not one whit.
Mr. Lewis: Of course they do.
Mr. Grossman: They absolutely do not. Anyone who has read the report on Sunday observance legislation prepared for the Ontario Law Reform Commission, will see a long, well-reasoned explanation set out in chapter 16 thereto, which I may say I personally do not agree with, I don’t buy. It has nothing to do with the riding I represent any more than your position would have to do with any other political overtones or connotations. I don’t agree with chapter 16. I would hope that this committee, if it still goes to committee, succeeds in finding a way around this very difficult problem.
Mr. Lewis: It is not difficult. It is a question of minority rights.
Mr. Grossman: I would point out that 25 states in the United States have similar legislation and they have found exemptions. They have found a way around this problem. Indeed the Crathorne report presented in the United Kingdom, in 1964 -- which for those who will go to the library to pull it out is also known as the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Law on Sunday Observance -- I suggest is quite appropriate for our present circumstances, reads at paragraph 199 as follows: “Section 53 of the 1950 Act makes special provisions for shopkeepers who observe the Jewish Sabbath; e.g. persons of the Jewish religion or Seventh Day Adventists. After making a statutory declaration that he objects on religious grounds to trading on the Jewish Sabbath, the shopkeeper is entitled to have the shop registered by the local authority. He must then keep the shop and any other shop he occupies closed for all purposes connected with trade or business on Saturday. But he is free to keep the shop open on Sunday until 2 p.m. for any transactions; and, of course, to any hours for the transactions listed in schedule 5.” The details of schedule 5 really aren’t relevant here.
“Similarly, section 62 allows a licensed kosher butcher to trade on Sunday provided that he does not trade on Saturday.” Paragraph 200 continues: “The Board of Deputies of British Jews told us that as far as they had been able to ascertain these provisions worked satisfactorily. The British Union of Seventh Day Adventists thought that it was wrong to legislate on purely religious matters, but if legislation was considered necessary for the protection of the leisure and recreation of workers, provision should be made for all those whose religions demanded observance of a day other than Sunday.” The point I want to make, Mr. Speaker, is that other jurisdictions -- indeed England -- have found a way around this problem and also 25 states of the union. I would particularly commend to the minister those provisions in the state of Connecticut. These provisions find a way to solve this problem without defeating the purpose of the Act.
There are problems. It isn’t quite as simple as that and it doesn’t carry all the overtones -- none of the overtones indeed -- that my friends opposite would imply.
One of the ways to get around this, may I suggest, is to talk only about individuals. It would be difficult for me to imagine a religious exemption for corporations. One of the things the committee might deal with is granting such an exemption to individuals who can raise, on these grounds set out in any of the 25 states and the Crathorne report, those religious objections which would wreak a hardship; that is if the committee were unsuccessful in finding a way around this legislation.
I specifically want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the very esteemed counsels who prepared the report on Sunday observance legislation for the Ontario Law Reform Commission dwelt at length on this problem.
Mr. Lewis: They were wrong.
Mr. Grossman: They were wrong, but I want to make clear to this House that it is equally wrong to leave any impression whatsoever that the bill as proposed by the minister has any overtones, any touches of irony to which the member for Armourdale (Mr. Givens) referred. In view of the history --
Mr. Renwick: It doesn’t have any overtones; it just has clear exemptions.
Mr. Lewis: What does the member mean -- by irony or overtones? What is he trying to say?
Mr. Grossman: Irony was the word used by the member for Armourdale. I want to dispel any suggestion for it.
Mr. Lewis: He said it was ironic that; he didn’t say the bill contained irony.
Mr. Grossman: Those words irony and ironical set out in Hansard may leave some sort of impression at some later date to those who have not had the benefit of this discussion here this evening in person. That’s all I wanted to clear up.
The fact is that the problems inherent in this type of legislation were quite clearly set out by a very esteemed group. It need not carry any overtones of irony, certainly not for a government --
Mr. Renwick: The ministry missed the point.
Mr. Grossman: -- that has taken the care to see that for the last 20 years appropriate arrangements were made for non-persecution of those who found themselves in a religiously contradictory position in relation to the existing legislation. As one of those members on this side of the House who looks forward to the success of the committee in finding a way around this difficult problem, I do want to dispel any suggestion that there is any irony, anything untoward or any lack of respect or understanding for the basis religious problems here. There is only an appreciation of the difficulties which we can perhaps surmount in finding a way around this problem --
Mr. Lewis: Well then, why didn’t the member surmount it before the bill came in? Why didn’t he do it in his party’s caucus?
Mr. Renwick: It’s not that difficult.
Mr. Grossman: -- without defeating the purpose of this Act. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, in answer to the comments made by the hon. member who has just resumed his seat, there is a very clear amendment that can be brought forward for those people compelled by conscientious objection, religious or otherwise. They can be granted an exemption. I don’t believe there is any problem at all in the membership of this House granting that by amendment to this bill.
I would trust that when the amendment is brought forward, perhaps even by the Solicitor General or by some other member of the House, it will gain support on all sides and solve the problem that has been put before us, on the debate on the bill.
There is an obvious solution, and as a matter of fact, we have used a similar solution under other circumstances. I think it had to do with the compulsory cheek-off of union dues. An amendment was brought forward to exempt individuals who can prove a conscientious objection under those circumstances. The amendment passed the Legislature without unanimous support, but it passed all the same. It will be interesting to see, when a similar amendment under these circumstances is brought before us, where the support does come from. I think most members of the House, responding to their own conscience, will be prepared to support an exemption.
It’s true that it will be difficult to enforce in a fair and equitable way, just as the provisions of the bill as it is presently before us will be difficult to enforce. We have had laws prohibiting Sunday commerce for many years and it was in the very enforcement of those laws, which was a provincial responsibility and has always been, that we ran into the difficulty. It is surely going to be the initiative and the concentration of the Solicitor General that will make the law work or make it become just another superfluous piece of legislation. It will depend upon the attitude and the enforcement capabilities of the government in this regard.
There’s no doubt in my mind that an objection raised on behalf of individuals -- not corporations but individuals -- can surely be accommodated by a bill that passes through this House.
I was interested in listening to the member for Wentworth (Mr. Deans,). I’m always interested in his comments. I do not believe that the problems the government had in bringing forward the legislation had to do with the possible reduction in gross sales. I think that most of us understand that many people in the province want to shop whenever they want, to get the family together and go out in the car to the local shopping plaza, whether it’s late at night or Sunday or any other day. I think all of us are aware of this feeling. My own family considers it quite an outing indeed, particularly if I’m along, with my pocketbook.
Mr. Nixon: You begin by buying a pound of bridge mix and go up and down the aisles ruining your dietary consumption. In fact there isn’t much purchasing done, but there’s lots of comment and it’s a family outing. Certainly in our community, and I’m sure in everyone else’s, this has replaced many other activities and in the long run it probably is a little cheaper and is a family activity which is well respected.
We are prepared, and I think it has already been expressed by my colleagues, to support the principle of the bill. We believe, particularly in these times when we are concerned with the cost of living and inflation, that there would be ample justification to extend the provisions of this bill to the regulation and control of store hours through the week.
Obviously this would not be popular in all areas but the justification, as far as I am concerned, is that it should effectively reduce at least a part of the overhead that small businessmen and even big businessmen are having to pay to keep their stores open longer hours to meet what I consider to be the ridiculous competition which led A & P, I believe and perhaps one or two of the other food markets, to say they were going to stay open 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. They may think they are providing a service. I was interested to note one of the spokesmen for A & P, I think, said they didn’t want to do it but they were forced to do it by competition.
Surely that is where the authority and the power of this Legislature can be brought into play. We can, by Act of this Legislature, control that sort of mindless competition which does nothing but add to the overhead which appears in the price tag the consumers pay. The one rational justification for controlling store hours during the week is to reduce this overhead based on mindless competition.
I wish personally that the government had moved much more dramatically to regulate store hours. I think it has already been put before you, Mr. Speaker, that some municipal jurisdictions have done this very effectively. Probably the city of Hamilton is the best example. It’s been done in Quebec. The member for Cornwall, to whom I always listen with a great deal of interest as he pushes his main theme of beer in grocery stores -- which I support as well --
Mr. Samis: We won him over. Congratulations.
Mr. Nixon: There are these alternatives available to us. I would say to the government, and I suppose to the Solicitor General who is the author of this piece of legislation, that if he were to move toward the regulation of store hours it would gain the support of members on all sides, as long as he could convince some of his colleagues to do that.
They’ve been fooling around with this for weeks, months, years, indicating to businessmen who want some sort of regulation that they are contemplating it. The former Solicitor General was going to be sent on an extensive tour around the province to listen to the objections of businessmen and consumers, and this he did at great length. He presented to us a green paper in which 47 alternatives were offered. The government, I suppose, because of a slip of the tongue of the former Sunday school teacher from Brampton -- l am a former Sunday school teacher from Brant --
Hon. Mr. Davis: That’s good news. It’s nice to meet you.
Mr. Nixon: The Premier is going to join the debate. Isn’t this great. We have that one thing in common.
Hon. Mr. Davis: There was a day when we had more.
Mr. Nixon: It really is ridiculous when we think of the time, the debate and the money spent by the Tories in trying to do the thing which they would find most popular and which would lose them the fewest votes. I suppose this is it.
By presenting this non-secular piece of legislation -- I think that’s the phrase the minister used on a number of occasions -- they have probably touched a certain series of nerve endings which make this one of the least offensive pieces of legislation they could bring forward in this particular important policy field. As for me and my colleagues, I would have preferred it if they had brought forward a fuller system of regulation of store hours. I have said the justification in this regard would be the reduction of overhead and doing something for the consumers along the lines of what is so popular in these days of inflation.
We intend to support the principle of the bill and, Mr. Speaker, you’ve already had notice that we intend to present an amendment which will give those people who object on conscientious grounds, particularly religious grounds, the alternative which we believe this bill must encompass. When the amendment is put forward we can count on the conscientious support of all thinking members.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: How about the employees of one of those conscientious objectors?
Mr. Nixon: Vote against the amendment.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: I regret I was able to hear only the last few minutes of the remarks by my friend, the hon. member for Armourdale, but it would appear it was suggested or I heard his suggestion or he attempted to attribute to the government of which I am proud to be a member, a deliberate intention to discriminate against minority groups.
Mr. Nixon: Nothing could be further from the truth.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I trust I misunderstood the purport of his remarks --
Mr. Givens: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: I am hearing one point of privilege. At least it was called a point of privilege at the beginning.
Mr. Nixon: He’s making a speech.
Mr. Speaker: We will proceed, then I will hear you.
An hon. member: Don’t give him the floor.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: If my hon. friend from Armourdale will bear with me, the whole issue --
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The hon. Attorney General -- Order, please.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. May I determine if this is really a participation in the debate or is it a genuine point of privilege?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: No --
Mr. Speaker: If you wish to participate in the debate, that’s one matter, It can’t be called a point of privilege or order as the case may be.
Mr. Nixon: That’s right. Let him get up and make a speech.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I am in your hands. It’s a form of participation, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Good: It’s actually only a point of view.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Yes and I think it’s a point of view to which the member might listen.
Hon. Mr. Davis: As he should.
Mr. Good: Don’t listen to the twisting done by the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: It would appear from the concern expressed by my hon. friend from Armourdale that he did not wish to attribute any improper intent or intention to discriminate against a minority group. I think he would agree that if the public were to assume that’s what he said, it would be accepted as a very irresponsible statement because it could only lead to the type of confrontation in the community that none of us in this House would desire.
At the same point I should like to say I share my hon. friend from Armourdale’s concern with respect to certain minority groups. I think everything should be done to accommodate them, but at the same time I am sure he is aware of the very serious constitutional issues which can arise when the provincial government attempts to legislate with respect to religious holidays.
Notwithstanding that, I would like to say for the record that I share many of his concerns and as a member of the House I would like to do what I could to accommodate those concerns and find a way out.
Mr. Givens: On a point of personal privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: On a point of privilege, the hon. member for Armourdale.
Mr. Givens: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. Attorney General pointed out he heard the latter part of the remarks. I don’t see how he could have construed the latter part of my remarks as indicating that I was saying the government has deliberately done this, as he said I had done. He might have construed some of the remarks of the hon. member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick who said I had said I was blaming the government for this.
As a matter of fact, to allay the fears of the hon. Attorney General, I praised the Premier for the fact that during the last election when he found out that one of the days of the advance poll had been on the Day of Atonement he went to the trouble of advising the chief electoral officer that this was so and they designated a special separate day on account of that. I said I couldn’t understand why, since the Premier had done this -- being as sensitive and knowledgeable and concerned --
An hon. member: Don’t overdo it.
Mr. Reid: I can see the ads in the next election.
Mr. Givens: Those are the words I used. Feeling the way he did, I said I couldn’t understand why the Solicitor General, being as sensitive and considerate as he was, found he couldn’t amend this Act -- shot through with exemptions as it was -- why he couldn’t embody the changes necessary to comply with the appeal that I had made. So Mr. Attorney General, we are ad idem on this, and I don’t see why you reached that misunderstanding. I would hate you to think that I had made this allegation, because I did not.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. There doesn’t seem to have been a point of privilege. Though I believe there has been a good explanation given of the misunderstanding.
Any other members wish to comment on this? Does the hon. Leader of the Opposition wish to participate on second reading?
Mr. Lewis: Very briefly.
Mr. Reid: That’s more than we usually get.
Mr. Nixon: And the fact is the Premier (Mr. Davis) needs two days for atonement.
Mr. Bullbrook: This whole debate is ironic.
Mr. Lewis: I am not really going to tell you anything, I just want to pay a brief homage to minority government. I am going to look around me in the chamber for a moment on this second reading and note the number of cabinet participants. Those of us who have been in this House for 12 years or more are quite taken by this extraordinary assemblage. It is also worth noting --
Mr. Nixon: It is positively crowded.
Mr. Lewis: -- that there is very little seating room left over there.
Mr. Nixon: Nothing on at the Albany Club tonight.
Mr. Speaker: Now are we going to get to the principle of the bill?
Mr. Reid: Not more than usual.
Mr. Lewis: I am directly on the principle of the bill, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it the bill has to do with atonement and redemption, and I sense that that is what is involved over here.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Atonement no, redemption yes.
Mr. Lewis: Speaking to the principle of the bill and knowing that some of its frailties will be dealt with in committee -- and hoping that the uniform store hour aspect of it can also be dealt with -- I want to say that it is a significant and important debate, I think, in that both the Attorney General in a fairly majestic way and the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) in a very modest way, have indicated that the government intends to shift ground, which is a useful thing to do. I would suspect that it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to draft an amendment which can be argued constitutionally, and can accommodate the anxieties expressed on all sides of the House so that they are resolved. That’s the advantage of the forum as it now exists. And I would think that if the wording of the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Singer) isn’t adequate -- although I have seen it and --
Mr. Bullbrook: Perish the thought.
Mr. Lewis: Perish the thought. It strikes me that it is pretty germane -- maybe the law officers of the Crown can alter it. But it is clear now that the Legislature would like to correct the anomaly which exists and which makes certain minority groups anxious, and that we should simply get about it. The government should indicate its intention, when it comes to the committee, of presenting an amendment to the appropriate clause all of us can support.
This wouldn’t have happened one year ago, and I simply wanted to acknowledge that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hall: Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party has made it quite clear, but I also wish to stress that I support this bill subject to vast improvement. The major pressure for the bill is the fact that chain stores have started to open on Sundays, and this is my prime concern. Stopping this practice before it starts should be the principal issue, and should be acted upon without delay, and should not be lost sight of.
However, with reference to section 3(2)(d), I feel a modification should be made. Canadian fresh fruit and vegetables -- I have no sympathy for the imported tender fruit -- should be sold at any time of the year that this fresh produce is available. Things are tough enough for our fruit growers, as the hon. member for Brock (Mr. Welch) is very well aware, without the further restriction of an Oct. 31 deadline. The climate has been particularly warm this fall, as you all realize, and fresh fruit and vegetables are still available well into November. I don’t think this point should be overlooked.
Mr. Speaker: Does the hon. Minister of the Environment wish to speak?
Mr. Bullbrook: You bet your life.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to add a few words to this debate because I’ve had some involvement in this subject the last few months.
Mr. Bullbrook: To the tune of what, $80,000?
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Without being repetitious I would just like to deal with some of the points that have been raised this evening. One has been that the bill should have included some reference and some provision for uniform hours during the full week. One of the things that we found in our public meetings that were held in various parts of the province was that this was a very controversial part of this whole subject.
Opinion was just about evenly divided as to whether or not stores should be open two nights a week or more, and as a result of these hearings we concluded that Ontario was not a province with uniform shopping habits. There were some parts of the province, for example, where stores would be open one night a week, they may be closed all day Monday, or closed on a Wednesday afternoon or two nights. In some areas, particularly in areas such as Thunder Bay, the stores were open five or six nights a week.
Bringing in legislation along the lines advocated by the PUSH groups would mean we would have to legislate in a way that would close a number of these stores and this could mean, of course, that a number of people would be put out of work, particularly part-time employees, married women and students, who did, in fact, take advantage of shopping hours in the evening and were employed during that period of the day.
As I say, while there is little controversy, little divergence of opinion as far as a pause day during the week is concerned, there was a substantial division of opinion as far as uniform store hours were concerned.
One of the hon. members mentioned Quebec -- I believe it was the member for Cornwall (Mr. Samis) -- and I just might mention that legislation was brought in in that province which could be considered uniform store hours legislation some six or seven years ago. At that time, in most parts of the province, stores were only open one or two nights a week. I would think the exception would be stores on the island of Montreal, but for the most part in the other parts of the province store hours were regulated at the municipal level, and as a result the maximum number of evening openings for the greatest part of that province was two nights a week. So there was really little difficulty in the provincial government bringing in legislation that restricted evening shopping hours.
As I say, the situation is different in Ontario. In Metropolitan Toronto, for example, where you have a number of shopping plazas surrounding this whole metropolitan area where stores are, in fact, open six evenings a week, if we brought in legislation it would, of course, substantially affect the operation of those stores.
If the hon. members will refer to the green paper, they will see that one of the options is that the municipalities themselves, reflecting the habits of their consumers and of the stores, could, in fact, regulate store hours during the week. This has been done in the Hamilton area and with some success, although there are some of the larger chains and supermarkets who are attempting to stay open more than two nights a week. But it has, for the most part, been successful, particularly in other areas such as Stoney Creek and Dundas and Burlington. That is one of the reasons why we have brought in this legislation as it is, and I am sure that at some other time you will have to deal with the question of uniform store hours.
The other point I would like to mention, which has also been touched on this evening, is that we have drafted this bill in a way that it doesn’t have religious connotations.
Mr. Sargent: What took you so long?
Hon. Mr. Kerr: I won’t be too long.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Eddie, are you still in the House?
Mr. Sargent: I get paid for this.
Hon. Mr. Davis: When did you realize that?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: He is being overpaid.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: We are talking about a pause day. We are talking about making it possible for families to be together, as employees who normally have been required to work on Sunday will have a holiday. That is the main purpose of this legislation. That has been the sort of the appeal that I have had in my mail during the last year or so. It is not necessarily for religious beliefs, but mainly so that they can have at least one day in the week that they can count on to be with their families. Although there has been discussion on that -- the hon. member for Armourdale (Mr. Givens) has talked about this as well as the hon. member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) -- if we expand the bill and amend the bill, as has been suggested, I think we must make sure that our legislation is intra vires the province. The Law Reform Commission dealt with this subject --
Mr. Bullbrook: Why must you be sure of that?
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Because the provincial government can’t deal with legislation dealing with religion.
Mr. Bullbrook: Why must you make sure of it? That’s what you have courts for.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: We want the bill to stand. We want the bill to be constitutional. We don’t want the bill to be defeated if it’s challenged in court.
Mr. Bullbrook: Are you convinced it is unconstitutional because that isn’t what the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) said?
Hon. Mr. Kerr: The Attorney General expressed the same concern. I think that before this matter is discussed in committee, the law officers of the Crown must make sure that any amendments proposed along this line are in fact constitutional. I would welcome the change if it is constitutional.
Mr. Bullbrook: There is only one tribunal that can make sure of that.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: If you’ll notice, the legislation, in the way it’s drafted, avoids religious reference. It is a pause day; we are dealing with holidays. It is secular statute. It is not based on religious principles. If, as I say, it can be amended properly, then certainly I personally would favour such an amendment.
I haven’t anything further to say. There have been some objections to this legislation, as reflected in the mail recently and in newspapers, particularly letters to the editor. But I think it’s important, first of all, to note the rather generous exemptions that are available in the legislation and also to realize that one of the main reasons for bringing in this legislation is that we have a law at present that is archaic. It’s not working; the fines aren’t adequate. Efforts to ask the federal government to amend the legislation to increase fines have up to now failed. There is really no other alternative. If we’re going to stop the elimination of at least one pause day in the province, it is important that the province itself bring in such legislation.
Mr. Bullbrook: I would like to address just a few comments. I hadn’t intended to join in the debate because I had made my views known in the caucus. I recognize that my attitude and I think the attitude exemplified by the council of the city of Sarnia is coloured by its environment and mine. Because I’m so close to that great republic, the United States of America and their completely open Sunday, it doesn’t take long for one to recognize the need for a day of pause.
Frankly, I compliment the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Kerr) on joining the debate. It’s a happy circumstance we have here tonight, as others have mentioned, to have the Premier here and to have the Premier in the estimates committee this afternoon. This is a new exercise on our part and on his, and I compliment him for it. But to get to the point. One issue on which we’re all of one mind is the question of the social need, as we see it, of structuring society for a day of pause. That’s a simple one, and the only one the government comes to grips with.
I thought the question of uniform store hours might in your mind be out of order in connection with this debate. But that’s a difficult one to come to. It’s interesting to note that the Minister of the Environment who had been vested with the responsibility of going throughout the province, listening to the people’s response to these matters, publishing a green paper for our edification and understanding, says, in effect, that we can’t govern in this respect.
He says it was easy for the Province of Quebec because basically there was uniformity there. I answer that in this respect -- that’s what government’s all about. We don’t rationalize our position by saying scattered throughout this metropolitan area are many shopping plazas which stay open six nights a week. If the government comes to a conclusion that it’s in the best interests of the people who work in those stores, it’s in the best interests in the long run of the proprietors of those stores, and it’s in the best interests of society as a whole -- as I think the minister did in his green paper; he did conclude there should be uniform store hours -- then government has to do this -- it has to govern.
It has to accept that responsibility and say, “We’ve come to this conclusion: On balance, the priority is this; these are the store hours.” It makes that judgement. That’s the first thing.
More important to me is this: I have grave reservations about the ability to draft an amendment which meets the objections of my colleagues from Wilson Heights (Mr. Singer) and Armourdale (Mr. Givens). I evince this to members. I have grave reservations about this, drafting an amendment which will not emasculate the intention of the statute. That’s what concerns me, but I want to tell the minister this. I’m absolutely convinced after hearing the debate that the majority of the members in this House wish us to attempt so to do.
I’m absolutely convinced, I say to the Premier (Mr. Davis) and the Solicitor General (Mr. MacBeth), that the answer can’t be the question of whether or not it’s constitutional. It’s not up to us, having regard to what we think the social impact is, to escape and abandon our responsibility by saying we believe it to be unconstitutional.
Let someone undertake, if they wish, the responsibility of having a court come to that conclusion because that is the tribunal which must make the ultimate conclusion. I invite the government to consider who would undertake to take to court the business person legitimately undertaking his or her religious responsibility on the Jewish Sabbath and opening on Sunday? I invite members to consider who is going to take that lady to court. Notwithstanding whether or not she is taken I say let us not make the judgement.
Let’s sincerely attempt to draft an amendment with those people who have the sincere motivation, that integrity of purpose they feel for themselves, and understandably so. Let’s take the chance that somebody might find it to be unconstitutional.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, I’d like to make two or three observations on the bill. One comment relates to the matter which has preoccupied us for the last hour in the assembly, and there are two others. Let me make the two others first of all. It’s very seldom that the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent) and I talk about the same thing in the same language but I am equally concerned about the problem of Mac’s Milk and Becker’s.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Do you use four-letter words?
Mr. Renwick: It’s partly because of the default of the government that I am so concerned. What we’re really talking about is store hours and we’ve said we are going to close the large stores and allow the small ones to keep open. I think that’s what the bill is about. We have to be somewhat arbitrary in the criteria by which we decide what is large and what is small in relation to so-called convenience sales of foodstuffs and other ancillary items of merchandise. We automatically run into problems every time we are arbitrary.
What the government has done in being arbitrary with respect to Becker’s and Mac’s Milk is, of course, allow a large organization -- a large corporate institution -- under the guise of franchise arrangements to make a profit at the expense of the other large operations. It’s just that simple. Of course, the default is that the government would not and has not and apparently will not bring in to the Legislature an adequate franchise bill which will make certain that the operators of the Mac’s Milk stores and the Becker’s stores and similar franchise stores will have a fair shake; and which will not necessarily allow those small operators, all of whom we now agree must remain open, to be used by a large corporate organization to make a substantial profit when what you’re talking about is to protect the small businessman and the small person.
You know as well as I do that if you’re going to allow the traditional so-called corner store, variety store or food store to remain open in the sense that it’s a family store, then to the extent that the Mac’s and Becker’s stores are, in a large sense, family stores operated long hours, usually by a family unit, you’re allowing Mac’s Milk, Silverwood’s and the owners of those big chains to have, if one could use a capitalist phrase, an unfair competitive advantage.
I don’t think the government can deal in isolation at any time on a bill such as this. The former Solicitor General, the present Minister of the Environment (Mr. Kerr), tried desperately to indicate that yes, you can. You can isolate it away from all of the other statutes. You can’t do that and I would want a commitment from the government, presumably through the minister who is responsible for this bill, that a franchise bill will be introduced that will be fair to the franchiser and fair to the franchisee.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: The local entrepreneur?
Mr. Renwick: Don’t be the spoiler. Don’t let the Minister of the Environment be the spoiler by dropping across the floor specious solutions to real problems. This is a real problem.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: That’s the trouble with this bill.
Mr. Renwick: You know as well as I do that Silverwood’s, which owns Mac’s Milk, is going to reap substantial profits because Mac’s Milk stores, under this dispensation, are going to be allowed to remain open. You’ve got to deal with that in accordance with the recommendations of the franchising committee, the minister’s committee, his predecessor’s committee, which sat many years ago, the Grange committee. That has to be done because, otherwise, you’re not going to get equity in this situation.
The second matter to which I want to refer is a little-known bill in the Legislature. I don’t pretend that I know the ramifications between this bill, the employment standards bill and other bills. But there is on the statutes of the Province of Ontario a one-day’s-rest-in-seven bill. That says: “Persons who are in the hotel and restaurant business as employees must, by law, be given one day out of seven as a rest day.” It doesn’t select a day but it imposes that obligation.
I would suggest to the Solicitor General and I would suggest to the Minister of Labour (B. Stephenson) that they should look at that bill to determine whether or not the ambit of that bill should be extended to cover those employees who are going to be engaged in these exempted institutions which might very well be operating with a limited number of employees seven days a week around the clock. I think that is essential and I think it’s important. Otherwise I don’t think the one-day’s-rest-in-seven bill has any real relevance to the way in which the government has decided to deal with this question.
When you come to the question of whether this is a secular bill or not a secular bill, you’re talking in language which is almost dead in Ontario. If you’re talking about a secular bill because you’ve found the lowest common denominator on which you think the largest number of people could agree, that’s all right. But that means there are always going to be people who are going to be hurt. This is a government which has talked for a long time about a multicultural society. The facts of the matter are, regardless of what the government says, that it is a multicultural society. That’s the kind of society which we have built. As soon as you use the word “culture” you bring into play religious observance; the whole of the cultural tradition which is involved in it.
My colleague, the member for Wentworth (Mr. Deans), spoke today about Labour Day. It’s not the first Monday in September. It is part of the cultural mosaic of this province that there is something called Labour Day which recognizes the historical fight by the working people in the province to establish the proposition that to organize as a trade union was not a criminal conspiracy. That’s where the origin of the matter is. So you’re talking about a multicultural society with many strands in it.
It’s not the intention, as I understand it, either by the government speakers or by the members of the Liberal Party or by the members of this party to talk about trying to discriminate. They have been led by the red herring of this term “secular” to present a problem as though it were an insurmountable problem. No one is saying that they are going to allow a large organization, because it is owned by persons who have a particular cultural tradition, to remain open. What you are talking about is a small area between the permitted exceptions, under the bill, of the three employees and the 2,400 sq ft, and a somewhat larger expansion of those limitations to bring into account in particular and special circumstances, cultural or religious or whatever observances which are part of the cultural -- I hate to use the term, it is such a degraded and debased term from what it was originally meant to mean -- the cultural mosaic of the province.
I think it is quite clear that nobody has any political hate by fighting the issue. The fact of the matter is that it is within the wit and the capacity of the advisers to the minister, the advisers of the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) and the members of this assembly to produce the kind of legislation which will, in fact, admit what must be a recognized and necessary further extension of the exemption.
How it can be done, there are probably any number of ways, no one of which will be perfect. But this is certainly not a situation where even the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) could call it a constitutional quibble. If there has ever been an area of legislation under the constitution where the federal government is quite happy to give way to the provincial jurisdiction it is under the Lord’s Day or religious observance provisions of the constitution. That is why we have the Lord’s Day (Canada) Act and we have the Lord’s Day (Ontario) Act -- which is a godsend for lawyers because no two lawyers could possibly make the provisions of either one of them jibe in any constitutional issue.
As my friend, the member for Sarnia (Mr. Bullbrook) says, we are not the ones who have to decide the constitutional question. Let’s do it to the best of our ability and let the courts resolve the problem, should anybody be foolhardy enough to think that they are going to get a very welcome reception in the courts if they raise that kind of issue as a constitutional problem.
In summary, I say to the government, as has been pointed out, that you can’t isolate this matter into something called a day of pause or a day of rest. Our society is much too complicated. You have selected the simplistic issue. There are many other aspects that you have got to deal with. I happen to have added my comments to the one which has preoccupied the assembly but I would draw again to the attention of the appropriate ministers, the requirement to look at the one-day’s-rest-in-seven Act with respect to the exempted businesses, and for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Handleman) to look at the question of an adequate franchising law which will protect the operators of what we are recognizing in this bill -- something called small family retail businesses, shaped and disguised as franchisees of large retail organizations.
Mr. Reed: Colleagues of mine in the front bench have expressed far more eloquently than I will ever be capable of the position that we are taking on this matter. I would like to add my support for the necessity of this bill to go to standing committee and add my support in principle.
As a fledgling member, I wonder if you would permit me to make this one observation. Legislation of this kind was promised a year ago. Only now is it coming on the table, which only establishes what a good kick in the seat of the pants will do.
I have also, in a little bit of research on this subject, found a private member’s bill that we presented in 1973 and another private member’s bill for 1974 -- both of which supported the spirit of this legislation.
We are very glad that it is now being presented and that we will be able to discuss it, change it and improve it before it is made final.
Mr. McEwen: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to speak in support of the principle of this bill. I have received many letters from the constituents of Frontenac-Addington placing in the letters requests that I support such a bill. As in the past, I have always been favourable at looking at the requests of the silent majority. However, I do believe that the government has shown neglect in not providing for uniform store hours across the province.
I don’t think it is possible to place this responsibility on any municipality, for the reason that it may be that one municipality will present proper legislation while their neighbourhood may be in opposition.
I think it is very wrong for the Solicitor General (Mr. MacBeth) to speak out and say that Ontario is not a province ready for uniform store hours at this time. The situation is not different in Ontario, it is not different in Toronto, it is just that they have it. The Solicitor General should not suggest that this legislation should be forthcoming some other time. I believe it is a neglect of duty for him to make a comment such as that at this time when we are discussing such an important issue.
If we go back a number of years ago, business was operated with uniform store hours satisfactory to all. It operated on a six-day week. Closing was approximately 6 p.m. every night, with a half-day closing at mid-week. But the large shopping centres and supermarkets came into being and they asked the municipalities to set aside the bylaws restricting the hours of operation for business. Now, once again these large corporations have come in and brought into being the operation of business seven days, seven nights. Again, this is interfering.
I’m speaking mainly on behalf of the small businessman, the small store operation. Squeezing out the small operator eliminates competition for the large corporations. Two previous speakers tonight spoke about Becker’s and Mac’s Milk, and I question the principle of the bill in allowing independent or corner store businesses of less than 2,400 sq ft to remain open on Sunday.
It is a known fact that Becker’s and Mac’s are really large corporations. They are not independent small corner store operations. The rents that are being paid by these people for the small locations range anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to $20,000. This only creates a higher cost of the goods supplied to the general public.
I believe that the government should have looked at supporting these small businessmen on the basis of a one-business, one-person operation -- and not corporations such as Becker’s and Mac’s. They will have a store on one corner, and a short distance away they will have another store in direct competition. This just squeezes out the independent operator.
We have seen this happen in this sort of operation. We have also seen it happen in the supply of merchandise in the wholesale operation of these small stores. They are monopolizing the business and are taking away the small store operation and controlling the complete operation, particularly in the food business.
I believe that if we carry on into other ranges of businesses we will find that the same thing is happening. That is, a number of large corporations have been taking over the business from time to time, and eliminating the opposition. This creates the increase in the cost of goods to the consumer, to the extent that the inflation that we experience today is something that even this government here and the opposition members are going to find almost impossible to deal with.
I speak in support of this present bill to eliminate Sunday opening. I ask that those responsible in the preparation of further legislation take a look at those who are monopolizing the business world and business in the Province of Ontario, to allow the small corner business or the small businessman to get back into business and to operate as he has in the past.
Hon. Mr. MacBeth: Mr. Speaker, I have found the debate that we have just listened to most helpful and most productive. As I said when I spoke to it on second reading this afternoon, it is difficult legislation. The debate that has been conducted points up some of the difficulties that the government has had to deal with in the preparation of this legislation.
As I said, most of us agree with it in principle. I am pleased that the bill in general has the support of the entire House, but then when we get to specific clauses in that bill, each of us has our own ideas as to how they should be dealt with. This is where I think the committee work will be most helpful in completing a good bill for the Province of Ontario.
Let me deal briefly with some of the points that were mentioned. People questioned the $10,000 fine without some gradation. This was one of the problems in the Lord’s Day Act, as you know. It set different grades of fines depending on whether you were a corporation, whether you were an individual, whether you were an employee -- that type of thing.
In drafting this we thought we could have the confidence of the courts -- those people who administered the law -- to look at the offence involved, to look at the ability to pay and various other factors that judges do look at, and probably come up with a better answer than this House could do in saying that there should be a particular minimum. I will welcome any further discussion of that in committee.
Store hours, I believe, are a separate issue. I am not sure how the member for Frontenac-Addington (Mr. McEwen) got the thought that I had spoken in any way against store hours. I don’t believe that I have made any pronouncement or comment on it. With the possibility of being corrected, what I am trying to emphasize is that the matter of store hours is a separate issue. Some municipalities deal with them very successfully; but I realize that there are others where there are problems. The government will continue to examine the matter of store hours, but it has not been looked at as a part of this bill, which looks at a one-day-in-seven pause day.
Labour Day: I have already bowed to the arguments from the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) and the member for Wentworth (Mr. Deans). I am a little bit embarrassed by the fact that the bill appeared in that way. I knew better when I was Minister of Labour. It appeared in the Employment Standards Act as Labour Day. Evidently this is the wording that we used in this bill, and I take responsibility for it. It came from the federal Interpretation Act, and sometimes when we look to Ottawa for guidance we get into trouble.
Mr. Renwick: If you had looked in the Ontario Interpretation Act you wouldn’t have been in trouble.
Hon. Mr. MacBeth: We will bear that in mind. We wouldn’t have been in trouble. Now, I have noted the suggestion about extending it for fruit and vegetables. This is a type of problem that we dealt with. I would agree that for a farmer dealing with produce from his own farm, we shouldn’t have any dates at all. But we also agreed that if we tried to stop roadside stands from selling imported fruit, we would also have a problem. If we allow fruit stands of any size to operate throughout the entire year, we may be doing the farming community, those genuine farmers who are selling their own produce, a disservice rather than a service. That is the type of problem we are into. We can examine that further in committee.
Minority groups have been the main issue that we’ve dealt with this evening. I think it’s worthwhile to take a minute to refer to the report on Sunday observance legislation of the Ontario Law Reform Commission. As we know, on it there were people like H. Allan Leal, Hon. James C. McRuer, Hon. Richard A. Bell, W. Gibson Gray and William R. Poole, who are pretty learned people. This is what they have to say on page 351 in part:
“The Sunday legislation which we consider appropriate for Ontario should be secular in both purpose and effect, and religious considerations should not influence or determine specific provisions of the scope of the legislation in any way whatsoever.
“[I’m not reading continuously here, I’m skipping.] We would hardly be consistent with this approach by proposing a sabbatarian exemption, allowing exemptions from the framework for those who would prefer for religious reasons to close their businesses on another day. To do so would be to clothe the legislation with the very religious character which we have deliberately sought to avoid. [And one further quotation]:
“The legislation must [and I underline “must” -- it is in italics here] be secular as a constitutional matter. The adoption of certain religious provisions, such as a sabbatarian exemption, would be to put the constitutional validity of such a scheme in jeopardy.”
I’ve listened very carefully to the representations that were made. I noted that the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Singer) talked about the employer being of a certain religious faith so that he could close. But I think this bill is aimed not only at the employer, but at the employees. In drafting any possible amendment to this, it is not just the faith of the employer that we have to look at but the faith of the employee as well. I think that can possibly be done. We might run the risk of jeopardizing the bill, but maybe that is a risk that should be taken. Again, that is a matter that we can discuss when we get into committee.
On tourist areas, we were relying on local autonomy. There are possible further answers to that as well. You’ll note how we separate regional governments from local municipalities in that bill. If the municipality is a part of a regional government, the decision would have to be taken by the larger or the regional area to declare a tourist area. That presents certain problems for the north. We were content to rely on the wisdom of the municipality as such itself on the basis of local autonomy. That too can be considered.
I note what was said about Mac’s and Becker’s. We admit that they are chains and large chains. We think, however, that the very nature of their operation -- that they cannot carry on with more than three employees at a time, that the area of their store is limited and that what they can sell there is limited on a Sunday -- will keep them relatively small. Because they have to operate in that way, their prices would be higher. You can say that it’s not fair to the public to have higher prices. At the same time, I don’t think that the majority of people will be entranced in any way to do their general shopping at stores where admittedly the prices have to be somewhat higher because of the smallness of their operation.
As I say, I haven’t covered all of the points that were raised in the good debate here this afternoon and this evening, but I look forward to further constructive help when this bill moves on to committee. I had hoped originally that the bill might go to committee of the whole House on the basis that it has had a great deal of public participation up to this point, that there has been a great deal of input and that we now think one of the main objects of this Legislature should be to get the bill into legislation. But on the basis that further public input may be helpful, I’m quite happy that this should go to a special committee, as the House leader will be speaking about shortly, for that type of consideration, still asking the opposition to move the bill forward as quickly as possible.
Motion agreed to; second reading of the bill.
Mr. Speaker: I understand this bill is to be referred to the appropriate committee.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, if the House would concur perhaps we could now deal with the committee to consider Bills 4 and 5. May I have permission to proceed?
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Mr. Welch moves that a select committee be established to consider Bills 4 and 5, such committee to have authority to sit concurrently with the House and to be composed of the following members: Campbell, Chairman; Bain, Bryden, Evans, Johnston (St. Catharines), Jones, Lane, Peterson, Philip, Reed, Yakabuski and Ziemba.
Mr. Good: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, before the motion carries. Could you clarify? As the two bills are completely different, will substitutions be allowed so that we can change personnel on the second bill to those persons who are more interested in that than in the energy portion? We thought this would be available, but now that it’s a select committee, I don’t know how that can be done.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I have no objection to that, except that the idea of having the same committee deal with both bills would, in fact, influence the various caucuses on making their appointments.
You’ll have to keep in mind, Mr. Speaker -- and I want to accommodate the legitimate concern just expressed -- that with the number of committees we now have, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to keep track of all this movement of members on committees. But I have no objection to substitution here if it is really important.
Clerk of the House: Maybe we could bring that in later.
Hon. Mr. Welch: How would it be if we left it in the form it is now, just leave the motion the way it is now and I’ll undertake to review that matter?
Mr. Speaker: In the meantime, shall this motion carry?
Motion agreed to.
ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Meen moved second reading of Bill 8, An Act to amend the Assessment Act.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Yorkview.
Mr. Young: Mr. Speaker, we have seen today the results of the election when a minority government during an election campaign made certain promises and then, seeing how certain groups of people voted, reacted afterward. There is no question that people in apartment buildings voted strongly against the government because they wanted rent control; and now today we get the rent control.
Over the last couple of years, there has been a very great deal of dissatisfaction expressed in the condominiums of this province, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto, because of the assessment situation. As assessment bills came in a feeling grew up among condominium owners that they were being very seriously discriminated against. In my own area, a group of condominium owners undertook a survey of what was happening. They picked out single family homes in the area around them and they found that the assessment in the single family homes ran 10, 15, 20, and in some cases as far as they could determine, 25 per cent lower than they were assessed in the condominiums. In the last campaign this kind of dissatisfaction and discontent surfaced. In every meeting which I attended -- and certainly this is the experience of others where condominium owners were affected -- we had a barrage of questions about this matter. We had an expression of opinion that they were being badly done by by a government which did not consider them when it came to assessment.
Of course, I must say those of us in the opposition didn’t discourage them in that attitude. I suppose we wouldn’t have been politicians if we had. But we could see, as we have seen before, the justice of their claims and we could see how they could feel the way they did. They had bought a single family unit, just as the neighbours had bought a single family unit, except they had bought it in a complex instead of on a lot 50 ft by 100 ft, or whatever the size might be. As they looked about and compared taxation they realized that this was happening to them. The pressure mounted and the pressure of votes, of course, is the telling pressure in a democracy of this kind.
In this group we are delighted to see this kind of justice being done. We welcome this legislation at this time and we certainly will support it on second reading. We give the government our congratulations on its action although we do that with reservations because we are not sure it would have come if a majority government had been elected instead of a minority.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Yes it would.
Mr. Young: The minister says it likely would have. Perhaps it would, I don’t know. When we see the miracles which have happened in this House since we began last week, we commence to get a bit disillusioned over the performance of this government over the past decade and more. For year after year it refused to bring in reforms which we nattered at its members about and urged upon them. Now, all of a sudden --
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Condominiums themselves are a form of reform.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: You sound like a Tennessee senator.
Mr. Young: -- we find that this is a reform government with a vision of a future and very concerned about the welfare of the voters in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Let’s go for five or six years.
Mr. Young: Marvellous! We are glad to see it and as I say we welcome and we will support on second reading the legislation before us tonight.
Hon. Mr. Meen: Good for you.
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, as far as we are concerned in this party we do welcome the legislation. We are prepared to support it, but one of the things which has bothered me about the introduction of this legislation has been the statements which have appeared in the press. They indicate that this move will lower the taxes for the people in condominiums, who are being moved into single family residential definition by this statute.
I’m concerned about this for many reasons. I would like very much, for example, to ask the minister if he can advise us how we approach the mix-use kind of condominium situation?
I’m thinking of Harbour Square in my riding where we have condominium owners and tenants. How do we approach that kind of assessment mix? I think this is an important thing for us to know.
The minister is quite aware of my concern about the nature of the market value assessment which flows from this particular transfer in this bill. It may interest the minister to note that the latest information I can get -- and the minister has talked about this matter of the factor which is to be employed somehow, sometime, somewhere in this situation. He has referred to the brief which the city prepared and presented to the committee on taxation on many occasions.
At the time the city presented its brief, we were advised that the shift would be in the neighbourhood of $20 million without some form of factoring. The latest information from Treasury is that that shift will be five times that $20 million at this point. I think it is wrong that we should be misleading these people by making any statements as to the resulting taxation effect of this transfer into the single-family residential situation.
I hope the minister at this point will give us that factor, because at the moment I feel we’re continuing to buy pigs in pokes in dealing with this situation.
It’s true that the condominium owners have been asking for the legislation and it’s true that they believe that this, in fact, will assist their tax position. I hope the minister then, since he’s doing this to meet their requirements, will make it abundantly clear just what form of factoring he’s going to bring into effect in order to ensure that all these statements in the press are accurate and that in fact they will not lose by reason of this.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: That would be quite an achievement, making sure all the statements in the press are accurate. That’s quite an achievement.
Hon. Mr. Meen: The member is asking the impossible.
Mr. Good: The government is getting the credit for it.
Mrs. Campbell: That’s the point.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs. Campbell: The government is getting credit for this as something which will assist the condominium owners.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Oh well it’s about time we took the credit.
Mrs. Campbell: I think it’s time the minister gave us the factors. In the alternative the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) should give us the taxation factor we have at this point so that we all know where we stand.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. member for Ottawa West.
Mr. Morrow: Mr. Speaker, since I represent many condominium owners of Ottawa West I would like to add my particular words of congratulations to the minister and to the government for bringing in this piece of legislation.
I might say that I’m really speaking here because of the comment of my very good friend from Yorkview (Mr. Young) that we’re only doing this at the 11th hour. For his information, and for the information of the House, I would say that this has been a matter of great concern, not only to me but to the government since sometime last April or May when it was discussed several times in our caucus.
I was one who led the discussion on many occasions in caucus on this subject matter and we were continually being encouraged by the minister and the government that perhaps there was an unfair assessment taking place here. As the thing built up over the election and we got talking to more and more of these condominium owners at their condominiums, and seeing their assessments and their taxes, we became convinced that there was an unfair assessment. With that information, we were able to convince the minister and the government that something must be done.
They are now giving the answer to our urgings on this particular matter. So I don’t want him to think that we have not been concerned about this matter for some time. This is the result of our concern and I’m very pleased to see it brought in at this time, because it’s going to make many condominium owners happy, not only in my riding but in many urban ridings throughout this province.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. member for Algoma.
Mr. Wildman: I have some reservations about this bill because it leaves out one very important area that I had hoped would be included. My riding has one of the highest concentrations of mobile home parks in the province. I was gratified this afternoon to hear that the Minister of Housing and the Attorney General were going to make provision for protection of mobile home park owners and their tenants in regard to rents of lots and so on; but the area of assessment, which is a problem, has not been addressed in this bill.
Mobile homes were described by the former Minister of Housing in July as “factory-built, single-family dwellings designed to be transported on wheels and placed on a permanent foundation and connected to services.” I think that is a quote. He described them this way, and yet their education taxes are not based on assessment as are other single-family dwellings.
The reason I am discussing this is that I had hoped an amendment to the Assessment Act would include not only condominiums but also mobile homes. The mobile home situation has been discussed by the other ministers, but just has not been discussed here.
Taxes for mobile homes were paid by licence fees until 1974, when they were placed under the provisions of the Assessment Act. But this was challenged in the courts. There was a ruling, I believe by Judge Vannini, that trailers were not permanent homes, and this meant that they would continue to be licensed as vehicles. This licence fee is not set by the Assessment Act, of course, but by the Ministry of Education under the Education Act. Before 1974, mobile home owners paid $3 per month, I believe, as a licence fee for a primary school tax, and $2 a month for a secondary school tax. It is one of the few times when primary schools have been given a fair share of the taxation money paid.
Then, as of Jan. 1, 1975, the Act was amended raising the licence fee to $5 each for primary and secondary school taxes.
Mr. Speaker: I would draw to the hon. member’s attention that the principle of the bill does not refer to the mobile home parks, and I think --
Mr. Wildman: That is my criticism.
Mr. Speaker: -- his remarks are out of order on second reading.
Mr. Wildman: You may rule me out of order, but my criticism of the whole amendment is the fact that it is not wide enough; that it only deals with condominiums and does not deal with mobile homes.
Mr. Speaker: The ministry or a private member would have to bring in their own bill to deal with mobile homes. As a result, on the principle of this bill, you are out of order.
Mr. Wildman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker; I do intend to bring in a private member’s bill.
Mr. Good: The other matter in this bill that has not been touched is simply a matter of the return of the assessment rolls and the changes necessary here to facilitate the return of the rolls at the proper time. Since market value assessment is put off until 1976 for taxation in 1977, I gather this is the need for the changes mentioned under one of the latter sections of the bill.
I would like to say a little regarding the change in the method of assessment of condominiums. Prior to the takeover by the province of the assessment function, each municipality carried on its own method of assessing the various classes of real property. This varied from one municipality to another. It was a degree of equity and taxation at rates which the municipalities felt pertained to their particular case. In other words, in my own area it was pretty well evident that residential property was taxed at between 15 and 20 per cent, highrise property at about 35 or 40 per cent and industrial property somewhat between 50 and 60 per cent. The variable was in the assessment. This was then transferred to the municipal treasurer who applied the mill rate for the various degrees of assessment.
I really think there was a great deal of equity in that type of variation from one municipality to the other. Justice did prevail if the assessment was done properly, as it was in most of the larger municipalities, because there was equity within classes and then the decision to vary the assessment on various types of property was one which was more or less a political decision.
At that time the city of Toronto and most of Metropolitan Toronto was assessing highrise apartments at about 42 per cent of market value, as I remember, and residential property at a considerably lower figure, somewhere between 17 and 29 per cent.
Then along came the condominium; it was new and people didn’t know how to deal with it. Not only were those condominiums being built, but highrise apartments that were assessed were changed over to condominiums. Even the apartment owners found the level of taxation, at 42 per cent of supposed market value, was, in fact, a very great hardship on the tenants, who in the final result had to pay this high level of taxation.
I think it was some two or three years ago, after the ministry had taken over the assessment function, that in Hamilton and Ottawa and Toronto, where most of the problems were brought to light by various appeals of the assessment, there was a general reduction to 25 per cent of market value of high rises. This was put through, even though the statutes had declared that assessment would be frozen until the 1976 year for taxation in 1977.
The 25 per cent assessment then applied to highrise apartment buildings and the courts, at least at the lower level, I understand had ruled that condominiums would be considered as highrise. This, of course, then went to the higher courts and was returned to the OMB for a final decision, because people in condominiums, owning their own property, were being treated in the same manner as highrises which were built as an investment and on which a profit was expected.
We now have various forms of discrimination against people who live in highrise apartments. For instance, the electrical rates charged by Ontario Hydro through the municipalities are commercial rates charged to people living in highrises. They are the only people living in residences who have to pay commercial rates. I spoke on this matter in the House before. It’s not right, but Hydro gets away with it. The only explanation they give is to say the landlord is running it as a business so they charge him commercial rates. But don’t forget, that rate is passed along to the tenants living in the highrise. It’s reflected in their rent and they are paying more for their electricity than are people living in single family homes.
We had the same situation here -- people living in condominiums who, in fact, did own their own unit were paying more in taxation. I think the minister must give some explanation of where this newspaper report came from, which said that this was going to be a saving of $200 to the average condominium owner. If the minister isn’t going to take responsibility for that statement, let him at least tell us how the press picked it up and from whence it came; because with this change in the Assessment Act, the assessment on condominiums from now until 1976 should be reduced from about 25 per cent of market value to about 17 or 20 per cent.
Then comes the crunch, in 1976 for taxation in 1977, everything will be assessed at market value, and this is still the big problem and the big doubt in the minds of those of us here in the opposition. Since 1969, when the province took over the assessment function and agreed on market value assessment, we have all had very serious reservations about what is going to happen, particularly with the shift of taxation from industrial and commercial to residential assessment.
It has always been that the person living in a single family house or the person owning his own house must be given the utmost consideration. In no way should the burden of taxation bear heavily on him or her because they just can’t afford to lose their house. We can put the burden of taxation more on commercial and industrial because they have someone to pass it along to -- to us, the consumers. It is a very serious business when we start to depend on single family residences or condominiums as a major source of revenue. It just shouldn’t be, because a person’s house should be something which should not be jeopardized by excessive taxation.
When the 1976 assessment does come along for 1977, we are going to find that all classes of residential property -- single family, row housing, condominiums, town housing, highrise -- will automatically revert to 100 per cent of market value. In other words, if single-family houses are now assessed at 20 per cent, they will be multiplied by five. If a highrise is now 50 per cent, it will be multiplied by two.
As I understand it, with the amendments we put in the Municipal Act last year, the differential mill rate -- which now is a 15 per cent spread for municipal taxation and only a 10 per cent spread for education tax -- will be applied to those market value assessments. Unless this government comes up with something more dramatic than it has talked about up to now, there is going to be very great inequity when that taxation comes through.
It just isn’t going to work with a 15 per cent differential mill rate, because we are going to have too big a shift from industrial to residential; I have great reservations about that. I think the time is getting so close to hand -- a year from now -- that the minister has to come up with something more definite, something so that people may allay their fears.
I have heard talk around that there may be a difference in the differential from one municipality to another. If a 15 per cent differential works in Kitchener, it may not work in Belleville or may not work in Toronto. That still is going to throw all classes of residential property into the one bundle, the one ball of wax as the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent) would say.
Whether or not that is going to work, I think the minister has certainly had sufficient time to complete the studies which were started -- it must be two or three years ago in the Mississauga area -- to try to figure out what these shifts would eventually amount to.
I think this bill may be the last vehicle we will have to debate the implications of market value assessment on taxation and the shift in property tax. I would invite a very thorough response from the minister as to what effect this will have in the light of the announced market value assessment for 1976 or 1977 taxation.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Mr. Speaker, first, as the minister responsible for the Condominium Act, I have a special interest in this amendment. Also, as the representative of an area where there is a wide variety of condominium development, I have a special interest in it. As the hon. member for Ottawa West (Mr. Morrow) said, there was a great deal of discussion about condominium assessment on a variety of buildings and the inequities are as varied as the different kinds of condominium units. Certainly, there have been inequities.
I think most members of this House recognize that condominium development is a relatively new concept and we are not going to achieve the kind of instant reform and instant perfection that the member for Yorkview (Mr. Young) would have us achieve. There are many problems still remaining to be settled in the whole concept of condominium ownership.
With regard to the comments of the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Good), I think it is wise to deal with the immediate problems and deal with them as they arise.
Mrs. Campbell: Like knowing where you are going.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: There is a great deal of speculation as to what effect this will have on the total market value reassessment of all properties in the province. I am sure the minister will be able to respond to that at least in some hypothetical way. At the present time we are dealing with a measure which will have great benefits to condominium owners across the province. It will bring them into the same kind of ownership that was visualized when the first condominium Act is brought in.
Mr. Cassidy: Is it?
Hon. Mr. Handleman: I think it should be recognized that this province and this government is farther advanced in the development of the condominium ownership concept than any other jurisdiction in Canada, and probably in North America with the possible exception of Florida.
Mrs. Campbell: What about the universe?
Hon. Mr. Handleman: We are saying that this is a measure to bring more equity into -- condominium ownership, one which is highly --
Mr. Cassidy: The ancient Romans had condominiums; the minister can’t claim that for this government.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: We are talking about giving equity to condominium ownership in the area of assessment. This bill will do it.
Mr. Cassidy: Who is the minister against Julius Caesar?
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Where was the member? There are, as I have said, a number of different kinds of condominiums and I must say that in my own constituency --
Mr. Good: Just a shot in the dark.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: -- there was not that great problem in the disparity of condominium assessment between privately-owned homes and condominiums -- simply because there had been an appeal to the courts on highrise assessment which resulted in a reduction of highrise assessment. That brought the condominium down. This will bring them even further down.
I don’t know what statements the hon. members are referring to in the press, but we have done some calculations in the Ottawa area. I am sure the member for Ottawa Centre, when he speaks on the bill, as I know he is going to, will accept the fact that this amendment will result, on the average in the Ottawa area in tax reductions of between $150 to $200 per year. I am sure every member in the House will welcome that kind of further measure of equity in the concept of condominium ownership.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: I have brought to the attention of some of the other ministers some of the other problems which still remain to be ironed out to provide equity in condominium ownership. This amendment at least removes the discrimination which did exist in the case of highrise condominium assessment. To what extent it should be welcomed by all members of the House.
Mr. Speaker: Perhaps in view of the hour we might adjourn the debate.
Mr. Cassidy: Can I say a couple of words before we adjourn the meeting?
Mr. Speaker: If you wish to keep an eye on the clock.
Mr. Cassidy: With a view to further debate, I would like to resume on the next day.
Mr. Speaker: Of course, if you would adjourn the debate it will be your turn.
Mr. Cassidy: I want to mark this occasion, since 2½ years ago I introduced a bill for rent control and security of tenure in this Legislature, which measures have now been adopted by the government. The details may be lacking but the principle has certainly been accepted. During the course of this election campaign I put forward a programme on condominium assessment and I feel rather happy to see that adopted by the government.
I have a few other bills that I have been putting forward. I thought they were in vain in the past. If the government would wish to adopt them some time before the end of the week, it would make me very happy.
Mr. Speaker: Now, will you adjourn the debate?
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Having said that, will the member adjourn the debate?
Mr. Cassidy: Having said that, yes, just in a friendly kind of way. I do have some comments on the bill itself and on the amazing coincidence that a government could overlook this rather scandalous situation for many years until the exigencies of a minority suddenly gave them the degree of responsiveness and sensitivity that one hasn’t seen for rather a number of decades.
Mr. Cassidy moves the adjournment of the debate.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, before moving the adjournment of the House I would just like to remind members of the Legislature that tomorrow we will have Throne debate during the course of the morning.
Hon. Mr. Welch moves the adjournment of the House.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 10:35 p.m.