The House met at 10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker: Statements by the ministry.
Mr. Breithaupt: There’s not much choice.
CLASSIFICATION OF LAND
Mr. Lewis: May I ask the Minister of Agriculture and Food: Is he prepared to table before the Legislature the various classes of land which give the breakdown of the alternative land for agricultural production which he has been saying exists across the province?
Hon. W. Newman: I am not prepared to table it at this time until we have done our total final analysis on it.
Mr. Lewis: By way of supplementary, it is my understanding that the food land branch now has the ascribed value of that land right across the province. In view of the categorical assertions the minister has been making as to its amount, is he saying he will not table this or that he will table it at a given point in time?
Hon. W. Newman: At the appropriate time I am quite prepared to, when I am satisfied we have got all the details to detail it properly in the House.
Mr. MacDonald: Why are you making the statement without the details?
Mr. Ruston: Can I ask the minister when he is considering tabling this, would he consider also assessing the heat units that are available in those districts so that we will then know the production capacity of that land?
Hon. W. Newman: By and large, we have the necessary charts now, showing the heat units right across the province. I assume the member is asking me to break it down by acres per heat unit in the various heat-unit levels. Is that what he is asking?
Mr. Ruston: Yes, the various references and categories of heat units, if possible.
Hon. W. Newman: I would think that could be done.
Mr. Swart: Is the minister aware that the federal government is doing a climatic overlay on the soil classifications, and will that be included in the final report?
Mr. S. Smith: It means beat units in simple terms.
Mr. Mancini: Tell him what heat units are. Explain it to him.
Mr. Sweeney: Get your shovel out.
Hon. W. Newman: I am aware that the feds are doing some work. I do not know what they are doing in detail, as they have not indicated to me exactly what they are doing. As far as the overlay is concerned, we haven’t any details from Ottawa.
Mr. Lewis: Has the Minister of Natural Resources yet accumulated the information we asked for in his estimates on the various forest licences in Ontario and the breakdown as to the management and operational contracts -- the information he said he would be tabling?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I am not sure about the information that the hon. member requires. I believe he wanted to look at the management and operational plans.
Mr. Lewis: And the extent of reforestation in the individual licensed areas, et cetera.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would point out to the hon. member there are some 175 management and operational plans on various companies.
Mr. Renwick: That’s what we want to see.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: If the Leader of the Opposition has a specific request --
Mr. Deans: No, we want them all.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would have to bring them down in truckloads, really.
Mr. Deans: That’s fine.
Mr. Lewis: That’s fine. We have worked in the basement of the ministry before.
Hon. Mr. Davis: You have worked in several basements.
Mr. MacDonald: That’s where we get the facts you are sitting on.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Via pipeline.
Mr. Lewis: I would be pleased to know.
By way of supplementary, during the estimates, if I remember, the minister indicated he felt he could bring that material together and make it available to members of the Legislature or to those who ask. Is he saying now that’s not possible?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I am not saying that at all. If memory serves me correctly, I believe I said that I would discuss the magnitude of the question with my senior officials. I have done that. The problem is a large one and there is a massive amount of information. And there is a certain amount of confidential information in those management plans.
Mr. Lewis: Aha!
Hon. Mr. Bernier: If the Leader of the Opposition has a specific request for a specific company, we would be glad to co-operate as fully as possible.
Mr. Deans: How can we tell if we are getting it all?
Mr. MacDonald: It may be useful for you to examine them for your own purposes.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Renwick: By way of a supplementary question --
Mr. Speaker: I believe the member for Port Arthur was on his feet first.
Mr. Foulds: Supplementary: Is one of the problems the fact that the minister does not have enough unit foresters in the field, so that there are some management units without plans drawn up?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, not to my knowledge.
Mr. Lewis: We will make the request.
Mr. Lewis: May I ask the Minister of Community and Social Services, is he aware of the Halnor House undertaking in the Delhi area and the wish to receive funding from the ministry for this rehabilitative undertaking, which funding the various groups felt they had received approval for or, if not approval, some indication of support for, and now it is not available? Is the minister going to reverse that decision?
Hon. Mr. Taylor: I am familiar with that particular situation. As the Leader of the Opposition may very well know, it was operated under health grants and was not provided for in my ministry’s budget. We had indicated that funding would be available in the 1978-79 fiscal year, but we would assume that alternative funding would be provided in the 1977-78 fiscal year.
Mr. Lewis: By way of supplementary, if I understand the minister’s question, is he saying he will facilitate the alternative funding?
Hon. Mr. Taylor: I am saying in brief that I am impressed with the operation -- I want to make that clear -- as far as my own personal opinion is concerned. I will co-operate in every way possible to assist, whether it’s alternative funding or what have you, and I am prepared to continually re-examine the situation. But what I am saying is that I cannot guarantee support financing from my ministry at this time.
FAMILY BENEFITS RATES
Mr. Lewis: A question for the same minister: What success has he had with his cabinet colleagues over increases in the family benefits and general welfare allowances, which haven’t been increased in many months?
Hon. Mr. Taylor: As a matter of fact, I think the last increase was in May 1975.
Mr. Lewis: Right.
Hon. Mr. Taylor: May I say it is my firm opinion that there should be an upward adjustment of those payments. Accordingly, I have instructed my staff to prepare a submission on the matter, which I will bring forward through to the policy field and, of course, to Management Board.
Mr. Deans: It will be May 1977 before you can deal with it.
TRAINING SCHOOL DEATH
Mr. Lewis: I was hoping the Minister of Health (Mr. F. S. Miller) or the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birth) would be here. May I ask the Premier a question in the absence of other ministers?
Has the Premier had an opportunity to read some of the inquest material and analysis on the Norma Dean inquest? If he has, might it be possible for the government to undertake some kind of inquiry -- something akin to the Willard inquiry in Huronia -- into some of the practices which Thistletown appears to use in the treatment of adolescents, and maybe also make an effort at some way of coordinating the activities among agencies and ministries, the fashion of which emerges as deficient in the inquest?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have not had an opportunity yet to read the material from the inquest; I will be doing that some time next week, along with reading the reaction of those ministries that have some involvement with respect to that particular case. What will emerge from that, I wouldn’t want to predetermine until I have had an opportunity to look at it. I don’t know that the word “inquiry” would be the proper terminology to use, but whether some form of study as a result of some of those recommendations would be worthwhile, I don’t want to prejudge until I have had an opportunity to study the material myself personally and to discuss it with my colleagues, which I would expect I shall be doing the latter part of next week.
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Natural Resources: Given the fact that once a mining claim is staked, a certain amount of work has to be done on it each year, I believe, why did his ministry allow Hollinger and certain other companies to stake claims in 1975 and 1976 right in the middle of Sudbury’s water supply, namely Lake Wanapitei? What was the logic in that, now that they have to go and work on that claim right in the middle of the water supply?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Speaker, this is a normal situation where the mining industry does have the right to move into certain areas where it thinks there is mineral potential. The member was quite right in saying there was a claim staked on Lake Wanapitei. Further staking has been stopped as of November 17, 1976.
We have been in discussion with the Hollinger people and they have agreed to postpone any drilling operations on that particular area of Wanapitei Lake until we have satisfactory proof, along with the co-operation of the Ministry of the Environment, that no damage will occur to the water supply of those communities. I have advised them of that.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary -- I thank the minister for his answer: I ask if, by satisfactory proof, he can assure the House that he will be requesting, through his colleague, the Minister of the Environment, an environmental impact assessment before any drilling and work be done? Furthermore, will he be in a legal position to do that without jeopardizing the claim of Hollinger? The rule at the moment is that they are forced to do work even if they don’t want to in order to keep up their claim.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would advise the hon. member that we’re working very closely with the Ministry of the Environment and I can assure him we’ll make sure that there is no damage to the water supply to those communities.
Mr. Laughren: Has the minister access or does his ministry have access to the information already accumulated by Hollinger as to the size of the ore body in that immediate vicinity?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No.
Mr. S. Smith: A final supplementary on this: Perhaps it’s just an oversight -- the minister mentioned that Hollinger has agreed; have the other companies agreed as well? Can he take some steps to guarantee that in future mining claims won’t be handed out right in the middle of major water supplies?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Those other people involved -- at least, the owner of the claim has shown his desire to co-operate fully. As we move around into other areas, of course, we will make sure no water supply is placed in jeopardy.
SALE OF LAND IN HAMILTON
Mr. S. Smith: A question for the Minister of Housing -- good morning, Jack.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Good morning.
Mr. S. Smith: Can he explain why it is that government-owned land on Hamilton Mountain, the large acreage there, is being released for sale, bit by bit, in very small quantities at speculative prices, rather than in large quantities all at once which might help to drive down the price of land in Hamilton?
Mr. Deans: I asked Stanley Randall that in 1968. Give him the same answer. Do you remember me asking that?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I remember it.
Mr. Deans: Tell him the same answer.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. Minister of Housing is answering now, thank you.
Mr. Moffatt: He can hang on his own words now.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Minister of Housing.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Wentworth suggests the question was answered in 1968; perhaps the member would like to read Hansard of that time?
Mr. Nixon: Maybe the minister would.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Yes, the minister probably would like to read that.
Mr. MacDonald: I knew you were looking for a cop-out.
Mr. Reid: Compare the answers.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Mr. Speaker, I cannot give an answer to the hon. member at this time as to how that land is being sold --
Mr. Reid: The same answer as in 1968.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Is that the same one?
Mr. Deans: The answer in 1968 was that you weren’t going into competition with private enterprise. That was the answer in 1968.
Mr. Nixon: That’s not bad.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: I won’t give the same answer but what I would be prepared to do is to find out for the hon. member exactly what procedures are going on. I will make the information available.
Mr. Peterson: In 1982?
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: No, in 1976, probably before this session rises.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, do I take it from the minister’s answer that as major a policy as to the way in which the government is handling its large land bank is outside the awareness of the Minister of Housing? In answering that can he also undertake to tell us exactly how much speculative gain has been made so far by this carefully orchestrated way of dripping little bits of land on to the market in order to support the inflated land values already in existence in Hamilton?
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: First of all, with the greatest respect to the hon. member, I am not totally aware as the minister -- nor do I suppose he would be if he were -- of what may be happening in various land sales being carried on by the Ontario Housing Corporation.
Mr. S. Smith: It is a major policy.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Let me say, though, it is interesting to have the hon. member suggest there’s a problem as far as land speculation is concerned. We all recognize that, perhaps, has been given some profile as being a problem. By the same token, to put large tracts of land on the market at what he would consider to be lower prices -- and I don’t disagree with that approach -- obviously is going to put land in the hands of persons who may very well end up selling it at what he would then come back and attack me for: speculative prices.
Mr. S. Smith: The minister can stop that. He can force them --
Mr. Sargent: Supplementary: Knowing that he inherited this mess -- it wasn’t his own doing -- would the minister tell me if it is still government policy that he cannot release the minutes --
Mr. S. Smith: He’s right, too.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Talking of inherited messes --
Mr. Sargent: Does the Premier want to answer this? He’s the one who should.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am just talking about inherited messes.
Mr. Sargent: Is it government policy that the minutes of the Ontario Housing Corporation cannot be opened to the House? Secondly, do we have to have a resolution of the House to force him to open the minutes of this meeting regarding the Saltfleet development?
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: In response to the question from the masked man, I wanted to say --
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: The member knows there have been tabled in this House, I believe on two occasions, the very documents he asked for concerning the sale of land and the purchase of land by Ontario Housing over the past number of years. If the hon. member is referring to the notice of motion already on the order paper I think he is well aware, from discussions we have had in estimates with him and the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Singer), that we are attempting to find out what the legal position is on tabling the minutes of Ontario Housing Corporation.
I am quite satisfied that these minutes can be tabled if we can be assured legally we are not placing anyone’s rights in jeopardy due to the fact that third parties are involved in the minutes. We have to clarify that with the legal people to determine what position we would be in, what position the members of the Ontario Housing Corporation board would be in, and what are the rights of the individuals whose names are mentioned in those minutes.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. That question has really nothing to do with the original question which had to do with -- order, please. The original question had to do with land transactions --
Mr. Sargent: Why are you protecting this man?
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I’m not protecting anyone. Will the hon. member take his seat, please. I was just pointing out that in a spirit of generosity I had allowed that supplementary question although it was not supplementary to the original question which had to do. I say again, with land transactions in Hamilton. The member for Hamilton West.
Mr. S. Smith: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, your generosity is appreciated. To finish that particular line, have I the assurance of the Minister of Housing that we will be provided with a record of what speculative profit the government has realized from the sale of land so far on Hamilton Mountain?
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: I certainly will bring the necessary information. The hon. member can then determine for himself whether it is to be considered speculative or not.
I do hope the columnist for the Toronto Star has not started a lot of this by suggesting that my ministry was low profile. It’s causing me some problems this morning.
Mr. S. Smith: That is a great profile. That’s a Barrymore profile.
MERCURY IN LAKES
Mr. S. Smith: A question for the Minister of Industry and Tourism. Can he amplify the comments he made on the radio this morning when he said there were several lakes and rivers in Ontario with higher mercury levels than the English-Wabigoon river system? Could he give us a list of these particular lakes and rivers? Could he tell us whether the mercury in each of those instances is from industrial or natural sources as best as it can be determined?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: If the leader of the third party had continued to listen to my statement, I said the information was with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment. I was making a very general comment on the fact that it related to bad publicity for Ontario.
Mr. Foulds: Muddled, too.
Mr. Nixon: Were you out for breakfast again?
Mr. Deans: Are you like this after breakfast every morning?
Mr. S. Smith: All right; take it easy. I’ll redirect to the Minister of Natural Resources and remind him that on November 1, I asked if he would table a list of the lakes in Ontario which have unacceptable levels of industrial pollutants. Would he undertake again to table that list? Could he comment on the statement made by his fellow minister that there are several lakes and rivers in Ontario with higher mercury levels than the English and Wabigoon river systems? Would he please tell us what they are and whether they are industrial or natural?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The hon. member is quite right; he did ask me for that information. My staff have been working on that information for the past several weeks now. I just want to point out to the hon. member that it is an effort of some magnitude, because we have well over 600 lakes in the province of Ontario that have some form of pollution.
Mr. MacDonald: It sounds as though the job is overwhelming you.
Mr. S. Smith: What about his statement, Leo?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We’re pulling this information together. In fact, my staff says it’s over 600 lakes now. Once this information is available, I’ll make it available to the House and to the hon. members.
Mr. Reid: Supplementary: Would the minister agree with the Minister of Industry and Tourism’s statement that there are lakes with higher mercury levels than the English-Wabigoon and can he identify them for us?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I haven’t seen the full report of the testing that has been done on all the lakes in the province of Ontario, and I’m not really aware of what the Minister of Industry and Tourism said.
Mr. Reid: But the Minister of Industry and Tourism has --
Mr. MacDonald: Maybe he has got the information and you haven’t
Mr. S. Smith: If you don’t have it, how come he has it? He must have secret information in the cellar.
AIR POLLUTION IN HAMILTON
Mr. S. Smith: A question to the Minister of the Environment, if I might: Could the minister explain what policies he intends to follow with regard to the fact that the Steel Company of Canada continues to put approximately 36 million pounds of sulphur dioxide into the air each year in Hamilton, whereas Dofasco has introduced a process that reduces that considerably? What is the minister going to do to force the Steel Company to clean up?
Hon. W. Newman: He could go for a swim.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Stelco was under an emission control order. They have substantially reduced their SO² emissions since the inception of that control order, about 1971 or 1972. They have reduced their SO² emissions each year.
Mr. S. Smith: That’s not true.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: They are in compliance with that control order, which hasn’t expired yet; it has a year or so to go.
As far as Dofasco is concerned, the hon. member is correct. By changing their whole process in the main mill, they have been more successful than Stelco as far as their SO² emissions are concerned. However, the hon. member should realize that Stelco is a bigger plant than Dofasco, and when we measure emissions we measure the total property of each company. As I say, the reduction in SO² emissions from both plants, including Stelco, has been substantial and they are in compliance.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, will the minister not admit that 36 million pounds of sulphur dioxide was the precise figure that was being released into the air five years ago? Will he furthermore not admit that Stelco may seem to be in compliance partly because he refuses, and his ministry refuses, actually to measure the emissions at source and insists on measuring them a considerable distance away? If Dofasco could clean up, then why can’t Stelco clean up?
Hon. Mr. Kerr: If the hon. member is suggesting that the emissions from Stelco, have not been reduced in the last five years, he is wrong, absolutely wrong. Stelco has reduced its emissions.
Mr. S. Smith: Per ton they have been reduced.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: They have reduced their emissions. They are in compliance under a control order. There is no legal way we can require that plant to convert its production facilities in the way that Dofasco did.
Mr. S. Smith: Tax them.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: All we can do is require them to comply with certain emission levels, and we are doing that.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, would the minister not accept that possibly the only way we are ever going to get them to clean up is to tax them per pound of sulphur dioxide that they force down the lungs of the people of Hamilton?
Hon. W. Newman: Is that what you would do?
Mr. S. Smith: Yes.
Hon. IV. Newman: How much a ton?
Mr. Eakins: Bill, you are retiring.
Mr. Nixon: You are not going to run again, Bill, or you would be Minister of Welfare.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
TIMMINS HIGHWAY ACCIDENT
Mr. Ferrier: I’d like to ask a question of the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development. Will the provincial secretary discuss with the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow) the report of the unfortunate highway accident last Sunday night on Highway 144, south of Highway 101 in Timmins, where eight people were killed? Will the minister ascertain what was the condition of the road and will he find out whether the narrowness of Highway 144 was a contributing factor to this accident?
Hon. Mr. Irvine: Yes, I will.
Mr. Laughren: Supplementary: Will the minister ask his colleague, the Minister of Transportation and Communications, as well to improve winter maintenance on Highway 144 and also to investigate the possibility of adding a couple of feet to the width of the highway running from Sudbury to Timmins?
Hon. Mr. Irvine: Yes, I’ll discuss that.
FORZE NUOVE NEWSPAPER
Mr. Eakins: I have a question for the Minister of Industry and Tourism. Is the minister aware or concerned regarding the disbursement of public funds in advertising, which comes under his department, in the newspaper known as Forze Nuove, whose editorial staff contains three members of the Legislature here and which newspaper is clearly a partisan political newspaper? Has the minister read the newspaper himself and would he comment?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: No, I have not read the newspaper myself. I have been aware for some time that this particular publication had three members of the Legislature on its board of directors or on its management team. On inquiring from people within my ministry and checking it through, it’s still a bona fide publication as far as the media are concerned.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Some of your people are on it.
Mr. Lewis: What do you mean? That’s what makes it bona fide.
Mr. Nixon: They interview each other.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Eakins: Is the minister aware that up until last June the mailing address for the newspaper was the constituency office for the member for Downsview? Is the minister aware that the December issue, which shows Christie Street as being the address, still has the return address as the hon. member’s constituency office? Would the minister comment please?
An hon. member: Oh!
Mr. Nixon: Why don’t you give them money?
Mr. Eakins: That’s right. Has the minister read the newspaper?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: No, I have not read the newspaper.
Mr. Eakins: I think you should.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: It’s been drawn to my attention, may I say. But even the Leader of the Opposition is aware of the fact that three of his members happen to be associated with that particular publication.
Mr. Reid: It’s all right for them --
Mr. Eakins: But has the minister read the paper?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: No, other than I’ve been told that the editorial seems --
Mr. Eakins: You should get a subscription.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: -- to relate to a certain political party in Ontario that is not for the free enterprise system but which is obviously willing to accept a profit in the operation of that particular function.
Mr. Reid: It’s called living off the avails, I think.
An hon. member: They’re prepared to take public funds, aren’t they?
Mr. Reid: It’s sort of don’t do as I do, do as I say.
Mr. Spence: Shenanigans.
Mr. Eakins: Does the minister approve of this advertising?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: If there is some use of public funds for a constituency office, which is also being used as a mailing address or as the head office for this publication, I would say the responsibility should be directed to you, sir, as the Speaker of the Legislature.
Mr. Eakins: Is the minister in charge of the funds?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: As to the editorial content, we are aware of what it relates to. We still feel it is a publication that circulates in a given portion of Metropolitan Toronto. The ministry, through its advertising agency, believes the paper should still be awarded advertising from the government of Ontario in the information programme.
Mr. Eakins: I’d like a donation for my brochure then.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I beg your pardon?
Mr. Foulds: Don’t you send out a member’s report?
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Is this a question?
Mr. Cunningham: By way of supplementary, what is that advertising agency?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: It’s Foster Advertising. If the member would look it up, that is part of the overall advertising programme. It is not the one he’d like to think it is.
Mr. Peterson: Who is that?
Mr. di Santo: On a point of privilege, I should say, Mr. Speaker, that the newspaper in which I am involved, whose name is Forze Nuove, hasn’t been published since June because of lack of funds. I think we should have more advertising from the government.
Mr. Reid: You’ve got to give them credit.
Mr. Breithaupt: Only in the public interest, of course.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. We cannot hear the hon. member.
Mr. di Santo: I should also bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, that our paper -- and when I say “our,” I mean a group of progressive people in Toronto who do not --
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member is supposed to be speaking on his matter of privilege.
Mr. di Santo: I’m trying, Mr. Speaker. The paper was set up by a group of people with non-profit purposes, and the reason the mailing address was in my office was that before the constituency office was founded, I still rented that office with my riding association, through the money of the riding association. So I think the comments of the hon. member are completely irrelevant.
Mr. Reid: You would.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: No, no, right on.
Mr. Reid: If it was Liberal or Conservative, it would be headlines in the Star.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order, please. This is getting to be a debate now. I understand the mailing address has been changed, so I’m interested in that bit of information.
Mr. Reid: The December issue for 1976 --
Mr. Speaker: All right. Thank you very much. We’ll check into that matter.
TORONTO WORKSHOP THEATRE
Mr. Foulds: A question of the Premier in the absence of the Minister of Culture and Recreation (Mr. Welch): Is the Premier or the government aware of the threat to the Toronto Workshop Productions Theatre, which apparently may be demolished within a six-month period because of a development that is taking place in that area? Is there any way that the government, through a co-ordinated effort on the part of the Ministry of Culture and Recreation and the Ministry of Housing, along with municipal officials, can ensure a development will take place that will maintain the theatre in the location that it presently has, since the theatre has contributed so much to the development of theatre, not only in Toronto but in Canada, and is internationally known?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I notice the Minister of Culture and Recreation is at this moment going to have a conversation with the House leader of the member’s own party, and perhaps when that conversation is finished he may be in a position to answer that more directly. But in case the conversation with the NDP House leader does not allow the Minister of Culture and Recreation to be here to answer directly, I will discuss it with him. One of us will have an answer for the member some time early next week.
Mr. Foulds: In a supplementary directed to the Premier that the Minister of Culture and Recreation can overhear --
Hon. Ms. Davis: I don’t like the word “overhear,” but he certainly can hear.
Mr. Foulds: -- does the Premier not think that if it is a viable and just expenditure of funds to save the arenas of the province -- and I think it is -- it is also a viable and just expenditure of provincial funds to save so valuable a theatre?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I really don’t want to go into a long dissertation as to this government’s record in the promotion and development of cultural events and attractions --
Mr. S. Smith: Take 10 seconds and give us the whole thing.
Mr. MacDonald: Do you always emphasize the irrelevant and discard the relevant?
Mr. Reid: The way you people dance around the answers, you make the National Ballet look like amateurs.
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- but I certainly would be proud in so doing, because it is a record that I think bears repetition time and time again. I’m sure the hon. member is aware of just how much we have done as a government in terms of the development of theatre, the ballet, the art galleries, the museums and so many of these cultural things.
As it relates to this particular theatre, I will discuss it with the Minister of Culture and Recreation.
GAME BIRD HATCHERY
Mr. O’Neil: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources. I wonder if the minister could tell us what the intention of his ministry is concerning the Ontario Game Bird Hatchery at Codrington?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Speaker, I will get the information and be glad to give it to the member.
PELEE ISLAND POLICING
Hon. Mr. MacBeth: Mr. Speaker, the Legislature will recall that on Friday last the member for Essex South asked a question about policing services on Pelee Island. I have reviewed the situation and am able to provide the following information:
The incident that prompted the member’s question was an alleged assault on a Pelee Island resident by four young people. The resident telephoned the OPP detachment in Essex at 6:45 p.m., Saturday, November 20, and identified the youths, asking to see an officer that evening in order to lay charges.
At 7 p.m., the corporal at the detachment was made aware of the occurrence and attempted to contact Constable Sheppard, who was the officer on Pelee Island throughout the summer months. The corporal reached Constable Sheppard at 12:30 a.m. on November 21, and instructed him to attend to the matter that day.
Approval was given for a chartered flight to the island but due to weather conditions Constable Sheppard was unable to go. He attempted to telephone the complainant on Sunday morning between 8:30 and noon but was unsuccessful. However, he was able to reach the township clerk and requested her to contact the complainant and to say that he would take the ferry from Kingsville and arrive at the island at 7 on Monday morning.
Constable Sheppard did reach the island at that time. Private informations were subsequently laid against the four youths and the complainant is satisfied.
Considering the weather conditions, the OPP acted as quickly as possible. The chartered flights which are available to the force do not fly at night except in extreme emergency. They do not fly in unfavourable weather because there is no instrument landing equipment at Pelee Island airport. There is a scheduled airmail flight to the island every day except Sunday, the day Constable Sheppard needed transportation. Weather conditions prevented the ferry from operating on that day as well.
Because of the small number of residents on Pelee Island during the winter, the force does not maintain full-time personnel there between October and April. During the rest of the year, an officer visits the island on a weekly basis unless called for a specific occurrence.
In view of the small number of year-round residents and the present budgetary constraints, it is not possible to justify a full-time posting. However, in view of the special problems on Pelee Island, I have requested the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police to review the force’s procedures there and at the present time they are being stepped up.
SENIOR CITIZEN RENT SUBSIDY
Mr. Deans: Mr. Speaker, a question of the Premier: Does the Premier recall that during the last election campaign he said he would be prepared to introduce a rent subsidy programme for senior citizens? Given that we don’t seem to be able to build a sufficient number of units to accommodate all those who are in need, would the Premier consider introducing that rent subsidy programme now in order to alleviate some considerable hardship felt by a great number of seniors in the province of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I don’t recall the exact reference. I can recall many things said during the last election --
Mr. Deans: Does the Premier remember the times when he thought he was going to lose?
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- both by me and many others, I might add.
Mr. Peterson: If you can’t answer that one, answer any other problems.
Mr. Speaker: order please.
Hon. Mr. Davis: If that is a supplementary from the member for London Centre, I can remember some of the things he said which I know now he wishes he hadn’t.
Hon. Mr. Davis: This is no place for him to start his leadership campaign. Do it outside the House.
Mr. Lewis: You are feeling expansive, aren’t you?
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Breithaupt: We can’t have politics in here.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I told the member for Kitchener that he should have been in the campaign. Does he remember my telling him that?
Mr. Breithaupt: With my luck, I would win.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: With our luck, you would.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, that has to be the most revealing statement of the morning.
I will take a look at what I said and see whether I can explain it early next week in words which will be understood. I don’t think I really referred to a rent supplement. I think there were one or two other ideas but I will check very carefully because I wouldn’t want, in any way, to state something here this morning that wasn’t said a year ago last October.
Mr. Peterson: Get on to other problems -- don’t worry.
SEVERN PARK DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Riddell: A question of the Minister of Natural Resources: Is the minister aware that the Ontario Provincial Police properties branch has chosen the Severn Park property for a new detachment office and is still awaiting word from the Ministry of Government Services as to whether this property could be acquired and that the OPP has still not been informed that this property has been given away by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Riddell: Will the minister notify the OPP that this property has been given away? Will he inform this House as to who runs the show over there -- the cabinet ministers or the minister of all portfolios, Lorne Henderson?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Davis: He does upset you, doesn’t he? You shouldn’t let him get to you.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: A big man, a big responsibility.
FOOD SERVICES STAFF
Ms. Sandeman: A question of the Minister of Government Services: Is the Minister of Government Services aware that women employed as waitresses in the dining room and the snack bar of the Legislative Assembly are now earning less on an annual basis than they were in October, 1975?
Hon. Mrs. Scrivener: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of this but I think perhaps this is a matter to be referred to the Board of Internal Economy. The dining rooms are under the Speaker’s jurisdiction.
Mr. Nixon: It is those big tips.
Ms. Sandeman: A supplementary: Would the minister undertake to look into that and bring it to the attention of the Speaker? The things she should be looking at are practices which I believe are unfair to those employees. Is she aware, for instance, that last year employees were paid for holidays and this year they are not? Now they are being asked to pay for food. I think perhaps she could take this matter under advisement, as she is responsible for employees in this building.
Hon. Mrs. Scrivener: Mr. Speaker, I am entirely sympathetic with this impassioned appeal but I have no jurisdiction.
HYDRO POWER REDUCTION
Mr. B. Newman: I have a question for the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development: In light of the announcement by his colleague the Minister of Energy (Mr. Timbrell), that due to technical difficulties we had brownouts last night, would the minister request him to look into the feasibility of reopening the J. Clark Keith generating station so that we would overcome any future technical difficulties and see there is sufficient power for the province of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Irvine: I will be delighted to discuss the matter with my colleague.
Mr. B. Newman: Thank you.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, I wanted to ask this question of the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) but I will direct it to the Minister of housing. Is the minister going to investigate, or ask the Treasurer to investigate, the apparent conflict of interest of regional councillor Frank Landry, of Lincoln, as alleged by the CBC programme, Fifth Estate? The regional councillor is reported to have seconded motions to include within the Niagara region urban development boundaries -- which are now before this ministry -- certain lands in which he had a pecuniary interest without declaring such interest?
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: I appreciate the question will now be on the record, but I am afraid the member will have to refer that to the Treasurer for a response on the conflict of interest situation, if one exists. The other factor, of course, is that he places much more credibility in the Fifth Estate programme than I would.
Mr. Swart: A supplementary: Doesn’t the minister think that with the Niagara urban boundaries now before his ministry -- and the alleged conflict of interest could void those boundaries for a period of two years -- he should make an investigation for his own purposes?
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: If the matter the hon. member has brought forth does have some bearing on what will eventually be developed as the official plan of the urban boundaries in the Niagara region, we will look into that.
MORTGAGE INTEREST SUBSIDIES
Mr. Sargent: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier: Due to the fact that during the past month or so we have been going through the public accounts and studying the $187 million bait of first-time home buyer grants in the last election, when is he going to make good his promise to provide a $500 per year income tax credit for homeowners with mortgages over 10 per cent? Is he going to put that into effect this year or is he going to warm it up for the next election, next April?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I would be very prepared to take the hon. member’s advice as to which would be the most appropriate time. I certainly always do take his advice when it’s relevant, which is rarely.
I would say to him that the suggestion, I think, is really one which in more affluent times is still worthy of consideration, although I would argue it should be a national programme rather than a provincial one. As the Treasurer has explained, and I have explained on a number of occasions, the financial constraints of the province, the economy at this moment, would not permit us to consider --
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- what I think is a very worthwhile suggestion.
Mr. Speaker: The oral question period has expired. Before we go on to the next order of business --
Mr. di Santo: A point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: A point of privilege? The member for Downsview.
POINT OF PRIVILEGE
Mr. di Santo: I would like to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that in the last issue of the newspaper to which the member for Victoria-Haliburton was referring, the only address is 580 Christie Street, Apartment 603. There is no mention whatsoever of my constituency office.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Look at the envelope.
Mr. Speaker: I am sorry, I couldn’t hear what was said because there was a bit of background noise, but I shall refer to it in Hansard. Does the hon. member for Victoria-Haliburton have something to say on the same matter?
Mr. Eakins: Just to reply, Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that while the newspaper does show the Christie Street address, the return address on the envelope shows the member’s constituency office number.
Mr. S. Smith: And all previous issues showed that address.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you very much. It was pointed out, I believe.
Mr. Speaker: On Tuesday last the member for Wilson Heights rose on a point of order respecting remarks of the Premier on Monday.
Mr. S. Smith: The Premier is finished.
Mr. Speaker: Before dealing with the specific matter, I should again point out, as I intimated on Tuesday, that if something is said or some incident occurs which is in the opinion of any member out of order, he must raise the point immediately. It cannot be delayed 24 hours or more and then raised. Once the incident has been allowed to pass without objection or has not been caught by the Speaker, that is normally the end of the matter.
However, in view of the fact that this type of allegation has been actively before the House recently and now it has been called to my attention, I feel I should deal with it even though, owing to the uproar in the House at that particular time, I was unable to hear the exchange on Monday last.
I have now consulted Hansard, and I find that after the Premier had answered a question relating to the projected Reed Paper Company development in northwestern Ontario, and outlined the government’s intention, Mr. Lewis is quoted as saying: “At any cost, eh? At any cost?” The Premier took objection to this remark, pointing out that it implied that his specific statement was untrue, at which time he used the expression: “And it is totally irresponsible, misleading to the House and to the public to create any other impression.”
I call the attention of the House to standing order 16(a), paragraph 10, which states that it is out of order to charge another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood, and under this general prohibition it has been clearly stated, both in this House and in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, that it is unparliamentary to accuse another member of deliberately misleading the House. It is quite possible that the remark of the Leader of the Opposition carries an implication that the Premier was not telling the truth.
Mr. Deans: No, no.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. In any event I suggest that it is very clear that the remark does impute an improper motive to the Premier.
Mr. Reid: The other way around.
Mr. Speaker: I refer you to standing order 16(a), paragraph 9. On the other hand, while the phrase “misleading to the House and to the public” does not by itself appear to be worded as an accusation of deliberate intent, I feel that in the context in which it was used it does carry that implication. In view of the recent occurrences, I think the members will agree it is time that they be more careful in their choice of words so that no improper implications may be presumed.
For the above reasons, I feel strongly that the whole exchange was improper and that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Premier should withdraw their remarks.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I certainly wouldn’t want to debate your ruling which I know you have reasoned through very carefully. I too have checked Hansard and I certainly would not in any way disagree with your observations, other than as I read what I said.
Mr. Nixon: You better quit while you are ahead.
Mr. Breithaupt: Just say you are sorry.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The hon. Premier has the floor.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I just want to make it very clear that when I suggested to the Leader of the Opposition -- and I think there is a very distinct difference --
Mr. Lewis: I think there is a difference too.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I want to say at the outset that if you are suggesting to the Leader of the Opposition that he withdraw what he said: “At any cost, any any cost; yes,” I am quite prepared to withdraw that part of my observation, where really I did not say to him that he was deliberately misleading the House -- and I checked the grammar very carefully, which I don’t often do -- I said, “It is totally irresponsible of him,” which I think you would agree, Mr. Speaker, is parliamentary and factual in this case.
Mr. Reid: And normal.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I said that really it was “misleading to the House and to the public,” which is not saying to the Leader of the Opposition that he was deliberately misleading the House.
I have checked certain parliamentary precedents and I would go back to the phrase used by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons where it was ruled proper for him to say that a statement made by one of his opponents represented a terminological inexactitude. That’s the way I would describe what the Leader of the Opposition has said and I would be quite content to withdraw that part of my observations on the understanding, Mr. Speaker, that you’re suggesting to the Leader of the Opposition, that what he says -- “At any cost, at any cost”; which is not true -- also be withdrawn.
Mr. S Smith: Another of the Premier’s finer moments.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Delighted to do it.
Mr. Lewis: On a point of order or privilege relating to your statement, Mr. Speaker, I must say I wish you hadn’t given a clarification; I just want to offer that to you. I wish you hadn’t clarified it because the interpretation which has been given to the exchange which occurred really bothers me.
As a matter of fact, I want to use this opportunity on the point of order to say that I regretted, at the time and subsequently, the use of the phrase “at any cost, at any cost,” because I meant something quite different, as I expressed it, from the interpretation which the Premier put upon it -- although I understand, in the context of that exchange, why the Premier would receive it that way and why he said what he did. In the fracas I missed the precise words. In the nature of this Legislature, I didn’t feel called upon to rise at the moment and ask him to withdraw.
I’m quite happy to leave it that way at this time although I must say, Mr. Speaker, that your interpretation of that event imposes constraints upon some of the exchanges of the House or makes imputation of motive or intent which is really quite astonishing. I don’t think that the clarification has helped very much at all although I appreciate your taking the time to do it.
Hon. Mr. Davis: May I say on a further point of order -- I don’t want to prolong this -- I accept what you have said and I’m really very encouraged by the observations of the Leader of the Opposition. It was not my intent to suggest he was deliberately misleading the House. I may say certain things outside the House -- that’s a different situation.
The reason I am acquiescing, Mr. Speaker, is that I sense in the past two or three weeks, in the very difficult discharge of your responsibilities, you are attempting to bring a slightly greater degree of order to this assembly, to ensure that all of us recognize, in whatever language we use, that there could be interpretations put upon these words which were not necessarily intended. It is with that general feeling, Mr. Speaker, that you are attempting, for all of us, to give some greater direction to the deliberations of this House --
Mr. Nixon: What are you trying to say?
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- that I am not objecting, obviously, to your ruling. I’m delighted to hear the Leader of the Opposition say he didn’t really mean what he said, as I interpreted what he said, by “At any cost at any cost.”
Mr. Lewis: Yes, I meant something else.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Certainly I’m quite prepared to leave the word irresponsible but take out misleading.
Mr. Lewis: I accept that sense of charity from the Premier willingly. Anything as mild as mere irresponsibility attributed to the Leader of the Opposition by the Premier is welcome.
Hon. Mr. Davis: One would think it was December 24.
Mr. Lewis: I want to say, in return, in this friendly way -- and I’m hesitant about being friendly because I know how hard you’re working at creating a division between us --
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am not. I don’t have to work on it.
Mr. Lewis: I can say in this friendly way that, in fact, in terms of strict grammatical usage, the Premier is quite right. There is important difference between misleading the House and misleading to the House. In order to restore our spirit of mutual equanimity and friendship, I thought I’d point that out on his behalf.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you both, hon. gentlemen.
Mr. Kerrio: They never said anything.
Mr. Furrier: This is too much.
Mr. Reid: Mr. Speaker, could we have a clarification of all that, please?
Mr. Speaker: Not from me.
Mr. Breithaupt: Perhaps they could have breakfast together at the top of the CN Tower.
Mr. Speaker: May I finalize this exchange by repeating one sentence in my remarks which was a bit of an admonition, I think, to everyone. In view of the recent occurrences, I think the members will agree that it is time they be more careful in their choice of words so that no improper implications may be presumed. Thank you.
Now, we’ll have petitions.
Mr. Foulds: Round two?
Mr. Speaker: No.
Mr. Kennedy, on behalf of Mr. Villeneuve, from the standing social development committee, presented the committee’s report which was read as follows and adopted:
Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:
Bill 139, An Act respecting Employees’ Health and Safety.
Ordered for third reading.
Mr. Speaker: Motions.
Introduction of bills.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, before orders of the day, I wonder if I might use this opportunity to share with members of the House the tentative schedule for next week.
On Monday afternoon, we thought it might be wise to take into consideration the interim report of the select committee on highway transportation of goods. So with the concurrence of the House will you put that on the order paper and call for that discussion on Monday afternoon? At 5 o’clock, of course, it will be private members’ hour and it will be the turn of the official opposition. There will be no House on Monday evening.
On Tuesday we will hopefully complete the supplementary estimates of the Ministry of Health and then proceed with second readings of Bills 171, 168, 169, 135 and 176, and if time remains we then go into committee of the whole to consider Bill 139 clause by clause.
Wednesday being committee day we then go to Thursday. On Thursday we hope to call for second reading of Bill 170 and then go back into committee of the whole to complete Bill 139, if necessary, and possibly get started on Bill 131 if it is available.
On Friday we would continue with work in committee of the whole if it is required.
Perhaps it would be well to serve notice now that maybe as early as next Friday, but certainly the following Monday we would then be ready to take into consideration order No. 30, which is the motion for adoption of the second interim report of the select committee on the fourth and fifth reports of the Ontario Commission on the Legislature.
If there are no questions, then we might call the order.
Mr. Speaker: Orders of the day.
CREDIT UNIONS AND CAISSES POPULAIRES ACT
Mr. Drea, in the absence of Hon. Mr. Handleman, moved third reading of Bill 97, The Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires Act, 1976.
Mr. Speaker: Does the hon. member for Oshawa wish to make a comment?
Mr. Breaugh: There was a question raised when I chaired that committee that one subsection had been omitted in some form in the printing. I would just like to have the assurance of the Chair that that has been included in the printing -- I believe it was section 70, subsection (2). It was pointed out by one of the members of the committee that they couldn’t find it yesterday and I just want the assurance that that has been included. Has it?
Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, that section is in. There was a suggestion yesterday that it had been deleted; but it’s there, section 70(2).
Motion agreed to.
Bill 149, An Act to amend The Municipal Act.
Bill 150, The Regional Municipalities Amendment Act, 1976.
Bill 151, An Act to amend The District Municipality of Muskoka Act.
Bill 152, An Act to amend The Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act.
Bill 153, An Act to amend The County of Oxford Act, 1974.
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY
Resolutions for supply for the following ministries were concurred in by the House:
Ministry of Natural Resources;
Ministry of the Attorney General;
Ministry of Labour;
Ministry of Energy;
Resources Development policy;
Ministry of Industry and Tourism;
Ministry of the Environment;
Supplementary supply for the Ministry of the Environment.
BUDGET DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resumption of the adjourned debate on the amendment to the amendment to the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr. Deans: I don’t intend to go back to what I said last night other than to make one brief comment on the procedures in the House. Today was another example of what worries me. I do think there was a time -- Mr. Speaker, before you leave -- when the House had a House committee which spoke about rules and talked about the way the rules might be applied. I would like to suggest to you, sir, as you make your way slowly to your chamber, that you give consideration to such a House committee to review certain of the rules and the way they’re interpreted in order that we not only understand them but have some agreement on what the interpretation ought to be, given that it’s always difficult to interpret rules strictly from the language contained in the rule book.
As I was saying last evening about the rent control legislation, I found the whole matter puzzling. It concerns me that the administration of rent control is, if not aimed at certainly accomplishing, the destruction of the relationship between landlord and tenant, even though those landlord and tenant relationships may not have been the best prior to legislation having been brought in.
I was raising with the House a problem which had occurred, the solution to which I found to be amazing, to say the least. Last evening I pointed out that a constituent of mine had applied to the rent review board for a hearing on a proposed rental increase from $180 to $246, and that at the hearing it had been reduced to $189 or $195. My recollection of the actual amount isn’t clear. The landlord had subsequently appealed that decision and during the time the tenant was on vacation the hearing took place. The landlord was granted the entire amount he had requested, about $246.
It puzzled me because there was no rationale or explanation for the decision of the board in the second instance. I wrote to the head office of the board in Toronto asking if they could provide me with the statistical information which would justify the latter decision. Without any reply with regard to that particular letter, they decided, for reasons I don’t understand and I’m sure no one else understands, to reduce the awarded amount from $246 to about $220.
If that’s the way the rent review procedures are going to work, they are not working to the benefit of the landlords, to the benefit of the tenants or toward the fairness of the way we hoped the law would be applied in the province of Ontario.
If it’s simply a matter of a member of the Legislature writing to the board and expressing his or her discontent or sense of upset with the level of rent being allowed, and if that in itself is sufficient to bring about a reduction, I’ve got to say that the procedures set out are in desperate need of review. I want to suggest that ought to be done.
I want to suggest one other point with regard to the rent review procedure. On a number of occasions I’ve raised with the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Handleman), the problem that I believe we will be faced with come August 1977. I don’t yet understand the minister’s answer and I’ve gone through this with him now on at least three occasions. If the law expires at the end of July, 1977, how can a tenant faced with an additional rent increase in any of the months after July, 1977, but within 12 months of the original increase having been enacted, appeal under the law which now exists but which will expire, that the landlord has broken the law?
What court can a tenant go to to have enforced a law which is no longer a law in the province of Ontario? I say there is a need in this Legislature for the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry), perhaps, or for the Provincial Secretary for Justice (Mr. MacBeth), to explain to us what the protection will be. What is the nature of the protection tenants will have when the law currently in force expires at the end of July, 1977, given that the landlord decides to impose a further rent increase in August or September or October, within the 12-month period which would have commenced when the last increase was either approved or put in force?
I can’t understand how we can expect the law officers of the Crown or for that matter the judges of the province of Ontario to take into account and to enforce a law which is no longer a law in the province. Maybe somebody in this House can explain to me what the nature will be of the protection that will be afforded to tenants starting on August 1, 1977. How are we going to combat the attempts which will he made -- and there’s no question they’ll be made.
It’s not hypothetical because landlords are currently asking tenants to sign six-month leases which will expire at the end of July. It’s not a hypothetical question and I want to know the answer. I want to know what this government is going to do to protect the tenant against those rent increases. This Legislature quite clearly set out that we intended that tenants would not be faced with more than one rental increase during any 12-month period and that should extend beyond the period when the law is finally rescinded.
I would appreciate it if either the Attorney General or the Solicitor General -- I realize he didn’t hear what I said -- would take a look at the Hansard, take a look at the situation which I believe will exist and explain at some point, in some reasonable language, how tenants are to be protected, given that the government may or may not extend the rent review or the rent control legislation. How will they be protected from further rent increases after July but during the 12-month period commencing when the last rent increase was approved?
I don’t understand it and I don’t see how the courts can interpret a law which is no longer on the statute books. That’s what I have been trying to ask the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations for about a month. He keeps telling me, “Don’t worry about it. We’re going to protect the tenants.”
I’ve got to be honest with the members. That’s just not enough. He keeps telling me that the Legislature intended that they would be protected. But you know as I know, the judges don’t read what the Legislature intended. They can only interpret what the law says. They’re not in a position to interpret laws that don’t exist. And they’re not required -- maybe they should be but they’re not -- to read the debates of the Legislature. In fact, maybe they shouldn’t; it might be in the best interest to save them from that --
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Cruel and unnatural punishment.
Mr. Deans: Punishment. Yes, I think you probably would be right.
Anyway, I ask that question again, and I ask one of the two ministers who are involved in the Justice field to please explain the legalities of it, in order that those of us who have to explain to tenants across the province where they now stand will be able to do so in a reasonable and understandable way.
I want to leave that topic, though there is much more to be said and my colleague the member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy) intends to say much more, I’m sure. I want to turn to the Hamilton-Wentworth regional government for a moment -- and it’ll be just for a moment.
Three years ago when that legislation that we passed in the spring of 1973, I believe -- or was it 1972, perhaps? -- finally became enacted, we asked questions, I personally asked questions, about how we would determine the benefits over and against the additional costs. It was evident to me, and I think evident to most who reviewed the legislative process and the legislation as it went through, that if you are going to impose another level of government somewhere between this level, the provincial level, and the municipal level itself, the individual municipality, that you can’t do that without additional cost.
We suggested that there should be a continuous monitoring or review of the additional costs, over and against whatever the benefits were or were perceived to be, and that there ought to then be adjustments made to make sure that the public wasn’t paying for things which it neither was getting nor had any reason to expect it might get.
I spoke at that time about the more rural areas of the Hamilton-Wentworth region, and I’m not about to go on a witch-hunt with regard to the regional council. I suppose the regional council works just every bit as hard as I do and they try, just as we try, to do things properly. But I said then and I say again that the implementation of regional government has added to the cost burden of the majority of citizens and I do not -- not to this day -- see one single benefit that has flowed from the implementation.
I see considerable additional cost and I predict that over the next two years, given that this will be the final two years of the five-year transitional grant period, that the cost to the local taxpayer of regional government in the municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth will continue to rise. Common sense tells you that if the government is paying a transitional grant and that that grant is set out for a five-year period, in ever-diminishing amount, that at the end of five years the municipality and therefore the municipal taxpayers are going to have to assume as their obligation the costs that that transitional grant may well have paid for during its lifetime.
And so therefore, it is now time for this Legislature to conduct a fair and reasonable review of the costs and the benefits of regional government, and to set out for the public, over whom we appear to have some jurisdiction, whether or not there are any benefits that are commensurate with the additional cost. If there are not, do not be afraid to step back and to say that we perhaps made a mistake -- we being the government, because I want to make it clear that I predicted that there would be additional costs in the first place, and I also predicted that there would be few, if any, benefits.
I want to suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that we have an obligation. We can’t simply continue to impose more and more and more costs on people, unless there are benefits that somehow or other relate to these additional costs. And I don’t happen to believe that in the area I represent -- I can speak for no other because I haven’t studied it -- but in the area I represent I don’t happen to believe that there are, in fact, any benefits that you could identify as having been benefits which flowed from the implementation of that particular regional government unit and that would justify the additional cost to the taxpayers.
I appreciate that inflation and increasing costs have made taxes higher but I don’t believe that has been the only contributing factor, and I do believe that regional government has contributed significantly to the added cost, and I do believe that we have to be fair with the taxpayers. If in fact they are paying too much and getting not enough, then we have to be forthright and deal with the problem and try to find the solution.
I want also to say that, as I predicted on behalf of my constituents, I could see where there would be very little opportunity for those residing in Blackheath and Winona and the far reaches of my constituency, I predicted they would have to pay more and they wouldn’t expect to get any more though they perhaps might not get less.
Well if one was to listen to them, as I do, on a day to day basis you would get the impression they are not even getting as much service as they once got; but they are paying more. I believe that we have to conduct a survey, a reasonable cost-benefit analysis, and determine whether or not we can somehow or other streamline the operation in order to bring the benefit and the cost more into line with the capacity of the people to pay.
Let me tell you that in the area of Binbrook, for example, the only thing that has changed that is of any significance since the implementation of regional government has been that they are going to get the landfill site stuck out in the middle of their community.
I want to tell you that if someone had said to them on the day that regional government was being implemented that one of the benefits they could expect was that all of the garbage of Hamilton and the surrounding area would be dumped in their backyards, I think they might not have accepted it. I think they might have said, “No, thank you very much, we prefer not to have that.” I think that’s where the problem lies.
I think also there is a clear need to reassure the more rural communities that they are not going to continuously have to bear the burdens without deriving some of the benefits.
Just the other day, the Hamilton-Wentworth regional government finally came to a decision and a conclusion with regard to regional transportation. They have now submitted to the minister -- in fact they submitted some considerable months ago or more -- the draft legislation which might be required in order to implement regionalized transportation for the area. The minister responded, I believe it was on about Tuesday of this week I would guess, that it might not happen this session. That means that if it doesn’t happen this session, it won’t happen until next spring. All of the effort that has gone in to coming together and trying to produce a regional transportation system will be further thwarted by the slowness of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs in bringing forth the necessary legislation to put into practice that for which the municipalities themselves have asked.
I urge the Treasurer to move more swiftly and to bring in the legislation, since in fact it is already drafted anyway; to bring it in and let’s deal with it now before we rise during this session or the chances are that it may not be dealt with at all during the life of this Legislature.
To turn to another topic very quickly, I had intended to raise again with the Minister of Health, the matter of the east end hospital, but after the discussions that he and I had the other day I am satisfied the matter is being looked into and I expect to see some concrete plan for the provision of this health care facility some time before the early spring of next year; in fact I would like to see it before the end of this year.
Today I raised with the Premier (Mr. Davis) what I recall to have been a commitment made by him with regard to senior citizens and the problems which confront them as they attempt to raise a sufficient amount of money from their inadequate pensions to pay the rentals charged in many of the accommodations across the province. In particular I want to suggest to the Premier and to the government, that since we appear to be incapable of producing a sufficient number of senior citizen units geared to income, that we have to take a look at alternative ways of ensuring there is a sufficient amount of their income left over after they pay rent to meet their legitimate needs. It can be done one of two ways. The government is either going to raise their income by way of additional subsidy or it is going to introduce a programme of rent supplement. Within reason, regardless of the accommodation they have and recognizing our obligation to them as the people upon whom this nation was built, it was from their effort and their industry, we ought to introduce a rent subsidy or supplement programme to ensure they will pay no more out of their income than those fortunate enough to get into rental accommodation under the senior citizens’ programme are required to pay out of their income.
I don’t think anyone in the province of Ontario would quarrel with that. I doubt very much if there are many citizens who would feel that was a waste of the tax dollars of the province. I think the majority of citizens would feel that was a just reward for years of hard work and effort during periods when pension plans were either non-existent or very small, and these people worked in conditions and over long hours, considerably different from those in existence today.
I urge the government to bring in the programme of rent supplement for senior citizens. Allow them to continue to live in the accommodation they are now living in; continue the programme of building new units as quickly as we can; recognize that for many, the remainder of their years ought to be spent in some reasonable enjoyment and that they ought not to have to live like paupers in order to be able to pay their rent and buy their food.
I suggest to the government that’s one of these commitments that was made during the last moments of the last election when it looked very much as if the Premier and his cabinet and his government were in serious political difficulties; that he not now renege or backtrack, that he undertake that.
Along the same line, I want to suggest, on behalf of some who live in my own constituency, that there is an evident need, documented now, for an additional unit of senior citizen accommodations. The government should review that and undertake it immediately in order that the people who live there, and who have lived there for years and who have contributed significantly, can enjoy the benefits that are available to many others in the community.
I am also a bit concerned about the rather dramatic downturn in the quality of the service provided by the Workmen’s Compensation Board. I am pleased the Minister of Labour is here, because one evening last week when I suggested there were long delays in the payments being made to those who had made claims under the WCB, she seemed to indicate she doubted that that was true. It was somewhat heartening, although upsetting to me, the following day --
Hon. B. Stephenson: For the vast majority it is not true.
Mr. Deans: I didn’t say anything about the vast majority. I will come to that. I am not quarrelling with that.
The very next morning in the paper, unbeknown to me, there was a story of a man who had been waiting some 10 weeks for his payment. I appreciate that in the vast majority of cases it’s a routine matter and the case goes through fairly swiftly and payment is made. I concede that. If it wasn’t that way, then we should tear the whole place down. Quite obviously, there are any number of routine cases and they should go through as routine cases. But that’s not the problem.
There are few people who work in a plant or an office in this province who can afford to wait for two months in order that there be adjudication of their claim. I don’t know, quite frankly, of any who worked or who were involved in the same kinds of circumstances that I was in, who could go for eight weeks without money. I know a great number of people across this province who still feel as I do, and as I know many others do, who feel a bit reluctant to go down to the welfare office. In spite of the best efforts of many, there is still a sense among a great number of people that they don’t want to go down and get welfare. Maybe we created that stigma and maybe we have to work, as we are working now, to try to eliminate it. Nevertheless it is still there, and to deny it would be wrong.
I have men and women coming to me who have waited six, eight, 10 and sometimes 12 weeks -- and, on occasion, even longer -- without getting their money from the board. If, as the minister says, in the vast majority of cases it is a routine matter and they get payment fairly swiftly, then that should free some of the hundreds of people who work up there to do an on-the-spot, immediate check to find out what it is that is wrong in the other cases. No one should have to wait more than a month in order to get a decision on whether their claim has been accepted or rejected. No one should have to wait more than a month.
When I make inquiries on behalf of constituents, I find the board telling me that they can’t find the file; that is the most common complaint, that the file is out. I’ll be damned if I can understand a system where, when a file is out, you can’t look at a card and find out where it is. I don’t think that is too difficult to ask. Beyond that, when I make an inquiry some seven weeks after the constituent has made the original claim, we’re told: “Oh, yes, we are going to have an investigation.”
What do they mean, they are going to have an investigation after seven or eight weeks? Immediately it showed up in the system that the claim hadn’t been paid -- that would be within three weeks -- the investigation should have commenced. There should be a sufficient number of bodies in order that someone can go out to visit the doctor, the employer and the employee, and ascertain on the spot the validity of the claim and then make some adjustment in order that payment can be made. Either that or the employee is told immediately that the claim has been denied for those reasons, whatever they may be, and an immediate effort is made to ensure that a hearing can be conducted as quickly as is humanly possible.
We are talking about dealings between human beings. We are not talking about the bureaucracy. We are not talking about the filing system. We are not talking about the building and the quality of it. We are talking about people who need money, and who through no fault of their own find themselves unable to work. I will never understand how it can be that 16 weeks can go by without payment.
Whatever else she does in this ministry, I say to the minister, for goodness’ sake, go up to the Workmen’s Compensation Board and make it known to them that we in the Legislature do not accept, nor can we or will we accept, that there is any need in this province for a person to have to wait for months in order to receive compensation cheques, because by the time they get their compensation cheque they are so deep in debt that they cannot then get back to the financial position that they were in prior to the injury occurring. I urge her most sincerely to do that.
If there is one thing that has aggravated me more than any other it is the long delays in the adjudication of claims before the board. I know the minister has paid some attention to it, but I would ask her to pay particular attention to the problem areas. It is how we deal with the problem areas that is the measure of the quality of the service that we provide. Anybody can run the run-of-the-mill case through the computer. It’s the difficult case that shows our concern and compassion and understanding. That’s the case that I talk about today. It is very difficult to say to a person whose rent is due and who doesn’t have any money that it’s quite unfortunate; and how often I’ve dug in, as many others have, into my own pocket to try and help them out, but we can’t do that indefinitely. We get hassles from the welfare offices because they want to be sure that the claim will finally be approved and it’s difficult to get that kind of answer from the board, and the people are left in a position where their income is drastically reduced and their self-worth is brought into question. I think that that’s a very difficult thing for most to overcome.
I want to, in passing, say to the Attorney General who is talking very earnestly with his parliamentary assistant -- that in watching the courts of the province of Ontario I get the distinct impression that there’s a great deal of inconsistency in the way the various courts deal with situations which at least to the public appear to be similar in nature. There’s one particular thing that worries me, and I speak only as an individual; and if I could have the Attorney General’s ear for just a moment I won’t take long. I realize I’ve no right to demand it and I wouldn’t want to impose on him, but if he could listen for a second? Thank you.
I want to say something to him about justice, and I don’t pretend to have any great background in the field of justice, but something has bothered me for years and I speak for myself and for no one else at this point.
I don’t understand why we find it necessary to put the names of accused people into the newspapers and in the media. I don’t understand that. I can appreciate that after a person is convicted, then the conviction is registered and their name may appear in the public record and is, therefore, open for anyone to see. But I really wonder if justice is well served by putting out all over the newspapers and in the television newscasts and on the radio the names of people who are charged with offences and who may, in fact, be innocent. I know in Britain, in Scotland in particular, the normal practice has been not to name the person at the time of charging, but rather to wait until some later time before their name be used.
I can appreciate that there may be arguments, and some of my colleagues will make them, I’m sure, in favour of the system as it prevails. I’m personally worried about it. I think that it works a hardship on the family, an unnecessary hardship. I think that quite frequently the use of the names in the articles that are written, even though innocence is finally proven many weeks or months later, has a detrimental effect perhaps throughout their entire life. It affects the children, it affects the relationship between those children and other children, it affects the relationship between the spouse and other people in the community and in the family, and while I’m prepared to say that there may be good arguments to be made on the other side, frankly I don’t subscribe to them in total.
I think that we have an obligation to protect the innocent, and if our law system --
Mr. Grossman: Does the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Ziemba) hear that?
Mr. Deans: I’m not interested in finger pointing; I’m not finger pointing at the moment.
Mr. Grossman: I just want him to hear this.
Mr. Deans: That’s okay, but I’m talking about me, okay?
I think if our system of justice believes that people are innocent until proven guilty, I don’t think that’s how it’s viewed outside. I doubt very much if the public believes that people are innocent until proven guilty. I think that the majority of people, for their own good reasons, think that once you’re charged, by God, you must have done something or you wouldn’t have been charged in the first place. Quite frequently that’s not true.
It doesn’t speak to the problems, which aggravate me no end, of lawyers making arguments which I think are false and misleading; and of clients who from time to time get off with things on which they ought to have been charged and convicted. It doesn’t speak to the problems of the courts and the fact that many Crown attorneys’ offices take the easy road out rather than going ahead with the charges which ought to be proceeded with in an effort to be fair to the public as well as to the person who has been charged. I don’t want to go into that at this point but during the next estimates, I hope, I will have the time to talk about it.
I really do think we should give some serious thought to how we protect people who have done nothing wrong, other than they may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. They end up having to try to live down the stigma that attaches itself to having been charged in the first place. I put it to members as a person who has given a lot of thought to it but who understands that there are many legal arguments from the other side.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Not legal arguments. I share the member’s concern, Mr. Speaker, and I communicated those very concerns to a group of senior editors in this province two weeks ago in London. Their view was that the public’s right to know superseded those concerns he has expressed and which I share to an almost total extent.
Mr. Deans: I appreciate hearing the comment. The public’s right to know, of course, is very important, I understand that. But the public’s right to know that one has been charged is somewhat different from the right to know that one has been convicted, in my opinion. If one has been convicted part of the penalty in this society is that one’s friends and neighbours and everyone else finds out. That’s okay; I guess that’s the penalty one pays for breaking the law but one shouldn’t have to pay that penalty if one didn’t break the law.
Much of the publicity is given to the charge and considerably less to the outcome. I’m not talking about murder cases; I’m talking about other matters. I’ll give an example -- this is a very difficult example; not the best one -- one reads of a young man being charged with rape and subsequently found not guilty.
His neighbours, most of the families of his friends and most of his acquaintances withdraw from the relationship because they think there must have been something more to it. I think that’s a natural reaction. Frankly I think we have to try to protect the innocent, and some of the innocent are the ones who are charged.
I ask members to give some more thought to it. I want them to understand that I speak for myself. I speak for no one else; I don’t know who else shares my views but that’s my opinion.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I would be interested to know if the hon. member would share his views with the members of his caucus?
Mr. Deans: I do.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I would be very interested to know whether or not the official opposition had been able to reach a consensus on this very difficult issue.
Mr. Deans: I think that’s a fair question. I think we’re all interested in consensus around here. I’m not too sure if when the Attorney General says things, he always necessarily reflects the consensus of his own caucus.
That is the benefit of these free-wheeling debates. It allows one to express one’s own concerns and one’s own opinions. I expect my colleagues will express theirs.
In any event, the Attorney General can now go back to his conversation because I have now completed what I wanted to say on the topic. I appreciate the fact that he stopped long enough to hear me.
I want to turn to two quick matters and then I am finished -- in fact, only to one; I’ll let the other go for the time being.
I want to suggest to the Minister of Housing (Mr. Rhodes), if he ever gets around to reading this, that soon we must develop an overall housing policy in the province of Ontario which relates to land costs; servicing costs; the kinds of servicing one can reasonably expect to be provided; the size of homes which can or cannot be built -- or should or should not be built; perhaps can is not the right word -- and the method of mortgaging and the mortgage interest rates that are being charged. If we don’t deal with those vital matters soon in this Legislature then I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that within this decade there will be no affordable housing for people who earn average wages and salaries and who go to work every day. It’s just that simple.
Unless we begin a process of funding, of ensuring reasonable interest rates, of guaranteeing a fair proportion of investment capital in housing, of keeping land prices at a reasonable level, of providing for the very expensive cost of trunk servicing and of ensuring a reasonable standard that can be expected, then sure as I stand here, there will be no affordable housing built.
I say that the home ownership programme does not provide affordable housing for the majority of people. It was intended to, and when it started out it did. But at today’s values it no longer meets the criterion of being affordable for the average income groups in the province of Ontario.
And we need time in the Legislature, time in the committees of the Legislature. We even need, if I dare utter the heresy, we even need an investigation. Maybe it should be a select committee; I don’t care. But we need a committee of this Legislature to address itself to accommodation in the province of Ontario. We need to set up a committee that will review the capacity of the builders in the province to produce, the availability of the goods required to produce.
Mr. Shore: Do you agree with that, Mike?
Mr. Cassidy: You guys won’t move.
Ms. Deans: We need a study of the costs of land and the added costs brought about by municipal and provincial red tape. We need a study of the costs of servicing and how we, in the province of Ontario, given our much larger taxing resources, can involve ourselves to a greater extent in the trunk servicing for many of the subdivisions that are required. We need a study of rental review accommodation and we need to include a review of mortgages, the amounts of money available in the marketplace and what would be considered by the majority to be reasonable interest rates that could be charged. The biggest mistake we ever made was when we lifted the ceiling on NHA mortgages -- not us, the federal government.
I say we need that now and out of it must flow some concrete recommendations about housing at a price that people can afford. And I urge the government to give serious thought to it because it’s a very serious matter. If they don’t give thought to it now, five years from now it will be too late. It’s almost too late now.
If we don’t get into it and get on with it and come up with the recommendations, then I’m going to tell you right now that within the next five years the chances of my children and your children and many other peoples’ children across this province ever being able to buy a house that they can afford on the income that they’re capable of earning will have passed us by. It will become a thought from the past. We’ll look back and say, “Do you remember the good old days when people used to be able to buy houses?” That’s what will happen. We’ll be looking back into history and talking about how it used to be when the average family could afford to buy a house in the province of Ontario. It’s getting that way now and we can’t afford it any more and if we don’t do something to stop it -- and I’ve been harping on this since 1967 --
Mr. Shore: It goes back a long way.
Mr. Deans: -- if we don’t do something about it now, then I suggest to you that the time for action is so limited that we’re not going to be able to accommodate the people in the province, given this next generation that’s now in its teens.
Mr. Speaker, I’ve taken enough time. I appreciate the attention of the House and I hope that some of the comments that I’ve made will prove to be useful in the government’s deliberations with regard to new policy initiatives.
Mr. Cassidy: I have a number of comments and I want to make them specifically about the government’s non-policy about rent review and the problems that are being created in the rental housing field and the problems that are being created for tenants as a result.
I might add that the problems aren’t just simply for tenants but that there are problems created as well for landlords because of the government’s vacillating and its indecision in the question of what to do with the continuation of the rent review programme after July 31 of this year. This matter is of sufficient importance to us in the New Democratic Party that when we were considering whether to move another motion of non-confidence in the government we decided that this was one of the fundamental reasons why we have continued to lose confidence in the government, since proposing our budgetary amendment in the spring. As my leader stated on Monday, we are further concluding that the government does not enjoy the confidence of the House because it “has failed to respond adequately to the administrative problems which have undermined the tenants’ accessibility to and confidence in the rent control procedures” and it has failed “to recognize by legislative action the need to ensure protection against unfair rent increase after July, 1977.”
I have to say that I don’t really know what the government’s position is on this question. There have been some inspired leaks to the paper suggesting that there will be some continuation of rental protection for tenants after July 31. Back in September, although he admitted having no inside information and said that the subject had not been discussed in cabinet, the Solicitor General (Mr. MacBeth) said that Ontario might extend rent controls beyond July 31.
Then Mr. Handleman said for the 42nd time that he was going to quit. He was damned if he would be the minister who would be responsible for rent review if it was renewed in July and he said that the rent controls were counter-productive. My leader wished him well, as I have on a number of occasions. I really rather tend to feel that the Premier should accept Mr. Handleman’s offer of resignation. It would do the province a great deal of good.
Mr. Grossman: Don’t use his name in the House. Refer to his riding.
Mr. Cassidy: However, Mr. Handleman who, I see, has come into the House now has begun to change his tune. By late September he was saying we can’t quit the programme cold turkey. He was saying that something was under study. As the member for Sudbury would say --
Hon. Mr. Handleman: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I think if the hon. member’s going to refer to me by name he should at least stick to the facts and not read from a newspaper report. If I may restate my position, it was that if the present programme was extended, I would not administer it. That’s completely different from what the hon. member is alleging now.
Mr. Nixon: What did the Premier say when you told that to him?
Mr. Acting Speaker: I do ask the hon. members to refer to opposition members not by name but by riding.
Mr. Shore: Don’t let the facts bother you.
Mr. Nixon: What did the member for Ottawa West (Mr. Morrow) say to you?
Mr. Cassidy: If the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations wishes to put that correction on the record then so be it. If he wishes to challenge the Toronto Star or the Globe and Mail, then I suggest that he take things up with them.
Mr. Breithaupt: He’s attacking the freedom of the press.
Mr. Cassidy: I think the point is well taken that there’s been a deliberate programme to confuse the public as to what the government intended to do and there has been a complete lack of any firm information of what would be done. The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and others have said from time to time that something would be worked out to protect tenants, but they have also admitted all along that there is no way they could commit the government. In fact, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations said that specifically during a couple of late night debates on the adjournment over the question of short leases and the protection that would exist.
In Peterborough just recently the minister responsible for rent control said there would be a protection that would be continued in some form. But then he went on to say that the province could continue the rent controls, scrap them altogether or else take a middle course. He called the middle course the favoured policy. I’ll come back to that in a few minutes because, frankly, if the legislation is going to be changed between now and the spring, it seems to me that there is all the more reason for the government to state its intentions now and for there to be an opportunity for landlords and tenants, the public and this House to examine the government’s alternative proposals well in advance, rather than in the kind of hasty manner which is becoming inevitable because of the timetable the government is now choosing.
I want to talk in general about the rent review programme. I want to hark back to the election campaign in 1975 and I want to recall to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the public the kind of situation the tenants were experiencing at that time. Rent increase demands -- which were more than demands; the tenants had no choice but to accede to them -- of 15, 20, 25, and even 30 per cent were becoming common in the major cities of the province at that time. Even the government became convinced, mainly because of the electorate’s feelings, that something had to be done.
I think there is no question that rent review was necessary and no question, in fact, that it has worked over the province since that time. The figures which have been published by the ministry, despite the difficulty one has in interpreting them, do indicate there has been a very substantial moderation in rent increases because of the programme which, let’s face it, the NDP campaigned for and the NDP got both the public and this Legislature to agree to.
For example, the figures that were published in September, and which haven’t been substantially changed since, indicate that across the province landlords who were requesting increases of 19 per cent and got, after rent review hearings, rent increases of just over 12 per cent. In certain cases -- Kenora stands out as being one of the most extreme -- they were looking for increases averaging 25 per cent and they got 10 per cent. In London, an area where the landlords said the programme wasn’t required, the increases that were demanded were 22.75 per cent, and the amounts that were granted averaged 11.86 per cent.
I have to say we have been unable to get further clarification from the ministry on these figures. I do not even know whether these are on an annual basis or whether these are on an overall basis; in other words, exactly how the ministry is reporting. In Toronto, the landlords requested 19 per cent -- which is quite extortionate -- and got 11 per cent, based on the past year of costs. In my area of Ottawa, the second largest area for tenants in the province, the landlords requested 21 per cent and got 12.6 per cent.
The figures have changed somewhat since then, but this is a fairly substantial kind of summary. It is interesting as well, in looking at the working of rent review, to consider the fact that of more than 900,000 rental units across the province, up until now something like 100,000 have gone through the rent review process, or about one unit in nine.
Of the remainder, a certain proportion, maybe a third, were units that didn’t happen to have a lease that came up for renewal during the period that rent review has been in force. However, somewhere between 400,000 and 600,000 units represent situations where the landlord has been content with a rent increase within the eight per cent guideline. I have to say that would not apply in all those cases, because in a number of cases landlords have deliberately chosen to flout the rent review process and have charged more and intimidated the tenants into accepting a higher increase, and there must be certain cases where landlords charged less but didn’t go before rent review out of ignorance. None the less, for every landlord who brought a rental unit to rent review, there were four or five or six rental units where the landlord was content to stay within the maximum allowable rent increase that was proposed under this particular law.
It seems to me that suggests that not only did rent review have a very substantial effect, but that despite the tremendous lobby and pressure tactics that were used by landlords -- and in particular by the Urban Development Institute -- most landlords of most rental units across the province have found that, however reluctant they may be, they could live with the rent review process we’ve had in the province of Ontario, and I think that that fact should be put on the record.
The next point to be made, however, is that rent review has not worked nearly as well as it should, and the reason is because of the ambivalence and the shilly-shallying and the plain, downright pigheadedness of the Conservative government and the people who were appointed to run the rent review programme. We knew they were ambivalent. We know and knew they didn’t want rent review. We know and know the Conservatives would have moved heaven and earth to have not had to bring in this programme, and that has had a profound influence on the fairness and equity with which the rent review programme has been brought in. I have to say there’s been a consistent anti-tenant bias, There has been a frequent refusal to heed court rulings. There has been a consistent refusal to provide information to tenants.
The ministry is now taking some experimental steps to allow tenants to photocopy certain information on file in rent review offices. But that is after close to 100,000 rent review hearings have been heard. It is after the bulk of the tenants who are going to rent review during the life of this bill, as we have it right now, have had their experience of how rent review works. The reluctance of the ministry to give any kind of information to tenants has therefore permanently poisoned and influenced tenants’ perceptions of whether or not the bill happens to be fair.
Not only that, but I would say that the government has deliberately flouted the law of this province because sections 5(13) and 7(1) of The Rent Review Act state specifically the tenants and landlords should have “adequate opportunity of knowing the issues and the proceedings and of presenting material and making representations on their behalf.” The pity and the tragedy is that the only way to bring the government to account for failing to obey its own law is through the electoral process and there’s nothing else that tenants can do. I know that many of them will do that when the opportunity arises. It’s a pity they have had to live with rent review in the way that the Conservatives have been administering it.
Here are some comments which were filed by the Federation of Metro Tenants which has had widespread experience in helping tenants to live with and get along with rent review. They found that although the legislation provided for the filing of information related to rent increases, the terms of leases and so on, that landlords often did not file a schedule B in which this information was required. And sometimes they didn’t file at all. Sometimes they didn’t file it accurately. Sometimes they filed it and the tenants were denied access on the grounds that that particular information was confidential.
When tenants considered filing an appeal against the landlord for a rent increase that didn’t exceed the eight per cent guidelines they were frequently discouraged by rent review personnel from making applications of this type. If that didn’t happen, they were intimidated by a threat by the landlord that if the tenant went before rent review the landlord would increase his demand to an amount greatly exceeding the eight per cent.
The law says that the rent review officers and the appeal board should consider excessive rent increases that might have taken place before the coming into force of the law, between the beginning to January, 1974, and the end of July 1975. The Federation of Metro Tenants, which has monitored this very intensively, says that they have no evidence that that provision has ever once affected a decision of a rent review officer or of a member of the board of the rental review appeals tribunal. There too, the intent of the law was ignored. Despite the mass of guidelines and directives and orders that went out to rent review officers on how to interpret the law, not one line went out to those people to tell them what to take in regard if there happened to have been an excessive rent increase in the period of 18 months before the law came into force.
The tenants became very upset over the fact that rent review officers were considering rent increases in cases where the rent increase was not legal, as they could see it, according to The Landlord and Tenant Act. As the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations knows, The Landlord and Tenant Act required a 90-day notice of a rent increase. That Act was introduced almost simultaneously with The Rent Review Act, but there was not a good integration between the two and there has been a lousy integration between those pieces of legislation in their administration and their implementation.
In order to sort things out, tenants went to judicial review and in the divisional court, in the case of Devitt versus Sawchyn, the court held that compliance with the terms of both The Landlord and Tenant Act and The Rent Review Act was a pre-condition to securing an increase in rent. As I see it, they could have come to no other decision. The court ruled that until both Acts were complied with, a rent review officer had no jurisdiction to order an increase. The rent review program, however, chose not only to ignore the court’s decision entirely, there were also instructions sent to rent review officers to ignore arguments presented by tenants regarding improper notice unless judicial review had been launched in that particular case.
The way the law works is if one judge makes a decision and makes a ruling, that is the law of the land unless that particular ruling happens to be overruled. That is not the way that the minister’s cohorts chose to proceed, however. Once an appeal had been launched of the Devitt decision, the rent review programme argued that that decision, the original decision of the courts, could be ignored until the appeal was decided. That’s precisely what they did. This was a blatant disregard for the courts and it is part of the overall approach that has been taken in the rent review process by the way that it has been administered by the ministry.
Section 19(3) of the bill allowed the minister to engage persons to provide assistance both to rent review officers, to the rental appeal board and to people who were appearing before either group. That section of the Act has been applied with great assiduity in allowing rental review personnel to give counsel and advice and solace to landlords who come in order to get advice.
Mr. Laughren: Frank Drea should assume part of the blame for that.
Mr. Cassidy: Not only that but, as a result of a reinterpretation of the original rules, landlords are now permitted to charge up to their operating costs, the cost of lawyers’ fees for appearing before rent review processes; that is a cost which is allowed in addition to the standard five per cent allowance for the landlords’ administrative costs. The landlords, in other words, now have the right to charge their legal fees to operating costs; since the operating costs are passed through to tenants in the form of rents, the tenants pay for clever, experienced, assiduous, persistent counsels who are appearing on behalf of landlords in order to try to thwart the purposes of the rent review process.
Not only do the tenants, have to absorb the cost of the landlords’ lawyers, they have got to, if they can, try to get some legal help for themselves. In many cases what happens is that the tenants can’t afford legal counsel; or they can afford a lawyer to come in for half a day for the actual hearing but they cannot afford the time and the money in order to have the lawyer prepare a very detailed and comprehensive case. But in the ultimate decision of the rent review officer, they have to pay for $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 worth of legal fees that are incurred by the landlord in order to try to soak the tenants with a higher rent. That’s yet another reason why the tenants feel bitter, and why we feel bitter, about the administration of rent review.
Let me give some instances about the way these things have been working; these are drawn from the thousands and thousands of calls and cases that we in the NDP have handled in relation to rent review over the course of the past year. One particular case was just held on Wednesday night of this week. It is a building in Ottawa South, and in this particular case the building had changed hands and so the fiscal year of the building had changed.
Without making it available in advance, the landlord brought unaudited financial statements with no receipts or vouchers. Even though the tenant’s accountant requested that these financial statements be proved, the board did not ask for the receipts. Large amounts were listed as being spent in these accounts as capital expenditures. There were no further details provided. The board didn’t ask. There was no requirement that the landlord produce any further information. The rent review officer’s decision was based purely on projected costs. Although the building had changed hands, there were no historical data provided.
In other words, the landlord was able to evade completely the position of the rent review bill that only costs passed through are permitted. No receipts were requested by the board even after the tenants had requested them. Among other things, the accounts included an increase in legal fees from $4,000 to $10,000, all to be borne by the tenants.
Another case is in Toronto. I can’t give the name, but there was a combination of intimidation by the landlord and an inadequate rent review process. The tenant, who had now moved as a result of the intimidation, had to survive several gross intimidations of his daughter, three eviction notices and harassment such as having all his power turned off.
He never received a notice of increase from his landlord but the entire procedure of rent review was gone through anyway. The landlord failed to provide written material either before or at the hearing to justify his request for a rent increase. Nevertheless, a 16 per cent increase was granted by the rent review officer. There was apparently some material to justify the increase given to the rent review officer after the hearing but despite the request of the tenant’s lawyer, no access to that material was ever given to the tenant or to the lawyer in strict contravention of the law. The physical difficulties with the apartment, the reduction of services, the lack of heat and so on were never allowed to be presented as evidence at the hearing.
Another case is in Thorncliffe Park. The tenant never got legal notice. The review officer forbade him to speak at the initial hearing when the tenant pointed out the information bulletin about a legal notice. The rent review officer said, “If that is the case and if you think the legal notice applies in this case, then the decision won’t apply to you so you don’t have a right to speak.”
The decision was made to apply. I am glad the minister is staying in for this particular part of my speech. The appeal decision upheld that and the tenant in other words got no protection from the law. He is now going to court to try to obtain rights which are laid out both in the Act and in the information bulletin. He might even win in the courts.
The question we ask is: Why on earth are the rent review officers not instructed to heed the decisions which have already been handed down by the courts.
Another case: Heron Gate, 3,000 rental units, with one of the best organized tenants’ associations in the province. This is in the riding of Ottawa South. The people who run that tenants’ association have been run absolutely silly by the number of rent review hearings they have had to prepare for and to attend.
After they watched a rent review hearing which was held in the case of Bayshore tenants and the same landlord, Minto, they saw the way the landlord’s lawyer was proceeding. They saw no choice but to hire counsel of their own, even though there had been assurances, when the rent review bill was originally passed, that it should be able to proceed without the presence of counsel.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Why? He has been a very ineffective lawyer.
Mr. Cassidy: I am not sure whether the minister is saying the lawyer for the landlord or for the tenants was ineffective.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Exactly. He has been very ineffective.
Mr. Cassidy: The first hearing which these people attended to see what their landlord was doing was a shambles, an absolute shambles, and one of the reasons was the presence of the landlord’s lawyer.
This fall there was a second round of rent review applications on the part of the landlord who unfortunately, has chosen to try to break the rent review process by launching as many applications and appeals as is possible. I regret that very much because there are people in that firm who are friends of mine.
A week after the second round of applications the tenants’ association had to go to a series of linked appeals on the applications which had been heard in the spring. When they asked for information from the rent review office and from the appeal board about which apartments were being appealed, so they could go and talk to those particular tenants and offer to represent them, they were refused.
When they asked for a pre-hearing conference in order to discuss the manner in which the appeals would he heard they were refused. When they wrote to this minister and asked him for legal assistance because of the very heavy responsibilities they were taking on in going to the appeals, and the way the landlord had been getting legal assistance with their money, they were refused by this minister. I have to tell members that is yet another reason for tenants feeling bitter and feel that the law has been acting inequitably.
Another case, which has generated 30 or 40 phone calls to my office and to the office of the member for Carleton East (Ms. Gigantes) in the last few days, concerns Halifax Towers, another apartment building in Ottawa South, at 2240 and 2220 Halifax Drive in Ottawa. The company is Urbandale Realty.
The hearings now going to appeal refer to increases which will be effective retroactive to January 1, 1976. The first hearing in this case wasn’t held until late July and the appeal came down in November. It has taken close to a year, in other words.
To give one instance which is typical -- a tenant in a three-bedroom apartment, who was paying $259, got a 12.2 per cent increase from the rent review officer to $290. The appeal doubled the increase to $314 and now the tenant also faces arrears of $410.
To make matters worse, he has been given notice of another eight per cent increase in January, 1977, which will take him up to about $340 a month. He has also been given a short lease until July 31, 1977, which means his rent will go up yet again on August 1 of this coming year.
The decision from the board is as follows -- there are certain words which are indecipherable because of poor typing: “operational costs and projected increases contained in this statement are analysed thoroughly and proved reasonable” -- blah, blah, can’t read it -- “are also concluded that the property sustained a financial loss during the period under review. In addition” -- blah, blah, can’t read it -- “account of increases in cost of servicing secondary financing due to a renegotiation of -- blah, blah, can’t read it -- “end of term.”
That’s all the justification that the tenants got for the appeal board decision to grant, in this particular case, to the landlord another $25. One has to wonder when two-bedroom apartments or three-bedroom apartments are getting those kinds of rent increases and tenants are not even allowed to know what on earth it’s all about. It sure as heck undermines confidence in what’s going on.
Brian Bucknall, a professor of law at Osgoode Hall, was a member of the rent review board as representative of tenants, but was compelled or strongly urged to resign after he recently published a paper which was a very well balanced critique of what was happening in rent review. I say well balanced because he had some things that were had to say about it and some things that were good to say about it. I want to quote some of the items that concern --
Mr. Shore: Did he resign?
Mr. Cassidy: He did resign, yes. He was put under tremendous pressure to get out.
Mr. Shore: By whom?
Mr. Cassidy: By the chairman and by other members of the board. The reason I quote him is because some of his conclusions are comparable to mine, but he doesn’t come to this being a member of the New Democratic Party or being a member of this particular Legislature in the official opposition. He was, I would contend, in a good position to look at the whole rent review programme and come to an unbiased assessment of how it was working.
He says that the rent review programme suffered from “two fundamental assumptions which shaped and misshaped the whole scheme. The first was that rent control could be a temporary measure: that a two-year life span for the whole programme was acceptable and that the administrative structure required by the programme could be assembled, have its work completed and be disassembled within 18 months. Obviously, the decision to have a temporary scheme had no foundation in economic theory, and it can only be regarded as the political response of a disaffected government to a programme which it disliked.” That certainly is true.
“The other assumption was that the rent review programme could be established and administered wholly separate from the general law of residential tenancies. Rent control is, in theory, inseparable from a regime of security of tenure.” I’ll give credit to the Attorney General that security of tenure was introduced at the same time. The problem is that the two bills were not meshed together.
We said at the time, and now Mr. Bucknall supports us, and I quote: “Even though the Act, with its period of retroactive application created an automatic backlog of work for the programme, no steps were taken to set up a skeletal rent review staff while the Act was still under debate.” I can say to the minister, if he’s reading this debate or listening in on the outside, that if the government had come to this party and said, “Look, even though the bill isn’t passed, would you mind if we started to advertise for people?” We would have said, “Go ahead. It would be a demonstration of good faith towards tenants. We agree.” That could have been simply announced and agreed to in a quiet way in the House.
“In the event,” says Mr. Bucknall, “the rent review officers selected were often semi-retired people with some accounting background. Their legal training was in almost all cases minimal and their lack of legal training was dealt with by having them ignore legal questions entirely. The standard practice for rent review officers has been and is that they will not entertain any discussion about whether even the rent increase notice provisions of The Landlord and Tenant Act have been complied with.”
I should add that we researched the background of rent review officers and we found that an extraordinary number -- I haven’t got the figures with me, but I’ve read them into the record at other times -- an extraordinary number of the rent review officers didn’t just have a semi-retired accounting background, they had a direct background in the real estate industry, which almost inevitably made it likely that they would be biased toward landlords and understand landlords’ problems far more than they understood the problems of tenants when they came to a rent review hearing.
Mr. Warner: That’s precisely what has happened.
Mr. Cassidy: “Again,” says Mr. Bucknall, “it must be emphasized that the prospect of acquiring and training a competent staff for this most complex regulatory scheme was hopelessly compromised from the outset by the decision to make the entire programme temporary. Neither serious recruitment nor effective training could be undertaken where the whole effort was to dissolve in just a few months’ time.” We certainly endorse that.
The problems of morale that have existed among the better people in rent review are legion. A number of those people have resigned; a number of others have been compelled to resign because of the atmosphere in the rent review offices where they are working. They are frustrated beyond belief. They are particularly frustrated because of situations that arise where their decisions are countermanded or contradicted by decisions of their colleagues.
One of the things which I think is the most difficult for tenants to understand is, why is it that units in a particular building may go before a rent review officer on three or four different occasions a few months apart? Different officers will often hear hearings into the same sets of circumstances -- the same apartments; the same rents were being charged before the landlord applied for a rent increase; the same accounts are filed, and yet the rent review officers have come up with quite different and contradictory decisions in each of those cases.
Mr. Bucknall went on to point out: “The draftsmen of the new legislation may have been guilty of an excessive enthusiasm for prescribed forms.” Well, I’ve heard the NDP being charged with being form-crazy. I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that during the debate last December on rent review, we insisted and got one form put in with rent review. That was the form that related to the information given to tenants if they were being asked to waive their right to a rollback over that period from August to December of 1975. One form. The government put in 11 or 12.
Not only that. They put them in and made the regulations so strict that in certain cases -- for example, if people in a 100-unit apartment all wished to appeal a rent review officer’s decision -- the number of pieces of paper that had to change hands in the required form in that particular case would be 10,000! My God, what kind of government is it over there if they are so incompetent they create that kind of red tape and that kind of paperwork?
Mr. Cunningham: Just plain crazy.
Mr. Gregory: Plain crazy.
Mr. Cassidy: In some cases, says Mr. Bucknall, the forms were drafted in a rather casual manner and had to be amended. In other cases the forms were drafted and the rules were drawn up in such a way that landlords couldn’t help but be breaking the law. It seems to me that one of the forms was the rent increase form -- I can’t even remember the names and numbers; it’s very complicated. But it wasn’t published and made generally available until a month and a half after the turn of the year and yet it was a required document in order that the provisions of the law be complied with in every rent review application which was filed up to and including that date.
We don’t believe that that kind of situation should have been landed on landlords. We have reservations about landlords in many cases and we often express them. We also understand that many landlords are simply trying to provide a service and make a bit of dough and there’s nothing particularly wrong with them trying to make a reasonable profit. I say this to the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations.
Mr. Drea: Nothing particularly wrong?
Mr. Cassidy: I say there is nothing particularly wrong with that, no.
Mr. Drea: I think you would be more impressive if you would say there is nothing wrong with making a profit.
Mr. Cassidy: All right, I’ll say there is nothing wrong with them seeking to make a reasonable kind of profit in providing the service --
Mr. Hodgson: As long as they don’t make too much.
Mr. Cassidy: -- and that’s the way it used to be before this government and its big developer friends stepped in. But landlords like that who were simply trying to provide a reasonable service -- who, as the figures I read out indicate, were in fact content to comply with the law and keep their rent increases under the guidelines -- found themselves tangled up in an impossible mess of paperwork which was landed upon them by the government.
As Mr. Bucknall says, “this duplication and triplication of paperwork has given rise to an incredible degree of confusion and technical irregularity.”
Then he goes on to say: “Unfortunately, it frequently appears that rent review officers are more concerned to fulfil their mandate to make the hearing expeditious than they are to preserve the appearance of fairness. It is often suggested by tenants that the initial rent review hearings looked like conferences between the landlords and rent review officers to which tenants have been invited.”
In some cases the tenants have even been told that they can’t participate at all. We have complained about that. This is an impartial view from somebody who sat at a substantial number of rent review appeal board hearings and looked at what was actually happening at the rent review office process. To go on to quote: “Basic procedural questions remain unresolved and were dealt with in various manners by various officers. The parties are frequently denied permission to cross-examine on evidence submitted. While the legislation provides that all parties must have access to materials filed in connection with an application for rent review, the spirit of this rule has not always been respected.”
My God, the response to that is that the spirit of that rule has never been respected by this government. We have sought again and again and again with this minister to get the spirit of that rule about access to information to be respected and the government consistently refused. They made a mockery of rent review because of that.
Mr. Bucknall goes on to say: “One of the fundamental tasks facing both the government and the rent review programme was the obligation to educate the public in the new legislation governing tenancies. About $500,000 was allocated to the task of printing and distributing pamphlets on rent review. But it is apparent that the rent review and security of tenure programmes are far too complex to be effectively explained in this manner. The problem of education has been compounded of course by the needless complexity of the rent review scheme and the forms which it has generated, and by the awkward and ill-considered indirection between the rent review scheme and the security of tenure provisions in The Landlord and Tenant Act.”
Mr. Bucknall’s paper, which I recommend to anybody who’s following this debate, also comments on the problems that have resulted from retroactivity in the legislation and from the situation that arose when a tenant moved and a new tenant came in. We’ve had problems, for example, for a sub-lessor, a tenant who sublets, getting the right even to appear at a rent review hearing. Well, that isn’t fair. There are the problems, which I’ve mentioned, of the incompatibility between the rent review legislation and The Landlord and Tenant Act, the problems of inequalities between identical units within a building, the problems of landlords and tenants not clearly understanding the purpose and the operation of the review process and the problems that the cost pass through principle has led to inefficient and uneconomic management and has discouraged efficiency.
With not too much brevity, that is a critique of what’s going on now. I want to talk now about the future, and I want to talk not just personally but on behalf of my party, about what we think should be done in the province with relation to rent review. The very first point I want to make is that as far as Ontario is concerned, rent review is still necessary and it must be continued after July 31, 1977. We call for rent review to be maintained in the province until there is an adequate supply of affordable rental housing in the province. All the evidence indicates the desire of greedy landlords to take advantage of this current shortage of rental accommodation has not abated because of a year and a half of rent review.
The Canadian Council on Social Development recently did a very major and detailed study of rent review. They predicted that there would be large increases in rents if the controls are permitted to expire. They pointed out, in particular, that the rents per room for low income families have been going up for the past 10 years, and not just in the past year or two, very much more rapidly than the increase in their incomes. We also have evidence that more and more big landlords are giving short leases, beginning in January, February and March of this year. As the member for Wentworth has pointed out, there’s no protection for tenants who get short leases when the landlord comes back on August 1 and says I want another five, 10, 15 or 20 per cent. Mr. Handleman can writhe all he wants but he’s wrong about the law.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I’m sure the hon. member knows he shouldn’t refer to the hon. minister by name.
Mr. Cassidy: The member for Carleton can writhe all he wants, but there is no protection after the end of July for any tenant that exists right now. Tenants cannot live on a commitment that comes from a minister who admits in the same breath that this has not gone through cabinet --
Mr. Warner: We can’t even get an answer.
Mr. Cassidy: -- and he cannot speak on behalf of the government. The NDP also urges that the legislation extending rent review be introduced and preferably be adopted before Christmas. There is a serious situation arising because of the intermeshing of landlord, tenant legislation and the rent review act. As the Speaker well knows, and as I hope the minister and his parliamentary assistant well know, rent increases now must have a 90-day notice. A rent increase to take effect after the end of rent review must, therefore, be notified to the tenant before the end of April, 1977.
Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I don’t want to deter the member for Ottawa Centre in any way but the matter he is discussing now is before the Ontario Court of Appeal and there is a decision pending. I think that should be taken into account by him in describing this particular problem. It may very well be settled by the Court of Appeal.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I think the member should have got up a few minutes earlier when I was talking about the divisional court ruling and the appeal therefrom relating to whether or not rent review decisions could be carried out if an illegal rent increase had been given. I’m not talking about the future. I’m talking about what’s going to happen in April when, according to the landlord and tenant law which does not expire, during the month of April landlords must give notice to their tenants of what rents they intend to charge after August 1.
It’s simply not fair for the government to say, “We’ll bring forward whatever we’re going to do about rent review after the Throne Speech, around the end of March, and we’ll get it passed in a hurry in April so that landlords and tenants can be guided accordingly.” It’s not fair to tenants, nor is it fair to landlords most of whom, I believe, are prepared to comply with the law if there’s going to be a law.
When the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations says our options are to continue the legislation, to scrap it or to take a middle road and that he and the government prefer the middle road, it is even more unfair because if the basis of the law is going to be changed it seems to me this House would be derelict if it did not give an opportunity to tenants and to landlords to study the law and to comment on it before it’s enacted.
The parliamentary assistant may recall that last November we moved very quickly. There was co-operation from all parties to hold hearings at an intense pace on the proposed rent review legislation to get it into law before Christmas. It was a pity that the urgency in the House in passing the law was not matched by the urgency of the administration in getting the law into effect.
Nevertheless, this House proved that on occasion there can be inter-party co-operation to get a bill passed quickly. I, for one, and on behalf of my party, don’t think in this Legislature we should be put into that position again in April simply because of the incompetence of the government.
I’m now convinced that the government is deliberately delaying an announcement of its plans for rent review so that it can either abandon the programme completely this spring or so weaken it to the point that it is useless. From the thousands of cases we have dealt with in the NDP caucus and NDP riding offices, I’m also convinced it’s essential that rent review continue beyond its current expiry date because otherwise many tenants will face landlord demands just as outrageous as the rent increases which forced the introduction of rent review.
It’s already too late, however, to have a bill introduced, to have it considered, to hold public hearings and to make the bill law before Christmas -- although this is what we would have done if we were the government. I would suggest, however, that this Legislature, being a flexible body, could very easily receive a bill and debate it in second reading before Christmas. There’s ample time for that. If we had to come back for a couple of days in the week before Christmas, we’re prepared to do that if it means tenants will get adequate protection.
The matter could be referred to a standing or a select committee of the House to hold hearings and listen to tenants and landlords and the public during the month of January and early February, to get their views and ensure that people across the province know what the continuation of the rent review process is going to be. We would be willing to co-operate to ensure that the bill went back and got third reading and would become law as quickly as possible after the House resumes, presumably in March.
That’s second best but it’s an awful lot better than the course the government now appears to have chosen which is to do nothing until the very last minute and then to come rushing along and try to look like white knights.
I say to the government that if we get to a situation in which it is threatening to call an election without proceeding on rent review legislation which is before the House at that time it will be on its head. It will be the Tories’ fault if tenants are in danger of losing the protection and they will have to defend that dereliction of their duty on the hustings. We will go to every tenant in the province and we will say, “This government’s looking for a majority so it can let that bill about rent review drop and do a favour to its landlord friends.” That’s what we will say on the hustings, and despite what the member for Carleton has been saying, the tenants know it was the NDP that brought up the idea of rent review to protect tenants. It was the NDP that fought for it in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975.
If it had not been for the pressure of this party, we would not have had rent review to protect tenants in the real way that it has. That message will be delivered to every tenant across the province during the course of the election if the government continues with the shabby game it is playing right now, which is to try to let rent review drop by accident in the process of calling a spring election shortly after a Throne Speech some time in March or April.
I hope that the ministry replies to this particular point, because I think the government’s tactics are totally inexcusable. I think the tenants know the government doesn’t have their interests at heart and I think they know the NDP has been fighting on their behalf.
Hon. B. Stephenson: The only interest the NDP has is its own.
Mr. Cassidy: I want to continue now to talk about some of the things which I believe we should consider as changes in rent review on the basis of the experience that we’ve been having over the last while. I want to say this to the member for Scarborough Centre, who is sitting in on behalf of the minister right now: When we considered these proposals, we thought them through very carefully because he knows, and I know, that it’s possible at times for socialists to decide that they will adopt a programme aimed at the infinite perfection of everything in sight.
Mr. Drea: I didn’t know that.
Mr. Cassidy: That is a tendency of which we are occasionally guilty and of which the member has from time to time accused us.
Mr. Drea: I have never accused you of that. I didn’t know it was part of your philosophy.
Mr. Cassidy: We, as socialists, believe in the possibility of people moving towards greater perfection, greater self-fulfilment and so on --
Hon. B. Stephenson: You don’t really; you feel only you are sufficiently perfect.
Mr. Cassidy: -- whereas the Tories seem to have a kind of feeling that people are inherently wrong and bad. This is one of the reasons we occasionally go in that direction.
Mr. Cassidy: What we have proposed here, though, are specific proposals that are designed to both improve and simplify the administration of rent review as well as to correct the bias against tenants which the government has adopted.
In the first place, with careful thinking the red tape and form-filling which now surrounds rent review can and should be reduced to a minimum. I mentioned the kind of form-filling that’s involved right now. We believe there are many instances in connection with rent review where if a landlord can show, and the tenant agrees, that a reasonable facsimile was used or that reasonable information was given to the tenant, that that should be adequate. Strict compliance with every form, in the sense that you have to fill in the 31st page and that kind of thing, shouldn’t be necessary in those cases.
Among other things, if the government had ever chosen to produce a tenants’ guide to the rent review programme, comparable with the guide which was produced for landlords, then both parties would know where they stood and a lot of the formal red tape that they’ve introduced would be reduced.
It’s significant to note that there have been some 247,000 applications submitted to the government in connection with rent review, but only about 100,000 cases have been heard. There’s no significant backlog, as I understand it, in most rent review offices right now. We have finally caught up. That means there were two and a half applications submitted for every one that was finally heard; that surely is one indication of the kind of red tape that was introduced with rent review.
The second thing, and I mentioned it already, is our feeling that it’s been wrong to have several hearings on an individual building over the course of the year. It has produced contradictory results, it has produced inequitable results and it has produced tremendous harassment and difficulties for tenants and landlords alike.
We believe that the cost of rent review to all parties could and should be cut by requiring that buildings be reviewed as a whole rather than unit by unit. In other words, once it became clear that a landlord was going to look for rent increases exceeding the rent guideline, then the landlord should go forward on a full building basis.
Where there were leases that were due to expire during the course of the succeeding 12 months, then they would also come up for review but the rulings of the rent review officer, as they regard properties with leases that expired later, would obviously take effect at the expiry of those particular leases.
Next, since we are anticipating that rent review would continue until there is an adequate supply of affordable rental housing, we think that the problems of unequal rents for comparable units have got to be resolved through the rent review process. We, therefore, recommend that proposals to equalize rents where comparable units bear different rents within the same building, should be granted provided the overall return to the landlord is not thereby increased.
In other words, if you have two comparable units at $250 and a couple at $225, you shouldn’t raise them all to $250. You should bring the top ones down and the bottom ones up and average them out at $237 or whatever it happens to be.
It is possible right now for there to be hundreds of separate hearings for certain apartment buildings where one building review would have sufficed and where it would have allowed the tenants to work together and where it would have produced one result that applied equally and fairly to all.
Next, we think the question of the maximum allowable rent increase has to be reviewed when rent review is continued after July 31. Given the fact that the rate of inflation has declined from 10.6 per cent in October 1975 to 6.2 per cent today, and given the fact that the ceiling on wage increases, which was eight per cent last year, has now been cut to six per cent under the Anti-Inflation Board, we believe the maximum allowable rent increase should be cut by at least two points from its present eight per cent.
I would like to be more precise about what the new guidelines should be but that is very difficult. Six months ago in a written question we asked the ministry to table the calculations which underlay its determination of the maximum allowable rent increase for the year 1976-71. The government has never complied. Six weeks ago we asked them for a whole pile of detailed information. They said, “Look, put it down as a written question and we will give it to you.” We are still waiting.
All I know is that the guideline, which doesn’t prevent a landlord seeking more or a tenant seeking less, but does act as a kind of rule of thumb for everybody in the game, should surely come down when the other guidelines related to inflation and wage increases in this economy have also come down substantially since one year ago.
Mr. Drea: On the maximum allowable increase you are talking about guideline, not maximum allowable.
Mr. Cassidy: The technical term is “maximum allowable increase,” as the parliamentary assistant knows. However, if a landlord seeks an increase, in this case of more than say six per cent, he would have the right to do so but he would have to apply to a rent review office rather than simply bringing in that rent increase unilaterally.
The next thing is the question of openness and equitableness to tenants. We say that the devices that have been used deliberately by the government to obstruct tenants seeking information about rent review should be swept away. There should be an open-file policy for any landlord, for any tenant or for their authorized representative after as well as before hearings. This should include the minutes of hearings and the rent review officer’s material. Tenants should be permitted to photocopy the documents. The decisions of the rent review officers and of rent review appeals should be publicly available.
There should also be very clearly laid down requirements about when this information is tabled. For example, the landlord’s application and cost-revenue statement should be in the rent review office at least two weeks before a hearing; otherwise, the hearing should be postponed. I don’t see how it is possible or reasonable to ask working people who are tenants and who can only get by between 4:30 and 5, since most offices haven’t been open in the evening, how it is possible for them to get the information, to look at it, to copy it -- now by hand, if, at all -- to get together with other tenants to form an association and maybe to hire an accountant or get a lawyer to look at the situation within the space of the three or four days, which is often the maximum period between the landlord’s filing of information and the actual rent review hearing.
There should be a tenant’s guide to rent review available to complement the guide which has already been distributed to some landlords. The government should provide support for tenant organizations which are helping tenants with rent review. Here again, the Metro Tenants’ Federation, for example, had to beg and beg and beg and eventually got a few dollars for legal assistance to tenant organizations in connection with rent review through the community outreach programme of the Legal Aid Plan. The amount that the landlord, Minto Corporation in Ottawa -- I am sure there are many others in a comparable situation -- has been able to charge against its tenants as an operating cost, and is permitted to do so under rent review, exceeds by far the amount which this government has given to aid all tenant organizations seeking to help tenants in coping with rent review.
That ain’t fair, Mr. Speaker, and that wouldn’t have been done if this government was committed to making rent review work. I am not saying that the government is going to become pro-tenant.
Mr. Warner: They don’t care.
Mr. Cassidy: I wouldn’t expect this government to be pro-tenant. It would be nice, however, if occasionally from the Conservative administration of this province we could have a government which takes no sides, which recognizes a problem and then seeks to deal fairly with landlords and tenants alike.
Mr. Warner: That would be novel.
Mr. Cassidy: The ministry knows that some of the things we have proposed are not designed to increase landlords’ profits. I think the ministry and the public also know -- and they can tell from the tenor of the speeches which we have made as a party -- that we would deal fairly with landlords and tenants alike in applying the law that was adopted by this Legislature. That has not been done by the government.
Let me give another example -- the manual. When the estimates of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations were being considered a while ago, the minister finally grudgingly said, “The members of the Legislature can look at the rent review officer’s manual,” a document which had previously been secret.
He predicted that the heavens would open if we got it. He made me sign a form which said that if any of this information got out, it would be my personal responsibility. The implication was that million-dollar lawsuits would be launched against me if I happened to allow the information to get into anybody’s hands.
Mr. Warner: Confidential.
Mr. Cassidy: I have to say that the major result of the minister’s keeping the manual secret has been simply to embitter the tenants who were deprived of access to it. I made that manual public. We have had less than half a dozen requests from people to look at it because there was absolutely nothing of any consequence in it. All the ministry needed to do in order to stop the hue and cry about the manual and the suspicions it engendered was simply to say, “Anybody who wants to look at it can go to a rent review office and take a look at it at a convenient time. If they want to take a copy of one or two pages, that’s just fine.”
The whole dissension that created would have gone but that is typical. Maybe it’s typical of the minister, maybe it’s typical of the ministry or maybe it’s typical of the government as a whole in the attitude it has applied with regard to rent review.
The next point I want to make is the question of the discretionary powers which have been used by rent review officers. These powers are so broad that they can and often do ignore ministry guidelines in ruling against tenants. They have done that. They have also very often been erratic and inconsistent in their rulings.
Moreover, some of the guidelines are not available to the public or may not be available to the public. I frankly don’t know. The guidelines are changed frequently. They change without public scrutiny and the tendency of the changes has been to favour landlords.
For example, when rent review began, landlords were obliged to pay their legal costs in rent review cases out of the five per cent of revenue they were allowed for administration. As I have just pointed nut, these legal costs are now permitted in addition to the five per cent and are therefore paid directly by tenants out of their rent.
The ministry guidelines to rent review officers should be binding. They should be part of the regulations under The Rent Review Act. They should be public and they should be regularly considered by a committee of this Legislature or by some other appropriate body.
We might beef up the regulations committee and make it do the job not just to see that the regulations fall within the four corners of the legislation but also to judge those regulations and be required to inform the House if it disagreed with any of those guidelines.
Right now there are very broad discretionary powers. Tenants have become confined and frustrated as a result. I have talked about the quality of the rent review officers. It has been made worse and compounded by the fact that they have had no training and they have had such broad discretion. We suggest that every participant should know what the rules of the game are and that those rules should be obeyed by the rent review officers rather than indulging in some completely free-wheeling kind of exercise as they have done in so many cases.
I will conclude with what we would like to see done with the Act. I am glad that the parliamentary assistant is listening with interest.
Mr. Warner: He is uncomfortable.
Mr. Drea: I am never uncomfortable with you around.
Mr. Cassidy: Maybe he is uncomfortable. At least, he is listening.
One of the areas where specifically we need guidelines which are well defined is in the area of items dealing with refinancing and financial loss. This should be carefully defined either in the legislation or in the regulations, and I think we would prefer the legislation. Rent review officers have now begun allowing big rent increases, based on inflated sale values of rental property. In other words, a $200,000 apartment complex changes hands at $300,000 and, all of a sudden, the place is refinanced and tenants are being asked for a 35 per cent rent increase on the basis of that refinancing.
We also have evidence that landlords have begun to trade buildings from one to another in order to establish a higher capital cost. In other words, the member for Scarborough Centre has a building which cost him $200,000. He sells it to the member for Carleton-Grenville (Mr. Irvine) for $300,000.
Mr. Warner: He sold it yesterday.
Mr. Cassidy: The member for Carleton- Greenville sells the building at a similar inflated price, and this is a deal in order to evade rent review.
Mr. Breithaupt: I could think of other examples.
Mr. Cassidy: These were abuses that rent review was designed to correct.
Mr. Hodgson: How about your apartment?
Mr. Cassidy: I am suggesting that rent review is not correcting that because there were not adequate guidelines. Therefore, re-financings are being allowed and there are enormous capital gains being built in when they should have been ruled out.
I want to talk now briefly about what goes beyond rent review. Rent review alone will not relieve the problems that tenants face. Ontario must move to create adequate rental housing for low-income groups and people on modest incomes and to put landlord-tenant relations on a new and enduring basis. The proposals I am going to bring now do not relate to the specific revision of The Rent Review Act. What I have said up until now are things that we think can be introduced conveniently and quickly and simply into the rent review legislation without a lot of fuss. I am glad that the member for Scarborough Centre is nodding and understands.
Mr. Warner: Nodding his head and understanding are two different things.
Mr. Cassidy: We believe, however, that the other shoe has yet to drop, that the government has not yet produced an overall strategy for rental housing and that is one of the reasons why we are in such a mess with the rental housing sector. There should be an overall strategy for rental housing in the province and the responsibility for this policy should lie entirely and clearly with the Ministry of Housing. This responsibility should include the production of new rental housing and the maintenance of existing stock. It should ensure that low- and modest-income families are adequately served. It should ensure a regular review and updating of the legal basis for landlord and tenant relations and it should include responsibility for the legal framework of rent review.
In conjunction with local governments we believe that the province should set targets for the production of rental housing units for low- and modest-income groups. It should give strong encouragement, rather than the weak encouragement they get now, to non-profit and co-operative housing as a means of meeting these needs alongside the private sector. I could say, incidentally, that we are very disappointed that the Ontario Housing Corporation and the Ministry of Housing are underspending their capital allotment by about $25 million or $30 million this year, which means that they are underspending, if you consider what CMHC would put up with provincial equity, by the equivalent of some 10,000 rental housing units which the province could be initiating or could be encouraging, if it really had the interests of the rental housing sector at heart. But there is no policy and that money is going down the drain. And frankly, that is deplorable.
Mr. Drea: What would you do if the municipality won’t take that?
Mr. Cassidy: We are suggesting that the province negotiates with the municipality in order to set targets for the provision of rental housing for people on low and modest incomes. It doesn’t have to be public housing. It can be co-operative, it can be non-profit, it can be municipally-owned.
Mr. Drea: What if the municipality still says no?
Mr. Cassidy: It can be integrated with private development. There are all sorts of ways you can go. But there has got to be a will on the part of the province to see that that housing is provided.
Mr. Drea: What if they say no?
Mr. Cassidy: And that will is lacking right now. That will is just not there.
Mr. Drea: What do you do if the municipality says no?
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Cassidy: We would come and make a decision about that, after the municipality indicated it was absolutely adamant. But I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, if the municipality was absolutely adamant about not being willing to take any responsibility for providing housing for people on low or modest incomes within its borders, that its own electorate, its own residents would very quickly say to the municipal leaders, “You’re full of bunkum. You’re not behaving responsibly” and they would see a better attitude was taken.
The problem right now is when the province comes in at the last minute and says, “We want a public housing development with 200 units” --
Mr. Drea: Your colleague to the north of me --
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member for Ottawa Centre has the floor.
Mr. Cassidy: I’m having fun, Mr. Speaker. It’s when the province tries to shove public housing down the throat of municipalities, like Scarborough --
Mr. Drea: Not in my riding, it doesn’t.
Mr. Cassidy: Yes -- that’s when we get into the problems right now.
If I can go on, we believe that the responsibility for enforcement of landlord and tenant matters is now split three ways and that’s wrong. Right now, the rent review administration has jurisdiction over rents; the courts have jurisdiction over landlord and tenant matters -- evictions and so on -- and the small claims courts have jurisdiction over unpaid rents.
Tenants and landlords are both denied justice because the system is costly, cumbersome and slow. We believe that the responsibility for the administration of these three major areas of landlord-tenant relations should come under one authority and that the services in these three areas should be available and cheap, accessible and quick.
We suspect that the most logical ministry to do this is that of the Attorney General -- certainly it is not the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. The most logical means would be a landlord and tenant court which operated in close proximity to rent review offices. We believe that officers of the landlord and tenant court should have the power to undertake cases on behalf of landlords and tenants when enforcement cannot be achieved by the initiative of one party alone.
One of the tragedies of the present situation is that when a tenant is intimidated and the landlord is charging him far more than the law permits but the tenant fears to speak up, there’s no monitoring by this government to find out whether or not that law is being obeyed.
Mr. Drea: That is not true.
Mr. Cassidy: That is certainly true. There is no monitoring. We have no information like that.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member only has the floor.
Mr. Cassidy: I have brought cases before the Legislature -- the case of the buildings owned by Ernest Assaly in Ottawa is a good one. There has been no action by the government. The ministry promised that the Attorney General’s people, the Crown attorneys, would take on cases on behalf of tenants but as yet I know of no instances in which any such case has actually been taken up by the ministry.
In order to ensure that the law is complied with we believe that either the courts or the municipality should maintain a public registry of rental buildings and landlords should be required to file rents and services once a year. They should be required to comply with the present provisions for posting within their buildings which are ignored in 99 per cent of the cases. The courts should also be a centre for providing information and counsel about the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants.
Further, in order to reduce the need for landlords and tenants to refer to government, a standard lease should be introduced in Ontario which ensures that every tenant is aware of his rights and obligations under the law. We believe that the right of tenants to form a tenants’ association and to choose representatives to speak on their behalf with landlords should be recognized by law. Tenant associations should be guaranteed the right to communicate with their members and to provide services for tenants.
Finally, and I’m sorry I haven’t got the time to elaborate on this, in the very near future and provided that tenant associations do become recognized in law, we could see that an alternative to rent review could be created which would exempt any building from rent review where the landlord and the tenants’ association had reached an agreement about rents, services and other matters of mutual concern, and where the agreement had been ratified by a majority of tenants. As long as this agreement lasted that landlord and those tenants shouldn’t have to go to rent review. The protection of rent review however, should remain where no such building agreement exists or where such an agreement lapses.
This is a set of very positive proposals which we have put forward. We think the minister’s commitments are hollow and we think the government is shilly-shallying. We suspect it is deliberately trying to lead tenants down the garden path with the intention of letting rent review lapse during the course of the next campaign in the spring. We will bring the government to account if it goes forward in that way.
We believe it’s only fair to tenants and landlords that the government act now and that it allow its proposals to go to public scrutiny and public hearings now or in January. We think the law on rent review needs to be changed in order to cut red tape, reduce costs and make the programme more equitable. We believe that can and should be done in a way everybody understands and in a way that everybody, including the landlords, will agree to. They’re fed up with the red tape just as much as the tenants.
Mr. Speaker: Is the hon. member about to complete his remarks?
Mr. Cassidy: I have about one more minute, Mr. Speaker, if I could have your consent.
We think the landlord-tenant law needs to be improved and we think the government needs to bring in a policy to ensure an adequate supply of rental housing for people on low and modest incomes.
It’s tiresome to have to badger the government to respond now to tenants who are worried about whether rent review will continue. It’s tiresome to have to press continually for improvements in landlord and tenant law when they are long overdue. But the reluctance of the Conservative government to give tenants a fair deal, and to respond to Ontario’s need for housing for people on low and modest incomes, makes me suspect that after 33 years it’s simply tiresome to have a Tory government.
Mr. Speaker: Would someone move the adjournment of the debate?
On motion by Hon. Mr. Irvine, the debate was adjourned.
Hon. Mr. Irvine: Before moving the adjournment of the House, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to have the concurrence of the House to table the answers to two questions on the notice paper.
Mr. Speaker: Do we have that concurrence?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. Speaker: Agreed.
ANSWERS TO WRITTEN QUESTIONS
Hon. Mr. Irvine tabled the answers to questions 165 and 166 standing on the order paper.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Irvine, the House adjourned at 1:02 p.m.