The House met at 10:00 a.m.
DEATH OF DR. CHARLES BEST
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, it was with great sadness that we learned this morning of the death of Dr. Charles Best. He was a great Canadian who loved this country and gave to Canadians much of which to be proud. His work and success in research brought new hope to millions throughout the world, including some former members of this House and perhaps some current members.
Dr. Best always placed his first commitment to the betterment of mankind, setting aside financial gain or the many chances to take his talents and expertise elsewhere. His was an example to youth of all generations in Canada and throughout the world. Together with Sir Frederick Banting, as a young man Dr. Best showed perseverance and dedication despite great obstacles that would have discouraged lesser men. It was a spirit that continued throughout his lifetime.
This province and this country have lost one of the greatest scientists, humanitarians and patriots of our history. We all mourn his death, and on behalf of the government and people of Ontario I express sincere condolences to Dr. Best’s family and to his many friends and colleagues throughout the world. I would ask the members of the House to join me in a moment of silence.
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, if I might just take the time of the House for a moment, I would like to add, on behalf of the official opposition, our condolences to the family of Dr. Best, a family doubly bereaved in recent times. I would like to say simply as a Canadian and as a physician and scientist, that our country has not had many people of that stature, but he is an example and has been an example because we have potentially a lot of people of that stature. Because he succeeded, because he saved, indirectly, so many lives and made so many lives more livable, and because he proved that Canadians can in fact produce results which are as great as any in the history of mankind, he has perhaps done more than the vast majority of us to prove that the Canadian identity is real, something we can be proud of, and something we can show to the rest of the world. In that sense, I think the country has suffered a great loss, but his life was a great gain to us and is part of the very fabric of our national identity. I simply want to associate myself with the words expressed by the Minister of Health at this sad occasion.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I should like to add my words of condolence to the family of Dr. Best and pay tribute to him for his contribution to medical science and to our life as Canadians here in this Country.
I grew up in this city of Toronto and two people who were heroes for us as young people in the 1940s and early 1950s growing up in this city, were Dr. Best and Dr. Banting for their contribution in the conquest of diabetes through the discovery of insulin. It’s been an inspiration to many people, not just in the field of medicine, because Toronto has become a world-renowned centre due in large part to those initial discoveries and the kind of excitement and inspiration that those discoveries led to in other fields of endeavour as well. I know that all members of my party join with the comments made both by the Minister of Health and by the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. S. Smith: Slim pickings, as usual.
Mr. Ruston: Use the shotgun approach.
Mr. Conway: Frank Drea’s been awfully quiet. Try him.
Mr. S. Smith: Can the government House leader tell me if anyone else is coming as far he knows?
Hon. Mr. Welch: My information is that the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough); the ministers of Education (Mr. Wells), Natural Resources (F. S. Miller), Northern Affairs (Mr. Bernier) and Industry and Tourism (Mr. Rhodes), and the Premier (Mr. Davis) are the only members of the executive council who will be absent this morning.
Mr. Kerrio: I thought the House leader was going to tell us who was going to be here.
Mr. Reid: All the first stringers.
Mr. Ruston: Pretty smooth.
Mr. Reid: Sending in the substitutes on the bench, are you?
Mr. Martel: That was the first question; now the second.
Mr. Deans: That was the best answer we’ve had all week.
Mr. Reid: Sounds like the lineup for the Blue Jays.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Do you have a supplementary?
Mr. Speaker: The House leader has indicated that he would like a supplementary response.
INCREASE IN OHIP PREMIUMS
Mr. S. Smith: Since I’m only talking to the supplementary part of the cabinet I’ll address my first question to the Minister of Health.
Can the Minister of Health tell me how he feels being a member of a government in which, as pointed out in the report that has just come out from the National Council of Welfare on taxation and the distribution of income, his ministry is now being blamed for the fact that Ontarians who earn less than $20,000 a year, because of the new OHIP increases are to be the highest-taxed people in the land and that those at the poverty level or just above, those earning $10,000 or $12,000 a year, in terms of combined provincial income tax and health insurance premiums, will be paying vastly more in Ontario than in any other province of Canada. How does he feel about that?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, the hon. Leader of the Opposition has me at somewhat of a disadvantage in that he has the report. I haven’t seen it, so I wouldn’t want to comment on it until I have had a chance to look at it.
I know there have been a number of figures bandied about. I think the record, though, shows that in terms of per capita spending on health care and in terms of increases in spending over the last five or six years, Ontario of all the provinces has led the way in showing reason in the growth in spending.
No matter how one feels about a premium system or other means, I have to think that, given the horrendous costs of health care, and the charge of $1.44 a day for a family or 72 cents a day for a single subscriber like myself, and considering the alternatives, it is still a reasonable system.
Mr. S. Smith: The minister doesn’t pay it.
By way of supplementary, since the minister has not seen the report and since it has just come out, will he kindly listen to a few figures -- and I won’t take the time of the House unduly, Mr. Speaker -- comparing two provinces that have premiums --
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: On a point of order: I think this is a bit of a misuse of the question period to read a report to me and not to ask any questions. I would be glad to answer questions on specifics --
Mr. S. Smith: I will ask questions.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- but if the hon. member wants to read the particular report into the record perhaps he could do that during some debate.
Mr. Bradley: And let’s have some ministers on the front bench.
Mr. S. Smith: I’ll read a few for the minister.
Mr. Speaker: It is not really a point of order. If the question does not contain a question it will be ruled out of order.
Mr. S. Smith: I would simply take a moment to read the comparison between a province with no premiums -- that is the province of Saskatchewan -- and two provinces with premiums -- Ontario and British Columbia. You may be interested to know that the total tax burden for those with $10,000 earned income and below in Saskatchewan is $122; in Ontario $798; in British Columbia $508. For $12,000 income: Saskatchewan $346; Ontario $960; British Columbia $677 -- I will only give you one more and then I will ask you a question -- the $15,000 level: Saskatchewan $710; Ontario $1,223; British Columbia $952.
What I want to ask the Minister of Health -- since obviously this situation is not his doing, it is the doing of the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) who is merely using Health as an excuse to burden his taxation on the lowest income people in Ontario -- how does it feel as Minister of Health having to put up with this? How does it feel having to pretend that it is one’s own ministry’s expenditures that are the reason for --
Mr. Speaker: The question has been asked.
Mr. S. Smith: -- having to burden the people at the poverty level?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, again, I will be sure to get a copy of that report and review all of it. I am sure it has pointed out such things as the $5 a day charge for a hospital bed in the province of British Columbia. I am sure it has pointed out some of the deductible amounts in some provinces for some services, which we don’t have in Ontario. Frankly, I think if you were to compare everything -- all the variables, all the additional charges that apply in other provinces -- Ontario would still come out at --
Mr. S. Smith: At the very bottom.
Mr. McClellan: That is not true.
Mr. Swart: That’s nonsense.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I feel sorry for the Leader of the Opposition on Fridays. He twists his lip and he snarls and tries to be something that he is not. I feel sorry for him some days and this is one of them.
Mr. Cassidy: When your position is weak, shout.
Mr. S. Smith: I feel sorry for the people being taxed in this province at the poverty line.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Watch the Juno awards.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I think we all acknowledge that arriving at the conclusions of his budget --
Mr. Kerrio: Look at the cartoon in the morning paper.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- was a very difficult exercise for my colleague the Treasurer.
Mr. S. Smith: This minister is the fall guy for the Treasurer’s finances and he knows it.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: But I was certainly pleased that in the budget he included a provision to raise the taxable income ceiling so that more people would now come under total or partial premium subsidies than has ever been the case before. We will now have, if I remember the correct figures, 1,820,000 people who will pay no premiums at all; and a further 60,000, I think it was, who will be on partial premiums.
Mr. Mackenzie: Nobody in Saskatchewan pays premiums.
Hon. B. Stephenson: We have been supporting them for years; that is the truth.
Mr. Deans: Supplementary: Since the minister and the government continually make reference to the differences in the costs and the hidden charges that are levied in other jurisdictions --
Hon. B. Stephenson: We paid their entire medicare program for years.
Mr. Martel: How did we do that?
Hon. B. Stephenson: This province did -- in transfer payments.
Mr. Martel: This province?
Hon. B. Stephenson: The entire thing.
Mr. Deans: The minister was referring to the $5 and other charges in Saskatchewan --
Mr. Martel: We are now paying Alberta’s. With all their oil, we are paying Alberta’s.
Mr. Deans: The competition is getting to me.
Is the minister prepared to put on the record the actual costs of medical care in the province of Ontario -- on a per diem basis, if you will, or on a per capita basis, or in whatever way the minister wants to calculate it -- and then to draw exact comparisons from other provinces and to show us exactly where we get a better deal? Because it certainly isn’t evident to anyone here.
Ms. Gigantes: That’s right.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I can certainly show comparisons between the per capita spending by this government and that of other provinces. The point I was trying to make was that it’s something of an improper comparison when one considers that -- take British Columbia, for instance, that comparison would not show the fact that in British Columbia you will pay $5 per day per bed.
Mr. Martel: My colleague is saying to put that in the overall package.
Mr. Deans: I’m saying to the minister to give us the total.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Once we get into the standing committee on social development, within the next week, these and other sets of figures will be available, and I’ll be glad to share them with the committee.
I am certainly looking forward to seeing what the proposals of the official opposition party are going to be.
Mr. Deans: Frankly, I don’t care.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I have not seen any proposals from them in 14 months as the minister, and I think it is going to be quite an occasion.
Mr. Martel: He said he will be looking forward to it.
Mr. S. Smith: This program is a revenue-raising device and the minister is the fall guy.
Mr. Conway: Supplementary: I would ask the Minister of Health, given the substantial increases in OHIP premiums effected in this year’s budget and in the 1976 budget, whether he has undertaken any study to see if there are any early indications that more and more people just aren’t bothering to pay these extremely high and prohibitive premiums? Does he have any statistics to indicate how many people are not covered?
The Toronto Globe and Mail, I noticed some weeks ago, in dealing with the notch-up problem --
Mr. Speaker: The question has been asked.
Mr. Conway: -- went out to find people at the notch level and found that people just weren’t bothering to pay the premiums because they were so expensively prohibitive.
Mr. S. Smith: They figure welfare will pay for it.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I haven’t seen figures for a number of months, but to the best of my recollection -- and I will be sure to dig these out and share them with the committee in the next couple of weeks -- that is not the case at all.
Mr. Speaker: A final supplementary; the hon. member for Oshawa.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, will the minister, before we meet next Wednesday, table for us in this House the most favourable set of numbers that he can come up with? Never mind his allusions to the fact that he might have them or doesn’t have them; would he just, once and for all, table those figures?
Mr. S. Smith: That’s right.
Mr. Breaugh: Let him fix them any way he cares to but let him give us something that shows us what he says is actually true, because no one else in the nation can agree with him.
Mr. Martel: Other than 57 Tories.
Ms. Gigantes: It’s a big lie.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Absolute NDP arrogance -- speaking on behalf of all the people of the nation.
Mr. McClellan: You should talk about arrogance!
Ms. Gigantes: It’s a lie.
Mr. McClellan: Tell us about arrogance.
Mr. Martel: The epitome of arrogance is speaking.
Hon. B. Stephenson: No; I said his arrogance in speaking on behalf of all the people of the nation.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: If the hon. member, in doing his studies for his new role as health critic, would look at some of the materials in recent years from the Economic Council and other sources, I will be glad to --
Mr. S. Smith: We understand your connection with them. We know you like the OMA, but --
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I don’t know if we can pull out all the data; the thing is, I guess I would sooner get into this with the committee because there are so many different ways you can compare every provincial system --
Mr. Cassidy: No, just give us one example.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I have no intention of cooking the books or whatever, but each system is different.
Mr. Conway: Darcy will look after that.
Mr. Cassidy: And your system is the worst of all.
Hon. B. Stephenson: No, it is not.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Each system is different in the 10 provinces, one way or another. I don’t know that a direct comparison is possible. But I’ll certainly be glad to share with the committee any and all figures we’ve got.
Mr. Martel: You’re so cavalier about making comparisons.
Ms. Gigantes: You are in trouble.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Since the committee is of course on the record, as it would be in this House, then what the member wants will be there as it would be here.
Mr. Warner: It’s out of your control.
Mr. Kerrio: Leave the cooking to Darcy; he’s the champ.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition with his second question.
Mr. Martel: That’s three now.
Mr. S. Smith: That’s right.
Mr. S. Smith: I’ll ask a question of the Minister of Revenue, again since the Treasurer is not here. I have sent him an advertisement, Mr. Speaker, which has appeared in today’s Globe and Mail on behalf of New York State. The minister undoubtedly is familiar with the fact that the Treasurer says in his budget statement that “in Ontario our taxation levels compare favourably with those of nearby jurisdictions with which we compete.” In this ad are listed about seven particular tax incentives that New York State offers and in the body of the material a number of others are listed. With the exception of tax credit on equipment and sales tax exemption on equipment, can the Minister of Revenue tell us which of these incentives are, in fact, offered in the province of Ontario?
Mr. Turner: You mean you don’t know?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Speaker, I would have to take that question under advisement, but I would inform the Leader of the Opposition that it has been the policy of this government up to this point in time that we are not going to get into situations of a competitive nature as is being done now by other states, particularly in the United States, where there’s a highly competitive bid for industry. At this point in time our policy has not been to compete in such a way as to use tax incentives, for instance, to take industries from other provinces and so on.
Mr. Sargent: Why not?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Simply because we don’t believe that’s the route to go.
Mr. Sargent: A lot of guys out of jobs think it’s a good idea.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary: Unfortunately these manufacturing industries understand what the route is to go and they’re going to the United States. Is the minister aware that we’re losing manufacturing jobs in this country, according to the Science Council of Canada, at approximately the rate of 10,000 a month?
Mr. Rotenberg: Because Trudeau’s loused up the economy, that’s why.
Mr. S. Smith: Is the minister aware that these are the kinds of incentives which are drawing away Ontario industries that could employ Ontario people --
Mr. Havrot: Why don’t you talk to your friends in Ottawa?
Mr. S. Smith: -- and why isn’t the government competing? It’s a competitive world. Why shouldn’t we be competing?
Hon. W. Newman: You talk restraint one day and then spending the next day. Where do you stand?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: If everyone competes in this kind of a game it only becomes a cutthroat situation and in the final analysis we all lose.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: You really want it both ways, don’t you?
Mr. S. Smith: Our throats are being cut.
Mr. Kerrio: Supplementary: If the minister does not see fit to pursue this route, what does he have as an alternative to encourage industry to come here? Is there anything being done at a high level on the balance of trade that would induce General Motors and others to make certain that we have other pressures brought to bear that would have those factories come here, if the government is not going to go all that route,
Mr. Rotenberg: Tell Trudeau to fix the auto pact.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I suggest that particular question should go to the Minister of Industry and Tourism, under whose jurisdiction that falls. I have nothing whatever to do with that particular area. I’m interested only in the tax.
Mr. Kerrio: That’s why we’re in trouble.
Mr. S. Smith: Final supplementary, if I might: Do I take it, then, that the minister who is in charge of taxation disagrees with the Treasurer, because this minister feels it’s not a good policy to be competitive in this way when the Treasurer says, and I quote again, “Our taxation levels compare favourably with those of nearby jurisdictions with which we compete”? Do I take it then he was not telling us the fact that the Minister of Revenue has decided we shouldn’t be competing in the taxation field?
Mr. Rotenberg: Come on, don’t misquote him.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: If the hon. member recalls the answer to the first question, I said I would take his question under advisement and check to see what our tax exemptions would be in comparison with New York State. I’m not prepared to tell him that at this point in time.
Mr. Kerrio: Ah, you know what tax exemptions are available.
Mr. S. Smith: You are as aware as anybody of what’s happening.
Mr. Kerrio: You’re not even in the race.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Order.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I had promised that I would get back to the hon. member regarding the comparison. As the member is very well aware, the Treasurer directs the policy of taxation in this province, not the Minister of Revenue.
Mr. S. Smith: He’s not here though.
Mr. Sargent: Supplementary: Is the minister aware that the lending policies of ODC were to the extent of $25,000 a job, and he has the audacity to stand there when there are thousands of people out of work and say he has no policy in this regard to entice industry here? VW was offered $100 million to locate its plant in New York State, and the minister has no policy at all.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: That is not what I said.
Mr. Sargent: It’s a fact.
Hon. W. Newman: It is not.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I said I would compare the tax policies of New York State with the province of Ontario to see how they compared. I said that if we’re going to talk about other incentives it should be directed to the Minister of Industry and Tourism, who is in charge of that particular area.
ADOPTION SERVICE FEES
Mr. Cassidy: I have a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services concerning recommendation 59 in the ministry’s consultation paper on short-term legislative amendments in the area of children’s services. The ministry states in that paragraph, and I quote: “When adoptive parents can afford to pay towards adoption services, we think it should be possible for societies to charge and collect a reasonable fee.”
Can the minister clarify recommendation 59 attached to that statement, which says that the ministry should have legal authority to establish and to regulate fees charged by Children’s Aid Societies for their adoption services?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, that proposal for discussion in the paper was intended to assist in providing some opportunity for societies to charge a reasonable fee which would help to offset the administrative costs incurred in the process of arranging and processing an adoption. I’m not sure, beyond that, what the hon. member’s question was intending to elicit. Does that answer the hon. member’s question or is there something further?
Mr. Cassidy: I’ll come to it in a supplementary, because we are very concerned about this idea that there be substantial charges for adoptions.
I’d like to ask this then: Is this intended to be a possibility for Children’s Aid Societies or a requirement? I ask that in view of a letter from the associate deputy minister, Judge Thomson, to a Children’s Aid Society in this province that the wording of recommendation 59 -- and I quote Judge Thomson -- “was intended to allow for a ministry decision which would require a Children’s Aid Society to charge for adoption services.” In other words, there would be a requirement and not just the possibility. Has a decision in this regard been made yet?
Hon. Mr. Norton: The answer to the latter part of that question is no, the paper is still subject to discussion. We’re presently reviewing briefs on the total package of proposals from Children’s Aid Societies across the province, from agencies and interested individuals who have submitted briefs. The response and the interest was actually much greater than we had anticipated; the quantity of work that people put into the preparation of their responses was such that when requests were made for an extension of the period for consultation beyond the February 28 date that had originally been suggested, I agreed to do so on the understanding that, at the same time, we would begin to review and respond directly to the briefs that we had received so as not to unreasonably delay our schedule, since I had indicated to the House that I would like to meet the commitment of introducing some legislative change during this spring session. So there is still no decision on a policy basis on any of those proposals. They are still proposals which are under discussion.
Mr. Cassidy: A supplementary: I want to focus on this question of whether Children’s Aid Societies will be made to charge for adoptions or whether there will be such financial pressure put upon them that they will charge for adoptions.
In view of the response which the minister mentions has already been indicated by Children’s Aid Societies -- and that there will be action in relation to this recommendation number 59 -- can the minister give some idea what charges will be made, or will be permitted or encouraged in relation to adoptions, in view of the very real danger that Children’s Aid Societies may start to choose adoptive parents on the basis of their ability to pay and not their suitability as parents, given the financial restrictions of the ministry?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Clearly, I can appreciate the concern of the hon. member on the latter point that he made. I can assure him this is certainly not the intent. I think that should this be approved on a policy basis if there is any possibility that kind of bias might creep in, clearly there will have to be protections to prevent it.
Mr. Deans: It’s not a very good idea.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I noticed that the hon. member indicated that he and his party would he opposed to the charging of any substantial fee. I’m not sure what the magnitude of any substantial fee would be. The terminology we’ve used in the suggestion is a “reasonable” fee.
Mr. McClellan: There’s no room for a fee.
Ms. Gigantes: How much money does the minister want to raise?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Certainly, it is not the intention to inhibit persons, or to prevent persons from proceeding to adopt children. The intention is simply to assign a reasonable portion of the cost. As the member reads the recommendation which is being considered, it was that a reasonable fee be charged in situations where the parents could afford it.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. S. Smith: He’s had four or five.
Mr. Speaker: One final supplementary. The hon. member for Bellwoods.
Mr. McClellan: Given that the minister understands we are opposed to fees in adoption, period; let me ask the minister what is the average administrative cost of adoption in this province, which I gather is the basis for his proposed fees for adoption?
Mr. S. Smith: And what would be the cost if the child were not adopted?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I don’t have the average costs at the moment. I will get that for the member. I am aware of the position, as the hon. member states, that there is opposition to any fees and I am sure that it covers areas that don’t touch upon my ministry --
Mr. McClellan: You can keep your buy-a-child scheme.
Mr. Makarchuk: Put them out to the highest bidder.
Ms. Gigantes: How much do you want to raise?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I think the hon. members again have completely missed the point that first of all it is not a policy matter. We have invited input from the hon. members and everyone else in the province on such discussions so that the members opposite would have something to discuss and apply themselves in the course of process.
Mr. Warner: Why would you suggest it even for discussion?
Ms. Gigantes: It was Darcy who started it.
Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary if I might: Why does the minister not simply lay that absolutely ridiculous scheme to rest, given the fact that it costs more to keep a child who is not adopted than one who is adopted, given the fact that the minister is not in fact saving any money by charging people for this, and given the fact that the whole thing is simply offensive to anybody’s sense of decency and reasonableness? Why not simply declare now that that ridiculous idea is put to rest permanently?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I obviously will consider the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition in the matter when the discussion papers or the briefs have all been submitted and I hope that he has taken the trouble to make some such submissions to us as well.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a second question to the Minister of Health. Can the minister report to this House on his discussions with the Canadian Union of Public Employees about the difficulties which are being undergone right now in continued master contract bargaining for hospital workers across the province?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I met with representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees a few days ago. I had asked to see them a few weeks ago inasmuch as I had seen some of the people who are negotiating on the hospital side and I wanted to be briefed on both sides.
I indicated to the CUPE delegation that I would certainly hope they and the representatives of the hospital bargaining team could get back together as soon as possible. I indicated, as I had in a letter to Mr. Douglas of CUPE a number of months ago, that the government is not going to force either side into a master contract relationship. That is something that, if it happens, will have to evolve.
The representatives of CUPE left with me a couple of suggestions which they wanted me to consider and which I am considering along with my colleague, the Minister of Labour (B. Stephenson), but certainly we are not injecting ourselves in the ministry into the middle of this. We want the two sides to get back to the table as soon as possible.
Mr. Mackenzie: Given the direction of the government in terms of the construction industry and the efforts at province-wide bargaining, does the minister not see the merit of master bargaining in the health field with the hospitals and the hospital workers?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: To give a brief answer, Mr. Speaker, no.
Mr. Warner: Why not?
Mr. Martel: What’s the difference?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, let me elaborate on that and just say that over the last number of years there have evolved various forms of central bargaining, and in fact we are just coming to the end of the first contract with centralized bargaining between various hospitals and certain unions -- CUPE and SEIU. As I say, however what evolves in the future is up to the parties -- the unions and the hospitals involved. Let’s never forget that of course just as the individual locals have a great deal of autonomy, particularly in CUPE, so too do the individual hospitals. They are after all community hospitals, administered and overseen by community boards.
Mr. Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mr. Mackenzie: Individual contractors have the same kind of autonomy, and I think the minister is on the wrong road.
Mr. Speaker: That’s not a question.
FLECK MANUFACTURING COMPANY
Mr. Riddell: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. In view of the riotous situation which has developed at Fleck Manufacturing Company where police had to close two schools and public thoroughfares leading into the industrial park yesterday in the interest of the safety of schoolchildren, teachers and others who work in the park; and in view of the conduct of workers coming from other areas of Ontario in support of the Fleck strikers breaking into the plant, smashing windows and doors, ransacking offices, and threatening to burn the place down; what action does the minister contemplate to help resolve the differences between the two parties so that this part of the country can get back to a civilized way of living?
Mr. Warner: Get rid of that sweat-shop for a start.
Hon. B. Stephenson: As the hon. member knows, the Ministry of Labour has been keeping contact with both parties in an attempt to get them back to the negotiating table. Late yesterday afternoon we appointed a disputes advisory committee which is at this moment meeting to plan its course of action in order to attempt to resolve that problem.
ESCAPE OF SULPHURIC ACID
Mr. Lupusella: My question is directed to the Minister of the Environment, in relation to the leak of concentrated sulphuric acid at the Prestolite Battery plant at Dufferin and Dupont. On the morning of March 19, 1978, a leak developed in an elevated sulphuric acid tank located at the west side of the plant and the prevailing high winds that day carried a mist of the sulphuric acid southward to a car wash located at the northwest corner of Dufferin and Dupont, forcing the owner of the car wash to close down his operation because his employees complained of skin irritation.
Can the minister report to this House whatever information is available to him and what they have discovered as to the nature and the cause of the leakage?
Hon. Mr. McCague: As to the last part of the question -- what have we discovered as far as the leak is concerned -- it was a broken seam in the tank.
Mr. Lupusella: By way of supplementary: Considering the leak has aroused considerable concern among neighbours of the plant and because of the fact that this particular incident is clearly something that should not happen again in any circumstances, particularly in the middle of a residential area, can the minister tell us what kind of action his department has taken against the company? And can the minister assure us that the Prestolite plant will be inspected by his officials to detect any chemical container located in the plant and outside the plant which can constitute a hazard to the public and to the employees working in that particular plant?
Hon. Mr. McCague: There has been an investigation. I don’t have a report yet, but I will report to the member when I have that.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE
Mr. Sargent: A question to the Minister of Transportation and Communications: With reference to the excellent series in the Toronto Star by Brian Vallee on the UPS application -- or, I suggest, eventual take-over here in Ontario -- I would like to ask the minister, as the only elected person in Ontario who can do something for us in this regard -- and in view of the fact that he sold us out in the Greyhound corporation deal. We can understand the fact that free enterprise can take over, but the minister rates very easily in the public sector here -- I would like to ask him, because very many people, hundreds of thriving smaller firms in the parcel industry will be wiped out of business by this takeover unless he gets up off of it and does something; my question is this: Why doesn’t he, in view of this newspaper series which is very relevant because we have heard that crime is organized --
Mr. Speaker: Order, order. You have indicated you were going to ask a question on three different occasions and I have yet to hear it.
Mr. Sargent: I have to qualify the setting here.
Mr. Speaker: You have been around here for 12 years. If you don’t know how to frame a question, it’s time you did.
Mr. Sargent: All right, thank you.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: He hasn’t been around long enough; he has not really been around.
Mr. Sargent: Whose side are you on there?
Mr. Speaker: I’m trying to help you to ask a question, with great difficulty.
Mr. Sargent: Why doesn’t the minister investigate the fact that the rates will increase 150 per cent because of their past experiences? Why doesn’t he cancel their licences, because they are now bootlegging in unregulated, modified cars -- passenger cars? Why doesn’t he cancel the licences until the hearings are completed?
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Working for the post office, Eddie?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I’ll try to reply to the statements by the hon. member. First of all --
Mr. Germa: Just answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Snow: -- I don’t believe the UPS operation that the hon. member referred to has any licences that can be cancelled. There are certain cities within the province -- Metropolitan Toronto; Ottawa, I believe; Windsor; perhaps more -- where the company does hold a cartage licence issued by the municipality. I cannot cancel that cartage licence.
Mr. Sargent: But they’re breaking the Act now.
Hon. Mr. Snow: The corporation has made application to the Ontario Highway Transport Board for a licence, as it is the right of any corporation or any individual to do. I do not intend to rule unilaterally, even if I had the power to do so, that UPS -- or Eddie Sargent enterprises limited -- cannot make an application to the Highway Transport Board to carry parcels.
The application was made. The board is hearing the application. It is without a doubt, I guess, the most complicated and the most lengthy hearing the board has ever had since it was established back in the 1920s. The applications started back, I think, in October -- October 1 perhaps. There have been many days of hearings.
I did talk to the chairman of the board a few days ago when he advised me how many days of hearings had gone on in this application, and the fact that he expected it to go some time yet. I forget now the number of witnesses who have appeared, both on behalf of the applicants and are now appearing in opposition to the applicants.
The hearing, I think, is being conducted in a proper, legal way and the board will eventually issue its decision. When that decision is issued, then as you know both parties have recourse to appeal. I just have to say there’s no way that I will or that I should interfere with the due process of the law in the handling of this application.
Mr. Sargent: Supplementary: Would the minister advise me somewhere along the line why the elected people cannot work on behalf of the people, because of the track record -- with every market they’ve gone into, they’ve broken the market and put everybody else out of business, across the world they’ve done this. Is there any reason why they won’t do the same thing here in Ontario?
Secondly, I understand even the government is using this service now. Is that right?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I’m not sure any of the statements the hon. member has made are right. As far as whether the government is using this service or not, I have no idea. Certainly not to my knowledge, but I cannot say that someone has not used UPS to deliver a parcel. I can’t give the hon. member that commitment. But certainly not to my knowledge.
Mr. Sargent: Final supplementary.
Mr. Speaker: Does the hon. member for Etobicoke have a supplementary?
Mr. Philip: I would like to ask a supplementary if the other hon. member would kindly sit down and allow me to ask my supplementary.
Is the minister prepared to admit that a carrier who does not have licences has an unfair advantage in being able to acquire customers in a way that would not be allowed by those who have licences, and thereby use those customers as proof, in their application for a licence, of necessity and convenience for the service?
I hear in the specific case of UPS where they have used automobiles. Would the minister not admit that a licensed carrier would never be allowed to get away with that, because he would be called in and questioned on some other item, and pressure would be put on him by the transport board?
Mr. Conway: Somebody had better talk to Doug Moffatt.
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I totally digested all of that question, so I will take it as notice. I would like to read it very carefully.
Mr. Sargent: Supplementary: In view of the fact that 140 Canadian firms and the Canada Post Office is appearing against this, and it is going to cost us hundreds of millions of dollars down the line, why would the minister not personally intervene on behalf of the people of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, I thought I answered that quite well in my answer to the original question.
Mr. Sargent: You haven’t answered it at all. Don’t you have any clout at all down there?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I have no power, and I don’t believe I should have, as the minister, power to tell the board that it cannot hear an application. There are avenues for appeal under the legislation which the member is very well aware of.
Mr. Cassidy: You are acting like a babe in the woods.
ABITIBI FOREST PRODUCTS LIMITED
Ms. Bryden: I have a question of the Minister of the Environment. Today and yesterday were deadline dates for Abitibi Forest Products Limited in meeting control orders under the Environmental Protection Act. In view of the importance of enforcing these orders, if we are to make any progress in ending the very severe pollution of our waterways by the pulp and paper industry, could the minister indicate if Abitibi has, in fact, met the three deadlines for today and yesterday; namely, the two orders against the Thunder Bay and Fort William divisions of the company to submit an application for approval of a system to reduce the suspended solids in the mill effluent to 50 parts per million, and the one order against the Sturgeon Falls division to submit a report to the director proposing how they plan to reduce the phenol loading from the press runoff at the hardboard mill by 75 per cent?
Hon. Mr. McCague: Mr. Speaker, on the first two orders that were mentioned I can’t give the member an answer today, but will on Monday. On the second part, on Abitibi at Sturgeon Falls, I don’t think we have anything from them yet but I guess they have the rest of the day.
Ms. Bryden: If they have not complied with these orders by Monday, what action does the minister intend to take?
Hon. Mr. McCague: I would like to have time over the weekend to consider that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cassidy: That is called planning.
Mr. Gaunt: Supplementary: Since Abitibi, Thunder Bay, has obviously been in violation of the control order with respect to BOD emissions in 1977 as opposed to 1976, does the ministry intend to charge that company?
Hon. Mr. McCague: Mr. Speaker, I presume the hon. member is saying “further”; and that too will be considered.
Mr. Breaugh: Don’t take the whole one, George.
Mr. Makarchuk: You will have a busy weekend.
Hon. Mr. McCague: That’s right.
Mr. McGuigan: I have a question of the Minister of Revenue, and I would hope that the Minister of Agriculture and Food would be interested in this.
In view of the fact that the greenhouse vegetable industry and the floriculture industry is struggling to cope with the high escalating costs of energy, and in view of this government’s interest in energy conservation, would the ministry eliminate the sales tax on thermal blankets? By way of explanation, these thermal blankets are a system of introducing an extra layer of covering and are responsible for saving up to 60 per cent of the energy. Recently mechanical systems have been introduced to make this very practical. So I would ask the minister to consider reducing the sales tax.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Again I have to say that that type of policy is made by the Treasurer and not by the Minister of Revenue. From a personal viewpoint, I’ll certainly be happy to look into it and discuss it with the Treasurer. It sounds like a fairly good idea.
Mr. Laughren: The Treasurer won’t like that.
Mr. Gaunt: Supplementary: Since this matter is very important to the greenhouse industry, that is to say, the entire energy ingredient in their operation is vitally important, as was recognized by the Minister of Energy in the study that ministry undertook to utilize waste heat from nuclear plants and apply them in a greenhouse operation, would the minister undertake to speak to the Treasurer about this immediately to see if some problems cannot be resolved quickly, in view of the fact that the greenhouse industry is already involved in a new season’s production and will continue through that season in the next number of months?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes, I will make that commitment to discuss it with the Treasurer. I will get back to the members.
Mr. McClellan: I have a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services. In view of the fact that a member of the Ontario Human Rights Commission made allegations that the Ottawa Children’s Aid Society practised a policy of discrimination with respect to adoptions in reference to the adoption of white children by East Indians -- and I am quoting from a CP story of about two weeks ago that specific allegations were made that the society did not permit multiracial adoptions -- I want to ask the minister what actions he has taken to investigate those allegations which were made some time ago and what he has discovered?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I was not aware that there had been any allegations made by a member of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. If there is any substance to those kinds of allegations, I certainly am very concerned about it and I will respond to the member more fully when I have had a chance to investigate the matter more fully.
Mr. McClellan: By way of supplementary, do I understand from what the minister said, that he has not yet investigated those allegations which were made some time ago and were reported quite widely in the media?
An hon. member: Let the Minister of Labour (B. Stephenson) answer.
Mr. Philip: Let him answer his own questions.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I am not sure whether it is a problem of semantics or not but I will again state that I was not aware of any allegations being made by any member of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I will check into that.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. member for Renfrew North.
Mr. McClellan: May I have a final supplementary?
Mr. Speaker: You will have an opportunity after the minister responds to your initial questions.
Mr. McClellan: He didn’t respond, with respect.
Mr. Speaker: He took them as notice.
Mr. McClellan: No, he didn’t.
Mr. Deans: He didn’t.
Mr. Speaker: He did.
Mr. Deans: He didn’t.
Hon. Mr. Norton: With the greatest of respect.
OMA FEE SCHEDULE
Mr. Conway: My question is of the Minister of Health and it deals with the recent OHIP matter. Can the minister indicate to this House whether or not his ministry is giving any serious study to the matter of altering in any substantial way the present payment of 90 per cent of OMA fee schedule? Is he contemplating any change to move significantly from that 90 per cent ratio?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Certainly not for the balance of the year that is presently under agreement until May 1. As for the future, I think we have to wait and see what comes out of the negotiations with the medical association for the balance of 1978 and beyond.
Mr. Conway: Supplementary: Then do I understand the minister to state to this House that in future months the 90 per cent ratio is from his point of view very much a negotiable item? Can he assure this House that to the extent it is a negotiable item -- and if it is not I would like the minister to say very clearly to this House here today that it is not negotiable -- is he in any way contemplating adjusting that 90 per cent ratio downwards, to perhaps bring to bear certain patient participation that could very well serve to be the most inequitable form of deterrent within our health care system and to possibly ruin the concept of the universal --
Mr. Speaker: The question’s been asked.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Give him a suggestion. Give him some alternatives from over there.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I have to be somewhat obtuse on this today because we are in negotiations with the medical association --
Mr. Deans: Today?
Mr. Warner: You are always obtuse.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- on the next fee schedule. Let me say, though, that certainly this year’s negotiations are considerably different to any that have occurred in the past because, again, following on the instructions of the council of the medical associations, and based on the instructions of the membership of the medical association, they have indicated that it is their intention to write a “realistic” fee schedule. I have indicated in turn to them, and publicly and in this House a day ago, that there is no way that the government can consider, or will, pay 36 per cent more on the OHIP benefit schedule.
At this point, I think we have to realize that perhaps where we may end up is with a separate OHIP schedule of benefits and a separate OMA fee schedule, rather than the current relationship under the regulations where the OHIP benefit is 90 per cent of the OMA fee schedule.
Mr. Dukszta: Supplementary: Will the minister tell me then if he is prepared to accept the OMA proposal of the government paying 75 per cent -- once he allows for the increases in fees which they demand -- which in effect would mean that the patients would pay infinitely more than they’re paying right now?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Without trying to destroy the negotiations and make them a meaningless exercise, I would have to say that I would expect that we will probably end up with two separate schedules.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, is the minister saying, therefore, that with two separate schedules it will be possible for all doctors in the province to bill over and above what OHIP pays and yet not have to opt out of the OHIP plan? Or will the minister simply be allowing all doctors under the present-day circumstances to opt out of the OHIP plan, bill the patient directly, and then the patients will bill for the so-called OHIP schedule from the government?
Is the spread going to be more than 10 per cent and will that be allowed without having to opt out the way one presently has to do?
Hon. B. Stephenson: Those are two different questions.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: That is not what I’m saying. I think we should take one thing at a time. Let’s complete the negotiations with the OMA and see where we end up. As I’ve already indicated, I think I have a good idea of where we’re going to end up, but I’m not talking about changing the law that pertains to opting in and opting out.
Mr. Dukszta: Would the minister tell me then, in spite of the obfuscating words that he is using, is he now going to move to introduce a deterrent fee and abolish the opting-in system? Is that what he’s telling us?
An hon. member: That’s what it boils down to.
Hon. B. Stephenson: No, he just said he wasn’t.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Sometimes when the hon. member speaks too quickly, I don’t understand. But I’ll try.
Mr. Reed: When you speak too quickly, we don’t understand.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I know. I have been very careful.
Mr. Dukszta: I just said that the minister obfuscates when he is speaking.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I’ve been very careful. If you notice, I’ve slowed down. I’m taking lessons in diction.
Mr. Kerrio: Sometimes when the minister speaks slowly we don’t understand.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: And he’s talking louder.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: And I’m talking louder.
Mr. Martel: Yes, but you’re just trying to imitate McKeough.
Mr. Speaker: Order. That wasn’t the question.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I am not saying that at this time we intend to do what I think the member said.
Mr. Speaker: The final supplementary; the hon. member for Renfrew North.
Mr. Conway: Would the minister not agree that given the fact that it seems to be a negotiable item, and given the fact that this seems to provide an opportunity to fundamentally qualify the entire health insurance system in this province, will he be prepared to bring to the social development committee next week a statement of policy, as soon as he can? And I realize the situation with regard to the negotiations. Will he be prepared to tell us then what, in general terms, the policy of the government will be in this vital area and when those negotiations with the OMA are expected to be concluded so that, in fact, we can see the final product of these very important and sensitive discussions?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: One would hope the negotiations would be concluded in a few weeks but, realistically, we are probably looking at another month.
Mr. S. Smith: By coincidence only.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: They have been held up for a variety of reasons but I won’t go into that right now. Certain government policy is the law at present.
Mr. Sargent: You’re stick-handling.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Depending on the outcome of the negotiations, that can have an impact on it. And if a miracle occurs and we get an original idea from across the floor that looks appealing, that could have an impact.
Mr. Sargent: You need all the help you can get.
FOODLAND ONTARIO PROGRAM
Mr. Swart: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I wonder if he would tell the House whether it is his intent that farm produce be wholly produced in Ontario when displayed under the Foodland Ontario logo? Secondly, is he monitoring the supermarket advertisements and other uses of the logo to make sure it is being used only to promote sales of Ontario produce?
Hon. W. Newman: Yes, Mr. Speaker, in order to answer the member’s supplementary question first --
Mr. Martel: Slow down.
Mr. Deans: More slowly.
Hon. W. Newman: Okay, I’ll slow down.
Mr. Cassidy: You’ve got all the time in the world.
Hon. W. Newman: It’s kind of nice to get a question. To answer what will be the member’s supplementary question first, we have had excellent co-operation from the chain stores, from the marketing boards -- actually right through from the producer to the processor and to the final sales outlets. We have had excellent co-operation on the Foodland symbol and on the advertising in the stores. We have had tremendous results from our program, which I would be glad to make available to the House.
Mr. Sargent: How do you know?
Hon. W. Newman: Because we know how many --
Mr. Speaker: That wasn’t part of the original question.
Hon. W. Newman: I’ll ignore that.
We do have the figures to show how successful the promotion has been. There have been thousands of Foodland Ontario symbols used in the ads in the daily papers. Out of the thousands of symbols that have been used by the chains, there have been four mistakes made. Those were either done in the typesetting or somewhere else, and in one case one of the chains apologized that it got in; it wasn’t done intentionally. There have been four mistakes out of the many thousands of symbols that have appeared.
Mr. Swart: May I inform the minister then --
Mr. Speaker: The hon. member may ask a supplementary.
Mr. Swart: By way of supplementary, I have two newspapers here with more than four mistakes in them. What would be his opinion on these newspaper ads from the Niagara Falls Review of March 8 which had logos sprinkled all over them where American produce was being advertised and, more particularly, a part of the ad for “orange juice, Bel-Air frozen concentrate, 12.5-fluid-ounce tin, 69 cents, Foodland Ontario”?
May I ask him what his opinion is about the Dominion Store in Niagara Square, Niagara Falls, where the Foodland Ontario logo is displayed all along the canned fruit section, by the Australian peaches and by the fruit cocktail using California grapes -- and that’s right in the Niagara Peninsula? Will he do an effective monitoring and will he advise the supermarkets to use the logo only for Ontario produce? Doesn’t he think this is a misuse of the logo by these supermarkets, probably to promote their own sales?
Hon. W. Newman: It’s no wonder the NDP doesn’t have a single person over there who knows anything about agriculture. It’s quite obvious to me. The hon. member brought his bill forward last week --
Mr. Martel: When in doubt, attack.
Mr. Cassidy: That’s why we don’t ask you questions.
Mr. McClellan: Tell us about Ontario orange juice.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Only one person has the floor at a time.
Hon. W. Newman: In answer to the hon. member’s question, I know about the one on orange juice, but let me tell him this: It’s a very successful program. We are doing monitoring in the stores within the ability of the staff that we have. If somebody makes a mistake -- and it does happen --
Mr. McClellan: It’s a rip-off; it’s not a mistake.
Hon. W. Newman: I honestly and sincerely believe that we are getting great co-operation on this program from all sectors. I’m telling the hon. member that the sales have proved, that we’ve moved Ontario produce out and that we’re helping the farmers.
Mr. Warner: You’re the minister of baloney.
Hon. W. Newman: The hon. member wants to nit-pick; that’s all he’s doing. He’s nit-picking on one or two --
Mr. McClellan: That’s fraudulent advertising -- not nit-picking.
Hon. W. Newman: He’s nit-picking because there were some mistakes --
Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. minister is not really answering the question.
PURCHASE OF POWER GENERATING EQUIPMENT
Mr. Haggerty: I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Energy, if I can get his attention. Who is responsible for the cost involved in the overall repairing of the generator rotors in the six operating units at Nanticoke generating station which are now being sent to England? Why was this equipment purchased offshore when such equipment can be constructed here in full or in part in Canada with proven performance?
Hon. Mr. Baetz: I will answer that question in full detail next week.
Mr. Haggerty: Supplementary: Is the ministry now monitoring Hydro’s purchase of equipment for the new nuclear plant at Darlington? Is the equipment being bought here in Canada?
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that is yes, we are monitoring it.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: Can the minister then give us some information to the House in terms of the proportion of Canadian-made equipment which is going into that plant and the reasons for which equipment is being bought elsewhere?
Hon. Mr. Baetz: I will be very pleased to do so, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Welch, on behalf of Hon. Mr. Grossman, moved resolution No. 11: Resolved: That the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations’ report on the policy options for continuing tenant protection (Sessional Paper No. 13) be referred to the standing committee on general government for consideration of such matters as: The implications of rent controls; the need for adequate quantity and quality of rental housing; the affordability of rental accommodation; methods and procedures for the resolution of landlord and tenant disputes; tenants’ need for security of tenure; the rights and obligations between landlord and tenant; and that the committee report back to this House at its earliest opportunity, but no later than June 1, 1978; and that the committee have full power and authority to employ counsel and to call for persons, papers and things and to examine witnesses under oath; and the assembly doth command and compel the attendance before the said standing committee of such persons and the production of such papers and things as the committee may deem necessary for any of its proceedings and deliberations for which the Honourable the Speaker may issue his warrant or warrants; and that the proceedings of the committee be recorded, transcribed and printed by Hansard in the format of the daily House Hansard.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I apologize for my absence when the order was called. I was trying to explain the new liquor advertising guidelines.
I am pleased to be rising at his point in time not only in the life of this minority Parliament but also at this point in time in the development of new ideas and concepts in the Legislature of Ontario. Green papers have been around for a long time -- green papers, white papers and every other coloured paper. At this point in time, what with a lot of discussion about freedom of information, open government and grassroots public participation, we thought that it might just as well be time to attempt a new approach in the area of development of governmental policy.
I thought that this would be especially a very appropriate place to begin this new exercise since it is hardly a secret that the rent review scheme in Ontario, the nuts and bolts of it, is, if anything, a creature of this Legislative Assembly. It has been dealt with, tinkered with, amended, and changed in great detail by this assembly. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the way the system must operate.
In acknowledging that the system that the tenants of this province and the landlords of this province are living under at the present time is a creation of the very intense debate that has occurred on two or three occasions on the floor of this House, I thought it was time that perhaps we acknowledged the fact that this system very much emanates out of what happens literally on this floor in this chamber. If that’s the way it’s going to be with this particular piece of legislation, we ought to be fair to everyone out there, and give them the opportunity, the right and the privilege to participate in the process right from day one.
I think it is an important concept in the development, for example, of free and open information. At this stage, if I had followed the advice given to me through the media by way of a press release issued yesterday by the leader of the NDP, then I would be sitting with all the documents and all the studies, the benefit of all the work that my very excellent staff has done, I would be sitting over at my office at 555 Yonge Street developing policy over the next few months without saying to the people of this province or this assembly, “Here’s all the information I have. Let’s work with it together. Let’s have all of you see what I’ve got to work with.”
Then next fall, perhaps 10 or 12 weeks before the expiry of the current program, I would suddenly be coming to this House introducing new legislation with the ordinary compendium being presented to the opposition and expect that at that stage there would be enough time and a lack of pressure sufficient to allow a full and complete, honest, open, sensible discussion of the future of rent control for 1979 and beyond. I don’t think that’s a sensible way to operate. The leader of the NDP thinks that’s a good way to operate --
Mr. Warner: You want to get out of it, and you know it.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- and I say to the leader of the NDP, I prefer to operate by giving him all the information that I have.
Mr. Warner: You’re abandoning the tenants of this province, and you know it. Call it for what it is.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Surely I would expect his colleague from York South (Mr. MacDonald) to understand and appreciate that step.
Mr. Warner: It is a sham, an absolute sham.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: So what we’ve done is to present for the members of this House who care to read it rather than knee-jerk react, the analysis that we have, all the facts and figures. Those members who have taken the time to read the green paper with the red cover will notice that we have covered the background, the history, provided statistics, the experience in other jurisdictions, and finally, each and every alternative and option that civil servants from three different ministries could compile for the information of the members, as they hopefully reach a carefully thought out, rational decision.
On top of that, I want to inform the House that they will have seen the invitation by me to the public at large to communicate with me directly, letting me know what their thoughts are on the future --
Mr. Reid: You would have almost thought there was an election on.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: No, I communicate with them during elections. I have invited the public to communicate with me directly to let me know which policy options they thought were satisfactory for them. The public has been kind enough to respond in a fashion which has been very creative. I haven’t got many letters that say, “Dear Larry, I love rent controls,” signed Michael Cassidy; nor have I had many letters saying, “Dear Larry, I hate rent controls,” signed --
Mr. Martel: Stuart Smith.
Mr. Makarchuk: Larry Grossman.
Mr. Kerrio: In fact, you don’t get many letters anyway.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- by one of the friends of the corporate donors that the NDP refuses to accept funds from. In any case, I have had very few of those letters. I have had very reasonable, constructive suggestions in those letters, and in accordance with this government’s policy of openness and freedom of information we are going to turn over all those communications, as I have done on the condominium responses, to the committee and to the opposition, so that the opposition will, in this period of time, be able to fully participate in the development of the policy options for tenant protection over the next few months, rather than being forced to do it in the absence of all the public input I am getting, in the absence of the excellent work that has been done by my staff, in a period of time six weeks prior to the expiry of the present program.
I believe, quite sincerely, that that sort of slow and careful non-pressurized development of a tenant protection package is much preferable to the pressure packed situation which resulted in the last two pieces of legislation. It may even avoid last-minute, ill thought out amendments being brought forward and passed, which later sometimes have to be revoked or changed.
Mr. Martel: Or elections.
Mr. Breaugh: Yes, or it might avoid elections, Larry.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: There seems to be some impression that this is a strange and unusual step, and, indeed, in Ontario this sort of process of referring a green paper is rather unique. It is not, however, unique to Canada. There have been several examples in the federal government -- and heaven knows I hardly hold them up often as a fine example of openness or democracy -- where green papers have been referred to committees prior to the legislative stage. I’d like to let the House know about some of those initiatives.
We talk about green papers and white papers. I was interested to know that there’s an orange paper on social services. It was considered by Parliament and federal-provincial conferences and most of the proposals that were dealt with and received through that process have been now dealt with by way of governmental responses.
There is a green paper submitted to the federal House on MP’s conflict of interest. Both federal houses set up committees to consider the green paper. They reached quite different conclusions, the members might be interested to hear, and the matter now is before the federal cabinet at the legislative stage -- after the green paper has gone through two series of committee deliberations.
There has been a paper on tax reform. Two parliamentary committees were appointed to consider that paper and sat for a full year. The legislation which resulted from that process closely reflected the report of the House committee.
The election expenses task force produced a green paper which was sent to committee. The revised Unemployment Insurance Act, in fact, started out as a green paper document which was referred to a House of Commons committee for their report to the House.
So these are examples of where the executive branch of government has at an early stage sought consultation with the members of the assembly. It’s worked very well federally. There is not a wide range of issues where, because of the very technical nature of the problem, or sometimes because of the pressures of time, that procedure is not effective. There are very many more instances in which the only way to deal sensibly with a piece of proposed legislation is to put it in legislative form, draw up an Act, present it to the assembly and do it in that fashion.
So there’s no set of rules, there is no standard set of proceedings which is automatically applicable, I believe, to every single government initiative.
Then we come to rent control. I think it’s important that we assess whether this green paper process being referred to the committee suits the development of policy options for tenant protection. I look at the allegations made by the members of the third party here, claiming that the government is about to try to depoliticize the issue -- to get politics out of the issue. I want to be very honest with them, as I always am. If it depoliticizes the issue I think that’s great. I think the landlords and the tenants in this province are entitled to a heck of a lot more than to have to live with a rent review scheme that is the product of sheer knee-jerk politics. I think they are entitled to have the thing dealt with on a fair basis.
Mr. Warner: You want to get out of it and you know it.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Those who disagree with me over in the very raunchy third party this morning --
Mr. Warner: You don’t understand.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- I want to tell them that the members of this party on that committee will not be whipped. They will not be instructed, they will not be pretaught, they will not be pre-conditioned, they will not be told how to vote, they will not be told to vote together on all occasions. They will be invited to go to that committee and actually sit and listen and learn what they can over the period of time --
Mr. Warner: And then abandon the tenants.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- based upon this option paper, based upon the mail we’ve been receiving, and based upon the public hearing.
Mr. Warner: What nonsense.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I challenge the third party to do the same with their members. I challenge them to do that -- and I hear no one taking me up on that challenge.
Mr. Warner: We will be there to protect the tenants because you won’t.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Absolutely no one there can take me up on that challenge because they’re too fixed into the knee-jerk reaction. Every time we on this side of the House -- and I even want to be fair to the members of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition -- every time one of our party mentions the words “rent review” or “rent control,” the third party reacts by saying, “You’re out to kill tenants. You’re out to screw the tenants. You’re about to drop the rent review.”
Mr. Makarchuk: We’re looking at your past record.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Well, just so that those members will know the way this minister and this government feel, let’s talk for a moment about the rhetoric that the NDP went through during the last campaign. They were out to assure all tenants -- who they believe vote for them exclusively, but of course that is foolish; they don’t -- that if they elect a Davis majority government it will immediately dump rent controls. That simply is not true.
Mr. Martel: That is what you are doing now. We listened to Sidney Handleman. Tough Sidney.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Those members who were here and listened will have heard the Throne Speech that came in March 1977, wherein the government clearly committed itself to a continuing program of tenant protection.
Mr. Martel: Until 1978.
Mr. Warner: That is not what your paper said.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: That is exactly what it said in the Speech from the Throne; that is exactly what it says in this paper.
Mr. Warner: It does not.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: If those members want to calm themselves down, or offer to resign if I prove them wrong, then they can sit there quietly --
Mr. Turner: Why don’t you read it?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I will see if I can find it.
Mr. Warner: Try the first paragraph.
Mr. Handleman: Couldn’t you get past the first paragraph?
Mr. Warner: It was conceived as a temporary program.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Take it easy, you are going to have to sit and listen.
Mr. Breaugh: That is the best part of your speech.
Mr. Handleman: It takes a little bit of brains.
Mr. Martel: Well that leaves you out, Sid.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I am going to read from the preface. Maybe the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere was too busy writing the press releases for his leader to read the preface to the option paper, which was the subject matter of that press release.
Mr. Breaugh: Do you need any help?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: The third paragraph of the preface says: “On March 29, 1977, the Ontario government announced an extension of the rent review legislation” -- the Ontario government, not the then opposition -- “to the end of December 1978 in the Speech from the Throne for the fourth session of the 30th Parliament of the province of Ontario. This action extended the period of rent controls from the original 24 months to 41 months.”
Mr. Martel: Until the end of 1978. You left that part out of it, to the end of 1978, Larry.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: “At the same time, the Throne Speech announced that measures would be taken to stimulate the production of rental housing accommodation and that the government would be placing before the people policy options for the continuing protection of tenants. It is this latter commitment that this green paper attempts to meet.” There it is. The commitment was there in the Throne Speech. It was there in black and white.
Mr. Martel: Go back a bit.
Mr. Warner: Check your own book. The first paragraph says it is a temporary program.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Unless those members are willing to call the Lieutenant Governor a liar, I want to tell them it was there. They can go and get a copy.
Mr. Martel: You wrote it. Don’t give us the stuff about the Lieutenant Governor.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Have the person who handed your seatmate the second question yesterday run over to the legislative library to see if he can also find a copy of the Throne Speech. They will find it there.
Mr. Martel: Don’t give us the nonsense about the Lieutenant Governor. You wrote it.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Our commitment is clear, and let’s reaffirm it right now. Don’t go David, you will be sorry. You will be sorry because you will find it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. In any case, just so we are absolutely clear about it, let’s understand that rent review is here in this province not because of a minority situation. Whether this government were re-elected with a majority or not, we are and were committed to a scheme of tenant protection.
Mr. Martel: That is not what Sidney said.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I can send the members dozens of my speeches and I know they will not pay much more attention to them than they did to the Speech from the Throne.
Mr. Warner: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker, the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick in his remarks indicated that I was not correct in the statement as outlined in this red-covered green paper.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: You’re red-covered too now, come to think of it.
Mr. Warner: I simply want to correct the record. On page 4, in the introduction, the very first line reads: “Ontario’s current rent review program was conceived as a temporary program.”
Mr. Eaton: That is the then current one.
Mr. Warner: A temporary program. It does not mean that it is permanent protection for the tenants of this province, and that is what I was saying and that is why I am opposing the move to remove the protection of the tenants of this province.
Mr. Turner: You didn’t say that.
Mr. Handleman: There’s more than one way to protect tenants.
Mr. Elgie: Tell them the facts.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I thought the member might be interested, now that he is looking back and reading old documents, to hear this: “We categorically reject the government’s decision to discontinue rent control after only two years in August 1977. Long-term measures are needed to equalize the power between tenants and landlords and these measures should include rent control until the housing crisis is at an end.” Does that sound like a statement made by someone who thinks rent controls should be temporary? Of course, it does -- temporary until the crisis is finished.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: And that was issued by someone who was then the housing critic for your party -- Michael Cassidy, MPP, Ottawa Centre -- on November 6, 1975.
Mr. Martel: Are you saying the crisis is past? Is the crisis past, Larry?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I wouldn’t speak for him today -- I never speak for him -- but he at that time was acknowledging that rent control was a temporary measure, as indeed the member’s colleagues in other provinces, other socialist provinces and formerly socialist provinces, have also acknowledged.
Mr. Martel: Tell us when the crisis is over, will you?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Even his cousins in Sweden who had the archetypal rental control system have ended it. And by the way, in case the members haven’t done that research, they ended it mostly at the request of the tenants’ group over there who acknowledged that the continuance of rental controls was smothering them, was killing the market. So that is the situation.
Mr. Warner: Are you finished twisting the words? Then go back to the first sentence.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Like the leader of the NDP -- I’m only going from what I read --
Mr. Warner: That is not what it says here.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- we believe that rent controls are a temporary measure, and we never held them out as anything other than that, until the housing crisis ends.
Mr. Martel: When’s that?
Mr. Warner: That is not what it says here.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I will agree entirely that the members, when they were going door to door during the election with all their colleagues, held out rent controls to tenants -- not to those other people but to tenants -- as being a forever situation if they just elected the NDP. The NDP would keep their rent at whatever figure the NDP was using -- $50, $100, $200 a month -- whatever it was --
Mr. Warner: What sheer nonsense. Boy are you lost.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- and rent controls would be in forever if they would just elect Stephen Lewis before he retired. That was the deal the members sold at the doors but it wasn’t the deal they sold in these press releases. The deal they sold in these press releases was that it’s a temporary measure and “we must find a way” -- I’ll read it to the House again -- “to equalize the power between tenants and landlords.” What do the members opposite think about that? Is that what their party is saying today, that it is coming here to find a way to equalize the power between landlords and tenants? Because I want to tell the House, I am sure as heck not going to guide the members of our party who are serving on that committee; but since the NDP has already indicated its hesitancy about participating in the policy formation, I am going to see that the members of my party know the statements made by the NDP over the past little while just so that they can let us know whether the members of that party have kept within the bounds of the criterion they’ve always set out for rent control: “Temporary measures” until one finds a way to end them, until one finds of way to “equalize the power between landlords and tenants” -- the member should take the advice of his friend in front of him who is telling him to cool it -- and I know they will be temperate in the development.
Mr. Warner: Point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Point of privilege, he is not your friend?
Mr. Warner: Point of privilege, Mr. Speaker. I don’t think the minister or any other member of this assembly should be able to twist the words and meanings from statements which are made.
Mr. Eaton: What have you been doing?
Mr. Reid: You’ve got to give him credit for gall, anyway.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I don’t think that is a point of privilege.
Mr. Reid: It certainly isn’t.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I would like to remind the members of this House that we are now debating a resolution and any member will have an opportunity to get up and speak to the resolution.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I really have more to say but I am going to let them blow off some steam in the meantime. I am sure every member of their party is going to speak because we have uttered the magic words -- rent control.
I want to make it quite clear --
Mr. Conway: Perfectly clear.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Abundantly.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: No, I won’t say “perfectly clear.” I want to get it on the record --
Mr. Renwick: Well, it will get on there automatically.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- because I am just not prepared to permit that party to run around the province saying the Tories are backing away from rent control. They did it yesterday in their press release --
Mr. Warner: It happens to be true.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I won’t talk about twisting words. I don’t call that twisting words; I just call it wrong.
Mr. Turner: He is honest.
Mr. Conway: Claire Hoy twisted you around.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I want to get on the record at the start of the debate that this government is committed to tenant protection.
Mr. Warner: Nonsense.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: This government developed this option paper in order that we can find a mechanism by which we can be fair to landlords and tenants. That is entirely consistent with equalizing the power, and I quote from the member for Ottawa Centre, between the landlords and tenants. That is very consistent with what this government has always stood for, that is, equity and fairness.
Mr. Renwick: Not all the time.
Mr. Martel: You even say that in a pious manner.
Mr. Renwick: There wouldn’t have been any rent control at all, if you could have avoided it.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We’re not about to go out and say we are only in the business --
Mr. Martel: Every cabinet minister says he’s never introduced rent control. You opposed it before the 1975 election. Don’t give us that nonsense.
Mr. Renwick: That’s right.
Mr. Turner: If you want to make a speech, stand up.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Warner: You didn’t want rent control, and you know it.
Mr. Renwick: You’ve been trying to get rid of rent control ever since the day you got it and you’re still trying to.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Let’s look at the facts.
Mr. Martel: You’re opposed to rent control. You didn’t want to introduce it.
Mr. Turner: You’re very sensitive.
Mr. Renwick: This government won’t protect the tenants. It never has.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: This government can simply sit here and let the current scheme expire.
Mr. Martel: Read Donald Irvine’s statement, the one on rent control.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Renwick: Read what the member for Carleton (Mr. Handleman) said. He couldn’t find a minister to support him.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I’m glad I’m not sitting on that committee with you guys.
Mr. Martel: Don’t come here with that.
Mr. Warner: You’re not half as glad as we are.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: This government --
Mr. Martel: Is holier than thou. Your halo is getting too tight.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Now that is twisting things for them to accuse us of being holier than thou.
Mr. Handleman: We took lessons from them.
Mr. Martel: You’ll have to watch your halo. It’s going to fall over on top of you.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: This government could sit here and let the current scheme expire. It is sunsetted in the magic words of the Leader of the Opposition and my colleague from London South (Mr. Walker).
Mr. Breaugh: Ah, you got yourself out of that very nicely.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: It dies at the end of 1978. If the members of the NDP were right in saying that we don’t have a commitment to tenants, that we don’t have a commitment to rent review --
Mr. Martel: You don’t.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- then we could just sit here and let the thing die at the end of this year.
Mr. Warner: That’s just too obvious.
Mr. Renwick: Or you could tell us what your policy is.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We’re not doing that. My friend, the member for Riverdale, says we could tell the House what our policy is. I say to my friend that, unlike all the experts on his benches --
Mr. Renwick: You’re the government. Do you know that?
Mr. Warner: They’ve forgotten about that.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- who accuse us of being holier than thou, we are quite humble over here. We acknowledge that on March 31, 1978 --
Mr. Martel: You are too pious. That’s why your halo is falling. Can you believe that?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- we do not have a complete, comprehensive answer to the problem because it is a very difficult one.
Mr. Warner: You have none. You answer for UDI.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Unlike the members of that party, we do acknowledge --
Mr. Martel: You came into rent control not wanting to.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: You’ve got 14 speakers. If you want me to sit and listen to all of them, you’re going to have to sit and listen to me.
Mr. Martel: But we’ll tell the truth.
Hon. Mr. Drea: That would be so unique the place would probably close.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We’ll get a large crowd if you promise to tell the truth. We’ll get all our members.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Renwick: You can’t block this one.
Mr. Martel: He can’t put up 20.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: The point of fact is that the development of a new scheme is necessary because we acknowledge the inequities and problems in the current scheme. The current scheme is one that would have worked well over a shortened period of time, which is what it was originally intended for.
Mr. Warner: It was nicely pointed for UDI.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Now, in order to be fair -- are you ready for this? --
Mr. Martel: Let me brace myself.
Mr. Breaugh: We’re ready for anything now.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- to the tenants out there, some of whom have been faced with the requirement under the current legislation to carry all the increased costs in terms of increased rents on their backs, and in fairness to those tenants who have been faced with two eight per cent increases and a six per cent increase without appeal, when perhaps those increases were not warranted because of an increase in cost -- those are the landlords who stayed away -- in fairness to them, we think we must develop a scheme which deals with those problems. We can’t keep the current scheme. It’s unfair. It’s unfair to a lot of landlords and it’s unfair to a lot of tenants.
Mr. Warner: Bring in some legislation.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: At the same time, consistent with this government’s lead in the development of residential landlord and tenant laws in this country --
Mr. Breaugh: Watch it. Your humility is showing again.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- we have also included in the green paper an analysis of the problems in the resolution of landlord and tenant disputes. One of the things we acknowledge in there and one of the things which I hope the committee would address in detail -- once you fellows can get by your reluctance about discussing anything to do with rent control, other than a change -- is how to deal with the horrendous problem of a tenant whose landlord won’t clean the lobby or won’t shovel the snow. Currently, one has absolutely to go to the county court to take any action against his landlord. It’s inequitable, it’s unfair and it’s not workable.
Mr. Renwick: That exists whether there is rent control or not and that is a matter of landlord and tenant law for which your ministry is responsible.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Renwick: It has nothing to do with rent review.
Mr. Handleman: Maybe there should be something else.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: The member for River- dale says that has nothing to do with rent review. I presume I can take it then that his members will overcome their fright about discussing rent review or anything to do with rents and, in the committee stage, they will at least deal with that part of the option paper which deals at great length with easy and swift resolution of landlord and tenant matters. There was a representative of the Attorney General’s ministry sitting on the development committee of that document; he was there to give all input on landlord and tenant problems.
The terms of reference of the committee are quite clear in the order paper: Part of the process is to deal with landlord and tenant matters. I hope the members of the committee will spend a lot of time in resolving that problem. Forty per cent of the calls coming to our rent review officers are landlord and tenant calls. They do not relate to rent review. That’s why we think it’s time a committee of this assembly dealt with the problem of sending landlords and tenants to two different places to resolve two different problems with regard to their tenants.
Mr. Renwick: You have two separate problems. You can’t run them all together.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We in this party think there is a possibility of putting them together; and although I don’t have all those press releases, I know that given time -- maybe by the time this debate concludes -- I’ll be able to show that, in fact, the NDP has supported the proposition of putting them all together in one tribunal: a rentalsman concept. I don’t know if that concept will work; this government is perfectly direct about that. We don’t know if that concept will work, but we think it bears investigation.
I urge the members of this assembly, and specifically the members who will be sitting on that committee if this resolution carries, to develop a scheme which includes the landlord and tenant problems, the rental problems and the housing supply problems, and to produce something that is as much as possible free of politics. I’m not that much of an idealist -- I can’t be, after this long in office -- to believe they’re going to do it totally devoid of the politics of the situation. But I do hope, by following this scheme, we can accomplish a couple of things.
First, I hope we can remove the pressurized aspect from it -- and long before we move to the legislative phase.
Second, I hope this vehicle will permit the maximum amount of public input.
There is authority in the terms of reference for the hiring of counsel, the spending of some funds and a sufficient length of time to meet. I hope the members of the committee will listen carefully to the public input they receive from both landlords and tenants in the next few months, not in an adversarial fashion but to learn everything there is to know about the situation.
We must come up with a system that is fairer to everyone involved. The option paper sets out all the options that the staff from the three ministries were able to devise. That doesn’t mean those are all the options. Again, being a humble group on this side of the House, we don’t purport to have all the answers, or all the possible answers.
Mr. Martel: Your humility is getting to me.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We invite the members of the assembly, the members of that committee and members of the public to read over the options and help us. Are there other options we haven’t considered? Is there another way to work the scheme? If there is, we very badly need it.
I invite the members of this House to join with us in this process. Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t, but I’ve heard for very long about the desire of the opposition parties to take advantage of the minority situation and participate in the development of policy. Well, this is the time.
Mr. Renwick: No. You’re the government; we’re not.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I can’t tell them how to act, what things to look at or the ground rules by which to play. I can’t tell them how to assess their own political priorities; they will do that themselves.
I urge the members, though, to apply themselves to the development of overall concepts, the policies to be followed and the types of alternatives that should be selected, so that when we get down to the debate in the fall, when we introduce legislation reflecting the results of the committee’s deliberations this spring, we can spend serious time in committee stage, and on the floor of this assembly, looking carefully at the nuts and bolts of the policies that have been indicated previously as being acceptable by the members of this House.
We need that to provide fair treatment to the landlords and tenants who, come the fall of this year, will be wondering what’s going to happen to their rents on January 1, 1979. In order to do that, they must have some certainty developed along about September of this year. In order for that certainty to be there, then this committee must deliberate, pick the policy options that it prefers and permit us to develop and come forward with the specifics of the government’s legislation along about September of this year.
Obviously I will be back in this House trying to get that piece of legislation passed by this minority Parliament, and I hope it will be passed -- and with some consistency with regard to what the committee’s deliberations are this spring. That’s the only way that we can restore some order out there in the rental housing market.
I want to conclude by saying that our schedule, in order for the orderly development of a rent review program to take effect next calendar year, goes something like this: The committee will report on or about June 1. That will give us time to move into the legislative drafting stage, implementing the general principles approved by that committee. About the middle of September, I hope to be able to announce the specifics of at least the government’s intention, reflecting the desires of the assembly as expressed through the standing committee’s deliberations. Then in October when the House reconvenes, we will move that legislation into the House. Hopefully at that time, perhaps even some of the venom of the third party on this issue will have been dispersed through the standing committee route, and we can move into a sensible, reasonable debate on clause by clause next fall.
I acknowledge the rent review nuts and bolts have been tinkered with and changed by this assembly and that this assembly has the right to do that. It will always have the right to do that and that’s the way it should be. But I think in fairness to everyone out in the marketplace, a 41-month scheme of rent controls permitting a cost pass-through only, and permitting all others essentially to take an eight per cent increase, now a six per cent increase -- essentially without appeal, because there aren’t many appeals against those -- and where those figures have become the minimums not the maximum, the scheme is just not working. That rent review scheme was a temporary one -- 41 months becomes too long.
Mr. Dukszta: So you are admitting it’s a temporary one.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I have never been shy about admitting the problems with the present rent review scheme -- never. I started off that way. I said right from the start that the current scheme is not good enough. It is not a long term scheme. It’s a short term scheme --
Mr. Martel: That’s not the way you started off.
Mr. Renwick: It was dragged grudgingly out of you.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- and now this government is moving to a long term scheme. We want to get down to what’s going to be in place for the next few years. One of the problems in the development of rental housing is that landlords don’t know what’s going to be happening four years from today. Will there be a scheme in place? If so, what scheme? Will it be six per cent or eight per cent? Will it be in all municipalities or some? Whatever it is, they have to know. They may not like the scheme but I have always admired the ability of private enterprise to adapt to almost any scheme that governments lay on them --
Mr. Martel: Yes, right, whatever the ground rules are.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- provided there are some rules, provided there is some consistency. I can never assure them that socialism will not overtake them, but at least I can assure them that until that day happens there will be a consistent and sensible set of rules -- and I hope fair rules.
I urge the members of this assembly to participate in the development of some very difficult policies. We acknowledge it is difficult. If it breaks down to a back-biting political exercise, then I would agree in that case with the third party, that there will be no point doing that exercise if it’s going to be knee-jerk politics. I urge the members not to miss this opportunity -- not to fail to take this opportunity to participate in the policy development stage of a rental control program for 1979.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, Ontario embarked on a program of rent controls in late 1975 with the enactment of the Residential Premises Rent Review Act. In its recent green paper on rent review called “Policy Options for Continuing Tenant Protection” the government has tried to justify it as part of the national effort to control wages and prices stating that the legislation was “complementary to the federal government’s anti-inflation program.”
This statement betokens a singular lapse of memory. The fact is that rent review in Ontario was enacted before Ottawa’s anti-inflation program, as a strictly political response during a hotly contested election campaign. The conditions that existed were emergency ones only in the political sense that the Conservative government in the summer of 1975 believed that its survival was at stake.
One of the reasons the present program had so many problems associated with it was that it was clearly not thought out at that time. The terms of the objectives were not stated clearly. This is not to say that a real problem did not exist or does not exist in Ontario today. The rebirth of rent controls in this new form of rent review is a response to the problem that rents have been increasing at a faster rate than the incomes of many Canadians.
By the mid-1970s, rents were rising, and vacancy rates in many centres were low. Rent review legislation was imposed as a temporary stopgap measure to protect tenants from excessive rent increases, and we agreed to this. The situation which characterized the rental housing sector in the first half of this decade has not improved. Vacancy rates are still declining, rental housing construction activity is still low, and landlords are still seeking high rent increases.
On the one hand, rent increases have been out of line with income and it is clear that there are hundreds of thousands of households that cannot afford any rent increases at all. On the other hand, large rent hikes seem to be in the offing, and they are apparently needed if the private rental sector is ever again going to be building more rental units.
Thus, we recognize that there are two key issues at stake here. Number one is that there is a real affordability problem for over a quarter of a million people in Ontario. None of the options in the green paper will do anything about this affordability problem, and it is very conspicuous in the green paper that the government has not tried to deal with this matter. I think it is indicative of the fact that the government, after 35 years in power, is very short-sighted and is not planning ahead the way it should. The second key issue is the health of the private rental market. We as Liberals recognize that this is a tough issue, that this is a complex issue. Unlike the NDP, we realize this is not a simple issue of confrontation, as they indicated in their press release. This is not a black-and-white issue. We are not posturing on this issue and we do not intend to posture on this issue.
Mr. Davidson: Would you like to clarify that?
Mr. Epp: We believe that this issue is an important one and should be resolved as quickly as possible. Therefore, we agree and will work in this committee, but we will insist that it look at the real problem of rent control, the real problem of affordability, the real problem of making sure that we have a healthy market in which to obtain rental units, and we will not be bound by the short-sightedness or by the focus of the green paper.
Mr. Dukszta: Mr. Speaker, there are three reasons why our party opposes the referral of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations report on policy options for continuing tenant protection to the standing committee on general government.
First, the rent review program must continue beyond the end of the year, period.
Second, the government actions are phoney. It is clear the government would dearly love to abandon the present rent review program, preferably in its entirety, and abandon tenants to so-called market forces -- other words for legalized robbery by landlords -- and is referring the matter to the committee hoping that the tacit coalition between the Conservative and Liberal parties will get the government off the hook. It is my fervent hope that the Liberal Party, including the member for St. George (Mrs. Campbell), will wake up to its responsibility towards tenants and vote solidly against the referral.
Mr. Reid: Come on! You can do better than that.
Mr. Reed: Talk about twisting words.
Mr. Dukszta: The concept of the government House leader’s resolution makes the government’s intentions clear. The committee is to examine: 1. the implications of rent control; 2. the need for adequate quantity and quality of rental housing; 3. the affordability of rental accommodation; 4. the methods and procedures for the resolution of landlord and tenant disputes; 5. tenant needs for security of tenure; and 6. the rights and obligations between landlord and tenant. The resolution makes it clear that the present ultramontane government is questioning -- and by implication wants to abandon -- the hard-won rights of Ontario tenants.
The third reason for our opposition is that the government’s green paper is a thoroughly tendentious document. This means it’s biased. It’s titled, “Policy Options for Continuing Tenant Protection” and proceeds to examine and support options which have nothing to do with tenant protection, but have a lot to do with the reduction, if not destruction, of tenant rights. The report even begins with a lie: “Ontario’s current rent review program was conceived as a temporary program complementary to the federal government’s anti-inflation program.” Anyone who was in Ontario in the months leading up to the 1975 elections knows that this is patently untrue.
Mr. Cassidy: That’s right. It’s double-think.
Mr. Dukszta: The establishment of rent review had nothing to do with the anti-inflation program. The goal of the paper is obvious from the outset. The covering letter from Mr. Robbins, the executive director of the rent review program, to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations laid it out clearly. “It is our hope that by focusing on the issues involved and some of the alternative policy options that may be considered, this paper will serve as a basis for constructive debate and will prove to be of assistance to the government in determining an appropriate course to follow in the post-rent-review periods.” I repeat -- “in post-rent-review periods.”
The basic assumptions of the report include: (a) rent review is an anti-inflation policy to prevent “unconscionable” rent increases;
(b) Much of the desire of tenants for rent review is actually a response to broader landlord-tenant problems;
(c) “Tenants need landlords and landlords need tenants”; in other words, future non-ownership housing development will be by private-for-profit developers. To quote the report: “In part, this emphasis on private activity has reflected the beliefs of the majority of Ontario citizens in the primacy of private (owner’s) decisions. It also reflects a basic satisfaction with the standard of housing production by the private sector.” And: “Any policy must include provision for an adequate return, if continued private involvement is to be assured.”
(d) Tenants must bear the cost of providing the “incentive” to landlords and potential landlords. Even the limited public assistance now available to builders must be limited: “Any argument in favour of government involvement or activity must stand the test imposed by financial restraints.”
The effect of those assumptions is to set up a trade-off between rent review and tenants’ rights on one hand, and housing production and investment on the other -- a tradeoff in which tenants are the losers. The part of the report dealing with the general landlord-tenant disputes and tribunals is a safety valve which the government hopes to use to ease the pressure from tenants on the fundamental issue of rents and security of tenure.
There are four overall approaches suggested by the green paper -- 1. continue the program more or less as it is; 2. alter the program with basic changes aimed at relaxing controls; 3. alter the program with increased exemptions of various categories; 4. terminate the program.
Three out of four options are hostile to the present rent review program and nowhere is it suggested that rent review should perhaps be strengthened into an ongoing rent control system. Furthermore, the bias inherent in the report makes it clear that the purpose of including continuation of the program as one of the options is not to make a serious proposal for continuation but to marshal the arguments against rent review.
It needs no genius to see that the paper, under the guise of phoney objectivity, is making the argument that rent review must go. The conditions that led to the establishment of the rent review program have not changed. In fact, if anything, they are worse. Rental vacancy rates are even lower now than they were then. The vacancy rate in Metro Toronto in October 1977 was one per cent as compared with 2.2 per cent in October 1975; in Thunder Bay 0.3 per cent compared with 0.5 per cent two years earlier; in Ottawa 2.3 per cent compared with 2.6 per cent and in Windsor 0.8 per cent compared with 3.4 per cent.
The rental housing construction situation is no better or worse, for that matter, than it was in 1975. It is obvious that to eliminate rent review would be to force on Ontario tenants the same kind of massive unjustified rent increases they suffered in the early 1970s. We in the NDP will not stand for it. We oppose the referral of the green paper for discussion by the committee because for us tenant rights are not negotiable. Our difference of opinion with the government on this issue could not be more fundamental.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: What about landlords’ rights? Are landlords’ rights negotiable?
Mr. Dukszta: The government sees rental housing primarily as a business. Its housing policies, such as they are, are aimed at making housing as profitable a business as possible. When it comes to the crunch, when reasonable rents and security of tenure get in the way of the housing business, tenants’ rights have to go.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Rhetoric.
Mr. Dukszta: We see housing as a fundamental social right, as fundamental as food, health or education. When the interests of business conflict with the interests of tenants, we’ll come down on the side of the tenants every time.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: So will we.
Mr. Dukszta: Our opposition to the resolution is not based on complete satisfaction with landlord-tenant law in Ontario as it now stands.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Your colleague liked it.
Mr. Dukszta: There are a number of changes which we would like to see made to the rent review program to make it a viable long-term policy.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: For both landlords and tenants.
Mr. Dukszta: The administration of landlord-tenant law in general should be simplified to make it more accessible to both landlords and tenants.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Tell your leader.
Mr. Dukszta: The principle of the rent review Act, namely that only increased costs or anticipated increased costs experienced by the landlord can justify rent increases, should be maintained.
Mr. Handleman: What has that to do with the motion?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: He has heard this speech before.
Mr. Dukszta: Therefore, the proposed changes will deal with two aspects of the application of the Act. The two aspects are the effectiveness of the Act in limiting rent increases and the administration of the Act. With respect to the effectiveness, the green paper indicates that on the average, increases of 12.5 per cent are allowed. This is about double the present six per cent guideline. The major cause of increases in excess of the guideline is the financial loss provision of the rent review Act. In fact, the financial loss provision has become a major loophole in the Act, permitting increases far higher than those originally intended by the Legislature.
Mr. S. Smith: Then come to the committee and change it.
Mr. Dukszta: The Act must be amended to close the loophole.
Mr. Handleman: That’s right. What has that got to do with the motion?
Mr. Dukszta: In addition, amendments should be made to the Act to render it more effective in controlling rents.
In answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s question, this is not where the amendments are going to be introduced since there is no Act at the moment to introduce amendments to, though he may have forgotten this.
Mr. Handleman: Amend the motion, then, to make it possible, but stop talking about the Act.
Mr. Dukszta: I can’t make a motion. I am not the government. It is the minister’s responsibility to introduce it to prolong the Act beyond December 1978. What the hell are you talking about?
Excuse me, Mr. Speaker. That was impolite.
In addition, the following amendments should be made to the Act to render it more effective in controlling rents:
1. The equity requirements for landlords should be raised from 15 per cent to 20 per cent.
2. Repayments of principal should not be allowed in financial loss calculations.
3. Expenses incurred in “bringing a building up to standards” should not be allowed in granting rent increases.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I’m glad you are going in with an open mind, Jan.
Mr. Dukszta: Secondly, the administration of the Act leaves much to be desired and continues to be a major source of dissatisfaction and frustration for both tenants and landlords. Accordingly, the following changes should be made:
1. There should be no specific termination date for the program.
2. Only one hearing should be held for each building or project, except on tenant-initiated applications, in each 12-month period. That hearing should deal in advance with all leases due to expire in the period, the officers’ orders coming into effect as leases expire.
3. All rents in a building or project should be registered with the rent review office, publicly accessible, updated as changes occur, and posted in the building concerned so that all tenants know what is the legally permissible rent on those units.
4. The Act should require the landlord making an application for rent review to file all information supporting the application with the rent review office at least two weeks before the hearing date. No further information should be considered by the officer hearing the application.
5. The Act currently provides for assistance to people appearing before rent review officers. This provision has been so narrowly interpreted by the government that only blind or handicapped people need apply. Tenants should be given financial assistance under this section, particularly since landlords are allowed rent review costs in getting rent increases.
6. The rent review program should be required to enforce its own orders and to conduct investigations of compliance under the Act on its own initiative.
7. The Act should give tenants the right to cross-examine landlords’ evidence.
The suggestion in the green paper that the establishment of a residential tenants’ board with adjudicatory powers should replace the expensive and complicated county court in landlord and tenant matters is probably the only good one. We have been calling for years for such a move. We are pleased that the government is now prepared to consider that part.
But even in its discussion of landlord-tenant laws the green paper, by supporting a substantial weakening of security of tenure law, makes it clear that the principles on which the green paper is based are not the principles of the New Democratic Party.
That brings me back to our reasons for opposing this motion. We cannot accept this motion because we cannot accept either the spirit in which it is put or the principles on which it is based.
The government must believe that tenants have fallen asleep and no longer care whether or not there is a rent review program. That is not true. I have attended a number of tenant meetings in my riding and everywhere I went there was an awareness of the termination date of the present rent review program and an expression of real concern. At a tenants’ meeting at 55 Triller Avenue, the tenants made a decision to inform others of the impending termination and to prepare immediately for the exact eventuality that we are now discussing.
On March 13 I attended a tenants’ meeting at Parkdale Library where there were more than 140 people present. One of the panellists was Mr. Robbins, the executive director of the rent review program. Although Mr. Robbins supposedly is a neutral civil servant, he spoke adamantly and at length about difficulties caused by the rent review program and blamed the rent review program for the present stagnation of rental housing construction. So much for objectivity; so much for the tenants’ friend in court at the ministry.
At the meeting there was unanimous support for extending the rent review Act and, when I was leaving, the executive committee of Parkdale Tenants was busy making plans to present a brief at the standing committee hearings if this came to pass, or take any other necessary action to make its voice heard in protest against the government’s smarmy document, against the government’s virtually explicit bad faith towards tenants and its blind loyalty to big business interests.
The tenants of this province are not asleep. The government will find that out soon enough. The government is using tenants’ rights as an excuse for the failure of its housing policies. These policies have failed. There isn’t enough rental housing being built, private development industry blames rent review, and the government buys the explanation without question. In doing so, it ignores the fact that, even before rent review, rental housing starts had virtually dried up. It ignores the fact that new construction has always been exempt from rent controls. It makes the clear decision that the profits for the development industry are now more important than protection for tenants.
I admit the issue before us now is a symbolic one. The government is proposing a committee to abolish rent review. We cannot accept the need to discuss the abolition of the rent review program because we do not think it should be abolished. I want to make it clear that our vote against the referral of this green paper to the committee is only part of our fight to continue the rent review program.
If the motion passes, despite our opposition, we will not be co-opted by the government on the committee. The Leader of the Opposition’s remarks made me think the government has already managed to co-opt the Liberals on to its side.
Mr. S. Smith: Don’t talk nonsense.
Mr. Dukszta: We will participate in the committee hearings.
Mr. S. Smith: You were elected to do a job here, not posture.
Mr. Dukszta: I can only interpret what you have said publicly only 10 minutes ago.
Mr. Bradley: Misinterpret. You misinterpreted the word.
Mr. S. Smith: The word is “distort,” not “interpret.”
Mr. Dukszta: I did not distort what you said, dear Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Handleman: Why come to the committee? It’s all on record.
Mr. Dukszta: Our role in the committee --
Mr. S. Smith: The opposition’s job is not just to oppose. It is to be constructive sometimes.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Who said “holier than thou” earlier?
Mr. McClellan: Is that what you really want to do?
Mr. Handleman: What about sharing responsibilities?
Mr. S. Smith: Next election we will.
Mr. Dukszta: The Liberal Party has no option at the moment but to vote against referral if they really believe that the tenants’ rights are paramount. I do not believe that they will do so because they have also, like the Conservative Party, abandoned the tenants to the fate of the landlords.
Mr. S. Smith: Rubbish.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: So why have hearings? Why let the public participate? If you guys have made up your mind, why invite the public to participate?
Mr. S. Smith: Why did you run for office at all?
Mr. Dukszta: Let me tell him what our role in the committee will be, if the minister is prepared to listen.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I’ll read your press release later, Jan.
Mr. Breaugh: Listen with your ears, not with your mouth.
Mr. Dukszta: Our role on the committee will be quite simple. We’ll try in any way to prevent the government from manipulating tenants out of rent review and to protect and enhance the rights of the tenants.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. If I might, I’d just like to draw the content of the motion to the members of the House, I hope they realize that the content of the motion includes that the green paper be referred to committee, that the committee be allowed to hire staff and that Hansard be able to record the comments made by the committee. I feel that the three members who have spoken previously have extended their remarks probably beyond the resolution. I hope that all the further speakers would try to keep their remarks within the content of the motion.
Mr. Cassidy: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I presume, if I understand it correctly, that the question of whether or not this green paper should be referred to the committee or whether other actions should be taken on the basis of the question of rent review is what is before the House right now. Is that correct?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: On reading the motion, I would say that the motion is whether or not the green paper should be put before the general government committee for discussion with the other things I mentioned previously.
Mr. McClellan: That’s exactly what is being discussed.
Mr Handleman: I was going to make that point of order during the member for Parkdale’s comments. Now that you’ve made it, Mr. Speaker, I want to assure you that I will speak entirely to the motion, which I will be supporting.
Mr. Cassidy: This is the anti-tenant member for Carleton.
Mr. McClellan: The anti-rent review member for Carleton.
Mr. Handleman: I have some reservations about it. I’m not at all surprised at the position taken by the New Democratic Party. I want to remind the member for Ottawa Centre of an evening -- the night after the election, as a matter of fact -- when we appeared on television together.
Mr. McClellan: Why did you sabotage rent review Sidney?
Mr. Handleman: He said: “Minority government will work if we all share responsibility.” What ever happened to that willingness to share responsibility? I challenged him then, I challenge him again. He doesn’t want to share responsibility, he wants to play politics.
Ms. Gigantes: We don’t want the government’s crummy policies. It’s their crummy policies we don’t want to share.
Mr. Handleman: That’s fine, that’s their privilege; this is a political forum. But don’t let him pretend he wants to share responsibility and make minority government work.
Mr. Cassidy: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: What’s your point of order?
Mr. S. Smith: There is no point of order; in fact it’s pointless.
Mr. Cassidy: On a point of privilege.
Mr. Speaker: What’s your point of privilege?
Mr. Cassidy: The member for Carleton should speak to the Treasurer of the province who has ignored completely the nature of minority government in the province.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Makarchuk: Are you going to share OHIP? What are you going to do?
Mr. Cassidy: If you want to respect minority government, then back down on those premiums.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Dukszta: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege, in the very last remark I made in my speech I suggested we will participate in the committee on behalf of the tenants, and defend their rights. Nobody should say we would not participate nor participate in the structure of the House. We only said that on behalf of the tenants.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Carleton.
Mr. S. Smith: Then why are you participating in the committee?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: You have already made up your mind.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Makarchuk: Have you discussed the budget for this?
Mr. Handleman: I would like to concern myself now with some of the reservations I have about the motion, and I do have some.
First of all, I would like to see this new approach be effective. I think we have to develop new options for the future in tenant protection. There is no suggestion of abandoning the tenants anywhere in any of the documents before us.
Mr. Cassidy: It’s just what you do.
Mr. Handleman: The committee will have less than two months to deal with the problem which the government has had before it for something like three years. It’s a very complex problem. I hope the committee will have the time to deal with it in its entirety and in its full complexity. I am concerned that the committee by its terms of reference is not empowered to travel. I understand the constraint measures that put that restriction on its activities. I visualize the urban Development Institute and HUDAC with counsel throughout the entire committee hearing.
The Metro tenants’ association undoubtedly will either be there or have its counsel there throughout the meeting. I am concerned about people outside of Toronto having an opportunity to be fully educated and informed and to have full input.
Mr. Renwick: What do you mean they will have counsel there?
Mr. Handleman: I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, and I speak now for my own constituency -- including the entire Ottawa area, it’s the only place in the province where more than 50 per cent of the households are rented -- people there are very concerned about this problem.
Mr. McClellan: Resign.
Mr. Handleman: It is one of the areas in the province where the federal government seeks not to give us a tenancy vacancy rate but to combine us with Hull to make it look good. Actually, I would suggest, the vacancy rate in Ottawa-Carleton compares somewhat with Toronto’s. We have a concern over continuing tenant protection.
I speak now to the chairman and the members of that committee. I hope they will give full opportunity to people from outside of Toronto to be heard. If necessary, I suggest that the counsel, who would have the privilege of travelling, might very well convene meetings in areas outside of Toronto so that those people can be heard and heard fully.
One thing that seems to be forgotten quite often on the NDP side is that a substantial number of the landlords -- in fact the majority of the landlords in this province -- are small landlords.
Mr. McClellan: There’s the voice of the landlords.
Mr. Handleman: They always talk about the giant landlords, and I agree they can well look after their own interests.
Mr. McClellan: Listen to him.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: What about the member for Ottawa Centre? He’s one too.
Mr. Handleman: If they have read the green paper at all, they would know that over 40 per cent of the rental housing stock in nine Ontario cities consists of fewer than 20 units. It’s clear that a very large number of landlords in this province, not only are small landowners operating in the best principles of the free enterprise system, having invested their savings in what they think will be an income-producing property --
Mr. Makarchuk: It doesn’t necessarily indicate that.
Mr. Handleman: -- but also their average income is $14,000 a year, less than the members’ of this Legislature. It puts them in the low income group.
Mr. Cooke: But who controls the market?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Read the paper.
Mr. Handleman: Let’s face it, many of the people who rent are in the low-income groups. Who is going to speak to this committee for them, the Metro tenants’ association? I suggest there has to be some way of bringing input to the committee and through the committee to the government from those outside of Metropolitan Toronto. I don’t know whether the Board of Internal Economy can authorize a standing committee of this Legislature to move around.
I am very concerned about the shortness of time. I know that the government which apparently has not developed a full policy for continuing protection, has had trouble with all its resources. I am concerned about a committee with counsel, in the space of less than two months, being able to come to grips with this problem.
However, I think the leader of the New Democratic Party should accept what the minister has said, that this is an exercise in sharing information. I hope it will do more than simply educate the members of the committee, because certainly they will learn a lot. I hope they will be able to develop alternatives. I think every member of this House is concerned about the fact that we have between 40 and 50 per cent of our population living in rented premises. They must have protection. By whatever technique their powers must be equalized with those who have greater powers.
Mr. Cassidy: You said you would resign if rent review was continued.
Mr Handleman: You were there when I said that “this program of rent review.” What I heard from your speakers and your interjections was that this program of rent review was great, so let’s just keep it going. I don’t agree. I think it has had damaging effects on the housing market. I think we have to find some successor program.
Mr. Cassidy: That’s not what the green paper says.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Handleman: The green paper provides options for continuing protection. That’s exactly what it says and that’s what it does. The committee is not limited in any way by the options that are put forward in the green paper.
Mr. Cassidy: Of course it is, and you know it.
Mr. Handleman: Any member, including the member for Parkdale, can come forward with what he put into Hansard today, bring it to the committee and try to persuade his colleagues to accept all or part of his motion. There’s no reason why he can’t do that. That’s why I say that the committee exercise can be good.
Mr. Makarchuk: It’s the same exercise in futility as the Hydro committee and the Inco committee.
Mr. Handleman: I hope the committee will be able to hear from those outside of Metropolitan Toronto because the problem, despite some of the media publicity, is not necessarily a Metro problem. We do have problems in other parts of the province. In fact, I think the members from the Lakehead might say their problem is worse than Metro Toronto. I will support the motion. I hope my reservations have been noted by the chairman and members of the committee, and the minister.
Mr. S. Smith: I wish to speak briefly to the motion. I think there are really just a few points to be made about whether or not this matter should go to committee. It’s perfectly clear that the government has decided to take a very difficult political issue -- a very thorny one and admittedly one which has a number of sides to it -- and has decided in this instance to share some responsibility for the further progress of this matter with the opposition in this Legislature.
Depending on one’s stance about these things and depending on how one views the opposition role, one can either rant and rail against the notion that one is being co-opted and that one is somehow being put into a position where we might share blame for difficult decisions which the government may or may not have in mind; and I don’t know what the government’s intentions happen to be. Or one can take the position that finally the government is willing to accept that in a minority Legislature it is much wiser to have some input, as I suggested the very first day after the election, from the other parties rather than constantly play brinkmanship and confrontational games in the House, which I think is to --
Mr. Warner: Are you for coalition government still?
Mr. Cassidy: It’s your only way into the cabinet.
Mr. S. Smith: -- the detriment of the people of Ontario. There are those who feel that any type of co-operation somehow or other is a type of coalition and so on. Such naive viewpoints from those who prefer confrontation in labour-management relations and confrontation in the political sphere and that type of thing, are what has led our country, in my view, to some of the difficulties we presently have.
The polarization, the attempt to portray everything in extreme terms in the political spectrum or in labour-management relations, that kind of constant determination to portray everything, as I say only in extreme black and white terms, to set management and labour against each other, to set government and industry against each other, as though somehow or other we are not all in the same boat, that is the kind of peculiar --
Mr. Germa: We are not.
Mr. S. Smith: -- mentality which is part of the New Democratic Party and is something which I certainly regret even having to have beside me in this House.
It’s about time we all learned, in society generally if I might just digress from the motion for a moment, Mr. Speaker, that in this country, whether we be in management, in labour, in government, in the professions or in any situation, we are in the same boat. We can’t always assume the other guy is our enemy, that the other guy is always dead wrong, and start drilling holes in our portion of the boat without realizing that the whole boat will go down if we don’t start to cooperate with each other.
I take my responsibility as Leader of the Opposition seriously. I see it as a situation where on the one hand one is supposed to oppose -- after all, it is much like being a defence lawyer in a trial where to make the system of justice work properly the defence lawyer has to constantly oppose the views of the opposing lawyer; he has to constantly put the best face that he possibly can on the oppositional view, such as it may be, in any given trial. I accept it to some extent; that is the oppositional role, where you have to criticize, you have to be tough, you have to constantly keep the government on its toes. I think the members opposite understand that.
But there is a second aspect to the role -- particularly in a minority government, but I think in any kind of a government. That is to be constructive sometimes. That is to be willing to put forward alternatives sometimes.
Mr. Cassidy: We were making constructive speeches about rent review before you even came into this House.
Mr. S. Smith: I think, too, it is part of the role also to say if the government is doing the right thing, as on the liquor advertising matter which the minister brought in. I’ve just gone on television to say that he has in fact done the right thing in this instance.
An hon. member: For heaven’s sake, do you expect someone to say he did the wrong thing?
Mr. S. Smith: I feel we have to be constructive sometimes.
It is interesting, if I may say so, that this particular government is quite willing to share with us the very thorny issues and not quite as willing to share some of the things they should be sharing with us --
An hon. member: That’s right. When did you learn that? That’s the point.
Mr. Renwick: You are being co-opted, and you don’t know it.
Mr. S. Smith: -- and I include this phoney committee being set up, a so-called sunset committee, consisting only of Tory backbenchers and one Tory cabinet minister.
An hon. member: What has that to do with rent review?
Mr. S. Smith: The fact of the matter is --
Mr. Speaker: You are straying somewhat from the resolution.
Mr. S. Smith: No, no, it’s very similar. I’ll explain the connection. Because that’s the committee that we should have all-party representation on. It’s perfectly clear that they are asking for this matter go to an all-party committee, when another matter --
Mr. McClellan: With enemies like this, you don’t need friends.
Mr. S. Smith: -- should in fact be put before a committee of all three parties in the Legislature. But then there is always the danger that the committee might actually find something to get rid of in the boards, agencies and commissions, and may even tread on the hallowed territory of Tory fund- raisers; they may even tread on certain dangerous areas of friends of the party; and you can only be sure and safe if you keep it in your own back bench. I think that’s a phoney committee.
An hon. member: The Tory senate.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We don’t need your help on that. We have those answers.
Mr. S. Smith: But despite that, and despite this provocation, despite this obvious provocation on the part of the government with regard to this phoney sunset committee --
Mr. McClellan: Let him sell out, he’s dying to sell out.
Mr. S. Smith: -- we are prepared to work on this important matter of rent review. I want to quote to you from a speech made by the minister, by the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick, on March 16, 1977, just about a year ago.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I wasn’t minister then.
Mr. S. Smith: He said then, “How long should this scheme continue?” He said, “The scheme in my opinion should continue until the pressures on the market disappear. The only solution to this then is to tie length of the program and duration of the program into the vacancy rate. In simple terms, he said, “we must require that the scheme continue until there have been 12 consecutive months during which the vacancy rate of the particular municipality has been in excess of 3.5 per cent.”
And I must say those are excellent words. They are words that I look forward to sharing with him; they are ideas which I look forward to sharing with him on the committee. Obviously, if the minister himself takes such an enlightened view of matters of this kind, we have nothing to fear by sitting in the committee with him. We will continue, I am sure, to protect the tenants as we have shown every determination to do.
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, the government even used our determination to protect tenants as an excuse for the last election. But should I complain about that, since it had only the effect of elevating me to this lofty position which I presently am enjoying thoroughly?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: And me to mine. I’m not complaining.
Mr. S. Smith: I must say I am not one to quote generally from columnists, although I respect them greatly.
Some hon. members: All of them?
Mr. S. Smith: I feel they have their job, and I have mine.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Did you see the one this morning about me?
Mr. S. Smith: The one about you? Yes. But I want to read from the column by Jonathan Manthorpe. He says, “No, the NDP wants the good old days back when they could shout and damn the Tories and, knowing full well the government would defeat their proposals, it was always so much easier to present the public with a picture of maligned and downtrodden virtue than to have to take responsibility for finding solutions to problems.”
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Well put.
Mr. S. Smith: He also goes on to point out, as their 14 or so scheduled speakers are suggesting, if they’re so resolutely opposed to this matter going to committee, if they think it’s a simple matter of being co-opted and so on and so forth, they have the option of not showing up at the committee.
Mr. Cassidy: Oh, no, and leaving you to manhandle the tenants of the province.
Mr. S. Smith: What Jonathan Manthorpe says is, “The only logical thing for the NDP to do now is to refuse to take part in the committee discussions.”
Mr. Warner: You’re as big a sellout as they are.
Mr. S. Smith: That’s what Mr. Manthorpe says, and although he and I have disagreements from time to time -- of a minor nature, I’m sure -- in this instance I have to agree with him.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: But they’ll go so they can put out a press release.
Mr. Reid: They don’t even go any more, they just put out press releases. It’s the first thing they learn when they get there -- write press releases.
Mr. S. Smith: The fact of the matter is that we are resolute in our determination to protect the tenants, we are resolute in our determination --
Mr. Germa: We rely on you when we are in trouble!
Mr. S. Smith: -- to make certain that until the vacancy rate goes up the controls remain, but we are prepared to discuss ways to get apartment buildings built in this province. We’re prepared to sit down and discuss with members of any party and with members of the public ways that we can get apartments built in Toronto and in Oshawa and in Hamilton and in every other place that they happen to be needed, in Thunder Bay and so on.
It is not our habit to simply issue press releases, take postures, grandstand as the protectors of one particular group in society --
Mr. Germa: Listen who’s grandstanding. The saviour of the little people.
Mr. S. Smith: We’ll protect the tenants as well as anybody in this society and my record is clear in this matter. We’re prepared to work as well to make sure that we start getting some construction in this province, to get rid of the red tape that’s holding up construction in this province, to get apartments built in this province, to get affordable housing built in this province. If we can take our ideas to a committee, if we can take our ideas to any platform in the province, we are prepared to participate and take our ideas there and let our ideas be judged by the public when they’re put forward in any forum, be it a committee, be it the Legislature or be it any platform in Ontario. Therefore, we will accept to have this matter go to committee, to have a staff hired for the committee so the facts can be brought before the public and we are looking forward to these discussions.
Mr. Germa: What empty words.
Mr. Davison: I rise, as did my colleague from Parkdale, to oppose the motion to refer this red, white and black green paper to the standing committee on general government.
This little piece of propaganda, this sham called Policy Options for Continuing Tenant Protection, has absolutely nothing to do with continuing tenant protection, but rather has everything to do with, and is designed as the opening gambit in, the government’s bid to rid Ontario of a rent review program and to put tenants in Ontario at the mercy of landlords.
The paper’s theme and basic premise is clearly outlined in the letter that is accompanying the green paper to the minister from W. M. Robbins, the executive director of the rent review program and the chairman of the little in-house committee that drew up this plan. As my colleague from Parkdale pointed out, the last few words of that letter show clearly what the government’s plan is and show clearly what its intentions are and refers only to a post rent review period. So before we even get into the report we know that option number one in the government’s choice has already been done away with.
It’s possible that perhaps in our party we’ve made too much of that particular sentence attributed to Mr. Robbins. Perhaps it’s simply a misprint in the letter or a case of a simple misunderstanding or misrepresentation. Under normal circumstances, that’s something I wouldn’t consider very likely in such a government document, but as I read through the document and got to page four, the first sentence on the page jumped right off and it reads as follows: “Ontario’s current rent review program was conceived as a temporary program complementary to the federal government’s anti-inflation program.”
I must say that has shattered any faith I had in the author’s credibility, in the credibility of this document and in the author’s capacity to accurately record information.
As somebody who stood for election in the 1975 election campaign, as did many others here, and as someone who sat in this House during those fall days of 1975, I somehow was under the impression that there was a connection between what happened in the election campaign and the Premier’s (Mr. Davis) promise to bring in rent review. I somehow had the thought and the feeling that there was a connection between the seat distribution -- in other words the minority government in this province -- and the fact that the Premier kept his promise, brought in some kind of rent review and it was passed in this Legislature. I did not realize at that time that it was something that had nothing to do with the 1975 realities coming out of the 1975 election, but was designed to fit in with the government’s anti-inflation program.
In case in my partisan mood I had misunderstood what had happened in 1975, I referred to the great impartial observers of our world, the press, and read a number of press clippings from that time and from recent days. The press currently is reflecting back upon the realities of 1975 and also doesn’t agree with this first sentence in the report we have seen. That most excellent paper, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, said on February 14, after viewing this document and after reading that sentence: “The ruling Conservatives gave the province rent controls in December, 1975, a move made in desperation during the heat of an election campaign. Their hearts were never in it, although the need was obvious at the time.”
That is a much more accurate reflection of the events of the fall of 1975 than is the first sentence in this document we see before us. That the authors of this green paper would stoop to rewriting such recent history is something that leaves the paper totally devoid of credibility. In the end, I decided to give credit to Mr. Robbin’s comments, only because they seem to reflect the opinion of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and the government in general.
Given the widely-stated goal of the paper to generate discussion so that the government can engage in an “exercise in public dialogue and policy formation,” some people in the public who don’t know this world of politics so well as members in the House, might think that the government is approaching this issue, this matter, with an open mind, willing to listen to reasonable arguments and willing not to go in with a closed mind as to what they want to do with rent review. Such does not seem to be, and such is not the case.
On February 10, 1978, the London Free Press, reporting on one of those sessions that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations periodically has where he bares his soul to the media, said: “He” -- Mr. Grossman, the minister -- “said he didn’t want to announce his support for any of the many options discussed in the paper prepared by senior civil servants in the Consumer, Housing and Attorney General’s ministries. Grossman made it clear he doesn’t favour keeping rent controls.”
Hon. Mr. Grossman: No. That is not true. If I were one of you I would stand up on a point of privilege, but I will let you finish.
Mr. Warner: Why wouldn’t you?
Mr. Davison: In response to the minister’s objection, I am simply reading from the London Free Press.
Mr. Warner: Do you not defend your privileges?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Is it in quotation marks? Is it in quotation marks?
Mr. Davison: If he would like to accuse the London Free Press of misrepresenting what he feels, that is his privilege, as an individual or as a member of Parliament. Go ahead.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Okay, I do; I did. Even free enterprise can be wrong.
Mr. Germa: Free enterprise?
Mr. Warner: It is not a dirty word.
Mr. McClellan: I bet he wouldn’t say that to the constituents in St. Patrick’s.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Inco is a four-letter word.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The minister has already contributed to this debate.
Mr. Davison: It is quite clear that the whole purpose of this exercise is not to seek opinions on continuing tenant protection, but rather for the government’s purpose of finding a way to end the rent control program with the least amount of political flak and trouble. The New Democratic Party in Ontario opposes this motion because we believe that continuing tenant protection is needed and that means that rent controls must continue. They can be continued in an improved fashion. Any government that we had to drag kicking and screaming into the program was sure to frustrate it at every possible turn, and they did.
There are problems with the current review program. There are problems that can be fixed when the government will bring in amendments to fix them. But we are not interested in a committee, the function of which is solely to justify the elimination of controls. We are just not interested in such a committee. The tenants of Ontario understand and support that position, because our position is the same position as the tenants’.
Mr. Rotenberg: How do you know?
Mr. Davison: Why don’t you listen, David, and I’ll explain it to you.
Mr. Rotenberg: If that were the case, you would be the government.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the member for Wilson Heights go back to his own seat if he wants to interject.
Mr. Davison: Or go further.
Jack de Klerk, the chairman of the Metro Tenants Federation has warned that without the kind of controls we now have tenants in Ontario will face increases of 15 to 20 per cent immediately.
Mr. Rotenberg: And how many members has he?
Mr. Davison: The tenants of Ontario and the New Democratic Party of Ontario totally reject this subterfuge called the green paper.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Oh, you don’t even like green papers either.
Mr. Davison: Totally. Even when it comes in red, white and black format.
Mr. Gregory: If it had been red you would like it.
Mr. Davison: It would appear --
Hon. Mr. Grossman: The red cover is for you.
Mr. Davison: -- that despite our party’s reasonable and sensible opposition to this motion that the government, with their limp-wristed Liberal friends, will be able to carry it through the House.
Mr. Davison: That will mean that we will go to the committee with one purpose and one purpose only --
Mr. Gregory: To agitate and write press releases.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: To write press releases.
Mr. Davison: -- and that purpose is to defend and protect the rights of tenants in Ontario. It’s quite clear today that neither the Conservative Party nor the Liberal Party share that desire to protect tenants’ rights.
Mr. Reid: What a bunch of nonsense.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: New leader, old speeches.
Mr. Reid: They always want to have it both ways.
Mr. McClellan: The Liberals are a bunch of cream puffs.
Mr. Davison: At that time there will be an opportunity to deal with the contents of this so-called green paper at some length and therefore I am not going to spend any great amount of time today dealing with the specific details. But I feel compelled to comment on at least one aspect of the paper that’s the central issue before us today and the central issue that is going to be before us when we get into committee; and that is the question of affordability of rental housing, that’s what it is all about.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: That is not the issue today.
Mr. Germa: Darn right it is the issue.
Mr. Dukszta: That’s what is the issue.
Mr. Davison: There are four options outlined under affordability of housing.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Talk about the issue.
Mr. Makarchuk: There are lots of houses for $60,000.
Mr. Davison: I took that issue because that is the reason --
Mr. Speaker: Will the members for Bellwoods and Brantford stop interrupting their colleague?
Mr. Davison: It’s a well-welcomed interruption.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Even they can’t take it either.
Mr. Davison: The reason we had rent controls in 1975 was because tenants were being ripped off financially. That was the issue then and that is the issue today, affordability of rental housing.
Mr. Reid: That’s two different things actually.
Mr. Davison: Listen to the first sentence under the heading “Affordability of Rental Housing” in this green paper: “Unfortunately, to one man -- ” or if we might add, one person -- “financial viability can be another’s affordability problem.” That is what it is about. The government is trying to swing the balance from the tenants to the landlords.
When we go through the four options -- the one option that would hold out some hope for the tenants and the three that are designed to support the landlords -- what do we have in terms of that all important issue? Number one, extend the program as is; indeterminate is the response. What that means when you read more closely is that for those not going through rent review the proportion of income going to rent will change according to the guideline limits established for rent increases, as compared to the rate of income increase experienced in the post-anti-inflation program. For those going through the rent review hearing process, their affordability position will be made better or worse depending on the cost experience of their landlord.
Well, better or worse, but better in every case than with any of the other three options, whether we go to option number two, making basic changes where the green paper admits it will be worse for tenants; or whether we go to increased exemptions, where the green paper admits it will be worse for tenants; or whether we go to termination -- and how they could even include that as one option -- where we find the financial situation for tenants will be much worse; and that’s an understatement. There’s only one option presented in this report that will continue tenant protection. The other three issues are irrelevant. It’s the only one worth considering, and that is the extension of the program. This is obvious to me; this is obvious to the New Democratic Party; this is obvious to tenants.
Mr. Rotenberg: Some.
Mr. Davison: And there is absolutely no need for this House to witness the kind of circus that this government is proposing, absolutely no need whatsoever.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: So boycott it.
Mr. Davison: Finally, while we oppose this motion because it is an attempt to eliminate rental-increase protection for tenants, we will participate in the committee for the sole purpose of defending tenants’ rights. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Of writing press releases, you mean.
Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, in rising to support the motion before us, I would like to say that I do so with a great deal of concern and feeling about the problem. The very fact there is a debate about the question of referring this matter to the standing general government committee is reason enough for me to stand and speak in support of the motion. The question of tenant protection -- indeed the whole question of housing for the people of Ontario -- is far too important an issue in my view to be made a political football. The very idea that any group or party could or might posture themselves as the sole champion of tenants in this province is frankly repugnant to me.
Ms. Gigantes: It’s the truth.
Mr. McClellan: It’s a reality.
Mr. Elgie: The issue requires reasonable and dispassionate consideration with as much input from as many participants as a possible; the people of Ontario do not deserve less.
Mr. McClellan: All right; give us some legislation and we will take that to committee.
Mr. Elgie: I would remind this Legislature, the public, and the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan), that the public perception of minority government is that this House is composed of three political parties whose members have the capacity and the maturity --
Mr. Reid: Two of which are responsible.
Mr. Elgie: -- to contribute positively and meaningfully, as well as negatively when it’s appropriate to the issues facing them; and the perception that it is possible for mature, responsible men and women to act in concert to discuss such an important problem as this in a non-partisan fashion.
Mr. McClellan: Coalition government.
Mr. Makarchuk: Who created the problem?
Mr. Elgie: If that is not a true perception that the public has --
An hon. member: It is not.
Mr. Elgie: -- then let’s say so and clear up what may be a public misperception.
Mr. Lawlor: It’s very curious that maturity serves your own interest, isn’t it?
Mr. Elgie: Having participated in the deliberations of the select committee on the Inco and Falconbridge layoffs --
Mr. Makarchuk: With successful results, no doubt.
Mr. Elgie: -- I know and appreciate how illuminating and invaluable it can be to bring a problem such as this before members of all parties to be exposed to their scrutiny and inquiry. The layoffs issue was, of course, a difficult one to deal with, but it was an example, in my view, of how well-intentioned co-operation can lead to well-considered conclusions.
Mr. Makarchuk: Did you stop the layoffs?
Mr. Elgie: I believe that the public concurred with that co-operative committee effort. I believe that this issue -- the issue of tenant protection before us today -- is another such matter.
In my view, the need for tenant protection, with all of its ramifications, will be with us so long as there is a shortage of rental accommodation. It is, however, the kind of issue that poses different problems, as the member for Carleton (Mr. Handleman) has said, different problems in different parts of the province --
Mr. McClellan: He created the problems. That’s why he quit.
Mr. Elgie: -- and that is why, in my view, it is important that we encourage the widest possible canvass of fact and opinion, both from within this Legislature and from the public at large. If we can achieve what the minister so earnestly desires, a consensus on these comprehensive proposals, we may well lay the groundwork for a process that may go on and prevent unforeseen future problems. What is important here is that the ministry staff be given the benefit of the best information and suggestions that this House, in its wisdom, can produce. It is not fair, in my view, to expect that staff to conduct its hearings on its own.
As the minister has indicated, it might be difficult for them to be totally objective, given the fact that they have already worked very hard to produce this policy options paper.
Mr. McClellan: Norton’s staff is doing it on its own.
Mr. Elgie: It would be equally unfair to the people of Ontario to have legislation produced on such an important topic and then subjected to partisan wrangling.
The object of sending this sessional paper to the standing committee is to receive constructive input.
Mr. Cassidy: Are you going to stand as an independent? You’d better resign.
Mr. Makarchuk: Never mind the input, build affordable housing.
Mr. Elgie: In my view, partisan posturing should have no place in the developing of laws relating to tenant protection.
Mr. Makarchuk: Try affordable housing for a change.
Mr. Elgie: We all know the story of the lengths to which the penultimate leader of the third party went in painting himself as the champion of the tenant in 1975. That might be overlooked, of course, because that was an election year. But that example is precisely what I’m talking about.
Mr. Cassidy: You might give some credit to the new leader of the party as well.
Mr. Elgie: I don’t want to see this issue overtaken by partisan rhetoric, even from an old high-school mate. I do want to see it depoliticized.
Mr. McClellan: Never mind the old school ties.
Mr. Reid: Nobody over there is as old as you are.
Mr. Elgie: Certainly not as mature.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: A lot of high-schoolers.
Mr. Cassidy: That was a low blow.
Mr. Elgie: As stated before, I feel certain that an all-party committee, with its own staff and with the capable assistance of personnel from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, could provide maximum exposure of all points of view.
Mr. Makarchuk: How about housing?
Mr. Elgie: It could deal with the interrelated questions of rent levels, landlord and tenant relations, and the housing market; and it could deal with them in a careful, considered fashion.
Mr. Cassidy: And maximize exposure of tenants to gouging.
Mr. Elgie: I am not suggesting for a moment that we should ask the impossible and try to place this sessional paper before a standing committee that will not have any partisanship. Many members, even some of the newer boys, seemed to have learned the value of contributing to Hansard, or talking out the window, as the Austrians call it.
It is my opinion, however, that a standing committee can produce top-flight insight into the most appropriate course of action. It is also my opinion that the reference to a standing committee will expedite matters.
Mr. Cassidy: What a government! For two years you wouldn’t listen to any suggestions about rent review.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I hope in the little time we have remaining in this debate that all members will listen, because we do have some high-schoolers from the most northerly community of Ontario where one can drive, all the way from Pickle Lake and Osnaburg, in the west gallery. I’m sure they’d like to hear the balance of the debate.
Mr. Rotenberg: What party was that, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Elgie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I hope that settles the riff-raff.
Mr. Reid: Very neatly done, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Elgie: Not that riff-raff, but the other riff-raff.
Mr. Lawlor: That is unparliamentary.
Mr. Elgie: It is also my opinion that the reference to a standing committee will expedite matters.
As the minister has indicated, timing is of the essence. It is imperative that these hearings be completed before June in order that legislation can be drafted for the fall sittings.
The sittings and deliberations of a standing committee of this Legislature are bound to attract more attention in the media than would otherwise be the case; and this is important, because we want to achieve maximum public participation.
By holding our discussions in committee, in my opinion, we would encourage more participation and we would encourage action rather than reaction.
The problems involved in achieving an equitable balance between the interests of tenants and landlords will not be easy. We know that strict rent controls tend to depress starts of multiple dwellings. On the other hand, a wide-open situation combined with low vacancy rates could place tenants at the mercy of a few unprincipled individuals. Of course, it goes without saying that this party and this government totally reject any all-encompassing notion that rental accommodation should be produced and managed by government. The proper operation of a free market is the best guarantee of efficient production and the corresponding creation of productive employment.
It is not the intention of the ministry or of the government to shackle either landlords or tenants.
Mr. Makarchuk: How about the speculators?
Mr. Elgie: We’re not talking about you today, Mac.
Mr. Makarchuk: There are more over on the other side.
Mr. Elgie: We are confident today that all groups -- producers, consumers and government -- can dome together under the auspices of the standing committee and work out equitable solutions to the many problems.
It would be unthinkable to allow uncertainty to dominate public consciousness. In these times of inflation and unemployment, it would be totally unfair to have tenants needlessly contemplating spiralling rents or diminished standards of accommodation. On the other hand, it would be equally unfair to expect investors who build multiple dwellings to endure diminishing income in the face of rising costs.
I mentioned these two aspects of the question simply because they are so obvious and so perplexing. There are many more, and that leads me to comment on this sessional green paper. In my view, it is an excellent working document and I commend those responsible for its production.
Mr. Dukszta: You must be kidding us.
Mr. Elgie: A review of the paper makes two things abundantly clear to me.
Mr. McClellan: That you hate rent control.
Mr. Elgie: First, any decision as to whether or not Ontario’s current rent review program should continue in one form or another must take into account the availability of an adequate quantity and quality of rental housing. In communities where there is a high vacancy rate, market factors, which on their own can serve to control rents, clearly function, whereas in a large metropolitan community, such as this, the vacancy rate in October 1977 was only one per cent, as referred to by the member for Parkdale and market factors cannot function adequately. I must, therefore, conclude that some type of rent control and rent review are therefore necessary in certain communities.
Secondly, although the rent review program was originally conceived as a short-term program to address the problem of inflationary rent increases, it soon became evident that those tenants and landlords found it difficult to restrict their discussions at rent review hearings to matters of rent alone. In other words, it is clear that there is a need for a simple method of resolving landlord and tenant disputes.
I have spoken to the minister on a few occasions about this and have stressed my own view that we must place greater emphasis on the provision of inexpensive and more accessible means of resolving landlord and tenant disputes and, in particular, to facilitate enforcements of covenants in leases.
I am sure it’s also of interest to all members of this House to note with some degree of satisfaction that on March 16 this Legislature approved the resolution of the member for Simcoe East (Mr. Taylor) that called for simplification of consumer contracts. I certainly support that principle, particularly with regard to leases.
In conclusion, I fully support the motion to refer the policy option paper to the standing general government committee. Such an action would, in my view, accomplish three goals. First, it would assist us with the crucial problem of timing. Legislation can be produced in an orderly and considered fashion for legislative action in the fall. Second, referring the paper to committee would minimize the degree of political partisanship involved in evaluating the options proposed and it would, in my view, be in line with the public’s perception of how minority governments should function. Finally, the committee would encourage maximum public participation and the greatest amount of critical intelligent appraisal of the problem.
I feel certain that acceptance of this motion will enhance the likelihood of producing valuable comprehensive and lasting legislation in this area that is of concern to all of us.
Mr. Blundy: I rise to support the motion to refer this complex matter to an appropriate committee. I have a comment on one fact first, that is, the wonderful and strange amount of co-operation that is being offered by the government party in this matter now, when there was a strange lack of co-operation with the people who were standing up for tenant protection back just a little while ago before I was here. Now I see that the government wants to talk it over with us and wants to get our views. Why? Because they have never wanted to have rent review and they never wanted to be the party that had to bring it in.
I say we have to continue it. The one reason I rise and support this matter is that I have taken one small sentence out of the green paper, or a part of a sentence. It says: “Policy options for continuing tenant protection.” Let everybody know, and particularly the government members, that that is the purpose as far as I am concerned in discussing in committee ways of working out a satisfactory continuation.
When I talk about that, I also want to say that in my riding we have lived through five years of a rent situation where the vacancy rate has been, for nearly five years, 0.05 per cent. We have just moved out of that now to one per cent. It is an important thing to us. We also have to look at ways of making it possible for builders and developers to get through some of the red tape and get into building so that we will have more affordable housing and decent housing for people.
There are a number of things that this committee can consider. That is one, how we can increase the housing numbers in our province, ways that we can build more quickly and more efficiently. I think there are areas that may very well be able to have some relaxation of controls, but certainly not in my riding, nor in Metro Toronto. There is also perhaps the possibility of relaxation or exemption in the case of luxury apartment buildings and so forth.
These things all have to be looked at very closely. We also have the recommendations that are coming before us now regarding market value assessment and the implementation of it, and the split that has been suggested between private residential accommodation and high-rise apartment accommodation. These are things that need to be considered.
I know that we are just about out of time. I want to say that we in the official opposition are ready and willing to take up our responsibility in this matter. We look forward to being able to sit down and discuss with the other members of the committee ways of continuing protection for the tenants of Ontario. We also want to look at ways of encouragement for the developers and the builders. We want to ensure that the people who are going to be providing the decent living accommodation for renters in this province are able to continue to do so, and are encouraged to do so. In the long run, by looking at all of these various things in the committee, we are going to reach our goal, which is to continue affordable housing for the people of Ontario and protection for the tenants of Ontario. I look forward to the matter being referred to the committee.
Mr. Breaugh: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I assume that you are about prepared to adjourn for today. I would like to ask the Speaker to recognize that this resolution, in particular one last part of it, not being drawn into the violence against the thing, is contrary to provisional order 21 concerning Hansard. I would like the Speaker to give us a ruling on Monday as to whether or not this resolution can carry as is. If it is seen to be contrary to the rules of the House, will the Speaker make the ruling by himself or will he seek unanimous consent of the House to step aside from those rules?
Mr. Speaker: The provisional orders indicate that the only committees that will be transcribed are those of supply. The House, in its wisdom, can do anything it wants, as long as it is incorporated as a part of the motion, and if it so directs that the proceedings of that committee and its hearings be transcribed, it is within the power of the House to do so. However, I will reflect on it over the weekend; but I think, in general, that’s the way it is.
On motion by Mr. Warner, the debate was adjourned.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Grossman, the House adjourned at 1 p.m.