The House met at 10 a.m.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege. Last night during the adjournment debate, the member for Downsview (Mr. di Santo) made some remarks about multiculturalism. I wasn’t sure at the time, but in reading Hansard this morning I notice that he did deliberately say:
“I think that by saying that, the minister has become co-responsible for the racists in our society.”
Mr. Speaker, I find this very offensive and I would ask that the honourable member withdraw those comments.
Mr. Speaker: The honourable member is not in the House at the present time. Perhaps your comments can be brought to his attention and we will see whether or not he chooses to withdraw his remarks. We will wait until he has an opportunity at least to respond to your point of privilege.
OTTAWA NURSING HOME
Ms. Gigantes: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege that follows from discussion in the House yesterday on Bill 73, An Act to amend the Nursing Homes Act.
During the course of that debate, I outlined a particularly unfortunate and painful situation involving a 76-year-old man in a nursing home in the area of Ottawa-Carleton. I withheld the name of that person and of the nursing home out of consideration for the people involved and out of concern that the case still had not been brought to any satisfactory conclusion.
Later on, in the course of discussions on the amendment to the Nursing Homes Act, there were various accusations made against my behaviour by two members of the government. One was the member for Simcoe Centre (Mr. C. Taylor) who had the floor at the time. The other was the Minister of Community and Social Services, the member for Kingston and the Islands (Mr. Norton), who was interjecting while the member for Simcoe Centre was speaking.
Among other things, they suggested I had dealt with this as an operation; that I was playing a cloak-and-dagger little game; that I was manipulating the people of the province; that I was trying to get to power on the backs of the poor; that I was involved in cloak-and-dagger methods; that I had no scruples at all; that I had given wrong advice to my constituents; that I was insensitive to the situation; that I was using this situation for political exploitation, and that I was allowing an unfortunate individual to suffer in a situation instead of doing something about it.
I think it absolutely necessary that I outline again, in case those members did not hear it, the facts of this matter. The woman who brought this case to my attention, the daughter of the unfortunate man --
Hon. Mr. Kerr: You sound like “Dear Abby.”
Mr. Speaker: Order. The facts, I think, in view of what you’ve said, were clearly outlined in your remarks during the debate yesterday afternoon. Obviously there’s a difference of opinion as to what your intentions are. You’ve already brought that to the attention of the House. It’s not the responsibility of the Speaker to do other than say whether or not you have a prima facie case of privilege.
I don’t believe either of the members that you have named -- oh yes, there’s one in the House; all I say is that if one of the members that you’re complaining about happens to be here, and if he wishes to respond in any way to the point of privilege, I would be happy to allow him to do so. But the honourable member has made her point of privilege and until I hear the other side, I am not in a position to say whether or not it is a prima facie case of privilege.
Surely all members of the House know that it isn’t the responsibility of the chair, whether we’re in committee or whether we’re in the session as we are here today, for the chair to take any action other than what it is directed to do by the House. I hope the member will appreciate that there are avenues for any person who feels that his or her privileges in this House have been breached. I am sure the honourable member knows what those avenues are. I don’t think it is necessary for the honourable member to go over in detail what has already been said in this House.
Ms. Gigantes: I appreciate the Speaker’s comments. There is one point in particular which I think is very important to bring again to the attention of these members. Among the accusations made was that I had avoided contact with the nursing home inspection branch. The woman who came to see me, came after she had been to the nursing home inspection branch. She received a letter from that branch after her father had been evicted. As a result of her efforts to have decent treatment for him, she received a letter from the nursing home inspection branch saying that her complaint had been investigated and that all was well in the nursing home.
Mr. Rotenberg: What is the point of privilege?
Mr. di Santo: Shame.
FLECK MANUFACTURING COMPANY
Mr. Riddell: I rise on a point of privilege. In this morning’s Globe and Mail there was an article written by Richard Furness entitled, “OPP Officer Said Fleck Strike Union Error, Hearing Told.” There was a statement made, and I quote: “Lawyer W. G. Gray acting for the policeman and Mr. Riddell asked Mr. Seymour if he had said anything to Sergeant Glover about the matter coming up in the Ontario Legislature and Mr. Seymour said he had not.”
I would like, for the benefit of the Legislature and more particularly for the benefit of the procedural affairs committee, to indicate that any representation made on my behalf before the labour board has been made by my lawyer, Mr. Jim Bullbrook. To that extent this article is not completely accurate.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege, as this is the morning for personal privilege: I would just like to bring to the attention of the House what a great personal privilege it has been for me to have associated with the government, and with myself, the very distinguished member for Cochrane North (Mr. Brunelle) who is celebrating his 20th anniversary today as a member of this House.
Mr. Nixon: The Liberals have elected him all that time.
Mr. Breithaupt: That’s the whole pension now, Rene.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
CHAIN STORE DISCOUNTS
Mr. Foulds: Are there copies for the opposition?
Hon. W. Newman: Copies will be delivered momentarily. They’re coming in. I apologize. If members are prepared to wait for 30 seconds, we’ll comply with all the rules of the House, or shall I go ahead with the statement? I’m in your hands Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Is it agreed that the honourable minister shall proceed with this statement? Thank you.
Hon. W. Newman: I got held up in the traffic.
Mr. Nixon: Were you arriving from the farm?
Mr. S. Smith: What were you trafficking in?
Hon. W. Newman: I certainly don’t traffic in what you traffic in, I’ll tell you that.
I’d like to clarify a matter that arose in the House yesterday as a result of a question from the Leader of the Opposition. I was asked when my staff first heard about the discounting practice we’ve been discussing for some days now.
The matter was raised in the House on Monday, May 1. The chairman of the Ontario Food Council had been hearing rumours for two to three weeks prior to May 1 and had reported them to me on Thursday, April 27. I instructed him to look into these rumours right away to find out if they were true and if possible, to find out which stores were involved.
I would like to point out that under the Ontario Food Council legislation the chairman normally acts on complaint only. However, because of the persistence of the rumours he took the initiative and came to me. I told him to get right on to it. He got in touch with the companies involved and had discussions with the representatives. As I reported to this House on Thursday, May 4, the companies agreed to discontinue the practice as a result of our efforts.
I’m sorry that the agricultural critic for the NDP is not here because I believe that in what he said, the member for York South (Mr. MacDonald) did make an unwarranted attack on one of my civil servants who really can’t defend himself in this House. He said some things which I think were unwarranted. I think the member owes the chairman of the Ontario Food Council an apology.
Mr. S. Smith: I direct my first question to the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Mr. Speaker. It’s a perfect spot -- there seems to be a weak spot over there with regard to that ministry.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I just had to cough.
Mr. S. Smith: I see.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Just a slight cold. I certainly knew how to put you off.
Mr. S. Smith: Just take an Aspirin and call me in the morning. If he’ll give me his OHIP number, we’ll be all right.
Hon. B. Stephenson: A lot of good it would do him to call you, Stuart.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I’m sure that sort of remedy is much better than some that the honourable member has prescribed for some of his patients on occasion. In fact, it’s probably a great improvement.
Mr. Breithaupt: He’s got a couple of others for you, too.
Mr. S. Smith: If the Premier is not careful, I’ll opt out. Then where will he be?
Hon. Mr. Davis: On a matter of personal privilege: In the matter of restraint, the government would welcome the honourable member’s opting out. In fact, some days we think he has.
Mr. Speaker: Can we get started with the question period?
Mr. S. Smith: Of course. Yes, enough of this levity.
An hon. member: Back to work.
CHAIN STORE DISCOUNTS
Mr. S. Smith: Could the Minister of Agriculture and Food answer very clearly, yes or no, with respect to this question --
Mr. Foulds: No.
Mr. S. Smith: -- apart from the rumours reported to him by the chairman of the Ontario Food Council, which he commented on today, has the minister asked his officials and his senior advisers when they first became aware of the possibility that these discounting practices and so on have been occurring? Has he called them in and asked them, “When did each of you first hear of the possibility of such practices?” Yes or no.
Hon. W. Newman: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say yes or no, but I would also like to answer the question.
Mr. Doug Williams, who is the chairman of the Ontario Food Council, is the senior civil servant in my ministry responsible for the Ontario Food Council Act, and he is the man in charge of that program. It is his responsibility, if the honourable member understands how government works, to report to me on those sorts of matters. I have talked to him. I have a letter from him, as head of the department, sitting on my desk here today explaining exactly what happened. I have not gone on a witch hunt with my staff throughout the ministry, because it’s his responsibility and he reports to me.
Mr. MacDonald: That is a neat, neat effort.
Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary: Can the minister explain to me why he refuses doggedly to answer a very simple question? Given the fact that we have had a lot of rumours of these particular discounting practices -- the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association says it’s been going on for the last year -- and given the fact that the matter was raised in the House, the minister must surely have thought that he had some responsibility to go to his staff and to say, “When did you first become aware of these matters?” The simple question is, has he asked his staff when they first became aware of the possibility of such things happening?
Mr. Haggerty: Two years ago.
Mr. S. Smith: That’s a very simple question. The answer can be given in one word, either “Yes,” he has asked his staff when they first became aware, or “No,” he has never asked them that. Why is the minister refusing to answer a simple question?
An hon. member: Answer the question.
Hon. W. Newman: Quite obviously the member didn’t read my statement this morning. The answer to the question, in black and white, is I asked the chairman of the Ontario Food Council, yes. I did not ask the other staff, no. Okay?
Mr. Breithaupt: That’s taken two weeks.
Mr. MacDonald: A double supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Would the minister table the letter which he received from Doug Williams, the chairman of the Ontario Food Council? Secondly, since the minister himself reaffirms that the food council normally only moves when a complaint has been given to them, why has he not sought from his staff whether or not they had heard anything of this, so that he could activate that normally inactive body, the food council?
Hon. W. Newman: First, I will be glad to show the member the letter. I will not table the letter. I will be glad to show it to the member or other members if they wish to see it.
Ms. Gigantes: Oh?
Mr. Kerrio: Why?
Mr. MacDonald: Will you give us a copy?
Hon. W. Newman: Sure. I have nothing to hide. I’d be glad to give the member a copy of the letter.
Mr. MacDonald: Why don’t you table it then?
Mr. Warner: If you have nothing to hide, table it.
An hon. member: That’s the system we have in government: table it.
Hon. Mr. Davis: It is nice to have a personal copy.
Hon. W. Newman: It was purely a personal letter to me; so the member can have a copy of it.
Mr. Renwick: A personal letter on a public matter?
Hon. W. Newman: The member is welcome to have a copy of the letter. Okay? Is he satisfied with that part of the question? Fair enough. What was the other part of the question? I’ve forgotten the rest of it.
Mr. Swart: You are sensitive, Bill.
Mr. Nixon: Send me one, too.
Mr. MacDonald: The minister has forgotten my second question already --
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for York South doesn’t have the floor. He has placed his question.
Mr. MacDonald: The minister said he had forgotten my second question.
Mr. Breithaupt: He has forgotten your first question.
Hon. W. Newman: If I recall the question correctly, he asked why I don’t activate the food council.
Mr. MacDonald: No. May I clarify the question, since the minister has forgotten it already? Since the food council operates only when a complaint has been communicated to it, and this issue had been raised in the House and elsewhere, why did the minister not canvass all of his staff to find out whether they perchance had heard about this so that he, in turn, could activate the food council?
Hon. W. Newman: Mr. Speaker, there are about 1,600 staff in my ministry. I assume that I do not have time to contact them all. As far as the food council is concerned, if the member will recall the time-frame, we were acting on the situation before the first question ever came up in the House.
Mr. MacDonald: It is a calculated evasion.
Hon. W. Newman: Nonsense.
Mr. Warner: Did a great job.
Mr. MacDonald: That is what you call sober second thoughts.
Hon. Mr. Davis: You are going to be challenged to meet outside here. Careful now.
Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary: Can the minister say, since the only person he has asked about this is the chairman of the Ontario Food Council, and since he has received a letter which he will he giving us, why has he not asked the chairman of the Farm Products Marketing Board when he first heard about this? Has he checked the minutes of that organization to see when that matter might first have been brought to its attention? Can he assure the House, as I asked him yesterday, that the chairman of that body was not aware of these allegations in July 1977?
Hon. W. Newman: Mr. Speaker, as I said the other day, I assume the member is talking about the Greenhouse Vegetable Producers’ Board. His colleague sitting in the back row knows all about it. They asked for a meeting with our people. We have had meetings. There has been appropriate legal action taken by one grower group against the board, if this is what the member is talking about. That did happen last July, he is quite right. That is a situation that is going on among producers where the co-op, I believe, has sued the Greenhouse Vegetable Producers’ Marketing Board.
Mr. Riddell: Supplementary: Has the minister discussed the matter further with his colleague, the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry), and could he indicate to the House when the Attorney General is prepared to make a statement to the House about the legality of the discounting practices?
Hon. W. Newman: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to the Attorney General on several occasions about it. I was anticipating that he would be making a statement very shortly.
Mr. Riddell: Why is he dragging his feet? What is going on, anyway?
Hon. Mr. Davis: You are having some experience with the law yourself these days and it takes time.
Mr. Riddell: You are right. As a matter of fact, I think it will go through for a lawyer after this is all over.
Mr. S. Smith: I would like to stick to the same issue. My second question is on the same issue to the same minister. With regard to egg marketing practices, I think the minister said that Intersave negotiates a price with the packers not the producer. At no time does the producer get involved in this, either directly or through the egg marketing board. Is the minister prepared to confirm that certain directors of the egg marketing board engage in a practice with Loblaws or with other chain stores whereby they actually send their eggs for a certain price and then rebate later on a certain amount of money to the firm or to some allegedly associated firm? Are there members of the egg marketing board who actually do that? Has he bothered to check on it?
Hon. W. Newman: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am fully aware of that situation. I think the member has to understand exactly how the egg marketing board in the province of Ontario works, and so that he will understand very clearly, I will go very slowly and spell it out to him. The egg marketing board of the province of Ontario is made up of committee men who are elected around this province. The committee men then pick --
Mr. S. Smith: Elect.
Hon. W. Newman: -- elect, I’m sorry, the members to the egg marketing board.
Mr. Gaunt: Go over that one more time.
Hon. W. Newman: You know as much about it as I do.
Mr. Foulds: That is not very much.
Mr. S. Smith: A lot more.
Hon. W. Newman: It is quite obvious that you don’t.
Mr. Speaker: Just answer the question. Ignore the interjections.
Mr. MacDonald: That is good advice. I hope that is widely applied.
Hon. W. Newman: Yes, sir. The egg marketing board has both producers’ representatives on the board and producer-processers on the board. They have both on the board.
Mr. Kerrio: You’d better get some consumers on the board.
Hon. W. Newman: The price that is set for the producing of the eggs is set by the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency. I think right now it is 61 cents or 62 cents to the producer. I have forgotten exactly, but it is somewhere in that neighbourhood. Then it goes to the processor and he has a margin to work with, whatever it may be; it’s normally somewhere between six and seven cents; don’t hold me to the exact cent on that. That processor, or producer-grader, can then go to any group, any chain store and negotiate a price for his eggs, as with any normal business practice. But the producer himself gets the set price that is set in this province by the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency.
Mr. S Smith: By way of clarification, with a supplementary: If a producer is also a grader and a packer, is the minister not saying then that he can, as a grader, pay himself as a producer the 61 cents or whatever the official price is, but then as a grader sell underneath the given price, if he so pleases. Isn’t that a loophole whereby a producer can actually undercut the price by selling it to himself as a grader and then undercutting the price by selling to the chain stores in a way that doesn’t affect the marketing board practice?
Hon. W. Newman: No, what I said, I think, and I’ll say it again, is that the producer price is set; it is fixed; it is there. Okay?
Mr. S. Smith: If the producer is also a grader?
Hon W. Newman: When he is a grader or a processor -- call it what you like -- he is, as a processor, a free agent to negotiate that product with any of them. His markup, as I said, stays between six and seven cents, but if he wants to reduce his markup and say “I’m going to take only five cents a dozen, I’ll reduce it in order to get into a particular market” -- whether it is a chain store or any place else -- then that is a normal business practice and he can do that.
An hon. member: That’s unfair practice.
Mr. S. Smith: I am trying to find out by supplementary if he even has the freedom to sell his own eggs that he produced? Does he have the freedom to sell those eggs as a grader, even below the alleged cost that he paid himself as the producer? Does the minister see what I mean? Is this not a loophole by which a person might be able to? The reason I am asking is to find out whether there is any constraint on the kind of marketing practice which that producer-grader has to engage in with the supermarkets. If he is completely free to do what he likes, why can’t he take his own eggs that he produced and sell them below the floor price, which the minister is talking about, if he pleases?
Hon. W. Newman: Because under the national supply management agreement of the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency, and under the Ontario egg board plan, that price is set; he has to pay that price as a producer.
Mr. S. Smith: Pay himself.
An hon. member: It sailed right over your head, Bill.
Hon. W. Newman: I know what he is saying. But if he does do what the member is suggesting then he is certainly breaking the agreement and is subject to prosecution.
Mr. Riddell: Are you looking into that?
Mr. MacDonald: Have you been notified on that and will you get on top of it?
Mr. S. Smith: Final supplementary: Would the minister care to speculate on why, once a price has been bargained with the producer-grader, it would simply not be a matter of sending the eggs and receiving the money according to the bargained price, rather than sending the eggs for a higher price and then rebating later to some associated company? Would he care to speculate on what might be the commercial advantage to the company in engaging in that rather peculiar practice?
Hon. W. Newman: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, the only thing I speculate on is Wintario, to help the province of Ontario. Secondly, in order to answer your question, I don’t want to speculate on it.
Mr. Wildman: You don’t speculate on land, do you?
Hon. W. Newman: I have tried to lay it out very clearly to the member. I think he is trying to say that if a man is a producer-grader, or producer-processor, maybe he could -- the member is saying -- take less than the 61 cents for his eggs and, therefore, get an advantage over his fellow producers or straight producers. I think this is what the Leader of the Opposition is trying to say.
Mr. S. Smith: That is the first thing I was saying. The second thing is the second question.
Hon. W. Newman: Yes, well, I’m glad you understand --
Mr. Kerrio: I’m glad he understands. What is the minister talking about?
Hon. W. Newman: I think what the member is speculating on in his second question is that he thinks the producer could fiddle the books. That is what he is trying to say. As far as the producer is concerned he cannot, and if he does that he is in trouble. If he does work as a processor, like any other processor of any other commodity, he has a right to negotiate.
Mr. S. Smith: The chain stores -- why are they doing it?
Mr. Foulds: In the absence of the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. F. S. Miller), the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) and the Chairman of Management Board (Mr. Auld) but, more important, in honour of his 20th anniversary in the Legislature, I would like to ask the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development a question.
Could the minister tell us whether his policy field, and in particular the Ministry of Natural Resources, has made a determination about what curtailment will be involved in the ministry’s programs as a result of the Treasurer’s statement of April 25, and in appendix II in particular, the $9 million saving on the cutting of the northern priorities budget and the $35 million saving because of an immediate hiring freeze on staff replacements in the ministry?
Hon. Mr. Brunelle: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that there will be no curtailment in the summer employment programs.
Mr. Foulds: Supplementary: Could the minister explain why a directive went out to all the district offices of the Ministry of Natural Resources about two weeks ago, I believe, putting an immediate freeze on hiring of all firefighting, tree-planting and fish and wildlife personnel throughout the north?
Hon. Mr. Brunelle: I am not aware of this directive. I would be pleased to look into it. But I would like to reiterate that summer employment programs are proceeding.
Mr. Foulds: For students?
Hon. Mr. Brunelle: For students.
Mr. Wildman: Supplementary: I think my colleague was referring to casual staff other than students in the tree-planting, fire protection and fish and wildlife programs of the ministry. Is it not a fact that this freeze means a lot of these programs as originally planned are having to be curtailed and that the fish and wildlife program is being especially hard hit through this freeze by the ministry?
Hon. Mr. Brunelle: I would be pleased to get that information. I will have that information some time next week for the members.
Mr. Foulds: A final supplementary, if I might, Mr. Speaker: Could the provincial secretary undertake to have the question resolved as quickly as possible, since the implementation of those programs for the summer is urgent, particularly the fish-stocking and conservation efforts, in addition to the firefighting and the tree-planting program, if the rehabilitation of that ministry is to take place?
Hon. Mr. Brunelle: It will be taken into consideration.
Mr. Wildman: Spawning has already started.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier a question in the absence of the Treasurer. Could the Premier tell us whether he is aware of the situation within the branch, I believe it is of TEIGA or maybe Management Board, that collects the debts outstanding to the province, where the head of that department indicates they are falling behind in collecting the debts outstanding to the province at about $500,000 a year and that the debts owing to the province now total more than $7 million? Can he give particular attention to this problem, in that the return seems to be a collection of about $8 for every $1 spent in that branch on salaries, overhead and so on, so that we can collect that money owing to the province?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly take this up with the Treasurer and ask him to exercise all due diligence in recovering these moneys owing to the province. Collection of outstanding debt is always a difficult problem, as I am sure the honourable member is aware. I think he is familiar with some of the general areas where we have difficulty and I am sure there are some of those areas where on some occasion, if they happened to be his constituents, he would suggest that the province might be a little more generous in its collection procedures.
I will raise the matter with the Treasurer and see that we make every effort to see that this money is collected. It never comes to an end; we always have a few people who are in debt to the government of the province. It’s an ongoing process. It has been relatively effective over the years, but there are always some bad debts; there is no question about it. However, I will communicate this to the Treasurer.
Mr. Foulds: Supplementary: Would the Premier not agree that a total of $7 million in outstanding debts probably is dispersed among more than a few people? Could he also ask the Treasurer to find out why, as reported in the article this morning, a number of the ministries do not refer their outstanding debts to this agency early enough so that the collection becomes increasingly difficult as times go on?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I’d be delighted to raise that further matter with the Treasurer. When I said “a few,” I was not referring to a few in numbers of people or organizations necessarily, but probably to certain government policy areas. I haven’t read the article. I don’t know what numbers might be involved, although they’re not our loans. I remember as Minister of Education we used to have some difficulty over repayments of loans to students. I think the government of Canada is still having some difficulty in that area.
Mr. Foulds: Natural Resources licence fees as well.
Hon. Mr. Davis: That does include a lot of people by the single sort of policy. What was the other one the member mentioned?
Mr. Foulds: Natural Resources licence fees.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Have you not paid for your hunting licence? Is that one we’re collecting?
Mr. Foulds: No, not hunting licences but timber fees.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Timber licences -- you’ve paid yours?
Mr. Foulds: I don’t have to.
FARM PRODUCTS MARKETING BOARD
Mr. Breithaupt: I have a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Would the minister table the minutes for the year 1977 for the Farm Products Marketing Board?
Hon. W. Newman: I’d have to look at that. I have nothing to hide. I just don’t know what sort of minutes they keep in detail. If the member is referring to the greenhouse board minutes, they do get minutes of the various boards. I would probably see no reason not to, but certainly I’d like to get back to the member on that at the first of the week.
Ms. Gigantes: Table them.
Mr. S. Smith: It is light reading.
FEDERAL HOUSING PROPOSALS
Mr. Dukszta: I have a question for the Minister of Housing with reference to his meeting today with federal officials concerning the new federal housing program. In view of the potentially crippling impact of the proposed federal program on private, non-profit and co-operative housing in this province, has the minister consulted with representatives of the so-called third sector in advance of his meeting with federal officials so that the particular concerns of this group can be raised at that meeting? Secondly, has the minister considered inviting representatives of those groups to attend the meeting and, if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: In reply to the first part of the question, I will not be meeting myself with CMHC. That’s what the officials of the ministry are doing at this very moment.
The second part of the question related to whether we have consulted with the non-profit organizations and the co-op housing groups in the province of Ontario. Senior staff people within the ministry have had some discussions with people in various organizations relating to that field.
With regard to the third part of the question, the answer is no.
Mr. Dukszta: Supplementary: What is the government’s policy? I realize the ministry’s officials are meeting with them right now, but what is the government’s policy towards maintaining non-profit and co-op housing as an alternative to private rental ownership housing or publicly subsidized housing?
Mr. Warner: He doesn’t have any.
Mr. Dukszta: As the real free enterpriser that the minister surely is, will he not agree that we need private, community-based, co-op housing as a part of providing affordable and adequate housing for Ontario, and that not to support this approach is not to support free enterprise by ordinary people?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I am aware of the interest of the member. The fact remains that the discussions today relate to proposals that are being made by the federal government to the provinces across Canada. Regardless of what programs or policies we might like to put into place, the fact is we are going to have to respond to the federal government and the proposals they are putting before us.
Ms. Gigantes: What is your policy?
Mr. Warner: You don’t have a policy.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere says we have no policy. I think our policies have worked rather effectively and productively in this province for a great number of years.
Mr. Warner: Less than one per cent of housing is non-profit.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: We have better than 90,000 housing units for those who are less fortunate in the province of Ontario. We are the one province in Canada that has used up virtually every program the federal government has put in place.
Mr. Warner: How much housing stock is non-profit? It is less than one per cent and the minister knows it.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: We have designed and developed programs that have produced housing in this province of good quality and brought it up to a standard that’s acceptable to us, and we have used the funding of the federal government. Let me suggest very strongly to the members of this House that some of the programs the federal government is now bringing forward are proposals that my predecessors in this ministry over the last number of years have put before the federal government.
Mr. Bradley: You take credit for everything.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: We are not completely sure at this moment of some of the details that have been put into the programs. We are asking for them to be refined so that they can be made even more effective --
Mr. Warner: You had better dismantle it.
Mr. Bradley: Are you prepared to take credit for all of their programs?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: -- in producing housing across this province for the less fortunate.
Mr. Warner: He is the minister without housing.
Hon. B. Stephenson: The member without brains is the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere.
Mr. Kerrio: Now that you’ve stolen that, you’re going to give them a little pat on the back.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Obviously, a divorce from yesterday.
Mr. Bradley: Now they’re yours.
Mr. Dukszta: Besides what the minister has just told us, I know and we know that he has already stated that not all of the programs that the federal government has made available have been used fully by our government here. In spite of what he has just said, he still has not answered my question as to what his particular policy is at the moment to support the private, non-profit co-op housing in this province, even if the federal government withdraws from this.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, obviously the discussions that are taking place today will give me some indication as to whether there should be some specially designed provincial programs to assist co-op and non-profit housing.
Ms. Gigantes: Don’t tell them. Tell us.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I want to assure this House that there is a limited amount of money available within this government today to go alone on those programs. If we’re going to be successful it will be because the federal government has a responsibility, the provincial government has a responsibility and the municipal government has a responsibility.
Ms. Gigantes: Doesn’t the minister know the difference between a program and a policy?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I hope the members do not get the clear indication that the government of Ontario has the financial capacity to provide all the housing that is required. It’s going to have to be a cooperative effort.
Mr. Warner: And if the feds withdraw, the government will do nothing.
Mr. Grande: The government has no direction.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I assure you today, Mr. Speaker, that we are having our input with the federal government. We hope the programs will eventually be ones that will be, to some degree, assistance to the co-op and non-profit housing. I am in no position today to give that assurance.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON CONFEDERATION
Mr. Conway: My question is of the Premier. It’s now been over a month since the Premier tabled in the House the first report of the Ontario Advisory Committee on Confederation. I was wondering whether or not he would comment today in any detail about any of the recommendations contained in that first report which have, to date, met with the approval and support of the government?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I’m not really sure that is an appropriate question for the question period unless the honourable member is prepared to give me the balance of the question period to comment on each individual item in some detail with a personal point of view.
Mr. Breithaupt: The Premier could make a budget speech.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have suggested to members of the House that the best approach would be to take an afternoon or an evening, or perhaps two afternoons to have all members of the House express their reaction to the report.
An hon. member: When?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I would fully expect that it would not become partisan in the sense that somebody would say, “This is, without any alteration, the position of the Liberal Party or the New Democratic Party.” I would think there are some parts of the report with respect to the restructuring of the constitution that you might have reservations about. There are other parts, I would hope, that you would support. I think his applies to many aspects of the report.
From the government’s standpoint, I am in a position to offer some initial comments. But I think it might be more appropriate to do this when we all have a chance to deal with it in a very constructive sort of sense. If the honourable member would give me a specific question or go through the items, I could take the rest of the morning to do this, but I really think it would be more appropriately dealt with in a discussion where all members of the House can participate.
Mr. Conway: A supplementary: I certainly would not invite the Premier to take all the rest of the question period on this particular topic. It’s obvious, however, he is certainly not agreeing with certain recent commentators who paraphrased the response to the first two principal recommendations as that they might be characterized as “a crock of sheer nonsense.” He’s obviously not prepared to associate himself with those remarks here today, and I can appreciate that.
I wonder if the Premier can indicate what kind of a priority he puts on that debate in terms of this Legislature? Secondly, can he indicate when the second report on the distribution of powers will be forthcoming and when he will make that public?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I’ll certainly make it public as soon as it is available. I think I said that I expected their report would be ready sometime during the summer. Perhaps the honourable member was inadvertently busy with affairs of his constituents when I made this observation.
As far as the timing of the discussion here, I would only repeat what I said earlier. I don’t think it would be wise for the government of this province to say this is our final or definitive position in terms of constitutional reform. I have circulated this report to all of the other Premiers. I have sent it to the first minister. The first minister has, in his wisdom or with the assistance of others, made a decision yesterday not to assess the political feelings of the people of this country.
Perhaps one of those items that I think was being delayed in this process, and that is the production of the federal documentation as to possible constitutional reform, may now ultimately see the light of day. It has been suggested by two or three of the other Premiers that the matter of constitutional change be a subject for discussion in Regina. I would certainly appreciate some discussion in the House prior to our recessing in June. But I would like to think the hon. members would understand that in approaching constitutional discussions, it would be unwise for any province, or for the government of Canada in particular, to say this is what it should be and this is our position. We should all go into these discussions with a fair measure of flexibility.
There are some things, as Premier of this province, that I am not prepared to negotiate in terms of constitutional change. There are some things that I think are matters of flexibility or negotiation. I think it is fair to state that when the committee gets into a discussion and reports to us on distribution of powers there will be some suggestions in their recommendations to us that will be somewhat different perhaps from previous positions.
As an example, there are some strong views on the subject of culture, immigration and communications. I have stated in the past year two or three times -- because this was a package at one point that was very important to the province of Quebec -- it may be an area that the new leader of the Liberal Party in Quebec will advance in his approach to constitutional change that I think in this province the people here would be prepared to accept. I am prepared to undertake some consideration that in those fields there certainly be concurrent jurisdiction.
I can understand the province of Quebec wanting to have paramountcy in one or two of those areas. I have reservations in the field of communication. While I can understand a provincial jurisdiction wanting to have paramountcy in the field of communication, I think there is a national involvement in terms of communication. I think it would be very unfortunate if there were not an involvement of the government of Canada in terms of communication policy right across this country.
Mr. Speaker, I know you are getting a little impatient with me in my rather lengthy reply but I must say, with respect, it was the kind of question that cannot be answered with a straight yes or no. I am trying to be as helpful to the honourable member as I can. I just sensed you were getting impatient, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: You are very perceptive.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Attorney General and relates to a traffic ticket fixing fraud in the north part of Metropolitan Toronto. Would the Attorney General tell us the extent of whatever investigation he has conducted into that alleged fraud, what the results of it were and whether or not he can assure the House that he is taking steps to prevent its recurrence?
Mr. Yakabuski: Just tell us who can fix them.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I think I am aware of the matter to which the honourable member refers, Mr. Speaker, as the two of us have spoken about it briefly outside the House. There are charges pending now in the courts related to the activities of two -- I think it’s two and not three -- of our justices of the peace in relation to very minor traffic charges. But notwithstanding the fact that the allegations relate to minor traffic infractions, we of course take the matter very seriously.
I don’t wish to comment at length about these matters, simply because they are before the courts. As the honourable member would appreciate, it would be most inappropriate for me to say anything that could possibly affect the outcome of the trial. But I can say that I am satisfied from an investigation that has been done to date that these are isolated incidents and involve I think two traffic offences, if my memory serves me correctly.
Of course, in Ontario we are talking about hundreds of thousands of minor traffic infractions that are handled by the courts. I want to assure the members that I believe these are very isolated incidents and do not, whatever the outcome of the trial, reflect in any way in the manner in which these cases are handled.
Put simply, I believe the people of this province are very well served by the very high quality of person who serves in the role of justice of the peace. I would be very distressed if I thought these criminal charges in any way would reflect on the dedicated service that is performed by so many of these men and women.
Mr. Warner: If those guys wore skates, you would do something.
Mr. Renwick: By way of supplementary question: Would the Attorney General undertake, when the inhibition of the charges has been removed by their disposition, to report in somewhat more detail what took place and what action he has taken to assure us that in fact the practice is not more widespread and that he has taken steps to prevent its recurrence?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Yes, I will report more fully.
Mr. Sweeney: I have a question for the Provincial Secretary for Social Development. My question deals with the Experience ‘78 student employment program for which she is responsible. Given that we have confirmation that the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has admitted to a preferred hiring list, has the minister checked to see whether other agencies are using this practice and has she issued any guidelines forbidding such a practice?
Hon. Mrs. Birch: As the minister responsible for Experience ‘78, I would like to inform the honourable member that those agencies outside of government have the onus on them for their hiring practices. It is up to them what directives they issue to their staffs on employing students. I am not in any way involved in the operations within the various ministries which do have programs for young people throughout this province.
Mr. Warner: They can abuse your program.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: I have not been made aware of any preferred lists. I am not aware of any such lists within the government ministry. I certainly have no preferred list.
Ms. Gigantes: You are responsible for what they do.
Mr. Warner: You don’t want to do anything.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: I would say that many members of the opposition have sent me letters along with applications from young people in their various ridings. If that is considered a preferred list, then I would say that most of the members across the aisle from me are guilty of contributing to any kind of formulation of a preferred list.
Mr. Warner: You’re being silly.
Mr. Bradley: Only the Tories get the jobs.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I know better.
Mr. Sweeney: Would the minister not agree that under the present conditions of desperate -- and I use that word -- job shortages for summer students, the acknowledgement by a public agency that such preferred patronage lists are used must indeed be discouraging to the young people of this province looking for work and must indeed make them question the justice and equality that we have in this society? Can the minister possibly condone and support that practice, which has been openly admitted, and do nothing about it?
Hon. W. Newman: Why are you always asking us to help you get jobs for kids in your riding?
Mr. Warner: You let anyone abuse your program and don’t do anything about it.
Mr. Conway: Tell us that Phil Givens proves it ain’t so.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: If I might, I would be quite prepared to show the preferred lists that the members of this House --
Mr. Wildman: Oh, come on!
Hon. Mrs. Birch: -- have sent to me about applications from young people within their various tidings.
Mr. Warner: That wasn’t the question.
Mr. Bounsall: Supplementary: Could the minister explain to the House the kind of reply that was received by one of my constituents who applied to one of the psychiatric hospitals in Kingston, I believe, that said all the positions in the Experience ‘78 program for this summer were filled a year ago by that hospital and that they would keep her name on file for next year in case she is still interested in applying?
Hon. Mrs. Birch: As I pointed out, the various institutions are quite at liberty to declare their own hiring policies. I’m not responsible for the directives they give in that area.
Mr. Foulds: Supplementary: Mr. Speaker, does the minister not feel, as her government provides the funding for the program, that she has some responsibility to issue guidelines for the agencies and firms that take advantage of that program? And does she not think it would be a much better practice to have a preferred list, if you wish, of those who need the jobs most rather than of the support they get from members of the Legislature, no matter which side they come from?
Hon. Mrs. Birch: I think there is an interpretation here of a preferred list. I would rather refer to them as waiting lists.
Mr. Foulds: They’ll be waiting a long time.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: They’re lists of applications that come in over a long period of time.
Mr. Foulds: They’ll be waiting five more years.
EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr. Bounsall: Mr. Speaker, a question of the Minister of Labour: Will the minister report on the progress of the talks that have taken place with the firefighters over the specific regulations under which they’ll be covered in the occupational health and safety bill, since we understand they are progressing well and there will be no problems with their complete coverage by the December 31 deadline in the bill in terms of working out the regulations?
Hon. B. Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I believe there have been two early meetings with one of the firefighters’ associations. There are two; there is an association of fire chiefs and there is an association of municipalities, which are of course the employers of firefighters as well.
I have stated very clearly, I think, that the consultation needs to take place between not only those employees who will be covered but also those who are employing those who might be covered under any health and safety legislation.
Mr. Bounsall: Supplementary: Since I have heard there are several municipalities, the hirers of the chiefs and the firefighters, that are concerned that they may not be covered, and they want them covered, has the minister had enough contact with that group to determine how many of those municipalities wish very much to have their firefighters given the protection of this health and safety bill?
Hon. B. Stephenson: No.
FARMING DATA BANK
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, a question to the Minister of Revenue: Is it true that the data bank program developed and tested in his ministry on farm land and farming is being scuttled and that revised forms have been printed which effectively destroy the great value of this great data system as an annual inventory of Ontario farm real assets? If this is true, could the minister give me the reason for the discontinuation or abbreviation of this program after the government has spent literally millions of dollars over seven or eight years to develop this procedure?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: To my knowledge, Mr. Speaker, that is not taking place. I will look into it further and give the honourable member more information on it, but I’m not aware of that or any data bank being destroyed within the ministry.
Mr. Riddell: One supplementary: I would hope the program is not going to be scuttled, but is the minister aware of a news release from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of September 26, 1977, indicating, in releasing some of the assessment data, that “the study will be the base for regular monitoring of land through the assessment records”? Has the support from the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. W. Newman) not been sufficient to encourage the continuation of such a valuable service? Has the Minister of Revenue talked to his colleague? I would hope the Minister of Agriculture and Food would talk to the minister and continue this program.
Hon. W. Newman: We still get along very well and get information from them. We have no problem with them.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I haven’t discussed this matter with the Minister of Agriculture and Food, but I will.
Mr. MacDonald: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: When he is looking into this matter, would the minister examine rather carefully what I understand is a new questionnaire to get this basic information and ascertain whether the new questionnaire isn’t in effect eliminating the seeking of certain specific information which will result in the destruction of the data bank?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: There is a program within the ministry for researching all of the information that is now contained in the data bank, but primarily this ministry is interested in getting the information that’s necessary for assessment purposes, that’s the purpose of the ministry information.
There has been some apprehension, not particularly from agricultural groups but municipalities, regarding the fact they feel we are not going to collect as much information as they would like to see. But we’ve found that in some cases municipalities have on occasion sold that information to private firms. We consider that to be confidential and we have issued directives to the municipalities that they are not to give this information out unless they have permission from the owner of the property.
I think perhaps we are getting into another field here, but there is a general overhaul of the whole system. That is not to say we are getting rid of the data bank. It’s just that we’re going to make sure the information contained in that data bank is the proper information needed for assessment purposes.
Mr. MacDonald: A supplementary: Would the minister table, or provide us with privately if he prefers to do it that way, copies of the old questionnaire, in which he sought the basic information, and the new questionnaire so that we can see exactly what information is being eliminated?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I would be happy to do that, but I must tell the member that at this point in time the new questionnaire has not as yet been drawn up. It’s still under discussion. The final decision on that has not been made.
Mr. MacDonald: We may have an input on that one.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: When it is made certainly I would be happy to provide the members with it.
Mr. MacDonald: If we ask questions early enough, we may forestall some unfortunate developments.
PHYSICIANS OPTING OUT OF OHIP
Mr. Cooke: In the absence of the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell), I’ll ask the Premier a question. I’m wondering if the Premier is aware of a situation which exists in Essex county where the three doctors that service the town of La Salle have dropped out of OHIP. What does the Premier think the implications of that are for universality and accessibility to our medical system?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of a number of situations in Essex county. I’m aware of a couple that I would like to rectify, but it will have to wait for a period of time before we can do it.
Mr. Nixon: Wait a long time all right.
Mr. Ruston: I already spoke to the Minister of Health about that problem. I asked him about it the other day.
Ms. Gigantes: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I wasn’t going to say the honourable member opposite was one of those problems that we wanted to eliminate.
Ms. Gigantes: Order.
Mr. S. Smith: They’ll be here after you’ve gone.
Mr. MacDonald: Answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I wouldn’t bet on that. But with respect to a particular doctor in La Salle opting out of OHIP, while the government --
Mr. Cooke: Three.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I thought there was just one in La Salle and two outside La Salle.
Mr. Cooke: Three in La Salle.
Hon. Mr. Davis: All in La Salle? Geographically located in La Salle or their office is there?
An hon. member: Moving to Brampton.
Mr. Cooke: They are in the same building and there are no other doctors in that town.
Hon. Mr. Davis: And how far is La Salle away from other medical service?
Ms. Gigantes: There’s an answer!
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I’m just trying to elicit a little information from the honourable member.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Warner: Silly answers.
An hon. member: You were successful on that one, Bill.
Mr. Speaker: If we’re going to talk about every doctor who opts out of OHIP, we’ll be here for a month of Sundays. I don’t think it’s an urgent question, forgive me, I really don’t think it’s an urgent question.
Mr. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: We’re not just talking about three doctors dropping out of OHIP. We’re talking about the OHIP system and the universality of getting to our medical system.
Mr. Warner: Those are the only three doctors in town.
Mr. Speaker: Do you have a general answer?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I’ll comment. We’re concerned about any doctors who opt out of OHIP, but we are not going to go the route of the New Democratic Party and put every doctor on salary in this province as a solution.
Mr. MacDonald: That is what is known as political grandstanding as a substitute for an answer.
Mr. G. I. Miller: In the absence of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. McCague), I would like to direct a question to the Premier.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Thanks a lot.
Mr. G. I. Miller: What is the Premier and his government doing to promote recycling of toxic industrial waste by the companies that generate it?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I will discuss this matter with the Minister of the Environment. I am I not an expert in the recycling of toxic wastes or the responsibilities of those companies which produce the toxic wastes.
Mr. Wildman: You do it all the time.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I could give the honourable member a lengthy dissertation on the recycling projects and waste generally --
Mr. Makarchuk: Recycling of verbal waste.
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- as we are trying to accomplish it in the great region of Peel where we think we’ll have some singular measure of success. However, I will take up the matter of recycling of toxic wastes with the Minister of the Environment.
Mr. Wildman: You’ve been recycling it all morning.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I assure the House he will have an answer that is clearly understood by the member on Monday next.
FOOD LAND PRESERVATION
Mr. Swart: My question is to the Minister of Housing, relative to plans for preservation of the Niagara fruit land. Is the minister aware that his predecessor in the ministry (Mr. Rhodes) referred some parcels of land in the Niagara regional plan to the Ontario Municipal Board for determination of whether they should be inside or outside of the urban development boundaries? Is he aware that eight weeks have been set aside by the Ontario Municipal Board, starting October 16, to hear those urban boundary issues? Will he tell this House that it’s not true that his ministry is considering abolishing the hearing or restricting it to minor variations, which would, in effect, prevent any hearing on the principle of preserving the fruit and grape land?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the fact that there was a great number of items referred to the OMB. I was made aware some three or four weeks ago that the board intended to set aside a fairly lengthy period of time this fall to hear those appeals or those changes. We have had representations from a number of people in the political fields the plan affects, both at the municipal and provincial levels. We have had some people in the provincial field speaking to us about some of the amendments we have referred to the OMB.
While I would not want to say very clearly here today that there may not be some changes being proposed by my ministry, we are not anticipating any major alterations to the amendments we have sent on to the board. There have been some requests by municipal people that we should look at the possibility of altering some boundaries to accommodate some of the things municipalities want to do. On the other hand, they are prepared to give up other lands that could be put back to food land production.
Mr. Swart: Supplementary: I assume, then, that the answer to the question is yes? Are we to understand, then, that the minister is, in fact, removing from the OMB the right to consider public views and arbitrate issues which are contained in an official plan like that of the Niagara region, which states clearly, on the one hand, that it is going to preserve unique and high class farm land, and in the same bylaw establishes widespread urban boundaries or permits unchecked destruction? Is the minister not even going to allow that conflict to be decided by the OMB?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: First of all, I don’t consider it a conflict. I consider it a difference of opinion. Each party has the right to express its views in relation to planning, the official plan, an amendment or whatever it might be. In no way am I going to limit the authority -- nor could I -- of the municipal board to hear all sides relating to these particular amendments we’re proposing.
Hon. Mr. Davis: That’s right.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: As long as the member gets it straight that he is not the Minister of Housing, nor will he ever be, and that he and PAL -- People And Law -- and the rest of the group are not going to run this province --
Mr. Swart: You will be going sooner than you think.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: There are other people in this province who have some investments and have a right to be heard as well as his PAL group, let me assure him of that.
Mr. Conway: Claude has just realized he is still in the cabinet.
Mr. Bradley: My question is to the Minister of Housing. Is the minister prepared to recommend that municipalities be given the right to make appointments to local housing authorities -- such as the North Niagara Housing Authority -- since they must assume, I believe, seven and a half per cent of the cost of the operating deficit of OHC projects within a municipality and must accept the social and financial consequences of the policies of the various housing authorities? Is he prepared on that basis to recommend that the municipalities be allowed representation on these boards?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I’m not sure where the member has been for some period of time. Since we have had housing authorities at the local level, or at the district level, the municipalities that have contributed their seven and a half per cent, as versus the 50 per cent from the federal and the 42.5 per cent from the provincial government -- all three levels of government have had the right to make appointments or recommendations to the minister for appointment to those authorities.
The municipality gets its number; the province has its right to appoint -- including the chairman, who is appointed by the province; and the federal government makes its recommendations to the Minister of Housing for the province of Ontario, who in turn, if he sees fit, recommends an order in council for their appointment to those authorities. That has been in existence for years.
Mr. Bradley: Supplementary: Would the minister then be prepared to give consideration to allowing municipalities greater representation on these boards than they have at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Let us come back to the reality of the subject. The number that we appoint to those boards is usually by an agreement, long agreed upon, based on the contributions each form of government happens to put into the subsidization of public housing in the province of Ontario.
If one is going to alter the number of representatives from the municipalities, obviously the federal government, which has a very substantial interest in these projects, will also indicate it would like more representation. If that happens, I can assure the member that our province is going to want more representation. I think the member has to recognize the fact there is a very substantial contribution by government, as I think I have told this House before. In this province today, in 1978, it will cost governments at the three levels $235 million to subsidize public housing in the shortfall between rents and cost of operation.
If there is a very good reason for the municipality to have a larger number on those boards than the other two forms of government, I happen to miss the point. I have no indication from the municipalities or the PMLC or any other group of people at the municipal level that they would really like more representation on the authorities than they presently have.
Mr. Warner: That is a surprise to us here.
Ms. Gigantes: I have a question for the Minister of Education. I wonder if the minister has had sufficient time to digest all the stuffing contained in the interim report of the Jackson royal commission, and if he is now prepared publicly to reject the thesis of the royal commissioner that the answer to the problem being experienced by our financially undernourished school system is for the women of this province to get pregnant as soon as possible.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Those of us who know Dr. Jackson, the commissioner, know that he lives night and day with this particular problem and that he has some very strong feelings. I think one of them is that feeling. I must say, though, that I do not share that feeling with him.
Mr. Wildman: He’s very prolific.
Mr. Sweeney: Ban the pill.
POWER AND WATER SERVICES
Mr. Sargent: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. In view of the fact that utility services, electricity, gas and water are necessities of modern life, would the minister flex his muscles to make a ruling that municipality utilities may not cut off services to customers without giving them an opportunity to voice their complaints; and that no longer can service be terminated when bills are overdue?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Haven’t you paid your bills recently? They are not cutting you off, are they?
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Our ministry has no mandate at all to cover water supplies, but as far as gas and hydro-electric power are concerned, we certainly are keeping a very close eye on local utilities commissions. Every time these unfortunate incidents occur where hydro or gas is cut off we do look into lit. For instance, right today the Ontario Energy Board is holding hearings, and will be holding more next week, to look at and to get views about what happened in a situation where the gas was cut off. We cannot directly intervene as the law does not allow us to do that, but we do keep a very close eye on it and exercise whatever moral suasion we can.
Mr. Sargent: The ministry certainly does have control of the 13th power bill. It has a lot of control over the PUC. In view of the fact that the Supreme Court in the United States ruled that citizens should have total protection from being deprived of the basic needs of power and water, why can’t the government make that mandatory in dealing with a publicly-owned corporation such as we have here? The minister has all the power to do it.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: The member was quoting from the US federal act. That has nothing to do with us here.
Ms. Gigantes: It sounds like a good idea though.
Mr. Foulds: It sound like a good idea.
Mr. S. Smith: He said that. He is asking the minister why he doesn’t do something similar.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: He asked why we are not doing something similar. The reason is that we do happen to believe on this side of the House that there are also sensible people, both elected and appointed at the local level, who exercise some control and some judgement. We don’t want to regulate and control every inch of the way for them, that’s why.
Mr. Sargent: I agree with that.
Mr. Warner: Not according to the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough).
Hon. Mr. Norton: If he could control it, he could cut the member’s water off.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Your hydro has just been cut off.
Mr. Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS SOCIETY
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, today the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ontario is selling carnations to raise money for research in its battle against multiple sclerosis.
I notice that I, along with other members of the House, have exercised the privilege of supporting this worthy cause and I would hope that before the end of the day the rest of the members of the House, along with many citizens of this province, would also exercise that privilege.
Mr. Kerrio: Will you buy a red one, Bill?
Hon. Mr. Davis: They are grown in Brampton.
An hon. member: Yellow ones.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
CITY OF LONDON ACT
Mr. MacBeth, on behalf of Mr. Walker, moved first reading of Bill 89, An Act respecting the City of London.
Motion agreed to.
CORRECTION TO ANSWER
Hon. W. Newman: Mr. Speaker, I want to table a correction to an answer which was tabled by the Chairman of Management Board (Mr. Auld).
On May 4, 1978, the Chairman of Management Board tabled the answer to question No. 10, on order paper No. 4. Unfortunately, there was an error in my ministry’s submission to the answer. I am today tabling a revision of page 10. The problem is that we had the wrong chairman and the wrong board. I just want to correct that Mr. Speaker. [See sessional paper No. 84]
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF REVENUE (CONTINUED)
On vote 1002, administration of taxes program; item 5, gasoline tax and other taxes:
Item 5 agreed to.
On item 6, succession duty and other taxes:
Mr. MacBeth: Two questions of the minister: First of all, I would appreciate it if he would let me know the number of people employed in the succession duty branch, and the amount of funds collected by that branch, say, in the most recent year for which he has figures.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Chairman, we have at the present time, 71 people employed in that particular branch. The revenue expected for 1978-79 in that branch is in the neighbourhood of $70 million. The expenditures, wages and operating costs for the branch are $1,502,750.
Mr. MacBeth: May I just follow that with one further question, and it is really the purpose of the question: has the minister, or the ministry, ever made any estimate of the amount of capital the province has lost to other jurisdictions where they do not have succession duty, such as the West Indies or Alberta? Has he ever made any estimate of the amount of money that the succession duty has chased from this province?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I would inform the member that those estimates have not been made, at least not by the Ministry of Revenue. Whether they were made by the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) or not I am not able to tell you, but they have not been made by this ministry.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Chairman, I’d like to direct a question to the minister for clarification. It relates to the Land Speculation Tax Act. Can we expect any changes in this act, or perhaps even have it deleted from the laws of the province as it relates to the matter of market value assessment? In some of the studies and reports that have been completed so far --
Mr. Chairman: Order. I would say to the honourable member we are on item 6, succession duty.
Mr. Haggerty: This is relating to taxes.
Mr. Chairman: I just don’t feel it comes under this particular vote.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes, it does come under this vote, If the member would like to repeat that question.
Mr. Chairman: I’m sorry.
Mr. Haggerty: I will try it again. The question was related to the Land Speculation Tax Act, that has been applied within the last four years I believe. Can we expect any changes in the land speculation tax -- that you might drop it in the future as it relates to the matter of market value assessment? Some of the proposals from the Treasury indicated that through market value assessment, where there is land that is held in abeyance for development there will be a higher rate of municipal taxes generated from those undeveloped land holdings.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Of course the member is assuming that the property tax reform package is going to be accepted. At this point that is only a matter for discussion. It isn’t a matter of policy at this point. I know what you are getting at. You are suggesting that if some of the proposals in that package are accepted property taxes would go up on some property that is being held for development purposes. I understand what you are saying, but I would have to remind you that at this point that is not policy, it is still a discussion paper.
Getting back to the land spec tax: we are not at this point suggesting that we might remove it, although I am sure the member is aware that if that were to take place it would be generated from the Treasury rather than this ministry. We administer it but the tax policies do come from the Treasurer.
Mr. Haggerty: The reason I am concerned about this tax as it relates to market value assessment is that in a sense it is a rip-off by the province through the Treasury to collect another form of tax. Usually if a person purchases land or a building or a home, land speculation tax can be applied to that purchase price and sometimes the purchaser is being overcharged. Instead of the money being put back into his hands it’s the government which gets its hands in the till and says this belongs to us. Actually you are not curbing the problem of land speculation, you are encouraging it. A person who has bought real estate, whether it’s a developer or a home builder who wants to get into home building to put homes on the market, that cost is still passed on to that purchaser or to the consumer. I feel this is an unjust tax, the province or the Treasurer simply says this is my take. I feel this is a wrong position for the government to take, particularly as it relates to purchasing a home in the province. They are high enough now without adding another tax on top of it. If there is any gouging and it is eliminated, the saving from that should be passed on to the purchaser.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: The spec tax act, as the member will be aware, was not brought in particularly to raise money. It was to stop or slow down speculation and to sort of put a damper on the rising costs of land in the province. I think it has done that to a certain extent. Land costs are not escalating as fast now as they were before the speculation tax came in. The amount of money that’s collected actually is negligible; it isn’t a great revenue-producing tax.
Mr. Haggerty: How much is it?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: It’s somewhere around $5 million a year, I believe; in looking at the overall picture, it isn’t a very large amount. We don’t feel that it penalizes real development. What it does is stop speculation. However, it is looked at from time to time, both by our ministry and Treasury. I’m not prepared to say whether it will be repealed or whether we will continue with it; that decision has not been taken at this time.
Mr. Haggerty: What is the combination of revenue generated by the land speculation tax and the land transfer tax? How much revenue is generated? I would imagine that between the two of them it would be more than $5 million.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: The land transfer tax, of course, generates considerably more money than the spec tax; it generates about $68 million a year, while the spec tax generates somewhere between $5 million and $9 million, depending on how many transactions take place.
Ms. Bryden: Item 6 brings up the point that perhaps should apply to a lot of the other items as well; that is, when is the ministry going to start bringing out a statistical report on the revenue yields from each tax? I don’t just mean the figures that come out in the budget paper or in the annual report of the Treasurer, but rather some real statistics on who is actually paying the taxes.
For instance, on succession duty, what size of estates are being taxed? What is the effective rate? We would like some documentation on the way the government is really giving away the succession duty field and how many people have very large estates and pay very low taxes. We would like some figures on the land spec tax and on the number of exemptions as well as on the land transfer tax and the number and amount of exemptions.
I believe the ministry used to publish a sort of statistical report four or five years ago, but I don’t think we’ve had one for a considerable time. I would like to ask the minister if he would consider bringing out such a report. It would be very valuable also to know the main sources of the retail sales tax -- how much comes from clothing, how much from furniture and that sort of thing -- especially when we get into arguments as to whether we should put more exemptions in.
I have one particular question, Mr. Chairman, regarding the land transfer tax. I understand Family Leisure Centres of Canada, which is proposing to build this huge amusement park near Maple, has received an exemption from the land transfer tax. We know that this Family Leisure Centres project, if it goes ahead, will undoubtedly cost the taxpayers of this province very large sums of money in increasing highway and road facilities, water and sewage disposal services, and possibly loss of revenue because of the competition with government-owned facilities like Ontario Place and the Science Centre. Can the minister give me the reasons why this company received an exemption from the land transfer tax and what was the amount involved?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Dealing with the last question first, I would like to Inform the member that the company has not been granted an exemption; it’s a deferral, which is a considerably different thing. It’s a conditional exemption; they must perform certain things in development before they are relieved of that tax.
There are two ways of looking at this type of situation, I guess. This is a very large development that will eventually create a lot of jobs; if people work, they also pay taxes. To my way of thinking, a deferral here, if it generates a great number of jobs, in the long run the province will collect the taxes through income taxes and other taxes that the workers will be spending their money on. So it’s really an incentive, to have these people develop a project that will eventually help the economy of the whole general area.
In dealing with your first question -- it isn’t really a question, it was a statement -- we did, as you indicate, put out that sort of statistical data, but it’s been discontinued mainly because of the restraint program within the ministry and within the government at the present time. We would like to bring it back because we think it’s valuable, and we will bring it back as soon as we can afford to do so. I agree with you, this information should be available and it’s just been a matter of restraint programs. Somewhere or other you have to cut costs and that was one area where the costs were cut, so I’m informed.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Chairman, I think with modern computers it would not be very costly to collect these statistics, because the information is there in the computers. It’s simply a matter of the printing costs. I think the value of it for research into both the sources of revenue and the cost of collection would probably pay for it. It seems to me this is another case of false economy where the government is not doing its administrative job because it says restraint is there. Also, for general tax studies across the country, we need this sort of data from the largest province in the country. I would hope the minister would be able to persuade his colleagues that this is a false economy and it is not worthy of the province of Ontario to not produce this kind of statistic.
With regard to the Family Leisure Centres comment, I understand it was a deferral contingent upon them completing the project by 1979. Are there other conditions also attached to the deferral, or is that the main one?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I don’t have a copy of the information here as to the condition of the deferral, but the major one was that it be completed by a certain period of time.
I should also inform the member that the statistical information that she is suggesting we should print is available on request but we don’t produce it in mass volume. We would be happy to get it for the honourable member if she wants it, but at this point in time we just aren’t in the position to produce this statistical data as she would like to see it done.
I would also remind the member that there is a lot of other statistical data that comes out of government and other sources which a lot of people chuck in the waste basket. I’m told by my staff that there wasn’t that much use made of that data when it was available, only by certain people. To print it en masse, as was done before, is a costly situation but we are prepared to give it to private individuals who request it. We do have it.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Chairman, with regard to Family Leisure Centres, the minister did not give me the figure of how much was involved in the exemption. I’d also like to ask him, does he really think that the project would not have proceeded without the exemption? It seems to me that this government always operates on the thesis that you have to give away most of the tax revenue from these companies before they’ll operate, yet it costs the province something for them to come in in the first place. Perhaps, as shareholders in the project, we should also be getting a share of the profits from the project in this way.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I’m sorry, I don’t have the details and the amount. I could probably get that for the member but we don’t have it here.
I still maintain that unless we provide some incentives for some of these programs, I feel the province is going to be left by the wayside. There are other provinces and other jurisdictions providing much greater exemptions than we are for various things that are happening, not only in this field but in industry and other activities. I am sure the member is aware of the keen competition going on between jurisdictions now to get developments moving in. It is my understanding that this is a major development that would create a lot of employment. In this day and age, that’s something we have to look at very seriously.
Ms. Bryden: Just one last comment, I am sure the minister is aware that this is a foreign-owned operation where the profits will probably go back across the border. Incentives should perhaps be directed more towards Canadian entrepreneurs who might be willing to bring new jobs and new facilities into the tourist industry.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I wouldn’t disagree with the member. If we can find Canadians that want to do that, certainly I would be all in favour of giving them the preference. This doesn’t happen to be a Canadian company but I believe it’s an important development that should go ahead.
Mr. Haggerty: I don’t know if I can work this in on the right vote or not. The previous speaker mentioned something about foreign taxes and maybe I can work it in under the Gift Tax Act.
I am sure the minister is well aware of the foreign business that’s being carried on throughout the province of Ontario. Apparently, there’s been a recent change in tax structure through the federal government and I suppose it will be parallel with the provincial legislation. Instead of the foreign company directors claiming a salary, they are using dividends now, which gives them a better tax rebate or less taxes to be paid on dividends. This is to encourage investment in Ontario. What steps is the minister going to take if there’s a possibility in this tax structure of windfall profits? How are you going to collect the taxes where instead of taking a salary they are using the dividend method where they can escape paying taxes? It may be a gift tax.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I am not exactly sure what the member is referring to but the federal Income Tax Act would apply to those profits, I would suspect. They would have to pay tax.
Mr. Haggerty: The point is that it may well apply, I am not sure. They may have to bring in legislation to cover the loophole. Is your ministry aware of the possibility that there is a loophole through which persons can escape paying taxes by using dividend income instead of salary?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I am informed that it already is covered by the Income Tax Act, and of course we are under the Income Tax Act provincially as well because it’s the same act. There’s no difference. It is already covered in the act. If there’s a windfall profit, it’s covered.
Mr. Haggerty: Are you aware of any abuse of it?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: No, we haven’t been made aware of it
Item 6 agreed to.
On item 7, retail sales tax and other taxes:
Mr. Gaunt: I have a matter under the Retail Sales Tax Act which I want to deal with for a moment. It refers to municipal telephone systems and whether or not they should be paying retail sales tax on equipment which is purchased as part of a building. My understanding is that the particular section under which this falls is section 51(60) of the Retail Sales Tax Act. I also understand that under that section tangible personal property owned by a municipality or a local board is exempt and equipment which is part of a building is exempt. There is a municipal telephone system in my area which, in my view, would qualify under that section, and yet they are being charged retail sales tax with respect to the equipment they installed in their building as part of a renovation program they undertook.
The district office involved is the Orillia district office. I am really wondering if the problem is with the Orillia office and their interpretation of the act, or whether this is a general problem that applies to municipal telephone systems? My information -- and I can’t really verify its accuracy -- indicates that particular section is being applied unevenly across the province; there are some municipal telephone systems which get the exemption under section 51(60), and there are others which don’t. That suggests to me that perhaps the fault in judgement lies with the district office.
The district office notified the company they could file a notice of objection, which they did, and the matter is going through a form of appeal, I presume, at this point in time. It seems to me that the ministry should clarify that. I think it should be clarified and should be applied evenly right across the board.
My own view, for what it’s worth, is that municipal telephone systems should be exempt under that particular act, as I read the section. I think the intent of the act would be complied with in so far as municipal telephone systems are concerned. I am just a little uneasy about the fact there seems to be some difference in application of this particular section.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Certainly if it is not being applied equally to all municipalities I would be very interested in that. I will have my staff review the matter to make sure it is applied equally to all municipalities. I would also remind the member that following the Treasurer’s budget the policy now is to move towards everyone paying their share of taxes, including municipalities and the provincial government. We are moving in the direction of paying, say land tax on government buildings; and in return they expect the municipalities to pay sales tax on the things they purchase. That’s the general way things are moving.
I am certainly concerned if there are some municipalities which are taking advantage, or being given the advantage of a tax exemption while others are paying it. I will certainly look into it and get back to the member on it, because I wouldn’t want that to be happening.
Mr. Gaunt: In response to the minister’s comments, I agree. I think that’s the direction in which the government is going, and I have no real complaint with that. My complaint, the burden of what I am saying, is that if it is going to apply to one it should apply to them all. That’s the point I make.
The whole matter turns on what one might call a moot legal point. The district office is saying that as far as the Huron and Kinloss Telephone System -- and I put the name on the record -- is concerned, it really doesn’t fall within the definition of a municipality under the section of the act. I think the legal definition of a municipality, as I read it, is complied with, insofar as this telephone company is concerned. They are a municipal telephone system, as I know it. They are owned by the shareholders of the municipality. The municipality is the corporation. The definition under the act is that a municipality is a municipal corporation board or commission. It would seem to me that falls four square within the act.
If a company borrows money, if it has to expand its operation or replace some of its equipment and it has to borrow money, the municipality has to bear some of the burden in so far as the debt is concerned because it has to get OMB approval. That becomes a part of the municipality’s debt load. If they undertake any other capital works, that capital works item, which really was undertaken by the municipal telephone system, becomes a part of the overall debt load of the municipality.
I would say that the telephone system to which I make reference falls four square within the definition of a municipally-owned telephone system.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: As the member indicated, there is a notice of objection filed, so I wouldn’t want to make a decision on that matter today. As he knows, that is an appeal and that has to be looked into.
Subsection 60 of the act, to which he referred says, “are owned by a municipality or by a local board thereof.” That’s for an exemption. On first glance I would have to agree that my interpretation would be the same as yours; however, we will look into it. As I’ve indicated, it is under a form of appeal and it would be unwise for me to make a decision on such a matter here.
Mr. Haggerty: Bulletin 178 from the retail sales tax branch instructs all Ontario vendors to charge sales tax on the total price of the goods. This price is to include all handling, delivering and mailing charges. Would the minister not agree that handling and delivery charges are not part of the fair value of goods?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: No, I would not agree; it is part of the fair value of goods. You have to remember that we’re talking here about a consumer tax. To take a very simple example, if you buy a motor vehicle, when you buy it the cost of the transportation of that vehicle is included in the price and you pay tax on it. It always has been that way. What’s been happening is that some people have misinterpreted the meaning of that particular section of the act. It does become part of that product.
If I order a refrigerator and have it shipped up north to my residence, I’m actually paying the price of the refrigerator, plus the shipping of it. Therefore, it is subject to tax. I don’t see how you could get around that one because it’s been done in most cases.
I was in the furniture business myself at one time. I would order a chesterfield, as an example, here in Toronto. It would be shipped up by transport and I had to pay the freight on the chesterfield. When I sold that chesterfield, my price included the freight charge. I didn’t bill my customer for the cost of the chesterfield and then make out a separate bill for the freight without tax, it all becomes part of the consumer price of that particular article.
Mr. Haggerty: I thank the minister for his input in giving me some description as to why it should be there. I think you should look at it the other way.
I’m talking about one particular matter. If you’re buying something from Simpsons-Sears they send it out by mail. The cost of delivery is a hidden tax. Don’t forget that that person is also paying a tax by having it mailed, a mailing tax. People are concerned about the double taxation on this.
Let’s go back and look at the automobile you described. Do you think it just and right if I were to go in and buy an automobile and I have to pay for a pre-delivery service inspection, which could amount to $80 on that car, that I should pay sales tax on that? I put this argument last year to the ministry that I think the sales tax should be at the manufacturing level. When someone is delivering that product from the warehouse to your retailer and from there to the consumer, why should you be paying tax on transportation? Isn’t there a profit made in that transportation? Shouldn’t that person be paying part of the retail sales tax instead of the consumer paying the whole shot?
What is wrong with the retail sales tax is that you’ve got four or five middlemen in between. When that cost comes to that consumer, he is paying taxes on top of profit on top of profit. That’s what is wrong with the sales tax and that’s why people are bitter about it at times. They consider it a ripoff. I took the example of a car where I had to pay taxes on a predelivery inspection. That inspection should be done at the motor company in the first place at the manufacturing level. Is that not another case where there is an extra ripoff to the seller?
I raise the question that I think you’re overtaxing the consumer by this, and that you’re not considering the profit to the middleman who is selling it too. There could be four or five different places from the manufacturing level to the wholesaler, and distributor and so on down the line. By the time it gets to the consumer, boy, he’s paying pretty heavy costs on that. You wonder why there are persons in industry complaining that the consumer price index has gone up. One of the reasons is the tax he has to pay on that purchase for his home. I don’t think it’s quite right. I don’t think there is any squabble about him paying the business sales tax, but it’s paying the sales tax on top of profit which is wrong. It’s the industry you should be hitting at, not the consumer.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: That’s easily said, but taxes have to be raised somewhere. Even if we could constitutionally do that, at the manufacturer’s level -- and we haven’t got the authority to do it; it has to be at the consumer level -- every dollar we don’t collect from the consumer would obviously have to come from the corporation or someone else; or instead of having in normal circumstances a seven per cent sales tax, we would probably have to go up to nine or 10 to gather the same amount of money because the government needs so many dollars per year for revenue.
Somehow or other that has to be generated. It’s all very well to say we shouldn’t charge for the service and that it shouldn’t be taxable, but that is part of the price of the vehicle, as is the transportation.
You mention Simpsons-Sears. If there were no tax placed on the mailing and so on, then you would put other companies at a disadvantage. What we’re trying to do is to be fair to everyone. What we’re saying is that when the price is finally arrived at, the consumer price does include all of these things. It’s being fair to everyone when you do it that way.
If you exclude certain things, that means that if I buy by mail I can buy cheaper than if I buy from someone else because the person who is selling locally had to have it mailed to him and he had to pay for the mail. You’d be giving a break to one person and not the other. Again, getting back to your main issue, that is, that we should tax at the manufacturer’s level, we constitutionally can’t do that as we don’t have the authority.
Mr. Haggerty: I can’t quite accept that theory. Every day you are going to the bargaining table with the federal government for income tax and for corporation tax. You set down some guidelines there so that you can make the adjustment paralleling the corporation tax with federal income tax. You can do that. Don’t tell me you can’t do that.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: No, with all due respect, this is part of the constitution. It’s in the constitution of 1867. Nobody has changed it up to this point in time.
Mr. Haggerty: In 1867 we didn’t have a sales tax.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: It still says we can’t charge a tax at the manufacturer’s level.
Mr. Young: Following the argument that has just taken place here, I had a communication from a printer recently that I sent on to another ministry. The printer pointed out that he prints a certain amount of whatever it may be and he sends that consignment out to the person who ordered it, by express or freight or whatever. He pays the sales tax on that freight charge. If on the other hand, he sends it express or freight collect and the receiver pays that particular charge, he does not pay sales tax on that item. To him, that seems to be very unfair. I wonder if the minister has some comment on that dilemma which this printer posed to me.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I am informed that the decision behind that way of handling it is that if the person buys it and pays for the shipping himself -- I’m talking about the purchaser -- he is assuming the risk of that from the time it leaves. If he pays the seller the total price, including the mail charges, then that person assumes the risk. I am a little lost here -- I will have to get more information for you because I still haven’t got it in my own mind what that has to do with tax. But perhaps my assistants here will give me more information on it if you bear with me.
Mr. Young: It just seems to me to be a completely incongruous situation. If I ship to you a consignment of goods and include that in the invoice, then you must pay the sales tax for me. If on the other hand, I ship it to you and get you to pay the freight, then you escape without paying the tax. If the government is going to have a policy of taxing the charges incidental to shipping, then no matter who pays those charges, it should be subject to tax or vice versa. What the risk has to do with it, I can’t see any more than the minister can at the moment.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Perhaps I can make it a little clearer now. If the purchaser buys it with the price including the express or transportation, it is then his property; he has made the purchase there. But if he buys it and has it shipped up, he does not make the purchase until it gets to its destination.
There is a difference at the time of purchase. It is a complicated matter -- you are either making a purchase at one end of the situation or the other. If you buy it at one end where you are including the transportation, it becomes your property at that point. If you buy it at the other end, and pay the transportation yourself, then the transaction is completed at the other point. Does that make sense?
Mr. Young: I’m afraid it doesn’t, Mr. Minister. My problem is that you are paying a tax on transportation costs. Who pays the transportation cost, it seems to me, should have no relevance. Whether the recipient or the shipper pays the cost, then the tax should be equitable, either eliminated from both or on both.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: The point is, if you purchase it and pay it yourself, you own it before it leaves. The consumption has already taken place. The transportation then is not chargeable, because you are paying it yourself on something you have already bought. If it comes the other way, it comes out the other end, you haven’t bought it yet but you are going to buy it, and then, of course, the cost of it is going to include the express or transportation charge.
Mr. Young: In that case why shouldn’t the railway, or the express company, or the post office, whichever it may be, which makes that charge, add the tax? It just doesn’t make sense to me. All right. I ship these goods. I pay the tax then you pay the total amount plus tax. On the other hand, if you pay me and then you pay the express company, why should not the express company levy the tax for that portion of the expenses and you pay it at that point?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Perhaps I can help to explain the difference. Let’s take my location, where I live, as an example. I come to Toronto and I buy a refrigerator. I pay for it and I pay the sales tax on it. I then call a trucking firm and say, “Would you please take my refrigerator up to South River,” where I happen to live. If I did it the opposite way and I bought the refrigerator up at South River, the transportation costs would already be included in that price. When the purchase is consummated, that is when the tax is applicable. I think that sort of an example would let you understand exactly where the difference is.
Mr. Young: Thank you, Mr. Minister. I’ll send a copy of this Hansard to my friend and let him figure it out.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Chairman, I have a number of questions of the minister regarding the retail sales tax, and I’ll try to deal with them one at a time.
Just for my information, I’ll start out by asking the minister, first of all, can he tell me approximately how many dollars of retail sales tax we will be collecting this year, and whether or not the retail sales tax collected by the province is relatively stable from year to year?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: The amount we expect to collect this year is $2,165 million in sales tax. Would you give me the second part of your question again please?
Mr. Charlton: Is the retail sales tax relatively stable from year to year, or is there a low range of fluctuation or a high range of fluctuation in the amounts collected?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: It is not really relatively stable, because it obviously goes up and down with the amount of purchases, and the amount of purchases again is dependent upon the economy and how many dollars people have to spend. So it is not something you can project exactly every year. It is quite obvious in our last projections we were out a bit because of the economy. It does go up and down, say on a 10 per cent variance one way or the other.
Mr. Charlton: It is as high as 10 per cent? What I am leading up to here is that we have gone into this federally-conceived program of the three per cent reduction across the board. Do you have, first of all, any estimates of how much additional consumer spending the tax reduction will promote or stimulate?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I really can’t give you that kind of an answer, because it is so dependent upon how many dollars people spend. There is just no way of knowing or projecting. I don’t think there is any way you can get a handle on that type of a projection to know what kind of an effect it would have.
As a matter of interest, you might want to know the amount that was collected from year to year so you can get an idea of how it works. In 1972-73 the retail sales tax was $895 million. In 1975-76 it was $1,328 million. In 1976-77 it was $1,775 million. As I indicated to you earlier, our estimate for 1977-78 was $1,927 million. The estimate for 1978-79 is the figure I gave you to start with.
Getting back to your original question, I can’t see any way that we could really get an accurate handle on what this three per cent reduction will mean in sales and what kind of employment it will generate. Certainly it will do something, but then after it is over there could be a deflationary period again; so part of what we gain now could be lost later. As I say, it is a very difficult area to really get a handle on.
Mr. Charlton: Do you have any estimates, not in terms of dollars, but perhaps in terms of percentages or breakdowns -- at least we are going to generate the amount of the three per cent, and probably a little more, in additional consumer spending. Do you have any kind of estimate or approach to this thing to indicate how much of whatever additional is spent on consumer goods actually will be spent on Canadian-produced goods?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: That kind of information probably will be gathered by TEIGA, but not by us. We haven’t any way of knowing.
Mr. Charlton: As you are the collectors, will you try to keep track, or do you have any way of keeping track, of the actual that occurs this year as opposed to necessarily TEIGA’s estimates?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I have spoken to the director of our research branch to ask him to see if there was some way he could get some sort of estimate on these things. He does have a couple of staff working on it. But what kind of results we are going to get, I really don’t know at this point in time. We have our doubts as to how accurate it will be. We are trying to do it, though.
Mr. Charlton: Just one last thing on this: If memory serves me correctly, it was estimated that the province’s share of the three per cent reduction would be around $125 million. If the program does produce any considerable additional consumer spending, if it does stimulate a lot of additional consumer spending, obviously some of that $125 million cost to the province will be recouped at the four per cent level; in other words, there will be higher consumer purchasing at the four per cent level.
I know you can’t answer this now, but would you give us a commitment that at the end of the year you will give us some kind of a breakdown of the effectiveness of the program in those terms: how much additional consumer spending you estimate was produced and how much of the theoretical cost of $125 million you actually recoup as a result of additional spending and additional taxation at four per cent?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: That’s a matter for the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough). I am sure he will be reporting on that. It is not a matter for us. As I say, we are looking at it in general terms but we don’t have the type of staff that is necessary to do this kind of work. It’s in the Treasury.
I would also correct your $125 million figure. It is $144 million. One point generates about $288 million and this, of course, is about half a point because we are only in it for six months. There will be estimates and projections, but that information will be available when this program is over.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the minister, are there any special exemptions granted to special groups of Ontario residents, such as Indians, to exempt them from retail sales tax? In other provinces, I understand, Indians are exempted from paying retail sales tax.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: There are quite a few exemptions: You’re quite right, Indians are exempt from sales tax. They’re also exempt from tobacco tax and gasoline tax. As a matter of fact, they’re exempt from taxes.
Mr. Haggerty: While on the reserve?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes.
Mr. Haggerty: Just on the reserve?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes. There are also such groups as the handicapped people who are exempt from sales tax on automobiles if they buy a special type of automobile because of their handicapped condition and so on. There are quite a few different areas. Retail sales tax is forgiven on church properties as well during construction, provided they don’t get beyond that two-year period. We’ve had a few problems with that. There are certain exemptions within the act.
Ms. Bryden: I just have one question for the minister. Does he have any figures on the amount of retail sales tax rebates for pollution equipment that was allowed, say, in the last year or the last two years? Also, what kind of pollution equipment is receiving this sort of benefit? Would, for example, the trucks of a waste disposal company be eligible for exemption under this, or is it simply machinery and equipment installed in the plant or on site which is eligible?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: First of all, I believe the information you are looking for would come from the Ministry of the Environment. If there are certain pieces of equipment for environmental control that are not taxable -- and I’m not sure if there are or not at this point in time -- we wouldn’t have any record of it because we wouldn’t be collecting the tax. It’s not a matter of their applying to have the sales tax exempted. They are either exempted in the act or they’re not. We wouldn’t really have any way of knowing about any of the others that are exempted.
There are some exceptions to the rule. The physically handicapped, as a matter of fact, must apply because they must pay the dealer when they buy their automobiles, but they then apply for the retail sales tax exemption.
I don’t know of anything in the Retail Sales Tax Act as far as environmental or pollution control is concerned that is exempt. I don’t know of any exemptions that we have granted through ministerial discretion or anything of that nature.
Ms. Bryden: There are certain exemptions in the Retail Sales Tax Act for pollution equipment. The old pollution incentive which expired in 1976 was transferred to the Retail Sales Tax Act, I understand. But you may be right that it’s an automatic exemption and therefore it doesn’t come through your ministry.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: That’s right.
Ms. Bryden: Do you know whether trucks of a waste disposal firm would be exempt from tax?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: As far as I know, they are taxable. They are taxable.
Ms. Bryden: I wonder if the minister could check into this. I have heard that Disposal Services Limited, which is the company which made a contribution to the Conservative Party and which was under investigation by a royal commission, was receiving a retail sales tax abatement on its trucks.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Certainly I’ll check into it. I’m not aware of it. If it did happen, it certainly happened before I was in the ministry. But I will check into it.
Mr. Haggerty: One more question: The minister is well aware of the recent serious fires here in Toronto and the loss of lives. Can we expect any information or any decision from his ministry about perhaps the removal of the sales tax on smoke detectors or home fire alarm systems? Can we expect some announcement that the sales tax will be removed on those?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: That’s a matter that’s under discussion at the present time by, I think, several ministries within the government. There is pressure from the public right now because of the fires in Metro.
From a personal viewpoint I would not be against it, but I don’t know whether that would make that much difference as far as the purchase of smoke detectors is concerned. We’re talking here about something that’s worth about $30, as I understand, and because the tax is four per cent now we’re talking about $1.20. If they were reduced by $1.20 I don’t think that would be much of an incentive for people to buy them.
I doubt the value of reducing the retail sales tax. If it was a large item that was going to save the taxpayer $100 then maybe that would provide an incentive, but I would suspect that a dollar or two would not stop those who are really interested in that type of safety equipment from purchasing it.
Mr. Haggerty: There’s only one way to find out and that is to try it. There are a number of families in homes that installed more than one. Some have as many as three. I think the government should be moving in the direction of anything to encourage this type of home safety.
The other question I wanted to ask the minister relates to the Race Tracks Tax Act. Has the government given any consideration to offtrack betting?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: That’s a question you should not be asking the Minister of Revenue. It’s a matter of government policy that would have to be decided by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. I think it’s been talked about for years around here. Some people are for it and some are against it as usual, but no firm decision has been made on it by government.
Mr. Haggerty: Has your ministry completed any studies as to the possibility of extra revenue that could be generated by offtrack betting? Has your ministry done any studies on the advantages and disadvantages of offtrack betting?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I am informed that several years ago a committee did study this matter, but I don’t have any details on it.
Mr. McGuigan: Mr. Chairman, I’d like to ask the minister a question. A constituent of mine who is blind was asking whether, when he bought an automobile for his own use, which requires of course a driver, that would be considered in the status of being a handicapped person?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Certainly, they’re considered in the status of the handicapped person but they wouldn’t be exempt for the purchase of the vehicle. The regulations state that the vehicle has to be modified. For instance, you may have to have a wider door, or you have to take one seat out. There are various things they do to modify them to accommodate the handicapped.
Not too long ago, I recall a case where I had an application where the gentleman was able to drive a car but he needed one with power brakes and power steering. But we couldn’t permit that one because it was just a regular car. Within the meaning of the act, I don’t think -- in fact I’m sure -- that if a person were blind and wanted to buy a car he would not be eligible for the tax rebate simply because it would not be a special car. It would he an ordinary car.
Mr. McGuigan: I have one more question, Mr. Chairman. I wish to thank the minister for his ruling regarding the thermal blankets in greenhouses. The thermal blanket itself is probably a small part of the total machinery that is being introduced to handle these items. Work has gone on in Europe for a retractable mechanism to extend the blanket at night and retract it during the daytime. As these items come on the market, will these also be considered in the elimination of sales tax or is it specific to the blanket?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I’m always prepared to consider any of these things that come on the market, but I’d certainly like to look at them in greater detail before making a commitment that they would be granted exemption. Certainly, I am prepared to consider any of those items.
Item 7 agreed to.
Vote 1002 agreed to.
Vote 1003 agreed to.
On vote 1004, municipal assessment program; item 1, administration:
Mr. Haggerty: I don’t think we should let that pass without a few comments, Mr. Chairman. In the matter of assessment, I believe I asked the minister a question the other day. When they grant the final acceptance of market value assessment and tax reform, what will become of the assessors who are employed by the province? I guess they would be provincial employees. What happens after market value assessment is accepted? What becomes of these employees and what will their purpose be after?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Simply this, that if and when we get into market value assessment they will be reassessing every two years, so they will be required the same as they have always been. There wouldn’t be any change as far as I can foresee in the staffing. We expect to update the tax rolls every two years and that requires a lot of field work and I don’t see why there would be any change.
Mr. Haggerty: Just how many assessors are there employed across the province of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Approximately 1,300.
Mr. Haggerty: Would you still be maintaining the regional offices, say the St. Catharines office and the regional office that is located in Kitchener and places like that? There seems to be a duplication of regional offices. Would these offices be removed from your assessment system and their employees perhaps absorbed?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: No, we don’t anticipate making that kind of drastic change. At the present time we are not looking all restructuring the assessment division at all. We expect the offices to remain where they are and, as I indicated, we will have basically the same staff as we have now because of the reassessment every two years.
Mr. Haggerty: In the restructuring, though, the need is now in market value assessment going out and assessing every piece of property in the province of Ontario. There’s no doubt that you had to have more manpower to do that job, but after this is done you say you are going to have reassessment every two years. Is it necessary to have it every two years? It was the practice before in a number of municipalities that they considered five years would be normal procedure for reassessment. If you are going to go to every two years for assessment, I can see the number of appeals that will continue even after that.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I will tell you, if we don’t go every two years we will again end up with the same suit of tax shifts as we have now, because in a two-year period the prices and values change drastically -- depending on the economy, of course, but they can. There’s a great difference in the value of property now compared to two years ago and two years before that, and that’s one of the problems we are facing. The only way we can keep market value up to date is to reassess every couple of years and if we are going to make this new system work when we get it in, it is going to be imperative that that be done.
Mr. Haggerty: I was thinking of the cost involved in it; was it worth it in the long run to have reassessment every two years when perhaps five years would be more in line as an adjustment period for the economy to be either up or down, or even the market value of sales? My main concern is, for example, that I had an inquiry just within the last week on the appeal structure of the Assessment Act. I’m afraid now, under the appeal system that exists for property owners who want to appeal their assessment, it has become more of an adversary system than it was in the past. Now to appear before the assessment appeal court you have to have a lawyer with you. Years ago you could appear before them without a lawyer; I think the persons who were appointed to the assessment appeal board were perhaps more reasonable. I feel now that with market value assessment the system will become more adversarial with regard to the appeals which will be more costly to the property owners in the long run.
Is there some easier method you could bring out to make the appeal system more easily available to the average taxpayer? I find that in the appeal structure right now, if a person wants to appeal an assessment he has an awfully hard time obtaining information necessary to make a reasonable appeal -- I’m talking about the average property owner. That information for some reason, it appears, will not be shown to them. I feel that if anybody is going to make an appeal before the assessment appeal board they should have the necessary information to make a reasonable approach to their appeal.
If they are net entitled to that information, then I think it is time we opened the books so that these people can make a reasonable approach to their appeal, based on other property assessments within that immediate area. I suggest to the minister that this is one of the problems I find, that people don’t have access to the assessment details concerning their property.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: First of all, it is not the policy of this ministry or this division to refuse information to people who want to appeal their taxes. If we have people out there doing that, I would certainly like to know about it, because that isn’t the policy -- that isn’t the way it should be handled. Information should be given freely.
I suspect the reason that so many lawyers are appearing now in appeals is because of the number of lawyers we have in the province. They are all looking for jobs. Really, it is not necessary for people to have a lawyer appeal their taxes. There have been no changes. You indicated that a few years ago they could appeal taxes without having a lawyer. There have been no changes; they can still do that very thing. But the tendency is in some cases to hire a lawyer. That’s up to the individual -- he has the right to do what he wants to do. But I think in most cases, unless it is an appeal against a large assessment when they would want to hire a lawyer -- they don’t really have to.
Another thing about the appeal officers themselves, I should tell you, is they are not appointed by this ministry. My friend to the left is the person responsible for those people. That is so we can have unbiased people who are not related to the ministry making decisions, which I think is a good thing.
Basically, there has been no change. People are entitled to the information they require; and if your assessment people in the branch offices are not giving it, I would certainly like to know about it and who it is that is refusing, because that isn’t the policy. I am sure that in most cases they are getting cooperation; certainly, I want to know if they are not.
Mr. Haggerty: Much of the information now being discussed as it relates to market value assessment -- all the different studies and reports that have come forward from the Treasury -- is given in blocks. The market value assessment is given to municipalities and takes in the municipality as a whole. Can the minister tell me whether the municipalities have had an opportunity to review the assessments, say, from street to street? Is that information available to municipal councillors to enable them to make a decision as to whether they are ready for market value assessment and tax reform?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Certainly the information is available if they want to use it. They have the information on the tax rolls themselves, and they can apply it to the kind of information we have sent to the municipalities on their own. They have all the information in their hands to evaluate their own municipalities in relation to the white paper you’re speaking about.
Mr. Haggerty: Current market value assessment, not the old assessment records or the information they have on the rolls?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: They have both.
Mr. Haggerty: They have both. They have the current, then, do they?
Mr. Young: I think the problem I have comes under item 1, administration. It’s a problem the minister is aware of -- a problem of one Henry Kingswell of 64 Samba Drive in Downsview. He has a lot in the township of Muskoka Lakes; Box 129, Port Carling, Ontario is the address.
Mr. Kingswell has owned this lot for some time. He was assessed for $1,600 as the value of the lot; this is what he was assessed on, at least. In 1974 that assessment jumped to $16,000, by the addition of an extra zero on that figure.
He called the office in Muskoka Lakes and asked about it. He was told he’d been escaping a higher assessment for some years, that he should have been paying a higher assessment, and that he’d been getting away with a $1,600 assessment. This is the information he now gives me, which I did not have in the letter to the minister some time ago.
He dismissed it, thinking that he had a much more valuable lot than he realized, but he still wondered about it.
Finally, too late to lodge an appeal, he went up to the Muskoka Lakes office and he asked about it again and was told that he would have to go to Bracebridge to the main office in order to rectify the situation. He went to Bracebridge and he found that instead of having what was listed, erroneously, as a water lot, he had an ordinary lot, and that his neighbour’s assessment was still $1,600.
He began to wonder about that and asked about it. He was told to lodge an appeal, which he did. That appeal was too late for the 1974 assessment year. He understood from the person he talked with at the time that the extra zero would be lopped off for the 1974 year us well, and he went away feeling pretty happy, until he got his final tax bill which was something in the neighbourhood of $190, as I remember the figure.
I wrote to the Treasurer about this and the Treasurer responded to me that no authority exists for a municipality to issue a refund or a write-off of those taxes for 1974, in spite of the error. “There is no vehicle” -- he said, to quote his letter -- “for making these reductions retroactive for 1974.”
He suggested that I might write to the minister, and this I did. The minister’s reply is dated February 15. Again, he intimated to me that the machinery made it impossible for a rebate to be given.
I bring this to your attention, Mr. Minister, because, in the first place, evidently, through some error this lot was listed as a water lot -- a waterfront frontage in the middle of a farm, I suppose, without a lake; without even a stream, I understand.
Secondly, that extra zero came in through some error someplace in the office and then, again, when my friend telephoned he was assured that the value was there -- at least, this is his story -- and that he’d been getting away with murder -- if you want to use that term -- for some years, in having a much lower assessment than it should have been.
The impression he got from the clerk was that it should have been $16,000 all along. As I said, thinking he had a much more valuable lot than he actually had, he felt a little happy about it and perhaps delayed too long.
The reason he thought there might be an increased value was that the township had bought from him, an 18-inch strip, I think it was, along his lot to improve the roadway. They had built a new road along his lot. Not having visited the lot for some time -- two or three years -- he thought certain developments must have taken place there in the area which jacked up the value of his lot. That did not happen, and somehow through an error in the office itself his assessment was jacked up from $1,600 to $16,000. Of course, he was taxed for the extra assessment.
He made his protest. He thought that the extra zero had been lopped off, but when he got his tax bill finally he found that that was not the case. He paid his taxes for 1975 and 1976 and then found that the computer had snagged those taxes to go against his higher tax for 1974. In effect, part of his taxes for 1974, his full tax for 1975, his full tax for 1976 and 1977, were not paid because they were being applied against the very high rate in 1974. Finally, he got word that unless he came up with his taxes for these years which he thought had been paid, they were going to sell his lot and take the proceedings necessary under the legislation.
Mr. Minister, I bring this to your attention again because it seems to me that a grave injustice has been done to my constituent. There should be some way by which justice could be done. Even admitting that the law says that there is no recourse since he did not register the appeal in time, he had good reason for not submitting the appeal because he thought he had done the necessary thing. Secondly, it’s just a matter of sheer injustice which should be rectified.
In the light of these facts I would like to ask the minister’s advice again as to whether or not something further might be done which would right the mistake which was made not by my constituent, but by the office of the township concerned.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to thank the member for giving me advance notice of his question. I do have a prepared reply to that particular question.
There are a few errors in the member’s submission. It wasn’t merely a case of adding another zero. It was a case of market value assessment and the fact, as you indicated later in your remarks, that it was mistaken for a waterfront lot rather than a back lot. That’s where the error in the assessment came in. Perhaps I should read this into the record, first of all, and then we could discuss it a little further after that.
“The 1973 assessment at market value placed a value of $16,600 on this property for 1974 taxes. Mr. Kingswell did not appeal the value, nor did he come to any of the open houses to discuss the assessment with the assessors who were there at the time this market value was being brought in.
“The value of $16,600 was an error in that the assessor considered the land to be waterfront property,” as you had indicated in your remarks. “It is in fact a back lot and with no direct access to water at all.
“Mr. Kingswell made an application in September 1975 to the council of the municipality under section 636(a) of the Municipal Act to have the taxes reduced. This section allows the council of the municipality to adjust taxes for a variety of reasons, including a gross or manifest error. He asked for an adjustment for both the 1974 and 1975 taxes in his application. He was granted an adjustment of the 1975 taxes only, because the council held that such an application should have been made on or before February 28, 1975 in order to affect 1974 taxes as provided in the act. The assessors corrected his assessment in 1975 for the 1976 taxes. The assessment was reduced from $16,000 to $1,500.”
There is no question that the assessor made an error, and there’s no question that this is an unfortunate error. I have great sympathy for this gentleman. There is also, however, an onus on the owner to review and question an assessment notice in order to protect his rights. You indicated to me that he did question it, probably not with the assessor but with the municipal office.
All persons receiving this assessment notice have at least 36 days to make such a review and to check with the assessors. In most instances, municipalities do not limit corrective action to the specific requirement of the statute in cases such as this. I shall, however, discuss this matter with the Treasurer and see if an amendment could be made to the Municipal Act. Until that is done, I don’t see where I have any power to make any adjustments whatsoever.
Actually, from the way I read the act, it appears the municipality can go back for one year too. Unless there is a change in the act, I don’t know what else can be done. I am prepared to discuss this and recommend this to the Treasurer. It is an act that comes under his ministry.
Mr. Young: Thank you very much for this information. Again, we come back to the admitted fact that the assessor did designate this as a water lot and therefore, raised the assessment dramatically.
In the second case, I would like to point out that the open house meetings the minister mentioned and also mentioned in a letter to me some time ago were meetings up in the Muskoka Lakes township. My client lives in North York and found it very inconvenient to travel that distance for that sort of thing when he thought he had already solved the problem.
There is sort of a comedy of errors here. It seems to me that there is an onus upon the administration at whatever level to rectify this matter. I quite realize that the minister is caught in the web of legislation here, which likely should be amended and I hope will be amended in the future. This is another case where perhaps the Ombudsman should take a look at it and see if under these circumstances a grave injustice has been done and that justice ought to be done in some way.
It may be that the minister and the Treasurer can work out something between them. Perhaps we should give them a bit of time for that before the appeal goes to the Ombudsman, because my friend is determined that it must go somewhere like that for investigation. It may well be that that is the place for it to go. Maybe the minister could advise here that some solution might be arrived at or whether an appeal to the Ombudsman might be lodged so that this whole matter can be reviewed in light of the case before us.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: One of the problems is that most municipalities under those circumstances would have made the refund on taxes without an amendment to the act. This one chose not to do so but stuck to the letter of the act. I am informed that my staff feels if we could amend that act, to extend it to a two-year period instead of the one, which would be a very minor amendment really, the municipality then would refund the money. Actually, if the money was paid to the municipality or wasn’t paid, he would get a credit on his tax bill one way or another.
Mr. Young: I am not quite sure I understood what the minister said. If this could be arranged without further appeal, the change in legislation which he mentioned of a two-year period would not affect this case which goes back to 1974.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: It may have to be amended to go back to that. We would have to look in detail at the legislation, but extending the limitation is what we are talking about. I don’t know the exact wording of the act. I don’t have it here in front of me, but I think the act now has a limitation of one year or two years. We may have to extend that. If this is a case that has already been dealt with, then surely it would be used in that context in the act.
Mr. Young: I will wait for the minister’s information on this matter as soon as possible.
Mr. Charlton: I have a number of questions. I am not really sure whether I should be raising them under administration or assessment standards but we have not dealt with either yet. Perhaps I’ll just go ahead and you can judge whether I am in or out of order.
Mr. Chairman. I’ll listen carefully.
Mr. Charlton: I would assume that this is that one area of this ministry where the assessment people actually do set their own assessment policy in terms of the method of assessment. In fact, although TEIGA is the one that is tinkering with property tax reform, the assessment people are setting the assessment policy and assessment method.
I would like to start out by having confirmed that, if we don’t go to market value this year for next year’s taxes, the present product of our market value assessment will be out of date and the reassessment will have to be redone.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: As I indicated, even if we did go to market value assessment, we expect to reassess every couple of years anyway. I don’t see where that would make that much of a difference, except I am advised by staff that we could, if we had to, move in a year later with the same material we have here, although it wouldn’t be as accurate as bringing it up to date; there is no question about that.
Mr. Charlton: You think you could accomplish a complete reassessment in one year so that a postponement wouldn’t mean a two-year postponement this year?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes, we could.
Mr. Charlton: I would like to move into another area of policy for a moment --
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Mr. Chairman, before the member moves into that area, I wonder if the minister could clarify the statement that I understood him to make that the staff sets assessment policy. Was I in error?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: No, I didn’t mean the staff sets policy. I am saying the minister sets the policy for the assessment division of this ministry --
Mr. J. A. Taylor: But not the actual approach or assessment itself.
Mr. Haggerty: Right on, Jim.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Surely the policy is manifested in legislation which is applicable even-handedly to all property owners in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I think the member has misunderstood the question.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: That’s what I am concerned about and why I was asking for clarification.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: The member for Hamilton Mountain asked this question simply because, during the debate on tax, I have referred to the fact that taxing policy was in the jurisdiction of the Treasurer, and that we, as a ministry, administered it rather than generating the tax policy for the province. In this case we, as a ministry, generate the policy for assessment; the member was referring to how we deal with assessment internally within the ministry and so on, and that was the answer to the question.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: I can understand if that is administrative in the sense of administering a program. But surely the property owners of this province must know what the law is so that the application of that law can be performed in an even-handed way and it is not dependent upon the individual judgement of members of your staff, whether they be assessors or otherwise.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Of course not. It is governed by the Assessment Act. This ministry is empowered to enforce the Assessment Act.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: I appreciate that. I was just a little concerned about the way the statement came out, that there may be a policy that was developed and applied against property owners at the whim and fancy of your staff around the province.
Mr. Warner: Are you looking for a seat over here?
Mr. J. A. Taylor: No. Never.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to point out that, although we do have a law called the Assessment Act, the assessment function in the Ministry of Revenue does make and change policy on assessable property without necessarily changing legislation. That’s been true for a number of years.
An hon. member: Broad powers, Jim.
Mr. Charlton: We have had things go on in the province in the past couple of years in determining whether, for example, mobile homes are assessable or not and whether above-ground swimming pools are assessable or not that have not required any changes in legislation but merely changes in policy.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: That’s quite true. Within the Assessment Act we have the authority to change our way of doing things. As long as we stay within that act we do have that kind of power.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Chairman, that leads into what I mentioned I wanted to get into and that is the whole question of assessment policy and an approach to market value. I’ll make a few comments perhaps that you can respond to, because I see them as the source of some of the problems we are into now in trying to deal with potential tax shifts and having to get into the whole major question of property tax reform as opposed to just assessment reform.
When we started out the market value reassessment in this province in 1970 we started out with a set of cost manuals and essentially, although we were trying to relate to the market place, we were assessing all property based on the replacement cost approach. So all sectors in essence were being assessed in essentially the same fashion, although there were obviously different manuals with different sets of rates for commercial properties and industrial properties and institutional properties and farm properties and so on. Because of the different types of structures on those properties they were all being assessed essentially on a replacement cost approach.
During the course of the eight and some years since the outset of this reassessment there have been policy changes, I suppose, in the definition of market value because in some sectors notably the commercial and multi-residential sectors we have moved into an economic or an income approach to market value. The significance of that is that we are still assessing the residential and farm sectors based on the replacement cost approach to value. In the commercial, industrial and multi-residential sectors, where we have gone to the economic or income approach, it’s significant to note that the income market values that we are coming up with are significantly lower than the replacement cost values. Hence, an exaggeration of the potential tax shifts which would result from the implementation of market value.
This is in part from where the problems that we are presently trying to deal with through all of Mr. McKeough’s committees and task forces are arising -- from this particular change in policy. I would like to ask the minister first of all exactly what the rationale was. When our original goal was to establish a uniform and equitable assessment system province-wide, what is the rationale for feeling that by using different methods in different sectors that we are going to gain that equity, that we are going to gain that uniformity and that we are going to end up with a system which fairly taxes all sectors?
I just point out as a last comment in this that in leaving the residential sector on the replacement cost approach we are reflecting a totally different psychology, a totally different perspective and a totally different approach to value than what we are in the commercial, industrial and multiresidential sectors. In fact, the cost approach that we’re using on residential properties in no way reflects their economic or income values. The kind of prices people are paying for single-family residences in no way relates to what those properties could be rented for.
What I’m suggesting is that we were probably closer to being on the right track in 1970-71 when we started out doing everything by the same method. If we’re going to go to the economic or income value, we should be going to that for everything and not just for some, or we should be going back to where we started and assessing everything on replacement costs. I don’t think it matters much as long as the system is uniform, as, I think, we set out to accomplish.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: The member for Hamilton Mountain obviously knows more about assessing than I do because that’s his field. As far as I am concerned as the minister, I am interested only in having equity out there. How it is achieved I leave to my officials, simply because there are various ways of arriving at market value assessment. As long as it’s consistent and as long as when the assessment is done things are based on a fair market value in comparison to other properties of a similar nature, then I am happy. I’m sure there are many ways of arriving at market value assessment, but it is certainly based on the sales in the local area. As the member knows very well, that’s one of the criteria used -- the sales each year with comparable properties taken into consideration.
The technical debate that the member has brought forth should better have been debated, perhaps, in committee or somewhere else when the technical people can speak. As a minister, I look at it in general policy terms. What I’m interested in is equity for those people out there and equity in market value so that when the job is finally completed, I don’t want some people to be over-assessed, others to be under-assessed. I have to depend on my staff to advise me as to the best approach to take to arrive at equity.
Speaking from experience in my own riding where we are on market value assessment, I’m not familiar with all the ways and means that assessors use to arrive at that assessment. But I can tell you that in most cases -- and obviously you’ll always have someone who’s unhappy -- but in most cases, the assessment done in my riding was good. I have had very few complaints, very few appeals, which indicates to me that the assessment branch did a reasonable job. I think the kind of staff I have in that branch is quite capable of doing the very best job. It probably includes the member for Hamilton Mountain; I’m sure that he did a good job when he worked in the branch.
I do believe we’re capable of making sure the assessment is fair and equitable. If the member has certain suggestions as to how it should be done, certainly I am prepared to look at that. But I would have to discuss it with staff before I would agree or disagree with what he’s saying.
Mr. Charlton: I’ll be brief because we’re just going to wrap up, and I’ll continue with it on Monday. I just want to make the point that my concern is equity. I’d be very happy if the technical people were in a position to respond. Unfortunately, last year in the estimates we ran out of time. We didn’t get to the assessment function at all. This year, not by my choice, these estimates are in the House where the technical people can’t respond. I either skip it or try and speed it through you to your technical people.
My point is, and like I said I’ll cut it off in a moment and continue it on Monday, my point is very simply that there are a number of methods of trying to estimate market value. In the assessment function in this province since 1970, we’ve tried two, and the combination in some cases of a third, which is the comparative sales method. We have tried essentially two, in all of the major sectors, and the two are very different and the two produced different results. As I mentioned, in the commercial-industrial and especially, significantly especially, in the apartment sector, in the multiresidential sector, there was quite a substantial difference between the cost method and the income method.
That brings us back to a policy of the ministry. Your staff are trying to advise you that there are two methods and there is a difference between the two methods, but it should be the ministry’s position to be saying, “Okay, we’ve got two methods and they do produce a difference. Which of these two methods is going to create the most problems? Which of these two methods is going to create the most equity between sectors in terms of their ability to pay the taxes?”
I’ll leave it at that and continue next time.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Maeck the committee of supply reported several resolutions and asked for leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Maeck moved the adjournment of the House.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 1:00 p.m.