The House met at 3 p.m.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. F. S. Miller: I am tabling today, for the information of the members, Ontario Finances for the second quarter of 1978-79. This report is an important update on the province’s financial situation. Members will note from the report that the fiscal outlook for this year has changed from that presented in the June issue of Ontario Finances, and I touched on some of the pressures on the Ontario economy in my statement to the House last week.
Net cash requirements for 1978-79 are up $106 million from the June 30 report, or $297 million higher than the post-budget target of $1,199 million. Members will be pleased to know, however, that this increase, which is entirely due to a drop in revenue, will be financed from internal sources with no net new public debenture borrowing this fiscal year. Despite this increase, the government’s projected net cash requirements for this fiscal year are $266 million lower than last year.
Pressures on the expenditure side are being contained. Post-budget, in-year increases of $161 million are being funded by savings in government operations. Already, $137 million of the savings has been identified; the balance of $24 million will be identified by year end.
We have made downward revisions to the estimate for corporation income tax because corporations are continuing to make instalment payments that are based on last year’s profits. In addition, refunds so far this year have been running at a high rate. Also, in the second quarter the federal government revised its estimate of reciprocal taxation for Ontario downwards by $8 million to take account of a shift in its regional spending pattern.
I wish to emphasize that it is slack revenues and not expenditures which have increased our cash requirements. Overall revenue growth this year is expected to be 10.2 per cent. The forecast expenditure growth rate is 6.9 per cent for the government for this fiscal year, and we are continuing to live within our means.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Later today I will be introducing for first reading a major and unique new piece of residential tenancy legislation. I use the word “unique” deliberately because this bill, entitled an Act to reform the Law respecting Residential Tenancies, is one of a kind. It is simple, straightforward and understandable without the help of a lawyer. It is a people statute, it is genuine layman’s law.
The prime object of the bill is to create a balance in the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. To do this the bill sets out plainly what both parties may expect and what they must offer in return in language that the average tenant and average landlord can fully understand.
The bill takes the residential aspects of the Landlord and Tenant Act, which has its origins in medieval law, as well as present common law, and without a single “notwithstanding,” combines the two elements, together with revised rent review legislation, into a clear, concise statute.
For instance, the Landlord and Tenant Act states that, “No landlord may distrain for default in the payment of rent whether a right to distress has heretofore existed by statute, the common law or contract”. Our bill simply provides that a landlord may not seize the personal property of a tenant for failure of the tenant to pay rent.
The old act provides that, “ ... where a tenant abandons the premises in breach of the tenancy agreement, the landlord’s right to damages is subject to the same obligation to mitigate his damages as applies generally under the rule of law relating to breaches of contract.”
The new bill simply provides that where a tenant abandons a rental unit the landlord shall endeavour to rerent as soon as practicable and at a reasonable rent.
The bill deals with three elements: one, it creates a body, to be known as the Residential Tenancy Commission, to move the whole field of residential landlord and tenant relations from the courts into a speedier, less expensive and more informal setting; two, it codifies under the umbrella of one piece of legislation all rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants to give both groups for the first time a comprehensive understanding of their rights and the ability to exercise them; three, it simplifies and improves the law relating to rent review.
The Residential Tenancy Commission’s overall objective is to provide straightforward, uncomplicated and informal methods for landlords and tenants to resolve their difficulties. It provides one-stop shopping for all tenant and landlord concerns. Most disputes between the two parties which are now resolved by the courts will be under the jurisdiction of the commission.
The commission will operate on three levels: one, a provincial commission, with the assistance of a board of directors and appropriate head office support staff, will implement policy and provide legal, technical and administrative backup service; two, regional commissioners will travel out of strategically located centres around the province to mediate and adjudicate; three, local offices will be established by the commission to inform and advise landlords and tenants about the legislation and their rights and obligations under it.
Under the statute, the commission has a duty to mediate any disputes, and hearings are to be informal and non-adversarial. We obviously do not wish to prevent a party involved in a dispute from retaining legal help but we have tried to establish a system where the need for lawyers is greatly diminished. The onus is on commissioners to question participants fairly. Commissioners will be lawyers, or legally trained specialists in the laws that apply to residential tenancy matters.
In keeping with the informality, the telephone will be the primary tool. Hearings will not be held only during normal business hours but at times convenient to participants, such as evenings and, if necessary, even on weekends.
To ensure fairness, all proceedings shall be governed by the Statutory Powers Procedures Act.
I am sure members from all parties are aware of abuses in the residential tenancy area perpetrated by a small minority of landlords and tenants. There are tenants who are chronic renovators and who maliciously damage the property of the landlord. There are landlords who reduce or withdraw services, or permit a dwelling to deteriorate. There are tenants who disrupt the privacy of their co-dwellers by creating disturbances. There are landlords who unnecessarily invade the privacy of their tenants; and there are both landlords and tenants who go so far as to change the locks to keep each other out.
I am sure everyone is equally aware of the inadequacies of the existing Landlord and Tenant Act dealing with these situations. This bill will rectify these deficiencies by establishing, in simple language, rights, responsibilities and remedies -- quick remedies. It deals with the right to security of tenure, the right to evict, the right to compensation, the right of privacy, the right of access; but it does so in a balanced way.
I would like to give you a few specific examples of how our legislation tries to strike a proper balance. Both parties are required to deal in good faith and within the law. For example, there is a situation where a tenant is told to vacate because the landlord is renovating. If it turns out that the landlord was not acting in good faith, the tenant may apply for compensation and the landlord may have to pay the differential in rent for up to one year plus moving expenses if the tenant had to move to more expensive lodgings. Conversely, the bill clearly states that if a tenant does anything illegal on the premises, the landlord is entitled to evict. The parties are required to observe mutual obligation. On the one hand, the legislation specifies the tenant’s right to reasonable privacy. Conversely, it guarantees the landlord’s right of access under specified circumstances.
Tenants are entitled to certain benefits and landlords are entitled to receive the rent. Landlords are obliged to provide and maintain the dwelling unit -- the building or complex, services and facilities -- and a commissioner is authorized to compensate a tenant for breach of these obligations. To enforce this, the commission has the power to seize rents and hold them in trust until the work is completed. In return, tenants are required to pay their lawful rent and are responsible for any damage they or their guests cause wilfully or through negligence.
The bill provides for a standard-form lease to which all written tenancy agreements must conform. Part of this form is a checklist, which the tenant must receive from the landlord, spelling out the contents and condition of the apartment and any house rules. A landlord may provide additional benefits or impose added obligations as long as these do not conflict with the provisions of the act and are reasonable. The commission may decide any dispute in this regard.
To eliminate one of the abuses which developed since the rent review legislation came into effect, the bill precludes any form of key money. In case anyone is unfamiliar with the term key money, it is the trick where the landlord says, “That will be $250-a-month rent and $100 for the door key”; or, “That will be $500 up front to have the apartment painted or decorated.”
In terms of rent review, the legislation is written to create the first comprehensive residential tenancy act, to improve and to simplify rent review legislation for the balance of its term to the end of 1980 and to implement the recommendations of the standing committee with which all members are familiar.
The new bill holds rent increases at the current six per cent guideline at least until the end of 1979, at which time it may be changed by order in council to reflect then current conditions. To streamline the system, the bill provides for whole building review, that is one rent review per building per year when a landlord wants to increase rent by more than six per cent. A tenant may appeal any increase.
For the first time, the legislation makes provisions to relieve landlords from hardship by permitting rent increases required to bring the gross revenue of a residential complex up to two per cent above cost. Another provision states that no tenant is liable to pay an illegal rent increase and may apply to the commission for an order rebating any excess that has been paid.
There are some new rental situations which are now exempted. For example, the minister may designate an area as economically depressed, permitting landlords to lower rents in the knowledge that after 12 months they may revert to the former level plus six per cent without the need for review by the commission. In addition, landlords and tenants in a building of six units or less may jointly agree to a rent increase above six per cent, provided it is in the prescribed form and with the approval of the commission. Luxury units renting for $500 a month or more will be exempted after the end of 1979.
As I said earlier, the rent review section of the legislation will be in effect until the end of 1980 and must become law by the end of November of this year if we are to avoid another extension of the current rent review legislation with all of its imperfections. The remaining provisions will be enacted as soon as administratively possible.
This legislation will combine under one umbrella functions which are now performed by the courts, the rent review program and the municipal landlord and tenant bureaus. I think it cuts red tape and provides quick and simple remedies to both tenants and landlords. It is dedicated to the proposition that if government is to reduce its involvement in the day-to-day affairs of people, it has an obligation to provide under law the tools for them to resolve their own problems quickly and simply. For these reasons, I wholeheartedly endorse it and commend this legislation to all members of the assembly.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, may I apologize because the majority of members of my caucus aren’t here this afternoon? They are attending the funeral of our departed colleague, James Bullbrook. I expect them here shortly.
May I lead with a question to the Treasurer and quote for him a statement in the budget of his predecessor? On page 19 it says: “This prudent fiscal plan means that once again, Mr. Speaker, Ontario will not need to borrow in the public capital market.” Then I take a quotation from his own statement today on page 2 where he says: “Members will be pleased to know, however, that this increase, which is entirely due to a drop in revenue, will be financed from internal sources with no net new public debenture borrowing this fiscal year.” Is this a change in policy? Is the Treasurer going to the public markets to finance his deficit this year?
Hon. F. S. Miller: No. I would have thought those two statements were consistent. To begin the year, the former Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) had predicted he would not be doing that. Even though the cash requirements have changed because of the drop in revenues, as shown in the statement, we still will not be going to the public debenture market for any borrowing this year.
Mr. Peterson: Supplementary: First of all, that is not what the previous Treasurer said. He was not talking about public debenture markets, he was talking about public borrowing of any type. In fact, has the Treasurer not increased his public borrowing and gone to the market for an additional $195 million in treasury bills this year, an offering which he increased this summer from something like $10 million a week to $25 million a week? Is the Treasurer not now violating a previous pledge by going to the public market to borrow funds to cover his ever-increasing deficit?
Hon. F. S. Miller: The treasury bills are, I think, issued every Thursday. I believe they are issued in 13-week cycles, if I recall, on whatever day of the week it is, and they are for that stated period of time. They are in a constant amount and are replaced each week by the amount we borrow. In other words, they don’t add to the current outstanding amount, which I believe comes to $325 million at any point.
It is even possible that the treasury bills will be dropped down as our in-year cash requirements vary a bit. However, my staff have pointed out to me that there are certain advantages of the treasury bill system anyway. In many cases we have the money from them reinvested in the marketplace when our current cash requirements do not demand the money. We have great variations in our bank account as our funds flow in and out to the various recipients of provincial money. The $25-million-a-week of treasury bills helps give us a cash flow.
Mr. Peterson: Up until this summer it was $10 million a week; why has the Treasurer increased it by $15 million?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I can’t go back historically. It’s been $25 million a week as long as I have been Treasurer. I believe one of the purposes of that cash at points in time is to give us cash when our normal bank income is not matching our normal outgo, to smooth out the year’s requirements; just as many a town had to go to the bank for short-term revenue in the old days when they only collected taxes once a year. Our tax receipts do not stay constant across the year.
More important, some of our major flows of funds do not remain at average monthly levels. I am told that in many cases we will have a surplus of cash on hand even while we are selling the treasury bills, and that that cash is then reinvested. Because of the difference of the credit worthiness of the province and the people to whom we loan the money, we are generally making an eighth to three-eighths of a point difference on the interest rate at that time.
Mr. Laughren: Supplementary: In view of the fact that in his statement the Treasurer comments that the increase in cash requirements will come entirely from internal sources, will the Treasurer assure us that it will not come from further cutbacks in the public sector employment complement or from the cutback in social programs?
Hon. F. S. Miller: The interpretation of the statement “from internal sources” was not internal budgetary sources. We already had announced, which the statement reflects, that $137 million -- I think that was the figure -- of budgetary changes have been made in year. Against that we had $161 million of budgetary increases during the year. However, the extra cash requirement generated by the increased cash need is possible from our existing bank balances, I am told.
Mr. Laughren: Supplementary: In the statement, the figures show that, despite a projection of an increase in liquid reserves of $362 million, there has in fact been a decrease of $74 million for a shortfall of $436 million in liquid reserves. I wonder if the Treasurer could comment further on the reasons for that.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I can’t give the member a good answer right now. I would rather wait until I could than attempt one now.
Mr. Peterson: Supplementary: Does it not give the Treasurer some alarm that the government has been consistently running down the liquid cash reserves of this province for the last two years? In 1976, they ran down some $227 million; in 1977, $116 million; this year from a projected increase in cash reserves of some $262 million, there is now a deficit of $74 million. In fact, over a three-year period this government has decreased the liquid cash reserves of this province over $400 million. Does that not concern the Treasurer? What is he going to do about it and what are the total liquid cash reserves of this province at this time?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Obviously anything that affects liquidity is of interest to me. It can be affected by a number of means. I’m sure the member knows them better than I do. I would simply say that this year, as we’ve stated here clearly, in spite of continually taking budgetary actions to keep our spending in line, our revenues have dropped quickly enough to make us eat into those cash reserves.
Mr. Peterson: You’ve been doing it for three years.
Hon. F. S. Miller: The fact remains when one looks at the overall rates of growth on our spending side, which is the easily controlled side of government, he will see we have done an admirable job, because in each of those years the total spending has not exceeded the projections made by the Treasurer. In fact we’ve cut our rate of growth of spending to the point where it is less than inflation and in most cases less than the growth in income, both of which are very real achievements of this government.
What can I do about it? Obviously I have several options. One is continued reduction in spending. The critic for the New Democratic Party just a moment ago said, “Please don’t do that,” if I read him correctly. The second alternative would be to increase taxes, and I suspect his advice to me would be the same.
Mr. Laughren: You could stimulate the economy; you could do something positive.
Hon. F. S. Miller: The third alternative, and this is one he might recommend, would be to go to greater deficits.
Mr. Peterson: Are you blaming Floyd and me for all these problems or what?
Hon. F. S. Miller: No, not at all; I’m simply explaining there will probably be a difference of attitude in the member’s seat and in his colleague’s seat as to what is the best way to solve that.
Mr. Laughren: It is time you started listening to us, his advice has got you nowhere.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I suspect the member and I will probably have more in common than his colleague and I will have in that particular argument.
Mr. Laughren: I hope so.
Mr. Martel: You figured that out all by yourself?
Mr. Grande: Similarity abounds.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I in no way want to smear the member for London Centre’s future by such a statement, but I do suspect that he and I would share some of those things, and that a judicious application of spending constraints will remain, under my guidance, one of the movements of this government.
Mr. Martel: Both Tories.
Mr. Laughren: He is to the right of you.
Mr. Martel: It’s impossible to be to the right of the minister.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Between now and budget date, I also have to look very closely at the sources of revenue, because I do not want to be a Treasurer whose revenues continue to be lower than those anticipated in the budget when it’s pronounced. It’s much easier to stand up in this House and say, “This month the revenues exceeded expectations by X million of dollars”; you look like a hero.
Mr. Peterson: Supplementary: That little exercise was not a response to the question, although we’ve given the Treasurer an opportunity to give us a little speech on what he feels is important. The question is, and it’s still a significant one, has he not substantially deviated from the previous Treasurer’s stated intention of not going to the public marketplace, when he is borrowing in significant measure and has increased his borrowing close to $200 million a year in the public marketplace, something he had avowed not to do? Does that not give him cause for alarm? Is he going to continue with that process or is he going to convert it into a long-term debt?
Hon. F. S. Miller: The treasury bills, the vehicle being used, and it’s not an unusual vehicle, is very useful while a budgetary position is being adopted by me regarding taxation. I will come to that conclusion between now and the point when the budget comes out.
Mr. Peterson: The minister just said he didn’t do it.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I’m talking about the treasury bills. They’re in place; they were there when I came in, they’re continuing. My staff tell me it may be possible, projecting our cash requirements the next few months, not to need that $25-million-a-week through that period of time. If we don’t, fine; it’s all short-term money.
I would point out to the honourable member, however, that we did partially get out of one of the sources of our financing during this year. I know the member is aware that the cash requirements of the province in the last few years have been to a large measure supplied by the various pension funds. In the course of this year OMERS is down to supplying us with a much lower amount of money and the former Treasurer stated last year that he wouldn’t need any OMERS money by next year. I have reiterated that guarantee to them not to put any mandatory requirement on them in the coming year.
ONTARIO ECONOMIC STRATEGY
Mr. Peterson: This is turning into a fruitless exercise, but I will try another question.
In view of the Treasurer’s renewed commitment to a balanced budget at some unspecified time in the future, which will probably be some time in the ‘80s, depending on who is Treasurer at that particular time, how does he reconcile that over the past 10 quarters -- not just in this Treasurer’s regime, over the past 10 quarters, two-and-a-half years -- there has been a constant deterioration in personal income tax versus projections? Every quarter has deteriorated. Corporation taxes have deteriorated every quarter without exception. Sales tax has been consistently lower quarterly by projection. Budgetary expenditures have varied -- the one you can control -- but in fact the deficit has increased almost consistently over 10 quarters.
Mr. Speaker: Question?
Mr. Peterson: How does the Treasurer reconcile that and when does he see a change in that downward trend; when does he see it going the other way?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I don’t know whether the projections for personal income tax, which as the member knows we accept -- as all provinces do -- from Ottawa, are simply inaccurate because of poor forecasting, or whether it was psychologically increased because the real growth rates that the economists could foresee were not politically acceptable in Ottawa. I just don’t know that, that’s altogether a possibility.
The fact remains provinces are given the estimates of the moneys they will receive based upon a federal estimate, I’m told, of PIT. Corporation income tax is a little different thing. In that case the province does make the estimation --
Mr. Peterson: What about sales tax?
Hon. F. S. Miller: -- and on sales tax the province makes the estimation of the amount of money that’s to come in.
In the case of the corporation income tax, profits are up this year, but CIT doesn’t reflect an increase proportionate to that which one would expect. That could be for any number of reasons, as I see it. No matter what the rules for prepayment of CIT are, it is altogether possible that companies are awaiting year-end results before they make enriched payments. That’s number one.
I think the member knows many-a-small company simply makes its instalment payments based upon the previous year’s earnings, not the current year’s earnings, until the year end comes around and a balloon payment goes in.
Secondly, there were some changes brought about in the corporate income tax field last year -- that was the three per cent inventory allowance -- and their effects were estimated, again I’m told, by both Ottawa and Ontario, and they appear to have been underestimated in terms of impact upon growth of corporate income tax. Those are two reasons for the CIT effect. In that case it isn’t a question of lower profit or lower earnings.
Sales tax: the answers are very obvious. To begin the year a seven per cent tax was assumed. We, then, with the co-operation of the federal government, reduced it to four per cent for a period of time. That had a dramatic effect upon the actual revenues. I think it’s somewhere in the range of $400 million or $500 million in the estimates, isn’t it?
Lower down on that same column, however, the member will notice a payment from Ottawa that was not predicted, which was their share -- which should be two-thirds of the upper figure -- of the cost of that reduction in sales tax. So it is explicable by the fact that a decision was taken by Ottawa and agreed to by Ontario to reduce sales tax.
Mr. Peterson: How does the minister explain then that his forecast for growth this year is 4.3 per cent and, as he’s quite well aware, it’s running below that at the end of the second quarter; in a trend that last year predicted five per cent average and ended up at 4.3 per cent, and the year before projected 5.3 per cent and ended up at 3.2 per cent?
Would the minister not agree that his forecasts have been consistently wrong, not just this quarter or this year but consistently wrong? Would he not, as Treasurer, feel some obligation to bring in realistic figures for a change, rather than seeing this gradual deterioration on a quarter-by-quarter basis over a substantial number of years?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Yes and yes.
Mr. Laughren: A supplementary: I wonder if the Treasurer, rather than dealing with the system as urged by the member for London Centre, would not admit that the real problem is the lack of stimulation in the economy and the lack of creative job creation projects by this and the federal government? When is he going to share with us some of his ideas for rebuilding the Ontario economy, in view of the fact that he expresses optimism but a week later tables documents that give us little cause for that kind of optimism?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I’m more optimistic than the honourable member is, I’m sure. I have entirely different ideas about what, in fact, helps an economy and what, in fact, helps the working man working in that economy. I have to tell the member that government handouts have never been proven to stimulate an economy.
Mr. Laughren: The Treasurer’s system is not working. He’s had his way.
Mr. Martel: You just gave $68 million to Ford.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Are you against that?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I have to tell the honourable member that his attitude would be that the government should hire a lot of people. Our attitude is that we should create jobs in the private sector and that’s what we’re working on right now.
Mr. Martel: Is the government going to buy them all?
Mr. Laughren: The Treasurer is being silly.
Mr. Cassidy: I have a question of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations regarding the announcement he made today about a new bill affecting the tenants across the province of Ontario. Can the minister say what powers the proposed Residential Tenancy Commission is going to be given under the proposed new act since it will have jurisdiction which now resides with the county court? Will those powers be as effective or strong as the powers of the county court at the least; and what additional powers will the commission have in order to ensure that its decisions are adhered to?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, in terms of the jurisdictional changes that are coming out of county court and going to go before the commission, they will be at least as powerful.
In terms of additional things, first of all, it was theoretically possible under the old act at certain times to withhold rent in order that certain things would be done. If the member will recall, that was a very cumbersome procedure because the tenant had to arrange for it to be put into trust and so forth.
One of the things that the commission will be able to do in the case of non-compliance with its orders, whether it’s a refusal to pay a utility bill which would leave the tenants threatened with a cutoff of service, whether it is the refusal to make repairs that have been judged necessary, whether it is the refusal to rebate illegally collected rents, either key money or certain other endeavours, the commission will have the power to direct the tenants to pay their monthly rent through the commission.
The commission will hold it in trust until there is compliance; and, indeed, if there is not compliance, the commission has the power to terminate the tenancies of the tenants and to allocate those funds back to them, on a pro-rata basis; which I think is quite significant and does for the first time put very effective, quick and remedial power at the disposal of the tenant, rather than the very complicated, cumbersome, often expensive procedures that went on before in either small claims court or in county court.
Mr. Cassidy: A supplementary: Since the powers as outlined by the minister still amount to putting the tenant on the line for not having paid his rent directly to the landlord, and since, in addition, the ultimate sanction there is that the commission can order termination of a lease so that the tenant who may not wish to move out has no option but to move, is there any intention that the commission will also have the authority to actually get things done which the landlord refuses to have done, rather than using the technique of withdrawing from the landlord the tenant’s rent?
Hon. Mr. Drea: First of all, Mr. Speaker, the leader of the New Democratic Party is dead wrong when he says the tenant may be in some difficulty. This will be a direction from the commission to the tenant not to pay the landlord but to pay the commission. The commission will hold it in trust. There is no penalty on the tenant whatsoever.
Secondly, in terms of going into the construction business, or having to get tenders and all of the other things, the decision is that for 99 per cent of defaulting landlords, the withholding of rent month after month is a pretty potent force in getting them to do what they should do. The one case where of course the commission will be able to act on its own is in the question of either natural gas for heating or electricity. If that is going to be cut off, the commission will seize the rents and will pay the utility or the gas company directly so that there is no cutoff.
For the one per cent of landlords -- and I think you would have to admit that anyone who wanted to do this required a psychiatric exam -- who deliberately want to abandon their premises, they want it to run down and they want to go for three, four or five months with no money whatsoever, meeting all of their obligations, I don’t really know what there is that we can do except bear in mind that the tenant will have been living rent free for that period of time. He’s under obligation no more to the landlord. The money that is held in trust by the commission that ordinarily would have been in the hands of the landlord, when there would have had to be judgement to get that money back, on this occasion will be very simply and quickly pro-rated to the tenant to take care of his moving expenses where he intends to go.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Does the minister not agree that the fundamental principles of rent review are dangerously undermined by the loopholes which are proposed to be included in the act? Specifically, in giving the commission the power to increase rents above the landlord’s costs even if those costs have been inflated by a substantial remortgaging; specifically, in giving permission to exempt all units over $500 a month, even in the case for example of family housing within Metropolitan Toronto where rent levels are almost universally over that level now; specifically, in allowing the commission to exempt properties, to allow them to raise rents far beyond the six per cent, if properties in the same vicinity are much higher -- that is to impose a market standard rather than the rent review standard; and, specifically, in opening it up to landlords in very small buildings to put pressure on tenants to come to an agreement which would effectively withhold the protection of rent review. Are those loopholes not sufficient to substantially undermine the basic principles of the act?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I didn’t intend to go through clause by clause today, but I will say to the leader of the New Democratic Party that (a) they are not loopholes; (b) they do not undermine, to me they enforce and reinforce the principles of rent review. Some of the examples that you have used quite frankly will be of benefit to the tenant, because in terms of comparative rents in the area, for the first time out of the whole building review, a tenant who is unfortunately stuck because he signed a lease back in July 1975 will, for the first time, be able to get relief. That very same section does that for him.
On the question of the $500 thing, I am rather surprised that the member says that there is family accommodation for Toronto now coming in at $500. It is my understanding that less than five per cent of all the rental accommodation in the province of Ontario is at $500 or more. Bear in mind that some of that is in already exempted buildings, because buildings that were not occupied prior to January 1, 1976, do not have rent review.
Mr. Speaker: A final supplementary; the member for Parkdale.
Mr. Dukszta: Can the minister tell me whether he has made a provision in his act not to allow financial cost pass-through? Reading through his statement I see that he has not allowed for it at all and that the biggest loophole of all remains still in the act.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I don’t accept that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Laughren: Answer the question. It’s not like the minister to evade a question.
Mr. Dukszta: Mr. Speaker, I’m not sure I understand what the minister means by that. Does he mean that he has allowed for it or not? Has the minister closed that loophole?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I frankly think, on the basis of the things that can be taken into account in terms of comparative rent and so forth, we have removed much of the objection to the cost pass-through that came about under the old act.
In the old act, or the present act rather, one of the problems was that a not-so-good landlord had very little to lose, and a very good landlord who did his maintenance and so forth had a lot to lose.
I think the combination in there has closed that loophole, but certainly that is subject to debate on the clause-by-clause. The member is on the committee. If it doesn’t meet what he felt it should in the community, or if he wants other language, he has every opportunity to bring it forward in the next month.
Mr. Dukszta: I wonder if I could ask one more supplementary on that? I don’t think the minister quite understood what I meant by financial cost pass-through. I mean, for example, when a landlord remortgages the building, is the legislation going to allow the tenants to have to pay for this cost? Or will it not allow that? That is what I meant.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I will answer that final supplementary tomorrow. I think on what I am looking at in terms of cost pass-through and what the member is asking me, we are breaking down in semantics; but I will give the member a detailed answer in writing tomorrow.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Treasurer, arising out of a document called A Submission by the Province of Ontario to the Government of Canada with respect to an adjustment assistance program for Ontario manufacturers in light of the multilateral trade negotiations.
I sent a copy of the document to the Treasurer earlier today. Can he confirm that this document formed the basis for the submission by the province to the federal government in regard to the proposed adjustment assistance program arising out of the Geneva trade talks which are now under way? Can he explain why the tone of the document is so at odds with the very optimistic statement that he had to make in the Legislature last week?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I’ll redirect that to the Minister of Industry and Tourism.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I should point out to the members of the House that the member for Ottawa Centre did, as well, send me this morning a copy of the papers he is referring to.
We have just had a chance to have a look at the submissions sent by my ministry on behalf of the government with regard to the adjustments to be made in the post-GATT period. Those papers were not sent in the form in which I have received these documents from the leader of the third party. Consequently, I can’t say that this document is the document which was forwarded to the federal government. Indeed there were three different submissions, I believe, made over a period of a couple of years to the federal government,
This one does, in fairness, have some similarity to it. After we have had a chance to look over it I may be able to report to the member that it is exactly the same as the most recent submission made to the federal government with regard to this subject, but retyped. The answer is: I believe it is substantially the same; no it is not a true copy of the papers forwarded to Ottawa recently.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Can I redirect my supplementary to the Treasurer; since that is where I began and the question was in two parts?
Can the Treasurer say why he was prepared to say, and I quote from his statement last week: “Our economy is showing significant strength and positive foundations for the future are in place,” when the Ministry of Industry and Tourism is making submissions like this to the federal government? If the document that I have just passed over is followed -- and the Minister of Industry and Tourism confirms it is substantially the basis of what was sent to Ottawa -- it suggests that our economy is in “a state of fundamental structural disequilibrium, that the economy faces fundamental trends deeply rooted in the structure of the Canadian economy, that our position as a net importer of medium and high technology products has worsened considerably, and that the relative decline in Canada’s industrial research and development activity predates the current recession.” How can the Treasurer take such an optimistic view when the economic advisers in the other chief economic ministry are taking such a serious view of our economic and industrial prospects?
Hon. F. S. Miller: First of all, I looked at and reported upon the actual results of the economy in the last year, I think, when I was talking to the House the other day.
This paper deals with problems that our industry will face if certain changes in the tariff and trade negotiations occur. I haven’t had time to do more than scan the first couple of pages of it, but I think it acknowledges that some of our industries probably are protected by those tariffs, and that in fact Ontario, as the province with the greatest concentration of industry in Canada, will be the most affected by the reduction in tariffs and trades. Now I think that’s obvious.
The fact that there are problems in the economy has never been denied. The fact that things are good -- in other words, are better than they were a year ago -- is also correct. Just because they’re good doesn’t mean they can’t be better and I stated that in my comments last week. So I don’t see any fundamental disagreement.
Mr. Laughren: Supplementary: In view of the fact that the economists, I suspect from both Industry and Tourism and from TEIGA, have indicated that, and I quote from the document, the branch plants and foreign ownership, “impose severe constraints on the ability of the establishments to achieve optimal scale economies, increased productivity, reduced costs and meet the challenge of increasing international competition,” could the Treasurer tell us what specific plans the Ontario government has to increase the domestic ownership of industry and to impose compulsory investment, research and development and value-added performance requirements on multinationals operating in the province of Ontario?
Hon F. S. Miller: On the first: to increase the share of Canadian ownership let me make a plea to many of us to have enough confidence in Canadian industry to buy them the way one could always buy them, through the stock market. The member may not agree with that, but the fact is until Canadians have the courage and confidence in their own companies to buy them back they won’t be Canadian owned, but they can --
Mr. Speaker: Just ignore the interjections.
Mr. Breaugh: And, of course, you have to have the money to buy it.
Mr. Makarchuk: And, of course, the shares have to be on the market. Try to buy into General Motors of Canada.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Brantford doesn’t have the floor.
Mr. Deans: But he is right.
Hon. F. S. Miller: The fact remains that under our system of private enterprise there are ways and means, and I am pleased to see that Canadians in fact have followed those with certain companies. I believe Inco is now considered to be a Canadian company, is it not, by definition? Laugh as members may, it’s an indication that either Canadian pension organizations or Canadian individuals over the last few years have had enough confidence in it to continue adding to their shares until in fact Canadians have become, not the majority of the shareholders but the largest single number, I am told. I don’t have the exact percentage -- it’s in the high 40s, I believe -- in Canadian hands. Other companies are coming that way too. I suggest to the members opposite that was the way the Americans became American owned, because in the beginning they too were owned by foreign capital.
Mr. Speaker: The final supplementary, the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. S. Smith: This is directed to the Minister of Industry and Tourism, who actually hasn’t answered the first part regarding the document itself. Could the minister give me his view of both the document’s apparent suggestion that we ought to be trying to reduce non-tariff barriers across the world, and the Premier’s (Mr. Davis) insistence that we shouldn’t get into the non-tariff barrier business but should hope that the international community reduces theirs? Is that the view of the minister as well, or would he not agree with me that to get our industries started, particularly in machinery and manufacturing, we ought to use preferential purchasing of the very kind that other countries use to get their giants started? Their giants will beat us any time now in a free and open market because we simply allowed this to happen.
Doesn’t the minister think we should have our own preferential purchasing, our own non-tariff barriers, and not be such babies as to imagine the rest of the world will actually get rid of theirs and that we can get started in these fields without such a leg up in the world?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I suppose there are three items to be dealt with here. First, the remarks of the Premier on several occasions, including here last Friday, and I quite frankly see nothing inconsistent between his remarks here last Friday, the paper that is the subject matter of the questions this afternoon, and the government’s long-stated position. Second, it hardly goes --
Mr. S. Smith: I disagree with the principle.
Hon. Mr. Grossmann: Well, the honourable member and the Premier exchanged comments with regard to the direct difference of opinion between the Leader of the Opposition and this government; I think that’s clear and will develop over time.
The second point I wanted to make, which goes without saying, is the answer is that, not surprisingly, I wholeheartedly agree with the Premier’s remarks last Friday.
Third, the Leader of the Opposition might have a look at some of the remarks I made at noon today in a speech I delivered, in which I talked at some length about things such as preferential purchasing, the role of governments in that game and the fact that all of that ought to be reflected on a national basis in whatever steps we take.
Next week, beginning on Tuesday, there will be a meeting, the first I’ll be attending, of federal-provincial industry ministers. At that conference some of these things might well be on the table. I hope they are and that we’ll be discussing them further.
I might take this opportunity to add one other thing, that is that later this fall, certainly before the House rises, I will be using this House to make a more complete statement on the government’s view and our view of the GATT negotiations. So there will be a more complete statement coming in four to six weeks.
Mr. Laughren: Why not do it now?
TORONTO WEST DETENTION CENTRE
Mr. Bradley: My question is for the Minister of Correctional Services. Has the minister any information to share with the House about the escalating guard-inmate problems which have been going on for some time at the Toronto West Detention Centre? I gather that these incidents are a regular occurrence because of alleged overcrowding, understaffing and bad supervision by administrative personnel, according to the accusations. There was a near riot this weekend resulting in the guards walking off the job.
Hon. Mr. Walker: To describe it as a near riot would be a misnomer. A wildcat strike was reported in the media as having lasted for three hours. In fact, at the Toronto west jail it commenced at 9 o’clock on the morning of Saturday, October 28, when 15 of the 22 correctional staff on duty participated in a walkout. It lasted for 50 minutes. It was not a three-hour wildcat strike.
The incident which seems to have provoked it, and which precipitated the staff action, involved 13 inmates in the maximum security area, namely unit IC, at approximately 7:40 hours. It was in the day room of that unit. This incident seemed to have provoked it. Three plastic cups were thrown against metal grills, which resulted in the cups breaking. The inmates who threw the cups could not be identified. It was considered by supervisors to be a relatively minor incident.
It’s worth noting that previous incidents occurring at the Metro West Detention Centre have been unanimously described by staff to the press as being a great deal more serious than in fact they were. To cite the most recent of the incidents of this nature, approximately one month ago, a small incident which was relayed to the press as being in the nature of a riot did involve some food throwing.
I wish it be known that I view this walkout as serious. The behaviour of those who walked out is in my opinion irresponsible. The public has a right to demand a totally professional response on the part of staff to stress situations.
Just recently, the union requested a meeting. We received the letter on October 16, and we have agreed to meet with respect to this particular centre. We view the particular approach taken by these guards in their walkout as the wrong way to resolve a problem, but rather it should be done in the manner in which the union had originally requested, namely to discuss the matter in order to arrive at appropriate conclusions. In my opinion, the public has a right to demand more for protection.
Mr. Bradley: Supplementary: In light of the fact that the people on duty felt that the situation was serious enough at that time to walk out, does the minister not agree that this is an indication that his ministry had not dealt with the problem at an earlier time to the satisfaction of those employed at that institution and that therefore that is part of the root problem?
Hon. Mr. Walker: My suspicion is that it’s a prelude to the discussion of Bill 70.
Mr. Ashe: Supplementary: Can the minister please tell us how he intends to rectify what is an apparent communications gap between the guards and the supervisors relative to this particular incident and apparently other recent incidents?
Hon. Mr. Walker: I would say to the member for Durham West that the matter will be fully investigated. Once I have had an opportunity to review that, we’ll be in a better position to make a fuller comment. At that time I would undertake to give a statement in the House.
Mr. Ziemba: The centre was built to hold 252 prisoners; how many prisoners were housed at the Toronto West Detention Centre at the time of the incident?
Hon. Mr. Walker: The information I have at the moment is to the extent of what I read in the newspaper this morning: that it was in excess of 300.
Mr. Makarchuk: How much of an excess?
Mr. Warner: You’re really doing a fine job over there.
Hon. Mr. Walker: The original facility was built for about 200 people. As a result of the closing of the old Don Jail the capacity was enlarged quite capably by the double-bunking procedure which was considered to be appropriate. There was sufficient facility to double-bunk and that was done. The facilities now encompass far more than the number for which they were originally built.
Mr. Martel: To the Minister of Labour: Is the minister aware that the Workmen's Compensation Board now has a policy where if a worker is prepared to resume light duties, his doctor having indicated that he will be prepared to resume full duty in two or three months, and the company refuses light duty, the board reduces the man’s benefits to 50 per cent unless he quits his job and finds employment with another employer?
Mr. Deans: That’s compensation for you.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I was not aware of that situation. I thank the member for Sudbury East for bringing it to my attention. I wonder if he’d be good enough to give me the specific instance and I shall investigate it, because that sort of situation concerns me greatly.
Mr. McClellan: It happens all the time.
Mr. Speaker: The question has been taken as notice. He will look into it.
UHT MILK PLANT
Mr. Pope: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Since it has been reported in recent CFCL television newscasts and in articles of the Timiskaming Speaker that various members of the Ontario Milk Marketing Board and perhaps the milk marketing board itself, believe an ultra-high-temperature milk plant is more realistic if built in Toronto as opposed to northeastern Ontario; and since the milk marketing board as recently as this morning has confirmed that it will appeal any decision of the Ontario Milk Commission which would apply southern Ontario rates to ultra-high-temperature milk requirements even though most of the product would be marketed in southern Ontario, and even though such a price is higher than the price farmers now get for surplus milk in Timiskaming; will the minister look into these attitudes to see whether certain members of the milk marketing board, or perhaps the board itself, should no longer exercise their functions in northern Ontario under their present regulatory framework?
Mr. Breithaupt: Sounds like a declaration of independence to me.
Mr. S. Smith: The member wants to get into the cabinet.
Hon. W. Newman: We should first make it very clear that the price of milk to the producer in northern Ontario and the price of milk to the producer in southern Ontario are two different prices because of climatic conditions.
The Ontario Milk Marketing Board is a producer-elected board; there are committee men throughout the province who add their input to the total system. I think what the member is referring to is a particular application by a particular dairy in northeastern Ontario to produce ultra-high-temperature milk and that application was granted. But the problem they were faced with was the actual cost of milk and being competitive in southern Ontario markets. I think that’s probably what the member is talking about. If that is the case, I would say I have met with the milk marketing board on two occasions I believe, one at some length about a year ago, pointing out that we need ultra-high-temperature milk here in the province of Ontario because of the competitive situation that could be coming from other provinces and other areas.
As a result I went to the milk marketing board and asked them if they would consider a special class of milk for a 30-month period in order to allow, not any particular dairy but any dairy in this province, to get a special rate on milk to allow it to get into the ultra-high-temperature milk business. I feel there is definitely a need for ultra-high-temperature milk; although it’s not here in Ontario in any great quantity at this time, as a matter of fact there is very little of it. I look down the road five years from now and feel there will be a great need for ultra-high-temperature milk.
My request to the Ontario Milk Marketing Board was turned down at that time. Of course there is always the right to appeal the Ontario Milk Marketing Board’s decision to the Ontario Milk Commission.
Mr. Bradley: Is the member satisfied with that answer?
Mr. Breaugh: But are you going to kick him out?
Mr. Breithaupt: I think we’ll have a late show on that one.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, last Monday the member for Port Arthur asked me several questions regarding the shutdown of the Inco facility at Shebandowan. First of all, I can assure him that the Shebandowan shutdown was the result of the current strike at Sudbury, since the ore at Shebandowan is processed at Sudbury. The Shebandowan ore has a very high copper content, as I’m sure the member is aware, and apparently it can only be smelted at the Sudbury smelter.
The second question concerns the employees who have been laid off for the duration of the Sudbury strike. One hundred and sixty hourly workers will be laid off in total. They received notice of this layoff on October 13. One hundred workers will be laid off on November 3, with the remainder to follow in stages over the next nine days. These layoffs are being conducted in accordance with the collective agreement and are based on seniority and the skills the workers possess.
Eighteen hourly workers will be retained, primarily to maintain mine equipment, while the others have been temporarily laid off. The 36 salaried employees, who are roughly split 50-50 between clerical and supervisory personnel, will be retained to perform supervisory and security work.
Finally, in response to the third and last part of the member’s question, although a layoff under these circumstances may be longer than the 13-week definition of a temporary layoff in the Employment Standards Act, the layoff is never considered more than a temporary layoff when, as in this case, the employer has no control over the duration of the layoff.
Mr. Martel: Sure he does.
Mr. Warner: You’ve got to be kidding.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: This is controlled by the length of the strike at the other location. The member might note that the week of layoff as discussed in the act does not apply in these situations, as noted in part XII, section 1(c)(iii) of the act. In these instances it is impossible to predict in advance that the employer would be unable to provide work for his employees.
Mr. Foulds: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker: A brief supplementary.
Mr. Foulds: Can the minister explain why the full complement of non-union employees is kept on and why there is such a substantial reduction of unionized employees? What explanation did he get from the company with regard to that? What are they there to supervise? What are they there to maintain if there are 18 union employees there maintaining the equipment? Does the minister not think it is time that the ministry itself took a look at that indefinite period and revised the regulations to take into account situations like this? Surely he would agree that in this situation the employer, who is the same at Sudbury as it is at Shebandowan, does have the power to end the situation at Sudbury?
Mr. Martel: Sure. He could offer a fair deal.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the first question regarding the salaried employees, I was simply advised by the company that those employees were retained to do the duties I advised the member about. Second, with regard to whether or not the employer is the sole person having control over the duration of the strike, I think that’s self-apparent.
Mr. Foulds: Some control.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: There are two parties involved in that strike. Neither party has sole control over the duration of the strike. The member knows that and I know that.
As to whether or not the section of the act should be revised, the act is under constant review and in view of the fact that the member has brought this particular matter to my attention, I will be pleased to specify it and have it reviewed particularly.
Mr. Stong: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Energy. As a result of his meeting with officials of the towns of Richmond Hill, Markham and Vaughan some seven weeks ago, could he report to the House the progress of his negotiations with Ontario Hydro with respect to establishment of a high transmission line in the parkway belt west?
Hon. Mr. Auld: I am still awaiting from Hydro an estimate of the cost of a buried transmission line, which is one of the matters discussed both with Vaughan and with Richmond Hill, because both seem to be anxious to see that as a solution.
I inquired of Hydro one day last week as to how they were making out and I am expecting to get that information shortly. They are working at it very carefully because of the questions that arose before, when their various people had given various figures, and some fairly wide variations in figures.
Mr. Stong: A supplementary: Is the minister aware that despite his assurances to the towns that he would meet with them on this issue, Ontario Hydro is continuing to punch its way through the area and is establishing that line, and the community of Box Grove is now being threatened?
Hon. Mr. Auld: I was neither aware nor unaware of what was going on as far as the acquisition of property for that line is concerned. I don’t know that there is any construction taking place.
Mr. Bounsall: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Would the minister indicate when the long overdue cheques for the retroactive WCB pension adjustments back to 1975 can be expected to be received by the injured workers of Ontario, it being over four months now since we passed the legislation granting them that increase?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I want to thank the member for bringing this to my attention.
Mr. Breaugh: Don’t blame the post office.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I was at the board three or four weeks ago and we were talking about this very matter. To my knowledge many of those cheques had gone out. There was some delay with injuries that were quite old, but I will certainly look into it, because I have to, in all honesty, tell him it was my understanding that many of them had been paid out and that what delays were occurring were in older claims. We will check that out. I thank the member for bringing it to my attention. I am advised by one of my colleagues that that is, indeed, the case.
Mr. Bounsall: They just haven’t found their way to Windsor yet. Is the minister aware the situation in many parts of the province appears to be that adjustments have been made to take into account those increases for their normal ongoing cheques? It is the back cheques retroactive to 1975 that are not being received across Ontario. It is the retroactive amounts that are not being received.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I will look into that.
SAMUEL JOHNSTON CASE
Mr. G. E. Smith: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services concerning the case of Samuel Johnston, of Orillia.
In view of the fact that the courts today found the Deputy Minister of Community and Social Services in contempt, and in view of the fact the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, according to a Canadian Press story, has asked for the minister’s resignation, what is the minister’s present position?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I might say at the outset that perhaps my current position is somewhat strengthened, I should think. Very seriously, I am far from finding any of the resignation rhetoric even remotely persuasive at this point in time.
It is true that the Supreme Court this morning -- at least, Mr. Justice Pennell did render his decision on the application, and although he found in the case of two senior officials of my ministry there was no contempt, he did in the case of my deputy, Mr. Robert Carman, find contempt.
I would like to point out to the House it was a very reasoned judgement and if I might I would just quote briefly from His Lordship’s decision.
Mr. Martel: Tell Bob we will visit him.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I think the language in which it was couched indicates His Lordship has an understanding of the circumstances. He says:
“It was not a pleasant judicial duty to find that a well-intentioned public servant has disobeyed an order of the court, and still less, when his purpose was dictated by concern for the wellbeing of the handicapped persons assigned to his care, in the assured conviction that he acted to avert the unsettling effects of the order on residents and staff members of the facility. I would not be second to anyone in recognizing the high moral obligations resting on the respondents.”
He proceeds to say: “Having regard to the aforementioned mitigating circumstances and the fact that there was imperfect compliance as opposed to non-compliance with the order of the court, I have come to the conclusion that I should take a merciful view of Mr. Carman’s acts.” His Lordship then proceeded not to levy a fine nor a jail sentence but to order costs in the case.
More specifically in response to the question, although it had never been our intention to be in contempt of the court, it is clear that the efforts that we had made to balance the responsibilities that we had to the residents with the responsibility that we had to comply with the order, were found to be less than a perfect solution. Because of the respect in which we hold the court, as an interim measure pending a more satisfactory solution, as of tomorrow morning Mr. Johnston will, pursuant to the order, he placed back in his place of former employment under constant and direct supervision of a superior residential counsellor until such time as a more satisfactory solution can be found.
The solutions are being explored. We have before the House the proposal that I have made. In the absence of alternative solutions that would achieve the result I feel is necessary, I would have to ask the House to consider proceeding with that bill in the near future.
I assure the members that discussions have been continuing with the representatives of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in an effort to find alternative solutions, because there are reservations about the legislative route which are legitimate reservations. If there is an alternative solution that can be found in the next few days, that would perhaps be preferable to the legislative route, but the legislative route may be necessary if no alternatives can be found.
BURGESS BATTERY PLANT
Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Has he been given notice that the Burgess battery plant in Niagara Falls, operating since 1923, is being closed completely? I wonder if he is getting co-operation from those companies that would close their operations down with some kind of advance notice?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: To the best of my recollection, I have not heard of the Burgess battery company closing down. If that’s so, I will be glad to follow it up.
Mr. Kerrio: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: In the process, would the minister question them in regard to whether, with the closing of this plant, we are going to be importing the product that’s being made there now? I would like to ask further, if in fact that is the case, whether the ministry, through the Ministry of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman) or some other minister who would be involved, could look into the possibility of keeping that plant functioning?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I will endeavour to find out the information that the member requests.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES ACT
Hon. Mr. Drea moved first reading of Bill 163, An Act to reform the law respecting Residential Tenancies.
Motion agreed to.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 164, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act, 1974.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to reduce the standard work week in Ontario from 48 hours to 40 hours; and to require employers to pay overtime rates for work done in excess of 40 hours per week, rather than 44 hours per week.
GAME AND FISH AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Philip moved first reading of Bill 165, An Act to amend the Game and Fish Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Philip: The purpose of the bill is to restrict the use of body-gripping and leghold traps in Ontario. The bill creates a general prohibition against the use of body-gripping and leghold traps as a means of trapping any animal. Exemptions from the general prohibition are provided for persons who hold trappers’ licences or who use body-gripping traps of a specific size that are submerged in water, and for farmers.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF HOUSING (CONTINUED)
On vote 2101, ministry administration program; item 1, main office:
Mr. Dukszta: Mr. Chairman, is the minister going to answer the questions posed by the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) and, specifically, by the member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy) about the Cantrakon decision? If not, then I will ask a couple of questions myself.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I have very few remarks to make regarding the discussion which took place on Friday morning in this House. The position of the ministry has been indicated very clearly on two or three occasions during question period, and that is that it is sub judice.
I will refrain from making comments, other than to say that I am sure the members of the opposition party and researchers of the third party have read the files in their entirety. They know the situation of the various portions of the hearing, including that of the Niagara Escarpment Commission and that of the ministries involved, the conservation authorities, and so on. I trust they have also read the letter from the minister which authorized the development permit with 10 very specific conditions outlined in it that took into consideration some of the concerns of the ministries and various other agencies involved in the Cantrakon project.
Mr. Warner: And greater concern for the developers.
Mr. Dukszta: I really don’t understand fully the minister’s statement about sub judice. If he insists that he cannot discuss anything pertaining to the Cantrakon decision, can he tell the House exactly why he referred it and what are his standards on sub judice because surely it does not apply to the general discussion of the issues since the Premier (Mr. Davis) himself has already discussed it after so-called referral to the court?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I didn’t refer the situation. If I understood the member for Parkdale’s question, that it was I who referred it to the courts, it was not through myself that it was referred to the courts but obviously by an outside organization. I have indicated clearly and supported the documentation of sub judice by the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) and by outside legal counsel.
Mr. Dukszta: Has the minister informed the House of that through a statement such as he has made now? Has the House been officially informed of that?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Officially informed of what?
Mr. Dukszta: That it’s now in the court, that the whole question is before the court.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I can swear to the fact that in this House we tabled last week the entire documentation as presented by the legal counsel for the outside organization that brought the case before the Supreme Court of Ontario. The whole documentation was tabled in this House just a week ago.
Mr. Dukszta: I don’t understand why the minister does not answer the questions the member for Ottawa Centre asked on Friday, which were questions relating to general decisions pertaining to it. This is not a matter necessarily of sub judice. If not, I’ll ask the same questions again and we can decide whether this is sub judice or not. The first question is very simple. I would like the minister to estimate how long it is now going to take with this route he has chosen, the confrontation with the local residents in the local town of Caledon, to get the official plan amendment passed and approved in all of its stages since the amendment is obviously required before Cantrakon can be issued its building permit. I swear that is not the part which will be under discussion in court.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: That is correct. In that respect, if you’re referring to other than the Cantrakon situation, but to the official plan of Caledon, I would not be in a position now nor in the next short period of time to tell this House how long it will take to get the Caledon official plan approved. It has a number of steps to go through. I understand they’re in the final stages of presentation to the ministry.
There has been some consultation with the planning staff of the Ministry of Housing with the people in Caledon and with the region of Peel. But I certainly wouldn’t be in a position to tell you with regard to some of the items that have been discussed in the official plan how long it will be before they’re resolved and the plan comes back to the minister for approval. It might go on to other hearings as a result of opposition to the plan by various citizens and groups.
Mr. Dukszta: I’m glad the minister is aware that certain aspects of the Cantrakon decision are not sub judice. Maybe I could continue with some of the questions. I understand the company has 2,000 acres. Has the minister, who I understand has met with them before, discussed their moving somewhere else in any detail? If so, can he tell the House?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I know of no opportunity for a minister, whether it be in this specific case or any other case, when he’s asked for approval on a specific project, to take it from that position and say, “Let’s discuss something else in some other location of the province or some other location in that community.” That’s not the prerogative of the minister here or in the future, as far as I know. As a result, I was asked for an opinion and a position on this particular application and I afforded just that.
I want to make only one other comment. There have been some suggestions, as a result of my decision not to accept the recommendation of the hearing officer, that in some way, shape or form that was going to reduce the viability or the practical aspect of the Niagara Escarpment Commission’s being in existence. So that there’s no misunderstanding, the first position, the reversal of a hearing officer’s decision, was back in 1976. Since that time there have been at least 23 occasions when ministers have not agreed with the hearing officer of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. If there was reason to think that a decision rendered by a minister that wasn’t along the lines of the recommendations given by the NEC or by the hearing officer was going to make that organization defunct or not very valuable or practical in its existence, I think that situation should have been extolled back in January 1976 when the first reversal of position took place.
I doubt very much that if the OMB had decisions reversed, and it does, this House or the public of this province would consider the OMB as no longer being a practical or a worthwhile board to have in existence.
Mr. Dukszta: It clearly states that there has been an extensive involvement by the government and finally by the present Minister of Housing in the whole decision. So, in fact, he can intervene one way or another.
I have heard, and he did not deny it, that when he was still not the Minister of Housing he met with the Cantrakon people in terms of planning this whole thing as a tourist attraction that would bring money to Ontario and provide employment. As the Minister of Housing he still must have some interest in that.
Can he not tell us whether he would be prepared to discuss with the company whether it would move somewhere else and still keep it as a tourist attraction? It surely would be possible, with the 2,000 acres they control, to find an appropriate site for which approvals and official plans, and amendments if necessary, can be prescribed much more quickly, in order to ensure that the development begins as soon as possible.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I have already expressed my position.
Mr. Epp: The minister may have indicated this earlier and I could have missed it, but I wonder whether he would be prepared to share the various decisions that he’s changed with the opposition parties, whether he would give us copies of these decisions and file those with the House.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I believe as a result of requests by the leader of the Liberal Party and others that the decisions -- there are some 42 cases, I take it, since 1974 or 1975, when the Niagara Escarpment Commission came into being and hearing officers were appointed and so on -- I think there have been 42 cases where there have been differences of opinion between ministers of the day and the hearing officer, or ministers in agreement with the Niagara Escarpment Commission but differing with the hearing officer or vice versa. There has been quite a conglomeration of decisions, backwards and forwards -- some where the hearing officer does not agree with the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the minister does agree with it.
I understand that back a week or 10 days ago those 42 specific cases and detailed documentation as far as the hearing officer’s report is concerned were given to the research officers for the Liberal Party and I believe also for the NDP. I understand that since that time the research officers have visited with the community planning wing of the Ministry of Housing and have reviewed a great number of files relating to decisions that were made to the Niagara Escarpment Commission and then to a hearing officer.
It’s my understanding that they’ve been gone through fairly completely by the research people from the member for Waterloo North’s party. I can’t say for the NDP what the situation happens to be. I think they have a fairly complete knowledge of exactly what the positions were by various groups appearing before the NEC; what the NEC’s position happened to be; what the hearing officer happened to hear and the information that was tabled for him, and his report to the minister and the minister’s position.
In every case, without exception, where the minister granted the right for a development permit with conditions, I doubt very much you’ll find any one file in which, when the minister has reversed or has not accepted the recommendation of a hearing officer, it was not approved without some very specific conditions being attached to that particular operation.
I am informed that all cases were looked at by both opposition parties; all 42 cases were recorded by them.
Mr. Dukszta: I would like to know what economic benefit was gained by overturning the escarpment commission officer’s decision and allowing Cantrakon to build at this particular site, as opposed to getting Cantrakon to build at some other site within the general area?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: So we can go on with the questioning, I’ve said already it’s sub judice and I’m not going to get involved any further in the case than I have this afternoon with some very preliminary remarks. The questions posed by the member for Parkdale and the questions posed by the member for Ottawa Centre touched at the very root of the question that is now before the courts. I think you should recognize the position of the courts and respect the fact that the decision is now before them for further review and for a decision to be rendered at some time in the future. The very questions that the member for Parkdale is asking now and some of those that his leader asked on Friday morning are exactly why the case is before the Supreme Court of Ontario.
Mr. Dukszta: I would respect the minister’s need to hide behind a sub judice decision but I will rephrase the question: Has the minister done any economic studies of that area?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I’ve already answered what my position is.
Mr. Makarchuk: That is not before the courts.
Mr. Dukszta: Excuse me, I must have some trouble with English here because I don’t think that is sub judice. I’m talking now of the economic viability of an area and whether the minister has done any studies on it. That is a very simple question, I thought.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, as I said earlier --
Mr. Dukszta: I’ll ask you in Polish next time.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Does the member want the answer? It hits right at the root of the case, as I said earlier. If we follow the member’s way of posing it, we’ll do it piece by piece until we’re into the entire case. I’ve said it’s sub judice and I’m not going to discuss it any further. I think that ruling has been indicated to the Speaker of the House and accepted.
Mr. Grande: What does that have to do with studies?
Mr. Dukszta: Mr. Chairman, I’m not asking about a specific decision any longer. I’m now talking about the minister’s responsibility as a minister in charge of land planning. Has he ever done any type of study in that area? If I may be allowed to point out to you, Mr. Minister, I’ve switched.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, if you’re talking about any kind of study in the general Caledon area, that is what the official plan is all about. The official plan and some of the other plans have been made up by the various communities over the years in their official status and so on. Certainly, our ministry has looked at certain aspects of it.
Mr. Dukszta: That’s exactly what I’m asking, so it’s not sub judice. We have established that. The question now is whether I can get the information out of the minister as to whether he knows whether there have been any economic viability studies done in that area under an official guide or otherwise? Have you done it? Has your ministry done it? Could you tell us? Do you know?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, I am not sure I understand the specific point of the question but I would say this much to the member. There have been studies done by the municipality in the past because of certain recommendations they have made over the years in relationship to their planning. Those have been put before us for assessment. If you’re asking me if the Ministry of Housing has gone into this community any more than Ottawa or into your riding and done a specific economic feasibility study, the ministry itself would --
Mr. Makarchuk: I thought that was one of your arguments.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: It was not one of my arguments. If you look at the conditions that I put on that particular development permit application approval, that was not one of the arguments. The minister per se has not gone into Caledon or any other community and done a specific economic study. The Ministry of Industry and Tourism might have looked at certain projects or problems in various other communities as well as Caledon to see what the practicality of some type of development might be. A certain amusement situation is being developed in Vaughan township which has been approved in recent days. They did that after the application was made -- looked at certain aspects as to whether it was going to create further problems for government.
Mr. Dukszta: If there have been studies done like that then I take it some of the decisions reached about the whole project were simply because it was good for capitalism more than it was good for the country. That’s a rhetorical question which you can answer rhetorically.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: It is obvious that we’re wandering towards the heart of the case, and I’ve already said that it’s sub judice and I’m not going to get into any further detail on it. If you’re trying to imply that we only respond to economic pressures that are put on us, I think that’s very wrong.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Mr. Chairman, I’d like to rise in support of the minister on this issue. I know that both the opposition parties have been trying to extract information bit by bit which tests the conscience of the minister. It’s all very well to stand here and criticize the minister for making a decision, and usually the criticism is just the opposite -- because the minister doesn’t make a decision. Because of the system it’s difficult to cut through the underbrush, through the red tape, and come up with some finite conclusion and some clear-cut decision. I want to compliment the minister for that decision.
I think a lot of members are looking at the whole planning process, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the local planning in terms of the municipal involvement at that level and, of course, the involvement of the Ministry of Housing. I think it should be made clear, as I understand it as well, that these decisions are not made simply on economic grounds. There are principles of planning involved. It’s not a question of how many jobs can you generate by approving anything.
There may be some parts of Ontario where the people are not really accommodating in terms of adjusting their lives to all of the minute controls that can be imposed through the planning process. I’m speaking in terms of not only subdivision control and all that flows from that in terms of the very lengthy, sometimes tortuous subdivision agreements and what is extracted and required in that regard, but also of the smaller developments, smaller severances, development control, zoning bylaws, those land-use regulations that implement the official plans of the municipalities. It’s very difficult for some of us in maybe more unsophisticated parts of Ontario to fully understand why one has to tread and negotiate such a tortuous process in order to see anything happen.
Last week, I was here listening to criticism of the cost of housing. Why does all this development cost so much? We heard the plea that everyone in Ontario should be afforded suitable accommodations as a right, as a citizen. My friend from Parkdale would be the first one to stand up and say that. As a matter of fact, it was he who stated very categorically that the fact that one resides in Ontario, a citizen of this province and country, that entitles that citizen to adequate accommodation.
Accommodation just doesn’t happen. There is a very difficult and complicated process to go through before you can build anything in this province. I think my friends across the House should be most mindful of this fact. What has happened, of course, and I don’t want to get off the issue of the Niagara Escarpment Commission and this particular decision, but I would remind my friends that the evolution of the housing market has been such that we have priced ourselves right out of that market. Not only are we producing at such high costs that we can’t export but we can’t even now afford to buy our own domestic production when it comes to housing.
As I say, this isn’t the appropriate time to indicate just what has transpired in terms of the planning process, the sophistication and complication of that process, the flow sheets, all of the offices that one must navigate before one can get a building permit; the impact of the municipality in terms of its own planning philosophy, the manifestation of that philosophy in its zoning bylaws which is often oriented to dollar planning, question of how much assessment it could get from the development rather than ensuring that there was compatible development and housing that was satisfactory though not extravagant -- that’s another saga.
What I do say -- and the reason I stood up was to compliment the minister. I am not trying to ingratiate myself with him. What I am saying is that here is a minister who has made a decision, and I for one am particularly proud that we have a minister who has the guts in this Legislature to cut through the undergrowth, through the bureaucratic jungle, and to look at the facts of the situation and say: “Here we have a magnificent piece of geography in the Niagara Escarpment. That may be for all the people. We are not going to destroy that principle, but that is there to be enjoyed and people should be able to go there and to see it.”
I think the type of development that is contemplated in this particular decision is a development not to abuse the land but to make it available for people not only from this province but from other jurisdictions to come and enjoy the magnificent vistas and the delightful landscape of that part of Ontario. I think it is a travesty to see the distortions that do take place because of a decision made by the minister, and I want to compliment him, Mr. Chairman, in doing what he has done.
Mr. Dukszta: Can I have just a couple of questions on the same lines?
Ms. Bryden: I have a question on the same subject.
Mr. Dukszta: Then we can switch. Before I ask a question, I would like just to mention to the member for Prince Edward-Lennox that I always find his discourses fascinating for his perfect, cogent irrelevancy of the whole intervention.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: That comes from a psychiatrist’s mind, of course.
Mr. Dukszta: That wasn’t a professional opinion. It was an intellectual opinion that I gave.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: I won’t comment on the motivation that would get you into that particular --
Mr. Dukszta: I would like to know from the minister -- if we can ask him a legal question which is only partially related to it -- whether his approval was compatible with section 2 of the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, which says: “The purpose of this act is to provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and land in its vicinity substantially as a continuous natural environment and to ensure only such development occurs as to be compatible with that natural environment”?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, that is exactly the issue that is before the court.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Chairman, with due respect, I was a little taken aback by the minister’s statement that the official plan, in effect, implies that any project that proceeds under it is automatically assumed to be viable and to create employment, and to be in the best interests of the municipality. I submit that each individual undertaking within the official plan still needs a viability study to see whether it is actually going to be the kind of project that the community needs, regardless of whether the official plan would permit it to go ahead.
Also, I find it very difficult to follow the minister’s reasoning that the few conditions which he has attached to his decision to allow this project to proceed could be considered, in any sense of the word, planning. He has put in some conditions about road access and water supply, and I think sewage; but what has this to do with the preservation of the escarpment as a unique recreational area, an area that needs very special planning to preserve it for the future generations of Ontario as well as the enjoyment of the present residents and of tourists? I agree with the member for Prince Edward-Lennox that it is an area we want a great many people to enjoy, and not just a small group who are able to afford to come to a luxury hotel.
I really find it very difficult to see how the minister has fulfilled his responsibility for planning, either under the Ministry of Housing or under the Niagara Escarpment Act, which will actually preserve the escarpment in the way in which it was envisaged when the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act was passed.
However, my question is, when the minister referred to the number of cases where decisions had been made by the minister overriding the recommendations of a hearing officer, in how many of those cases were the decisions also overriding the official plan of the municipality where the project was located and also overriding the wishes of the local ratepayers’ association in that municipality? In how many cases were both those conditions present? It seems to me that it is rather rare where a ministerial decision will go against both the official plan and the strong wishes of the local ratepayers’ association. I would like to know how rare this kind of decision is.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: On the question about the approval, the difference between the minister and the hearing officer, and so on, the fact is, of 42 cases where ministers have disagreed with the hearing officer, there were 19 were the minister and the Niagara Escarpment Commission were in agreement.
As to the breakdown of those relating to local interests and municipal concerns and official plans, I haven’t got that information with me today. I would have to get it.
Mr. Cassidy: I just want to pursue some of the questions raised yesterday. I know this has already been raised by my colleague from Parkdale and that in certain of the questions I raised the minister, unlike the Premier, has decided that the sub judice rule should apply. I do note that the Premier was not similarly constrained and the way in which the Premier has been cutting this minister loose has been increasingly obvious. I would like to say that I would hope the Premier doesn’t cut loose the minister entirely, but I’m afraid I can’t say that. In fact, I rather hope this minister’s career in the cabinet very soon comes to an end.
Does the minister agree that an official plan amendment in the town of Caledon will be required before Cantrakon can go ahead with its project? If so, can he give us an estimate of how long it will take for that official plan amendment to go through all its stages, including the possibility of an appeal to the OMB and maybe an appeal to the cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I have already gone into the fact about the official plan of Caledon and how long it might be before it comes back to the Ministry of Housing for approval. It was there back in August, when the region of Peel and Caledon and several others were in because there was a difference of opinion with the Ministry of Housing on some of the verbiage in the act and some of the clauses they wanted to include in it. I think it will be back in our ministry in a relatively short period of time. My understanding as far as the specific project the opposition is discussing at this moment is concerned, is that it will not require an official plan amendment.
Mr. Cassidy: Can the minister explain how it is that the project can go forward when the area in question has been zoned rural residential, or the equivalent, both in the existing applicable official plan of the old Caledon township and in the draft official plan, as I understand it, which is now before the ministry from the town of Caledon which was created at the time of the creation of the regional municipality of Peel?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: My understanding is when the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act came in, it superseded any other act or planning matter that might be in existence in any municipality being controlled under the act, so I take it if the leader of the third party follows back that some day in the future when the final position of the escarpment is determined, and the other related information, then there will be a decision that will have to be made by cabinet and by this Legislature as to what happens to the responsibilities for the escarpment and its management from that point on. At this point, the Niagara Escarpment Act supersedes any other local planning that might be in place at this moment.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Chairman, I had a very careful look at the legislation -- I just asked the page to produce the legislation -- and the legislation makes it very, very clear, I checked this last week, that a development control order by the ministry, by the Niagara Escarpment Commission -- and that would include, I suppose, a development permit issued by the minister when he overrules the NEC -- supersedes local restricted area bylaws, that is, supersedes local zoning bylaws, but does not supersede local official plans.
I would very much like the minister to state what sections of the Niagara Escarpment Commission Act, either the original one or the amendments, give the minister and the Niagara Escarpment Commission the power to overrule local official plans, because that power, in my opinion and in the law, does not exist.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I’ll take that as notice and respond to it later on.
Mr. Cassidy: We assume that the official plan amendment is going to be required. If it were not, then after the judicial review, depending on the results of that, why Cantrakon I suppose could begin almost straight away. I have a very strong suspicion --
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, if I may just interrupt, I think that if the leader of the third party is trying to mislead this House and others, he’s doing a fine job.
Mr. M. N. Davison: You can’t make accusations like that.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: It’s very obvious that in the letter of approval that the minister --
Mr. M. N. Davison: You can’t make accusations like that.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: You know so much about it obviously. The fact is in my letter which was issued --
Mr. Cassidy: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I think the minister should withdraw that statement. I believe it’s unparliamentary.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: What did I say?
Mr. Cassidy: You cannot accuse another member of trying to mislead the House.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Mr. Minister, I believe that you said that the member may be misleading the House. I think that is unparliamentary.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Fine, I will withdraw that and say that the member, obviously through his lack of knowledge of the situation, is doing a fine job of doing that
Mr. M. N. Davison: Quit playing games.
Mr. Cassidy: Is the minister prepared to answer the question now?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I only wanted to make the one point to the leader of the third party and that is clearly this: The conditions, as I stated in the letter to the Niagara Escarpment Commission in relationship to this project, do not make it that the issuance of a permit or development is going to happen just about instantly. I think that the leader of the third party obviously, in reading those conditions, would know that there are some very extenuating conditions placed upon the developer if he is ever to get on with the project. It takes the necessary requirements of approvals from various ministries and various other local organizations as well as the conservation authorities, the local municipality and so on before he can even get to first base.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: You should have done that, Michael.
Mr. Cassidy: Can the minister give us an estimate of how long that procedure is going to take, particularly given the fact that a number of the agencies that are mentioned in those 16 or 14 conditions are, to put it mildly, less than eager to see the Niagara Escarpment violated by the sight of this particular project?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I would have absolutely no idea because it depends on the concentrated efforts the developer and others wish to place on this project at this time.
Mr. Cassidy: I’d like the minister to tell the House this: In view of the questions which have been raised, not about this project but about the specific location proposed for the project -- and when I spoke in the House on Friday I outlined those very clearly using documentation which had been before the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the hearing officer when they made their decision -- in view of the concerns about the siting of the project, and in view of the fact that these court hearings now under way may take a lengthy amount of time, that an official plan amendment, which I’m pretty sure is required, will take a period of 18 months to two years at a minimum if local people use their rights, which are there, to go before the Ontario Municipal Board and use the other stages that are available to them, is the minister prepared, either personally or through his officials, to bring together the interested parties, the local ratepayers, the local council, the escarpment commission people, his own ministry and Cantrakon in order to find an acceptable site on some of the 2,000 acres owned or controlled by Cantrakon and its partners on which the project could go forward without violating the Niagara Escarpment?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, this is an interesting suggestion and I would certainly not refuse it out of hand, except that I would want to have some legal counsel as to whether it infringes upon the case that’s at present before the courts.
Mr. Cassidy: Would the minister be prepared to undertake to block or stop the siting of the Cantrakon project in its presently proposed location in order that another location can be found, either beginning now or, if he’s worried about the court case, as soon as the court case is concluded, in order that the jobs can be created in the near future rather than the distant future without violating the escarpment?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I don’t know of any powers that the minister has to block it at this time, so the answer would obviously have to be no.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Chairman, does the minister not agree that in fact he has a good deal of power of moral suasion in this particular case; that he has a great deal of power in terms of expediting or delaying the various approvals that remain to be undertaken before Cantrakon can go forward? Does he not further agree that the judicial proceedings that are now under way would vanish virtually overnight if there were a clear commitment by the ministry to stop the project from violating the escarpment where it is right now, while finding another acceptable location in the same general area?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I don’t accept the leader of the third party’s views that it would stop proceedings instantly or anywhere close to it. There are certain legal rights, I suppose, that the individuals have now as a result of the development permit authorization. I would be hard pressed to believe that just because my friend opposite thinks it should be stopped, some of those out in the free-enterprise world are going to drop dead as a result of whatever decision he thinks I should make. As I said earlier, under the act I know of no authority vested in me to withdraw the decision, nor do I intend to.
Mr. Cassidy: If I can pursue this, the minister doesn’t seem to understand or have any grasp of the breadth of powers that he in fact has. If he says he doesn’t have the legal power to withdraw, obviously he has the legal power to come into this Legislature with legislation. But I would suggest that is an extreme case.
Without having had any personal acquaintance with the principals of this particular project, I would have thought that if they heard from the ministry that the minister himself was prepared to expedite this project by finding an acceptable location with which they could live and with which the local people could live, that would be welcomed by that particular company rather than being opposed.
Does the minister not see the kind of provocation he’s giving to people in the area, in addition to the violation of the escarpment, which is raising so much concern across the province? The answer is obviously that the minister does not.
Perhaps I can proceed to the third question I wanted to ask, Mr. Chairman. The rationale that has been offered for allowing this development permit to go forward is economic benefits in this area. The fact that Cantrakon at no time has insisted that it has to have this particular site, but has merely insisted that it wanted quiet, cloister-like surroundings somewhere within easy reach of a major metropolitan centre like Toronto and within reach of the airport doesn’t seem to have moved the minister at all.
We’re very concerned over that argument around economic benefits when it comes to the escarpment. Prior to the introduction of the Niagara Escarpment Act, however bad that act may be, there had been eight years of effort and studies and pressure in order to preserve the Niagara Escarpment against its exploitation by people who put economic benefits ahead of a scenic resource and an environmental resource that is irreplaceable. Does the minister intend, when future applications come before him, to permit residential development, quarries, hotels or industrial development anywhere on the escarpment on the grounds that economic benefits would thereby ensue?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Very simply, Mr. Chairman, I will deal with each application as it comes before me and look at the conditions that are there and try to arrive at the most logical and sensible decision on behalf of 8.5 million people in Ontario. That’s the only answer I can give you at this time.
I can tell you that in the past there have been a number of applications come to me where there have been, I think, hardship situations being encountered by individuals. While some have not agreed with the approval, I have sanctioned the approval of the particular permits. I want to say to this House clearly and distinctly the responsibility is vested in the minister to make a final decision in relationship to those applications which have been before a hearing officer and are now before the minister, and I will judge them on their merits and rule accordingly.
Mr. Cassidy: In the opinion of the minister, is the Cantrakon approval not a precedent that will allow further violations of the Niagara Escarpment?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: No, it is not. I suppose it can be related to the question, “Have you stopped heating your wife?” Regardless of which way you go, you’re obviously going to be committing a crime by appearances. I explained to this House earlier this afternoon -- I think I explained it before this afternoon -- that among the decisions that have been rendered by Ministers of Housing over the last number of years since the Niagara Escarpment Commission came into being, there have been 42 appeals that have been approved by ministers that were not in keeping with the recommendation of the hearing officer. As I said earlier, of those 42 there were 19 cases where the NEC and the minister agreed. I don’t think the particular project you’re speaking of this afternoon any more sets the situation or the tempo than the other 41 that we have dealt with.
Mr. Cassidy: The cases that have come before the ministry for the most part have been cases such as the bungalow that the minister’s predecessor refused precisely on the grounds that to permit it in an exposed area of the escarpment would set an undesirable precedent. A case like that, involving one house, a project of maybe $50,000 or $60,000, is surely different in scale and in kind from a project of 160,000 square feet and $16 million. Would the minister not agree that anybody in the future who wishes to propose a development that will violate the escarpment will be able to point to the fact that Cantrakon got away with a $16 million project and therefore anything smaller should be allowed to go forward?
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Don’t talk nonsense. That’s drivel and you know it.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: They can point to whatever they want to point to but still the decision will be mine and I will render it according to the information that is before me.
Mr. Johnson: Mr. Chairman, I would like to speak briefly on this. I debated this on Friday, especially with the leader of the third party. I am very concerned because it is in my riding and I was accused by the leader of the third party that I shouldn’t be that interested in my own riding. I just can’t understand his attitude. He agrees that the Cantrakon proposal is a good development, that it’s something we should have, but we should look for another location. I don’t know whether he has anything against my particular riding or not -- maybe it’s because of the escarpment --
Mr. Makarchuk: How are you making out with the bridge?
Mr. Johnson: -- but a project like this has to be in an area that has something to sell. I understand there is one in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal that is quite acceptable. This isn’t going to be the type of project that is going to destroy the escarpment; it can enhance it.
I made a special trip last Friday afternoon to drive over to the site to take a look at what was there and how it would affect the area. On the particular road, there were two horses and one dog. There is very little activity. There are a few millionaires. Of course, I can see they’d be concerned at having any type of intrusion.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Cassidy’s people.
Mr. Johnson: There are 22,000 people in Caledon and there are a lot of jobs involved. I know the opposition feels that 160 jobs really doesn’t mean that much, but it does to the people I represent and the assessment means a lot.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: That’s the NDP, champion of the millionaires.
Mr. Johnson: The one thing we have to remember is that if this project is going to be successful it has to be in a scenic area. It has to be one that attracts people. You can’t build it in a swamp or a marsh, or up in Moosonee.
Mr. Bradley: Tell that to the members from Cochrane.
Mr. Johnson: It’s close to Malton; it’s 12 or 15 miles from Malton so there will be easy access for the tourist, and hopefully it will bring in a lot of tourist dollars. It’s within 30 or 40 miles of Metro, and again that should attract the people from the city. If we are interested in tourism as well as industry, which we are supposed to be, this seems to serve both tourism and industry. If we could build this complex some place else other than on the escarpment and serve the same purpose, possibly it should go there.
Mr. Cassidy: An excellent suggestion. If you could convince the minister, we would have no problem at all.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: It is only a problem in your estimation.
Mr. Cassidy: The member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel agrees to moving it to a suitable location.
Mr. Johnson: It is awfully difficult to tell an industry where it is going to locate. I served in my community on an industrial committee for many years. I found it extremely difficult for an industry to come to a community on terms we could tell them exactly where they were to go. They seemed to feel they had some right to decide on a location that suited them. We had to compete with 20, 30 or 40 municipalities for every industry we were able to pick up.
Mr. Cassidy: You don’t find industry moving into Forest Hill here in Toronto. Why is it difficult in Caledon?
Mr. Johnson: I didn’t interrupt you and I would appreciate if you would give me the same courtesy.
I don’t think we can go to Cantrakon and tell them where they have to locate. If they didn’t pick this site, they might have picked one, as I mentioned on Friday, in Vermont or New Hampshire or one of the northern states, and we would be without this.
I don’t think any member of this Legislature would really seriously want to see us lose a project of this nature. I can honestly say in my opinion I don’t think it is going to harm the Niagara Escarpment one bit if they follow the minister’s instructions. If the project is compatible and built in such a way as their plans indicate, it will be an asset to the escarpment.
When I drove over the road last Friday I passed over a river and on the river there were a dozen signs saying “No Fishing” and “No Trespassing.” You can’t do anything.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: No people.
Mr. Johnson: And no people. This is the problem in that area. It is controlled by a few wealthy individuals who want to keep it as their private preserve. I can’t blame them for that
Mr. Bradley: Wealthy Tories.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: And the NDP are their advocates.
Mr. Johnson: It is a natural human instinct, but it a very selfish instinct. We have to think of the interest of all the people involved. All the small communities in that area should benefit by this complex.
I fully support the minister’s approval of the project and I hope that most of the members here will look at it in a way other than simply a matter of being another building on the escarpment.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Let the record show the leader of the NDP left the House. He has fled. He has flown from the onslaught.
Mr. M. N. Davison: These Housing estimates have been tremendously interesting. We heard a lot of talk in the past week about the minister’s attempts to get rid of his own ministry. As much as I would like to comment on that, I am going to resist the temptation.
Mr. Bradley: Nominations have closed in Ottawa.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I am positively certain that if it came right down to it the Premier would have the fine sense to do away with the minister and not the ministry.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: That was below the belt. That is not like you.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The estimates have been rather interesting in another way. The opposition parties, especially on this particular issue and others, have been putting a lot of tough, down-to-earth questions to the minister and he has been responding with a lot of non-answers. I would like to ask, not a controversial question, but rather a couple of fairly simple, easy questions, to which I would appreciate receiving some sort of simple, easy and hopefully positive response.
The questions I have are related to the Ontario home renewal program in a sense. The justice committee was sitting over the past several weeks dealing with changes to the Condominium Act. Throughout those hearings, a number of problems came to the attention of members of the committee in regard to condominiums in states of physical disrepair. In view of those problems that were presented before the justice committee and in view of an article that appeared even today, the latest article in today’s Globe and Mail, I am wondering if the minister can provide same answers for us?
I won’t deal with all of the cases that came before the justice committee.
Let me recall for the minister though a couple of problems using the example that appeared in the newspaper today with York Condominium Corporation 46. It’s called Caledon Village, a 744-unit combination of highrise and townhouses. The building came on stream and was sold off six years ago to the owners. That project currently has a deficit of $250,000 and the corporation has not one penny by way of reserve fund to provide the repairs needed in the building. Some of the problems that they faced in terms of common elements and some of the costs were $120,000 spent on brick restoration and window caulking and $160,000 for roof repairs within the corporation’s common elements.
As the members know, we passed legislation by way of amendments to the Condominium Act some short time ago which brought to the corporation the capacity to put a lien against unit owners who had not met their share of the expenses. In that particular corporation, there are liens applied to about 600 of the 744 units. Already the building has got something like 40 units that have just been left abandoned by their owners. So the members can see by way of that example the real trouble that that particular corporation is in and the real trouble that other corporations are in.
If the minister would like some more examples, feel free to talk to your colleague, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea) or his predecessor, the current Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman), or indeed to myself or members of the justice committee. We can provide you with many examples of buildings in similar problems.
That particular building was built by some really great development company by the name of Greenwin Developments. The legislation in place at that time and that has come on stream since, such as the New Home Warranties Act, the altered Condominium Act and numbers of others, don’t provide the kind of relief that those people need in that corporation.
If people were in a similar problem, in a similar situation in terms of the traditional single-family home, there would be a recourse open through your ministry and that’s the Ontario Home Renewal Program. That program provides per capita grants to the municipalities, which on behalf of the province administer the program in each organized community. People are eligible to receive them if the income in the household is under I believe $12,500.
That’s true in this particular corporation and it’s true in a lot of others. In York Condominium Corporation 46 I believe only something like 10 per cent of the owners have an annual income in excess of $12,000, so you can see that they would easily meet that requirement. According to your ministry reports, the grants are available for the repair of faulty structural and sanitary conditions and the upgrading of the plumbing, heating, insulation and electrical system of the residences.
These people are caught in a catch 22, as it were -- and it’s one I suspect that wasn’t envisaged when your ministry, through the community renewal branch, brought forward this fairly good program, the Ontario Home Renewal Program -- and that is this, that while they are owners and occupiers of single-family residential homes, as it were, the only way in which they can apply for the assistance through the program is for repairs within the four walls of the unit because that is the extent of, as it were, the personal residential ownership.
If I could give you an example just to show you why that isn’t good enough for the condominium corporations, let’s take plumbing. Most of the plumbing in a condominium, especially in a highrise, is not within a specific unit. People don’t usually need large loans to fix a small leak under the sink; they can usually handle that themselves. But when the entire plumbing system on one side of the building starts to go, they are not eligible to receive assistance through the program. That is, in fact, where the money is needed in the corporation, for those kinds of problems.
What I would like the minister to do is two things: First, I would like him to make whatever alterations are necessary in the program, legislatively or otherwise, so that a condominium corporation can be recognized as a body eligible to receive assistance from the program. All the corporation is, is the sum of the unit owners. I think if the minister can make that simple, logical jump, he can see the rationale for the request.
Secondly, if the minister would do that, because he would be perhaps opening a fairly small Pandora’s box in terms of problems, I would like a commitment from him that the money that is in the program would be expanded. Last year, 1977-78, the minister allowed and funded grants totalling something like $23 million. It seems to me quite sensible that if we were to expand it into the condominium sector we would have to put some more money in it.
Those are the two commitments I would like from the minister: (1) to change the situation so that a condominium corporation would be eligible for assistance; and (2) that an appropriate amount of money would be added to the Ontario Home Renewal Program funding so that we could assist those people who desperately need assistance in the condominium sector, without hurting those people for whom the program was originally designed.
If the minister could respond positively to those two questions, it would be appreciated.
Mr. Chairman: Just before the minister answers, it appears to me that this should come under vote 2102.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Mr. Chairman, I am aware of that. There is a problem. I talked earlier with the ministry staff, and they weren’t able to deal with the problem at the time. I don’t know if they have had a chance to talk to the minister about that concern. If they hadn’t, I especially wanted to give the minister some advance notice in the House that that was a real issue and a real concern. It may be that he is now prepared to answer, and I would be quite happy to hear the answer. If not, I would be willing to wait to hear the response in another vote.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Even though it should come under the next vote, I suppose it is well that we try to keep some consistency in the answers relating to the questions. I might say, Mr. Chairman, that the member for Hamilton Centre did pose the question to the people in the Ministry of Housing about whether we could extend the Ontario Home Renewal Program to cover condominium aspects in the province. There are some problems.
The member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) and others have written to me saying that the 20 million we have this year for the home renewal program in the estimates is not sufficient and they would like to see that expanded considerably. I suppose that is a very common expression of opinion I get from members from all sides of the House -- indeed, from mayors, reeves and others in the municipalities -- that it would be great if we could expand this program. It is one of the programs that has likely had a fairly high visibility and a very direct application in improving the housing stock across the province, especially in some of the smaller municipalities.
But there are some problems in trying to be as general as the member for Hamilton Centre has invited us to be. Not all condominiums happen to be occupied by the owner; we do have quite a number of rental condominium units in the province today where people have bought units, now have them on the rental market, and have had for a number of years.
I am not going to go into the specific one that is in the press today, other than to say that we are aware, in a very general sense of the word, that across this province there is a lack of good management skills, even among the largest development companies and property owners in this province, in maintaining buildings not only from the point of view of financing but also as regards management and so on.
The Ministry of Housing in the last year or two has been participating in the institute of Housing Management, which is to afford an opportunity to people in the private sector, individuals, to take the course and become better qualified and eventually have a diploma that will indicate they have some expertise.
However, there are a couple of problems. I point out to the members of this House that if you start dealing with condominiums, as the member for Hamilton Centre said, the program would take into account any repairs or upgrading necessary within the four walls, known as the individual unit the party has purchased, provided that it falls under the municipality’s residential standards bylaw. That must be accommodated first. It must be the municipality’s considered opinion, with their bylaw and the residential standards in place, that this unit does not meet those municipal standards.
The regulations have provisions for adjusted family income. I trust the member for Hamilton Centre and others will know that means “income from all sources of the principal wage earner of a family and his or her spouse during the 12 months immediately preceding the date of the application for a loan or during the preceding calendar year, whichever is the greater after deducting therefrom,” and it goes on, “earnings of the spouse up to $1,000 to enter for each dependent child.” You can see there are still other conditions, unless you’re suggesting, and I surely hope you’re not, that we waive all these conditions.
If you get into a condominium, the only thing the individual owns in a true sense by his title, is his unit. The others are by common ownership vested in the condominium corporation’s name. I gather what the member for Hamilton Centre is saying is that the roof, the swimming pool, major plumbing and heating, windows that have to be changed in a given unit, should fall under the Ontario Home Renewal Program. I’m saying there are a great number of difficulties in trying to be as general as the member for Hamilton Centre would like us to be. You can’t use just the condominium you picked out today as being the only example. There are lots across this province that likely need some major repairs. But I don’t think it would be far wrong to say that some people in that building are going to be far in excess of the $12,500 annual income, which would disqualify them under any other condition, particularly if they were single-family home-ownership situations where the income collectively, or adjusted family income, exceeds the $12,500.
I understand what the member is asking for. We certainly can look at the program, but I can point out to you some of the problems we’re going to encounter that I doubt very much are going to meet with the acceptance of some members of this House. I also want to be very cautious in saying to you that when we have $20 million, which is up from roughly $18 million a year ago, and I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say that I doubt very much we’re going to see much more in excess of $20 million in the year 1979-80 it’s straining the program to expand the limits, as the member for Hamilton Centre has said.
We’re not talking about a $7,500 loan. We’re talking about an accumulation of a loan that will be considerably greater than that and would deplete the amount of dollars we’re able to give to municipalities much more rapidly than they are now, reducing the number of units at the same time, that is, individual, single-family home occupied units that we’re presently able to entertain as a result of application to the municipality.
We can look at it and tell the member for Hamilton Centre and others exactly as we see it at the moment. I wouldn’t want to go any further on it. I would give you no assurance we’re going to implement it because I’d have to have some idea of what we’re talking about in cost.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I’m not going to engage in a lengthy series of questions and non-answers with the minister, which is what this would lead to as it has with other issues in this debate so far. But let me tell you, sir, there is a real problem there. It’s not good enough to say, “We’ve only got $20 million or $23 million or $18 million for all housing.” If you go into an area into which you have not gone before which would require additional funding, you’re sticking your head in the sand if that’s your attitude. Your approach today has not been terribly positive on behalf of the government.
Finally, let me tell you this: when your government brought in legislation to create this type of housing 10 years ago, I don’t think you fully considered all the problems. It’s because of the inadequacy of your own government’s legislation and your own government’s actions in the past decade that we have problems like the ones at York Condominium Corporation 46. It’s not because of bad management. It’s because you guys didn’t do your job. It’s that simple.
I think you, as the Minister of Housing, have a responsibility here to step in and help out these poor people who are in this terrible trouble because of your own inactivity. If you can’t agree on that, not only should you not be the Minister of Housing, but your party shouldn’t be the government.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: We seem to have deviated from the estimates in considering this item. But basically, the way the member for Hamilton Centre has put it, there are two specific issues with which he has confronted the minister. One is changing the program so that its application will relate to corporations of a condominium nature. I presume he would confine the eligibility to condominium corporations only. There could be other corporations: there could be cooperatives; there could be rental apartment buildings and so on --
Mr. M. N. Davison: We have a program for rentals.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: -- but it’s a question of changing the direction so that the program would apply to other than a single family home ownership. That’s a gigantic leap. I can see inherent in that all kinds of problems, because even in a condominium corporation you could have a majority of the units purchased with a view to rental.
Mr. M. N. Davison: We have a rental program.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: I know. But we’re talking about the change of thrust here. If you’re going to go to rental propositions, you could go to the privately-owned apartment buildings where the owner could apply for some assistance to ensure that his plumbing --
Mr. M. N. Davison: They have such a program.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: -- and other services around the apartment are brought up to scratch, which he feels he can’t do because there’s not an economic return on his investment. That’s quite a change in direction, if we’re going to get into that. I see you’re in a very pensive mood, Mr. Chairman, and I think you perceive the tremendous leap if we’re going to get into that kind of government-sponsored program.
The reason I would hesitate -- and I would ask my friend from Hamilton Centre to think about this -- is that he’s zeroed in on some specific problems and given some examples. These are very live, real situations. There are families there that get up in the morning and wash and shave and have breakfast and get into the rat race and sweat it out all day. They may not carry the lunch bucket and beat the traffic home at night -- and usually they’re way out from the centre of the city where their jobs are. They get back to their unit and have some supper and maybe read a little bit of the paper and see a little television and brush their teeth and go to bed -- and then do the same thing tomorrow. These are the ordinary families that are just striving to pay for the television set and to put the rug on the floor.
What has happened is that there is a condominium concept which really has encouraged them to buy a piece of Canada -- even though that piece of Canada is a piece of air on the 31st floor in a high-rise apartment building. They want an interest. They want to own their own home and that’s their living unit.
The trouble is that when they enter into that type of an arrangement, a condominium apartment unit, they can’t do their own maintenance and the kind of thing they would be doing at home. They would be cutting their own grass and they would be turning over their own flower beds. They’d be doing the pruning. Mr. Chairman, I see that you’re particularly interested in the type of chores that a home owner gets involved in.
Mr. Makarchuk: How about pruning that member?
Mr. J. A. Taylor: He has to do the painting on the outside of the house as well as the inside, fix the eavestroughs, repair the roof and wash the windows. He does all of these things himself. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t afford to get anybody else to do it. Who is he going to get and what is the cost going to be for that single-family dweller to hire a firm or people to come and do that kind of work for him?
Once he gets into a condominium corporation, he has to pay for someone else to do that because these are the common elements and the corporation has to have an agreement for maintenance of these common elements. He’s paying usually in excess of $100 a month to have someone else do the work that he really can’t afford, if he owns a single-family house, to have somebody else do for him.
I think he may not appreciate what comes with that condominium corporation. Of course, it’s only natural for a person who isn’t well off and has a family to raise and hungry mouths to feed to try to cut as many corners as he can and to live as economically as he can. They take over the management of their building. They try to spend as little as possible. They try to keep their common expenses down.
In some cases, there’s been shoddy workmanship. I think my friends across the House will agree that in many cases you have these buildings that are erected as a sales proposition by the owner. They were not too concerned as to how long the plumbing would last or even what kind of plumbing it was or about other features or elements of the building. It was a matter of getting in and getting out, taking your dollars --
Mr. M. N. Davison: Don’t tell me, tell him.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: -- and turning it over and getting on with another one. I must say that I’m not here to indict the entire construction industry --
Mr. M. N. Davison: The minister isn’t listening.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: -- because I think they’re trying to do something to clean up their own operations. But there has been shoddy workmanship and it’s been right here. It’s the kind of thing that you expect to see in other countries.
Mr. Makarchuk: It’s this government that permitted that shoddy workmanship.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Sure, it’s here. As a matter of fact, many years ago it started in the communist countries where they didn’t have any interest.
Mr. Makarchuk: It’s still going on there. How come you follow all the bad ideas from the communist countries?
Mr. J. A. Taylor: I’ve watched them build in those eastern countries where there wasn’t the pride in workmanship. It wasn’t just the question of cost and making a buck. It was that they just didn’t have the pride of workmanship. They couldn't care less. They had this type of construction which we should not tolerate in this wonderful land of ours. It so happens that there are specific situations, that my friend mentioned, where people who can’t afford to pay for the reconstruction almost, in some cases, of the building that they’ve bought. I sincerely sympathize with the plight of those people, but I really don’t think that this is the route to do it. Maybe we could find some way of sorting out those situations and ensure that they don’t happen again. I think that’s important. I question, Mr. Chairman, and I see by the frown on your forehead that you question, the wisdom of the suggestion of the member for Hamilton Centre as well.
Mr. Makarchuk: He’s getting hungry.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: That’s the one thing.
Mr. Makarchuk: The hungrier he gets the more intolerant he becomes.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: If we’re careful and if we look at this problem in another light, it may be that we won’t have to pursue it and that we can get into a program that actually worked very well within the parameters defined by the Minister of Housing.
Mr. M. N. Davison: He’s using it for rental buildings.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: I know what you are saying, but I really feel that you are going to get into a situation that was never envisaged because of the specific problems that confront some of these condominium corporations. The program now, Mr. Minister -- I think you know and we all know -- is working exceedingly well and is especially recognized in the smaller communities.
In the area I represent -- the town of Napanee, for example, and the township of Ameliasburgh -- there are a number of communities in my riding that have utilized this program and have had nothing but praise for the program. We would all like to see more money, but I think it’s a matter of being sensible. I think we have to acknowledge that we have to be most careful in public spending, and while we all want more I think we have to be responsible in our decisions. I know that the Minister of Housing is. I know that he is keen to amplify programs that are popular and that achieve what they were set out to achieve and that are successful.
I merely wanted to comment that while I appreciate the problems enunciated by my friend from Hamilton Centre and sympathize with the people, not so much with him but with the people who may have even been victimized and having to live with that dreadful situation, I think there might be a different approach than to distort the principles of this particular program.
Mr. Makarchuk: I would like to touch on this thing. Following from the rather profound speech of the member for Prince Edward-Lennox on the fact that the minister should amplify this particular program, what I am concerned about is that the minister earlier said there’s $20 million or whatever it is that will be spent this year and the same amount of money will be spent next year and the year after.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: No, I didn’t say hereafter. I was only referring to next year. You have gone two years down the road, which I haven’t.
Mr. Makarchuk: All right, but you are, in effect, not amplifying the program and you are allocating sort of a similar amount of money next year as you did the year before.
I think we have to look at this program from a couple of points of view. The one point, of course, is the fact that it does provide money to replace or keep in repair older homes. When you are getting out of the low- cost housing field, and the ministry seems to be heading in that direction, then at least one would look at you and would assume that perhaps what you would be doing is to try to provide money to preserve and improve existing housing stock. You are not doing that.
The $20 million you intend to provide for this program is totally inadequate. It creates administrative problems. It raises false hopes in municipalities. You allocate the money on the basis of the population per capita, but you don’t tell them that, in effect, they do not get all of the money. What you do is give them a certain portion of the funding and then you say: “Okay, the rest of the money is gone. Therefore, you are not going to get any more.”
What you have, in effect, is a sort of a start-and-stop program. The municipality gears itself up to run this program, it gets the applications, the people make their application to get the contractors, they go through the estimates, the paperwork is done and there it sits for the simple reason that the minister and this department do not have the money. I would like to see the minister -- and this is something that the previous Minister of Housing, the late John Rhodes, acknowledged, the fact that this is one of the good programs, probably the only program that this government has come up with that is really of benefit to people and to small businesses.
When the program initially got started, I know in my own community I watched many small businessmen, particularly contractors who, because of the program, managed to build up reasonable businesses. They managed to acquire new equipment; it put them on their feet as small contractors who were able to go out and operate. It is one of those kind of programs, really sort of a buy-Canadian program -- in fact you could call it a buy-Ontarian program, because the people you employ in this kind of program are generally unskilled labourers who ordinarily would be out collecting either welfare or receiving unemployment insurance. The goods and the materials that you use, most of them if not all of them are produced in Ontario; it is the kind of a program that puts money into the economy and keeps it circulating.
I think the minister is at fault, and in fact inadequate, if his response to the Treasury Board is to accept the $20 million and that’s it. I would suggest to the minister that if he went and made his case, as he should, and pointed out the fact that he is not going into low-cost housing -- not saying it is not necessary, it is very necessary -- but if he is not going to do that then the least he could do is expand this program, as well as the RRAP program, the neighbourhood improvement programs -- and I understand the complications that are involved there because you are tied into the federal government -- but to expand this particular program to ensure that there is at least three or four times the funding available to the program than what is available there now. That will give the municipalities an opportunity to do the things in terms of their housing, in terms of the older housing -- to improve that housing, to make it livable; and also it helps the people who really specifically cannot afford at this time to repair their own housing. If they can’t afford it, what happens is that the housing degenerates and they have to move out. In many cases the municipal authorities have to request the government to provide senior citizens’ housing or low cost housing because the housing that could be in good condition is not livable any more. In effect I think that from that point of view, again the costs are much higher because you have to go and build new housing, when in effect you could keep the existing housing operating and going.
I would like to hear the minister’s comments. Is he prepared to make that kind of submission to the Treasury Board to ensure that we do get the funding for this program that I think it deserves?
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Mr. Chairman, before the minister responds, may I just comment on that?
Mr. Makarchuk: Are you bucking for his job?
Mr. J. A. Taylor: As I indicated, I haven’t seen any criticism, really, of this program. We’d all like to see more money, but what I fear is that we are going to use a good program, if we follow your advice, as an economic prime. What you are suggesting is that in rather unsatisfactory economic times it is necessary to prime the pump. That is the history of the federal housing program. I would be very concerned indeed, if, because of current economic conditions, we took a program and we infused more money into it just as a mode of increasing our employment or doing something for some other reason.
Mr. Makarchuk: I wonder if the minister would answer.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: I think it is important to repair older homes; I think as long as people can own their own homes they should. I agree with the honourable member when he talks about unemployment --
Mr. Makarchuk: I am worried about you agreeing with me.
M. J. A. Taylor: Sure we should get them off the welfare rolls and onto the payrolls, no question about that.
Mr. Makarchuk: Then why are you putting them on welfare rolls?
Mr. J. A. Taylor: And I don’t think that people would rather be on welfare.
Mr. Makarchuk: You guys are the biggest welfare makers in the country.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: I think we have to take these steps. People don’t want a handout; they want a hand up.
Mr. Makarchuk: That’s right; give them a chance to work.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: We can do that.
Mr. Makarchuk: But you are not.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: But again, what is going to happen is that you will infuse money into a good program just to prime the economic pump. Then, as I say, you are into the same type of philosophy that you have at the federal government level; no real housing philosophy --
Mr. Makarchuk: You are not infusing anything, you are just confusing.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: -- merely an economic tool to put money in when it is suitable to do so and not to do so when it is not.
Mr. Haggerty: Your provincial colleagues are partners on that; -- they are partners on the federal program.
Mr. Makarchuk: I wonder if the minister could answer.
Mr. M. N. Davison: He already did.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: First of all, to my colleagues in the House I have to tell you that I’ve been most pleased with the supportive position members of all parties have taken on this program; in the verbal positions they have taken in supporting it and in increasing the dollar allocation to it. I should also say to the members that the way municipalities have responded, the way we’ve been able to get the unorganized territories and some of the units in that particular area of our province upgraded as a result of the Ontario Home Renewal Program is very rewarding. I said, before the member for Brantford came in, that in my estimation this is likely one of the most visible, productive programs we have in government for trying to restore the housing stock in Ontario.
When the program was first introduced about 1974 it was estimated that there were 100,000 units or thereabouts in the province that had to be upgraded. Today we have given loans through municipalities to roughly 26,500-odd units. So somewhere between 23 per cent and 25 per cent of what we thought was the housing stock that had to be improved or upgraded has been achieved.
Mr. Haggerty: All we need now is less red tape.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mind you, some of them are still being worked on at this time. Six hundred and seventeen municipalities have participated.
In the current year, $20 million has been completely distributed to 411 municipalities in our province. That accounts to date for a total of $82,281,000 for municipalities. There is another $4½ million roughly that went into unorganized territories. Coming to the rental program the total allocation -- and there were only 39 municipalities that participated and I think Welland was likely the most positive one of the bunch -- was roughly $4 million. As I said, there has been a total allocation since 1974 of $91 million.
Twenty million dollars is a figure that likely could be increased somewhat but there are some concerns about increasing it. The concerns have not only been expressed by the minister but by some of the smaller municipalities because they realize that if they get many more projects or houses going in some communities, the work force wouldn’t come from within the community they represent, but would likely come from outside because there would be a greater drawing situation. Whether that’s true or not, I can only say that’s an expression given by some of the mayors and the reeves that I have spoken with.
I will compliment the member for Brantford because his municipality to date has participated in roughly $800,000 in home renewal and I think Brantford has likely been one of the more aggressive communities in the province to be first off the mark and first with its application each and every year.
As to the future of the program, my recommendations will go forward to my colleagues in cabinet as to what we think is the necessary funding to make this program achieve the goal that we originally set out to conquer -- and that was 100,000 units improved -- and the speed at which we should try to do it. We are keeping in mind very carefully in the ministry that some of the costs that we are incurring in the rehabilitation of homes are rising, but I don’t think it’s an opportune time to start changing all the standards or all the regulations that would allow one to participate in the program, because it even goes further and further to not doing for some of the smaller communities, from a dollar point of view, that which I think is essential in developing the units they have in their community.
The last point I’ll make is to indicate that the rental program was only tried for a relatively short period of time, because outside of the 39 municipalities I have mentioned -- even in those 39 the interest was not that great. They found far too many difficulties in trying to put the funding out and sometimes difficulty in trying to persuade those in the rental market to entertain the types of conditions the municipality wished to impose upon them for the loan they were being granted.
I will just indicate clearly, as I said earlier this afternoon -- the member for Hamilton Centre said $23 million. He was correct inasmuch as it was $18 million, and then in a supplementary estimate last year an additional $5 million was granted to that particular program. At this moment, we have $20 million in our estimates and whether there will be further allocations time will tell.
Mr. M. N. Davison: If it’s good enough for rental and individual houses, it should be good enough for condominiums.
Mr. Makarchuk: Mr. Chairman, I want to point out to the minister that one of the reasons Brantford got off to a good start on this program is that when the current member for Brantford was on his sabbatical he was in charge of the program and he managed to get it off the ground before anyone else in the province.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Congratulations.
Mr. Makarchuk: Anyway, I question some of your assumptions, especially that you are going to be concerned that people will come from outside the community to work in order to apply this program. Surely you have no qualms or no quarrels about creating jobs and you have no quarrel if people from adjoining communities or somewhere else come in and work if local work isn’t available. That is not a problem.
The other point is there is no need at this time to change any standards in how you apply this money because, in effect, every community, or any sizable community in Ontario, has a backlog or should have a backlog at this time of applications sitting on the desk of the people who administer the program in each municipality waiting for the funding to come in.
I wish to emphasize again that I believe that it is a philosophy we should embrace. The government should be actively involved in managing the economy and ensuring that there is work, but you are not very imaginative in your programs. In fact, you are very dull in trying to come up with anything reasonable or anything to get people back to work. This is one of the programs that is available to you. All it really requires is for the Minister of Housing to extricate about two or three times as much funding out of the Treasury Board, and I can assure you the unemployment rate in Ontario would probably be cut by about a percentage point.
I don’t think you could find a more efficient way of using funding to create jobs than this program right now, taking into account the mental constraints and the flat earth school of economics that you people preach over there.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I was saying there was some concern by municipalities and local councils as to the effect, if they had more money, of what might happen as far as the work force of that particular community. I didn’t say that I actually accepted that concern. That was an expression given to us.
The reason I mentioned the change in regulations, was that the member for Hamilton Centre was indicating that we should expand it into the condominium market, which is a whole new market that had never been touched at this time by this program. It would take some changes in the regulations obviously because there are some income earners within those condominiums whose incomes would far exceed the income position set by the regulations. If you start changing those then you must also, I would think, make it applicable and change it in the private single-family homeowner unit where some upgrading or refurbishing must be done.
We realize there are municipalities which would like to have had a great deal more money out of this program in the current year. Some have been critical about the allocation of funding. We felt that every municipality should be given a chance at the $20 million; it shouldn’t be the cities of Toronto, Ottawa, London, Hamilton, Brantford and the bigger ones that should come in and virtually take up every dollar that would be in the funding program. There should be some capacity in the program for each municipality, regardless of the size, to participate.
Mr. Makarchuk: Increase the funding.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: We went through with the first allocation and then we said to the municipalities; “This is the first allocation but do not exceed the dollars granted by the province of Ontario.” The second time around, when we could see how much money would be left, we went back on a reallocation to some of the municipalities which indicated clearly they could use it. I think that is the important thing. It is not to be saved, it is to be used.
We wanted to be shown positively that the funding we would extend to them through the Ontario Home Renewal Program would actually get on stream and would not be there to be saved up in their reserve account for a period of time. That allocation of funds has really been to try to satisfy applications that are on hand, I think the member is absolutely right. Brantford is one of the municipalities which has built up a list on a priority basis through the municipality. If I understand it correctly, that list would indicate who comes next, not just who made the application next, but who is in greatest need.
That is exactly what this province and this ministry has been encouraging the other municipalities to do so that we have a better use of the fund and that the housing stock that was what we considered to be on the lower end would be done as quickly as possible.
Mr. Makarchuk: Are you going to give them more money, if I can be parochial?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Without going into the specifics, I could tell you I have made certain representations.
Mr. Epp: I want to speak on a new subject.
Mr. Swart: I just have two minutes on this subject.
Mr. Epp: Okay, then I will start at 8 o’clock then, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Swart: I hadn’t intended to speak on this general vote, but I will after the minister gave the concern of municipalities as one of the reasons for not providing more funding. He indicated the municipal councils were concerned that if they got more money it might mean labour would be enticed in from outside their own municipalities. I just want to state that from my contact with municipal people -- and I have several with municipal associations -- any such reason is infinitesimal. The general feeling of the municipalities is that they want much more funding than they are getting.
As the minister knows, a municipality doesn’t have to apply for it just because the funds are available. If they think it is going to attract a contractor from outside the municipality, then they just don’t need to get the money. Many municipalities, including all the cities in the Niagara Peninsula -- although some of them haven’t developed this priority list to the extent that the city of Welland has, nor the city of Thorold -- would like to use double the amount of money. They have applied for double the amount of money which is available to them this year.
My colleague from Brantford and others have stated that it is about as good an employment incentive program as you can get. The member for Prince Edward-Lennox endeavours to imply that housing shouldn’t be used as a labour incentive program. The simple facts are that repair of these houses would continue afterwards. We are just saying that you don’t use it primarily as a labour incentive program. You use it primarily because the need is there. But at a time when there is such massive unemployment, we suggest that it should proceed and suggest that the funding has to be there.
Whether you look at Saskatchewan or whether you look at New York state, you will find that they are using funds -- percentage-wise, relevant to population -- vastly in excess of what’s being proposed here for these kinds of projects. Surely in this province we can afford it. Even if you hadn’t abolished the land speculation tax, it would have provided at least some additional funds for this. In my view, and I know in the view of this caucus and in view of most of the people of this province, this should have the highest priority for additional funds.
In the letter I sent to you, Mr. Minister, I mentioned the program is falling into disrepute -- and it is. People are coming in to my constituency office who are just so frustrated -- they have had applications in for two years and are high on the priority list but the funds just aren’t there. They are becoming extremely dissatisfied. On every count, we should have adequate funding to proceed in this field.
Mr. Haggerty: There is reason for it, Mel. It has all been taken by staff.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, while I accept the member for Welland-Thorold’s explanation, I hope he’ll appreciate that the allocation of the funding really comes from the municipality, not the province. We allocate it to the municipality and they in turn look after the priority position of the applications that come to them. Keep in mind that they have also the right to collect back on some of them and then to get into the revolving account business --
Mr. Swart: We do. They are getting back 43 per cent in Welland.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: In some cases, that’s correct. I accept what you are saying, that there might be some with a higher need factor, but that’s the municipality’s responsibility. As the member for Brantford has said, at least in their community, they put priorities of those that are the highest in need. And that is just by date of application.
Mr. Swart: There is not enough money for the high priorities.
The House recessed at 6 p.m.