The House met at 2 p.m.
Mr. S. Smith: I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Health. Can the minister explain why confidential and detailed information on patients at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre were found in a garbage can and also strewn about Lakeshore Boulevard? Given the fact that we have already had the unseemly situation of confidential records in a parking lot and given the fact that one can hardly determine where they are next going to appear, according to what seems to be happening in front of the Krever inquiry, can the minister explain this event and tell us what steps are being taken to deal with this matter?
Can he find out why all the particular incidents that were related in this morning’s Sun seem to be injury-related matters? Is there some pattern here? Is there some particular reason why those records have found their way into the public eye as opposed to other records? What is his explanation for this matter?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: First of all, I should tell the honourable member that I have as of last night and this morning ordered two investigations; one by my own staff in the ministry, which I ordered last evening as soon as I found out about these incidents. The second, which I asked for this morning, is a police investigation because there are several rather peculiar aspects of this incident.
First of all, there is the fact that the notes were found eight or nine miles away from the particular psychiatric facility in a garbage can which was overflowing and under a very bright street light. The second fact is that they were found in an envelope which was not the usual kind of envelope in which such notes, which are to be destroyed, are kept. These two things made me suspicious enough that I have asked for, and the chief of police has agreed to, an immediate police investigation which began this morning. There have been several meetings already with officials of my ministry. In fact, I understand the police are at Queen Street right now.
Until I have got the results of those investigations, I can’t fill in all of the details obviously. As regards why particular types of incidents were reported, I think one would have to speak to or address the editorial style perhaps because there were over 300 notes. I think what’s happened, which is something we get used to, is that they’ve picked out some of the things that make the best copy. But, I should point out they are not the clinical records nor part of the clinical records which are kept for each patient in a psychiatric facility.
They are the nurses’ notes and are not in any way involved with diagnoses and the indication of the prescribed regimens, as my honourable friend would have prescribed when he himself was practising in one of our psychiatric hospitals.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, accepting that it would appear that these are nurses’ notes, is the minister aware that normally there are two copies of those notes, one original and one copy? Apparently, at Queen Street a copy goes to the director of nursing and is shredded after a short period of time, but the other is kept on the ward and then sent to a compactor.
Can the minister explain why, in heaven’s name, both copies aren’t shredded, once they are no longer needed? What is the purpose of keeping around one copy and dealing with it differently?
And can he tell us exactly what directives went out from the ministry regarding the disposal of records of all kinds that refer to patients by name and to various procedures which may have occurred, even patient behaviour on the ward? What directive went out from the ministry after the last incident of such records flying about in the breeze in downtown Toronto? And why have those directives, if there are any, not been complied with in this case as far as he knows?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: With respect to the copies, the copies which are kept in the nurses’ stations on the wards are disposed of by way of the compactor, within which they are mixed under very high pressure with the kitchen waste thereby, because of the things with which they are mixed and because of the pressure, making them illegible, so I am advised.
Several directives have gone out in the last year. I would remind members that in the last year we have changed the Mental Health Act with respect to records to try to tighten it up as much as the current state of the art would indicate we should.
As a result of one other incident involving a Toronto hospital, we have ensured that as far as the clinical records are concerned the destruction of copies is the same as for original records. The Leader of the opposition will know, perhaps as well or better than anyone in the House except perhaps the member for Parkdale (Mr. Dukszta), that in the case of psychiatric clinical records very few are destroyed. They are kept a very long time. In fact, I am told we have records in some hospitals that are 100 years old. They are kept for historical purposes and for psychiatric research studies.
Also in the last year, we held several meetings with medical record librarians in psychiatric hospitals to ensure that our standards of practice are as thorough as possible. What I’m saying is that where a problem has been recognized, every reasonable step has been taken.
One of the reasons for appointing the Krever commission was our recognition, almost a year ago, that the problem is potentially very broad, given that we’re talking about literally millions of clinical records and various other forms of notes and files in all forms of health care facilities and that we’re talking about a system which employs over 100,000 people. In order for there to be the most thorough possible review so that every conceivable nook and cranny was looked into, we appointed the Krever commission.
In every instance where a problem has occurred, we tried to anticipate further problems, but certainly dealt with them expeditiously and thoroughly, either amending legislation as in the case of the Mental Health Act or in changing procedure.
Mr. Breaugh: Supplementary: In replying to questions on a similar matter raised in June of this year, the minister indicated that he or members of his ministry had sent a letter to all hospitals. Could we have a copy of that letter? I understood at that time he was also issuing guidelines to the hospitals. Could we see that?
Does he now feel it’s time to close the loophole in his regulations about copies of records as opposed to original records?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The whole of regulation 729 affecting public hospitals is under review. The gentleman who is in charge of that has submitted his final report. Now it’s into the policy-making process within the ministry. That includes the question of all the sections of regulation 729 dealing with the confidentiality of records within public hospitals.
On February 28, even before Bill 19 was reintroduced and subsequently passed, a memorandum did go to all administrators of psychiatric hospitals dealing with clinical records, saying in effect, “This is what is going to be in the bill, but until it becomes law you should assume that it’s going to be law anyway and just do it.”
Mr. Breaugh: Can we have a copy of that?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Sure. When you get into the notes kept by various professionals throughout the hospital system then it’s perhaps a slightly different matter.
In discussing it with my officials last evening and throughout the morning and early afternoon, it would appear that this has not been a problem in the past. It has not even been identified as a potential problem. Depending on the outcome of this investigation it may require further changes but I’ll make that determination and those recommendations that may follow once I’ve got the results of our own internal investigation and the police investigation.
If mischief has been involved, then that could conceivably change it considerably.
Mr. Speaker: New question.
Mr. Breaugh: Could I ask one final supplementary On this?
Mr. Speaker: I have no objections to a supplementary, but I must remind the honourable member we’ve spent nine minutes on this question and I would implore the questioners and the minister to be a little bit more crisp in the answer.
Mrs. Campbell: We can’t be crisp with the answers.
INTERMEDIATE CAPACITY TRANSIT ROUTES
Mr. S. Smith: I’ll direct my second question to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. Given the possibility that Torontonians may be hit by higher transit fares at some point this year or next and given the need for funds at that level and for that purpose, what kind of justification can he produce for his recommendation that millions of dollars of provincial and federal money be spent on an intermediate capacity transit route between Union Station and the CNE, which would rank, I imagine, around 50th on a list of 49 TTC priorities?
Given the need for funds for transit in Toronto, how does he justify trying to direct tens of millions of dollars into this experimental route between Union Station and the Canadian National Exhibition?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I am sure the Leader of the Opposition is aware that this was a proposal put forward by the Urban Transportation Development Corporation for the installation of two possible revenue systems for the intermediate-capacity transit system, one in the city of Toronto and one in the city of Hamilton.
There has been considerable interest shown by a number of people, including --
Hon. Mr. Davis: Hamilton’s excited about it.
Mr. Nixon: They are an excitable group over there.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Yes, aren’t they, though.
Hon. Mr. Snow: -- municipal representatives from the city of Hamilton.
Hon. Mr. Davis: That’s where you can build a convention centre as long as it views Hamilton.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The Minister of Transportation and Communications has a right to be heard.
Mr. S. Smith: Not by the Premier.
Hon. Mr. Snow: If the Premier would quit interrupting my answer --
Mr. MacDonald: He’s bigger than you are, Bill.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Much.
Hon. Mr. Snow: As I am sure the honourable member knows, this was a proposal which my late colleague, the former Minister of Industry and Tourism, and I put forward to the federal Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce; it was the recommendation of that federal minister’s task force on transit that this type of system be funded jointly, not only as a transportation project but also as an industrial sector project to create and foster new development, new industries and new jobs. It was on this basis that it has been suggested.
We have had considerable interest shown by elected representatives and others in both Toronto and Hamilton regarding this proposal. There has been no decision made. I have not yet heard back from Mr. Horner, although he has stated he is considering the proposal.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary: Assuming the minister must be well aware that the Toronto Transit Commission would rather have the money spent in countless other ways than on this wild experiment, but dealing with the matter in Hamilton: Why was there no consultation with the people responsible for transportation and rapid transit in Hamilton before the announcement was made? Why, for example, has a map been drawn up with a proposed line that this UTDC equipment would take?
Would the minister not agree that, if local transit authorities are to have any meaning at all, they ought to be consulted before priorities are set for them by him in some fanciful way to test out some new equipment?
Does he not agree that Hamilton must be free to determine the precise route, location and the type of equipment used, and not be pressured in any way by the provincial government’s desires in this concern?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would almost totally agree with the point made by the Leader of the Opposition.
As I mentioned in my remarks at the opening of the UTDC centre in Kingston, these two suggestions, among others, were put forward by UTDC; and I had written to Mr. Horner suggesting those. The senior people in Hamilton and Toronto had been advised these studies had gone on.
But I also stated at that time that no decision was made, and whether these facilities were built in either Hamilton or Toronto would depend upon decisions of the locally elected people. I don’t think there is any problem with that.
The city of Hamilton met with me about two weeks ago, and I understand they have asked UTDC to work with their local transit people in discussing possible routes and whether the one UTDC has suggested is a possible alternative or whether there are other possible better alignments. This is the type of consultation that’s going on at this time.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Since this discussion is almost a precise replay of what we went through in this House five years ago, when the government brought down the Krauss-Maffei scheme and had proposals for its introduction into Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton, and since the government at that time, as the minister is doing today, started to back and fill and say “We’re adaptable and we’re adjustable” when questions arose about the project, will the minister table any feasibility studies of these two proposed lines which were prepared by the ministry or by the Urban Transportation Development Corporation? Will he tell the House now what those studies, if they exist, show about the feasibility and about the level of operating cost deficits that will have to be paid by the local transit authorities if those particular lines are built?
Hon. Mr. Snow: First of all, Mr. Speaker, there have been no studies, proposals or reports by the ministry on those two suggested locations. The studies that have been carried out have been done by UTDC staff, who I understand have looked at numerous possible applications of the intermediate capacity transit system and have suggested that probably the two most appropriate in Canada are the proposals for Hamilton and Toronto.
I believe my estimates start in committee tomorrow evening. I am sure that during consideration of the estimates the committee members will wish to deal with UTDC. Mr. Foley and his officials will be there. I will certainly make him aware of the desire of the leader of the third party to have copies of those reports. I am sure we can get them for him.
Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Can the minister explain why he is willing to spend $73 million of Ontario money on these somewhat unusual and experimental lines and then ask the federal government for another $62 million -- which is apparently what he has done -- without even consulting the people of Hamilton or the Toronto Transit Commission beforehand? And is he prepared to spend this kind of money on conventional transit if Toronto and Hamilton so desire it?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that we are also very interested in conventional transit. I believe we have met the needs of both Hamilton and Toronto as well as those of some 50 other communities in the province which have established systems. Basically, over the years, since the ministry started funding capital and operating costs of local transit, we have met the needs of the municipalities throughout the province.
Taking into consideration the budgetary restraints in all aspects of my ministry, we have still been able to meet our 75 per cent share of the cost of Metro Toronto’s transit expansion program. We have done that each year for the last number of years and we hope to continue to do it.
Mr. Speaker: One final supplementary; the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere.
Mr. Warner: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: In other words, from the answers we have heard today, we should understand that while the minister is prepared to spend $73 million on some kind of experiment, he is not willing to increase the paltry 13.5 per cent share of transit operational expenses in Metro Toronto, thereby guaranteeing a fare increase for transit riders in Toronto next year. Is that correct?
Mr. S. Smith: They’ll pay more for transit but, boy, will they have a good time at the CNE!
Mr. Nixon: The trees are just starting to grow there since it was defoliated by the Transit Man of the Year of 1959.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Of 1959? You’re 12 years out.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere refers to the provincial subsidy of the TTC as a paltry sum. As I recall, it is something in the neighbourhood of about $30 million or more per year.
Mr. Warner: It’s 13.5 per cent.
Hon. Mr. Snow: It’s 13.75 per cent of the total operating costs of the TTC. In addition to that, the formula provides for additional operating grants, for instance for expansion of service, for the start-up of the new Spadina subway --
Mr. Warner: You are not going to increase it?
Hon. Mr. Snow: -- which brings their actual subsidies to something, I believe, close to 15 per cent of their operating costs.
Mr. Warner: You are not going to increase it?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I believe one must take into consideration the funds that are so scarce today, the funds that are available, and which must be spread around to other municipalities. Our formula takes into consideration the size of the municipality involved, and I think it is quite fair and reasonably well accepted by the transit community other than one or two in the TTC who love to complain about anything. If they were more efficient, more interested in dealing with some of their own problems and operating a little more efficient system, maybe they could be more productive in that way.
Mr. McClellan: Never mind the gratuitous insults.
Mr. Warner: Don’t give them money but attack them. It is a wonder you have any friends left.
TORONTO ISLAND HOMES
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Industry and Tourism. In view of the fact it is now nearly two weeks since the minister promised to fight like hell for the survival of the whole island constituency when he met with his constituents on Toronto Island, can the minister tell the House what he has managed to accomplish by way of agreement between the province and Metropolitan Toronto? Alternatively, what has he accomplished by way of legislation in order to save the island homes in the community there?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Are you still living there, Michael?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I’d be happy to dwell at length on the substantial work that I have done on behalf of constituents.
Mr. Deans: The people would like to dwell at length on the island.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: However, as I understand question period, I’m only entitled to be asked about questions relating to my own ministry. I would be happy to expand later outside the House.
Mr. McClellan: How come you always have to fight the government for your constituents? Why is the government always picking on your riding?
Mr. Cassidy: I would ask that the question be referred to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Do you own a house on the island, Michael?
An hon. member: He’s out in Forest Hill now. He’s been fighting like hell with the town. Asks them to go out in the park and kick the people out.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I can substantiate the statement that the honourable member for that area is fighting like hell for those constituents of his who are on the island --
Mr. Martel: Watch the language, will you? What is the matter with you?
Mr. Warner: Everyone fights with you, even your own member.
Hon. Mr. Wells: The government is very concerned with the people who live on the island --
Mr. McClellan: Why don’t you lay off St. Andrew-St. Patrick for a while?
Hon. Mr. Wells: -- as I think I said in my answer to a question about this matter some time ago. We must remember however that this is a matter of local autonomy, and that the metropolitan council has control over these matters.
An hon. member: The Paul Godfrey economy.
Mr. Warner: Why don’t you guys sell the islands to the Americans?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I remind you that Metropolitan Toronto council could probably hold a meeting very shortly and decide to completely reverse the kind of action that it has been embarking upon for the last couple of years. It does have that power. In the interval, we are working with them to see what can be done to help the situation on Toronto Island.
Mr. McClellan: Help Larry out.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker, and I put this supplementary with some regret: Is the minister by his reference to local autonomy maintaining or refusing to confirm the commitment that he made to this House two weeks ago? This was, at least as far as the long-term residents were concerned, that he felt they should be able to stay. He made a commitment to ensure that they would be able to do that.
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, I completely stand by that commitment. I have been working with the people of Metro and particularly the chairman to see if we can’t find some way to cause that commitment to come about. I am just pointing out to you that it is now under existing legislation, a matter of their jurisdiction and their concern.
The member tells us about local autonomy every now and then, and this is one of those areas --
Hon. Mr. Davis: Seven days a week.
Hon. Mr. Wells: -- where the autonomy really rests with the elected people of metropolitan council.
However, notwithstanding that, we are working with them to see if we can’t help bring some solution to this matter. I stand behind the commitment I made.
Mrs. Campbell: I wonder if the minister could advise the House as to whether he has had any discussions at all with the regional conservation authority to ascertain the legality of Metropolitan Toronto’s position vis-à-vis that authority and its rights and responsibilities with reference to the islands?
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, I have not had any discussions with them about the matter. I thought Toronto Island was a metropolitan Toronto park.
Mr. Cassidy: In view of the commitment made by the Minister of Industry and Tourism as member for the area that “I am not in the business of bargaining away people’s homes,” that is, he was not prepared to make a distinction between long term residents and more recent residents, is it now the government’s position that it wishes to see a firm agreement which will protect the entire community and not just a portion of it?
Hon. Mr. Wells: We will continue to discuss this with the Metro people and see what kind of solution to this problem can be worked out. But I am not prepared to make any specific assurance beyond what I said the other day -- there are certain long term residents and people over there, who should be supported in their demand to be able to stay there.
Mr. Cassidy: I have a question of the Premier. In view of the statement made by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea) that he would prefer not to see any extension of the present rent review bill passed November 30, even though he saw it might be needed because of the legislation, could the Premier look at the problem entailed by trying to consider this legislation in a period of only two weeks from November 14, when it will receive second reading? Will he consider the complexity of the changes being made in the legislation? Would the government agree in advance, not at the penultimate hour, that the present rent review bill be extended for a sufficient length of time so the new bill can have adequate consideration in a committee, so public interest groups, both landlord and tenants, can have a look at the bill and comment on it and come before hearings in a rational, reasonable kind of way, and the new bill can then take effect early in the New Year?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: You had all summer.
Mr. S. Smith: We can even have time for dinner.
Hon. Mr. Davis: This government does everything in a reasonable, rational way and the handling of the rent review legislation will be no exception.
Mr. Foulds: Are you sure, with that minister?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Of course, the government’s rationality depends on the degree of rationality shown by some members opposite.
Mr. Foulds: And the minister.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I listened to the minister the other day when pressed on this subject by one of the member’s colleagues, as they were solving the socialistic problems of the universe out west with the member’s empire slowly diminishing as enlightenment comes to many other parts of the globe besides Canada.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Supporting violence, really.
Mr. Wildman: Like Chile, you mean?
Mr. Deans: You are not doing too well yourself.
Hon. Mr. Davis: What do you mean, we are not doing too well ourselves?
Mr. Speaker: Order. This has nothing to do with rent review.
Hon. Mr. Davis: A small “c” conservative administration in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: What more does the member want? A by-election in Chatham-Kent. How much more does he want in any given month?
Mr. Cunningham: Where is the member now?
Mr. Speaker: As I recall the question was something to do with rent review legislation.
Hon. Mr. Davis: You are quite right, Mr. Speaker, it was rent review.
The minister said that the preference of the government is to move expeditiously and reasonably. We don’t want to be forced -- what hour was it? -- rather late in the game at least, into extending the existing legislation. I have always found the New Democratic Party, if they had the inclination, had the ability to digest the legislation, deal with it reasonably and rationally, and they could do it expeditiously.
Mr. Warner: Always.
Hon. Mr. Davis: This matter has been discussed now for some months and the desire of the minister, and certainly the government, is to move the process ahead. Knowing the co-operative way in which the leader of the New Democratic Party deals with all issues, I am sure his members will deal with it in this fashion in the House and, in the interests of the tenants, the landlords and the total community, we can have a final solution and the bill passed prior to the date mentioned by the leader of the New Democratic Party.
Mr. Laughren: Dreamer.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Now, if you want to frustrate everybody else here in the House --
Mr. Martel: You determined when the House came back, you were warned.
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- if the member wants to keep the program entailed in that legislation away from the tenants, that is a decision his people will have to make.
Mr. Warner: It’s a cute game you are playing.
Hon. Mr. Davis: But I think, given a little co-operation, we can get that legislation through --
Mr. Martel: That’s nonsense.
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- in a way that will serve the public interest, which is our concern as much as the member’s.
Mr. Warner: We should have been sitting in September, by the way.
Mr. Mattel: We should have been back on October 10. We were ready on October 10.
Mr. Cassidy: I thank the Premier for his reference to the Socialist International because I had the pleasure of meeting people from socialist governments in the countries of Scandinavia, West Germany, Austria --
An hon. member: Where you borrow your money from.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Your comments may be supplementary to those of the Premier’s but they’ve got nothing to do with the original question.
Mr. Cassidy: I thought it was worth noting.
As a supplementary, I would ask the Premier is he not aware that in view of the very major changes which are being introduced in the legislation, it would be next to impossible for representatives of tenants or of landlords to both prepare their comments and submit them to the committee, if the legislation is to go through committee over the course of only three or four sessions in the latter part of this month and then be enacted before November 30? In view of that difficulty of any outside contribution, will the Premier not show sufficient flexibility that outside groups can comment on the legislation, rather than having it imposed upon them or brought to bear upon them without any opportunity of participation?
Mr. Speaker: Yes or no.
Mr. Rotenberg: We had all the comments last summer. How many comments do you want on it?
Mr. Makarchuk: Reply in English.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I must say it’s the first occasion in this House where I have been asked by the impartial adjudicator of discussions here to answer a question that a member has posed. Mr. Speaker, I know that you wouldn’t really want me to answer --
Mr. Speaker: I’m just trying to be helpful with regard to the question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I knew you were trying to be helpful, Mr. Speaker, and I certainly need all the help you can give me. But I’ve got to tell you that there are some in this House who need a lot more than I do.
Mr. Foulds: Name one.
Hon. Mr. Davis: In answer to that question, I would say to the leader of the New Democratic Party, in reference to his supplementary observations to my supplementary observations which were out of order, I’m as flexible as anyone I know.
Mr. Breithaupt: Now there is a real statement of principle.
Mr. Peterson: There is a great Canadian.
Hon. Mr. Davis: There’s a great Canadian. That’s quite right and it would take the member for London Centre to really understand that. I won’t even bring his father-in-law into it today because he can identify it even better than the member can. Seriously, though, I think we should make every effort to pass the legislation, nothing being flexible or inflexible. I think the members of this House -- certainly his own caucus -- are familiar with it and are in a position to make certain judgements. That’s what they’ve been elected to do and that’s part of their responsibility. I think this House should make an effort to have that legislation passed prior to our prorogation in December.
Mr. Martel: The bill has to be done by November 30.
Mr. Speaker: I want to remind all members of the House that we’ve spent 33 minutes on the four questions of the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party, plus the supplementaries. I’ll now recognize the Minister of the Environment who has the answer to questions previously asked, followed by the Minister of Government Services.
RULES OF THE HOUSE
Mr. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, a moment ago you brought to the attention of the leader of the third party that his question was not supplementary. I draw to your attention that on page 18 of the standing orders it says: “A reasonable number of supplementary questions arising out of the minister’s reply to an oral question may be asked by any members.”
If you’re concerned about the direction of the question period, I believe that the rules require you to call to order those people answering the questions rather than those asking them in that regard.
Mr. Speaker: I thought I was attempting to do that.
Hon. Mr. Davis: He was.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. Smith) asked me some questions concerning the action of the town council of Fort Erie in an application by Laidlaw Transport of Hamilton. In the first part of that question, he implied that the ministry had been derelict in its duties in not getting the town and the industry together. I’m afraid that’s just not so. The ministry indeed was quite responsible for the initial contact and made a fair amount of effort thereafter.
The regional director, I believe, met with the parties four times and supplied whatever information was required. Then in a conversation subsequently, I found out that my predecessor (Mr. McCague) had himself met with the parties and had discussed it with the mayor. So there was a good deal of effort on our part to bring that information to the parties.
With respect to not attending that particular meeting, we were asked to attend but, as the leader might recall, we had committee meetings that week and I asked that all the regional directors be here. Therefore, I think it would be reasonable to suggest that it was impossible for our director to be at that meeting. We thought it was very important that he attend the committee meetings here. There is no doubt in my mind, Mr. Speaker, that the staff had been most co-operative. I hope that the leader might concur.
Now if I might I’d like to read more specifically my reply to the question of indemnification as it is to this point in time. The ministry has not and likely will not provide any form of indemnification to a municipality locating waste-disposal facilities within its borderlines. Such a policy would create a precedent for which there is no discernible end. It is thought there is adequate provision in the Environmental Protection Act to correct or to avoid any unacceptable situation resulting from location of such a facility. Also, the municipality could request the company to post an adequate security bond.
Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary: Given the fact that this solidification process is terribly important in the future handling of toxic liquid industrial waste, a matter which seems to be without reasonable policy at the moment in Ontario, how does the minister accept the priorities of the regional director in that instance, on the very evening of the council meeting, to be present at these committee hearings to sit there rather than to be at the Fort Erie council meeting?
Even if he decided to be here rather than to be in Fort Erie, why did he send no substitute to answer questions of the individual councillors who were not, in fact, involved in the previous discussions and who had the crucial answer to give? How does he expect municipalities to accept this kind of risky venture that they understand poorly, if, in fact, the ministry is not prepared to help them in terms of some form of protection in the event of difficulties which will cost them money well above their budget?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I suggest with respect that’s just a rehash of the original question. I attempted to answer that question.
Mr. S. Smith: Why no substitute? Why didn’t the minister send someone?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I put on the record, indeed, that this ministry and my predecessor had given a great deal of assistance to the municipality and to the industry to bring those parties together and to assist them prior to that meeting. Certainly we weren’t there, because it was very important that our regional director be here --
Mr. S. Smith: Bunk.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: -- to give that information to committee meetings. That seems reasonable and anything more I can say is simply a repeat of what I’ve said previously.
Mr. S. Smith: Bungled an opportunity there.
Mr. Speaker: The honourable minister has indicated he’s not prepared to add anything further.
SCUGOG ZONING APPLICATION
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, November 2, the member for Oshawa questioned the Premier of this province re a land severance. He quoted Mr. Charles J. Rush; we have it as Mr. Carl J. Rush, in the township of Scugog.
Mr. Breaugh: But it is not a severance yet. There is another one coming for that.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: When the land was acquired by Mr. Carl J. Rush and when the application to the municipality was made, the official plan of the area did not prohibit the severance. A minor variance which was approved by the Lake Scugog committee of adjustment for the 10-acre lot was stated prior to the modification of the official plan. While the minor variance was appealed by the region to the Ontario Municipal Board, this appeal had been withdrawn. It was not disputed that the parcel of land was of little agricultural value and the applicant proposed to develop it for a residence. The answer is that the application was previous to the official plan which has been spoken of quite loudly.
Mr. Breaugh: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker: As a matter of fact, the question on Thursday related to two matters; one was an application for an official plan amendment and a zoning bylaw change; and that, of course, was denied by the municipality, by the region and by the Ontario Municipal Board.
Can the minister explain to this House why, in the case of the Toronto Islands, he is so concerned about local autonomy and he is not prepared to interfere but, in the case of poor little Scugog township, the entire cabinet turns against them? Why are they doing that?
Some hon. members: Out of order.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: The honourable member apparently is not aware that the application for the minor variance was previous to the official plan, and the official plan actually was retroactive legislation on this piece of property. That is the reason cabinet dealt with it as it did.
Mr. Breaugh: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: The minister is very well aware of all the circumstances in this case. It appears to me, though, that the minister is not aware that he recommended to cabinet -- and cabinet approved -- an order of council directing the township of Scugog to change the zoning bylaw and its official plan, and that Mr. Rush sought a writ of mandamus before a Supreme Court judge last Tuesday and has not yet been granted that. The minister should be further aware that this little rural municipality intends to take on whether or not this cabinet can order the township’s business.
Mr. Pope: He just gave you the answer.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: The honourable member apparently must not have been listening to my answer. My answer, again --
Mr. Breaugh: Why are you trying to pound Scugog township? Leave them alone.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: My answer, again, was that this application for the minor variance was previous to the official plan amendment and was approved by the committee of adjustment of the township of Scugog. That is the reason we dealt with it as we did.
Mr. Lewis: Vilification. The entire resources of government are descending on Scugog township.
Mr. Breaugh: What’s the matter with the cabinet?
Mr. Lewis: Where among you is there a defender of Scugog?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: O, what a rogue and peasant slave.
Mr. Breaugh: They don’t understand this campaign against Scugog township.
Hon. W. Newman: We understand it a lot more than you ever will.
Mr. Speaker: The Minister of Labour has the answer to a question asked previously.
BURGESS BATTERY PLANT
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, if we can move from Lake Scugog to that beautiful community of Niagara Falls: On Monday, the member for Niagara Falls asked several questions regarding the closing of the Burgess battery plant in Niagara Falls.
The Burgess division of Gould Manufacturing of Canada Limited has given notice that it will close completely on or about December 22, 1978. Production at the plant will continue until that closure date. This closure affects about 72 employees, 41 of whom are hourly workers represented by the International Molders’ and Allied Workers’ Union.
The employees were informed of the impending closure on October 27. Some of the employees may be retained until June 30, 1979, to assist in the winding down of the company’s operation.
The Burgess plant manufactures dry carbon-zinc batteries. Officials of the company have stated that the battery division has become uneconomical due to cheaper imports and stiffer competition for more expensive but longer-lasting alkaline batteries.
I have been advised that the company will take whatever measures it can to assist workers affected by the closure. Officials of my ministry also spoke to the plant chairman of the union local, who expressed little surprise at the announcement of the closure. He also expressed hope that the government could assist in some way, and to that end he is now in contact with officials of my ministry’s employment adjustment service.
Although Gould Manufacturing also has plants in St. Thomas and in Fort Erie, these are separate divisions of the company and will not be affected by the Niagara Falls closing.
Regarding the member’s second question, batteries will not be imported from the United States to take the place of the product currently being manufactured in Niagara Falls. In fact, Gould Manufacturing sold the American-based Burgess division about four years ago; so there is no plant in the United States under the control of Gould Incorporated.
Finally, in connection with the member’s suggestion that I consult the Ministry of Industry and Tourism regarding keeping the plant functioning, I have been informed that the ministry has been in contact with the company all along, offering its assistance.
Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer. I would draw to his attention the one concern that I had, and it relates to the federal government not agreeing to allow a sale of that plant some two years ago. At that time, I was quite concerned that there might be a change of Canadian ownership to American ownership, but it seems it was a change from one American owner to another American owner. At this stage of the game, if there is still a willing seller and a willing buyer, I wonder whether something might not be done to change the ownership of that company to have it continue producing.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Actually as I understand it, the Gould corporation sold the American plant about four years ago and then had initiated a contract to sell the three Canadian plants and that sale was blocked by FIRA. It’s my present information that there is no planned sale.
Mr. Speaker: The Minister of the Environment has another answer to a question asked previously.
Some hon. members: Not again.
Mr. Deans: On a point of order, that is ridiculous.
Hon. W. Newman: You asked the question.
Mr. Lewis: But we don’t expect the answer.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Come on, you always get the answers.
Mr. Speaker: Time is being wasted.
USE OF INSECTICIDES
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry I didn’t answer the other question at the same time but I needed my confrere, the Minister of Labour, to answer the second part of it and that’s why I didn’t rise at that time.
In reply to a question by the member for Simcoe Centre (Mr. G. Taylor) with reference to organo-phosphorous insecticides, I would like to report that there are regulations, both in Ontario and Canada, to control these pesticides. Our Pesticides Advisory Committee has done research on it. As a matter of fact we are going to do some more and I will be glad to send those details to the member. They are quite technical.
I think the Minister of Labour will respond to the portion of the question that dealt with the protection of the workers.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Studies have been carried out on residents and workers in the Holland Marsh area to determine if there has been any overexposure to organo-phosphorous insecticides. The findings of these studies do not indicate any overexposure. Our special studies and services branch has an interest in this matter and are continuing to observe it and carry out further studies.
Mr. Blundy: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Now that allegations of outrageous patient abuse in provincial institutions are becoming more numerous and more public, will the minister undertake a public inquiry to investigate the conditions that allow patient abuse to occur?
Mr. Deans: Didn’t the minister say he would? I thought I heard him say he would.
Hon. Mr. Norton: As the honourable member knows, very significant efforts are being made at the present time by the ministry to explore the extent of abuse that may he taking place in the provincial facilities. I suppose the story that gave rise to the question is one on which we are already following up. We are not aware of the identity of the person who was interviewed by the media in that particular case, nor are we particularly seeking the source by name. I have asked if it would be possible to contact the reporters and have them, in turn, contact the person they interviewed and ask that that person communicate directly with us so that we may assure, if that information is at all accurate, it is information being followed up upon already or so we could pursue it further.
I am not at this point convinced that there is need for a full-scale inquiry. There has been a considerable amount of information brought forward to us in the last few weeks, or a little longer, by various employees and former employees of the ministry. I can assure the honourable member that whenever such information has been brought to our attention, it is promptly followed up upon and in fact in one case is the subject of a police investigation at the present time.
Mr. Bluntly: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Does not the fact the minister alluded to more information being brought forth by employees and former employees indicate to the minister how worried the people of Ontario and particularly the relatives of the patients in these institutions are? They must be very, very worried and I would think that this would prompt the minister to have an inquiry that would find out all the facts and be able to quieten the fears of the people who are expressing fears today.
Hon. Mr. Norton: First of all, I am quite sure that there are many concerned people both within this Legislature and people across the province and especially those who have children or relatives who are resident in facilities. I don’t think one ought to seize on those situations to create undue alarm. It would be more reassuring to those people who have concern to know that we are acting as quickly and as decisively as possible whenever such information comes to our attention, rather than embarking on an inquiry at this point in time, which in itself may resolve little or nothing.
The way to resolve these problems as they exist is to act firmly and decisively as soon as the information is available. An inquiry may have some educative value in terms of the general public, in terms of the extent of the problem if it is more extensive than we are currently aware, but I am not sure it would resolve their concerns. Prompt, decisive action is the way to resolve it.
Mr. Deans: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. Is the Minister of the Environment aware that we now have before us, either by way of statements acknowledged as true or by rumour, either of which is important, suggestions of burned waybills, illegal trucking, the establishment of new waste treatment facilities for whom no one appears to be answerable, the mixing of liquid industrial sludge with normal refuse which is now being burned, the spreading of liquid waste from a ruptured holding tank all over the surrounding ground area? There is a reasonable expression of concern by any number of the residents immediately adjacent to the area of the Upper Ottawa Street dump, which the Leader of the Opposition and I raised previous to this day.
Given that these things are now causing widespread concern, would the minister consider conducting a full investigation into the operations of the dump, into the trucking and the liquids being taken into the dump, into the method of disposing of those liquids, into the hazards to health of the residents and to those downstream from the Redhill Creek within the next two or three weeks, reporting back to this House on whether or not it is necessary to take some action in addition to the actions currently being taken by the ministry to safeguard the people and the area?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I was surprised, to say the least, to hear the member suggest he was not concerned that some of those statements were rumours, that there is very little difference between rumours and facts.
Mr. Deans: I said they are both factual and rumour.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: There is a great deal of difference between a statement --
Mr. Deans: Harry, deal with the question and stop skirting it. You can’t win that way.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: The answer is no, I will not have a full-scale investigation into that dump, if that’s what the member wants to know.
Mr. Deans: Does the minister, then condone --
Mr. Yakabuski: Rumours, rumours.
Mr. Deans: -- those things which have been acknowledged as being true, in terms of the operations of that dump? Does he believe it appropriate that they should pump out that ruptured tank all over the ground surrounding the tank? Does he believe it appropriate that they should burn that sludge with all the other waste --
Mr. Yakabuski: The TV cameras are going off. Settle down.
Mr. Dean: -- without any consideration of the air pollution or the effect on the surrounding neighbourhood? Does the minister believe it appropriate that there should have been a burning of the weigh-scale records in that dump? Does he think it right that the city of Hamilton should have truckers bringing waste in there from other parts of the province without receiving approval from his ministry? Does he, in fact, stand up and say that what is going on in that dump is right and appropriate?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: The very point I was about to make, which the member didn’t want to hear, is that much of what he said is factually incorrect. Some of it is correct.
Mr. T. P. Reid: He is consistent, anyway.
Mr. Swart: Why don’t you investigate it then?
Hon. Mr. Patron: I am not going to try to answer all those questions with a simple yes or no. That isn’t possible. We are aware of a great deal of what is going on and are taking action on it.
Mr. Deans: On what?
Mr. Speaker: Order, order.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: We are taking a great deal of action on liquid industrial waste, and we have a plan to deal with it. I met this morning to do so, and I will continue to do so. That is my highest possible priority. We’re going to get after that problem. We are in the process of doing it right now. We have projects under way. The classification system will be here within a matter of days. The waybill system is going to be changed in a matter of days. Those things are under way right now.
Mr. Warner: We’ll believe it when we see it.
Mr. Deans: What did I say that is not correct?
Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary: Would the minister undertake to respond to this House in detail to the allegations made by the member for Wentworth and tell us which of his allegations were correct and which were not, according to his factual investigation?
Mr. Deans: They’re all correct.
Mr. S. Smith: Furthermore, can the minister explain why it is that the general manager of Interflow, the company through which one suspects some of this liquid waste from outside Hamilton is finding its way into the Ottawa Street site, said that 60 per cent of the waste handled by the company’s transfer facility come from outside Hamilton and yet the PR person now says only 32 per cent comes from outside Hamilton?
Is it not a fact that Interflow is licensed as a transfer station, in which case can he explain the comment of his regional director, who says: “The sludge from Interflow can be regarded as having been generated in Hamilton because it’s a recycling facility?” Exactly what is the gallonage that has gone into Interflow? What is the gallonage that has come out of Interflow as so-called recycled materials, and what is the so-called sludge that has ended up in Hamilton, basically from origins outside?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I will have an answer tomorrow to the Interflow question that was posed last week, Mr. Speaker. I had planned to do that prior to the question, and I will be pleased to do so. I think the Leader of the Opposition in asking the question made the point, at one time we heard it was 65 per cent, then we hear it’s 32 per cent. That’s precisely the point I was making to the honourable member -- not all statements that you read are factually correct.
Mr. S. Smith: They both come from Interflow.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: With respect, I think many of the statements of the honourable member are not necessarily factually correct and I’ll be glad to put that on the record.
Mr. Deans: You can’t hide behind your portfolio for ever. You’re dead wrong. You don’t care about those people. You are hand in hand with the industry. That is what is wrong with you.
Mr. Speaker: Order, order. I want to hear only one person and that’s the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations.
FIRESTONE TIRE HAZARD
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, it’s probably the first time in this history of this House that the turbulence has been caused by someone besides me. I must say I enjoy it.
In answer to a question on Friday by the member for Welland-Thorold -- and I certainly hope he repeats my answer today a little bit better than what I heard him say on the radio a few moments ago -- concerning the matter of the recall of tires from the Firestone company, my ministry has spoken to the Firestone company. The only delay in the recall of the tires and the uncertainty in Canada concerns logistics. They’re trying to match up the code numbers with whoever bought them.
In the event that they cannot, and bearing in mind the fact that mails are almost undeliverable in Canada, if any owner of the particular brand of Firestone tires wants them recalled, if they do not have a letter from the Firestone company within three weeks from today telling them where to take their tires, then they can come to any one of the consumer offices in Ontario or use the toll-free number and this government will process them. I hope the member repeats that a little bit better than he did Friday.
Mr. Martel: Can we take them to your office, Frank? Take them all to 555 Yonge Street? Dump them right in your office?
Mr. Swart: Perhaps the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations would be good enough to send me the detailed information on that, because it was my understanding that I’ve given him substantial credit and thought he would follow it up diligently. However, I do want to put a supplementary to him and it is this --
Mr. Speaker: You used up your time in making a statement.
An hon. member: That’s not fair.
Mr. Speaker: The question period began at 2:03. The member had about 30 seconds when he got up to put a supplementary and he used that time to make a statement.
We’ll entertain the question tomorrow.
The time for oral questions has expired.
Mr. MacBeth: May I draw the attention of the House to a visitor in our gallery to the right -- a farmer who has his crops all in for the winter and is looking for a place to keep dry and warm, a former chairman of the water resources commission -- the former member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel, John Root.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON NOTICE PAPER
Hon. Mr. Welch: Before the orders of the day I wish to table the answers to questions 129, 130 and 131 standing on the notice paper.
RULES OF THE HOUSE
Mr. Peterson: It is my understanding that we’re going into the estimates for the new Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. I would like your thoughts on this matter, Mr. Speaker.
Legislatively, that ministry has not yet been created. There’s been no division of the ministry from the TEIGA ministry. Indeed, the Treasury and Economics bill has not yet been finalized by -- had third reading -- in this House. I ask for your direction, Mr. Speaker.
It seems to me we’re in a weird procedure here when we’re asking for supply for a ministry that has not been created. And it’s being asked for by a minister who has not been delegated or given real responsibility by this House. I frankly don’t know how that could come about under the rules of this House.
Mr. Speaker: All I can tell you is that the order of estimates is agreed to in advance, with the unanimous approval of the House leaders. If you will see Votes and Proceedings of --
Mr. Nixon: You’re not supposed to take any notice of those agreements.
Mr. Speaker: -- Friday, November 3, it says: “Resolved, that the estimates of the Ministry of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs now before the House be considered by the House as estimates of the Ministry of Treasury and Economics and the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs as set out in the following schedule.” That was moved by Mr. McCague and seconded by Mr. Welch and it had unanimous approval of the House.
Mr. Peterson: I’d like to speak to that, if I may, because I think it’s an important point. I don’t accept the principle that the House leaders, even with universal accord --
Mr. Foulds: It passed with the unanimous consent of this House.
Mr. Peterson: -- can pervert the rules of this House or do something that appears to me, at least on the face of it, to fly in the face of what is sensible and reasonable.
Mr. Rotenberg: Where were you on Friday when it was passed in this House?
Mr. Peterson: How can we discuss estimates of a ministry that has not been created? That, very simply, is the point.
You reply that the House leaders have given unanimous approval.
Mr. Speaker: The House leaders may not be supreme but certainly this House is. They’ve acted upon it.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
Mr. Chairman: Before commencing the business of this committee I’d like to draw to its attention the report of the procedural affairs committee which was adopted on April 25, 1978. By this report I was instructed by the House to allow latitude to critics while speaking to vote 1, item 1, and thereafter I’m expected to adhere strictly to the particular vote and item under consideration.
I wish to advise the committee at this time that I would do my best to enforce this order of relevancy as strictly as possible in the hope that the examination of these estimates will be orderly and the time fairly distributed to all members of the committee.
Does the honourable minister have an opening statement?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Yes, Mr. Chairman. In presenting for the first time the spending estimates of the new Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, I’m asking the Legislature to approve the expenditure of almost $512 million for the fiscal year 1978-79. Because this ministry is new, I believe that it is important at this time to give the members of this House some kind of an outline about the role and scope of the ministry.
I know as we move through the debate we’ll no doubt be discussing many of the individual items which make up the $512 million total, but I think to provide an overall context I’d like to, first of all, paint a very broad picture.
To begin with, I think it might be useful to describe in very general terms how the total ministry budget is allocated. Of the $512 million total budget, $485 million, or 94.8 per cent, is for transfer payments to municipalities including both unconditional and special grants; $15.5 million, or three per cent, is for the Ontario Youth Employment Program; $8.4 million, or 1.6 per cent, is for operational and administrative expenses, and the remaining $3.3 million, or 0.6 per cent, is for a variety of special programs, including property tax credits for senior citizens, disaster relief, shoreline property assistance and so on.
Mr. Lewis: What shoreline property assistance? When is that coming through?
Hon. Mr. Wells: We’ll get to that, Mr. Chairman, in the debate.
Mr. Lewis: On a point of order, this is a matter of such compelling concern at this moment in time in Scarborough that I’d like to know from the minister right now when is he going to provide the shoreline assistance? Am I ever glad I was here at this moment to overhear him.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Chairman, my friend knows that if any assistance is needed to protect a shoreline in Scarborough I’ll be the first in line there to try and provide that assistance.
Mr. Lewis: You know it is, and you know that Jimmy Auld is looking at it right now.
Hon. Mr. Wells: We’ll certainly be looking at that and I’d be happy to engage in further discussion during the debate part of the estimates about that.
Mr. Lewis: Excellent.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Members will recall that it was on August 18, 1978, when the two new ministries were established to carry out those responsibilities and functions allocated previously to the Ministry of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs, one being the Ministry of Treasury and Economics and the other, of course, the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs.
This ministry was designed to bring together in one organization responsibility for policies concerning relations between the province of Ontario and other governments. There are two major aspects to these relations. First, Ontario’s relation with governments outside our provincial jurisdiction, primarily the federal and other provincial governments but also important contacts with governments beyond Canada. Second, Ontario’s relations with governments within our provincial jurisdiction, primarily municipalities but also involving other local bodies to a limited extent.
On the surface, it may seem that there is little in common between these two broad areas. It is true that there are significant differences. For example, when we talk to the federal government it is a discussion between two governments with powers and responsibilities set out in Canada’s constitution.
In contrast, relations between ourselves and municipalities involve discussions among a group of governments operating within the same jurisdiction. However, intergovernmental relations, no matter what governments are involved, does have an important common theme which forms the rationale for this ministry.
No government can operate effectively today without knowing and understanding one key fact: that the decisions one government makes often have an important and immediate impact on the programs and activities of other governments. This kind of chain reaction can begin anywhere in the system -- federal, provincial or municipal -- and can be expressed in many ways. For example: a budgetary decision, a newer revised grant or loan program, a change in program standards, a newer expanded activity, and so on.
But one thing is certain. Very few such decisions are self-contained in their influences. It is the knowledge and understanding of this process and the ability to evaluate and recommend policies as a result that explains why we are in business today as a Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Of course, this rationale rests upon the fundamental fact that all governments -- municipal, provincial, and federal -- serve a common master. We are all representatives of the citizens, the people who pay the bills. While each level of government has its own responsibilities, we are all working towards common ends on behalf of the same people. To do this effectively and efficiently requires a co-ordinated approach carried through by sensitive people who understand the realities of jurisdictional and political concerns and needs and who have the time and the clout to carry out their responsibilities with the effect and influence that is appropriate and required.
These then were some of the essential factors which have guided us in the establishment and the subsequent structuring of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs.
At the outset I want to say how pleased and fortunate I am to have so many knowledgeable and dedicated people as colleagues in this ministry.
Mr. Swart: Not many of your colleagues around you now.
Mr. Foulds: What are you doing all by yourself?
Hon. Mr. Wells: They are all supporting us; they are all supporting us.
In particular, I would mention my parliamentary assistant, the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe) --
Mr. Foulds: Where is he?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Don’t worry, he will be here.
Mr. Foulds: Why isn’t he here now?
Hon. Mr. Wells: He will be here.
Mr. Nixon: He is making out his expense account.
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, we don’t give him any expenses -- and my deputy minister, Don Stevenson.
Mr. Nixon: He is here.
Hon. Mr. Wells: The member for Durham West will be devoting particular time and attention to municipal-provincial issues. His background as mayor of Pickering and as parliamentary assistant to the former Treasurer is already proving to be a valuable asset to this ministry.
Don Stevenson, as many people are aware, is well known inside and beyond the Ontario public service.
Mr. Foulds: Two Tories in the House.
Hon. Mr. Wells: He has had broad experience as a senior adviser to the government on all aspects of intergovernmental affairs, most recently as chairman of the provincial-municipal grants reform committee.
Mr. Foulds: Can we move no confidence now, Mr. Chairman?
Hon. Mr. Wells: It should also be noted that Don Stevenson has two roles in the public service. In addition to being deputy minister of this ministry, he is also coordinator of French language services for the entire government. This year he is also president of the prestigious Institute of Public Administration of Canada.
I would like to speak briefly about that component of the ministry which has the vital responsibility related to our dealings and relationships with the municipalities of Ontario. The local government division is virtually the same as the division that had the same name in Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs. As before, the executive director of that division is Eric Fleming. Within that division, there are six branches: local government organization branch, headed by Ron Farrow; municipal budgets and accounts, headed by Alec Trafford; municipal administration, headed by Ted Gomme; the provincial-municipal affairs secretariat, headed by Dick Illingworth; the subsidies branch, headed by Mark Trewin; and our field services branch, which oversees 10 regional offices and which is directed by Fred Hamblin.
Broadly speaking this division has a dual role: to advise the government on policies affecting local government, particularly municipalities, and also to assist local government in carrying out their responsibilities and their functions. If members have had a chance to look over the bill which creates the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, they will see on the schedule appended to that bill that the new ministry has responsibility for 55 pieces of legislation, the vast majority of them in the municipal area.
More specifically, the local government division has the following within its activities: policy advice on local government structure, functions and responsibilities; assistance to municipalities on administrative and financial management; liaison with municipalities and municipal organizations on a broad range of provincial policies and programs of interest to local government; policy advice on transfer payments to municipalities, including unconditional grants, transitional and special grants and payments in lieu of taxes as well as the management of several transfer payments and loan programs.
I would like to elaborate on the last point. In our early discussion with the Treasurer and his officials, it was recognized that the municipal financial base and the system of intergovernmental transfers are important components of the fiscal and budgetary structure of this province. However, while recognizing that the ultimate responsibility for provincial financial policy rests with the Treasurer, it is also clear that the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs can, and should, perform an active planning and advocate role on behalf of the municipalities of this province.
Having regard to all these factors, the decision has been made that the municipal finance branch and the intergovernmental finance and grants policy branch will remain as part of the fiscal policy division in the Ministry of Treasury and Economics. On the other hand, the prime point of contact with municipalities on the implementation of policy, including finance is the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. This is why all unconditional grants to municipalities are in the estimates of this ministry.
I am optimistic that these arrangements relating to municipal financial matters will prove effective to all concerned. Because of the crucial nature of this area, however, we will be monitoring these arrangements very carefully, prepared to advocate refinements or alterations as may be advisable.
It is clear that the scope of the local government division is immense, carrying with it a mandate of the highest order of importance.
Throughout this early period in the life of the new ministry, we have been trying to convey our serious intention to create a new tone and stance with regard to our relationships with the municipalities of this province. In a word, we started on day one with the very clear understanding that we would be a very open, responsive and constructive operation, working in a meaningful partnership with local government.
On several occasions when I have had the opportunity, I have characterized this approach by saying that our three key words are the three “c”s -- co-operation, consultation and co-ordination. Of course there is a fourth consensus, which is always worth striving for.
This kind of partnership is essential at this point in time if we are to serve the people in an effective and efficient way. A spirit of co-operation is the order of the day because anything less, I submit, would be irresponsible not to say fruitless, as we faced the issues, large and small, that concern all of us jointly.
At this point, it is not my intention to go into a detailed recitation of all the issues which presently occupy the time and efforts of the local government division. There are however, one or two broad matters on which I would like to comment.
The first has to do with the concept of regional government. By and large, regional government has worked very well in this province.
Mr. Bradley: Where?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Metropolitan Toronto.
Mr. Bradley: Yes, one place.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It was implemented where it was needed and with each passing year, there has been evidence of its increasing effectiveness. There is no doubt that the remainder of the 1970s and on into --
Mr. Nixon: It wasn’t needed in Haldimand-Norfolk.
Mr. Bradley: Nor in Niagara.
Hon. Mr. Well: -- the 1980s are going to be years that will require some adjustments and refinements in many aspects of local government, both operationally and structurally. However, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, we are now beyond the time when massive restructuring of municipalities is required. The provincial government has gone as far as it intends to go with regional government.
Mr. Bradley: Darcy’s gone.
Hon. Mr. Wells: What we have serves us well, and will doubtless serve us better in the future. But I want to make it clear that we do not intend to legislate any additional regional governments or large-scale restructured municipalities.
Mr. Bradley: Good news.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Nor do we intend to embark upon any further major studies of restructuring or any further review commissions. We have had the benefit of several studies and commission reports lately, along with the local responses to them. And, of course, as the members know, still to come is the final report of the Waterloo Region Review Commission, being headed up by Bill Palmer.
Mr. Bradley: I’m glad we have a flexible minister now.
Hon. Mr. Wells: We want to take the time to digest all of these studies that we have; so we will not be embarking, as I said, on any further projects of this kind of magnitude. That is not to say we will turn a blind eye to changes which may be needed in local governments. We can’t do that. But I have already told the municipal people that it would be advisable for them to have their own ongoing studies and evaluation of their operations and that the onus is largely upon them to come forward with their ideas for improvements. Certainly any such ideas which may require provincial action will be given the fullest consideration.
I believe we sometimes waste a lot of time studying, restudying and restudying again some of these things, only to find ourselves back at the starting line, where the local people and their elected representatives have most of the answers as to what is actually appropriate, feasible and achievable in their own jurisdiction. I think if we recognize some of these basic facts of life, and if we place the onus clearly upon local governments to come forward with their ideas for improvements, we all would be able to proceed on a proper course in half the time, at half the cost and with half the upset.
I mentioned earlier that the next few years are likely to be years of consolidation, improving the decision-making abilities of municipalities in terms of competing priorities in each municipality. As we grapple with the problem of a different economic climate, we will be working with municipalities to find ways of coping with the constraints with which we are all faced.
We will look at improvements that can be made to the administrative structure of municipalities; these could range from a revision of the Municipal Act to measures that might improve the management training opportunities available to municipal employees.
Another broad issue relating to local government which I would like to mention arises out of the major problems which continue to exist with regard to the definition of boundaries around many of our villages, towns and cities.
Unfortunately, as many members know from personal experience, the trend of bitter and expensive annexation battles continues today outside the regions, and there is evidence that it is an accelerating trend. In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to achieve solutions to boundary problems. Quite clearly, though, it is an area that I think members will agree has to be remedied soon.
Our neighbours to the south turned a blind eye to some of these problems, with the result that many American cities have been salvaged by the metropolitan explosion. It is to be hoped that we never find ourselves in the same situation as some of our American neighbours. But the potential there, if we don’t demonstrate the capacity to come to grips with the problems we do face.
Years ago, some of our bigger cities -- Toronto included -- faced these problems, and we solved them. Today, some of our urban centres are also beginning to feel the pinch. Sarnia, Brantford, Barrie, Kingston and other cities are in much the same position as Toronto was in 1950, although on a smaller scale and with a slower rate of growth.
How do we meet the problems of these kinds of centres -- those municipalities which had pinned their hopes for boundary realignment on either the Ontario Municipal Board or county restructuring, or both?
The problems, we all know, have not gone away. We have shopping malls on the fringes and, in some cases, downtown decay. We have industrial development stalled for lack of servicing. We have intermunicipal agreements that encourage random growth. We have growth areas that can’t grow and that are indeed being bled off by indiscriminate growth. We have so-called rural areas that compete vigorously and successfully for industrial, commercial and residential development because they are not in the political-economic setting which assures the sharing of assessment.
In many instances where such circumstances arise, bitter disputes often result, with urban and rural municipalities pitted one against the other. I submit that it is neither a healthy nor a fruitful situation.
A few weeks ago, I put the question to delegates attending the conference of the Association of Counties and Regions of Ontario: In a boundary dispute, which is the best procedure -- to have elected people fight it out even if it means a long and bitter stalemate, or to have knowledgeable and sensible impartial people make the final decision when the elected people have reached an impasse?
I asked the delegates at that conference to consider the ramifications of their views on the following questions related to a local disagreement over an amalgamation or annexation proposal:
First, should the dispute be settled by elected people or by people appointed by elected people for their impartiality?
Second, if elected people at the local level cannot come to agreement, should the boundary or annexation dispute be settled by elected people at the provincial level, which could mean the cabinet or it could mean the Legislature?
Third, is the Ontario Municipal Board a viable institution to settle such a dispute impartially, or would we be better off with a whole new body to consider and decide upon boundary and annexation disputes?
Fourth, could a special panel within the Ontario Municipal Board framework be created to decide on these disputes exclusively, with simplified and speeded-up procedures compared to the present practices?
I’m very hopeful, Mr. Chairman, that farsighted and effective answers can be found to these and other questions in the near future. I must say I don’t have all the answers at this point in time. I’ve invited the local government people, the municipalities, to comment upon these questions and I hope perhaps in this debate that members of this House will comment on these questions that I have raised and others concerning amalgamation and annexation problems, and that out of it perhaps will come a course of action that we can institute to help solve this very vexing problem that we all face at the present time.
With this broad overview of the local government division and a few of the major areas of current interest I’d now like to turn to the other component of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs.
First, very briefly, is the administrative aspect. Because the ministry is relatively small there is no need for a large core of central services. In order to make the most effective use of resources we will share most administrative services with the Ministry of Treasury and Economics. By this I mean services such as personnel and office services, for example.
However, there will be a small program-support unit providing those services essential to a ministry. This group, under the direction of Sam Clasky, will cover policy liaison with cabinet and cabinet committees, research and analysis of common concerns to the entire ministry, liaison with Treasury, particularly on federal-provincial and provincial-municipal financial matters -- where as I mentioned before Treasury will, of course, continue to play the key role -- and estimates preparation and expenditure monitoring.
The ministry also has a legal services branch consisting of those in the former TEIGA legal services unit who concentrated on local government and municipal law.
Mr. Nixon: Did he say “teagle legal”?
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, I said TEIGA legal services: Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs legal services unit.
Mr. Bradley: Sounds like a Hawaiian bar.
Mr. Nixon: Sounds like a new drink they have invented.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Those in it concentrated on local government and municipal law. The director of that branch is Ian Reid.
Finally, that leads me to the intergovernmental affairs division. In number it is small, but in importance and effectiveness it is very much in the forefront of our mandate and our activities.
Broadly stated, the purpose of this division is to advise the government on all aspects of federal-provincial, interprovincial, and external relations including: advice on constitutional issues and proposals; the impact of federal program proposals upon the activities of the Ontario government and local governments; the effects upon Ontario of initiatives and proposals of other provincial governments; and contacts with governments outside Canada.
The executive director of this division is Ed Greathed, and the two directors are Gary Posen, of the federal provincial and interprovincial affairs secretariat; and Michele Fordyce, external activities secretariat.
The intergovernmental affairs division has a secretariat flavour to its activities. While it serves the ministry in a day-to-day way, it also has ongoing relationships with the Premier’s office and with other ministries in their dealings with other governments, mainly federal and provincial. For example, let me tell the honourable members that in preparation for last week’s constitutional conference in Ottawa, the staff of the division worked in close collaboration not only with me, but also the Premier’s office and the Ministry of the Attorney General as well, co-ordinating the government’s efforts as a whole. Likewise, we will be working with the Premier and the Treasurer in preparation for the first ministers’ conference on the economy at the end of November.
The intergovernmental affairs division brings a broad perspective to bear on its support role. In its dealings with other Ontario ministries, this perspective comes as a result of its knowledge of over a decade of patterns and trends in federalism; its direct experience at first ministers’ conferences, provincial Premiers’ gatherings, interprovincial ministerial conferences and other meetings in virtually every area of government; its regularly gathered intelligence from many sources of federal, provincial, interprovincial and international matters of concern to Ontario; and its review of intergovernmental agreement.
Out of all this, we are expected to keep the government well informed of and to coordinate the whole range of issues under intergovernmental discussion at any one time.
Much of the day-to-day intergovernmental activity is of course carried on by individual ministers, but the officials of this ministry are there to advise and assist where necessary.
Because we are now into a period in Canada when there is going to be a renewed effort to accomplish constitutional change and because the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs is going to play a very large part in this effort, I would like to provide members with a general overview as to where we now stand with regard to the constitutional talks and where we are going from here.
Ontario’s participation in last week’s conference of first ministers on the constitution had one simple objective: to propose a reasonable plan of constitutional change with the goal of strengthening our confederation. This has been an unswerving commitment of this province throughout the years of constitutional discussions. In the last decade alone, starting with its sponsorship of the Confederation of Tomorrow conference in 1967 and with Destiny Canada in 1977, Ontario’s efforts have been to understand and reconcile through imaginative and workable means the tensions among governments, regions and people of Canada.
After a seven-year absence of federal-provincial constitutional discussions -- the last was in Victoria in 1971 -- we all went to Ottawa last week fully prepared to do what we could to help restore national stability and trust in our country. In his opening remarks to the conference, the Premier struck a double theme: first, specific modifications to our constitution are required; second, a carefully arranged process for achieving them is critical for a successful outcome.
Throughout the conference, Ontario, true to its tradition, I believe, urged sound but moderate changes and undertook to bridge conflicting interests. Ontario’s presentation affirmed its strong commitment to Canadian unity and recognized the objectives essential to other parts of our country. This concern for others and not just ourselves, coupled with suggestions for further intergovernmental discussions, at which time with goodwill all governments could forge a new confederation, I think made the Ontario presentation a focus of reconciliation.
Ontario’s specific proposals for constitutional change were not presented as hard and fast ultimatums but rather as carefully weighed and considered preferences. We applied to them the same test as to their suitability which we recommend to all governments. These were, would they strengthen and improve the cohesion of Canada? Do they have the support of Canadians wherever they might live? Would they work?
Over the last decade of proposing and considering constitutional reforms, we have come closer to understanding what would be required for any successful resolution of the differences of this country. I think it boils down generally to the need for a fair deal among governments to which each can assent, not because everything appeals or all claims are met, but because the overall package is acceptable. It requires, more specifically, concerted efforts in four areas of recurring concern during this period of constitutional discussion. These are:
1. To reduce the frustrations caused by unequal economic opportunity across Canada. Disparities arise because some regions are rich in natural resources while others have the stimulus of favourable national policy. Some, however, have neither; therefore, one objective of constitutional change should be to ensure better sharing of economic advantage in all parts of Canada.
2. To ensure the development of the French-Canadian language and culture, predominantly but not solely centred in Quebec.
3. To respect the claims of our native people concerning their rights and of our multicultural heritage when formulating reforms.
4. To devise means of reconciling differences between governments to lessen insensitivities and conflicts among their individual actions.
With these general objectives in mind, Ontario puts forward the following proposals as a realistic and effective set of constitutional changes:
1. Selective but significant adjustment to the distribution of powers to strengthen provincial responsibilities for economic and fiscal matters of national impact;
2. New practices for intergovernmental consultation and reconciliation of differences to reduce the number of unilateral and insensitive actions by one government without sufficient regard for the effect on the other; --
Mr. Nixon: Have you any government in mind there?
Hon. Mr. Wells: In some cases provincial governments and in some cases the federal government; I think we have all been to blame in that regard from time to time.
3. A process by which the provinces meaningfully contribute to the appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada.
4. The assurance that individuals, goods, capital and services can freely move across the country;
5. An expression of individual human rights as identified in the 1971 Canadian constitutional charter that was drawn up in Victoria;
6. The rights of parents of official language minorities to have their children educated in the minority language where numbers are significant;
7. An amending formula involving a significant majority of legislative bodies across Canada;
8. The Queen’s constitutional power and authority should remain exactly as they are. We believe the crown provides stability and continuity in our country and we wish to leave that majestic and honoured relationship as it is.
Mr. Nixon: We certainly want that one.
Hon. Mr. Wells: We hope you do. In addition, we put forward specific ideas for reducing the duplication and overlapping of government services. Each of these proposals was discussed at the conference. However, in the interests of time today, I am not going to go into detail. If members would care to raise any of them for discussion, I would be happy to provide any commentary or discuss them during consideration of these estimates.
We recognize that our proposals are only as effective as the process to mould them into an intergovernmental consensus and ultimate constitutional change. With that in mind, Ontario proposed a procedure for intergovernmental negotiation intended to produce agreement within a reasonable time frame by focusing on a limited range of issues. This will depend heavily on a commitment to serious, open and prolonged negotiations by officials and ministers in all governments.
Our first point was to recognize that some issues more than others had the makings of a broad consensus. We believe governments should work on these matters first. A little success does wonders for the credibility of the whole success. Our idea was that first ministers should shortlist those items for priority attention, reserving the other issues for a second round of discussion.
Next we proposed that a joint committee on constitutional change composed of the appointees of 11 governments should be established to reduce the various positions on each issue to a single recommendation or, failing that, limited alternatives. These would be presented to the first ministers again within six months. Then, once these differences had been reconciled by the first ministers and a package of proposals for change agreed to, each government would submit the proposals in appropriate constitutional language to its respective legislatures for public approval.
Once approved, the formal steps for changing the British North America Act could then proceed. I think members will realize that this procedure, which was in the Premier’s opening statement to the conference, resembles very closely the followup procedures which were ultimately adopted by the first ministers at the conference. The first ministers agreed that constitutional change was an urgent national priority and that all governments would have to devote the necessary time and effort to this task over the coming weeks and months.
Moreover, they recognized that unless there was a willingness among them all to reach a consensus and to be flexible in their positions, there would be little likelihood of success. The clear process for followup which the first ministers adopted at the conclusion of the Ottawa conference includes the following steps:
First, the Prime Minister and Premiers decided that they would meet again on February 5 and 6, 1979, thus making it clear that the task of constitutional reform remains urgent and will continue; second, they established a special committee of federal and provincial ministers consisting of Ministers of Intergovernmental Affairs, Attorneys General and ministers responsible for the constitution, to review particular items discussed at the conference and to prepare specific proposals or alternatives for consideration by first ministers in February; third, and while it was not included in the conference communique they did in effect establish a short list of priority items during their discussion which will become the agenda for the committee of ministers which will begin meeting soon.
It is my expectation that this agenda will closely resemble the following list of items. The first is the distribution of powers within which there are seven items on the short list -- restrictions on the spending power of Parliament; obligations on Parliament regarding equalization and regional development; provisions for provincial indirect taxes; limits: on the federal declaratory power; clarification of provincial responsibilities with regard to natural resources, offshore resources, fisheries and interprovincial and international trade; shared responsibility for the field of communications, and unification of family law under provincial jurisdiction.
These seven items are those proposed by Prime Minister Trudeau for detailed discussion on the second day of the conference and they were welcomed by virtually all first ministers as a significant step forward by the federal government.
Other items were discussed at the conference which the committee of ministers will have to consider on their short list. These include the monarchy, to ensure that the revised constitution preserves the role and functions of the Queen; rights and freedoms, to consider whether rights should be entrenched in the constitution, and if so which rights and language rights will be part of this discussion; the Supreme Court of Canada, to identify how the provinces should be involved in the appointment of the justices of the Court; federal-provincial relations, to look at the alternatives for improving relations between the two orders of government, including the proposals for Senate reform made by British Columbia and the government of Canada, and the ideas for improving the operation of federal-provincial conferences that were suggested by Ontario.
The sixth item that will be considered is amending and patriation. The ministers will be considering an amending formula for the constitution and they will be discussing how patriation could be achieved quickly and effectively. This last subject resulted in a great deal of discussion at the conference, with strongly opposing views being expressed by the federal government on the one hand and the government of Quebec on the other.
Mr. Nixon: Where do we fit in on that?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Well, I’ll tell the member. In spite of Quebec’s position that patriation should only be considered at the end of the complete constitutional review process, I think it is something that the committee of ministers will have to explore in detail over the next three months. Certainly, the federal government’s position was just the opposite, that patriation was a very important thing to be considered right up there in the front on any list of constitutional considerations.
The Ontario position on these matters is very clear, and it was expressed at the conference by the Premier (Mr. Davis). It is that we believe that the task of bringing our constitution home to Canada is a highly desirable, urgent national objective, and that we should proceed with that right away.
Mr. Haggerty: So you agree with Prime Minister Trudeau? Let the record stand.
Hon. Mr. Wells: We believe that a flexible amending formula must be found along the lines of the one contained in the Victoria charter of 1971.
As I said a few minutes ago, the format and substance of the followup to the Ottawa conference closely resembles the proposition which Ontario put forward at the outset. This resemblance is no coincidence but a reflection of this province’s careful, realistic approach to constitutional change. We were very much aware of the views of other governments. We carefully assessed what would be desirable and what in practice would work. We made every effort at the conference to bring differing views together and keep the conference on course.
In this way I think that Ontario, and the Premier particularly, contributed significantly to the conference’s achievements. Moreover, the fact of this achievement should be emphasized. I think I would like to underline that. The conference was a success. It reopened the process of constitutional review through direct discussions between the federal and provincial governments for the first time in seven years. It clearly established a renewed constitution as a national priority. It agreed upon a mechanism, timetable and agenda for follow up.
Most definitely, in my view, the Ottawa conference set into motion a chain of events which should bring us closer to achieving our objectives. To avoid any significant time lapse, I would like to tell the honourable members that the first meeting of the special committee of ministers has already been scheduled for November 23, 24 and 25. Arrangements have been made by the Canadian intergovernmental conference secretariat to hold the meetings at the well-known Cantrakon conference centre, which is located in the picturesque Gatineau Hills north of Hull.
Mr. Nixon: Our own local one will be ready for that date.
Mr. Foulds: They picked a good place.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I thought the members would be interested in that piece of information. That comes very highly recommended to us by the federal people in Ottawa.
Mr. Makarchuk: Is the Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett) going to be there?
Mr. Swart: Their use pays for 90 per cent of it.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Subsequent followup meetings of the committee will be held, we expect, in December and January; all in preparation for the next conference of first ministers in early February.
The means for achieving progress towards a new constitution are thus now firmly in place. I do not underestimate the difficulties that we shall have, but I am confident that we are closer to a consensus than many might be willing to concede.
With that report on the structure and the role of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs and this brief outline of some of our present activities, let me conclude by saying that I look forward to discussing all of these and other matters with the members of this House during the consideration of these budget estimates.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, at the outset I’d like to clarify one particular thing. With your indulgence, I’d like to indicate that I’m going to be giving about half the statement now, and my colleague, the member for Ottawa East (Mr. Roy), who is the critic for the part of Intergovernmental Affairs which deals with provincial-federal relations, will be giving a statement later on in the day with respect to that particular responsibility. I hope that with the indulgence of the chair we will be able to make these two statements separately. I would hope that the minister would not have any opposition to that particular approach.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: I would think after your statement we would revert to the third party and then back to your second matter.
Mr. Epp: Yes, that would be fine.
Mr. Swath: Can I get a clarification on this? Is it my understanding that we should have two lead-in statements or that we will be reverting to a vote? If there are two lead-in statements for any caucus in this House I suppose there will be two lead-in statements for all caucuses.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: The rules adopted by the House indicate only one lead-in speaker, but with the unanimous consent of those present we could split the speech between two members, if the members present so desire, because of the nature of this ministry. Other than that, I would have to take one initial statement and then on the first vote we can take the second statement, as we did with another ministry last week.
Mr. Epp: It’s perfectly fine with us if Mr. Roy has an opportunity to speak later on the first item. If you want to regard that as the second part of the lead-in statement, we’d appreciate that, Thank you very much.
The statement the minister has made -- brief statement that it is, about 39 pages or so -- indicates clearly the organization of the new ministry. We agree with a large part of this, and we feel the ministry should have been broken off from the Treasury and Economics part of it. We’ll obviously have an opportunity to speak more thoroughly on that when the bill, to which my colleague the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) alluded earlier, comes before the House next week or whenever.
In the days when the Roman Empire was expanding, a general who annexed a province laid down a basic statute establishing a system of taxation. The Romans considered this just payment for the questionable benefit of Roman rule. It is considered that the system worked extremely well -- for the Romans anyway, who were not noted for generosity and who never gave anything back without severe conditions. It worked even better for the provincial governors who made sure by over-assessments that more than enough money was collected -- enough to fill their own pockets and those of their staffs.
When a community was in need of money, as it often was, Roman financiers helped out by lending it money at fantastically high interest rates. I’m not suggesting for a moment that anyone in the government is pocketing any money, but the government is, through various means, taxing the people of this province and then generously giving the money back to municipalities, school boards, libraries, museums on a conditional basis. The people have to pay unconditionally and then receive grants back conditionally.
Let’s look at some of these grants. The resource equalization grant provides assistance to those municipalities with below average local resource bases, which then enables the government to improve services without undue reliance on the property tax. I support the principle of resource equalization grants, which tends to equalize municipalities from the standpoint of offering and affording needed services. The principle of equity has widespread support, as it should have; that is, the have areas helping the have-not areas to extend equity.
The degree of equalization depends on the factors used to determine the amount of the grant. This, I submit, is at the heart of the unequal treatment suffered by such municipalities as Sarnia, Windsor, St. Catharines, Burlington, and yes Kitchener. Windsor feels it is being short-changed to the extent of about $13 million; Sarnia, over $1 million; and others to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As the minister responsible for dealing directly with municipalities, I would hope you would seriously try to amend this inequity. I’m wondering to what extent you are prepared to see Windsor, Sarnia, Burlington, St. Catharines, Kitchener and other municipalities benefit equally from the resource equalization grant.
With respect to the Edmonton commitment, in 1973 the then Hon. John White went to Edmonton and while there he committed the provincial government to transfer to local government funds which would be equal to the growth rate of provincial budgetary revenues. The municipalities were elated. They felt that for the first time the province had given them some degree of security; a guarantee, if you will, of financial support, on the basis of which they could plan their budget and the progress of their municipalities.
The euphoria was short-lived. Within a year or so the then Treasurer indicated that what municipalities believed to be a minimum amount was, in fact, a maximum. An agreement which initially had been developed through consultation with the MLC and other municipal bodies was all of a sudden changed unilaterally. On September 16, 1977, the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough), again unilaterally, without discussion, informed the Ontario municipalities -- all 835 of them -- that the Edmonton commitment was again going to be changed. This time such items as the teachers’ superannuation fund, payments in lieu, farm tax rebates, home renewal payments, regional priorities, would be part of calculating the transfer of these funds.
Since at least two important changes have been made since the Edmonton commitment was arrived at in 1973, do you anticipate making any other changes in the future to that particular commitment? Secondly, are you prepared to legislate the amount of grants you are committed to make to municipalities rather than leave it to the whim of the Treasurer or to order in council?
As you are aware, the government has promised further deconditionalization of grants. In 1969-70, 88 per cent of total financial assistance was in the form of conditional grants. In 1977-78, 79 per cent of financial assistance was conditional, a decrease of nine per cent in conditional funding over eight years. For 1978-79, only 11.6 per cent of the total transfers to municipalities are in the form of unconditional grants. The fact that unconditional funding seems to be declining could be seen as an indication that the province wants to determine the priorities for municipalities rather than leaving it to the municipalities themselves. In other words, municipalities have not yet reached the stage where they can make decisions with any degree of flexibility.
Mr. Minister, I am aware that significant grant reform was proposed earlier this year by a committee headed by Deputy Minister Don Stevenson. Some important changes were recommended and your ministry has received responses to these proposals. I’m wondering whether you could indicate to this House the reaction you received to the paper that Mr. Stevenson and his committee put out -- reaction from organizations such as the libraries, the museums, the senior citizens’ centres, areas that receive conditional grants? Further, when do you anticipate introducing legislation or a white paper on this important subject?
I believe no statement regarding intergovernmental affairs would be complete without comment on the state of local government in Ontario and the direction in which it appears to be headed. Some major changes have occurred in the structure of municipalities within the last 10 years, changes which have not been equalled since the Baldwin Act of the late 1840s. Some of these were necessary and desirable; others have met with a great deal of opposition.
Regional government, as it was formulated and applied to Toronto in 1953, was good in principle and has functioned relatively well. Amendments to the earlier version have been recommended and implemented, such as reducing the number of municipalities from 13 to six. Elsewhere in the province where regional government has been imposed, it has been viewed with scepticism at best and often with outright consternation and opposition.
The provincial government has commissioned several studies of regions, as the minister indicated earlier today, such as Metro, Niagara, Hamilton-Wentworth, Ottawa-Carleton, and more recently the region of Waterloo.
With the exception of the last study, which has not been completed, a few million dollars has been expended on these studies but only minor amendments have been introduced and implemented in this House. One was the establishment of the municipality of Hazel-dean-March. The other was the important amendment to the Regional Municipality of Niagara Act which gave St. Catharines one extra representative on the regional council, for which I suppose the member for St. Catharines (Mr. Bradley) should take a great deal of credit because he was the first one to champion that particular cause.
These two amendments and the four or five studies that have taken place are hardly an enviable record. Our party would like to know exactly how much money the provincial government has spent on these regional reviews and, secondly, when we can expect some major amending legislation to be introduced, which has been recommended by the various studies.
I believe, however, that the present government has learned important lessons regarding the formation of new governments when I read the minister’s speech to the Association of Counties and Regions of Ontario last month and his remarks earlier today. For instance, he indicates that he doesn’t want to go ahead with more regional studies and with more regional restructuring. I notice that on both of these occasions he said: “What we have serves us well and will doubtless serve us better in the future. However, I want to tell you today that we do not intend to legislate any additional regional governments or large-scale restructured municipalities.”
I wonder how this particular statement, which he has made on a few occasions, relates to the studies that have been done in Northumberland for instance, and the fairly lengthy studies that have occurred in the Georgian Bay archipelago. I wonder whether the particular policy that he has enunciated here now means that what has happened in Northumberland is dead for the next five or 10 years or whatever; or, since a fairly thorough study was done in that part of the province and a fairly thorough study has been done in the Georgian Bay area-both with considerable opposition, I dare say -- I wonder whether he still plans to bring some kind of amending legislation restructuring these areas to the House.
With those comments, Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the minister to give us some indication, later in his remarks, as to how he stands with respect to the questions I have posed.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Before calling the next speaker, I would reply further to the request of the member for Waterloo North concerning his colleague from Ottawa East.
I would make the suggestion that we will be dealing with vote 1101B, item 1, which is the main office. We can conclude that and then, when we get to vote 1102, which is intergovernmental affairs, the member for Ottawa East will have time to lead off that discussion and discuss everything he wants on that.
This suggestion is made in the light of the ruling that the chairman of the committee of the whole House made at the beginning of this debate, that basically only one critic could speak at length and in far-ranging terms on vote 1101, item 1. Intergovernmental affairs really doesn’t come under this vote, but it would be acceptable when we get to the next vote; the member for Ottawa East can lead off and make his general statement at that time.
Mr. Epp: I would hope that we would be able to get to that later on this evening, Mr. Chairman, and that would be perfectly acceptable.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Chairman, the first thing I want to do in speaking on these first estimates of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, and before it is officially divided, is to express pleasure that there has been a division of responsibilities in the Ministry of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs, and to express pleasure at the appointment that was made as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
I think it is obvious that the government wanted to change the whole image of TEIGA. They wanted to soften its image; they wanted to have more co-operative stance and, I hope, to give more emphasis to municipal affairs in this Legislature by having a minister whose prime responsibility is in that field.
I have to say that I have some concern about the municipal finance branch and the intergovernmental municipal finance and grants sections being left under the Ministry of Treasury and Economics. There may be some problem there when the Treasurer has no direct responsibility to the municipalities in any effort they make at persuading him to provide the necessary financial assistance, to give the necessary recognition to municipal government in the financial field. It will obviously, therefore, be up to this minister to ensure that the municipalities get their rightful share of taxes which are collected by the provincial government.
I would also like to say that it would be my hope -- and we will go into this, of course, more fully when the IGA bill is before us -- MIGA I guess it should be known as, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Wells: IGA.
Mr. Swart: IGA? Okay, you are willing to put it at the level of a grocery store.
Hon. Mr. Wells: MIA.
Mr. Bradley: Missing in action.
Mr. Swart: Whatever the name of the ministry is, I would hope that some consideration will be given by the government and by the minister to perhaps including some other municipal functions within his ministry.
I think particularly of planning, which is so closely associated with local government that I have some real doubts that it should be under any other ministry; and perhaps I dare say too that, with the present Minister of Housing, I would prefer to see that function under some other ministry and would hope some consideration might be given to consolidating some of the responsibility for municipal services under this ministry.
I want also to commend the minister for generally giving a thoughtful speech on his introductory remarks to these estimates. His approach to the whole question of annexations I think shows an open mind, and I am the first one to say there is no easy answer to these problems of annexation. The alternatives he puts forward, on which the decision is to be made, I think are ones that have been carefully thought out and I commend him for that.
I also commend largely the comments which he made relative to constitutional reform. The proposals which this government has put forward for procedures, and most of the objectives are ones with which we can find very little fault. Of course, largely all that has been done so far -- and I am sure the minister would agree -- is to endeavour to draft a new agenda. I am not suggesting that this isn’t an important part but the tough bargaining, tough negotiations are still yet to come.
I would like to make two suggestions to the minister in this regard, and hope that he will accept them in the spirit in which they are put forward. One is that I would think as observers at the next one there would be some merit in taking with you, if it is not intended or even if you do intend to do so, at least one municipal representative from this province to sit in at least as an observer.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order, could I just inform my friend that the chairman of the Provincial Municipal Liaison Committee, Mr. Ed Mitchelson, was a member of the Ontario delegation at the recent conference. I’m sorry, I guess that wasn’t widely disseminated, but Mr. Mitchelson was there and sat in for most of the sessions in the conference hall and in a lot of our briefing sessions.
Mr. Nixon: In Ottawa.
Hon. Mr. Wells: In Ottawa, the meetings there last week.
Mr. Nixon: Why didn’t you take some of the people from the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Wells: The member for Ottawa East (Mr. Roy) was there for a while.
Mr. Nixon: He had to crash the party. It isn’t the department of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea).
Mr. Swart: If the member for Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk would desist for a moment, I was just going to suggest that there would be merit also in taking at least one representative from each of the opposition parties. Although the minister probably would never admit this, the constitutional debates and reforms are going to take a long period of time. It just might be that there would be some other government sitting here. It’s wise to have the benefit of all parties sitting in on the discussion.
Mr. Nixon: Imagine that. Your hair is going to turn grey.
Mr. Swart: I would put that proposal forward for the minister’s consideration.
I’d like to spend most of my time speaking about some things that the minister did not cover. He did mention regional government very briefly. I’m always a bit intrigued, whether it’s this minister or his predecessor, that they take great pains to say there are going to be no more regional governments and also take great pains to say that the ones we have are working very well.
Mr. Nixon: They are so good.
Mr. Bradley: That’s a contradiction in itself.
Mr. Swart: I think those who live within the regional government know there’s some contradiction in those statements.
Mr. Nixon: It will take 50 years of regional governments to recover their losses.
Mr. Swart: Any polls taken would show, except for that outside of Metro Toronto where there is one continuous urban area, in all other areas there is a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction with regional government. I suggest that’s the real reason they’re not proceeding to regionalize other areas in much the same situation as some of the 12 which have already been formed as regional municipalities.
I was disappointed that the minister made no mention of the financing of local governments and no mention of property tax reform.
Mr. Nixon: We have the Edmonton commitment.
Mr. Swart: I assume those responsibilities will come under his ministry, but even if they do not there’s no question that he will be the front man on these issues and he will be the one who will be making recommendations for any changes, or for that matter perhaps keeping the status quo. I want to say to him -- and I’m sure he must be aware of this -- that the whole subject of funding of local governments, the whole tax problem, is in a very large degree of chaos at the present time. During the last three or four years there has been a direct about-face from the stated policy of the government that it was going to de-emphasize the property tax and was going to give some continuity in the whole issue of transfer payments to the municipalities.
I’m sure the minister is aware that in the last three years at least the transfer payments that have been made from the government to local government have not kept up with the increase in taxes. In other words, more and more of the expenditures of local government, all levels of local government, have had to be collected from the property taxpayers.
The actual transfers for 1976 increased by something like 7.7 per cent. In 1977, it was 7.2 per cent and in 1978 it was 5.3 per cent. By the figures that were produced by TEIGA in the last three years, the mill rates have increased by something like 43.5 per cent over those three years. That has been due to the fact the government has not been transferring at the rate of increase of expenditures. It’s fair to say that municipalities have cut down very substantially on their expenditures; but even then the level of provincial transfers has not been kept up.
The member for Waterloo North mentioned the Edmonton commitment. It was, I think, a reasonably sound proposal, but we know what has happened to it during the last three years. It wasn’t lived up to during those years. The commitment that the government would transfer to municipalities not less than the increase in provincial revenue, has not been lived up to in the last three years, and now it has been abandoned. I think the minister may want to make some statement on that before the debate is finished on these estimates.
I mentioned the increase in property taxation -- and if the minister wishes to check back on this, I can name the document; I’m sure the ministry staff would be able to provide it. I think it is important that he know where they come from. If I can find it here I will get to that in a minute.
In any event, I want to point out that the 43.5 per cent increase in property taxation during the years 1974 to 1977 does not indicate the true net property tax increase to many of the property taxpayers in this province.
May I just interject to tell the minister the figures I have used are from the publication dated September 16, 1977: Advance Notice of 1978 Provincial Transfer to Local Government Municipal Spending and Mill Rate Performance 1974 to 1977. If he looks at that document he will notice there has been a 43.5 per cent increase in the mill rates.
As I say, this does not tell the whole picture. It has in fact been higher than that. This doesn’t show there was an increase in average assessment for people improving their homes and otherwise. TEIGA made allowance for this in the 1977 budget, saying this increase amounted to 2.4 per cent. Although this doesn’t show in the mill rates, if a person has a slightly higher assessment than he had the previous year, or if there are more new houses in the municipality than old houses and therefore there is a shift to more expensive assessments, the average home owner still has to pick that up. Although there was no increase made in that equalization this last year, it does average somewhere in the neighbourhood of one or two per cent a year.
Further, people pay more on their properties simply because there are improvements -- they have made a rec room in the basement or whatever the case may be. If we add this in we find the average increase has been in the neighbourhood of 47 or 48 per cent in the last three years. That is a substantial increase; that is much higher than the increase in the cost of living, that is much higher than the increase in average wages and salaries within this province.
It is, unfortunately, levied in a regressive manner on a regressive base. It has become increasingly regressive, because not only has there been a shift of municipal expenditures to the property tax, but there has not been anywhere near enough increase in the property tax credit to take care of that. As a result, these tax increases have fallen more heavily on those in the low income brackets.
The ministry put out a property tax credit booklet about a year ago, indicating how it affected the various income groups. Using those figures and other figures from the former TEIGA ministry, we can get a pretty clear indication of what has happened with regard to net taxes.
There is an example in that booklet of a $500 levied property tax paid by a person in 1974. At that time, if you had a $5,000 income you would get a property tax credit of something like $247. If a family with two children had an income of $7,500, they would have a property tax credit of something like $205. In the $10,000 bracket, you would have a property tax credit of something like $155.
In those three years, the property tax credit has gone up from something like $253 to $282 for the person on the $5,000 income; $205 to $246 on the $7,500 income; and $155 to $198 on the $10,000 income. But just using the increase of 43.5 per cent, we find the gross taxes would have gone up to $717 in all those cases. The net part of the property tax the person had to pay that was left between that $717 and the $282 was $435, which is an increase of 75 per cent to the average person in that $5,000 income bracket, an increase of 75 per cent in net taxes in three years.
To those in the $7,500-a-year income group, the increase is 60 per cent; and for a person with a $10,000 income over those three years it was an increase of 50 per cent.
If you happen to be an old age pensioner the percentage increase is much greater, because three years ago there was a flat additional tax credit of $110 which has never been changed. If the minister’s staff take the time to look into that, they will find that a person on old age income of $5,000 would therefore have had a tax increase during those three years of 137 per cent net. On a $7,500 income the senior citizen’s increase would be 95 per cent; and on a $10,000 income 74 per cent. Those are the percentage increases pensioners would have had.
Those are general, round figures and the minister will find them correct. He may find them more than that, because if they had had an increase in their income during those years they got less tax credit and it could be higher than that. However, there was a slight increase in the tax credit.
Basically, those figures are correct and I ask the minister very seriously to examine those figures, and in his first proposal for the budget give consideration to a substantial change in the property tax credit and tie the property tax credit to the increase in property tax. It is the only fair way and the only way you will get away from the very serious injustices.
Not only is the larger per cent of municipal expenditures being borne by the property tax but the levying of that property tax is more regressive. All the commitments that were given from the ‘60s through to the early ‘70s that this government was going to move towards eliminating the regressiveness of the property tax and going to move to lessening the impact of the property tax have been reversed in the last three years, and I urge you to once again reverse it and move down the path of a progressive tax.
I would also like to suggest -- and I know this is complex and I am going into it a little more fully some time later on -- that the tax credit be applied at the time of the payment of taxes. I know there are administrative problems in doing this. I will go into it a little later. I think it is feasible and I think because of the real need -- so these people on low income don’t have to find the $400, $500, $600 or $700 and then get it back a year later, they don’t have to find that when the taxes become due -- it’s worth the added inconvenience there may be in the administrative process.
The second point that I want to make -- and I hope the minister will comment on this -- is that there should be legislated revenue sharing in this province. You will know that was introduced in British Columbia a year ago and this year has been legislated in the province of Saskatchewan. I think, Mr. Minister, you may be interested in hearing some of the details, and I won’t go into them to any great extent, of what has been done in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. In both instances they are going to transfer to local governments shareable revenue in the proportion that those increase in any given year, very much like the Edmonton commitment only it is legislated.
They know what they are going to get. It can’t be changed except by the Legislature. There can be no situation exist in those provinces, as exists here, where there’s a commitment given for revenue sharing on the word of the Treasurer of the province on several occasions, and then on September 14 of 1977 the Treasurer told the municipal people he was abandoning the whole program which he had set up. He didn’t say it in quite so many words but that’s what it meant.
In British Columbia, their shareable revenues are the Social Services Tax Act, the Gasoline Tax Act, the Coloured Gasoline Tax Act and the Motive-fuel Use Tax Act, the Fuel Oil Tax Act, the net revenue from lands and forests as reported in the public accounts of British Columbia; and then it goes on to give the details of that -- the net revenue from minerals as reported in the public accounts of British Columbia, the mining tax, the mineral land tax, the mineral resource tax, the money received for the fiscal year from the British Columbia Petroleum Corporation and so on. That is now in effect and they know what they are going to get from year to year.
The Saskatchewan bill which was passed this year is much the same, except if anything there appears to have been a much greater degree of sincerity when it was introduced, because the bill provides for the same kind of sharing but they are indexing it to 1980 and this year the provincial government of Saskatchewan increased transfer payments to the municipalities by 45 per cent.
Mr. Haggerty: Yes, but the revenues are up.
Mr. Swart: One of the poor have-not provinces; still, they have the right government, Ray.
Mr. Haggerty: The revenues are up in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Mr. Swart: Also, next year they are going to give a very substantial increase; so they have a firm base which is much higher, in percentage terms, than the transfer payments in Ontario. Even this year, their transfer payments per capita are substantially above those in Ontario; and they are going to increase the level again next year and use that as a base for revenue sharing. There, I say, is a government that has concern about the municipalities and the municipal taxpayers in its province.
I want to say that even though this government says it is not able to match those kinds of increases in transfer payments, grants or assistance to local government, that legislating of revenue sharing should have a very high priority. Municipalities, like any other governments, have to be able to plan ahead; and they cannot do it. There is tremendous dissatisfaction, as I am sure the minister is aware, with the breaking of the Edmonton commitment. I am not going to take time to read all, or perhaps any, of the comments made by the Municipal Liaison Committee and many municipalities with regard to the breaking of the Edmonton commitment. But municipalities and their associations which normally phrase things in a rather friendly manner were pretty firm in what they had to say about the Ontario government for breaking the Edmonton commitment.
As the minister knows now, he has a resolution before him from the municipal liaison committee, which states that a joint provincial-municipal committee, on which the municipal members are municipal liaison committee appointees, be established immediately to examine and report on the financial relationship which should exist between both levels of government, with such committee to report in time for the implementation of its recommendations in 1980. As the minister is well aware, I am sure, even now they are asking for a legislative commitment from his government.
I would like to ask the minister, when he replies, to say whether he is contemplating such a legislative commitment? Is he contemplating a change in the property tax credits? These items, I suggest, are very very important to municipal people and the taxpayers of this province.
I would also like to ask the minister at this time if he plans on proceeding with the change in the assistance to senior citizens which was mentioned in the 1918 budget. He will recall that the then Minister of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. McKeough) said they were going to increase the flat $180, which is used as a tax credit, to $400. I am giving these figures off the top of my head, but it would mean there would be some increase from the neighbourhood of $250 as a maximum to a maximum of more than $500 for the senior citizens of this province. I am wondering if the minister would comment on that.
On all of these questions, particularly these three I hope I have made it clear that the municipalities want an answer, the property taxpayers want an answer, and I think we in both opposition parties want an answer. I will concede to the minister that he has not been in that office for any great length of time, but I am hoping he has had time to think about this and at least give some indication of the direction in which he will be going in this regard.
The other subject, which is related and which I want to touch on briefly -- and again I hope the minister will make some comments on this -- is the whole issue of property tax reform.
You’ll know that municipalities and their associations are appalled at the dropping of tax reform. I think members in at least two caucuses in this House last week were almost stunned when members of the government party rose to block a resolution which in essence said to the government they should proceed with a form of tax reform. It makes me wonder if the government hasn’t decided to totally abandon -- and I’d like to have some comments on that -- any kind of assessment reform.
I’m sure you know of the gross inequities which exist at the present time. It might be wise to remind you of what one of your own ministers, Darcy McKeough, said about them earlier this year. In the paper he tabled on January 4 on property tax reform, he talked about the great injustice which exists and he said, “There are essentially six types of inequities in the present property tax system: inequities in the distribution of provincial grants; inequities in the apportionment between municipalities of the cost of upper-tier municipalities, school boards and other cost-sharing units; inequities in the tax burdens borne by different classes of properties; inequities in the tax burdens of similar individual properties; inequities in the treatment of government properties; and inequities in the exemption of certain properties from property taxation.”
Then he went on and gave some detail about each of the inequities that existed. He pointed out they are very great in the distribution of provincial grants; he mentioned the city of Windsor, which has lost $13 million. The member for Waterloo also mentioned some other municipalities -- I have a list of them here -- where there are great shortfalls in the transfer of provincial payments to those municipalities.
Of course, it is recognized there are some places which may be getting more than their share; but surely that’s not reason enough to stop implementing property tax reform.
He talked about the inequity in the proportion between municipalities and the cost of upper-tier municipalities. He mentioned that Sarnia was losing something like $1.3 million, costing each residential taxpayer $35, because of those losses.
He mentioned the inequities in the tax burdens of similar individual properties, and said these are perhaps the worst form of inequity because they result from discrimination between similar properties. The most blatant inequity occurs among single-family residences. Older houses in many municipalities are set at more preferential rates than the homes of young families in the new subdivisions. And so on and on and on in his report.
I say to you, Mr. Minister, are you going to proceed with some kind of property tax reform?
Those statements in that report are either correct or incorrect. If they’re incorrect then I think we need to be told. If they are correct, then I think the inequities need to be rectified. No responsible government can evade them.
You know and I know that the main reason for not proceeding with the tax reform was the effect in Metro, where the average increase on single-family dwellings would have been something like $96. The provincial local government committee in April 1978 put forward a proposal to mitigate that, but it was only on a temporary basis. I say that’s not good enough and there is another route. There must, there can be, some permanent solution to this problem of inequities.
We know what they are. They are inequities between residents and they’re inequities between Metro and other municipalities in this province because Metro is not getting its fair share of provincial grants.
As I said the other day, and I won’t repeat this at any length, it is due largely to the escalation in land value. We are proposing that if you deal with that issue, that if you’re going to assess houses at something like 50 per cent, if you can assess the lots at 20 or 25 per cent, by that technique alone you can solve the major problems with the proposed property tax reform in this province.
Again, I say I hope that you will make during these estimates a full statement -- as full as you’re able to make it -- on the consideration you’ve given to the matter of property tax.
I was also somewhat disappointed that in the 40 or so pages of leadoff remarks by the minister he made no comment with regard to projects that municipalities could initiate and on which they would receive assistance from the province to help solve the serious unemployment problems in their area. This government in years gone by, whether it’s been winter works programs or a great variety of methods, has used municipalities as a means of providing useful work and getting things done that needed doing within those communities. It would appear now that your predecessor and you, unless you have something more forthcoming, are taking no steps whatsoever in this field. I say this is deplorable. Every government that wants to deal meaningfully with the massive unemployment problem it has, whether it’s in this country or in any other country, does use local government as a method of providing useful employment. They give incentives to the municipality.
One of the reasons the province of Saskatchewan this year increased its transfer to local government by 45 per cent was for that purpose. You may know that in Saskatchewan this year they are spending twice as much on housing for senior citizens than they did last year. I suggest that you as a new minister should also be giving thought to this.
Within a reasonable length of time I’ve tried to touch on the issues under this ministry which I and my party think are the important ones. These have been the rather unsatisfactory conditions that our property tax system is in and measures which we think should correct that, and also, very briefly but very importantly, the need to be using local governments with work incentive programs to provide employment in our society.
I’ll be looking forward to hearing from the minister on these matters.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Perhaps I could comment on a few of these matters. I think perhaps more properly we could comment on some of the others as we get to the appropriate sections in the estimates. Let me comment a bit about the general comments both my friends have made about municipal finance sharing the amount the province transfers to the municipalities.
I want to set the context by reading from the policy statement of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Their statement in part reads as follows; “In the spirit of partnership, the association has addressed itself to the present confusion that exists between the province and the municipalities with respect to the Edmonton commitment transfer payment mechanism and believes that it is time to make a radical departure from the present situation.
“The following recommendations have been developed as a positive and constructive show of good faith by AMO to assist in building the foundations of this partnership between the province and the municipal associations with regard to future fiscal and financial relations.
“In making these recommendations, AMO recognizes the need for continued restraint in the growth of government expenditures at all levels, and of equal importance recognizes that the recommendations represent a pledge to the property taxpayers of Ontario that municipalities reconfirm their commitment to expenditure restraint under the present economic situation.” And then the association went on to give us four recommendations. One was that a joint provincial-municipal committee be established immediately to examine the report on the financial relationship which should exist between both levels of government, with such committee to report in time for implementation of this recommendation for 1980. This is the recommendation to which my friend has referred.
The second was that the provincial-municipal revenue-sharing formula, known as the Edmonton commitment, be abandoned immediately.
The third was that for the municipal fiscal year 1979, provincial transfers to municipalities, excluding school boards -- and originally the motion had read be limited to six per cent over the actual transfers for 1978 -- be the same percentage as the provincial government is increasing its own expenditures, and that the province act to eliminate for 1979 the present inequities in the resource equalization grant as it affects individual municipalities exclusive of the limits outlined in number three.
I received this at one of our Provincial-Municipal Liaison Committee meetings and I was very appreciative of having this indication of feelings on the part of the municipalities of Ontario. Their commitment to restraint mirrors our commitment to restraint and that’s the one word I particularly missed from the last speaker’s comments. We are in the kind of economic times that demand that we not look to vast sums of money to be spent on all kinds of endeavours. Public bodies should be very concerned about the amount they spend, and that’s one of the things that we, as a province, have to take cognizance of; particularly given the fact that just recently we’ve been told by the federal government, as they now practice this policy -- and I commend them for practicing this policy because we’ve been urging them to do it for many years -- that they are limiting the amount of money that will be transferred to us, some of it without very much notice and without any chance for us to adjust any of our programs.
Mr. Swart: Yes, I didn’t hear too many complimentary comments from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Hon. Mr. Wells: That’s right. If you’ll harken back to my words in my opening remarks, we really need to be working together and co-operating, because all the policies that we devise impact each upon the other. We’re in a position where all governments are practicing restraint. As part of that process, we’re cutting back various transfers to different governments and it’s having an impact on each one of them. The Treasurer of this province (Mr. F. S. Miller) will tell you this when you come to his estimates. He finds himself faced with transfers from the federal government cut back in many areas, and therefore that impact is felt in our budget We also are committed to certain policies within our own financing; balancing our budget at some time in the very near future, a program of cutting down the amount of net cash requirement each year in our budget and so forth, all of which are good, sound economic policies. These have to be followed through, and in this statement, the municipalities are also indicating they are practicing restraint.
I noticed that while my friend used the figures that applied to mill rate increases over the last three or four years, it seemed to me the mill rate increases in the last year were probably the smallest of the amounts for the last several years.
Mr. Swart: I can’t get them. Your ministry can’t give them to me.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I’ll get them for you. They were something between six per cent and seven per cent as I recall.
Mr. Swart: I just tried this morning, and I tried last week; I can’t get them.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Fine, I’ll try and get them for you then.
Mr. Swart: I didn’t leave them out deliberately, I just couldn’t get them.
Mr. Bradley: A government of secrets.
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, we are happy to supply you with any information that we have. I can’t find the sheet -- oh, here it is, yes. It looks like the increases in net residential taxes, 1978 over 1977, was about 6.5 per cent compared to something like 13.4 per cent for 1977 over 1976. The increases last year were far lower than they had been in years previous.
Getting back to the statement of AMO, they had suggested that a committee be set up. We suggested that rather than set up a new committee -- we’ve had committees and committees studying this matter; we’ve had the committees studying property tax reform, we’ve had the committees studying grant reform.
Mr. Haggerty: Studied to death.
Hon. Mr. Wells: We don’t really need a new committee. So what we did was, we reconstituted the fiscal arrangements subcommittee of the Provincial-Municipal Liaison Committee to go to work at looking at the particular problems suggested in this resolution. They have already had one meeting and will be meeting again presently to discuss the transfer payments for next year and to lay out some kind of work schedule so that we can come up with some of the options, one of them being the kind of legislated sharing arrangements that my friend indicated.
Mr. Swart: You will be amenable to that? Last year Darcy McKeough said no.
Mr. Bradley: Darcy is gone.
Hon. Mr. Wells: That was last year, I can’t comment on that.
Mr. Swart: You are amenable to it.
Mr. Makarchuk: Mr. Flexibility is in today.
Hon. Mr. Wells: This year we have set up the fiscal arrangements subcommittee. We have already had one meeting, as I indicated, and we are looking at how we could progress to study this matter that has been indicated.
The second part of their resolution is that the Edmonton commitment be abandoned. I have to tell you that I agree with that. However, it is really up to the Treasurer to make any formal statement about that, but I think we’re moving towards that kind of arrangement.
Mr. Swart: It has been amended.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It’s not an Edmonton commitment that counts at the minute, it’s the amount of money that’s transferred, and that the local government has enough money from the province to do the job, along with the other revenues that it raises.
Perhaps out of the studies in the fiscal arrangements subcommittee will come, as has been indicated, some other method of stating in a more definitive way just how those arrangements will come about. I would say for all intents and purposes we will probably be de-emphasizing to a great degree the Edmonton commitment in the year that is coming ahead.
We are dealing with the estimates of the year that we are in now, which to a great degree covers the financing that has gone on this year and which is part of the Edmonton commitment. There was an Edmonton commitment arrangement for this particular time, of course.
They also suggested that for next year the total increase in the moneys that we transfer be at about the percentage that our own expenditures increase. I think that is a reasonable request. It is certainly one that we will look at. I just have to warn them, as I would warn the members of this House, that given the kind of remarks I just made and the kind that the Treasurer has made, that doesn’t mean that that percentage is going to be very high. If they are willing to take their chances along with us, we’ll try and accommodate them on that particular part of their recommendation.
Mr. Swart: Better than it has been for the last three years. It hasn’t been up there the last three.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It has been pretty close. There’s that part, plus there’s the resource equalization grant. We all recognize there are inequities there and we are working towards trying to remedy those. Certainly perhaps market value assessment, property tax reform, would have to some degree been a remedy, but there were a lot of other problems connected with it. It is interesting that everyone is starting to warm up now to wanting us to get into that particular program, but we didn’t notice too many resolutions and cries of “Move ahead” at the time that the Treasurer indicated the program wasn’t moving ahead last spring for a variety of reasons.
As I read this whole debate, and I listened to a lot of the debate that went on the other day on the resolution that my friend moved, it is fine as long as you can have your cake and eat it too in this thing. In other words, your resolution does a fine job of stating all the problems and correcting them, but it also corrects them at the price of no problems anywhere else. In other words, even in the case of equalization payments, as you rightly said if some under the present system are not getting their fair share somebody must be getting too much.
But of course the way everyone wants to see it corrected is for the fellow who is getting too little to get his extra $1.8 million or $13 million, but nobody get anything taken away from them; and the same when you adjust different classes of properties within a municipality and so forth. I think that is a very legitimate position to put forward, that is probably the position all of us would want to put forward; but it is the kind of thing which, if we don’t look at it, is going to create problems. It is the kind of thing that a lot of us saw when the market value assessment property tax reform package was put forward, that it was going to cause real problems because certain people in single-family homes were going to find themselves saddled with a tax increase for reasons which they did not understand; albeit fair and equitable, it would not be understood by them, would be greatly resented, and would not be an improvement on the present system.
Certainly the whole matter of property tax reform has got to continue to be looked at. My personal opinion -- and the Treasurer still will be playing a very large and leading role in this particular matter because it certainly impacts on the total financial pictures of this province -- my personal opinion is that perhaps we have put this in the wrong perspective. We have put everything into one big package with market value assessment or some variation of it. We’ve put all these other measures of property into one big package and said we should move right away with this great big package. What I think we should be doing now is looking at all the various segments of property tax reform -- market value assessment, changes in assessment and equalization factors -- and working out some kind of a time schedule in which we can do those things that are achievable but not necessarily expect to do them all in one year. I think that certainly we will be working, for our part, to try to improve the whole system of local government financing; and that, of course, has got to be part of it.
That also gets us into the report of the grant reforms committee, which as my friend knows made many recommendations, after much study came up with a number of recommendations which could improve the way we provide money to local government. The only problem is that it all reads very well and it all makes eminent sense; and the great emphasis is on the unconditional grant. From my experience in the school field that is the way the grants to schools have been given for a number of years, as an unconditional grant to school boards for them to set their own priorities.
The problem is that for many years the transfers of this province to the municipalities have also been based upon unconditional grants -- which incidentally are in legislation, so it isn’t fair to say we don’t have any form of legislation guaranteeing grants to municipalities, because we do have the unconditional grant legislation and we have a number of other pieces of legislation which actually legislate certain grants to municipalities.
We find an emphasis on the unconditional grant, and then we find that all those people affected are violently opposed to that. I don’t know what your position is on this. The member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) asked me what kind of responses we have had on this report. Let me read one of the responses to Darcy McKeough.
It said: “The Scarborough Public Library Board at its last regular board meeting on January 19 discussed the recommendations concerning municipal public libraries as contained in the recently published report of the provincial-municipal grants reform committee, which recommended that the grants to municipal library boards be eliminated and that immediate steps be taken to reassign the responsibility for library services from municipal library boards to municipalities.
“The Scarborough public library board wishes to express its dismay at both recommendations, but the board’s major apprehension is with the elimination or deconditionalization of grants to municipal library boards. Although the report of the provincial municipal grants reform committee indicates that deconditionalized grants would be passed on to municipal governments, there is nowhere described in the report any safeguards or procedures that the decentralized grants would be channelled to the appropriate municipality or that the moneys would eventually be used for public library services and their development.
“In expressing its concern the Scarborough public library board is asking what specific procedures and safeguards are to be provided so that provincial funds currently designated for public library services are channelled to the appropriate municipal government and that decentralized funds are assigned to budget that and finance library services.”
I guess that is the quandary we found ourselves in. We have an equal number of letters from library boards all across this province; we have letters from museum boards; from elderly persons’ centres, even from the municipal road engineers who are concerned that deconditionalizing the municipal grants is going to somehow affect them.
So here on the one hand we have this report that suggests deconditionalized grants -- pay them to the municipalities, let them set their priorities, let them decide, then run, the various services for their people; and on the other hand, these special purpose bodies which have been protected for years under special legislation with designated grants for a service. They are very worried that if their grants are deconditionalized their service will he somehow interfered with and perhaps will not continue at its same level.
I was asked the question about the report and what was the response from these various bodies. I think I’ve given you a pretty clear indication of what the response is. I think the municipalities generally are very much in favour of the report. Actually it was worked out with them. We have a very detailed response which was just received at the provincial-municipal liaison committee a week ago. I don’t know whether you’ve had an opportunity to look at it, but they’ve commented on all the reports and most of the comments are very supportive of the recommendations.
But there you have the quandary. I’d be interested in hearing from my friends as to how they feel about the situation vis-à-vis elderly persons’ centres, library boards, museum boards and so forth.
Perhaps I’ll conclude with those few comments. I can discuss any of the items I didn’t cover as we progress into the discussion of the sections.
I might add before I sit down that I think the matter of the senior citizens’ property tax credit rightly is a matter that should be discussed under the Treasurer’s estimates. It’s part of the total fiscal policy of the province -- the property tax credit and all these parts and components of it are part of the total income tax policy of the province. I think the Treasurer’s estimates are the place where that program should be discussed.
Mr. Chairman: The honourable members of the committee have had a chance for a very wide ranging discussion. I hope now they’ll focus on vote 1101B, item 1, main office. The member for Waterloo North.
On vote 1101B, ministry administration program; item 1, main office:
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, perhaps you’d permit us a little latitude in commenting about some of the things covered by the minister.
Mr. Nixon: The wide range.
Mr. Swart: Do it under main office.
Mr. Epp: He was speaking about the Edmonton commitment. One of the reasons the municipalities have asked to have it abandoned is that actually it wasn’t abandoned formally by the government. They just want the government, I suppose, to recognize the fact that they have abandoned it and to try to find some suitable alternatives to the Edmonton commitment as they found it in 1973. I am interested in the minister’s comments with respect to property tax reform, because I gather from his comments that he now is a proponent of property tax reform --
Mr. Foulds: He always has been.
Mr. Epp: -- maybe as the former Minister of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs articulated it on various occasions. I understand from some fairly good sources that Mr. McKeough didn’t have a lot of support in his own cabinet at the time for reform; and, had he had that support, I am sure it would have come forward to this House.
Mr. Bradley: Is that right, Tom?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Everybody in this House is in favour of property tax reform, but I indicated there are different ways of doing it.
Mr. Epp: The minister specifically asked for some kind of response to grant deconditionalization -- I’m having some difficulty with that word today, Mr. Chairman --
Mr. Bradley: The government has had difficulty for years.
Mr. Epp: -- and particularly the opposition to that by the road engineers. I can understand that because, if my memory serves me correctly, it was the Ministry of Transportation and Communications that was mostly concerned with deconditionalization of grants because of what it would do to the handing out of various contracts. I would think most of the opposition would come from that ministry, and I understand the opposition did come from that minister when it was discussed quite extensively in cabinet some time ago.
As far as I am concerned with this particular item, as regards the elderly persons’ centres, the libraries and the museums, if something can be worked out in legislation with municipalities whereby they will continue to recognize the important functions that these bodies put forth, and given some guarantee that they will continue to be funded at least at the level that they now are funded, I think they would be quite happy to have those particular funds deconditionalized. However, I recognize that is not giving complete autonomy to the municipalities to let them do with it what they will. I would be glad to discuss this with the honourable minister much more thoroughly some time if he would like to.
Speaking directly to vote 1101(B), Mr. Chairman, I wonder whether the minister could indicate what kind of cutbacks have taken place in the main office to reduce the estimates there from $711,000 to $635,000, while the legal services have increased from $276,000 to $343,000. I am just wondering why the legal services had to go up significantly when the rest of the office was decreased. Maybe the minister could respond to that.
Mr. Foulds: They got Treasury’s part of the legal services.
Mr. Chairman: I think maybe the minister is going to answer that.
Mr. Breaugh: Does the minister want to answer, or does he want some time?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Perhaps I could try to get the answer to that. Maybe it would be a good time to make the general statement that it is a little difficult to immediately answer those questions because, as my friend will appreciate, we now are dealing with estimates that have been taken from the Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs estimates, and in some cases certain arbitrary decisions were made in the amount to compare it with the amounts for 1977-78 and 1978-79.
I don’t want to give the wrong answer. I will try to get that answer for the honourable member. Perhaps we can just carry on. It is not quite as easy as it is with some estimates where you are dealing with a complete entity constituted exactly the same as it was the year before. But I will get that information for the honourable member.
Mr. Breaugh: I would like to spend some time on the matters that were raised by the minister regarding the constitution. I understand it is the agreed procedure that we will deal with it under this main office vote. Is that correct?
Mr. Chairman: I was not in the chair at the time. I feel that should probably come under vote 1102B; was there some agreement?
Mr. Breaugh: It was my understanding it had been agreed upon by the critics that it would be dealt with under this main office vote.
If that is agreeable, I wouldn’t mind proceeding now.
Mr. Nixon: We would certainly like to hear from you.
Mr. Chairman: I suppose if the committee did agree -- I wasn’t aware of that, I wasn’t in the chair at the time --
Mr. Swart: Just on a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I believe the chairman distinctly stated at that time that that could be dealt with under vote 1101. In any event, I think Hansard will show that.
Mr. Chairman: If the committee so agrees, the member for Oshawa.
Mr. Breaugh: Thank you. I wanted to participate in this discussion and I have looked forward for some time now to the opportunity to have the members of this House participate in this great debate that is currently raging, I suppose, in some quarters on the matter of -- well, it has several titles. In some places it is called the repatriation of our constitution. It is called constitutional reform. It is called, in some quarters, an attempt to restore national unity to the country. I suppose it has as many titles as there are speakers to the matter.
I think it unfortunate that up until this time, although the Premier and this minister have participated in several conferences at the federal-provincial level, the members of this House in particular have not had a specific opportunity to participate in the debate. I welcome this as one opportunity. Frankly I would like to put on the record a formal request to have the minister set aside some time, perhaps a Thursday evening, in this House when we could formally discuss as members of the Ontario Legislature this province’s position, whatever that might be or whatever it might evolve to be, on the matter of the Canadian constitution.
I am not suggesting that we engage in that academic argument on constitutional matters, though it is important to me personally. It certainly ought to be important to those who involve themselves in the political affairs of this nation. I don’t think it should be of prime importance.
I do think it necessary that we deal with the matter of the constitution as it regards whether or not this country is a utilized, well-working political entity. That seems to be the nub of the problem.
If we spend a little time examining why we are now looking at constitutional reform, why we have let it go this long, why we have gone past the century mark without repatriating our constitution, it poses an interesting question. Unfortunately, due to our federal political climate, I think it leaves itself open to great conjecture about the political process in this country and people talking about things like national unity, the monarchy, constitutional reform and a number of related items for rather crass political purposes.
Mr. Nixon: Surely not.
Mr. Breaugh: I think it unfortunate, but I think it is certainly there.
For example, I listened to the Premier of Alberta, on a television program called Question Period last evening, alluding to the notion that perhaps the Prime Minister was indeed using this period in time to rectify a political climate that is not too favourable for him just now. I listened to the Premier of that province put forward a rather eloquent case, I thought, for the needs of his own region, for the problems he saw in dealing with the federal government in devising a fair share of taxation, in devising strategies revolving around use of the energy resources of this nation and developing strategies to bring into his part of the Canadian political context something that would work and stating rather emphatically that there were many reasons now why he couldn’t do that as a provincial premier.
I am little amused at the attempts by the federal government -- and in particular it has to be one of the few times in history when they published little documents with cute little titles. For example, this one is entitled The Time for Action and it outlines, rather succinctly and rather neatly in fact, the federal government’s current position on the matter.
It lays out for us some of the reasons why, in a non-political or partisan sense, we would want to devise a new constitution. It points out, I think quite correctly, some of the problems that we have.
I would not share all of the concerns put forward in this little pamphlet. I am wondering what kind of circulation it got.
It brings to my mind the perhaps pretty difficult problem of how to put to the Canadian people an opportunity to present their ideas, for I think it important that somehow in the process the public at large have an opportunity to express themself. I really don’t want us to have a referendum across the nation on a clause-by-clause debate of the new constitution, but I do want the Canadian people to have an opportunity to discuss and to make their views known on precisely which way we go, because I sense in our own Canadian constitutional problem in a number of unrelated issues an unease in the public mind about whether our parliamentary systems work. Do they or don’t they.
As an example, you can find almost daily now some provincial politician, usually a minister of the crown, proclaiming that the government would like to do something but it can’t because that’s not within its jurisdiction -- that belongs to the federal government. I find even as a layman, looking at the way federal and provincial funding is finally distributed through the municipalities, a real dog’s breakfast of money going into the tax purse and then being redistributed through the system so that it’s difficult now to find anything which the public can see, a housing project, a hospital, a university, most times of schooling and almost all kinds of federal work projects, that doesn’t have contributions from almost all levels of government. There are sharing processes that have been evolved or worked out.
What we don’t see is a clear definitive line there, and perhaps we shouldn’t, between what the federal government pays for, what the provincial government pays for and what the municipal government pays for. In almost all cases, there are blends of things moving back and forth. A share of a new arena may come from federal funds. It may come from provincial funds. It may come from municipal funds, but the public at large then has to sort it out. Does that arena belong to the federal government, the provincial government, or the municipal government? There’s confusion in the public’s mind and, I must say as someone who has spent a fair amount of time in municipal politics, there is confusion in the political mind as well, because that ratio keeps changing. Those funding formulas keep moving about on us.
There are interesting problems to be resolved in there. I think we would come to the realization that in modern Canadian political life, there’s very little we are going to do that isn’t a shared responsibility. What probably would be a practical alternative to that system we have now is to attempt to stabilize it, to attempt to say that we will once again review, and we will probably do so on a regular basis, these funding formulas. Will they be subject to, for example, an annual review, say, at the first ministers’ conferences? Is that where that will occur?
Will we get ourselves into the same kind of a jackpot, for example, in Ontario that we have been for the last three or four years, arguing about something called the Edmonton commitment, made by one of our Treasurers in another province dealing with Ontario’s financing of municipalities? Will that be a continuing perspective for Ontario or will we alter that? Will we stabilize that? Will we say that in the foreseeable future for the next decade this is the way the funding process will work -- these are the shares that will be staked out? Is it time to say that the federal government ought to get out of education completely? That poses some interesting problems in a practical sense and it poses some interesting problems in a constitutional sense because there are arguments back and forth.
I think now is a reasonable time to re-evaluate, to rewrite and to repatriate the Canadian constitution. In terms of geography, if one was to set out a theoretical, political model, I don’t think you would design something that looks like Canada today. I think you would recognize that there are regions of the country which have common interests and perhaps don’t look very much like our provincial governments today.
I, for one, am not quite prepared to go as far as some of the western Premiers in realigning provincial boundaries or forming new regions, but I do understand that there’s a certain amount of coherence in that and our provincial boundaries across the country are not necessarily related to sensible boundary lines in this modern age. They may well have been when the constitution was first devised and the responsibilities for each level of government might have been quite sensible away back then, but times have changed a good deal. Communications have changed. The kind of source of common interest that might form a logical provincial boundary certainly in my mind has altered considerably since the initial drafting of the constitution.
I am perplexed somewhat by the inability of the Premiers and the federal government to devise, for example, an amending formula. I am perplexed somewhat, though I see a growing consensus in certain areas, that we have not managed to move beyond that. I sense, perhaps because I am a politician, that it is political gamesmanship that is causing the bulk of the problem; there are those -- perhaps the Premier of Quebec is one, perhaps the Prime Minister is another, perhaps our own Premier is another -- who are using the public focus of these discussions for their own political purposes back home.
Mr. Bradley: And none of the NDP Premiers.
Mr. Breaugh: Well, that may be. I suggest, frankly, that Allan Blakeney’s positions on the constitution and his public statements on national unity sure didn’t do him much harm in his own Saskatchewan election.
Mr. Foulds: They were certainly as cogent and brilliant, though, as those of any leader in the country.
Mr. Breaugh: I also think, Mr. Chairman, that we should not set that aside, quite frankly. I think it is valid for politicians to be politicians. Those who might expect them to be otherwise I think are asking far too much. I think they have a right to represent their constituencies there at the bargaining table.
I was intrigued by the Premier of Alberta’s constant referral in last evening’s television program to that very matter -- that his position put forward very clearly in a discussion paper tabled at the first ministers’ conference was essentially one that was a bargaining position. He said, “In theory we put out several items; we listed the things that our province wanted to have discussed. We put forward a clear position, and they are there on the table to be negotiated.”
I don’t find that an offensive position. I think that is precisely what the Fathers of Confederation did when they first sat down to design a constitution. They all came together with bargaining positions. They put them on the table. I don’t think they were dealing with that theoretical a model. They were dealing with the really hard-nosed political issues of their day. And I would welcome the opportunity to have our own provincial Premiers do much the same thing now: Go to that conference table, not with fine-sounding statements about, “Let’s save the country,” and, “Let’s do good things,” and, “Let’s all get together.” I don’t object to that too much, except that I would like to see much more.
I’d like to see some very specific proposals put down. I see those evolving. What I didn’t see as I watched the last first ministers’ conference was much actual negotiation. I understand that perhaps because it was a televised conference, perhaps because everybody was extremely mindful of the political consequences of dealing at that table, perhaps much of this negotiation, much of the really pertinent discussion went on as soon as the television lights went off -- it happened in private.
I think that is unfortunate. I recognize that in the bargaining process there is always a formal side and an informal side, but I found much of what I watched, in terms of the programs themselves, the news stories emanating from that afterwards, was really a lot of folderol. There wasn’t very much happening at that bargaining table, for sure. Perhaps there was something happening in the corridors and at the private dinners, but I think the public in Canada and the members of this House, for example, have a right to be aware of what was said, what agreements were made, and what kind of direction this thing is taking.
So I understand that the process is there. I seem to see some consensus on some issues evolving. I am a little confused about why we can’t get more concrete about it.
At the end of the last conference, for example, there seemed to be a real division as to whether or not the conference had served any purpose at all, whether there was any agreement other than to meet again. I seem to recall a rather dramatic little pose struck by the Prime Minister of the country in ending up the conference, where he wasn’t too sure exactly what the date of the next meeting was. Someone gave him the answer, and then he closed off the meeting.
There are difficulties in all of this. As a private member of this House, I want to deal with what I perceive are two or three rather delicate issues that have to be faced. The first one I guess -- agreeing on several of the issues that are put out here -- is that there is a need to establish minority rights in Canada. But I would be mindful of a line that I think Mr. Broadbent used in one of his federal presentations when he was quoting Sir John A. Macdonald in his elaboration that we should always protect minority rights and we should always remember that the rich are always a minority.
So I think there was some danger in going through that. To balance that I think we have to recognize that in Canada the mosaic we have to work with as a population these days is much more than two people, much more. The contributions made by people from all over the world who have arrived here and live here and are Canadian and part of the Canadian reality of today must be dealt with. I put forward my personal opinion that in dealing with minority rights that consensus must be done with great care and great caution and must recognize that it isn’t as simple as some would have it.
Perhaps the most awkward thing to be dealt with in the rewriting of a constitution is the balance of power. The reality of 1867 is far different from the reality of today, and what might have been written as a strong federal constitution in the early days of this country now has to be applied in a far different context.
Provincial governments do far more taxing than they did in the early days of our country. They have a far more relevant role to play in every individual’s daily life. Take for example, taxing powers and the allocation of funds. The provincial governments in Canada get roughly 60 per cent of the tax dollar, leaving the federal government with about 40 per cent of the funds. That’s far different from what it was in the early days.
There is another level of government that has grown tremendously since the early days of Canada. That is the municipal government, perhaps the most direct contact with the people of the nation you can find. The argument always made by municipal politicians is that they are closer to the people than anyone else. That may or may not be true, but it certainly is true that municipal governments perform functions they never did before. Municipal governments are an increasingly complex, complicated and expensive part of government in Canada. Few of the public can make those fine definitions of saying, “That’s a municipal project, that’s a provincial project, that’s a federal project,” let alone understand the financing of those projects. They think there is one level of government in this nation and it’s whoever is around.
Few of us haven’t campaigned and probably won the odd vote on the contention we’re going to oust Pierre Elliott Trudeau I think that’s probably true. I found when I was in municipal polities that the public at large didn’t make the distinctions I made as a politician. Their awareness of what level of government is in operation there is probably not as high as it should be.
A second major area where I think we have to entertain some discussion in the public and probably in this House is what style of democracy is appropriate for Canada today. Where are we going to go with it? If we got basic about all of this we would probably recognize that we have gone from a straight, traditional English parliamentary system to incorporate some of the things done south of the border, that kind of democratic process.
I find it unthinkable that we would ever get ourselves to a position where we might elect chief police officers; that we might elect judges in Canada; that we would go to the extreme the Americans have used for years. My basic argument is that the democratic process isn’t appropriate there. You shouldn’t have a judge running for public office.
I must admit the Americans, for all of their strengths and weaknesses, don’t appear to have a much greater problem in exercising their judicial system than we do. It seems to be a workable system. Perhaps it’s not much more than my own traditions saying we shouldn’t have judges running for election.
On the other hand, I do see the balance. I watch with great interest the American elections now going on where people are running for the position of Supreme Court judge or whatever. They’re making their position known -- they’re going to be extremely tough on people, they’re going to be extremely right wing, they’re against crime. I find that a little offensive. I wouldn’t expect a judge to be in favour of crime.
However, we would probably go through a sorting process and say that in our tradition it isn’t acceptable to go that far. I found very interesting the recommendations of the federal government in regard to an alternative form of the Senate. I listened to a report prepared by the advisory committee on Confederation, an interesting little group of people who are quite well respected, they have looked at the proposal to revise the constitution from an Ontario point of view. I don’t disagree with very much they have to say. I do find it a little aggravating that they have something to say and an opportunity to put forward a position paper and we have yet to debate that in this House at any great length. If this group is putting forward a position which appears to be clearly accepted by and large by the Premier of the province, I welcome the opportunity for them to make comments and to formulate positions that the members of this House did not. I don’t take exception to them.
Frankly, it strikes me that in many cases they’ve accepted to a large extent the proposals made by the federal government, whether we have a Senate or whether we call it a House of Federation or whether we call it a House of the Provinces or whether we call it, as my federal leader does, a revision of the House of Commons, all of that providing for someone who is not directly elected to play some role in the political process. I would be a little softer, I suppose, than some members of my party would be on the notion of non-elected people participating in the process.
In the British Parliament, the traditions of their House of Lords are far different from ours. Having observed that particular House in action, I found many of the proponents of the thing to be a little off base in saying it was a chamber of sober second thought, that it was a more refined chamber for discussion and that somehow there was a better utilization of the intellects of a nation in that House than we find in the House of Commons. I didn’t find that to be true at all in my experience. I didn’t find the debate better. I didn’t find the decorum better. I didn’t find the arguments put forward any better than what I saw happening down at the other end of the corridor in the House of Commons.
I would refute the notion that somehow in the midst of Canada there is a select group of people out there that is better than our elected politicians, or anyone else for that matter, whose opinions, experiences, verbalization skills or whatever might give them a special status. In particular, I would reject the notion that that special status should elevate them over the duly elected members of our Canadian Parliament. If I have a bone of contention with the concept of a Senate, it’s that.
I don’t have any objection to establishing, in whatever format or formula you’d care to, a way to utilize people who could very well make a great contribution to this nation, but lack the ability to get elected to public office. I’d be prepared to recognize that there ought to be an occasion or a way to bring those people into the process. The thing that bothers me is that I want some safeguards.
I read with great interest the proposals made by Ed Broadbent, both to the federal committee and in subsequent speeches inside and outside of the House, to expand the House of Commons. I find his idea of expanding it by 100 members and then allocating those members to political parties so they could subsequently nominate people who would participate through the process a unique one and one that has been suggested and discussed at some length before.
I don’t have any objection to that notion of utilizing those people. I don’t have a good answer, though, to say that this is the precise formula we ought to go through. I don’t have a major objection to the Canadian Senate as it now sits, except that in observing the practices of that House I find that as a parliamentary forum it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of whether they are always there. I’ve found on the occasions when I visited the Canadian Senate there was not a very high percentage of the members that attends regularly or participates regularly in the debates.
The theoretical parliamentary notion that we have an upper House which can somehow veto, hold hack or delay legislation passed by the lower House, I find unacceptable. I think there has to be some other formula, whether or not that is by integrating these people into the present House of Commons structure, which I find an agreeable notion. I find that Mr. Broadbent makes some convincing constitutional arguments that that would be acceptable on constitutional grounds and in practical terms would provide our federal government with some sensible input. I find that acceptable.
Whether someone might suggest a House that was lower in status than the federal House of Commons is another idea I have thought about for some time. I find few flaws in that notion. If we want to appoint people to public office and have them deal with some form of second thought, let them be members of a House which is below the federal House of Commons. Let them hold public hearings, hold great discussions on important matters of the day and recommend to the House of Commons that certain things might transpire.
The only reluctance I have and the only thing I personally have opted out of in that process is another level of Parliament that has veto powers over duly elected members. With that proviso, I’m prepared to entertain discussion about whether it is called a House of Federation or a House of the Provinces. That is of no consequence to me. It is its level of importance and its relationship with our duly elected federal members that are concern to me.
One of the things that apparently bothers a great number of people these days is the notion that this review will somehow affect the monarchy. I don’t profess to be a great monarchist. I don’t profess to share all of the concerns many people in this country have about the monarchy. I don’t suggest for a moment the monarchy is past its time. I think it does perform a function for a great many people -- a kind of tying post or a place to relate to for many of the people in this country.
I was interested that Sweden, that great bastion of socialism once again, retains the monarchy. They retain it for many of the reasons that people get on the stump and yell and scream about in Canada. It’s something that ties the nation together; there is a relationship to past traditions they find useful.
So, on those grounds, I find rather offensive those who might say the monarchy should be totally done away with. I think we recognize that much of the role of the monarchy in Canadian political life is simply tradition, it is simply reflecting that it was instigation of this country a long time ago -- that and several other sources. It gives me no difficulty at all to accept the notion that we should continue the monarchy in its present form. But the practical political constitution that governs the country should be one which is decided in Canada and under the control of the Canadian federal government.
I was interested in some of the British members’ comments about the very unusual fact, I guess, that the Canadian constitution is subject to the British House of Commons. I didn’t find one member, when I was there, who was making any case at all that he was even interested very much in dealing with the Canadian constitution. As a matter of fact, they all thought it was rather an oddity -- at least it was to the members I spoke to -- and that the constitution ought to be sent back to Canada. In other words, we ought to look after our own business. I find that quite an acceptable and rational attitude for them to take.
I want to say a few words about the process we go through. I mentioned earlier in my remarks I wanted the members of this House to develop an opportunity to debate this matter -- whether or not we deal with specific proposals that might be presented as a position paper from the government, or whether we just debate in general terms our role and our relationship, as politicians in Canada, to the federal government and to that constitution which, in theory, governs all that we do. I think that’s important.
I would like to see this government be a little more active in generating some discussion and some contact between, for example, the young people of this province and the young people of other provinces. I am aware there are some programs functioning in Ontario, some funded by the federal government, some by the provincial government and some by the municipal government, that have an interchange of ideas. There are twin-city concepts that are being used. There are youth programs which bring together people from across Canada to let them see what other parts of the country are like.
I finally did this summer what I had threatened to do for a long, long time -- that is to take my family across the nation to see what it was like. I found it was an interesting experience for my kids to see parts of this country which are totally different from our own. I wouldn’t pretend to make any judgements about whether they’re better or worse but they certainly are different.
I think it important that the young people of this nation get an opportunity to experience that. Very often, trying to learn Canadian history from textbooks is sometimes dull and most often a frustrating experience. It is possible, in Canada today, to do that kind of sharing of life experiences, to live with a family in Quebec, to understand what it’s like to live in the Maritime provinces, to see what western Canada is all about, to see British Columbia and the different terrain. Doing that, it is possible then to understand the really serious problems they have in a province that has such rugged geography to deal with.
So there are mechanisms available to this government to activate the level of public awareness about the constitution and about Canada, and to establish that it isn’t all just a theoretical exercise by parliamentarians to draw up a new constitution.
If we go back to the original question of why you would repatriate or rewrite the constitution today, I think you do have to face some problems. In a nation that has the kind of resources that Canada clearly has, and has had for some time, there is no sane reason for this level of unemployment. In a nation that has so many very able politicians, there is really no reason to have them falling all over themselves because of the constitution or because of split or shared jurisdictions.
In a province like Ontario, supposedly one that has benefited greatly by Confederation and by the present constitution, it is difficult to understand why we would have such great problems and such great arguments about cost-sharing of programs and why we drop some things because the federal government drops out.
It’s difficult to understand, for example, why the western provinces all seem to be doing well at this point in time. If you looked for places of full employment and -- although I suppose it is a little exaggerated -- great public and private wealth, you would probably now go to a province like Alberta, and within a year or so you would probably go to a province like Saskatchewan, where provincial governments of different political parties have managed to utilize the resources of that province in a way that gives back to those people, both in the public and private sector, their share of the wealth.
That the Supreme Court finds some of those mechanisms unconstitutional clearly is an indication that the constitution under which we operate does not always apply to present Canadian circumstances. Whether that is dealing with the oil sands in Alberta or the potash mines of Saskatchewan is irrelevant. The plain fact is that we have had what at one time might have been called have-not provinces, or provinces basically trying to work out all of their problems on an agricultural-economic scale. That was not possible to do in this modern world; so they went to other natural resources that they had, developed their own resources in the private or the public sector, and began to share and to accumulate the wealth of that province. Then, of course, enters the constitutional picture in the form of questions such as: When could the federal government intervene? When could a federal court decide what might or might not be constitutional in the form of taxation?
Those very practical political problems are a reality for much of western Canada. I would suggest that in British Columbia with the forest industry, in Ontario with the kind of mix that we have in this province, in Quebec, and certainly in the Maritime provinces with the utilization of fish as a resource, all of these constitutional problems crop up from time to time because the base document that you have to go back to is this old constitution.
There are a number of areas that are suitable for discussion by members of this House. I would be prepared to entertain a couple of evenings of debate; perhaps some of those Thursday nights when the members voice some of their concerns. I would like to see us get to a point where the first ministers go to that bargaining table knowing the feelings of their respective provincial Houses. I think that would lend great weight to them.
I think the kind of jurisdictional problem that we face between the province of Ontario and the province of Quebec would be a little better resolved if they were dealt with more openly and if there wasn’t that kind of backroom bargaining going on. If we had dealt with this matter in this House, in a more open political way -- and we have on several occasions, dealing with specific bills -- I think we would serve ourselves better as a nation.
In my view, there are a number of excellent reasons why we should be entertaining this discussion of the constitution. I think there are a number of avenues open to all politicians in Canada who might be interested in repatriating the constitution, for whatever reasons, to resolve some Canadian problems. The purpose of the exercise is not to redraft an old and musty document but to solve some of the difficulties of the Canadian reality today, to deal with those tricky matters that are now negotiated at a bargaining table at federal-provincial conferences, and to come to an overall guiding solution that sets patterns and provides mechanisms.
Whether we are talking about the funding mechanisms for spending tax dollars, whether we are talking about the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court, or whether we are talking about the allocation of other political people in a second House -- whether that be a Senate above the House of Commons or some other format that might be regarded as adjacent to or below the House of Commons; or whether, as Mr. Broadbent suggested, that be integrated into the House of Commons -- whatever that might be, that is certainly grounds for negotiation and for discussion and to get concrete.
The thing I find a bit frustrating about it all is that it all seems so airy-fairy at this point in time. I can’t see that consensus-gathering process. I understand there are members of the Attorney General’s staff who will now be working with federal government people in drafting up proposals that might be put to the first ministers’ conference in February. I find that very helpful, but I would like to see something a little more ongoing; for example in developing the position that the province of Ontario will take when it goes back to that table in February, and I would like to think that the members of this House played a role in developing whatever that position might be.
There is a need to recognize that the constitution of this nation is important to us. If I might reiterate a couple of concerns that I have, the balance of power between the federal government and the provincial government is perhaps one of the most obstinate things to deal with. Should we now go through the book on what is done by governments in this nation and divide it up again and say that certain responsibilities belong more properly to the federal government and therefore that is their total responsibility? There are areas where I find that to be an extremely palatable idea.
There are other matters, such as education, which essentially is carried out by provincial governments. I find it odd and a little confusing to the issue that in the most direct way it is carried out by a level of municipal government, but clearly I think there is certainly room to re-establish provincial rights in terms of education.
I understand all the ramifications of seeing that there is equal access to education and that the needs of minority groups are dealt with. Those are important matters, but by and large I would be a proponent of saying that the provincial governments are doing 90 per cent of the work in providing education to people across the country and that is essentially where that power ought to stay.
We could go through and divide powers, that is quite a logical argument for me. I think it would do us some good if the members of this House spent some time dealing with those specific items; which ones would you send to the federal level, which ones would you want to retain at the provincial level and how would we deal with all of these.
The style of democracy, again, is important to us. I believe in the British parliamentary tradition of setting up a government. I find it to be more applicable and more direct in terms of relating a constitution to an issue or to a political problem of the day. I find it much more desirable than, for example, the American democratic system. I don’t deny that in the American political process they have evolved one of the great political processes of all time, but I must say I do find their system confusing. I have studied that American political system for some years now and I don’t profess to understand it even now. I find our relationships in politics in Canada to be much more direct. I think that there is a good deal more accountability in Canadian politics than in American politics, so I would stick to our own traditions.
I don’t deny for a minute that on occasion they are a little outmoded; on occasion we bend over backwards a bit more toward tradition than we do toward the reality of the day. In my own rather unusual way of evolving into things, I find that to be good and to be reassuring, which is one of the basic reasons I have no problems with anyone who wants to defend the urgency of having a monarch for Canada.
I find that tradition to be reassuring, whenever I analyse whatever political problems we might have today, I at least can look back on a political system that has been in existence for a long time and which has worked. Despite all of its faults and all the arguments about how many times it didn’t do the right thing, I find our parliamentary traditions have always worked. They go to the very basics of democracy in a way that I find clear, unyielding and very practical. In my analysis of whatever we might be redesigning the constitution to be, I would clearly stick to the British parliamentary position.
Those are a number of the matters that I wanted to speak to. I am pleased that the minister in his opening statement today provided at least an opportunity for us to do that. Again I want to reiterate my plea that the minister give us, as members of this House, an opportunity to spend an evening debating the report of the advisory committee on Confederation. I think that would be a useful exercise for us. That would give the Premier (Mr. Davis) a good idea where his provincial House sits when he goes back to the first ministers’ conference. I don’t think there are clear political lines in the debate on the constitution. I don’t think there is an NDP position on reforming the Canadian constitution that’s going to be that different from the Progressive Conservative position or the Liberal Party’s position. This may well be a matter where, for a great deal of the process, we can set aside the bias we might bring to the discussion because we belong to a particular political party and where we could have a good, substantive exercise in discussing the practicality of Canadian politics today and the desirability of altering a constitution that in my mind clearly needs alteration.
If we go back to our basic premise that we want to repatriate the constitution, that’s a very desirable thing from all points of view. I see a consensus formed already around those matters that ought to be discussed in redesigning the Canadian constitution. I do not understand why we have so much difficulty getting to an amending formula. I understand the unanimous consent article is going to cause great problems but surely there must be a way to get around that method of changing.
I want to see, on a more regular basis, the members of this House and the public see, understand and participate in all these discussions about changing the Canadian constitution. Because if this is not the most important political exercise of this century, it certainly is one of the most important ones. I don’t believe that because I want to discuss national unity in an emotional way. I don’t think the discussion itself will solve problems between the province of Ontario and the province of Quebec. I don’t want us to get into an isolated discussion, thinking if we bring a new document on the table and pass it we will solve all the problems between Ontario and Quebec. That’s quite wrong, I don’t think that will happen at all. I really don’t want to I see us get involved in a great long parade about national unity, with the Premier of this province or the Prime Minister of the country traipsing off on a great tour. I don’t think that’s even relevant to the situation, but I do agree with those who say the repatriation of the Canadian constitution is long overdue and from a practising politician’s point of view, it needs to be done.
I want to see it done in an open manner and dealt with quite frankly. It is a matter of urgency, so I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate today and I would hope that the minister will take into account some of the suggestions I made during the course of this rambling little speech, to provide the members of this House with an opportunity, not just to watch what’s happening at the next first ministers’ conference but to play a role in the development of the position put forward by this province, to see that we are kept informed and that we play a role in the ongoing negotiations, deliberations, discussions, whatever you want to call them, in developing what I think is much overdue and much needed -- a new Canadian constitution.
Mr. Chairman: Might I ask the advice of committee? We are into the constitutional discussion. Would there be an objection to taking a vote on vote 1101B, which is the ministry administration program, and then continuing on the constitution on vote 1102B which is the intergovernmental affairs program. Is that acceptable?
Vote 1101B agreed to.
The House recessed at 5:58 p.m.