The House met at 9:01 a.m.
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF CONSUMER AND COMMERCIAL RELATIONS
Mr. Chairman: Does the honourable minister have an opening statement?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Not so much a statement, Mr. Chairman, as a few remarks. As you know, this is the first occasion I have had to present the estimates of this ministry. While the ministry is one of the more visible ministries of government by the nature of its operation, its scope and the particular subjects it does deal with, none the less there are some very significant new thrusts by the ministry that probably have not had the attention they deserve.
One of the things I would like to say this morning is that we are launching a program designed to help low-income consumers cope in today’s economic conditions. Rising prices and ripoffs are a big problem for these people; it’s a big problem for everyone but it’s much bigger for them because of the limitations upon their income. They often don’t know enough about their rights and responsibilities to fend for themselves.
Consumer education today is simply not reaching people who need it most. But we’re not creating a new arm of government with this; instead, we’re looking at ways to plug consumer education into existing community services. I think this is the role in the future. Without community participation and community support for these programs they tend to become isolated, they tend to become expensive and they tend not to really reach the people they were intended for.
Starting in April, we’ll be running the first project, which will be in Cornwall. Cornwall was chosen because of its high unemployment rate, as well as the fact that a significantly high percentage of the population is on social assistance.
First we’ll determine which of the organizations already dealing with low-income consumers can work with us to provide more consumer advice through their counselling services. For example, social workers, public health nurses and credit counsellors may include consumer education in their normal dealings with clients. Our own consumer information centre will provide basic information on money management and consumer law, as well as books, films and other resource materials, and we’ll have a staff on hand to provide advice and guidance.
The Cornwall project, which is budgeted to cost $12,000 including staff and information resources, will provide a prototype for consumer education in low-income families across the province.
We have to move into this area. It is an area of significant importance today because of a number of factors, particularly the fact that ours is an aging society where more of the population will be on fixed income. This type of approach, through the community, is really the consumer protection of tomorrow.
In the past the emphasis, and rightfully so, has been on legislation. At the same time it has always been understood that the difficulty with legislation is that it reacts to a situation that has occurred. Legislation seldom anticipates problems, nor does it really work hand in hand with the community; yet it is the community that really understands the local problems, it is the community that is more than willing to play a role every time it is asked.
One of the difficulties in the growth of big government is that for a long time government, regardless of where it was and regardless of its politics, tended to look upon the community as something that could be used occasionally but certainly wasn’t an integral part of the operation.
As I said when I was sworn in to head this ministry, one of the thrusts I want to make is to take the ministry out into the community because the community can be doing much of the frontline work. The tendency is to look at it in terms of cost -- it’s not going to cost as much if the community is doing it. The cost has very little to do with it. The fact of the matter is what is going on is in the community and the community is aware of it, the community generally has a response to it or some ideas as to how it can be treated locally.
It’s been my experience, in a previous ministry, that if you go to the public and ask them to join you in a new initiative, they are more than pleased to do so and the results speak for themselves when the community gives its support.
Mr. Conway: So we’ve noticed.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No matter how viable or how successful legislation or a policy program or a developmental program can be, without community support it is going to die.
I would also like to draw the attention of the members to the first provincial fire code. The advisory report on what should be done will be printed in totality in the Ontario Gazette of January 13. The reason for that is we want the widest possible public comment, not just from people who specialize in the building field or in the fire field, but indeed by the public.
The new building code takes care of the fire question in new buildings, but what do we do with the older buildings? Because of the nature of the very quick turnover or demise of older buildings in this country, the traditional approach has been that you grandfather the older building, because pretty soon it will be out of existence and will be bulldozed anyway. In the light of changing conditions, where more and more older buildings are being converted and where more and more older buildings that don’t need much rehabilitation are going to be in place for some period of time, if we are to come to grips realistically with the very important question of firefighting, fire safety and, above all, fire prevention, we have to look at existing or older buildings.
To that end, the fire code advisory committee was established in November 1976 to draft an Ontario fire code for public comment by the end of 1978. They have fulfilled their mandate. That will be out there. We want the municipalities to comment; in particular, we want the comments of smaller municipalities, because a fire code that is applicable in Metropolitan Toronto may have enormous repercussions for older buildings in smaller communities and vice versa. We want a very flexible fire code that will meet more than adequately the needs of the local community, the needs particularly of northern Ontario where it is a different type of problem than it is here, and the needs in areas where there is a volunteer fire department that is some distance away from the scene compared to the full firefighting and fire prevention resources that you have in major centres like Metropolitan Toronto.
One of the interesting things is that the committee’s draft code -- and that’s the one that is going to be published -- was developed to be consistent with the national fire code. I think there is an onus upon government these days not to duplicate; so it will be consistent with the national fire code and with the Ontario Building Code for new buildings. As rapidly as the input can be achieved, I hope this consolidation of 63 separate provincial acts concerning firefighting, fire prevention and fire safety can be brought into a single, easy-to-understand code that will be relatively easy to apply and to enforce across the province.
There is another matter of which I think the ministry should be extremely proud; so, too, should the members. I can recall, I think it was almost two years ago, the many nights spent in committee and in this Legislature concerning the Credit Union Act. One of the things that came out of that act was the Ontario Share and Deposit Insurance Corporation. About a week ago, I tabled the report of OSDIC. Those who read that report will agree that it is an excellent testimonial to the spirit of government deregulation, because it adds to the growing list of industries -- and certainly the financial industry is an industry -- that are able to regulate their own affairs without putting an inordinate drain on the public purse.
OSDIC became operational just about a year ago under the provisions of the Credit Union Act. The corporation was established to create protection for depositors. The banks and the trust companies had deposit insurance; there was a concern in the credit union movement, not because of anything that was going wrong but as to how you keep your customer when the customer says: “If I have my deposit in the chartered bank in the loan company, it is insured. What do you have?” The Ontario Credit Union League did have a contingency fund but, with inflation and because of the success of the movement, it was considered within the movement that putting it on a more rational insurance basis might be very beneficial.
The corporation was not only established to provide financial protection but if there were a troubled credit union, perhaps a troubled independent credit union that really couldn’t apply to either the credit union league or the caisse populaire, who was then going to provide an orderly disposition there? Of course, this is OSDIC.
Of course, this protection is provided by a fund capitalized by an assessment of one per cent of share capital for each member. At the start the fund stood at $25 million; by this year it will be up to $32 million. This is a very interesting and significant form of consumer protection that isn’t costing the consumer, or isn’t costing government, a great amount of money to provide. The examination of OSDIC activities came at a time when their organizational phase was just ending, but none the less it had been necessary for the staff to exercise judgement and take initiative in many situations not specifically provided for by the act. The superintendent of insurance reports -- remember he is the objective judge in that office -- that this has been done in a capable and a positive manner.
Their management has proven aggressive in anticipating and resolving problems. This has resulted in enhancing the competitive position of the credit union movement and the protection of participating consumers.
One final matter: I really think when a minister talks about his ministry there is an obligation, not just to the members but to the taxpayers, to show where we are going. First of all, I hope to be able to distribute these to the members because I want them to participate in this as well. We have gone the route of free enterprise; we are just the same as General Motors now. We have asked our employees and we are prepared to reward them up to $500 for very positive suggestions that will lead to increased productivity.
I realize this is old hat in industry. Industry has had its suggestion boxes and various awards programs, particularly in very competitive industries, for a great many years. It is unheard of in government. We are going this route.
The reason I want the members to know about it is that they certainly deal with our ministry and their constituents deal with our ministry. While I suppose, the same as police officers, we are not entitled to the reward, if there is a positive suggestion from a constituent that leads to better efficiency, economy and improved operations or service, it will be a benefit to the taxpayers.
I don’t want to set up this particular pace before Christmastime, because I know you will be busy, but shortly after the new year, when you return to your endeavours invigorated, refreshed and looking forward to paring the budget for the next fiscal year, we want to provide you with these. We hope, on a very serious note, if you do have suggestions you will participate. I think this might indeed be very motivational for the public service to know that you, as users of their services, or through you the public as users of their services, are interested in improving the service and in cutting costs. I think it would be an extremely motivational thing.
Mr. Riddell: I will recommend job fulfilment by competition, Frank.
Hon. Mr. Drea: If you want to have a competition I will tell you what I will do: next time we are going to have a land registrar’s one, I am going to put you on the committee and we’ll call in all the people who are eligible for the commission.
Mr. Riddell: Okay.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Now I tell you, the one thing I won’t do is pay you for it, because you will wind up in public accounts just the way somebody else did getting a lot of money for doing nothing, because nobody will be able to show up.
Mr. Nixon: How is that? Do you want to run that through again?
Hon. Mr. Drea: The member should come in on time. I remember when he used to be here at 5:30.
Mr. Nixon: I am sorry, teacher; but I will stay late, how’s that?
Mr. Ruston: He just got the cows up.
Hon. Mr. Drea: He has never been the same since he sold the herd.
Mr. Ruston: There’s something about that. It’s kind of soothing.
Mr. Conway: You wonder why the beef prices are where they are.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Just on a final note, in terms of the taxpayer in a more direct way, I think it is very incumbent upon this ministry to set an example in terms of budget restraints, and in terms of efficiency and so forth.
As I said at the very beginning, because of the scope of the ministry it does indeed affect almost everyone’s life one way or the other on a daily basis, either in terms of regulatory protection, information, education, and so on and so forth; we actually serve more than 340,000 businesses. We have conducted a survey. It shows that more than six million people are directly affected, almost daily or weekly, by our operations. We have geographically dispersed operations over the length and breadth of the province, we have the land registry, technical standards and so on -- 70 pieces of legislation altogether.
Our commitment is to absorb cost in- creases in 1978-79. The ministry this year is absorbing cost increases due to inflation and growth in workload volume. Inflation in recent years has been in excess of six per cent and workload growth averages between five to eight per cent a year. To illustrate what this means: a six per cent inflation on non-salary items represents an increase of approximately $1 million annually. A one per cent productivity improvement in our ministry translates into approximately $600,000 in non-statutory expenditures.
Just to absorb that six per cent every year we need a two per cent improvement in productivity, and we are doing it. We are committed to holding the line in 1979-80 as well. That means absorbing a forecast of approximately $5 million in non-controllable increases through productivity improvement and service level adjustments. Our workload increases alone are expected to represent approximately 80 man-years or more than $3 million, yet we will not ask Management Board for additional manpower operating dollars for 1979-80.
We are committed to constraints of $1 million absorbed in 1978-79 and another $1 million in 1979-80. This is over and above normal cost increases. We intend to have better resource utilization through better management, such as much more business-like administration through an improved management structure, improved resource planning and allocation process, greater accountability, resource control. We started to examine and forecast longer range resource needs over three years and to draft three-year expenditure forecasts rather than the traditional much shorter forecasts. Also, cost recovery guidelines are now being used internally and self-funding alternatives are being examined automatically when we are looking at new policy moves and so forth.
It is not quite the stuff that headlines are made of but it is the stuff that leaves more money in the taxpayer’s pocket. By the same token, it also allows the head office of the ministry to allocate more resources to priority areas without having to go to the taxpayer.
Mr. Nixon: Like Correctional Services?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes. Correctional Services is an example for the entire world -- even the American states. On that note Mr. Chairman, I will sit down.
Mr. Breithaupt: I didn’t realize there would be as many people here this morning.
Mr. Nixon: What a great send-off.
Mr. Breithaupt: It’s very difficult, of course, to come to grips with a ministry of this size in something around three and a half hours.
Mr. Conway: And a new minister.
Mr. Breithaupt: Yes, that’s true too, we have a new minister in this portfolio. Certainly I think that the activities of the ministry have never had a higher profile. The 25 hours we expected to have to discuss the great variety of interests and activities contained in these estimates has now shrunk to about four hours. The end result is that we are going to be dealing with some $300,000 a minute. Whether I talk quickly or not, I am sure the time is still going to pass and, eventually, the money will, of course, be voted for everything covered in the minister’s comments.
While this ministry has only a few hours before us this morning, we have, in fact, seen a great amount of legislation over this past year. Indeed, I would suggest that probably the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations has had more legislative time than any other ministry in the province.
We have completely reworked the Securities Act and its two companion pieces of legislation. We have had a new Condominium Act, which has now finally received the support of the House after public hearings. We have the Residential Tenancies Act which had developed from the report of the general government committee after its hearings in the spring and which will now be continued with further hearings on clause by clause dealing with what is now bill 163. In addition, eight or nine other acts have been amended, and we have had before us as of yesterday the new statute to deal with pyramidic sales.
There is, as I say, a great volume of legislation which has appeared before us in the House, and there are a great number of activities on which I am sure many members will have questions. I think one thing we should do is ensure that the ministry does come before us early in the next session so that whether we are in the House or in committee, probably in committee, we will have the opportunity to have a full review of all of the activities.
Mr. Conway: The minister will probably be Attorney General by then.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I am not a lawyer yet.
Mr. Nixon: Don’t let that stop you; we can soon fix that by legislation through one of those fine bills you are famous for.
Mr. Breithaupt: We can pass another bill which would at least grant that status from time to time.
We have in this ministry, as I have said, such a great variety of items. We deal with everything from rent review to the pension commission. We are involved with the securities commission, the operation of insurance, and indeed everything from waitresses and their elevation problems to elevators and the waiting problems, which we all have.
In any event we are going to be going through the votes and there are going to be questions which I am sure a great number of members will want to ask. As a result, I am not going to take any further time in opening comments.
I do congratulate the minister for the activity and for the quality of the staff which his ministry has. I have had some involvement in recent years as chairman of the select committee on company law and the involvement there, for example, with Murray Thompson and the members of his staff has been certainly a most worthwhile one. In meeting with various other members of the minister’s staff through sessions on the rent review legislation and the condominium legislation, I have again been impressed with the quality and dedication of the people who serve in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.
We will be having the opportunity, as the minister knows, to go through all of the branches in detail early in the next session. I think that the time would be better spent this morning allowing questions on particular matters to be placed by a greater variety of the members so that we have the opportunity of covering as many particular points of interest as may be possible.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Unlike my colleague from Kitchener, rather than using my time to ask questions, I will use most of my time on my lead-off. As a result of the government’s calling back the assembly so late in the fall and the change of Ministers of Consumer and Commercial Relations in mid-October of this session, we do find ourselves in a position with something under four hours to consider the estimates of this ministry as opposed to the 20 hours which was originally agreed upon. Frankly, I have to agree with the member for Kitchener that it’s just not possible to deal with all the aspects of this rather complex and far-flung ministry in such a brief period of time. If I might, I think I would concentrate my contribution solely on what I view to be the most important element of the ministry, which is the element of consumer protection.
On this issue, the ministry’s record has been abysmal. The fault is not the fault of the ministry staff, who are by and large a group of men and women I find to be immensely skilful and capable. It is the fault of a government that has shown itself clearly to be fundamentally disinterested in effectively protecting consumers’ rights in this province, a government most willing to talk about consumer protection, but a government unwilling to act.
The previous minister spoke eloquently about protecting consumers and failed to take action in most of the cases that were brought to his attention. The current minister is different. The current minister speaks loudly of protecting consumers but fails to act or fails in his acting.
The issue is of fundamental importance, and I think in this case it is fair to characterize the government’s role as one of all talk, no action. That is not a view I alone hold, nor is it a view shared only by my colleagues in the New Democratic Party. It is a view shared by the consumers of Ontario.
Earlier this year, just a few months ago, the ministry published a rather interesting document called Ontario Consumer Issues. I do not know how many members of the assembly have had a chance yet to read that document, but I recommend it highly. It makes rather interesting reading on the problems and concerns of consumers in Ontario. The document is in essence a survey that was conducted sometime earlier this year, with the results. I would like to share a few of the facts and figures that appear in that document published by the ministry.
“Consumers believe that business cares more about consumer needs than does government.” What a sad state of affairs when consumers say that. “About two-thirds of consumers believe that government favours business more than it does consumers.” That is both true and sad, and is something that an NDP government will change when it comes to power.
“Only one per cent of consumers in the province would turn to the Ontario government for information and assistance on a major purchase decision.” It is rather interesting to note that four times that many consumers would go to the local library for information.
Consumers were asked where they were taking their complaints. Of the nearly 1,000 people interviewed, not one single consumer even mentioned the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Indeed, to read the results of the survey it is clear that consumers believe they can have a better hearing and get more useful service from writing a letter to the editor of their local newspaper.
The issue of consumer protection is a crucial one in the province, and certainly in the area I represent, Hamilton Centre. Earlier this spring I sent a questionnaire to my constituents and asked them if they would list what they believe to be the five most important issues in Ontario today. It is obvious that in a riding like Hamilton Centre at this time the top issue would be unemployment. But the second most frequent response, quite interestingly enough, was consumer protection, and that went well ahead of issues such as inflation and national unity and half a dozen others.
I also asked my constituents if they thought the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations is adequately -- underline adequately -- protecting consumers. Of those who replied 19.4 per cent were undecided; 15.8 per cent of those who replied said yes; and a resounding 64.8 per cent of those people who replied said no, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations was not even doing an adequate job of protecting consumers.
The incredible lack of consumer confidence in this government and this ministry is not particularly hard to understand, Mr. Chairman. It is a question of results and the record quite frankly is appalling. Last year the ministry handled over 17,000 complaints, and was able to obtain how many convictions?-- 179. What a batting average. Anyone with that record would be thrown out of any other league but this.
I know that on occasion this government has exhibited a flair for bungling and ineptitude, but that is not the case with this ministry and that is not the case with that particular problem. I have a suspicion that only by purposely trying could anyone obtain such a bad record.
I understand, and I will be quite frank about it, that many of the problems the minister is struggling with now were not problems of his own making but problems he inherited from his predecessor, his predecessor’s predecessor and so on.
One example of that is the current Ontario-Quebec auto insurance nightmare we are all involved in. That was another case of another minister counting his chickens before they were hatched. Members of the assembly will recall that on March 1 of this year the province of Quebec brought in a new no-fault insurance scheme. It became impossible for Ontarians and other non-Quebec residents to be able to participate in the scheme and that, therefore, made it quite difficult and dangerous for people from outside of the province of Quebec to be driving about in that province.
The then minister quite appropriately went down and met with his counterpart in the Quebec government, Honourable Lise Payette. He came back and on July 11, in a news release from the ministry, quite appropriately entitled “Grossman Secures Equal Treatment for Ontario Drivers,” he announced that he had, “reached an agreement with Madame Lise Payette whereby Ontario residents driving in Quebec would be given the same rights as Quebec drivers to participate in the Quebec no-fault insurance plan.”
While that is a direct quote from the minister’s press release, it is perhaps not quite an accurate statement. I think perhaps the agreement is more accurately reflected in another document. That document is one that recently came into my hands. It is a memo dated August 2, 1978. It is a confidential memo from Mr. Grossman to members of the PC caucus in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s one of the real classified ones of all time. I wondered how you were developing the talent. Now I know.
Mr. M. N. Davison: How many copies do you have? Did you send me the copy, Frank?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I wouldn’t send you anything.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The minister characterized the agreement with Madame Payette in a slightly different fashion. I quote from that document: “I secured from Mme Payette an agreement in principle that Ontario residents would be compensated on the same basis as Quebec residents.” Those are two different agreements that are talked about: one is the agreement that is suggested to have taken place publicly, and a second different kind of agreement that is told to the members of the PC caucus.
According to the July 12 press release from the minister, “the two ministers agreed to have their senior ministry officials meet immediately to draft the necessary agreement to implement our decision. It should come into effect within two or three weeks.”
The internal party communique adds another dimension to the publicly-revealed follow-up meetings. The memo to the members of the PC caucus characterizes them in this fashion: “It was agreed that the officials of the regie and my ministry would work together to have Ontario-based insurers agree to reimburse the regie, at least to the extent that the new Quebec plan as altered by my discussion with Mme Payette will save these insurers money.” That is a much different set of continuing talks than the continuing talks outlined in the minister’s press release.
Finally, there are two elements of that memo to the PC caucus which, frankly, disturb me. They cause me some concern. The two matters are that the industry seems to have been lobbying -- not terribly effectively, I suppose, in terms of the Ontario government -- for a somewhat different approach to the problems presented by Ontarians driving in Quebec. The second is that the former minister makes reference to some element of political motivation, and some element of political risk involved in the ministry’s position. Frankly, I am not sure exactly what that means.
Perhaps I could read the three relevant paragraphs of the memo into the record and the other members would be in a position to judge for themselves.
“The automobile insurance industry, clearly recognizing its involvement in the various provinces and states surrounding Quebec, made an alternative proposal directly to the Quebec government which they hoped would be acceptable to all jurisdictions. The effect of their proposal was that the industry would undertake to pay the amounts of the Quebec benefits in respect of death or injury of all non-residents of Quebec in accidents in that province, if at the same time the Quebec government agreed to make such payments to all Quebec residents without recourse against such at-fault non-resident drivers. The industry proposal may have required the Ontario insurance contract to be amended, notwithstanding that there was a precedent for recognizing the higher Quebec benefits in this way.
“A specific amendment would be likely to call into question the equity of the Ontario contract being specifically adjusted to provide higher no-fault benefits in Quebec than it would in Ontario. Further, as the industry proposal would have relieved Quebec of making any direct payments to Ontario residents, injured or killed in that province, it is likely that the arrangement would be viewed by the public as being biased in favour of Quebec.
“For this reason I found the proposal to be politically unacceptable. On the other hand, my agreement with Madame Payette to have Quebec make payments to residents and non-residents without discrimination and without regard to fault, ensures that Ontario residents will get the same, and in some cases higher benefits than they would have under the industry proposal, while at the same time we would have avoided the political risks which I felt we would be taking had I agreed with the industry alternative.”
About four weeks ago, there were reports in the press on the breakdown of whatever agreement the press was privy to. There was talk of Quebec having reneged on a deal or misinterpreted the agreement. But the current Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations was quoted as saying he was totally mystified about the Quebec reversal. The minister also went on to suggest that the problem is --
Hon. Mr. Drea: Do you mind telling me where it’s from?
Mr. M. N. Davison: That quotation “totally mystified”? In an article, I believe, on November 18 by one Eric Dowd.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No it isn’t.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Is the minister suggesting he was misquoted?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I would like to see it. At your leisure, you can send me the article. It doesn’t matter now.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Is that not the minister’s position? Did he not say he was totally mystified?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I would like to see the article. If you don’t even know where it came from then I’ll have to go and find it myself.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The evening Ottawa Journal, November 15, 1978, in an article entitled “Quebec Breaking Off Auto Insurance Deal,” by Eric Dowd of the Journal’s Toronto bureau, in the second to last paragraph it reads as follows: “He” -- the minister -- “said he is ‘totally mystified about the reversal,’ but he believes it is a result of misinterpretation at a lower level.”
Hon. Mr. Drea: Oh well, that’s quite different from what you originally suggested. Thank you for reading it to me in context.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I was just going to read you that line also. You were totally mystified though?
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, I was talking in a different context. You asked me a question.
Mr. Chairman: Order; would the member for Hamilton Centre continue.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Yes, now that that is quite clear, Mr. Chairman, I’ll continue.
The article goes on to state that the minister said he’d be willing to go down to Quebec and straighten this matter out. That’s fine, and I’m sure we’re all going to be quite happy when the problem is solved. We all would like to see the problem solved; perhaps the minister will inform us during the estimates debate as to what the status is now.
But that is not what I’m really concerned about today. There is some confusion as to exactly what deal was made between the former Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations for Ontario (Mr. Grossman) and his counterpart in Quebec. Was it the deal suggested in the minister’s press release; or was it some different kind of deal as conjured up by the minister’s memo to members of his caucus?
It may well be possible, contrary to press reports, that the province of Quebec is not to blame for any of the delay or any of the worries of its staff having misinterpreted agreements and so on. It would be a very good idea for the current minister to table a copy of the original agreement so we might all see what deal was made and where the bottleneck was in those months since July in finding some resolution to this problem. I would also like very much for the minister to table a copy of the industry proposals so that it might be possible to make a less subjective analysis of the political acceptability of that particular proposal.
The matter I just referenced is, as I said earlier, a case of another minister at another time counting his chickens before they were hatched. The deal didn’t go through. I talked earlier about just talk and no action being something of a hallmark of that minister in his brief life. The current minister went out of his way upon his appointment to this ministry to show us what the ministry can do in the way of being all talk and no action. That issue, as I am sure all members will recall, occurred within minutes of the minister being sworn in when he was off and running about topless waitresses in the province of Ontario.
The quotes from the newspapers of October 18, 19, and 20 read as follows -- I just have a brief survey and I can find the particular newspaper if the minister is interested: “My advice to the girls is to get their clothes on, and I mean above the waist too. There will be no more topless. I want clothes. There is no more topless, there’s nothing. I want clothes on the girls. On Monday I want to crack down.”
Mr. Nixon: It’s kind of poetry, modern poetry.
Mr. M. N. Davison: There weren’t very many people who disagreed with you at the time. It was a question of fundamental human dignity that nobody in this province, be they male or female, should have to strip to get a job as a waitress or as a waiter. I think there was very little disagreement with you and people would have applauded action on your part.
Unfortunately, they didn’t get it. I could be wrong. There may have been some other reason or some other motivation for what you said, but through all the noise that’s what I got as being the guts of it. I’m sure you would correct me if I was wrong.
Mr. Hennessy: You’re never wrong.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Within a day, speculation had begun about just how you were going to accomplish this worthy goal; fair enough. By Monday, October 23, the minister, quite frankly, had managed to become totally carried away with himself. In regard to his earlier statements he said: “I don’t need anything to enforce it. There will be no new legislation. There will be no new regulation.”
Of the liquor board he said, in response to comments: “I certainly hope they read or hear what I am saying today.” Of the licensed establishments in the province, he had the temerity to say: “God help them if they don’t carry out what they promised.”
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s taken out of context. It referred to minors and quite a few others. You are utterly incapable of quoting anything in context.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Later that day the minister was seen running around the hallways at Queen’s Park, waving around the Liquor Licence Act and flashing to anyone who would be interested in seeing it the precise reference to section 10(1) --
Mr. Nixon: It worked.
Mr. M. N. Davison: -- of the Liquor Licence Act with which he was somehow going to threaten these operators in order to put clothes back on their waitresses. That didn’t work, either.
Mr. Nixon: We will support you, Frank; we will make you an honest man.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The minister then said he would have these owners of the premises cover up their topless waitresses or he’d have them hauled before the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario. Further conditions were going to be attached. There was talk and talk and talk and talk, and no action.
Hon. Mr. Drea: You know, they are going to think I paid you to do this, honestly. Nobody’s ever going to believe this.
Mr. M. N. Davison: There was no action from this ministry. It seemed to go on endlessly. Day after day, the minister was in the paper with some other bizarre statement about what he was going to do, but there was no follow-up on doing anything. Finally, the government shirked its responsibility totally and passed it on to the municipality.
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s what they wanted.
Mr. M. N. Davison: You put the onus on the municipalities. There was an effective solution right from the first day. That’s the one put forward by my colleague, the member for Hamilton East in his private member’s bill. That was a real and sensible solution. There didn’t have to be a lot of talk, there could have been immediate action. That’s the kind of bill that could have passed in this House very quickly.
The issue remains before us. The question is, as I said earlier, one of fundamental human dignity. I can’t help but in some way resent the side show the minister managed to create.
Hon. Mr. Drea: You created most of it.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The minister managed to create it all by himself.
Hon. Mr. Drea: You were waving your ad. Then you were coming over and giving me a private message.
Mr. M. N. Davison: What’s that?
Hon. Mr. Drea: You and your side were waving your ad out of the Globe and Mail, and then coming over and giving me a private message.
Mr. Chairman: Order. Does the member for Hamilton Centre have anything further?
Mr. M. N. Davison: I’m afraid I do. Frankly, I can’t object too strenuously to the minister looking silly. I suppose politically I should be able to extract some good feelings from that.
Mr. Hennessy: You are past that stage.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I should be pleased about it, but you see his antics managed to turn the issue into a joke and that was wrong. I certainly would suggest to the minister that is not an exercise he should repeat in the future. That’s not the way you go about protecting consumers or anybody else in the province of Ontario.
The topless issue served to hide another promise or another commitment made that same day by the minister. This was in terms of consumer protection, and was a much more significant commitment. He committed himself to beefing up the investigative capacities of his ministry; and quite rightly so, that was something which was in need of doing, that’s a promise I would like to see the minister keep.
That same day I wrote to him and congratulated him. I’m sure the minister will recall receiving that.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I never got it.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Sure you got it.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I didn’t. I wouldn’t say that if I had.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I wrote you the same day. It was in the letter I wrote you about condominiums and the commitments of the former minister before the committee.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, no.
Mr. M. N. Davison: It’s no doubt buried in your office somewhere. I’ll make sure you get another copy of the letter.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, for my scrapbook; especially the congratulations letter.
Mr. M. N. Davison: That’s right. It was the same day I wrote to you and congratulated you in that regard. I assumed at the time what the minister meant by beefing up was a synonym for increase, make greater. Am I right so far? Yes. However, yesterday when my office contacted your ministry to measure your performance in this regard, the performance was not particularly spectacular.
The personnel people in your ministry said since October 19 there had been only two changes made in terms of direction. One was the result of consolidation and a person moving to the business practices enforcement and investigating branch. The second change was the pooling of a group of 12 people dealing with inspection and complaint handling.
I also understand that between October 19 and December 13 your Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations staff has increased by 37 and decreased by 26. I would very much like to know how many of those 11 people were hired on as investigators. I’d like you to be able to tell me you’ve created one or two or 10 or 20 new investigative jobs at the ministry.
If my information is correct, as I said earlier it is hardly a spectacular way to start keeping that commitment, that promise to increase the investigative capacities of the ministry. I would suggest that the minister go about increasing the investigative capacity by the simple expediency of hiring some more investigators. I think that would be a useful thing for the minister to do.
The minister announced on October 24 that the certificate of Bestline Products of Canada Limited would be lifted. He took that action for good reasons. I’m sure he was involved in some of the cases.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Oh he wasn’t involved in some of the cases? Many members of the assembly were, and I know of some members on the government side of the House who were involved in cases where that company had ripped off constituents.
This matter has been before the ministry at least as complaints from MPPs for the past several years. It was good to see the ministry take action to do something about that company. However, the ministry seems to have run into some roadblocks before the commercial registration appeal tribunal. It was originally suggested that action be taken in the early part of November.
Hon. Mr. Drea: December.
Mr. M. N. Davison: There were later reports that it would start on December 7. If I’m not mistaken, the hearing is now postponed until sometime in the middle of February, subject, I suppose, to further delays. Unfortunately, the initiative has been temporarily lost in that regard.
The minister announced, though, in the second week of November -- I believe November 8, possibly November 7 -- that he would be moving to revoke the Pyramidic Sales Act.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Same day, October 24.
Mr. M. N. Davison: It wasn’t reported until much later.
Hon. Mr. Drea: It is in Hansard.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The member for Kitchener referred to some possible action in this regard. We’re now at the last part of our session with the important occupational health and safety bill coming up almost immediately I would hope. I don’t think the Bestline issue is a matter of controversy in terms of what actions the minister will be taking. I don’t intend to participate in the debate. My party will support the minister’s position. I think the time would be better spent on Bill 70.
I would take this opportunity, during my contribution to the estimates debate, to make a couple of remarks and observations. They really are in the form of notice of questions. If one of your staff can make note of these concerns, you could respond to them during the debate on the bill to revoke the Pyramidic Sales Act.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Do you want it responded to then or do you want it responded to now?
Mr. M. N. Davison: If you can do it now that’s fine, but if you would like the time between now and the debate on the Pyramidic Sales Act to check out the facts or the answers, that’s fine also.
Could you tell me how it was that Bestline ever managed to get registered in the province of Ontario, with its absolutely horrid record in the United States of America? Can you also tell me how Bestline ever managed to get registered in the province of Ontario under this act because of the actions of a company by the name of Golden Canada Products Limited? In November of 1972 that company was raided by the Metro fraud squad. Fifty people were charged, 35 people were arrested; there were a large number of convictions. There are still outstanding warrants against certain people involved in that shambles.
Almost overnight, Bestline came in with the same people, to the same address in Toronto, with the same line of products; in fact the same company. With a record such as those people brought from Golden Canada Products Limited, why on earth were they allowed to operate under the name of Bestline Ltd., a different name doing exactly the same thing?
The other question I have is in regard to the necessity of corporations filing information with your ministry. There was a period, I believe it was 1974-75-76, in which Bestline failed to file with the ministry. I’d like you to look into that.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I’m sorry, failed to file what?
Mr. M. N. Davison: In 1974, 1975 and 1976 they failed to file the --
Hon. Mr. Drea: The annual return under the Pyramidic Sales Act?
Mr. M. N. Davison: I think it’s the annual return under the Corporate Information Act.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Oh okay; fine.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Why was no investigation of the company launched or no action taken against the company at that time?
Finally, Mr. Minister, have you investigated the accidental destruction of the Bestline records on file in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations? If so, could you report back to the assembly on that matter?
I’ll be brief. There are just a couple of other points I wanted to touch on. One is the question of booze, Mr. Minister.
Mr. Breaugh: You know that, Frank.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Booze, b-o-o-z-e; the minister, shortly after coming to this appointment, suggested the liquor industry in the province should be allowed to police itself. The Globe and Mail, I’ll quote it exactly.
Mr. Haggerty: Do you write for the Globe and Mall, Frank?
Hon. Mr. Drea: If I did I would get better quotes than that.
Mr. M. N. Davison: You can blame Barbara Yaffe and not myself if you’ve been misquoted. The minister said: “The liquor industry has come of age and it’s time the province began treating it just like any other business. The minister said the move would be politically dicey for any government, and so far is untried in any other province, but added: ‘Let’s forget about the past. It’s a new time. Today the liquor licence holders are business people. Everybody’s going to say oh no, not self-regulation for liquor; but I’m saying look, it’s a business like any other business. I want to get rid of all this idea that it’s unlike ... that is, this is something very special here that you have to watch over; you don’t.’”
The article goes on at some length. I don’t much mind, Mr. Minister, exploratory thinking, and on occasion --
Hon. Mr. Drea: What’s your problem with that?
Mr. M. N. Davison: -- I don’t mind it out loud, but it will perhaps be better if, on such issues, you might feel out some people privately first.
Mr. Haggerty: You are thinking but not out loud.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I’m thinking of people on the liquor licence board or people in the industry.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The bartenders’ union likes it.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Frankly, I don’t think it’s a very good idea. I don’t think that will be a particularly useful direction to take.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The Ontario Federation of Labour likes it.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I think it is not wise, overnight, to deregulate totally, the liquor industry.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Nobody is going to; it is perfectly clear in that article.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I would ask you to proceed with a bit more caution on issues such as that.
The other matter with booze is this: If that’s a subject that attracts you strongly and you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time talking about it, could I suggest an issue you might pick up on that would be particularly useful? If you want to do something about it, why don’t you crack down on these bars and pubs in Ontario that still function on a men-only basis and don’t serve women? We have laws against that.
Mr. Breithaupt: The Ottawa “men only.”
Mr. M. N. Davison: I think that’s something you can do to help women in the province. It’s something fairly non-controversial but something that would be useful. I think you should try your hand at that to see that women are able to go into the bars of Ontario and be served on the same basis as men.
There is another matter that concerns me. One of my favourite group of companies are not insurance companies, Mr. Minister. We will, no doubt, be working together for some short time yet and you should be aware of my biases.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Are you retiring?
Mr. Breithaupt: He doesn’t like insurance companies.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The particular aspect that disturbs me is that, as you know, the Anti-Inflation Board looks into insurance companies each year and makes its comments. This year, 21 insurance companies are going to have to pay back $37.5 million, which is a pretty hefty sum of money.
The insurance companies -- auto insurance companies, by and large -- use a neat gimmick. I don’t know if the minister is aware of this. Last year, Allstate was ordered to pay back about $15 million. You really are in good hands with Allstate. Do you know what they did? They wouldn’t give you the rebate unless you renewed your auto insurance policy with them. So you had to go back to the people who ripped you off and renew your policy in order to get the money they had overcharged you, as set forth by the AIB. Insurance companies in this province come under the jurisdiction of the provincial government, and I think there is a role for you to play here.
The list has been published in the newspapers; I am sure there are copies of it in the ministry’s files. I am not going to read all of them now, but I have taken the trouble to check with a few of the insurance companies and perhaps I can share some of that information with you.
Albion Insurance Company, one of the 21 companies, will offer rate reductions to its auto policyholders only upon renewal of a contract; there will be no money given to those who don’t renew.
The Guardian Insurance Company of Toronto is pulling something really interesting. What they are doing is giving the rebate only to a select group of customers, five-year policyholders who were still holding policies as of December 1977. They are doing that because they would like to give out greater chunks of money individually than just $1 or $2 bills, and I am not at all sure that is a terribly fair action on their part.
Another insurance company that caught my eye was State Farm. They are one of the big ones: they ripped off $14.2 million from their purchasers.
Mr. Haggerty: Oh, I get quite a rebate back from State Farm.
Mr. M. N. Davison: They are going to use the mechanism of rate reductions and discounts, and they say that is going to include non-renewable contracts. You can’t have a rate reduction discount on a non-renewable contract, because the person has gone.
If the minister wants to do something to help consumers, here is a really good place for him to go to work. These insurance companies ripped off consumers to the tune of $37.5 million, the AIB caught them with their hands in the pockets of the consumers and the insurance companies then run a fiddle that supplies only the people who renew with them with a rebate. I think the minister should take a look at that and do something about that.
The whole area of food costs cries out for attention. It cries out for more than talking turkey, I guess. It requires action also.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Did you notice the price of turkey? You could even have it upstairs in the gallery last night. You can even afford to have it in Queen’s Park.
Mr. M. N. Davison: It doesn’t scan just to stand up in the House and show an ad saying that turkey prices have gone down 10 cents on the pound. That is an area that is new to the ministry, and it is an area I would like to see the ministry expand its work in. But I would like to see the minister do more than use moral suasion to try to convince some profiteers in the food industry to reduce their prices.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Why ruin a good act? It worked so well with turkeys, you never know.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I will give the minister time on that because, as I say, it is new and it is probably going to take him time for his people to adjust to that area.
There is a whole slew of individual consumer ripoffs. They go from the poor newspaper boy who is chiselled by the newspaper companies in this province --
Mr. Haggerty: He’s right on that, Frank. That’s one I agree on.
Mr. M. N. Davison: -- gypsies telling fortunes and palm readers to all varieties of door-to-door salesmen. I think that is something the minister can usefully involve himself in. All the minister has to do is pick up the newspaper every day and he will see all kinds of stories like that about consumers in need.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Do you want me to bust gypsy fortune tellers? Witchcraft is under the criminal code.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I didn’t say bust. We are talking about consumer ripoffs. People who rip off consumers are not necessarily stupid, frequently they are quite clever. The ministry is going to have to be sharp to catch them.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Would you say that again?
Mr. M. N. Davison: Say what again?
Hon. Mr. Drea: People who rip off consumers --
Mr. M. N. Davison: Are not necessarily stupid people.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, they are very smart.
Mr. M. N. Davison: That’s right. They are usually very clever. That means the ministry is going to have to be clever to work on behalf of consumers. But this is how you can restore consumer confidence, or create consumer confidence in your ministry, by following up on concerns you can pick out of the newspaper. You don’t even have to go beyond your office to find them.
Hon. Mr. Drea: You weren’t serious about gypsies?
Mr. Breaugh: Frank, if you thought there was a headline in attacking gypsies you would be all over them with a wet cloth.
Mr. M. N. Davison: That’s right, you would be there.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Witchcraft is under the criminal code.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The minister shows very little reluctance to jump outside of his jurisdiction. He seems to spend half his time jumping back and forth over the fence.
Mr. Makarchuk: It is giving him a star --
Mr. Breaugh: Frank Drea attacks gypsy caravan.
Mr. M. N. Davison: If you want to tramp on some federal toes -- because my goodness the federal Liberals are just as bad as you guys are in terms of consumer protection -- why don’t you start looking at hazardous products and articles? You have everything front stuffed toys to cosmetics. That would keep you busy for a long time, Mr. Minister; there’s lots of room for action there and you won’t get in so much trouble.
Another issue that really disturbs me is the whole question of smoke detectors. I raised that with your ministry some time ago. I am concerned about the possible dangers of radiation exposure from certain kinds of smoke detectors on the market. That is a more immediate problem now that certain townships, and I suppose municipalities eventually, are making them compulsory.
The Consumers’ Association of Canada said that in a test they conducted only three of 19 smoke detectors responded approximately. Three out of 19; 16 out of 19 flunked; and those are going into homes. I think that’s another issue you should go after and take a look at, both from the question of hazards to health from certain kinds of smoke detectors, as well as just how good these smoke detectors are in responding to blazes.
I have gone on at some length. If I had 20 hours I would have done it differently. It’s unfortunate we don’t have time to deal with all of the aspects of the ministry, but I do think that consumer protection is the critical area. It’s an important issue for us. I believe there is a pivotal role that the government could play. The government, as a public steward, should act the part of a player, not a cheerleader.
When the day comes, in the not-too-distant future, that the New Democratic Party is the government in the province of Ontario, that’s a role this party will fulfil. This party will be serious about providing real protection to consumers in Ontario. While we remain temporarily in the opposition, I would like the minister to know that he has our assurance we will continue to push, drag and bully this government into doing something about consumer protection and adopting a more useful role.
Mr. Breithaupt: I was going to ask, Mr. Chairman, if the minister did wish to discuss two of the particular points raised by the member for Hamilton Centre. The one about the Quebec insurance situation and the other one with respect to the liquor matter concerning the “men only” pubs in Ottawa. Do you prefer to discuss those two items when we actually get to the votes or shall we do that now?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I am rather surprised -- I guess the member isn’t here too often -- since I promised to deliver a full statement on the Ontario-Quebec insurance matter to the member for Cornwall (Mr. Samis) this Friday; I will do it then.
Mr. Breithaupt: I was just wondering what the minister’s intentions were, with the point having been raised.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I will do it then.
Mr. Breithaupt: That’s fine.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I will table as much as is available. I made a commitment to the member for Cornwall some time ago. I am rather surprised that somebody’s asking me to break it now.
On vote 1401, ministry administration program; item 1, main office:
Mr. Chairman: Any questions on item 1, vote 1401?
Mr. Breithaupt: Mr. Chairman, the member for Yorkview (Mr. Young) made some comments and I didn’t hear them.
Mr. Chairman: The member for Yorkview didn’t have the floor.
Mr. Breithaupt: Oh I am sorry, I thought he had.
Mr. M. N. Davison: On a point of order: Perhaps the best way to proceed would be to discuss everything under the first vote so we can range broadly with the short amount of time we have, rather than having members hang around for some votes that may or may not come up later on.
Mr. Chairman: As the honourable members are aware the House passed a motion, I believe it was last April, setting out the order. If it’s the wish of the committee by unanimous consent because of the limited amount of time, to open it up under the first vote, it’s entirely up to the committee. Agreed?
Mr. Breithaupt: Might I just ask a question, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Chairman: The member for Kitchener.
Mr. Breithaupt: Is the minister intending to make comments on the Bestline situation now or are you more likely to wait until the bill comes forward?
Hon. Mr. Drea: In light of the fact that a bill will be introduced this afternoon and will be before the House, I really think, as a minister, I should make those replies then. I don’t mind taking the questions in an effort to save some time, but I think it would be much more proper at that time, when members have the bill before them.
Mr. Breithaupt: I would agree.
Hon. Mr. Drea: On the question of the pubs, I am blissfully unaware of the situation, but I presume there may still be some beverage rooms, although not very many, that have rooms specifically licensed men only, ladies, and escorts and ladies. I have not heard lately of segregation in any lounge or dining lounge or other places, but I am prepared to look into it.
I think the proper vehicle for that is the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Obviously they would have some concerns on the matter, because it’s not just a question of association, it’s a question of discrimination in the ability to obtain service that is generally applicable to the public. I didn’t know anything about it, but I will be very glad to look into the matter.
Mr. M. N. Davison: It’s the Grads Hotel on Somerset in Ottawa.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I don’t really think that would have been one of my spots in Ottawa, but I will be very glad to look at it.
Mr. Haggerty: I want to speak on the first vote dealing with the minister’s remarks concerning administration. I was interested in his opening remarks concerning consumer education and the consumer protection bureau, I am wondering, in the program you are going to put forward informing the public of some useful information that may assist them in any of their transactions with the purchasing of goods or buying almost anything, will the 512 investigators be enough if you are going to get into a massive program of educating the consumer in Ontario?
I have a few other things I want to deal with so the minister may answer afterward. I was concerned, too, about the provincial fire code. This is a major improvement in that we are going to have some standardization in fire codes in the province of Ontario. I am sure the minister is well aware of the new provincial building code relating to fire prevention and smoke detectors. Particularly, it says that any building above 45 feet or three floors is compelled to have smoke detectors, but any apartment dwelling below that is not required to have them. Hopefully, the minister will be looking at that particular area to ensure that smoke detectors are installed in any apartment building or high-rise from the ground floor up.
Another matter he mentioned was older buildings in certain communities where new fire standards need to be brought in for rented premises. I think this is a good step and is something that was neglected over the years. Many persons are renting some premises that are not suitable for habitation. I commend the minister for moving in this area.
One important thing that the minister had not touched upon is the AIB guidelines, the winding down and deregulation of the legislation presently before us. I am concerned about this particular area. If you look at wage increases. particularly this year, they have been held down, certainly from the years 1973, 1975 and 1976. In that area, they are down about an average of six per cent, but we also see that consumer prices are increasing considerably.
I feel you are going to have to have more investigation into this particular area to see that the consumer is not being taken on it. We see the profit increase in certain consumer products. We see it in shelter costs, we see it in home heating oil, we see it in gas, we see it in gasoline prices and we see a high increase in hydro costs. We see it in almost everything, and yet nobody seems to be moving in this direction to see if it is necessary for them to have this substantial increase. The telephone is another area where we have had a substantial increase in the cost of services.
If you are out buying gas, for example, although the federal government and the provincial government of Alberta have arrived at an agreement now that there will be no price increase in crude oil for the next six months or perhaps a year, you notice that the price of gasoline at the pump has increased substantially. Just recently I bought a new car. I believe you could run it on regular no-lead gas, but now I find that you almost have to go to a new product which they call super no-lead gas, and there is quite a price increase in this particular fuel.
I suggest to the minister that perhaps there should be an investigation in this particular area to see if this price increase is justified. I know he is frowning over there, thinking about this particular thing, but it is an area that we should be looking at because I think the consumer in this particular area could be well ripped off in the new gimmick that they have. If they could not get the price increase through the federal government’s allowing it, they are going to get it in some other manner, and this is perhaps one way.
Hon. Mr. Drea: There are four grades of gas.
Mr. Haggerty: There are four grades of gas. That is right. But when you buy the car, it says unleaded gas. It does not say anything about super. It just says standard gas. Then you find out now that the person who purchased that car is having difficulties. Whether they reduced the octane in the common non-lead and increased it in the super non-lead, I do not know. I suggest that the minister have an inquiry into this particular area. Perhaps it might be price fixing with the oil industry today. I suggest that it may be in violation of the Combines Investigation Act, which is a federal legislation, but the minister should be moving in this particular area.
Too often, because of wage increases, labour has been criticized as the area that causes the increase in inflation. But they cannot be blamed for it now because there has been some stability in wage increases in Ontario and industry itself has increased the prices substantially.
We can see it in the price of bread that is coming along now. They say it is going to be an increase of 12 cents a loaf, but who knows what it is going to be. I think in this particular area you are going to have more investigation into the particular area of consumer pricing.
I commend the minister for what action he has taken on the matter of pricing of turkeys. All it took was for a member of the House to raise that issue and for some dialogue across the chamber. The message came through to the suppliers and they have dropped the price of turkeys. I think we need some investigations in this area. Let them know they are wrong, that is the most important thing. Let’s not have labour being the scapegoats of this price increase and almost everything else today. If not, you are going to have to come in with further controls.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Chairman, replying in order, the first question dealt with the ability to provide more consumer education. That is why I am so interested in what will be going on in Cornwall. First of all, effective consumer education, I think everybody agrees, is the key to the individual being effective and being able to cope in the marketplace. On the negative side, it is not just a question of avoiding all the pitfalls that may come along. On the positive side, it is feeling confident in the marketplace that you are somewhat in control of your destiny, and you can refuse to buy at this particular time or choose to buy. There is no question that consumer education is the key to that.
One of the difficulties, of course, is you cannot reach all of society, particularly in all age brackets, at one time. In the past few years one of the great improvements that has come along is the consumer education in the schools, both primary and secondary. As a matter of fact, while it did come from the Ministry of Education in the past, a great deal of the spark for that was provided in the very original days of this ministry, which is only 11 or 12 years old, when it was called the Ministry of Financial and Commercial Affairs. At that time, the late Mr. Rowntree was the minister and he was fully acquainted with the corporate world. This was Mr. Rowntree’s approach. There had to be a stimulant provided for consumer education, and not just in terms of being able to buy bread or milk or clothes or what have you, but indeed all the way up through the intricacies of buying stocks and bonds and annuities and life insurance and so on and so forth.
We did provide a stimulus and did help the Ministry of Education which in turn spilled out to the boards of education. Consumer education is there; it’s not perfect. It probably isn’t as much as it should be, but within the spectrum of the curricula and the time frames and so forth the education system has to work within, it is there. That is for young people. That is fine. I suppose in 20 years or so you eventually permeate most of your society, but the problem is what you are going to do for the consumer today. There have been attempts by both the private and public sectors in television and radio to do this.
I think it is very significant that one of the highest-rated Canadian programs is one that essentially deals with consumer education: Marketplace. I don’t suppose it gets great headlines or great reviews in the entertainment columns. It isn’t something that features entertainers and performers. Nonetheless, it consistently has a very high rating. I think that is very significant. It means that coast to coast in this country, even on something which is basically an entertainment or a family night -- it appears on Sunday -- there is a thirst and a desire for this. The people are willing to sacrifice the movies, et cetera, that appear on TV, for this program.
Of course, there have been specialty things from time to time. Quite frankly, I think they work and they play a role. There is the continuing role, and I would be very remiss if I didn’t say this, of the consumers’ association. Probably of all three of those, the consumers’ association locally, provincially and nationally, has probably had the most impact. They have always had to do it on a shoestring. It seems to me now is the time to try to nip them altogether.
Maybe you can do it in the community, if you can take the interest that is generated in the home by virtue of the child taking this in school and bringing it back, if you can take the various groups that have now to be extremely concerned with the person economically -- such as the social worker, or the debt counsellor or the family service person -- and you give them some tools to work with in the consumer education field, and you tie in also various volunteer community groups -- which is what I said from the start was the kind of thing we’re going to be doing. That’s why I’m really looking forward to the experience in Cornwall.
Some 14 months ago when the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) and I first announced the community service order program, a lot of people were extremely sceptical. They said the community wouldn’t respond; it wanted hands off. People are telling me now that when we go into this type of thing out in the community the community will be sceptical and will have other things to do. I don’t think so. I think this is the vehicle of the future. It involves the entire community, not just consumers. It involves the very reputable business community.
Remember, all kinds of things like credit counselling -- indeed the thrust for consumer protection -- was instituted by business. The original funding for credit counselling in this province, which is very successful today, came from business. The government was a very reluctant late starter in all of this.
So in terms of consumer education, I don’t think it’s a matter of how many people we can put into it; I think there are enough people in it today. Many of them are in the education system, some of them are in the social sphere, some of them are working out of the courts, some of them are working out of volunteer agencies. I think the thrust upon us is to try to bring them all together -- not to dictate but to try and provide them with the tools whereby they can do the job almost on a one-to-one basis. So in terms of staff yes, I think we’re all right there.
But if that fails -- and I haven’t the slightest qualm that it will fail -- but if it does, then you’re absolutely right: The whole thrust in the education thing is going to have to come back on the government. But I think the experience is encouraging that everybody is having today with the community approach -- not the approach that says “here is some money; go out and do something” but an organized thrust within the community. These programs have been successful and I think this one will be.
On your second one -- the fire code and smoke detectors and so forth -- you’re quite right. There is a cost benefit from the detectors being made mandatory in apartments. You also run into the question, what about the newer apartment? How many do you really need in the newer compared to the one across the street that’s maybe 10 years old? These are problems we are looking at in terms of fire code for new buildings. Regarding older buildings or existing buildings, I said the whole report of the fire code committee will be out in the Gazette on January 13. They have recommended detectors -- they’re coming in very heavy on that. There’s no question the detectors should be labelled under Underwriters Laboratories and so forth because it is an indication of the product quality.
On your third question regarding the producer, I agree with you that controls affected the farmers much more significantly than it did any other group. I will be quite frank with you, I go through supermarkets and I know something about wage scales in this province, I know something about take-home pay. I am talking about average prices. I go through supermarkets, and I say to the honourable members that quite often I just shake my head; I don’t know how families make it.
I often wonder what it would be like if I were in the position I was in perhaps 15 years ago, with a young family of three, which makes it a Canadian family of five and which is neither large nor small. When I see those prices, even with today’s wages and all the other things that are there, quite frankly, I just shake my head. I am convinced there are a great number of mothers and fathers in this province making extraordinary sacrifices to raise their families. And we’re just talking about the basics.
I think it is very unfair to suggest that labour, whether we mean a farmer, a salaried or an hourly paid worker, should not have the right to respond to that. If it continues, there is only one logical response: You have to get more money to cope.
I realize the thrust at this particular time, when people are making up their minds and the AIB is being phased out. People like myself are very sceptical. All the way through I heard about the AIB that, if you take it off, there will be more investment et cetera. I have never known when controls came off, that prices didn’t go up. I’m prepared to accept that perhaps they won’t go up. I don’t know. But this is certainly a time when a great number of people in this country are looking for some positive action so that they are not going to start up and that they will always be trying to react.
Mr. Haggerty: Does your ministry have any constant monitoring of this?
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s what I was just coming to: what we will be doing.
One of the reassurances in this is the question of monitoring the prices, certainly in regard to something as basic as food. It also comes at a very critical time because of the demise of the Canadian dollar. Look at the price of oranges. I was absolutely appalled the other night when I saw a dozen oranges priced at $1.98. They now sell oranges by the pound -- I am being very serious; they sell them by the pound. They used to sell them by the dozen or the half dozen; now it is by the pound. But a dozen oranges -- and not spectacular oranges -- were priced at $1.98; and that was almost a special price. Of course, you have got the Canadian dollar in that, which again compounds that problem.
What we intend to do with the monitoring of food prices is to be able to take the producer, through his marketing board or whatever organization he sells through -- and most do sell through a board of some kind, with the largest exception probably being beef. The marketing board knows the price that has been set; it also knows the wholesale price. That’s how it comes to take its fair share. It knows what the wholesale price is going to be. No marketing board is going to take a larger share of the dollar than the wholesaler is going to be able to pay. Otherwise, you would just waste it all. So they know.
Second, we will look at the retail price and bring it to the attention of the public. I think the greatest change there has been since people began monitoring prices is related to the question of turkeys. The reason the turkey question was handled in such an expeditious manner was that the turkey growers’ marketing board blew the whistle. It pointed out that the producers only got an additional three cents per pound at the wholesale level but that the price already was 20 to 30 cents more -- and this was three or four weeks ago.
They stood up and were counted; they blew the whistle. They gave the prices; there was no fooling around: “Here’s what they receive, and here’s the gap.” My friend will have noticed there wasn’t a single complaint in the Legislature, and I didn’t even get a letter on it, when I said the processors were taking the lion’s share of it. Once it knows, it’s up to the public I think that works out very successfully.
The difficulty in the past has been that neither the marketing board nor the producer has ever really been asked to get involved in terms of pricing. This was raised last night in the debate on the omnibus agriculture bill. I find it very interesting that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture likes this approach because, for the first time, they are going to be, through the marketing board, involved in an integrated pricing situation. That is: “Here’s what it is.” It’s not the farmer.
Of course, if it is the producer, which is highly unlikely, all right. Then he is nailed and the public makes up its mind. What does the public want to do about it? I think it’s a very crucial situation at this time in this country. Certainly there are factors beyond our control. But by the same token, if the public does have confidence and feels it is informed, then this is real trust in a marketplace. Indeed, that trust in the marketplace may lead to vastly increased employment and agricultural opportunity in this county. Perhaps, this will happen when they find out the real prices of certain winter vegetables and how much control brokers on the other side of the border have over pricing. Neither we nor the Canadian government has this control.
Indeed, at that time, the public may very well be willing to show the Ontario agricultural community that now is the time to really start an extensive hothouse industry. With it, everybody admits, we could virtually supply our market. At that point we would have certain economic sanctions to use if these things got out of hand. But how long do you want to be dependent upon brokers in Los Angeles or Chicago or Detroit or Buffalo or New York City? I think in that regard a well-informed consumer is important -- and we can do these though the co-operation of the American Department of Agriculture.
I think that this will have some additional spinoff in the marketplace. To answer your final question, yes, I agree with you. I will tell you this -- we are in a very critical time period in this country. The AIB was created at an equally crucial time when it appeared everything was going out of sight. Now that weapon has been used. If things again start to go out of sight, people literally aren’t going to have any confidence on the ability of anything working normally. You wind up with the kind of phenomenon where everybody says: “I would like to be responsible but I am not going to starve to death. I will take mine and, when somebody else becomes responsible, I’ll take it easy.” I don’t think we want that. Certainly we are prepared to play our role and I think it will be significant.
I don’t want to set prices. I’m not going to set prices. I don't think anybody here in his right mind wants to set prices because then you’re into a totally collectivized society. I don’t think anybody wants to limit competition. Okay. But the thrust in the marketplace is the well-informed consumer and I think we’ll be able to do that, particularly in the food areas
Mr. Haggerty: I want to thank the minister for the information he’s passed on to us this morning. I appreciate that you’re going to do some monitoring in this particular area -- food pricing in Ontario. I noticed that the Ontario Food Council is now under the minister’s administration. Hopefully, they will be, perhaps twice a week in some local newspapers, giving consumers hints of certain things that may be of some assistance to them.
I forgot one other thing that the --
Hon. Mr. Drea: If I could just respond to that for a moment. I don’t want to leave the impression that the food council is coming with us; only their responsibilities. We have to work out a different reporting approach. We are now in the process of doing this in the ministry. My one regret, quite frankly -- and I meant to mention this last night, so I’ll have your indulgence today -- is that the food council had those marvellous women who turn out those marvellous recipes, you know. Occasionally, they used to give members samples. That thing we used to send through the mail really worked. Unfortunately, the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. W. Newman) is hanging on to them. They will still be keeping the nation nice and plump and well fed.
We should have the council by the middle of January or so and be able to work out a formula. The first attempts may not get the response that we feel they should. We’ll keep moving around and adapting it until it does bring a response that can be communicated. The interesting thing is that this ministry used to have the supermarket prices. When they started appearing in the media, it was great, used in this way. Towards the end, it was away back almost down underneath the comics. Even though it was still coming out people lost interest in it.
We want to have a thing that will be of interest to the public because that’s the point of it. The point of it is not an exercise for the House. The point is for the public. That’s why we have some very skilled people within our own ministry now really working on it. Not an extra dime is being spent.
Mr. Haggerty: I have a point I want to raise with the minister. There was a comment from the member for Hamilton Centre (Mr. M. N. Davison) about the newspaper boys being taken or ripped off on the services they provide for the community. Perhaps the minister isn’t quite aware -- I hope I’m correct in this -- but it’s been brought to my attention where newspaper boys in local communities do provide a service to the community in delivering their nightly newspapers and now they’re being overloaded with flyers and ads put out by large stores such as Simpsons, Sears, or Eaton’s, or any one of them. They’re loading up the small newspaper boy to deliver these ads.
Years ago, that was a special service provided throughout the community by different people who wanted to deliver them door to door. I suggest the services of these newspaper boys are being abused by the local newspaper industry. I suggest maybe that’s an area the minister should be looking into, that these persons delivering newspapers should be paid additional for delivering that service of these flyers to the homes.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Are these flyers or are they supplements?
Mr. Breaugh: Supplements.
Mr. Makarchuk: Supplements.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I’ll look into it. My initial reaction is that really comes under the employment standards, I would think. But I’ll look into it. If it’s within our jurisdiction, we’ll have a look. If it’s not, I would think that the Minister of Labour (Mr. Elgie) would.
Mr. M. N. Davison: It’s not just a question of little boys anymore. Little girls, too.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Females now do the work as well.
Mr. Makarchuk: I would also like to add my voice and encourage the minister to actually look into the situation. Obviously, it’s a complaint the member for Erie is receiving in his community, and I’m getting it in my community, as well. They are overloading the kids and the kids, in effect, are becoming the delivery service. Existing delivery services are phased out because they used to hire people to deliver these packages or flyers around. Now they don’t. Whereas the delivery services had to more or less pay a minimum wage, the kids have to deliver and they don’t get anywhere near the minimum wage as a result of this and still they perform the work.
The matter I wish to specifically raise with the minister is this tendency of the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario to continue to persecute veterans’ clubs. I would suggest, Mr. Minister, that you call them off.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I called them off and you have a problem with the borough.
Mr. Makarchuk: I would seriously suggest you call them off from the plethora of regulations and restrictions they’re imposing on them. One point I want to raise with the minister -- and this is a matter of advertising -- is why cannot service clubs advertise they are having an event, or they’re having a dance, and members and guests are welcome? Why can’t they carry this matter in the local paper? It has been done. For years they carried this on, then in the last two or three years the board moved in and prohibited this advertising from continuing.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Why are you persecuting the veterans, Frank?
Mr. Makarchuk: In effect, you are persecuting the veterans. Let me read you a letter. It says: “We would be very pleased to have you pursue this further. However,” -- this is in reference to the previous minister -- “the minister’s letter states, ‘providing the information was restricted to indicate that it was a club meeting and that members only be permitted,’ meaning that he does not have the problem at hand of which we are concerned.
“For many years we advertised our Saturday night dances in the ‘Coming Events’ in the local paper. As none of the clubs can run a Saturday night dance every week with having only members attend, we advertised the name of the band playing, followed by ‘members and guests only.’ This was quite all right with the liquor board for many years. Then someone seemed to have found some hidden rule that private clubs could not advertise in the local papers. Now that we are unable to advertise, the guests seem to feel that they are not so welcome in the clubs.
“We, at the Navy Club” -- and listen to this -- “donate quite a lot of money to different organizations in the community, and by not running dances every Saturday night we have to be more restrictive on donations.
“In the city of Brantford, the only regular dances held are those that are run by veterans’ clubs. I’m quite sure that most of the people that come to our dances are not the type that would sit in one of the local beer halls with all the youngsters and their loud so-called music.
“It seems that the veteran is now just some memory and if the hotels complain about the veterans’ clubs, the liquor board will find another little clause in their bible to persecute them.”
That, in effect, is what is happening. I’ve written numerous letters to the previous minister. It’s been a matter that has been raised in questions to the ministers in this House. We receive very evasive answers, but the people out there, your inspectors out there, are still putting the screws to the veterans’ clubs. That’s exactly what they’re doing. For gosh sake, of all of the indecent performances that you could be a party to, I think this is it. Call them off. Allow the clubs to do what they were doing. They’re not asking for any wide-open gate. All they’re asking is the right to advertise the fact.
I’ll give you an example of how another club would like to run the ad. Listen to this. Here’s how they would like to run the ad in the coming events: “Dance at Branch 90, Royal Canadian Legion, 21 Oak Street, Friday, June 12. Doors open 8 p.m., Music by John Doe and Company. Admission $4 per couple. Members and their guests welcome.” Tell me what is so harmful about that ad? Sure, there is a liquor industry up there. Sure, there are some hotels that get annoyed about it. Just a little while ago you announced you don’t want to limit competition. If the hotels put on a good show and have a good environment, then they have no worries whatsoever. If the clubs put on a lousy dance, no matter whether they advertise or not, people wouldn’t come in the future. They have to do a good show.
All I’m asking you is to allow them to do exactly what they have been doing for many years, allow them to do this and to continue as they have in the past. I’d like to hear your comments on that.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I think it’s kind of unfair to say I’m allowing liquor inspectors to put the screws on. You know very well that I have instructed in one case where I don’t know whether it’s accurate to talk about putting the screws on or in, but where in any event -- not just in my opinion but in the opinion of the board -- there was a somewhat narrow view, that these screws did come off.
First of all, on the question of whatever we do in regard to veterans’ clubs, in regard to the Legion, these things are cleared through Central Command.
Mr. Makarchuk: No, you’re absolutely wrong.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I’m advised right here and now by the executive director of the board that these things are cleared through Central Command of the Legion.
In terms of the advertising, I’m also advised they were never able to do what you have suggested, which really doesn’t make it right or wrong. I could understand the positions that have been taken by the industry. They will argue that it’s a volunteer bartender and a volunteer this and a volunteer that, and that it’s a club licence that is somewhat more accommodating than a conventional liquor licence.
Quite frankly -- and since the executive director of the board is here today, he might as well be the first to know -- I have made up my mind, starting as soon as is practical in the new year because, as you know, I have been tied up in a vast amount of legislation in here, to take a look at all the advertising, what is there now and so on and so forth, not just in terms of the veterans’ club or the special occasion permit, because there is a route that branch 90 could go if they wanted to do this. All they would have to do is get a special occasion permit declared.
Mr. Makarchuk: You are wrong. You are wrong. You are absolutely wrong.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, I am not.
Mr. Makarchuk: Of course you are wrong.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Have them do it. Have them apply and watch how fast the licence comes out.
Mr. Makarchuk: They’ve got a licence.
Mr. Pope: For fund-raising.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Fund raising. You talked about the money they were giving out to charity. Obviously, they are raising funds, all right? I know they are non-profit, they are giving it all out.
Now I am advised that all they have to do in order to qualify for the right to advertise is obtain a special occasion permit. That is going to cost them additional money. That is not the route they want to go. We can discuss that in just a moment, but let me finish because you wanted to know what I wanted to do about advertising.
I want to look at all the advertising, not just the type of thing you have raised, but some of the other restrictions that we have, some of the other things that have been brought to my attention.
For instance, I want to look at what I see as the inability of the board to deal with violations even of technical matters, where someone uses some technical things in his ads that he is not supposed to. I am going to take a look at those after the first of the year.
It was raised by the member for Hamilton Centre when I talked about the liquor industry. I think it was somewhat taken out of context. What I was talking about is there is a need to do quite a bit of deregulation within the confines of common sense. That is what I was talking about.
This is a mature and I think responsible field. Of course, from time to time there are difficulties in here just as there are in any other endeavour of human life. But I don’t think a regulatory act, which is what the Liquor Licence Act is essentially -- at one time it was a moral act but it has long since ceased to be that -- can earn much respect.
I don’t think it will have the impact it should have, because it is based on trust rather than total enforcement. When they are confronted with this aspect and this is where people are confronted on the advertising and certain other things that attempt to put them into a conflict, they cannot understand. So I will take a look at that.
Although I don’t really wish to pursue it, there have been some improvements in some other licensing aspects of this ministry not involving liquor that have been of great value and will be of great value to the veterans’ clubs. I have done that very deliberately. It is working out well across the province; indeed, not just in Legions but in a number of other veterans’ places.
The addition of that new type of entertainment, that opportunity to have a little bit of an extra draw there has certainly improved their ability to donate to a number of funds.
Mr. Breaugh: What are you talking about, Frank?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I don’t want it in Hansard. I will tell the member about it privately. I think he knows what I am talking about.
Mr. Makarchuk: Mr. Chairman, I want to get back to this. The minister, of course, refuses to give a commitment and we have had the same thing from the previous minister and the minister before that. This is a matter that has been raised with that ministry for about three or four years now.
Mr. Martel: Four years, at least.
Mr. Makarchuk: What you are doing, of course, is kowtowing to the commercial liquor industry.
Mr. Martel: When Clement was here it was being raised.
Mr. Makarchuk: The command has nothing to do with the local branch running an ad in the paper. That is not a problem or a matter that has to go to the legion command or the army, navy, air force clubs or the ex-Imperial Club or something like that It is not of concern to them.
What it basically boils down to is that you have your people out there and the sad thing about it is the Granite Club doesn’t get them coming down there. The Albany Club doesn’t get them coming down there and I am sure the Brantford Golf and Country Club doesn’t get the visits from those liquor inspectors the same way the other clubs seem to do. What you are doing is you are picking on the people at the bottom. You continue to do that.
You are quite right, if you look at some of your regulations -- unfortunately, I don’t have the copies with me -- they are a wordmonger’s nightmare, or delight, I should say. I don’t know where you get the people who draft those things, but they are really something to read and then to try to comprehend what is written in them. There is no question about it, they have to be looked at.
What I want from the minister is some commitment that until such time as you look at the whole thing, you are going to allow the service clubs and the veterans’ clubs to advertise events and as I read earlier, the fact they are holding a dance, members and guests are welcome, this is going to be the orchestra and this is when it is going to start. That’s all. It’s something they have been doing forty years. Then you restricted it; you stopped it. I’m asking you whether you are prepared to allow them to do that now.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, because there is a wide-ranging number of clubs, not just veterans’ clubs but service clubs, social clubs and so on. I want to take a look at it. I will be back with something for you before the House resumes. I presume the House is going to resume the last week of February or the first week of March.
Quite frankly, you can’t do it nicely. You see the argument. If the particular veterans’ club has 25 or 30 members or 300 members, and this dance is for members and guests and presumably, each member brings a guest or maybe they bring another couple then why did they need this ad? Surely as a club they must know who their membership is. This goes out -- et cetera, et cetera.
I realize what many of them are saying is the cost of mailing out to find people or to acquaint them with the fact that this week they have a band of some renown rather than last week when it was just an ordinary affair is too high. There is a question of information there. Bear in mind there are restrictions on even commercial enterprises in terms of their advertising. What I said to you before is you can have an SOP, a special occasion permit, for fund raising. You pay extra for it, no question about it, but that gives you the right to advertise just exactly the type of ad you described.
Mr. Worton: I want to express my concerns. I think the minister has indicated he is going to review this whole situation, but we do have old-time dance clubs, modern dance clubs and parents without partners clubs, whose members want to be able to have a libation or two during the course of the evening. Others don’t want to.
Hon. Mr. Drea: You can say “drink” in here; it doesn’t break the act.
Mr. Worton: All right. They don’t want to have any association with alcohol at all.
Mr. Martel: But as an abstinence man, Frank.
Mr. Worton: I just noticed in the Sun this morning the Golddiggers are down at the Royal York and you can get a package deal there for entertainment and a dinner.
Mr. Martel: Well packaged.
Mr. Worton: But I tell you when you come to dance, you can’t be much of a swinger because the dance floor is about the size of my kitchen. The hotels are not catering to those who want to dance any more. They are catering to those who want to eat and drink.
I feel there should be some method whereby legitimate organizations, and you have plenty of opportunity to sort them out, should be able to advertise if they wish to have alcoholic beverages and to entertain those people who wish to enjoy dancing in a sociable way. I think the time has come when hotels do not provide that facility any more. There is just room enough for a few who wish to get up. If there does happen to be a good piece of music some of us old people can dance to, then you can’t move on the floor because of its size.
I think the whole area of this type of advertising should be reviewed with the idea of giving legitimate organizations permission to advertise for those who wish to enjoy dancing as a form of entertainment.
Mr. Makarchuk: Perhaps it also might be in order to monitor the noise levels in some of the downtown clubs to see if they are inducing deafness.
Mr. Gaunt: And anything over 45 decibels doesn’t get a liquor licence.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Drea: In fact, because of the noise the last time we met, I believe I was stuffed for the bill. So I may do exactly that
In response to the member for Wellington South, one of the reasons why I wasn’t prepared to make a commitment is that I am looking at certain proposals the board has made in the field of special occasion permits. It’s premature to discuss them now, but the thrust there is an attempt to separate the very type of organization that the honourable member and the member for Brantford have been talking about from people who have been deliberately abusing special occasion permits as a vehicle to run virtually a 52-week hotel operation without going to the board and getting a hotel licence. I think that has always been the concern in this area.
With some new proposals that I and my deputy have received from the board, I think we will be in a position to separate that element completely -- they shouldn’t be getting special occasion permits at all -- and to confine special occasion permits in the club field to organizations such as the ones that the honourable member described and to the club licences, which are on a more sustained basis. That’s part of the review I am doing. The two, quite frankly, do blend together.
I haven’t seen anybody from the hotel industry making a presentation since prior to the introduction of the last Liquor Licence Act in 1974 or 1975. They weren’t terribly concerned in regard to club licences and special occasion permits for veterans’ clubs or groups like those mentioned by my friend. They didn’t think the clubs should be operating out of community colleges and so forth, but they were concerned about the vast number of SOPs out there that were really just a rotating thing for a competitor who hadn’t bothered to go through the licensing process.
Mr. Makarchuk: What’s the hangup about permitting veterans’ clubs to advertise? If they are not concerned, who is?
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Drea: It has been said here earlier that the only reason all of these things were put in was to kowtow to the commercial industry at the expense of the veterans. That is not the case. The reason it’s there today is that it was a package. Part of that package did affect the veterans’ clubs; also there was a deliberate thrust to try to reduce the number of SOPs on the grounds of legitimizing the student clubs and so on and so forth.
As with everything involving liquor, it’s very complicated and takes a long time. But I raise this with the member for Wellington South to say that I think we have a vehicle and I want to look at it. Indeed, if we do have that vehicle, we can take a new, fresh and responsible look at the advertising question. We like non-profit organizations. The honourable member is quite right; why shouldn’t a non-profit organization, if it does have the odd fund-raising function, spread it out? Every one of us does it in his riding. I presume he does have an annual meeting and he does serve something and so forth; he knows darned well that any money that is raised goes somewhere else. Or if there is a dance sponsored by the association, the money goes somewhere else. We all do that. We don’t want to annoy any non-profit voluntary organizations. Quite frankly, I agree with both honourable members. The time has come for a fresh look, and I think now is the time to do it.
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, I would like to go back for a few minutes to the matter we were discussing a few minutes ago before we got on to the liquor and the dances. I refer to the matter of the price spread between the producer and the consumer. One of the reasons for part of this spread at least is coupons. We all remember the green stamp craze of some years ago, where we built up green stamps, saving them in order to get the catalogues and choose the free gifts we got for the stamps. After a while, we commenced to realize the horrendous cost of this whole process and some of the provinces of the country began to abolish them. Finally Ontario got around to the point where it said no more green stamps. The idea was we were going to save the customer certain amounts of money. Whether it did or not, who knows? We do not know whether the price level went down or not. At least the green stamps went.
Now we have something new. We have the coupons, Mr. Minister; coupons. Not too long ago, there came to my door this beautiful, eye-popping envelope full of goodies, well done, slick, expensive brochures telling us what the manufacturers had in store for us. I’ll just read two or three of the things found in this envelope offering “mysteriously good Sugar Crisps”; “Fleecy with soft stat,” whatever that is; “incredibly new Aunt Jemima’s frozen pancake batter”; holidays in the south, plus $1,000 from Aylmer’s; Libby’s beans can get you dishwashers, and --
Hon. Mr. Drea: What?
Mr. Young: Pillsbury products make your family feel warm all over, Mr. Minister.
Hon. Mr. Drea: It is a good thing I eat in restaurants. That stuff scares me.
Mr. Young: Along with that come the coupons -- coupons for everything under heaven; 10 cents off, 15 cents off, 25, 30 cents off. I will send these over to the minister, perhaps it will save him a bit when he makes purchases at the grocery store. There is a whole bundle of them there for things I don’t need and things I don’t use. Perhaps the minister does. I will let him have that for his information and for his economy.
Let’s turn those over now to the minister so he can see them and go through them and perhaps if he cannot use them, he can pass them on to members of his staff who can.
Hon. Mr. Drea: My daughters will.
Mr. Young: Fine, use them any way you like. They are a free gift as far as I am concerned.
Mr. Breithaupt: I think the deputy minister will.
Mr. Young: Then you get these other things. I have tucked into my grocery bag from Dominion Stores in this case, Ontario Sweeps $50,000 bonus race.
Hon. Mr. Drea: What?
Mr. Young: Win $50,000. This was back on August 5, one that I just tucked away and did not use, evidently. I never do use these things because somebody is going to win, but it is generally not me. So that sort of thing goes on.
Then we have things like Homemaker’s magazine, Mr. Minister, where you have the same kind of coupons all through that magazine. You can detach them and spend them the next time you go to the grocery store. I will send that over because the minister may possibly want a few of these for his information and guidance.
All these things add to cost and I could make a long speech which I won’t make this morning about it. The minister understands and the House understands what it adds up to, because there is no question that all this artistry, some of those things are fancy and demand skill in designing, costs money. The printing of them, the distribution of them, the redemption of them, not only add immense cost, but also mean that when I get into the checkout line at the grocery store I am held up five minutes, 10 minutes, whatever it might be, as everybody fiddles through their purse to get the right coupon for the right article, I stand there and fume as I watch this process going on. Then I come along and I have my coupons and I cash them in and somebody behind me fumes while that process is going on. But I save myself 10 cents, 15 cents, 25 cents.
Then, of course, if there is only one to a family, my wife gets one newspaper and I get the other and we cheat the grocery store by that much, I presume, although they don’t seem to mind. As a matter of fact, last week something was on special and she was objecting about this. I heard the girl say to my wife, “Well look, get your husband, you’ve got another coupon so you can have two.” That was nice.
All this is incredible and it adds cost. It adds trouble. It adds worry to the girls at the checkout counter because their accounts have to balance and all of that.
I am calling this to the minister’s attention in the hope that something might be done about this kind of promotion. If we can eliminate it, we could certainly lower price levels quite dramatically, at least we could in theory. I know that when I take the 15-cent coupon in, I am saving 15 cents. But am I really?
First of all, the price level for groceries goes up so that they can absorb all this over- head. In the long run, on average, I am paying for it and I am paying something extra. And for all that skill and for all that paraphernalia -- between when the coupons originate in somebody’s brain and when I finally dispose of them -- there is that tremendous added expense.
So, I am asking the minister whether or not he has given any thought to this whole process and whether or not we might expect some action in this field. In this field, let Ontario do some pioneering. I don’t know whether or not any action has been taken by other provinces in the case of green stamps. Why can’t we start this process in Canada if action has not already been taken in other places?
I have another matter I want to raise with the minister but perhaps he can comment on this whole process.
Hon. Mr. Drea: First of all, there is a very significant difference between coupons and premium stamps. You mention green stamps but I recall that there were pink ones and some other colours, too. At one time stamps certainly played a very significant role for the two largest chains. The type of promotional coupon you are talking about, the green stamp or the premium stamp, added a cost to everything that you bought -- everything, straight through the store. The number of stamps you received was based upon the amount of money or the number of products you had purchased. So it was assignable all the way through.
Mr. Breithaupt: On the total tape.
Hon. Mr. Drea: On the total tape, yes. Okay. In the case of the promotional coupon, that is really only assignable to that one particular product. I realize you are talking about inconvenience at the checkout counter, the cost of redemption, and so on. But the whole point is that these coupons are used basically to introduce new products.
This one here -- it is Canadian -- saves 10 cents on “Connors Tiny Tender Sea Steaks. A fresh new idea from the sea.” I have no idea what a tiny steak might be but, in any event, it is a product of Canada. I know Connors. I know the company.
They are using this to get you to try Connors Tiny Tender Sea Steaks. Ordinarily, you probably wouldn’t do it. So it is only assignable, quite frankly, to the cost of that one product. Now then. There are other methods of promoting a new product, or current product that is not exactly doing well against its competition. You can go into the print media; you can go on radio; you can go on TV; you can do something door-to-door. You can do demonstrations. You can do all kinds of things. When you finally come down to it, if you and I are to buy Connors Tiny Tender Sea Steaks, somewhere along the line we are going to have to absorb the money spent on the promotion to attract us initially. This will happen whether or not it is in this form of a coupon offering 10 cents off; whether or not they choose to advertise today in the Toronto Star; whether or not they choose to go on CFRB or on CFTO today; or, indeed, whether or not they choose to come to your next church social; or the next gathering of a women’s group. Or if Connors comes in and puts on a whole display, showing the people not only this Connors product but others, in the end, sure, I pay. But I think there is a fundamental difference between that and the green stamps.
Let’s expend one more hoax, because I don’t really see anything terribly wrong. From time to time, it may seem inefficient to you and me. There surely must be a better way of doing it. I don’t know how else you would promote it. You’ve got to get the product into somebody’s hand. You’ve got to get them to taste it, wear it, show it, or do something or they’re never going to buy.
I realize that these can get very cumbersome, but there are jobs involved in the printing industry, in the distribution industry, in the advertising industry, in the public relations industry and so forth. So it is of some interest economically to the country.
Mr. M. N. Davison: They can advertise without a phoney saving coupon.
Hon. Mr. Drea: It says 10 cents off whatever the price is. Look at Connors sea steaks.
Mr. Martel: You just jack it up 10 cents more than you want. You put a dime on before and, then when you are done, you reduce it back to the same price.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, I would doubt that very much.
Mr. Breithaupt: There is a redemption rate.
Hon. Mr. Drea: First of all, you’ve got a redemption rate here. Unless you’re terribly interested in Connors Tiny Tender Sea Steaks, your redemption rate is not used up. Secondly, I presume it’s an adaptation of the sardine or something like that. It’s a small can; it’s one of the open tin jobs.
Mr. Young: They slice them down and sell them laterally.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Slicing what?
Mr. Mackenzie: They clean the sardines for those who don’t like innards.
Hon. Mr. Drea: In any event, I don’t think this little coupon determines the price. As it’s obviously coming into a competitive field, why would you bother even with your 10 cents off coupon if you could buy something cheaper?
Mr. M. N. Davison: There is steep competition with that product
Hon. Mr. Drea: There is. There are a couple of other ones that most Canadians don’t buy. They prefer the Norwegian brands. The old hammer-down gold can with the red on top is really your best buy. I recommend it very much.
I want to come into it more seriously. This affects the price of the product eventually. It does not affect the entire price of your groceries because you can throw it away. You don’t have to get involved with Connors and their tiny little whatever they are. With the stamps you had to get involved because whether you wanted them or not, they were based upon the total at the base of your tape. It was admitted at the end that this did have a percentage increase in raising the cost of your bill. There is no question about it.
Again, on the question of the horse races or the bonanza, I must admit I was a little bit startled when it went up to $50,000 at one time. I suppose that was a special one. That’s an advertising promotion to get you to come into the store, and if you go into that store, you are going to have to pay for it somewhere along the line.
It could be argued that the more people come into that store, the higher their volume goes up and, therefore, they operate on a much higher supplier discount and everything. The truth of the matter is that in the food business there’s only so much food that can be consumed. There’s only so much disposable income for food, give or take a few million dollars every week, one way or the other. It’s an attraction to get you to come to retail outlet A rather than retail outlet C.
Mr. Breithaupt: They’re trying to increase their share. The market is not increasing.
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s right. They’re trying to move around their share of the market. This is the only way that they can do it. I really don’t think we want to ban advertising and it is a form of advertising. Instead of saying get cheap specials, what they’re saying is come in and take a flyer on $50,000. Who are we, in this Legislature above all, to start criticising people for loss leaders and promotions? Have you heard the Wintario and the Provincial commercials lately?
Mr. Young: I don’t like them.
Mr. M. N. Davison: What are you going to do about those?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I don’t ‘buy them either, but have you heard them? Here we’re looking at poor little Connors and his sea steaks and we’re looking at whatever it is in their little filmed horse race from a year ago or so and saying they shouldn’t do that.
Mr. Martel: Talk to the Minister of Culture and Recreation (Mr. Baetz) then. Tell him it is terrible. Tell him to change the advertisement.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I’m not saying anything. I don’t disagree with it at all. But I’m not going with a straight face to a supermarket and say to them they mustn’t dare run an operation with a $50,000 horse race that’s predicated on the thing the customer picks up at the counter or that that’s something they should pass off in lower costs, when we do precisely the same thing with instant scratch-offs, and rub-ons. You get it at home through the daily newspaper. That reminds me: One of those little things that was delivered with the newspaper was the Minister of Culture and Recreation’s little game, the numbers.
To come to a very serious matter -- and I want to end on this; I know the member wants to get up again -- there is another thing that I want to say about the food industry: There aren’t going to be any commercial credit cards, period. As the member knows, when John Clement was minister, there was an apparent thrust in this direction. He will recall that Mr. Clement called the industry into his office and said, “We can do it the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you are not going to do it. The hard way is that we will introduce legislation.” That went on for quite a period of time.
It would be unfair to describe it as significant or a thrust, but there are now some indications, that because of the infinitely more widespread attraction of the commercial credit card -- I am not talking about the in-house cards, which allow you to cash a cheque or anything like that; I am talking about Chargex, Master Charge and so on -- there is no question that this would push the cost of food higher, even for those who chose not to use it and who would be basically low-income people, because that type of card simply doesn’t fit into their economic pattern. Sure, they pay their bills, but they don’t want to get into $350 or $400 or $500 a month on a card. They prefer to do it the old-fashioned way. They are quite capable of being economically sufficient.
The introduction of credit cards would do to the food industry exactly what the old premium stamps did. The cost would be spread right across every single product. Once again, we are not going to allow it. And it can be done the easy way or the hard way. As far as I am concerned, right now everybody is complying. At least, they had better be complying by Christmas day. Or, quite frankly, if they really want to try these, when we come back in March there will be legislation here that will say, “You will not use a commercial credit card in a supermarket.”
Mr. M. N. Davison: What about food at K-Mart stores?
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s a little different matter.
Mr. Martel: What about doctors?
Hon. Mr. Drea: We are talking about increasing the price of food to the particular disadvantage of low-income and some middle-class families, just on the basis of convenience for some people who don’t like to travel around all the time with cash. I know the member for Yorkview wants to say something else; so I will stop here.
Mr. Young: In view of the time factor I don’t want to prolong this, but I am not convinced by the minister’s argument that, since these are zeroed in on specific products being introduced into the market, it doesn’t raise the cost all across the board. I certainly think it does when I have in my hand Planter’s Peanuts -- that’s an old product -- Red Rose Tea, Scottowels and those sorts of things.
I can see the advantage of getting customers in through loss-leaders. And I have no objection to the use of the tapes for charity, as is the case with some of them. But this kind of thing does add to the cost and to the inconvenience. Certainly the sweeps and the kinds of bingo games that these people indulge in does add to the cost across the board. It must add to the cost.
The other thing is, I can’t see the sense of the creating of jobs and printing all these things, because what you are doing is incorporating into the food bill the cost of the jobs, and food should not bear that cost.
I also want to raise the matter of undercoating. I know this matter has been addressed now and we’re getting some place with it. But in the past we have had people being told, “Well, you have bought a new car; you want an undercoating job done to prevent rusting.” We discussed this in the select committee on highway safety with the industry in Detroit a couple of years ago. They assured us they were starting to work on it then, and guarantees of up to three years or so have come since that time. But that is the place it ought to be: right at the manufacturers’ level. If there is going to be any protection against rust, that’s the place it ought to come from. Undercoating ought to be completely eliminated as far as the dealer is concerned.
There is one other item I want to bring to the minister’s attention. The last time I put my car though a car wash -- I was in it; so I suppose in a sense I went through the car wash too -- the thing that worried me was that the water coming down over my car was a dull brown colour. In other words, I went in to get the salt off my car --
Mr. B. Newman: It was just taking the paint off your car.
Mr. Young: -- and I was getting water which had been recycled I don’t know how many times. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. I presume this was water which had been used all day long in that car wash, and I was getting the full benefit of all the salt coming off all the cars during at least that day, and perhaps days before that.
I’m not sure whether the minister has done anything along this line. This happened to me very recently. I would ask the minister whether or not he’s considering some means by which the good that we do by having the rustproofing done at the factory level now can be mitigated by this kind of treatment in car wash establishments.
Hon. Mr. Drea: In reply to that, first of all, already the market forces are taking over. There are a number of car-washes now advertising they do not use recycled water. They only use fresh water. This, obviously, is putting those who have been using the recycled water, with whatever it contains -- and I’m prepared to admit in the wintertime, depending upon your locality, it can contain almost anything -- at a disadvantage.
I’m not absolutely sure the operation or the water supply of a car wash is really within my jurisdiction. I’ll certainly look into it. It seems to me too it might very well present an environmental problem. If that water is recycled and retains the salt or some other chemical factors and gradually builds them up in enormous quantities, or at least there’s a residue somewhere, this might have an impact on either the disposal of waste water sewage or in some other fashion. I will look into that.
I point out the industry itself is already getting concerned. Also, I think you pointed out some of the new federal guidelines on rustproofing at the manufacturing level and the new warranties or guarantees that have been given are of interest. First one company offered them, and now they’re all following along. It still raises a pretty fundamental question.
I used to be in the auto business. I’m not there anymore. I used to supply a very essential commodity on your automobile. I don’t think the convict labour at Millbrook is better than the production line people anywhere else but you know those licence plates made at Millbrook were supposed to last five years. Then they said they’ll probably last 10. I don’t know how long they’re going to last, but most of them can last 15.
Remember, some of those are on that front bumper, which up until now has been pretty exposed. They’ve taken all the salt, they’ve taken the bumper smacks and all of the things, and you very seldom see a rusted Ontario licence plate.
Mr. Breithaupt: The paint’s a bit thin.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, but that is quite significant -- a single piece of sheet steel which is comparable to the types of steel that go into your automobile has been up front and around since 1913 and it does not seem to have the singular rust problems that affect the rest of the industry.
Most of the plates were turned out, quite frankly, before I had management of Millbrook, but even in the last couple of years the quarterly truck plates are managing to take tremendous abuse out there. These are the plates you see on dump trucks and so forth in the wintertime. They do not rust.
I think sometimes that might be an example to some other people in the auto supply trade. The cost, quite frankly, isn’t that much different than buying regular steel. I just draw that to your attention because I think the rusting is of tremendous significance. I think governments, all of them, waited a very, very long time into the game before they became involved. But, nevertheless, there are almost daily improvements. Hopefully, within a relatively brief period of time, the old rust problem, once a very costly economic factor, will virtually disappear.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Due to Phil Edmunston and the ATA.
Mr. Young: Just one further remark in this field. The minister has touched on another matter, perhaps a federal matter, concerning standards and that sort of thing. One thing that impressed us is the fact that the major reason for rusting in recent years has been because the automobile manufacturers have reduced the gauge of a car body. While we used to get a metal with some substance to it, we are now down to tin can thickness. So a bit of rust goes through that fast.
What the minister has said points to the fact that the auto industry, as well as other industries, could very well build the kind of equipment which can last and also be rustproof. I think the minister has put his finger on a very fundamental fact here. Perhaps, it could guide the industry and other industries, if they were not so concerned with making profits out of spare and replacement parts in the days ahead. However, that’s another matter which we just haven’t time to go into today.
Mr. Breithaupt: With respect to the energy safety activity of the technical standards program: From the objectives, I see this is described, as: “To minimize the risk of loss of life, bodily injury and property damage which may arise from the transmission, distribution, utilization of natural gas, fuel oil and propane, and the transportation of bulk storage and handling of gasoline.”
With that objective, I’m wondering if the minister could tell us about the involvement of his ministry in the Port Loring situation, with respect to gasoline storage. It’s good to know that water services are going to be provided and that, as I understand it, the Gulf company is assuming responsibility to provide and to maintain these services until this matter is sorted out.
Could the minister advise me about the situation there and the ministry’s involvement? What reports are there on similar leaks and situations across the province and how is the minister monitoring that?
Hon. Mr. Drea: We were brought in there to determine where these leaks were coming from. Our people did pinpoint where they were coming from -- and this was quite late in the game. They were found and repaired on April 19 and May 8, 1978, long after the Port Loring business began. They found the three facilities that might have been the source of the leak. All we’re really doing is providing technical assistance to the Ministry of the Environment, much as we are doing today with that drapery firm in North York. Everybody seems to think it’s of enormous consequence that somebody from the energy safety branch is up there with the Ministry of Labour.
The Ministry of Labour doesn’t know -- at least it didn’t this morning -- the source of the problem in that company that has affected so many people. The reason we have one or two people there is that if they do find something in probing around, either in terms of fumes coming from some type of heating device, for example, our people will be able to pinpoint --
Mr. Breithaupt: They’ll be more likely to know what to look for?
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s right. But what I’m saying to you is that we are not the prime people. We are the technical backup or the support.
Just the other night, there was a spill in Scarborough at a gasoline station. Once again, our people were there. It wasn’t so much the fuel soaking into the ground that would affect wells or anything like that because it’s all commercial around there. It was really a filling station for school buses and so forth. It was a highly specialized one. There was an underground spill.
The Ministry of the Environment and our people were there for two reasons: one, to help them with the source of the leak and two, to make sure that as traffic went by -- because it was a very busy street and it occurred, as all of these things do, just at the beginning of the rush hour -- that somebody wasn’t around smoking or somebody wasn’t driving by throwing a cigarette out and so on.
So basically, when an event occurs, whether it’s real or suspected, we are backup, we’re not the prime people there. Once it’s found out that the cause is not in the energy area we just depart. But it’s still left up to the others to continue on.
I can attempt to find out for you how many times a year we would get these things. I would think it wouldn’t be too high, but I don’t think the figures would indicate anything. We would have to get a report. If this type of pressure tank has spills, we would want to see it because the next time it was in there we would want to make sure it was not the same type of tank that split on the end, and so forth.
Mr. Breithaupt: It appears from the reference material that when you have some 20,000 licensed operations and we’re fortunate enough to have only 111 accidents or involvements, there is great care taken by the persons involved in nearly every instance. I presume that the number of accidents referred to here might well be motor vehicle collisions or collisions with vehicles at the location rather than problems with the transportation side of it, and that would distort the actual words. We obviously have a very fortunate record in the matter.
Mr. Mackenzie: There are three points I want to raise with you briefly because there has been some coverage on them.
Like my colleague from Yorkview, I’ve had a number of people raise the question of the food coupons with me. I must confess I’m more in agreement with the concerns he’s expressed than your defence of this kind of advertising.
It’s my own belief that whether it’s Connors or any other firm, most of the coupons that I’ve seen come to the door of my house have been for well-established products, not new ones they’re trying to promote. There’s a number of those.
But I’m not convinced at all that any outfit, particularly any major outfit that’s going to be issuing coupons guaranteeing 10 cents, 15 cents or 25 cents off and allowing handling charges for the shopkeeper of two or three cents is going to be building the cost of that promotion into their line of products. For that reason, I have a strong feeling that you’re paying for it across the board.
I heard you, and I believe you were sincere about it, wondering how some people can make ends meet in terms of food today. That’s a major problem for a lot of low-income people. That cost has to be added on and I think it is across the board. I don’t think it’s added on to only one product because most firms will take a look at the cost of promotions they’re going to run, making sure that promotion is included as a cost in their product line. We don’t know when a cent or two is added onto something else to make up the cost of that particular promotion.
Some of the retail outlets, on some occasions, can affect the prices and it’s got to be considered in their overall profit margin as well, because, in the big chains at least, an increasing number of chains, in an effort to stay competitive, are arguing they’ll accept coupons from any chain or from any store that may be listed in the paper or sent out in booklets. This also indicates that cost is going to be looked at in terms of their total operation.
I don’t think there is any question but that the cost of these kinds of promotions increases the cost of what is probably the most basic necessity of our people along with housing. You would be doing the people of Ontario a real service if you would seriously take a look at that. I don’t know how you guarantee, if we get some of the frills removed, the cost of basic items like food will go down, but you’re not doing it with these particular promotions.
I would urge you to take a serious look at that. I would also hope that you would take a serious look at one of the other matters raised. It is a matter I have raised myself on occasion, namely, the question of whether or not newsboys -- and I say not only newsboys, but some of the youngsters who are being used by the distributing services -- are in effect being had. The only answer I have had which I got from your ministry, or from the previous minister, was that one of the reasons they don’t have any benefits or are not covered on almost anything, other than the straight per capita rate they get for the paper, is that they are considered entrepreneurs. That is something that has come out of the government.
I don’t know how in God’s name you can call a newsboy an entrepreneur, when he neither sets the price of the product he is selling nor the price at which he buys it. I just don’t think the argument that he is an individual entrepreneur or businessman really makes sense. I have had the problem not only in terms of the newsboys -- and they are being had on the flyers that are distributed as well -- but also I have had it with some of the distributing services.
There is one in my town that lists 19 requirements, including the fact that they are not liable for anything for the young lads, some of whom are high school students and younger than high school age in some cases, who distribute the flyers. The argument used there was that they were really entrepreneurs. Once again, they are paid a set fee for the hundreds that they deliver. I am not at all sure that argument really is a sound and solid one.
I want to make one comment only, and not a criticism, on another matter. I would like you to take a look at it. The three main problems I have had with hotels in my riding in the last year have all revolved around parking facilities. I can think of one just down the street from my constituency headquarters which they turned into a discotheque-type of operation. I had dozens of people in because of the parking problems along their streets.
I am not sure of the responsibility. Some of that also can be municipal or other involvement. I do know the licence for the change in that operation was issued without proper parking facilities being available. I have now had three cases within less than a year which have caused a considerable amount of neighbourhood concern over proper parking facilities not being provided for enlargement or changes in the particular type of hotel operation. It is an area I would like you to take a little more serious look at.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Might I just comment on that, because you have touched on a sore spot? I don’t know whether it is because we have constituency offices, but I have even a worse problem right underneath my constituency office. Why this board ever chose to licence a bar underneath my constituency office at the head of a residential street has always dazzled me. In any event, it was done before my time.
By the same token, the people on that street, on Bimbrok, are subjected to the most intolerable intrusion upon their street by parking, including the ability to park on one side of that street, which is a residential street, where you are not supposed to do that. That makes it extremely difficult in the wintertime to thread your way through.
I will be quite frank with you. Primarily, the fault does lie with municipalities. My own municipality does not have a parking bylaw because it is a suburb. This is one of the areas that I am looking at with the board. I want more community input of the type provided by the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms. Bryden) when she came in with a group and outlined their parking problems and so forth. Once the municipality comes back to the board and says there is no problem and the licence is issued, the difficulty is it is impossible even to try to withhold that licence or even to hold back on it because what happens is that they go into court and it’s all over.
I am very glad you brought up the parking problem. As I say, it is probably the closest to my own heart. I would appreciate it if over the next few weeks you could supply me with some of those complaints you have had, where the locations are and so forth, because it is a problem in which I don’t think we can pass the buck any longer.
There has to be some co-ordination with the municipality, even if it doesn’t want a parking bylaw because it doesn’t have meters and so forth, or with the ones that do, but whose parking bylaw may not be keeping up to certain standards. Surely there can be a bit of co-ordination between the two on a planning basis, whether it is the planning board or the traffic commissioner suggesting that before this particular licence is issued, there be so many parking spaces. It would be very helpful to me if you would supply those.
You are quite right. It is an annoyance, it is an intrusion, and it becomes a tax matter because you have to keep calling the police to get those cars out of there. This costs money. It takes away resources that might very well be used somewhere else.
Mr. Mackenzie: I will. I have, as a matter of fact, in at least two or the three cases I have raised, written letters to the ministry about them. This is one case of the problems you outlined or the problems the people have in the neighbourhood. I’m thinking of an establishment. The people are not anti-establishment because it was an old neighbourhood tavern that had a good record, but the operation was changed --
Hon. Mr. Drea: Went to a discotheque.
Mr. Mackenzie: -- by the same owners I guess, in an effort to compete in the business world. The residents on Tuxedo, which is just around the corner from my constituency office, were faced with the street being blocked with parking. The police force was very co-operative for about the first three or four weeks. At the end of that time they began to get very annoyed with being called every Friday and Saturday night. They were faced with the problems and complaints I got from families of the patrons coming out and either leaving the odd beer bottle on their lawn -- urinating on the lawn, or you name it, was a common one. In the course of the change of the licence, there were inadequate facilities. Somebody slipped up on that in terms of the parking.
I have had the city people in and they are attempting to resolve it. This is a problem that causes a lot of concern for probably 40 or 50 homes in that immediate neighbourhood. It is something that should be looked at.
The other thing I wanted to raise with you in a serious way, Mr. Minister, and I understand the member for Hamilton Centre did raise it briefly, was the question of the topless issue that you yourself brought to some public prominence in the early days in your new appointment.
I want you to know that at just 8:30 this morning I had a meeting with a number of workers in the hotel and restaurant trade. Since that meeting this: morning I have also talked to a number of their representatives and other people. I am talking now about the people involved in the business at the worker level, not at the owner level, in the cases with which I have been dealing.
They are not very impressed with the idea of some kind of municipal licensing. Most of them are not trying to, nor am I, set a standard in terms of entertainment in the province. I don’t really know what you do with them. At the moment, I am not uptight about somebody who wants to run a chorus line or even a striptease joint if that is what they want to run.
What I am concerned with and what I would like you to consider is the simple change I have proposed to the employment standards. I think it would resolve part of the problem, not all of it. It may not resolve the basic problem of what you allow in some of the hotels and restaurants in this city, but the simple change I have proposed to the employment standards is one the workers in the trade would like very much to have. As I say, it was one of the two or three meetings I had with them this morning involving that amendment.
We do have a problem in some of the hotels. It has been more prevalent in Toronto than any other place, but we have a problem where the union is now being asked to provide waitresses for some of these establishments. A condition is they spend seven minutes out of the hour topless in the operation. I don’t know why the seven minutes but that is one of the requests that has been made.
It’s not just a question of being degrading to the girls who may be involved. Some of them are losing jobs over it. A good number of the girl’s involved are not local residents. They are part of a tour or a circuit, as you know. An awful lot of them are from another province.
The problem has a number of undesirable features. It makes it difficult to upgrade, as some people would like to, the waitress in the serving trade. It is difficult when you have the kind of pressure that’s coming there. You don’t get the big wages some people think are there because some of the people come in and will both serve tables and do a so-called dance. What happens is you are lowering the entertainer’s rates considerably and also cutting out some people who might tend to be legitimately in the business, either because they like it or because they get along well with people and don’t have the training to do anything else.
It is my feeling that while it is not an entire answer, if we can see this government pick up the idea of a very simple amendment to the employment standards which does not allow topless service as a condition of employment, we would at least take a fairly positive step towards eliminating it. It would eliminate it in the area I don’t think it should be in, which is the actual serving, whether it be food, drinks or what have you, in the hotel, motel and restaurant field.
I don’t see that is a difficulty. Most of the people I have talked to about it, including some people in employment standards, don’t see it as a particularly difficult approach to take. It would give some protection to those who are at least organized. It would give some protection to the girls in an operation that may not be organized where they knew the employment standards would say, “Hey, you can’t require that as a condition of employment.” I don’t see it as a difficult move. I see it as a partial but very positive step in an area where we want to do something.
I don’t see it as necessarily interfering in the straight entertainment area, which I think is another kettle of fish altogether. I think it can also have the benefit of not lowering standards either for waitresses or for entertainers in the jobs they are doing or the rates they may be entitled to as entertainers.
I would ask you, Mr. Minister, to seriously look at that and possibly discuss it with your colleagues and see if there is not something that could be borrowed in that suggestion.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I want to discuss that for a moment.
First of all, I have always regarded the private bill you are advocating -- unfortunately, I guess, you don’t have the draw this time around -- and the stance you have taken with the beverage dispensers union and the stance the federation of labour has taken as a supplement I agree with you; I don’t think they are in conflict. I regard it as a supplement.
I think one of the reasons there hasn’t been that much response from the government to your private bill is the fact the Ontario Human Rights Commission now has a case before it which is yet to be decided. I am not too sure -- regardless of how that case is decided -- the amendment to the Employment Standards Act you are advocating wouldn’t be necessary. The case before the human rights commission involves an audition, it doesn’t actually involve work -- and I will talk to the Minister of Labour (Mr. Elgie) about that. I think it’s a very fundamental thing. I would just like to --
Mr. M. N. Davison: You have had two months. Haven’t you talked to him yet, Frank?
Hon. Mr. Drea: The Minister of Labour is perfectly capable of looking at a private bill. He is perfectly capable of doing a lot of things.
Mr. McClellan: You are the one who has made it an issue.
Mr. M. N. Davison: All talk and no action.
Mr. McClellan: A lot of talk.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I want to read a letter. I usually carry it around with me. It talks about this question and the efforts of Mr. Troll and the beverage dispensers’ union --
Mr. McClellan: Julius Troll and Joe Hamada.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Okay. It’s been going around through all the municipalities and all the areas of government and everybody was very sympathetic saying this type of thing had to be stopped or controlled and that nobody would do anything about it. Everyone has been outlining their suggestions. Firstly the amendments to the Municipal Act probably will eliminate almost all of it.
One of the other problems is that with that one you get --
Mr. Mackenzie: If the municipalities act.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, but I think most municipalities will act. None the less, sooner or later there will be end runs around it, and I think that --
Mr. Mackenzie: Also there will also be ghettoes, if it is left up to each municipality.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I don’t really think there is a municipality in this province now that is prepared to say yes.
Mr. Mackenzie: Don’t bet on it.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I would love to see where it is.
Yes, I will take a look at that. It’s outside of my jurisdiction and the reason I have been holding back is because of this case before the human rights commission. I am not sure, depending upon the decision of the human rights commission and the particular applicability, that that decision might not do the whole thing.
But I agree with you: I find it very repulsive that a labour organization is put in the position of having to advise service employees of this type of condition.
In terms of entertainment, there is no question. Entertainment is an entirely separate dimension. It is governed by the Criminal Code. There are sanctions there. As a matter of fact I would think that AGVA or the entertainers’ union would be profoundly concerned at this introduction into the field, because it brings the applicable payments for a professional act down to the minimum wage level. I can understand that. We will take a look at that.
The other thing that concerns me is that in the broadest qualification, I am somewhat afraid the language you have chosen in your bill could be applied to entertainment. I know you did not mean that and I know you are putting it out as a vehicle of intent, but you have to be very practical that it cannot apply to entertainment. There is a completely different set of standards in that area which are enforceable by the crown; over here there is virtually nothing except human dignity.
Mr. B. Newman: I wanted to make a few comments to the minister concerning consumer protection. The first concerns advertising in a newspaper.
Quite often you see a sale with an item priced at a given amount and when you go to purchase it, you find there was only one or two items for sale and they have sold out. Would you not consider requiring such advertising to list the number of items for sale so that the consumer, knowing there are only half a dozen items, might as well forget about going down to that store to purchase that article quite late in the day because more than likely they have all been sold?
Hon. Mr. Drea: It’s really in the area of misleading advertising, which the federal government is handling. From time to time you see these little corrections in newspapers that you never used to see before -- “We’re sorry, the price that was on page 30 ... ”
Mr. B. Newman: They are in every day now.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes. There have been some arguments by legitimate business people that the printer at some other place made an honest error, a typographical error, and they would be held to it. But the type of thing you are talking about is known in the trade as bait and switch. The federal government now requires that a reasonable number of the particular product be available. If there is only one or two, you are starting to notice now “one only,” “two only,” in the ad. They have been making a great number of strides in the last few years and it is policed very, very rigidly. As a matter of fact, people sometimes question fines for that kind of a thing and all this other type of corrective advertising. It is an area policed very effectively at the moment. Do you have some specific example you would like to bring forward?
Mr. B. Newman: No, I don’t have any specific examples, Mr. Minister, but I read Detroit newspapers and find almost all the advertisements in there, when they are having a sale on a set item, list the number of items for sale. Even though they may have 50 stores, they will say, “10 items per store.” The state of Michigan, I understand, has legislation requiring the number of items to be listed in the advertisement.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Here, the responsibility has been with the federal government, and instead of specifying as does Michigan, they say there has to be a reasonable number, which has a little bit more flexibility. Even when you get up to 10 or 15 items, somebody might take a run on the grounds that they could not have sold them all today. There is a very distinct approach by the federal government here. It applies in a practical way to retailing across Canada, because you don’t have that great concentration you have in Windsor and the southern Michigan area.
Mr. B. Newman: Yes, you are right there, Mr. Minister.
The other thing I wanted to ask is why isn’t the octane rating of gasoline listed right on the pump? How does the consumer really know that he is getting gasoline at an 89 octane rating, or 92, or you name it? They do that in the US. There is nothing to prevent an individual from purchasing a lower grade gas and selling it as higher octane rating gas. Has your ministry ever considered this and what prevented you from implementing such a plan?
Hon. Mr. Drea: First of all, rather than labelling we use visual identification. Those three little balls rotating up there are colour coded; they tell you exactly what you are getting.
When the member for Erie was talking about the new approach for premium no-lead I absolutely agreed with him. I was telling him before that there were four grades now -- we have had to introduce a new type of colour coding. There is not only regular and premium but there is no-lead and premium no-lead.
I don’t really know why we haven’t got the octane regulation. Here is somebody who is going to advise me as to why we don’t. I suppose it is a question of --
Mr. McClellan: Laissez faire.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No. It is that we use the visual identification.
Mr. McClellan: No one knows about it.
Mr. B. Newman: This is the first time I heard about it.
Hon. Mr. Drea: What did you think those little things going around up there were doing? It’s not a slot machine you know.
Mr. B. Newman: I thought it was simply to show that the pump was working.
Mr. McClellan: Neither does anybody else have the slightest idea.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Okay: It not only shows the colour but it also shows there is no air in it. It is not a slot machine.
Mr. Cooke: No one knows.
Mr. B. Newman: I was waiting for three oranges to show and they never did.
Mr. McClellan: We are confessing ignorance.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Octane posting has been used to varying degrees in the United States since 1969, as the member for Windsor-Walkerville has pointed out. Therefore before it is considered here they want to do an evaluation of the effects of the current US federal energy authority octane postings by a number of various study groups to see whether that octane posting has been any more meaningful in a consumer way than our three balls in the coloured fluid has been here. Among those studying it are the American Society of Testing Materials, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Society of Automotive Engineers.
There has been concern that the posting of octane in the United States has been a meaningless exercise that really hasn’t benefited the customer. In some cases it has misled the customer. Quite frankly the consumer in the United States is pretty indifferent. I suppose it is the same as the consumer here: it is either regular or premium, no-lead or premium no-lead.
As I say, we are waiting here until those particular studies by the American federal government are completed, to see if it is practical. If it is practical we will bring it in.
If it isn’t practical, if it is just another thing to clutter up the gas station that winds up costing you another penny on your gallon of gas -- then to heck with it. We will wait until there is something that is of some value to the customer. Right now, in terms of it being policed, we can police it quite adequately. But if it would be of value to the consumer and the American experience shows it is beneficial, yes we will do it. Otherwise, we won’t.
Mr. B. Newman: I would assume they would have abandoned it in the United States or other jurisdictions if it was not practical and if it didn’t protect the consumer.
As far as the three balls are concerned I doubt there is anyone other than your officials who can identify the gasoline by the three balls there.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, no. You don’t identify it by the three balls. Let’s put it this way: you are buying premium gasoline. Nobody is going to sell you premium through the regular tank, but there might be a temptation to do it the other way.
Mr. McClellan: Some temptation.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Upon inspection this is really premium going through. We inspect it, we look at it.
Mr. M. N. Davison: You don’t know what the colours mean.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Of course I do. The colours will tell you whether it is regular gasoline, premium gasoline, regular no-lead or premium no-lead. We had to introduce the fourth colour --
Mr. McClellan: You are backing off the little balls.
Hon. Mr. Drea: -- because we were naive enough to think there would only be a no- lead for ever, not a no-lead plus a premium no-lead.
Mr. M. N. Davison: What are the colours and what do they stand for? Don’t you know, Frank?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I can read it to you. Do you want me to clutter up the estimates for a guy who can’t even read a newspaper?
Mr. Chairman: Order. The member for Windsor-Walkerville has the floor.
Mr. B. Newman: Mr. Minister, I won’t continue with this item, but let me tell you, I would think that with the cost of having the pumps set up to identify the gas by the insertion of the three balls in their glass cover you could just as easily have put a sticker across the front of the pump showing that it is 92-octane rating or 89-octane rating gasoline. There’s no difficulty doing that.
I wanted to ask if you are considering any rustproofing legislation at all. I noticed some of the jurisdictions in the United States have minimum standards of regulating and they’re requiring dealers who sell the coatings to guarantee their work for at least three years or 36,000 miles. Are you contemplating similar legislation?
Hon. Mr. Drea: First of all, in terms of new cars and so forth, I’ve already gone into that through federal standards. You’re talking about the aftermarket thing. The car dealers here have to have a five year or 50,000 miles warranty. That was brought in I think two years ago, shortly before I went over to Correctional Services, and this is virtually any place in the province.
In a car dealership, if the dealer farms it out he doesn’t get out of the warranty. The car dealer is still responsible for it and, of course, we have his licence. It has worked out extremely well and it has stabilized the industry.
Mr. B. Newman: There are a couple of items I would like to raise with you, Mr. Minister. Are you having problems with Glen Turner again in Ontario, because he has reactivated himself in Florida? He’s back in the business. Remember him? He was the fellow --
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, oh yes, Dare to be Great.
Mr. B. Newman: Dare to be Great, right. He hasn’t made his presence known or his business presence visible in Ontario, has he?
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, I had kind of thought that since Mr. Turner was in some difficulty in the state of Florida, along with some of his associates, he had more or less retired from the scene. I will tell you if Mr. Glen Turner comes to Ontario it won’t only be me who will want to know where he is staying and what he is doing. To put it very simply, he’s the greatest con man since the Yellow Drop Kid and he operates in a much more sophisticated manner.
When you can sell a record to somebody for $2,000 and have them lined up outside to buy it, and all the record tells them is how they can be great and they get mad at the government or at newspapers for saying don’t buy it, then you get a measure of this gentleman’s talents. He’s the father of the pyramid schemes.
Mr. B. Newman: I would assume that he’ll slowly edge his way up north and I hope you really step on him when he does. The other matter I wanted to alert you to is, are you aware that in the United States they have found that the Christmas wrappings that are used for wrapping Christmas gifts have been imprinted with a lead-based ink and as a result can be very harmful to youngsters who open the gifts and maybe chew on the wrappings?
Hon. Mr. Drea: It’s really a federal matter under the hazardous products sections of the federal government legislation. I have seen that in the newspapers. My understanding is that Ottawa does know about it and that Ottawa is checking into the matter.
Mr. B. Newman: Do you have any rules or regulations that control nasty bill collectors and their approaches in an attempt to collect their bills?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, we do, we have a whole section over there under the Collection Agencies Act. If any of your people from time to time feel that a collector hasn’t just been firm or efficient but has been plain nasty, you merely write to our registrar of collection agencies at 555 Yonge Street and I can assure you that the matter will be looked into; they will be replied to. We’ve had this act for quite a period of time. Many of the things that used to be blamed on collection agencies really weren’t done by collection agencies. At one time, as long as they collected only for their own company they didn’t have to register as a collection agency.
Some of the wilder ones were always being blamed on the government’s lack of activity in the field. When it became known exactly who they operated for, and they were in-house operations, the industry decided maybe it was better that it was all registered under the government. If you do have complaints, write to the registrar of collection agencies, 555 Yonge Street.
Mr. B. Newman: The only other item I wanted to raise with you is the fact that the gasoline station operator pays cash for his gasoline, which generally includes the sales tax, but the wholesaler doesn’t have to remit the sales tax to the ministry. This may not involve your ministry, it may involve Revenue, but I am looking at the protection of the gasoline dealer, In other words, the wholesaler has had the retailer’s money for 60 days and has given him no advantage or no benefit of the interest he, the wholesaler, may have been able to generate from this money to his own advantage.
Hon. Mr. Drea: It is really a matter for the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Maeck).
Mr. McClellan: I want to take my annual trip into the never-never land of the HUDAC home warranty program, for the first time with the incumbent minister,
On May 30, I presented a petition in the Legislature, following questions, which was signed by 325 persons who, either themselves as the head of a household or as members of a family, had the misfortune to buy homes from Pastoria Holdings Limited or one of its associated companies.
The petition dealt with their on-going grievance that after a lapse of five, six or seven years these folk have been unable to obtain compensation for shockingly shoddy home construction. The problem is twofold. Not only have these people not been compensated for the ripoffs perpetrated by Pastoria or its associated companies, but Pastoria’s successors continue to be operating and to be registered under the HUDAC home warranty program.
I gather that one of the principal operators of Pastoria and Pastoria’s various, if I may say, illegitimate offspring, is a gentleman by the name of Ted Libfeld. He is the director of Pastoria Holdings, alias Silver Rose Construction, alias Baroque Construction, alias Gali Construction, alias Spruce Valley Homes, alias New Generation Homes, and he may indeed have other aliases as well. It is my information that his illegitimate offspring are all registered under the HUDAC home warranty program.
Let me quote from a little flyer that a group of people who live in north Metro were distributing on Mr. Libfeld’s street recently. These are people who are not given to these kinds of demonstrations. They are mostly business people, reasonably well off folk, and it doesn’t occur to them in the normal course of events to go out into somebody’s street and to start handing out leaflets as though they I were one of Saul Alinsky’s poor people’s organizations. That’s what they have been driven to.
The statement quotes a pithy little description of the quality of construction I of Pastoria and its children. This is from the Toronto Sun in 1975: “North York Mayor Lastman has found houses in his borough that resemble a CNE funhouse with sloping floors, buckling roofs and bouncy staircases. What makes these houses so funny is that they’re valued at between $60,000 and $70,000 and their comic traits were produced by shoddy, lousy workmanship and an irresponsible developer who shouldn’t be allowed to build anywhere. Lastman has seen enough of Rembrandt homes built by Pastoria Holdings Limited.” Here’s a quote from the mayor of North York: “I’ll do everything I can to stop this kind of development in North York.”
Libfeld’s companies have been convicted in the Supreme Court of Ontario of crapulous workmanship. There was a decision in 1971 that awarded damages to a family in the amount of $36,000. As recently as August 26, 1977, Mr. Libfeld’s company was convicted of false advertising and fined.
I think this is the third time that I’ve raised this, I think perhaps with three different ministers. Maybe not. Let us let bygones be bygones and start all over again. I don’t think this -- deleted -- ought to be registered under the HUDAC home warranty program. He has a record of ripping people off, period. There are no ifs, ands or ors about it. He’s a ripoff artist and 335 people have presented a petition to this assembly complaining about the fact that this ripoff artist is still in business.
It discredits the entire HUDAC program when this kind of a chiseller can be registered. The petition made a number of suggestions: that the HUDAC home warranty program ought to be revised so that companies convicted of false or misleading advertising are automatically deregistered; that section 81 of Bill 94 of 1976 be enforced to exclude companies with a public record of substandard construction practices; thirdly, for your purposes, that the number of provincial appointees to the board of directors of the HUDAC home warranty program be increased so that the provincial representatives constitute a majority of that board.
I will ask you for a response. I would like you to look at this again. The previous minister sloughed this off. He sloughed off the petition. He sloughed off questions on the Order Paper. He’s sloughed off the identical concern I’m raising again today. I say to you that by allowing these kinds of guys to be registered you are discrediting the entire scheme and you are saying shoddy construction artistes are just as able as anybody else to be registered under the HUDAC warranty scheme.
Maybe I could have an initial response from you on this.
Hon. Mr. Drea: First of all, I know these cats.
Mr. McClellan: I thought you would.
Hon. Mr. Drea: In the old days I was up there in those Rembrandt Homes. I’ve seen them. I’ve made certain remarks about them, and believe me they were no shoddy-builder artistes. They were just plain damn clowns. They didn’t give a darn then --
Mr. McClellan: They brought ripping off to a peak of perfection.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Let’s put it this way. They didn’t bring it to a peak of anything, but they certainly held up the home building industry to complete and utter disrepute. As a matter of fact, I think they probably cost the industry a great many dollars in terms of people who, after seeing what Rembrandt Homes was capable of doing, simply were not prepared to proceed with the purchase of a home. It’s a very serious matter.
The difficulty is that ever since being registered, they have a very low complaint record. They are playing by the book.
Mr. McClellan: They were convicted of false advertising.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, but we’re talking now only about their actual construction. Interestingly enough, both the North York building department and CMHC are now very satisfied with their construction technique. At least, so I am informed.
I must admit that I want to look into the question of this false advertising. The difficulty with the introduction of the HUDAC home warranty is that, as is usually the case, you were presumed innocent until proved guilty.
Mr. McClellan: Were these guys innocent?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes; but you see the difficulty was that there was no standards at that time. These guys may have been the worst, but, if you went all the way through the list -- one of the things was everybody was terrified of a combines case and so forth. Frankly, and I suppose I should pay more attention but, if I had had any idea Rembrandt Homes was in the present program, I would have flipped. I realize there are spinoffs and perhaps some of the incompetent people have departed the scene, I don’t know; but just the mere mention of Rembrandt Homes drives shivers --
Mr. McClellan: Libfield was there in 1971 and he’s still there
Hon. Mr. Drea: I’m talking about the actual buildings and so on and so forth.
I must admit that the mere mention of Rembrandt Homes, or some of these names, just puts shivers up my spine. Yes, I will take a look at it. I’m particularly interested in the proposal made regarding someone who is convicted of false advertising. On the other hand, one of the difficulties --
Mr. McClellan: Never mind on the other hand, just look into it.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I have the feeling that once somebody has paid their debt, the past shouldn’t necessarily be held against them forever; except in this case Rembrandt has never paid its debt.
Mr. McClellan: I know, that’s the point. There are 335 people who petitioned this Legislature and who have had no redress for this ripoff. The debt hasn’t been paid.
It seems to me it would have been legitimate at the time to say to Rembrandt and its offspring: “If you want to be registered under HUDAC, you settle up with these folks. You settle up with these folks you’ve ripped off, then we’ll look at your application to register.” But that wasn’t done.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, obviously it wasn’t done.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Then they should settle up or you should toss them out.
Hon. Mr. Drea: You can’t throw people out retroactively. Where do you come from? You come out of right or left field on these things.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Left field.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I’ve given you a response. I want to look into this, particularly this aspect; not only this one but particularly the aspect of being convicted under the false advertising section as possible grounds for either suspension or removal from the plan. I will be back to you very shortly.
Mr. McClellan: I will await your response and we’ll see what happens. The concern I had expressed in the past with respect to the relationship between industry representatives and provincial representatives on the HUDAC board relates back to this instance. It seems to me that at the onset of the plan it was extremely bad judgement to register these characters; that prompted the suggestion that there should be a provincial majority on the HUDAC board.
From an opposition perspective, I suppose that what we have to do is to try to monitor the thing. I’d like to ask the minister if he would provide us with a kind of report on the operation of the HUDAC program over the past 12 months, for the year 1978, and let us know what kind of complaints have been filed and how the complaints have been dealt with. Give us as much detail about the way the HUDAC scheme is operating and of the specifics as you are able to pull together so we can get a clearer sense of how this thing is operated. Because of this thing I have a profound queasiness about the HUDAC scheme, I have to tell you that.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Just to make clear what you want, because I will have to take it out of Hansard, are you talking about the last year, 1978?
Mr. McClellan: Yes, from January to December, 1978, if that’s possible or whatever is easiest. If it’s operated on a fiscal year, give that to us.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, it’s on a calendar year.
Mr. Cooke: For a few minutes I want to raise the issue of regulation of amusement parks which I raised in the Legislature before, I have written several letters to your predecessor and one to you recently.
I wrote back in August of this year to the former minister asking about the regulation of amusement parks and how it relates to Bob-Lo Amusement Park in Essex county. In Essex county at Bob-Lo we’ve had several accidents and several people have been injured, as the minister probably knows.
The local municipal council, the Malden township council, has asked the minister to implement some kind of regulation and inspection since a municipality that size cannot afford the type of expertise that is needed to go over and do the inspections.
At this point, back in September, the then minister, Mr. Grossman, wrote me back and said there was an investigation in process and that he would report back to me. Then, just a few weeks back, the present minister wrote me and said the issue was now going to be referred to the Provincial-Municipal Liaison Committee for discussion.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I did?
Mr. Cooke: Yes, on November 30 you wrote: “I have recently been in touch with the Hon. Thomas Wells, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and have suggested that the Provincial-Municipal Liaison Committee consider the matter at an early date.”
Hon. Mr. Drea: That’s a letter. I thought you meant a release.
Mr. Cooke: No, this is a letter you sent to me. What I’d like to know is what the investigation that Mr. Grossman said he’d report back to me on showed. Maybe you could report to me on that. Then I’d like to know what your opinion is of having the provincial government actually regulate this industry, because I’m sure you know that it’s a very serious problem in Essex county with Bob-Lo.
Hon. Mr. Drea: As a matter of fact, I am on the agenda of the PMLC. I’m sorry if I appeared startled. There is no question that I wrote the letter to you.
Mr. Cooke: What I am wondering is why Mr. Grossman said he was going to report back to me on this investigation. I haven’t had that report and I’d like to know what the results of that were.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Somebody is looking it up for you at the moment. By the same token, I will tell you right now that the responsibility for the inspection of that amusement park is going to have to stay with the municipality. The municipality licensed it, it collects the revenue; therefore it must bear the responsibility. If its present revenues from that amusement park are not sufficient to allow it to inspect responsibly, then it’s obviously going to have to raise the particular fee. They want it both ways. To say that all across the province other municipalities have to disband their services and their revenue collections so that we can have a provincial one is a little bit hard to take.
The reason for my going to PMLC is that I want to remind the municipalities that if they want the revenue for these things, then they’re going to have to inspect them. If they’re going to have them inspected, then they’re going to have to have them, inspected properly and not just have some-body walking on through it and it appears to be safe. They have to be prepared to accept that responsibility. I don’t think it’s right or fair to say that they will take the revenue but have the province send in its technical standards people. Then the responsibility becomes ours. I think this is something that has to be said.
Mr. Cooke: In August of 1977 I guess it was, when I first wrote a letter, the reply I got was the municipality was in the process of drawing up a bylaw that would regulate Bob-Lo. That has never been done. While I can understand your position that it is a municipal responsibility, the fact of the matter is that municipality has not taken the action. They don’t have the resources. A small municipality like Maiden township just does not have the resources.
You feel the revenue from Bob-Lo through licensing should cover that. Well that is your opinion. The fact of the matter is the regulations have not been drafted by Malden township and the inspections are not taking place. It is a real danger for people to go over and use the rides on Bob-Lu. We have thousands of tourists who come through our area from Michigan and go to that island and accidents occur and many people are injured. The latest one was last year, in late July or August, when 10 people from the Michigan area were seriously injured. That was either the third or fourth accident last year alone.
If the inspections and the regulations are not being carried out and being implemented, then I think it is your responsibility to make sure somehow that’s done, to protect the consumers of this province and the tourists.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I just want to come back to something. Here is a municipality that has this amusement park. It not only derives revenue from it in the form of a licence fee, it derives revenue and so forth in the form of the people who are there who spend in other ways. They are refusing to accept the responsibility. There is already all kinds of authority to pass the bylaw. What they are doing is trying to pass the buck to the province.
Mr. Cooke: The bylaw has been passed?
Hon. Mr. Drea: It has been?
Mr. Cooke: That is what I am asking you: has it been passed?
Hon. Mr. Drea: No. I thought you said the bylaw had not been passed.
Mr. Cooke: That was my information, that it still has not been passed.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, but I am saying here they have every right to pass it. We sent to them a draft bylaw. It is right there for them, that is all they have to do. They can obtain qualified inspectors by paying a fee to the Canadian Outdoor Amusement Association. They can obtain them, it is not a question of having to hire somebody 12 months a year on the municipal staff.
I will tell you this, they had better do something before the opening of the season next year, that is all I am going to say. They can’t go on collecting revenue and trying to shrug off the responsibility to the rest of the province.
Mr. Cooke: Would the minister still respond to the commitment that Mr. Grossman did make to me to report back on the investigation that was apparently taking place?
This organization you refer to, the Canadian outdoor amusement -- whatever the last word of the name is -- went in and inspected Bob-Lo this summer and they gave it a clean bill of health. I don’t have a lot of confidence in that particular organization.
I think the member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr. B. Newman) agrees with me that it is the same organization. The local township council said their opinion of that organization is not too high. I can’t see how you can have much confidence in that particular organization when they went in and gave Bob-Lo a clean bill of health.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Well as I suggested to you, they had better get themselves some kind of adequate level of inspection, acceptable to insurance companies and the government standards, prior to the opening of that operation. That is all I am cautioning. I am telling you right now, in December, they better not come crying all over my shoes on May 24 or whenever it opens, that is what I am telling you.
I will talk in some detail at the PMLC, at the next meeting, and you can be there. The province is not getting into inspecting amusement rides that are licensed by municipalities. The municipality is getting revenue from it. We have gone to the extent of providing them with a draft bylaw. There are places where they can hire inspectors or they can set their standards or they can pool their resources.
Mr. Cooke: What did your investigation show?
Hon. Mr. Drea: My adviser is unable to find that. What I will do, in the interest of time, is I will go back and search it out and correspond with you directly. I am sorry, he has been looking for it.
Mr. B. Newman: May I suggest to you, Mr. Minister, in the case of any type of amusement ride, or anything that has to be inspected, that attached someplace visible to the public be that inspection certificate, including the date of the last inspection. In the Bob-Lo case, my colleague makes mention of it supposedly being inspected. They supposedly said it was safe and the next thing you know you are confronted with the accident. The Bob-Lo thing is very unfortunate because it has happened not once or not twice, it’s happened a little too often.
I know the city of Windsor was concerned with the amusement rides in their own area, but they did as you had suggested, turned around and had their sites inspected by their own people. I think there should be an inspection certificate plainly visible to the public showing the date of the most recent inspection, just as you have in elevators.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes, that’s a very commendable and practical suggestion. Of course it would have to be done by each municipality. Perhaps at the PMLC we can draw that to people’s attention.
You know I don’t understand this question about a municipality being overburdened. The city of Toronto has to do it for the whole CNE. We don’t do it; people have the idea the government does it but it is the city of Toronto. The city of Ottawa has to do it for the whole Central Canada Exhibition, which is just as significant to them.
Mr. Cooke: Bob-Lo is pretty big.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes I know, but there is also an amount of revenue that should be coming into that township. I don’t know what their fees are, but in any event there should surely be enough revenue generated by the licence to pay to hire a professional consultant and an engineer to do the inspections.
We’ll just leave it, I’ll get back to you on the rest. If you are talking to them in the next little while tell them, “Look, our patience is exhausted. We have gone as far as we are going to go.” They are going to have to do inspections and I want them to know it now; I don’t want them to be able to come in the middle of May and say, “you never told us.”
Mr. M. N. Davison: I have a couple of further matters, Mr. Chairman. The first deals with the provincial auditor’s report. Let me deal with it in order. The first is the matter raised in debate on the Condominium Act last week in which I referenced an advertisement that appeared in the Globe and Mail; I believe on September 27, 1978, I could be wrong about the precise date. I exhibited a concern at the time that that may have been an ad placed to attract people to Condominium Ontario, the bureau established by the Condominium Act. The minister was kind enough to inform me at the time that indeed it wasn’t; it was in fact, for the Residential Tenancies Commission.
I would have loved to have engaged him on the matter at the time, but it was inappropriate as the social development committee had finished. This is the first opportunity I have had, outside of question period.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I just won $10 on this. I knew you would do it. Nobody else would believe it. You are the greatest benefactor since Greenwood closed for the winter. Keep it up.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I am glad you admit it, I’ll make you a rich man. The minister said this ad that appeared on September 27 was to hire people for the Residential Tenancies Commission.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Not to hire people, I didn’t say that.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I’m sorry, to attract applicants for the Residential Tenancies Commission. Now the House didn’t go in until sometime shortly after that, and the bill didn’t get out to committee until November. When was it introduced?
Hon. Mr. Drea: October 30.
Mr. M. N. Davison: So this is a month before the bill was even before the House. You go out advertising before you have the courtesy to inform members of this situation.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Twelve days before I went to the ministry.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I would like a response. I don’t think that’s a terribly acceptable approach for the ministry to take. I don’t know who it was, who was responsible, if that was a decision at the ministerial level, or if it was fairly low down in the ministry, but I think you should at least have the decency to wait until you introduce a bill before you start asking for applicants. I would like the minister’s response.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The member for Hamilton Centre must have the most remarkably short memory in the history of this House. He must have a very short memory. I wasn’t even the minister then, so I only had an academic interest. I had a far more pressing interest in things that I like better than this type of thing. If I recall correctly, it seems to me the committee reported back to the House before the House adjourned in June on the Residential Tenancies Act or its proposals.
One of the significant things in the committee’s report was recommendation for review for a period of two years from such and such a date. If the committee was to be respected, obviously it felt that the bill should be passed by the end of November or the prorogation of this session; otherwise why extend it for that period and why put in the new part IV?
Were you on the committee? You were but you didn’t sign it. There was somebody over there who, I remember, said he didn’t know what he was signing. He was terribly confused. He was on your side; I won’t name him because he’s not here, but he confessed that during a committee hearing.
In any event, part IV was put in there for two years. It is dated from December 31, 1978, until December 31, 1979. The dates were there. That all-party committee wanted what is now known as Bill 163 to be passed and in place by the end of calendar year 1978. Even your fellow that signed it disagreed with some recommendations, but not with that one. The simple fact of the matter is the ministry, faced with that report -- and I say “ministry” -- and the likelihood, as there was indeed until about seven or eight days ago that Bill 163 would be law by the time of prorogation of this session, decided what it had to do.
Don’t shake your head at me. You know this. All you have to do is read the Toronto Star last Saturday and it’s a very great chronicle.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Come on; you knew it wasn’t possible to ram that bill down tenants’ throats in that short a period of time, be serious.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I am being very serious, I am being deadly serious. I am not only talking about September, I am talking about October and November. In any event, when that ad was placed -- obviously to place an ad then the ad had to be designed beforehand. So you are really talking about from about Labour day onwards. Right?
Mr. M. N. Davison: I don’t mind your designing ads, that’s fine.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The reason it was put in at that time was that there was a logical expectation that Bill 163 would be passed by the end of the calendar year, and therefore the Residential Tenancies Commission and all of its people would have to be in place within a reasonable time thereafter. Of course the rent review people would carry on with part IV, but the whole new commission and everything else would have to be in place within a reasonable period after that. On the basis of that expectation, the ministry decided to go out and look for a short list of potential candidates for jobs on the commission. They retained, in their view, the most experienced personnel people in that category, Hickling Johnston. They despatched them out and they did report back with a short list.
In addition to that, there is also a great number of civil servants who are redundant or may be redundant who have various professional capabilities. They are there. That is precisely why it was done. If you are going to criticize the ministry for the fact that on the basis of the evidence it had on hand in September as to when these people would be required it took steps at least to have an available pool of people who could be interviewed, et cetera, then go ahead. No one has been hired. That short list is still available to us if, as and when Bill 163 is passed. In case you are interested, the final cost isn’t in yet, but it will be between $20,000 and $25,000.
We have a short list. We also have compiled a list, through that whole program, of executive level civil servants who may be redundant because of various cutbacks in all ministries and they are all available. So when that bill is passed the ministry is in a position to hire what the personnel company regards as extremely qualified people for the position. I find nothing illogical about it. I was not the minister then, but if something like that had not been done, regardless of whether or not the bill went through before prorogation, I, and I think this House, would have been extremely upset -- it is one thing to pass a bill, it is another to pass a bill and then say, “Well we now have to go out and find people to administer it, so we may not be able to proclaim it for six months because we have a talent search on.” That was the alternative.
Mr. M. N. Davison: That is a course you follow too often, and it could end up very badly when the House doesn’t decide to go along with the ministry’s preconceived notion. You in the ministry should pay a bit more attention to parliamentary facts and reality, rather than the desires, wishes, intuition or assumptions you choose to make. That is an approach that could well end up costing $25,000 at some other time. Hopefully this list won’t be too terribly out of date by the time we get around to hiring somebody.
There are two matters I wanted to touch on that deal with the auditor’s report. The first is on the planned new warehouse for the LCBO in Whitby and the auditor’s comments about the costs involved. I understand the full suggested saving was to be $161 million over the first 11 years, but increased transportation costs will reduce that by $28 million. Those comments were addressed to the LCBO on September 29 of this year, and there was no response before the auditor’s report was published, although I suspect that was not too long a period of time.
I am wondering if the minister has had any contact with people in the LCBO about this matter. If so, what have they said? If he hasn’t, perhaps he should get in touch with them so members of the assembly could have some idea as to what action the LCBO will be taking in regard to the auditor’s comments.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The answer is no. Furthermore, I don’t think it is a proper subject to be brought up here, because LCBO isn’t part of this estimate, it’s a crown corporation.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The LCBO reports through the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. We have had this argument a number of times, and if any minister of the government is bearing any responsibility for the LCBO, it’s you. The minister does have some right to ask questions of the people in the LCBO. It is not a private kingdom.
The other question was on boiler inspections. This is perhaps a bit more disturbing and is totally your responsibility. It involves breaches of subsection 2 of section 28 of the legislation. The auditor found that as of February 28, 1978, there were 2,994 inspections overdue, and as many as seven annual inspections had been outstanding in some cases. I am not sure if the response was made at a ministerial level or at the deputy minister level.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The deputy minister says so.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Sorry. The response was the cause was the increasing workload at a time of decreasing staff. Knowing what was going on in the ministry at that time and the activities of the former minister in trying to reprivatize or depublicize the inspections, was that an attempt by the ministry to make one of its own branches look bad so they could come up with an additional reason for getting rid of it?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Chairman, I am going to temporarily vacate the chair so my very distinguished parliamentary assistant, the member for Cochrane South (Mr. Pope), who is charged with that program will take over. Thank you very much. It is a beautiful time to announce, provided he can do it in 30 seconds, the very revolutionary program that involves labour, management and government together in the pursuit of something that will be very beneficial to the economy.
Mr. B. Newman: Happiness.
Mr. M. N. Davison: The minister is gone; you can speak from the front row.
Mr. Pope: The committee, which includes representatives of the manufacturing sector and also representatives --
Mr. M. N. Davison: You can be in the front row now.
Mr. Pope: -- of some of the international unions, and also of the public service employees’ union who are concerned with this matter, had its first meeting after some delay because of legislative requirements here. There was some delay in the first meeting, but the first meeting was held yesterday.
Of course, the minister, in a press release on October 31, had indicated the ministry had no present plans to get out of the inspection business. The committee did have some discussions about the possible consequences on industry of getting out of the inspection business. It also involved some concerns of the labour representatives who were present. We are also looking at cost recovery problems relating to inspections and some alternatives, either in terms of percentage of cost recovery under an increased fee schedule, or perhaps a new system of fee schedules. Again, there has been input. There has been nothing finalized on the type of fee structure or the amount of fees at this time.
Manpower requirements also were discussed at that meeting. Many of the participants had varying ideas of manpower requirements; for instance, whether pressure boundaries should continue as they are now or whether further involvement was needed beyond the existing pressure boundaries. The meeting also discussed the role Atomic Energy of Canada would play, for instance, and the need to communicate our standards between the provincial and federal governments. All of these matters were discussed.
There is going to be a report prepared for the minister. Hopefully that will tie up some of the loose ends in this whole area and reassure the industry, the men and women employed by it, the various governments within Canada and the federal government, and also some of the governments in other jurisdictions which are our customers in this very important Ontario industry. There will be some assurance given to them in detail, and hopefully the uncertainty and some of the manpower problems will be resolved.
As I said, we only had our first meeting. We are meeting again in January and it will be more of a report made to the minister. I think some of the issues that have been discussed and will be discussed will answer some of the concerns of the honourable member.
Mr. Breithaupt: Could I ask the parliamentary assistant a question, Mr Chairman, on his comments? As he is aware, the select committee on company law has, in its review of general lines of insurance matters, had Mr. Yoneyama and other members of the ministry in to discuss this aspect from an insurance point of view. Would it be convenient for the parliamentary assistant to meet with the select committee, perhaps during our January hearings, so that we could work together to make suggestions that are useful and resolve some of the concerns we have from the insurance aspect?
Mr. Pope: We certainly would be delighted to do that. I should have added that there is a representative of the insurance industry on that committee as well.
Mr. Breithaupt: Yes, good.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: In accordance with the orders of the House, I am now required to put all outstanding votes.
Votes 1401 to 1408, inclusive, agreed to.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Drea, the committee of supply reported a certain resolution.
Clerk of the House: Mr. Rotenberg, on behalf of Mr. Edighoffer, from the committee of supply reports the following resolution:
That supply in the following amounts and to defray the expenses of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1979:
Ministry administration program $4,431,000; commercial standards program, $10,554,000; technical standards program, $6,614,000; public entertainment standards program, $8,327,000; property rights program, $19,876,000; registrar general program, $2,894,000; liquor licence program, $6,876,000; rent review program, $4,278,000.
Resolution concurred in.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker prior to moving adjournment of the House for the luncheon period today, I move the estimates of the office of the provincial auditor now before the standing general government committee be ordered referred to the standing social development committee for consideration this afternoon.
Motion agreed to.
The House recessed at 1:01 p.m.