The House met at 10 a.m.
DARLINGTON NUCLEAR PLANT
Mr. S. Smith: I will question the Premier, Mr. Speaker.
I wonder if the Premier recalls the last days of the Duplessis regime when it was necessary, in order to draw attention to the high-handedness of that entrenched government, for three students to park themselves outside the office of the then Quebec Premier until he finally agreed to what were indeed reasonable demands.
I wonder if the Premier has any reflections on the obvious parallel between the Duplessis era and the situation now where three people have had to resort to climbing the tower at Darlington simply to try to force this arrogant government to have an environmental assessment hearing on what is after all, the largest nuclear plant yet undertaken by Ontario Hydro --
Mr. Speaker: The question has been asked.
Mr. S. Smith: -- a hearing which was refused on the basis of time and yet now there are many additional years which are there. The hearing could be heard under the government’s own legislation. Why does the Premier insist on refusing them?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am not as familiar with the political history of Quebec as is the honourable member and, in that I live in the present and look to the future, unlike him, and in that he knows far more about arrogance than any of us on this side of the House, the answer is no.
Mr. Cunningham: The Premier never answers a question.
Mr. S. Smith: Since the answer is itself a reflection of the very regime about which I have spoken, may I ask what possible excuse there is for the Premier to deny an environmental assessment hearing regarding the Darlington project, since the original excuse was that the matter had to be rushed through and that the year or so delay would be a dreadful and expensive matter? Now that Darlington itself has been delayed for several years, what possible excuse can there be for telling these people, who have resorted to having to go up that tower and who have said that their intent is to stay there, that the government still won’t abide by its own legislation and have a proper environmental assessment hearing?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I realize the honourable member is not too concerned about the economic aspects of any of these problems in the province. I recognize that the leader of the Liberal Party would delay any project that will provide employment, a degree of economic security and availability of power supply.
Mr. Haggerty: There are other alternatives.
Hon. Mr. Davis: While the on-stream dates for Darlington have been delayed, it is also true that a great deal of work will be going on, and many job opportunities will be provided. The thought of probably a two-year delay in terms of an environmental hearing, which then would mean that the contracts would be delayed two years, which could mean substantial financial commitments on the part of Hydro and which could mean the loss of a substantial number of jobs, happens to be a concern to this government. It is quite obvious from the various utterances of the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario that jobs are not of interest to his party, but they are of some interest to us.
Mr. Van Horne: Oh, get serious.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: Since it is the position of the government that there should be environmental assessments on all major projects which are undertaken, beginning at some point in the future, is the Premier now saying that the government does not believe that environmental assessments in fact will be carried out on major projects? How can he explain why it is that on this particular project, whose start-up date has been delayed by a total of five years since 1977, there is now no time to undertake something when the reasons for delaying the environmental assessment and not having it at the start no longer apply?
Hon. Mr. Davis: This government introduced what is probably the most comprehensive and far-reaching legislation on environmental issues that one will find anywhere in this country or in the United States.
Ms. Gigantes: You haven’t applied it to Hydro once.
Hon. Mr. Davis: In fairness to the member for Ottawa Centre, who raised this issue some many months ago, before the Leader of the Opposition probably understood it, I say to him the answer is the same. Certainly it is the policy of the government to have some major work submitted to environmental assessment. It was the decision of this government on this issue that it would not be.
Ms. Gigantes: You have excluded every Hydro project.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I would be interested to know if the Leader of the Opposition, in the absence of his colleague from the far northwestern part of the province of Ontario, will be urging us to have an environmental assessment on Atikokan, to delay it two or three years. Before he answers that, he had better check with his colleague.
Mr. S. Smith: We believe in the law. The government passed the law.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh, come on. You are up and down, across, sideways and in every direction.
Mr. Breithaupt: Supplementary: Since the Premier is busy praising the Environmental Assessment Act and since a project like Darlington is probably the largest project and one of the most important in the history of the province, why would Hydro not have planned in its own background the opportunity for these necessary or predictable delays, as the Premier refers to them, if the act was in fact used?
Hon. Mr. Davis: With great respect to the member for Kitchener, whose knowledge of this is far greater than that of his leader --
Mr. Cunningham: You are stretching it. Answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Well, it is true, it is. I would say to him that while he says it is the largest project, if he were to take the megawatt production from Darlington vis-à-vis the megawatt production from Pickering, he would find that Darlington is not in fact substantially greater than Pickering.
Mr. S. Smith: The capital cost is higher.
Hon. Mr. Davis: It is more in dollars because dollars today don’t buy as much as they did when Pickering was built. In relative terms, with great respect to the member for Kitchener, he is exaggerating the situation and exaggerating it substantially.
He knows how to do mathematics but his leader doesn’t. He knows full well that if he took the dollar terms of Pickering today, related to what the projected cost of Darlington is, his statement that it is the most significant or largest is just not factually correct.
Mr. Breithaupt: It is certainly a major project.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Certainly it is a major project. That’s right. I am glad to see the member is backing off a little bit. One thing I would say to the Leader of the Opposition is that some of his colleagues are somewhat more fair and objective.
Ms. Gigantes: Supplementary: I would like to ask the Premier, doesn’t it worry him that the Environmental Assessment Act will never be used for an Ontario Hydro project and that Darlington may be the last chance he will have to do an environmental assessment of a nuclear power program? Doesn’t it worry him that the Environmental Assessment Act of Ontario is becoming known as the best piece of unused environmental legislation in North America?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I realize that the honourable member for Carleton East is knowledgeable about environmental legislation all over the world. She travels extensively, and she has constant communication. But I think if she looked at it objectively, if that is possible for her so to do, she would discover that the environmental legislation, the environmental policy and the care that Ontario Hydro gives to environmental issues are superior to that of any other public utility, and that the policy of this government is more specific and has been adopted and pursued more so than in any other jurisdiction she knows of on this continent.
Mr. Breaugh: Tell them that in Pickering.
Ms. Gigantes: When are you going to use the legislation on Hydro?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I know she won’t acknowledge that. It would be against her principles ever to suggest that is the fact.
Mr. Breaugh: That’s garbage.
Mr. Mackenzie: There is no control of Hydro at all.
SALES TAX ON ENTERTAINMENT
Mr. S. Smith: I have a question I will direct to the Premier in the absence of the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Maeck) or the Minister of Culture and Recreation (Mr. Baetz). It is with regard to the government support of Canadian cultural talent, including professional Canadian cultural talent.
I refer to Bill 58 which recently passed in this House and received royal assent. Specifically, I refer to the deletion of section 4. This deletion, I admit and I apologize to the people of Ontario for it, was sneaked past us. I apologize for letting the government sneak it past us.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh, come on!
Mr. S. Smith: And by you. Just listen and you will see.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Please put your question.
Mr. S. Smith: It refers to the fact that whereas Canadian talent used to be provided with an exemption from the provincial sales tax when such Canadian talent was booked into an Ontario theatre -- this was by ministerial exemption -- that exemption can no longer be given except in the case of amateur groups or groups that are receiving public assistance.
Mr. Speaker: Will you please put the question?
Mr. S. Smith: Given that we have in Ontario and in Canada a policy to prefer and assist Canadian talent with regard to prime time on television and with regard to the record industry, why did the government take away this particular benefit? Has it received any representation from the Canadian talent industry asking that the matter be reconsidered?
Hon. Mr. Davis: It is quite obvious that the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario is becoming increasingly desperate these days. I have sensed this for the past 10 days, ever since he probably voted for Bill Kempling, which I am always suspicious that he did.
Mr. J. Reed: Is the Premier going to answer the question?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I will say to the member for Halton-Burlington that it is a horrible confession for his leader and all of his party to make, to say that they didn’t look at legislation that was approved by the members of this House and to come in here today and say it was snuck through.
Mr. S. Smith: You sneaked it by us, and we admit it.
Hon. Mr. Norton: What are you talking about?
Hon. Mr. Davis: If the Liberals are acknowledging to the public of Ontario that they do not bother to read the legislation before voting for it, then I have to say --
Mr. Breithaupt: The minister didn’t report it and we were not aware of it.
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- they are very derelict in their responsibility. It was there in black and white. Even the leader of the Liberal Party should be able to read it. I would say with respect, if he now says he didn’t want to pass that legislation, where was he when it was done?
Hon. Mr. Norton: They are totally irresponsible.
Mr. Breithaupt: All that aside, will you reconsider it?
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, given that we have heard from the Canadian talent who themselves were not told about this; given that the theatres tell us they were not told about this; given that the bill was put forward basically as a budget bill and that there was no reference to it in the budget; given that the minister made no mention of the matter during the debate -- we have checked Hansard --
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Did the Leader of the Opposition read it?
Mr. S. Smith: Yes.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: And he didn’t understand it.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. S. Smith: -- given that the minister made no reference to it, what I ask now, and I apologize for letting it be snuck by like this -- and so did the NDP --
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Sneaked by?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Is there a question in there some place?
Mr. S. Smith: The question is, and the Premier has not answered it, has he received representation from outraged people within the Canadian talent industry pointing out that now that the bill is being put into effect they are suffering from it? And will the government reconsider that matter?
Hon. Mr. Davis: This has to be one of the most incredible moments for the Leader of the Opposition. I never dispute his disagreeing with government policy. I never dispute his opportunity to say he doesn’t agree with legislation. But to have the unmitigated gall to come in here this morning and say that legislation was snuck by, if that is proper grammatical phraseology, has to be the most ludicrous thing I have heard from a Leader of the Opposition in years.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I don’t say for a moment that everything we legislate represents perfection, but the Leader of the Opposition always wants to talk about sharing responsibility. If there is something the honourable member doesn’t like to approve of, why doesn’t he assume some of the responsibility and say to people that he goofed in his opinion?
Mr. S. Smith: I apologized to the members.
Hon. Mr. Davis: He apologized, but why doesn’t he say he made a mistake?
Mr. S. Smith: Are you going to reconsider it or not?
Hon. Mr. Davis: As a matter of fact, I can’t say. I haven’t seen any representations. Certainly, if there are representations, I will take a look at them.
Mr. S. Smith: You will receive them, I assure you.
NUCLEAR PLANT SAFETY
Mr. Cassidy: I have a question of the Premier, which also relates to the question of nuclear power.
In view of the confirmation by Ontario Hydro that there are substantial heavy water leaks at the Rolphton nuclear power plant and that those leaks are far more serious than the routine housekeeping which the Minister of Energy (Mr. Auld) told us was taking place while that plant was closed over the course of the past couple of months; in view of the fact that those leaks have led Hydro to delay the reopening of that plant past the May 31 date that was predicted earlier, will the Premier undertake to have Hydro keep the Rolphton nuclear power plant closed until this Legislature can have a full report on all the safety aspects of the Rolphton plant, including the leaks? Will he also undertake that the plant will be closed until the matter of safety at Rolphton has been fully investigated by the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs?
Hon. Mr. Davis: This matter has been discussed, I think, on two or three occasions, with some lack of unanimity across the House, as I understand it.
An hon. member: Is it housekeeping or not?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Am I wrong in saying there is lack of total unanimity? Isn’t that a very objective statement? I can only say that the Atomic Energy Control Board and Ontario Hydro are as conscious, and more so, of safety at Rolphton and anywhere else, as the leader of the New Democratic Party.
Quite obviously Rolphton will not be opened by AECB and Ontario Hydro until they are satisfied it is safe.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: In view of the fact that just in the last three or four weeks we have had problems about radiation exposure of workers at Bruce, we have had leaks in nuclear power plants both in Pickering and in Rolphton, we have had problems with the boilers of Babcock and Wilcox, can the Premier not understand that the concerns about nuclear plant safety will not be resolved just by leaving the matter to the Atomic Energy Control Board? Will he, therefore, not agree that the Rolphton plant, which is insignificant in terms of power supply for Ontario at this time, should remain closed until these matters of safety can be fully investigated by the public’s representatives here in this Legislature through the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I take nothing away from the abilities of the members of this Legislature, and I mean that sincerely. But I also suggest, with respect, to the leader of the New Democratic Party that there are sometimes temptations on his part and on that of others to partisanize a very sensitive and important issue. The decision is that of AECB, which is the statutory body that controls the safety of these plants. If I were in the member’s position, I am not sure I would say, as he is attempting to say, that he has the competence to second-guess. I would say to him what I said in the answer to his first question, that the Atomic Energy Control Board and Ontario Hydro are concerned about, are sensitive to and I think have demonstrated, in any objective analysis, a very thoughtful approach to the planning and operation of the nuclear system in this province.
I understand it is the growing philosophy of the honourable member’s party, as particularly represented by the member for Carleton East, that it would call a halt to the nuclear program. That party would probably shut down all of the existing nuclear facilities if she had her way. That party would take away 30 per cent of the generating capacity of this province, with all of the economic implications that are maintained in that.
Ms. Gigantes: I have a supplementary question, Mr. Speaker --
Mr. Speaker: Order. If it is just for a supplementary question, in the proper rotation of things it goes to the member for Halton-Burlington.
Ms. Gigantes: I have a point of privilege I would like to raise before a supplementary question.
Mr. Speaker: Point of privilege?
Ms. Gigantes: I have a point of privilege. The Premier has suggested to the House that my position is that every nuclear plant in Ontario should be closed down. I would like to tell this House that that is not my position at all and that the Premier and the members of his cabinet should refrain from saying that.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Speaking to that point of privilege, I want to say -- and I want to say this in public -- how encouraged I am that the member for Carleton East is now in support of the nuclear program in this province.
RULES OF THE HOUSE
Mr. Foulds: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Yesterday afternoon after question period I drew your attention to standing order 19(d)(9). I suggest to you that the Premier’s previous statement and his second previous statement with regard to his imputation of motives to my colleague from Carleton East falls within the ambit of that rule and that you should have called the Premier to order. I draw that to your attention with the greatest of respect. Otherwise, we are going to get into these incidents that have plagued this House over the past week.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I wasn’t talking about motivation; I was talking about a point of view.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Certainly I am talking about a point of view. If one sat on this side in the House and read the reports from the select committee, one would gain the impression that the member for Carleton East was less than enthusiastic about nuclear energy, and I think that is a valid assessment to make.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Port Arthur did, quite properly in his mind, get up and draw my attention to the possibility of a violation of the standing order with regard to another member imputing unavowed motives.
I have looked at the matter and, since you raise it again today, I do not think there is any relationship to what went on yesterday afternoon or what was said this morning with regard to imputing unavowed motives. I think that members of the House are far too sensitive when somebody gets up and says, “I think such and such a member holds a particular point of view.” If in the mind of someone else that is not a correct position, or it is not a correct assumption, it is quite proper for that member to get up and deny that.
The member for Carleton East has an opportunity to do that. I do not think it is really any big deal. We have differences of opinion here every day. For the honourable member to suggest that every time there is a difference of opinion there is a violation of the standing orders, I think borders on the ridiculous.
NUCLEAR PLANT SAFETY (CONTINUED)
Mr. J. Reed: Mr. Speaker, a supplementary to the Premier, in connection with the Rolphton matter: I wonder if the Premier would undertake to advise those caucus members who sit on the Hydro select committee to support an immediate examination by the select committee of the Rolphton situation while Rolphton is still shut down, as we had previously requested but which had been rejected in the select committee.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I always am prepared to discuss certain issues with members of our caucus. But, unlike the Liberal Party of Ontario, I do not direct our members, who are there to act in the interests of the people they represent, to take dictates from me. I know the member’s leader wanders in on occasion and whips his people into line to satisfy a particular position. But we are independent thinkers on this side of the House. We are prepared to make some of our own judgements. I cannot say to the honourable member that I can impose my will on the members on that particular committee. He may run his store that way; we do not. So I cannot give that undertaking.
While I am on my feet, Mr. Speaker -- on a matter of personal privilege -- when the Leader of the Opposition reflects this weekend, and I am sure he reflects every weekend, on the suggestion that we sneaked something by, I would say to him to please take the bill home and look at page whatever it is; I guess it is opposite page four --
Mr. S. Smith: Just a moment. What is this on?
Hon. Mr. Davis: It is a matter of personal privilege. The Leader of the Opposition said we sneaked something by. Let him read it. It was there; it was printed. Reread it.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Ms. Gigantes: Mr. Speaker, we all know that the Premier of this province is the most sensitive person alive --
Hon. Mr. Davis: Without doubt. That’s what my wife tells me.
Ms. Gigantes: -- so I would like to ask him whether it does not ruffle his sensitivity just a little when the director of nuclear generation for Ontario Hydro says he cannot estimate the amount of radioactivity that is being emitted by the heavy-water leaks at the Rolphton plant?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member is asking me whether I agree with her that I am the most sensitive person around, the answer to that is yes.
Ms. Gigantes: I did not ask that.
RECRUITMENT OF FOREIGN WORKERS
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Labour and Manpower, arising out of yet another attempt by a multinational corporation to find skilled workers abroad rather than get them here in this province.
Can the minister explain why Rio Algom has applied to Canada Manpower to import, from Britain, 130 skilled tradesmen such as mechanics, electricians and millwrights, for its operations up in Elliot Lake? Can he explain why there were no requirements for the training of skilled workers here in Ontario, since the province is advancing, though Ontario Hydro, a sum approaching $300 million for the uranium contracts which it has undertaken with Rio Algom and Denison Mines in Elliot Lake?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, first of all, with regard to the reference by the leader of the third party to the Ministry of Labour and Manpower, I would advise him that we are well along with internal discussions regarding that projected mandate. I would expect there will be an announcement some time within the next few weeks about the exact delineation of the nature of the transfer of power.
In the meantime, as he well knows, I would like to refer those two specific questions to the Minister of Industry and Tourism and the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson).
Mr. Cassidy: I redirect the question to the Minister of Industry and Tourism, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the leader of the third party that obviously in the course of a year, as I made quite clear a couple of weeks ago to the House, there are several hundred firms which approach us to use our selective placement service. Offhand, I would not know whether or not that particular firm has used our selective placement service. They may have gone directly. I obviously could not tell him that this morning.
If in fact they have used the selective placement service, I can assure the member that in each and every case the process I outlined to the House a couple of weeks ago is followed. I will be pleased to find that out for the member and report to the House on Monday.
Mr. Cassidy: I redirect the question to the Minister of Education as well, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: You can’t do that.
Mr. Cassidy: Can the Minister of Industry and Tourism explain why it is that Denison Mines, which has got the other major share of this multibillion-dollar contract being paid for by the taxpayers of Ontario through Hydro has, in just two years, trained more than 100 mechanics after the union involved resisted the company’s efforts to go abroad to Britain to bring those workers in from abroad? Why can’t this be done as well in the case of Rio Algom, rather than having Rio Algom bring 130 workers in from another country, when they should and could be trained among workers here in this province?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I’m not prepared to answer a question based on certain premises that the member wants to advance this morning, not knowing myself whether the information he is offering us is true. I would prefer to get the facts of the situation and I’ll deal with all of those things on Monday. I know the member would want me to have that information so we can have an intelligent dialogue on the problem, and I’ll do that.
Mr. Wildman: Can the minister indicate, in a general sense at least, that he is committed to the proposition that young people graduating from high school in North Shore and in Elliot Lake should be able to gain jobs in their own area rather than leave and go elsewhere?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I am not only committed to that personally but through the efforts of my colleagues, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Education and, certainly, the Minister of Northern Affairs (Mr. Bernier), plus other representatives such as my seatmate, the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development (Mr. Brunelle) --
Mr. Lupusella: He doesn’t know anything.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- have affirmatively indicated in an aggressive way, not only our commitment to that, but that our commitment is no less equal and, perhaps, surpasses the commitment that the member can so easily talk about from the third party on that side. We have some track records to prove it. Our commitment is there, and the member can’t presuppose from the circumstances surrounding one company of which I don’t even have the details that our commitment isn’t --
Mr. Warner: You are doing nothing.
Mr. M. Davidson: The minister of wild rice contracts.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- every bit as strong as his. It is.
Mr. Cassidy: When the minister reports back to this House, would he care to explain why it is that Rio Algom has made no effort to expand its 25 trainee positions in Elliot Lake in the 15 months since Ontario signed a multibillion-dollar contract for uranium with that particular company? Why is Rio Algom only training 25 workers when it’s going abroad for five times that number under the application to Canada Manpower?
Mr. Wildman: Why can’t we do the same for Denison mines?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Of course, I will deal with the selective placement portion of that question to the extent that I can, although one of my colleagues might have more appropriately answered that question. I can assure the member that I will have that information next week.
Mr. B. Newman: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Is the minister aware of the potentially harmful effects in both the manufacturing and the handling of fibreglass as has been found in Japan indicating those who had been exposed to fibreglass dust now suffer from a lung disease called pneumoconiosis? Will the minister implement a monitoring project so that he could find out, in the early stages, if there is that harmful effect in both the manufacturing and the handling of fibreglass?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I’m well aware of the fact that a variety of studies over the years have indicated that fibreglass was a relatively inert substance that was not known to create any pathology. As the member quite properly points out, there are a few reports that have come out of Japan recently that have a contrary point of view.
During consideration of my estimates, one of the members raised the suggestion that Dr. Selikoff of New York had, indeed, published some material. We contacted him directly some weeks ago and he indicated that although he was in the midst of some studies, he had not submitted any reports yet or drawn any conclusions. But, all of that having been said, I don’t think we can ignore the fact that there may be reports somewhere indicating that there may be some harmful effects from fibreglass. I instructed staff some weeks ago to arrange for a meeting with labour and management representatives to discuss the very problem the member has raised and then proceed with further investigation of those studies.
Mr. Blundy: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Labour if, in the light of this new thought that has been expressed by the member for Windsor-Walkerville, are all precautions being taken in the work place in the Fiberglas Canada Limited plant in Sarnia, the largest manufacturer of fibreglass insulation, to make sure this is being monitored? Would the Minister of Labour further undertake to have the Workmen’s Compensation Board keep abreast of this situation in case certain cases come up in the future that are based on this new concept in the work place?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: First of all, I want to make it very clear that there have been many well- respected authorities who, as recently as two years ago, have indicated quite clearly that fibreglass is still considered by them to be an inert, harmless substance. What I said to the member for Windsor-Walkerville, and I will repeat it again, is that any information to the contrary has to be followed up.
I hope the member is not implying that we now have massive information that it isn’t inert, because that isn’t so. There are some suggestions from new studies. We can’t ignore those and we have to proceed to review any new device that comes up.
Certainly I will involve the board and keep it informed. We will proceed to discuss the problems with a variety of companies, including Fiberglas Canada, and with labour representatives to make certain there is no validity -- or, indeed, that there is validity -- to the suggestions that have come out of the Japanese studies.
Mr. di Santo: I have a question for the Minister of Industry and Tourism about the critical situation in the electrical industry in Hamilton. In view of the fact that Mr. C. F. MacNeil, the plant manager of Westinghouse Canada Limited, where 700 jobs are about to be lost, was quoted in the Hamilton Spectator as saying: “Looking at the Canadian switchgear and control market through American eyes, they couldn’t see why it couldn’t be supplied from Buffalo and Pittsburgh”; and in view of the fact that since we last asked the minister questions about employment in the electrical industry in Hamilton the situation has become worse with electrical jobs in that city falling below the 1974 level of 2,600 and 700 lower than last year, doesn’t the minister think it is just possible that Mr. MacNeil’s prediction will come true?
Doesn’t he think that with the lowering of the tariffs as a result of the GATT negotiations more jobs may be lost? What does he intend to do, since his ad hoc grants to industries won’t solve the problem?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I think if the member will recall our discussion on this earlier he will note that at that time we were reflecting on the need for certain changes in the electrical industry. One of the changes most firms are having to go to in order to compete is specialization in certain products and rationalization of their operations throughout North America. The changing GATT situation is a fact of life.
What Westinghouse is doing now is what most firms in the electronics industry are doing, and that is looking at the different products made in different plants and tending to treat the entire North American market, if not the world market, as the market for each particular product. They look at their whole family of plants and decide which products should now be made in which plants. That is a strategy that more and more firms, regardless of their field, are going to have to adopt with the new tariff competition.
Mr. di Santo: That’s the strategy of the multinationals. What’s your strategy?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I don’t know what Westinghouse in Hamilton is ultimately going to decide. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the consequences the member has talked about do occur. That is why we are anxious to get Westinghouse to agree there would be no layoffs, but that any reduction in employment would be through attrition.
None the less, I do want to emphasize this point: It is likely that if Westinghouse concludes the product specialization it might have to move to require some decentralization, firstly, employees there will be given the first opportunity to move into whatever decentralized operations are developed --
Mr. di Santo: What if they move to the States?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Let me finish. Secondly, I am quite confident that a fair number of plants into which they may decide to decentralize their operations will be plants in this province. We will work hard to ensure that occurs if, in fact, that is the business decision they make. It’s relevant to remind ourselves that one of the reasons firms go through these exercises, when tariff changes occur or at certain points in time --
Ms. Gigantes: This doesn’t make sense. You don’t make sense.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: -- is in order to remain competitive, so that instead of folding up entirely and going home to the United States they find a different way to run their operations in the province, which keeps that employment in this province.
Mr. di Santo: Or they go to a non-union shop.
Mr. Wildman: They’re just going to avoid the union.
Mr. S. Smith: How can the minister accept both theories which Westinghouse floats from time to time, when the two are in contradiction? Does he not realize in fact, they suggest on the one hand they might have to pack up and rationalize the operation into one big central switchgear plant in the United States, and on the other hand, they speak about a whole lot of small decentralized plants all over Canada repairing the present profitable operation in Hamilton?
Does the minister not understand what they are really saying is they want to close the switchgear plant in Hamilton and either ship it back to the States or decentralize to small non-union plants all over the rest of Canada? Why is he sitting back and letting them advance that particular proposal in this day and age when surely unionism must be accepted as a fact of life?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I think it is relevant to point out that one of the problems with the electronics industry over the past many years has been a failure to anticipate some of the changes that occur down the way. That particular operation must be looked at by Westinghouse in terms of a profit centre. In those terms we understand from the firm it isn’t as profitable as it once was.
Mr. S. Smith: It is still very good.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Well, it isn’t as profitable as it once was. I think it is important that firms carrying on business in this province understand they don’t have to wait until a particular operation becomes totally unfeasible and totally unworkable to assess the alternatives. The member opposite would be properly critical of government for failing to anticipate its own concerns in that way.
If he wants to resolve the issue down to whether or not they are escaping the union, then let me tell him we have discussed that matter with them and from everything we can see and everything they have indicated to us at this time, that does not appear to be one of their strategies. The member may be able to prove otherwise and if he does, both the Minister of Labour and I would be anxious to receive that information.
I should point out the Premier, the Minister of Labour and I have now received extensive delegations from both the union and the company in an attempt to trace down that particular matter and others.
Obviously, one of the points Westinghouse is well aware of -- they are not naive, they are very familiar with the situation -- is that even if the strategy the member is suggesting was their strategy, the experience of every firm anywhere in North America is that if they do decentralize to get away from the unions, the unions follow. They are not going to be one or two years behind the game. There aren’t very many places they could go in Ontario which would work for Westinghouse where the union won’t arrive. That isn’t advice I am giving them; that’s information of which they are well aware. With respect, I want to say categorically, we put that question to Westinghouse, and we have seen no indication from them in writing or orally that would indicate that is part of their corporate strategy in making that move.
I think it is important for the Leader of the Opposition to attempt to approach this issue, certainly in his own constituency, on the two grounds. The first is they are trying to escape the union. If they are, I would like to receive information.
Mr. Speaker: The honourable minister is beginning to repeat himself.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I should say the entire series of questions on Westinghouse was debated extensively in this House a couple of months ago. The opposition has raised them again and I think it is fair to put on the record that the two concerns are escaping the union and, secondly, they have the freedom to remain competitive by assessing their operations from time to time. I think they have to address that in a sensible fashion.
Mr. Mackenzie: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Does the minister not feel there is a possibility he may have been conned? Does he know the first 60 employees in the meter division of that switchgear department who have been told they are finished at the end of the year have already been denied the right to transfer to the replacement plant in Alliston and company personnel have clearly indicated they don’t intend to give them that right?
When will this human waste end? When are we going to start considering those 700 employees and the 60 who have already been told they are finished and have been denied the right to transfer? Is that not verification of the attempt to get out from under the contract? When is the tail going to stop wagging the dog in a situation like this?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I would wonder, in view of that recent situation, whether those 60 employees have not been given the opportunity, instead of moving to Alliston, to be relocated in other parts of the Hamilton operation. I believe that is the case, isn’t it?
Mr. Mackenzie: The rest of them are going also. They have been denied the right, where they have asked for it, to go to Alliston.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We’ve now clarified the impression the honourable member intended to leave that the 60 employees were being cut loose.
Mr. Mackenzie: The rest of them are going at the end of the year.
Mr. S. Smith: Why can’t they go down to Alliston?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: In fact, instead of being either cut loose or forced to go to Alliston, the company is making efforts to relocate them within Hamilton, which I suspect, if we ask the 60 employees, they would prefer to do. All their rights are being protected as employees of the company and they are being left in the community in which they are working. I bet they would prefer to do that than be forced to go to Alliston.
Mr. Mackenzie: Within a matter of months, 700 more are going. Where are they going to transfer to?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Clearly, we understand those 60 are not being cut loose. The member should get the facts straight or not try and leave a wrong impression in this House.
Mr. Mackenzie: You are being conned.
Mr. Foulds: You wouldn’t know a fact if you stumbled against it.
Mr. Speaker: Order! The honourable the Minister of Labour has the answer to a question previously asked.
Mr. Renwick: He believes what the corporations tell him. That’s all he does and he calls it fact.
Mr. Speaker: Order: The Minister of Labour has the floor.
RADIATION FROM X-RAYS
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, recently the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway) asked several questions regarding the qualifications of Ministry of Labour X-ray equipment inspectors and the types of tests they conduct.
The ministry currently employs two radiation physicists and six technicians within the radiation protection branch. The physicists hold advanced degrees and are directly involved in the X-ray inspection program. The six technicians have community college level training, supplemented by specific on-the-job training in carrying out routine equipment inspections.
The radiation protection branch inspects X-ray machinery used by veterinarians, educational institutions where medical and dental practitioners and their assistants are trained, industrial and research establishments. The inspections are aimed at ensuring the health and safety of the equipment operators and other workers.
In these inspections, the adequacy of X-ray shielding is checked and examinations for radiation leaks are made. Techniques and work practices are studied to minimize dosages received by workers. Dosimeter badges and other appropriate devices required for personnel dose monitoring are checked. Electronic interlocks and other safety switches and devices on the equipment are tested for accuracy and should overexposures occur, these incidents are investigated and directions are issued to prevent reoccurrences.
CHOICE OF PHYSICIAN
Hon. Mr. Elgie: The member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) also asked me a question on May 18 regarding section 21(1) of the Workmen’s Compensation Act. Recently that member asked a question regarding section 21(1) and the power of an employer to order an employee to attend a medical examination conducted by a doctor chosen by the worker’s employer. I would like to advise him that although section 21(1) exists in the act, there have never been any regulations enacted regarding the application of this section.
Currently, should an employer believe that circumstances exist such that a medical examination might be warranted, the employer may request that the board arrange for the employee to be examined and his claim reviewed under section 24 of the act. The board will then arrange for an examination either by one of its own doctors or through referral to an appropriate outside specialist. I might also add that the employee may also request this review himself under section 24.
I can state quite categorically that under the provisions of the act the employer has no right to insist that an employee present himself for examination regarding compensation by a legally qualified practitioner provided and paid for by the employer. Thus it would follow that an employee’s refusal to submit himself for a medical examination by a doctor chosen by his employer and at the wishes of the employer, for a workmen’s compensation matter, would not constitute grounds for repercussions against the employee.
CHARGES AGAINST WOMEN
Mrs. Campbell: My question, Mr. Speaker, was originally to the Solicitor General, who I believe is lurking in the wings.
Mr. Breithaupt: The Attorney General awaits without.
Mrs. Campbell: My question, Mr. Speaker, is this: Has the Solicitor General undertaken any investigation into those cases where the police have laid charges against women as a result of charges which they sought to lay, or did lay, in assaults? Can he tell this House what the circumstances are under which the police are laying these charges, since there is an element of intimidation to women in this province as a result of this course of action?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Although I don’t have precise figures, I am advised that such charges are relatively rare and are only laid when the police have reasonable and probable grounds to believe the allegation of assault, usually a sexual form of assault, is a false charge.
This is a matter I have reviewed with senior members of both the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of the Solicitor General. I am assured these charges are laid only where the police have strong evidence. When I talk about reasonable and probable grounds that the allegations are false, what I am really talking about is strong evidence, evidence on which they believe they can secure a conviction, which of course must be based on proof beyond reasonable doubt. As I have already indicated, it is relatively rare for these charges to be laid. Occasionally it is necessary, in order to protect the rights of innocent people who may be innocent victims to false serious allegations.
Having said that, I would want to assure the member for St. George and all members of the Legislature that I personally would be very much opposed to any police conduct that would have even the perception of intimidating any individual from bringing forward allegations that should be brought forward and pressing charges that should be pressed.
Mrs. Campbell: Supplementary: I appreciate the Solicitor General’s remarks but would he not feel there should be some public statement in this matter so that women do not feel they are first going to have to prove their case to the police before it gets to the courts? Many women are concerned about this new procedure. And it is new. In view of the fact that, as far as women are concerned, in cases of assault there has been a history of great difficulty in getting the cases to the courts, would he not believe it would be timely to make a public statement to reassure women in this province?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I would hope the dialogue in which the member for St. George and I are now engaged would at least be a form of public statement and form of reassurance to any people, women or otherwise, who may be concerned about this issue.
I am not sure I can agree with the member for St. George when she states that this is a new development. It has been in the news recently, I appreciate that, and the member for St. George refers to two occasions. Considering the size and population of this province, the fact that two charges have been laid for public mischief or otherwise in relation to what the police believe to be false allegations, does not in my view, with the greatest respect to the member for St. George, represent any trend or new policy in this direction.
I reiterate that individuals, male or female, must be protected from the consequences of individuals making false allegations that lead to criminal charges. I know the member for St. George would agree totally with that when we talk about the number of charges that are laid in sexually-related assaults, the fact that two individuals have been charged in the circumstances that have been mentioned really represents an infinitesimal fraction of the complaints that are made from week to week.
I just want to reiterate as forcefully as I can that the police regard the problem of assaults and violent attacks of any nature, particularly if they are sexual attacks, as matters that must be given the highest priority so far as law enforcement is concerned. Certainly it is our attention in the Ministry of the Attorney General to prosecute vigorously all cases in which there is evidence to lay a charge. Actually, the rate of conviction in the last several years, since the amendments to the Criminal Code, has increased somewhat significantly.
But as the member for St. George is very concerned about this, and properly so -- we have discussed it outside the House, as well -- I wanted to make it clear that the attitude of the police in this province is to encourage any citizen to bring to them proper, well-founded allegations of criminal activity, whether it is criminal assault, or any other criminal offence.
Mr. Wildman: I have a question for the acting government House leader. Since, despite all the posturing by the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal House leader yesterday, the Liberals last night demonstrated, if not their incompetence, their indifference to the investigation of the Babcock and Wilcox boiler controversy last night by failing to muster enough voting members at the resources development committee to combine with the NDP --
Mr. Speaker: What is the question?
Mr. Wildman: -- to force the scheduling of the committee and the consideration of the Hydro annual report referral, can the acting government House leader assure us that the government will agree to a committee recommendation if it is made to the assembly, to refer the matter immediately to the public accounts committee?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Of course the circumstances surrounding any request would have to be considered by the government in the ordinary course of affairs. There is a procedure set up for this, Lord knows -- as we went into yesterday -- and at such time as the committee may make that recommendation there is the House leaders’ forum set up to negotiate those things and try and work out scheduling.
I might add, when we are approaching the summer season particularly it is very difficult for one committee to arbitrarily recommend that another committee be seized of a matter without having consulted with that committee. That is why the Speaker’s panel and the House leaders’ forums have been set up. If that recommendation comes, I can assure the member the government House leader will be happy to take it up with all the appropriate forums and do so expeditiously, so the committee can know what course of action is open to it during -- I suppose just after returning from Dryden next week.
Mr. Foulds: What authority did the government House leader leave you with this week?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Just to try and keep you folks well-ordered and under control, which indeed is a difficult task.
JOB INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS
Mr. Van Horne: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Given the promise in this year’s throne speech of a new emphasis on providing guidance information on job markets and training opportunities in the industrial sector, and given last year’s throne speech promise of a specially-designed program to satisfy the manpower needs of industry, can the minister tell us if his ministry is now providing job opportunity information for the Ministry of Education student guidance service?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: First of all, with regard to the second-to-last matter the member raised, as he well knows the employer-sponsored training program was the program that was referred to in the previous speech from the throne. That is well under way, maybe not to the satisfaction of that member but it is expanding all the time. The number of community industrial councils now number 30 and the number of trainees enrolling is increasing.
With regard to the labour market information service, it was established, I believe, last summer or in September. It has started to try to gather that sort of information. It is a very difficult task and it is one of the matters we have been dealing with at the ad hoc advisory committee level that was established very recently.
We have had some good recommendations from that committee. We are vigorously pursuing any suggestion they have made with regard to a method of gathering such data about the needs out there so we can match the skilled training to those needs. I expect efforts will be made to gather that information, which will be much more accurate than what we have been able to gather to date because of the changing data base that has been offered to us by Statistics Canada. I think it will give us some of the information we have been unable to gather accurately up to the present time.
Mr. Van Horne: Supplementary: I appreciate the initial response in so far as the manpower needs of industry go, but the question is: Is that information being relayed to the guidance people in the province of Ontario? Secondly, given the at least six months to one year lead time to program any of this information the minister is now just looking for, is he not really telling us that the student guidance information service for the students in Ontario will not be apprised of the job market and training opportunities until at least the school year 1981-82, two years behind time?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I am advised by my colleague, the Minister of Education, that the information we have been able to gather -- and again I must say I am not entirely, satisfied that the material available to us from Statistics Canada, which changes and is withdrawn periodically, is adequate -- will be made available to the school system in September. I again emphasize that I have much greater hopes for the new thrust the advisory committee has recommended with regard to more accurate and informed information about the Ontario scene. I trust that sort of information, if we are able to proceed as planned, will be available in late fall.
Mr. Isaacs: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Is the minister aware that Abbott Laboratories Limited is conducting a promotional campaign for Sucaryl, which is sodium cyclamate powder, a low- calorie sweetener recognized as a carcinogen, banned for human consumption in the United States and banned as a food additive in Canada?
Is the minister also aware that as part of that promotional campaign free samples of the stuff are being handed out in supermarkets to everybody who passes by, and free cups of coffee containing this cancer-causing compound are being handed out to customers in supermarkets? Whether or not the minister is aware, is he prepared to undertake that his ministry will take immediate action to ensure that promotional campaigns of carcinogens of this kind are stopped?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of it, but I will take immediate action. In about 30 seconds I will call the responsible part of the federal government in Ottawa which has jurisdiction over it, something the honourable member could have done yesterday if he was so alarmed about it.
STANDING ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE COMMITTEE
Mr. Renwick, in the absence of Mr. Philip, presented the following report from the standing administration of justice committee and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:
Bill Pr11, An Act to revive Delila Construction Limited.
Your committee begs to report the following bills with certain amendments:
Bill Pr1, An Act respecting the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake;
Bill Pr12, An Act respecting the Borough of East York.
STANDING GENERAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE
Hon. Mr. Grossman moved that the standing general government committee be authorized to sit the evening of Wednesday, June 6, and concurrently with the House on Thursday, June 7, and Friday, June 8.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of the whole.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
Mr. Chairman: Does the minister have an opening statement?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Chairman, I welcome this opportunity to make some comments on the consideration of the estimates of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs.
It is now just under 10 months since this ministry was created to co-ordinate and consolidate relationships between the province of Ontario and other governments. It is a broad mandate with two major aspects: on the one hand, the province’s relationship with the federal and other provincial governments, as well as important contacts with governments outside Canada; and, on the other hand, the province’s relationship with local government in Ontario.
Our brief existence has been a busy and, I believe, fruitful period. I would like to use this opportunity to provide members with a progress report on some of the major activities and issues which have occupied much of our time and interest to date and which will doubtless continue to be in the forefront of our work into the immediate future.
Before getting into the detail, however, I should, first of all, provide an overall financial context by which the fulfilment of our mandate may be fully assessed. In presenting the spending estimates of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs for the fiscal year 1979-80, I am asking the Legislature to approve an expenditure of $549 million. This represents an increase of $29 million or about 5.5 per cent over our total estimates for the 1978-79 fiscal year.
In very general terms, the $549 million total budget is allocated under four major expenditure categories. By far the largest is for transfer payments to municipalities, including both unconditional and special grants, which amount to $511 million or 93.1 per cent of our total budget.
The second largest category is the Ontario Youth Employment Program, which shows as a $26 million expense item or 4.7 per cent of the budget. Third, $8.9 million or 1.6 per cent is for operational and administrative expenses. Fourth, the remaining $3.1 million or 0.6 per cent is for a variety of special programs, including disaster relief, shoreline property assistance, property tax credits for senior citizens and so on.
As we move through the 15 hours of debate which have been set aside for consideration of these estimates, I look forward to discussing many of the individual items which make up the $549-million total budget. In recapping the initial nine-and-a-half months of my ministry’s existence, I would like to begin by saying that the birth pains have been minimal and that, by and large, I have been very pleased with the progress that has been achieved, both administratively and operationally, to ensure that the ministry is on a sound footing which will enable it to properly fulfil its mandate from year to year. Much of this, I believe, is a direct credit to the senior management team in the ministry.
My new parliamentary assistant, the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Rotenberg), is devoting much of his time and attention to municipal-provincial issues. His background as a senior alderman in the city of Toronto, plus his involvement on Metro council and with several municipal organizations, is already proving to be valuable to this ministry.
Mr. Foulds: You should have kept those contacts yourself. Those are the best Tory contacts if you want to run for the leadership.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I want to say that my previous parliamentary assistant, the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe), carried out his responsibilities in an excellent fashion while he was with this ministry. He has now taken on a new assignment as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Energy.
The other members of our senior group are my deputy minister, Don Stevenson, and under him the executive director of the local government division, Eric Fleming; the executive director of intergovernmental affairs division, Ed Greathed; and the executive co-ordinator of the planning and co-ordination groups, Sam Clasky.
Without going into administrative detail, I believe that there are three organizational aspects of the ministry which I should mention because each of them impacts significantly upon our role and performance.
The first is the fact that we have now reached the point where we will soon be relocating all of the central offices of the ministry into one location, namely, on four floors of the Mowat Block. I know this will give us more cohesion and co-ordination in our day-to-day operations.
The second organizational aspect which I wanted to mention briefly is in relation to the municipal finance branch and the intergovernmental affairs and grants policy branch, both of which, as members will recall, remain in the Ministry of Treasury and Economics. The decision to leave these two branches in Treasury and Economics was a crucial one. It was clearly recognized that the functions they perform are in many ways integral to the operation of both ministries and that there would indeed be a need for co-ordination between the two ministries in these areas wherever they were located.
Clearly, the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs has a very important advocacy role on behalf of local government in this province. In order to fulfill this responsibility properly in the long term there may be a need to establish within this ministry a sound base of financial data and expertise which would permit us to assess needs and projections in a manner more closely related to our own perceptions and experience with local governments.
The third organizational point which is relevant to our discussions here is the recent decision to transfer the government’s protocol services operation to the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, again in order to increase co-ordination in the area of representation of other governments. The protocol was previously under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Government Services and the transfer became effective in early May.
As members are aware, the protocol office is largely responsible for arrangements and special functions when representatives of other countries visit Ontario, as well as events involving visitors from other provinces. It also organizes major public events such as the July 1 festivities, as well as special ceremonies, hospitality functions and other protocol procedures involving intergovernmental relationships, including day-to-day relations between the province and the consular corps here in the city of Toronto.
The transfer to Intergovernmental Affairs involved no staff or budget changes. It was done solely to reflect this ministry’s role in integrating and co-ordinating Ontario’s relationship with other governments.
I am pleased that Walter Borosa is continuing to head up this function, with a new title, chief of protocol. We all know that Walter’s fine eye for detail and the grace and thoughtfulness with which he has traditionally fulfilled his responsibilities have been major strengths, and I am glad -- I know all of us in this House are glad -- that the province will continue to benefit from these as he continues this operation in this ministry.
For the next few minutes I thought it might be useful to report on several of the key activities related to the municipal side of our mandate. Beginning last August, when the ministry was established and I became minister, I emphasized the fact that our style and our modus operandi was going to be open, co-operative and responsive.
This is a theme we have constantly repeated, because I consider it essential that the provincial government and local governments fulfil their natural partnership role in harmony, in the interests of the citizens and taxpayers whom we all serve. This is why over the past months I have worked hard to establish closer personal contact with as many municipalities as possible, and at the same time to encourage the various municipal organizations to play an even greater “contributor” role in the overall decision-making process here at Queen’s Park.
Our basic posture within the ministry, when making decision’s affecting municipalities, is to do so only after discussion and consultation with representatives of those who may be affected.
To me, this kind of approach represents much more than common courtesy, although that is important in itself. Throughout this province there is a great deal of municipal expertise and common-sense advice available to us from those involved with local government, and it would be plainly short-sighted for a ministry such as this one not to capitalize on this as part of the decision-making process.
I believe we are doing so to an even greater extent and on a much wider range of issues, large and small. The primary formal vehicle for this kind of consultation and input continues to be the Provincial-Municipal Liaison Committee. At our regular meetings throughout last fall, the winter and this spring I think it has been clear to all parties involved that there is an inherent benefit to this kind of sounding-board mechanism.
The PMLC is a forum where proposals can be discussed openly and where the ideas and concerns of both municipal and provincial representatives can be given a good public airing. It’s working well and it will continue as a basic component of our operations.
There is another kind of important consultative co-operation, of course, which is usually much less formal. I’m referring to our frequent and fruitful contacts with individual municipal organizations and, of course, with representatives of individual municipalities themselves. Personal contact and rapport with one’s own constituents, as members of this House well know and, in this case, our local government constituency, is irreplaceable and valuable beyond tangible measure.
In this connection, I especially want to say how impressed I have been with the alert and responsive attitudes that are characteristic of the staff of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs who are involved with the municipal sphere of our mandate. I personally would like to say how very fortunate I feel we are to have a group of men and women who have shown me, on countless occasions, that their scope of knowledge and concern goes far beyond the walls of Queen’s Park and out across this province to the real life concerns and needs of people at the local level.
It is a professional approach geared to an understanding and recognition of our province-wide overview, but it is a professionalism which, as I have seen time and time again, includes a grassroots feel for the realities and needs faced by our municipal partners. I would not want it any other way and I think that all members will join me in saluting the efforts of all these individual men and women who work on behalf of our citizens in this way.
Naturally, in any kind of consultative approach, there cannot be consensus and agreement on every issue. But, if I can assess the situation around this province with some objectivity, I would say that our basic message has come through -- that we mean it when we say that both the provincial government and the local governments are involved in a co-operative venture, and that we, this ministry and this government, want full local input on all matters which are felt to be important.
There is one particular aspect of this co-operative theme that I specifically want to mention. Not to belabour it, because I have said it publicly many times before, but I do especially want to pay tribute here to the very mature and responsible attitude of municipal representatives regarding the monetary constraints that today confront all governments.
All governments, federal, provincial and local, tend to pass blame for financial pressures on to others. But I think there is a new and real awareness on the part of our elected people that we have a shared responsibility towards the present challenge to reduce the proportion of our gross provincial product being spent by government. To me, this has shown up in our dealings with municipalities over the past months. There is a general recognition that the call upon taxpayers is not endless, that we all share the restraint challenge, that we all must do the best we can with the funds available, and that there is little sense in getting into a protracted harangue over money when all governments are trying to curtail spending from the public purse.
As members know, in March I announced a series of ad hoc grants for 49 municipalities, totalling about $6.6 million. The purpose of these grants was to help offset some of the more substantial inequities that had developed in the grant system since the equalization factors were frozen in 1970. At the present time, the Ministry of Revenue is developing new equalization factors which will be used in the development of revised grant and apportionment formulae in 1980. As these new factors become available, we will be analysing their impact to make sure that the transition can be achieved as smoothly as possible and without radical distortions in municipal mill rates.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I do want to repeat a strong government commitment with regard to the new equalization factors, and it is that no municipality or school board will receive a lesser grant in 1980 than the amount received in 1979 because of the introduction of the new factors.
About six weeks ago, I tabled in the Legislature a booklet entitled 1979 Ontario Assistance to Local Governments, which contained a general overview of 1979-80 provincial transfers, as well as details of the 1979 unconditional grants program. Overall, transfer payments to municipalities and agencies in the fiscal year 1979-80, excluding payments into teachers’ superannuation and the home-care program, are expected to total $3,872,000,000. This figure represents a 5.4 per cent increase over the 1978-79 figures.
This year’s approach, of course, represents a departure from what we have come to call the Edmonton commitment, and it gives rise to concerns expressed by representatives of local government throughout the province.
Mr. Haggerty: I thought that was buried.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It is buried. As I said, it represents a departure, and the Edmonton commitment is buried, but there have been concerns from representatives of local government throughout the province.
Initially, we had announced that the aggregate transfers would probably be increased by about five per cent, the amount by which the program expenditures of all government ministries were expected to increase. Now, of course, the final percentage increase in transfers to municipalities is expected to be somewhat higher than five per cent, as I have just indicated.
I believe the essential point here is to remember that we have said all along that this is strictly an interim approach to a long-term and very complex problem. There is no doubt that changing circumstances and economic conditions in the last few years make this an appropriate time to take a long, hard look at the whole system of transfer payments to municipalities.
This is why one of my early actions in this ministry was to initiate discussions with representatives of the Municipal Liaison Committee. The result was the establishment of a special committee, called the long-term fiscal arrangements committee, to look at the options available in the years ahead.
The committee has already done a good deal of fruitful work. My hope is that by the end of the summer we will have broad agreement on a formula that will be satisfactory to everyone concerned: the provincial government, the municipalities and school boards. It will not be easy, of course.
On the one hand, a clearly understood formula by which transfer payments are calculated would help ease the minds of municipalities and school boards and perhaps allow them to plan ahead with more confidence as to the revenues that would be forthcoming.
On the other hand, from the province’s standpoint, we have to guard against a situation where we could be without the flexibility required to adequately manage our fiscal and economic policies.
I am fully optimistic that there is middle ground to be found on this issue and that, if we all persist and work together co-operatively, our mutual objectives can be achieved.
Related to this, of course, is the whole area of unconditional grants versus conditional grants. I certainly understand the concerns expressed by local governments on this issue. Personally, I do believe there is some scope for increasing the proportion of transfer payments that are made unconditionally. As a starting point, we have the report of the committee on grants reform, which was chaired by my deputy minister, Don Stevenson.
I realize that many of the recommendations in that report are controversial, both at the municipal level and within this government itself. Yet it seems to me that a good number of the recommendations could be implemented or modified to meet some of the concerns that have been raised. Let me say quite candidly, though, I do not expect to see a major deconditionalizing of grants over the next few years. But as we continue our discussions I will personally be looking for ways by which there can be an increased emphasis on unconditional transfers and, at the same time, a major simplification of the present conditional grant system.
In any event, we will be considering these and other related matters in the months ahead, and giving them the high priority they deserve.
This has been the first year in which section 86 of the Assessment Act has been used to rectify some of the inequities in the tax base between different properties in the same class. Quite obviously, the effect of applying section 86 has meant tax decreases for many taxpayers and tax increases for others as a result of the new assessments which have been placed on their properties.
The government has been monitoring the impact of this program very closely and has considered whether special assistance should be provided to municipalities using section 86, to help them soften any substantial and immediate tax increases arising out of the reassessment.
We decided against providing more provincial funds for this purpose. But we have, as members know, introduced an amendment to section 505 of the Municipal Act to give municipalities wider latitude to phase in, on their own, any such tax increases without special assistance from the province.
As I said earlier, I have been greatly impressed and encouraged by the extent to which municipalities have been able to exercise constraint in a reasonable manner. What is even more encouraging is the great interest of the municipal sector to find innovative ways to economize. Two examples come to mind, the region of Durham’s experience in energy conservation and the study being concluded now by the Bureau of Municipal Research on innovative methods of cost savings in municipalities.
With regard to the latter, this ministry intends to co-operate with the bureau to make the published report available to every municipality in Ontario. Also, we will probably be co-sponsoring with the bureau a series of seminars based on the report on this very important topic.
Last fall, during the discussions of this ministry’s first estimates, we discussed at some length some of the problems related to annexations. There are few subjects which pose as many challenges to the province and to local government as does the definition of boundaries around many cities, towns and villages. The process of adjusting municipal boundaries through an application to the Ontario Municipal Board has, of course, been roundly criticized for the last several years.
I think there is general agreement throughout this province that there is much to be gained if some alternative mechanism could be found to solving the vast majority of annexation disputes, an alternative to the rigid judicial approach via the OMB, which so often becomes frustrating, protracted and very expensive.
Last October, when I addressed the conference of the Association of Counties and Regions of Ontario, I urged the delegates to take the initiative in attempting to come up with a workable alternative process. It is a great credit to municipal leaders in this province, and particularly the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Association of Counties and Regions of Ontario and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, that they have, since last fall, moved a long way towards developing such a proposal.
April 27 of this year was a landmark date for local government in Ontario. On that day ACRO and ROMA held a joint seminar on urban-rural relations to which representatives of urban municipalities were also invited. Both urban and rural proposals were discussed in an open and co-operative manner. The effects of this seminar have already been widely felt.
It has become obvious that most municipal leaders, urban and rural alike, agree on the fundamental problems in the present annexation process and, more importantly, on the basic principles of a new procedure which might become an alternative to it.
I have therefore asked the Provincial-Municipal Liaison Committee to ask ROMA, ACRO and AMO to appoint people to sit down with representatives of this ministry to work out a new process. This exercise is now beginning. I am optimistic that by late summer we will have in place a set of proposals for dealing with the vast majority of annexation problems.
We expect that these proposals will emphasize the rational resolution of boundary dispute problems through negotiation and mediation between the municipal councils involved, and then involving the OMB only as a last resort. The ministry anticipates playing an active role in any resulting procedure, but that role will be restricted to use the provincial presence to assist in developing an agreement and will not involve unilateral action on our part.
The longstanding problem between the city of Brantford and Brant township could well be the first candidate for any new process that may be developed. I know that both parties in this case are deeply concerned about the prospects of a long and expensive dispute and they have indicated a willingness to participate in a new procedure which may be developed.
There is one further important topic related to the municipal side of this ministry’s mandate which I would like to touch upon briefly, and it has to do with our new approach to the restructuring of municipalities in the province.
Members will recall that during the discussion of estimates last fall I indicated we had moved into a period in which there will be a new emphasis upon local initiatives in the evolution of municipal structure. Of course, this does not mean we are in any way abdicating our responsibility for ensuring strong and effective local government for all Ontario. Like all institutions local government must undergo periodic adjustment if it is to keep up with changing social and economic conditions.
Our starting premise is that we are beyond the point where the provincial government should come along with schemes from on high which involve large-scale municipal restructuring. Instead, we’ve been conveying the idea that the onus at this time should be upon local leaders to assess any perceived need for change, to discuss the problems involved among themselves and try to arrive at a consensus before coming to see us with their ideas for improvement. Evidence that this is a proper and workable approach is already I think available to us. The follow-up to the Waterloo local government review is an illustration of how I think constructive local initiative can lead to a healthier, more fruitful resolution of perceived structural and organizational problems.
The final report from the review commissioner, in that case Mr. William Palmer, a former deputy minister in this government and chairman of the Ontario Municipal Board, was made public in the Waterloo region in early April. It was, I think, generally well-received; it candidly addressed the practical concerns that people had about regional and government organization and efficiency in the Waterloo region.
But I think the noteworthy aspect of this review project was the local initiative -- not only in undertaking the study in the first place, but also in the determination to follow up on it. Once the Palmer report was available the mayors of the seven municipalities within the region plus the regional chairman formed a committee immediately to consider the recommendations. This process is continuing now and I am firmly convinced that the consultative and co-operative approach that it represents will lead to changes for the better in the local government system in that area.
Many of the Palmer recommendations of course could be implemented by the local authorities acting completely on their own, if there is agreement there to do so. Others would require provincial action and we stand ready to consider any changes which the committee proposes, as long as they have been extensively considered locally and are widely supported.
I wanted to mention the Waterloo experience particularly because I believe it points the way for other municipalities as a means of achieving progress in the process of streamlining local government.
With this summary of our activities arising from the local government side of this ministry’s mandate, I would now like for a few minutes to turn to some of the matters at the federal-provincial level which have occupied a good deal of our time and attention since last fall. Without question, our overriding concerns in this sphere have been related to constitutional reform. Since last November, there has been a great deal of activity in this area, on a Canada-wide basis, and the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs has played a lead role in Ontario’s participation throughout.
During the debate of this ministry’s estimates last November, a full account was given of constitutional developments to that date, including the results of the conference of first ministers which had taken place a week earlier on October 30 and November 1, 1978. At the conclusion of that meeting, the first ministers decided to meet again in February 1979 to continue discussions on selected issues relating to the constitution.
In the interim, a great deal of preparatory work was carried out by the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution which is composed mainly of federal and provincial Ministers of Intergovernmental Affairs, Ministers of Justice, and Attorneys General. Specifically, this committee met three times in preparation for the February first ministers’ conference -- first at Mont-Ste.-Marie, Quebec, in late November, then in Toronto in mid-December 1978, and finally in Vancouver in mid-January 1979. Each of these was a very full three-day session, and the combined efforts proved to be quite effective as a means of preparing for the first ministers’ deliberations.
The continuing committee acted as a focus for the presentation of individual governments’ positions on a list of 14 issues and as a means to narrow differences substantially. Because of its political composition, the committee was able to move things quickly and flexibly and its report to the first ministers greatly facilitated their discussions by concentrating chiefly on those matters which remained unresolved.
The discussions at the February conference of first ministers were well publicized at the time but I would like to comment briefly on a few aspects at this time. First, some progress was made with regard to the entrenchment of individual rights in the constitution. All governments with the exception of Manitoba agreed in principle that some rights should be entrenched in the constitution. The differences arose over which rights and how extensive should be the rights to be included in the constitution.
On the matter of language rights, substantial differences still exist with regard to their entrenchment in provincial areas of jurisdiction. Agreement was reached on two specific issues: family law and the monarchy. The first ministers also agreed not to consider, for the time being, the extension to the provinces of the power to tax indirectly, except in so far as it relates to natural resources.
Time did not permit sufficient discussion on two items: the declaratory power and delegation. However, preliminary work by the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution had shown that there would not be major difficulties in reaching agreement on these two subjects.
Discussions concerning natural resources were of particular concern to all provinces, and perhaps especially to the western provinces. A majority of provinces and the federal government agreed on the basic principles of provincial ownership of resources and the need for some limit on the federal government’s power over trade and commerce to ensure that provincial control is not completely undercut. The important differences that remain focus on the degree to which federal authority should be limited.
In the end, some workable compromise will have to be achieved with regard to natural resources. We cannot afford to have in our federalism a system where either provincial resource control is rendered meaningless by federal actions or where the great priority of energy self-sufficiency can be stymied by the policies of one or more resource-blessed provinces.
On several items, including cable television, equalization and regional development, a high degree of consensus was reached as to the kind of changes to be made. It is my opinion that the differences that still exist between governments on these subjects are primarily of a technical nature, rather than matters of principle, and could well be resolved by further discussion.
On the remaining subjects, there are still some major differences to be resolved. These include the Supreme Court, the Upper House, fisheries, offshore resources, the spending power, patriation, the amending formula and communications, other than cable television. Some very intensive discussions will be required to achieve consensus on these items.
At the February conference, Premier Davis proposed that all governments agree to the immediate patriation of the British North America Act. We hoped that agreement on an amending formula could also be reached and included in the patriation process, but if it could not, we urged that Parliament proceed simply to patriate the constitution immediately in its present form.
Simple patriation, as we envisage it, would remove the last symbolic vestige of Canada’s colonial status, would encompass the present custom and practice for making constitutional amendments and, most significantly, would clearly indicate to all Canadians the determination and commitment of their governments to the process of constitutional change.
As a first-hand observer and participant at the conference and the meetings which led to it, I do believe that these meetings, and the first ministers’ conference particularly, must be regarded as a success. I say so because in a process such as this it is often the intangible elements such as the will of governments to resolve the issues and the degree of participation in the process by which success in the longer term can be measured.
In the past three months, since the February conference of first ministers, there has emerged in Canada, I believe, a new set of circumstances, a new environment, a new sense of reality and urgency, which may profoundly affect the nature and perhaps the substance of forthcoming constitutional discussions.
One key element of course is the fact the Canadians have elected a new federal government which will see Joe Clark become Prime Minister this Monday and a fresh team of Canadians working with him. The second key element is the fact that the Quebec referendum is now in all likelihood just over the horizon.
Taken together, I believe these two events add up to an emerging scenario in which the events that unfold will impact very greatly upon the future shape and character of this country. It seems to me that from here on in any Canadians who have thus far looked upon constitutional discussions as somewhat of an abstract exercise would be well advised, if they have any feelings for holding Canada together, to recognize that we are now on the threshold of a significant and probably historic period in our history. There is nothing abstract about the dilemmas and challenges which now face us on the national stage.
Today, with the new federal government yet officially to take office, I do not want to speculate on the specifics of constitutional discussions which will hopefully resume soon, except to say that constitutional reform, the renewing of our Constitution, is of the utmost importance at this time in our history.
As our Advisory Committee on Confederation said in its first report entitled An Approach to a New Constitution, and I am quoting from the report: “There are no perfect solutions in a revised federal system, any more than in any other creation of man. However, we believe that we can secure changes which will give Canadians a sense of well-being, and a feeling that their constitution is tailored to the reality of Canada’s future.”
The Task Force on Canadian Unity put it very well, too, in its report entitled A Future Together. In that report they said this: “We share the widespread public view that among the requirements for Canadian unity is a fundamental revision of the Canadian constitutional and political structure. Many English-speaking Canadians, particularly in the west and the Atlantic provinces, are critical of the way our political system has been working. The vast majority of Quebecois want, at the very least, basic reforms.
“Although the British North America Act has served Canada well for 111 years in a variety of changing circumstances unforeseen by the Fathers of Confederation, and although there have been numerous piecemeal adjustments over the years, there is a growing gap between the structure created in 1867 and the social, economic and political realities of the vastly different Canada of 1979. “We believe, therefore, that there should be a new Canadian constitution to meet the aspirations and future needs of all the people of Canada.” That, as I said, is from the Task Force on Canadian Unity.
Ontario is ready and anxious to participate fully in this process with one major goal in mind: that of strengthening our federal system and reinforcing the links between Canadians in order to keep Canada united. Our general principles in this respect were well summarized in the speech from the throne in early March, and they are worth repeating here again, and these are our general principles:
“First the preservation of the unity of Canada wherein our bilingual and multicultural heritage can flourish; second, the continuation of strong government whereby the federal level has the power to pursue the national interest and the provincial level has the capacity to reflect the regional diversities that are Canada’s heritage; third, the strengthening of our economic union by ensuring a free flow of goods, services, people and capital across the country and through a firm commitment to a sharing of each other’s economic burdens and endowments; fourth, the preservation of the monarchy as the head of state for Canada; and fifth, a truly Canadian constitution achieved through the immediate patriation of the British North America Act, preferably with a flexible amending formula.”
These basic principles and objectives constitute, I believe, a sound framework to guide the process of renewal of our constitution. I believe that they reflect our traditions, history and past commitments, they are shared by the vast majority of Ontarians and Canadians in other provinces, and they provide sufficient flexibility to make the necessary changes to re-establish harmony in Canadian society.
Ontario’s approach to the renewal of the constitution is therefore aimed at contributing positively to the process of constitutional discussions through a stance of leadership, moderation and conciliation.
In my opinion, it is time to again take up the process we began last fall. The new federal government and all 10 provinces should now get down to the hard and serious work of constitutional reform without waiting for the Quebec referendum to take place. In other words, we disagree most strenuously with the Quebec position that there should be a complete moratorium on constitutional discussions until their referendum has taken place.
We believe it is extremely important that we get down to business right away and continue the process that began last fall on constitutional reform, and we don’t think we should be diverted from this task at this time.
As we proceed, we are fortunate that we will have, I think, in addition to the work we have already done in the previous intergovernmental conferences I have talked about, a number of very valuable tools to aid us in finding accommodations and solutions that will be required. There are, for example, the first two reports of our Advisory Committee on Confederation, headed by Ian Macdonald, the president of York University. These reports will be very helpful. Also, I am particularly impressed by the main report of the Task Force on Canadian Unity, whose analysis of the Canadian situation and recommendations for a renewed federalism will be useful in all future discussions.
It seems sure the Parti Quebecois will soon be indicating more definitely the timing of its promised referendum. It has indicated it will perhaps indicate that during this month of June. While there has been a great deal of speculation about the possible nature and substance of the referendum question or questions, only time will tell how the Parti Quebecois ultimately decides to solicit the views of the people of the province of Quebec and what kind of mandate it will seek.
Only time will tell, for example, whether the referendum is totally specific in asking the people of Quebec for their views on full withdrawal from Canada; or whether, as another example, the referendum is designed in such a way as to attempt to solicit a more general mandate in support of negotiations for additional special arrangements for Quebec in the short term; or whether, as yet another example, the referendum will ask specifically for a mandate to negotiate sovereignty association with the rest of Canada.
On the matter of sovereignty association, Ontario’s position is quite clear: we will not negotiate sovereignty association. In fact, Ontario cannot negotiate sovereignty association with another province because Ontario is part of a national reality: a federal state called Canada. Besides, sovereignty associations is a concept whereby Mr. Levesque and his colleagues obviously want to have their cake and eat it too.
Certainly Ontario will not go along -- nor, I think, will the rest of Canada -- with Mr. Levesque’s rather naive assumption that he can bargain with us in order to have all the advantages of a wider economic association, and at the same time have almost complete political autonomy. The Parti Quebecois is trying to make the case that there should be two equal entities, Quebec and Canada. That view may make some sense in Quebec’s terms but it flies in the face of reality in the rest of this country and it totally ignores the fact that there is virtually no support for the concept in any other province.
Frankly, we believe that Mr. Levesque is misleading Canadians and especially deluding the people of Quebec when he talks of a bright and prosperous future for Quebec and Canada under sovereignty association and when he says the impact of sovereignty association will be quite minimal.
In effect he is saying Quebec can and should retain its present advantages as a member of the Canadian federation, but do without the obligations and responsibilities of membership in that federation. I do not think this is the kind of one-sided relationship which fair-minded Quebeckers even would like to see established between their province and the rest of Canada.
Having said this, I find I must return again to the area of constitutional reform. It is our view we in Ontario must indicate to the people of Quebec, in every way possible, that we remain prepared to embark, with our fellow provinces and the federal government, upon any set of negotiations that is directed towards redefining and retuning Confederation so that this country may better respond to the pressures and realities of the 1980s. This has always been Ontario’s position, but I believe we must be prepared to restate it and restate it effectively, consistently and loudly over the next few weeks and months.
It would be a serious distortion if the people of Quebec -- or the news media in Quebec -- took our very firm position on sovereignty association to mean we are unprepared to engage in broad negotiations within a national context which sought to correct injustices, broaden and make more representative our national institutions, and respond to the specific cultural issues which are critical to the survival of the French-Canadian people and essential to the preservation of Canada.
In the months ahead, there may be opportunities to bring these kinds of thoughts to the increasing attention of the people of Quebec. If there are ways in which the Premier of Ontario, or myself, or other members of this Legislature, all members of this Legislature, can contribute to the debate, realistically and meaningfully, I believe most strongly that we should do so.
In summing up, the essence of our position is to find the best ways of letting Quebeckers know that we value and cherish their continued participation within the Canadian Confederation; that the very idea of sovereignty association cannot be achieved; that we are striving to achieve a fuller understanding of their linguistic and cultural concerns; that we are open to considerable change in our current constitutional arrangements to better reflect Canada’s contemporary needs and conditions, provided such change is workable and realistic; and that we believe that the best hope for a strong Quebec in the future lies within confederation, in the Canadian Confederation, not isolated outside it.
Let me close by saying I am heartened when I read words such as those written by Claude Ryan in his booklet, Our Best Choice: Quebec and Canada. He begins in the introduction by saying: “It has not always been easy for Quebeckers and for francophones to live in Canada. Canada has, nevertheless, been one of the greatest political and economic successes of the past century. As we prepare to decide whether or not to continue our participation in this country, it is essential to draw up an honest statement of the benefits that it has brought to us and still brings to us.
Mr. Ryan finishes his booklet with a ringing conclusion that I believe leaves no doubt that there are many people in Quebec who think and feel just as we do in Ontario and in this Legislature. That, I think is expressed most eloquently in these closing words of Mr. Ryan’s booklet:
“There is no authentic or demonstrated flaw in Canadian federalism that cannot be discussed, criticized and reviewed publicly, or that one cannot undertake to correct by the method of democratic negotiation. Even the slowness for which the Canadian system has been reproached in this respect, is, from another standpoint, a protection against the dangers of improvisation.
“It is much wiser, therefore, to try to improve Canadian federalism than to destroy it on the pretext of seeking later to rebuild a diminished version of it. The Canadian federal choice is the path of sturdiness and continuity. It is also the choice that answers the call for a broader and more generous solidarity.”
As I say, these words of Claude Ryan I think show us that many in Quebec feel as we do in Ontario. I think they give us cause to believe the next few months are going to be exciting for all of us, but they also give us cause to believe in the ultimate end the unity of Canada will be preserved.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate very much the fairly detailed statement the minister has made. I’m sure other members of the Legislature would appreciate receiving a copy of it, particularly that section of the statement which deals with the interprovincial and federal-provincial relations.
I must say from the outset I am sorry my colleague from Ottawa East (Mr. Roy) is not here today to join me in this opening statement, since he deals with the federal-provincial aspect of the intergovernmental affairs relationship. However, he will be here next week and be able to get into that in more detail. I also want to say that my colleague the member for Haldimand-Norfolk (Mr. G. I. Miller) will be participating in these estimates, as will other members of my party.
I believe at a time when we are considering the estimates, we are afforded an opportunity to discuss a variety of items which fall under the purview of Intergovernmental Affairs. These include items such as conditional grants to municipalities, deconditionalization of grants, disaster relief, property tax reform, equalization of assessment, local autonomy, provincial authority over municipal governments and responsibilities to municipal government.
The responsibilities which municipalities hold are in the areas of fire, police, planning, property taxation, the business tax, recreation, welfare, health, education, personnel, transportation and communications and many more. The list is almost endless, when we consider the responsibility that municipalities have and the impact the province exerts on both the formulation of these policies and their implementation. What I’m really saying is that it is so vital for the effective delivery of these services that a good understanding must both develop and permeate any discussions held between the two levels of government.
The problem, as I see it, is that the government has had the support of the people of Ontario and the municipalities for so long that it is taking both for granted. By taking this support from municipalities for granted, it is injecting in its action a serious element of cynicism into the picture.
Take, for example, property tax reform. For over 10 years, this matter was studied by special committees that travelled from city to city, town to town, village to village, from city to town, from village to city and all over the province. It was studied by special committees made up of elected aldermen, mayors and trustees. It was studied by government committees. It was studied by appointed municipal and educational people as well as provincial personnel. It was studied by knowledgeable and not-so-knowledgeable people.
The government received draft reports and final reports. A majority report and many minority reports were received. The public was told that property tax reform was just around the corner. In the final analysis, property tax reform was shelved for an indefinite period for a variety of reasons. One was Proposition 13 in California which, the day before the announcement of the shelving this particular tax reform, passed overwhelmingly in that state.
There was the political impact. The province admitted and was told on numerous occasions that there would be a lot of losers and winners. It felt there were going to be more losers than winners and, therefore, politically it was not a good thing to implement.
The third aspect was that it was going to cost about $300 million to $400 million in order to implement, when the government was already experiencing a deficit of $1.5 billion annually -- and all this after the spending of millions of dollars for upgrading much of the data for assessment purposes.
The indicated costs of $3 million to $5 million is a conservative figure. Is it any wonder that people become cynical when they witness such manoeuvres, at their, the public’s, expense? To add insult to injury, we now see that the government employs section 86 of the Assessment Act to equalize assessment within classes of property owners. That is a step I agree with but it is one that could easily have been used all along to prevent many of the inequalities to grow to ridiculous proportions.
This cancerous growth is seen in many areas of the province. There is no better example than one in Cambridge, Ontario. It is more difficult now to apply the remedy than it would have been 10 years ago. Let’s look at another area. Let’s look at regional government, where a number of studies were carried on. We had the Archer report in Niagara, the Mayo report in Ottawa-Carleton, the Robarts report in Toronto and the Stewart report in Hamilton. Now we have the Palmer report in Waterloo. They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop. They all, supposedly, were well researched and rehearsed. They all gave numerous recommendations with different degrees of validity or justification for implementation. What has happened to them? Are they gathering dust or is peat moss settling on them? Will the government act?
We cannot suggest that they are not being implemented because of a minority government, simply because none of the proposals have come before the House to have an airing here and, therefore, the opposition parties have not had a true opportunity to react to them. What will happen to them? Will the government in the next few months bring in some recommendations to this House so that we can deal with them properly? I doubt it.
Let’s look at the transfer payment aspect. The minister has referred to this in a statement, and I appreciate the lengthy statement he made. Transfer payments add to the cynicism that the people of Ontario hold with respect to much that has gone on in the provincial sector. First of all, the Edmonton commitment -- and I’m not going to delve into it very deeply -- was made and then the province reneged on it.
The municipalities felt the amount that was committed was going to be a maximum. The province then came back and said it was a minimum. Then the province injected some other payments into the formula which, in effect, had the effect of decreasing the total number of dollars that went to municipalities. Then earlier this year the province indicated that it would transfer payments to municipalities which would be commensurate with provincial expenditures. The municipalities thought that this would be about six per cent, but the province came back and said it was going to be five per cent, resulting in a loss of about $180 million.
It seems to me that with all of the negotiations that go on between the provinces and the municipalities surely to goodness these major discrepancies, or these major misunderstandings shouldn’t develop. I would hope that the present Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs will go out of his way in trying to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings in the future if that’s what they are.
Let’s look at another thing. The Comay report, which is a planning matter but obviously concerns municipalities, was published a couple of years ago. Yesterday we had the benefit of the Minister of Housing’s announcing a white paper on the Planning Act. In the next number of months, there will be a lot of discussion on this particular issue, but are we to believe that viable alternatives will come out of this discussion? Or will the government then sit on these various reports that have been submitted and will be submitted by local municipalities, regional municipalities and private concerns across the province in order to justify the kind of expenditures that go into these kinds of discussions?
Another aspect which the government, and the minister particularly, has referred to is that of the deconditionalization of grants. About two volumes came out on this a couple of years ago, which I had the opportunity of going through. I find that a fantastic amount of time was spent in compiling that kind of information. The question now remains whether a serious look will be taken at the deconditionalization of grants. The municipalities have asked for it. Almost annually the Association of Municipalities of Ontario passes a resolution asking for greater deconditionalization of grants but with very little success.
In fact, a few years ago, the deconditionalization of grants was greater than it is currently. We now have the minister indicating that there will be some simplification of grants. I wonder very much what that means. I’m not sure whether that means that the various forms that the municipalities fill out will be simpler or whether they will be able to get those grants more readily or whether there is going to be a tightening up of grants. Whether it will be simpler for the government to say no to the various grants that the municipalities have received before and that they are expecting and the qualifications will be more stringent. I’m not sure. Nevertheless, I look forward to having some kind of clarification of this simplification of deconditionalization of grants.
Very properly, the municipalities deserve more than they are getting from the standpoint of deconditional grants. The minister himself is not totally to blame for this. He has been in the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs only for about nine or 10 months, as he indicated earlier, and I think he is trying to do a commendable job in relating to the municipalities of Ontario. He does, however, have to share some responsibility for the policies that have gone on in the last 10 years or so, simply because, first of all, he has been a member of the cabinet that obviously approved the various policies that were espoused and that were applied to municipalities.
I now want to turn my attention to another item the minister alluded to. That has to do with the urban-rural problem that has existed in the province almost since the Baldwin Act of 1849 and certainly since Confederation, and, more importantly, since the turn of the century when the urban areas began to grow with greater rapidity than they had in former years.
There is ample evidence that current procedures dealing with the annexation of land by growing urban municipalities are not adequate. In fact, they often lead to continued ill-feeling and the expenditure of large sums of money. The fact that approximately $3 million has been spent by Barrie and Innisfil township for legal and other services to adequately present their side of the annexation picture is a prime example of how outworn the present policy of the adversary process is and how the people’s money is being wasted for high-priced professional assistance. The only people benefitting from such a procedure are the lawyers and the planning and engineering consultants. It’s a sad commentary on the present process and on the government.
Two other areas which obviously are going to encounter the same kind of problems are Brant township and the city of Brantford, and the city of Sarnia and Sarnia township. Both of them have discussed their problems with the ministry on a number of occasions.
The question we must ask ourselves is: Is there a better alternative? I believe there is. At a recent meeting of the Association of Counties and Regions of Ontario and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, Mayor Andy Brandt of Sarnia presented an alternative which deserves serious study. As the minister knows, regionalization is not a visible alternative. Mayor Brandt and his municipal colleagues recognize that fact. I basically concur with their analysis and their conclusions.
I think it’s important that one recommendation be on the record, because I think it goes a long way towards resolving the various problems now encountered by sprawling urban municipalities, with their need for more land on which to build industry, residential projects and commercial projects, whatever they may be. The municipal representatives at that conference, which I attended put forth a proposal which suggested, first of all:
“Notice should be served to the boundary owners and that there should be a one-month time limit here. Notice would be served by the annexing municipality to the province and the municipality or municipalities from which the annexation is requested, indicating the proposed boundary adjustments and the reasons for such adjustment, and requesting a meeting within one month.
“The second stage would be negotiations for about 12 months. These would be undertaken at the local level between the municipalities involved, in the presence of a provincial ministry official. The suggested parameters for negotiation will be established by the province.
“The third stage is conciliation which could take about three months. If negotiations are unsuccessful at any time within the 12-month time limitation, then a fact finder or conciliator appointed by the province would meet with the parties in an attempt to negotiate a settlement of the problems within a three-month period.
“Following that there would be arbitration if necessary. If the negotiations were unsuccessful during the conciliation period, the matter would proceed to arbitration. The urban municipalities prefer a separate tribunal, possibly within the framework of the Ontario Municipal Board, but with particular expertise in the area of local government restructuring.
“The tribunal would be aided by a staff. The staff would be responsible for receiving input from potentially affected parties and also for the gathering of information beyond that submitted. It is suggested that written submissions be made by the municipalities involved, stating and supporting their requests that boundaries be adjusted or remain static. Such submissions should be as comprehensive as possible.
“The tribunal would have authority to contact the municipalities involved to clarify issues or request additional input, but the present confrontation process should be abandoned. After analysing the information received and/or separately collected, the staff would make a recommendation to the tribunal, which would make a final and binding decision.”
The next stage would be that, if there was disagreement with that decision and someone wanted to appeal, there would be four months in which to do so.
“The final authority must rest with the government, and any appeal should be to the cabinet. The suggested time limit for lodging an appeal is one month, and it is respectfully suggested that three months be allowed for a determination of the appeal by cabinet.
“The entire process as outlined, from serving notice to appeal, is shown as a maximum of 22 months, a reasonable length of time to resolve boundary questions. However, in any changeover period, special consideration should be given to any municipality that has already been involved in boundary negotiations.
“It is suggested that a comprehensive report be prepared by the ministry official at the negotiation stage and by the conciliator at the conciliation stage in order that their observations will be available for the decision-making process.”
They go on to say: “It is the opinion of the urban municipalities that within the context of this position paper we have addressed the questions raised by the Honourable Tom Wells in his speech to ACRO in Sudbury on October 17 of the past year” -- 1978.
“The urban municipalities represented in this position paper fully appreciate the difficulties and sensitive nature of the questions we are attempting to address. In a spirit of understanding and goodwill, it is our hope that the government of Ontario will recognize the inadequacy of the present procedure and will see fit to make the necessary changes and adjustments to bring about a badly needed and overdue improvement in the present process before the Ontario Municipal Board.”
‘The minister is following the right procedure in asking ACRO, ROMA, AMO, through the Provincial-Municipal Liaison Committee, to come up with some solutions to the present dilemma. I do not think the various municipalities across the province which have these annexation problems should be asked to spend millions of dollars in the future to resolve something before the Ontario Municipal Board.
I think a better solution is around the corner, and the municipalities should be commended for their leadership in trying to resolve this problem. I commend the minister for giving them the opportunity to try to resolve this in co-operation with ministry personnel and the elected representatives in that ministry.
I want to touch briefly on the constitutional aspect referred to in the minister’s opening statement. All of us appreciate that constitutional reform is needed. I personally appreciate the fact that the minister wants to proceed post-haste in trying to get some constitutional reform, irrespective of what Claude Morin said the other day in asking for a moratorium on this matter.
I am wondering, however, what the government of Ontario will do if the government of Quebec says it will boycott the meeting if any discussions are held prior to the referendum being conducted in Quebec.
One of the problems with the sovereignty-association suggestion that the province of Quebec has made is that no one really knows what sovereignty association means. I suppose this is one of the cards Mr. Levesque has up his sleeve in that he hasn’t really defined what sovereignty association will mean to the people of Quebec and to the people of Canada. He has indicated that yes, they would like to have some liaison with the rest of the provinces and with the federal government, but he prefers to be very ambiguous on the whole matter. I would hope that for the benefit of all Canadians he will come forward and make a more definitive statement on the matter before too long.
I think at this point I will bring my remarks to a close, knowing my colleague for Ottawa East will want to speak to the second part of this, the federal-provincial aspect, next week, and knowing also that as we go through the estimates there will be other questions we will want to address ourselves to.
Mr. Swart: I am happy to rise to give a leadoff statement for our party on the estimates of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. I immediately want to acknowledge the co-operation which the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has extended to me and to my colleague the member for Wentworth (Mr. Isaacs), in my case, since he assumed the ministry. Also I want to congratulate his parliamentary assistant, the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Rotenberg), for being selected for that position, and although he is not in the House, to thank him for his cooperation. I also want to concur with the comments of the minister with regard to the quality of the staff in his ministry, serving him and serving the municipalities in this province. I have known quite a number of them for many years and share his respect for them. May I particularly mention his deputy minister, Mr. Don Stevenson.
I want to say, too, at this time that this is probably the last time I will be dealing largely with municipal affairs in these estimates, or for that matter in the House. My colleague from Wentworth who has, I suggest, already made a masterful contribution to this House and gained the respect of this House, as members here know is taking over that aspect of intergovernmental affairs and will be phasing that into his hands rather rapidly from now on.
In speaking in this debate today, I want to say that I am doing so as an individual and as a member of a party which is angry about what’s taking place in this province under the control and direction of the Tory government. It’s a direction for which the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has very serious responsibility.
We’re angry because what the government is doing is contrary to the principles in which we, in this party, believe. The government has produced a very high level of unemployment in this province, where we have 300,000 unemployed. To a very substantial degree it has restricted the opportunity for young people in our province, not only to obtain jobs but even to go to university and higher levels of education because of cutbacks, perhaps more so because they see no future anyway in taking that route. They do not have the opportunity to learn trades as they should have in this province. There is, generally, a restriction of opportunity for young married couples to be able to purchase their own homes.
Generally speaking, in terms of the situation as it is broadly across this province, the opportunities that traditionally existed here, for the young people particularly and for many others, no longer exist to the same degree that they did.
We are angry because the standard of living has been lowered in the last year. We are well aware of the fact that average wages increased by something like seven per cent in 1978, while the cost of living went up by nine or 10 per cent. We are concerned about the decrease in social security, whether it’s in the health field -- yes, I see members over there shaking their heads; I am going to come to the responsibility of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs in this and to what I propose will be remedial measures in that field. We are concerned about the decrease in social security, whether it’s in the health field or whether it is in lowered income for those on fixed incomes. There is a generally lower degree of social security than there has been.
We are very much concerned about the greater degree of inequality that exists in this province at this time than existed 10 years ago or even 20 years ago. Relatively, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. I pointed out in this House a month or so ago that this government in the last three years -- and incidentally this all started back about 1975 -- I pointed out that the minimum wage had been increased by something like only 13 per cent, although average wages had gone up by something like 27 per cent. A family of four in this province now which happens to be on general welfare assistance has had an increase during those three years of something like 16 per cent; a single person an increase of about 14 per cent; family benefits generally have increased about 15 per cent -- even though profits have gone up in those three years by 41 per cent.
Mr. Gregory: What has that got to do with Intergovernmental Affairs estimates? When are you going to get on the point?
Mr. Swart: It has quite a bit to do with it. Mr. Chairman, I hear somebody on the other side of the House saying: “What has this got to do with municipal affairs?” It may have something to do with municipal affairs. The amount of money that is transferred to municipalities with regard to providing employment or with regard to providing social assistance to those in society has quite a bit to do with it.
I would point out, Mr. Chairman, as you well know, that we are discussing intergovernmental affairs, which is the relationship between this province and the federal government, where such things as conferences take place with regard to the state of the economy as well as with regard to the constitution, and therefore there is a very real relationship between these matters and the Intergovernmental Affairs estimates.
If the minister were to give the reason for this reduction in the standard of living, particularly for those on lower incomes, for the reduction in the social assistance, he would say it is simply because we cannot afford it. He would have to admit that this widening of the gap has taken place, and in fact the standard of living has fallen. I think he would say that it was because they could not afford it.
I want to say that if we organized our economy properly, there never has been a time when we could afford it better. Canada -- and even this province -- has the greatest amount of natural resources per capita of any nation or state in the world. We have the technology and the skills and the ability to acquire them. We have the largest percentage of our population in the work force, or who would like to be in the work force, that we have ever had. The latest statistics show that 49 per cent of the people over 15 in this province are in the work force -- although some of them may not be working -- compared with 45 per cent for Canada, and of course this is substantially up from what it was 10 years or so ago.
Mr. Riddell: Obviously they don’t all support the New Democratic Party.
Mr. Swart: But there’s a growing number who do, compared with those supporting the party on my right if we just look back to the recent federal election.
The additional number in the work force, in fact all these three conditions, should mean that more people would be producing leaving less to keep who are not producing, and therefore our standard of living should go up.
There are fewer children; we don’t need new capital expenditures for schools as we did back 10 or 20 years ago. I think the minister will recall -- I am not sure if he was Minister of Education; it was perhaps, back in the days of the Premier (Mr. Davis) -- when they were opening one school in Ontario every week. I believe that was about the maximum reached at one point. We don’t have those expenditures any more.
We have plenty of teachers, therefore, there really should be a higher quality of education; with lower numbers in the classroom we should be in a position to do more for our young people in the field of education. Instead, in fact, the quality of education is decreasing.
We don’t ever talk any more, it seems, about introducing such things as denticare. When the population is growing more slowly we have no capital expenditures for hospitals. We have lots of nurses and should be having a higher quality of health care; but in fact it is the reverse.
In our municipalities, too, we are having, as the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) mentioned, less expansion in our municipalities. There are no longer the costs there now for sewers, although many of them are paying debentures over a long period of time. There is not the capital to be found for sewers and water systems and new fire halls and all of those things; therefore we should be able to have a higher quality of life within our municipalities, which should be able to provide that for their citizens.
In 1976 this government embarked on a negative, economically-restrictive program which the government said was necessary because of the economy; but really, those programs and similar ones by the federal government are the cause of our worsening economy, not the result of it. The special program review, the Henderson report, was really the wrong medicine. It was similar to cutting the diet of a person suffering from malnutrition. The alternative that was needed was an economic strategy for Ontario where we would consciously plan to fully utilize our work force; where we would process our natural resources, and replace imports with domestic production; where we would have a higher quality of the environment and increase the quality of life generally.
The Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs could have been one of the vehicles to accomplish this. There is a real opportunity for this province, because of its size if nothing else, to give leadership at the provincial-federal conference. The minister will be there; he has been there before and will be there again I am sure. He will be attending economic conferences as well as constitutional conferences; I urge him to reverse the kind of stand this government has taken at those conferences.
I have here a report from the February 14, 1978 Toronto Star, in which they talk about the stand which Ontario took; and of course we know that the Toronto Star is more and more becoming a very sensitive paper which recognizes qualities and those sorts of things. It says, “Jobs the Priority in Ottawa Summit” --
Mr. Gregory: They haven’t picked a winner in years.
Mr. Swart: -- and that is the point that I want to make here; jobs should be priority of the Ottawa conference when they take place.
The Star made these comments:
“Canada’s federal and provincial leaders should make sure they don’t leave Ottawa’s economic summit tomorrow without coming up with a program to cure the country’s unemployment crisis.
“In yesterday’s opening session there was some leadership on this vital issue from Saskatchewan Premier Allan Blakeney. He urged Ottawa and his fellow provinces to embark on a massive program of government investment to create jobs.
“The projects, as Blakeney made clear, make economic sense.” It goes on to say: “In the case of energy projects, delays will mean Canadians will have to find billions of dollars to import oil instead. Blakeney put it, ‘The choice is between jobs today, energy tomorrow, or no jobs today, no energy tomorrow.’
“The greatest barrier to bold new action to find jobs for the close to one million unemployed is that many of the provincial premiers, along with Prime Minister Trudeau, want to adopt do-nothing, conservative economic policies. Not only have they taken up the long-discredited notion that the only real jobs in society are private-industry jobs, they also claim incorrectly that more stimulus would lead to more inflation.
“Even Premier William Davis seems to have adopted a do-nothing attitude on jobs. His 10-point job program unveiled yesterday contained not a single proposal for increased Ontario action to create jobs.”
Mr. Haggerty: Mel, you’ve got a good speechwriter.
Mr. Swart: The minister should consider that admonition from this party, and consider a realistic job program and a realistic economic program to present to the federal government at the next conference, whereby we could get the economy moving again in this nation and in this province. But far from using Intergovernmental Affairs to improve economic and social conditions, it has in fact been used to bring about greater inequality. Even where the federal government had made fairly adequate transfer payments to the minister, he has somehow or other distorted it to the disadvantage of Ontario citizens.
I want to speak briefly about the transfers under the established programs’ financing which is predominantly -- almost entirely, the minister will agree -- for hospital insurance and medicare and for post-secondary education payments. The increases this year from the federal government to the province were 14 per cent, but the province only increased the transfer to Health by some 5.37 per cent and to Colleges and Universities by just over four per cent.
I would like to know where the rest of the money went, because at the same time the minister increased premiums. He must have kept that money. He has allowed doctors to opt out and bill their patients, and the average billing of their patients is something like 42 per cent over and above the OHIP rate. This once again has meant a real shift of the tax burden down to those on the lower incomes. It has meant a greater inequality -- and I am sure the minister agrees -- in our society.
These additional payments may not be any hardship to those who have the higher incomes -- as we do here in this Legislature -- but to the people who are making $10,000 a year, and there are a lot of them in this province, it is a real hardship to have to make those additional payments. The minister has used even the transfer payments from the federal government coming down to this province in the administration of those transfer payments, even though they are tied to two specific areas -- not legally of course but morally. He has used them elsewhere and has permitted greater inequality in the field of health and in the field of education.
On Ontario federal-provincial intergovernmental affairs I am really proposing two things to the minister. One is that I think he should use his office to develop, as the opportunities arise, and to make the opportunities to develop an economic strategy for this nation -- to make proposals for it in which of course Ontario would benefit. Second, the money the minister receives in transfer should be used to provide greater equality in our society, not less.
I was generally pleased with the comments made by the minister in his statement here today with regard to the constitution. I think I and my party, generally share the government’s view. Obviously, we want to see Canada stay together. Obviously we want to see a strong central government.
I am, however, a little concerned if the Ontario government is going to tie its pronouncements too closely to the words -- and the member for Waterloo North made comment on this too -- “sovereignty association.” We all know what separation is and we can all come out solidly against separation. When we talk about constitutional reform, we don’t know exactly what constitutional reform means. We are all prepared to make some reforms in our constitution but it is going to be difficult to get agreement. We are all prepared to make some constitutional reforms to keep Canada as a nation and perhaps even to improve the functioning of Canada as a nation.
I am just not too sure what sovereignty association means. I know what sovereignty means. I am not sure what association means. It sounds like two nations associated together. I don’t disagree with your interpretation of it, but my concern is the Premier of Quebec may well be using this terminology -- I know he is using this terminology -- to get votes in the coming referendum. I don’t know what that will mean. He may only use it in an attempt to get constitutional reform, and I am humbly suggesting to the minister to not tie too tightly into that terminology because it could trip us up and trip you up from doing something we wanted to do in the field of constitutional reform.
I want to switch to the intergovernment relationship between the provinces and local government. I want to say immediately that here again, the transfer system, as is the case with the transfer of money from the federal government to the province, has been used in recent times to bring about greater inequality and to shift burdens to those least able to pay. Mr. Minister, you are relatively new and I think this is really the first budget you have prepared yourself. Because municipalities and taxpayers have to look to you to re-establish fairness, I want to deal with the basics in municipal financing and your transfer system.
The government of this province, during the 1960s and the early 1970s, publicly acknowledged the regressivity of the property tax. Statement after statement said provincial transfers ought to be increased to limit that regressivity. To their credit, they did that. They lived up to their statement, but then, in 1976, the reversal started. The minister’s and government’s own figures show in the field of education, the share of elementary and secondary education costs attained by the province was something like 61.4 per cent. In 1977 it had dropped to 54.8 per cent. This year they are estimated at 51.5 per cent, representing a drop in the share the province is paying.
Of course, the other side of that coin is the municipalities are picking up, going up from 38.6 per cent to 48.5 per cent in just that short period of four years.
If we look at the total transfer picture for all levels of municipal government and education -- once again, figures from your ministry -- in 1975 the province was transferring something like 43.9 per cent of their expenditures and that dropped in 1977 to 41.5 per cent. Our estimate is that this year, two years later, it will be down to slightly less than 40 per cent. Perhaps the minister will agree that those are not unfair figures -- they are accurate -- and even that the estimate is not unfair.
That means there will be $300 million to $350 million more that local government has to get from the municipal taxpayer this year alone because the province has not kept paying the same percentage to the municipalities and the school boards as it was in 1975 or 1974 -- they are basically the same. They have to raise $300 million to $350 million, or seven per cent more, which averages out to about an additional $50 per household that they will be paying this year because that percentage was not kept up.
The average tax increases -- once again, using the ministry’s own figures -- are approximately 40 per cent in the three years. I would point out, in fairness, that that is down from what it was when I dealt with this issue last year. When we dealt with 1974 to 1979, it was something like 74 per cent. It is down now to something like 40 per cent. There are other things the minister can add in or take out, such as the average increase in residential assessment. He can use a mill rate or he can add that in, and he makes adjustments each year on the amount he uses each year for the resource equalization factor. The increase is now in the neighbourhood of 40 per cent, or perhaps a little bit more, in the last three years.
Once again, I point out that average wages and salaries in those three years went up 27 per cent. But property taxes went up something like 40 per cent. That means the property tax payer is losing out.
There is a real regressivity there, and I think the minister would agree -- using comments made by the ministers over the years when they were implementing the property tax credit -- that the municipal property tax is regressive. When we turn back and put more of it back on the property owner, we are increasing the regressivity. I think that follows, as night follows day.
In those years when the government recognized regressivity as something that was undesirable -- it did recognize that at one time and increased transfers -- it did something else as well. The government introduced the property tax credit, which I mentioned a moment ago, as the second method of eliminating the regressivity.
The first method was to cut property taxes as a share of municipal expenditure, and the second was to implement the property tax credit. At the time that was introduced, back in 1972, the then Minister of Treasury and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Honourable Darcy McKeough, said: “Our property tax credit plan has one primary objective: to produce a fairer and more progressive distribution of the property tax burden borne by individuals and families in Ontario. Ontario’s tax credit will deliver substantially greater tax relief to low-income families and individuals and to pensioners and farmers.” That was a clear recognition of its purpose.
When it was increased two years later, the same kinds of statements were made by Mr. White, who was then the minister, that it was necessary to increase that property tax credit to give fairness and to reduce the regressivity of the property tax.
But now the minister has reversed that. Not only has he reversed the percentage of municipal and school board expenditures that are being levied at the local level, but he has also reversed the property tax credit so that it pays a lesser and lesser share of the property tax.
You can check out these figures, which I hope you will. If I am wrong, I will stand corrected. Although property taxes have increased by 40 per cent in the last three years, the property tax credit has increased by nine per cent. Property tax is up 40 per cent; the tax credit is up nine per cent. This means that those in the lower-income group not only have this 40 per cent increase, but because they’re getting less property tax credit and they’re getting a substantial portion of their taxes paid before, are now finding that their percentage increase is substantially higher than the others.
May I again give you some figures which you may want to check out? I hope you will because I think it’s pretty fundamental to the transfer system. Where there is an income in the home of $5,000 -- and there aren’t too many cases, although there are quite a lot of single people who are living on fixed incomes or public assistance of some kind who still aren’t getting more than $5,000, for example, a woman with two children, of whom are a great many of them -- the net tax increase in those three years in those cases would be 70 per cent.
If they’re making $7,500, then the net tax increase would be 55 per cent. If their income is $10,000, the net tax increase would be about 43 per cent over those years.
If we take this a little bit further, if those people with those incomes are senior citizens over 65 years of age and get the additional tax credit of $110 or $100, they get an additional tax credit, which also hasn’t been changed over the years. The person on a $5,000 income would have had an increase of 130 per cent in those three years; the person on a $7,500 income would have a 90 per cent increase in net taxes and a person on a $10,000 income would have about 65 per cent.
There is a real need. I would beg the minister, if it would do any good, to make a strong recommendation that there be a substantial adjustment in the property tax credit so that those on lower incomes aren’t getting a greater percentage increase in their property taxes than those on higher incomes. I think that is just justice. I would also ask that you give some consideration, recognizing the complexities, of applying the property tax credit at the time of payment of the tax bill.
I would point out that there may be some hazard in not giving consideration to these inequities and injustices which are building up year by year. I came across a clipping the other day from the Toronto Star, of late February 1978 under the heading “Property Tax Time Bomb.” It says: “Will Treasurer McKeough escape unscathed?”
I don’t need to give the answer to that. He is no longer here. This may only be one of the reasons, but it’s undoubtedly one of the reasons he is no longer around because he didn’t give sufficient concern to the increase in property taxes which are taking place across this province.
Apart from the inequality, I want to say, that government policy from the years gone by has also created unnecessary costs in many areas of this province. I’m referring specifically to regional governments, in which 60 per cent of the population reside.
You are probably aware, or you may not he, that the party and I did a study comparing the increase in the property taxes in those municipalities within the regions across this province with those which are not in the regions and which have only one level of government. It showed at that time -- it was done a couple of years ago -- that the average expenditure per household was substantially higher in those municipalities within the regions compared to a similar municipality with a similar growth rate outside of the regions. At that time, we included capital costs.
Mr. Haggerty: We’re listening to the expert, the godfather of regional government in Niagara.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Yes.
Mr. Swart: I would think the member for Erie has never taken up the offer I made to him to read the brief which I presented to the commission which was sitting in the Niagara region at that time.
Mr. Haggerty: I’ve heard it all --
Mr. Swart: I’ll supply him with a copy of it and then he won’t make those incorrect interjections.
Mr Haggerty: You’re backtracking now.
Mr. Swart: In bringing this study up to date, in comparing major cities within regional government to those outside regional government, we left out the capital expenditures. That’s not entirely accurate, perhaps, to leave them out, because they would have shown even a greater difference. The regional municipalities, for some legitimate reasons, have had greater capital expenditures than those outside the regions because, in many instances, there has been greater growth within the regions. I’m the first one to admit that.
I also know from experience that in some regions at least there has been over expenditure on capital projects, on servicing projects. You should have read the St. Catharines Standard a number of months ago, where the chief financial officer for the region made a pretty strong statement about that. In fact, he was backed up by the finance committee, as the member for Erie will well remember. He was backed up by the finance committee saying they had overspent and had spent money which really wasn’t needed for rather massive service extensions.
In the comparison we did, we compared Hamilton with London, Sudbury with Thunder Bay, Cambridge with Brantford, Niagara Falls with Kingston, Welland with Peterborough, Waterloo with Sarnia, Stoney Creek with Belleville, Port Colborne with St. Thomas, Grimsby with Owen Sound and Thorold with Trenton. We picked municipalities that were approximately of the same size.
It showed that the expenditure per household, less capital, on those 10 municipalities -- yes, there are 10 municipalities inside regional government -- was $1,239, and the average of those outside was $1,053, a fairly substantial difference. I reiterate, that was without the capital expenditures. For instance, the expenditures for Hamilton were $1,396, compared to London at $1,027. As many people are aware, London is now growing at a much more rapid rate than the city of Hamilton. Sudbury and Thunder Bay were approximately the same: $1,525 and $1,563 respectively. Cambridge was $1,203, compared to Brantford at $1,088.
I won’t take time to read all of these, but I would like to send them across to the minister so that he can take a look at them and perhaps have his staff do some further examinations.
The Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, or the then Ministry of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs, did a substantial study on its own a couple of years ago with regard to the expenditure per capita with those municipalities inside regional government and Metro Toronto and those outside of any form of regional government. It shows the same sort of pattern. Perhaps the minister would like to update that study. At the time that was done many of those regions had only been formed for one year, two years, three years. I think it would be very valuable to the minister and to us as the opposition, to have those kinds of statistics and I would invite you to follow up on that.
I admit I am not sure what the ideal answer is to the structure of local government, but there should be an on-going critical review of the regional governments and consideration being given to making changes. I know there have been studies of a number of the regional governments throughout his province -- Niagara or Kitchener-Waterloo or Hamilton-Wentworth -- but I have also been close enough to the studies to know they really didn’t deal in fundamental matters; they dealt with a particular region.
I think perhaps study is needed on the principle of regional government, because there is no doubt in my mind there is duplication between the local and the regional levels. The regions may operate more efficiently, but the more government you get the greater the cost and the less accountability. I think we have to take a look at that.
In a few moments I will be moving adjournment of the debate. I do have about 15 minutes left, but I want to deal with the issue raised, perhaps somewhat obliquely, in the minister’s statement regarding some form of guarantee to municipalities relative to the amount of transfer payments they get from year to year.
I invite the minister as cordially as I can to consider introducing some legislated revenue sharing in this province. The minister knows they have done this in British Columbia and they have done it in Saskatchewan. The municipalities and the municipal associations in those provinces are delighted with what is taking place and I say we should emulate it in this province.
I have copies of the two bills here with me, Mr. Minister, as I am sure you do. Even the explanatory notes ought to be almost enough to sell it to you. This is the BC bill:
The purpose of this bill is to provide the municipalities and regional districts with a defined proportion of shareable revenue of the province. This is expressed as a formula for assigning the annual yield of one individual income tax point, one corporation income tax point, six per cent of the renewable resources, non-renewable resources and sales tax revenues to municipal and regional district grants.
“The bill provides for identifying the sources, calculating the amount and determining the distribution of grants under the revenue-sharing program.”
Then it goes on to give more details.
Hon. Mr. Wells: They still don’t give as much as we do.
Mr. Swart: I would point out, Mr. Chairman, that the net municipal taxes in this province are among the highest, if not the highest in Canada.
When the need isn’t as great there may not be as much given, but proportionately throughout the rest of this nation the municipalities vis-à-vis Ontario are giving substantially more. Saskatchewan under its new bill will have passed Ontario as a percentage of transfers related to municipal expenditure.
But that is not really the point I am trying to make. Although there is a real need for increases, there’s a separate point from that. It is the point of giving a guarantee to the municipalities.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Wells the committee of supply reported progress.
The House adjourned at 1 p.m.