The House met at 10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker: I would like to draw to the attention of all members of the House that we have in the Speaker’s gallery a very distinguished guest and fellow parliamentarian, Mr. Brian Alleyne, Attorney General for Dominica. Would you please welcome him to our assembly?
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, in the presence of more distinguished guests, those being representatives of Tourism Ontario, who are in the gallery this morning, I wish to take this opportunity to announce a major new program to support the tourism industry in this province.
The members of this Legislature know well the importance of tourism to this province. It is a $5-billion industry, one of the province’s largest employers and second only to the automotive sector in terms of income generation. We have been concerned about the industry’s disappointing performance in previous years and, in particular, the steady deterioration of the tourism deficit since 1974. But we believe there is a tremendous opportunity open to us now to reverse that trend.
Tourism in Ontario has experienced a very good year, with American travel this summer up by over two per cent and the number of overseas visitors to the province up by at least 24 per cent. Several factors have contributed to the industry’s success in 1979, including the lower value of the Canadian dollar compared to the US, European and Japanese currencies and the gasoline uncertainties experienced in the United States.
The ability to capitalize on these opportunities in the longer term will require a significant effort on the part of tourist operators to provide the facilities and attractions demanded, by both domestic and international travel customers. Our government is determined to assist the travel industry in assessing the province’s physical plant and, from this base, encouraging the upgrading, renovation and expansion of facilities where investments are likely to succeed. The need to renovate and upgrade existing plants, as well as construct new facilities, is an urgent priority. To achieve this goal we must find ways to make money available to operators, and at reasonable interest rates.
The Ontario Development Corporation will, of course, continue to offer financial assistance through their highly successful direct loans program. In addition, however, I wish to announce today that the Employment Development Board has agreed to provide loan guarantees totalling $15 million and direct funding of $3.5 million to finance a comprehensive new tourism development incentive program designed to provide tourist operators in Ontario with access to the necessary financial resources.
Mr. Laughren: I would have thought the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) would have made this announcement.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: This program contains five key elements:
One, it will provide guarantees of loans to a maximum of $500,000 for a period of up to 15 years to finance new developments and the upgrading of existing facilities.
Two, it will provide interest-rate subsidies of five per cent for those loans guaranteed for five years, declining one per cent each year thereafter.
Three, it will assist in refinancing by way of extended-term loan guarantees, without interest subsidy, for those operators in need of such assistance and making a significant contribution to their own local economy.
Four, it will offer financing to assist Canadians in buy-outs of existing operations.
Five, it will provide tourism marketing and promotion assistance in the form of working capital financing of up to $25,000 with a maximum five-year term.
Assistance through this program will be available to Canadian residents, or Canadian-controlled companies looking to purchase the assets of existing tourist operations, expand or renovate existing facilities, or develop new facilities.
Applicants may approach the development corporations directly, or be referred by either private lenders or tourism development officers.
The development corporations and the tourism division of my ministry will review the proposed investment, buy-out or refinancing proposal, and will negotiate the final package and commitments.
Staff of the development corporations will then assist the applicant in approaching private lenders with a guarantee or subsidy approval.
Financing packages involving loans up to $250,000 will be processed by the development corporations and approved by the appropriate board on an agency basis. Loans in excess of $250,000 will be referred to the Employment Development Board for their approval.
Applications for assistance under this program will be received up to December 31, 1982.
The program is designed to support those proposals which meet the objectives of our tourism division. To this end, all applications will be carefully reviewed and assistance will be provided on a selective basis to those projects likely to make a substantial contribution to tourism development in Ontario. Full consideration will be given to management, market opportunities and the impact on the local economy.
I would like to urge tourist operators to respond quickly to this new program, and assure them that their applications will be dealt with quickly.
We believe that this initiative will be instrumental in ensuring a very substantial upgrading of facilities across the province and that it will be particularly valuable in helping to develop major destination resorts which can appeal to the growing demand for that type of facility.
The Employment Development Fund was established to stimulate industries -- including tourism -- in all parts of the province.
This program will provide new incentives to those regions of Ontario which rely heavily on the development of the tourist sector. It will provide significant opportunities for increased employment and will, unquestionably, have a favourable effect on our tourism deficit.
ASSISTANCE FOR DOMINICA
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I’d like to inform the members of the House today of the government of Ontario’s contribution to international relief efforts on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean.
The government of Ontario is contributing $20,000 to Dominica through the Ontario division of the Red Cross. I presented this cheque this morning to representatives of the Red Cross, represented today by Sybil Geller, a vice-president of the Canadian Red Cross Association, and members of the Dominican association.
As you have already indicated, sir, the government of Dominica is represented here this morning also by the Honourable Brian Alleyne, the Attorney General, who expressed the appreciation of the government of that country for the help and the many other things the people of Ontario and Canada are doing about the disaster that struck their area.
Hurricane David struck Dominica, a country of 90,000 people, on August 29. It devastated a large portion of the southern part of the island where the capital Roseau is located and many of the populated communities are situated. It is estimated about half the population in that country is homeless, with the greatest loss coming through the destruction of the country’s agricultural industry, especially the banana and coconut crops.
It is my hope, Mr. Speaker, this contribution from this province, along with many others, will further assist the valiant relief operations in this devastated area.
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Health:
How can it be that no study has been done in the Port Hope area of the long-term effect of radiation which, as we know, is the consequence of certain landfill practices in that area, consequent upon the Eldorado Nuclear operations?
How can it possibly have occurred that with all the hubbub; with all the money being spent transferring the landfill and so on; with a report by one competent physician that he suspected and was concerned about an increase in cancer, which he thought he detected, that no study has been done of the effects, short term and long term, on the people living in the Port Hope area? What happened? How was that overlooked?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, all of the analyses done at the time and since then of the cancer-related deaths in that community have to lead one to the conclusion that an in-depth epidemiological study, for scientific reasons, could not be substantiated.
You will recall in 1976 the physician in question did write to my predecessor, who responded in great detail at the time, giving the then most current statistical data and, in fact, asking questions about the basis of the data submitted by the physician. By the way, I am told those questions were never answered.
At the time, I should add, a federal-provincial task force was established to oversee the cleanup in the area. This task force involved the AECB, the Energy, Mines and Resources department in Ottawa, the Department of National Health and Welfare and representatives from the provincial government in the persons of Dr. Fitch and the Minister of Labour.
More recently, the same physician made essentially the same allegations. I am advised that in discussions with representatives in the Ministry of Labour, which comprises our experts on radiation in the province, with the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, that again, the statistics that have been kept on a regular basis do not show any scientific basis for such a study. In fact, they show the incidence in the area is somewhat lower in many cases than one would expect, looking even at the provincial norms.
When the matter was raised again, I contacted the federal Minister of Health, Mr. Crombie, and suggested this federal-provincial task force, which fortunately was meeting yesterday, be asked to review the matter again.
It concerns me, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the lack of a scientific basis to do such a study, the allegations keep recurring and, of course, the people in that community understandably are concerned about the future of their community and their persons.
I have indicated to Mr. Crombie, notwithstanding the lack of any scientific basis on which to carry out such a study, in the interest of that community and the people in that community, a full epidemiological study should be done to put the matter to rest once and for all.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary: Since the minister continues to refer to a so- called lack of scientific basis, by which I presume he means that no one can prove as of now by a cursory examination of the statistics that the cancer rate is higher, and given the fact that people have been exposed to radiation sufficient to cause a very large amount of landfill to be moved a very great distance, as he knows, does it not seem reasonable to him that the people in that community should have been followed to see what the leukemia incidence was, to see what the cancer incidence was, and that they should be followed no matter where they move in Canada or elsewhere, to find out over the years what happens in that kind of situation so they know their legal situation should it arise and so they know whether they are part of a group that has been excessively exposed, compared to ordinary citizens?
How can the minister sit back and do nothing and finally act simply because this doctor continues to generate publicity on the matter?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: It is categorically untrue that nothing has happened. The Leader of the Opposition will know that the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation receives all the information on an ongoing basis from the ministry, from Hospital Medical Records Institute data. I suggest that perhaps the honourable member take a look at the last annual report of the cancer treatment and research foundation, which gives all the information: by county, by sex, the year and so forth.
The fact of the matter is that there is no scientific basis on which to subject the community to this and to carry out that kind of a study. What I am saying is that I think the long-term interests of that community must be assuaged and put to rest.
Mr. Breaugh: A supplementary question, Mr. Speaker: I would like to ask the minister what reporting system he has put in place -- and I recognize the problem, that people from Port Hope and Cobourg will go to Peterborough, Oshawa and Belleville for treatment by a physician -- so that an individual physician can report to a central source any indications which he might consider to be beyond the norm; so that, if he has a patient from Port Hope who in his professional opinion, might be suffering because of low-level radiation, he can report that information to a central collecting agency? Has the minister done that?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, in every community there is a medical officer of health, who is well known to all the local practitioners; any trends of any kind that a physician feels are worthy of being followed up will be reported to the officer of health or directly to the ministry.
Cancer data are kept on an ongoing basis by the cancer treatment and research foundation; so really it is extensively covered.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of final supplementary, if I might, Mr. Speaker: Since I have very little confidence in the minister’s grasp of what an epidemiological study is, does the minister not understand that these citizens have to be followed over the course of many years, wherever they move; that an effect large enough to show up in the county statistics would be a massive effect among the few people exposed to the radiation? Does he not understand the need to follow it?
May I ask him simply this -- and this is all I want to know, really --
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Let me answer it then.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. S. Smith: Precisely what questions will be answered by the study?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I have not had an indication yet from the federal government that they are agreeing to this, but I have every reason to believe that they will, at which point we will then design it. I would expect to rely heavily on the cancer treatment and research foundation and on our own epidemiologists in the ministry. I am not an epidemiologist; but neither, for that matter, is my friend across the way.
But it is interesting to know, for instance, that at the time the matter first came to light, a number of families were visited in the area by a representative of the Ministry of Labour at the time and asked to come to Toronto to have extensive tests done on a body count, which I think was actually the term used. Half of the people approached did come to Toronto, and the other half did not come. Those who were tested were found to be well below the normal.
Mr. S. Smith: A question if I might for the Minister of the Environment: Can he guarantee, Mr. Speaker, that a proper environmental assessment will be done under the Environmental Assessment Act or the Environmental Protection Act before the Red Hill Creek expressway is given a go-ahead in the Hamilton area?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I think, Mr. Speaker, that likely will be a municipal undertaking. It will be a municipal road --
Mr. S. Smith: Regional.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: -- a regional road.
I think it depends on two things. The first is the willingness of the region to request such an assessment. Obviously if we received a request we would be more than prepared to anticipate and co-operate. On the other hand, at this moment we have not, as a government policy, yet applied the Environmental Assessment Act to the regions. There- fore I can’t give a guarantee that it will be done under the Environmental Assessment Act.
We are hoping that in the near future this will apply to the regional municipalities.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary: Is the minister prepared just to sit back and wait for the region to ask for this? Does he not recognize that one of the reasons the Red Hill Creek expressway route has been chosen by the region seems to be because they feel it’s cheaper there? The reason it’s cheaper is that much of that land was purchased early and was to be kept for conservation and environmental purposes -- as a green space in the middle of an industrial city.
Under the circumstances does the minister not feel some need to protect the environment generally, wherever the environment is? Can he not act to make sure that an Environmental Protection Act type of hearing is introduced before the matter proceeds?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: As I said, I think it’s to some degree a matter of time until all such projects will be under the act. That’s my position and the government’s position and we are proceeding towards that end. It seems a little difficult at this moment to single out one particular project when there are others that would equally apply. The member knows our position that we want the municipalities and this kind of project under the Environmental Assessment Act so we are moving directly. We have been to the PMLC to make this case. I don’t think there’s any foot-dragging at that level.
I think it becomes a matter of timing. If the member is asking me if I would like to see it done, it’s an easy thing to say yes to that.
Ms. Bryden: Supplementary: Could the minister say if it isn’t true there will be considerable provincial funds going into such an expressway if it is approved? Is it not therefore incumbent on the provincial government to make sure the project has a proper environmental assessment and its impact is known before those provincial funds are committed?
Secondly, since the Environmental Assessment Act was passed in 1975, it seems to me there should be a date very soon by which it will be applied to regions and municipalities. Can he not give us that date yet?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I can’t give a specific date but as I said earlier, we are working towards that and expect it in the near future. I think it would be remiss to suggest the present process does not concern itself with the environmental assessment. Indeed it does.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has perhaps, outside of the act, the best method of assessing of any of the ministries. I think my colleague, the member for Oakville (Mr. Snow), might be pleased to hear me say that. They do a thorough job of investigating the environmental impact outside of the act, so it would be, I think, wrong to suggest there is no study being done on it until it comes under the Environmental Assessment Act itself. There is a lot of work done by MTC.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Mr. Speaker, if the minister can move back from the general responses to the Leader of the Opposition’s question to the specific, is the minister not saying that if there is no request from the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth there will be no guarantee of an environmental study?
Wouldn’t the minister say that if he is unwilling to guarantee a study, then this government, through his ministry, has absolutely no commitment whatsoever to protecting the environmental resource there in the city and the citizens have no guarantee whatsoever that their concerns will be heard before any body, and doesn’t that put the skids to the whole Environment ministry in this province?
Mr. Warner: That’s the truth; that’s what is behind it.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: No. The member is talking about a study and also, at the same time, talking about a hearing. I tell him unconditionally there is a great deal of study done by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. That is different from being under the act.
I can only repeat that the regions and municipalities will be coming under the act. It is a matter of timing. I wouldn’t be at all surprised that this could very easily be heard under the act. I think to pick one out of a large number and apply the act here is not fair and not reasonable.
To come to the last point, whether or not we have any concern, nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, we have, but there is a normal procedure, and I am pleased to tell the members that just a matter of a couple of months ago another region applied on a voluntary basis for a development loan to come under the Environmental Assessment Act. It is kind of nice when we see those who believe in the process, as you do and I do, come in, and it would be nice if we had that kind of support throughout Ontario. It is kind of nice to see that thing happening. It has happened in one region.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Pass a law.
An hon. member: Let’s have a guarantee.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: It has happened. I think those people have the same kind of commitment to the environment, and I would encourage them, encourage them to apply under the act. It is there now for their protection, as well as the balance of Ontario. It will eventually be mandatory, but I would like to think we are moving to a stage in this province where people see the advantages of that act and aren’t doing it unwillingly, but indeed willingly.
Mr. Gaunt: Supplementary: Would the minister not agree that it is not necessary for the municipality to request a hearing before the ministry can go ahead and hold a hearing, if it so desires? Why doesn’t the minister do that? He has our support.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Why don’t we request of them?
Mr. Gaunt: Why don’t you have the hearing? You don’t have to have the request.
Mr. Warner: It is called leadership.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I have tried to explain, I guess over and over this morning, that it is always the right of the municipality to do so on a voluntary basis, and to single one out prior to when it will apply to everyone seems to me both illogical and unfair.
There are other projects in the province that are of equal importance, and we are going towards the policy, as members well know, of having all of them come under the act -- all of them -- and at that time there is no doubt they will apply. But surely to pick one out now doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
It should apply to all of them, and that is the position we are taking. That is where we are going.
HOSPITAL BED ALLOCATIONS
Mr. Cassidy: I have a question for the Minister of Health. Can the minister say what action the government is going to take in response to the Wellesley Hospital’s senior staff, who came to him in August to report that they have had to make bed cuts of 180 beds this summer, and that those cuts, due to the ministry’s spending restraints, were imposing intolerable strains on their ability to provide adequate patient care?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: First of all, I did meet with the delegation, made up of representatives of the medical staff and of the administration of the hospital. This was a few weeks after we had increased the budget of that hospital by $688,000 to take account of growth in the life-support activities in the hospital, and which raises their budget to a level of approximately $31,250,000 for this current fiscal year.
During the course of the meeting and in subsequent correspondence -- and I think it was a very good discussion -- it was made clear they wanted to make clear their concerns with respect to the next fiscal year, that they want to maintain quality of program in that hospital.
Mr. Warner: That’s the problem.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: All of the beds they closed for the summer were reopened I think by September 11, mid-September anyway. They are back in full operation, as are all hospitals, and I assured them we would continue to do everything possible --
Mr. Warner: Send a note to the patients.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- to take their needs into account and to recognize them the next fiscal year. This, of course, is quite different from the method which the New Democratic Party put out on September 12 where they tried to -- not tried, they said people had died in that hospital as a result of the restraints. The hospital doesn’t support that statement of their health critic or of their party. I think they owe an apology to that hospital.
Mr. Warner: The hospital is hurting because of your cuts and you know it.
Mr. Cassidy: The hospital report is on the basis of last year’s cuts. Thirteen patients were adversely affected and they found that of those patients, three had died, perhaps not due to the cuts. We’re not sore.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Oh, that’s a little different.
Mr. Cassidy: In view of the fact that over the course of this summer the hospital reported to the ministry that two or three times a day patients were having to be sent to other hospitals because of back of beds and emergency patients were having to wait for hours until they could find some way to deal with them because of the shortage of beds, does the minister not agree patient care was adversely affected at the Wellesley Hospital this summer because of the cutbacks that were due to his ministry’s restraints?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I won’t take the time of the House to quote it verbatim, but I invite the member for Ottawa Centre to go back and --
Mr. Warner: Just confess.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- look at Hansard for June 11 when representatives of that hospital appeared --
Mr. Warner: Try answering the question.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- before the standing committee on social development. That special advisory committee, as is their responsibility, have been keeping a close tab on the quality of care in that hospital. I think if they had been able to conclude from their survey that people had died or people had been seriously impaired as a result, they would have said so.
Mr. Warner: They did.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: In that report, which the member opposite had for two weeks and about which he didn’t even call the hospital to check, they did not say that.
Mr. Warner: Oh, yeah. Nice try.
Mr. Kerrio: Supplementary: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question to the minister as it relates to the great expense that many hospitals across the province have been put to in getting surveys made in order to study the economics of the cutbacks.
Mr. Cassidy: That is not a supplementary.
Mr. Kerrio: Has the minister, in his ministry, ever addressed himself to some help to hospital --
Mr. Speaker: The original question dealt specifically with the Wellesley Hospital.
Mr. Kerrio: I think it’s a supplementary, Mr. Speaker. It has to do with the bed cutbacks.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: When the Wellesley Hospital met with the minister six weeks ago, they reported the total number of beds closed in Toronto hospitals makes it increasingly difficult to arrange for the admission of Wellesley patients to other hospitals. Since they stated records of these cases are being maintained and they demonstrate serious effects on patient care, and since that was six weeks ago, has the Ministry of Health asked the Wellesley Hospital for the specifics about the serious effects on patient care? What action is the minister taking about that?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The board of that hospital is responsible for that hospital. They have been and will be discussing the quality of care in their --
Mr. Martel: Give us a lecture.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- hospital with their medical advisory committee. If that hospital administration under Mr. Thornton, or the board, under Mr. Hamilton, feel they have a problem that needs to be rectified, they will not hesitate. They will not hesitate to come forward and say so, as is the case with any other hospital.
Mr. Speaker: A new question? Final supplementary.
Mr. Cassidy: Is the minister saying the Ministry of Health takes no responsibility for monitoring the quality of patient care across the province and will only respond when complaints come to this party from hospital administrators or from health-care workers across the province?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely ridiculous. For once, they should do their research.
Mr. Warner: The research is accurate. Why don’t you tell the truth?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: There was a time when that party was supposed to be known for good research. I looked at that report the other day, I looked at those kinds of statements this morning. What do they do for research. Do they pull some statements from newspapers? That’s about all.
The law is very clear. Every hospital must have a medical advisory committee. It is the responsibility of every hospital board in every community to involve the community.
Mr. Cassidy: You’re neglecting the problems out there.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The honourable member would have somebody believe that he or anybody could run all 250 hospitals from one office at Queen’s Park. The fact of the matter is the hospitals belong to the community. The hospitals are responsible for the operations there if there is a problem. Yes, we’re in the hospitals all the time.
Mr. Warner: The problems are there and you know it.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The accreditation counsellors are in the hospitals all the time.
Mr. Wildman: Responsibility without money is ridiculous.
Mr. Swart: If there’s no problem you take the credit; if there’s a problem you blame the hospitals.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: If we perceive a problem, of course we draw it to their attention. The fact of the matter is that the hospital boards and the medical staff of the hospitals of this province are keeping an ongoing daily watch on their operations --
Mr. Warner: They’re watching it deteriorate.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- and, as problems arise, they don’t hesitate to say so and we don’t hesitate to help them to correct them.
Mr. Warner: You’re totally incompetent.
Mr. Speaker: Since the minister himself has broadened the parameters of the question, I’ll allow a supplementary from the member for Niagara Falls.
Mr. Kerrio: Supplementary: Has the minister ever considered helping hospitals throughout the province with the studies they’ve been forced to make now, many of them going outside of Canada to hire people to perform these studies? Has he ever considered helping various hospitals do their studies at an economical rate to the individual hospitals across the province?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I’m pleased to answer that question. I would have been happy to answer it before.
First of all, I know of no hospital that has gone outside of Canada.
Mr. Kerrio: Niagara Falls used an American firm.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Outside of Canada, there are Canadian firms, of course, that operate in the United States and there are some American firms that operate here, but there is quite a large array of firms available.
Mr. Martel: Multinational consulting firms.
Mr. Kerrio: I like to buy Canadian.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Yes, we have. As a matter of fact, 15 to 18 months ago we gave a grant of a quarter of a million dollars to the Ontario Hospital Association to develop its own cost-effectiveness program. Hospitals now have a choice between going to the private sector or calling in the hospital association.
Mr. Wildman: A quarter of a million? That’s what the Sault Ste. Marie General Hospital’s deficit is going to be next year.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Either way we’re finding that in every case where a hospital has done this it has been able to find very significant and large sums of money that can be redirected to other programs by cost-effectiveness measures.
GAS AND OIL SUPPLIES
Mr. Cassidy: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. In view of the fact that despite the minister’s assurances yesterday, company spokesmen were saying to the press that they can’t guarantee enough fuel to cope with emergencies, such as a refinery breakdown, can the minister say what contingency plans the government has in case a fuel oil shortage does appear over the course of this winter in Ontario?
Mr. Ashe: There’s an awful lot of hot air available from over there.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I think it’s very important and, in fact, incumbent on us that we not become the source of undue alarm in a subject matter of this importance. It’s very important that we understand that the answer yesterday was based on the best information that was available to the ministry with respect to the security of supply for the current season.
I’m sure that it’s not beyond the capability of the honourable leader of the NDP to imagine all sorts of situations, international incidents and so on --
Mr. Wildman: Where are your contingency plans?
Hon. Mr. Welch: -- that indeed might alter that particular information, but at the moment I’m satisfied, on the basis of the information I have, that we are in a satisfactory position as far as the current season is concerned.
Mr. Warner: You sound like Dennis the Menace behind you.
Hon. Mr. Welch: As members know, in the event of some shortage of supplies, there is federal legislation in place in so far as allocation is concerned. I would say at this time that I would hope that the honourable member would not, as he raises these questions, suggest in any way that there is anything but a satisfactory situation at the moment, barring exceptional circumstances
Mr. Warner: You have no plans.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: I have to say to the minister that I can’t share entirely his confidence, in view of the fact that in the gasoline area BP closed its stations on the seventh and eighth of this month because of a refinery breakdown in Clarkson.
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Cassidy: My question is if the ministry has no contingency plans, will the ministry at least agree to share its information on oil supply and availability, which it has through monitoring and through the National Energy Board, so that individuals and companies across the province can make their own contingency plans since the ministry has none?
Hon. Mr. Welch: To speak directly to that question, whatever information we have is available on that particular subject. I repeat, as far as I am concerned, on the basis of information I have from very responsible sources, the situation is in hand for the current heating season.
Mr. J. Reed: I am sure the minister has been in his office now long enough to know what is happening and what the trends are: the fact that domestic supply is declining.
Mr. Speaker: Has the minister been in his office long enough?
Mr. J. Reed: I’ll get to the question, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for your indulgence.
Mr. Breithaupt: You’d better hurry.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I have a short answer to that one.
Mr. J. Reed: While admittedly without a breakdown in the supply system we may get by for this year, what about next year, what about the year after and the year after that, where the obvious change is taking place on an accelerating basis?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I think the member does the House a favour in raising a question like that. Certainly, that has to be the subject matter of the discussion this House is going to engage in next Tuesday, as we think in terms of the long range and security of supply, and as we think in terms of the policy enunciated by the Premier with respect to Ontario’s contribution to national crude oil self-sufficiency. All of these things are, in fact, there to be attended to and to be addressed, involving as they do the whole area of conservation and the search for alternative sources of fuel.
Mr. Warner: You’ve got enough questions to be on the opposition side.
Hon. Mr. Welch: As we develop this, I don’t think everybody has all the answers, but together in some type of discussion there are people who are at work. Indeed, our position is quite clear in papers which I am going to table later on today with respect to this whole question of security of supply.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, in view of the minister’s confidence, can he explain why his officials in the Ministry of Energy have repeatedly refused information on oil supply and pricing to members of the NDP caucus when that information has been paid for by the taxpayer, comes from the National Energy Board and is freely available to the multinational oil companies in this country? Why doesn’t he make that information available?
Mr. Warner: Right on; another secret file.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I repeat what I said. It is my understanding that during the time of the discharge of responsibilities by the member for Carleton East (Ms. Gigantes), who is the energy critic, there has been the fullest co-operation between the staff of the Ministry of Energy and the member and her staff.
I can assure the members that whatever information we have which is not specifically labelled from its source as not for public discussion will be made available.
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Attorney General. In view of the fact that we now understand that the Attorney General has read the transcript in the Wardle case, can he tell this House whether in fact His Honour Judge Addison made a statement to the effect -- and I am quoting from this morning’s Globe and Mail -- “that he wasn’t going to be any nosier than he had to be about what was behind the assault, but that if an ordinary citizen was before him he would want to know.”
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: The report in the Globe and Mail is not a precise quotation from the transcript. I will read what the judge said; it is fairly brief:
“I must say that were it any other person before me for this offence with those facts the one question I would want to ask is obvious. I am not going to insist that it be answered. I am not going to ask that anything more be told me, except that reading between the lines I think that a conditional discharge would be the more proper disposition here, Mr. Hamilton” -- Mr. Hamilton being the defence counsel. “There is no need to report, but I prefer to leave it at that. There are some questions unanswered in my mind.”
“Mr. Hamilton: You’re the judge; you can pass whatever sentence you want.”
“Court: I have given my reasoning. Mr. Wardle, conditional discharge, probation for three months with the usual terms in the code.”
That’s what was said according to the transcript I have, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, is the Attorney General satisfied now with the way in which this matter was handled, as he professed to be yesterday?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: What I said yesterday, and will repeat, is I am quite satisfied the crown counsel handled the matter properly. So far as the judge is concerned, all I can say is I don’t understand quite what was meant by the judge. I don’t know precisely what he meant, quite frankly. Not knowing what he was referring to, I certainly have difficulty in commenting on a statement --
Mr. Swart: You should find out.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I have no intention of calling the judge. I realize people across the aisle feel there is nothing wrong in calling judicial officials but I think we, on this side of the House, do have some respect for the principle of the independence of the judiciary and I think the member for St. George respects that principle.
The crown attorney in this case made it clear, if you want me to read into the evidence as to what the crown attorney said -- and I have some difficulty in understanding what the judge meant by his statement -- the crown attorney read in the evidence relating to a charge of common assault. As the member for St. George well knows, in any charge there are a number of circumstances and on a plea of guilty some of the facts are admitted and some aren’t. In this particular case there were certain facts admitted to in relation to the charge of common assault. Those facts were read into the record. Why the judge said what he did, I cannot offer any explanation.
Mr. Peterson: In view of these questions that have been raised, not only about this case but about other cases in his bailiwick, and in view of the fact that several people now and press reports are questioning the impartiality of the administration of justice in this province at this time, doesn’t the Attorney General feel he should refer this --
Mr. Peterson: Of course it’s true. What is this whole conversation about? Doesn’t he feel he should refer this to the chief judge for a complete investigation of this particular incident?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: No, I don’t, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. S. Smith: Final supplementary: I’m sure it’s a particularly amusing situation we find ourselves in. At this particular moment I just happen to feel somewhat serious about the matter, if you’ll forgive me.
Mrs. Campbell: Are you proud?
Mr. S. Smith: Does the Attorney General not recognize, as the person responsible for the administration of justice in Ontario, that when a judge says he is willing to accept a certain procedure by which facts do not necessarily come before the court, that he is willing to accept that procedure in the case of one type of person, a procedure he seems to admit he would not accept in the case of another type of person, that it will appear to the citizens of Ontario as being two different kinds of justice?
Does the Attorney General not recognize that would be terribly damaging and does he not recognize, therefore, that he has a responsibility to speak to the judge and, once he has clarified the matter, issue some kind of statement so the judge will know the Attorney General’s opinion on the matter and people will be instructed as to how to deal with this type of situation in future?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what I said outside the Legislature in response to certain questions that were put to me by our friends in the media.
Mr. T. P. Reid: They’re all shaking their heads on that.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I said inasmuch as some people would choose to place an interpretation on the judge’s remarks because the accused was in political life, an elected person, the interpretation that some placed on this is that he was, therefore, being treated differently. I said outside the House, and I’ll repeat it today, as far as I am concerned if that is what the judge intended to say -- and it’s not clear to me -- then I would have to totally disagree with that.
Mr. Peterson: Why doesn’t the Attorney General find out?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Obviously, all individuals have to be treated the same, regardless of their particular place in society.
Mrs. Campbell: How do you propose to work that out?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I say for the record, as far as I am concerned, the proper principle of sentencing is all people must be treated equally to the extent to which that is humanly possible.
Mr. Peterson: What is the Attorney General going to do about it?
Mr. T. P. Reid: Justice isn’t being seen to be justice.
USE OF CONSULTANTS BY HOSPITALS
Mr. Breaugh: I have a question of the Minister of Health. Will the minister tell us how much money is being spent by Ontario hospitals on the use of consultants, particularly private consultants, on the insistence of his ministry? Can he confirm that the American firm of Naus-Newlyn has drawn better than $2 million out of five hospitals so far this year?
Mr. Kerrio: That’s a supplementary.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: No, Mr. Speaker, I can’t. I can check into it for the member. I might say we’ve been very pleased that the hospitals which are either using the Ontario Hospital Association’s cost-effectiveness program or using private sector consultants have, in fact, been able to identify millions and millions of dollars that can be spent in more effective ways. In other words, certain services and the quality of services can be maintained by doing them in a more cost-effective manner and, thereby, freeing up money that can then be applied to new services or other programs in the hospital.
I think it’s good management to have, from time to time, an external review. As a matter of fact, they might even consider having an external review of their research in that party. It might do them some good.
Ms. Breaugh: A supplementary: Is it the minister’s opinion that the cost of these consultants should be public knowledge, or should it be kept private?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: No, it should be public knowledge. I would be glad to do it. There are 250 hospitals in the province.
Mr. Warner: It’s a good profit for the Americans.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I would remind the member, first of all, that any fees paid are one-time fees and the savings would accrue year after year, so in fact it’s a good investment in the future of an individual hospital and of the health-care system. It makes good sense in the management of the system.
BURNING OF PCBS
Mr. Kennedy: I have a question of the Minister of the Environment, regarding the ministry’s proposal to burn PCBs at St. Lawrence Cement. We don’t want this. It involves not only Clarkson and Mississauga it’s not only a provincial matter, it’s national and international.
The federal government initially, as I understand it, brought forward the first studies. I’m asking the minister if he would consult with his federal counterpart to see if the federal government would join in the joint-venture funding program whereby a proper disposal facility can be built to treat, not only PCBs, but all industrial wastes in some more remote area of this province where there would be less hazard to the health of the communities.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I am more than prepared to consult with my federal counterpart on this matter, On Tuesday next, or when estimates open, we’ll have a fairly extensive statement on liquid waste disposal.
I should say at this time that any such proposal I would support would be on the basis that we co-operate to the stage of having the facility developed and, once it is developed, then the running and the operation of that facility should be by the private sector and the cost of treatment should be paid for by the private sector. I doubt if that is at odds with the member’s belief, but those would be the conditions under which we would negotiate such facilities. There are some facilities now in the province for incineration, but certainly not for PCBs.
Mr. Kennedy: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker: while we welcome what the minister has said with respect to the estimates coming up and so on, he said he would be willing to consult with the federal counterpart; will he consult with them?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I meant one and the same, yes.
Mr. Wildman: A supplementary to the first question: If any consideration is given to establishing facilities in remote areas, can the minister assure us that all such facilities will undergo environmental assessment and will not be established in any area without the consent of the local inhabitants?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I gave that commitment months ago.
Mr. B. Newman: I would ask if the minister’s officials have visited the facilities in Texas for the burning of various types of industrial and toxic wastes. Also, is he aware of the report developed by the commissioner for the environment in the city of Windsor, who has studied that both on the state and city levels -- that is, the state of Michigan which attempted to develop a facility as well as the facilities in Houston, Texas?
Is the minister aware that Michigan is going to develop a facility because there is no commercial company interested in developing such a facility at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: As a matter of fact, I have already been to Texas. I have seen that particular installation personally and there is much merit in it.
I am persuaded that the better approach is to have a facility that is run and operated by the private sector and that the Ministry of the Environment be the enforcement officers to make sure the facility is run in such a manner that it meets our guidelines.
DISPOSAL OF HAZARDOUS WASTES
Mr. Kerrio: I have a question of the Minister of the Environment as well, Mr. Speaker.
Would the minister help me, citizens’ groups of the Niagara Frontier on both sides of the border, the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake -- which might be of interest to parties over there -- and interested citizens of New York state, Ontario and Canada, to put a stop to the issuing of a permit to SCA Chemicals to dump two million gallons per day of supposedly treated chemicals into the lower Niagara River?
Would the minister contact his counterparts in Ottawa, his kissing cousins Flora McDonald and John Fraser, to strongly oppose the issuing of such a licence in the pollution of this great heritage of ours at Niagara?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: This isn’t a new subject by any stretch of the imagination, either for the member opposite or for my colleague, the Minister of Energy. The minister wants me to correct the record from “it might be of some interest” to “it has, it will be and will forever be” of great interest and concern. He has expressed those concerns many times, both at the hearings and privately, and he has done an excellent job of making his views known, as indeed the honourable member has, on this subject.
There is one other correction I think I should put in to the question, and that is “supposedly” treated. If it isn’t treated, we would be very, very upset and concerned. Our main concern is to make sure it is treated waste.
A more important part of the question is whether or not we would intervene in those hearings directly, and we have said no, we would not. I am quite prepared to consult with the federal member.
Mr. Kerrio: You are doing nothing.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Nothing could be further from the truth. I think the member would agree no permit has been issued, Hearings are going on but that is a long way from the statement that the permit is issued. It almost implies, with respect, that the permit is issued. We have no idea. No one at this moment has any idea whether a permit ever will be issued for that particular site.
The ministry has been at those hearings consistently; they have been protracted but we’ve been there. We are persuaded that before that inquiry body all of the appropriate questions have been asked. What the decision will be is another matter. As for whether the hearing has been complete and full, we are persuaded it has been. I ask, what would be the advantage of asking the same questions all over again? The case has been well put by many of the proponents and many of the opponents. So the board is not without full understanding of the situation.
Mr. Kerrio: Supplementary: Is the minister aware of the fact that the Department of Energy Conservation of New York state and a representative, Mr. Franc Graybar, has told my office in Niagara Falls that if such a permit is given, this chemical company will self-monitor its so-called treated effluent? Based on their past record, an indictment here three pages long where they didn’t control PCBs and they have been fined $1,000, $5,000 and $15,000, are we going to let that company monitor that discharge and is his ministry going to sit and let it happen -- and the ministry in Ottawa?
I say it’s time the minister stood tall and told them that we are not going to allow another drop to be put in the Niagara River unless we know what goes in.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I would ask the member opposite then to be very, very consistent. Because if we say to our American friends there will not be another drop of treated effluents put in --
Mr. Kerrio: Monitored treated effluent.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Oh, but the honourable member said not another drop in that system and that’s what brought the support from his party members.
But if we are going to be consistent on this, it’s a large system and it means not another single drop of effluent shall be put in the Great Lakes system both north and south of the border. I say to the honourable member if we take that approach in this country we will close down not only the province but North America.
Mr. Kerrio: I said monitored.
Mr. S. Smith: Oh, come on.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I should remind the members opposite, and I thought it was known by all, that the vast majority of the sewage treatment plants in this province put the treated effluent into the streams and lakes here and the Great Lakes basin. Of course, we do, because it is treated. Where else would you put it?
Mr. Kerrio: But it’s monitored.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Exactly.
Mr. Breithaupt: We’re getting a lot of primary right now.
Mr. Breaugh: We’ve got a suggestion here.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: You can’t take the position that no treated effluent should be put into the receiving bodies of Ontario.
Mr. Breithaupt: But he is taking the position.
Mrs. Campbell: But he is.
Mr. T. P. Reid: And he’s going to be Attorney General? You’re getting as fuzzy as he is.
Mr. Kerrio: You’re giving these people a licence to poison the river, that’s what you are doing.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: We have monitored that system. I have said this before. I have said that we have monitored that great resource. Last week as I opened a plant in another part of the Great Lakes system, I called that system the greatest resource of North America and we’re going to protect it at all costs. But that doesn’t mean there will be no effluent put in there. It means that treated effluent will be put in there. We will maintain the high quality. We have a strong commitment, a policy paper that says we will not permit the water of this province to be degraded beyond its present condition and, indeed, we will maintain it at all times and upgrade it.
We will monitor, we’ll step that monitoring up as much as it is necessary to do. That is an unconditional commitment, but the member must please rationalize in his own mind how he could possibly suggest that there would be no effluent put into those receiving bodies. It isn’t a physical possibility.
Ms. Bryden: The minister seems to be relying on local citizens’ groups to carry the ball at these hearings and to put up the arguments against a very well-heeled, large corporation. Would he provide some funding for the Canadian residents who are appearing to make sure that the arguments put before these hearings are full and- complete?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, approximately two weeks ago the member for Niagara Falls brought in a delegation of the mayor and other interested citizens. I thought that meeting was most fruitful.
At that time we made a commitment that we would technically review the transcript and would assist the citizens’ group in its assessment of the information that has been put forward. That was a commitment that the mayor and, I believe, the balance of that delegation were pleased to receive, and they were happy with it.
We are prepared to do that. We are not prepared to give direct dollars to the citizens’ group, especially when much of that would go to the American group itself rather than to the Canadian group.
PRICING OF BILL COPIES
Mr. M. Davidson: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Labour: Is the minister aware that if one were to go to the government bookstore and purchase a copy of Bill 70, printed in English, the cost to that person would be 35 cents, but if he went to the same government bookstore to purchase a copy of Bill 70 in French, the price would be $1? Can the minister explain the differential of 65 cents between two copies of the same bill?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I was not aware of that difference; I do not support it, and I will look into it.
Mr. M. Davidson: Supplementary: While the minister is looking into that price differential -- and I certainly hope it does not exist to pay for the translation costs -- will he also look into why it is that the regulations under Bill 70 are available at the government bookstore in English but are not available to the public in French? Let him tell us why.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I will be glad to look into that as well.
COAL PURCHASES BY ONTARIO HYDRO
Mr. Sargent: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the new Minister of Energy, the most decorated kamikaze pilot --
Mr. Conway: The revolving door of the Treasury bench.
Mr. Sargent: It reminds me of the guy who got a new boomerang and couldn’t get rid of the old one.
With regard to the long-term contract between Ontario Hydro and Thunder Bay Terminals for the construction of a $71.5-million facility for the bulk handling of Alberta and British Columbia coal, will the minister advise if he plans to welsh on this contract by threats to the Alberta government of not honouring the contract to buy Alberta coal? Does he plan to buy Canadian coal or to buy from the United States?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, on the one hand, from the old boomerang, all the former commitments, or whatever the commitments are, will be honoured. As the honourable member mentioned, they are commitments from Ontario Hydro; so there is really no change. As he knows, the acquisitions are a mixture of both Canadian and American coal; those details are well known. Whatever the present arrangements are, they will be maintained.
Mr. Sargent: Supplementary: The Globe and Mail of September 25, 1979, reported that the parliamentary assistant (Mr. Ashe) to the Ontario Minister of Energy, and other good Canadians in the government, had decided that Ontario Hydro does not need any more Alberta coal. “Mr. Ashe said Ontario Hydro is doing very well, thank you, in getting all the coal it needs from the United States. ‘The imported coal is cheaper,’ he says.
An Hon. member: Buy Canadian.
Mr. Sargent: He says, “We always try to buy Canadian, but there is a limit to what we can do.”
Mr. Sargent: Why are we supporting a $71.5 million --
Mr. Speaker: Order, order.
Mr. Sargent: Why are we involved in a $71.5 million contract with this facility, if we are not going to use it for Hydro?
Hon. Mr. Welch: It is obvious there is some misunderstanding as to what the parliamentary assistant said.
I think if you were to examine the Ontario position with respect to coal, you will find that the statement made recently at the conference in the west does not alter the present situation. The parliamentary assistant, representing me at the conference, was simply indicating that we didn’t see any increase, and that is the important word, an increase in the acquisition as far as that source was concerned at present. The commitments were in place, and so I can assure you that there has been no change in the provincial position.
STANDING GENERAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE
Mr. McCaffrey from the standing general government committee reports the following resolution resolved in supply in the following amount, and to defray the expenses of the Office of the Assembly be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1980:
Office of the Assembly program $19,095,400.
ENERGY POLICY PAPERS
Hon. Mr. Welch: May I take this opportunity in the proceedings this morning to table two policy statements, the first entitled Oil Pricing and Security, A Policy Framework for Canada, dated August 1979; and a second statement entitled Energy Security for the ‘80s, A Policy for Ontario, bearing the date September 1979.
I would ask that these two policy papers be put on the Order Paper for purposes of discussion next Tuesday, as announced and indicated by the House leader in his statement of yesterday.
CITY OF HAMILTON ACT
Hon. Mr Wells moved that Bill Pr8, An Act Respecting the City of Hamilton, be withdrawn from the administration of justice committee and be referred to the general government committee.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS (CONTINUED)
On vote 603, local government affairs program item 1, local government:
Mr. Chairman: When we were previously discussing these estimates, I believe the member for Wentworth had the floor.
Mr. Isaacs: That is my understanding, Mr. Chairman.
Resuming a debate which was going on, on June 11, there is still something that I have to learn to do as well as my colleagues, but I reviewed where I was on June 11, and I am sure the minister has reviewed that too, and I hope he will respond to the points that I raised at that time.
There have been a couple of events that have taken place since then, however, that I want to refer to now. I want also to continue with a substantial number of new points that I didn’t have time to get to on June 11.
With regard to annexation, since June 11 we have had an announcement from the minister regarding a new procedure for dealing with annexation. I want to say to the minister that I think the procedure is a bold and imaginative step and I hope that it works. I wish I could be very optimistic but, unfortunately, I’m not convinced that the setup that we have now, where municipalities are inevitably in competition with each other, is going to help in making that bold, imaginative step for negotiation towards annexation work as well as the minister seems to hope. I would certainly welcome any comments the minister might wish to make about his hopes for the Brantford situation.
The information I have is that there is very little hope that anything short of the final step in the new procedure will solve the Brantford situation. I hope that it does, but if the new procedure flounders in Brantford then it is off to a pretty poor start and may not have too much hope in the rest of the province.
I want to say that the minister still hasn’t dealt with the fundamental question that I believe the government has to come to grips with, that is why should annexation take place at all and on what basis should municipal restructuring be considered. Until municipalities have some idea of why they should transfer the lands between themselves or why boundaries should be shifted or why expanded municipalities should be set up in some areas and not in others, then the guidelines for the negotiations are just not there and a battleground is virtually inevitable.
I want to suggest to the minister that it is pretty fundamental that the official plan for the province that we talked about last time be put in place so that municipalities can understand what the province feels is in store for them for the next 25 or 50 years and so that that too can be taken into account when considering the structure of municipal government in each of the areas.
It has come to my attention that the minister and his staff are involved in local government restructuring studies in a number of parts of this province. One that arrived on my desk today relates to the Hearst to Smooth Rock Falls area of northern Ontario. I welcome the initiative that is going on and want to suggest that it should be going on in a much more public way than it is at the present time. I hope the minister can inform us of all the areas right across the province at which his staff is taking a look in terms of restructuring. I would include in that the regional municipalities that have already been studied. How many of those regional review reports are still being looked at by Intergovernmental Affairs staff and how many have been put on the shelf to gather dust and will not be acted on at any time in the future?
There are some problems with regional government in most regional municipalities. I want to ask the minister specifically about two. In the Ottawa-Carleton region, it is my understanding that one municipality has asked the minister if he will permit that municipality to secede from regional government. I want to ask the minister what his response is going to be to that and why his response will be the way it is.
I have a suspicion the minister’s response will be no, but it seems to me that if municipalities are going to be forced into regional government structures that they are not happy with, then they need to be given pretty compelling reasons for that. Most municipalities have difficulty understanding any reasons at all, let alone compelling reasons.
In Hamilton-Wentworth, at the moment, we have a somewhat different situation. It’s basically a dispute between two municipalities that started as being a dispute between the town of Stoney Creek and the city of Hamilton over extended store hours. That has now engulfed the entire region and all municipalities have taken a position on one side or the other.
I want to say to the minister that I was very disturbed when he came down, apparently unilaterally, on the side of one of the municipalities and opposed to the other. I’d like to ask the minister on what basis that judgement was made, why he decided that store hours should be made a regional matter in Hamilton-Wentworth.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Because the region asked.
Mr. Isaacs: The region asked but other municipalities within the region opposed. Is the minister saying to us that if regional council in Hamilton-Wentworth, by majority vote, asks for one-tier regional government he will automatically put it in place because regional council asks? Is that how decisions are made; that if regional council asks they get, and the views of the others who are on the opposing side are not taken into account?
I think we have a serious problem of approach there, Mr. Minister, and I hope that you’ll expand a little more fully on what it is the region asks for and gets, and what it is the region asks for and does not get.
I mentioned last time matters of waste disposal, local boards and licensing. I’m particularly concerned about the licensing issue because a lot was made by your predecessor of the licensing provisions, and of the revenue source that municipalities make of licensing. I’d like to hear your views on that.
I’d like to hear your views, too, on the pinball machine issue, and on the matters I raised concerning uniform enforcement of building codes. I’d add to that some problems that have come to my attention recently concerning the rights of consumers -- purchasers of new homes -- to protection if the municipality hasn’t properly enforced the building codes on the home they’re purchasing.
However, there are some other matters that I wanted to touch upon as well. The first of those is conflict-of-interest legislation. I’m well aware that you’ve been engaged in numerous discussions with groups representing municipal bodies and with groups representing school trustees. There’s no doubt in my mind that the present conflict-of-interest legislation has to be changed, but it concerns me greatly that it is the people who are affected by that legislation who are going to be forced to declare their conflict of interest in various circumstances and who are being asked what the conflict-of-interest legislation should be.
I’m concerned, too, that so many of them seem to have no trust in their fellow elected officials. It bothers me that the proposals I have seen for revisions to conflict-of-interest legislation are in fact tightening it up quite dramatically. I hope that at some time there will be a proposal from the minister that is not necessarily just a proposal as presented to him by MLC or by AMO, but which is in fact a proposal that represents government policy about the responsibilities of municipal-elected officials. I think that’s something this House should be deciding and the people of Ontario should be deciding, rather than leaving it entirely in the hands of the elected officials who are going to come under that legislation.
I know that kind of thing is a difficult issue to deal with, and I know there were great hopes when the present act was put in place that it would deal with things in a satisfactory manner. It concerns me if we’re going to be moving into a situation where the rights of a municipal elected official or a school trustee to participate in debate are going to be even more restricted, particularly when you are dealing with fairly major issues.
I want to inquire, for example -- and it is only an example -- whether, if you were dealing with a major street widening, you would automatically exclude from debate and vote on that issue every councillor or alderman who happened to live within 400 feet of that street? That’s the kind of thing that I get out of the latest proposals I’ve seen. It bothers me, because that is denying many people in the municipality their right to have their elected officials make known their views to council. I’m not sure that’s the direction we should be taking.
I think we need a definition -- and I put that out as a suggestion to you -- of matters that are of importance to the entire ward or the entire municipality and in which the individual elected official’s personal interest is minimal; I think the elected officials should be allowed to vote on those.
As to the converse, we need to define those matters that are not of major interest within the municipality and in which the elected officials’ personal interest is substantial. I think it is correct that municipal elected officials be denied the right to participate in those votes.
This leads me to the matter of protection of the public interest. That is a very broad phrase and something that lawyers and those who feel they have some knowledge of the legal system like to get involved in. There are an increasing number of cases coming to my attention in which municipalities have denied rights to an individual in a matter in which that individual feels he has a substantial interest and a substantial right.
It may well be that municipal elected officials occasionally conduct vendettas against individuals in the municipality. It may just be that the elected councils are sometimes not able to come to grips with the fullness of an issue. In those circumstances the matters get hauled before the courts. It concerns me greatly that municipalities seem to be in court more and more often dealing with this kind of problem, a problem where they are involved in a dispute with one of their taxpayers.
Just as we have a system in this province for dealing with cases where individuals have an opportunity to seek redress if they feel they have been dealt with unfairly by the provincial government or one of its agencies, and that system is the office of the Ontario Ombudsman, I want to suggest to the minister that kind of system might well help to deal with a lot of problems that face individuals in their dealings with municipal governments, which problems presently involve litigation which costs the taxpayers a great deal of money.
I am aware that municipalities could have the opportunity to set up that kind of operation within their own offices. I want to suggest to the minister that a municipal ombudsman in every one of 840 municipalities really doesn’t make a great deal of sense. I want to ask whether he would be prepared to give very serious study to a proposal to set up an ombudsman who would deal with municipal governments right across the province in a way somewhat similar to that in which our present provincial Ombudsman deals with problems involving the provincial government.
Municipal election campaigns are another area brought before the public every two years and one in which there are a lot of heated feelings. I don’t understand why we can’t have a municipal election expenses act similar to the acts we have at the provincial and federal levels. In large municipalities it may well be that the office of mayor, and perhaps the office of controller, carry a great deal more responsibility than that which is placed upon individuals in this House, though I think sometimes that would be difficult.
There is no doubt a municipal election campaign across a municipality as large as Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa or Windsor is a very major undertaking, an undertaking far larger than that which any of us has to face. Yet there are no restrictions, no controls, no guidelines of any kind on municipal election campaigns.
I know that municipalities have been given the power to set up those guidelines themselves; but it really bothers me, in a situation where party politics are either nonexistent or not existent in an overt way, that you ask those who are already elected to set up guidelines to cover those who are trying to run an election campaign to remove them from office. That just doesn’t seem to me to be a realistic way to go.
It seems to me that a municipal election expenses act is something that could be dealt with by this House, should be dealt with by this House and would be welcomed by electors right across the province.
There were some exchanges of opinions earlier today about environmental assessment as it applies to municipal projects. I know that the minister’s colleagues the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Parrott) and the Premier (Mr. Davis) have promised on several occasions during the last year or more that the regulations to implement the Environmental Assessment Act for major municipal projects will be promulgated in the very near future. I am sure the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has been involved in discussions around that issue.
I recognize that one of the difficulties is the potential for duplication with Ontario Municipal Board hearings. I want to say most of all that not all major municipal projects involve the Ontario Municipal Board in a hearing. In some cases, for whatever reason, be it that it is being funded out of current revenue or that no zoning changes are needed, there is no requirement for the municipality to go to the OMB. In others, the approach that is taken before the OMB is such that the public does not wish to object on financial or planning grounds but does wish to object on environmental grounds.
It seems to me that in such cases the Environmental Assessment Act could proceed immediately, and there should be no hangup at all in putting in place a circumstance whereby, even if an OMB hearing is needed, at least for the time being the OMB and the Environmental Assessment Board panel can sit concurrently and conduct their business through one series of hearings that deals with the issues that need to come before both.
I am sure that in the longer term it is going to be necessary to set up a somewhat simplified procedure, but I do not believe we should be waiting now for environmental assessment of municipal projects because of some fairly straightforward difficulties -- straightforward because they can be solved in at least a temporary way -- involving duplication of hearings.
I want to make it clear, though, that I do not believe things that are at present the responsibility of the OMB should be transferred to the Environmental Assessment Board or that the OMB should be asked to consider environmental matters when holding an environmental hearing. The two are so totally distinct, I believe, that if we move to a common hearing, in the short term it would have to be by having two panels present, and in the long term it would have to be by setting up a new organization.
The minister’s colleagues the Minister of the Environment and the Premier indicated earlier this year, and indeed last year, that the regulations for environmental assessment of municipal projects would be put in place this year. It now looks as though that is not going to happen, and it is my understanding that is being said because of the white paper on the Planning Act and because that white paper makes reference to it. The white paper seems to be getting pushed further and further into the future, and I am not sure at all we will be seeing the legislation that corresponds to that introduced to this House even next year.
I do not believe we can carry on delaying environmental assessment of municipal projects. I believe it has to move forward very quickly. I would urge the minister to use his influence with his colleagues to ensure that procedures are put in place that enable that to be done so that all projects can be covered by an environmental assessment hearing where there is a need and where there is public demand.
With regard to this morning’s exchange, something that concerns me a little is that the impression is left in people’s minds that, once the Environmental Assessment Act is put in place for municipalities, projects that have been implemented prior to that date will be exempt from its provisions. One of the difficulties with the Red Hill Creek Expressway is that it is a long-term project; it is not going to start next year or the year after, even if it starts at all.
I hope, and I am sure the minister and his colleagues hope, that the Environmental Assessment Act will be put in place for municipal projects before such time as the Red Hill Creek Expressway is built, if indeed it is.
If that means there will be an inordinate delay because we cannot proceed with environmental assessment now but have to proceed with it at some later date, then I want to suggest that will sit fairly and squarely on your shoulders and on your colleagues’ shoulders, because we are suggesting, given that everybody supports environmental assessment hearings, it should proceed on that kind of major project right now. I don’t think we’re suggesting it should be just on the Redhill Creek Expressway, but it should be on every major municipal project of that kind, effective immediately. The Redhill Creek Expressway is just one example, I’m sure you’re aware, Mr. Minister, possibly even more than I am, that the Environmental Assessment Act and its procedures have an impact on property values.
If the municipalities are not able to proceed with land purchases under that act; if we delay in environmental hearings; if the procedures are played around with now so we cannot move to a hearing swiftly; then when that expressway or any other expressway in the municipality is given the go ahead, the taxpayers could end up paying substantially more in land acquisition costs simply because of the delay. I really urge you, Mr. Minister, to consult with your colleagues and to encourage them to do everything possible to call an environmental assessment panel together to start hearings on that project at a very early date.
Last time, Mr. Chairman, I made some reference to property tax and said I didn’t want to get into it in too much detail. Since that time we’ve seen the new assessment equalization factors being gazetted.
It concerns me greatly that the full impact of those new equalization factors were apparently not understood by the government prior to being published. Indeed, many municipalities have only just this week started grasping the full impact of those factors; because they impact not only on distribution of grants, not only on sharing between municipalities across the province, but also on sharing between municipalities and school boards and between municipalities within a regional area.
I don’t think there was any dispute that new factors were needed but there is no right way or wrong way to do equalization. There are many ways it can be done. We talked about that under section 86.
I wonder whether the minister can explain why the government those to adopt new equalization factors based on 100 per cent of market value for all classes of property, rather than using factors based on 50 per cent of market value for residential and farm property as was proposed order all the property tax reform proposals that were being considered last year?
I wonder whether this is an indication the government intends to move to property taxation at market value based on 100 per cent for all classes of property, or whether it was because the matter was not given full consideration. What it’s doing is transferring, in some way, the burden of property taxes to municipalities that are primarily residential or rural. Those who have a heavy industrial assessment are benefitting under the new equalization factors, and I don’t deny them that right, but it is costing residential taxpayers in municipalities that do not have an industrial base very dearly. That has short-term implications. It’s making it very difficult for municipalities to plan their budgets for next year, and those budgets should be in the works already.
It’s having a longer-term impact as well, which bothers me very greatly. If we stick with this kind of system, it is going to mean that municipalities are going to compete even more heavily for industrial development than they do at the present time, because the benefit to the municipality from industrial and commercial assessment, that benefit which may or may not have existed in the past, will almost certainly exist and be very effective in the future.
Without any kind of provincial official plan and without any kind of guidelines as to where new growth should take place and where our development centres should be, the competition is going to be costing taxpayers money, both in terms of the efforts put in by the municipalities and, more important in my mind, because it is not going to ensure the best possible distribution of industrial and commercial development across this province.
I ask the minister why did he use 100 per cent for residential and farm in the new equalization factors, rather than 50 per cent for those and 100 per cent for the commercial and industrial? What is he going to do to help solve the problems that are created by the new factors?
To move on, earlier this summer I had some correspondence with some of the minister’s colleagues about the responsibility of municipalities to deal with adult entertainment activities. As the minister is well aware, last year the municipalities were given the power to license certain kinds of adult entertainment activity. In every case where it is of any relevance at all, the municipalities have put bylaws in place to license out of existence those kinds of operations which they find objectionable and which I am sure we all find objectionable.
If there is uniform feeling across the province that these kinds of activities should not be going on, I don’t understand why the government then makes it a municipal responsibility rather than making it a provincial responsibility. There is a further problem, and that is municipalities do not have the resources to keep up with the entrepreneurs who run these kinds of operations.
Last Saturday in the Star I found it rather amusing that there was an almost full-page article in colour talking about how Yonge Street was cleaned up. Today on the radio I heard of police raiding an establishment for activities that indicate to me very clearly that the situation has not been cleaned up, and that it has just been pushed to a slightly lower level underground.
I don’t believe municipalities can handle these kinds of problems. Whenever a municipality puts bylaws in place to attempt to deal with adult entertainment activity, the entrepreneurs are going to find a way of beating them. Licensing should not be used as a mechanism for banning. That is not what licensing is intended to be, and yet that is what we have in this particular area. Municipalities do not have the resources to enforce properly the bylaws that they pass; enforcement of legislation against these kinds of activities is very complex.
Finally, the kind of activity I referred to in my communication with the minister’s colleague earlier this summer, that of a dancing and conversation studio, doesn’t fall within the purview of a municipality to licence anyway. Yet that kind of activity is very seriously exploiting people in our society who are lonely, or who for some other reason are seeking the kind of consolation they believe that kind of studio will provide. We know it is not providing that kind of atmosphere because it would be against the law if it were providing it.
Nevertheless, these operators are charging people money as if they were providing it and then exploiting them seriously, putting them in a circumstance where they are so embarrassed it is very difficult to get action taken against the operators. In fact, there may be nothing illegal going on except the helpless consumers who are lured into those places are being ripped off.
I really think control of those kinds of establishments should rest here, rather than in city halls and town halls across the province. The feelings against them are the same everywhere and there is no point in allowing a local option and requiring local taxpayers to carry an even bigger burden in terms of enforcement costs.
I just have three small items I want to refer to and ask about before winding up, Mr. Minister. I have some very serious concerns about the method of operation of the Ontario Home Renewal Program. I realize it is a Ministry of Housing program, but it is set up in such a way that municipal government is responsible for its day to day administration. Therefore, it seems to me it does come within your purview as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. I am sure some municipal people have been commenting to you about it. I certainly hope they have, because they have been commenting to me about it; and I have been getting comments from the public as well.
The difficulty is the enforcement of the rules of that program and the regulations for the awarding of grants under that program -- and as an aside it’s an excellent program -- are not uniform between one municipality and its neighbour. If you live in city A it may well be you can get an Ontario Home Renewal Program loan very easily --
Hon. Mr. Wells: On a point of order: I really believe this discussion is out of order. If the honourable member wants to continue on and take the time that’s fine with me, but I don’t intend to talk about the Ontario Home Renewal Program which is directly under the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett). He will talk about that in his estimates. I don’t mind talking in generalities, but I am not going to deal with the details because it has nothing to do with my ministry.
Mr. Isaacs: I will accept that, but I will talk, then, about uniformity of services to people within a municipality and ask the minister whether he believes if the provincial government provides money for a particular service on a uniform basis across the province and provides that money to the public through municipalities, should the public in every municipality expect a uniform level of service?
It bothers me greatly that where there are provincial funds involved and a provincial program, the action of a municipal council can prevent the public gaining the access to that program they should have. It doesn’t only apply to home renewal, it could apply to drainage, it could apply to lake shore protection, it could apply to anything else. If the program is a provincial program why give it to the municipalities to administer and thereby deny some citizens of this province the opportunity to take advantage of that program in the way it was perhaps originally intended?
That lack of uniformity, that lack of co-operation and consultation between municipal governments, is a problem in a lot of other areas as well. I am thinking, for example, about the tremendous amounts of money that have been wasted by municipalities attempting to set up no-smoking bylaws. I think the concern about no-smoking bylaws certainly falls within the municipal affairs arena.
I want to suggest to the minister that his staff could help greatly in cutting down the burden of taxes municipal taxpayers face if he would encourage municipalities to work together to solve problems instead of each doing their own thing when that particular activity is not one that is to be different in municipality A than municipality B.
The amount of money spent in court hearings on no-smoking bylaws in Toronto was a burden to taxpayers of this city. The money spent in gaining legal advice in half a dozen other municipalities I am aware of which have attempted to put in no-smoking bylaws was a burden on the taxpayer of those municipalities. Why couldn’t this ministry have assisted in that area, when the minister knew that the interest was there and given the municipalities the legal expertise that is within the ministry so that they would not have to run off to their own solicitors and pay for advice which ministry staff must have had, which Toronto city hall staff must have had? This kind of duplication of expense is just not needed and should be cut out.
Mr. Chairman, I was going to get into some other areas of traffic signalling and the like, that too is a question of lack of uniformity between municipalities in matters that affect residents right across the province, but I think, given the minister has indicated he wants to speak in generalities rather than on specific issues, I will wind up my remarks there; but I want to urge him, very seriously, to explain to the public of this province what is going on with regard to regional government and municipal restructuring because its something that is of very great concern to taxpayers as they see their tax bills increasing dramatically for services they are just not getting.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Chairman, I will attempt to deal with some of the matters my friend has put forward. I hope he understands my last point. We could, of course, in these estimates, because of our general coordinating role and our role of dealing with the municipalities through the responsibility of the Municipal Act and others, talk about anything concerning municipalities, but we both recognize that the responsibilities for the provision of various services on the municipal side rests with a variety of ministries, all of which administer programs and deal directly with municipalities. I really think that discussion of the details of programs, in say transportation or in the housing area, should be left to be dealt with by those particular ministers.
If we want to talk in generalities about the general co-ordinating mechanisms and approaches that we use, the general total sums of money available, I certainly think that’s fair game for these estimates, but I wouldn’t attempt to deal wish any of the details that might be found in a program like the Ontario Home Renewal Program because I think that’s the responsibility of the Minister of Housing.
I do want to say, though, that there’s a general thread running through the member’s remarks that sort of suggests that municipalities shouldn’t have some autonomy that they have. I guess he and I differ philosophically here. Perhaps some day we will even get to redoing the Municipal Act completely, where we set out in very broad terms powers for municipalities and then they do their own thing. I don’t think we should sit here and tell every municipality in this province exactly what kind of a bylaw they should have to govern adult entertainment parlours, that’s their responsibility. The elected people in the municipality who are, as they tell us many times, supposed to be closer to the people than we are, are the ones who have concerns for things like the moral tone of their community in a direct sense as they pertain to adult entertainment parlours, topless waitresses in various establishments, or whether there should be no-smoking bylaws in public areas of their municipality; and the list could go on and on and on.
I think for us to suggest in a province of eight million people with 837 municipalities that the 125 people sitting in this Legislature should be able to govern the minute actions that go on in every municipality across this province would be wrong and would be striking at the kind of autonomy in which all of us believe. We all know we haven’t reached perfection as far as autonomy is concerned for municipalities but I think we certainly should be working towards that. That’s why in many of the things that we do we put in place legislation which empowers people to do certain things. Then the right or the responsibility as to whether they wish to implement a program or not or put in certain bylaws or control certain things is something they themselves make up their minds to do, and they do.
That takes me to another point my friend mentioned, whether, if there is a provincial program, it should be applied equally across the province and so forth. I would say that it should be available equally to everyone in the province. Whether it is taken up by every area of the province is the responsibility, I believe, of that particular municipality. It is not our responsibility here to say, because we have a home renewals program or we have a whole variety of programs that provide financial assistance if certain things are done, to say that every municipality must take them.
There will be times when that, of course, is the case; but basically, most of the programs are programs that provide some form of assistance, and sometimes guidance, for a municipality. Whether or not they choose to implement that program rests with them. I don’t see that as any violation of the principle. It is universally equal. To a large degree the terms and conditions of the program are the same if they want to take it up. They may vary depending on population or certain criteria, but basically the program is available. It is up to the municipality whether or not they want to institute that program, So that, certainly, would be my philosophy in that particular area.
That leads us, I suppose, directly to the area of a municipal election expenses act. You have suggested that perhaps we should have a uniform municipal election expenses act in this province. I haven’t seen any degree of uniformity among the municipalities that they would like a provincially- administered act. We, of course, have made changes in the Municipal Act to allow municipalities to enact their own bylaw to bring in some of the things that are in our act. Certainly not all of the things, and certainly not the kind of provisions that, for instance, would allow income tax deductibility of contributions, which is probably one of the major reforms -- if I can term it that way -- that most candidates certainly would like to see at the municipal level.
That kind of provision, of course, would have some fairly wide financial ramifications for the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) of this province. Certainly that is something I think he should look at. I am not saying I am opposed to a municipal --
Mr. Bradley: Just as mortgage interest deductibility will have ramifications for the Treasurer of this province.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mortgage interest deductibility: if I recall, the Finance Minister of Canada says that it wouldn’t have any adverse ramifications for the province. We take him at his word, but we will probably get into that in discussions of some other matters a little later on too.
Anyway, as I say, I haven’t any deep set negative feelings about a municipal election expenses act. I think it is probably something we should continue to look at and to work towards. But first, I haven’t seen the really grassroots feeling from all the municipalities that we need this.
I have some worry that again we are trying, at the provincial level, to build in some uniformity for every candidate in every election, all over the province, at the municipal level. Whether that is good or not, I don’t know. I think that will have to be looked at. What I think we should do is take the interim steps to provide municipalities with the legal right to do those things if they want, if they really feel strongly in areas where they can legislate by bylaw. Of course the deduction area is one they can’t, but there are areas of municipal campaign disclosure, and so forth, that can take them part way towards the kind of act we have.
I think for the minute that is the direction we would be going in. I don’t see the development of a municipal election expenses act in the very near future.
Then we get to the area of conflict-of-interest legislation, where I guess we have operated in the other way. We have brought in a provincial act to govern the matter of conflict of interest at the municipal level. There, of course, there is perhaps no consistency in my arguments, because on the one hand we have brought in a piece of legislation that applies equally to all municipalities in the area of conflict of interest, but I guess the interesting thing is that, having brought that in in a fairly detailed manner, that act is now under attack.
The suggestions are that, at least from the point of view of some people, it should not be as all-encompassing as it is. Yet I submit that when you try to bring in a provincial act to cover 837 municipalities and all the contingencies that would arise, involving school boards and so forth, when you start to draft an act like that, you get on act that becomes very all-encompassing and has all the ifs, ands and buts in trying to cover all the contingencies; then, when it is put into operation, it is sometimes criticized for not allowing any flexibility for municipalities and perhaps being too much of a straitjacket.
I recognize the problems that my friend has stated in some of the areas. I recognize some of the municipal problems concerning street widenings and some of the conflict-of- interest cases that have come up there; they are the cases that have caused us to study the act and to bring forward some new suggestions. We set up a committee, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario had a committee, and those will all be looked at must say that I think some of the other celebrated cases in the conflict-of-interest situation show that the act was good. Some of those school board cases certainly were the kinds of things that I think it was certainly believed the act would cover; in certain matters of direct financial interest of a family of a person, that was considered to be an area where a person should declare a conflict of interest. If we are talking about loosening up the whole act so that we can accommodate a lot of these things, I think we would have to look very carefully at that. In this particular area, I again draw attention to the fact that this is one piece of legislation for which the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) has responsibility. While we have input into it and certainly we have very strong input and will be very interested in what happens, he has the carriage of that bill and the responsibility for its implementation. Therefore, I think it would be fitting for us to discuss the details under his estimates.
In the area of the regional studies, let me tell the honourable members about the studies we have under way or that have just reached conclusion. The Kenora study is moving near completion, and the final report by the consultant is expected very shortly. The Blind River and Sault Ste. Marie study has been published and completed by ministry staff. In both cases there has appeared to be no visible support for any change in the area. We have held meetings in Sault north and are proposing meetings in the Blind River area, but I must say the reports I have had back on that from those particular --
Mr. Epp: You are not going to bring in regional government there?
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, we are not going to bring in regional government.
Mr. Bradley: They’d love to hear that in Niagara.
Hon. Mr. Wells: They have one of the finest regional governments.
The Hearst-to-Smooth Rock study has been released, several meetings have been held, and the responses are now being received and compiled. The Kirkland Lake study, a locally done and provincially sponsored study, was completed a year ago. The report is being discussed locally. There does not seem to be very much sign of pressure for any change in the area.
These studies that have been done are being released and basically put out for study in the area by the people, the municipalities and so forth; based on the reactions, the decisions as to what should happen afterward are then taken.
The Geraldton report was issued in the last few weeks; it was behind schedule by about a year because of some staff changes. The local response and reaction is now being solicited, and we are waiting for that.
Those are the studies that are under way at present or have been done. There are no studies in which we are involved under way in the south at the present lime.
That brings us to the regional reviews.
With regard to the Niagara regional review, when I was down in Niagara last March we talked with the regional council about that. Barring a few housekeeping matters, I think we all agreed that no further changes would be made at this point in time in the Niagara area. That was the assumption based on the study in Niagara. However, I indicated to the regional council that if they had some other particular ideas they’d like to discuss with us, we’d be quite pleased to discuss them.
In a minute I’ll discuss the Hamilton situation vis-à-vis what I consider major changes and minor changes. In the case of Ottawa-Carleton, we’re still in the process of reviewing the Ottawa-Carleton study and the white paper. I would say that what I have asked particularly of the Ottawa-Carleton region is whether there should be changes in representation in the area. I’m presently waiting for some response from the regional government and all the municipalities as to their thoughts on representation. Some of them have already put forward proposals for changes and others are still considering it. I think the matter of the board of control in Ottawa has gone to the Ontario Municipal Board for full and frank discussion and debate.
In Metropolitan Toronto, we’re still in the process of assessing the Robarts report and, basically, the white paper that was issued by the Ministry of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Mr. Warner: How many more years?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I must say there’s no groundswell of public opinion or appeal for us to be moving in particular areas, except in those areas that every municipality is concerned about -- taxes, assessment and so forth.
Mr. Warner: It has been so long they’ve all forgotten.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Actually, they’re all doing very well and that’s why there’s really no groundswell of feeling that there has to be some great change.
Mr. Epp: That’s why you spent over a million dollars studying it, because there was no groundswell for change. Wasting the public money like that is no concern of yours. You just put it on the shelf afterwards.
Hon. Mr. Wells: A point that is often brought up is that these studies are a waste of money. I don’t buy that particular point of view because I think it is a mistaken idea that you have to have a study and then you have to act on the recommendations and that if you don’t act on the recommendations the study has been completely worthless and the money has been wasted.
Mr. Epp: Oh no, it’s not been worthless. It has been very beneficial to the people who got the money.
Hon. Mr. Wells: You have to remember that what you’re saying is act on the recommendations that you, the member for Waterloo, like and the study will have been worthwhile and you will have got your money’s worth; but if you, the member for Waterloo North, don’t like the recommendations, don’t act on them, but even if you do, still the study’s worthless.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Tell us what you do like about them.
Hon. Mr. Wells: What we’re really doing in these studies is asking a person to be the catalyst to bring forward a lot of comment to force people to look inwardly at themselves and look at their operation and perhaps suggest changes for the improvement of that particular structure.
The one thing I always worry about concerning studies is I have the inherent feeling that when a person is asked to do a study he feels he has got to recommend something different. Although they may not have felt at the first that what they later recommended was really needed, in the process of the study they may become convinced that the change is what’s needed. As I’ve said many times, too often it’s change for change’s sake.
In other words, you justify the million dollars on the Robarts study by changing all the boundaries in Metropolitan Toronto, which would have been nonsense. I don’t think there’s anybody in this House who would have recommended or would have supported the changes of the boundaries that were suggested.
Mr. Warner: This is quite an attack on the former Premier. He’ll be disappointed.
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, it’s not an attack on the former Premier because I think that out of that study John Robarts was able to bring forward thoughts from a lot of people which solidified their thinking about Metro. It caused to happen a lot of small things in Metro that I think have made things better, and it was a good exercise.
Mr. Warner: The report is solidified by now.
Hon. Mr. Wells: My friend from Scarborough-Ellesmere -- I am not sure whether he is making a big defence of the Robarts report, but he and I, of course, differ very strongly. He would like to do away with the metropolitan school board.
Mr. Warner: Right on. Tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Wells: A very misguided recommendation, I believe.
Mr. Warner: I am not alone.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Misguided and also --
Mr. Warner: The Toronto board wants to get rid of it.
Hon. Mr. Wells: The Toronto board may want to get rid of it, but at least some of the other boards don’t. Some of the people who have really studied things in Metropolitan Toronto feel that would be a regressive step. That just illustrates one point --
Mr. Warner: Like Mr. Robarts, who recommended it.
Hon. Mr. Wells: One point that I am trying to make is that the fact someone suggests change doesn’t necessarily mean it is a change for the better. It is that person’s opinion of a change for the better. Therefore, we have to assess these studies very carefully --
Mr. Warner: Mr. Robarts may never speak to you again.
Mr. Epp: Can we quote you on that the next time you recommend some change and we disagree with you? Can we quote you on that at that time?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Can you quote me on what?
Mr. Epp: That it is not necessarily a change for the better; it is just your personal opinion that it is better.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It’s their opinion of a change that would be for the better. Therefore, it is no sin that people study the suggestions and recommendations, and may disagree with them and put them to one side.
That doesn’t mean that the money was wasted, and it doesn’t cast any aspersions on the person who wrote the report. All it means is that’s a good thing to look at but that in the light of day and full consideration you may have to reject some of those recommendations. There is nothing wrong with that.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: We don’t mind your not agreeing with some of them. Aren’t there some you agree with that should be implemented, though? Are you saying that because you aren’t implementing anything at the moment and aren’t contemplating doing so you disagree with all the recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Wells: We obviously have been implementing things, because there have been changes to all the regional acts. We are particularly concerned about various changes that the regions want.
The philosophy I have tried to adopt on this is that the best philosophy -- and this is a different philosophy perhaps than that applied before, because as I have said in many speeches I don’t really believe we will be appointing any high-profile-type reviews of regional government, such as we have in the past. I don’t think that is what is needed. I think what is needed is a very careful assessment of regional government by the governments themselves -- the people in the region should take a look at their operation. They should take a look at it, assess what is happening, and then present to us what they think are the ways it could be made better. When they do that we will then work with them to put those into effect.
That gets to the point that my friend from Hamilton raised about store hours. The regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth wrote to ask if we would give the region the power to set store hours. That is not a major change, in terms of philosophy, which the other example he used would be.
He said, “If the region wrote you and said, ‘Make us a one-tier government,’ would you do that?” He knows, of course, that the answer to that is “no”; we wouldn’t do that. When the government brought in its original bill it believed that a two-tier Hamilton-Wentworth regional government was the kind of thing that would work best over there. It probably still is. Whether it is in its exact, proper form is something for the region itself to take a look at. That would be a very major change.
The shifting of responsibilities for various services within the region, the minor adjustment of boundaries that are agreed upon, a whole host of smaller things like that which can make the region work better, are the kinds of things I would like to see the region come to us and say they have studied; that this is what they want to do, and will we change the act? That is the way we are operating at the minute; we don’t have a general act that allows them to do that.
Perhaps one should even look to the day when the regions themselves could change responsibilities.
Mr. Haggerty: When you can rescind the act -- in Niagara region for example; it would make everybody happy there.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Maybe you should look to the day when the regions can change responsibilities without even having to change the regional act that created them. We haven’t arrived at that day when we have general legislation which gives certain broad powers to municipalities and regions and then they operate within them.
Therefore, I see us being very consistent in accepting from the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth a resolution to give the region the power to set store hours. It was passed almost unanimously at the region and was presented to us. I fail to see why we should not implement it.
I realize some municipalities -- ones at least that voted against it -- are going to come in the other side and say: “Don’t pass it because we’re not in favour of it.” The fact is that battle should be fought out there at the regional council and it should come down to us with its resolution. What they’re really saying is if they fight it out there and lose there, then they can start to fight down at Queen’s Park. The region asks for this and comes in and fights for it here. At this point in time, I’m just accepting the recommendation of the regional council which has said that it would like to have this particular change.
As far as anything else is concerned in Hamilton-Wentworth, at this point in time we’re still looking at that particular study. I’m sure the member is as aware as I am that the mayor of Hamilton would like to have certain changes and is probably going to be fighting very strongly for those changes within the region. There are other municipalities that feel the kind of changes he wants are not valid.
Let me get to one other review which I think is perhaps setting the model for what we’re doing. I wish I had a copy of it here as I might quote a few things from it. I think the Waterloo regional study is probably one of the better studies that has been done. It was done by Bill Palmer, who was formerly chairman of the Ontario Municipal Board and Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs.
I think the interesting thing about the Waterloo study was that it developed criteria for measuring cost-effectiveness, the cost of the operation of regional government and the cost of a constituent or lower-level municipality being in the region or not.
For instance, I see here, based on those studies and putting them into effect and using the data that was available in the region of Waterloo, Palmer came to the conclusion that, “Contrary to the opinions held by many residents of the region of Waterloo, the cost of local government has not increased substantially faster than it would have under the former system. Secondly, it is no more expensive in comparison with similar areas outside or inside regional governments. Thirdly, after four years of regional government, the average per household property tax was lower in real dollars than it was four years prior to regional government.”
That’s his conclusion. I’m not sure whether the people in the particular area agree or disagree with that but they at least have -- and this is the important thing -- the background reports and the methodology that allowed the Palmer commission to come to this conclusion. As I recall, the kind of conclusion they came to was that contrary to what the people of Cambridge, who voted to secede from the region, may have been told or believe, they really were benefiting from being in the region and the whole region was benefiting from having Cambridge there.
I think that methodology is very important and that that’s the kind of thing other regions can take because Palmer and his commission did the work, so they’ve got the methodology that can be taken and used in other regions to do the same kind of cost-effectiveness studies and see what the answers would be in the regions. That’s a good thing for other regions to do. The basic work having been done by the Waterloo study, I suggested that this was something other regions could look at.
What’s happened in the Waterloo study, as you probably know, is that rather than having it brought in and presented to the government and then having everybody sitting back and saying, “It’s yours. What are you going to do about it?” I said to them I didn’t even want to be involved in the study to a great degree, the way we were with the other studies, until they, who are basically the area concerned in the study, have taken what this outside commissioner and his staff have come up with.
I said, “We’ll stay out until you’ve analysed it yourself and you’ve looked at all the recommendations and assumptions that he’s made and you’ve decided whether or not they’re the kind of things that can make your region a better place.”
So they are now doing that under the direction of the regional chairman and the mayors of the constituent municipalities. They are going through that process and, eventually, we’ll have the Palmer report and we’ll have the internal study. We’ll have the listing, I hope, of the things they’re going to do themselves which do not need any involvement or change from us, and then the kind of things they think will be of benefit in changes that we made here in Queen’s Park.
As far as I’m concerned, this review is going well. It’s the kind of pattern I think we should probably have followed with some of the others. However, it’s too late now and, as I’ve indicated to you, the other ones are being looked at.
Let me move on to the Environmental Assessment Act and when it will apply to municipalities. We have not believed that we should subject municipalities to duplicate hearings -- to hearings that were required under one piece of legislation where the used one procedure to apply for a particular project -- and then have a duplicate hearing under the Environmental Assessment Act. So a task force was set up within our ministries to try to come up with a procedure that would at least make one hearing serve all the various purposes. That task force, chaired by Ron Farrow in our local government division, has reported that the Ministry of the Environment is working on the amendments. I would have to say, to be realistic, the amendments are coming in in the spring. That’s really the purview of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Parrott), but by spring we should have a procedure laid out that would apply to most municipal projects. Our idea is not to do away with environmental assessment but to do away with duplication of hearings, cut down length of time and save costs for municipalities.
Mr. Isaacs: Will it be retroactive?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I would doubt that it would be retroactive. The opposition in this House never likes retroactive legislation. No one likes retroactive legislation.
Mr. Warner: Except for our salaries.
Mr. Isaacs: So it will only cover projects that have not been approved as of the date it’s reported?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I think you had better ask the Minister of the Environment about that detail to see what he’s got in mind.
Let me move on to the area of property taxes. First of all, you asked why we chose to introduce the new factors based on 100 per cent of assessed value for all classes of property. It’s my understanding -- and I just had a quick word with my colleague, the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Maeck) -- that we had no option but to do that if the factors under the legislation were to be based on market value assessment.
You may recall in the various proposals that floated around when we were talking about the property tax reform proposals, there were suggestions for 50 per cent residential, 75 per cent for apartments, 100 per cent for commercial, and so forth. Actually, when those general, broad ideas were applied to individual municipalities they presented problems for the municipalities. There is no particular, equally perfect solution. So it was not possible, I’m told, to bring in the new factors in any other form than 100 per cent of assessed value for all classes of property. My friend is right, there is no question that because this happened, and because residential property has increased in assessed value at a much greater degree over the last decade than commercial property, the relationship that was there in the old factors when they were computed back in 1970 and the relationship to the new factors between residential and commercial present some problems.
Those factors, however, have been introduced and Gazetted and replace the 1970 frozen factors which had been used for grant and apportionment purposes by Education and by Intergovernmental Affairs over this period of time. In other words, those factors are necessary for apportionments and for grants, if the general legislative grant and the resource equalization grant are to be computed, as they have been computed in the past.
Although these factors reflect the changes which have taken place in property value over the last past decade --
Mr. Haggerty: Drastic changes.
Hon. Mr. Wells: -- they do reflect that there has been a change and that change has been that residential has increased more than commercial assessment.
I want to emphasize that the introduction of those factors does not represent a change in our taxation policies. However, if these new factors were used without limit there would, of course, be large, and in some cases unacceptable, shifts in the burden of property tax among municipalities and among ratepayers.
I am sure members of this House are aware that without some offsetting government action the use of the new factors would create substantial increases in taxation in a large number of municipalities.
What we, the government, propose to do to eliminate this impact is this: We propose to alleviate the impact by providing special funding to municipalities in 1980. In addition, we are instituting a limit on the assessment shifts which can take place in 1980 as a result of the new factors.
Basically, for municipal apportionment purposes, assessment shifts caused by the new factors of up to five per cent will be allowed to take place. Beyond that level shifts due to the new factors will be prevented. For general municipal purposes shifts and levies caused by the new factors will be limited to five per cent as well.
The new equalized assessment will also be used for grant purposes, of course. However, for those municipalities where an equalized assessment has been increased relative to the provincial overage by the new factors, and thus whose level of grant support would normally decrease, the government reiterates its commitment -- and this is a reiteration of the commitment my colleague the Minister of Revenue made last fall when he introduced the legislation to unfreeze the factors -- the government reiterates its commitment to provide at least as much in grant payments in 1980 as they would have received under the use of the old factors.
Mr. Haggerty: It doesn’t help much.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It certainly does help very much, if my friend had studied what is really happening.
Mr. Epp: At least as much in percentages, not in fixed dollars.
Mr. Haggerty: There is no guarantee there at all.
Hon. Mr. Wells: The guarantee is that they are going to get as much grant in 1980 as if the old factors were still there. The guarantee is in there, in dollars.
For other municipalities, the new equalized assessment will be used for the resource equalization grant, except in those cases where there is a relative reduction in equalized assessment of more than 10 per cent. In these cases the relative reduction will be limited to 10 per cent and the resource equalization grant will be paid on that basis.
In addition we intend to put an overall limit of $10 per capita on the amount of increase over their 1979 resource equalization grant which any municipality could receive.
We have also decided to introduce greater uniformity in respect of the split mill rate. The split mill rate, as the members know, is the measure by which residential and farm tax taxpayers pay a lower tax than that as paid on other properties. At present this split is at 15 per cent for municipal purposes. However, the split will be recognized as the resource equalization grant.
Therefore, starting in 1980, the split mill rate will be standardized at 15 per cent for the grant as well as most other municipal purposes. This measure by itself will further cushion residential taxpayers and modify the adverse shifts to residential and farming communities which is inherent in the new factors.
If I can just summarize, what I have said in these few remarks is this: Every municipality will receive at least as much in resource equalization grants in 1980, as it would have received under the old factors. That is the first summary item.
Secondly, no municipality will have its portion of the cost of the county, region or other joint body increased or decreased by more than five per cent because of the use of the new factors in 1980. This is ensured through two means: Firstly, the five per cent limit on relative assessment changes will reduce the changes in cost sharing and, secondly, the province will pay the increase in any county or regional levy in excess of five per cent which occurs as a direct result of the new factors.
The third thing to summarize is that to reduce further the burden of taxation on communities with little industrial or commercial assessment, residential assessment will be discounted by 15 per cent for purposes of the resource equalization grants.
These changes, of course, will have to be brought about and we will he discussing them in greater detail during this session of the House. You will also be hearing from the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) because she is faced with the same issues as far as the general legislative grant is concerned. In my talk with her I find she is taking the same kind of approach and she will be advising school boards of this.
What we intend to do within the next couple of weeks is to have our local government division people talk to every municipal treasurer in the province and make sure that they understand how these policies will apply. I think that to a great degree they will alleviate many of the concerns that have been expressed by many of the municipal councillors and treasurers across the province as they have looked at these factors alone and wondered how they would be used.
I think that we said all along, and I want to emphasize this, we have said all along, the unfreezing of the factors and publishing of the factors is a very mechanical process. My friend, the Minister of Revenue, under the legislation under which he operates for this particular purpose, the Assessment Act, is charged with producing and Gazetting these factors. They were frozen since 1970; this House chose to pass legislation on his recommendation to unfreeze them and new factors were introduced. That was a just and proper thing to do and how he computed those factors he will be glad to explain in great detail to all the members as he has been doing, and for the municipalities in this province.
The question that now remains and the question which legitimately must be answered for the municipal politicians and the treasurers and clerk treasurers of the various municipalities is, how will these factors be now used for grant and apportionment purposes? I think I have indicated to you today how they will be used for resource equalization grant purposes and for apportionment purposes.
I think that what I have said today will have allayed a lot of the fears that some of them had as they looked at the cold stark factors knowing the changes that had occurred and relationships within those factors and what they would cost. We have indicated very clearly how these factors will flow be used, how they can apply and I think that the municipalities will be able to better figure out what the situation is for next year.
It’s too early for us to be able to tell them the amount and levels of the total grants, resource equalization grants and unconditional grants at this point in time, but I would suspect that within a month to six weeks we will be able to make the traditional announcement to them of the level and degree of support in that particular area.
The other place where the factors are also used, of course, is in the general legislative grant, as I said, and my friend the Minister of Education will be doing much the same thing and will be talking with the school boards and indicating to them how the program will apply there. I think that will alleviate a lot of the problems that some of the members have experienced from their local municipalities concerning this matter.
Mr. Chairman, I would not want my friend from the Liberal Party to feel neglected this morning; he has not had a chance to say anything, and I notice that the clock is moving on. If I have missed anything, perhaps as we continue, the honourable member can remind me about it and I can chat about some of the other items.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, my colleague from St. Catharines wants to speak but, since the minister raised this question, I want to get a clarification on the equalization factors.
Do I understand that he has pre-empted the Minister of Revenue, who is going to make a statement on this on Monday, and that that will not be necessary, because the minister has more or less given the details of this? Is it correct that the statement that was going to be forthcoming on Monday will not be necessary now?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Chairman, if I might interject for a moment, I have never said that I would make a statement on Monday.
Mr. Epp: I thought it was understood that, by October 15, the minister would make a statement on it.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: No. What I said was that the government would try to get the matter resolved by October 15, but I did not say that I, personally, would be making a statement,
It is not pre-emption at all. My responsibility, as the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has said, is to develop a proper factor. It is up to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Ministry of Treasury and Economics and others to decide how they will implement those factors; that, of course, is the procedure that is outlined and that is what is taking place.
Mr. Epp: Just one further clarification: With respect to the total grant, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs must have some idea, some ball-park figure; without specifically mentioning the amount, he must have some idea as to how much money the Treasury can afford to pay if he is going to alleviate the municipalities which would have a lion’s share of the increase. Can the minister tell us how such the Treasury feels it can afford for him to pay out? Is it going to be $10 million, $50 million or $100 million?
Hon. Mr. Wells: All these matters have not been completely decided yet, but I would say it is certainly going to cost more than $10 million and it may come in somewhere around the $50-million mark. I cannot tell the honourable member exactly what the amount of money will be, but there will be extra money put in to carry out those areas that I indicated would be done. In other words, the guarantee of the level of grant -- with no losers, no less money in 1980 than if the old factors had been used -- and the guarantee of the five per cent on apportionment levy -- will necessitate extra money being put in; that money will be put in, but the exact amount is still not definitely decided.
There are still some assumptions that are made when one does the computations, and those assumptions are not absolutely firm yet -- some of the assessment figures and other things that are needed. No one is absolutely firm on the actual figures that will be used for next year’s grant.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Chairman, I know that my colleague the member for Waterloo North will want to explore at some length and in some detail matters which affect this particular vote, but I would like to deal specifically with some particular questions concerning regional government which came up partially during questioning by the member for Wentworth.
I have been able to determine -- and would the minister confirm or deny this, please? -- that there is some kind of study of regional government going on in Niagara at the present time.
From what I can detect, it is being done by the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. People are being asked questions. At least, senior civil servants in the regional municipality of Niagara are being asked questions, which by and large, seem to lead towards selling regional government, or at least put regional government in its very best light and bring forward the benefits of regional government.
I would be concerned if this is true. First of all, I would like to know if there is a study going on and, second, if there is a study going on, what kind of questions are being asked and what is the purpose of the study?
Members on this side of the House were concerned that polls which have been taken by the government over the years might be used for political purposes. We are concerned, as well, that perhaps a study of this kind, which would deal only with the so-called benefits of regional government, might be used in the future for political purposes, and we would certainly want to know a little bit of detail about that.
Also, the minister visited the Niagara region rather recently, and indicated he met with the regional council and discussed some changes that might be made, or the general view of members of the regional council as it relates to regional government.
It is my view that one of the problems with consulting the people in the region is they have a vested interest in the continuation of the region as it is, or in the building up of the region. Even regional councillors who are elected with a slightly anti-regional bent are soon co-opted by their fellow members and by members of the senior staff, and come out changing their minds just a little bit, or at least muting some of their initial criticisms of the region.
Ms. Ashe: They learn the facts.
Mr. Bradley: I beg to differ with the member; they become co-opted, they become part of the club, or part of the gang down there. Many of them do. Some of them are managing to resist that.
If you want to discuss the ramifications of regional government, you have to go to the people in local government, once again those who are the closest to the people in the area municipality, to determine some of the problems caused by the implementation of regional government in certain areas.
My concern is you really talk to the converted when you talk to regional councillors and the senior staff of any regional municipality, and certainly, that wouldn’t be any different in Niagara.
We also recognize -- I think it is not hard to detect -- the proponents of regional government are now on the offensive. Talk to any of the chairmen and they sing the same tune right now, “We are going to go on the offensive. We are going to sell people on the idea that regional government is great,” and somehow they will tell you, “If there are problems, of course, the solution is to get rid of the area municipalities and then all the problems will be solved.”
I won’t call it a conspiracy, that is too strong a word, but that is an organized effort, it seems to me, on the part of those who are strong proponents of regional government; those who have a vested interest in the maintenance and growth of regional government; to ensure it continues to exist and to place certain pressures on the provincial government in regard to perhaps expanding their powers.
We notice, however, when you get into talking about local municipalities -- the Ottawa-Carleton case I guess is the latest -- some of the local area municipalities are not happy. If they had their druthers, they druther be out of regional government. Indeed, I was surprised it was the regional council, however, in Ottawa-Carleton, that passed a resolution, I believe, which would have permitted area municipalities to leave the region. Although I think the constitutionality or the legality of that particular act is certainly questionable, it does indicate there is dissatisfaction which, of course, we have seen over the years in the regional municipality of Niagara.
What is probably interesting now is some of those municipalities, whose mayors and certain other people within those municipalities were great proponents of regional government while they were getting the right end of the stick, are not so pleased about regional government when they are getting the wrong end of the stick, particularly when it is in terms of financial matters.
I did a survey -- and I recognize surveys are merely interesting sometimes, and they don’t always prove conclusive results, it depends on the wording of the question and so on -- but in a straight wording of a question I asked my constituents how many were in favour of regional government in Niagara, and approximately 75 to 80 per cent of them said they were not in favour.
Once again, I recognize and I will be the first to admit that surveys don’t always tell the whole truth. But it gives a general indication of the feeling of the people in my specific area about regional government. Even though it may not be directly within his responsibility, the minister might be aware of the expressions of concern about policing in the regional municipality of Niagara, and the efficiency of policing, and the movement on the part of some municipalities to have a return to localized police forces with the Ontario Provincial Police policing those areas which are rural and which they used to do a good job of in the past.
What I want to point out to the minister is that some of these things are recurring, that they haven’t disappeared. One other item: I asked him a question in the House some time ago and of course he said this is local autonomy. I could have predicted that answer and perhaps it was fair under the circumstances. I’m talking about the issue of the regional headquarters in Niagara at the present time.
First of all, I am of the view that we need a new regional headquarters in Niagara about as much as we need the plague in Niagara --
Mr. Haggerty: They can’t afford six million dollars.
Mr. Bradley: -- and yet again we have a lot of talk from those who have vested interests, certain regional councillors, members of senior staff and so on, those who are interested in establishing a symbol of permanence and a very nice place to work. They are coming forward with proposals for a new regional headquarters as though this is a very great priority at a time when we are supposed to be talking about restraint.
I would anticipate the minister will once again say that is a local matter and would not want to comment on it. However, I might be able to elicit from him certain comments on what he feels is the level of financial responsibility of those regional municipalities which are now talking about building new regional headquarters at a time when his government is talking about restraint.
A specific question which I would ask him to address would be towards the Mack School of Nursing, which has been proposed, as he is likely aware, as a future site if the region has to have a headquarters, if they are bent on having new headquarters, let’s put it that way, new facilities. One proposal which was made and was accepted at the last meeting of regional council -- who knows what will be accepted at the next meeting -- was for the renovation of the Mack School of Nursing residence building, the school and residence together, which actually belongs to the general hospital in St. Catharines. I remember when I was on the hospital board, at every finance committee meeting we had to talk about what we were going to do with the white elephant that was next door to us, because it turned out to be precisely that.
Some municipal people have advocated this as a future site if the building could be renovated. I asked the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) at one time about the possibility of the provincial government assisting either through being involved in the forgiveness of the mortgage or in providing some certain kind of grant to use that facility, whether the government might be interested. He said; “Go and see the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, because I don’t want it to come out of my budget,” which I think is reasonable in terms of the fact that he is dealing specifically with health.
I’m coming then to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and asking whether he feels he would be able to have any financial input in terms of a grant or in terms of working out an arrangement where the regional municipality of Niagara could acquire this structure and have it renovated, and whether his government feels that that would be undue interference or whether he feels it could be of assistance in this regard since his government was responsible, after all, for implementing regional government in Niagara? Some may see it as conscience money; I would see it as a reasonable investment if, as I say, the region is convinced it must, must, have a new headquarters.
I wanted to be brief enough to permit the minister to answer at some length on some of these questions, so I’ll close my remarks and wait with anticipation.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I can answer your last question without any need of any great study of that. I don’t think there’s any money around for us to provide any grants for the region to acquire the Mack School of Nursing residence building, if that’s what they wanted.
Mr. Haggerty: Let the rural municipalities pay for it; that’s what you’re saying.
Hon. Mr. Wells: We don’t have a policy of providing grants for regional headquarters. Even though this is a different type of building, if we were to help them financially to acquire this, someone else would want help for their new building. So I don’t think we would have any money available. If they need any expertise or help in getting around to find out who’s got the building, if they really want it and they want us morally to help them get it, we will be glad to lend our support to that if that’s what they want.
My answer really has to be the same as I gave my friend the last time. It’s really up to the region of Niagara if they want a new headquarters. I’ve been in their present headquarters, and it’s a very nice place. I recognize it’s the head office of an industrial plant that has been converted, but we had a very nice meeting there and it seemed to be a very good building. It’s up to them to decide whether that or something better serves their purpose.
Mr. Haggerty: They could have had school facilities for $60,000 that would have been large enough for them. They have money to burn.
Hon. Mr. Wells: They’re all elected, and the people in each of the area municipalities who elect the regional councillors there would have an opportunity to register their displeasure if the regional councillors decided they shouldn’t go ahead.
I have to say that it’s up to the region to decide what kind of a headquarters building they want and whether they want to convert another building, build a new one or make do with the existing building.
A quick assessment in answer to the honourable member’s first question and I want to check it out a little more over the weekend and then get back to him on Monday -- would be that, as far as I know, there is no formal study going on in the Niagara region. There may be some other types of performance indicators. I want to check this out: Someone may have taken the Waterloo methodology and data and be applying it in some particular areas to the operation of the regional government there or some of the municipalities. I want to check that out, because I’m not sure. I’ll let you know about that.
There’s no further formal study going on in the region of Niagara. There is, however, an economic study going to be carried on by the Ministry of Treasury and Economics, as the member knows. It’s something the regional council wanted and I think we all talked about when I was down there. That’s a very good thing, and I hope it will be helpful to the region.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I want to get some more clarification on the statement the minister made just a few minutes ago having to do with equalization factors.
As I understand it, no municipality will have its grants increased any more than five per cent and none will have them decreased any more than five per cent, as far as the factoring is concerned. Is that just for next year, or what are the long-term implications of this policy the minister has announced?
In other words, there are some municipalities on which this new factoring will impact very heavily; they’re obviously not going to I have a shift of anything more than five per cent. But is that just for next year? What’s going to happen? Is the government going to be continually picking up the extra $50 million or so every year? Or is this the first year of a five-year period in which the government is going to be trying to clarify this whole matter?
The other question I would like to raise, which is obviously related, has to do with rationalizing the new factors in the light of the Blair report, which Mr. Simon wrote, which indicated that the shift in property taxes should be from residential to commercial-industrial, and probably from rural to more residential.
What the new factoring is showing is that there is a significant shift from commercial-industrial to residential, and from urban to rural. This is in direct contradiction of what property-tax reform under Mr. Blair was recommending, and hoped would be implemented. I would like to get an answer to that, today, before we close down.
Hon. Mr. Wells: The answer to the last part of your question, as I have said, is not the introduction of factors. The use of the factors is not meant to represent a new direction in tax policy. Therefore, all those measures we are taking are to alleviate what could be interpreted as a new direction if those shifts were to occur.
I hope we have covered off most of those problems with what we have suggested, and which I will tell you is a one-year program. We are not suggesting this is a program that will be phased in over the next three, four or five years. This is for this year, this is how we are going to handle it. It is to not cause any policy changes that use of the factors in their natural form would occasion.
Your other question was about the 10 per cent; was that it?
Mr. Epp: One was the five per cent shift. The other was that it was ironic, because of the property-tax reform committee’s recommendations, that the shift was more to residential from commercial-industrial, and to rural from urban. There were two questions.
Hon. Mr. Wells: As I said, we’re not proposing something that is making any policy change in that manner, if that is happening. What we are trying to do is to correct that, in the use of the factors this year for grants and apportionments, so that most of the effect of any of those shifts will not occur. That’s the aim of what we have announced.
The limit of 10 per cent means there will be an assessment change. The assessment change is going to be limited to 10 per cent relative to other municipalities -- in other words, the amount of assessment change for grant purposes. That won’t matter to the losers, because they are not going to lose anything compared in dollar terms to grants, as if the old factors had been used. On the top end of the scale there will be a limit -- the assessment change will be limited to a 10 per cent increase.
On motion by Mr. Epp, the committee of supply reported progress.
The House adjourned at 12:59 p.m.