The House met at 10:01 a.m.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, on Sunday of this week, November 11, in communities across this country, ceremonies will be observed in memory of those men and women who died in the service of Canada in two world wars.
Just some six weeks ago in Holland, I had the great honour of visiting the Canadian war cemetery at Holten where more than 3,000 young Canadians are buried. For those of us who have been personally spared from the death and devastation of war, and especially our young people today, Holten is a stark reminder of the price so many Canadians paid to end oppression, to restore peace and to guarantee a lasting respect for the importance and the cause of freedom.
At the cemetery my thoughts turned to the thousands of young Canadians, many of them not much older than my own children are today, who marched off to fight a foreign war because of the values in which they believed and as Canadians wanted to be preserved. So many of them never returned to enjoy the freedom they helped guarantee for the rest of us. Names like Holten, Dieppe and many others are a part of Canada and what this nation stands for.
I rise today to express our remembrance of those who served and died and to urge legislators, parents, teachers and others to join together to remind all Canadians, and especially our young people, of the freedoms we enjoy by virtue of our citizenship and the very high price that was paid for those rights and privileges -- that price paid by many Canadians.
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise to speak briefly and associate ourselves with the comments of the Premier of Ontario.
So many young people, when attending Remembrance Day services, or when parades or services occur in their midst, look on somewhat uncomprehendingly. There are some who even suggest that Remembrance Day is somehow an inappropriate glorification of war; and yet the opposite is true.
The fact is that it’s our business to make sure young people realize that there were just wars in our history as well as some unjust ones. There were wars in which our people died so that we can have assemblies like this, so that we can express ourselves and so that we can live in freedom and have the hope of peace and continuing freedom for future generations.
Those who died, those who were wounded and are still with us and those who march on Remembrance Day, deserve our deepest affection and respect for we are, after all, carrying their torch. We hope our children -- one of my children is here today -- will never have to see war and that those who fought and died, died so that the world would be a peaceful world from then on. Certainly all of us want to remember those who gave their lives for this country, those who have been wounded on behalf of this country and those who continue to defend this country so that we can all live at peace and in freedom.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of our caucus to support the remarks by the Premier and by the Leader of the Opposition.
It is a unique event in the history of Canada that we have now had a period of peace where for something more than a generation no Canadian soldiers have been actively engaged in war. That is unique for Canada in this century.
There are now very few of the survivors of the First World War still living in Canada. To them at this time at their age, I think this House should pay a special tribute. There are many of my own generation who served in the Second World War and others of that generation who served in the Korean War. To them and to those who suffered during the war, my colleagues and I join in the tribute which is paid to them.
I trust that the generations to come will be freed from having to participate in war. I worry sometimes, at odd moments, that perhaps those now growing up in Canada will tend to be unaware of the demands which were made on earlier generations. I do hope that the Remembrance Day services throughout the province and throughout the country will help to make people realize there have been and may well again be occasions when the values to which we subscribe will require protection by force of arms.
Mr. Speaker: Could I ask all honourable members and our guests to rise and observe one minute’s silence?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, elected officials and citizens in southwestern Ontario have expressed their desire to have parts of highway 3 running along the north shore of Lake Erie, along with sections of highway 18, plus various county roads, designated as the Talbot Trail.
Today I am pleased to say the government has agreed in principle with this concept and will help a local committee develop this historic and scenic route as a tourist attraction. The Talbot Trail is named after Colonel Thomas Talbot, a stubborn Irishman who successfully fought for the establishment of this road in the early 1800s. Completed about 1826, it played a most significant role in the settlement of that part of Ontario.
The proposed Talbot Trail, stretching from Windsor in the west to Fort Erie in the east, will roughly follow the route of heritage highway 3, detouring along the way to include such areas of interest as Jack Miner’s Sanctuary, Point Pelee, Rondeau Provincial Park and Niagara Falls.
The proposed committee will consist of one elected official and two private citizens from each of the counties or regional municipalities involved, with support from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministries of Industry and Tourism, Natural Resources and Culture and Recreation.
Funding for the project will be raised by the local municipalities and directed by the committee. Provincial support will be through normal funding channels, programs and mechanisms. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications, for example, will assist the local committees to develop an appropriate symbol and place signs along that section of the highway which forms part of the designated Talbot Trail route.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend area residents and businessmen for taking the initiative in this project. I am confident it will attract many new tourists to the area while making significant contributions to the historical development of this province.
SCHOOL BOARD FUNDING
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, later today there will be introduced for first reading bills amending the following acts: the Education Act, 1974; the Municipal Act; the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act and the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation Act. Each of these bills includes certain revisions necessary to implement the new role of the province as a lender in respect of the financing of capital projects to school boards. This role was specifically redefined in budget paper C of the Ontario budget, 1978, presented on March 7, 1978.
Essentially, this new role envisages a change in emphasis from long-term investment in debentures to direct capital grants. Beginning in 1980, the Ministry of Education proposes to pay the provincial grant on approved capital projects as the expenditures are incurred. The payments will be made quarterly on progress certificates submitted by school boards. A school board other than a board of education in the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto will be able to finance the balance of the cost of an approved project -- that is the board’s share of the amount approved for grant purposes, plus any cost in excess of this amount -- by any one or a combination of the following: (1) out of current funds by revenues from taxation, subject to limitations established by the Education Act, 1974; (2) out of current funds from a reserve fund established for this purpose; (3) by the sale of debentures to the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation; and (4) by the sale on the open market of debentures of a municipality issued for school board purposes under an agreement therefor between the municipality and the school board.
Where a board initiates a project for which no provincial grant is payable, a board is, of course, able to issue its own debentures with the approval of the Ontario Municipal Board for sale on the open market. This will continue to be the case.
A board of education for an area municipality in the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto will continue to operate as in the past in respect of financing permanent improvements. Roman Catholic separate school boards will retain their existing rights under the Education Act, 1974 to sell debentures on the open market for any project.
Beginning April 1, 1980, the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation will replace the Ontario Education Capital Aid Corporation as the purchaser of debentures for approved school board capital projects, and offers by a school board to sell debentures to finance the local share of approved capital projects are to be directed to that corporation. The Ontario Education Capital Aid Corporation will continue to receive payments made by school boards and municipalities on behalf of school boards in respect of debentures issued heretofore. It will also purchase debentures for the remainder of the fiscal year 1979-80 for those projects for which commitments have been made.
Accordingly, the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation Amendment Act, 1979 will enable the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation to purchase debentures issued by or on behalf of school boards.
Also, the Municipal Amendment Act, 1979 will contain provisions enabling school boards and municipalities to collaborate in the issuance of municipal debentures for school board purposes. This is desirable to accommodate the concern of municipalities, particularly regional municipalities, that there not be two sets of local government agencies regularly or frequently going to the market for capital financing, thereby affecting local credit ratings.
Included in a school board’s annual estimates are expenditures for permanent improvements and for an allocation to a reserve fund. Such expenditures include the provincial grants applicable to such permanent improvements. Because of the change in the method of funding, the portion of the expenditure for permanent improvements that is recoverable by provincial grants in any one year may be considerably greater. Accordingly, the Education Amendment Act, 1979 will make the limitation to one mill on equalized assessment apply to the portion of the expenditures for such purposes that is to be raised by taxation.
A similar amendment is to be made to the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act. In the case of the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, the limitation to two mills on actual assessment will apply to the portion of the estimated expenditures out of current funds for permanent improvements that is to be raised by taxation rather than to the total of such estimated expenditures.
Two other amendments are included in the Education Amendment Act. Section 1 will permit a school board to invest moneys not required immediately in a broader range of securities, and for the first time in the securities of credit unions or caisses populaires. These provisions are now substantially the same as in the Municipal Act in respect of investments by municipalities.
Commencing with the year 1980, new assessment equalization factors will be introduced which will tend to increase the assessment of residential and farm property in relation to that of commercial property. As part of the program of the government to moderate the impact of these factors, section 3 of the Education Amendment Act, 1979 has been provided to make the rate to be levied for school purposes on residential and farm assessment 85 per cent of the rate to be levied for such purposes on commercial assessment. This is a change from 90 per cent of the commercial rate, and is consistent with the provisions that are already applicable in respect of taxation for municipal purposes.
HIGH-SPEED CAR CHASES
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I indicated in response to questions from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. Smith) on November 1, 1979 that I would be making a comprehensive statement in the Legislature this week on the subject of high-speed chases involving police officers.
As I stated on that occasion, police departments across Ontario have been provided with general guidelines which follow the intent of the pursuit policy established by the Ontario Provincial Police.
May I first of all quote directly from the relevant sections of part 10 of the OPP orders on traffic law enforcement. Section 503-1 states: “Where a member finds it necessary to stop a motorist for a traffic violation, he shall make the necessary manoeuvres with the utmost regard for the safety of all concerned, including the violator and himself.”
Section 513-1, dealing with pursuit driving, states: “A member engaged in the high-speed pursuit of a vehicle must in the first instance consider the danger to the public and be prepared to relinquish the pursuit for less dangerous means of apprehension, such as the use of radio to direct assisting vehicles.”
On December 6, 1965, then Deputy Commissioner T. H. Trimble issued a directive regarding the use of sirens and revolving roof lights which said in part: “All members of the force are reminded that our primary purpose in traffic policing is not to lay charges or to secure convictions. In the case of the speeder, it is to prevent speeding. It is particularly important when in pursuit of a speeding vehicle after dark the revolving roof light be on.”
On July 29, 1976, then Deputy Commissioner L. R. Gartner forwarded to all OPP detachments copies of a memorandum prepared by Mr. Elmer Bell, then chairman of the Ontario Police Commission, setting out guidelines for high-speed chases. Mr. Gartner reminded all ranks that existing OPP directives on the subject were to be strictly adhered to.
In his memorandum to all chiefs of police in Ontario, Mr. Bell noted that section 55 of the Police Act imposed upon police officers the duty of preserving the peace, preventing robberies and other crimes and apprehending offenders.
He said the prohibition of high-speed pursuit by police would give criminals a licence to drive at high speed without fear of apprehension. Mr. Bell argued that to allow high-speed offenders to proceed with impunity may and has occasioned death and injury to members of the public which might have been prevented and an offender apprehended if a high-speed pursuit had been instituted.
The 1976 memorandum set out the following guidelines designed to lessen the risks involved in high-speed pursuits.
Where the officer has reason to believe that the offending driver is guilty of a minor offence and seeks to escape the consequences thereof by driving at high speeds, he, the officer, should pursue with excessive caution, lest the consequences be more serious than the offence.
Where the officer’s vehicle is equipped with warning lights and sirens, these should normally be used in order that the members of the public using the highways may be warned that a police pursuit is in progress and may, therefore, take precautions for their own safety. There are a few exceptions to this rule, for instance when the police officer may wish to conceal from the offender the fact that he is the subject of pursuit.
The officer in pursuit should, where possible, be in communication with his superior officer for instructions. Even if a superior officer cannot be reached, the officer should, where possible, institute through his station a CPIC and motor vehicle check of the vehicle pursued with a view to increasing the information on which his judgement will be based.
Through his station, the assistance of other police should be sought so that, if deemed practical, other action may be taken, such as setting up of roadblocks.
Mr. Bell’s memorandum says it is obvious that the decision as to whether or not to engage in a high-speed pursuit is a judgement call. He declared: “The officer must consider traffic and road conditions and all other information which will balance the risks of the pursuit as against the obligation to apprehend the offender.”
The chairman said it was the obligation of each force to ensure that all of its officers were aware of their obligations and the factors they should consider in making a decision regarding a high-speed pursuit. In a follow-up memorandum issued just this week by Judge T. J. Graham, now chairman of the Ontario Police Commission, he said that if a police officer permits a motorist to continue on at an unreasonable rate of speed the risk of serious harm may be just as great as in the case where the officer gives chase. I think we sometimes tend to forget that. If we simply allow speeding vehicles to carry on because there is some risk in a chase, what would the public reaction be if innocent bystanders were killed or injured?
Judge Graham has also forwarded for consideration the directives regarding high-speed pursuits currently in effect in Metropolitan Toronto and Peel region. Copies of these directives, along with the memoranda issued by Mr. Bell and Judge Graham, will be tabled with this statement today.
I am also tabling the directives issued by the Niagara and Halton police forces regarding pursuit procedures. In the Halton directive, issued just last August 28 by Acting Chief James Harding, the importance of carefully weighing the need for a pursuit in each ease is stressed. The directive states, “That need must be carefully balanced against the actual or possible danger to the public and the driver and passengers of the offending or pursuit vehicle.”
The Niagara police procedures, issued in 1976 following receipt of Mr. Bell’s memorandum, ask all officers to be mindful of the safety of both citizens and police personnel. Officers are asked to take into consideration the amount of traffic, road conditions, the type of area involved and the seriousness of the offence concerned.
I should like to say a few words at this time regarding the present policy employed by the Ontario Provincial Police in relation to pursuit driving. A new recruit is given an outline of his responsibilities in regard to high-speed chases at the OPP training and development centre. In addition to the classroom training, the recruit is also given a familiarization driving test.
All members of the force must complete a defensive driving course to improve their skills. Each detachment has a force library which contains in-service training manuals, including Police and the Traffic Violator with its chapter on police pursuit.
As I indicated last week, in each individual case a high degree of judgement must be utilized to determine whether a high-speed chase is appropriate. To do as the Leader of the Opposition suggests and ban all police pursuits, except in the rarest circumstances, would be irresponsible and an open invitation to all lawbreakers to speed away from a police officer attempting to apprehend them.
I do not intend to comment directly today on the two tragic incidents in Port Colborne and Burlington, which have been the subject matter of a number of questions in the Legislature recently, except to say that the circumstances appear somewhat different in the respective cases.
In Port Colborne a stolen car was involved and a high-speed chase having the duration of 77 seconds was in progress when the fatal accident occurred. The incident took place at three o’clock in the morning when there was no apparent traffic about. The roof light on the police cruiser had been activated and the siren had been sounded. The officer was in constant radio contact with his headquarters during the whole period.
In Burlington, the preliminary police report indicates that the police were attempting to get in position to clock a speeding vehicle when a collision occurred with a car making a left turn. In the Burlington case an inquest has been ordered. No inquest has been ordered in the Port Colborne case because of the fact charges have been laid.
No one is more distressed than the police officers involved when there are innocent people killed in these circumstances. They do not enter into these pursuits lightly because their own lives are often in danger.
Since the directive was issued by Mr. Bell in June of 1976, six people have been killed in high-speed police chases involving Ontario Provincial Police personnel. In the same period nine persons were killed in high-speed chases involving the 10 regional forces in Ontario. In respect to the other forces, we are still accumulating that information.
Mr. Speaker, we feel it is imperative that we do not adopt the simplistic solutions of the Leader of the Opposition to what is a most difficult problem. I want to assure members of this Legislature that my intention is to ensure that our police officers are properly trained and properly instructed in pursuit procedures so that they may make the right decision at the right time.
I have no intention of sending them out on patrol with one hand tied behind their backs, asking them to do their duty only when the lawbreaker is travelling within the speed limit.
Mr. Cunningham: Nobody is suggesting that.
Mr. Cunningham: That was one of the most disgusting bits of trivia I have heard from you in a long time. You are the worst Attorney General we have ever had, and that’s saying something.
An hon. member: Bring back Fred Cass.
GAS AND OIL PRICES
Mr. S. Smith: I have a question of the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Will the Premier be taking to the Ottawa meeting on Monday any new proposals, any new arguments in favour of his existing proposals; and will we in this House be able to hear what some of these new proposals might be so that, if appropriate, we might offer whatever support we think these proposals may deserve?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think it is fair to state that the substance of what we have been saying now since August, in fact some of it for four or five years, will be reiterated. The language may be somewhat different; there may be some examples of some of the concerns that are implicit in what we have been saying, together with some illustrations of the impact we sense may take place here in this province depending on what the ultimate policy decision of the government of Canada may be.
I should say to the Leader of the Opposition that, actually, one doesn’t go to these conferences with a totally formal, prepared text. Much of what emerges is by way of discussion between the participants of that particular form of gathering. I can assure the members opposite that we have very carefully canvassed all the constructive ideas that have emerged from many sources, although I have to add we have also sensed conflicting points of view over the years from people who have taken positions on these issues. However, we don’t intend to mention those conflicting points of view in our discussions with the other first ministers.
Certainly I am not going to suggest the new proposal, the somewhat reversed proposal, of the Leader of the Opposition that in order to create some degree of internal harmony the producing provinces are entitled to zip. I must confess that is not our point of view; so he will understand I just want to warn him in advance.
Mr. Speaker: In the interests of harmony within this Legislature perhaps you could address yourself to the specific question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: The specific question, Mr. Speaker, regarded what proposals we will have and what we will not have. I think it is a fair observation to tell the Leader of the Opposition part of our proposal will not be that the producing provinces receive nothing for their resources. I don’t want the Leader of the Opposition to be disappointed Monday morning, as he is glued to his television set watching what is going on, because I don’t say the producing provinces should get zero.
Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary: I may he disappointed if he doesn’t say the oil companies should have zero, but he always conveniently leaves that out when discussing our proposal.
However, would the Premier consider taking with him some proposals that might lend some weight and validity to Ontario’s negotiating position? In particular would he consider the following: a manufacturing strategy to show we are well placed to take advantage of any break we might get on oil prices instead of wasting it as many of our previous manufacturing strategies seem to have done?
Would he have a comprehensive conservation program to show to the other first ministers who believe, it would appear, only price can determine a form of conservation? Will he show there is a different kind of conservation program ready to go into place to save Canada’s oil without having to be hit by high prices?
Will he demonstrate a real commitment to a program of substitution of other fuels, such as methanol, to reduce the dependency on oil which presently exists; or is he just going to go in and ask again for a low price and have everybody tell him that is impossible?
Hon. Mr. Davis: The Leader of the Opposition perhaps has not had sufficient time to look carefully at the total proposal from this province. It has been available for quite some time. Actually the policy suggestion from this government really goes beyond those things the Leader of the Opposition has already mentioned.
One of the basic concerns we have, which he probably doesn’t share, is that whatever emerges in these discussions -- and my view is they won’t all be finalized by any means on Monday -- one of the prime objectives in the interests of the consumer must be that of energy self-sufficiency or security of supply; that has to be fundamental. I think if one were to ask the average person in this province at the moment he would have to say that security of supply is one of the prime concerns. That, quite frankly, is one of the main thrusts of our proposals and our discussions.
In terms of substitution, not only have we advanced this well in advance of some observations from the opposite side of the House, but much of this is presently going on with respect to the substitution of natural gas for oil. I think it must be restated on Monday that while in many urban areas there can be substitution of natural gas for oil, we have to be concerned about those areas in the province, those smaller rural communities, where the substitution of natural gas for oil is practically impossible. This must be part of the total consideration of any national policy. Some consumer form of protection, or some form of credit for people who cannot substitute or people on fixed incomes, et cetera, must be a part of such a policy. This is a very specific part of our presentation.
We set out in the second of the papers how this province feels we should move with respect to our own security of supply or independence within this province. I don’t think it would serve any useful purpose to get into a debate here this morning as to the degree to which we believe electrical energy can act as a substitute for oil, but we think that is significant. We think the potential of this is great. I won’t go on and be provocative this morning and suggest I don’t sense that same interest or commitment on the part of the members opposite.
With respect to the oil companies, our position on this has been very simple. We believe there has to be sufficient money for further exploration of offshore and other frontier areas. I think it would be foolish to suggest there shouldn’t be funds in some way available for further development in the context of security of supply. I have no hesitation in saying if there is to be, and we believe there must be, a fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth Syncrude plant or whatever terminology one may wish to use, that it is essential in achieving that objective --
Mr. di Santo: Time, time. Come on.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I got a very lengthy question. I was asked what proposals we had. The Leader of the Opposition would not be happy if I were to confine it to one proposal.
We are going to be suggesting further development of the tar sands and that funds from whatever source are essential in terms of security of supply. We can’t have energy sufficiency --
Mr. Sargent: That’s a way down the line. Talk about today.
Ms. Gigantes: Go and tell Alberta what their oil production is.
Hon. Mr. Davis: With great respect to the interjectioners --
Mr. Speaker: Order. In the interests of time, perhaps the Premier could --
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am glad the Leader of the Opposition asked me. I am just rehearsing all of those things I am going to say on Monday.
Mr. Speaker: Not at the expense of all members of the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I assumed that all members of the Legislature were interested in this discussion that will be going on Monday. That, in brief, represents some of the thoughts that will be expressed on Monday.
Mr. Kerrio: Supplementary: In view of the fact that the iron ore producers, the steel-making industry, the pipe-making facilities, involved in the installation of natural gas pipelines are all Canadian, would the Premier place that as a very high priority as an alternative to using the kind of oil brought into this province? Would he place that on a very high priority in the province of Ontario as a first meaningful step in substituting gas for oil?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I don’t know that I totally understand the question. If the member opposite is asking me whether this government feels strongly that natural gas should be substituted for oil wherever possible, where it makes economic sense and where it will mean a conservation of the other resource, the answer to that is very simply yes. We are doing it, we have been doing it and we are encouraging others to do it.
I should point out to the member opposite, though, that he is putting it in fairly simplistic form, because one has to relate the desirability of that policy, which incidentally I think is supported by the producing provinces, with their expectation that it is part of an increased or perhaps modified price on natural gas and that some consideration be given with respect to their export capacity. I just point that out as their point of view.
Mr. S. Smith: Does the Premier not recognize this may be the last winter in which we have anything like a reasonable supply of oil, and with events in Iran we may not even have it this winter? Does he not recognize that we have an enormous interest in Ontario in the massive substitution of natural gas for oil, obviously not in the most remote communities but wherever it is conceivably possible?
Will the Premier of Ontario, therefore, propose at the first ministers’ conference a policy whereby there are no additional exports of the cheap and easily available natural gas to the United States, leaving us eventually with the more expensive gas, as is going to be the case with oil? Will he be clear on that fact; and will he, for his part, since the producing provinces won’t like that idea, agree to helping in a massive program of additional pipeline construction, of consumer subsidy with regard to furnace changeovers and also to the extension of the pipeline through to Quebec and to the maritime provinces? That is a massive change to natural gas, and, admittedly an expensive change, to get us so that we are dependent on a fuel we have plenty of rather than one which is going to be scarce. That means no additional exports. Will he bring that message to Ottawa?
Mr. Kerrio: We are all Canadians.
Hon. Mr. Davis: In many respects, that is exactly what the second paper has said and exactly what we have been saying. Our intervention with the National Energy Board is really quite consistent with that.
I should point out, though, to the Leader of the Opposition, that he should be very careful about being so expansive in terms of pipelines for natural gas, which we support. However, there has to be some understanding that in the mechanism and the policy related to those there is an impact on the consumers of this province. For him to say to me, “Just go blindly and support it,” he oversimplifies every single issue without realizing and looking down the road and disclosing all of these things in terms of these debates.
I just ask the member, as a consumer of gas myself, please leave us a little room to make the point --
An hon. member: And a producer.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I burn it, he produces it.
Please leave me the opportunity in these discussions to make it clear that as we extend these pipelines a policy has to be developed where the existing consumers are not paying the bill. Please try to understand it, I know it is not easy. It took me a while and I know it is taking you a while, but please --
An hon. member: Don’t be so condescending.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh come on. Some day when the member asks a straight question which gives me some indication that he understands I will try to explain it to him. I have done my very best, and I suggest members opposite watch Monday morning and see whether or not all these proposals are put very clearly to the government of Canada and the other provinces.
Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, as part of the first question --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: No, I am still answering the first question.
Mr. Speaker: You weren’t. With great respect, you weren’t.
Mr. S. Smith: A question for the Minister of Education. Given what seems to be a somewhat deteriorating educational climate in the North York secondary schools, and given that various positions and stances taken by the parties in that dispute, does the minister feel that perhaps the time has come to move into that dispute more vigorously; to try to impose on the parties an arbitrated settlement so that the matter does not fester and continue with a legacy of bitterness that seems to be developing in that particular dispute?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I am convinced that the Educational Relations Commission has been monitoring the dispute in North York with great care and that they will be making proposals to both sides.
However, I would remind the honourable Leader of the Opposition that the North York school board proposed just three days ago that the remainder of the matters in question be referred to binding arbitration and that position was rejected by the teachers’ federation at that point.
It is my understanding that there are some discussions going on with the two parties at this point -- not together -- in order to try to resolve the situation which is at present in existence.
Mr. S. Smith: If I may ask -- if Mr. Speaker will permit a supplementary which relates to a dispute about to happen.
Again, in the Brant county elementary school teacher dispute, which looks as though it may lead to a strike shortly, is the minister just going to let that one go on and go through the usual procedures of Bill 100 and so on?
Is the minister not somewhat concerned about the climate which is created by this particular dispute? And is the minister now coming around a little closer to the point of view which I expressed in this House some time ago, which is that we should have arbitrated ends to these disputes with a permanent group of arbitrators so we don’t have to go through work to rule, bitterness, years without contracts, strikes in the elementary and secondary system in Ontario? Isn’t it time to act now and not wait for the royal commission, or whatever it is, to come in with more studies of existing studies?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Unlike the honourable Leader of the Opposition, I do not consider myself to be omnipotent or omniscient, and I feel very strongly --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: -- that the legislators of this province would do well to consider the thoughtful opinions of those who have the opportunity and, indeed, the task now of examining all of the aspects of Bill 100, with the help of not only the parties to bargaining but also those who are directly affected, the students, the parents, the parent-teacher associations within the province of Ontario. I will not presume to prejudge the deliberations which that commission will carry out.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition seems to forget there are mechanisms which were set up in 1975 in order to ensure that an orderly approach to the negotiating program between teachers and boards would be established. That approach is in existence within Brant county, within that school board’s jurisdiction. I’m very much aware that the new chairman of the educational relations commission is not only extremely concerned about that situation but is actively involved in examining it at the present time.
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Speaker, I’d like to ask the minister if when she’s looking at Bill 100 would she also look at the Windsor situation whereby the teachers went through the process of Bill 100? While it was a struggle, the end is the relations between the board and the teachers in that city are better now than they’ve ever been and Bill 100 has worked.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I think I’ve said upon occasion within this House that there have been very great benefits to the entire system with the introduction of Bill 100. There are some problems, but overall, out of 920 agreements 900 were settled amicably. In fact, there have been developments which have improved situations in certain very agitated areas.
I am not suggesting all of Bill 100 will automatically be rejected by the commission. The commission has been asked to examine Bill 100 in the light of the experience and concerns expressed by the parties to bargaining and to those who are directly affected by the bargaining system.
Mr. Conway: A question to the minister of Education about the response to my leader’s first question: Recognizing this is a government which has very recently gone on record -- the Premier and others -- as standing for the Lord’s Prayer in our school system, I am wondering whether or not this is a government which, with respect to the violence spoken of and reported in the North York school system and reported in the media not very long ago, has undertaken any initiatives to restore peace and order or at least ensure peace and order will be restored to those schools in the North York system which in recent press reports were reported in such a position as drawing away from that?
An hon. member: Similar to New York city.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, first, I’m not sure that’s a supplementary question. Second, I’m somewhat alarmed at the adolescent approach to a matter which is the responsibility of the school board which has jurisdiction in that area. I do not intend to call in the army in this situation. I think that would be entirely inappropriate.
An hon. member: Have you got one, Bette?
Mr. Breaugh: Hear, hear.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: We have had far greater escalation of certain mischievous incidents than should have occurred within the North York school system. I do not think the kind of statement made by the member for Renfrew North would be in any way conducive to solving that problem.
I have been in contact and will be again with the student association within North York which has very grave concerns about this and which I think is approaching this whole matter in a very responsible way. I’m proud of the student organization in the city of North York because the presidents of the student associations have been extremely responsible in attempting to subdue the intermittent outbreak of mischievousness which has occurred in two or three of the schools.
Mr. Speaker, I am aware it has been induced on a couple of occasions by people who were not members of the student body in those schools and by other means that I gather are being explored right at the moment.
Mr. Conway: Surely that’s a matter of some concern to you?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It’s a matter of great concern.
GAS AND OIL PRICES
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, my question is of the Premier. I hope, because of the fact I asked his colleague, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells), a question last week about President Carter’s visit which led to its cancellation, this question will not lead to a cancellation of the first ministers’ conference on Monday.
Mr. Speaker, will the Premier tell this assembly, and through this assembly the people of the province, in the light of his impending negotiations on Monday next, about the here and now of the price of energy in this province next year? What is the upper limit and what is the bottom line of his negotiating position on the question of price, so we can understand the parameters beyond which the position of the Premier and of this government is non-negotiable?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am sure the member for Riverdale really understands the system better than the question would indicate.
An hon. member: Be honest now. You mean he got you on that one.
Hon. Mr. Davis: No, no. I am just trying to remind him of his own area of expertise --
Mr. Warner: You’re in a corner.
Hon. Mr. Davis: He well knows these discussions are not negotiations in that sense of the word. There has never been, historically -- and in this area we can only go back about five years -- a negotiation that led to an agreed arrangement. The constitutional or legal terminology, or whatever kind one may wish to use, provides for an agreement as between a producing province and the government of Canada under the statute that exists, whereby the government of Canada can involve itself in the pricing of a natural resource from a provincial jurisdiction.
The discussions on Monday will be similar to those we had four years ago, where the various provincial Premiers were permitted -- one might even say in this situation encouraged -- to present their points of view as to what they see should happen, both in terms of price and in terms of energy policy per se.
It is not a case of any provincial jurisdiction, other than the producing province, saying, “Here is the bottom line.” We do not sign agreements. We do not have the right to say to the producing province, “If it isn’t what we think, then there is no deal.”
We are in the position -- and this hasn’t changed in five years -- where the consuming provinces that are not producers are not parties to the agreement. This is something that perhaps is not understood by everybody; but that happens to be the reality. It is in that context that the discussions have taken place in the past and will continue to take place on Monday and perhaps from there on in.
Mr. Renwick: By way of a supplementary question, Mr. Speaker, will the Premier please do us the courtesy of understanding that we understand that? We understand that very clearly. The Premier, nevertheless, is going to sit down with his fellow first ministers on Monday next. He will be sitting down with those Premiers and the Prime Minster of Canada and they will ultimately reach an agreement on that which will be signed. I am asking the Premier, what is the point in going to that meeting unless he has some specific area in view beyond which he is not going to accept whatever that negotiated agreement is, given the weakness of his position?
Mr. T. P. Reid: They are certainly going to tell you that.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I think our papers presented to date make our position quite clear. I am sure the member for Riverdale understands all that is contained therein. They will form the basis of our submissions at the first ministers’ meeting on Monday.
Mr. Renwick: By way of a further supplementary, let me try once more. I understand that the Premier has said, as he sits there today and pending that meeting on Monday, that the only thing he is aware of with respect to the increase in the price of fuel oil in Canada is the $1 next February.
There is going to be discussion about other elements of that price for the balance of next year. What are the limits within which the Premier is prepared to make some concession, if that is necessary, and what are the limits beyond which he will not go?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I think it is quite impossible, Mr. Speaker, to answer that question. We have argued the dollar increase and there was some thought that perhaps the agreement might have been altered as of September 1.
One of the reasons that prompted us to release the paper in August was because of certain statements from the government of Canada that it felt a fairly immediate and rapid move to world price would make economic sense. Those statements, as I recall, were in July. As a result of our paper and the real debate that has emerged, there is a growing consensus that the agreement will stay in place, which means $1 on January 1, which carries us through until July 1.
I should point out to the member for Riverdale -- and I’m not trying to be facetious -- there are several aspects to this. Our paper said very clearly that before a determination was made on price we felt certain other preconditions had to be addressed. I think the question of price has to relate to the question of distribution.
How can I say to the member that Ontario might accept any particular figure if, in fact, the question of distribution hasn’t been resolved, if there isn’t a commitment to security of supply or a national objective of self-sufficiency, or if there isn’t some consideration in these discussions of some form of consumer protection? I think it’s impossible.
The member has been in negotiations. He’s done it in his other profession. For me to say what is the bottom line, what is it in terms of price, when one doesn’t address the other important aspects of what I hope will be discussed on Monday, really is totally impossible. I’m sure the member for Riverdale understands that.
Our paper makes it clear. We know that price is going to increase. There’s not a person in this House who feels there isn’t going to be an increase. It’s the extent of the increase, it’s what is done with the increase, it is the distribution, the question of security and consumer protection which we have urged be put on the table to have some policy developed.
We just don’t sit down and debate how much the price should go up, because we’ve been down that road. We did this in 1974-75. We urged at that time some consideration of a national energy policy. I’m not being critical, but the truth of the matter is a problem was resolved on a short-term basis. Price was settled in 1974-75 but some of the major problems were not, and we’re saying to the other provinces and to the first minister of this country, “Please, let’s address these other issues before a determination is made on price.”
For me to say today what is the bottom line, what is the upper limit, et cetera, really is dependent upon what success we have in some of these other areas. I’m sure the member for Riverdale, being a reasonable sort of person, will understand that’s the posture we must take as we go into these discussions.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, I had of course thought that in the position the Premier is forced to take in Ottawa he would have wanted to have the support of this House expressed in some way by a resolution to support his position when he goes there on Monday.
ENERGY CONSERVATION: PUBLIC TRANSIT SUBSIDIES
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Energy. The Premier said a few minutes ago that he was very interested in the substitution of electricity for oil in the energy productivity and energy conservation programs of this province.
Given the reaffirmation in the minister’s September statement of what the Premier has said in his earlier statement about the need for assistance to the public transit systems of this province, and given the inadequate response last week, on October 26, by his colleague, the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow), in correspondence with Metropolitan Toronto and the other municipalities with public transit systems about the operating subsidy formula for the coming year, my question to the minister is:
Is that the total response of this government with respect to the need to correct the balance between public transit and private automobile and the assistance this government is prepared to give to the public transit systems in the various cities and municipalities that operate them throughout Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, it would be somewhat presumptuous of me to be responding to questions that really are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister of Transportation and Communications, except, as I say, the spirit of the question, that deals with addressing the whole conservation area and the demand area, which has to be part of an overall energy policy, keeping in mind that half of the consumption of petroleum products in this province is in the area of transportation, and keeping in mind the generosity of the province of Ontario with the millions of dollars that have gone by way of capital grants with respect to our public transit systems and very generous grants with respect to operating subsidies. I think, from the standpoint of public transportation, this is a very real area which has had generous government support.
I can’t comment on all of the details with respect to how it’s received by various municipal transit commissions, but certainly overall the record speaks very clear with respect to where this government stands and where it’s put substantial funding with respect to public transit.
Mr. Renwick: By way of a supplementary question, I’m not particularly interested in the generalities of what the minister’s views may be about the generosity of his government. I am very much interested in the very specific statement contained in his statement made in September, following upon the Premier’s statement about the area of public transit as a major area for the minister’s conservation policies with respect to the productivity of energy in the province.
My question to the Minister of Energy is, is his ministry going to take any steps in addition to the steps taken by the Minister of Transportation and Communications, or is the government going to take any steps to provide the kind of operating subsidy assistance to the public transit systems throughout Ontario that will provide for a higher degree of ridership and a substantial and significant increase in the operating service provided by those systems?
Mr. Speaker: Really, that question is far afield of the original question.
Ms. Gigantes: No, it’s not.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I thought I had, in answer to the first question, already made some comments with respect to the extent to which this government has dedicated itself to the support of public transit. Indeed, in the estimates of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which I assume have now been considered, there is no question that this government, over the period of years, has made a substantial investment both in capital and ongoing operating subsidies.
Mr. Sargent: Supplementary: Did the minister say he had concerns about public transit? I say, like hell he has. In western Ontario we have thousands of miles of idle track and we can’t get there unless we go by bus. There are no trains at all.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Sargent: What is the minister doing about public transit up there?
An hon. member: That’s a good question.
Mr. Riddell: I have a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I might say it’s a delight to have the minister drop in this morning. We hope his busy schedule allows him to keep coming, because many of my colleagues want to ask him some questions too.
Mr. Speaker: Does the member want to make a speech?
Mr. Riddell: I could do that, too.
Mr. Speaker: Go to the balcony if that’s what you want.
Mr. Riddell: Considering that chicken producers from Ontario are making another charge on Parliament Hill today to protest chicken importations from the United States, and hoping to meet not only the federal Minister of Agriculture and the opposition critic but also the President of the United States as well, although we now know that his trip to Ottawa has been cancelled, what assistance is the minister rendering to our Ontario producers whose industry could be in jeopardy with the United States-Canada agreement which would permit 48.5 million pounds of American chicken into Canada next year?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the comments of the honourable member hoping that I will be here for many months to come, and many years as well.
Mr. Sargent: Get on with the act.
Mr. Eakins: More than just on Fridays, though.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: In response to the honourable member’s question, I would want him to know that this morning I spent half an hour with the head of the chicken producers of this province. This morning at the meeting he was telling me how happy he was with the position of the provincial government with respect to the chicken producers of this province.
On Tuesday morning of this week, Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity of speaking to the federal Minister of Agriculture for half an hour on the phone. I made our position with respect to chicken imports quite clear to him. I made it quite clear that we in Ontario should only accept the proportion of the imports that we consume relative to the total amount of chicken that is consumed in Canada.
I have requested the federal Minister of Agriculture to review his present position with respect to imports. He made me aware that he is studying it. At this moment there will be no review, but that review might well start January 1. He is reviewing the position.
The chicken producers themselves are fully aware of my position. In addition to this, the Minister of Agriculture and Food for Ontario has asked the federal Minister of Agriculture, he has asked Mr. de Cotret, he has asked the Honourable Mike Wilson for a meeting, in order to put our position in a stronger position with the government of Canada. I have the full support, as of an hour and a half ago, of the chicken producers of this province.
Mr. Riddell: I am glad to see the minister is making some concerted efforts to resolve the problem. But what representations has he made to Maple Lodge Farms, the largest importer of chickens in Ontario? Ontario accounts for approximately 90 per cent of the Canadian importation of live chickens. What representation has the minister made to Maple Lodge Farms to inform them of his policy to make Ontario more self-sufficient in food production? How can this be accomplished if imports are going to take preference over Ontario-produced chickens? Furthermore, is the minister going to insist these chickens coming in from the US be tagged, so that they can be marked when they are sold to the consumer as a product of the United States, rather than having all this chicken being marked as a product of Canada?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: We certainly debated this subject about two weeks ago. The member for York South (Mr. MacDonald) is suggesting a citizenship for chickens.
About two weeks ago I went over the import regulations, and determined that when chickens come in here for slaughter and are inspected by the Canadian inspectors, before they are consumed by the Canadian people, no markings are required.
Mr. Riddell: There are for fruit products and it makes a lot of sense.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: There is no comparison between the two. Fruits and vegetables, when they come in here, are already packed in containers ready to pass on to the consumer. But not when the poultry comes in on a live weight basis. I think the member for Sudbury (Mr. Germa) suggested that maybe the tourism ministry should put a stamp on them, but I don’t think I could agree with that. Had the member for Huron been here two weeks ago, he would know all of my answers.
Mr. MacDonald: I would like to try to get a specific clarification of the government’s position on this.
Since the government in Ottawa has okayed the importation of 48 million pounds for this year and 42 million pounds or thereabouts for next year, and the minister has said Ontario’s position is that we should import only our proportion of the Canadian national consumption, what is that figure for Ontario? How much are the imports now in excess of that figure and what is the ministry going to do to cut them back?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, this honourable member was here when I went into this. His attendance is pretty good in the House.
Mr. MacDonald: But you didn’t answer my question.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: In answer to the honourable member’s question, I explained some two weeks ago that the imports that are going to be allowed are something like 6.2 per cent of the total consumption. I pointed out that that was down from 6.8 per cent. In Ontario we welcome the fact that we now have a ceiling. Our ministry, and I as the minister, would certainly have liked it to be a lesser amount, but we recognize the government of Canada has the authority. We want to be law-abiding citizens and we are going to live under the laws of the government of Canada.
I really don’t like to admit the honourable member’s seniority to the Minister of Agriculture and Food, but he is quite knowledgeable about the population of Canada. He is quite knowledgeable that we in Ontario have about a third of that population, and we think that is a fair share.
Mr. MacDonald: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I specifically said how much is that in excess of our current imports or how much are we importing now, and he hasn’t answered.
Mr. Speaker: That is not a point of order. Perhaps he chooses not to answer.
Mr. Hennessy: The member knows that is not a point of order.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Does the minister have anything further to add?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Yes. I suggest I did answer his question. We don’t have the total poundage of imports for 1979 as of this date. We do have the total imports for the year 1978. It is 6.8 per cent of the consumption. I said the new regulation is going to permit 6.2 per cent. So I think I answered his question.
Mr. MacDonald: That is not answering the question.
CHOICE OF PHYSICIAN
Mr. Isaacs: I have a new question for the Minister of Labour. Is the minister aware that the Workmen’s Compensation Board is not ready and willing to allow those who are receiving compensation to transfer their medical treatment from an opted-out physician to a physician who respects the aims and objectives of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan?
Does the minister realize those who are receiving treatment under compensation sometimes also require medical treatment that is not related to their work injury? Does he not accept that it is reasonable for a person to want to receive all his medical treatment from one physician, rather than having to go to one physician for treatment under compensation and to another for treatment under OHIP? Will he direct the board to accept opting out as a reason for which board claimants can automatically switch from one doctor to another?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I am not aware of any board policy in that regard, but I will certainly have discussions with them and report to the member.
Mr. Isaacs: Supplementary: While the minister is investigating that matter, will he perhaps also prevail upon the Ontario Medical Association or upon his colleague, the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell), to ensure that families whose only source of income is a WCB pension will not be charged more than the OHIP rate for medical treatment?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I will be glad to discuss that matter with the Minister of Health, but I think the member should put that question to him directly when he is in the House.
WATER RESCUE SERVICE
Mr. O’Neil: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Transportation and Communications, a question which also relates to the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) and the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry). It relates to the recent death of a 13-year-old youth who was a member of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps in the Quinte area who was left clinging to a sailboat and drowned because of inadequate rescue service in the Bay of Quinte-Lake Ontario region.
Will the minister, along with his colleagues, look into the water rescue service as it pertains to why a privately owned rescue boat is not allowed to use ambulance radio frequencies for rescue? Will he give consideration to funding such a service, whether through the Ontario Provincial Police, some other government agency or a private service? Will he undertake a thorough study of this matter to see such a thing does never happen again?
Hon. Mr. Snow: There are a lot of questions on that particular matter. Not being aware of the particular unfortunate incident and because of the fact that some of the matters the honourable member mentioned will have to be consulted in other areas, such as the communications frequency allocation, which is at the level of the federal government, I would ask to take the question as notice and I will reply later.
Mr. O’Neil: Supplementary: Would the minister also speak with the Attorney General or the Minister of Health to see whether funding could come from either one of these ministries, or additional service with the OPP from the Attorney General’s department?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Yes, the Solicitor General and the Attorney General have both just heard the statement and I am sure they will respond to it.
Mr. Philip: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations concerning the inaccessibility of certain information produced at taxpayers’ expense by Condominium Ontario.
Now that the Etobicoke Condominium Association has established a committee to organize a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that section of the Condominium Act which imposes a levy on condominium owners, after that section has been proclaimed by the minister, and now that the Etobicoke association will be soliciting funds from condominium corporations throughout the province to help finance that lawsuit, will the minister instruct Condominium Ontario to supply or to make public the list of condominium corporations that was produced at taxpayers’ expense, so that the Etobicoke Condominium Association may be able to use that list to solicit funds for its lawsuit?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I’ll look into it and report back to the House. I must say, I am complimented that notwithstanding all the adverse remarks made in my estimates, the third party now agrees that I have the accurate list.
An hon. member: You don’t have the accurate list but let’s have what you’ve got.
Mr. Philip: By way of supplementary, no one was indicating that. As a matter of fact, all that we indicated was that considerable tax money was spent trying to acquire a list.
Does the minister agree, therefore, with the Kealey commission report, in particular, recommendations 111 and 112, which clearly states that a list, a public list of condominium corporations is needed in this province, so that all people who are interested in communicating with condominium corporations may have access to it; and does the minister further understand, therefore, that people who have contrary views to that of the government and Condo Ontario should have some access to every condominium corporation and board of directors in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Quite naturally, I agree with the desirability of a list, as expressed in the Kealey report. If my list isn’t accurate, I humbly suggest to the member what does he want it for? Furthermore, in regard to any dissemination of a list, I have no concerns about that. I think some of the obvious reservations would have to be attached. But one wouldn’t actually sell the list to somebody in the direct mail order business, or so forth.
Mr. Breaugh: You mean you wouldn’t do it if he didn’t do it.
Ms. Gigantes: That’s awful.
Hon. Mr. Drea: There are some obvious restrictions on it, but I’ll be very glad to reply to the member, and to his satisfaction I would hope, next week.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: On November 5, the member for Oakwood (Mr. Grande) suggested in a question to me that the North York school board had 456 students identified as needing English as a second language and 115 were getting needed help.
This matter has been investigated thoroughly and the answer to the allegation is that it is entirely untrue. The North York board has completed an audit of all of those young people requiring English-as-a-second-language training, and at the present time the staffing for ESL in North York has more than doubled the rate provided by the Metro formula.
In the second question, the honourable member suggested strongly that boards of education in the province were forcing teachers to remove children from special programs to make room for new arrivals.
We have discussed this matter with those boards most likely to be involved with this problem -- the Metropolitan Separate School Board, Toronto board, North York board, borough of York board and Metro school board -- and they all indicate that the member for Oakwood’s statement is specifically untrue. They are not forcing students from the program in order to accommodate new arrivals.
In addition, yesterday the member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) asked a question related to what he called psychological testing within the school system without the specific approval of parents.
The test to which the honourable member referred, I think, is the one that has been raised by one parent in the city of Toronto, related to an assessment that is a part of the early identification program. This is not considered by either the Toronto school board psychological staff or by the special-ed branch of the ministry to be a psychological test. In fact, it is a test that is an attempt to indicate whether any of the children in question might have a learning disability or some impediment in terms of their learning process.
However, in the light of the concern that has been expressed, we have referred that test specifically to the Toronto Psychological Association for its assessment, as to whether or not indeed it is a psychological test. At the present time, in the view of the psychological staff of the Toronto board and our own special-ed branch, this is not a test that should be called a psychological test.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Mr. Breaugh: A slight point of order: The minister just responded to two questions, neither member is present in the House. I wonder if the Speaker might indicate that since opposition members in asking questions obviously have to wait for the minister to be present to do so, would that same courtesy be reasonable to ask for in response?
Mr. Speaker: Perhaps the member in his capacity as the chairman of the procedural affairs committee might wish to look into that and recommend to the House.
REVIEW OF BILL 100
Mr. G. I. Miller: I have a question for the Minister of Education and I know it has been discussed this morning at some length. In view of the strike at Haldimand County Secondary School last spring, which went on for two months, when it came out very clearly that the students had rights only under the Education Relations Commission, which doesn’t seem to be working effectively, I wonder in reviewing Bill 100 if these rights could be incorporated into the bill, so that the students are used fairly and are assured of their education?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the members of the commission appointed to examine Bill 100 would welcome the submissions of student organizations or of members of the Legislature who have specific points of view they would like to express. That is a very valid concern that the honourable member has expressed, and I would hope he would take the time to write to the chairman of the commission to express that concern for potential inclusion within a modification.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Supplementary: Would the minister, when setting up the commission, make them aware of that problem? I don’t think it came out very clearly in the report that she made to the House on the guidelines for the commission.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: The guidelines are sufficiently broad that any aspect of the activity or the scope of Bill 100 can be examined by the commission. I have specifically suggested that indeed, those interested citizens, those interested members of the Legislature and anyone who would like to make a submission, do so in writing to the chairman of that commission and make him aware of the concerns that are being expressed.
Mr. Ruston: Supplementary: With regard to the rights of students, if a student loses seven weeks in grade nine, three weeks in grade 10 and three weeks in grade 12 because of strikes, do you not think they are entitled to some rights when they have to lose over three months in school?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Of course the students have rights. I would be happier to hear the members of this Legislature talking about the responsibilities of all members of the educational system to ensure that the system functions effectively and properly, on behalf of the education of our young people, rather than concentrating on rights constantly.
USE OF HERBICIDES AND PESTICIDES
Ms. Bryden: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. Is the minister aware that the township of Chandos has passed a bylaw prohibiting the use of herbicidal or defoliant applications in the township after October 1, following observation of some damage from spraying on hydro lines? Has the minister seen a letter that the eastern regional office of Hydro has written to the municipality, informing it that Hydro will do one of two things if the bylaw remains on the books -- (1) charge the township additional costs for line clearing, estimated at $25 per customer; or (2) reduce line-clearing work to a level that can be achieved with mechanical means under the budgeted cost for herbicidal use, and make the municipality also liable for any hazard to the public or erosion of service that may result from this reduced line-clearing work?
Would the minister comment on this attempt by Hydro to penalize a municipality that is not convinced that the herbicides and defoliants in use, particularly 2,4-D, are entirely safe for the people and the environment?
Hon. Mr. Welch: There are three questions there. The answer to the first two would be no, and as far as the third question is concerned I will be very pleased to discuss the matter with Hydro.
Mr. Stong: I have a question of the Attorney General. Is he aware of the junior jury or youthful jury experiment presently being carried out in Brandon, Manitoba, wherein the judge, after registering a conviction against a youthful offender, then consults a jury of the young offender’s youthful peers to assist him in arriving at a proper disposition on sentencing? Is the Attorney General aware of that, and if he is, is he monitoring that experiment to assess its strengths or weaknesses? If he is not aware of it, would he monitor it?
In any case, would the minister not agree that such an experiment would greatly benefit society in general, not only in terms of creating an awareness among our youth with respect to the detriment of obtaining a criminal record, but also in terms of general deterrents by direct public participation in the judicial system?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: No, I am not aware of that experiment. I will be very happy to take a look at it and try to assess its strengths and weaknesses. We are taking a very close look at the whole juvenile justice system, and I will be having something further to say about that within the next week or two.
The public participation in the sentencing process, if this is what it involves, obviously is a very sensitive issue. I don’t want to be perceived to be making any judgement of this particular project, which sounds like a very interesting one, but I would like to make a preliminary observation, that although juries play a very vital, a very crucial role, in the criminal justice system in this province, as the member fully appreciates, we have traditionally left the matter of sentencing to judges and not to juries.
In any event, we will be quite happy to take a look at that, and I am grateful to the honourable member for bringing it to my attention.
STANDING ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE COMMITTEE
Mr. Philip from the standing administration of justice committee presented the committee’s report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:
Bill Pr22, An Act respecting the County of Simcoe;
Bill Pr23, An Act to revive Honing Corporation Limited;
Bill Pr24, An Act respecting Co-operators Life Insurance Association;
Bill Pr29, An Act respecting the Assumption Church Cemetery.
Your committee recommends that the fees less the actual cost of printing be remitted on Bill Pr29, An Act respecting the Assumption Church Cemetery.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Miss Stephenson moved first reading of Bill 170, An Act to amend the Education Act, 1974.
Motion agreed to.
ONTARIO MUNICIPAL IMPROVEMENT CORPORATION ADMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McCague, on behalf of Hon. F. S. Miller, moved first reading of Bill 171, An Act to Amend the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation Act.
Motion agreed to.
MUNICIPALITY OF METROPOLITAN TORONTO AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Wells moved first reading of Bill 172, An Act to Amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, as well as including the amendments to complement the other bills concerning front-end grants towards the cost of school board capital projects, this bill also includes several amendments requested by Metropolitan Toronto council.
These include the power for Metro to impose a sewer service charge on persons discharging waste water into the metropolitan sanitary sewer system from private systems and the ability to enter into a joint group liability insurance plan with the area municipalities. The bill will also allow Metro to enter into long-term contracts for the purchase or rental of machinery.
MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Wells moved first reading of Bill 173, An Act to amend the Municipal Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, again as well as including some of the provisions concerning the front-end capital grants for school construction, this bill also contains amendments to provide councils with broader authority to deposit sinking funds and reserve funds with credit unions; to appoint members of boards of management; to restrict the number of animals kept in each household; to provide benefit plans for members of council; and to reduce, cancel or refund taxes in respect of buildings rendered unusable by fire, demolition or other causes.
Another amendment would exempt from taxi licensing bylaws, taxis carrying school children and disabled and handicapped persons.
The area municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto have been concerned about difficulties in enforcing zoning bylaws affecting group homes. To overcome these concerns, an amendment is proposed to provide for a system of registration of group homes by municipalities and to prohibit the operation of a group home that is not properly registered. This change would also allow inspection where there is reason to believe a group home is operating but not registered.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, the bill proposes to provide some changes regarding the remuneration and expenses paid to the municipally appointed members of local boards representing more than one municipality.
COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF MIDLAND ACT
Hon. Mr. Wells moved first reading of Bill 174, An Act respecting the composition of the Council of the Town of Midland.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, this bill repeals section 37 of the Statute Law Amendment Act, 1937, which provided for the composition of the Midland town council.
The town of Midland has requested the repeal of section 37 in order that the Municipal Act will apply to the composition of the council beginning with the council to be elected in the regular 1980 municipal elections. The council currently in office will not be affected by this amendment.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF REVENUE (CONTINUED)
Mr. Charlton: I will start off with some brief comments on the opening statement of the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Maeck) on Monday. I think most of us in this House were somewhat impressed with the minister’s statement, and my comments, though brief, will be somewhat complimentary. Then I will get into what I see are some of the problems.
I think we were impressed because of the positive nature of the minister’s statement. The minister chose to focus on three major areas of his ministry: the overall financing and productivity gains, tax simplification and improved customer services, and progress in municipal property assessment. On the last item, I am afraid I am going to have some disagreements with the minister and some comments later on.
There is no question that tax simplification in a very complicated tax system is an important thing to be talking about. I would suggest that although the minister has made some positive moves and there have been some positive efforts, the very nature of many of our taxes is what is complicated, and it is the very nature of those taxes that perhaps has to be seriously looked at before really effective simplification can be accomplished.
There is no question that improved customer services, the improved ability on the part of the taxpaying public, whether it be the ordinary home owner, small business or even large corporations, to receive proper service is important. The ability of the ministry to deal with all of the different sectors affected by all of the different taxes is also important. We are all glad to see those kinds of improvements.
As the minister is aware, I wasn’t totally prepared to make my opening statement on Monday. I spent most of the week working on my remarks for today. I spent the last several hours trying to cut my statement from something lasting just over two hours to something a little more reasonable. The minister will, therefore, appreciate that I see a number of major faults in the Ministry of Revenue. In order to cut down my remarks, I have decided to focus today on two major areas. I hope I will be able to raise those other things I decided to withhold today with the minister in some other fashion over the next few weeks or months.
The minister has said quite clearly a number of times in the House that his ministry is an administrative ministry; its major function is as an administrator. He has told us that when this government is going through the budget process his ministry is involved in those discussions but he as a minister and his ministry as a ministry are not the major source of policy decision in terms of taxation in this province.
I think we quite clearly understand that. We went through some lengthy discussions of that last year. It’s quite clear that in the case of the budget itself, and general tax policy decisions, those decisions are being made in Treasury.
It’s also quite clear, from a number of other discussions the minister and I have had, that decisions that ultimately end up in the Ministry of Revenue are made in other ministries, such as Education, Community and Social Services, or elsewhere. These decisions are in terms of Gains programs or in terms of the ways in which taxes affect social policy and so on.
As an administrative ministry, the minister’s statement was particularly positive. We compliment the minister on the administrative things that have been done in his ministry to make that administrative body function better, and better deal with the public. However, the question arises -- and it’s a very serious question -- of whether or not having a ministry which is totally administrative in nature, is in fact, necessary or acceptable.
We can recall the comments of the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) last Monday evening in his opening statement when he raised this question. I’ll quote him briefly: “But I still am not convinced, even, that the ministry should have, or warrants, a separate and individual existence.”
I don’t agree with the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk, I think there is a useful role and a useful place for the Ministry of Revenue, but I also want to say to the minister as clearly as I possibly can that a totally administrative role is not acceptable. If the Ministry of Revenue continues in the same fashion, at some point I may, in fact, start agreeing with the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk. This is the first point of discussion I want to get into with the minister today.
I don’t agree, but I also don’t agree with the way the Ministry of Revenue is operating at present, and I would like to discuss that. The Ministry of Revenue is the ministry which administers, with one or two exceptions, all of the taxes in this province. There are other fees and licence charges and so on that are administered by some other ministries, but for the most part, the Ministry of Revenue is the revenue collector for this province.
The Ministry of Revenue has the staff that deals with those taxes on a day-to-day basis, on a week-to-week basis and on a monthly basis. The staff of the Ministry of Revenue, the minister’s staff, see in as close a way as is possible for a government in a province this size, the impact of those taxes, and the impact of changes when we reduce taxes or when we increase taxes.
Also, his staff, because they watch all this on a day-to-day basis, because they see the changes and the impact of those changes, and because his staff are the real experts in terms of those taxes, are also the ones who should have the best feel for the relationship between taxes, different kinds of taxes, in terms of differences of impact, in terms of a lot of policies that are in fact administered by other ministries of this government.
I’ve already mentioned a few of them, but I’ll go through them again. In terms of economic policy, in terms of economic goals and social gains in this province, in terms of dealing with problems of low-income people and/or pensioners, yours is the ministry where all of that should be most clearly seen. Yours is the ministry where the best sense should exist of what direction to go in terms of raising additional revenue, or in terms of reducing revenues and putting money back into the hands of taxpayers for economic goals. Yours is the ministry where the best feel for the best direction to go to accomplish those kinds of goals should exist. I’m sure that it does. If it doesn’t, you’ve got some serious problems already, but I’m I sure that it does. I’m sure that expertise is there, and I’m sure it could be brought to bear in a very effective way.
At present, I suggest it is not. I suggest that because the minister himself suggested it in his responses on a number of occasions, right from the time of the last estimates to the debate on the number of bills we’ve had. I refer you, for example, to the budget of this year, and the criticisms that came from this party to some of the tax increases that were included in that budget, and from the party to my right; criticisms which, in some instances, the minister even seemed to understand and agree with, to some degree at least.
It was quite clear in the minister’s responses to those debates that he, in effect, felt helpless; that he, in effect, did not set the policy and that he didn’t see any effective way of playing a positive policy role. I want to suggest to the minister that this is probably my major concern with the Ministry of Revenue.
Because you have the expertise, because your staff are the people who watch the whole operation of revenue collection on a day-today basis, because your staff, therefore, are in the best position to make recommendations on policy and direction, somehow that role has to be accomplished, otherwise the Ministry of Revenue is just an administrator and your staff could very well be moved into one of the other ministries -- probably Treasury and Economics, as an administrative body of Treasury policy. I don’t think that should happen. I tried to make that clear. I think there is a role far greater and far more important than just the administrative role.
The member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk also mentioned in his opening remarks about the situation in 1970 when this government took over the administration of property assessment in Ontario. I quote again from the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk:
“I know the NDP critic has had direct and personal experience of this and might perhaps feel it was better to work for the government of Ontario than one of the local municipalities. But from my point of view and from my experience, I reject the view that it is better that assessment be centralized.”
In that statement the member suggested I possibly agreed with the transfer or the centralization of the assessment function. I would just like to say quite dearly that, at the time, I did not. At the time, it created a number of very serious problems. It created the problem of the inevitable increases in staff as a result of centralization and it created a lot of very human and personal problems for employees.
When a transfer like that occurs, there are a number of very serious things that happen. Chains of responsibility change, benefits to employees change, salary scales change, pensions change; it creates a number of very serious problems that affect substantial numbers of people.
For those reasons alone, it seemed to me that the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk was suggesting that not only was that move at that time wrong, but perhaps the minister should be considering reversing that move now. I suggest, for a number of reasons, that such a reversal probably shouldn’t happen, even though I disagreed with the transfer at the time, because all of the same problems in terms of personnel and administration of assessment will recur in changing back.
There are literally hundreds of people at present employed by the Ministry of Revenue who, because of the transfer in 1970, went to considerable personal expense, for example, to buy up pension time or to make up the difference because of different pension rates in the two pensions.
Seniority problems, holiday problems, all kinds of other problems exist, and I suppose that is a good point to lead into the second major area I see as a failure and a failing of the Ministry of Revenue, that of municipal property assessment.
We have been here before on this matter, and we will be here again, obviously. We have been over this a number of times, not only in estimates last year and the year before, but in debates on bills and resolutions in this House, on private members’ resolutions, and, recently in the estimates of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs.
I want to start out by tying this into the first major concern, which I have already expressed: a failure on the part of the ministry to be strong and aggressive and actively involved in policy recommendation. I think that failing applies in the assessment area as well as in all of the other tax areas.
I see the minister shaking his head “no,” but I am going to suggest a number of things I want him to think seriously about and look at carefully. One of the things I see as a failing is the inability of the Ministry of Revenue, the assessment division, if you want me to be more specific, to provide answers, to provide directions.
Prior to the takeover in 1970, the decision was made to go to market value assessment and I can understand that at that point it wasn’t quite clear what all of the implications were. I probably even agree that all of the implications still are not clear, but it is certainly true that most of the serious implications of market value assessment are clear, which is why we, today, are without effective property tax reform in this province.
First of all that raises the very serious question of market value assessment itself. Was that the right way to go? I know it is difficult for the minister, and I can’t personally blame him because he hasn’t been there all through the process. In fact, this matter hasn’t even been within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Revenue all through the process. I know it is difficult for ministries, ministers, government to admit errors and then seriously look at why the errors occurred, look seriously at where they should be going from there in order to correct those errors. That is why I call it a failing.
I call it a failing also -- and the minister can shake his head if he wishes after I make this statement, but it is a clear statement, a true statement; it is a statement I made, for example, two weeks ago at an institute of municipal assessment meeting at which I spoke. All the assessors there agreed with me, including the commissioners.
I don’t want to sound too critical of the staff because there has to be leadership, and leadership has to come from those people over there on the government benches, more specifically you but all the government members. I suppose to some degree leadership even has to come from this side of the House, and I suppose that is why I am taking the approach I am taking today.
The staff of the assessment division of the Ministry of Revenue was handed a task upon takeover. Their task was defined as institution of market value. They have gone through a number of processes since 1970, including substantial changes to the method of arriving at market value. Your staff has very seriously taken on that whole job and attempted, in the best way it could find, to establish market value across the board and in each individual sector of the property tax system. The problem has been that the assessment division has been totally and completely geared to nothing else but market value.
Although I never sat down with the very top dogs in the assessment division and talked about this in very specific terms, I have talked to them about a number of specific individual assessment matters and I have worked in the system. The problem is that assessors in general, as a result of the kind of policy direction -- or in some cases lack of direction -- they have had politically, have become purists; they have become totally tied to the concept of market value so that they are not prepared to discuss anything else.
They have become totally and purely tied to the concept that their job is no other than achieving market value and they refuse, with a very few exceptions and there are some, Mr. Minister, but they generally refuse to look at the political implications that form the reality of tax reform. They don’t want to hear about it. They say, “Look, we have done our job. Here is the market value. You guys decide what you are going to do with it,” pointing at Treasury, pointing at this House, pointing at yourself.
That is dealing with the problem just a little bit narrowly and the reasons -- and I won’t go through them all, we have been over them a number of times and will probably go over them again when we debate in this House the postponement bill in the very near future -- the reasons market value or assessment reform or whatever else we should be talking about have not come about are because we are still where we were in 1974, the first time we postponed, and in 1975 and in every year since.
One of the things that has to occur before we can ever get beyond the stage we are at is for this government, the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller), the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells), the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson), yourself and the Premier (Mr. Davis) to sit down and seriously look at the political problems that the last 10 years have created. Look at why and discuss solutions. The solutions have to be political solutions.
I will refer to some comments the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs made during his estimates in response to questions I asked him. This won’t be an exact quote, but I think it will be clear that in effect this is what he said. He took the approach that government does not necessarily accept the fairness, the equitability, the reasonableness of the shifts implied in market value assessment. This was in response to questions about the equalization factors and his announcement about the measures being taken to reduce the impact of those new equalization factors.
I said at the time I was very glad to hear him say this government did not necessarily accept as what should happen the shifts implied by market value. On the other hand, there are no answers forthcoming whatsoever about where we go in real terms to deal with that, none whatsoever.
We have been through two things in the last year, Mr. Minister, and you have taken some flak, municipal politicians have taken some flak; all of us have, in some form or another I would suppose. We have been through two things in the last year; the section 86 program, which is going to be ongoing I would assume for a number of years to come, and the implementation -- or the announcement, I shouldn’t say implementation I guess, should I Mr. Minister -- the announcement in July of the new equalization factors.
First, I’ll talk for a few minutes about the new equalization factors. The minister is well aware, and he has stated quite clearly in his opening statement, that for all intents and purposes it was an all-party agreement that the equalization factor should be frozen. The freeze should be removed, there is no question about that.
The minister is also very clear, though, from discussions we have had, that there were very few people in this House, very few people in the Liberal Party, very few people in my own party, and very, very few people in the government party, who understood the impact of that. What’s even worse is it has now become quite clear that even the ministers involved in making that decision last fall, your colleagues, Mr. Minister, didn’t clearly understand the impact of what was done.
In July the minister announced the new equalization factors and the whole place fell apart. Everybody went into a panic about how to deal with the impact of those equalization factors. I cannot for the life of me understand why that had to occur.
In specific terms yes, the studies had to be done to look at the specific and minute impacts on individual properties and types of properties and so on, but all of the indications of what would happen if the equalization factors were freed up were there; they were there in the Blair commission report, they were there in the white paper, they were there in the joint municipal-provincial committee report last spring, or not even last spring the spring of 1978; all of the indications were there. It suggests a number of things to me, Mr. Minister, because at least to some degree you seemed clear last fall about what was happening. Most assuredly your staff was clear last fall about what freeing those equalization factors would mean. That suggests to me a considerable lack of initiative, leadership and forceful recommendation on the part of your ministry to make all of that clear to the other three with whom you were negotiating. The very fact all of the scurrying, all of the analysis, and then ultimately all of the frantic searching for alternatives had to go on after the announcement, was ridiculous, just ridiculous.
I understand, for example, once it had been realized over there and once it had been decided something had to be done to deal with the total impact of the new equalization factors, everybody got involved in the process. The Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs got involved in the process, Treasury got involved in the process, Revenue got involved in the process, Education got involved in the process. In one place or another, or in all places, something in the neighbourhood of 70 or 72 or 73 different models of how to reduce the impact of those equalization factors were looked at.
None of them worked. It’s ridiculous.
So we get the five per cent program for one year, and that’s fine; but we raised the issue in July that something had to be done to deal with the impact and the shifts implied by those impacts. We don’t quarrel with the fact that the ministry is doing something, what we are quarrelling with is that what we are doing to deal with the problem is very ad hoc, very last minute. It shows a serious lack of real flow and coordination between the ministries involved over there; because as I see it, the Ministry of Revenue is the ministry that should be most on top of the questions that relate to equalization factors, to market value and to assessment in general, so I have no choice but to apportion the greatest amount of the blame to the Ministry of Revenue and to the minister.
The minister talked in his opening statement about section 86 assessments and praised that program. I have spoken on this in the House before and we have discussed it privately before. We have discussed it so many times that sometimes it makes your hair curl. Yes, there are some benefits to section 86 equalizations. Yes, it will deal with some of the problems out there. This is just an estimate, but even if it is not accurate I don’t want you to send your staff soaring off and spending three months doing a study of whether my estimate is accurate or not, but I would seriously like you to consider this in terms of an example. Even if section 86 does have some benefits, it only deals with 20 or 25 per cent of what we set out in 1970 to do. The original intent in 1970 was not only to deal with the inequities between properties in a municipality or neighbourhood or whatever, but also to deal with the whole question of what was happening in our governmental structure. It was to deal with the development of regional government in dealing with the inequities between municipalities and a region or county, and with the inequities between municipalities right across this province. It was to deal with setting up a uniform assessment system right across this province. Section 86 deals with none of those problems at all. Twenty, or 25 per cent perhaps, of the problems are dealt with under section 86. In addition, section 86 creates some new problems all on its own, because the definitions of the sectors aren’t as clear as they should be.
Mr. Minister, this is not a personal criticism of you. I suppose it is more a criticism of your portfolio and more a criticism of your ministry and the governmental interrelationships over there that revolve around and deal with revenue. But for you to be totally proud about starting into a section 86 equalization program in 1979 just isn’t good enough in terms of the property tax questions in this province. We could have had a section 86 equalization in 1973 or 1974, five or six years ago.
That brings me up to another thing, the freeze itself. The freeze is a major part of the problem. Your staff may not fully understand this, because the freeze is a problem in terms of the political side of the question of property tax reform. The freeze itself has created many new political problems in the last 10 years, not only the freeze of assessments but the freeze of equalization factors and the freeze of the whole concept of property taxation. The freeze itself is in large part responsible for the kind of stupidity we are going through now with equalization factors, with section 86s restricted to sectoral equalization. The longer the freeze is left in place the greater the problems will become, and the less your ability as a minister and as part of a government will be to deal with those problems. The longer that freeze is left in place the greater the implied shifts will be.
We have been at this game for 10 years now, and as I said I see it as the greatest single failing in your ministry. I am not attributing the failing totally to you, because you haven’t been there throughout. It is probably more a collective failing of government than even necessarily a failing of the Ministry of Revenue. Except that I don’t believe the Ministry of Revenue, where the expertise should be for good recommendations to come, has done that. If it has it certainly hasn’t done it effectively.
Leadership is required in this whole thing and I can’t see it coming from anywhere but your ministry. I don’t think the expertise exists anywhere else. There may be people in Treasury or Intergovernmental Affairs who understand the theories of assessment, but just to understand theories isn’t good enough. When we spout theories the government yells pie-in-the-sky, so it isn’t reasonable to expect people over there who understand theories to necessarily be in the best position to know how to deal with the problems implied in those theories.
The only people who are really in a good position to do that are the people who work with it on a day-to-day basis, who have a real feel for not only what is happening but also for what will happen if you do this or if you do that. That is where the expertise exists, that is where the recommendations have to come from.
I am going to get into something we haven’t really discussed before on the whole question of assessments. It has taken me a long time, so I can understand that perhaps it has taken you a long time as a minister and it has even taken some of your staff a long time, but I have come to the conclusion we have gone about this whole process of property tax reform completely backwards.
We are trying to establish a uniform, equitable assessment system which will accomplish a number of things: the goals of equity between properties, equity between municipalities and so on and so forth, right up the line. But we’re trying to do this without first really defining the political and the social goals. When it became obvious the assessment system and the approach to market value was causing shifts we couldn’t deal with that because we had already developed the system. So we have gone about it backwards.
The political decisions weren’t made in 1968-69 and they weren’t made in 1974 or 1976 or 1978. As far as I can tell, the political decisions still have not been made by this government. These decisions revolve around deciding first of all if property taxes are where we want to stay. If we decide that -- and I assume your government would, so that’s the drift I’m going to take. Our party might decide something different if we were the government but we’re not. The Liberal Party might decide something different but it’s not the government either. I’m going to make the assumption that if the minister goes through that discussion in cabinet or with his colleagues directly involved with the results of the assessment system he will conclude he wants to stay with property taxes.
The second question that has to be dealt with is the question then of who should pay what. Which sector should carry what burden of the total tax burden?
We have a number of options here. First, we could stick strictly to the principle that was largely developed by Mr. McKeough and whatever staff he had around him at the time, of total uniformity across the province, a very hard-line system where the province would very clearly set out who’s going to pay what share of the total property tax burden.
You also have the option of going to a much more flexible system where the government would decide, in general, the tax burden, with some flexibility within some legislative limits so municipalities could deal with the differences in their tax needs more to suit their own situation.
I think I would probably opt for the more flexible system but we haven’t even had serious -- up-front at least -- discussion about those matters. As I see it, the conclusion I’ve come to is that those decisions have to be made first.
We can piddle around with bandages and medicine, market value or another assessment system, or we can piddle around with how to deal with the impact of the shifts after market value assessment is done. We can play around with those things forever, but until the time comes when the political decisions have been made about who’s going to pay what -- what is politically acceptable out there in Ontario, what is fair in terms of tax burden sector by sector, class by class -- until those decisions are made, we’re not going to make any real progress.
We’ll make some small progress with section 86 programs and we’ll make some small progress with something else that someone else will dream up, but we won’t really get down to the nitty-gritty of the overall problem of property tax reform. The political decisions have to be made first.
I suppose that raises the whole question of market value, because the market-value system itself not only implies that in the initial instance of implementation shifts will occur, but it will be less sometimes and more at other times -- as the market levels off and slumps, but it will also create more activity in periods when the market is more active and prices are going up -- the market-value system in itself implies tax shifts on an ongoing basis.
This is something we have to look at very seriously. Whether we as a Legislature, whether you as a government, whether you as a minister want to be confronted with not only having to sit down and make the initial political decisions but also sitting down year after year and deciding whether the shifts that are going to occur as a result of market changes should be allowed to occur or not. All of those things have to be decided before we can ever resolve the question of whether to implement market value or move on to a totally new system or modified system of market value.
As far as I can tell -- and perhaps the minister can tell me differently during the course of the estimates -- those questions have not been answered in any concise or specific way. If they have, why can’t we seriously get on with the job of property tax reform in this province, instead of fiddling around with measures that don’t really deal with the problem in an overall way. They deal with some minor parts of it, but they don’t deal with the problem in an overall way at all.
Obviously, it is a much broader question than just property tax itself; it gets into the whole broad question of municipal finance, grants, transfers and all the rest of those things. There obviously has to be a lot of co-ordination over there, but in terms of the assessment function itself, the leadership has to come from the Ministry of Revenue.
I’ll wrap up my remarks at that point, Mr. Minister. Those are the two major failings I see in the Ministry of Revenue. This is not even to suggest that when people on your staff get involved with Treasury people and Intergovernmental Affairs people in discussing certain matters that they don’t take certain positions that do not necessarily agree with Treasury people and/or the Treasurer; they probably do. But it is certainly not done in a very forceful fashion up front. Your staff has done the work, has put together the recommendations about the best direction to go; and it doesn’t apply only to assessment policy, it applies to tax policy on all of the other taxes.
If your staff has done the work -- I think they are the real experts -- if your staff has put together the recommendation, then you as the minister should not only be making those recommendations to the Treasurer publicly in a very strong and political way but be making those recommendations so you can on occasion gain support from other people.
If you have the expertise in your ministry, and I think you do, then your ministry has to take a very aggressive and positive role in terms of policy on taxation, on property tax reform, on social policy if you like, in order that those who have the expertise are having their way up front where others will know and understand, and perhaps even support.
In wrapping up, I come back to where I started, back to the comments made by the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) on Monday night: Whether or not the Ministry of Revenue should really exist; whether or not just being an administrative body is good enough; or whether -- and as I see it -- we should have much more aggressive use of the expertise that exists in your ministry so that we can finally get something accomplished in a number of rather important areas.
As far as most of the people out there in Ontario are concerned -- I was going to go through a number of press releases, letters to the editor and so on in terms of the kind of cynicism that has developed out there about taxation in general and about property taxes specifically. If we had some serious, positive, well-researched policy recommendations coming out of your ministry -- up front, publicly -- for the benefit of the people of this province then perhaps we could swing some of that cynicism around and perhaps your ministry would have the kind of role I see as useful, constructive and ultimately beneficial to this province.
Many of the comments made by the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk are valid in present terms.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Chairman, before we get into the votes item by item I’d like to make a few remarks in response to the two opposition critics. I would like to deal with the remarks made by the member for Hamilton Mountain first, simply because the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk is not in the Legislature. He presented the opening remarks on behalf of the official opposition.
I note the member’s annual concerns about the Ministry of Revenue, the same annual concerns I hear from the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk, about the necessity for the Ministry of Revenue, about the amount of power the ministry should have and the amount of policy-making power it should have.
Mr. Charlton: More influence than power, Lorne.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I have explained this many times. I keep repeating it, it seems, in every debate we have. Every time the estimates are on, it’s the same thing.
I have never said we do not make any policy in the Ministry of Revenue. What I have said in tax matters -- and it’s the way the government is set up in this province and in most jurisdictions, as a matter of fact -- is the fiscal policies of the province, or the jurisdiction, are set by the Treasurer, not by the Ministry of Revenue.
There is no question that from time to time the Minister of Revenue and the Treasurer discuss matters of taxation policy. There is no question that my staff, on almost a day-to-day basis, is in constant touch with Treasury staff. It’s not a matter of us, as a ministry, not having input. The fact is the final decisions must be made by one person in the government, and that is the Treasurer. I think that should be understandable to all members of the Legislature.
It’s not a matter of my ministry and me absolving ourselves of our responsibility. I think we are providing the professional advice of my staff -- the member is quite right -- who are probably the only ones who can really develop the professional advice necessary to make certain decisions. That information is being passed on to the Treasurer.
Mr. Charlton: That’s not good enough.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I have said this before in this Legislature; this is not the first time I’ve said it, but I think it bears repeating: The Treasurer must in the final analysis bear the responsibility for the fiscal policy of this province. Two people cannot do it. The way the government is set up, the way any jurisdiction is set up, whether it be federal or provincial, the Treasurer always produces the fiscal policy for that province or jurisdiction.
I can’t say it much more clearly. We do talk to the Treasury. We do give advice. We do give our expertise to Treasury when they are making decisions. These communications go on and on, not just at budget time but all year. Any problem that comes to me as a matter of policy, if it is a policy problem, I discuss with the Treasurer. We sit down together and decide whether or not we should change the policies. There is some direction.
Obviously, the Treasurer sets the responsibility for that policy. That is his function. That is not to say I disagree with it or that I have had no input into it.
I know the member has mentioned that he disagrees with the fact the province took over the assessment function from the municipalities in 1970. I can’t disagree when he talks about the dislocation of staff and pensions and so on. I think the member is perhaps not quite as old as I am; I don’t know whether he remembers back quite so far as I do.
Mr. Charlton: I’m not quite as old, Lorne, but I’m aging quickly.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I can remember the problems that were out there when the municipalities were doing their own assessments. I can remember the favouritism shown to some people by municipal assessors who were being paid by certain people. I don’t know whether or not you recall all of that, but those are the kinds of things that were going on. That was the reason the province made the decision to take over the assessment for the province.
I agree that it would be a little late at this point in time to consider turning the assessment back over to the municipalities, as the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk has suggested. I don’t think that’s a matter of consideration at all. But I’d like to remind the member that when we talked about political decisions and so on, this government did make a political decision in 1969 to take over the assessment in the province. At that time they made the political decision that the right way to go would be to market- value assessment, in order to get some equity into the system on a local level as far as grants, et cetera that are being distributed by the province to municipalities are concerned. All of those decisions were taken long before I was a member of this Legislature, as a matter of fact. The decisions also were taken to freeze the factors and the assessment prior to my coming to this Legislature.
However, the member is suggesting that political decisions have to be made before we get into a new program. Obviously, I couldn’t agree more with him. That’s obviously why these freezes have been there all of this time. We’re still trying to make some political decisions over here, in the member’s party and in the other party.
I can tell you now that there is no caucus in this Legislature that totally agrees with what should be done as far as assessment in the province of Ontario is concerned. I have just as much difficulty trying to sell a program to my colleagues on this side as you have in selling it to your colleagues in your party; or the critic from the Liberal Party would have in trying to sell it to his party. There are almost as many different approaches to this thing as there are members in the House. We have worked very hard to try to take some of the inequities out of the existing system.
I admit that the section 86 program is not the be-all and end-all to the problems that are out there. It solves some of the problems, as you have indicated; it doesn’t solve them all. But at least it does give some equity within the classes, with comparable properties. It does correct the situation where you have people with identical houses in the same municipality and one is paying twice as many dollars in taxes as the other. It does solve that situation.
It doesn’t solve the situation of the inequities between the classes, or what percentage of taxation should be derived from commercial as opposed to residential. It doesn’t solve that problem because it doesn’t permit any shifts between the classes. That problem is out there. Someone, some day has to make a decision as to what percentage it will be.
Mr. Charlton: The question is who is that someone?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: The question is not who is the someone. The fact is it has to be a deliberation by all of the people in this Legislature and not only by the Minister of Revenue.
Mr. Charlton: Somebody had to provide the leadership.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: He is not a dictator, as the minister. He must have some power behind him. He must have some co-operation from other people in this Legislature.
Mr. Worton: From the majority.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Quite right.
I am the first to admit there are many problems out there as far as assessment is concerned. We have moved in two directions. We have moved with the section 86 program. We have moved by taking the freeze off equalization factors.
You had a great deal of criticism about the equalization factors and the way they were handled. I think you understand -- if you are being perfectly honest, truthful and open-minded -- that the Minister of Revenue’s responsibility in this regard is to produce those factors based on a proper assessment. That is my responsibility.
I don’t think you will disagree that the factors that were produced were good factors. There is nothing wrong with the factors, based on the information, the criteria used to develop the factors. You also, I’m sure, will agree that we used the same criteria to develop these factors as the ones we were using before, with the exception that we include a much larger sampling of properties, so we could be sure that we were developing property factors based on the criteria required under the act. We presented those factors to the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Treasury, whose responsibility it is to take those factors and decide how they are going to implement the proportionments, how they are going to implement the grants policy, in education and to the municipalities. That is their responsibility.
We developed the factors, as I am sure members are aware. When the freeze was lifted, when we amended the act and took the freeze off the equalization factors, I was required, as Minister of Revenue, to produce the factors and to have them gazetted not later than July 15.
By the time the work was done to develop those factors, it was approximately June 1. The other ministries involved in this exercise had only six weeks to use those factors to develop the accompanying program that went with them. That was really not long enough, but I had no choice.
It would have been much simpler, much easier on all members of this House who have received complaints about the factors -- not really about the factors but about the results that the factors have created -- if I could have said, “I will not release the factors until the rest of the program is developed.” All of it could have come out at the same time. They could have looked at their factors and compared them with the policy that was later -- I think it was on October 12 -- announced by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister of Education. If it could all have been released at once, I don’t think the concerns of the municipalities would have been near so great.
However, as I indicated, the legislation required me to Gazette the factors by July 15 and I guess we didn’t have the foresight when we were amending the act. We could probably have amended the date too, but we didn’t, so I was stuck with the legislation as it was. By the same token, the other part of the program has now been developed.
The point I am trying to make here is that there are certain areas of responsibility. In listening to your comments, I gather you want me to extend my responsibilities far beyond their present boundaries and to encroach on other ministers’ responsibilities. We try to work together, but I cannot dictate to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of Education, the Treasurer, or anyone else what they should be doing in their ministries as regards the responsibilities that have been assigned to them.
I think my ministry has been fulfilling its responsibility. I think we have been involved in policy decisions and so on, and I think there is a misconception on the part of the member for Hamilton Mountain and the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk.
Perhaps we have not been as loud as some ministries. Maybe I have been the type who doesn’t provide enough information. Perhaps I should be promoting this ministry more than I do, letting people know exactly what it is doing. But I must say that as far as I am concerned, I feel the Ministry of Revenue is a very necessary ministry and if you read my opening remarks you can see what has been going on in the Ministry of Revenue over the past year and a half since our last estimates debate. Many things have taken place in the Ministry of Revenue. I don’t think that attaching the Ministry of Revenue to Treasury or to some other minister would be an improvement. He would not have the time to do the kinds of things we have been doing within the Ministry of Revenue.
We have, I think, taken the initiative in this past year as far as assessment is concerned. I think you have to agree we have moved a long way in assessment, compared to what happened in the eight or nine years prior. The section 86 program is an example. As I indicated, it is not the be-all and end-all, but at least it is providing the municipalities that are having problems with solutions to some of their problems.
I won’t go into the statements of the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk in detail because he isn’t here. He did ask if the ministry was either overstaffed or unemployed for the years that led up to the record the minister has given us. This was in response to my opening statement when I mentioned our staff had been reduced since 1974.
I only want to point out to him, had we become a little more mechanized with computers and electronic data processing machinery -- that kind of thing -- instead of having a reduction in staff we would certainly have had quite an increase, because our work load had increased by some 24 per cent. We have been able to reduce the staff only because of the introduction of electronic data-processing equipment and so on. I think our investment program is really paying off in that we have been able to reduce our staff over that period of time, but it was certainly not because we were overstaffed initially.
He mentioned late filing of retail sales tax and the penalty in compensation. He said: “I don’t know of any great complaint about the tax collecting procedure, but just as a footnote it has been brought to my attention by some of those tax collectors who remit the sales tax to the minister that if through certain circumstances they are late in the remittance of the sales tax, they not only lose the four per cent fee they are given through the generosity of the Treasury for their work, both in collection and the forms associated, but they pay a penalty of an additional five per cent. This seems to me to be a rather Draconian double penalty when I believe it would not be necessary.”
For the benefit of the member, we automatically allow each vendor 23 days to submit his tax. The tax is due on the 23rd of each month for the previous month. I think that is a reasonable time to allow people to get their forms filled in and have the money submitted to the Ministry of Revenue.
The first time the return is filed late, the vendor is not penalized but is sent a letter suggesting he is a little tardy and he should submit it by the 23rd of the month. Beyond that point, when we find a vendor is late time after time and is never on time, we do push him a little harder. Even at that point we don’t apply penalties indiscriminately. We do have the authority to waive the penalty at our discretion. In most cases that is done unless it is a case where we have had so much trouble we just have to assert some authority.
The member asked a couple of other questions. He was referring to some areas in his riding, but he didn’t give me the names, so I was guessing at what he was referring to. I will wait until we get into the clause-by-clause or vote-by-vote debate when he will probably bring them up again.
The member was concerned about gasoline tax. He said, “I believe it was gasoline tax that got so seriously behind in payments from some of the major collection agencies.” I don’t believe we have really collected all that was owing in that yet, and there have been a number of committee hearings associated with it.
He vas talking about the St. Catharines area. I had my staff check this out. Although the tax status of any taxpayer is confidential, I can assure the honourable member that the province has realized 80 per cent of tax indebtedness through mortgages and warrants of execution. There is still a mortgage outstanding on other property as security against the balance of that debt. Since 1974, there has been no further liability as far as that company is concerned.
As a matter of information, I could probably say the collection record of the gasoline tax branch has been pretty good. For the past eight years the branch collected $5.1 billion. Uncollectable accounts written off for those eight years total $1.1 million, which represents only 0.2 per cent of the total collected. That isn’t really a bad record so far as gasoline tax collection is concerned.
He did talk about the Bank Act. He was concerned about the fact that banks don’t pay enough taxes. Quite a few people in this Legislature would probably agree with that. By way of background, the income of chartered banks is taxed by the province at the rate of 14 per cent. This is in addition to the 36 per cent rate at the federal level. This gives a combined rate of 50 per cent, which is a pretty high tax.
Ontario’s rate of 14 per cent is one per cent higher than that applied to the income of any other corporations that is derived from, say, manufacturing and processing and so on. The income tax rate was increased last year from 13 to 14 per cent in the last budget.
In addition to the income tax rate increase, the capital rate on banks was also increased in the last budget. In the past, the capital tax rate for banks was the same as the rate for loan and trust companies and twice the rate for ordinary corporations. As a result of the recent budget change, the bank rate was increased to four fifths of one per cent. It is now one and a third and two and two thirds higher than the rates in the other sectors. So banks are paying a higher rate of tax than anyone else.
One final item that the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk brought up was the matter of the small business development corporations. He said he hadn’t heard very much about them and wondered what was happening to them. I did send him a package of information on the SPDC program last night in the House, I guess.
Just to bring the members up to date on the SPDC program, which I think is becoming a rather successful program, the advertising we have done has been in daily, weekly and ethnic papers. We have published and widely distributed pamphlets.
Mr. Haggerty: How many applications have you received?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I am sure each member got one of the information booklets. Radio and television features have been produced and feature articles carried in a number of business publications and newspapers, including an article that was sent to all the members in case they wanted to include it in their constituency newsletters.
Mr. Haggerty: What is the dollar value?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I’ll get to that. Our ministry staff have travelled throughout the province on media tours and have been involved in speaking engagements. I should say that in these media tours they are usually involved in public programs that are of no cost to the province. They are public information programs and so on. We wanted to be sure that people were aware of the program. Up to the end of October, which is the last day I have, there have been 14 SPDCs registered under the act, which isn’t a bad record. There are another 12 applications for registrations that are currently under process.
In the earlier stage of the program, most of the SPDC head offices were located in Toronto but four of the 12 applications now in process are outside Metro Toronto; so we are getting some action outside the Toronto area. It’s really too soon to say whether the trend to a broader geographic distribution is developing, but I think it will. My own ministry and Ministry of Industry and Tourism representatives, particularly in northern Ontario, are presenting this program to as many people as they can with the hope that we will get some SPDCs for northern Ontario. However, that doesn’t stop people, small businesses in northern Ontario from dealing with an SPDC located in Toronto for funding purposes.
To date, the typical SPDC is a private corporation with a small number of individual investors. There is only one SPDC at this time that has been established to accommodate a corporate investor. I am a little disappointed in that. I was hopeful that more SPDCs would become public so that you or I -- well not me, as the minister, I can’t; it would be a conflict of interest -- so that other members could invest in an SPDC if they had $5,000 or $1,000 or whatever.
Mr. Haggerty: You have got a limit though of --
Hon. Mr. Maeck: They are limited to $5 million. That’s the total amount, but I am a little disappointed that there aren’t more of the type where the public can buy shares in the SPDCs. There’s only one at this point.
Mr. Haggerty: You will have to change that minimum. You might get the investors.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Two hundred and fifty thousand minimum, that’s true. That disappoints me a little bit. I could give you some figures on the dollar amounts and then I will sit down. The issued capital of registered SPDCs, and this was at the end of October, was $1.5 million. This is projected to rise by another quarter of a million by December 30. One hundred and fourteen grants, totalling $227,000, have been paid or approved, and four investments made for a total of new equity capital of $432,000 in the manufacturing business.
At that, Mr. Chairman, I will sit down. I think I have responded to most of the concerns raised by the two speakers.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Chairman, I want to direct a question and a few comments on policy as it relates to the tax on horse racing. I don’t know if the minister is familiar with the problem facing the racing association in Ontario and the phasing out and closing down of some of the racetracks throughout Ontario.
I think he knows the racetrack at St. Catharines was phased out a few years ago. There are now some rumours that the Ontario Jockey Club is considering phasing out the Fort Erie racetrack, and this is perhaps close to home, but it does create a number of jobs in the town of Fort Erie and there is a spinoff to the service industries such as the motels, hotels and restaurants in the area.
If it were to be phased out it would be a considerable loss to the municipality, the same as the loss to the region and the city of St. Catharines of the St. Catharines Raceway there. One of the problems is that there isn’t sufficient funding given to the horsemen’s association, which was asking for higher winnings, I guess it would be, or stakes or takes at the track. I notice in your projections for this year’s estimates you are looking at the racetrack tax of about $49 million, the budget estimate, and that’s a substantial increase from $37 million or $38 million that you collected back in 1977 or 1976.
Has the minister given any consideration to special assistance being given to the horse owners in Ontario to get some of it back to increase their winnings?
I know a few years ago some assistance was given to the horse breeders of Ontario. I remember a few years back, in 1969 or 1970, I think the figure of $1.8 million was given, but the largest percentage of that went to one key horse breeder in Ontario, and that was the E. P. Taylor stables, and a few other ones.
I suggest you are going to be running into problems if some leadership is not provided by your ministry or by the government to assist the horse breeders and the horse owners in Ontario to get a higher stake for winning. They can’t get it from the Ontario Jockey Club. They are running into difficulty, and I wonder, could you take a serious look at this, so we don’t lose the racetrack operations in the town of Fort Erie or any other community where there is a racetrack.
There have been some discussions, too, that they are considering offtrack betting. I do support that, but I say again, we must move in a very cautious manner in this particular area because if you go to offtrack betting without guidelines here in Ontario, you could have all your horse racing done in the southern part of the States and the complete phasing out of horse racing and horse breeding in Ontario.
I suggest if someone is applying for assistance or applying pressure to the government for offtrack betting, you should be very careful if you move in this direction. I know there are some difficulties in New York State, one of the states that has offtrack betting, but apparently it has been of some assistance to the New York State Legislature in bringing in additional revenues. I suggest to you I think we have to move in a very cautious manner here, so all the racing isn’t done in the States, with the result being a complete phaseout of all the racetracks, and the Ontario Jockey Club, in Ontario.
Surely it would be just as well to have parimutuels -- I guess it would be through offtrack betting, but that isn’t going to solve the problem of horse breeders and horse owners in Ontario and the enjoyment, I guess it is, of those who want to speculate at the racetrack.
I bring to your attention that there is a problem there, and perhaps some consideration and maybe some of this tax money can be given back to the horse owners or horse breeders in Ontario in some way to assist them. It is an expensive hobby, I guess, for the horse breeders and the horse owners and the persons attending the track.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: First of all, I think the member understands the tax is collected only on winning tickets. That is how the tax is generated.
I think the area of responsibility as far as the racetracks themselves are concerned, the type of question you are asking, or the assistance you are seeking for small racetracks, should perhaps better be referred to the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, under which the racetracks come.
While I suppose I am not opposed personally to seeking some assistance for the small tracks, I don’t think it is a matter for my ministry to become involved in, in any way, shape or form. I think that question should be redirected. I just take the money in.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Maeck, the committee of supply reported progress.
The House adjourned at 1 p.m.