The House met at 10 a.m.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
PROJECT HEAT SAVE
Hon. Mr. Welch: I’m pleased to announce this morning that my ministry is embarking on a five-year $4.9 million Heat Save energy conservation program to bring the benefits of both thermography and home energy audit to home owners in some 60 major urban centres in Ontario. This major conservation initiative is designed to assist home owners across the province identify the potential savings they can make through better insulation.
Mr. J. Reed: Point of order: The energy critic for the official opposition does not seem to have a copy of this.
Mr. Speaker: I think they’re on their way now.
Mr. S. Smith: Point of order: I fully understand the fact that the pages are now delivering these, but I must ask whether it wouldn’t be possible for the government to do something about the provision of these statements before the very last second. Frequently a minister will stand 20 or 30 minutes into the time allotted for statements and just at that moment a page is busy running around with the statement. Surely it should be possible to have these statements on the desks of the opposition critics 15 minutes before the House meets because we are interested in what the ministers have to say.
Mr. Speaker: It is becoming prevalent that people have to rise on points of order because they haven’t had delivery of the statements in advance of the delivery by the minister. I think it should be possible for the ministers and their staffs to abide by the standing order, and that is that they must be delivered in advance of the presentation by the minister in the House. I would caution all ministers to observe that rule in the future.
Hon. Mr. Welch: As honourable members are aware, thermography is a process of ascertaining heat loss by measuring infrared emissions from a building. It can be done from the ground or from the air. Aerial thermograms, however, are slightly less detailed but much less expensive, and this is the approach we are using.
Over the past three years, the ministry has undertaken a series of pilot projects in thermography. As a result, Ontario has become a world leader in the application of aerial thermography. I would like to outline the results of these pilot projects.
The first was an experimental aerial thermography project undertaken in Lindsay in 1977, followed in 1978 with one in Stratford. At the same time, we began experimenting with a computerized home heat loss analysis technique in Brockville in 1977 and again in Lindsay in 1978. Last year we combined the two approaches into a single information project called Heat Save, which we have since run in Peterborough, Kingston and St. Catharines. The final pilot project is now under way in Cornwall.
Working in partnership with these municipalities and local electric or gas utilities, the ministry has now assisted more than 16,000 home owners in these six centres with firsthand energy conservation information. A post-project analysis of consumer reaction to the program has been extremely positive. Eighty-seven per cent of those taking part reported they found the information useful, and 90 per cent endorsed continued government sponsorship of such projects.
The Heat Save program, which we are now undertaking in co-operation with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Centre for Remote Sensing, will extend the benefits of thermography and computerized home energy efficiency analysis to the remaining 60 major urban centres in the province by the end of the fiscal year 1984-85.
I am attaching to this statement a list of the communities that will be involved in the program. In all, we estimate 62 per cent of the home owners of Ontario will have an opportunity to get information about the insulation features of their homes. This program at the moment is being directed at communities of more than 9,000 population. This is considered to be about the smallest-sized community that can be economically served by aerial thermography. The criteria for selecting communities include the severity of the climate, the age of the homes, the extent to which home heating oil is used, the percentage of home ownership and the regional distribution of the communities.
This program is part of our efforts to achieve a reduction of 15 per cent in demand for energy for home heating by 80 per cent of the homes in the province by 1985. It is expected this five-year Heat Save program will save the equivalent of some 20 million gallons of fuel oil a year through stimulating energy conservation actions by at least 175,000 home owners.
As well, the program will have a direct positive effect on other sectors of the provincial economy. The Ministry of Energy estimates the program could stimulate an additional 119 man-years of work in the construction industry and provide 14,000 man-days of work for post-secondary students employed to provide interpretation analysis and assistance.
I should also advise that discussions are already under way with the federal government, designed to extend the range of assistance to home owners under its Canadian Home Insulation Program, sometimes referred to as CHIP. I shall be meeting with the federal minister responsible for energy matters fairly soon to discuss this and some other issues.
I am sure all honourable members would agree that the success of our Heat Save program will be of benefit to all of us and I would invite them as members to take part in this program and to encourage their constituents to take advantage of it as it moves into their particular areas and constituencies.
FARM-RELATED TRUCKING REVIEW
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, I believe copies of my statement and the report were delivered to the opposition critics prior to their entering the chamber.
It is my pleasure to present to the members of the Legislature for their consideration a report to the government of Ontario on the review of farm-related trucking. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, MTC and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food asked for this report last year to get a better idea of the ramifications of change in this segment of the trucking industry.
The review undertaken by Mr. Everett Biggs of Everett Biggs and Associates of Brampton is, I believe, outstanding. It is a practical working document that covers a real gap in our knowledge of the trucking industry. That in itself is a tremendous benefit for the transportation business.
Moreover, it brought together in meaningful discussion a wide variety of concerned groups and citizens who made significant contributions to the provincial economy -- groups such as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Ontario Grain and Feed Dealers, the United Co-operatives, numerous marketing boards and the Ontario Trucking Association.
I don’t intend to comment today on all of the recommendations contained in the Biggs report, but I must point out I am impressed with the way the authors handled the entire question of exemptions regarding the transportation of agricultural commodities. As members know, we excluded exemptions of farm supplies and products from earlier legislation pending the results of this review.
This report recommends that the transportation of livestock, feed, seed, fertilizer, farm products excluding milk and poultry, and farm supplies be exempt from the provision of the PCV Act when transported by, and I quote, “A commercial vehicle having no more than two axles,” end of quote. In my view this deserves careful consideration. For one thing, a two-axle exemption includes most farm vehicles in use today. For another, it would enable us to do something of real value for Ontario farmers without jeopardizing the interests of the for-hire carriers. In any event, it is certainly one recommendation we will be examining very closely in the weeks ahead.
Another recommendation deals with the transportation of fertilizer. The report suggests that any PCV-licensed operator be permitted to haul fertilizer anywhere in Ontario during the months of April, May and June in order to ensure that adequate supplies are available for farmers at the beginning of each growing season. Since it is already March 14, I feel this recommendation deserves our immediate attention if we are to have any impact this year on the situation as reported by the review. I invite immediate comment.
Finally, we will be seriously considering any of the recommendations that provide for improved energy efficiency in the movement of agricultural commodities.
In closing, I would add we are making copies of the Biggs report available to the transportation and agriculture critics, as well as the party leaders and caucus offices and all the different organizations that participated in the study. If any other member of the House wishes a personal copy of the report, it will immediately be made available on request I am tabling three copies of the report with the Clerk now.
PRESCRIBED FOREST BURNS
Hon. Mr. Auld: As members of the House will know, the coroner’s inquest into the tragic deaths last August of seven young people during the prescribed burn project in the Geraldton area began on November 6, 1979, but has not yet been completed.
With the 1980 forest fire season about two weeks away, I feel it vital to inform the members and the public about the steps my ministry is taking to ensure the strongest safety precautions are maintained during this year’s handling of forest fires.
Immediately following the terrible incident last August, I requested that my ministry initiate a review of all related matters so that recommendations could be made towards ensuring the prevention of anything similar happening again.
An internal board of review was formed. It was made up of senior ministry staff with extensive fire experience, two experts on fire behaviour from the Canadian Forestry Service of the government of Canada plus one representative of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union. All of the members, by the way, were from outside the particular region where the tragedy occurred.
The report of this board of review was delivered to me some time ago and I accepted its 21 recommendations. Subsequently, I directed my ministry to make every effort to implement these recommendations before the coming fire season. From the outset I have intended to make the board of review report available to the public, but I have withheld it for the time being so as not to influence the inquest recommendations in any way. I will continue to withhold the report until the coroner has completed his inquest and issued his findings.
Meanwhile, my staff is currently implementing many steps based on the review board report recommendations, as well as on certain suggestions that arose in the inquest testimony. These steps are:
First, the ministry policy and procedures have been revised and in the interests of safety now require the following: Review groups must be established at both district and regional levels to examine each plan for a prescribed burn. All staff assigned to key roles and their alternates must be involved at an early stage of a prescribed-burn planning process and it must be ensured that all staff employed at a prescribed burn are competent to perform their assigned tasks.
Second, a prescribed-burn manual has been prepared for use by all field staff this season and is being distributed within the next few weeks before any plans for burns are approved. This manual outlines in detail the policies and procedures that must be followed in planning and carrying out a prescribed burn.
In particular, the manual includes a checklist of essential details that must be considered before ignition. It specifies that comprehensive briefings must be held before ignition occurs. It lays down qualification requirements for all individuals involved in prescribed burns.
Let me stress this point: Individuals who do not meet the stated qualification standards will not be used on prescribed burns. In the meantime, because the coroner’s inquest has not been completed and we have not had the opportunity to review the findings, I have directed my ministry not to use Junior Rangers or Experience program people in fire work this year.
In the future, we hope again to include fire work as part of the summer experience of Junior Rangers in particular, but until the current situation is clarified I have declared a moratorium on such involvement for the 1980 season.
Third, an improved and expanded training program for prescribed burn work is being developed to fit into the overall fire control training. To initiate this program, special sessions entitled Prescribed Burn Operations 1980 will be conducted for all regions within the next two months.
Fourth, a high priority has been set for the further development of ground and aerial ignition devices. Such devices would allow us to reduce the number of staff required, particularly in the ignition process, for prescribed burns.
A prescribed burn is the deliberate setting of fire to remove unwanted forest slash and debris to prepare the area for regeneration. It is a valid and effective forest management technique, but demands strict controls throughout.
Prescribed burns are a vital technique in forest management by my ministry, but at the same time my staff and I are deeply committed to making sure that a tragedy such as last summer’s will not happen again. We are taking every step that is humanly possible to see that it doesn’t.
HEALTH AND SAFETY LAWS IN URANIUM MINES
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, a newspaper story in yesterday morning’s Globe and Mail dealt with the application of health and safety laws to uranium mines. In this story it was suggested that some confusion exists concerning whether federal or provincial laws are applicable to uranium mines.
I do not know why there should be any confusion. Under the existing division of constitutional powers, the federal government has exclusive responsibility for the enactment of laws concerning occupational health and safety of workers employed in uranium mines and plants. Last year I met with the federal Minister of Labour, the Honourable Martin O’Connell, to review the matter in detail and as a result of that meeting it was apparent that the federal government was not prepared to relinquish any portion of its constitutional responsibility in these matters.
Since June 1978 the Atomic Energy Control Board has had a detailed set of regulations designed to protect uranium workers from harmful radiation exposure. The legal advice I have received from senior counsel is that it is not open for the province to enact laws and regulations that would duplicate or conflict with these radiation regulations enacted under the Atomic Energy Control Act
In August 1979 the federal government enacted regulation 79-636 under the Canada Labour Code, adopting by reference the provisions of part IX of the Ontario Mining Act. With the gazetting of this regulation, the federal government therefore assumed complete jurisdiction in all matters of health and safety in uranium and thorium mines.
Mr. Martel: It is the workers who lead the fight.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Nobody argues with that, but we have to face constitutional realities and that’s all I am talking about.
Mr. Martel: They were shafted.
Mr. Speaker: Order. There will be ample opportunity for all members to question the minister at the appropriate time.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I am just trying to make it very apparent that we have been very involved in this matter.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the security forces please remove the stranger?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the security forces just sit there with her. She promises to be quiet.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the lady just please be quiet. Just please be quiet. Will the Minister of Labour continue.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: In the fall of 1979, my officials pointed out to the federal authorities that the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1978, had been proclaimed, effective October 1, 1979. Copies of the mining health and safety regulations under that act were transmitted to the federal Labour department and it was suggested to them that their regulation should be altered to refer to these new laws rather than to part IX of the Mining Act, which was repealed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1978.
On October 30, 1979, the federal Deputy Minister of Labour wrote to my deputy minister as follows:
“Although we realize that the new Ontario mining regulations were proclaimed on October 1, 1979, and the companies, unions and your inspectors have agreed to follow the new requirements, we do not plan to change the part IX reference in our regulations at this time.
“As you probably know, we are currently developing on a tripartite basis another uranium mining regulation which will detail the requirements for Ontario mines, based on your new regulations, and continue the referencing of the existing Saskatchewan regulations. The target date for these new federal regulations is May 1980, and we hope that this legislation will eliminate any confusion respecting uranium mining requirements in Ontario mines. The continued reference to part IX requirements for this interim period has been studied by our legal services branch and they advise us that part IX can still legally be enforced in case of prosecution.”
I wish to reiterate that under existing law the federal Parliament has full and exclusive responsibility in these matters. The decision to adopt Ontario laws was a unilateral act by the federal government, as was its decision to adopt the Saskatchewan laws.
So far as the enforcement is concerned, inspectors of my ministry’s mining health and safety branch have been designated as safety officers under the provisions of the Canada Labour Code. When they inspect federal undertakings, including uranium mines, they are acting as agents of the federal government and are subject to the direction and control of federal authorities.
The only remaining unresolved issue from the point of view of my ministry relates to the payment for these inspection services. I take the position that Ontario should receive appropriate reimbursement for inspection services provided to the federal government, but no agreement has yet been reached on this matter.
The newspaper article refers to remarks by an official of the United Steelworkers who is reported to have said that he believes the ministry’s inspections and inspectors are as confused by the jurisdictional tangle as everyone else. I am at a loss to understand the basis for that statement. The inspectors are well aware that in the inspection of uranium mines they are acting under federal regulations which, in turn, incorporate the provincial laws to which I have referred.
If either the Steelworkers or the uranium mining companies have any problems in this connection, they should be raised with the responsible federal authority, that is the federal Department of Labour in respect of conventional health and safety, or the Atomic Energy Control Board in respect of radiation health and safety. Unless and until constitutional responsibilities for these matters are altered, this is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government.
The only action I could take would be to instruct my inspectors not to act as federal safety officers, and I don’t believe this would be in the interests of the workers affected.
The newspaper report also makes reference to the right of workers to refuse to perform unsafe work. That right exists for workers covered by the federal Canada Labour Code.
Mr. Martel: Oh, no. It is much more sophisticated.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I am not arguing about that.
Mr. Martel: Then don’t say that.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: The right exists for workers covered by the federal Canada Labour Code, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, and I understand the Saskatchewan Health and Safety Act. I do not think it would serve any useful purpose for me to compare the provisions of these three statutes, all of which differ in some respects. Suffice it to say that the federal authorities have seen fit to adopt the right-to-refuse provisions of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act in relation to uranium mines located in Ontario. That is a decision over which I have no control.
Reference is also made in the press report to a television commercial sponsored by the provincial government dealing with occupational health and safety. The commercial informs persons covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act of the act’s existence and encourages them to become aware of its provisions. In my view, I think the commercial is extremely useful and I make no apologies for the valuable message it conveys to workers and employers within our jurisdiction. Naturally, it does not purport to relate to persons in someone else’s jurisdiction.
PUBLIC OFFICERS’ SECURITIES
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, the Public Officers Act requires that within the first 15 days of every session I advise this assembly of all securities furnished on behalf of public officers and of any changes made to such securities since my statement on March 27, 1979. There have been no changes in either category.
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question to the Treasurer. I would like to ask him, apart from objecting to the higher interest rates that are occurring at present -- an objection I gather he is now belatedly willing to make to the federal government --
Mr. Rotenberg: It is your federal government.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Rotenberg: Do you still support Trudeau?
Mr. S. Smith: Apart from objecting to these interest rates, what is the Treasurer prepared to do in Ontario?
I ask the question not only with respect to home owners facing mortgage renewals but keeping in mind the terrible blow to small-town Ontario that will result from the tremendous advantage high interest rates give large companies, with large equity as opposed to debt, over small companies; and furthermore the advantage they give large agribusinesses over small family farms.
What is the Treasurer prepared to do to help the small businesses and the farms to deal with these very high interest rates to get them over this extremely difficult period so that they are not swallowed up by the large and so that small-town Ontario economies are not destroyed?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I think the attempt to say it is the small versus the large and only the small are affected and the large aren’t is glossing over the facts. Any company that is highly levered is heavily affected by interest rates.
The statement I made to the new Minister of Finance in Ottawa as soon as he took his position -- and this was true at the time of writing -- was that we had a different set of circumstances in Canada in the early part of March and the late part of February than we had last November and December when the bank rate was being argued by Mr. Bouey before a special committee.
At that time our dollar was under some attack. Our dollar has gone up, as I am sure the member knows, some two or three cents in the meantime, mainly due to an inflow of capital to support the energy investments in this country. As a result, our Canadian interest rate has been maintained at a figure below that of the American for that period of time -- something that wasn’t occurring before.
We recommended that as long as the dollar was surviving that kind of flow there was a basic reason why the Canadian interest rate did not have to follow the American one. The member has seen that happen and has also seen in the last day or so a fairly sharp decline in the dollar because of the continued difference in those two levels.
As to what Ontario can do, Ontario has always argued -- it argued last fall -- that the primary responsibility for monetary policy is the federal government’s. I hope the member would agree with that. Monetary policy is its responsibility and any attempt for the provinces to usurp it or pretend that they are in that field can be disastrous.
I did contact Mr. MacEachen -- in fact, the Premier (Mr. Davis) contacted Mr. MacEachen directly on a personal basis -- pointing out that the government of Ontario needs to have a discussion with him at once. I understand that within the next two to three days Mr. MacEachen will be making time available for me to go to Ottawa, along with at least the Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett), to discuss the general interest problem and the mortgage interest problem to see what steps, if any, the federal government is intending to take and to see what steps, therefore, if any, Ontario would be able to take that would be complementary, if required.
Mr. S. Smith: Of course, I’m pleased that the Treasurer will be consulting in this way, but I do ask him specifically what message he can give to small-town Ontario as well as to home owners who are very concerned about having to walk away from their homes now after putting a certain amount of money into them over the years.
I ask him specifically, will he be able to do something to cushion the blow of these high interest rates on the small farmers, on the family farm, and on the small businesses of Ontario? Does he not recognize, as he said on November 27, 1979, and I quote: “There are many parts of society that can live with a high interest rate and charge it off against something. Most small businessmen cannot and most home owners cannot”?
Since, generally speaking, the debt-to-equity ratio is higher for small businesses, with certain exceptions, why will the Treasurer not tell us now that he will do something to cushion the blow before the bankruptcies become endemic and epidemic in small-town Ontario?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I own four or five small businesses. I’m keenly aware of the cost of that interest. I also am paying it personally. I understand what it is doing to my businesses, I understand what it’s doing to the farm I have a share in; therefore, I am not talking in any academic sense.
At the same time I hope the Leader of the Opposition will recognize that steps have to be taken that are real, not imaginary; steps that don’t transfer a burden from one group of society to another -- for example, to many senior citizens who currently don’t have a mortgage, many people who are renting homes and have problems supporting these kinds of things. It’s easy to say steps must be taken, but steps must be taken that don’t totally distort the situation. That’s why a Canadian policy for a Canadian problem is essential.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, would the Treasurer say what message he will take to the new Minister of Finance in Ottawa, in view of the clear signs now that the new Liberal government has broken its election campaign promise of keeping interest rates down?
Will the Treasurer also undertake to bring forward the date of the provincial budget in this province in order that measures can be brought in to cushion the blow of higher interest rates on home owners, on farmers and on owners of small businesses who are experiencing those high interest rates -- not on April 15, but are experiencing them right now?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I’m glad to have the leader of the NDP and I agreeing on certain things, because there is no question that we saw occur in Ottawa last week a very slick political move of allowing the market “to determine the interest rate,” when in fact it has been and should be the responsibility of the central government not only to set that rate but clearly indicate, through setting it, its monetary policy.
That’s what’s lacking in the new system; the fact of allowing “the market” to set it, when in fact the market isn’t setting it. Anyone who’s aware of how treasury bills can be manipulated knows the responsibility falls back on the Bank of Canada, and therefore the movement of Canada; and this is in fact playing with reality and cynically running in the face of the very things they promised the electorate in this country before they were elected.
Mr. Peterson: Given the complexity of this problem, which I think everyone understands, and given the fact the Treasurer’s earlier response was that he did not want to distort the marketplace and he didn’t want to shift burdens, but recognizing that’s what the whole governmental process does all the time anyway, and recognizing also that this is going to be of crisis proportions this year -- people are hoping it will not extend into next year, but it may -- but even if it doesn’t, and hopefully it won’t, most people admit it’s going to be of crisis proportions this year and in many people’s judgement it’s going to take some emergency action by many levels of government to solve some of the temporary crises that are going to occur, I want to ask the Treasurer this: Is he prepared to set aside any amount of money or any programs in consultation with --
Is the Treasurer listening?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I’m sorry. I was getting a piece of information to answer.
Mr. Peterson: Would the Treasurer like to tell us what it is?
Given the fact everyone is predicting there are going to be many disasters this year, personal as well as business and financial, which will probably require emergency action by many levels of government, is the Treasurer prepared to take a specific program to Ottawa, setting aside amounts of money to assist the federal government and work with them to alleviate some of these crises that are surely going to occur over the course of this year? What are his specific plans? This is too important for just vague --
Mr. Speaker: The question has been asked.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Obviously I am looking at the options open to Ontario, and obviously I need to know what the federal government is planning to do before, in fact, I put those out in public. I can be counterproductive. I can be running against whatever they’re trying to do. I firmly believe the basic responsibility rests there. I hope the member would agree with that, regardless of partisanship. I said that when there were Conservatives there.
The steps we’ve taken: Small business development corporations were an attempt, as you know, to get money into the marketplace at less than the market rate.
The Canadian economy -- I think the latest figures came out in the last day or so and showed the annualized rate of inflation at around 9.6 per cent; 9.4 per cent was it? I think it was 9.4 per cent over last year. I’m talking about the latest month annualized. It was 0.8 per cent during the month of February which multiplied by 12 is 9.6 per cent.
The American economy, on the other hand, had, I think, 1.8 per cent inflation in that same month, or something of that order. I have the figures somewhere.
Those two things argue for a lower Canadian interest rate than the American rate, subject, of course, to the international flows of money. The real cost of money in Canada is higher than the real cost of money in the United States, if we allow this program to follow. As you know, American inflation is running about 16 per cent or thereabouts right now. Therefore, their real cost of money at 17.5 or 18.5 per cent is two to 2.5 per cent. Our real cost at 15 per cent is running at five per cent. I think one can argue that it’s the real cost of interest that matters; the difference between inflation and what’s charged in the marketplace. That’s what I think we can use as a Canadian argument for a Canadian policy. I hope to find sympathy for that.
Within that context I am looking at as many alternatives as I can, so I can try to dovetail some, if necessary, to a federal plan that is taken. I certainly hope I’ll see some willingness, because I’ve read that into Mr. MacEachen’s public statements, to accept the basic responsibility and work there; but to go out into the marketplace and do something today would be foolish.
What we are doing: In Ontario we have the Ontario Mortgage Corporation, for example. I was checking with the Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett) as the member was speaking. We have mortgages coming up for renewal and I understand that currently we’re renewing Ontario Mortgage Corporation mortgages at well below the market rate and intend to do so. We’re giving the people who are renewing at least two options, if I recall, so they can have a one-year mortgage or a five-year mortgage and they are open mortgages in case the interest rates drop. They are well below the rate, as much as two points, I would think, at the present time. Can the Minister of Housing tell me they are at 13.5 per cent, so that the shock for those we can control is minimized. That is below the rate one can obtain in the marketplace.
Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary: If that can be done for the Ontario Mortgage Corporation, can the Treasurer not also offer some hope to the farmers by means of a farm credit arrangement by which something can be done to help these people over this very difficult time?
Does he not agree, since he is opposed to distortions in the marketplace, that a high interest rate is in itself a distortion in the marketplace, inasmuch as it favours the large companies that have large taxes they can write off the rate against, or that happen to have a high ratio of equity compared to debt?
Does he not recognize that the high interest rate itself will impact hardest on the small companies and drive them down, vis-à-vis the large? Will he offer some kind of farm credit assistance to the farmers of Ontario, some form of mortgage assistance to the home owners and something for the small businessmen before small-town Ontario economies shrivel up?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I could name two or three companies that would indicate that the member’s generalization isn’t true. One could talk about the Chrysler Corporation. One could talk about Massey-Ferguson where the debt-to-equity ratio is not the best in the world. One could talk --
Mr. S. Smith: You have money for Abitibi; how about the small companies?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Yes, and the honourable member was opposed to it and in a mealy-mouthed letter back to the north to Auriel Gervais pretended he was on both sides of that issue. I am going to read that one into the record because I have never seen such a despicable attempt to be on both sides of an issue in my life.
Mr. S. Smith: Money for Abitibi but not for the small businessmen and farmers of Ontario.
PHYSICIANS OPTING OUT OF OHIP
Mr. S. Smith: A question for the Minister of Health: Will the Minister of Health please tell the House the latest figures with regard to doctors opting out? Would he please tell us how these figures are broken down in terms of general practice or specialties, and what the trend has been lately?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I don’t have the exact numbers with me, but I am pleased to say on the question of opting that the numbers peaked over a year ago and that opting out as a percentage of physicians billing the plan has fallen to 17.3 per cent from 18 per cent. That, of course, is a long way from the 40 to 50 per cent the honourable member was predicting two years ago.
The operative figure to keep in mind, of course, is that slightly more than eight per cent of the accounts to OHIP are opted out, so that’s really the figure we should be looking at. That’s the real story and that has come down from a little more than nine per cent a few months ago.
I am optimistic that with the revisions to the schedule and some of the plans we have under way, particularly that which I described yesterday dealing with anaesthetists, we can show greater progress there and avoid having to resort to measures that members on all sides realize would be very counterproductive for the wellbeing of the people in the province.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, do I take it then that the Minister of Health is quite satisfied to keep the situation as it is, at 17.3 per cent of physicians opted out of the plan, and that he is prepared to accept that and is going to take no action other than to sit and wait to see what happens? He is prepared to take no other action to get the physicians back into the plan, even when he knows full well that in certain specialities the percentage who have opted out is very high?
Will he make public the poll he was referring to in his discussion with the Globe and Mail, and a poll that the Globe and Mail itself made reference to on its front page a few days ago?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: If I am correct -- I am not sure of this -- I believe the material the paper in question was looking at was a summary of a variety of pieces of information that have come to us. I’ll take that under consideration.
I think it would be misleading in the extreme to suggest we have been sitting back doing nothing. It is true we have made a conscious decision not to take some of the measures proposed by some other politicians that we think would be very counterproductive in the longer term, in terms of the morale in the health-care system, in terms of the quality of the health-care system. We have negotiated, fairly, a new schedule that is already showing some benefit in reducing opting out. We are exploring alternatives, such as the one I described yesterday, which we think will have a salutary effect on opting out.
I remind the member again that we’re doing everything possible, working with the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Hospital Association, to ensure access in the hospitals. All these things are obviously very time-consuming and the progress is slow, as compared to maybe some simpler notions the Leader of the Opposition may have, but which simpler notions I suggest would in fact be very deleterious in terms of the quality of our health-care system in this province.
Mr. Cassidy: Since the minister mentions the morale and the productivity of the providers of health care, does he not think it is also important to think of the morale and the rights of the consumers of health care, people across the province who are having to pay the opted-out rates to doctors who have opted out? Won’t the minister agree that twice the proportion of specialists are opted out than general practitioners, despite the fact that specialists are much better paid than GPs across the province?
How does he defend failing to take action on opting out when the opting out has been not by the people providing primary care but by the specialists who, because of their specialities, already are handsomely rewarded in addition to regular medical rates?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Since the beginnings of the plan here and in the other provinces the rate of opting out has always been higher among specialists, that’s true. There are many reasons for that, which I don’t propose to go into this morning. It’s just as true in Saskatchewan or Manitoba or BC or Newfoundland as it is here.
It is misleading and unfair in the extreme to suggest nothing has been done. It is true I have avoided taking advice from the member’s party and from certain daily journals, to use a club that in the short term might very sexy politically but in the not-too-distant term -- certainly in the long term -- would have a very negative impact on the province.
The member asks if I’m worried about people. Yes. Let me recount an example of what concerns me.
A hospital administrator in a town in northern Ontario called me a few months ago and said: “We have one anaesthetist in this town. We have one hospital, we have one anaesthetist and the person has opted out.” That anaesthetist was being hassled on a daily basis by the local union and the administrator said: “I want to tell you right now about our concern. If that anaesthetist leaves town, it won’t be long before the surgeon leaves town and then the pathologist is going to leave town too. Then where are we going to be in terms of universality and accessibility and quality of health care in this town? We’re going to have to refer everything to Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.”
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. S. Smith: There are hundreds of youths about to graduate in Ontario. They would love to be doctors in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, in the 1970s we increased enrolment in medical schools by 50 per cent in this province.
Mr. S. Smith: That’s right, and they would be happy to be opted in too.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: We’ll get down to some of the Leader of the Opposition’s earlier statements on that question too. Here again, like my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller), I find the member is trying to be all things to all people.
How about the time the member wanted to slash my budget by $50 million two years ago? Now, oh no; now it’s a different story.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: We know about your principles.
Mr. Speaker, there’s no question that for some individuals it would be more attractive to take what the member called Draconian measures against the physicians that would in the short term be perhaps politically attractive to some people. I don’t think it would be to most people. In the longer term I think it would be very counterproductive and would in fact set our medicare system back 20 years.
Mr. S. Smith: Since the minister takes exception when I say he’s sitting back and doing nothing except waiting to see what happens, will he tell us precisely what else he is doing to get the doctors back into the plan? Or is he just prepared to accept that this is a tremendous achievement, where it has fallen from 18 per cent all the way down to 17.3 per cent after the latest negotiations?
If he’s prepared to say that’s good enough for Ontario, let him have the courage to state that that’s good enough for Ontario in his view. If he doesn’t think it’s good enough, let him stand up and say precisely what he’s doing to bring that percentage down more rapidly.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: It is obviously our hope to get back to the balance we had a few years ago and which apparently even everyone opposite felt was a good balance. It is our hope to do that in ways that will address the real concerns of the profession.
We have negotiated a new fee schedule. We have developed some alternatives with respect to anaesthetists. We have made changes in the bureaucracy of OHIP to provide the option of payment every two weeks for opted-in physicians. We have made changes in the book work to make the day-to-day practice of medicine less bound up in paperwork. With the co-operation of the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Medical Association and individual hospitals, we are ensuring access to the services in hospitals.
All of these things are going on. We will look at any other reasonable propositions we can conceive of to influence physicians back into the plan, rather than the kind of things I think the honourable member is suggesting -- I don’t know; what his position is on this depends on which day of the week it is -- that would cause greater problems.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Housing about the problems now affecting home owners with the increase in mortgage rates. Can the minister explain why the government is withdrawing from the housing market by failing to continue with OHC, by the efforts to reduce the portfolios of the Ontario Mortgage Corporation and by the withdrawal of its participation in the Home Ownership Made Easy program?
Isn’t it time that the government started to redraft the mandates for those particular programs in order to meet the needs of families on modest incomes who are being driven completely out of the housing market because of the cost of interest rates today?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me correct the issue in relationship to the Ontario Housing Corporation and the number of units we anticipate having for people who are on subsidized rents in Ontario.
I think I made it abundantly clear to this House some months ago that some new agreements that had been reached by the 10 provinces and the federal government of the day indicated the direct mortgaging by CMHC towards public housing would no longer continue and that we would be looking for the supply of housing through private mortgaging facilities. The federal government was offering an interest rate to accommodate those people who would look for rent subsidies. This would be achieved through the nonprofit housing corporations across Ontario, whether they be private or public or whether they be co-ops, or whether it be through some other types of programs that have been put in place.
In that period of time we have had a fairly strong response to the number of units, not only in this city but across the province. It is not our intention to shirk the responsibility of government, federally or provincially, in providing the number of accommodations within the financial limits for publicly supported units. It is not our intention to sell out the portfolio, which seems to have been the idea of some people in the Metropolitan Toronto area in particular, namely, that OHC and some of the other organizations are going to start disposing of their assets.
Mr. Philip: What happened to Bergamont?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I have written to members of this House about the Bergamont situation, and it only becomes an argumentative question for themselves. They know very well the position of government and CMHC was spelled out very distinctly and clearly. We have supplemented those units or we have replaced those units through nonprofits and co-ops in this municipality far beyond what Bergamont ever supplied to the marketplace.
The second question, if I recall correctly, had to do with the Ontario Mortgage Corporation and where we stand at this time. We did sell off a total of $120 million worth of mortgages up until 1979 at very favourable mortgage rates to those people we had covered with mortgages -- from 10.75 per cent roughly. We have not sold any mortgages from this portfolio since 1979. We still have something just short of $900 million in our portfolio.
The Ontario Mortgage Corporation has recommended to the government through the Ministry of Housing that it is going to freeze the rate on its mortgages at this point at 13.5 per cent. Let me assure this House that is one full percentage point below section 58 of the National Housing Act, which was approved just a week ago by the federal agency, which allowed its rates to float up to 14.5 per cent on the renewal of its mortgages. Our mortgages are being renewed now for the month of April and so on at 13.5 per cent. As the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) said, the options for those for whom we are renewing the mortgages are for a one- to five- year term. It is their choice; they can have whatever they wish in so far as the term is concerned.
The last problem raised by the leader of the third party happened to be in relation to AHOP programs, the HOME program and the various other financing schemes we have had for putting housing into place in Ontario and in Canada over the last number of years.
I trust the leader of the third party read the remarks of Mr. MacEachen, the Minister of Finance of Canada, in the newspapers yesterday and again today, which were exactly along the lines of those this government has made for some period of years. Some of the schemes we have designed federally and provincially -- and more federally than provincially, I can say -- over the last five or six years have brought us into this situation and we should have been aware of the fact it was going to happen.
The AHOP program, and now the graduated-payment mortgage program, are all deferred payments predicated on anticipated extra earnings by the individual the fact that his real estate is going to rise in value and that mortgage rates are not likely to increase. What no one really took into account is the fact the cost of fuel, electrical power and so on would drastically rise also over that period of time.
Five or more years ago this government very clearly and distinctly said they were wrong types of financing to put in place. If you will recall just over a year ago when Mr. Ouellet, the then minister reporting for CMHC, introduced the graduated-payment mortgage plan, our ministry and our government very clearly and distinctly said, along with the private sector, that it was the wrong type of financing to be putting in place to assist the availability of housing, not only in Ontario but in Canada.
I have been in touch with the minister reporting for CMHC at the federal level. The Treasurer of our province, the Minister of Finance for Canada, the Minister of Public Works who reports for CMHC and I will be meeting next week to review some of the past actions that have taken place in Ontario and Canada, and some of the programs and opportunities available to us to try to reduce the impact of the mortgage interest rates of those financed not only through CMHC and the Ontario Mortgage Corporation but indeed in the private sector, and to determine what can be given by governments at the various levels.
There are certain advantages under the old AHOP program and the graduated-payment mortgage program whereby certain extensions of terms under a hardship clause can be granted by the federal minister. I would hope at this time they are not only looking at it from the point of view of a one-year extension but maybe even a longer period of time.
Mr. Cassidy: The minister seems to be saying there wouldn’t be a problem with people who had AHOP mortgages now if they hadn’t been given the AHOP mortgages in the first place and were still tenants trying to struggle in the rental market.
I would like the minister to tell the House, given the fact mortgage rates are at 14.5 per cent and going higher, what action this government will take in order to ensure the mandates of the Ontario Mortgage Corporation and of Home Ownership Made Easy are extended to provide financing for people on modest incomes so the dream of having a house of their own is a reality and not just a dream they cherish while they stay tenants for the rest of their lives.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, the leader of the third party would like to misconstrue anybody’s remarks just to serve his own purpose.
Mr. Bradley: He is your friend now. Don’t talk about your friends like that.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: No, I won’t go that far. The Premier (Mr. Davis) might think I should.
It was never my intention in my remarks to indicate that although we had an AHOP program we should never have really implemented it -- the federal government should not -- so we could refuse the opportunity for some people in the lower income brackets to own real estate. We are saying very clearly, and we said it at the time -- now listen carefully -- that exactly what we are experiencing today would happen and it was not going to give any great advantage to the lower income groups. The private sector also said the same thing.
There were people in the financing world five or six years ago when AHOP was brought in who absolutely refused to participate in it because they could see, in a long-range program, that they would be faced with the problems we are faced with today. There were alternatives, I understand, offered at that time. It was not to try to back-end load mortgages, which was exactly what the graduated-payment mortgage plan was also doing. The back-end loading of mortgages mean that all of a sudden the individual winds up at the end of the first five- or six-year term of mortgage with a second mortgage on his property for $4,000 or $5,000, which is all going to be renewed at the current interest rate, both the first and second mortgages.
Those were the pitfalls. It was never this government’s intention to try to reduce the availability or the accessibility to home ownership for all Ontarians, but to do it wisely in terms of the world of financing is the key issue.
Mr. Cassidy: If I could redirect a supplementary to the Premier now that he is in the House, since the government has been telling ordinary Canadians and ordinary Ontarians to tighten their belts over the course of the last year, and since the profits of the banks exceeded $1 billion in Canada last year, is the Premier prepared to call in the banks and financial institutions here in this province and tell them it’s about time they tightened their belts and honoured their social responsibility to the people to whom they provide mortgage finance rather than driving people out of their homes with the interest rates on mortgages?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I don’t know what the rules are about supplementaries being directed to other than the person who is initially asked, but I will endeavour to answer. I didn’t hear the previous discussion, so I am at some modest disadvantage, but in spite of that I will do my best.
Mr. Worton: Your belt looks okay from here.
Mr. Peterson: There must be an election coming. You lose weight every four years.
Hon. Mr. Davis: In spite of the member’s leader, and my propensity to enjoy my wife’s cooking, I have made more progress than some of his colleagues. However, that is another issue.
I would observe to the leader of the New Democratic Party that he is -- and I don’t say intentionally -- oversimplifying the issue. It is not a question of saying to the lending institutions. “Tighten your belt.” The lending institutions -- whether it’s the banks, the trust companies, the insurance companies or the private investor -- are facing a situation where they are operating with money which one may have deposited, which one may have paid by way of premium, or money that they have borrowed in terms of their investment procedures where they are paying a particular rate of interest. The great complexity in all of this is when we have a lending institution that has to pay out as much as it is charging, or more; then it becomes just a shade difficult. It isn’t a simple case of saying to the banks, “Tighten your belts.” That isn’t how the system works.
I am sure the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) and, I say this very kindly, the leader of the New Democratic Party understand this. This is why the Minister of Housing and the Treasurer of this province are meeting next week with the federal Minister of Finance and I hope the new member of the federal cabinet from the great borough of Scarborough, to see what can be done in terms of the interest rate factor with respect to mortgages.
I would say to the leader of the New Democratic Party, as far as a number of mortgages are concerned, and perhaps this was covered with respect to the Ontario Mortgage Corporation and some of the AHOP programs, et cetera, in fact they are not faced with this immediately. In other words, a lot of these mortgages are not due this week or next week.
I didn’t bring my notes with me, because I really thought this would have been the first question yesterday, and I brought some of the things I said to the Toronto Rotary Club a week ago today when I made it abundantly clear that in some way or other the government of Canada had to come to grips with the whole question of ownership as it relates to the interest rates that were being paid.
In fairness, there are thousands of people who have their homes mortgaged to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, some of them still at 20- to 25-year terms, where in terms of the equity and in terms of the interest rates they have been paying they have had an opportunity to acquire a very substantial equity in their properties, where the hardship at this moment doesn’t exist. Our problems are very simply with those that could be up for renewal say in the next six-month period -- no one is debating that -- and the concern we all have with respect to the provision of additional accommodation.
I assure the members of this House that this matter has a very high priority with this government. The ministers will be meeting next week. I spoke very briefly to the federal Minister of Finance Wednesday night and I made it very clear to him that this was one of the major concerns we had and we intend to continue these discussions. I just saw on Rogers Cablevision news in Brampton this morning at 7:20 that Mr. Cosgrove was in the process of presenting to the government of Canada some of his suggestions as to how this issue might be dealt with.
We are prepared to co-operate and to assist, because it is very fundamental and we intend to do as much as we can to see that a national policy -- and I really believe it has to be a national policy -- is developed. I won’t be partisan here this morning and suggest that mortgage interest deductibility, which was rejected at the national level not too many weeks ago, might have had some rather substantial beneficial effects.
Mr. Cassidy: I have a question for the Minister of Industry and Tourism. Over the break, I had a chance to visit both union and management at the Winchester-Western plant in Cobourg, a plant that had 300 employees last summer but closed down a week ago and now has no manufacturing left there at all. In view of the promise in the throne speech that the Ontario Development Corporation will facilitate the takeover of foreign subsidiaries by Canadians, will the minister put his money where his mouth is and seek aid in finding a Canadian buyer for this foreign-owned plant and ensuring that the ODC participate in the equity to make that takeover by Canadian buyers feasible?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I am sure if the member discussed the matter with the union when he was out there he will know that when the union was into my office to see me I indicated to it quite bluntly and clearly that if we could find Canadian buyers who were interested we were prepared to make substantial financial commitments on a good business-like basis to any prospective Canadian purchaser. The union is well aware of that and I hope it conveyed that to the member. So he will know the extent of our involvement, on behalf of my ministry, and not dealing with the extensive involvement of the Ministry of Labour, we met five times with the parent company. We made seven visits to speak to the Canadian operation and the union and the people in Cobourg. We contacted 17 potential Canadian companies which might be interested in purchasing Winchester; 17 of them we contacted.
In the case of eight of those companies we were able to sit down with them and move it on to the very serious stage of discussions with regard to whether or not financial contributions by the taxpayers of Ontario would make that viable for them. Unfortunately, it still didn’t turn out to be a viable proposition. The latest situation was that it was down to two potential purchasers; discussions are still under way, though the events of last week have affected that somewhat.
Just so the member will be aware of the extent to which we have exercised efforts to look after this particular situation, notwithstanding the fact he does not think we should do these kinds of things, we contacted four foreign companies in the rifle business to try to put together a joint-venture arrangement with some Canadian majority shareholders.
I think those are fairly extensive efforts. We have really spent a great deal of time on this matter and have been prepared to make any sensible financial commitment necessary to keep Winchester in operation.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: Doesn’t the problem then arise in the rigidity of the kind of financial commitment that the government is prepared to make, because will the minister not agree that last December, for only half a million dollars in participation by the ODC in terms of equity, that plant could have been kept on its feet and some 150 jobs would have been kept in the area of Cobourg, a cost that is very much less than the kinds of costs of other operations in which the government has been involved?
Why was the government not prepared to offer at that point in a positive way to participate in the equity, so that the Canadian managers and employees who wanted to spearhead a drive to keep that plant in operation could succeed in their efforts at a time when they also had co-operation from the foreign parent, which was prepared to take subsidiary financing?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I am afraid the member’s information, at least the way he is presenting it, isn’t entirely accurate. In point of fact, it was not at all a situation where half a million dollars would have made the difference. There were very many other elements that went towards putting together the package.
As for the parent company -- and I am glad the member noted this, because he often likes to suggest that American parents are arrogant and simply pull up roots and go home -- I am glad he has acknowledged that this American parent was co-operative at that stage and was willing to exercise all efforts necessary to make it viable. They do care about their work force.
None the less, the purchasers we were talking to last December needed certain other things to be in place affecting markets, affecting product lines. It is simply not accurate to say that half a million dollars put into that plant would have made that a go situation.
I would point to other instances, for example the case of the Prestolite plant in Sarnia, and of course the Pioneer Chain Saw Corporation in Peterborough, where we were more than willing to make available at least that amount of money, if not more, and in fact did. If that had been able to turn the trick last December, I can assure the House that we absolutely would have done that. The fact is, even after that sort of cash contribution would have been made, the economics simply still didn’t work. If the member will check with the company involved last December, they will confirm that for him, I believe.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: We have taken 43 minutes of the question period on the leaders’ questions and supplementaries. I think, in fairness to other members, perhaps we should at least have a couple of rotations for private members’ questions.
Mr. Cassidy: There were six separate questions on the first question by the Leader of the Opposition. I have had one supplementary on this particular subject, which I think is important to 150 workers in the Cobourg area and to many other people across the province.
Mr. Speaker: Make it very brief.
Mr. Cassidy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
To the Minister of Industry and Tourism: Since the major product of the Winchester-Western plant was the 37A shotgun and since this Canadian subsidiary had a world product mandate for that particular shotgun, selling it not just to the United States but around the world, and was the sole producer of that product for the Olin Corporation, does not the shutdown of that plant cast questions on the ministry’s policy of global product mandating? How does the government intend to ensure that this kind of shutdown of a Canadian plant with a global product mandate does not occur in other industries as well?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: That no more casts doubt on the global product-mandating strategy than it would for us to say that the failure of a Canadian company supported by ODC, or EDF, or DREE or whatever, casts doubt on the government policy to support Canadian-owned companies; nor would the closedown of a small business in the field of high technology, supported by this government, or any other government, cast doubt on our attempts to work in the high technology area.
Let’s be reasonable and responsible for a moment. No one has suggested that a global product-mandating strategy will in all cases result in insurance against any plant closedowns. Anyone -- and I know the member is aware of this -- under any sort of industrial structure, in any country, be it foreign owned or domestically owned, product mandated, rationalized or branch plant, will always have some cases where market conditions and other economic factors dictate a closedown, and we have never suggested anything other in terms of our global product-mandating strategy.
Mr. Speaker: Before I recognize the member for St. George (Mrs. Campbell), I would like to draw to the attention of all honourable members the presence of a very large and distinguished delegation from the region and the provincial governments of Abruzzi in Italy. They are over here on a trade mission, accompanied by the heads, the presidents of the region and the province, and headed by Dr. Romeo Ricciuti. Would you please welcome them to our midst.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, may I on a point of personal privilege, it being the regional group from my own region, join you in extending to the delegation my warmest welcome.
I would like to tell the House that there are many thousands of citizens of Ontario whose origins are the region of Abruzzi, a region rich in history and culture, and they are making a great contribution to this province.
I would like to wish the delegation, Dr. Ricciuti and all the delegates, a very successful trade show. I would also like to say they are here not only for a trade show but also for a cultural exchange, and they have with them one of the best and most renowned choirs of Italy.
On behalf of the Legislature and the province, I would like to welcome them.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, if I might, on behalf of the government, extend a personal welcome, from my own point of view as well as from the government’s, to representatives of the region and the provinces of Abruzzi on this trade mission and this cultural exchange.
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of being in Italy to sign an agreement with the Italian government relating to workmen’s compensation matters and on that occasion visited the region of Abruzzi and I’d like to go back again.
Mr. S. Smith: Of course it is also a great pleasure for us, the official opposition, to welcome this delegation. I hope, very sincerely, that their time here will be well spent and mutually profitable for themselves and their fellow citizens and our own people. Such visits are extremely helpful and remind us of the tremendous contribution which people with the heritage of that very part of Italy have brought to Canada and to Ontario. We certainly thank them for their attendance here.
SUPREME COURT APPEAL
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Attorney General. Is the Attorney General in a position at this time to give to this House a complete explanation of the bizarre verdict matter in Hamilton; and would he specially give us the information as to the activities of his crown in that matter, whose conduct has been characterized by the Chief Justice of this country as a penance?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I am waiting for a report from the crown law office with respect to this appeal that was before the Supreme Court of Canada, and which was not proceeded with within the period of time that one would have expected. I have not yet received a formal report from Mr. Watt; I expect to have it within the next day or two.
I might say that Mr. Watt is a most distinguished crown counsel, but having said that, I am certainly very concerned about what happened in this particular case.
Mrs. Campbell: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Would the Attorney General not consider that it is a rather unusual thing for a crown, in a case which has been so protracted, to say before the Supreme Court: “I say this because I mean it. I have no excuse for failure to abide by the mandatory conditions of the Criminal Code”?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: As I have already indicated, Mr. Speaker, the circumstances certainly would appear to be quite unusual and I intend to obtain a full report with respect to this appeal.
Mrs. Campbell: That will be available in this House?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Yes, it will.
HEALTH AND SAFETY LAWS IN URANIUM MINES
Mr. Mackenzie: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Labour in relation to the statement that he read to the House this morning on the safety of uranium miners at Elliot Lake: I’m wondering if the minister is aware of one of the very recent incidents that led to some of the frustration in the newspaper article whereby a safety matter of some concern to the workers at Denison Mines was raised.
An Ontario inspector came in under the jurisdiction that the inspector has and issued a rather tough order supported totally by the miners involved. That order quoted section 70 of our new Occupational Health and Safety Act, among other pieces of legislation. The result, almost immediately, was a letter of apology to the company from Mr. Bariswiuk, the supervisor in charge of that safety officer, apologizing to the company that the order was not feasible under section 70.
That’s one of the many examples of the total confusion that exists and the coverage the workers have at Elliot Lake. It is simply not good enough to cop out, as the minister’s statement does, in terms of the coverage. We either have to insist on proper coverage of the miners involved by the federal government, as they have in Saskatchewan, or maybe we have to withdraw our inspectors --
Mr. Speaker: The question has been asked.
Mr. Mackenzie: -- and force the federal government to act. Is the minister willing to take a look at that situation?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I share with the member pride in the Occupational Health and Safety Act which this Legislature has passed, but the realities of life are that constitutionally the federal government has occupied radiation hazards, and now conventional health and safety hazards.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Hang on. They have incorporated by reference part IX of the Mining Act. We have advised them that’s no longer the law in this province. We have requested that they include the new Occupational Health and Safety Act mining regulations. We will continue to pursue that. We have spoken to them as recently as two days ago about that. If some inspector misunderstood the jurisdictional problem, he’s not alone. A lot of people misunderstand the jurisdictional problem, but there is no reason to suggest any blame on this ministry or its staff. They are endeavouring to do their best to enforce the law. If there are jurisdictional problems, so be it, but constitutionally we now have no authority other than as representatives and agents of the federal government.
Mr. Mackenzie: The blame is then on you. It’s your responsibility to protect those workers.
Mr. Martel: Doesn’t the Minister of Labour find it difficult to accept that those miners who led the fight in Ontario are now not covered? Doesn’t the minister understand that the difficulty, even for his own staff, is that under the terms of Bill 70, if there’s reason to believe the condition is unsafe, certain workers can leave? Is the minister further aware that under the federal jurisdiction the worker has to prove imminent danger?
Possibly the minister can tell me and tell his staff what “imminent danger” is. Is that after the rock starts to fall? Is it after he starts down the chute? How can the minister’s inspectors do the type of job he wants them to do with this type of conflict in existence? Shouldn’t we tell the federal authorities we’re not prepared to play the game that way?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: If I may just comment on the initial remark, there is no doubt that a great deal of tribute goes to the very miners we’re talking about for the impetus that led to the Ham commission report that led to the Occupational Health and Safety Act we have now. I’m not a detractor of that; I’m a supporter of what happened in that process.
I’m simply telling the member the constitutional facts of life. It’s not easy for our inspectors on one day to be inspecting on the basis of a reasonable belief and on the next day on the concept of imminent danger, particularly when the jurisdictional definition of “imminent danger” hasn’t yet been clearly defined. It’s not easy. That’s what we’ve told the federal government and that’s what we’re continuing to tell them. They’ve told us, as I indicated in my statement, that there will be a tripartite response to this in May of this year.
HYDRAULIC POWER DEVELOPMENT
Mr. J. Reed: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Energy. Can he tell me what role, if any, the ministry played in the recent cut in the Ontario Hydro budget for hydraulic development? Did the minister comment on that cut or did he express an approval or disapproval of that cut?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the honourable member would like to expand on that question as to whose budget he’s talking about?
Mr. J. Reed: With respect, surely the minister is aware if changes are made in budgeting within Ontario Hydro and he’s briefed and informed. Is he not aware that the budget has been recently cut from a measly $2.4 million to $1.2 million, which is roughly one tenth of one per cent, I believe, of the capital budget of Ontario Hydro?
With that kind of incredible slash from nothing to virtually less than nothing, I’m wondering whether it will signal the encouragement of the private development of the hydraulic resources in Ontario, or is this simply just one more move to ensure the unceremonious burial of hydraulic power development in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Perhaps the honourable member will recall that yesterday, in making some announcement with respect to the expanded role of the Ontario Energy Corporation, I mentioned the question of hydraulic power. That corporation is working with two private companies -- I think in Gananoque and in the Mattawa area -- with respect to electric generation in that way.
In brief, with respect to the whole hydraulic program, I understand there are some plans under way with respect to adding to the capacity of certain already-defined locations and that work was still going on considering other locations, although that program might take longer with respect to its implementation than was originally considered.
Mr. J. Reed: Supplementary: Would the minister not consider that the reduction of a budget by 50 per cent, from $2.4 million to $1.2 million, hardly allows a corporation like Ontario Hydro to do the paperwork?
PRESCRIBED FIRE BURNS
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, I’d like to ask the Minister of Natural Resources a question with regard to the statement that he made this morning. Would the minister not consider making a contribution to freedom of information in this province by releasing the Ministry of Natural Resources board of review report, contrary to a statement this morning? In view of the fact that the report has been given to the coroner, to the crown attorney and to the counsel representing him at the inquest but to no other party; and in view of the fact that the coroner has stated at the inquest that it was his intention to present the recommendations of the ministry’s board of review to the jury as his recommendations, in the hope that they adopt them, how does his defence that he doesn’t want to influence the jury stand up as the reason for not releasing the report?
Hon. Mr. Auld: Mr. Speaker, I indicated last fall that we were doing the review and that I was advised that we should not release it until the inquest was completed and the coroner had decided, I suppose, whether he was going to release that to the jury or not. The advice that I had was still the same, that in fact we could be accused of prejudicing the outcome of the inquest, the recommendations of the inquest and so on, by making them public.
Mr. Foulds: Supplementary: With regard to the part of your statement in which you say a prescribed burn manual has been prepared for use by all field staff this season, does that mean there was no such set manual and there was no such set procedure in the past? And if there was a set procedure, how is the enunciating of this in a manual going to help in the coming season?
Hon. Mr. Auld: Mr. Speaker, we did a very thorough review of the procedures for dealing with prescribed burns and emergency fire-fighting. We have brought together a great deal of information in one place. There were procedures, and I am sure the honourable member is aware of this from the press reports of the inquest to date.
I don’t want to comment any further, because as I say I don’t want to be in the position of being charged with having tried to influence the outcome of the inquest.
Mr. Speaker: The oral question period has expired.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Premier (Mr. Davis) told me that he could not give me an answer to an urgent request that the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Parrott) issue an order before the court hearing today on the Ajax industrial waste hearing because the Minister of the Environment was not in town.
Last night the Minister of the Environment was present at a vote in order to vote in favour of blocking private members’ bills, I understand. It seems to me that the Premier should have provided me with a statement today of the reply of the Minister of the Environment to that request, which he undertook to pass on to the Minister of the Environment as soon as he returned to town.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, the night before last, at about six o’clock, when the Minister of the Environment was still absent, I had a call from his office and I signed the order representing the minister as the Acting Minister of the Environment.
Mr. Speaker: Order. This is not question period. The honourable member has expressed her opinion that something was out of order. There has been an explanation given by the Acting Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Agriculture and Food. There will be ample opportunity for the member to question the ministers on the particulars during the next question period.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
GOOD SAMARITAN ACT
Mr. Haggerty moved first reading of Bill 13, An Act to relieve Persons from Liability in respect of Voluntary Emergency Medical and First-Aid Services.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to relieve persons from liability in respect of voluntary emergency first-aid assistance and medical services rendered at or near the scene of an accident or other sudden emergency.
NON-UNIONIZED WORKERS’ PROTECTION ACT
Mr. Haggerty moved first reading of Bill 14, An Act respecting the Rights of Non-Unionized Workers.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to provide a low-cost mechanism whereby a non-unionized worker may obtain a review by the Ontario Labour Relations Board for workers discharged or otherwise disciplined for cause and where the contract of employment is silent on matters of discipline. At the present time, a non-unionized worker who is dismissed or otherwise disciplined for cause may have no right of action against his employer, notwithstanding the fact that the discipline, having regard to all the circumstances, is unduly harsh.
The bill provides for a two-stage process for reviewing complaints involving harsh discipline. Initially, a labour relations officer would be appointed to effect a settlement that would be reduced to writing and would have to be compiled according to his terms. Then, if no settlement is reached or a settlement is not likely, the Ontario Labour Relations Board would inquire into the matter.
If the board is satisfied that the complaint is justified, it will have the power to make an order substituting such penalty as is just and reasonable in the circumstances.
GAME AND FISH AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Philip moved first reading of Bill 15, An Act to amend the Game and Fish Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to restrict the use of body-gripping and leghold traps in Ontario. The bill creates a general prohibition against the use of body-gripping and leghold traps as a means of trapping any animal. However, exemptions from the general prohibition are provided for persons who hold trappers’ licences who use the body-gripping traps of a specified size and those submerged in water. The bill also provides for prohibitions for farmers.
Hon. Mr. Wells moved resolution 2:
That the following standing committees be established for this session, with power to examine and inquire into all such matters as may be referred to them by the House, with power to send for persons, papers and things, as provided in section 35 of the Legislative Assembly Act:
Standing committee on general government: Ashe, Charlton, Cureatz, Dukszta, Epp, Handleman, Hennessy, Hodgson, Laughren, Mancini, McEwen, McGuigan, Samis, Scrivener, G. E. Smith, Watson.
Standing committee on resources development: Eaton, Di Santo, Gigantes, J. Johnson, Lane, Mackenzie, McNeil, G. I. Miller, W. Newman, J. Reed, Riddell, J. A. Taylor, Van Horne, Villeneuve, Wildman, Yakabuski.
Standing committee on administration of justice: Bradley, Campbell, Havrot, Kerr, Lupusella, McCaffrey, Philip, Renwick, Rotenberg, Roy, Sterling, Stong, Swart, G. Taylor, Williams, Ziemba.
Standing committee on social development: Belanger, Blundy, Cooke, Gaunt, Grande, R. F. Johnston, Jones, Kennedy, Kerrio, Leluk, McClellan, O’Neil, Ramsay, Rowe, Sweeney, Turner.
Standing committee on public accounts: Germa, Hall, Isaacs, Leluk, Makarchuk, Peterson, Ramsay, T. P. Reid, Sargent, G. Taylor, Turner.
The report of the provincial auditor for 1979-80 and the public accounts for 1979-80 are referred to the public accounts committee.
That the following standing committee be established for this session, with power to examine and inquire into such matters as may be referred to it by the House, with power to send for persons, papers, and things, as provided in section 35 of the Legislative Assembly Act: The standing committee on regulations and other statutory instruments is appointed for this session to be the committee provided for by section 12 of the Regulations Act, and has the terms of reference as set out in that section, namely: to examine the regulations with particular reference to the scope and method of the exercise of delegated legislative power without reference to the merits of the policy or objectives to be effected by the regulations or enabling statutes, but in so doing regard shall be had to the following guidelines:
(a) Regulations should not contain provisions initiating new policy; but should be confined to details to give effect to the policy established by the statute;
(b) Regulations should be in strict accord with the statute conferring of power, particularly concerning personal liberties;
(c) Regulations should be expressed in precise and unambiguous language;
(d) Regulations should not have retrospective effect unless clearly authorized by statute;
(e) Regulations should not exclude the jurisdiction of the courts;
(f) Regulations should not impose a fine, imprisonment or other penalty;
(g) Regulations should not shift the onus of proof of innocence to a person accused of an offence;
(h) Regulations should not impose anything in the way of a tax (as distinct from fixing the amount of a licence fee, or the like);
(i) General powers should not be used to establish a judicial tribunal or an administrative tribunal;
And that the committee shall from time to time report to the House its observations, opinions and recommendations as required by section 12(3) of the Regulations Act, but before drawing the attention of the House to a regulation or other statutory instrument the committee shall afford the ministry or agency concerned an opportunity to furnish orally or in writing to the committee such explanation as the ministry or agency thinks fit.
And that the committee shall have power to employ counsel and such other staff as it considers necessary.
The committee shall be composed of eight members as follows: Cureatz, M. N. Davison, Eakins, MacDonald, McCaffrey, McKessock, Rollins, Williams.
Motion agreed to.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON MEMBERS’ SERVICES
Hon. Mr. Wells moved resolution three:
That the standing committee on members’ services be appointed for this session to examine the services to members from time to time, and without interfering with the statutory responsibility of the Board of Internal Economy in such matters the committee is empowered to recommend to the consideration of the House matters it wishes to draw to the special attention of the board and that the committee be empowered to act as an advisory committee to Mr. Speaker and the Board of Internal Economy on the administration of the House and the provision of services and facilities to members, and to draw the special attention of the House to such matters as the committee believes requires it.
The committee shall be composed of eight members as follows: Bounsall, Campbell, Jones, B. Newman, G. E. Smith, Watson, Worton, Young.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells moved resolution four:
That this House endorses the following schedule for committee meetings during this session:
The standing committee on social development may meet on the afternoons of Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays;
The standing committee on resources development may meet on the evenings of Tuesdays and Thursdays;
The standing committee on general government may meet Wednesday afternoons;
The standing committee on the administration of justice may meet Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings;
On Wednesday mornings no more than two of the following committees may meet without leave of the House: general government, resources development, administration of justice;
The following committees may meet on Thursday mornings: public accounts, members’ services, procedural affairs, regulations and other statutory instruments.
Motion agreed to.
SUBSTITUTION OF STANDING COMMITTEES
Hon. Mr. Wells moved resolution five:
That unless otherwise ordered, substitution be permitted on all standing committees provided that written notice of substitution is given to the chairman of the committee before or early in the meeting.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Before we proceed with government resolution one, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to rule 45(b), I would like to advise the members of the House of the estimates sequence and the allocation of hours which have been determined following consultation with the House leaders.
The estimates have been referred to the committees in the following order:
To the standing administration of justice committee: Attorney General, 20 hours; Justice policy, six hours; Correctional Services, five hours; Consumer and Commercial Relations, 25 hours; Solicitor General, 15 hours.
To the standing resources development committee: Energy, 15 hours; Transportation and Communications, 20 hours; Environment, 18 hours; Industry and Tourism, 17 hours; Agriculture and Food, 20 hours; Natural Resources, 23 hours: Labour, 23 hours; Housing, 11 hours; Resources Development policy, five hours.
To the standing social development committee: Culture and Recreation, 10 hours; Education, and Colleges and Universities, 32 hours; Health, 20 hours; Community and Social Services, 25 hours; Social Development policy, five hours.
To the general government committee: Office of the Assembly, three hours; Office of the Ombudsman, five hours; Office of the Provincial Auditor, two hours.
To the committee of supply, which of course is in the House: Intergovernmental affairs, 15 hours; Lieutenant Governor, Cabinet and Premier, five hours; Northern Affairs, 13 hours; Government Services, six hours; Revenue, 10 hours.
Treasury is to be referred at the time it comes in this sequence to the general government committee by motion of the House for 15 hours and then Management Board, which will be heard in the committee of supply for five hours.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. F. S. Miller moved resolution one:
That the Treasurer of Ontario be authorized to pay additional sums for the salaries of civil servants and other necessary payments for the period commencing March 13, 1980, and ending March 31, 1980, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of additional supply for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1980.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I would like to give the members a brief explanation for the use of supplementary estimates that the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet has already tabled and for this interim supply resolution pending the actual voting of supply.
The unusually high level of interest rates is of major concern to the government. The impact of these rates is widespread. Among those affected are the school boards in the municipalities within the province. Transfer payments from the province to these bodies are generally paid as a series of instalments which tend to lag slightly behind the expenditure needs of the school boards and the municipalities.
It has been their practice to cover the short-fall between these transfer payments and actual expenditures incurred by securing interim financing from the banks. Present interest rates have made this cost of financing an added and significant burden on the budgets of local governments. It is with this consideration in mind that the government has decided to accelerate certain payments to the local sector.
Transfer payments to municipalities made under the Ontario Unconditional Grants Act will be accelerated by $135 million and general legislative grants payments to school boards will be accelerated by $65 million in this fiscal year. The effect of this measure will be to increase expenditures by $203 million in the current fiscal year. This amount will be offset by a reduction in the 1980-81 spending by the same amount.
Buoyant revenues in this year will also permit us to pay the sum of $54.6 million to Ontario Hydro to reimburse it for purchases of parkway belt west lands previously made on behalf of the province.
This resolution will also authorize expenditures unforeseen at the time the Supply Act was passed in late December 1979. These additional expenditures are required for various ministry programs, including the adult services program, the children’s services program within the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and for the institutional health-care services program for the Ministry of Health to cover ambulance service, hospital operation costs and extended health-care insurance benefits.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I don’t plan to take a great deal of time today. There will be a number of opportunities in the near future, with the throne speech debate and the budget debate, to lay before this House some of our suggestions.
I am glad to learn today that the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller), along with his colleague the Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett), is going to Ottawa to chat with his federal counterpart. I think that is important, it is constructive and I wish him well.
However, I was a little disappointed with the lack of a point of view the Treasurer had today. Except for emoting a little about the problem in a very general sense, I did not feel he had any particular point of view or sense of direction. Perhaps that was just his reluctance to share that with this House. Perhaps he feels he should not reveal his hand before going to these negotiations.
I would like to have had the Treasurer’s confidence shared a little more. I would like to know how seriously he views this situation. I don’t have to stand before the minister and tell him that I am one who advocates great intervention and I think I understand, as well as he does, some of the follies governments have foisted upon the marketplace over the years by ill-conceived intervention. I think I understand that, and I am not one who has advocated silly intervention.
When he responded today he said we can’t shift the burden; we have to be very careful about who is carrying what burden. The role of government and the whole taxing policy is, of course, to shift burdens. It is taking from one and giving to another in varying proportions. So just don’t let him respond to me with that sort of naive, capitalist point of view that says the government doesn’t intervene and it doesn’t reallocate, because it does and does it constantly. That was the response.
But as an intervener the government has lost its virginity. Any son of a gun who goes out and feels his responsibility as Treasurer is to sell used cars at the public expense surely has lost any virtue he had when it comes to intervening or assisting. That was the dumbest thing the Treasurer has ever done. It was ill conceived. It was proven the last time it was superficial and unnecessary. If there is a problem with used cars, why not do it for the snowmobile dealers? And I will tell the Treasurer somebody who is in trouble -- why not do it for the purveyors of skis in this province? They are the people who have inventory problems.
The day the Treasurer of -this province feels it his responsibility to move out inventory from dealers, a high percentage of which is manufactured in other jurisdictions anyway, is the day he loses almost any sense of rectitude he could ever bring to this House or any pure free enterprise point of view, because it was so silly. The member has given jogging a bad name. I almost stopped jogging; it rattles the brain. It is a terrible misallocation of funds; those cars would have been sold anyway.
When I saw that, I said to myself that there was something the matter. I couldn’t understand it. The only explanation I could have is that the Treasurer was buoyed up because of little better than expected revenues for a variety of reasons, mostly because there were bookkeeping errors from previously; so there was a little surplus revenue and he thought it may be a trifle embarrassing going into this year because he couldn’t bring next year’s net cash requirements as low as they would turn out to be this year and then he thought he would give some away.
You can take the boy off the used car lot but you can’t take the used car lot out of the boy. That’s what the Treasurer has proven to this province.
Obviously the dealers were delighted -- the dealers that had the 1979 inventory; the ones that hadn’t managed their business as well as some of the others. The ones that had 1980 inventory were not particularly happy about the situation, obviously. Yes, it may have accelerated some purchases, but there won’t be one new car sold in the province as a result of that program. The last program proved that it only accelerated purchases.
I must say I was most disappointed with the Treasurer. I want to ask him where he feels his responsibility stops. Why not snowmobiles? There is an industry in some respects that we do have some research and development and some entrepreneurial advantage in this country. What about skis? What about the other people who are in trouble? When help is offered to one on a preferential basis there is not necessarily a direct relationship between the number of jobs created and the amount of money expended. Then the doors are opened for all sorts of things that may come along in the future. It was most ill-conceived. Frankly, the Treasurer should be ashamed of himself, particularly the name he has given to joggers.
Just to go back to the interest rates question: I don’t have any simple answer for this one and I don’t think anybody does. It is obviously a great source of concern to everyone. But I am going to pass along two or three suggestions that I have.
It is my opinion that interest rates will probably go up in the United States, and here consequently, another point or two before they peak. They will peak some time in the next six months. If there is a major recession in the United States, as a lot of people are predicting, barring some unforeseen contingency like a war, for which defence spending has to be accelerated, to buy their way out of recession on the short term, interest rates are probably going to drop quite dramatically next year. If anyone is playing the bond market, speculating in bonds, I just pass that on as a little free investment advice.
Apart from that, I am hoping, as most Canadians are hoping, and no one can predict, that this will be to some extent a short-term problem. Certainly the whole inflation built into our economy is a generic problem and we are going to have to deal with it. The days of six and seven per cent interest rates are probably gone forever. But it’s to be hoped we won’t have to stay at the 15, 16 and 17 per cent levels for very long.
That being said, if we do have to stay with those kinds of interest rates forever, or at least in the near future, then the system is going to have to adjust to that. No amount of government intervention is probably going to be able to solve that particular problem. If we are going to be into double-digit inflation, particularly in the United States -- and, as is rightly pointed out, our interest rates are very dependent on what transpires there -- if that double-digit inflation becomes built in, the system will have to adapt and we won’t be able to subsidize people for that. We are going to see a great deal of personal hardship, business hardship, business failures, and the economic system is going to have to adjust to that.
That being said, in the short run it is my belief that the Treasurer must come up with some emergency action to help the people who are going to be hurt in the next six months to a year. The Minister of Housing talked about a $900-million mortgage portfolio he is turning over at 13.5 per cent, a one percentage point concession.
According to the figures I have -- and I must say they are an estimate; I hope they are not wrong -- I am under the impression there is something like $4 billion worth of mortgages in this province that are going to be refinanced this year. These are mortgages that were taken out in 1975 and that, in the normal course of events, would roll over this year. This is a massive amount of money. It is going to wreak havoc for a number of people.
I don’t think the government is in a position to help out everyone. There are people today who are carrying $100,000 and $150,000 mortgages; those are not uncommon. We don’t have an obligation to help those kind of people. But there are other low-income types that for various reasons -- and I agreed to some extent with the Minister of Housing today -- because of ill-conceived programs by governments and because of inflated expectations, fuelled by government, and the prospect of a cheap and easy way to have a stake in the country, denied basic economic realities. The government helped finance people into some of these problems and has an obligation to assist them. That is going to require the creativity of the minister and his colleague Mr. MacEachen in Ottawa.
In my judgement the minister shouldn’t be afraid to be involved in that. He shouldn’t be afraid on an exception basis, on an emergency basis and on a crisis basis this year to assist the people of this province on the basis of need. It has to be on the basis of critical need. Although it’s cumbersome and unwieldy, it might have to be on an income test basis, on some kind of means basis. We don’t want to distort the marketplace by having a generic sort of aid, but it should be on a crisis or emergency basis. In my judgement, that is how the minister will have to look at the problem.
There are funds he has available to him. As he knows, it’s estimated, depending on what he does with the budget this year, that he may have a surplus of internally generated funds from the Canada Pension Plan and the Teachers’ Superannuation Fund of $300 million or $400 million. He has various options as to what he can do with those kinds of funds.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The honourable member is straying somewhat from the resolution.
Mr. Peterson: No, not at all, Mr. Speaker. With great respect, I have always treated this one as one resolution in which people can speak on almost any subject related to the economy. That has certainly been my experience in the House. I want to take advantage of the situation to give the Treasurer a little gratuitous advice, because I feel he’s highly outclassed when he goes to Ottawa next week. If I can assist him then I am happy to do that.
As I said, there are going to be some internally generated funds available. He may want to look at that, rather than just using that money to pay off deficits and to fuel current spending. He may want to use that in some kind of emergency mortgage assistance program. He has to look at rate subsidy programs in British Columbia and various other kinds of ways. I would urge him to bring his good offices to attempt to relieve some of these hardships because when businesses start to fail, when people start to walk away from houses because they can’t carry the charges, then we have a social problem of crisis before us that reflects not only on the economy, but will ultimately reflect on the stability and the fabric of this province.
That’s why I regard it as so very critical at this time. I would urge the minister to employ all his creativity in working with this issue. He may have to get involved with many levels of government to do it. I haven’t seen that he has any ideas. I assume the deputy minister, sitting there nodding wisely under the gallery, does have some ideas and his very competent staff. I wish, as I said, that he had taken us into his confidence with some of those and shared some of his options. There’s no option that’s easy. There’s no option that’s exclusively attractive over another, but something has to be done. I just wanted to leave that with the minister and give him those two little bits of advice. Please do something. Please stop jogging. Then the Treasurer will probably come up with some better ideas.
I have some other thoughts but, in view of the time, I will turn it over to one of my colleagues.
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Speaker, I want to spend a few minutes talking about a particular problem that I think is of relevance to the entire province, but more specifically to my home riding and my home city. Right now, in the city of Windsor and in the county of Essex, we have a crisis that has not been responded to by this government in any significant way at all. I have been warning this government now for well over a year about the problems that were coming towards the auto industry and specifically Chrysler.
I have written to the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman), the Premier (Mr. Davis) and the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller), but we have not received any kind of action whatsoever. In fact, the government at this point still refuses to accept that we have a crisis in Windsor, even though the rate of unemployment at this point is 19 per cent officially and, when one takes into consideration those who are on temporary layoff, the unemployment rate is really 25 per cent or thereabouts in the Windsor-Essex area.
Specifically, I want to talk about the very serious problems that Chrysler Corporation is experiencing right now and the lack of involvement on the part of the provincial government in trying to resolve those problems. Employment at Chrysler Corporation at one time was 13,000. Today, with the latest announcements of layoffs, the employment at that corporation will be down to 6,500 employees, almost half of what it was at one time.
I want to trace the history in the last couple of years of the problems of that corporation and the layoffs that have occurred in Windsor and the plant closures that have occurred, and try to demonstrate some of the steps that this government could have and should have taken to protect jobs in Windsor and protect the auto industry in the Windsor-Essex area.
First of all, the first major closure occurred back in 1978, when Chrysler announced the closing of the truck plant and that those jobs and that production was going to be moved to Detroit. The reasons given by Chrysler Corporation were that 350 of the 750 jobs would be picked up in van production in Windsor and that the plant producing the trucks in Windsor was too old to continue.
We raised the matter here in the Legislature. We were told by the Premier, by the Treasurer, by the Minister of Industry and Tourism, that we weren’t to worry; that these 350 jobs would materialize. Chrysler had given them all sorts of assurances that these jobs would materialize and we were being too pessimistic about the outlook of van production and van purchases in North America.
We and the union told the government at that time that van production had peaked and that what we really should be doing is frying to keep the 750 jobs and the truck production in Windsor, and that the argument used by Chrysler that the plant was inefficient and too old just didn’t stand up, because they were using a plant in Detroit that was actually older to produce these trucks.
As I said, the government response was that Chrysler had given them assurances. I think the then Minister of Labour, now the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Miss Stephenson), was the one to tell us that.
The 350 jobs at the van plant never did materialize. Those jobs have never materialized at all. The result was that we lost the jobs to the United States, and many of those people are still unemployed.
At the same time, there was an announcement that our engine plant was going to cease production of the V-6 cylinder engine and that production would also be shifted to the United States, but that all the jobs would be picked up in production of 360-cubic-inch, eight-cylinder engines. Again, the government, through the then Minister of Labour, told us we weren’t to worry; Chrysler had given assurances that these jobs would be maintained and there would be a demand for these jobs and these engines in North America for quite some time to come.
That plant at that time had 2,400 employees. With the latest announcement, that plant now is closed completely for three years, and we still have not received any assurances at all from Chrysler Corporation that there will be retooling of that plant. In fact, the union, in meetings with the corporation, has been told that they don’t know what the market situation will be three years from now and the plant may or may not be used.
So we have 2,400 employees at the engine plant and we have 750 employees at the truck plant who have now completely lost their jobs because both of those plants have been closed.
One of the things this government should be following up very aggressively with the Chrysler Corporation is the fact that the only place they now are producing 360-cubic-inch engines is Mexico. Those engines are exported from Mexico to the Missouri truck plant in the United States and then, of course, the trucks eventually come into Canada under the Canada-US auto pact. By implication, because of terms of the auto pact, Mexico is a partner in the auto pact and is reaping the benefits of it.
Because of the situation at Chrysler right now, the Ministry of Industry and Tourism, or the Treasurer, or the Premier, should have been talking to Chrysler and saying that the 400 employees who were involved in the latest layoff at the engine plant should continue producing the 360-cubic-inch engine in Windsor and at least maintain those numbers of jobs because of the very serious parts deficit that Chrysler Corporation has.
To indicate how serious the situation is in Windsor right now, it’s a fact that all Chrysler employees who are laid off and do not have 10 years’ seniority do not receive any supplementary unemployment benefits. The only money they receive is the unemployment insurance, which works out to about 45 per cent of their regular pay cheques. The situation is even worse for thousands of Chrysler employees because they have been on layoff for more than a year; so they do not have any unemployment insurance benefits at all. As a result, the number of people receiving welfare in both county and city has completely skyrocketed.
As I have said, for two years now we have been warning about the downturn in the market and how there had to be discussions between Chrysler and this government to protect jobs, but we have not received any kind of adequate assistance from this provincial government.
Statements of concern on the part of the Minister of Industry and Tourism and the present Minister of Labour (Mr. Elgie) are completely inadequate. In fact, the latest announcement in Windsor involved another 900 employees being laid off at the van plant; so our predictions of two years ago, that van sales would not continue, did come true. Those employees now are on indefinite layoff. The likelihood of them being rehired before they retool that plant for small van and small truck production is very unlikely, and there are certainly no jobs in Windsor to look for.
At this point, what we are producing in Windsor are large cars, and a spring plant and a van plant are in operation. As one can see from that, there is only basically assembly; Chrysler in Canada right now is virtually producing no parts at all, which is in violation of the Canada-US auto pact.
The number of people at the car assembly plant has also decreased considerably and the downtime, as the Treasurer will know, has been significant. As a result -- I will state it again, because it is such an important figure -- the unemployment rate in the Windsor-Essex area now is officially, according to Statistics Canada, at 19 per cent, and the majority of those workers are not receiving supplementary unemployment benefits or unemployment insurance.
The number of claimants at the Windsor office who are running out of the UIC benefits is now at 75 individuals per week according to the local Manpower office. The welfare cases in the county have increased to the point where their budget is being seriously affected and the 20 per cent that they must contribute under the cost-sharing for welfare benefits has resulted in a dramatic increase being projected for their property tax. The number of people on welfare in the city of Windsor has not increased considerably because of a matter raised by my colleague from Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Boun sall) yesterday; that is, the extremely rigid rules that the local welfare office has put in place.
In fact, statistics given to us by the local welfare administrator show that there are 300 people per month who have been rejected for welfare in the city of Windsor alone as a result of their ridiculous rules on job search -- 300 per month. That’s why we asked the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Norton) to look at that situation and to tell that local welfare administrator that at a time when there is a crisis you don’t ask people to go to look for four or five jobs per day, because they just don’t exist.
February’s unemployment statistics indicated clearly that the new people going off jobs and on unemployment insurance are not auto-related at all. The majority of them, in fact, are from the services sector: retail, hotel, et cetera. That indicates clearly to the government -- or it should indicate -- that the economy now is extremely depressed in Windsor and is affecting all sectors; as a result, we can expect more massive layoffs and job terminations in all sectors of the Windsor economy. Yet, at the same time, the Minister of Industry and Tourism was on a hot-line show in Windsor and said that the local MPPs were using the situation for political purposes; that no crisis really existed, and the auto industry would be on the upturn in the very near future.
Judging by the announcements at Chrysler that an engine plant is closing for three years and by the retooling that has to take place at the van plant, this is not a short-term problem at all. The unemployment problem in Windsor is going to be with us for at least three to five years until the retooling takes place.
I certainly do want to take the opportunity during the throne speech debate in two weeks to go into the problems of the auto pact and trace the history of the problems and the inaction of the federal Liberal government, when they were in power, the federal Conservative Party, and now again the federal Liberal Party, and this provincial government, which has taken no action, even though 95 per cent of the auto workers reside in Ontario.
I want to read a letter I received from the Minister of Industry and Tourism on December 27, 1979, just to indicate how ridiculous is the position this government has taken on the crisis we are experiencing in Windsor. It’s dated, as I say, December 27, 1979:
“I fully appreciate your concern with the unemployed people in the Windsor area. My ministry is fully aware of what the severe downturn in the automotive industry will do to the Windsor economy and is monitoring the situation closely.
“At the present time, according to Statistics Canada records, the unemployment rate in the Windsor area is approximately 9.1 per cent” -- which was completely inaccurate. “While this is higher than the 0.1 per cent average across Ontario, we do not consider it to be an immediate crisis.
“In my previous letter, November 8, 1979, I stated that in the event there develops a clear, long-term, Chrysler employment crisis, then a job-creation program may well be required. This situation has not yet developed and therefore a job-creation program for Chrysler is not yet warranted.
“A recent study by the Ontario Manpower Commission has indicated that there are several firms in Windsor with definite plans for expansion over the next 12 months.”
This indicates clearly that in late December, almost January, the Minister of Industry and Tourism was not in tune with what was going on in Windsor. He obviously hadn’t been talking to Chrysler, or else he would have known what their plans were for both the engine plant and the van plant and he would have understood that the engine plant was going to be closed for three years, so that there is a long-term problem. But he didn’t understand it; he didn’t bother to get the facts. While he states that there is concern for the people in Windsor, the actions of this government and the actions of the Minister of Industry and Tourism indicate clearly that concern is not translated into any sort of action or help.
He says his ministry will assist in a meeting with the mayors of automobile cities. He says the ministry will assist at gathering statistics to present to the federal government. That is completely inadequate. We don’t just need assistance at gathering statistics for a brief; we need action on the part of this government to go into Windsor and discuss with the local officials what type of job-creation strategy is necessary to get people back to work.
The problem is also translating into shortfalls in the social services that are in the private sector through the United Way sponsorship. They are projecting a very significant shrinkage in their ability to collect the pledges that were given in last year’s campaign, to the point where new agencies cannot be established to meet new needs and the existing agencies are being starved and are having to lay off social service workers at a time when social services are being needed more than ever.
But has the Minister of Community and Social Services gone into Windsor and met with those people to find out what he can do to assist? Has the Minister of Industry and Tourism or any other minister done that? No. That is what I say: The statement of concern is easy and cheap, but the actions taken by this government demonstrate that’s all they are -- just statements, with no real concern whatsoever.
We need leadership from this government right now, and the people of Windsor need it very badly. We need a Minister of Industry and Tourism or a Premier who is willing to say loudly and clearly to the federal government that because of the very large number of people unemployed in the automobile industry and the amount of time it’s going to take to retool the Chrysler plants, a plan for transitional assistance benefits, TAB, has to be brought in to protect auto workers in Ontario.
While the minister and the Premier say that’s a federal problem, again I tell you, Mr. Speaker, that since 95 per cent of the auto workers reside in Ontario, it’s about time this government had enough guts to speak for the auto workers it is supposed to represent.
The United States has had a program similar to TAB from the beginning of the auto pact. It’s called TRA, or traditional readjustment allowance. They have continued to have that program, whereas we had TAB for the first number of years in the auto pact and then the federal Liberal government eliminated it, and the federal Conservative government didn’t act when they were in power. The main reason they didn’t act is, the federal minister said in a letter to the mayor of the city of Windsor, that the provincial Minister of Industry and Tourism said a crisis did not exist.
Hon. F. S. Miller: You’ve got three ministers now. Let them do something.
Mr. Cooke: The three ministers need to hear from a provincial government that also represents 95 per cent --
Hon. F. S. Miller: I have already written them.
Mr. Cooke: It’s about time the minister had enough guts to speak up in this Legislature and make a strong statement on behalf of the auto workers in this province and let us know what the government is doing. A letter is not much of a commitment; it’s a 17-cent stamp, and one of his bureaucrats can write the bloody thing.
We need some action and some statements from this government, some meetings with federal authorities, some meetings with municipal authorities. It is within this government’s jurisdiction to go into Windsor and develop a job-creation program to help people, to give them jobs, while we are waiting for the automobile industry to turn around.
I don’t think this government really understands what happens to people when they are unemployed. I remember back in 1958 when we went through a similar problem in Windsor with Chrysler. I was six or seven years old, and my dad was one of the people who was laid off at Chrysler for at least a year and a half. I remember what we went through, the pressure on our families, the pressure on my parents and the type of emotional stress that it put on all of us.
Hon. F. S. Miller: You don’t know what the thirties were like.
Mr. Cooke: I don’t know what the thirties were like, but I certainly know what 1958 was like.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Cooke: The Treasurer’s insensitivity to a problem in Windsor right now clearly demonstrates that he is forgetting what people went through back then.
What we need right now is a Minister of Industry and Tourism who is willing to get involved in the Chrysler negotiations. The Minister of Industry and Tourism hasn’t been involved in the negotiations with Chrysler for quite some time. While we may have a federal minister who wants to completely take the show and get all the credit for his particular political party, it’s time this whole problem with Chrysler was approached in a nonpolitical atmosphere and the government in this province got involved, because the Chrysler workers all reside within Ontario.
The government has an obligation and it’s about time it took that obligation seriously. We need assistance for Chrysler now. The people in Windsor need to know what the long-term outlook for that corporation is, and we need somebody who’s willing to say what types of guarantees we expect from the Chrysler Corporation.
A few of those guarantees that I and my party believe very strongly should be part of any aid to Chrysler is to make sure that we get our fair share of small car and small truck production, as well as our share of parts production, which at this point we have not had. In fact, an article that appeared in the Toronto Star last week indicated clearly that the Big Three have made the vast majority of their investment decisions -- they made them a few years back -- and we are not going to get our fair share. Yet do we hear the Minister of Industry and Tourism trying to get that, speaking out loudly on behalf of the people of Ontario? No, that hasn’t come and it’s about time it did.
We also have to make sure we get our fair share of research and development. I notice that last week, Mr. Lander, the president of Chrysler Canada, said research and development was one of the things that was out of the deal; they were not willing to look at research and development in Ontario.
I think that’s a disgrace. If we are looking at giving them, as I understand it, $70 million in an outright grant and $300 million to $500 million in loan guarantees that we had better make sure we get performance guarantees that give us a fair share in all areas of the automobile industry so that we have long-term jobs in Windsor and in Etobicoke and Ajax, where they also have plants.
I also think we need to make sure we get a return on our investment -- which means equity; whatever we put into the corporation is considered equity -- and we do have some say in how that corporation is run.
Getting back to the tragedy of unemployment, the minister says I didn’t have through the 1930s. I’m glad I didn’t, but I did live through the 1950s, and Windsor has had its ups and downs for so many years now. The 1950s were very serious, although I must say the 1950s were not as bad as it is right now in Windsor. The only difference between the 1930s and the 1970s and 1980s in Windsor is the degree, or the numbers.
Nineteen per cent, 20 per cent and 25 per cent unemployment is very serious, and the kinds of statements the Treasurer has made here today in his interjections indicate he still considers this not to be a crisis. There are mortgage foreclosures going on in Windsor, and not only do we have the problem of individuals being forced to pay higher interest rates, we have the problem of families having to go on welfare and at the same time having mortgage payments of $500, $600, $700, which obviously means the only alternative for them is their mortgages are foreclosed and they lose their homes.
I encourage the minister today to talk to the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman) and the Premier (Mr. Davis) and to get in touch with Chrysler now about its latest announcement. I understand from reports in the Windsor Star very recently that the Minister of Industry and Tourism was not even contacted by Chrysler Corporation about the latest layoffs. There was no contact, there was no discussion. We have a corporation that wants hundreds of millions of dollars from the government of this country and it didn’t even bother talking with provincial authorities, which indicates something about that corporation.
I think if there were any guts or any leadership in this government it would have immediately stated publicly that it was going to Windsor, or it wanted Mr. Lander to come to Toronto and wanted those layoffs justified, and wanted to hear why jobs were being eliminated in Windsor but maintained in Mexico when we have a Canada-US auto pact.
We have a corporation that is producing virtually no parts in Ontario or in Canada. It’s bloody well about time this government showed some concern for a city that is very important in this province. I believe it’s the fifth largest manufacturing city in the country, yet we have the distinction right now of having the highest unemployment rate of any area in Canada. The government must take pride in the fact that we have five per cent more unemployment in Windsor than in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
I’d like to hear some response today, instead of the joking manner in which the Premier responded yesterday. His response yesterday on the Windsor problem was a bloody disgrace. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. Smith) thought that polls in this province were more important than thousands of people being unemployed in one of our major Ontario cities.
I hope I get some answers today from the Treasurer. Certainly this matter will be pursued time and time again by this party in the Legislature when we resume in a week.
Mr. B. Newman: Mr. Speaker, in what the member for Windsor-Riverdale (Mr. Cooke) mentions, he does not exaggerate to any great extent. The situation in the city of Windsor is extremely serious. In all of my days in the Legislature, including the late 1950s and the early 1960s, I have never seen the numbers of unemployed we have in the community at present.
We know the statistics one obtains from the Canada Employment Centre are not accurate, because approximately 6,000 people are on indefinite layoff, and when we’re talking about layoffs we’re not just talking about Chrysler and the auto industry, because there are a lot of feeder plants in the community that likewise are affected once any part of the auto industry is affected.
There are approximately 6,000 people on indefinite layoff. These statistics, I understand, are not included in the number of 16,404 registered as unemployed at the Canada Employment Centre. Never before have we had such large numbers of unemployed.
The minister has to take this situation seriously, and I know he will. We now have three elected members from the area in the federal cabinet. I know they will work on the situation but we need Ontario’s input. We need the minister’s assistance in conversations with both the federal government and the various auto manufacturers, essentially Chrysler. What Chrysler builds, builds Windsor and what Chrysler doesn’t build has an extremely adverse effect on the economy not only of Windsor, but of other parts of Ontario.
The unemployed today in the community, as the Canada Employment Centre indicates, are 6,284 women and 10,120 men, not including, as I mentioned earlier, approximately 6,000 who are not required to register because they are still collecting some unemployment insurance benefits. There are thousands in the community who have collected all of the benefits they were entitled to. There are no transitional assistance benefits for them.
Employment is directly affected as a result of the auto makers doing some of their manufacturing elsewhere and not even in the United States. As my colleague from Windsor-Riverside mentioned, there is the engine plant in Mexico. I know they go there because the labour is a lot cheaper and, as a result, they can come along and increase the extent of their profits, but that doesn’t help the Windsor situation.
I have always maintained that in the auto trade pact, instead of worrying about only the fiscal differences as to whether we export $2 billion worth of product to the US and import $2 billion, we should try to work out some way where we know the number of man-hours that are involved in our export to the US, as well as the number of man-hours of the manufactured items we import from the US. If we had our fair share in the number of man-hours of the products we consume, I don’t think the problem in the area would be as difficult as it is now.
Not only is the problem affecting the labourer in the plant, but it is also going into management. One of the things I don’t see happening is upper and middle management being let go. The American is kept on but the Canadian is let go. We have to get our fair share of jobs, and also our fair share of management jobs.
There is no reason for Chrysler or any other plant to have upper management all from the United States trying to tell us in Canada how we should live and how we should operate. We want Canadian input. If we had Canadian input in upper management I don’t think a lot of those jobs would have been transferred from Ontario into plants in the United States and even offshore.
The previous speaker made mention of the effects on welfare. The worker has run out of benefits as far as unemployment insurance is concerned, there are no more transitional assistance benefits and he is forced to apply for welfare. He doesn’t want to apply for welfare, but to survive he has to.
Then he is told that he must have five job searches. Where in the dickens is he going to find a job in the community where there are 19,500 unemployed? There may be a few jobs but that was the ridiculous requirement that was set up by the Ministry of Community and Social Services through the local welfare office.
I raised the issue long before it was raised here in the House because I attended one of the mayor’s meetings on the unemployed. I raised the issue with the director of social services in the community. I hope the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Norton) realizes that to ask for all of these job searches after the index of unemployment in a community is beyond a certain level is really ridiculous to the extreme.
The minister has to get seriously involved -- not only this minister, but also the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman). They have got to get together. The Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) has got to talk to management. He has got to talk to his federal counterparts and see if between them they can come up with some financial assistance for those who are in dire need of help. There are going to be hundreds of homes lost by the unemployed in the community.
The minister wouldn’t believe the family breakups that are happening in the community. We all know; there is no need for me to tell the effects of unemployment. Some of the members had to experience that earlier in life. I lived through the big depression so I know just exactly what things were like when you didn’t know if there would be bread on the table the next day. I hope we are not to that stage in the community and I hope we never get there, but we do need help. We need planning on the part of the Treasurer and the federal government to talk to industry, talk to the labour unions, and to get their side of the picture and to come down with some type of policy which can alleviate the real problems confronting many of Windsor’s residents.
I was disappointed, as I mentioned to the Minister of Industry and Tourism in a conversation, that even in his booklet, which was trying to sell investment in the province, at no time was the city of Windsor mentioned. I know he can say he can only select a certain number of cities to put in the booklet and no matter whose town he misses, he will be criticized for it, but when Windsor has that special problem I would think he would appeal to communities, to industrialists in the other parts of Canada and the US and say: “Look, you have a very skilled work force in the community. It is to your advantage to come into that area now and set up an industry.” It would not only assist the community but also the investors from a financial prospect that they could be successful, were they to come into the city of Windsor.
I don’t intend to go any further with my comments. I think the minister knows the situation. I would like the minister and his colleagues, as well as the Premier (Mr. Davis), to look into it, discuss it, but don’t wait for action. There are too many people suffering now because of inaction. I ask them, please, to do something for the 19,500 unemployed in the city of Windsor, or for some portion of them.
Ms. Isaacs: I, too, would like to address an area where it is very important for the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) to take immediate action to provide relief to individuals.
In his opening remarks, he referred to providing relief to municipalities against the high interest rates and the costs that those were imposing on municipalities. I don’t begrudge municipalities that assistance for one moment, because the assistance will find its way into the pockets of taxpayers in terms of reduced property taxes. But I do want to urge the minister to consider very seriously, and as a matter of extreme urgency, this matter of residential mortgage interest rates and the problems that individuals who are facing renewal of residential mortgages are facing along with that renewal.
There are many approaches that can be taken by the provincial government. I was hoping we would hear about some of them in the throne speech. Unfortunately we did not and we did not hear any indication this morning of immediate action either.
Yesterday evening, a public meeting organized by a citizens’ committee was held in my riding, in one small neighbourhood in Stoney Creek. With very short notice indeed, and on a snowy night, 160 people turned out to that public meeting. Many of those people were individuals who previously had been assisted by the federal provincial AHOP and HOME programs and who were facing mortgage renewals as early as April 1. Many of them were other home owners who were facing mortgage renewals that they knew they could not afford. They wanted to know what they should do.
The minister, during question period this morning, talked about the assistance that the Ontario Mortgage Corporation is providing as a result of the reduced 13.5 per cent interest rates, which are for second as well as for first mortgages. He indicated that that was something positive. Yes, it is. But I want to suggest through you, Mr. Speaker, that it is nothing like enough. Even with a jump from 9.5 per cent or 10 per cent to 13.5 per cent, many of these families are going to be forced from their homes. The estimate is that 160 in Hamilton-Wentworth will face mortgage renewals in April. They are people whose mortgages are held by Ontario Mortgage Corporation. Another 160 face the situation in May.
These people were induced to buy homes by a provincial government program four or five years ago, and they are now being abandoned to almost free-market forces. The increase in monthly payments is more than they can afford. We cannot abandon them, we must deal with cases of individual hardship.
In his remarks about the Ontario Mortgage Corporation’s program the minister failed to mention that not only is the mortgage interest kept a little below market, but also the mortgage term, the amortization period, is kept well over what the market would normally accept. Five years ago those people signed for 35-year mortgages, 35-year amortization periods. Five years later Ontario Mortgage Corporation is offering them renewals with another 35-year amortization period. That means if they accept those mortgages, many of them will be paying for their homes long after they have retired.
Imagine facing a prospect now of having to sign a mortgage with an amortization period of 35 years. It’s something that just terrifies the home owners. There is nothing for them to do at the moment. They are being caught in a squeeze waiting for action from this government and from the federal government and that action must come.
Yesterday afternoon, my colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick), who is unable to be with us this morning, introduced a private member’s bill, which is now known as Bill 10, to provide temporary relief to mortgagers of residential property in Ontario. It is not a perfect bill, but it is an indication of a commitment to do something. If that bill is not acceptable to the government then perhaps the government would suggest a countermeasure to provide equivalent levels of relief, but I would commend the bill to the government and to the Treasurer to study.
If I might seek your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, for just a moment to read a couple of short sentences from the bill which sum up the intent that that bill proposes, the bill begins: “In this act, mortgage means any mortgage of land or premises which the mortgagor resides upon or occupies for residential purposes. Where a mortgage is due to expire between the day on which this act comes into force and the 31st day of March, 1981, the mortgage shall be deemed to continue in effect upon the same terms and conditions until the 31st day of March, 1981.”
I, and my colleague who was responsible for seconding that bill, do not regard those provisions as etched in stone. We recognize that there are some deficiencies, that the word “mortgage” may not be broad enough to cover all circumstances that arise for assistance that is needed to home owners facing unconscionable increases in their monthly mortgage payments. The expiry date may be too far away or may not be far enough away, but something most be done very, very quickly to provide relief to these home owners.
There are other ways of doing it. One of those ways has been used in British Columbia. Another has been used in Saskatchewan. I understand there are others being considered in other provinces. It is within the power of the provincial government to do something.
I am convinced that this bill is constitutional, that it’s clearly within the power of the province to take this kind of effect. It’s clearly within the power of the province to provide financial assistance, if that’s the route one wants to go, but this particular bill, Bill 10, has the advantage of not costing the province indirect costs from other taxpayers.
There’s a precedent for this. There were comments earlier about the 1930s and the Treasurer wanted to remind us of the situation of the 1930s, which fortunately I was born too late to live through as well. The precedent is in the statutes of Ontario for 1933, chapter 45, the Mortgagors and Purchasers Relief Act, passed by a previous Tory government to provide exactly the kind of relief that needs to be provided now.
The situation is desperate and urgent. It’s easy to say that people have to renew at 13.5 per cent because that’s the best they can get, but if they do that they renew their mortgage knowing full well they will not be able to make the payment and in some number of months down the road the mortgage company or Ontario Mortgage Corporation will have to foreclose for default.
How can we ask people, good, honest, law- abiding citizens in all sincerity to sign a mortgage document containing monthly payments that they know they cannot meet? The relief has to be provided now and it has to be provided as a matter of high priority.
There’s a terrible vacuum at the federal level. We learned this morning that the federal government is apparently going to consider the problem. By the time they consider the problem it will be too late for many, many home owners across this province. We need action quickly. We need interim solutions that deal with a problem that we face right now, that home owners face in April and May, and if we can provide them with that relief we can deal with these better programs, we can deal with an interest reduction plan, we can deal with tax credits, we can deal with whatever you want in time and get those programs properly designed and working properly but we need the immediate relief now, became the home owners in Hamilton-Wentworth, in the region of Peel and in many other developing areas of this province are facing the crisis now, because the programs that induced them to buy homes were in place and being sold four and five years ago. It will take time to put good new programs in place. We need to beg for time.
There were some comments about action at the federal level. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, the kind of attitude that has been demonstrated by the party on my right.
Back in January, I attempted to conduct a television program on my regular cable show on exactly this problem, to explain to people what the problem was and what needed to be done and what needed to be said here in this House. The operator of that cable TV station, who happened to be an executive of the local Liberal Party and working for the federal candidate, as he then was, in a federal election, said, “That show shall not go on the air because it is political and partisan during a federal election campaign.”
That is the approach the Liberal Party has taken: prevent people talking about the issues, bury it under the rug, hope that it will go away. It won’t go away. It is desperate. Something has to be done and it has to be done fast.
The bill my colleague and I introduced yesterday is not perfect. There are other reasons that can be used to justify this approach, but the prime reason right now, the very urgent and pressing reason and the reason why I took the time of the House today to raise this matter and to seek the attention of and action from the Treasurer, was the relief of hardship for people who are in homes now and may not be in those homes in a few months time unless we here recognize our purpose and our prime responsibility as elected representatives, to find ways of relieving hardship among the citizens of Ontario.
I can’t tell the minister strongly enough how urgent this is, how important it is that he do something and that he join with all of us in urging the federal government to do something as well. But that something has to come before the end of March if we are to be honest to citizens who are facing mortgage renewals in April -- mortgage renewals they know they can’t afford.
Mr. Acting Speaker: The honourable Treasurer of the province.
Hon. F. S. Miller: The one point on which I certainly agree with the member for Wentworth is that there is a vacuum at the federal level. It is such a vacuum that it sucked the whole voting population in recently.
I was reading a book the other day -- and, of course, I do once in a while read books, other than the comics or things of that nature. It was a book called Duplessis, and it contained an anecdote involving Camillien Houde, who was the mayor of Montreal, and Duplessis. One of the gentlemen had been sleeping in the city of Quebec. He had gone to one of the historic homes where Laurier had stayed and the only problem was, after the home owner showed him the bed where Laurier stayed, he slept in it. He spent the night accompanied by a series of bedbugs and he said to the owner in the morning. “I know I was sleeping in a Liberal bed, but I did not know I was sleeping with the entire Liberal Party.”
Mr. Speaker, two important points were discussed today by the four speakers: the question of interest rates and the question of unemployment in the automobile industry. Both of them have been addressed by me in requests to the new Minister of Finance. I did refer to my letter to the federal minister on the question of interest rates, and I mentioned that I am meeting with him, all being well, next week -- I hope with some other ministers. Because it is obvious that action must be integrated, it is only proper that the discussion takes place before we embark on any programs, whatever they may be, to try to solve the problem.
Of course, it is so easy to dismiss that and say there must be assistance. It is intriguing to me that the two areas that we are now lamenting about -- the effect on small business people and the effect on individual home owners -- were both contained in the federal government budget that was defeated by the combined effects of the Liberal Party and NDP who went around Ontario saying they had to defeat that government.
Sure, we stood up and said what we thought was wrong with the budget, even though they were our colleagues. Members opposite didn’t stand up and say that it was important to have the income-debenture approach for small business people, that it in fact would have brought interest rates to small businessmen at roughly half of the current rates. No one out there was willing to say that; we did.
No one out there was willing to say how important the issues in the federal budget were that gave mortgage interest deductibility and property tax credits to the individual home owners of this province. It would have gone a long way to solving these problems. Now, I hope those things will be copied by the Liberals who have so often managed to copy previous people’s ideas -- wage and price control was brought in after them saying they wouldn’t do it.
No one disagreed with the parts we tackled. We said the 18 cents on gas was foolish; it was. I would like to point out, on the other topic we can only say this: we are obviously going to work long and hard to find a solution that is fair and doesn’t bankrupt the state -- which is you and I and everybody else within it, Mr. Speaker.
There is no use hoping for pie-in-the-sky solutions. Inflation is the real villain. One can’t expect anybody -- whether it is you with your money, a union with its retirement funds -- to loan money at less than the rate of inflation, otherwise you are simply not getting back even the money you invested. There has to be a real cost to interest. Funnily enough, that is seldom more than three per cent.
Interest rates in Europe -- in Switzerland the last time I was there, a mortgage on a home was in the range of three per cent to four and a half per cent. Why? Because they have no inflation. England has a 17 per cent rate of inflation. I would lay you odds that they have a 20 per cent mortgage rate. So, in effect, you cannot separate the going interest rate from the problem of inflation.
That is why inflation perhaps is the most important problem to tackle. We can tamper with it, we can try to effect solutions which will help individuals and we must try. We must do it through the only authority which has trans-Canadian impact -- the federal government.
On the other question of the automobile industry, I took a bit of good-natured joshing from the member for London Centre about my jogging. His leader, in effect, commented that obviously I was dangerous when jogging; I shouldn’t get out there and think. But you know, Mr. Speaker, I am appalled by the lack of understanding of what causes unemployment in the automobile industry; that is lack of sales.
Mr. Haggerty: Buying imports.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I am going to talk about that too.
There are some kinds of sales we can’t really stimulate with a sales tax reduction. I would suggest that if I took the sales tax off paint -- by the way, I have sold that too -- nobody would rush out and buy a gallon of paint, but if I take sales tax off cars, a lot of people do.
Contrary to what the member for London Centre said, people do buy cars who didn’t intend to. Until you change the psychology of the market you don’t even really start to tackle the problem we talked about. That’s the sales part alone; that has nothing to do with the structure of business between Canada and the States.
If Chrysler exhibited the kind of responsibility that many political parties in opposition do -- and I won’t name any -- they probably would have made every single concession and guarantee everyone wanted. They’d all be meaningless. Nothing means anything unless they get their sales up. They could promise people all the jobs in the world in Windsor and then a year later have to tell them no. At least, I’ll give them credit for not making promises they can’t keep.
Discussions are going along at the federal level between the government of Canada and Ontario, trying to make sure that that corporation, which is vital to the economy of Windsor, is kept going. There are a number of people who wonder if it has a chance. I’m an optimist. I believe it has. I even have my son selling them.
Mr. Haggerty: They should follow the principle set by the member of Essex North (Mr. Ruston) by buying Chrysler products.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I am driving a 1980 Chrysler product myself, so I can’t be called a hypocrite.
Mr. Ashe: So is the Premier.
Hon. F. S. Miller: So is the Premier; and so is the Minister of Education.
Another part of the pact that bothers me -- and again I wrote another letter to Mr. MacEachen which I hope to discuss with him -- is the fact that there has been a complete lack, as far as I can tell, of compliance with the auto trade pact by Chrysler in particular over the years. I don’t think anything in the world can make them comply now because they’re trying to hang on to the ropes. But I think we have to make sure we do whatever we can by way of any guarantees that may be required to see that that compliance is improved.
Mr. Young: Why don't you take an equity position?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Equity position? My friend, last week there was an issue of a debenture in the United States for Chrysler. A debenture is a secured form of investment, is it not? Right on the front of that debenture issue is, “No one should buy this issue unless they’re prepared to lose all their money.” When that’s on the front of a debenture issue, equity isn’t very worth while.
Mr. Cooke: So you just give it away.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Let me finish, because we haven’t much time here. I’m as concerned about one aspect that no one touched upon today, that is, the 25 to 30 per cent of the sales in this country that are being made offshore. That’s something we can tackle and we have to tackle. No matter what party we’re in, we have a community of purpose.
Do members know, if the facts I was given are correct, that the Japanese people are dumping their cars in Canada at prices $400 to $600 less than the American market, let alone the Japanese market? The Lada, as I’ve said before, is probably selling at one third of its home price. We are losing jobs that should be protected to those foreign jurisdictions. In effect, we have told the federal government it must protect them. On that, I can assure the member I’m making a strong statement. Twenty-five per cent of the jobs in the automobile industry, my friend, are a lot of jobs in North America. It’s something we all have to fight for whether in the States or in Canada. I think on that part we can be united.
I can simply say that is all I’d like to respond to today. I’m going to work hard on this issue, along with my colleague on interest and on the automobile industry with realistic objectives, and I trust we’ll solve the problem as quickly as we can. I would ask that my motion be passed.
Motion agreed to.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Wells, the House adjourned at 12:55 p.m.