The House met at 2 p.m.
SIMILARITY OF BILLS
Mr. Speaker: On Friday last, the member for Etobicoke (Mr. Philip) raised a point of order in which he alleged that the introduction of Bill 32, An Act to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act, was not in order because the bill proposes to deal with a matter that is substantially the same as Bill 11 which was introduced earlier in this session.
It is well established by standing order 39 that no question or motion may be proposed upon which the judgement of the House has been expressed during the current session. However, in this case it cannot be said that the House has come to a decision on either of the bills, and I must rule that the member's point of order is not in order and cannot properly be submitted at this time.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
INDIAN BAND AGREEMENT
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to report to the members of the Legislature on the progress of the negotiations between the Islington band and the government. Members will recall that the government agreed in 1978 to implement the recommendations in the interim report of the Royal Commission on the Northern Environment that Ontario provide special attention to the social and economic needs of the Islington and Grassy Narrows Indian bands.
The progress of these negotiations over the last five years has been the subject of a number of questions and discussions in the House. In December 1982, Ontario and the Islington band reached an agreement in principle on a wide range of economic development and social programs. These programs are designed to assist the band in its efforts to improve the social and economic conditions on the reserve.
Last January I visited Kenora with my colleague the Minister of Northern Affairs (Mr. Bernier) and addressed a public meeting to explain to interested citizens of the area, the significance of the terms of the agreement in principle. After a wide-ranging discussion, I asked a number of interested local people to form a committee to focus the local concerns and provide me with their advice.
In February I again visited Kenora and met with the citizens' committee, receiving some valuable suggestions, a number of which have been incorporated in the final agreement. On the same day I visited the Islington band reserve and met Chief Isaac Mandamin to deliver to him for his review and response, an interim draft agreement as it had been developed to that time. Because of his desire to complete the agreement with Ontario, Chief Mandamin signed the interim draft agreement and had it delivered to the Premier (Mr. Davis) with a request that the province execute the draft agreement.
While the Ontario government is just as anxious as Chief Mandamin to execute the agreement, the draft signed by the chief contained wording that might have been misinterpreted in the future and I felt a little more time would be wisely spent in improving the style of the document. This has now been done and I have signed what I believe to be a suitable final document and sent it to Chief Mandamin. The differences between the two documents are mainly those I have made to improve the clarity of the agreement and to avoid difficulties that might otherwise arise in its implementation.
It is my sincere hope that the chief will sign this document and that the band will subsequently ratify the agreement so that the benefits the agreement provides can be implemented in the near future.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I wonder whether it is not incumbent upon the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development to table both the documents he referred to in his statement and make a statement about whether he has talked to Chief Mandamin in the meantime.
INSPECTION OF NURSING HOMES
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: In yesterday's question period, the Minister of Health (Mr. Grossman) indicated he would be providing me with a report on the four nursing homes I questioned him about. His exact words were, "The honourable member will have that information by six o'clock this evening" -- that is, information arising from my questions of February 22. I still have not received that report. I think that should be on the record.
Mr. Speaker: I am sure the minister will take note.
I think really these are not points of order. They would be better dealt with during question period.
WOMEN'S ISSUES MINISTERIAL APPOINTMENT
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House of an appointment that will be of particular interest not only to women in this province but to all our citizens.
Twenty years ago the government established the women's bureau in the Ministry of Labour to assist with the growing and continuous participation of women in the labour force. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Ontario Status of Women Council, appointed by this government to advise on any and all matters of concern to women.
It was also 10 years ago that my colleague the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch) became Ontario's first woman cabinet minister. She continues to serve the government --
Mr. Breithaupt: Has it really been that long? It is as though it were yesterday.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Did the member for Kitchener say that? He said "It is as though it were yesterday" with affection and respect.
Mr. Breithaupt: Yes. I did not realize so much time had gone by.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I understand. If only some of his colleagues would demonstrate the same affection and respect.
Mr. Peterson: You always interiect when you are embarrassed, don't you?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am never embarrassed to speak about the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch) at any time, at any place and on any occasion. It would serve the member's own political interest if he would treat her with the same respect.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Is that why you are appointing her minister?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: She continues to serve the government and the people of Ontario with great commitment and dedication and has brought to cabinet a special understanding and sensitivity on issues affecting women. She has been in the forefront of efforts to advance the cause of women in this province, based on her personal and ministerial experiences.
She has recommended to me and to her cabinet colleagues that it is now time that a new structure be put in place to further this cause and I have accepted her advice in this matter. She has also assured me of her continuing commitment and interest.
As members of this House are well aware, these past two decades have witnessed profound change as women have moved into every aspect of working life in this province. Women now represent some 42 per cent of our province's labour force --
An hon. member: Why not a woman prime minister?
Hon. Mr. Davis: A woman prime minister; I will tell the member this: She would be a far superior prime minister of this province than his leader, who happens to be in Washington today.
Mr. Foulds: Why are you relieving her of these responsibilities?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: They are embarrassed because the member for York South (Mr. Rae) was in Dallas yesterday and is in Washington today. Does he not know the politics of Ontario are here?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Why do you feel guilty over there?
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Give her the job.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The members can ask these questions at the appropriate time. Statements by the ministry; the Premier.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Women now represent some 42 per cent of our province's labour force and some 56 per cent of all women work outside their homes. This is a trend that it is obvious will continue.
These changes and increased opportunities for women have been reflected in legislation, in policy and in expenditures by this government. I need not remind members of this House, for example, that the Family Law Reform Act and the Human Rights Code in this province introduced landmark reforms in Canada. This government has been sensitive to the particular needs of women in many other areas as well.
My responsibilities as Premier, reinforced by my experience at home, have caused me to develop a personal interest and concern for the cause of equality of opportunity for women in our schools, in our offices and factories, and in our institutions.
As someone engaged in public life, I recognize the great contributions of women to our labour force, and the potential for even greater involvement as we work together to eliminate those factors that now deny full and equal participation. I am keenly aware that Ontario needs the creative powers and hard work of all its citizens.
In my view, achieving full equality for women is vital to the equity and fairness on which our society is based. I believe we, as a people. can all be proud of the progress we have made as we recommit ourselves to fostering this objective.
It is increasingly apparent, I believe, that many issues of particular interest and concern to women are widely based, affecting several ministries, often at more than one level of government. Therefore we will proceed immediately with the recommendation that a minister be named responsible for women's issues, to provide a needed focus and a co-ordinating role in the delivery and communication of programs and policies designed to assist and encourage women in all aspects of life.
One of the minister's first duties will be to represent Ontario at a national meeting of ministers responsible for women's issues in Ottawa later this month. The minister will, of course, be a voice in cabinet on all issues of interest and concern to women. In partnership with others, this minister will also have the challenging task of analysing all proposals for their effect on women and recommending how these can best be implemented.
In the speech from the throne, the government indicated its intention to appoint a senior minister to undertake this responsibility. I am pleased to inform the House, therefore, that my most senior colleague in cabinet, the member for Brock (Mr. Welch), has agreed to become the minister responsible for women's issues.
This assignment will be in addition to his current responsibilities as Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy. I need not remind this House of the long and committed service of the member for Brock. I am convinced the experience he has gained from the many portfolios he has headed will serve him well in his new responsibilities.
He has demonstrated a long-standing interest in those issues of particular concern to women. It was the member for Brock who, as Attorney General, began the process of family law reform in Ontario. It was he who, as Provincial Secretary for Social Development, introduced a green paper on equal opportunity for women in Ontario, which served to focus public attention and debate.
His great compassion, sensitivity and commitment to human rights are well known throughout Ontario and will continue to serve all the people of Ontario in his new capacity. As I said at the outset. I believe that by achieving the goals of greater equity and fairness to women, we can build a society that is more equitable and fair to all its citizens.
I know members of this House now join me in assuring the minister of our full and enthusiastic support, and our best wishes for much success in discharging this new and significant responsibility.
I want to quote a former chairman of the advisory committee who has said, "The Honourable Robert Welch has been a tower of strength to this council, first as our minister, then as Attorney General. His indefatigable and resolute going to the people in every nook and cranny of Ontario with a film on matrimonial property must he applauded. He promised to listen to the women of Ontario. He will; he is that kind of person. We commend him."
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, let me say at the outset I am somewhat confused, because I was under the impression the policy secretaries were in fact the senior ministers of the crown in the government. However, under the circumstances, I would like to congratulate the new minister. It is a very significant and important step forward, and we fully expect he will show the same concern as his predecessor always had for these issues of urgent and pressing concern for this province.
We have had only a very vague statement about the responsibilities the minister will assume, and therefore I would like to ask him if it is now his intention to consolidate some of the various issues into one portfolio. Will he be responsible for the Ontario Status of Women Council, as well as day care, the affirmative action program, the employment standards branch and a variety of other programs pertaining specifically to women in the work force as well as in the public service? What will his priorities be as the new minister in charge of women's issues in this province?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I think perhaps the Leader of the Opposition will appreciate that, having received this assignment, it will be wise for me to consult with leaders who have taken responsible positions on these issues both in and out of government. Therefore the first round of consultative meetings will start tomorrow.
The Leader of the Opposition has been quite correct in pointing out the various activities within various ministries. This explains, really, why the Premier (Mr. Davis) was very anxious to have a focus and a co-ordinating organization of some kind to bring together all the activities that have been going on in several ministries of this government over the years.
The ultimate structure that will be designed would perhaps best await these consultations and the results of an examination of the various functions that is at present being carried out. I attach a great deal of importance to starting out by consulting with those who have been involved in this work. Number one on my list will be my distinguished predecessor in this responsibility, the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch), who has given such great leadership and has brought her style to bear on this.
I want to indicate that I want to be very co-operative with the government of Canada, which has a focus and a co-ordinating structure as well, together with a number of other organizations. Then I think I would perhaps be in a much better position to recommend to the Premier what should be put in place in order to translate the mandate in some very real and positive way.
In summary, the emphasis now is that we have a sharper focus on it. Indeed, the responsibility of the minister will be to put in place a structure that will co-ordinate all of the many activities at present going on in several ministries of the government.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I apologize. From press reports, I was under the impression that the minister had been briefed by Sally Barnes yesterday and therefore knew all the issues concerned. However, we will give him time to inform himself of the various issues in his new role.
But when he is analysing his own responsibilities, instead of just putting a new structure on some old programs, would the minister specifically promise this House that he will address those problems -- particularly, for example, in his own Ministry of Energy?
According to the latest Status of Women Crown Employees report for the year 1981-82, of 73 women employed by his ministry, 50 hold clerical positions or are in the office service category. Women in his ministry earn an average salary of some $18,189, which is 48.5 per cent of that earned by men in his ministry, which averages out to some $37,525.
With respect to the training and development money in his ministry, although women make up some 50 per cent of the work force in the Ministry of Energy, they receive only some 31.6 per cent of the training dollars. even lower than the 41 per cent spent a year previously.
Would the minister, as he is trying to establish his good faith in this movement and become the new principal spokesman for the government, address his mind to the problems in his other responsibility of Minister of Energy?
Hon. Mr. Welch: I am very pleased the Leader of the Opposition has raised this point, because it does help to illustrate what one of the high-priority issues will be as far as this work is concerned.
The member singles out the Ministry of Energy. That is fair; indeed, I have made it my business to go into these particular facts and figures. The Leader of the Opposition would be fair enough to appreciate that in a ministry such as Energy there is proportionally a very small middle-management group. There is a very large concentration of professional people in a ministry such as Energy, and when one understands that, it helps to underline in a very real way the tremendous importance that has to be placed on bringing into even sharper focus the need for more women to be pursuing careers in the other professions.
As we know, there are increasing numbers of women in medicine and law, but when one thinks of engineering and some of the other professions, I think all would agree that more progress has to be made in convincing women that they can see fulfilling career opportunities in these other professions. That is manifesting itself in my ministry, where there is such a high proportion of professional people.
So I would attach a very high priority to what the member says in so far as occupational emphasis is concerned and women themselves being encouraged to pursue careers in those other professions.
The Leader of the Opposition made some reference to issues, and perhaps in my haste to speak only in answer to his main question with respect to organizational matters I overlooked the fact that he did raise some questions about issues. There is no question there is a great deal of work to be done, building on what has already been done in the area of pensions and pension reform. This was referred to both in the speech from the throne and by the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) in his budget. The member opposite has been assured that there will be further statements on this.
There is the whole area of part-time work, the whole area of further reforms in family law and in skills training, the impact on women of the whole area of high technology and the commitment in the budget of the Treasurer for some million to be made available for skills training there. One could go on.
I want to assure the member that the emphasis, I hope with his encouragement and support, will be positive and progressive in the interests of those who are looking for leadership here for this type of encouragement.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the Premier's announcement today about the appointment of a senior cabinet minister, the member for Brock (Mr. Welch), as a spokesperson on women's issues, although I am surprised it took him about a month to fulfil this promise made in the throne speech, and many years to recognize it is essential to have a minister responsible for women's issues in the same way as our party has had a person responsible solely for women's issues for several years.
I am disappointed the Premier's announcement did not include notification that he had relieved the member of any of his other responsibilities as Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy. I would like to ask the minister if he can tell us just how much time he expects to be able to devote to his new responsibility. Will he have a staff to assist him, and can we expect some new legislation in the women's issues field this session?
Mr. Speaker: There were three questions there and I would ask the minister to address his attention to the last one please.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, in response to the honourable member's question, I do want to underline what I have already indicated to her in writing -- that I am anxious to meet with her as soon as convenient to have the benefit of her views on a number of issues, I do respect the fact that she has devoted a great deal of time to this whole area of women's issues, and I am sure I will benefit greatly from having the opportunity to review them.
Certainly the Premier has assured me I will have the resources that will be necessary in these early stages to bring together people who will be helpful in discharging the responsibilities he has assigned to me. I can assure the honourable member that with the help of those who will be brought together in this organization, we will then be in a better position some weeks from now to make some more specific recommendations with respect to structure.
The emphasis is to get on with the job, to build on what has already been done, to consult with those, such as the member for Beaches-Woodbine, who have a very keen interest in these issues, and I hope to make some real progress.
Mr. Wrye: Mr. Speaker, while the minister is newly appointed today to this job, he has been a long-time member of cabinet and undoubtedly has had some input into some of the major directions the cabinet has taken. I want to remind him that back in April of last year the Advisory Council on Equal Opportunity for Women, followed later by the Ontario Status of Women Council, suggested to his colleague the Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay) that --
Mr. Speaker: I will ask the honourable member to place his question please. The standing orders do not provide for any statements of fact or opinions.
Mr. Wrye: I am just trying to remind him of the background.
Mr. Speaker: I am sure he is aware. Please place your question.
Mr. Wrye: The Minister of Labour was advised that voluntary affirmative action had failed and both organizations suggested that mandatory affirmative action be implemented. The Minister of Labour said that while he clearly recognized the necessity, he did not believe --
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the honourable member please place his question without any further delay.
Mr. Wrye: Can the minister share with us his preliminary observations on whether the time has not now come to move towards mandatory affirmative action?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I think it would be premature on my part to really share any judgement on that particular issue until I have had an opportunity to get an update on this. In fairness, tribute should be paid to my colleague the Minister of Labour who has spent a great deal of time on many of these issues. A tremendous amount of progress has been realized through the voluntary approach.
I am sure the honourable member would be the first to know that a very meaningful way to accomplish goals and objectives is to work from an educative and persuasive point of view to convince people with respect to adopting this and working with it, but I must tell him that I come into this responsibility quite prepared to he persuaded on a number of issues.
The important emphasis in this, and I am sure the member for Hamilton Centre (Ms. Copps) will agree with me, is to give some real meaning and substance to the term "equal opportunity." That is what we are about, that is why we are here: because we agree on this whole concept of equal opportunity for women. Indeed, we want to make sure that we remove any impediment that would stand in the way of their accomplishing that.
TOXIC WASTE DISPOSAL
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, the minister really is wonderful. That was a great speech and I want to congratulate him.
I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. He is aware, I am sure, of the press conference this morning held by Dr. Chant and the Ontario Waste Management Corp. I gather they are moving towards some resolution of the difficult problems they are wrestling with.
What was most disturbing coming out of that press conference is that Dr. Chant's time line now is about four years, and according to his figures, we are still dumping about 750,000 long tons of poisonous toxic waste in a variety of places in Ontario on an annual basis -- in sewer systems, lakes, landfill sites and who knows where. That means in the next four years another three million long tons will be dumped in this province in these same places; presumably, in many instances, in very unsafe and dangerous places.
What strategy does the minister have to deal with these problems until the completion of that facility?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would be well served and would also serve the public of Ontario well if he took the time to sit down and I would be quite prepared to assign the staff of my ministry to sit down with him if he likes -- to review what Dr. Chant and the Ontario Waste Management Corp. are referring to when they mention those kinds of figures. In most instances -- I think it is safe to say in all instances -- it is not the poisonous, toxic material the member is describing that is being dumped everywhere in the province.
There are a variety of classifications of waste in this particularly sensitive area. It is true there are some classifications of liquid industrial waste that are highly toxic. By and large, the most toxic ones are not being dumped. Some are being treated; in fact, a very considerable proportion at present is being treated in the province in places such as the Tricil facility in Lambton county.
There are some less harmful liquid wastes and the member must not assume that all liquids fall into the category that he has just described -- that are still going into some six or seven landfill sites which have been examined and are approved for that purpose.
I was not present at the press conference, but I understand there are a number of industrial sludges that have been included by the waste management corporation in its calculations. Those industrial sludges are regarded by many people as not suitable for categorization as hazardous materials.
There have been ongoing discussions between the staff of the waste management corporation and the staff of my ministry since one of the earlier reports of the waste management corporation in which there was a very large figure for unaccounted-for waste. All those figures are currently under review because it appears the consultants used an erroneous method to collect the data; we know they erred very substantially in some communities. We have done actual industry-by-industry surveys that demonstrate the consultants figures were quite erroneous.
Mr. Peterson: If there is no problem, why is the minister going ahead with the waste management facility?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I did not say there was no problem. For example, polychlorinated biphenyls are being stored in this province, as I think the member is aware, in places like Smithville. Ontario Hydro has a site or two where they are being stored. We must find appropriate ways to destroy those, but in the interim they are being stored. Certain other materials are being stored at present, and we will be diverting other materials, as the time is appropriate, into the waste stream that will be handled by the waste management corporation.
I have never said there is not a problem. All I am saying is that the kind of exaggerated and distorted statement emanating from the member, for example, in the question he raised this afternoon, serves no one well and does not communicate accurate information to the public. The problem is being addressed and will be addressed in plenty of time.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, regardless of the extent of the problem, there is a problem out there. There are some toxic wastes that are not now being stored that perhaps should be. Is the ministry developing interim plans for dealing with some of the problem areas in the time frame between now and getting the waste management corporation operation in place?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, we are certainly looking at a variety of things; for example, effective methods of PCB destruction. We have almost completed the guidelines that will be subject to an environmental assessment, which I hope will lead to the utilization of available technology in the destruction of PCBs before the end of this year. In the interim we will continue to look at any available method to safely dispose of hazardous or potentially hazardous materials.
To suggest there is a rampant problem out there is not correct --
Mr. Swart: Time.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you. The minister has answered the question.
Mr. Elston: Mr. Speaker, the minister will be told shortly, if he has not yet been told, that Dr. Chant has indicated there has been some consultation between himself and his ministry with respect to the numbers. Dr. Chant indicated today that no information was presented to him that would dissuade him from his original contention that half of the 1.5 million long tons of generated waste for which his corporation was responsible would not be treated.
I challenge the Minister of the Environment to reduce the 750,000 tons, which my leader spoke about, by half between now and 1986-87. Can the ministry reduce those wastes by half in that time?
Hon. Mr. Norton: That is a very interesting question, Mr. Speaker. How long do I have?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: You have 39 minutes and 27 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Norton: It is a very complicated question. I am not sure whence that question emanated, where the magic figure of a 50 per cent reduction came from. Is the honourable member suggesting I eat it?
There is a problem in terms of volume of waste, no question about it. Major strides have been taken in terms of recycling some of that waste, particularly oily wastes. That has now given rise to two new industries in Ontario that are thriving on the recycling of oily wastes.
We will continue to work with industries to try to generate that kind of utilization of organic waste material. Whether we can achieve a 50 per cent reduction in that time frame, I do not know, unless the member is suggesting we start shutting down industry in the province.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the newly named spokesperson on women's issues. The reason I had hoped the minister chosen for this post would have been relieved of his other portfolio responsibilities is that women in Ontario occupy a second-class position in many fields.
Specifically, I want to ask the minister what is happening in the apprenticeship training field. Recent statistics from the Ontario government indicate that there are 856 fewer women apprentices now in Ontario than in 1981 and that whereas there has been an increase of nine per cent in total apprentices, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in women apprentices. We seem to be moving backwards in training women for skilled jobs.
What steps will the minister consider to ensure full access to mandatory skills training programs?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, as the honour- able member will recall in response to the main question of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Peterson), there was some emphasis placed on this whole question of skills training. Indeed, as the member will recall, the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) has made an allocation of some $4 million in this year's budget, with a special emphasis on this idea of skills training. That will be administered, as the member knows, by the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Miss Stephenson).
I have no reason to want to dispute the figures mentioned by the member. What we have before us is a golden opportunity to impress upon guidance counsellors and people involved in the education system to ensure there is a broadening of the horizons with respect to the career opportunites that women see for themselves. I think that is a very important point.
I hope the resources which the Minister of Colleges and Universities has and this whole concern that is being expressed with respect to the impact of the advances in high technology, particularly on women, will provide us with an opportunity to attach an even higher priority to getting busy in the area to which the member makes reference.
As we reflect upon where we are, I point out to her that I think it was my colleague the member for Lincoln (Mr. Andrewes), when he was making his very excellent contribution in the throne speech debate on May 3, who used that opportunity to draw attention to this whole area of women's issues and brought us up to date on some of the progress that was being made. I commend him for that speech and for having included this particular area as part of his interest.
But I go back to what the member has urged on us and would attach some very high priority to that particular concern.
Ms. Bryden: I fail to see how it is a very high priority to provide skills training for women when the Treasurer said in his budget that he was going to introduce a number of new skills training initiatives in certain fields, only one of which would be for women. He did not give any specifics as to what that field was or what any of the other fields were either. That kind of vague promise from the Treasurer does not leave us with much to go on as to any action in this field.
Can the new spokesperson tell us whether he believes he can overcome the wage gap between men and women without adopting the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and mandatory affirmative action?
Hon. Mr. Welch: With the greatest respect, although I would like to address the matter, the supplementary is not related to the main question; it is a brand-new question. We were asked about --
Mr. Laughren: That's not for you to judge.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Do you want to be Speaker too, as well as women's minister, Minister of Energy and Deputy Premier?
Hon. Mr. Welch: In all fairness, and I would hope that fairness would prevail, the main question was about the apprenticeship program; now we are talking about equal pay for work of equal value. I am simply asking whether that is supplementary.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the minister please not enter into debate? He may answer the question if he wishes.
Hon. Mr. Welch: If we are now talking about equal pay, I would think I would be correct in drawing to the member's attention the speech from the throne and the commitment of the government to want to continue whatever steps are going to be necessary to close the gap in salaries or wages earned by men and women. That commitment is set out there.
There has been some interesting work done by the advisory council and by a number of others to take us from where we are now, as far as the equal pay provisions are concerned, although I must be very honest to share with members that I have not gone into all the intricacies and ramifications of the new composite test, which is seen as a progressive step towards a fuller realization and appreciation of some of the problems.
Ms. Bryden: It was promised a year ago.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Certainly as of this appointment today, I tell my friend, one of the matters on my agenda is to translate the commitment made in the speech from the throne to close that gap.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, when the minister made his comment earlier about the poor record, trying to justify the lousy record of his ministry in hiring women, in which he said most people working in capacities in his ministry are working as professionals, it reminded me a little of some years ago when the banks were looking for women for their boards of directors. They started by telling the women of this country that the reason they could not get women on their boards of directors was that they did not have women qualified for that.
In coming at this portfolio, the minister has to come at it with an open mind that there are women who are professionals who could be working in his ministry to clear up his record.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Ms. Copps: If the minister is really serious in going by the voluntary method, expecting the people of this province will bring in equal pay for work of equal value, how can he justify the fact that in his own ministry his record is substantially lower than the provincial average? For every dollar paid to a man in his ministry, 48.5 cents is paid to a woman. This is substantially lower even than the provincial average, which is not adequate for women in this province. How can he justify that when his own record in his past ministries is not acceptable and is intolerable?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, in all fairness, I would think the honourable member would want to be accurate. As a follow-up to the question of the Leader of the Opposition when he made reference to my ministry, I was not using the question of professional recruitment as an excuse. I was pointing out that in the Ministry of Energy there is a predominance of engineers, and I invited the member to look at the record as to the number of women who are preparing themselves for that profession.
I welcome the comment, as I welcome this member's comment with respect to the need to be aggressive and on the job with respect to that, but by the same token we have to make sure young women are being encouraged to see career opportunities in those other professions, of which engineering is one. That is the point I was making.
Because of the large numbers of, say, engineers in the ministry, it is perhaps not fair to make those judgements about that ministry. We have very few in the so-called middle management group. I am not here to try to defend what the situation may be now. I am here, I hope with the member's support and encouragement, to make improvements and progress.
We have a choice. We can spend all our time here talking about yesterday or we can get on and build on what has happened and make an even brighter tomorrow as far as equality of opportunity is concerned.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, can the minister give us a commitment today that he will take one concrete step before this House adjourns in June or July to improve the condition of women with respect to equal pay for work of equal value, affirmative action and skills training and to reverse the scandalously low number of women in executive positions in the public service of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has the commitment of this government with respect to the appointment announced by the Premier today, the statements made in the speech from the throne and the progressive steps we have already taken in the budget. After all, with respect to the business of the Canada pension plan, the commitment in the budget on pension reform which will be announced by the minister, the whole tone is progress. I am quite prepared to be judged some months from now on that, which will be the fair time.
INSPECTION OF NURSING HOMES
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health with respect to violations of unenforced regulations of the Nursing Homes Act and regulations.
It being after six of the clock on Monday. and the report not having been delivered as promised, let me ask the minister, since we dealt with Country Place Nursing Home yesterday and the violations there -- by the way, they are still delivering meals in a golf cart, I understand -- can he confirm or deny that his inspectors found violations of the regulations at the Lakewood Nursing Home in Huntsville, specifically violations of subsection 56(12) of the regulations which require adult-sized beds for adult-sized residents -- in other words, the beds were deficient in size -- and of clause 56(c), having to do with the requirement that a resident who is in a restraint should have his position changed every hour by a registered nurse or a registered nursing assistant?
Can the minister confirm that those or other violations were found at Lakewood?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that there are some violations at Lake- wood. I also want to apologize to the honourable member. I mentioned yesterday that I thought the information he had requested and I had undertaken to provide for him on three nursing homes several months ago had already been put in his hands. Later, when I asked why he had not had it, I discovered the answer was that since in all those cases it had been determined that indeed there were violations, our legal staff, pursuant to our instructions to move immediately where there were any violations throughout the system, had commenced certain proceedings in each of those cases, and therefore the distribution of some of the details could perhaps harm the ultimate success of the prosecutions we had undertaken.
That covers Country Place, which has indeed been charged. With regard to Lakewood, Barton Place and Good Samaritan, final decisions have not yet been taken, but they will be taken in the next day or two.
Mr. McClellan: My concern is very simple. As in the case of the Ark Eden Nursing Home, one is free to draw the inference that the violations in each of these nursing homes took place under the nose of Ministry of Health inspectors and that the violations were not brought into enforcement until the matters were raised in the Legislature.
I want to ask the minister whether that is the case. In Barton Place, Country Place, Lakewood or the Good Samaritan Nursing Home were there violations of the regulations that were known to the minister's inspectors before February 21 or 22?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: As the member knows, we began to increase our inspection opportunities as long as a year ago, when a special team was brought into the ministry on contract to begin to review all the nursing homes in the province. That process took a number of months last year; so the simple answer to his question is that the crackdown had begun almost a year before the question was raised in this House. It took us most of last year to complete one inspection program of the province in some detail.
Finally, with regard to some of the other matters, those were done earlier this year. In the case of Country Place, which the member asked about, there have been six inspections done in the past month and a half.
Mr. McClellan: The minister is aware that as of April 14 the Ark Eden Nursing Home was still in violation of the act with respect to subsection 56(12), residents were still occupying cribs that were deficient in size, and the Ark Eden Nursing Home is still in violation even after the inquest.
Will the minister tell us whether it is true that there were adult-sized residents at the Lakewood Nursing Home living in infant-sized cribs, which, as the minister knows, produces curvature of the spine and respiratory difficulties? Can he tell us whether there are adult-sized residents at the Sunnydale Nursing Home at Sunderland who are living in infant-sized cribs?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: As I have indicated, if the member wants us to provide any details that our legal staff feel we can provide with regard to the new home he has raised this afternoon, we will try to provide them.
As I look briefly and quickly through the circumstances with regard to Lakewood, it appears that what we might call the crib or undersized bed problem is not one of those identified; but I would want to have another look at this in some more detail before I confirmed that.
ASSISTIVE DEVICES PROGRAM
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, I also have a question for the Minister of Health in regard to his prosthetic devices program. The minister is aware that it has been close to a year and a half since his predecessor and the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch) announced a $13-million-a-year program to cover some 15,000 handicapped children in our province.
Is the minister aware that as of the end of March 1983, only 6,808 children, not even half the 15,000 in need of the program, had been covered at a cost of only $2,553,000 instead of the expected $13 million'? Obviously the minister's program is being implemented very slowly, if at all.
Further, is the minister aware that the upkeep of a wheelchair over the three-year period which is allowed for in the program before replacement sometimes equals the cost of the device, that the life expectancy of a wheelchair is only between six months to a year and that batteries for mechanical chairs cost between $75 and $100 and have a life expectancy of two to five months?
Is he also aware that all maintenance costs and the cost of batteries have to be borne by the users?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, let us put the figures in some perspective. The phase-in period was well known when it began. That is, it was known it would take one year to phase in the entire program. No one in this House or anywhere else suggested that on July 1, 1982, there would be 10,000 or 15,000 young people covered on day one. The members of the advisory committee and the members of this House knew that.
A committee was set up so there could be an orderly and proper phase-in of the program as arrangements were made for each of the different devices. As of March 31 -- I think the figure the honourable member gave was somewhat low, but not that low -- there were 6,445 covered; and without the introduction of some of the new programs that are coming on, just taking it on an annual level, that would indicate there would be 9,700 covered by the end of the first fiscal year. As well, with the visual aids program for which a subcommittee of the committee has been struck, if we introduce that as of September 1, 1983, that will add another 10,000 young people at one fell swoop.
All in all, wherever the member is getting his information, I think most members of the committee would report to him that there is an orderly and proper phase-in of the program, as was anticipated. It is not behind, either in numbers of people covered or in the moneys being spent.
Mr. T. P. Reid: It is nice that the minister, as usual, is so complacent about this, but there are a lot of people who need these devices. In view of the fact that the minister has got almost $10 million, regardless of what he is talking about as far as phasing in goes, it is obvious he is not going to find the 15,000 he was targeting. Once again I ask, will the minister consider expanding the program to cover those people who are over 18 years of age?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: When the program was introduced, my colleague indicated, and we have subsequently confirmed, that at the conclusion of one full year of operation there will be a total review of the program to see where, when and if the program should be expanded. I am also confident that at some stage, when we have got the necessary expertise and advice, there will be an expansion of this program.
I should also say the fact that as much moneys as anticipated may not be spent is due in part to the excellent work of the members of that advisory committee. It has turned out that some of the assistive devices have been obtained at more advantageous prices and under more advantageous arrangments than was the case in other provinces which leapt right into it without doing this kind of work in advance and ended up paying far more than was appropriate.
The extent to which the budget is not fully spent is something that is not a criticism, I take it, as long as the number of children who ought to be covered are being covered. We seem to be on target on that basis.
RIGHT TO REFUSE WORK
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour regarding the risk to the foetus of cytomegalovirus, or CMV, in that it can cause in utero death or severe retardation.
Does the minister not agree that any risk is too great for the three female teachers employed at the developmental day care centre of the Algoma District Mental Retardation Service in Sault Ste. Marie, since two are pregnant and one is planning a family? If so, will the minister intervene personally to ensure that these teachers are given the same rights to transfer as the female social workers of child-bearing age at the centre, who are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, or at least are given the right of leave of absence at full pay?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, in response to that question, I would advise the honourable member that I have already intervened personally. A meeting was arranged with the director for the board of education in Sault Ste. Marie, and it is my understanding that the concerns of the parties involved personally with this problem -- and I share those concerns -- are being addressed. The matter, if not resolved, is well on its way to being resolved. I am surprised to hear that question. It was my understanding that everything was straightened away.
Mr. Wildman: For the information of the minister, I was informed by the superintendent of personnel that the board of education and the Ministry of Community and Social Services had failed to work out an agreement on physical separation. As a matter of fact, the board of education has referred the matter to the regional office of the Ministry of Education in Sudbury. The teachers are on a temporary leave of absence with pay until the matter is resolved, but at this point it is not resolved.
Does the minister not agree that this case is similar to that of the pregnant worker at the Midwestern Regional Centre? That worker had the right to refuse unsafe work to protect her unborn child, under section 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Since teachers are excluded from the Occupational Health and Safety Act, they cannot protect themselves or their foetuses in the same way.
If the minister does agree, will he move quickly to amend the act to include teachers and all other workers who are not now covered, as recommended by the task force headed by my colleague the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel)?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: The ministry, in consultation with the Ministry of Education, has been working towards exactly what the member is asking for; that is, coverage of teachers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We have that as an objective, and I am quite sure we are going to be able to reach that objective in the not-too-distant future.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, is the minister prepared to allow me to ask a supplementary of the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson). Is that all right with you, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker: It is up to the minister to redirect if he so desires.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, I would just as soon the honourable member directed the question to me.
Mr. Bradley: I will direct it later to the Minister of Education.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. His ministry has known for more than 10 years about the hospital bed shortage in Ottawa-Carleton. His own ministry's figures have brought out the fact that there is a shortage, at least this year and in 1982, of around 175 hospital beds. These are the figures published by his own ministry and by the Ottawa-Carleton Regional District Health Council. Yet the senior minister for Ottawa-Carleton does not buy these figures and is quoted as saying he does not believe there is a hospital bed shortage.
Given this situation, why would the minister refuse the new Ottawa General Hospital an additional 80 beds, for which apparently there is some $7 million available for construction? He would prefer, according to the reports, to see the money spent on what is called "community health care," when everybody in Ottawa-Carleton, including the district health council, says the highest priority should be to alleviate the hospital bed shortage.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member would read some of the comments made by his Health critic, he would learn that some of the community-based programs we have been talking about, which the New Democratic Party Health critic and I have been pushing for and trying to introduce, do alleviate the bed shortage. They enable people to stay in their homes, to be discharged from the hospital area and to make and be given better use of community resources.
The geriatric assessment program that is going into place at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, with the support of this government, will be one of the great milestones in this province in terms of making sure that a better assessment is made of those people currently in hospital who could be discharged and that they are sent to places, be it homes, community programs or other institutions, where they will have more appropriate treatment and thus alleviating some of the bed pressures that may be existing in Ottawa.
Most other areas of the province would like to get that sort of service. The Ottawa-Carleton Regional District Health Council in Ottawa has been pushing very strongly for it. In fact, that was the subject of its recent meeting in my office.
I also wish to take this opportunity to correct the record, Mr. Speaker. Not only has my colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Mr. Bennett) been speaking to me about this matter for many months -- long before the member dropped in this afternoon, having read this in the Ottawa Citizen -- but also all my colleagues from the Ottawa area have been talking to us about this problem.
As a result, in addition to the geriatric assessment program, which will alleviate pressure on those beds, the Elisabeth Bruyère Health Centre has just opened 98 chronic care beds. Also, we are adding a palliative unit of 30 more beds; the geriatric assessment unit is 18 beds; 29 cardiac beds are being planned at the Civic and could open in September.
Later, the Civic will reopen 70 acute beds that were temporarily closed for renovations. Ambulatory care improvements will take place at Hal Montfort and the Salvation Army Grace General Hospital. The Royal Ottawa Hospital has expanded some of its outpatient services, which again will alleviate some pressures, and St. Vincent Hospital will receive $1.25 million.
Mr. Martel: Is this a statement?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: It is a complete answer to the shallow allegations being made that the answer to the pressures in Ottawa would be to move to a strict bed guideline.
Having listened to the debates in this House, I would have to say that, with the exception of the member for Ottawa East (Mr. Roy), everyone has agreed the way to go in this province is to community-based programs, outpatient programs and the kinds of things we are doing in Ottawa rather than putting in more beds.
Mr. Roy: I am glad to hear the minister say his Conservative colleagues have lobbied effectively to see that there are additional hospital beds in Ottawa, because in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen the editorial said, "The attitude of local Conservative MPPs towards the well-documented problem of hospital bed shortages in Ottawa-Carleton is puzzling, to say the least."
That was what the Ottawa Citizen said about the minister's Conservative colleague.
Why will the minister not accept the recommendations of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional District Health Council and of committees in Ottawa which say clearly we are short 175 beds? Will the minister answer my question instead of just talking to the member for Ottawa South? Why will he not pay attention to my questions?
Mr. Speaker: Order. I heard the question very clearly. I am sure the minister did as well.
Mr. Roy: He was talking to the puzzling member for Ottawa South. May I complete my question, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker: I think you did. I heard it very clearly.
Mr. Roy: Not quite. My question is, will the minister allow the Ottawa General to build an additional 80 hospital health care beds?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: There are not very many areas of the province for which the minister can stand up and recite the number of new beds, which I think total 147, as I recited them a moment ago --
Mr. Roy: Is that why the minister was reading the answer?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: If the member wants to talk about reaching the provincial average, let me tell him --
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. That was not the question, with all respect.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, since the minister is making it quite clear that he is not prepared to bring Ottawa-Carleton up to the provincial average in terms of hospital beds provided, and since I presume he intends that Ottawa-Carleton is to be treated on a basis of equality with the rest of the province, is he now saying it is government policy that there are to be further cutbacks in active hospital treatment beds across the rest of the province?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I knew I would get the opportunity, and I thank the honourable member. In terms of the member making his final assessment with regard to overbedding or underbedding, there are two things he ought to keep in mind. First, there is the new hospital that is being built on the Quebec border. The member knows very well that will alleviate perhaps all the pressures and entirely change the ratio.
Mr. Roy: That's not what the health council says.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I hear a noise out of this ear.
Mr. Roy: Well, you should hear a noise.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Quite obviously, they do not want an answer.
DONATIONS TO POLITICAL PARTIES
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The minister is no doubt aware that municipal funds have been spent by Mr. Frank Biss, Peterborough director of development and a prominent Conservative, to attend $150 per plate Tory dinners for the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) and the Minister of Health (Mr. Grossman). Does the municipal affairs minister not agree that making donations to the Conservative Party or to any other party is inappropriate use of municipal funds, and will he initiate a public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act into this abuse as has been suggested by a number of residents of the city of Peterborough?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest if there is some wrong use of municipal funds, that is entirely a municipal responsibility. I have not received any request.
Mr. Philip: I wonder if the minister realizes that under section 17 of the Election Finances Reform Act, corporations may make contributions to political parties. Does the minister feel that municipal corporations should have that privilege or does he feel an amendment is perhaps in order to exclude municipal corporations from giving funds to the Conservative Party?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Let us go back for a moment. The very party now asking a question wants to have autonomy at the municipal level to make decisions by council. I trust this expenditure must go through the municipality at some point or other. Whether it has or not I do not know, but I am clearly saying it is the municipal council's responsibility, if it is levying funds to operate its industrial commission, to review those expenditures. I do not know whether the municipal council has approved it. I am suggesting to the member if he wants autonomy at the municipal level, then if the council has approved those expenditures, so be it. I have not had a request from any party at this point to examine any funds that have been expended --
Mr. R. F. Johnston: You just got one.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Just one moment; I have not had any request from that community at this point to review any of the expenditures of that commission.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the minister is aware of the situation. It obviously raises a number of implications, presumably many of which we will review as we look at amendments to the act. Has he, and if he has not, will he request the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) or the law officers of the crown to see if there have been any violations of the Election Finances Reform Act. I am referring specifically to subsection 20(1) in this particular case. Will he request that review to see if there have been any violations of the law?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to request a review of the situation if there seems to be an outstanding situation. Let me add only one other comment. Most of the industrial commissions that exist in this province, that is at the municipal level, do not exist entirely on municipal funds. There are contributions by the private sector to some of them to maintain the viability of their communities. The board of commissioners or directors of those corporations, generally speaking, are composed of members of council and the private sector. I am prepared to look at the situation.
Mr. O'Neil: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: While we are on this point, the minister has just made a statement. I would like to accuse him of using funds from his ministry for political purposes, in that when he sends out or gives out cheques, or there are moneys being given to certain ridings, that he only allows his --
Mr. Speaker: Order, the member for Quinte; new question.
The minister, a point of privilege.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: Since it has now been indicated by the member for Quinte that I have taken some privileges he believes I am not entitled to, as a minister of this government, I want to suggest to you, Mr. Speaker --
Mr. Speaker: I just ruled that it was not a point of privilege.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: But, Mr. Speaker, the accusation has gone into the record, unless the member wants to strike it out --
Mr. Speaker: Perhaps you would like to correct the record.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I would correct the record by saying that I never want to embarrass an opposition member in delivering any kind of a program on behalf of this government, which the members opposite so seldom want to support at any time.
Mr. O'Neil: On that same point of privilege. When the minister goes into our riding --
Mr. Speaker: Order. It is not a point of privilege.
Mr. O'Neil: I believe it is a point of privilege.
Mr. Speaker: No, it is not, with all respect. Order. The honourable member will resume his seat, please.
Mr. O'Neil: Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the record.
Mr. Speaker: Order. You cannot correct the record on behalf of somebody else. This is getting into a debate, so we will have a new question.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Deputy Premier in the absence of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells). I wonder if the Deputy Premier would be aware that last week the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs tabled the annual report of the office of the government co-ordinator of French-language services in this Legislature.
On page 15, the report states, "The government policy and budget commitment to the expansion of French-language services is a high priority." On page 28 of the same report it quotes the Solicitor General (Mr. G. W. Taylor) as saying, "The ministry is pursuing this program to recruit provincial police officers with French-language capability."
If such is the commitment of the government, can the Deputy Premier tell us why, after the wife battering report stated there is "a severe lack of French-language services in the Ontario Provincial Police," the Solicitor General stated in a letter to me on January 28 that "No further advertising to attract bilingual candidates would be contemplated" and he was satisfied that less than 10 per cent of the applications came from bilingual officers?
Is the Deputy Premier satisfied with that or what does he intend to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Welch: I would be very happy to discuss this matter further with the Solicitor General. I think the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, who has returned to his seat, would be the first to point out to the honourable member that the overall report shows significant progress in positioning services to accommodate the French-speaking population of the province.
SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE OMBUDSMAN
Mr. Runciman: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to present a special report from the select committee on the Ombudsman and move adoption of its recommendations.
This is not the sort of report from the Ombudsman's committee with which members are familiar. It is a special report on the ways in which the assembly may act to make its voice heard against political killings, imprisonment, terror and torture. This stems from a resolution brought forward by the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick).
I would urge all members to take 10 minutes or so to read this brief report. In it we explain why the committee, along with the government of Canada, believes that although foreign policy is properly the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada, there is an important and useful role for the Ontario Legislature in speaking out against violations of human rights throughout the world. We also indicate a number of possible methods the assembly may choose for fulfilling this role. The committee looks forward to hearing a debate on this report.
On motion by Mr. Runciman, the debate was adjourned.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
INCORPORATION OF VAL RITA-HARTY ACT
Mr. Piché moved, seconded by Mr. Eves, first reading of Bill Pr25, An Act to continue the Corporation of the Township of Owens, Williamson and Idington under the name of the Corporation of the Township of Val Rita-Harty.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MISSIONARY CHURCH, CANADA EAST ACT
Mrs. Scrivener moved second reading of Bill Pr4, An Act respecting the Missionary Church, Canada East.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
DAVE HOLLIDAY LIMITED ACT
Mr. McKessock moved second reading of Bill Pr8, An Act to revive Dave Holliday Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
THUNDER BAY UNITED CHURCH CAMPS INCORPORATED ACT
Mr. Hennessy moved second reading of Bill Pr10, An Act to revive Thunder Bay United Church Camps Incorporated.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
THOMAS-HAMILTON-WEBBER LIMITED ACT
Mr. Breithaupt moved, on behalf of Mr. Van Horne, second reading of Bill Pr11, An Act to revive Thomas-Hamilton-Webber Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
CHURCH OF THE VIRGIN MARY AND ST. ATHANASIUS ACT
Mr. Kennedy moved, on behalf of Mr. Jones, second reading of Bill Pr16, An Act to revive Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Church of the Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
The following bill was given third reading on motion:
Bill 7, An Act to incorporate the Toronto Futures Exchange.
LANDLORD AND TENANT AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved second reading of Bill 32, An Act to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on this bill.
Mr. Speaker: Sorry. The member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) was up first, and I did not see him.
Mr. Cassidy: He is just short, that's all.
Mr. Speaker: No, he is not. It is the rims on my glasses.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I had thought the minister was going to make a statement on this. Is he prepared to make a statement on the bill, or is he just going to introduce it?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I have no opening statement. I really have nothing to add to what I said when I introduced the legislation last week.
Mr. Epp: I am pleased to be able to speak to this bill and indicate from the outset that my party will be supporting the proposed legislation, although we will have some amendments to make at the appropriate time.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, we have supported the rent review legislation for some time. I might draw to the attention of the members that it was my colleague the former member for St. George who introduced a private member's bill back in the early 1970s that first got on record the principle of rent review. It was only after that the New Democratic Party adopted this particular policy. So that being --
Mr. Cassidy: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Epp: Oh, he woke up.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: If I might correct the record, my bill proposing rent review in Ontario was presented for first reading in this Legislature and debated before the member for St. George was even elected to the Legislature.
The Deputy Speaker: I do not know if that is a point of order or not, but it is on the record.
Mr. Epp: It may be a point of order, but it is not true. Anyway --
Mr. Stokes: Try to be factual.
Mr. Epp: I am. That's what I am trying to do.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Don't provoke them.
Mr. Epp: Irrespective of what the honourable member from the third party says, we are very much in support of this bill and we want to indicate that the government has not gone far enough with respect to legislation governing rent review.
We know, for instance, that we had a restraint bill here about six months ago, and at that time it was fully debated. We introduced some amendments at that time. Members will recall that we took the position that we supported the five per cent restraint legislation.
The legislation covered financial costs but did not cover operational costs. We felt at that time and we still feel that when you are going to have restraint on a particular piece of legislation, that legislation should extend to the operations, because if people's wages are going to be limited to five per cent, there is no differentiation made in where their money goes, whether into financing or into operations. Therefore, we feel very strongly that the government should take it upon themselves to extend that legislation.
Of course, the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) understands this very well, because he has a number of tenants in his own constituency of Eglinton, and I hope he feels he should support this kind of legislation. So we feel the government should in the future embark upon a more extended course and bring in amended legislation.
The other matter we would like to draw to his attention is the fact of the registry. As members know, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie) has pigeon-holed this particular suggestion for some months now. In fact, the government has not done anything on it since it was suggested in the standing committee on general government back in 1978, when Bill 163 was being debated.
We feel a registry should be kept where rents would be itemized and tenants could see the different rents that other people pay, so that some people are not, so to speak, ripped off, as they are now because they do not have any idea of what the person paid before in that particular unit. It would be very easy for the government to implement this in the various apartment buildings across the province, in the several thousand apartment buildings that are located both in Toronto and outside Metropolitan Toronto.
So we urge the government to take this suggestion seriously and not to wait until two or three years hence. Eventually they will have to implement it. If they do not implement it within two years, they will not have to worry about it because we on this side of the House will implement it.
So they have an opportunity to go on record as implementing a very good suggestion; but if they care to leave it too long, then they will lose their opportunity. You know what I am referring to, Mr. Speaker, and you may be in a position where you will not even have a chance to vote on it. Who knows?
The third thing I would like to point out is on demolition control. A private bill was suggested to the Legislature more than a year ago to have some control over demolition so developers could not just take a building, demolish it and thereby eliminate X number of units from the rental market. As members know, we have a vacancy rate of less than one per cent in Toronto, and I know the Attorney General is very attentive to this matter.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Just off the record, who was the fellow you introduced me to in Ottawa at the constitutional conference -- the president of some association?
Mr. Epp: Did I introduce you to the Prime Minister?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: No. Some fellow who was there. I just wanted to get his name.
Mr. Epp: Why don't you send me a note?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I wanted to send him a transcript of your comments on property rights.
Mr. Epp: Yes. You support that and I support it.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I just wonder, as long as you're being able to reconcile everything you're saying now.
Mr. Epp: Oh, I don't think that is inconsistent at all. You know it is not inconsistent, otherwise you would not be supporting these amendments and would not be supporting the principle of property rights. As you know, I had a resolution on the order paper -- in fact, I still have it. I know you would not support anything inconsistent, and since you are supporting both those suggestions, then there was no problem.
Now, to deal with demolition control, before the Attorney General interrupted me -- and I know he will be supporting this private bill in the future if he has not supported it in the past. It is to prevent many valuable units from being taken out of the market because some developers demolish buildings for whatever reason.
One of the suggestions is not to demolish just any building, and part of that principle was that they would not be able to demolish buildings if the number of units represented more than half of what is permitted under a zoning change in a particular municipality. Toronto has asked for that.
I know some of the colleagues of the Attorney General support that bill. I wish he would not embarrass his colleagues by being slow in introducing and supporting that legislation. They are putting pressure on him. It would make it easier for him and his family, himself and 69 members, if they were to support that bill. I look forward to his introducing that government legislation in the House again or supporting the private bill.
This bill will prevent some of the landlords from converting apartment buildings to condominium-style buildings. Unfortunately, in any kind of legislation, what has happened and will happen in this case, is that some people who have purchased some buildings, maybe for only a few people, and legitimately tried to convert them because their own group or families wanted to participate in the ownership and move in, are going to be hurt.
What has happened is that some of the developers and landlords and so forth who have bought big buildings and converted them to condominium-style complexes have hurt many of the tenants. The tenants have been evicted on short notice and because of the low vacancy rate, they have not been able to find similar accommodation at a similar rate in the neighbourhood in which they chose to live. The Attorney General and his colleagues should take very seriously the proposals made by this party, the third party, as well as by many other groups that more incentives have to be built into the market so more apartment units will be built.
One of the reasons that the tenant problem is so acute, the problem of finding units, is that not enough units are being built in the province. There are all kinds of reasons we can give. I suppose one of the most important reasons in the last 10 years for not building apartment units is not rent review, as some people have suspected and suggested it is. It may be part of the problem. I will not say it is not part of the problem. But one of the major problems has been the high interest rates.
What the government could very well do is build in some kind of incentives -- they have done some of it, but I do not think they have done enough -- in order to build many of the apartment units people so badly require across the province. When one has a vacancy rate of less than one per cent, then one knows what kind of difficulties people have in trying to find a single apartment of two or three bedrooms.
In my own experience only a few years ago, trying to find an apartment in downtown Toronto was very difficult. I had to be on a waiting list for some months before I was able to find an apartment. The Speaker and other members may have had the same difficulty. This is often for a second residence and is not as acute for members of the Legislature as it is for the family who only seeks a single apartment in which to reside.
Another point I want to raise has to do with hotel conversions. There are a number of apartment owners who have chosen to convert their buildings into hotels. It has happened in the constituency we are in. It has happened in Parkdale where my colleague the member for Parkdale (Mr. Ruprecht) resides. It has happened in the Eglinton riding of the Attorney General. It has happened in almost every riding in Toronto.
Owners take an apartment building, evict the tenants, put in their own furniture and then bring in new tenants who pay on a weekly or monthly basis, whatever the case may be. It is another excuse for increasing rents and evicting tenants who often cannot afford to pay the exorbitant rates chosen by the landlord. It is a form of ripoff that the new hotel owners often use. They often do not provide the facilities one would find in Sutton Place or other hotels where they have dining facilities and other facilities consistent with a hotel. All they do is call it a hotel and have regular apartments. The government should close this loophole that is obvious to everyone, but it is very reluctant to do so. I hoped when this legislation was introduced, it would have been a natural place to introduce legislation to close that loophole.
There is also a proposal in this bill that apartment buildings with fewer than six units be exempt from this legislation. We will be introducing an amendment to decrease that to four units. We will also be asking the government to refer this bill to a standing committee so people who want to speak, either in support of the legislation or in opposition to it, will have an opportunity to do so.
I want to make it very clear we are not asking to have the bill sitting in a committee for some weeks or months and not coming back to the Legislature. We feel very strongly that this legislation should be passed by the end of the month. A number of tenancies will be affected by it and we do not want people to be evicted for reasons of condominium-style conversions. We do, however, ask the government to refer this to a standing committee for a day or two and then bring it back to the House so it can receive third reading and royal assent.
Those are my comments at this time. I want to speak further on the amendment we will be proposing, but I hope to do that in the standing committee rather than in committee of the whole.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, my colleague the member for Etobicoke (Mr. Philip) will speak on this bill a little later. I would like to begin our contribution to this debate by paying him tribute for Bill 11, An Act to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act, from which the minister's bill has been copied. In the end, the minister chose to respond with a bill whose wording absolutely mimics Bill 11, which came from the member for Etobicoke.
That member's bill was originally put forward in response to the problems that have been created by the court ruling, which permitted this purported occupation by somebody, the occupation of a whole building, where a group of people got together on a co-ownership, tenant-in-common arrangement. It is no surprise that the initiative originally came from here. In fact, there are a number of other related areas where I am sorry the minister has not chosen to act.
We share with the opposition and the government a desire that this particular loophole be closed quickly. There is a time element in this, because the application of the bill will be to any hearing that takes place after the bill has been proclaimed. Therefore, there is a note of urgency in all this. At the same time, I am disappointed that the government did not recognize long before now the difficulties we are having in areas where there is a substantial amount of rental accommodation. That includes my riding of Ottawa Centre and the region of Ottawa-Carleton as well as Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, London and some other parts of the province. I am disappointed that the government chooses to act so slowly and with such reluctance when these problems come up, or to respond on such an ad hoc basis when it has been so clear for so long that we need more than just ad hockery to ensure a fair and equitable network of protection in implementing our commitments to protection of tenants in this province.
The spokesman for the Liberal Party has suggested the bill be referred out to committee. Since it is their prerogative to do so, I presume the bill will go to committee. If that is the case, we should make arrangements now by agreement within the parties so that the relevant committee is forewarned at this time and so that the committee will be enabled to have hearings at the earliest possible opportunity. When the bill goes out, if that is what is to be, there should be a deadline for it to come back in at the earliest possible time so that it is actually passed.
The problem is that there are other things my party and I would like to see happen with this bill, which are not going to be able to take place given the limitations on time. I would like to speak to those, though, because it seems to me it is important that the Attorney General know the kinds of problems we are experiencing with respect to tenants and with respect to actions by landlords, by lawyers, by developers and by speculators, which are having the effect of undermining the protections that were meant to be given by the Residential Tenancies Act and the Landlord and Tenant Act.
I was in my constituency yesterday and I went to see a constituent who had asked to see me. I sat down with this fellow in a small basement apartment and got chatting with him. This is one of hundreds of thousands of stories that could be told about Ontario today. This person had the misfortune to have been working with the Beach foundry when it shut down in November 1980. That was a part of the Admiral group. The mismanagement that led to the shutdown of Admiral in Mississauga was preceded by mismanagement that led to the shutdown of the company's factory in my riding in Ottawa Centre.
When this shutdown occurred, my constituent lost a good job that was paying $8 or $9 an hour, I am not sure which. Anyway, it was enough for him and his wife to be able to live comfortably and to be able to pay the rent. He was unemployed for most of a year after that. He finally got a job working as a cleaner, and just the other day he had an increase in his job that took him from $4.50 an hour to $5 an hour. His take-home pay is of the order of $340 every two weeks. His rent right now is $265, and his landlord has informed him that he is to be evicted with his wife at the end of June because the landlord wishes to acquire the basement apartment for the purpose, it is said, of renovation.
I suspect modest renovations will be done to the apartment and that subsequently it will be re-let at an extremely high rent. In the meantime this constituent, who is decent, hardworking, aged 47, may or may not be able to get a decent and secure job for the remaining 20 years of his working life, and he is now to be put on the street. He fears he may have to pay $350 or $400 a month in rent. How the devil is he going to be able to pay that when his take-home pay every two weeks is only $340? I do not know, but that is the kind of situation we are facing in my riding right now, and it is not addressed by this bill.
I met with a large group of constituents in the Mayfair Apartments on Metcalfe Street in downtown Ottawa. Some of them, including the former owner of the house I live in in Ottawa, have been living there for 10, 15, even 20 years or longer. It has been a stable group of tenants, some of them quite elderly. Along comes a new owner of the building. who suddenly passes around a notice saying, "We are awfully sorry, but the management has decided we are going to do some renovations, and you are going to have to get out."
When the tenants began to inquire into this, they found that before the notice was even given about these fake repairs to be made, the landlord had started to make a public offer for people to buy into the apartment on a tenant-in-common or co-ownership basis. The Ontario Securities Commission wanted to look at that. It has been a loophole that may have been closed for future applications.
In the meantime the people who lived in that building have been kicked out. Other people, elderly tenants, were eventually told they could stay in return for agreeing to increases of up to double their existing rent, increases that are flagrantly illegal, but they simply fear too much to fight them. No action is being taken on legislation to prevent that kind of evasion taking place in the future.
The third thing, referred to briefly by my colleague from the Liberal Party, is the problem of conversion to apartment hotels. I have an apartment hotel in my riding. It is the Arosa Apartment Hotel, situated on MacLaren Street near Elgin in downtown Ottawa.
A year or a year and one half ago the apartments in that building were renting for $340 to $400 per month. The landlords then decided they would convert it to an apartment hotel. They successively converted the units as people moved out. They issued some eviction notices, if I recall correctly. Now those same apartments, with nothing done to them at all, are renting for as much as $40 per night. They rent on a monthly basis from $700 to as much as $1,200 per month, depending on how one chooses to rent them.
That has been deemed to be okay as far as the government is concerned. Somebody puts a few sticks of furniture into an apartment, calls it an apartment hotel, starts to rent it by the week or by the day or on a short-term basis and suddenly he has shaken himself free of the Landlord and Tenant Act and of rent review.
In the case of the Montebello Apartments, also in downtown Ottawa and also, as it happens, on MacLaren Street, the landlord has been systematically seeking to evict the tenants because of a change of use. The change is that the landlord wants to convert the building from rental residential property to an apartment hotel.
The fact is, the zoning in that area does not permit having an apartment hotel in the area, but that does not faze the landlord. There has been a series of court battles, and there are now about seven or eight tenants who are still hanging on and fighting, trying to establish in law that what the landlord is seeking to do is wrong and illegal.
In this case the building had something like 125 units. Most of the tenants were not in a position where they could afford the risks entailed in going through an eviction proceeding and trying to fight the eviction in court, in paying the legal fees and running the risk that if they lost, they would be put out on the street with perhaps a day's, a couple of days' or a week's notice to find alternative accommodation in an apartment market in Ottawa where the vacancy rate is currently between 0.2 per cent and 0.7 per cent, depending on which count is made.
That is the situation we face right now. The minister's amendments will not respond to the problems of the people in the Mayfair Apartments, the Arosa apartments and the Montebello Apartments. What they will do is respond to the needs of a narrowly defined class of situation, which was found in Metropolitan Toronto and which we have had the hint of happening in Ottawa as well. They do not respond to the overall problem.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad you are listening as attentively as you are. The overall problem is that, because of the failure of the government to have a commitment to prevent people from walking around rent review, all sorts of wide operators and fast-buck artists are seeking a way to evade the protections given to tenants in rent review and in the Landlord and Tenant Act. If you plug an individual loophole, they will come along and try to use another one.
That is what is happening now. I would contend very seriously that it is an extremely unfair situation as far as tenants are concerned. It does not represent what I thought the will of this Legislature was when we adopted rent review back in 1975. I believe it is also a situation that is inefficient in providing decent accommodation at a fair price, which should surely be our objective in Ontario.
When the minister goes back to his home and his riding, he must go up Avenue Road. If the member for Etobicoke (Mr. Philip) would stop talking with the minister for a minute, I would like to make a suggestion to the minister.
When he drives home up Avenue Road one evening, I would ask him to turn right at St. Clair Avenue.
Mr. Breithaupt: When he is driven home.
Mr. Cassidy: When he is driven home, that is right. I forgot about those perks. When he is driven home, would he ask his driver to turn right on St. Clair and would he look at a number of town houses that are on the north side of St. Clair at the first intersection east of Avenue Road?
Those town houses were built after the developer evicted a group of people from an older apartment house that occupied that site for probably 50 or 60 years. In some cases they had been there for many years. The rents were low; the location was good; the accommodation was decent. It provided a service for people, many of whom were on quite modest incomes.
Now six or eight town houses have been built there. They cannot be very attractive, or they are overpriced, because half of them are still vacant; they have been neither sold nor rented. We go from having maybe 40 apartments, which provided accommodation to people who now have to be subsidized in rent geared to income or senior citizen housing, or people whose lives have been disrupted, to a number of town houses that are not even being used. That, I would contend, certainly is not an adequate answer to the kind of housing problems we have in Toronto today.
We have those situations in Ottawa, London, Hamilton and other parts of the province as well because the government is prepared to see housing for greed as a priority over housing for need.
When it comes to the specifics of this particular bill, we would like, as I said earlier, to have a chance to spend some time in order to improve it. We would also like to suggest a number of other improvements to it. I think those changes are going to have to wait until we get Stuart Thom's report or until some of the legislation comes forward.
I hope those other matters I have adverted to will be responded to by amendments coming from the minister himself. We will be moving an amendment with respect to the number of units, because we think that six is too many to be exempted from this particular bill. My colleague the member for Etobicoke will be moving and speaking to that particular amendment.
I would like to suggest that if the Liberal Party wants this matter to go into committee, it should very seriously reconsider the suggestion that the matter go outside the House because of the delays in the passage of the bill that would be introduced as a consequence. Many people are going to be evicted from their homes on May 30 if this bill has not been proclaimed by that time. That is only 13 days away from today. Therefore, rather than send the bill out and run the risk of its not coming back, I would suggest the bill be kept here, that we have the discussion in committee of the whole House.
If anybody wishes to put forward a position, it can be put in the hands of a member from one of the three parties, who can perhaps introduce their concerns into the Legislature. It is also open to people who have more general concerns about the issues I have been raising to raise them before the Thom commission during the weeks it still is going to be heard. But I do have to ask -- and the city of Toronto obviously is of this feeling as well -- whether it is worth while to send the matter out to committee if people whose homes could be preserved will be evicted as a consequence of the matter going out to committee.
In conclusion, we will support the bill. We are sorry it is piecemeal and will only plug certain loopholes. We recognize that this particular loophole does need to be plugged, but on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of many other people across the province I certainly wish the government would be aware of the fact that there are these fast-buck artists who are looking for ways to evade the existing law and, in response to that, that the government would either come in with comprehensive legislation to plug all the loopholes we know of right now or look to the creation of certain powers to prevent people from taking end runs around what the law clearly intends in providing security of tenure and rental protection for every tenant in Ontario.
Mr. Ruprecht: Mr. Speaker, this legislation meets the concerns of tenants with respect to the present right of multi-owners to evict tenants under clause 107(1)(b) of the Landlord and Tenant Act. The intent of this bill is quite laudable, but what it does not cover is one of the most important things that is happening at present in my own riding. I am happy to see that my favourite Minister of the Environment (Mr. Norton) is here, and also the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Shymko), in whose riding the effects and loopholes of this bill will be felt by the people there.
Let me briefly tell the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) what kinds of havoc and problems are related to the specific loopholes this bill does not cover. It is very important to ensure that the minister gets full counsel with respect to what will take place if this bill is passed, even though it is laudable and the intention is very good, without the amendments of the opposition parties. Let me tell him what will happen in certain districts, including his own.
I will first speak quickly to the minister about the purposes of the conversions that are at present taking place in some of the apartment buildings. As he knows, clause 4(a) of the Residential Tenancies Act exempts from its jurisdiction "transient living accommodation provided in a hotel, motel, inn, tourist home, hostel or other similar accommodation."
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act landlords are allowed to evict tenants when possession of a residential unit is required for "conversion to use for a purpose other than rental residential premises." The approach an increasing number of landlords has taken is that, by furnishing previously rented units and supplying those units with everything right down to linens and dishwear, the accommodation can be categorized as being "other than rental residential premises." Landlords are therefore calling these units hotel units and are raising the rents up to as much as three times the amount previously charged.
In Toronto, with which the honourable member is very familiar, the zoning bylaws state that hotels are not allowed in residential districts, but this does not mean hotel-like accommodations are outlawed. In fact, they are not outlawed under present zoning bylaws. The zoning bylaw in the city of Toronto includes in its definition of "a hotel a building or a part of a building used mainly for the purpose of catering to the needs of the travelling public by supply of food, and also by the furnishing of sleeping accommodation of not fewer than six bedrooms."
As we know, there is no common dining room in these former apartment buildings where it is claimed that conversions by landlords to hotel units have occurred. Therefore, despite whatever advertising a landlord may choose to do, the city zoning bylaw would not define those buildings as hotels and, as such, they are not illegal from a zoning point of view. That means the city of Toronto cannot outlaw conversions, nor under present legislation can it stop what takes place in these neighbourhoods from Scarborough to North York to Etobicoke and certainly in my own area of Parkdale.
Let me briefly provide the minister with a specific example of a case or cases so he can get his teeth into these problems in order to change this legislation and to have an open ear and an open mind to the amendments that are going to come from our party and the third party.
Let us look briefly at the case of 540 Sherbourne Street, I think in the riding of St. George. That apartment building contains 93 apartment units. The landlord, Toronto Apartment Building Co. Ltd., has through attrition over the past two or three years converted approximately 80 per cent of these units into, as they say, furnished hotel units. Toronto Apartment Building Co. Ltd. issued notices of termination of tenancy to the remaining tenants, claiming that the units were needed for conversion into hotel suites.
Judge H. Ward Allen ruled recently that the tenants could not be evicted on these grounds. His decision is being appealed in the Supreme Court of Ontario by the landlords, but we have no guarantee that the forthcoming judgement will plug the loophole. That is why the amendments are necessary in this specific Bill 32.
The next case concerns me directly, and that is the case of guarantee that the forthcoming judgement will plug the loophole. That is why the amendments are necessary in this specific Bill 32.
The next case concerns me directly, and that is the case of 200 Jameson Avenue, 96 Jameson Avenue, 109 Jameson Avenue, 166 Jameson Avenue and a host of other buildings in Toronto. In the case of 200 Jameson Avenue there are 97 units in the building; 39 have now been changed to furnished units. The landlord has applied to the Residential Tenancy Commission for rent increases for the remaining 58 units, claiming that the 39 furnished ones were exempt from the legislation.
Unless the minister is willing to plug this loophole, there will be tremendous damage done to certain communities and their stability. That is my basic point. If conversions to these hotel-like units were to be permitted, the first significant step that would be taken by the landlord would be that tenants would have to move. We all know that this specific conversion process is used for one purpose only, namely the purpose of tripling the rent and getting around the protection that was supposed to prevent tenants from being overcharged. Some landlords are moving in this direction to get away from the Landlord and Tenant Act, which protects tenants.
The minister is well aware of the shortage of apartment units in Toronto in the first place. Consequently, if the loopholes are not plugged, these tenants are not only going to be asked to move and consequently and indirectly change the very nature of the community, as I will outline in a minute, but they are then going to be asked to find accommodation someplace else.
In Toronto, with a vacancy rate of less than 0.3 per cent, can the minister tell me where these tenants, who have been unjustly moved because of the greed of some of these landlords, are going to find accommodation? That is the unfairness of this situation. They are going to be kicked out and they are going to be looking someplace else; and as members know, there is simply no place else to go. That in itself will create a great hardship for these tenants.
Second and just as important, what happens to a community where these buildings are placed? When these tenants move, their children move along with them; that is obvious. The repercussions of this will be felt in the schools, by the teachers and in the very stability of the neighbourhood. When these tenants are asked to move -- and there are hundreds on Jameson Avenue -- it will affect at least two schools in the area when these children are withdrawn. It will affect the teachers; it will affect the very quality of education in that area.
While these repercussions will be felt indirectly, in a direct sense the area will deteriorate, and the people who have claimed in the past to be stable neighbours and stable tenants, who have looked after their properties and looked after the very streets in those neighbourhoods, will no longer be there to take an interest in the stability and cleanliness of that area.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I think all members will agree I have been extremely lenient in the discussion of this bill. Although the member's point is very well taken, I think he is straying a little on second reading of the proposed piece of legislation.
Mr. Ruprecht: I will sum up quickly. I am simply indicating to the minister that this specific bill does not cover a very important aspect of tenant rights. By accepting our amendments and amendments of the third party, by a stroke of the pen the minister can make a significant change to create a stable neighbourhood.
If the minister were to change this legislation, which, as I said earlier, is laudable, he would re-create and restabilize a neighbourhood -- and neighbourhoods in all of Metro Toronto -- that would in turn be very grateful to him. I would urge the minister to listen to the advocacy of our party and our official critic, who has indicated that he would wish this bill to be referred to either committee of the whole House or a standing committee or a special committee. In that way either people who have a direct interest in this bill could be heard or there could be an open discussion in this chamber so that amendments could be heard and made and legislated.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak in favour of this bill. I have pointed out before that this bill is pretty much a replica of Bill 11, which I introduced some time ago; indeed, it is word for word a copy of Bill 11, including the explanatory note. I appreciate that the Attorney General thinks so highly of my work and the work of my colleagues in the New Democratic caucus that he would follow with such exactness a bill that we introduced and called for some time ago.
This is not a new problem, despite the copyright laws and despite the fact that he as a university man, I am sure, knows there are certain rules about putting "ibid." and "op. cit." at the bottom of work that is copied. I realize that under the rules of the printing of bills there is no provision for that, but he might at least have shown some appreciation for the work of such people as Mary Bentley.
Mary Bentley is a real estate agent who saw that the kinds of things that were happening to senior citizens in the Lakeshore area not only were immoral but were creating real problems for those people in that community. Because of this she and groups such as the Lakeshore Tenants' Association and the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations made their views known in no uncertain terms both in the media and to members of this House. The Attorney General might have mentioned those people when he introduced this bill instead of three Tory back-benchers. The tenants called me up and said: "What are they named for? Who are they? What did they do in all of this?"
The Attorney General might have had the good grace at least to acknowledge that I had introduced the bill, had written to him and had asked questions in the House some time ago and that, indeed, it was in response to questions raised by the leader of our party and by me that he made the promise that legislation would be forthcoming within 10 days. He did not make his deadline, but he came fairly close to it; and one has to compliment him on at least being in time to prevent what on the 31st of this month, we are told by lawyers acting on behalf of certain tenants in the Lakeshore area, will be court hearings for as many as 30 families. These 30 families, many of them seniors, will be faced with eviction unless this bill passes and passes quickly, as a result of the unfortunate decision in the Medeiros case.
I can understand the reasoning of the Liberal Party in asking to send this out to committee, but I am somewhat puzzled by it. I am somewhat puzzled by it because I am sure that as responsible people in this Legislature they would have done the same thing my colleagues and I and, indeed, it appears the Attorney General have done in consulting with some of the tenant groups. They would recognize the very serious problem we have that this bill must be passed and must be proclaimed by May 31 or a judge hearing the case of those 30 families may come down with a decision similar to the Medeiros case, and these people could find themselves out on the street.
It is fairly clear that if this bill goes to committee, there will be no time to advertise, to have the kind of public input that is desirable and that would have been commendable had this bill been introduced even a month ago.
So I ask the members of the Liberal Party to reconsider their position seriously. If there is some way in which this can go to committee outside the House, have some hearings and have the assurance it will come back and be proclaimed before May 31, then we in this party, who have on numerous occasions referred the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs report or countless tenant bills out for public hearings, would be the first to agree. But I suggest to members that unless we have that assurance, it should simply go to committee of the whole House and we should deal with the bill and get it passed today, if possible.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: With respect to the bill going to committee, coming back and being passed by May 31 so the tenants can be protected by this legislation, I made that one of the conditions when I spoke. Had the honourable member listened, he would have understood me to say that.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I find the Liberal Party position confusing. The second speaker said "a committee or committee of the whole." We are not quite sure what they want. All I am saying is that I hope what they want is the same as what we want, which is to get the bill passed and to ensure that it is passed and proclaimed before May 31.
This is not a new problem. This is a problem that dates back to 1976, when there was the first attempt to get around condominium conversion bylaws by those people who wanted to sell a percentage interest in a building with an allocation of an apartment. It was called a tenancy in common. At that time I rose in this House -- the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie) will recall this -- and I pointed out that an immediate stop had to be put to this kind of practice.
After the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Drea), who had recognized the problem when he was serving as parliamentary assistant to the minister, became the minister, legislation was brought through in the form of section 60 of the Condominium Act. At that time the government assured us the problem was solved. Of course, we saw that it was not solved, that there were still buildings, such as the Tandridge Arcot project, such as 41 Garfella, that had just the impossible situation where one had consumers, ordinary poor people, who thought they were buying a condominium or something like it, who were minority-interest holders in a building. We still had the same kind of frustration of one poor person trying to get possession of an apartment that was being occupied by someone of similar economic means who, of course, felt he had the right as a tenant to hold on to that apartment. This bill will not solve that problem.
Despite the fact that the Attorney General had assured the House, in answer to my questions in 1977 and 1978, that tenants were protected from eviction, the Medeiros case suddenly said they did not have that kind of protection. But in the interim, that period of time between 1976 and 1978, there were still a number of evictions going on -- illegal evictions, evictions by harassment or, as happened in so many cases, people simply saying, "I am tired of somebody knocking on my door and saying, 'You have my apartment; please give it to me.'"
This bill will save those tenants who are willing to exercise their legal rights to stay in those apartments. But it does not solve the overall problem; people will still merchandise using this technique, certain individuals will still find a way around the condominium conversion bylaws and, later, around section 60 of the Landlord and Tenant Act, and the consumer, as well as the tenant, will still be the one being ripped off.
In one of the early conversions, which was 41 Garfella in Rexdale, the people in that building now have appealed to the borough of Etobicoke to allow them to convert that building to a condominium, notwithstanding the fact that they would not normally have that right because they would not meet the criteria of the condominium conversion bylaws. Their plea is very simple. They are minority interest holders in a building in which the principal landlord can do anything he wants. They cannot even get the information about what he is doing. They are placed in an impossible situation.
What is even more frightening -- I predicted this would happen, and we are now seeing the light is that nobody will give a mortgage on those things. Suppose somebody said to the president of a mortgage company or somebody working for a bank, "I want a mortgage," and he said, "Fine, what do you have?" He does not have an apartment. He does not have a clear title. He has a share in which some other guy has the majority of shares and can do whatever he wants with the building. Would one put out money on that kind of investment? One would be pretty crazy to. Even Greymac would not invest money in that kind of thing.
The people at 41 Garfella are faced with a very serious problem; they own a percentage interest in the building, the mortgages are coming due now on the building and the mortgage companies will not touch it. What the people are asking is for the borough of Etobicoke to approve something which it would not normally approve under its condominium conversion bylaws.
I feel sorry for the Attorney General and for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie). The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has tried to plug this; he has tried to protect the tenants by introducing some changes to the regulations under the Securities Act requiring disclosure. We have a case now in which the owners of 557 The East Mall are arguing that they are not in violation of the Securities Act because they did not file a prospectus.
We have two ministers, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and the Attorney General, who are trying to solve a problem for tenants, and I congratulate them on it. But they are both going through the back door to try to solve a problem that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing could solve by an amendment to the Planning Act to give municipalities the right to pass judgement on any alternative use of buildings and to say either, "Yes, it is in the public interest" or, "No, it is not in the public interest and you may not do this."
We need that kind of legislation, the same kind of legislation that Toronto asked for in Bill Pr13, when it said, "We want the right to say 'yes' or 'no' when somebody comes to us and says we want to demolish an adequate apartment building," and that other bodies have asked for, saying, "We want control over this kind of end-run around the condominium conversion bylaws."
I feel sorry for these two ministers. What they are trying to do is prop up the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, who has failed to act and who could solve the problem through the front door and stop this situation once and for all, not just with this kind of conversion but with the hotel conversion system that my colleague the member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy) has talked about and the mayor of Ottawa has pleaded with the Housing minister to solve.
What we are going to see is a continuation of conversions in this manner. What this bill does is very simple. It says to tenants, "If you want to go ahead and exercise your legal rights, you cannot be evicted." But it will not stop the sale of buildings like this. It will not stop the harassment of tenants by those who have purchased the shares.
I urge the Attorney General and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations -- knowing his concern for tenants, he is probably already doing this -- to convince the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to do his job, because they cannot do it for him. I am not responsible for whatever cabinet splits there are. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has failed to exercise his job, and the Attorney General is in this situation. I feel sorry for him. I am glad the Attorney General has done something. That is more than the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has done.
We will be supporting this bill. As my colleague has indicated, we feel the exemption of six units is too high in areas such as Lakeshore and York West ridings. In Humber riding, there are apartments along Dixon Road that are sixplexes, and I can see the same real estate companies that are merchandising the slightly larger buildings, ranging from 30 to 90 apartments, saying, "If Bill 32 has caught us, we will go out and find a bunch of people with smaller buildings, sixplexes and less, and we will merchandise them with this gimmick anyway."
At the same time, I can recognize that the minister wants to protect the rights of families that may want to buy a small complex to have their parents or grandparents living close to them and for tax or other reasons may want some kind of equity situation split up. Therefore, we will be moving an amendment that the word "six" be changed to "four." We think that protects families who want legitimately to buy buildings like this so that they can be close to older parents and so forth. At the same time it will protect tenants in many areas such as in Lakeshore riding where there are a lot of small apartment buildings.
I am pleased the minister has responded. We will be voting for the bill. We hope that it can be dealt with expeditiously in committee of the whole and that the tenants will be protected from eviction when their cases come up on May 30.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, in relation to a brief history of this legislation, I appreciate the expressions of support from the members opposite, and the concern that is shared on both sides of the House in relation to tenants.
It is rather unfortunate that the member for Etobicoke continually uses the word "plagiarism." The fact is that very similar sections were contained, as he knows and as I pointed out the other day, in the Residential Tenancies Act in sections of the legislation that were not proclaimed. I could compliment the member for Etobicoke, when he wished to introduce a private member's bill, for going to that government legislation for those sections, but I think he might have wanted to give some credit to the people who drafted those sections in introducing his bill.
Mr. Philip: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, to correct the record: The legislation the minister says was not proclaimed could have been proclaimed by the government. In fact --
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): That is not a point of order.
Mr. Philip: Will you hear me out, Mr. Speaker?
The Acting Speaker: I am telling you it is not a point of order.
Mr. Philip: You listened to the minister; now listen to my point of order.
The Acting Speaker: No. I am saying it is not a point of order.
Mr. Philip: It is a point of order. How can you tell it is not a point of order when you do not even listen?
The Acting Speaker: I have heard enough.
Mr. Philip: I am trying to correct the record, Mr. Speaker. The legislation did not come from the government; it was the work of the standing committee on general government. The wording is entirely different. If the minister had wanted to go that route, he would have copied that wording rather than my wording. I did not take it from the general government committee proposal. For the minister to suggest otherwise is simply nonsense.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I invited members of the House to look at the legislation. Obviously with respect to that, we are talking about a residential tenancy commission about which there was a constitutional challenge. I congratulate the member for being wise enough to adopt that earlier wording with the change from "the judge" to "the commission." He should not get all hot and bothered about it, but I think he might have given the original drafters some credit, that is all.
When we talk about plagiarism, I remind the member for Etobicoke that both sides of this House are very well served in a most distinguished fashion by legislative counsel. Both sides of the House rely on legislative counsel to put into words the policy we agree upon. Legislative counsel advised members on both sides of the House about how to accomplish what we all wanted. To call that plagiarism, with all due respect, is indulging in some rather excessive and inaccurate rhetoric.
Be that as it may, I am pleased to have the support of members opposite. This is legislation to close a loophole. I agree with the comments of the member for Etobicoke that there is some degree of urgency. We did not expect the court to rule the way it did in the Medeiros case. We would like to have this legislation passed, and I know all three parties wish to see that happen as soon as possible.
A note that was passed to me a few moments ago indicated that the official opposition is now prepared to deal with this in committee of the whole. I thank them for that co-operation.
On the issue of six units as opposed to four, I think I can say now that we will not be accepting that amendment. But at the same time we recognize it is an issue about which reasonable people can disagree. Both four and six are relatively arbitrary figures. To accommodate the very type of situation the member for Etobicoke referred to, mainly large families or people with other close associations, it was decided in our caucus that six was a more reasonable figure for people who desire to acquire not a large unit for family use or for individuals with other close associations.
I am simply not in a position to accept the amendment, because this was something that was debated at great length in our own caucus and I do not have the authorization to change the wishes of our caucus and cabinet in that respect. However, I do respect the intentions behind the proposed amendment and obviously concede, whether it is six units or four, that it is an issue about which very reasonable people can disagree.
I will conclude by thanking members opposite for their support in relation to legislation that is needed at this time. I think all members are well aware that the other issues which have been raised will be addressed by the Thom commission. Whether it is hotel conversion or any of the other issues, these warrant some additional study and I hope they will be addressed when the Thom commission reports.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
PROVINCIAL COURTS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved second reading of Bill 1, An Act to amend the Provincial Courts Act.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I do not think I have anything to add to what I said after the introduction of this bill. I would only be repeating myself.
Mr. Breithaupt: Mr. Speaker, as the Attorney General mentioned, his comments on first reading of the bill were quite clear in that there were concerns expressed by the Court of Appeal in a recent decision with respect to the serving beyond ordinary retirement age of certain judges and the necessity to obtain a reappointment from the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
As the members will recall, this change in legislation is before us as a result of a variety of comments and activities which occurred concerning the matter of judges' independence and which appeared at some length in the media towards the end of 1982 and in the early part of 1983.
The result of the case, which was particularly the matter of Her Majesty the Queen versus Walter Valente, meant the impartiality of judges and their independence was called into question under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the court viewed the circumstances with some concern.
Provincial judges' associations and others were concerned about whether a judge might be thought to be truly independent when he or she required certain salary arrangements, as well as other appointments and decisions, based upon the Attorney General of the day and whatever government policy might be.
Accordingly, to enhance the independence of the provincial judges, we now have Bill 1 before us. We certainly will suppport the bill. It is important to us to ensure every opportunity is taken to underline the independence of our judiciary. If there was some concern, because of the mechanics by which salary arrangements were reached or by the requirement for some approval to allow an annual continuation of employment after the normal retirement term, then those difficulties must be quickly laid to rest.
As I have said, the Attorney General set out quite clearly the purpose in this matter and we agree with it. The annual approval will now take place by the Judicial Council in these matters with respect to those who might choose to serve or be available to serve after the age of 70 and until the age of 75. I think it is most appropriate that there would not be appointments after the age of 75. Surely that is a sufficient term of service, and those burdened with the judicial cares and concerns could be allowed some retirement time as they approached what perhaps could at least be their latter years.
We support the bill and look forward to its implementation in legislation.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I was going to speak, but I will give the floor to my colleague the member for Riverdale.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, Bill 1 is before us to fulfil a commitment made by the Attorney General at the time of the case of Her Majesty the Queen and Walter Valente, concerning the independence of provincial court judges. It was decided by the Court of Appeal, with the Chief Justice of Ontario giving the judgement for the whole court.
In two places in that judgement, a specific reference is made to the commitment of the Attorney General to introduce this bill. On page 28 of the judgement of the court, the Chief Justice further pointed out that the Attorney General was prepared to introduce at the next session of the Legislature an amendment to the Provincial Courts Act which would substitute the approval of the Chief Judge for his approval as the basis for reappointment between the ages of 65 and 70.
Again, at the very end of the judgement of the Chief Justice, he states, "I have also noted the willingness of the Attorney General to introduce an amendment to the Provincial Courts Act in this connection substituting the approval of the Chief Judge for his approval." So we have a bill with the very limited purpose of meeting the commitment made by the Attorney General with respect to the question of the provincial court judges' independence.
Our caucus will support the bill. We have no amendments to propose.
I do want to take a moment or two, now that this question of the independence of the judges has come before the assembly for the first time in a formal way, to refer to some of the criteria and comments that were made by the Chief Justice of Ontario, W. G. C. Howland, at the opening of the courts on January 7 last.
In the course of his remarks, he refers to the report of Chief Justice Deschênes on the independent judicial administration of the courts and to the study that was undertaken by a 17-member committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Osler; that is, a committee of the judges of the court. The committee comprised the heads of the provincial, county and district courts, the Supreme Court and other representative members of the judiciary.
In an unanimous report, the committee approved of the first two stages in the Deschênes report, namely, consultation and decision-sharing between the judiciary and the executive, but did not favour at this time the third stage of independent judicial administration. It considered that for significant judicial independence, the following were essential. First, the judges should be consulted concerning provisions respecting tenure and should be assured that provision will be made by statute for a regular review of judicial salaries and annuities, at some stage of which the various categories of judges affected will be consulted.
The second comment is not appropriate for the bill that is before us but deals with the line between matters to be dealt with by the judges and matters to be dealt with by the Attorney General in the administration of justice. Amongst the matters that must be within control of the judges is that of the activity of court personnel but not control of their salaries or the general terms of their employment, which is a matter we can refer to on another occasion when another bill comes before us.
I did want to ask the Attorney General, in the light of the comment made by the Chief Justice at the opening of the courts, what his intention will be now that the question of the independence of the provincial court judiciary has been established as a matter of law but nevertheless has left a number of matters that require legislative and executive attention.
Again I refer to the remarks made by the Chief Justice in the Valente case where he referred to matters that were not within his purview but were for the executive and for this assembly. I quote again from the judgement of the Chief Justice:
"It is appreciated that there are strong feelings on the part of some provincial judges that their independence should be secured in precisely the same way as the independence of superior court judges. This is a subject for the executive and the Legislature; it is not for me, in my judicial capacity, to enter into the merits of this controversy."
I end the quotation and ask, now that the specific limited matter contained in Bill 1 is before us fulfilling the commitment of the Attorney General, what comment he has to make about the intentions of the government with respect to completing and tidying up some of the matters that still remain of concern to complete, in the judges' mind, the other essential ingredients of their independence.
Personally, I am pleased the matter came before the court for clarification. I had no particular apprehension that the court was going to hold that they were not independent in the sense required by the Charter of Rights. That was not my major concern. Why it was not my major concern is quite obvious; I ran across nobody, in the course of my career in the practice of law, or amongst clients of my own or other people, who had any doubt whatsoever that the judges sitting in the provincial court were judges in the full sense of the term.
That was not a major concern of mine. But I did know that lurking in the background was this sense of apprehension, and at times frustration and concern, among the judges about some of these matters which may appear to be self-interest in some people's minds because they touch upon money matters, but matters of sufficient concern that dealt, not with the public's perception of the independence of the judges but with their own perception of their own independence. In some people's minds, that may be linked entirely with the question of their own self-interest. It did not appear to me that this was the main or only motivation, even though it may naturally have had a part in the action which Judge Sharpe and, subsequently, other judges took on the matter.
It should also be made very clear that, so far as I can understand the case that came before the court, it was not some arbitrary decision of Judge Sharpe to decide to make a determination that he did not fall within the specific qualifications required by the charter but it was a matter raised by counsel before the court. There were matters which the court then had to decide in the ordinary adjudication. It was not some unilateral, arbitrary decision that he was not qualified or lacked that degree of independence and impartiality which a judge should expect to have.
Those are all of the comments. The lengthy judgement of the Chief Justice deserves reading by those interested in this question, but I would specifically ask the Attorney General simply to comment on the remark made by the Chief Justice which I quoted, namely, what does the executive and what does this Legislature, as a result of the decision of the executive, intend to do now to complete the circle and establish in the minds of the judges and everyone else that this problem has been settled once and for all?
With those remarks, we will support the bill. There is no need, from our point of view, to put it into committee of the whole House.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I thank the members opposite for their support. There is no question that the perception of independence is an important issue. I do not think anyone in this Legislature doubted for a moment that the provincial court judges are independent, but one always has to be as concerned with the perception of independence as we are with so many other matters in the area of justice.
As far as the Valente case is concerned, I have two preliminary observations. The substance of this legislation was an undertaking or a suggestion that I made to the Provincial Court Criminal Judges Association as to where I would be prepared to proceed in the issue of the perception of independence in this area. This undertaking, if it was in the form of an undertaking, was given before the Valente case was dealt with by Judge Sharpe. In any event, the Valente case understandably attracted a good deal of attention both within and without the profession, and certainly in the public as a whole. I have to point out that there has not been any final determination of the Valente case as it is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada.
The issue of the perception of the independence of the judiciary has long been a concern of the Ministry of the Attorney General and of this particular Attorney General. I think it was as far back as 1976 that I tabled in this Legislature a white paper on courts administration which dealt in a very frank fashion with our concerns with respect to the perception of the independence of the judiciary. There are some who feel that our white paper did provide a certain degree of inspiration for the Deschênes report.
Mr. Martel: You're burning the place down, Roy.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Is that a Liberal caucus going on?
Mr. Breithaupt: It might be. They wouldn't tell me about it.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Why is the fire alarm sounding?
The Deputy Speaker: Wait a minute; we will get clued in as to whether or not we should leave. Is it okay? I am told it is.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Our Courts of Justice Act, which we hope to introduce before the end of the spring, will deal with certain additional issues with respect to the independence of the judiciary or the appearance of independence of the judiciary.
They have not been finally determined; but, for example, I am confident one issue the Courts of Justice Act will deal with is in relation to the removal of a judge. That would be done by the Legislature as a whole and not by order in council. This is a matter of some interest.
We have not made a final decision on the issue of provincial judges' salaries. There are some who argue this should be a matter of determination for the Legislature as a whole. This is not something about which any consensus has been achieved so far as the judiciary is concerned.
There was, for example, a period in the federal Parliament when adjustments of salaries of Supreme Court and county court judges were delayed for a considerable period because of problems in scheduling legislation. Certainly, many of our judges of so-called superior jurisdictions during those years made it known to this particular Attorney General that they would much prefer the provincial system of making these adjustments by order in council because they could be done on a more regular basis.
When it comes to judicial compensation, whether it is salaries or pensions, we have established in this province a mechanism with the potential for greater independence than that established by the Parliament of Canada. With respect to salaries and pensions, the Minister of Justice for Canada will have the advice of a committee, whose members are appointed by him, to give independent advice about the level of judiciary remuneration.
In Ontario, we have a provincial courts compensation committee, which is made up of a representative of the provincial court judges, a representative of the government and a neutral chairman, who is agreed upon by both parties. So in this respect we have created a mechanism that is more independent than that established by the Parliament of Canada.
There will be other administrative matters that will continue to be addressed in order to maintain a high level of perception of independence, as well as the reality that has fortunately existed in this province from virtually time immemorial.
The Deputy Speaker: Just to subdue everyone's curiosity, the fire alarm is due to pipe smoke in the government caucus office.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
SOLICITORS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved second reading of Bill 25, An Act to amend the Solicitors Act.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I have no opening statement other than what I stated earlier.
Mr. Breithaupt: Mr. Speaker, this bill is simply to make changes that would allow interest to be charged on unpaid accounts at the effective prime rate of the chartered banks, rather than at the traditional five per cent, which has been the case over past years.
It is clearly unfair, at least from my point of view, that someone who has an obligation should not be paying the equivalent rate that the borrowing of that money would occasion. Of course, even at the prime rate of interest which, according to section 36 of the Judicature Act, is the lowest rate of interest by a chartered bank to the most credit worthy borrowers for prime business loans as determined and published by the Bank of Canada -- at which perhaps none of us as individuals could borrow -- the basis is, however, set for an appropriate interest charge on outstanding accounts.
There are certain protections in the amendment which require the taxation of solicitors' bills on occasion and the disallowance of interest or certain adjustments to be made if considered appropriate. Certainly the changes in the bill are satisfactory to us and we will support the legislation.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, it may surprise you but we will oppose the legislation. I do not have any great concern in particular about the change in the interest rate in connection with the bill but unless I am satisfied otherwise, it is not just a matter of the interest rate which is covered in the bill. The present Solicitors Act provides that, "A solicitor may charge interest at the rate of five per cent per annum on his disbursements and costs." That is what is in the Solicitors Act at present.
This bill will change that provision so, "a solicitor may charge interest on unpaid fees, charges or disbursements" at a rate not exceeding the prime rate. Others may be concerned about the prime rate and the question that is related to it but there is a very significant ambiguity at least, if not a very clear indication in the statute, that the words "disbursements and costs" did not include solicitors' fees.
We are being asked in this assembly to provide in the statute for interest on the fee portion of a solicitor's account. Some people may think I am raising some kind of a quibble, but I have read the definitions very clearly. I am not going to read them into the record, I leave it to the work of legislative counsel and counsel for the ministry. If one reads the definition of "costs" in the Canadian Law Dictionary; if one reads the definition of "costs" in Black's Law Dictionary, fifth edition, which is an American one; if one reads the definition of "costs" in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, which of course is an English judicial dictionary; and if one reads the term "costs" in Sanagan's Encyclopaedia of Words and Phrases, Legal Maxims, which is a Canadian book; one will not find any solace that the word "costs" has anything to do with fees of a solicitor.
Costs is a matter awarded by the courts to a successful litigant as compensation and as an amount to be paid. It has no bearing on the question of what the money is then used for. He may use it to pay his lawyers' fees, but the point I am making as best I can is that if one reads through the Solicitors Act, very clearly one will find the occasional reference to the word "costs."
In most instances, apart from one or two where it deals with a specific cost on a reference, the word "costs" is conjoined with a number of other words, "fees, costs, charges and disbursements." That is the litany of terms which are provided.
It would appear to me that under our Solicitors Act -- and I certainly thought so at the time when I was practising and was bothering to submit accounts for work which was done -- the fee portion, as distinct from the disbursement portion or the charges portion, was not subject to an interest charge because of the section of the Solicitors Act which we are being asked to amend.
There may well be some slight solace that one could derive from a statement in Jowitt's Dictionary of English Law, an English dictionary, which in 1977 said that costs include the solicitor's fee. One may find some slight solace in that, but one certainly will not find any solace with respect to the present statute which says that, "a solicitor may charge interest at the rate of five per cent per annum on his disbursements and costs." One will not find any solace that the word "costs" includes his fees.
I have not appeared before the taxing master on any accounts. Naturally, when I practised law, the work which I did was, of course, always totally acceptable to my clients and they would never dream of taxing a bill against me. I am certain there are other lawyers in the assembly who have had their bills taxed against them and it may well be that by some mistake interest has been charged.
I do not intend to labour this particular point, but I am going to draw the Attorney General's attention to the Solicitors Act and simply, for example, point out to him very clearly that in section 2 of the Solicitors Act, it states, "No action shall be brought for the recovery of fees, charges or disbursements for business done," etc. It then goes on to state very clearly in section 17 of the Solicitors Act that, "'services' includes fees, costs, charges and disbursements." If one reads the rest of that, one will find in every case where the term "costs" is mentioned in any of the sections of the Solicitors Act they are conjoined with fees, charges or disbursements. I suggest that fees are quite distinguishable from costs.
It is a point that only the member for Riverdale would be interested in, but when we are introducing a bill into the assembly which purports only to change the interest rate which may be charged from five per cent to something not to exceed the prime rate, when in fact there is a very real question as to whether or not fees could be subject to an interest charge under the Solicitors Act, to then simply change the words "disbursements and costs" to read "unpaid fees, charges or disbursements," seems to me to be playing just a little bit too fast and loose with the exact meaning of the Solicitors Act.
I would hope that at some point members of the Attorney General's staff would look at the comments which I have made on this particular point. That is the reason. It may have been that if it had been simply the change of interest, that my colleagues would still have wished to oppose the bill. Lawyers are not amongst their closest friends, except for myself, of course, and the leader of the party. But apart from that question, this bill changes a matter of law which should not be changed without a direct reference in the bill to the change being made; and that is, on my interpretation which I had always followed, one could not charge interest on the fee portion of a solicitor's bill. It was that simple. It is that clear in my judgement.
We are now making a change that the fee portion of a solicitor's bill can have an interest charge added to it. In my view, that is a very significant and fundamental change. A good part of it may simply be a matter of practice. A good part of it may be that nobody has bothered to look at the ambiguity within the bill.
If this matter had come up and I had the opportunity to look at it, I would have drafted the amendment to provide that the bill would change the provisions so a solicitor might charge interest on unpaid fees, costs, charges and disbursements, in order to use the same language that appears elsewhere in the Solicitors Act. I would have drawn clearly to the attention of the House that at least there was a very real question as to whether or not the fee portion of a solicitor's bill was subject to an interest charge under the present act. I leave that for my esoteric friends in the ministry to ponder.
For that reason, we will oppose this bill.
Mr. Roy: I had a long dissertation and speech prepared which would make the comments and research of the member for Riverdale look amateurish. I was prepared to give all that --
Mr. Martel: Well, give it to us then.
Mr. Roy: It does not take much to get them going, does it?
As I was listening to the member for Riverdale and closely reading this bill, it struck me that if I were to vote in favour of this bill or oppose it, I might well be accused of conflict of interest. Given that situation, I would be better to limit my comments and not say anything at all about Bill 25, although I would have welcomed the challenge to respond to my colleague the member for Riverdale.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: As the member for Riverdale states, if there is any question about the right of a solicitor under the existing section 35 of the Solicitors Act to charge interest on overdue accounts, the effect of this legislation is to clarify that and simply give solicitors the same rights as any other professionals in this regard. I think the legislation accomplishes that.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
SMALL CLAIMS COURTS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved second reading of Bill 28, An Act to amend the Small Claims Courts Act.
Mr. Breithaupt: There are two particular areas in this bill to which I would address my remarks. A certain number of other sections deal particularly with the repeal of matters that are obsolete and areas that have been changed by other legislation. I shall not refer to them.
The two areas in which I am particularly interested flow from a series of letters a number of members of the Legislature received, particularly from credit bureaus in their own constituencies. They dealt with post-judgement interest as well as the matter of the ability to give instructions to the local sheriff as agent for a judgement creditor.
In the first instance, the matter of postjudgement interest was of concern because the credit bureaus were denied the right to charge interest after judgement on small claims court actions for their clients. As we are all aware, interest is allowed in the county courts, and there was the general feeling that equivalence should be available, particularly as the jurisdiction value in dollars within the small claims courts now is much greater than it was in the county courts only a few years ago.
There was then the interest in having this matter resolved so that judgements would be paid forthwith by judgement debtors whose debts otherwise would be subject to the accumulation of interest.
The second area dealt with a recent directive handed down by the office of the director of the courts administration to county sheriffs which barred an officer of a limited company from giving instructions to a sheriff in a proceeding. In effect, this would have required more lawyers to be involved in the administration of the proceedings which would allow the attachment of certain assets or the eventual collection of these obligations. That was thought to be an unnecessary additional expense when a credit bureau, as was often the case, had been given instructions by its client to proceed to the final realization of a debt and the obtaining of payment for it.
The directive to which I have referred, accordingly, required unnecessary expense and it is certainly appropriate that we see by the amendments to Bill 28 that situation has been resolved. Those expenses have to be passed on to the ultimate client. By the addition of costs in the administration of these collection procedures they are paid eventually either by the judgement debtor or by all consumers who have to pay the charges for collections as part of the overall business expenses which are added to the price of goods and services.
As a result, a variety of credit bureaus had written to members of the Legislature setting out these two themes. I am pleased to see they have been attended to in this legislation. We will certainly support the bill and agree with the other matters that have been sorted out in this, the first amendment to the Small Claims Courts Act that we have seen for some time.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, this bill covers a number of points in a series of sections. I have no problem, nor do my colleagues, with sections 2, 3, 5, 7, and 8; but we have serious problems and reservations about sections 1, 4, and 6. Let me deal with section 6 first.
It is the view of our caucus on the theory of the small claims court that the expeditious settlement of disputes for monetary matters between litigants within areas which are small, even with the increases passed by the assembly for the jurisdictions of the court, are the kinds of matters which should be settled as expeditiously and efficaciously as possible, including the payment of the judgment.
Lawyers like to think every time ajudgement is issued by a court they should have a right to attach the land belonging to the judgment debtor in order to enforce payment. However, when we are talking about a small claims court and the jurisdiction of that court, even at the enhanced levels that we know, and the fundamental purpose of the court -- for people to settle these claims -- we think, not as a matter of logic following on from the superior courts but as a matter of the principle and the philosophy of those courts, there should not be a capacity to enter an execution against the lands of a small claims court judgement debtor. That is our view.
The reason for our feeling about it is that on balance we believe the great bulk of judgement debtors are ordinary people. It is very seldom the ordinary person goes to a small claims court to sue some corporation that owes him money or to sue his landlord for failure to return the interest on his rent deposit. Very seldom does that take place.
It seems to me the logic of applying Supreme Court and county court preconcepts to the small claims court and permitting a judgement creditor to file an execution against the title to the lands of a judgement debtor, which is my understanding of section 6, is something we are not prepared to accept.
Even if one could overcome that fundamental opposition to the concept in the small claims court, we certainly would not agree that collection agencies, which are the main people promoting this particular aspect, should be able, as agents for the judgement creditor, to file executions against the lands of the judgement debtor.
Those are matters of balanced judgement. They are not matters of logic, they just make sense. Anybody who knows the work we have tried to do in this assembly over the years to make the small claims court work does not in my judgement lead to any conclusion that a judgement debt should be filed against the title to the land.
There are some precatory -- that is a strange word -- but there is a loosely-phrased clause in this bill which then says if they do file it and do not remove it, the fellow can go against them and make certain they do remove it if the debt is paid. We do not particularly buy that quid pro quo that the judgement creditor somehow or other will remember to raise the execution against the lands upon receiving payment. Even my friend, the Deputy Speaker of the assembly, would agree with me on that particular point, had he a voice in this assembly to speak about it.
Those are my comments on section 6.
With respect to section 4, the provision of interest on judgements at the Bank of Canada prime rate, given the concept, the philosophy and the reason about the small claims court, we do not think that in any way facilitates the expeditious settlement of claims we call major for the participants and minor in the bigger world of the Supreme Court or the county court. Not as a matter of logic because the logic says, "Why should you not have interest on your judgement?" But as a matter of the concept and the philosophy of the small claims court, we do not think it is at all appropriate to provide for that kind of interest at this late date in the Small Claims Courts Act.
It is not there now. I do not know why this assembly at this time should bow down to some false logic and now provide, as this bill would provide, for interest on judgements in the small claims court when in our view and in any view of the concept of those courts, it is not at all appropriate. So we oppose the bill as well because of the provisions of section 4.
The other provision which is of concern to me, I raise simply because it raises a somewhat broader question. If it were the only point, we could agree to disagree on the other two points. On this first clause -- and I only raise it in order to stimulate a little bit of debate -- we will want to move an amendment in committee on section 1 of the bill for the purposes of discussion. We intend, of course, to support the amendment which we will be putting forward, but we have no intention of dividing the assembly on the issue.
I was concerned, and we had an interesting discussion in our caucus about it, where it says in section 1 that the appointment of clerks, bailiffs and referees will now be by the Lieutenant Governor in Council rather than simply by the Lieutenant Governor. I am not going to argue about that. I do not find that a matter of particular concern.
The section then goes on to provide that the appointment of a referee shall be on the recommendation of the judge and the judge is in the best position to know the local conditions and to know of a suitable candidate. In my particular amendment I am not going to accept that. The interesting part of section 1 of the bill is not with respect to the question of appointments -- but I will come back to that in a moment or two -- it is the other clause in the bill which states, "and shall hold office during pleasure."
The section we are being asked to amend will be amended to read: "There shall be a clerk and one or more bailiffs for every small claims court, who shall be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and hold office during pleasure."
I have a very real concern about the principal officers of the small claims court, extended beyond it to other courts, simply holding office during pleasure. There are some of my colleagues who would go so far as to indicate that the appointment of clerks for small claims court and the appointment of bailiffs for small claims court are a part of the patronage web of the Conservative Party in Ontario and that if we were to ever assume office it may well be that we would want to have people with some different qualification.
I, of course, for a moment do not accept that patronage has anything to do with the kinds of appointments which have been made. I have had the highest respect for the clerks and bailiffs in the small claims court in exercising very onerous duties, but I do not think at this point in the administration of justice in Ontario that the principal officers of those courts should hold office during pleasure and that is what we are going to be asked to enshrine in the Small Claims Courts Act.
Therefore, for want of some better way to deal with it, I had a look at the Judicature Act and had a look at what seemed to me to be very good provisions related to the tenure and removal from office of Masters of the Supreme Court. It may seem a long way from clerk and bailiff of the small claims court to Master of the Supreme Court, just the very term Master of the Supreme Court as distinct from clerk of the small claims court, but in any event the Masters of the Supreme Court are protected by a reasonably sensible due process arrangement setting out the terms and conditions of their tenure. When we go into committee I want to move the amendment I have provided to my colleague the critic for the official opposition and to the Attorney General.
I am not saying that is the answer to it. I am saying that I think there is a serious question when the principal officers of those courts simply hold office during pleasure. I accept the principle that the appointments to the courts of their principal officers rather than the functioning of those officers is a role of the executive.
Some of my colleagues go so far as to indicate that they think the principal officers of those courts should be protected under the Civil Service Commission and not simply by the kind of appointment in question. This raises some philosophical differences that I do not need to deal with at this particular point.
There may well be worthwhile and very useful thinking that could be directed towards the terms and conditions of employment of the principal officers of the small claims court. It is with this in mind that, when we are in committee on the bill, I will move the amendment, a copy of which I have provided to the Attorney General and to the justice critic of the official opposition.
However, we have opposed the bill, as I have stated, for the reasons I have given, not only with respect to section 1, which I would be prepared to say was a matter of debate and discussion in committee of the whole, but principally because of the provisions of section 4 and section 6 of the bill.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, it would have been nice, since I am now taking responsibility for financial and commercial affairs, if in fact the opportunity had been taken to look more profoundly at the role and functioning of the small claims courts, with respect to whom they are meant to serve and what kind of access to what kind of justice is being provided.
The small claims courts have been around for a long time. They were originally intended, so it was argued, to provide a cheap means of settlement of debts and soon that would protect small people, be people's courts. What they have become is collection agents' courts.
Collection agencies, I believe, are the single largest users of the small claims courts. Some of that activity is presumably legitimate. They are working on behalf of small businesses that need to be paid if they are going to stay in business.
However, I believe the members are also familiar with the practices of some collection agents. Frankly, they are not entirely what I or anybody would like to see with respect to the harassment and the type of letters issued that stay just barely within the guidelines issued by the ministry. They are simply not tolerable in Ontario.
When, on the other hand, an individual seeks redress because he has been sold shoddy goods or has in some sense been badly treated within the commercial system, access to the small claims courts is extremely difficult. How to get to these courts and how to use them is a mystery. Even if the individual gets a judgement, the enforcement of the judgement is also a mystery unless a lawyer is used. If the individual uses a lawyer and pays the usual fees, the lawyer's fees quickly extinguish any benefit that might be gained by any order that is made by the small claims courts.
I cannot vouch for this in terms of having a comprehensive knowledge. However, I have heard from time to time stories that have been brought to me about rather perverse judgements made in small claims courts that have worked against the interests of individuals. These people sought justice through the small claims route because their concern neither justified, nor could they afford, going to the county courts for that kind of settlement. It seems the small claims courts found it difficult at times to have -- I hesitate to say this -- the impartiality one would hope to see between the interests of people generally and the commercial interests that mainly use the small claims system.
One of my concerns would be the manner of appointment of bailiffs and other people who run the courts. These are order in council appointments. I have had some discussion about this with my friend and colleague the member for Riverdale, who has pointed out that all court appointments in Ontario are, technically speaking, order in council appointments.
To that extent all appointments to judicial positions in Ontario are open to the same problem. They tend to be made for reasons that include patronage. In fact, many of them were made for reasons that can only be described as patronage -- that is, service of the government that happens to be in power in Ontario. It is a government that has been in power for a very long time.
We somehow expect that people who go to their reward by getting a judicial or small claims court appointment will automatically purge themselves of their political affiliations. Oddly enough, in the case of the higher courts, for example, more of that happens than perhaps we deserve to achieve.
Nonetheless, it narrows the group of people from whom these particular officials are chosen. It narrows the range of experience that is represented on the bench and in the small claims courts. It also tends to install one point of view with respect to the type of view that is taken by the officials of the court involved.
Where it is the higher courts there is a legal tradition that is pretty strong and may also lean too heavily on property and so on, but one cannot blame that only on the fact that in this province it is often Conservatives or people with Conservative connections who get appointed to the bench. That is part of the traditions of British law that have descended to us here in Ontario. There is a conservative and a property-leaning tendency in the law.
When one gets into the small claims court, however, there is much less reliance on precedent; there is much less oversight because of appeals, because of higher courts stepping in or because of a kind of body of common practice in law that has been built up into the courts. Everybody tends to work a bit on his own.
The consequence of this is that the natural origins and prejudices of the appointees perhaps have greater sway in the small claims court than they do in other courts of the province. This in turn means that collection agents and other people who go in there to collect debts from small people and who are often supported either by lawyers or else by people who, although not lawyers have a great deal of experience in the application of the law as it is applied to small claims, have a tremendous advantage. They know the law; they know what to do and they also are appearing in front of people who are naturally very sympathetic to their point of view and less sympathetic to the problems of the people who for various reasons become objects of the claims that have been put in that small claims court.
The member for Riverdale has indicated our position on the bill as a whole. I simply wanted to share with the House those concerns and my concern that the Attorney General once again has perhaps avoided the opportunity of being a genuine innovator in finding ways by which this important part of the judicial system can work on behalf of all of the people who are its users and not just on behalf of the collection agencies and people of that ilk, who are the major beneficiaries and initiators of actions through the small claims courts of the province.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Ottawa Centre is perhaps a little unfair, to put it mildly, with respect to his general criticism of the small claims courts in this province. I think we have a very good system of small claims courts. We have a number of dedicated people at both the judicial and the official level who work very hard to serve all of the citizens in their particular communities.
I think he is also confusing the role of some of the officers of the court, some of the administrators, with respect to those who are serving in a judicial capacity. As the honourable member knows, those who are serving in a judicial capacity are either those appointed as full-time small claims court judges on the recommendation of the provincial judicial council or those serving as part-time judges, as deputy judges, who can do so only on the initiative of the local county court judge.
With respect to the member for Riverdale's very thoughtful amendments with respect to the security of tenure in so far as some of these officials are concerned, I think it should be pointed out that officials, clerks and registrars throughout the court system, Supreme Court and county courts, have been appointed at pleasure, and there should be some consistency in relation to that system. It should also be pointed out that many of these people are part time, which I think is another reason for appointing at pleasure.
I suggest, with respect, to the member for Riverdale, that we would be happy to discuss these amendments with him. We think they should be considered in relation to the new Courts of Justice Act, as they would represent a very significant and major departure from established practice.
With respect to the sections of the legislation allowing interest on the same basis as the county courts and Supreme Court and the filing of executions against land, our position is simply that the judgement creditors in these courts should have the same rights as the judgement creditors have in the county courts and Supreme Court. What we are dealing with here are courts that are very accessible to the ordinary citizens of the province, many of whom are small business people. The small business people of this province represent the backbone of the province in so many ways.
It is true that their interests are often represented by agents and collection agencies, because that is the only economical way in which they can assert their claims; but to suggest that the ordinary folk should not have, through a judgement in small claims court, the same rights of enforcement and collection of interest as those who obtain judgements in the county courts or Supreme Court is a difference in philosophical approach that we cannot agree with.
We think it is in the interest of all citizens in this province that people be encouraged to pay their debts, allowing reasonable post-judgement interest in the same manner as is allowed in the other courts. The filing of executions can only encourage that attitude, which is so clearly in the interest of all citizens.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
ESTATES ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved second reading of Bill 29, An Act to amend the Estates Administration Act.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I have no opening statement.
Mr. Breithaupt: Mr. Speaker, on November 27, 1980, a bill was introduced in this House by the member for London South (Mr. Walker) in the absence and on behalf of the Attorney General. That was Bill 210, An Act to amend the Devolution of Estates Act. I will quote briefly from the statement the member for London South made that afternoon.
He said, "Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce today a bill to amend the Devolution of Estates Act. Within the past year, certain problems encountered in attempting to deal with the estates of persons dying in Ontario who leave beneficiaries in the Soviet Union have been brought to the attention of the minister.
"It appears that exorbitant charges by the Soviet government, or its agents, and the low exchange rate for conversion of dollars into rubles result in a beneficiary receiving less than the amount he should receive. While it is clear that Ontario legislation cannot completely rectify such problems, we should attempt to prevent such abuses to the extent this is possible."
The member for London South continued with other background information concerning equivalent law, particularly with respect to some procedures in New York state. That bill, which was introduced in the House some 29 months ago, was followed by a bill introduced by my former leader, Dr. Stuart Smith, to amend the succession law legislation following a somewhat more expanded view of the problems that we had at the time.
The third step in this chain of events was the introduction of a bill similar to Bill 210 on April 21, 1981. The Speaker will recall that that was the opening day of a new session. In the presence of a crowded gallery and with the floor crowded with various notables and worthies, seated on the chairs brought in for that purpose, we had the Attorney General rise in his place and introduce that bill.
It was, of course, well received. The Attorney General himself introduced the bill, and we had, on behalf of my former leader, Dr. Smith, his private member's bill on succession law, which again repeated the complementary approach and referred at that time to the prospect of some $10 million to $20 million being involved in these matters.
As I have said, that bill was introduced on April 21, 1981, just two years ago, but there was no particular progress as a result of that introduction. Therefore, on April 22, 1982, a year after that event, I introduced Bill 87. As a result, we had a further attempt to bring this theme before the Legislature and, I hope, to encourage the government of Ontario to become involved further in this subject. It has been well over two years since we first saw the province moved by some suggestion in this area.
The bill I introduced dealt with the apparent intervention by some communist governments in the disposal of estates by Canadian citizens to relatives living in certain eastern bloc countries. It had been brought to our attention that in many cases beneficiaries living behind the Iron Curtain were receiving far less than the full amount of their bequest from the deceased Canadian relative because the governments involved were apparently deducting large legal fees and, of course, currency exchange charges were being applied before the funds were transferred. Indeed, it was estimated, for instance, that a beneficiary living in the USSR or in other eastern European countries would be lucky perhaps to receive one tenth of the money left to him or her in a Canadian will.
Where an Ontario resident stipulated in a will that a bequest be transferred to the beneficiary living behind the Iron Curtain in the form of parcels and gifts, a heavy duty fee was also imposed on the recipient of that gift. Moreover, it appeared often that an application would suddenly be made to Ontario courts on behalf of the apparent beneficiary to vary the manner of payment. That is, the court was asked to change the manner of payment from the use of parcels and goods to hard currency. Of course, present Ontario law generally allows for such a variance in how payment is made from a will.
At that point -- and this is just a year ago -- we had serious concerns that the relatives living behind the Iron Curtain were often being coerced by their government authorities into authorizing those applications to our courts. Normally, the signature on the document was taken as sufficient proof to our courts of their wishes. Once a change in manner of payment was made, the authorities, of course, were taking their appropriate cut.
Finally, there were instances where claims from persons behind the Iron Curtain were entered against the estates of Ontario citizens. Those claims alleged the existence of a bona fide relative who was entitled under our laws of succession to a portion of the estate; and there is a real concern as to whether some of those claims were legitimate. For instance, there was a case where, upon the death of an Ontario man, Soviet authorities alleged the existence of a long-lost wife. The Soviets obtained a power of attorney from the alleged widow and also produced a copy of marriage certificates. This all came as a great surprise to the close friends of the deceased. After four years of an intense legal wrangle and the fortuitous discovery by friends of the deceased of some further evidence, the Soviets eventually backed down from the claim.
As can well be imagined, the use of our courts by communist authorities for their own advantage in the guise of promoting the claims of certain beneficiaries living behind the Iron Curtain is, of course, cause for considerable grief and consternation among many Ontario citizens of eastern European origin.
It was the intention of the bill I introduced a year ago to help prevent the potential for abuse in this regard. The bill was based on three principles. Upon an application being made to the court, the court must be satisfied, first, that the foreign beneficiary is entitled to property from the estate; second, that the foreign beneficiary should receive substantially the full benefit of the payment being made to that person; and third, that the result would be a just and equitable one, having regard to the intentions of the deceased person.
The bill I introduced further gave the court the authority to consider a broader range of circumstances and evidence that might not normally be admissible in a hearing of this nature. It would allow, for instance, the admission of evidence relating to the general practices of Iron Curtain countries in these cases.
In addition, the bill would allow for the introduction of evidence to ascertain what would have been the deceased person's intentions in the circumstances. For instance, this might include evidence of friends and relatives concerning the alleged foreign beneficiary, the introduction of personal letters of the deceased and so forth.
Finally, the bill gave the court a broad range of options in carrying out its responsibilities. The court could order that the payment be made by way of parcels or goods or it could hold the payment in trust. Indeed, it might finally direct that the payment not be made and instead be divided among other legitimate beneficiaries.
In short, I believe our bill addressed the problem in three ways. It gave the courts jurisdiction to examine the broad context of an application of this nature: it gave our courts the wherewithal to examine all the relevant considerations; and finally, it gave our courts the flexibility to deal with the application in a just and equitable manner.
At this point I want to refer to a seminar held on February 3 at the University of Toronto under the sponsorship of the political science department of that university. Professor Gleb Zekulin was the introducer and the moderator of the seminar. The importance of this estates and wills area was once again stressed. Those attending the seminar were informed that perhaps 200,000 Canadians might be subject to Soviet law because they were born within areas controlled by the present-day Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Under Soviet citizenship law it is jus sanguinis and not jus soli: that is to say, it is the law of the blood by which citizenship and obligations are traced rather than by the law of the location where the person lives.
Dollar values of these estates also came under discussion, but as a result of the Soviet law any person leaving the territory of the Soviet Union after December 15, 1921, is apparently still considered a Soviet citizen for matters of beneficiary claims and other responsibilities. His descendants are also involved. As indicated at that seminar, perhaps 1.5 million Canadians could be technically involved, supposedly with claims, as some aspect of Soviet citizenship law might be applied there.
Comments were also made at that time about the amount of money, as I have said. Once again, the range of some $10 million to $20 million annually seems to be the expectation and the result of those problems. The dollar value is uncertain. A lawyer who acts on behalf of the Soviet authorities in these matters, and whose name I will not even bother to mention, apparently stated that there are some 30 to 40 cases a month and the average size of the estate is $40,000. He later repudiated this in an interview with the Ottawa Journal, but in a letter to another lawyer he said he had some 400 files open regarding Soviet estates. So some $14 million to $15 million may be involved annually for the Soviet Union alone and, indeed, another equally large amount may well go to other countries in the Soviet bloc. We do not have any details of the amounts of moneys involved, because statistics are not kept on those subjects.
The monitoring of that area by Statistics Canada -- or, indeed, under some federal theme, since that would be a better national approach than only a provincial plan -- or at least by having some companion legislation in other provinces, would be useful, but we are not able to deal with those matters at this point. There were questions from the audience during that seminar that commented not only on the government's legislation but also on my own, in that the matter of falsifying evidence was not being otherwise particularly looked into. We, of course, are moving towards many more electronic methods within our courts, but many of the affidavits upon which decisions would have to be made would be documents from the USSR with no proof of the validity of signature, the contents of the document itself or any of the authorization by court officials as to whether it was appropriate or not.
I understand, of course, that the Attorney General has clearly been interested in this subject for some time. Indeed, as a result of that seminar Professor Yuri Lurij was involved in the discussions and was apparently one of the sources for the draftsmanship of the legislation we now have before us. The Attorney General accordingly was clearly interested in this subject, but we did not see in the dying several days of the last session whether we were going to have legislation or not, and I look forward to having a new bill proceeded with in this session of the Legislature.
On February 15 I gave the Attorney General a modest stimulus by suggesting that in the first week of a new session we should reintroduce the bill. I did not know whether that would stimulate him to proceed or not, but it was certainly my intention to do so. Accordingly, on April 19 I again introduced Bill 8, which was a copy of Bill 87, which had been before the House, now in the present form that we see, Bill 8.
This legislation's time certainly has come. We have been talking over this subject for well over two years, and it is a serious matter that affects a lot of people and is a concern to them, particularly among the ethnic communitics in Metropolitan Toronto. As one who has received much support and consideration from those communities, as has the Attorney General, it is certainly an area about which we must be mindful and proceed to deal with this legislation.
Now at last we have before us Bill 29. It is, of course, a copy of that Bill 1 effectively, which was proceeded with several years ago. Just two weeks after its introduction, here we are debating it on second reading.
As I have mentioned, there is a particular problem, and this bill proceeds to deal with portions of that problem. It deals particularly with the requirement that our court must be satisfied both that a beneficiary is entitled to the payment and that he or she will receive substantially the full amount. Those are the two themes of this bill.
I suggest to members that the bill I had presented before the Legislature as Bill 8 would go further and might be better legislation. It might be better, for example, because in addition to deciding whether the beneficiary is entitled to a bequest and is likely to receive the full amount, the court would also be empowered to determine what would have been the wishes of the deceased person. That is, of course, particularly relevant in cases where no will has been left and where Soviet authorities have made claims on behalf of potential beneficiaries. For those cases the bill would have permitted the courts to hear a broader range of evidence than might normally be allowed, including evidence relating to the deceased person's intention.
Where it is clear that the deceased would never have either anticipated or intended that any payment be made to a beneficiary behind the Iron Curtain, the court could decide that no such payment would be made or it could decide that under the circumstances the estate could pass instead to other remaining relatives outside the communist bloc countries rather than tie the estate up in a trust for someone who might never be able to benefit from it.
In the comments the Attorney General made on first reading he suggested that those aspects of my Bill 8 amounted to confiscation and said he did not feel able to support that theme. I would ask him to reconsider, because I think there is the opportunity to base a better decision in circumstances such as these cases bring to us than we are going to see through the government legislation. I look forward to having the Attorney General consider the broader use of evidence and the ability of the courts to look behind some of the documentation that is presented.
Our bill would apply to real estate that might be transferred by way of succession law. Of course, it is more specific in its approach to the various situations involved. It would allow our courts to consider the broader range of factors, and I suggest it would be useful.
We on this side of the House will support this legislation. It has taken several years to bring forward. I know the Attorney General has looked forward to proceeding with the bill and for a variety of reasons, some beyond his control, was not able to do so until now. I commend the suggestions made in the companion legislation I have introduced and the changes presented in Bill 8. It would allow the courts a broader opportunity, and I suggest it might be worthy of consideration.
The House recessed at 6 p.m.