The House met at 10 a.m.
DEATH OF CIVIL SERVANT
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, before statements today it is with deep regret that I inform the House of the tragic and very untimely death of a senior Ontario civil servant in the plane crash in Cincinnati, Ohio, last night: Dr. John Hull, the manager of policy development for the developmentally handicapped in the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Dr. Hull was on the plane returning from the conference of the American Association for Mental Deficiency in Dallas. He is survived by his wife, Caroline Anne.
Dr. Hull came to the ministry in 1979 from Manitoba, where he had held several policy development positions after graduating from the University of Manitoba and the University of Chicago with graduate degrees in both clinical psychology and sociology. He began his services with the Ministry of Community and Social Services as a program analysis co-ordinator in the children's services division, and in the ensuing four years he has held several key advisory positions in the policy and program development division.
His accomplishments are many, and we as a government and as a House -- and, indeed, the public of Ontario -- share a pride in them. Some of those were the development of the children's residential services model in 1980 and much of the design work on the children's special needs agreement program, which has done so much to enhance family life in this province. More recently he was working on adult residential services and the workshop review consultation papers.
I am sure the members of the House will want to join with the ministry in extending their condolences and sympathy to his wife. We also extend our sympathy, our sadness and our concern to the families of all the victims of the very untimely aircraft tragedy last night.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition I would like to join with the government, and particularly the Minister of Community and Social Services, in extending our sincerest sympathy to the family of Dr. Hull. Certainly we agree entirely with the condolences expressed by the minister to all those who were victims of the terrible and terrifying accident that we witnessed in Cincinnati last evening.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I was personally familiar with the work of Dr. Hull and admired his work a great deal. I know very well what an outstanding contribution he made to the development of public policy in this province. We would like to join with our colleagues in the other two parties in extending our deepest sympathy to his family and to the families of the other victims of this terrible tragedy.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
SKILLS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, in his recent budget, my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) indicated that $14 million was being allocated to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, through the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development, to stimulate additional skills development activities.
This morning, I am pleased to provide members with a brief statement on the programs to be funded. The training in business and industry program, which is called TIBI and which provides short-term upgrading training for employees, will receive an additional $3 million during the 1983-84 year, bringing the total amount allocated to TIBI to $14 million. The additional $3 million will create about 20,000 new training positions.
An additional $4 million will be allocated to Ontario's colleges of applied arts and technology to provide academic and technical upgrading programs for individuals with special needs, particularly women. These programs will assist individuals for entry into skills development programs. About 2,000 training positions will be funded through this $4-million allocation, which is in addition to the $433 million provided in operating grants to the colleges.
The Ontario management development program will receive an additional $1 million to develop a curriculum designed to assist managers to implement advanced technology and to increase corporate productivity.
The remaining $6 million will fund two new programs designed to expand work-place-centred training programs. One program will be directed towards short-term training, the other towards multi-year training. Incentives will be offered to encourage the completion of training objectives. I anticipate that approximately 6,000 new training positions will be created during 1983-84 through these two programs.
We have placed a high priority on the prompt introduction of the initiatives I have mentioned. My staff has already developed a number of alternative methods of implementing the initiatives. As soon as final operational guidelines are established, I shall be pleased to make them available to all the members of the House.
MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT BILL
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I will have the delight later this morning of introducing a bill to change the handicapped parking provisions of the Municipal Act.
The main purpose of the bill is to entitle the holders of provincial disabled-symbol licence plates to the same parking and traffic privileges as persons with municipal permits. It will also enable municipalities to recognize permits for the handicapped of other jurisdictions.
Under the existing legislation, municipalities can issue permits to handicapped persons or persons who transport the handicapped and may grant special stopping, standing and parking privileges to handicapped persons. They can also require parking lot owners to provide spaces for the handicapped.
These amendments are in response to requests from handicapped individuals and associations across our province. They complement the introduction of provincial disabled-symbol licence plates, which are now issued upon request to disabled drivers or persons transporting physically disabled persons in Ontario.
SUBSIDIZED RENTAL HOUSING
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, good Friday morning. My first Friday morning question is to my eastern Ontario colleague the member for Ottawa South and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It concerns our discussion in this chamber on Tuesday about the social housing policy of the Ontario Conservative government. At that time, the minister said, in respect of his ordered increases for the Cityhome projects at St. Lawrence and Frankel-Lambert, "After some hard negotiations, the rent increases were established in varying degrees."
Since neither the city nor Cityhome has any record of any such negotiations, hard or soft, with the minister or his ministry, would he care to comment as to specifically what he meant when he said there had been some hard negotiations in the setting of those two rental increases and with whom he had those hard negotiations?
At the same time on Tuesday, the minister indicated that, had his large increases for the St. Lawrence and Frankel-Lambert projects not been ordered, revenue from those two projects would not have kept pace with operating costs.
Would the minister explain how his view squares with the facts from Cityhome, which of course operates those facilities? Cityhome has estimated the cost increases were 10.5 per cent for the St. Lawrence project and 2.8 per cent for the Frankel-Lambert project.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, let us go back to the situation I discussed on Tuesday last in this House in relation to the increases that were being sought by Cityhome. As I indicated, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has the responsibility under a legal agreement with the federal government to negotiate and place those rents at the low end of market value for noncontrolled rental accommodation in the adjoining area.
As part of the negotiation process, the ministry personnel had been discussing with Cityhome its request for the increase at those two projects. However, let me suggest to this House that there is a great number more than just the two projects in question. In most cases, we found a degree of acceptance as to what they were asking and what we as a ministry believed was required, not only to meet the low end of market value rent but also to cover the cost of operating those units.
The discussions went through the normal process. It is not an exception; it is normal that discussions would take place as to the increases that would occur in those units. I want to emphasize again that the increase is in compliance with the agreement as to who establishes that rent, which ultimately falls to this ministry.
We went through the process. Indeed, we recognized what Cityhome wanted; we recognized what was required to bring those units to a break-even point without further subsidies by either the federal or provincial governments. It was established by the ministry at the conclusion of the day that the rents would be as indicated in the newspaper stories, which have been repeated in this House. They clearly indicated we went with the request of Cityhome.
I do not have the exact figures, but I believe that with the Frankel-Lambert project the additional loss would be about $75,000 per year and, in the second, the St. Lawrence project, it would be in the range of an additional increase or loss of $61,000 or $62,000 to the governments of the province and of Canada. With the increase in rents we have recommended, an extra loss factor will still be sustained. The units will still not come to a break-even position.
Mr. Conway: The minister has nicely anticipated my second question. On Tuesday the minister indicated, as he has just repeated, that if the increases he ordered for those two projects were not accepted, the subsidy levels for those two projects operated by Cityhome would increase by a total of $136,000.
Using the rents the city had proposed, six per cent for the Frankel-Lambert project and seven per cent for the St. Lawrence project, the required subsidies would decrease in one case by $3,700 and increase in the other case by $7,400, leaving a net additional subsidy required of $3,700, not a penny of which, by Cityhome figures, would come from Ontario.
How does that square with the information the minister has just repeated, that the additional amount required would somehow be in the neighbourhood of $136,000?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I am not going to get into debating the honourable member's figures, because I am not sure what source he happens to derive them from. Let me suggest to him --
Mr. Bradley: He is right.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Well, I happen to be in control of the figures we deal with in trying to arrive at rents, not some fictitious figures somebody wants to throw out and around the community.
Let us deal with the ones that are before us by Cityhome in a bona fide position. They clearly indicated to us that if we went with the increases requested by Cityhome, the Frankel-Lambert project would sustain a $74,435 additional loss. They also indicated that if we went with the recommended increases, which will be put in place by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing through Cityhome, that additional loss would be reduced to $8,100, a loss of $8,100. We trust that over the period of the year, in that particular project they will find some opportunities of curbing some of the expenditures and may very well be in a balanced position at the end of the year.
In the case of the St. Lawrence town house project, if we took the Cityhome request for increases in rent, the additional loss sustained would be $61,501. Even with the increase that we are recommending and will go into place, the fact remains that there will still be a $1,749 loss sustained in that project. I trust that through good management over the next number of months they will find a way to curb some of their expenditures and bring that project also into a balanced position.
I make no apologies to this House as to the financial contribution of Ontario to these projects in 1982 or 1983. We are operating them under an agreement that we entered into in 1978. Our commitment is clearly spelled out as to where the province will participate.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, May 31, in response to a question from the leader of the New Democratic Party on this same topic, the minister said "these nonprofit units are already heavily subsidized by the taxpayers of Ontario and Canada on a 50-50 basis." Is it not a fact that this statement is totally false and that the actual share under subsection 56(1) programs since 1980 has been, according the Honourable Roméo LeBlanc, a total of $146.6 million, of which the federal government has paid all but $1.8 million? In other words, Ontario's share of that $146 million is $1.8 million, for a ratio not of 50-50 but of 98-2. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, let us go back and do a complete analysis of exactly where we are in the field of provision of nonprofit housing. We will go back to 1978, when the federal and provincial governments across Canada decided that we were going to change the direction in the provision of rent-geared-to-income housing.
Very clearly, until that point, all the structures were owned by Ontario Housing Corp., the mortgages were secured through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and the loss factor sustained in operating of that portfolio, whether it be in Ontario or any other province, was shared on a 50-50 basis. Mr. Ouellet, who was then the minister reporting for CMHC, wanted us to enter into an agreement whereby we would provide public housing through the nonprofit system.
There are three divisions of the nonprofit system: first, co-ops; second, private nonprofit, and third, municipal nonprofit. It was very clearly indicated that the municipal nonprofit responsibility and the allocation of units across Ontario and across other provinces would be by the provincial governments after the allocation was given to them by CMHC and the federal minister.
Mr. McClellan: You spend two cents on the dollar, is that not true?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Just a moment. Hold on --
Mr. McClellan: That was the question: Do you spend two cents on the dollar; yes or no?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: To answer the question without giving some degree of history is ridiculous, and the members very well know it. If they want to remain in ignorance, fine.
Mr. McClellan: Two cents on the dollar, yes or no?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Conway: Does the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing not feel he has a growing if not an impossible credibility problem now that local housing authorities such as Cityhome are saying, "He has not consulted with us about his forced rental increases," while at the other end of the scale, the federal minister responsible for housing is saying, "We might have to withdraw because the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for Ontario will not contribute more than two cents on the dollar," as has been suggested in the morning press and repeated by the member for Bellwoods?
Does the minister not feel he has a very serious credibility problem and that he and his government are derelict in their duty of providing, in an aggressive way, good social housing for those tens of thousands of Ontarians who are in desperate need of same at this very instant?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Let me answer very clearly the position of the acting leader of the Liberal Party. When we talk about the more than $146 million that is referred to in this morning's press -- and I am glad the Globe and Mail comes out early enough that some members have an opportunity of asking questions -- the $146 million clearly relates to the entire area of co-ops, private nonprofits and municipal nonprofits across Ontario; it does not relate singularly or specifically to municipal nonprofits.
The $146 million relates to writing down rents in all those units to a market position. Regardless of the income any individual might have in one of those units in the private nonprofits, the co-ops or the municipal nonprofits, the rent factor of each unit is written down, and that is where the $146 million comes from.
Back in 1978 we made an agreement. We have honoured that agreement in delivering the program through the municipal nonprofits. Our participation at the moment in dollars and cents is relatively small. We have the administration and the delivery service, but in the long term -- and that could be in any given year -- our portion of the cost will continue to increase until we are an equal partner in every way, shape and form.
Let me respond to the last portion of the question as it related to Mr. LeBlanc. We checked out this morning where this story happened to originate, and it is always interesting when a civil servant says, "I would like to report it, but don't mention me by name." We took the opportunity to find out from Mr. LeBlanc whether he had some reservations about the agreement not only with Ontario but also with the other nine provinces, because we are all in the boat together on the agreement -- every one of us.
First of all, Mr. LeBlanc was not aware of the story in today's press; second, he does not concur with it; third, it is not his position, and fourth, on February 16, March 25, April 20, May 20 and again today I have requested of Mr. LeBlanc the opportunity to meet with him and review not only this aspect of the provision of housing but also other related aspects, and I have not had a positive answer to this date.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Treasurer, who was travelling around the precincts this morning raising revenue by taxing his colleague the member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr. Pollock). I will buy a ticket too, later on, but not until after an exchange about the growing tragedy of youth unemployment in this province.
I would like to ask the Treasurer, on behalf of those thousands of young Ontarians who this past month have been travelling by the thousands directly from the convocation line to the unemployment line, whether he is aware that youth unemployment in Ontario continues to hover in the 22 or 23 per cent range.
Let me cite very briefly some of the data I have been able to gather from the student employment centres across the province. Is the minister aware that in my own home town of Pembroke the youth employment centre has 1,218 registrants and has had only 165 placements? Is he aware that in North Bay, for example, the youth employment centre -- in fact, it is the youth unemployment centre -- has registered 2,030 students as of the end of the month and has had only 331 placements? Is he aware that in Windsor there have been 4,718 registrants and only 1,090 placements?
Is the minister satisfied that his May 10 budget has done enough to deal with the tragedy of youth unemployment, which is seeing literally tens of thousands of young Ontarians at home after the termination of the spring semester without a job and without any prospect of a job?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I believe there were two questions: was I aware, and was I satisfied that my budget did enough? I have been aware, not of exact statistics such as the honourable member has read but of the enormity of the problem.
Am I satisfied that my budget did enough? From a budgetary point of view, I think the member will find that we took the proper steps. We have never tried to say to anyone that the whole solution lay within the competence of government; we simply said we could take some steps for some unemployed students.
There will be, I hope very shortly, details of the accelerated youth employment program, which is really aimed at those who are not just summer students but students who have graduated from either secondary or post-secondary institutions and who have had at least six months without employment.
However, I am encouraged to see that employment rates appear to be improving -- I do not mean there is not a problem, but they appear to be improving -- and it appears to me that the economy may be gathering steam more rapidly than was previously expected. I think the very fact that this is the first time in three weeks I have had a question on the matter may indicate that.
Mr. Conway: Is the Treasurer aware that next week one quarter of a million additional young Ontarians are going to enter a work force that is increasingly unable to provide employment for those already out looking for work? What is he telling the families in Huntsville, Brampton and Scarborough? What is he telling the parents of the hundreds of thousands of young Ontarians who do not have work today and have no prospect of securing employment in the coming weeks?
What is the minister suggesting to the province at large? Is he saying he has done all he is going to do and the province need not expect any more help from him?
Hon. F. S. Miller: My friend is trying to lay the problem for the creation of every job upon the shoulders of the provincial government. I think one would have to recognize that some of the measures taken by his friends have aggravated the Canadian problem perhaps more than the American problem. The basic responsibility for those matters has always lain at the federal scene. He knows that; he conveniently likes to forget it. He likes to divorce himself from his federal friends at every opportunity. He likes to pretend he would have done better.
I have confidence that the budgetary measures taken have reinstilled a degree of confidence in investors in the small business sector, where jobs for those young people are being created.
Mr. Conway: Given that the Treasurer feels the private sector ought to be the engine for recovery, will he give an undertaking to the young people of Ontario that he will be prepared to consider some additional funding for programs such as the Ontario youth employment program subsidy initiative? Will he give an undertaking today that he will give additional impetus to the small business sector to hire more young people looking for work in the summer of 1983?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I think the member will find that, unlike the federal government which put out a $3,000 grant, got a lot of people to buy homes and then said, "Sorry, there is no money," with OYEP we have always been willing to honour our commitments and take extra registrations. Even if it runs over our budget, I am still prepared to do that.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege to correct the record: Moments ago the Treasurer said that unlike the federal government -- we were talking about the Ontario youth employment program -- his department and his government always lived up to their commitments.
I am sure the Treasurer must have known when he made the assertion that last year, while he budgeted $30.4 million for OYEP, through a forecasting error they spent $6.3 million less after having turned away scores of applications for job creation initiatives in that very excellent program. So the promise was not kept and the record ought to be corrected.
I will sit down, sending my friend the Treasurer $5 for the Rotary Club of Bracebridge, which is a hell of a lot more than his government has done for many of the unemployed young people in this province.
SUBSIDIZED RENTAL HOUSING
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, if I can interrupt the ticket sales, I will go back to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing with respect to Ontario's nonprofit housing program.
Now that we have established that Ontario does not pay 50 cents on the dollar but pays two cents on the dollar, may I ask the minister whether he agrees with the following figures, which come from the Cityhome annual report?
In 1980, the federal contribution to Frankel phase one was $69,000 and the provincial contribution was zero, and for Frankel phase two the federal contribution was $53,000 and the provincial contribution was zero. In 1981, the federal contribution to Frankel phase one was $82,000 and the provincial contribution was zero. For Frankel phase two, it was $201,000 from the federal government and $3,500 from the province.
In 1982, the provincial contribution to Frankel was zero; for phase one and phase two, zero. The provincial contribution to the St. Lawrence town homes in 1981 was zero, and in 1982 was zero. In 1983, the provincial contribution to Frankel phase one and phase two totalled $9,000; for the St. Lawrence town homes, the provincial contribution was zero.
Does the minister accept that those are accurate figures?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I accept that those figures are exactly in keeping with the agreement that was signed in 1978 with the federal minister in relation to the delivery of the nonprofit housing program in Ontario and in the other nine provinces.
I do not deny the fact that our agreement clearly indicates we have become equal partners over a period of time. The federal government wanted the first-in opportunity, and that is what it has. The fact is, the subsidy coming from the federal government is much larger than it ever anticipated in 1978, mainly because of the substantial rise in interest rates. I am sure the honourable member realizes all these subsidies coming to these programs are really derived as a result of a writedown in the interest rate versus the mortgage to two per cent. The federal government had the first-in situation, the province was second in and we eventually became equal partners.
The delivery of the municipal nonprofit program was given to the ministries of housing of the provincial governments of Canada, and the private nonprofits and co-ops were established with direct federal participation.
The member will also recall that under the Ontario community housing assistance program of this ministry we participated in subsidizing the rent-geared-to-income units in the co-ops and the nonprofits. This was a 100 per cent subsidy by this government.
Mr. McClellan: It is obvious the government is spending not 50 cents on the dollar but two cents on the dollar. Where does it get off ordering the Cityhome administration to raise rents in the Frankel-Lambert project, phases one and two, and the St. Lawrence project, when its total contribution to subsidization over the course of three years is approximately $11,000? What right does the government have to dictate the rent structure on those nonprofit facilities? How can it do this when the consequence of such a move is to make them unaffordable for all but relatively well-to-do people?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: There were two questions there and I will try to answer both very quickly. First, it is not two cents on the dollar by the provincial government. The member knows very well that the $146 million covers a vast multitude of units -- not just the rent supplement units, by any stretch of the imagination.
I said to the member on Tuesday and repeat this Friday morning -- it will be the same next Tuesday and Friday as well -- a portion of the units is rent-geared-to-income. The balance is at market rent. Even the Toronto Star some months ago, and June Rowlands, a member of Metro council, indicated there were some people in those units being subsidized who had rather substantial incomes.
Second, in relation to the overall program, this government, through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the generosity of the taxpayers of this province, will still subsidize public housing in Ontario by more than $130 million. This comes directly from the Treasury of the province to provide affordable housing for many people, and these people are very grateful to the taxpayers for having supplied that kind of accommodation.
Mr. McClellan: Does the minister not think it is slightly obscene that his ministry has budgeted $2,255,100 in 1983-84 for information services, combined with $1 million last year and $1 million the year before that, but his total expenditure on subsection 56(1) nonprofit housing projects since 1980 has been a total $1.8 million? He spent more on advertising than on actual housing; that is so typical.
Why does the government not accept its fair share of the load in providing social housing in this province instead of buck-passing and trying to camouflage the fact it is paying two cents on the dollar?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: We are not buck-passing. The people of this province should be proud of the record of the government, regardless of what the New Democratic Party has to say. I travel into NDP ridings and they are grateful. In Warren yesterday and in St. Charles they were delighted with the delivery of senior citizen housing in those communities. They were very appreciative of it.
In this province today, this government, through its understanding of the social requirement of housing, has through ownership or rent supplement programs provided 115,000 units, for both families and seniors, at a total cost of more than $300 million. We have never shirked our responsibility. We understand our social responsibility. We have said we will continue to deliver that responsibility in honour of the people who require it.
Hon. Mr. Davis: And no one does it better.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Thank you.
We entered into an agreement with the federal government. It is clearly understood between us and Mr. Ouellet, Mr. LeBlanc and the other ministers who have had the portfolio, what this government's responsibility is for providing housing today, tomorrow and for many years to come. We have not shirked our responsibility. We will continue to make our contribution both as a Canadian taxpayer and an Ontario taxpayer for the provision of that housing.
The agreement is being lived up to. If the federal government wishes to renegotiate it -- it has indicated nothing to me in that line -- we are prepared to discuss it.
INSPECTION OF NURSING HOMES
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health who, true to form, went outside the House yesterday and said he had a list of 32 nursing homes which had received revocation notices that their licences would be withdrawn. When he provided the list some time later it had shrunk to 23 nursing homes, of which only 14 had received revocation warnings.
Could the minister clear this matter up by telling us how many homes have received revocation notices? Will he table a list of these homes together with the precise dates on which the revocation notices were first sent, what corrective action has been taken and what nursing homes still face revocation of their licences?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: First, Mr. Speaker, I should correct the record. I had this information yesterday, as I mentioned to the media, in the event the member did raise this today. I was not asked for the list yesterday in question period. Had I been asked, I would have provided it to the member as quickly as I provided it to the media when they asked for it.
Second, I will clarify the list of 32 in that there were 23 homes to which --
Mr. McClellan: And 23 is so close to 32.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Just wait a minute.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: As I indicated yesterday, there were 32 homes against which action had been taken. Twenty-three of them received letters of revocation. If we subtract 23 from 32, we get nine. Nine represents two things: the number of New Democrats in the front row who are absent this morning and the number of additional homes against which charges have been laid for less serious violations but to which no revocation letters have been sent.
The answer I gave the member yesterday was accurate. There are 32 homes against which action has been taken.
Mr. McClellan: Is the minister going to give me the list?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I will read it to the member now or table it on Monday.
Mr. McClellan: Table it, please.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Okay, we will do that.
Mr. McClellan: I would like to ask whether the White Eagle Nursing Home in Parkdale is on that list and whether the minister's inspectors have visited that home recently. If they have, did they find any of the following inadequacies and violations?
There was inadequate staff; one nurse for 14 residents on the first floor. On April 9, a patient fell and there was nobody on the floor to assist that patient to get back up. Incontinent residents were unchanged for prolonged periods of time; in fact, family members were required to change their relatives because of the shortages of staff. Residents were not being given daily baths, in violation of section 56 of the act. Beds were too crowded, there was no toilet paper and there was a complete lack of respect and privacy inasmuch as patients were being undressed and changed in full view of other residents and visitors to the nursing home. Finally, there were obvious fire hazards, the usual kinds of fire hazards.
Has this nursing home been inspected? Have violations been observed there?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: First, let me point out that we have had good results from some of the revocation letters sent out. In the list printed this morning by the media and the one I will table on Monday next, in seven cases immediate action was taken by the nursing home to bring it into full and complete good standing, so that the revocation letters were withdrawn. To be fair to the homes, seven of those cases mentioned took the appropriate actions pursuant to the revocation letters and they are now in good standing.
With regard to White Eagle, I might indicate that on January 21 last, there was an inspection and as a result of that it was not deemed appropriate that charges be laid nor that a letter of revocation be sent, although two or three minor violations were indicated.
I have a difficult time getting through yet another allegation with regard to nursing homes without becoming decently provocative this morning. In each case -- and I say this with respect and with due care -- without exception, the New Democratic Party has raised cases and drawn to the attention of this assembly and put on the record a list of alleged violations and a list of alleged behaviour. I think without exception in every case -- how can I put it? -- someone exaggerated and it was not truly reflective of the state of affairs in each nursing home.
Mr. Martel: You put on the record the other side, then. You have been stalling for weeks on that.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Every time I mention that in this House, the member for Sudbury East invites me to put it on the record. Mr. Speaker, I have not found under your revised rules a way to do that. I again invite the member to ask me a question that will allow me to review some of the inaccuracies his leader has put on the record with regard to nursing homes, and that will indicate why I take some of these allegations with a bag of salt.
Mr. Martel: You are so stupid and sleazy it is not even funny.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Martel: What a sleaze. There is a time any day during which he could make a statement.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Martel: He could make a statement every day. He does not have to be a sleaze about it.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Martel: You ought to find a way to answer this. Put the stuff on the record then, mouth; put it on.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, the minister said nobody asked yesterday that a list of nursing homes in revocation or potentially in revocation be tabled. I asked the minister not only yesterday but on a number of occasions to make public all the information he has about all inspections that have been done on all nursing homes across Ontario. He indicated yesterday that he was not prepared to do that for another month.
The issue keeps coming up day after day in the Legislature and outside. Why does the minister not simply table a copy of all the inspection reports he has in his briefing book there, so that we and the people of Ontario can have access to this information, not on July 1 but today?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, I understood the question yesterday to be a question as to why we do not make the nursing home inspection reports available now. The member can correct me if I am wrong, but I did not think yesterday's question involved a request for details with regard to which homes have received letters of revocation on which charge.
Many times we have been over the problems in making available the nursing home inspection reports, and have also agreed that we are close to solving the problem that was proving an impediment and they will be available on July 1. So I think we have covered all the questions the member asked yesterday. The information will be available today, indeed it is in the media today, with regard to which homes we have taken action against.
Mr. McClellan: The minister does not like the reports of eyewitness observations of inadequacies and violations, and nobody else does either.
I want to ask the minister how it has come to pass that the nursing home inspection service of the Ministry of Health -- and it is a matter of clear public record -- has been engaged in a massive and systematic coverup of violations of the Nursing Homes Act and regulations, under this minister's regime until the winter of 1983, under the regime of the current Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Timbrell) when he was Minister of Health, under the regime of the current Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) when he was Minister of Health, and under the regime of the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) when she was Acting Minister of Health?
Why did none of them observe these systematic violations of the Nursing Homes Act and regulations and the systematic degradation of residents in nursing homes until the winter of 1983?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: This week we have been able to see the ability of the third party to continue to make allegations and name-call, but when they are subjected to some modest amount of criticism and calling to account for some of things they like to put on the record and which we find out later are not totally accurate, when they are called to account for some of things about our health care system they feel free to say south of the border where people go into bankruptcy, we see how they are able to take that amount of criticism.
It is okay for them to lob it over here all the time, but they do not respond terribly well to criticism. Since they do not have too much ability to respond to that sort of criticism and self-analysis, in order to make your job easier, Mr. Speaker, I am going to desist in my response to that rather provocative question.
In as unprovocative a way as possible, might I say that no member of this House, having visited the nursing homes, the chronic care institutions, the senior citizens residences and the hospitals in this province -- providing far more accommodation for our seniors than any other jurisdiction in the world and by and large better than any other jurisdiction in the world; they know that is right -- should go so far, even under the heat of criticism and the pressure of being called to account for some of the ridiculous, outrageous and erroneous things their leader said a couple of weeks ago, no one should stand in this House --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: See how well they respond.
No one should stand in this House and accuse this government of systematic degradation of our seniors. That is so outrageous and inappropriate, particularly for a certain member who, except for those occasions when he is trying to bail out his leader, acts fairly responsibly, and it does not warrant any kind of decent response and I will not offer one.
Mr. Speaker: If I may have the co-operation of all honourable members, I would like to introduce some prominent guests in the Speaker's gallery this morning. I would ask all members of the assembly to join me in recognizing and welcoming Dr. Alvaro Manjardin, president of the Regional Assembly of Azores, who is visiting us from the republic of Portugal for Portuguese Week.
Mr. Wrye: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour. The minister will recall last year that interim adjustments to workers' compensation benefits were introduced in late December only after months of anguish by injured workers and after pressure on the steps of the assembly and indeed in this building.
During second reading of the legislation the minister said, "It has become standard practice over the past few years to relate increases to July 1 in each year." Given that July 1 is close at hand and, most important, given the concern and lack of trust of this government evidenced by Wednesday's unprecedented committee meeting on the steps of this Legislature with thousands of injured workers, will the minister stand in his place now and make a commitment to bring in a full interim cost-of-living adjustment so that injured workers can have new purchasing power that they are entitled to by July 1?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, I do not believe the honourable member is accurate in his assessment of the situation last fall. He stated it was only after pressure was brought to bear, such as demonstrations and so on, that I brought forward adjustments to the benefit package.
I rose in this House on two different occasions early in the fall last year and indicated that amendments would be made to the benefit package before the end of the year and they would be retroactive to July 1. It did not take the demonstrations in the gallery or on the steps or the urging of the opposition members to produce the benefit increases that were brought forward at exactly the time they were promised.
Mr. Wrye: For the life of me, I cannot understand the kind of games this government continues to play with injured workers.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Wrye: The minister said himself, "It has become standard practice over the past few years to relate increases to July 1 in each year."
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. McClellan: Why doesn't the Speaker name somebody?
Mr. Speaker: Having said that, the member for Windsor-Sandwich.
Mr. Wrye: As the minister was in the committee last night, he will be aware that the Tory majority ganged up once again to deny the opportunity to send even an interim report to the minister recommending such an increase.
The minister will also be aware that the hearings are about to conclude but that legislation cannot be in place until late this fall. Further, if he will check with the Workers' Compensation Board he will be aware it is estimated that it will be another six months after the legislation is in place before it will truly take effect.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Wrye: Given that timetable, we will need another cost-of-living adjustment, retroactive, as with so many others, to July 1. Why does the minister not now join hands with the injured workers, tell them what is past is past, and begin to treat them as a priority item? Will the minister stand in his place and give them the cost-of-living increase today and let us get the legislation in and passed before July 1?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Let me once again put a couple of facts on the record here, because they have been presented before. First, there is no firm precedent for the timing of these revisions. If the member wants to look back over the last eight-year period he will note there have been four revisions. They have occurred at intervals ranging from one to three years.
Let me put something else on the record. If the member wants to look at the last seven years, from June 1975 to June 1982, workers' compensation benefits rose by 88 per cent compared with an increase of 91 per cent in the consumer price index. If he wants to take it from July 1, 1975, to July 1, 1982, that figure would be even higher than the consumer price index. In addition, he has to bear in mind that these increases are tax free.
Mr. Martel: That is a distortion and you know it.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I finally have a chance to ask the minister. I want to correct him. He never volunteered to raise the issue of the increase in the House, although he was prompted by this party twice last year; reluctantly, he made statements.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Di Santo: In view of the fact that the minister knows the cost of living increased last year by 12 per cent while the benefits were increased by only nine per cent, and in view of the fact that we know the other benefits, Canada pension and unemployment insurance, are increased every year, why does he think this is the only group which should await the whim of the minister to have benefits increased?
Does he not think it is his responsibility now to say, "The injured workers deserve cost-of-living increases and we are going to present the legislation"? If he does not, can he give us a good reason why he does not want to do that? We want to tell the injured workers.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, first I would like to respond to the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) who took exception to the figures I quoted.
Mr. Speaker: No, he did not ask a question. It was the member for Downsview.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, in response to the member for Downsview, last year these figures were questioned by the leader of the third party. At that time, I said I would be fully prepared to sit down with him and show the rationale for the figures if he wanted to present the rationale he had for his figures. He never did take me up on that offer to discuss the cost of living as compared with the consumer price index.
I have not made any commitment at this time in this House as far as July 1 is concerned, simply because at this particular date I am not in a position to do so.
SECURICOR INVESTIGATION AND SECURITY LTD.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Solicitor General and it relates to a matter that preoccupied a good portion of the minister's estimates: Securicor Investigation and Security Ltd. and the work that my colleague the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie) had done to try to get the ministry to do something about that particular security firm.
The minister may be aware that the Globe and Mail this morning reported that undercover agents from Securicor Investigation and Security Ltd. were planted among the employees of the Bedford Bedding and Upholstery Co. Ltd. the day after the company was notified on May 2 that the Upholsterers' International Union of North America had applied to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to represent its workers. The owner of the firm is reported to have stated that the private investigators have been instructed to inform him of anything they found out about union activity.
When did the minister or any officers of the Ontario Provincial Police or of the Metropolitan Toronto Police become aware of the engagement of undercover agents from that security company for the purpose of subverting the processes under the Ontario Labour Relations Act?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I assume the member is asking me when I became aware of such activities. I am not aware of that particular date at this time. As to the purpose of the individuals as he has asked in his question, I do not know the purpose for which they are being employed there, but I will inquire as to the date when that company was employed and I will inform the member.
Mr. Renwick: Will the Solicitor General on Monday next at the very earliest opportunity advise this House of the names of every undercover agent and his employer who is engaged in legitimate labour disputes for subverting of the processes of the Ontario Labour Relations Act?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: I have no knowledge of the question the member asks or of the individuals, and I do not know the activities of registered private security investigators. They are registered and licensed by the ministry, but we do not involve ourselves in the activities they undertake in carrying out their work, so I cannot answer that question.
MUNICIPAL ASSESSMENT APPEALS
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Attorney General and it is in regard to assessments.
Thousands of Ontario citizens now appealing their tax assessments will be facing very long delays in their appeals. Given the fact that with these long appeals they lose additional funds because they have to pay their assessments and then do not get their money back until after they pay their original assessments; and given the fact that the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) indicated in a statement on November 27, 1981, "There is always a fine line between trying to be fair and equitable, trying to eliminate appeals or to finalize them and come to a settlement as quickly as possible, and at the same time not giving the impression to the municipality that the assessor is prepared to give away the shop because somebody puts a little pressure on him," would the minister not agree that a delay of up to three years, as has been predicted, with the financial burden this can present, is neither fair nor is it equitable, and that the minister's fine line has become a brick wall?
Given this, what does the minister intend to do to expedite those assessment appeals?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, certainly from the information I have, I think the honourable member's concerns about the delays are somewhat exaggerated. While one has to recognize that there are unfortunate delays from time to time, I think the situation he has described is not accurate.
If there are certain areas of the province that are of particular concern to the member with respect to these delays, I would be happy to take the matter up with the chairman of the Ontario Municipal Board so far as the appeals they are handling are concerned, and of course any matters that might relate to the original hearings I could take up with the chairman of the assessment review hoard.
I think they are doing a pretty good job of eliminating these delays, but there undoubtedly are problem areas. If the member would like to be more specific, I will address those.
Mr. Epp: The minister will probably recall that last year, when we were debating a bill concerning the backlog, we had about 40,000 cases. Now there are at least 67,000 that need to be dealt with. The minister is not dealing with the problem effectively; in fact, the number of cases is increasing.
Second, when the ministry was called about this particular problem it did not deny the fact that it could be up to three years before cases were held. There are cases that go back to 1975 that have not yet been resolved. Obviously, the minister does not have full information.
Given the information we have, however, and given the fact the Minister of Revenue is appealing many of the cases that are coming before the ministry for whatever reason -- he is appealing thousands and thousands of cases himself -- does the minister not think that is a tremendous vote of no confidence in the minister's officials? I am not talking about two or three cases; I am talking about thousands of cases his ministry is appealing. Does the minister not think that is a tremendous vote of no confidence in the people he is appointing to those positions, in that, because he does not think they are doing a good enough job, he is appealing those cases?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: First, I do not appoint these people. This matter is looked after in the first instance, as the member knows, usually on the recommendation of the chairman of the assessment review board. I would again ask the member to be more specific. I have not heard of any cases where officials of my ministry have predicted there will be a three-year delay. If the member would like to direct my attention to some specific cases, I would be happy to look into the matter. I think the member has been extremely general and, lacking the specifics, it is a little difficult to respond effectively to his concerns.
SKILLS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
Mr. Allen: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education, Colleges and Universities with respect to her statement to the House this morning. One is always appreciative of any response of any kind to meeting the skills training needs of people in our work force.
I want to ask the minister whether this is really a very adequate response given that when it is worked out, $14 million comes to about $1,000 each for 14,000 people; when one looks at the training in business and industry program one is talking about a $150 commitment to each training position.
Let me ask the minister a question specifically about the role of women in this program. She refers to technical upgrading programs with some special attention to women's needs, yet she is targeting only 2,000 training positions, some portion of which will be for women, when the vast majority of 233,000 women who are unemployed in this province at the moment need something more than that.
In the sixth paragraph, there is no reference to women with relationship to work place-centred training programs. When is the minister going to respond adequately with a suitable program for the training skills needs of women in this province?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member had taken the trouble to look at any past history related to this area he would have found that as early as 1977, when I had a different responsibility in this government, we began the process of looking very carefully at the specific needs of women to move into nontraditional roles.
We have continued to do that through publications we developed for students in the secondary program, for those who are being counselled in employment counselling areas. We have provided instances and reportage of the experiences of individual women who have taken advantage of training programs that are available.
There is no impediment at this time to the entry of women into training programs in nontraditional areas. It needs only their desire to move in that direction, I gather, and support from their immediate families and their peer groups. One of the major difficulties we have to overcome is that impediment of attitude and it has been difficult to erode. I am not sure we will be able to do it simply from governmental levels. However, one of our major attacks certainly has to be upon the attitudes of families to the career decisions of young women, particularly in the school system.
It is somewhat disturbing to learn from surveys that young women are not moving into nontraditional roles in greater numbers. This seems to be the case after more than a decade of relatively concerted effort to persuade women students in secondary schools it was essential to consider seriously a career program which would provide them with some skill and some security of potential opportunity in the future. But according to surveys the vast majority of those students are not considering seriously moving into nontraditional roles. The vast majority are still going into teaching, nursing, secretarial service or simply being a homemaker.
I do not deny, ever, the status of the role of homemaker. It is one of the most valuable in our society and should be considered so by all citizens, male or female. But it is distressing that we have not succeeded in the way we had hoped we would for the young women in the secondary schools. The attitudinal problems seem to be difficult to surmount but we continue to attack them and will continue to do so.
Mr. Allen: That was a very sophisticated answer but all it does is confess the failure of the ministry to solve the problem and to move in on it adequately. It is not a question of simply putting money in place; it is a question of putting programs in place up and down the whole system and moving in on the social question.
Let me move on to another question, namely, the sixth paragraph again relating to training programs centred on the work place.
The minister knows the overwhelming emphasis upon skills training in this province is institutional: classroom based and oriented. In light of that, is this not an incredibly inadequate response to the overwhelming need for training programs centred on the work place?
Is it not time this ministry, perhaps in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Industry and Trade, established a major work training, skills training program, involving paid educational leave, for the adult work force in this province? Is it not time they did this so we can upgrade those skills and make our economy competitive in the world market place?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: The member knows full well a major study of this matter has been carried on by the federal government. If we were to launch into that kind of program it would necessarily have to be something that would be shared from coast to coast rather than be just in one province.
The member conveniently forgets that the Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay), the Minister of Industry and Trade (Mr. Walker) and the Minister of Colleges and Universities have been responsible for establishing a most effective mechanism for ensuring work place training. This is through employer-sponsored training programs involving community and industrial training committees. Those are effective.
The member also conveniently forgets that in the last three years some 90,000 people have been trained in employer-sponsored training in industry and business programs, primarily in work place settings not in institutional settings.
The member also conveniently forgets that the primary role of this additional funding, which I thought I stated very clearly -- in a very unsophisticated way because I am not a sophisticate like the member -- was for bridging purposes. It was to provide women with the opportunity to take the science and the math they do not take in secondary schools because we have not succeeded in the attitudinal change, in order to permit them to enter the training programs where there will be employment opportunities. Please understand that.
ALLEGATIONS IN HOUSE
Mr. Martel: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: On at least four occasions in the past week and a half the Minister of Health (Mr. Grossman) has made allegations that my colleagues are presenting half truths, or what not, and that he has no opportunity to respond.
May I ask the Speaker's assistance in directing the minister's attention to standing order 26(a), page 6 for his edification. It reads, "Statements may be made by ministers relating to government policy, ministry action and other similar matters of which the House should be informed."
If we are wrong, it is his responsibility to inform the House. In other words, put up or shut up.
Mr. Speaker: Let me say first I have some doubts about accepting that as a point of order. The member is quite right that the ministers do have opportunities to make ministerial statements. However, I would direct the member's attention to the standing order that says something about using inflammatory language.
Mr. Speaker: The Minister of Health, briefly.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Briefly, Mr. Speaker, I had occasion in my previous portfolio to rise one day and try to present some facts on another issue that contradicted some of the facts being put forward. I recall it as one of those great days when they just could not take the good news.
I am not going to make a statement prior to question period laying out the facts as opposed to wild allegations for the very simple reason that I have always treated those periods as times for ministers to make policy statements. If the New Democratic Party really wants the answers to the wild allegations their leader made, there are 60 minutes each day during which they can ask questions. That even gives them the opportunity to try to defend themselves at that very same time. I invite them to do that and to make sure their leader is here. They will love it.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
MUNICIPALITY OF METROPOLITAN TORONTO AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Bennett moved, seconded by Hon. Mrs. Birch, first reading of Bill 57, An Act to amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, the bill provides for the future operation of the Guild Inn, a hotel, restaurant, recreational and cultural facility situated in the borough of Scarborough, now operated by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority through Guildwood Hall, an Ontario corporation, which has a lease that expires June 15, 1983.
MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Bennett moved, seconded by Hon. Mrs. Birch, first reading of Bill 58, An Act to amend the Municipal Act.
Motion agreed to.
FAMILY DAY CARE SERVICES ACT
Ms. Fish moved, seconded by Mr. Robinson, first reading of Bill Pr19, An Act respecting Family Day Care Services.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
The following bills were given third reading on motion:
Bill 34, An Act to authorize the Raising of Money on the credit of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Bill 38, An Act to amend the Corporations Tax Act.
BOROUGH OF EAST YORK ACT
Mr. Williams moved second reading of Bill Pr6, An Act respecting the Borough of East York.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
SMITH BROS. & SONS BUILDERS LIMITED ACT
Mr. Dean moved, on behalf of Mr. Kells, second reading of Bill Pr24, An Act to revive Smith Bros. & Sons Builders Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF REVENUE
Mr. Chairman: Traditionally, the minister has an opening statement. Does he have one at this time?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Just a brief one, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman: Eighty-four pages.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: No, only 58.
Mr. Chairman: Do we all have copies?
An hon. member: No.
Mr. Chairman: Would we all like copies?
An hon. member: Yes.
Mr. Nixon: You can start, though.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to have this opportunity to present the estimates of the Ministry of Revenue for 1983-84 to the assembly.
Before examining specific 1983-84 budget allocations in detail, I believe it would be time well spent to review with the honourable members some of the more significant activities taking place at the Ministry of Revenue that relate to this fiscal year.
As well, I would like to bring the honourable members up to date on the successful relocation of my ministry's head office to Oshawa. This move is not only a major achievement in the government's go-east policy, but it also puts Revenue in the forefront of modern technology applications in the Ontario government, thereby enhancing our capacity to increase productivity and respond more effectively to the needs of our diverse clients.
First is an overview of the 1983-84 resources. As with all Ontario government ministries, Revenue continually strives to meet the government-wide objectives described in the now oft-repeated phrase, "doing more with less." I believe honourable members will see in my comments and in these estimates how the Ministry of Revenue intends to continue with this difficult and challenging objective.
I would now like to draw members' attention to the human resource summary and the expenditure summary tables in the briefing material I have provided for their review.
Members will observe that the human resource table describes the planned employment for 1983-84 by major programs and is included with a comparison of the same figures presented to members for last year's estimates submission. The table indicates that my ministry has made plans to increase its level of staffing by 66 man-years in 1983-84. That is a change from the material that was previously provided. I think it had indicated 63; the corrected figure is 66 man-years.
As members will know, Revenue presents its manpower estimates in terms of maximum staffing potential. This method exhibits most clearly our manpower needs for the consideration of members who will understand that the actual level of staff employed is usually somewhat lower because of vacancies and staff redeployment.
Our tax revenue program requires the largest increase in maximum staffing potential. Generally, it involves a balanced distribution of staff across the areas of taxpayer education and assistance, audit, enforcement and technological support to ensure the proper operation of existing voluntary self-assessing tax systems and mechanisms.
The planned staffing potential for the property assessment program has been increased for 1983-84 by 24 man-years. The majority of this increase is for short-term, unclassified staff, mainly summer students. I would remind members that in the last two estimate submissions, those for 1982-83 and 1981-82, staffing decreases for the assessment program have totalled 86 man-years.
Members will recall the planned staffing requested last year included provision for my ministry's move to Oshawa. I am happy to report that now the move has been completed, there has been a reduction of 27 man-years in staffing requirements. Again, that is a change from 30. It balances out the three referred to before. Thus, our staff levels have been held to an overall increase of only 66 man-years for 1983-84 while dealing with steady increases in the volume and complexity of the tax revenue and property assessment programs and all accomplished during the successful relocation of our head office to Oshawa.
The second table in the briefing material to which I want to draw members' attention is the expenditure summary. Members will see that the summary describes the 1983-84 estimates spending and compares it to last year's actual spending by major classification.
The table shows that for 1983-84, Revenue's total operating expenditure, excluding transfer payments, is down by $4.6 million over last year. Salaries and benefits are up by $3 million, a figure reflective of the higher level of potential staffing which I mentioned earlier and the annualization of salary awards. Travel services and supplies are reduced by $2 million, attributable in part to completion of my ministry's relocation. Thus, the impact of inflation and work-load increases on ministry operations have largely been absorbed.
The result is that staffing and operating expenditures have been curtailed to a minimum despite the pressures of inflation and work load increases on ministry programs. In view of these results I believe I am fully justified in stating that my ministry continues to manage its resources prudently and to maintain the level-line trend established in recent years.
Resource management techniques and productive results: The success achieved by the Ministry of Revenue in its budgeting and expenditure management is due in no small measure to the planning and control methods that are used at all levels in the organization. Zero-base budgeting techniques and management-by-results reviews play vital roles in enabling managers to use our resources effectively to meet program objectives in the face of budgetary constraints and increasing work loads.
Our resource management processes continue to reflect the principles and practices of good management that have been adopted generally as policy in the Ontario public service. Two initiatives undertaken at the government level to help managers successfully meet the challenging demands of the 1980s are the Ontario public service management publication series and the managing by results guidelines booklet. Within my ministry both of these projects are helping to measure our management activities against the standards of excellence that exist as general government objectives.
Each year Revenue documents the operational efficiencies, program outputs and program effects that are targeted for the budget year and communicated to Management Board. Within my ministry reporting systems are in place that enable the communication and recording of results achieved by managers working in a decentralized management environment. These systems permit the flexible deployment of resources to make necessary tactical adjustments to meet in-year changes in our program priorities, such as implementing the Treasurer's (Mr. F. S. Miller) budget policies.
It is my belief that results-oriented management is crucial to the successful operation of a business organization like Revenue in a constraint environment, and I foresee an increased emphasis on this approach as we continue through the 1980s.
Management of investments in information technology: As I have reported before, over the past decade the Ministry of Revenue has been extremely successful in the application of information technology to help meet its operational goals.
Every major ministry program has experienced a significant investment in automation. As a result, Revenue has been able to absorb significant increases in the volume and complexity of its work load while reducing staffing levels and operating within strict budgetary constraints.
While technology has enabled my ministry to increase productivity, I would emphasize that this has only been achieved through careful management of investment in computer systems. This investment is not unlike capital investment programs undertaken by manufacturing firms. It involves a fixed dollar outlay that ultimately yields a number of benefits from the original investment, returned primarily in the form of increased productivity.
Over a period of time computer systems, like machinery, become obsolete or cost too much to maintain and must therefore be replaced. Much of the technological decision-making at Revenue involves determining which investments in new systems will produce the greatest return and which of the older systems have outlived their usefulness and require replacement.
Because of the significant potential of automation and because of the size of the expenditures involved, this area has attracted a great deal of senior management attention in recent years. However, the choices are becoming increasingly complex, largely because of the explosive growth of technology.
Consequently, Revenue's management processes have been developed to ensure that opportunities are used to best advantage and that proper controls do exist. These processes began in 1977 with the publication of my ministry's five-year development plan and they continued in parallel with the major systems investments implemented in all parts of the ministry under that plan.
The active recognition by my ministry of the importance of good management centred on innovation and the achievement of targeted results has been a major determining factor in the success of our electronic data processing systems.
Revenue believes that while the development of management processes has kept pace with the dramatic growth of automation, there is a constant challenge to refine and develop those processes to meet the expanding range of opportunities offered by emerging technology.
One of the most notable events in this strengthening of EDP management has been the establishment of a technology strategy committee, which includes the ministry's senior executives and management as well as the directors of the ministry's technology delivery branches.
Chaired by the deputy minister, this committee is responsible for monitoring the development of an information technology strategy and for ensuring that the strategy and major systems investments are consistent with my ministry's established corporate plans.
Over the past fiscal year, the technology strategy committee has been heavily involved in the preparation of a second five-year plan geared to the new Oshawa location and the development of new computer management methodologies under the sponsorship of Management Board.
The committee has reviewed the practices of private sector organizations which were considered to have developed effective methods for evaluation, selecting and controlling electronic data processing investments.
In the next year my ministry will make changes to its management processes as a result of the work which the committee undertook in the past year. These will be made largely in recognition that, as technological change occurs and as the use of technology grows in Revenue, management processes must adapt and evolve to ensure that opportunities for productive application of technology are not missed.
My ministry has recognized that technology is evolving in several other important ways. Perhaps most significant, there has been a broadening of the scope of application of automated systems. In the early years of computers, systems were developed which more or less mimicked clerical or manual operations. These systems offered important savings in manpower and helped reduce costs at an operational level.
While these benefits have been and will continue to be important, it has become clear in recent years that the computer is emerging as a means of enhancing the analytical and judgmental functions of managers and professionals. It is in this area that the greatest potential for the effective application of automation exists.
My ministry has recognized this potential and has successfully harnessed it in recent years. In the past year, for example, two key systems developments were undertaken which will benefit ministry managers and professionals and will contribute strongly to the effectiveness of ministry operations.
The first example of how the ministry is using technology to support managers and professionals is in the Ontario assessment system, Oasys, the development of which is currently under way in the property assessment program.
As I discussed with the honourable members during my introduction of the Ministry of Revenue's 1982-83 estimates, Oasys not only will result in improved assessment program productivity but also will ultimately allow municipalities direct access to our assessment data bases, thereby improving their own efficiency.
Also at that time I announced the Oasys project was proceeding with the introduction of prototype terminals in two regional offices. Today, I am pleased to state that the prototype stage of Oasys has been completed with considerable success and we are now preparing to service all our 31 regional assessment offices with this technology.
The second example of a recent investment in automation which is aimed at the managerial level is an "office of the future" pilot project. This pilot project connects the ministry executive and several of its managers in an electronic network which supports their individual productivity and enables effective communication between them. This network is particularly important to maintaining effective communications between our offices in Toronto and Oshawa and eventually will be expanded to include our regional tax and assessment offices across the province.
While much work remains to be done on this pilot project in the next fiscal year, it is clear that this represents a technology which will significantly improve the productivity and effectiveness of ministry managers.
This system is being implemented using the technology provided by an Ontario company. The government has recognized that office automation is a rapidly growing industry and that Ontario companies have already developed important competitive advantages in this market. The Ministry of Revenue is sensitive to the fact that support of Ontario's office systems industry is important to the economic future of this province.
Finally, it is significant that this project is also sponsored by Management Board in recognition of its potential for wider corporate benefits.
The rapid changes in the technological environment require that the ministry develop innovative approaches to best exploit valuable opportunities. It is important that major technical alternatives are carefully examined so that key decisions affecting ministry systems are made wisely. The pace of change also demands that my ministry's technical personnel constantly upgrade their skills and knowledge.
For these two reasons, the Ministry of Revenue will strengthen its formal technology research program in the next year. This program will co-ordinate the evaluation and implementation of new technologies and will provide a basis for the key technological decisions which must be made in the years to come. This program will also allow staff development opportunities to proceed in line with major technological trends.
The Ministry of Revenue has recognized that information technology has created enormous opportunities to improve productivity in support of the objectives of its programs. However, these great opportunities have serious responsibilities associated with them, including the need carefully to consider the effects of automation on ministry staff. In addition, as a major purchaser of information technology, my ministry has a responsibility to help provide incentives to Ontario's high-technology industries. Revenue has been extremely sensitive to these issues in its attempts effectively to apply automation.
Finally, it is noteworthy to recognize that my ministry's forward planning regarding the increased use of automated systems is very much in evidence in the new head office in Oshawa, an item I will be discussing shortly.
Next is our tax revenue program. I have been discussing a number of corporate policies and issues which have a significant impact across the ministry in the delivery of programs and services. At this point, I would like to review a number of specific developments related to programs administered in areas of tax revenue and property assessment.
Our coloured fuels program went into effect in September 1982 and has been the subject of some controversy in recent months. The results seen over the first eight months of this program are very positive indeed. Not only has revenue increased in a period of generally declining consumption, but also we are now satisfied that the tax roll of registrants is more complete than under the former system.
Problems regarding the acceptance of dyed fuel, particularly in the farming community, have been largely resolved, and my ministry has undertaken steps to see to it that Ontario farmers receive the full benefit intended for them through the purchase of tax-exempt fuel.
For farmers and other independent businessmen who incurred additional costs as a result of the coloured fuels program, a compensation package was designed to provide financial assistance by way of cash grants to offset the cost of supplementary fuel storage facilities and any modifications needed to delivery tank wagons. In the 1982-83 fiscal year, almost $1.5 million in compensation was paid out, much of this to the farmer's co-operatives.
While this has been a difficult program to put into place, I believe there is now general acceptance of it as a responsible method of ensuring that fuel tax legislation is observed in the province. I am sure that results in terms of additional tax dollars will be even more impressive as the program's systems mature.
Next are the programs for senior citizens. The guaranteed income and tax credit branch of my ministry this year will be making more than 4.1 million payments to senior citizens under the guaranteed annual income system and Ontario tax grant programs. The combined transfer payments of these two programs in the current fiscal year is estimated at $439 million.
I would like to take a few moments at this time to highlight the major developments that have occurred in the administration of these programs over the past year and touch upon some of the enhancements we plan to undertake in the current year.
In my presentation of the 1982-83 estimates late last fall, I outlined measures that had been implemented to reduce the number of errors on property tax grant applications submitted to the ministry and to expedite the processing of those applications. As I reported at that time, the results to early November were very encouraging, and those results held up well throughout the 1982 application processing cycle.
One measure of the significance of these improvements can be found in the numbers of property tax grant applications requiring further action to complete as of mid-February in each of the first three years of the program.
In February 1981, Revenue had on hand 26,000 applications from the 1980 tax year which required further action on the part of either the applicant or the ministry before they could be processed and paid. At the same time in 1982, there were 18,000 applications from the 1981 tax year still to be completed.
In mid-February this year, only 6,000 applications required additional information from the applicants or additional processing by the ministry before the account could be paid or be found to be ineligible for payment.
For the 1983 grant cycle, we plan to continue the process of fine-tuning the application form as well as our processing systems and problem-solving procedures. The Ontario tax grant program is approaching the state of maturity where such activities will yield only marginal year-to-year improvements in application processing, leaving an inevitable number of problem applications requiring case-by-case corrective action by staff; however, significant improvements can still be made in our turnaround times on inquiries, and the branch is currently planning new inquiry processes for implementation prior to the mailing of applications this fall. In addition, we plan to further improve our services directly to the members' constituency offices.
With respect to the guaranteed annual income system program, we have recently implemented the last of a series of changes designed to restructure that system and to further reduce maintenance costs.
The 1982 provincial budget contained significant new applications of retail sales tax, resulting in the addition of some 10,000 new vendors to our tax rolls and increased remittance responsibilities for an additional 65,000 vendors.
My ministry's response to this significant service challenge was to implement the special vendor assistance program, which resulted in the recruitment and training of 30 staff dedicated specifically to the task of assisting new and existing vendors affected by these tax changes.
The results of this unique customer service measure have been most encouraging, and the program has done much to further solidify the working relationship between the ministry and vendors across the province.
My ministry has followed a deliberate path of forgiveness whereby vendors have not been penalized for innocent mistakes caused by unfamiliarity with the new tax provisions. This strategy is paying off, and the returns in terms of goodwill and improved revenue performance are high.
I turn now to the property assessment program and a review of a number of its present initiatives and their cost implications. First, let me draw members' attention to the printed estimates for the property assessment program, which indicate a total 1983-84 estimate of $78.3 million, as opposed to the 1982-83 figure of $74 million.
The difference of $4.3 million appears to represent a six per cent increase. However, I would point out that the $78.3 million includes one-time funding for certain items as well as a major $2.7-million restraints adjustment program currently under review at Management Board. The 1983-84 estimates also include $2.13 million for the Oasys project, which has been obtained under the incentive program and which must be repaid with interest, and $2 million for implementation of the proposed farm tax reduction program.
Considering these issues and noting that $6.9 million is attributable to annualized salary and benefit increases, the real assessment budget for 1983-84 is actually 10 per cent lower than the program's budget for last year. This 10 per cent reduction may be coupled to a further decrease if the proposed restraints adjustment program of $2.7 million receives approval, thus reducing the budget by a further four per cent. I need not point out that the inflation rate over this same time period has further diminished program purchasing power.
I would like to take the opportunity now to detail some significant assessment program achievements of the past year and outline some of the program's new initiatives for this year. First, however, I would like to review the historical performance of the assessment program. The record indicates both a high level of performance and responsible fiscal management.
For example, there has been a reduction of 400 man-years, from 2,546 in 1975 to 2,146 in 1982, through the realignment of functions and activities and the reduction in the number of assessment neighbourhoods. This occurred while the number of properties was increasing at an average rate of five per cent per year and is indicative of productivity gained through increased efficiency.
Efficiencies have been gained through the redeployment of assessment staff. Since 1975, more than 100 assessors have been redeployed annually to offset work-load peaks, and in 1982 this figure reached 400.
The transfer of electronic data processing systems and operation to private suppliers will result in an anticipated saving of $300,000 over a three-year period beginning in fiscal 1982.
Full enumeration now is conducted in municipal election years only.
In 1983, the mailing of assessment notices is being limited to only those property owners and tenants for whom there has been a change in the information recorded on the previous assessment roll.
The assessment program has been characterized by a record of high performance and responsible spending; however, the possibility of any further restraints will require considerable financial management and resourcefulness and increased efforts by management and staff to avoid deterioration in essential services to municipal clients.
The basic mandate of the property assessment program -- to provide defensible assessment rolls to municipalities for property taxation and regional cost-sharing -- is well known to the honourable members. A few words are required about the implications of increasingly severe budget allocations in achieving this mandate.
Our program to safeguard the integrity of existing assessment bases is largely based on the addition of supplementary assessments and appeals defence. Some 150,000 supplementary assessments were issued during 1982, generating an estimated $80 million in additional tax revenue.
As well, more than 133,000 appeals have already been registered with the assessment review board, and my assessment program will be endeavouring to hold the line for all cases in which we believe our position is valid and correct.
However, as I pointed out in previous estimates statements, a relatively large number of successful commercial and industrial appeals are occurring in those municipalities where frozen and antiquated rolls are still in place.
As the honourable members may recall, there are two methods by which municipal assessment bases can be improved: namely, the reassessment of individual municipalities under section 63 -- formerly known, of course, as section 86 of the Assessment Act, and we still often hear it referred to as the section 86 program; and a region- or county-wide reassessment under the section 63 program.
The level of approved funding will have a direct impact on what the program can return under the section 63 reassessment plan. With the initial budget allocation expressed in these estimates, the program plans to reassess a target of 50 to 80 single municipalities.
Another mandate of the property assessment program is to undertake an enumeration during municipal election years. Accordingly, 1983 will see reduced census activity.
Multi-residential rental properties with seven or more units, properties that have been sold since the 1982 enumeration, vacant residential units and all commercial and industrial properties will be enumerated to maintain our high-quality data base.
While a preliminary list of electors is not required this year, two other reports will continue to be produced under reduced activity: first, the school support list, to direct the education portion of the property tax to the appropriate school board; and second, the jurors' list, as requisitioned by the Ministry of the Attorney General for the ensuing year.
Another important priority of the property assessment program is to improve services and information to municipalities, school boards and ratepayers. However, at this point I must emphasize to the honourable members that this year's additional restraints may well rewrite this program's planned activities.
In the past I have outlined for the honourable members our four-year assessment cycle under the section 63 program and have discussed our program of open houses designed to assist ratepayers in better understanding their assessments. These two initiatives, in conjunction with a rigorous program of increased publication and assessment notice insert activity, will greatly reduce the number of assessment appeals and disputes, and already this impact is being felt.
At this point I would like to outline for the honourable members some details of the Ontario farm tax reduction program and its implications for my ministry's property assessment function.
The Ontario farm tax reduction program was established under the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Act and is administered jointly by that ministry and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Ministry of Revenue determines the relative assessment base upon which farm taxes and subsequent rebates are calculated and provides this information to municipalities, individual farmers and the subsidies branch at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Currently, qualified farmers receive property tax rebates of 50 per cent, covering farm land, farm buildings and farm residences. The new program involves the prospect of significant additional benefits to Ontario farmers in 1984 of about $20 million, for a total program benefit of more than $85 million.
While the farmers will continue to pay their property taxes directly to their municipalities, those who qualify under the new program guidelines will be able to claim a 100 per cent rebate of taxes on farm land and farm buildings.
The farm residence will be assessed on the same basis as similar residences in the vicinity and will not be eligible for rebate under this program. However, farmers will continue to be eligible for Ontario property tax credits and pensioner grants on the part of the property tax which relates to the farm residence.
Under the new farm tax reduction program, a separate farm and farm residential assessment must be calculated for every farm property that is improved with a residence. This will require that the assessment program undertake the formidable responsibility of seeing to it that each farm property in Ontario is inspected by an assessor before the end of this year. As well, amendments to the Assessment Act will be introduced this fall to provide for farm residences to be assessed separately from the rest of the farms.
To highlight these changes for the farming community, a pamphlet entitled Farm Tax Reduction -- the New Approach for 1983 and 1984 has been jointly prepared by the ministries of Revenue and Agriculture and Food. My ministry has also produced an assessment information bulletin to advise our client groups of the program and to address their special concerns.
In concluding my remarks about the proper assessment program, I would like to remind the members of the extraordinary amount of data collected, formatted and supplied by the property assessment program in response to the diverse needs of its many clients. The challenge to maintain and even improve high-quality service within current restraints will continue to be approached in the same positive manner as in the past and, I am certain, with equally encouraging results.
I would like to turn now to perhaps the most significant administrative event affecting my ministry's operation in 1983-1984. I refer, of course, to the successful relocation of the Ministry of Revenue's head office to Oshawa.
In my introductory remarks to the presentation of my ministry's 1982-1983 estimates, I outlined the background of this massive relocation project and discussed in some detail the scope and complexity of the undertaking. I am now most pleased to report that the relocation of our head office to Oshawa has been completed exactly as planned.
Further, I would emphasize that this project has been an enormous success and our integration into the Durham community is progressing extremely well. A few details on these points will serve to support this view.
For example, the honourable members will recall that a very basic and primary objective was to absolutely ensure that no disruption to the revenue flow occurred as a result of our move.
The ministry's taxation data centre ceased operation in Toronto on Friday, February 11, and on Monday, February 14, immediately processed some $2.5 million in tax revenue from its new location in Oshawa. In fact, during the first 10 working days in Oshawa, the centre processed tax returns which provided some $304 million to the consolidated revenue fund.
It is apparent, however, that the issue of revenue flow, albeit of great significance, is but one aspect of the relocation project and therefore only one measure of its success.
Certainly, another key ingredient in a successful relocation project is the extent to which the incoming organization is integrated into its new community. Here again I have encouraging news to report.
In my formal remarks at a recent gala welcoming dinner staged on March 29 by the Durham and District Chamber of Commerce for the Ministry of Revenue, I reviewed the noteworthy contributions that Revenue employees were already making to the social, cultural and economic aspects of the Durham community. They, and the ministry, are becoming very quickly an active and vital participant in the fabric of Durham life. As evidenced by this dinner, both private citizens and the business community have undertaken to see to it that the Ministry of Revenue is warmly welcomed into the region.
The Ministry of Revenue has become the third largest employer in Durham region, after General Motors and the Durham Board of Education.
In addition to economic stimulus through job creation and the infusion of government spending expected as a result of the relocation, the decision to build in downtown Oshawa is regarded as an added bonus. This central business district location is contributing significantly to the revitalization of the commercial heart of Oshawa.
About 10,000 square feet of prime retail space on the ground floor of our building will provide modern shopping convenience for prospective customers and will act as a stimulus for future commercial developments in the city core.
Relocation to Oshawa means that each and every working day of the year there will be a work force of approximately 1,600 people in our new building. The impact on both Revenue staff and on the local community will be significant.
A few words about the building itself: In my last estimates statement, I discussed some key features of our new headquarters, such as the sophisticated heat reclamation system and other aspects of construction which have yielded one of the most energy conscious buildings in North America and, indeed, in the world.
As well, I emphasized that the planning phase of our new building allowed us to examine all aspects of automated office technology to determine the kinds of computer and automated systems that might be incorporated.
Today I am pleased to report that such technology and design have been successfully integrated into a highly functional office landscape which is proving to be both a productive and workable environment. Additionally, such features as video conferencing, facsimile transfer and our computerized telephone system have contributed immensely to our day-to-day operation.
To my mind, the Ministry of Revenue has become a forerunner among government ministries in breaking new technological ground, particularly in office communications and computer systems.
This concludes my introductory remarks on the 1983-84 estimates for the Ministry of Revenue. I believe my comments illustrate an applied and demonstrated concern on the part of my ministry to achieve increased efficiency and productivity through sound fiscal management while remaining sensitive to the realities of constraint.
At the appropriate time, I will be pleased to respond to comments and questions.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Chairman, I think we should make it clear somewhere in these estimates that as members of this committee we are called upon to approve the expenditure of $611,622,500 for the conduct of the work and responsibility of the Ministry of Revenue, which has been described fully and very well indeed by the minister who just concluded his remarks.
This is an extension of $6,736,200 beyond the money required a year ago, although the minister indicates some of that is a one-time expenditure so it will not recur. If one paid close attention to his remarks, one almost got the idea he was saving more money than usual in the increased expenditure of almost $7 million. Obviously not all the costs of the new building would have to be in one year's estimates -- far from it -- but we will look for signs that the move of the ministry to Oshawa is going to have long-term benefits.
I have long been a proponent of decentralizing ministries of government, but I am not at all sure the Ministry of Revenue is the one the Premier (Mr. Davis) or the cabinet should have selected. It would seem to me that it would make a lot more sense if the Ministry of Agriculture and Food were moved out of downtown Toronto. It could be located at the University of Guelph, or perhaps even a site in Brant county could be found, but it would make a good deal of sense to take the people administering the programs for agriculture out of the centre of this metropolitan area and get them a little closer to the earth, if not something even more productive than that.
I have also felt for a long time that it was a serious misdirection of public funds to locate the headquarters of Ontario Hydro at the top of University Avenue, probably on the most expensive real estate in Canada. It did not seem to make much sense at the time but the Premier was adamant, as the members may recall, that Hydro be provided with a world-class building, without any tenders having been let, of course.
The suggestion that came very strongly from the opposition and other critics was that Hydro be moved out of the centre of Metropolitan Toronto, perhaps to Pickering, for heaven's sake, perhaps within sight of the backyard of the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) himself, where one of the greatest atomic plants in the world was under construction in those days. They could even have gone into the Bruce Peninsula.
I think the requirement that Ontario Hydro be in the core of Metropolitan Toronto simply served the political ambitions of various past chairmen -- and perhaps those to come.
I do appreciate that the decision was taken to decentralize this ministry. I read with a great deal of interest and listened to the minister's remarks, brief though they were, about how well the relocation occurred. There was no computer disruption and the people in the ministry, those who decided to make the move there -- I believe a very large percentage did -- are fitting into the community very well.
From talking to people living in the area, I gather one of the side effects of the move is that the Minister of Revenue has had more than his share of the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development highway construction dollars. I understand that in order to improve the communications for the people still driving out from areas not too close to the new Ministry of Revenue building they have put in new flyover structures on Whites and Dixon roads and so on. But it certainly was not to the advantage of the poor downtrodden opposition member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh).
I consider the minister a good friend, although I part company with him most sincerely and strongly in certain areas of his responsibility and on the broader responsibility in politics. But now that he is sitting in the front bench and responding to questions from the opposition from time to time, I suppose he has said to his colleagues, "Look, put those big blue BILD signs in my riding." He is saying, "I am getting the bridges," while the rest of the members in the area, the poor New Democratic Party member particularly, are left high and dry. All the money is going to support the old Tory concept that, "I am the minister, and I brung you the cheque."
I congratulate the minister on one hand. I do not believe he was minister when the decision was taken to relocate the ministry, but to be minister for such a relocation is an extremely worthwhile achievement.
I do not want to be disparaging of the minister himself in any way. He will realize that is a given before I really get into my remarks. It has been my view, expressed over the years, that his ministry is redundant. Naturally we require all the officials and machinery for the collection of our revenue. The sales tax comes firehosing in at $8 million or $9 million a day. We have to be sure the regulations are properly applied, our inspectors are seeing that the money is properly collected and not only the taxpayers but the retail merchants are properly treated.
When I think of the complexity of our tax system I realize a good deal of expert leadership and supervision is necessary, but I do not believe this requires a separate ministry or a separate minister. When the Premier sits down to cabinet he has 28 colleagues around the table -- plus Dr. Stewart who counts for five more. That is too large a group for any sort of effective conduct of business.
While on one hand he fends off the importuning Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) who is trying to do something for teachers' superannuation, although it has been delayed again and again, the Minister of Revenue --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It has not been delayed. It is going to proceed.
Mr. Nixon: I am not present at cabinet meetings, and she may be quick to tell me I never shall be. However, we can extrapolate the personalities we observe in the front benches of the government. They go in meek as kittens, under the rule of the long-term Premier, but then cast off that role when they come out and are scratching for their share of the poor Minister of Revenue's revenues.
There is one way the Premier could reduce that problem. I do not mean necessarily to get rid of the Minister of Revenue because he may want him in some other capacity. Who knows what the future holds for a minister who can oversee the movement of a whole ministry 38.5 miles or something like that. But in my opinion we do not need a Ministry of Revenue. In the past, the Treasurer was able to oversee those duties and in the future should be asked to do so again.
If that meant a change in the Treasurer's title, so be it; that would not worry me a bit. He used to be called Treasurer, Minister of Economics, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. We would not have to put Revenue in there, because most people associate the responsibilities of a Treasurer not only with overseeing the expenditures but also with collecting the money. We know that overseeing the expenditure really lies with the Management Board and overseeing of the routine of the collection lies with the Ministry of Revenue.
But the minister will no doubt say during his responses to some of these comments and some to follow, as he has said in the past, that he does not make policy; he takes no responsibility, other than the collective cabinet responsibility, for the policies influencing, for example, farm tax grant programs. We will get into that in a little while.
I am not suggesting we would save a lot of money, other than perhaps on the elaborate office the minister requires and the routine special staff associated with his contacts with the public and the press. We probably would be able to dispense with his car and driver. We would be able to dispense with his double salary, which he does not consider double; it looks double only from this side.
That sort of thing would not balance the budget, but I would suggest it is time for a far-reaching change in the concept of the organization of the cabinet I know I get hearty agreement from the poor Tories stuck in the back row across there, who have not had even a glimmer of hope for more than two years. It should be added to the record that the member for Lakeshore (Mr. Kolyn) is raising his hand to draw attention to the fact that he is one of those particularly put out by this.
Mr. Kolyn: No, not me.
Mr. Nixon: They have not had any opportunity to come into a new cabinet and, of course, I am talking about making the cabinet smaller. I believe the size of the cabinet could be cut in half.
I do not have a program fully worked out for the rejuvenation of the cabinet that is up to date, but obviously we do not need a Ministry of Revenue. I do not think we need a Solicitor General. The arguments that come from certain puffed-up people learned in the law that there is some conflict of interest between the Treasurer and the Minister of Revenue or the Attorney General and the Solicitor General do not make much sense when you actually see that one minister speaks for the other anyway.
Once again, I am not being derogatory to the Minister of Revenue, because I think his political star is probably in the ascendancy. All we have to do is point to the fact that he has all those BILD bucks for his riding to show that he must have some clout there, whereas the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) himself seems to have reached a plateau.
The Treasurer used public funds to go to New York to learn how to project himself on television, but that was not successful enough to carry him into the stratosphere of political leadership. It appears, and he has already said publicly, that no one should be in a government office for more than five years. I do not know whether he was directing that at his seat mate, which would make a lot of sense, or whether, to take the more charitable view, he was simply talking about his own position.
Obviously there have to be many far-reaching changes in the cabinet in the near future. We might as well predict that it will happen before the end of July or the middle of August, because the Premier obviously postponed the last changes since he had something else on his mind. Premier Lougheed vetoed that, so he has had a chance to settle down and enjoy his premiership for the last little while. This will be the last big cabinet change.
It would be a great thing if he were to repair some of the damage he did early in his career to the organization of the cabinet. Once again, I have nothing personal against the so-called policy secretaries. As a matter of fact, the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch), the policy secretary for social and community affairs and that sort of stuff, is one of my favourite ministers -- present company excepted, of course. But obviously it is time to dispense with the so-called policy secretaries and policy ministers.
Mr. Rotenberg: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order: I have been listening for a while and I know that in estimates we do run wild, into all sorts of things, but getting into other ministries and cabinet policies is far beyond the Ministry of Revenue. I think the member should stick to the topic, which is the Ministry of Revenue and widely related matters. What he is talking about, I think, has gone far beyond that.
Mr. Nixon: I appreciate that, and to save you some embarrassment, Mr. Chairman, I will certainly follow that direction.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Chairman, on the point of order: I am listening to the member and I think it is very educational, apart from being entertaining. I do not think the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Rotenberg) wants to prevent the opposition from criticizing the government. I invite him to listen very carefully because it is very educational.
Mr. Chairman: From a legal point of view, I do not find it too difficult to envision that the Minister of Revenue supplies all of the money for all of the ministries, and as a result members can talk about all of the ministries; but since the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk is not usually too helpful towards the legal profession, I think we will have to bring him into tow.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: May I stand on a point of order, Mr. Chairman --
Mr. Chairman: Sure.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: -- because I believe your statement is not quite totally factually correct.
Mr. Nixon: I am not going to continue this argument because I have a good deal I want to say, in fact must say, directly relating to the policies of the ministry. The point I wanted to make, and I shall make in closing this section of my remarks, is that the minister and the ministry per se are redundant, that it is not necessary to have a special person, with access to the cabinet, heading the Ministry of Revenue and that it should revert to its former position as an adjunct to the Treasurer. This does not mean that I feel it is overstaffed except in one specific area, that is, the minister and his office, and this is no reflection whatsoever on the incumbent.
If the Premier wants to use it as some sort of a training ground to test out prospective ministers to see whether they are going to go up, sideways or down, he can do so, but I think it is a needless expenditure. I am speaking directly, I suppose, on the allocation for the ministry administration of $14,120,200. The minister will be quick to point out that is a reduction of $5.5 million from other years, and we want to ask him about that, because certainly if he has reduced his staff, his public relations staff, the number of publications that he puts out with his handsome mug on the cover -- perhaps on page 2 -- that is another matter.
Mr. Chairman, the point I make for you and for the member for Wilson Heights, who is almost falling off the end of the front row --
Mr. Rotenberg: I am on this side, Bob. You never made it.
Mr. Nixon: Okay. I was also much struck by the contents of the minister's speech, where he spends a good deal of time talking about the improvement in the management of the ministerial affairs. I congratulate him on this.
I do not think any ministry should be deprived of the advantages of all of the very esoteric and modern, sometimes subtle, management approaches, and the availability of all the modern machinery, the least of which is probably the computer itself. There are the telecommunications that enable him to have a large group of employees working in Oshawa, 40 miles away, whereas he can have his own ministerial staff here in this building, probably with an office in another building -- I do not know -- and be in contact with them. He could even be in contact with them from the front seat of his ministerial limousine, and that is a great thing. He probably keeps a cage of doves in the trunk if he does not have a telephone.
There is no question that is important, but I think we should bear in mind that the Management Board of Cabinet has been given the overall responsibility for ordering the concepts of modern management techniques and communications techniques. I believe, if it is not already a fact, that one area, the Management Board of Cabinet itself, ought to have approval of the concepts of the utilization of computers so there will be no overlapping and there will be the sorts of establishment and the expenditure of dollars that will mean the whole system will be compatible and that we will get full utilization for the many hundreds of millions of dollars we have spent over the last five years and the many more we will spend in the next five years in bringing the management resources of our various ministries and government offices up to standard.
Frankly, I was not impressed with the section of the minister's speech indicating the high level of management skills; we would expect that, and if they were not there the criticism would not lie so much with him but with the Chairman of Management Board (Mr. McCague) and the staff he has. In my view, they have the principal responsibility for that area.
I also want to talk about the reference the minister made to the program for farm tax reduction. I had the distinct impression that the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Timbrell) -- who once again is the minister's senior in one sense in this program, as he has someone in almost every other program who is making the policy -- had put a hold on that. He had attended a meeting of the various farm groups -- the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the National Farmers Union and the Christian Farmers Association -- where substantial objection had been raised by the farmers themselves.
At this time, I have some concern in my own mind that the various farm organizations have suddenly found some sort of morality and high principle that would prohibit them from accepting this program, which is really nothing more than an additional $20 million thrown into the pot. It is quite a bit of money, but in terms of the need for farm support and in comparison with farm support programs in other provinces, it is not a spectacularly large addition to the farm program.
I should say, if the Minister of Education will permit me, we should be aware that there is almost a 12 per cent reduction in dollars allocated for farm programs this year, in spite of the fact that the farmers have never been in more dire need of provincial programs to assist in tiding them over the difficulties, economic and otherwise, they are experiencing.
The idea that somehow there is some moral or principled wall that keeps the farmers from enthusiastically accepting this additional number of dollars does concern me to a great extent. You will remember, Mr. Chairman, that it goes back to the election of 1967, when we first got the farm payoff -- is that right?
Mr. Ruston: We got it in 1970-71; an election year.
Mr. Nixon: All right. It began in 1970 and the first cheques arrived in the two weeks before the election of 1971. There should be no mistake about that. I am sure the government deserves a good deal of credit for deciding that the farmers were paying an inordinately large share of municipal taxation.
The argument that they should be relieved of at least part of that, perhaps the part of it associated with education or something else, deserved a good deal of credit. I suppose we cannot really blame them for taking the next step that would be logical for them and saying, "If we are going to give them the money, let us be sure the farmers know where it comes from and let us give it at a time when it will do the most good and have the most clout." As a farmer myself, I got my farm rebate cheque, even though I was the Leader of the Opposition, four days before the election.
The government has been able to use its staff pretty effectively to serve the purposes not only of the recipients of its largess but its political bosses who really call the shots in these matters. In this instance, the government is saying to the farmers, "We are going to pay all your taxes, except for the taxes associated with the assessment of the farm house and property." Obviously this is very confusing for the farmers. They are deeply concerned that if they pay no taxes at all on their farm land and buildings, some minister in the future may get the bright idea that since the farmers are not paying their taxes they do not have as much to say about the utilization of that land.
Frankly, I reject that fear out of hand. For me, it does not make any sense at all. I simply say this was one of the principal arguments put forward by the farmers who were expressing concern about the farm tax rebate program we are called upon to approve in this budgetary allocation.
There is also the strong feeling -- and speaking personally and perhaps selfishly, I would certainly be in this group myself -- that in terms of the taxes that would apply to a farm home and lot, particularly on a farm that is not particularly large, such as mine, I would find I would pay more taxes. There is no doubt in my mind that is so, and when the friendly provincial assessor comes driving up the lane with all of his two-way radio contacts with the minister's central office in Oshawa, I am going to be in for it; there is no doubt about that.
I have this cement pond, which is used for fire protection purposes and for watering the cattle if there is a drought, but I have a feeling there may be some difficulty in actually convincing the assessor of certain aspects associated with some of these things that are necessary for the upkeep of a modern farm.
It is going to cost me more, and it will cost many farmers more; there is no doubt about that. I simply bring to the minister's attention that he should concern himself, before he proceeds with these estimates in allocating an additional $2 million for a special farm assessment -- and that is really what it is for; it is to send his reassessment minions out up and down the concessions and side roads, going in the farm lanes and scuffing around in every farm housewife's --
An hon. member: What?
Mr. Nixon: -- bathroom. That is what they will be doing, and we do not need those birds. We have lots of assessors around there now.
Anyway, I am particularly concerned at the program itself. I cannot personally see that this is too far a departure from the principle that has been accepted by the farmers since the election of 1971. It is not a new program. The people who do not find themselves in receipt of the generosity of the program, who are not farmers valid under the regulations, certainly question it with me as a member, saying, "Why should you get that as a farmer and I do not as a person living in the country who also has additional expenditures?" The government policy is what it is, but I do not believe it is firmly set in stone just yet and there may be certain changes there that will result in a change in these estimates.
I also want to talk about the assessment appeals, which have been in the news recently and were in fact the subject of a question asked of the minister by my colleague the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) this morning. I too have been very much concerned at the delay in the assessment appeal procedure.
One of the things that concerns me probably more than anything else is that many of these appeals have been instigated by the minister and his elaborate staff themselves with the unified policy stemming probably from the minister himself, who tends to be pretty tough on these matters. It is pretty easy for him to justify to himself and the circle of assistants gathering in his conference room two or three mornings a week, and I can imagine him saying, "You get out there and fight for these higher assessments and don't back down."
A case in point would be the decision made by the assessment appeal tribunal with regard to the Malvern house owners. They are sitting on radioactive land and, without arguing the merits of the case, I will say that the government is very concerned about it; it even has a bill before the House to take the radioactive soil away. They cannot find a place to put it, so that particular legislation is on ice.
But those people. in trying to remedy at least a part of this continuing problem, have gone to appeal their assessment and the assessment commissioner, if that is the proper name of the person there, has simply said: "You are right. I reduce your assessment to $100."
What could be fairer and more sensible than that? Yet the minister would retire to his plush conference room and call his staff, who do not disagree with him very often, I bet. I am very much afraid to disagree with him even here, and you may have the same feeling, Mr. Chairman. He is a very tough guy, very hard to give advice to, I would say. He would say: "We are going to go out and reverse this. They can't do that to me." I can even hear his tone of voice. He would come in, having slaughtered some poor, innocent tennis opponent in three straight sets, he would jog up the stairs to his 15th floor office and go in there and say, "We are going to reverse this and you had better enter an appeal, because those people are going to have to pay their taxes on a full assessment and that is that."
I do not think that is justice, because the people who have had their assessments reduced are now dragged before this new tribunal, made up of the government's appointees on the Ontario Municipal Board or one of its adjuncts, and there is this long delay pending the hearings.
The Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) this morning said, "Give us an instance of delay." The only instances I can draw to his attention are those which have been brought to public attention in the newspapers in the last two or three days. It is indicated the secretary of the municipal board tells people who phone in for information that the delay may be up to three years. That is an unconscionable delay.
The best thing to reduce that delay is for the Solicitor General to take his lumps after losing an assessment appeal. If the commissioner decides the assessment should be reduced to $100, then that is it. It is because of inadequate government policies elsewhere that the minister has to live with that. It does not look good for the Solicitor General (Mr. G. W. Taylor) to keep going to court for the best two out of three cases, or the best five out of seven, till he wins -- but it looks typical.
That is very bad news. Honestly, I am completely unreconstructed on this whole matter of assessment. It was a foolishness, more than a decade ago, when the government took it away from the municipalities. At that time it said it would smooth it all out, it would have uniform assessment over the whole province, it was going to bring sense and order to this patchwork of municipal initiatives and we were then going to have the brave new world.
We are just a few months away from 1984 and the government still has not accomplished it. It certainly has a lot of backroom sweating to do before it has any kind of improvement, let alone order, in local assessment. It is probably impossible now because of the damage the government has done to the system, damage that has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. The minister tells me the present assessment is cheaper now than it would be if the municipalities had it. It certainly was not for the first 12 years the Solicitor General and his predecessors had their maulers on the responsibility -- that is certain. It just does not make any sense to me.
The property tax is the main revenue source for the municipalities, outside of grants from this government, and they should have control over the assessment. If the government wants to assist them to achieve some uniformity, as governments in the past have done, then certainly it should do so. The only advantage to this sort of approach is supposed to be the way government grants are applied for municipal and educational purposes.
While the Chairman may be aware of it, as a person having responsibility in education himself, that still is a very unfair procedure. A municipality in my constituency has passed a motion -- and intends to follow up on it -- to withhold its allocation for education costs, pending the satisfaction it still does not have on the responsibility Onandaga township has for education costs.
I have done the best I can, having dealt with it first with Darcy McKeough, having been dealt with graciously by the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson), who took time to sit down in her palatial boardroom, with the carpets and the great view over downtown Toronto --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Now come on; be honest.
Mr. Nixon: It is palatial. The minister does not know what we have to live with around here. She is so used to getting the cream of the cream, so used to being the outer fringe of the upper crust --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Have you ever been to Ottawa? You ain't seen palatial until you have been to Ottawa.
Mr. Nixon: Oh, if she wants to go to the United Nations maybe they are even more palatial, I do not know. But the point is, the Minister of Education received us kindly, with a certain amount of thoughtfulness. She indicated there were changes in the offing that would correct this matter, but so far, perhaps because of the intransigence of the minister -- I feel the great herds of nameless, faceless bureaucrats who are supposed to accomplish these policies are too tired to do it -- it is just not happening.
Mr. Chairman, the whole method of assessment is no better now than it was back in 1972 or whenever the government took it over.
Mr. Nixon: That is a matter of opinion. The minister should speak to the people whose assessment appeals are pending, or to the people who have fought for and won an appeal and are now pending a reversal pushed on them by an aggressive minister who is not used to losing any battles, but is going to find out someday what it is like. It will be interesting to watch. I may be up in heaven, but it will be interesting --
Mr. Piché: Do not count on that.
Mr. Nixon: The member can count on it because that is where Liberals go, and if he had stuck with the Liberal Party, he would go there too. The Lord does not like turncoats, oh no.
Mr. Nixon: The member can see it here, but not in the afterlife.
In closing this section of my remarks I want to tell members that I feel the leadership given by this minister and his predecessors on the whole matter of reassessment has been completely inadequate. He mentions the availability of former section 86, now section 63 or 65 and all the rest, but he knows that is not an adequate assessment.
It does not provide for the kinds of value changes among classes that was the original Darcy McKeough concept, when Darcy McKeough thought he had all the power and probably all the brains to accomplish the improvement of a system which really should have been left under the direction of municipal authorities, since it is the basis of their only significant independent revenue.
Mr. Nixon: I have a lot of good stuff here; just one moment.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It is wide-ranging --
Mr. Nixon: It is not wide-ranging; it directly follows the minister's speech.
Did the minister mention the Province of Ontario Savings Office at all? He did not. I wish he had, because it is an indication he has fallen into the rut of his predecessors and is no longer really taking account of the savings office. For a while, there were ministers around who I had the feeling were trying to sell a new concept of the savings office to their colleagues.
The banks, which are great contributors to the Tory party, and which buy tables at all the fund-raising dinners of the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Timbrell), the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) and all those people, really do call the shots. The last thing they want is the savings office to be anything more than a little backwater with a sign hanging in the window offering one half of one per cent more interest than the bank down the street.
I really do believe and wish this would become a more active area of policy. I do not expect the Minister of Revenue, either the present one or his successors, to be able to do anything about it because it harks back to my first point that the Ministry of Revenue is not considered a ministry that takes initiatives in fiscal matters.
But I have thought for a good long time that one source of revenue for the province ought to be a parallel to the government of Canada bonds that are sold each fall. I see no advantage for us, in turning through the financial pages of the Globe and Mail, to see that Ontario Hydro, for example, is offering $400 million to $500 million in bonds in New York that people here might have some limited access to if they phone their broker. A lot of good Protestants in South Dumfries township no more have a broker than they have a bookie. I do not make the comparison too directly, but there is something there.
If they were able to go to the Province of Ontario Savings Office and buy an Ontario bond which was going to have a return that was somewhat better than simply depositing money in a savings account, I think the minister would find some of the famous, notorious savings in the socks of the good burghers of Ontario would come out and be available for government programs.
This has been put forward for years. As a matter of fact, a former Liberal government back in the hungry '30s threatened to do this and did not do it because the big birds downtown, normally responsible for purchasing and flogging provincial issues, did not like what the Premier of the day was going to do with money that was to be borrowed. He said, "Look, you either do this or we will sell them over the counter at the Province of Ontario Savings Office."
Well, they came into line pretty quickly. In many respects I wish they had not. I wish the savings office would become more of an agent of government policy. It could be used to give the people saving money in Ontario -- and they are legion, though there is nobody in this room that I know of -- a chance to buy government of Ontario bonds. You can do it, and it is not going to step on anybody's toes. I do not think it would even reduce the sales at the Ottawa level.
You just offer half a per cent more, and you would have no trouble. If the rate were 19.5 per cent, that would be 20 per cent, would it not, over the sale they had a couple of years ago? It can be done. I am not serious when I talk about a level of interest that would be anything other than what would be a very small advantage over what you would get by borrowing the money in New York or elsewhere.
Mr. Piché: Are you aware that you are the only Liberal in the House right now?
Mr. Nixon: That is fine; I can handle it. I look across and I see several old Liberal friends over there, and I never feel alone.
Mr. Piché: Just one Liberal in the House. That doesn't speak very well for the party. I understand the member for Perth (Mr. Edighoffer) is going to be moving to this side, too.
Mr. Nixon: No, no.
So, Mr. Chairman, with these few specific areas dealing with the policy of the ministry, I look forward to hearing the comments from the representative of the New Democratic Party and to questioning the minister further in these estimates.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Chairman, I want to try to cover a few matters that are of concern to me, some of which were covered in the opening remarks of the minister.
Much has been said about the big move to Oshawa and all the great things that have been done. And it is true: When one has had an opportunity to see that building in its various states, as I had when I sat in my office and looked out the window and saw the transition occur, one cannot fail to be impressed that here is a building where the government of Ontario has actually done some very good and positive things.
It is a building that in many respects took a very long time to put together, and perhaps it is typical of how governments work. As an example of a building, as a piece of architecture, I think it is an admirable piece. There are those in my community who are not too crazy about the outside design of the building, but it looks to me like a modern office building. So what? On the inside I find it quite a remarkable-looking building and, more important, a very functional building incorporating some of the latest technology, much of which does come from this province and this country.
With respect to energy conservation it is really a unique design. I am told by those who work there that it is quite a pleasant and efficient place to work. It offers me some small measure of hope that if we could ever get our act together in this country we could do great things. We could make monumental leaps forward in technology, in design and in the environment in which we live, and we have that potential.
I think it is interesting to note, though, because I noticed the previous speaker implied that this was some kind of gift to a certain part of the province, that it is not that. I happen to have been on the Oshawa council in the early 1970s when the idea of a region of Durham first was touted and then some concept by the government of Ontario of a go-east policy.
Having been there initially when the bargains were struck that, yes, there may well be a concept of regional government that we can live with -- and this certainly is one of those, and I know the minister himself, who was on the Pickering council at that time, participated in some of these discussions -- I remember that there was some pretty hardnosed bargaining. If the province wanted a regional government in that area, the province had damn well better come across with some incentives locally.
Out of that was born the concept of go-east. One of the first series of discussions was around the movement of some government offices out of downtown Toronto into that region, and it was finally arrived at that it would be a Revenue building. Having followed the discussions between the city, the region and the province, I know it was not an easy tale to follow. It took some 10 years, almost a decade, between the initial discussions of what we would like to do and what actually transpired could really come about. I think it is reasonable to say that at several critical points in there, without the co-operation of the council of the city of Oshawa that building would never have been there.
I happen to have been on the council when it went through the process of trying to find sites, trying to acquire property and, as late as last year, trying to find some place to park cars. It has not been an easy process. It points out that the province has a lot of governments going.
When one talks to people such as the architect of that one building in Oshawa, one finds out what it is like to try to co-ordinate between several ministries and the municipality and other folks in town who have something they want to say. It makes the task a difficult one, and in that instance it took over a decade to complete.
Although I dare say others may take a slightly different point of view, there is not any one person who could stand up in this Legislature or in that community or in that office and say, "I brung you this cheque." That cheque was brought to that community by the hard work of a lot of people over a lengthy period of time.
Whether the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development signs are up these days claiming that the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario brought you all of these wonderful things, I am here to tell members I think it is fair to say there are a lot of other folks involved in that long series of discussions about transit improvements, planning changes, new buildings, incentives and go-east. There is no one person with any small measure of truth who can claim, "We did this for you." That was done by the collective work of probably a few thousand people over the better part of a decade before the reality could be accomplished.
I am going to abbreviate some of the remarks I wanted to make this morning because I do want to leave time for other members in the latter part of these estimates.
This ministry is a funny one to look at because, on the one hand, one could see, in a very positive way, new technology, Canadian made; attempts being made to streamline programs; attempts being made to contain costs; a lot of things that many of us consider to be good things. Yet one still has to face the reality that in the newspapers yesterday and today is the sum total of where we are at with the Ministry of Revenue. That is, on the basic job which it has to do -- and I think it is reasonable to say that assessment is one of the fundamental parts of the ministry's key roles -- we see that it is back in the headlines again.
This morning, in response to questions, I noticed the Attorney General was looking for someone specific to say that there was a big problem with assessment reviews, and if one had read the paper a little closer, one would have found the Minister of Revenue himself admitting it is going to take a few years to sort out the assessment problem.
There is a quote in there from an Ontario Municipal Board information officer who refuses to be identified. I always love it when people whose job description is "information officer" refuse to be identified whenever they are quoted. I do not understand that little conflict, but it is a fairly common one around here. This anonymous person says it will definitely take more than one year, probably three or four years. One can write a letter and ask for an earlier hearing, but it is unlikely that it will be brought forward unless there is something special about the case. The Toronto Star article goes on to say that there are around 67,000 appeals which have to be heard.
The previous speaker pointed out that a fairly large chunk of those appeals is instigated by the ministry, so these are not all problems one could blame on home owners who are not satisfied with the assessment process and are in some measure seeking some redress. Many of these are appeals which are clogging up the Ontario Municipal Board process and the instigator of it all is the Minister of Revenue himself.
So there is a substantial problem there, but one which in large measure could be resolved by the ministry. I listened to his interjections this morning and they are not going to be resolved. It is not a very comforting thought for many of those home owners who are involved in this assessment appeal process to think that they are going to be faced with a fair amount of confusion and expense and aggravation for a number of years yet to come.
The Minister of Revenue, with all the technology available to him, is prepared to say that it is going to take a few years to sort out. I do not keep all of the clippings on the ministry, but the thickest file I have is around assessment. I do not think there is anything this ministry has attempted to do which has led to more pitfalls, more arguments, more confusion and more bitterness than all the problems surrounding assessment.
If one reads a lot of the Toronto news media one would tend to think the problems of assessment and reviews of assessment centre on the Beaches, the Annex or areas in Toronto where there has been a good deal of publicity about some of the silliness that surrounds the assessment process. In Sault Ste. Marie, the wife of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay) was a participant in some of the protests around the reassessment process there. Then one gets involved with the long arguments about the role that municipal councils play in this process. Often, they are on the front line in taking the abuse of citizens who are subject to some duress caused by this Minister of Revenue. If one walked up and down the street in any community and asked people, "Who does the assessment on your property? If your assessment rises dramatically, as it has in a number of cases around the province, who do you point a finger at?" they probably would not have much idea that it is a provincial minister who does that.
When we get calls in my constituency office about assessment problems, it is a little difficult to explain: "Yes, we are talking about your municipal property taxes. It is kind of a municipal matter and there are lots of things related to the municipality, but it is a provincial ministry which carries out the assessment and keeps all the records."
I have never seen this minister admit to an error, ever, in his life, and I have known him for, what, close to 10 years? A decade? I have never seen him once stand up and say: "We have made a little mistake here, guys. We are going to try to rectify it." He always seems to have on his face something which says: "You cannot ever dare accuse me or my staff of making an error. I just will not admit to that. It does not matter if the newspapers are full of problems around assessment; it does not matter if councils are yelling and screaming at me around Ontario. I do not care what the mayor of Toronto or the chairman of Metro says, we are always right and the rest of the world is always wrong."
One could take that as an admission that he is not always on the mark with his assessment of any number of things. I will leave that now because I imagine there will be other members from other areas who will want to talk about specific assessment problems in their communities. I already have an indication that some of my Toronto colleagues want to discuss at some length problems they are having with assessment.
I am not sure how much one can blame the minister in this case because we are looking at techniques developed over the years by this government to do a variety of things. In each instance it seeks to solve a problem, it seems to move to the most complicated scheme possible. I do not why. The previous speaker alluded to one version. I would subscribe to it in part; that is, whenever this government sets out to do something, even the simplest thing such as solving a problem with fuel and fuel taxes, it will find the most complicated manner to solve that problem.
When it goes to give people some redress for property or farm taxes, it uses a very convoluted form to resolve that, mostly because it does not want to deal with it directly. It does not want to resolve an inequity in the process. They are prepared to do that if they can maximize the political impact.
When this government moves to solve what many of us would see as a problem where someone is paying taxes which are too high, whether it be fuel, farm property or sales tax or anything else, the last thing it thinks about doing is reducing the tax, the simplest and most direct way to handle it. Its first preference always is to try to find some technique which will involve the filling out of forms -- that is a favourite sport -- the filing of said forms, and the review of said forms by a large number of people. Finally, the ultimate of ultimates, a cheque arrives from the province giving a person back his own money, for which he is to be eternally grateful.
It helps if in this process the government can spend, as a byproduct, a lot of money telling the people of Ontario through newspaper ads, radio spots and television commercials how wonderful it is for giving people back some of their own tax money. It also helps a great deal if it can tie in the provision of those rebates with some other event, like an election.
Members of the government love that, and they go to work on that. It does not matter whether one is talking about the coloured fuel tax program for farmers, the property tax rebates for seniors or sales tax rebates for anybody, one will see that hallmark of the Tories in Ontario, "First grab their money." That is the first order of business. One has to admit when they grab our money and sock it in their bank accounts, they get the use of it on a large scale for a fair number of days. When we look at the revenue this minister puts into that little building across the road from my office in Oshawa, it is not bad. I would gladly waive my salary for about one per cent of his gross every day. I would probably leave the minister alone and never bother him again if I had that kind of cash.
The province, in the first instance, gets the use of the taxpayers' money. Second, it spends more taxpayers' money to advertise how wonderful this government is, which is a bit of an abuse in my opinion. Finally, it manages to give a cheque in the form of a rebate that is clearly identified with one political party -- the current government of Ontario.
So every time they turn around, it is no wonder they are still in trouble with senior citizens around Ontario over property tax credits; they are still in trouble with the processing of rebates for sales tax; they are still having trouble with farmers who, despite the minister's wonderful descriptions of the coloured fuel tax program, still think the minister is lousing up their tractors or farm implements. It is difficult to put the blame for all that on one person. It is certainly not due to the efforts of the Minister of Revenue who, if he had his druthers, would try to find some more direct, less diffuse and more efficient way of providing assistance or redressing a problem.
This government is committed, has been for a long time and probably will be for the foreseeable future, to doing things in that way, perhaps with considerable political advantage, but certainly making this minister's life a little rough around the edges. He has taken a fair amount of abuse. He is the only one I can recall in recent years who has been the subject of a back-bench revolt in his own party. Although the full details of that bloody revolution will not be known for some time, at some point in history somebody will write a book. I hope not the Minister of Industry and Trade (Mr. Walker) but someone a little more skilled in the literary field will describe the problem that came up last fall.
I notice in a number of communities where there are efforts locally to try to solve some of the problems created by this ministry, it gets even muddier. There we find municipal councils trying to find ways to soften the problems for their citizens and, quite frankly, they cannot.
We are running out of time this morning, so I will go to two or three other things I want to bring up. There are rather unpleasant occasions now when Ontario is involved in assessments and reassessments under section 63. They throw out of kilter problems in townships that are back to back with one another, different parts of one region.
Again, there is a major problem coming up that has been touted by another ministry, the Ministry of Education this time, around the issue of pooling assessments for educational purposes. That is not something this minister initiated. It was initiated by another minister of the crown and, sooner or later, it is going to come back to the same one.
The difficulty for the Minister of Revenue in total is essentially that he often winds up being the cesspool for the actions of other ministers. He will get the political blame at some time for many things I am sure he did not want to instigate, if he ever did instigate them. In the budget, the Treasurer gets the glory for standing up and saying, "We are going to do all these wonderful things and give away all this money." The Minister of Revenue gets to take the flak because he is the one who has to say, "Here is the next tax bill." I do not have a lot of sympathy for this minister, but on occasion even I have sympathy for some of the things he has to do that are not of his own volition.
Finally, I want to touch briefly on one other area. This government in its wisdom, or lack thereof, has made just about everybody it can find out there a tax collector in some way, and often it gets itself into a bit of a jackpot in the process. It is not apparent to most citizens, but whoever pumps gas into our car is a tax collector for the Minister of Revenue; whoever sells us almost any article we buy in a clothing store is a tax collector for this minister. The guy who sells a deck of smokes downstairs collects taxes for this minister. The guy who sells beer, milk or orangeade, almost everybody they can find out there, has adapted -- not willingly of course and some of us not knowingly -- but almost everybody out there who sells anything is now collecting taxes for the government of Ontario.
The relationship between the flood of people out there and this minister is an interesting one to try to follow. If one looks at last year's great foofaraw over the addition of sales tax to such ridiculous things as a cup of coffee from a canteen truck, every once in a while one runs into people who say: "I do not want to collect taxes for this government. I am running a little truck that most people would call a canteen or a coffee truck. I have nothing to do with this ministry. I do not want to collect taxes. I do not want to install a computerized cash register on my truck because there is no place to put the thing." This government finally found a resolution to that. It said, "Charge more for your coffee and we will make it easy for you then to submit that tax revenue to us."
I have not heard much from people who were very irate about the addition of the provincial sales tax to certain food items in particular, probably because they sat down and realized that in the long run the retailer has a little to gain from this. The ministry made it a little easier for them. It sweetened the take by saying: "Listen, if your coffee is costing 40 cents now and you want to put a tax on it of three cents, or whatever it would be, the simplest thing is to mark your coffee up to 50 cents. We take three cents, you take seven cents and who is to worry about any of this process?" It made that easy.
I have noticed that on a couple of occasions now, committees of the Legislature, most notably the last report of the standing committee on regulations and other statutory instruments, have pointed out there might be some legal problems in the collection of rebates of sales tax revenues. I raised that question with the minister and I got a very interesting answer. One of the things I must admit is that, although on first blush he often says, "You have no case at all," he did provide me with a rather detailed response some short time later where he did recognize there were some problems which might occur, and he felt they had it in hand.
I will close my remarks now because I know there are other members who want to comment. I simply want to say that, of course, every government in the world needs something like a ministry of revenue; it may not need a minister with a chauffeur and all that but it needs somebody to collect the taxes.
I noticed in Oshawa the other day there was a bit of a reference that even our Lord at one point had someone as a tax collector. Just to correct the record on that matter, I believe the gentleman in question was a tax collector first, and then became what is now called "born again" and became an apostle of Christ. He was born again, left his previous position as a tax collector and became an apostle. I suggest to the current minister that, if he wants to be born again and become an apostle of our Lord, he will have to leave his current position as minister.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Ashe, the committee of supply reported progress.
The House adjourned at 1 p.m.