The House met at 2 p.m.
PRINTING OF LEGISLATIVE PAPERS
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: On Tuesday you advised the Legislature that Hansard was being printed by in-house facilities. However, that still leaves me as a member of the Board of Internal Economy and my colleagues as members of the Legislature in an invidious position because, as I understand it, the other items -- the bills, Orders and Notices, Votes and Proceedings -- are being printed by Noble Scott and there is a strike there.
It is my understanding that someone else is doing that work. I am wondering if we are paying for that as members of this Legislature and being brought into a strike situation unwittingly. That leaves us taking sides with one or the other by continuing to make payment to whoever is doing the printing.
I would ask Mr. Speaker to find out who is doing the printing for Noble Scott while this issue goes on. If we are paying and taking sides in this strike, if we are in that invidious position, I would suggest that somehow we make arrangements immediately to prevent us being involved any further in that serious situation.
Mr. Speaker: I will be pleased to take that under advisement and report back as quickly as I get the information. Thank you.
COMMISSIONERS OF ESTATE BILLS
Mr. Speaker: I beg to inform the House that the Clerk has received from the commissioners of estate bills their favourable report on Bill Pr22, An Act to revive Silverstone Oil Company Limited.
Mr. Speaker: I would ask all members of the Legislature to join me in recognizing and welcoming in the Speaker's gallery the mayors and reeves representing northeastern Ontario who are attending a meeting at Queen's Park today. They are:
Representing the town of Cochrane, Mayor Fortier; the town of Hearst, Mayor Gagnon; the town of Kapuskasing, Mayor Jewell; the town of Smooth Rock Falls, Mayor Duguay; the township of Mattice, Reeve Zorzetto --
Mr. Wildman: We pronounce Mattice differently.
Mr. Speaker: I did that knowingly. Having stood corrected before, I took the time today to find out and I was advised to pronounce it the way I did. It depends on whom you speak to.
Mr. Kerrio: Mais non, mais non.
Mr. Speaker: From the township of Moonbeam, Reeve Filion; the township of Glackmeyer, Reeve Genier; the township of Opasatika, Reeve Pincault; the township of Val Rita-Harty, Reeve Muriel Parent; the township of Fauquier, Reeve Raymond Grzela; from the Moosenee Development Area Board, the chairman, Gerald McAuley; and representing the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association, Alderman E. R. White, president.
Notwithstanding the information I had to the contrary, I stand once more corrected on the pronunciation of Mattice, not convinced that I am totally right or wrong, however.
We have other visitors in the assembly today. I would ask all honourable members to join me in recognizing and welcoming in the members' gallery five students from the Ontario Students' Debating Union. These students are visiting the Legislature after attending a reception hosted by the Lieutenant Governor. Their names are:
Shafiq Qaadri, who was the top Ontario debater, 1982; Stuart Olley, top English debater, 1983; Lucille Lacelle, top French debater, 1983; John Heng; Judi Wyatt, president of the Ontario Students' Debating Union; Don Schnurr, immediate past president; and David Lavoie, French debate co-ordinator.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
PROPERTY TAX GRANTS
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the members of an important event tomorrow in the ministry's Ontario property tax grants program. It concerns the mailing of tax grant cheques and will, therefore, be of particular interest to their constituency offices and senior citizens in their ridings.
On September 2 the Ministry of Revenue mailed out some 600,000 application forms for the second instalment of the 1983 grant to all eligible seniors. By the end of last week this total had risen to 615,000 applications. As of October 21, 540,000, or 88 per cent, of these applications had been returned to my ministry, of which some 510,000, or 94 per cent, have now been fully processed and are ready for payment.
As members will recall, the first instalment of up to $250 of the property tax grant was received by seniors earlier this year, in May, along with their home heating grants. These recent applications, therefore, determine the amount of the second and final payment owed to each applicant during 1983 and will be the basis for the 1984 interim payments.
For seniors who turned 65 in the first half of the year and, hence, did not receive the first instalment of the grant, the full year's entitlement to a maximum of $500 will be issued to them in the form of one cheque. However, seniors who have turned 65 in the second half of 1983 will receive their applications by January 1984.
I am pleased to report to this assembly that the first mailing of the final 1983 property tax grant instalments will begin tomorrow when 510,000 cheques totaling $124 million are issued. The average value of each cheque is $243. Mail-outs will continue thereafter on a twice-weekly basis until all applications from late filers have been processed.
I know all members are aware of the significant contributions these grants make to seniors in paying their municipal and school taxes. With tomorrow's 510,000 cheques, 125,000 seniors in Ontario will have been reimbursed for 100 per cent of their property taxes. For another 90,000 seniors, at least 75 per cent of their property taxes are offset; for 156,000 seniors, between 50 and 74 per cent are paid, and for 140,000 seniors, up to 49 per cent of their property taxes are paid.
As well, I should point out to the honourable members that the Ministry of Revenue will shortly be sending out the annual sales tax grant to seniors who have turned 65 by September. Altogether, $45 million will be paid in $50 grants to 900,000 seniors next December 2. Ontario residents turning 65 in October, November and December of 1983 will receive their sales tax grant in January 1984.
The Ministry of Revenue is continually examining and refining the way applications are processed. In particular, this year inquiry facilities have been restructured to improve response time, inquiry research and call-back functions. As well, a problem in past years has been the length of time taken to issue a replacement application if the original was lost or returned to my ministry as undeliverable. Consequently, all requests for supplementary applications now receive immediate and special attention. These applications are sent out within 10 days of request.
Our improvements, however, will be most readily apparent to the members through an increase in our assistance to their constituency offices. This year we established a new unit dedicated to resolving inquiries made directly by seniors to their local MPPs. The majority of inquiries are resolved while a member's constituency assistant is still on the phone. More complex inquiries are deferred to inquiry research specialists, each of whom is directly responsible for a group of constituency offices. These specialists then contact the constituency office immediately upon resolving the problem.
The response to this service from federal MPs and MPPs has been most favourable. I assure the members my ministry will continue to maintain and enhance this unique working relationship in recognition of the invaluable information assistance afforded the tax grant program by MPPs and their constituency office staff.
A further measure undertaken by my ministry involved information sessions held in some 20 cities and towns across Ontario. Ministry staff offered an advance preview of the 1983 property tax grant application form and a detailed explanation of the Ontario tax grant program to staff in constituency offices, community information centres, federal income security offices and Northern Affairs offices, and to other organizations which assist seniors.
In addition, a special training session was held in Toronto for ethnic information centres. These sessions provided a chance for people who are most often asked to assist seniors in completing forms to get firsthand information about the program from specially trained ministry staff. Moreover, the Ministry of Revenue has established telex contact with the 32 field offices of the Ministry of Northern Affairs and responds on a priority basis to inquiries made through these offices.
Finally, the successful move of my ministry's head office operations to Oshawa provided the opportunity significantly to upgrade our walk-in inquiry centre in Metropolitan Toronto. This centre is now located at 50 Grosvenor Street near Bay Street in the same building as the Ontario Government Bookstore. One benefit of this new location is we now have a much more convenient storefront operation, which is visible to the general public and very accessible to our senior citizen clients. Since it opened on September 6, this office has already dealt with over 2,100 inquiries on a personal basis.
This summarizes a series of key developments relevant to the 1983 tax grants program for seniors. This Legislature can be assured that further reports will be made by my ministry to ensure that all members and their constituency staff are kept fully informed of the progress of this important Ontario government program.
COURTS OF JUSTICE ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, the Courts of Justice Act that I will be introducing today represents a significant step in the reform of civil procedures in Ontario. The process was initiated in 1975 when I asked the late Walter Williston, QC, one of Ontario's most distinguished lawyers, to assume the task of chairman of the Civil Procedure Revision Committee. In June 1980, after extensive consultation with the judiciary and the legal profession throughout the province, the committee's report was published. The committee recommended a complete revision of the rules of practice applicable to the Supreme Court and county and district courts.
Unfortunately, Walter Williston died shortly after the Civil Procedure Revision Committee issued its report. However, a subcommittee of the rules committee, chaired by Mr. Justice Morden of the Court of Appeal, has almost finished the preparation of a completely new set of rules based on Mr. Williston's recommendations. I have no doubt the new rules will stand for many years as a tribute to the dedication with which Walter Williston served the administration of justice.
The Courts of Justice Act will provide the framework for the new rules. In addition, it is intended to revise and consolidate the many statutes that establish courts and regulate their procedures. Some of these statutes date back many decades and contain numerous archaic and obscure provisions. The Courts of Justice Act is intended to modernize this legislation. The act is based on draft legislation published earlier this year by the Ministry of the Attorney General, on which we received many helpful comments from the judiciary and members of the legal profession.
The number of changes proposed in the Courts of Justice Act make it impossible for me to describe every one at this time. There is one matter, however, I would like to emphasize today. It concerns the independence of the judiciary. Last May this Legislature enacted changes to enhance the independence of provincial judges by removing the involvement of the Lieutenant Governor in Council from the decision as to whether a provincial judge may continue to serve beyond retirement age.
In addition to re-enacting these recent amendments, the Courts of Justice Act contains a number of other provisions intended to enhance the independence enjoyed by the judiciary in this province. For example, the act implements recommendations made several years ago by former Chief Justice Gale that are intended to provide a fair procedure for judicial council investigations of complaints against provincial judges. The act also provides that a provincial judge may be removed from office only on the address of the Legislative Assembly, a procedure similar to that which applies to Supreme Court and other federally appointed judges under the Canadian Constitution.
Another section of the Courts of Justice Act provides a statutory foundation for the Ontario Provincial Courts Committee, which was established several years ago to make recommendations concerning the salaries and benefits of provincial judges. All these provisions, as well as others in the act, are intended to enhance the independence of the men and women who have dedicated themselves to the public service in the provincial judiciary.
There are a great many other changes proposed in the Courts of Justice Act, and I look forward to discussing them with my colleagues in the House this fall. I hope this House will seriously consider the enactment of this bill before the new year, so that the act and the new rules can both come into force next July 1.
INFLATION RESTRAINT LEGISLATION
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday I outlined our preliminary conclusions on this week's judgements of the Divisional Court on the Inflation Restraint Act. I am able to inform the House that an application for leave to appeal those decisions to the Court of Appeal is now being prepared and will be submitted at the very earliest opportunity.
I should add that our concern arises from the implications of the very broad interpretation given by the court to freedom of association under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It could create doubts about the validity not only of Ontario statutes but also of those of other Legislatures in Canada.
As I stated on Tuesday, these cases mark the beginning of the interpretation of freedom of association under the charter and not the last word. It is important in all the circumstances that these issues be canvassed by a higher court.
Hon. Mr. Andrewes: Mr. Speaker, you will recall that on October 11 I informed members of the status of Pickering unit 2, following the failure of a pressure tube on August 1. Today I wish to make members of this House aware of a decision by Ontario Hydro regarding unit 1 at the Pickering nuclear generating station.
Unit 1 is virtually identical to unit 2 and has a similar operating history. Ontario Hydro has determined that a comparison between the tubes removed from unit 2 and the tubes in identical locations in unit 1 would further the investigation into the causes of the G-16 tube failure in unit 2. As a result, Hydro intends to shut down unit 1 as soon as scheduling permits within the next two weeks.
Mr. McClellan: You said this was impossible.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Andrewes: Four pressure tubes will be removed from the reactor and sent to Chalk River laboratories for comparative metallurgical analysis. At the same time, the location of the spacers, commonly known as garter springs, between calandria tubes and pressure tubes will be checked.
The Atomic Energy Control Board has been consulted on this decision.
I am advised that Ontario Hydro is releasing information on these matters this afternoon.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Energy: it concerns Bruce, not Pickering, on a related matter.
The minister is aware that over the weekend construction workers at Bruce reported a frenzy of activity regarding inspection of the reactors at the Bruce B site for possible garter spring migration. This is the same problem that Ontario Hydro is going to be looking at in Pickering, according to his statement today. He is also aware that units 5 and 7 are being X-rayed to see how many garter springs moved out of place during the installation. It has been reported that at least one garter spring was found at least a metre out of place.
If the garter springs are out of place at full capacity, there could be an excessive sag in the 21-foot pressure tubes which would run into the calandria, causing hydriding and premature embrittlement. What is the status at Bruce today? Would he report to this House immediately on what is happening?
Hon. Mr. Andrewes: Mr. Speaker, I cannot report on the immediate status of activity at Bruce today as is requested by the Leader of the Opposition. I will be pleased to obtain that kind of up-to-the-minute update, but I am sure that sort of information will be available from Ontario Hydro in the discussions surrounding the decision related to Pickering unit 2.
As the Leader of the Opposition is aware, the question of garter springs on the reactors at Bruce is being studied to determine whether their movement has contributed to the hydriding and embrittlement of reactor tubes as a preliminary study into the whole aspect of the problems at Pickering unit 2.
Mr. Peterson: It is my understanding that the instrumentation has not been developed at this point to move those garter springs if they are out of place. There is some experimental technology with respect to vibration or electromagnetic pulse, but at this point the technology is not there, which event would require a complete tearing down of the reactors. Is that the case, or is the technology in place to move those garter springs should that become necessary?
Hon. Mr. Andrewes: I am not in a position to give accurate information on that. Ontario Hydro is the operating agency for those reactors, and that question in terms of the details would be more appropriately posed to that agency. I will be pleased to advise the Leader of the Opposition if he wishes those details: I will take the question as notice and do so at a later time.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, can the minister give us an estimate of the cost of shutting down unit 1 at Pickering? Can he tell us whether there are plans to do tests on the reactors at Bruce? If so, can he give us any estimate of what that would cost?
Hon. Mr. Andrewes: Mr. Speaker, again the leader of the third party is posing a question that requires some detailed explanation. I said in my statement that Ontario Hydro will be releasing information with respect to Pickering units 1 and 2, and I would ask the leader of the third party to refer those questions directly to Ontario Hydro at that time.
Mr. Peterson: I remind the minister that it is his responsibility to report to the House on these very important matters. Is he denying accountability? Is he saying to us that we should be running around phoning the chairman of Ontario Hydro for the answers to these questions? It is his responsibility to answer them in this House. Very serious questions are being raised.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Peterson: It is a very important point, Mr. Speaker, and you may want to speak to him about it privately.
My question is this: We have been in touch with Ontario Hydro officials, and they report to us -- and I want to make sure I have the correct understanding -- that one cannot check for any misalignment of the garter springs if those units are operating. There is some worry at the present time, not only about Pickering but about Bruce as well, that there is a series of misalignments of these garter springs which could lead to serious questions.
As the minister knows, Bruce B, Bruce unit 6 is ready to start up in the next month or so. There is some question as to whether there is a misalignment there. How can one be sure there is no misalignment in the other reactors if one cannot check them because they are operating? How can one be sure the problems are not endemic right across the entire system?
Hon. Mr. Andrewes: The Leader of the Opposition has raised this point about the garter springs. He is accurate in his statement that the reactor must be shut down for the proper sonic equipment to be utilized to make the examination. I am confident that the agencies, Ontario Hydro and the Atomic Energy Control Board, are prepared to make this examination if they deem it appropriate.
The question of the garter springs is one theory being advanced as to the possible cause of the tube rupture in Pickering unit 2, but it is only one of a number of theories.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Treasurer with respect to the program for youth unemployment that we suggested yesterday. He has had an opportunity to apply his mind to that program as well as to the statistics that are available to him. He is impressed, I am sure, with the gravity and the seriousness of the problem we are facing.
Is he persuaded now that his government has a responsibility to act with respect to improving the future prospects for our unemployed, particularly our hard-core unemployed young people? What is he going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, we have always said we have that obligation. I have indicated several times that a good part of the exercise that will commence with our fall economic statement leading up to our spring budget will be focused on that need.
Mr. Peterson: The minister is losing time. The spring budget will do nothing this winter. It is obvious what is going to happen with the statistics. I am not happy about having to come back three months from now and say, "I told you so." Therefore, we are telling the minister now. He knows what is going to happen.
He is aware that the existing programs such as the Ontario career action program soon will be out of money and will need another $7 million to $10 million. He is also aware that the winter Experience program budgeted 200 fewer positions this year than last. Given the gravity of the situation, could the minister be persuaded to bring in a program now to meet the problems this winter is sure to present?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: First, let us understand that the employment picture in Ontario is improving significantly and dramatically.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Yes, of course it is improving dramatically. Any analysis of the figures, be they from this government, Statistics Canada or the federal government, will ascertain that. It is quite clear.
Just to put some of the initiatives in some perspective as we look at the proper options to mount, I think the responsible thing for us to do is to work with the federal government, which is now at a rather late stage indicating that it is prepared to enrich programs specifically for youth unemployment. The federal minister has talked about $40 million being available. As I indicated a couple of weeks ago, the responsible thing to do is to deal with the federal government to try to see where it is going to target that $40 million so we do not overlap that program.
As well, it is important to remember that some of the impact of some of the programs we have already brought in will just be beginning to be felt this fall.
I read, not at great length, some of the details of the program the Leader of the Opposition announced yesterday. While it had some features that warrant study -- indeed, it is almost a direct copy of what is being done in the United Kingdom -- I think it is important to note --
Mr. Nixon: We don't care where good ideas come from.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I know who the Leader of the Opposition's heroes are.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Do you want to hear the minister's answer or not? Minister.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: In terms of whether we find that particular program attractive, it is important to juxtapose its value against the things we are already doing. Let us have a look, for example, at the program the Leader of the Opposition indicated he thought we should mount, which was to deal with 28,000 youths. He expected a 50 per cent takeup on it; that would be 14,000 jobs. The cost --
Mr. Nixon: It was 28,000 jobs.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: No. It was 28,000 youths, with a 50 per cent takeup -- 14,000 jobs. As I read the press release, it indicated the cost would be $90 million to $139 million. Compare that to our youth employment program, for example, which the Leader of the Opposition referred to a moment ago. It provides not 14,000 jobs but 55,000 jobs, costing not $90 million but $30 million.
Mr. O'Neil: But they're all temporary jobs.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We can go through the Ontario career action program, which has $17 million providing 13,200 jobs, about as many jobs as the program the Leader of the Opposition suggested yesterday for an extra $90 million or $100 million. I could go on and on.
The fact is that all of our programs to date amount to much more cost-effectiveness. For the same amount of money the Liberal Party's program would have us spend, we are providing not 14,000 jobs but 100,000 jobs through our current programs. Those are programs that are already in place in this province, and they do not include our other programs that are specifically targeted to youth.
All in all, I conclude that while we are still searching for more programs to target more and more problem areas with youth unemployment, the fact remains that the programs we have in place are far more cost-effective than any other that have so far been brought to our attention. They are covering far more people than any other programs we have heard about to date.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Treasurer a simple question. What specific actions is his government going to take, which the Treasurer will announce in his fall budget statement, that will meet the enormous problem of the unacceptably high level of youth unemployment in the province today?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Let me be clear, Mr. Speaker. The fall economic statement is not intended to introduce new programs but to begin the stage towards new budget-making. If the honourable member does not want to have some input into that, that is his choice, but we did not hold that out as a fall budget. We canvassed the possibilities of a fall mini-budget and decided we would wait a bit and get a better feel for where the economy is going to go in the next period of time.
Let me add that the existence of that statement some time next month neither precludes nor invites any special initiatives in the youth employment area or in any other area. We may go before that time; we may go after that time. We will have to measure it as we watch the figures unfold and as we analyse some new program suggestions we are currently looking at.
Mr. Peterson: The Treasurer chooses deliberately to distort and make -- I do not want to be uncharitable -- unrealistic or even dishonest comparisons. We are talking about 14,000 man-years of employment. Let him compare it to his short-term programs and give us an honest comparison. Let him study the figures and come back to the House. We will welcome his interpretation. Ours is a very cost-effective program.
In spite of all those good programs -- and we are not against them -- there are still 159,000 unemployed young people on the streets of Ontario today. That is a reality. We are suggesting a new program that would address the problem of the hard-core unemployed who do not have the educational skills to compete.
I wonder whether the minister agrees with the former Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch), who said, in addressing the very same problem we are trying to address:
"Over the past few years, statistics show that these young people, who have limited skills or who face other barriers to finding a job, remain on the unemployment lists year-round. If not given a chance to acquire job skills, this segment of the youth population will always have difficulties in the labour market." Does the Treasurer agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Let me point out that the program the Leader of the Opposition announced yesterday did not talk about 14,000 man-years of employment. Reading his communiqué, it seems to talk about "servicing approximately 14,000 youths each year."
The Leader of the Opposition talks about year-round programs. He keeps alleging that we do not have year-round programs --
Mr. Peterson: Read it then.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I may have read it more closely than my friend did.
The Leader of the Opposition talks about year-round programs. As he probably knows, OCAP is a year-round program.
Mr. Bradley: But the money has dried up.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: As I said here a couple of weeks ago, none of those programs will suffer in terms of lack of money. If more funding is required for youth employment programs, it will be made available under our current programs. It would be more cost-effective to enrich our current programs than to undertake the kind of new programs suggested yesterday.
We have the OCAP program which is year-round. We have several other programs, together with the federal government in terms of our job creation programs, our capital project acceleration programs, many of the Canada-Ontario employment development fund opportunities which are being accessed by young people and on and on. I could read the list.
To sum up, yes, I agree with the statement made by my colleague, and that is precisely why we have a program that has created 100,000 new job opportunities for young people, only in those areas and programs targeted specifically to youth. The total number of youth assisted by our government programs would be far in excess of 100,000 because they have participated so widely in the COED and other programs.
Yes, I agree with that statement. Yes, I believe we have done far more than the program of the Leader of the Opposition might invite us to do. Yes, I believe we have to continue to search for more opportunities. Yes, I agree with the need for year-round programs. That is why we have some, and that is why, as Treasurer, I am prepared to enrich any of our current programs to date, because they all seem to be working quite effectively.
MALVERN SOIL CONTAMINATION
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the government House leader and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Last night he was quoted in the news, and in one of the newspapers this morning, as saying he would have an announcement to make shortly with respect to the fate of the McClure Crescent properties and the removal of radioactive soil from those properties.
Does the minister have a statement to make? Does he have a commitment to make with respect to the removal of radioactive soil? What is the delay in making that statement to the House today rather than making it on the news last night? Why does he not have something to tell us today?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, first, I feel a little sorry that my friend did not invite me along on his tour of McClure Crescent today. I would have been happy to take him around the riding. I notice the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Peterson) did not invite me along either.
Mr. Peterson: You should show up.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Pardon? What was that?
Mr. Speaker: Never mind the interjections, please.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I think my friend will find I showed up there many times.
Mr. Speaker: Would the minister please address himself to the question of the member for York South?
Mr. Foulds: Do you need an invitation to go into your own riding?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I do not need an invitation, but it is nice to let the local member know when one member of this House is coming in.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I would have been happy to lay on a lunch for my friend.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I think that, first and foremost, the people who are most interested --
Mr. Boudria: The Speaker is standing up now.
Mr. Speaker: I was just going to observe that this was deteriorating into a personal debate. However, you corrected yourself and started to answer the question; so proceed.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Thank you, sir. I was going to say to my friend that the people who are, first and foremost, interested in the announcement that will be made will be the people on McClure Crescent. In my view, they are the ones who should hear this matter first, not the members of this Legislature. Therefore, I have arranged, along with the federal member, the Honourable Paul Cosgrove, to outline for the people of McClure Crescent and anybody else who wishes to attend, the arrangements that will be made to remove the soil from around those homes.
We have never said we would not have that soil removed and we have always remained steadfast in that commitment. This meeting will be held at that place at 7:30 p.m. on November 7. Along with Paul Cosgrove, I will indicate exactly how it will be done, where the soil will go and all the details, and answer any questions from the residents. Everyone is welcome to come to the meeting.
Mr. Rae: The residents of McClure Crescent, as the minister knows, have been waiting for a long time and they have heard from the minister before with respect to delays and with respect to things coming around the corner.
Can the minister guarantee to this House and to the residents of McClure Crescent today that the radioactive soil on McClure Crescent will be removed from the backyards of those houses by the end of 1983? Can he make that guarantee in the House today? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Wells: First of all, from the day of the discovery of that soil, I guaranteed to the residents that soil would be moved and we have never deviated from that commitment. That commitment will be fulfilled --
Mr. Rae: Yes, but it has been three years.
Hon. Mr. Wells: -- and the timing of it will be announced on November 7.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, given the string of broken promises to the residents of Malvern, the minister knows he will be greeted with some cynicism and only be well treated when it is finally gone.
Let me ask him another question related to that matter. Given all that those residents have suffered -- all the personal problems, the anxiety, the worry; and I wish I could release to him some of the letters that I have received but I do not wish to embarrass those people -- does the minister not think, as a member and the responsible minister, it was a dirty trick of his government to appeal the decision of the province's tax assessment review court to reduce the property tax from $1,000 or $1,500 down to $100? His government appealed, putting the taxes up on those properties that are worth virtually nothing today. Is that not a dirty trick?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I have answered this question to a number of the residents and I have indicated to them that we had no alternative but to appeal because I think the tax assessment review court that reviewed that matter perhaps erred in reducing their taxes. I fully agree that they should have a reduction in assessment because of the problem that is present and that reduction should remain at least until we correct the problem.
The $100 does not even pay one tenth of the education costs for the children in those homes, so it really becomes fairly obvious that an assessment at the level that was set is not equitable for all the residents in the area. We have really no alternative at this point but to appeal that decision.
My friends will recall that we debated a bill that is still on the order paper, Bill 174, in this House and I did not get much helpful support on that bill from the two opposition parties. They all told me they were going to vote against the bill.
Mr. Rae: The hard fact of the matter is that these homes are the most important investment the residents of McClure Crescent will make in their lives and that investment has been devalued significantly. There are many other problems as well, of which the minister is well aware. These are the result of the events that have taken place at McClure Crescent.
Is the minister prepared to stand in his place and say that his government is prepared to provide compensation for those residents who have suffered real economic hardship as a result of what has happened over the last 30 years on McClure Crescent?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I cannot comment on that because those residents have a case in the courts at the present time. They are taking various people to court over that matter and it is going to have to be decided by the courts.
Nobody is denying the fact there has been some hardship on those residents. I mentioned Bill 174. The members of this House all indicated they would vote against that bill unless I indicated where the soil was going to go. In other words, we were interested in having it removed -- I do not deny that all members would support me in that -- but unless they knew where it was going to go they would not vote for that bill.
I indicated I would not bring the bill back until we could announce where it was going to go. I had hoped that perhaps in the interval some member of this House might have come to me and said: "I have the ideal place for that soil. Why don't you bring it up to my area?" For instance, the member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Elston) could have told me he would like to have the soil up at the Bruce hydro plant. I did not hear him come forward with that. I have not heard anyone come forward and say to me, "Pass that bill and I have a place in my riding for that soil."
Mr. Rae: The minister has misled the House. If he looks at the speech of our environmental critic, he will see exactly the statements we have made with respect to --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Rae: He has stated something in the House which is simply not true.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for York South has made an inappropriate statement in the heat of debate that I am sure he is going to withdraw.
Mr. Rae: I would be happy to withdraw what I said if I am allowed to say that I believe --
Mr. Speaker: No. The honourable member just stops right there.
Mr. Rae: The record will speak for itself. Those who want to look at Bill 174 and the debate will see the discrepancy between what the minister said and what transpired in that debate. There is a major --
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. This is not the period for making speeches. It is the time for oral questions.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, I have a point of privilege arising out of answers given by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in terms of two statements he made at which I take personal offence.
First, he said that no honourable members on this side had given any assistance to him on Bill 174. To clarify the record, I would like to let you know, Mr. Speaker, that both I and the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton) indicated that although we were not willing to give blanket permission to put the soil anyplace, which is what the bill said, we suggested at least two venues where that soil could be placed. We thought these suggestions were quite helpful and guaranteed we would support that on behalf of our caucus. I think that should be made very clear.
Mr. Speaker: I must point out that is not a matter of privilege. It is a matter to which the member took personal offence, apparently.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, may I just clarify that? All I was saying was that I did not receive any indication from any members that they would vote for the bill as it was.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: No. You said more than that.
Hon. Mr. Wells: If I said more, then I am sorry.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: I would like to have you consider very carefully the comments made earlier by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to the effect that when members of this House are visiting other members' ridings, they should give notification first. I would hope that is now government policy.
Mr. Speaker: Your point is well taken, and I would hope it would refer to all members.
ALZHEIMER'S PATIENTS HOME CARE PROGRAM
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the minister of many hats in his role as the acting Minister of Health. It has to do with the fact that the Ottawa-Hull Alzheimer Society, as I am sure the minister may be aware, is starting one-day-a-week day care for four patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease at St. Patrick's Home for the Aged on Riverside Drive in Ottawa.
St. Patrick's is donating the space. The Ottawa-Hull Alzheimer Society is providing a volunteer staff of a registered nurse with special geriatric training, a psychologist and two other volunteers, including one with a PhD in psychiatry. Can the minister explain why the Ministry of Health turned down a request for funding from the Ottawa-Hull Alzheimer Society with respect to this particular program?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I cannot tell my friend why the ministry turned down the request but I would certainly be glad to look into it. Any group that is willing to provide this kind of service and help is worthy of some support. It may be that the group should be getting it from another ministry, at the moment I cannot say, but I would be glad to look into it because I think it is a very worthwhile request.
Mr. Rae: What is at stake here is the integrity of the government's home care program and its ability to deliver on the home care promise. We have had statements going back to 1981 with respect to home care. We had a statement from his predecessor that home care legislation was going to be forthcoming and was necessary in order to provide the scope and focus for the delivery of home care programs.
Can the minister give us a commitment today that before the end of this month, or before the end of November, or before the end of December -- give us a time, give us a place -- he is going to introduce home care legislation that will allow these groups and other similar groups to provide the delivery of care at home for people who deserve that care and who at the moment are not getting that care, or who are currently undergoing tremendous costs as a result of that care. Will he finally deliver on the promises that have been made in this Legislature for years and years with respect to home care?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I certainly agree that is a very worthwhile service and it is something I will look into. I cannot give the member any commitment beyond that now, but I certainly sympathize with it and will --
Mr. Rae: Where is the legislation? Larry promised it last year.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Besides looking after the soil and all the other problems concerning hospitals and nursing homes, I have not had time to look at home care yet. I will look at it and I will look sympathetically at what my friend has indicated.
Mr. Rae: I would like to give the minister one example in a letter that was written to the Minister of Health (Mr. Norton), a copy of which was sent to me as well as to other members.
How does the minister feel about the fact that Mrs. Joan McCord Roose, living in Ottawa, whose mother is 87 and is a victim of Alzheimer's disease, is having to pay $1,200 a month in nursing fees for someone to come in and provide care at home? How does the minister feel about that?
Is he aware of the number of people who are being forced to pay $500, $1,000 and as much as $1,500 a month to provide nursing care at home? He says he is too busy, he has a lot of other things to do and he is not aware of whether he is going to be able to find the time to deal with this question of home care. It is costing the people of this province a lot of money. It is putting them into debt. It is causing them difficulty. Why is the minister not going to act on this question?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I did not say that. My friend was making good points with me in his argument until he started into the last part of the rhetoric, the histrionics. Perhaps after he has been in the House a little while he will learn he can make a little more headway by just stating his case rather than trying to embellish it a little.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry). I notice he has just left his seat. If someone might try to get him, I will stand down my question until he comes.
Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, while that is happening, I have a question for the Minister of Northern Affairs, again deferring from the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope) who it seems has not been around here for the last week.
The question is on the tree production nursery complex in the Swastika region. This project which was begun as a result of a 1981 election promise was abruptly cancelled earlier this year. The deputy regional director of the Ministry of Natural Resources has referred to this episode as "a bit of a mistake."
Given that 10 contracts were signed with private growers to provide the same nursery stock after this project was begun, can the minister tell us whether this is just a case of mismanagement? Can he tell us what really did happen and why this Swastika project was cancelled?
Beyond that, the news reports indicated that not just $200,000, but several hundred thousand dollars had been spent on this project. Can the minister indicate to us how much this mistake cost?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Speaker, as the member has correctly pointed out, this is a matter for the Minister of Natural Resources. I will take the question as notice and report back to him.
Mr. Van Horne: I would ask further that the minister investigate this comment from the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association: "Governments and the private sector will have to triple their investment in the forestry industry and, unless this is done, Canada will be facing a shortfall of wood fibres within the next dozen years."
Would he also investigate that the container stock superintendent for the northern region expects a shortage of tree production by 1986, somewhat less than the dozen years. In the light of these concerns, what is he going to do to assist this vital industry?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Those of us who are here on a regular basis have heard the Minister of Natural Resources on many occasions spell out what they are doing on reforestation and regeneration programs. I am sure if the member would check Hansard, he would find the answers to those questions.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, I would endorse what the member for London North has said. When the minister is talking to his colleague the Minister of Natural Resources, would he ask him -- I would have thought he would have already asked this question of his colleague -- why, when we are going to need increased production of seedlings in the next few years, is that minister not using the opportunity to establish tree nurseries in the many very small, relatively isolated communities all across northern Ontario? Is it not an ideal opportunity to provide an additional economic base for those communities?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member would go around and visit many of the small northern communities and areas in northern Ontario, as I do, he would see that the Minister of Natural Resources has already complied with that. But those members go to the major centres, like Thunder Bay, and do not receive any attention or recognition. They do not know what is going on and they make accusations and criticisms that they have no knowledge about.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Labour. In an article which appeared in the Toronto Star on October 22 regarding Westinghouse, it would appear that controversial decisions to downplay worker concerns were made in Toronto.
Let me quote: "What has made Gray's labour board foray against the inspectorate and Westinghouse so fascinating is the eye-opening evidence from ministry bureaucrats about how controversial decisions to downplay worker concerns were made. Some officials have testified, for example, that the content of peculiar and controversial tests, reports and decisions they signed was not their own but dictated by the higher officials of the ministry."
Who is writing these reports from the office of the Minister of Labour? Why are the facts being altered to downplay the issue? Rather, the ministry should be going out to enforce them vigorously.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, I am sure there are no facts being altered, but the underlying response to the honourable member would have to be this: The matter he is referring to is before the Ontario Labour Relations Board. They are trying to get questions to an awful lot of answers. It is a rather complex --
Mr. Foulds: We are trying to get answers to an awful lot of questions.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Pardon?
Mr. Foulds: You've got it backwards.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I am sorry; that is what the member for Sudbury East does to me; he gets me back to front.
It is a very complex hearing and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on it at this time. These matters are being dealt with in the appropriate forum.
Mr. Martel: I will try a supplementary. I realize what is there. Is the minister aware that Mr. Bergie of his ministry stated that he had notified the Toronto office of "alarming" -- his word -- levels of lead tests at Westinghouse on July 12, 1982, and that his assistant deputy minister denied the ministry had any knowledge of these until September 12?
Is he aware that in this same report -- is it not the same report that I managed to get myself into trouble over in that his assistant deputy minister stated also she had no knowledge of the results of the tests conducted in October 1982, despite the fact those results were in eight days before that report was drafted and presented in this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: There is absolutely no change in the position of my assistant deputy minister in that matter.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Attorney General. No doubt the Attorney General is aware of last week's unanimous decision by the three Divisional Court judges which overturned an Ontario Municipal Board ruling of June 3 regarding the annexation by the city of Barrie of land owned by the township of Vespra.
Given that the three judges cited bias on the part of the two 0MB hearing officers, both senior members of the 0MB, and given that both municipalities have incurred legal expenses of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past eight years due to the bungling of the provincial government and the Ontario Municipal Board, is the minister prepared to reimburse these two municipalities for the legal expenses they have incurred over the last number of years?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I would not think so, Mr. Speaker. I have heard of the judgement, but I have not actually read it, particularly that aspect of it which I think is the core of the judgement, the issue of bias that the member has raised. Certainly, my preliminary view is that it would be inappropriate, but I will review the decision and may have something further to add.
Mr. Epp: Does the minister not think the provincial government has a responsibility in this area with respect to reimbursing these municipalities? Given the fact that the 0MB has been accused of this bungling -- and the mayor of the city of Barrie has called it a fiasco -- is the minister intending to speak to the chairman of the Ontario Municipal Board regarding the continuation of service of these two senior members on the board?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I think all members would agree that on a day-to-day basis the Ontario Municipal Board serves the citizens of this province in a very effective and dedicated fashion. To suggest on the basis of one judgement that two members be removed is certainly not a suggestion I would seriously consider.
Mr. Nixon: What do you want? Two out of three? Are you going to appeal?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
NIAGARA REGIONAL POLICE
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Solicitor General about the Niagara Regional Police. Incidentally, they are the Niagara Regional Police, not the Niagara Falls Police, as the minister said in his answer last time.
The minister must be aware that, without any advertising being done for other applicants or without inviting any other members of the Niagara Regional Police to apply, one of the deputy chiefs of that police force, James Gayder, was appointed by the Niagara Police Commission on July 5, 1983, to take over as the new chief when Chief Harris retires at the end of this year.
Is the minister aware that at the time Mr. Gayder was appointed by the police commission, two internal police investigations were under way concerning a certain gun matter in which he was involved with gun dealer Mark DeMarco: one, an investigation into breaches of the Police Act and the department's code of conduct, and the other by the special criminal investigation unit into contravention of the Criminal Code?
Does the minister believe the commission was wise and acted in the best public interest by that appointment in that manner under those circumstances?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, on matters of employment of personnel within the individual police forces of the province, be they regional or municipal, appointments are made by those commissions and the commissions make those decisions.
There is usually one representative from the municipality on most commissions and two appointed by the province. The larger ones, the regions, usually have two individuals, and in this region they have a county court judge sitting on the commission. That judge, the elected official who sits there and the three appointed officials have come to a decision after reviewing the candidates seeking the position and have made a decision on the successor to the chief who will shortly be retiring.
In these matters they sometimes ask the Ontario Police Commission for advice on how to interview and on the manner and method of selection, and sometimes such assistance is given by the Ontario Police Commission. As the member well knows, however, it is the ultimate decision of the individual police commissioners. When they make their investigations into the selected candidates, I assume they do a thorough and knowledgeable background search and know all the assets and deficiencies of the different candidates. They make their decision knowing full well that background information.
Mr. Swart: It is my understanding that the Solicitor General has some responsibility for the overall quality of policing in this province.
Specifically, is it not true that the special criminal investigation unit has found there is sufficient evidence to charge Deputy Chief Gayder under subsection 94(1) of the Criminal Code and so reported to Chief Harris two months ago?
If this is the case, would the minister not agree Mr. Gayder should not be sworn in as the new chief now or at any time until those charges are satisfactorily disposed of in an open way? Does this not prompt the minister to reconsider his limited investigation and opt for a full, open investigation of all levels of the Niagara Regional Police?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: On the investigation of the Niagara Regional Police, I would remind the honourable member he requested a full investigation be initiated and I have done that. It is an independent investigation. That has been done in the normal course of events, as these take place through the Ontario Police Commission. It has initiated that investigation. When it is completed, we can make a decision at that time on the evidence provided by that investigation. This is usually done in the normal course of events.
Somebody else in that area, one of the lawyers involved, asked for a similar style of investigation, not the one the member is now mentioning that he desires, namely, a wide, public and expansive investigation. I feel the present one will find us the immediate solution to the problem, if there is a problem, as he alleges there is.
ROAD SYSTEM FUNDING
Mr. Eakins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Transportation and Communications. As the minister is aware, the impact of a good roads system on job creation and tourism cannot be overemphasized. Yet since 1975 there has been a 12 per cent reduction in real dollars for road system funding which, according to his own ministry standards, has resulted in 28 per cent of all municipal roads and streets in Ontario being deemed inadequate, as in the district of Muskoka where 51.4 per cent of the roads are inadequate or in the county of Hastings where 42.4 per cent of the roads are inadequate. In rural areas this is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents.
In view of these facts, would the minister assure this House that he will reassess his government's position of underfunding our roads system, which the Ontario Good Roads Association points out is the most counterproductive policy the government could adopt?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will. I would like the honourable member to send me over those figures because I think the reduction is somewhat more substantial than what he quoted.
Mr. Eakins: Since many municipalities in the Hanover and other areas appeared before a rural task force urging improved and more direct routes to their areas, will the minister indicate how many previously planned projects and tenders were not called this past summer? What does this mean in terms of dollars?
Will the minister guarantee to us in this House, to the Ontario Good Roads Association and to all municipalities in Ontario that action will be taken now to provide the level of funding necessary to reverse this situation?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I can only supply the level of funding that is voted by this Legislature. If the Legislature votes more funding, I will pass it on to the municipalities.
INFLATION RESTRAINT LEGISLATION
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could catch the Premier before he leaves. I would like to ask him a question.
Mr. Speaker: Place your question, please.
Mr. Rae: The question has to do with the statement made today by the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) of the province. I am delighted the Attorney General has recognized that the case before the Divisional Court and the judgement of the three judges has broad implications for the interpretation of freedom of association and the relationship between that concept and inflation restraint, as well as other major pieces of provincial legislation.
In the light of that decision by the Attorney General and in the light of his comments today, would the Premier not agree that it is extremely invidious to be contemplating the introduction of yet another major piece of legislation with respect to inflation control which may prove to be contrary to the Constitution of this country, given the meaning of the phrase "freedom of association" that was adopted by the three judges in the Divisional Court?
Would he be prepared to make a commitment to the Legislature that no such legislation will be introduced until such time as the Court of Appeal of this province has rendered a decision with respect to the question on the constitutionality of legislation put forward by the government of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the leader of the New Democratic Party has not had an opportunity to keep up with everything that has been said on this issue. I think the Treasurer (Mr. Grossman) has said the decision would not alter what is being contemplated by the government.
Mr. Rae: With great respect to what the Treasurer has said and what the Premier has just said, the judges are on record as saying freedom of association implies the right to organize, the right to bargain and the right to strike. In addition, it implies a right to negotiate free from restraint, unless that restraint is of an extremely limited nature and of a very specific kind.
What the judges have said is directly related and touches directly on the question of inflation restraint. Given the very different economic circumstances today from a year ago, I suspect judges might take a very different view of the kind of approach the government might or might not be contemplating.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: I ask this question again of the Premier: Given the fact the government was not successful in convincing the court with respect to section 13(b) of the Inflation Restraint Act as it was passed last year, how can he be so sure, how can he be so confident the court will be persuaded by yet another intervention from the Attorney General of this province with respect to the constitutionality of inflation restraint and wage restraint legislation in this province?
Hon. Mr. Davis: With respect, Mr. Speaker, either the leader of the New Democratic Party did not hear my answer or he did not understand it. I thought it was, for me, really very clear.
Hon. Mr. Davis: It was clear. I said very simply my understanding is the Treasurer has already said publicly that the probable new approach of the government will not have that as a problem. I would further add that I am not one who would prejudge what a court would say in any event, if the member was asking me what we would say. I am referring to that particular section which was the subject of discussion on Tuesday.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, at the risk of hearing the answer exactly the same way, though the Premier has never been able to remember what he said two minutes before, can we presume from the Premier's answer that because there could have been a case made for urgency last year with the inflation rate being what it was then, with the rate now being down around five per cent, there will not be any limit put on the bargaining power, because the urgency of the high rate of inflation now does not exist and, therefore, that part of the judges' decision will not affect what the Treasurer will bring in?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I really cannot add anything to the very excellent answer I gave the member for York South except to make an observation. Here again we have an example of the Liberal Party of Ontario one day a year ago saying, "Without question it should be a two-year program, comprehensive, covering the world," while today the financial critic is saying, "Gosh, maybe it should have been a one-year program."
Mr. T. P. Reid: The rate of inflation isn't 12 per cent.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. McGuigan: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson), I would like to ask a question of the Premier.
Is the Premier aware that Remembrance Day, November 11, this year is not a school holiday, and the Royal Canadian Legion agrees with that policy? It does create some problems, especially in small municipalities and ridings like mine. I would like to explain that in Blenheim we go to the cenotaph where there is a service. We go to the Legion in Blenheim and have lunch. Then in the afternoon we go to the nearby village of Erieau and go through the same service.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. McGuigan: In view of the fact that it takes a day to do these activities, and the only way a veteran teacher could now attend would be to use his sick leave, would the Premier confer with the Minister of Education and see if a directive can be sent out allowing these people a day off as in former times?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for notice of the question, which was a process we used to use in days gone by; it is written notice of the question. He stated in his notice to me exactly what he has stated in the House, except he did not give me the example of his travelling from certain communities to other communities. He did not put that in his letter.
I think I would be more than prepared to take this up with the Minister of Education. I sense from people in the Legion in Brampton, some 200 feet from my own home, that the response to the decision to have November 11 observed within the school itself would give the day more substance and more meaning. That was the intent, and I think it is an intent that would be supported by all members of the House.
At the same time, I personally -- and I am only speaking personally -- would be very sympathetic to veterans who are members of the teaching profession, who are part of a ceremony within an individual community or perhaps two or three communities, feeling their place is properly at a particular service. I would have great sympathy for that. I am not sure the minister can send out directives per se, but I will certainly discuss this with her and see if that can be communicated to the boards.
I am only guessing at this, but I think we are talking about a relatively small number. I do not think it would affect, in a substantial way, the academic program within the school system. There is a tendency to forget the relevance of November 11. Certainly, as head of government I would not want to stand in the way of any veteran participating in a service of this nature. For me, this is fundamental, and I certainly will take it up with the Minister of Education.
Mr. McGuigan: I do not need a supplementary. That was a very complete answer.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Industry and Trade in regard to the task force that was set up by his predecessor, at the request of his colleague the Minister of Labour, to study the future of the Abitibi-Price mill in Sault Ste. Marie.
Can the minister indicate to us the current status of the task force study? When does he anticipate a report from the study? What is the position of the government with regard to the future of the Abitibi operations in Sault Ste. Marie, considering the limits that have been awarded to Abitibi north of Sault Ste. Marie by the crown of this province?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I would have to go back to get the exact status of the study. When I was in Sault Ste. Marie a couple of months ago, I did talk to a number of people who are very interested in the outcome. Sault Ste. Marie has unquestionably suffered more than almost any other community in Ontario in layoffs of late. Obviously, very real concern was expressed about the future of that mill.
That was recognized three or four years ago. We had the pulp and paper program. That was one of the older mills, and it was my understanding that money was being invested at that time to keep the mill up to date. I believe within the last week some announcements were made, by either the chairman of Abitibi-Price or somebody in the company, which were optimistic. However, because I do not have the details at my fingertips, I would prefer to go back and review them and then answer the question.
Mr. Wildman: Is the minister aware that Abitibi has invested substantially in the southern United States, in development of new mills and renovations of older mills it has purchased with the profits it has made out of its operations, largely in northern Ontario? That being the case, is it the position of the government that this company has an obligation to maintain employment in the mills in northern Ontario, and specifically the mill in Sault Ste. Marie, which should have had a lot more money invested in upgrading over the years?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I am not only aware of the mills in the south, I have visited some of them. They have one advantage that almost any new factory has anywhere in the world: they have modern technology. They also have very low wood costs. Most of the mills in the southern United States have wood costs that are perhaps as little as one third of the costs in Canada. Most of the mills depend upon delivery by rail or public road; so they do not have the costs involved in their own hauls and the distances are not as great --
Mr. Stokes: It is because you have been negligent in not shortening the rotation.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. F. S. Miller: The study my ministry did when I was Minister of Natural Resources was to determine how many of Ontario's mills were in a condition that allowed incremental investment to upgrade them and make them economically feasible because of the threat from the United States. From that review came the pulp and paper program, probably the most important single program ever initiated in Canada to upgrade a sector of any industry. It has had amazing success across the north.
VANDALISM DURING DEMONSTRATIONS
Mr. Kells: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Government Services. The minister will be aware that some time subsequent to the anti-cruise missile demonstration, which went on before this building last Saturday, the front entrance of the building and the main walkway leading to it were defaced by four painted signs.
There is a need to protect public property from vandalism and to protect the integrity of this House and the safety of the people who work in this building, especially in the light of the reported intention of some representatives of various groups in the anti-cruise missile coalition to escalate the level of protests to acts of civil disobedience.
Would the minister please inform this House as to the identity of the member in whose name permission to demonstrate in front of the building was granted? I think I know the answer to that. Would he also inform us of the cost of repairing the defaced property and who will be paying for the repairs; when this vandalism was first detected and reported; and what security arrangements currently exist to police crowds of that size which demonstrate around this building? Finally, will he tell us what can be done to reduce the possibility of such vandalism occurring at or after future events of this kind?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, I hope I remembered all the questions. The first one related to the sponsor and the issuing of a permit, for want of a better description. I should clarify first that it is not required that a permit to have a demonstration be sponsored by a member of this Legislature. Where some form of control comes into it is if the demonstration requests either the use of amplification equipment or the use of electrical equipment for its own amplification system; then we do require the sponsorship of a member. In the case of the situation on Saturday, the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston) was the sponsor of that application.
There was vandalism done some time on the weekend and, as the Speaker probably knows, a suspect was apprehended by the Metropolitan Toronto Police relative to the possible damage of this building and other buildings along University Avenue. I would not want to comment on the suspect's innocence or guilt -- that is not my responsibility -- however, I think it is safe to say that kind of activity would not be condoned by anyone here.
An article I read in a local tabloid by a bearded member of the press gallery -- with his new picture beside his byline -- indicated my views as well as anybody has done. I do not know how one can avoid that type of situation. Security for this building, as the Speaker well knows, is not under the purview of the Ministry of Government Services but under a body associated with the Ministry of the Solicitor General. I understand there is regular patrolling of the outside of the building. I suppose the only answer is further patrolling, obviously at increased cost to the taxpayers.
The defacing outside has not been eliminated. We have tried many different kinds of chemical washes. We have been able to make it not so obvious. The next thing we are going to try is water bombing; we do not want to go to sandblasting unless we have to, because it will change the colour of the sandstone.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: We are going to use the water bombers that this province very wisely bought.
Mr. Martel: Why don't you use the jet?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: As far as the cost is concerned, I do not know all the answers because we do not have the solution yet. It is estimated it will be somewhere in the area of $2,000 to $3,000 and, of course, who but the taxpayers pay for this very obnoxious act of a ridiculous individual.
UNITED WAY AUCTION
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: For a second year, the staff of the Legislative Assembly, who are under your jurisdiction, worked very hard to stage an auction to raise money for the United Way. They are to be commended for their efforts.
I had the privilege of conducting the auction this year, and I want to express my gratitude to such honourable members as the member for Scarborough East (Mrs. Birch) and the member for Lakeshore (Mr. Kolyn), who were excellent bidders, and the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris), who left his bids by proxy because he could not attend. I also want to mention the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Stokes), the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren), the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon), the member for Kent-Elgin (Mr. McGuigan) and the member for Grey (Mr. McKessock). It takes these kinds of people to make a sale.
I understand the staff members did get over their goal. More than $900 was raised by the sale, and the goal was surpassed by I do not know how many dollars. However, it was a bit of a disappointment to me, and I am sure it must have been a disappointment to the staff of the Legislative Assembly who staged this auction, that out of 124 members of this Legislature, only 10 or 12 members showed up to actually bid on the items, knowing that the money is to be used for an extremely good purpose; that is, to go to the United Way.
I would hope that if the staff go through the work of conducting a similar auction next year, we might expect more of the members to come out and support us in our efforts.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you. On behalf of all members of the Legislature, I would like to thank the member for Huron-Middlesex (Mr. Riddell), who so very excellently conducted the auction and, I might say, extracted rather good prices as well.
INFLATION RESTRAINT LEGISLATION
Mr. Wrye: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Mr. Martel: Leo is afraid someone might upstage him even though he has the cheques.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Wrye: I would think that my friend the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) would want to hear this very important petition.
"We, the undersigned teachers, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas we oppose the extension of the Inflation Restraint Act because it is inequitable in its application to the citizens of Ontario and restricts our basic free collective bargaining rights; and
"Whereas we believe that an extension of the act or measures which will have a similar effect would violate the spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
"We petition the Ontario Legislature to restore our free collective bargaining rights forthwith under Bill 100, the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act."
This petition is signed by 337 teachers in the ridings of Windsor-Sandwich, Windsor-Walkerville and Windsor-Riverside.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in a similar vein to the one presented by the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Wrye).
The petition is signed by three teachers who live in my riding but teach at Grenoble Public School, and they petition the Legislature "to restore our free collective bargaining rights forthwith under Bill 100, the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act."
I support the petition.
Mr. Sargent: Mr. Speaker, with the same preamble as outlined before, this petition is to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it is signed by 250 teachers in Bayview, Strathcona Senior, Victoria, Dufferin, Alexandra Community, Hillcrest, Derby Central, Keppel-Sarawak, Sydenham Central and Osprey Central elementary schools, all in Owen Sound.
Mr. Stokes: Mr. Speaker, I have a similar petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which says briefly:
"We petition the Ontario Legislature to restore our free collective bargaining rights forthwith under Bill 100, the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act."
It is signed by teachers from the Marathon, Manitouwadge and Terrace Bay public schools.
I also have a petition in a similar vein from the Valleyview school in Kenora and the public school in Ear Falls, on behalf of my colleague the member for Kenora (Mr. Bernier).
Mr. Eakins: Mr. Speaker, I have a similar single petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as presented by Mr. Bruce Hawkins of Little Britain.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I have petitions to submit from constituents of mine who work in various schools in other areas; they are the Torrance and College Avenue schools in Guelph, Alma school, James McQueen school and Westwood public school. They are similar to other petitions that have been presented this afternoon and on previous days.
Mr. Elston: Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitions signed by teachers in the province to the same extent as others previously submitted. Some of these are from members in adjoining ridings but were delivered in a batch to me. They come from Port Elgin-Saugeen Central public school, Lucknow public school, G. C. Houston school in Southampton, Wiarton public school, Walkerton, Elderslie Central, Arran Tara elementary, Kincardine, and Eastnor Central at Lion's Head.
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, I rise to give notice under subsection 28(a) that I am dissatisfied with the answer given to my question by the Solicitor General (Mr. G. W. Taylor) and we will have a special session at 10:30 tonight.
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 28(h), the member for Welland-Thorold has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Solicitor General concerning an investigation into the Niagara Regional Police. This matter will be debated at 10:30 this evening.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND OTHER STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS
Mr. Kerr from the standing committee on regulations and other statutory instruments presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:
Bill Pr39, An Act to continue the Corporation of the Union of Townships of Eilber and Devitt under the name of the Corporation of the Township of Mattice-Val Côté Act.
Your committee further recommends that the fees, less the actual cost of printing, be remitted under Bill Pr35, An Act respecting St. Augustine's Seminary of Toronto.
Motion agreed to.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Mr. McLean from the standing committee on general government reported the following resolution:
That supply in the following amount and to defray the expenses of the office of the Provincial Auditor be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1984:
Administration of the Audit Act and statutory audits program, $4,140,900.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Robinson from the standing committee on social development reported the following resolution:
That supply in the following amounts and to defray the expenses of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1984:
University support program, $1,231,505,900; skills development program, $681,291,500; student affairs program, $132,573,700.
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that the estimates of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication be reduced by three hours.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that the select committee on the Ombudsman be authorized to sit the morning of Wednesday, November 2, 1983.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that on Wednesday, November 9, the House will adjourn at 6 p.m. and not 10:30 p.m. as previously ordered.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
COURTS OF JUSTICE ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Wells, first reading of Bill 100, An Act to revise and consolidate the Law Respecting the Organization, Operation and Proceedings of Courts of Justice in Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Kennedy moved, seconded by Mr. Lane, first reading of Bill 101, An Act to amend the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Kennedy: Mr. Speaker, the bill would double the maximum awards that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is authorized to make.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS IN ORDERS AND NOTICES AND RESPONSE TO PETITION
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the answers to questions 313, 314, 315 and 317, and the response to a petition presented to the Legislature, sessional paper 100, standing on the notice paper [see Hansard for Friday, October 28].
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Ruprecht moved second reading of Bill 59, An Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Act.
Mr. Speaker: Before the honourable member proceeds, I would point out to him that he has up to 20 minutes for his presentation and may reserve any part of that time for his windup.
Mr. Ruprecht: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak for 15 minutes and reserve the right to readdress the chamber for five minutes at the end. I am saddened to see the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie) is not here to participate in the discussion of this important legislation that affects thousands of tenants, not only in the city of Toronto but also in other metropolitan areas across this province.
Since rent review legislation came into effect, we have seen some very swift sharks, the owners of some apartment buildings, trying to circumvent this legislation by declaring some units to be "transient living accommodation." That, of course, should mean that these units would then be withdrawn from rent review legislation and the six per cent guidelines would no longer apply.
The way they were doing it was by throwing a few sticks of furniture into some units that became empty, either through evicting tenants or through creating some problems so that tenants would go away, then declaring them to be furnished suites. Under this guise, they were "transient living accommodation." Of course, rents went up to the point of being tripled. We have proved that this happened.
The area of Parkdale was especially badly hit. We can identify over 300 units that have been affected by this most recent onslaught or change in the interpretation of these guidelines. I am thinking of 96, 109 and 166 Jameson Avenue, and the well-known Sunset Towers at 200 Jameson Avenue. We are talking about 300 units that are affected by the interpretation of this legislation. Many of these people have been thrown out on to the streets. As we all know, the rents of these units have then tripled.
The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations says, "Don't be very much concerned about this problem because it is well in hand," and, as he has indicated on many occasions in the House and in his letters to me, "We should not be concerned because the present legislation covers this and there will be no loopholes."
Mr. Boudria: That is what they said about the trust companies.
Mr. Ruprecht: That is right. That is precisely what he had indicated before it became known there were big loopholes and gaps in that legislation and they had to be covered. If there are no loopholes in the present legislation, then why are so many of our tenants, hundreds of them, being hurt? I would even say close to 2,000 units across Metro Toronto alone are being affected by these loopholes and many people have to do needless suffering.
The minister says we should take comfort. All of us know that Toronto Apartment Building Co. Ltd. is the main culprit or the leader in providing imaginative ways to circumvent the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Residential Tenancy Commission. The minister says, "Toronto Apartment Building Co. Ltd." -- for short, Tabco -- "has not yet managed to persuade the Residential Tenancy Commission that its converted units fall within the definition of exempt units under subsection 4(a) of the Residential Tenancies Act."
He says the problem arises that the members of our party do not understand the legislation. He then goes on to indicate, and I quote from his letter, that we should be happy because "the individual commissioners who presided at various hearings involving a number of different capital properties arrived independently at the conclusion that the units should not be exempted, but rather that they fall within the specific guidelines."
What worries us especially in this interpretation, and where we find little comfort in this knowledge that all the commissioners who have rendered decisions to date with respect to conversions of this type have independently arrived at the proper conclusion, is that our contention is -- and that is precisely our fear -- this matter is then subject to the interpretation of each individual commissioner based on each individual case.
Therefore, the potential exists for an individual commissioner to come to the independent conclusion at some point that the landlord's request to have units exempted under subsection 4(a) is indeed valid. That is precisely the problem. Each of the commissioners can come to this conclusion independently and that means the legislation is not tight.
This is why we first requested that we ask the board of commissioners of the Residential Tenancy Commission to review the situation and to make the necessary changes. We have asked the minister to produce additions to the interpretation guidelines and, failing this, to provide amending legislation so that these loopholes can be plugged.
That is why today I have introduced second reading of Bill 59 to plug the specific loopholes, because here in Bill 59, under subsection 4(a) of the Residential Tenancies Act, only units that are bona fide hotels are permitted under the municipal zoning bylaws to withdraw from the six per cent guidelines. We think this is very important legislation inasmuch as it plugs the loopholes that the minister has failed to plug.
The problem is simply that when we look at the development or history of what has recently taken place since last April, we find companies are very imaginative when it comes to finding new ruses or new ways to circumvent this legislation, even though the Residential Tenancy Commission had indicated to Tabco, "We have found that you are overcharging 54 tenants in an amount varying from $2,000 to $17,000 in one building alone."
This legislation has been so loose that for over a year and a half this company was able to overcharge 54 of its tenants in one building alone -- mark this: let me repeat it -- was able to overcharge 54 units amounts varying from $2,000 to $17,000 in one building alone. We know for a fact that there are many other buildings, and when one adds up all the buildings of Toronto Apartment Building Co. Ltd., we find they probably owe in excess of $500,000 to some of the residents of these buildings.
The minister still stands up in this House and says, "Look, folks, this whole situation is covered." I am somewhat ashamed to have to go back to Parkdale and indicate to my own people that we are not able to move this minister to specific action to plug these loopholes. That is why Bill 59 is here today.
We would assume that the government in its wisdom will see fit to support this particular bill. If it is not supported, what happens? Specifically, what happens is that many of the tenants who have already been thrown out, many of those people who are in these buildings, are really facing grave consequences inasmuch as there is uncertainty as to what they will do tomorrow.
Landlords, especially Tabco across Toronto but also in other centres of Ontario, are saying to their tenants: "We want you to leave so that we can withdraw these units from the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Residential Tenancies Act. We want to withdraw these units." That is what they are saying to these tenants. The only answer the tenants can have, of course, is either they comply and pay triple the rent or, because of some harassment, they are being forced to move.
What really happens is when these tenants -- and there are hundreds of them, as we have identified on one street alone -- move from an area, transient people are moving in. I am classifying transient people right now as people who are coming from other centres and who are staying for the night, two nights or three nights -- mostly less than a week. I classify those people as transients.
When these units are furnished and made available as hotel-like accommodation for transient people, the whole area deteriorates. There is, therefore, a consequent danger involved. Not only are we hurting the tenants because they have to live under great fear of being moved out, thrown out, or having their locks broken, but in some cases, as we have heard, the mail has allegedly been tampered with in some of the buildings.
As soon as some of these buildings have been declared hotel-like accommodations, the post office has been notified. Just to indicate one of the excesses, the post office has then been requested that all the mail be placed in the hands of the superintendent in these buildings. The tenants who are still living there now have to face the superintendent on a daily basis and request the mail from the superintendent instead of being provided a mailbox with a key so that they have the privacy of their mail being protected.
If these loopholes are not plugged, the excesses are really great. Not only do tenants live in uncertainty but also their mails are being tampered with. Consequently it is a really regrettable situation.
The other fear I really have is that when tenants are moved out of hundreds of units -- and this has already been the fact in Parkdale, in the Markham Road area of Metropolitan Toronto, Etobicoke and on Airport Road, where some owners are doing it already and are moving people out -- these areas will turn into blighted areas. That is one of the other dangers, because when families are moved out to make a residence available for transients, two or three things happen right away.
The first thing that happens is that the schools will suffer and the programs will suffer because families are moving out from the area and consequently have to withdraw their children from the schools. The program suffers and the schools suffer.
The other significant thing is that when hundreds of transients are brought in, those who only want to have a party for the night and are consequently making a lot of noise in the building when ordinary people wish to sleep, these tenants then are faced with partygoers, people use the elevators and that sort of thing.
What is even more significant is that there will be more traffic on the streets because more cars are coming in and the community will consequently deteriorate.
What is happening here is that we are moving in people who have made no commitment to a community and we are moving people out from apartments who have lived there sometimes for generations, because some of these buildings are old. They are asked to leave, asked to pull up, lock, stock and barrel, their whole community commitment.
So when this kind of shift is introduced, it is introducing a second New York, which as we have already indicated is filled with crime and dirty streets. It is that kind of scenario that we want to stop with this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I see the clock is running out so I would like to reserve the last five and a half minutes of the time for debate for my reply to other members who may wish to discuss this matter at this time.
The Deputy Speaker: I thank the honourable member for his remarks. There is time remaining for your reply.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, this is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate you on your appointment and I wish you well.
We are debating Bill 59, presented by my colleague from the great riding of Parkdale, to amend the Residential Tenancies Act, according to the explanatory note, in order to prevent conversions of rental residential units to transient living accommodation that are undertaken in order to escape rent review.
The aims of the bill are laudable. I really have some serious questions, however, as to whether the member for Parkdale, in drafting Bill 59, has actually managed to solve the problems he set out to solve.
For many of us in this House, certainly for my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, the issue of rent control and rent review is inextricably linked to the question of tenant security. Rent review is not simply a question of consumer protection. Rent control is first, foremost and fundamentally, a question of buttressing the security of people to the enjoyment of their homes without the threat of unwanted, forced eviction.
As the members know, evictions can take place for a number of reasons. They can be perhaps grouped into two categories: those that are economic evictions characterized by forcing tenants out by virtue of raising the rents so they can no longer afford to stay in their homes, and those that take place as a result of conversion of the units to other uses. They are conversions for the purpose of transforming an apartment into transient living accommodation, into a hotel, into a condominium, some quasi-condominium or into any of a number of other uses which are different from the use for which an individual or a family has rented the premises.
So one cannot deal with the issue of security of tenure in isolation, or piecemeal or by way of a number of isolated, separate amendments to isolated, separate pieces of legislation.
It has to be seen as a rather complex whole which involves rent control and the question of economic eviction. It has to involve, as well, really tough landlord and tenant legislation guaranteeing the rights of tenants to protection against unnecessary, unjustified eviction for purposes of conversion or demolition. Third, it has to involve our legislation under the Planning Act and legislation governing our municipalities, so that municipalities are given, as part of their own planning processes, the power to prohibit landlords from converting apartment accommodation or housing stock into other kinds of uses and from throwing people out on the street.
That may be a rather long-winded way of approaching my colleague's bill, but I think it is essential to understand that the government is not going to be able to deal with all of the problems that confront tenants in our society by simply proceeding statute by statute, with an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act and an isolated amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act. Sooner or later somebody -- and it has to be the government -- has to understand the importance of all of these issues and how they are interrelated and bring in a package of major reforms that will complete the job that was begun in 1975-76 when rent review was introduced and when the modern Landlord and Tenant Act was introduced.
Mr. Boudria: The member should not hold his breath.
Mr. McClellan: I will not hold my breath, but it is good advice.
I also want to say that we have an opportunity this year and in the early months of the coming year to do precisely what I am talking about. The Residential Tenancies Act has a sunset clause and it expires at the end of the current year, the end of December 1983. This means the government has, of necessity, to bring forward new legislation to extend the Residential Tenancies Act, unless it wants to end rent review, which I really doubt very much.
It has, or will have very shortly, the report of the Thom Commission of Inquiry into Residential Tenancies which is studying the adequacy of our current rent review legislation. It has had the benefit of public testimony from a wide sector of the community. It will be in a position to bring in a package of reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act, to the Landlord and Tenant Act and to other statutes, if necessary, in order to secure economic security for Ontario's tenants and to provide protection against unjustified conversions and demolitions.
I may add in parenthesis that it would be a nice gesture of good faith if the government would provide quick passage to Bill Pr3, the request from the city of Toronto to give the municipality power to prevent unjustified demolitions. The government so far has been bent -- and I am sure this is of concern to the member for St. George (Ms. Fish) -- on torpedoing Bill Pr3 and preventing its passage, which is discouraging for those who hope the government will take the next step in modernizing its landlord and tenant legislation.
Unless people happen to be in that very privileged group of people in our society who are home owners, the government seems not to understand or to accept the principle that they have a right to security and the enjoyment of their own home. The old adage that a man's home is his castle seems to apply only to the people who have the advantage of being able to buy their own home. If a householder is in the position of renting his home, he still lacks many fundamental rights and very fundamental protections.
One of these is being talked about today, namely, the power of landlords arbitrarily to convert a person's home into some other kind of use and throw the person out in the street. At present the only right tenants have under the law is the right to be notified they are going to be thrown out into the street. Quite simply, this is a medieval attitude. It makes no sense in a modern, industrial society in which the majority of people are unable to enjoy the privilege and opportunity of buying and owning their own home. It is a simple reality, a simple fact.
How much longer is the government going to keep its head in the sand and say tenants are somehow second-class citizens who are not entitled to the same kind of security around the most basic of all commodities, shelter, in our society? It is a very fundamental question of right and justice. It baffles me that the government has failed to follow through on the initiatives it was forced into in 1975-76 and again in 1978-79 to tighten up the loopholes in the Residential Tenancies Act and to tighten up the provisions in the Landlord and Tenant Act. This would guarantee a much stronger measure of security for tenants in the enjoyment of their own homes.
I intend to support Bill 59, even though I have questions about its adequacy, because I support the principle that tenants should not be subjected to unwarranted conversions for which they are then evicted. I hope my colleague the member for Parkdale (Mr. Ruprecht) will explain in his concluding five minutes the meaning of section 4a of his bill, which seems to suggest that a landlord would be able to convert a building to transient living accommodation or even to a bogus hotel upon application to the commission. All one has to do if one wants to turn one's place into a hotel is apply to the Residential Tenancy Commission to turn it into a hotel, as I understand the statute. I may be misreading Bill 59 and I would welcome a correction from the member.
Finally, I think in any legislation there have to be much stronger provisions against conversion per se. It is not enough to talk about ending the exemption from rent review; there also has to be a measure of specific protection against unwarranted conversion or demolition.
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, in speaking to this bill today, I want to address a clause of the Residential Tenancies Act that I know has been the subject of considerable discussion and controversy in recent months. I refer to the question of apartment hotels and the type of accommodation which appears to fall close to the borderline of the exemption contained in clause 4(a) of the act.
This clause provides an exemption from the purview of the act to "transient living accommodation provided in a hotel, motel, inn, tourist home, hostel or other similar accommodation." In order to give some perspective to this issue, it is important to look at the legislative history of this clause. I am sure the member for Parkdale, the sponsor of this bill, will be most interested.
Bill 163, the Residential Tenancies Act, was placed before the standing committee on general government of this Legislature early in 1979. At that time, Bill 163 contained an exemption clause which stated simply: "This act does not apply to temporary living accommodation provided in a hotel, motel, inn, tourist home or hostel." There was no phrase regarding "other similar accommodation" contained in this section.
The committee spent some time considering the word "temporary." Concerns were raised by some members that this adjective might not be sufficient to ensure the act's applicability to permanent residents of hotels and motels and the other named types of accommodation. A motion was subsequently put before the committee, and I give credit where credit is due, by one of the members of the opposition. When they do on occasion come up with thoughtful, reasoned comments, we like to give them credit. I do not have an opportunity to quote them too often but in this case I will.
On this occasion the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) put a motion to amend the original clause 4(a). The amended clause, which was finally adopted by the committee and subsequently by this Legislature, introduced two different elements into clause 4(a). First, the replacement of the word "temporary" by the word "transient" was accepted by the committee as providing clear protection for permanent residents in hotels; second, and perhaps even more important, the phrase "or other similar accommodation" was added. The bill before us today wants to remove that phrase.
The points raised in that brief debate in committee on Bill 163 concerning this phrase really go to the heart of our debate here today. In contemplating the words "or other similar accommodation," the committee of that day specifically considered whether the Residential Tenancy Commission should be granted a measure of discretion in determining the applicability of clause 4(a) to certain premises.
In arguing in favour of providing the commission with that discretion and flexibility at that time, the member for Riverdale observed: "I do not think there is a way in which one can take all the multiple situations which can occur and find a definitive method of satisfying the problem, no more than we can lock various types of accommodation into any one of the definitions. Whether it is a hotel, motel, inn, tourist home or hostel, it is subject to infinite gradations. I think we have got to leave the question under this act to the commission. If a question comes up and somebody wants to claim the benefit, he ultimately has to get the commission to make that determination."
I thought that was quite a reasoned approach to the problem, and I feel his observations are as valid today as they were then. So too are the warnings to the committee made by the then Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea). He stated in the debate:
"If they go to a hostel or to a rooming house and the rooming house has never made any bones about being a rooming house, there will be no difficulty; obviously they are under the act. But when they go to a rooming house that has conveniently put up the word 'hotel' in hopes of getting around everything, then that is where you run into the difficulty -- you can call yourself a hotel and not be a hotel.
"It is not really dependent on the individual going in. It is on what the proprietor claims to be. If he is only offering transient accommodation, then I guess he really has a motel or hotel or what have you. But if he is offering accommodation on a long-term basis to the bulk of his business, then those are different circumstances."
Our experience with clause 4(a) to date indicates that the commission has exercised its discretionary power thoughtfully on a case-by-case basis, in the manner I believe was originally contemplated by the committee in examining Bill 163. The commission has considered a handful of rent review applications involving interpretations of clause 4(a) and the "similar accommodation" phrase in particular.
I stand to be corrected, but in considering those applications, to my knowledge, the commission has sought to determine the real nature of the units before it. It has sought to determine if the accommodation falls within the exemption, including such factors as whether the accommodation is licensed as a tourist facility by the municipality, as referred to by others in this debate. It has sought to determine whether the stay of its residents is temporary or long term and whether traditional hotel-like services are provided in the building, such as registration desk, laundry, housekeeping and furnishings.
It was my understanding that, to date, the Residential Tenancy Commission has not granted a single exemption under clause 4(a) to any of its so-called apartment hotels. More important, it appears the discretionary mechanism embodied in this section is functioning in a reasonable and consistent manner. In reviewing the amendment proposed in the bill before us today, I am struck by the fact that the discretionary factor has not been removed, only altered, and it is altered in a way that I think confuses rather than clarifies the issue.
Although the amended clause would delete the phrase "or other similar accommodation," a deletion designed, I assume, to more narrowly define transient accommodation, the addition of the words "bona fide" add a new and different element of discretion to the commission's mandate. This addition would essentially mean that the commission would continue to look at this section on a case-by-case basis. It would, however, necessitate replacing the objective factors embodied in the present test with a subjective inquiry into the motivation and good faith of the apartment hotel applicant.
In my opinion, that kind of inquiry introduces an unwelcome element of vagueness and arbitrariness into the decision-making process of this tribunal. The down side of the present clause 4(a) of the act is that it creates a sense of uncertainty among tenants and owners, but the amendment before us today does nothing to alleviate that problem. It merely replaces one discretionary test with another less appropriate one.
I accept the fact that from time to time we must review certain sections of legislation such as clause 4(a) of the Residential Tenancies Act, but that is in process, as referred to by the previous speaker. We are looking forward in a matter of weeks, if not months -- I suggest it will be weeks -- to having the Thom report before us. At that time, we will have sufficient ammunition to consider a comprehensive review and refinement of the existing system to improve upon what we already have there.
That is the time to address this and other considerations so that we can improve upon what is already good legislation. On this basis, I feel I cannot support this legislation before us today at this time.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I want to take the opportunity to commend my colleague the member for Parkdale for bringing forth this bill. On various occasions during the spring and fall, he has raised questions particularly in reference to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations to try to draw to his attention and the government's attention the evils wrought by the fact that a loophole was included in the original legislation, which provides an opportunity to Toronto Apartment Building Co. Ltd. to convert apartment buildings to hotels.
I do not imagine they are doing this exclusively, but certainly they are the ones making a real profession out of these conversions. The reason they are doing this conversion of various buildings is the shortage of accommodation, particularly in the downtown core area of Metropolitan Toronto. The government must share responsibility for the fact that very few apartment buildings are being built because we, on this side of the House, have from time to time proposed incentive programs to have apartment buildings built.
There are those who, in order to escape from reality, would attribute to high interest rates the fact that not many new apartment buildings -- certainly not those built for lower-income people -- are being constructed. However, that is a cop-out rather than a logical sequence of reasoning. There is no doubt it has had some impact on construction. It has obviously had an impact on construction of single-family homes, but this is not in itself the sole reason.
I am glad to see the Minister of Industry and Trade (Mr. F. S. Miller) is here, because as a former Treasurer he was directly responsible for the budget of this province, and in his many conversations with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Mr. Bennett) and with his other cabinet colleagues, he could have brought about some kind of incentive for the construction industry to have additional units constructed.
In looking at the kinds of dilemmas the residents of these apartments have found themselves in, we find it is very frustrating for them, to say the least, and very disruptive for them suddenly to get notice that they have to move. At the best of times, this can be very upsetting, but at a time when we have a vacancy rate of around one per cent -- and it fluctuates: it could be three quarters of one per cent or it could be one and a quarter per cent, but certainly it is not very high -- these people have to find some other accommodation.
Where are they going to find it? They have possibly been living in these apartments for a number of years. Sometimes they are up in years, they are not people who are very mobile and they have to find somewhere else to live. The government, in the kinds of policies it espouses, has not been particularly sympathetic to the families that have had to move.
I have one flyer here that describes the kind of situation these people are in. It has to do with the landlord, Toronto Apartment Building Co. Ltd., trying to force tenants to leave the building so that it could convert the apartments. It says:
"There are reports of glue being placed in keyholes, apartments being entered without permission by management for so-called evaluation of property inspection, elderly persons being verbally told their rents had been increased. In one particular lady's case -- she was 92 years old -- she was told that her monthly rent was going up from $214 to $283, effective immediately. If they didn't like it or couldn't afford it, they would be evicted. Actual evictions were being served and, in other cases, notifications telling them they would be unable to renew any lease" etc.
A certain amount of pressure was being put on these people. This is particularly difficult for the people who do not have a lot of money and do not know where they are going to live, and is even more excruciating for the senior citizens of this province. My colleague the member for Parkdale has drawn this to the attention of the government, which in its wisdom could easily have brought in a bill correcting the error that was injected in the legislation and was proposed by the New Democratic Party a number of years ago.
I regret to say the NDP members have not been very vociferous in this area in trying to protect the tenants. That is understandable. As the member for Oriole (Mr. Williams) pointed out earlier -- and I was going to read a quote, but there is no sense getting into a long explanation -- this was proposed by the member for Riverdale. So I am not totally surprised that the NDP members have not been very vociferous in trying to protect these tenants, because they were the ones who proposed this for whatever reasons. Maybe they would like to explain the reasons.
We have the difficulty of these tenants being evicted, with very few places to go -- there is a vacancy rate of about one per cent -- having very little money to move, and then these particular apartment hotels being converted. I think that is going to be a blight on the face of Toronto, because these neighbourhoods are being affected, as the member for Parkdale pointed out.
These new apartment hotels do not have the kinds of facilities that one expects to go to when one visits another city. I am sure that when the Minister of Industry and Trade, the former Treasurer, travelled to the Far East, he wanted a hotel with restaurant facilities and such other things as people to carry his bags -- although he may have had his own staff to do that --
Mr. Epp: Oh, he carries them himself, just like Jimmy Carter.
When people visit the city of Toronto and fill in applications for these hotels, they are not getting the kinds of facilities they expect to get. That does not help the tourist industry of Ontario. Even worse, it takes away accommodation from the people who so clearly need it.
I hope the member for Oriole was not speaking for all the members on the government side. I hope all members of this Legislature in their wisdom will support this legislation. If there are some difficulties in it, my colleague the member for Parkdale will gladly entertain some amendments to it so it can be made more workable.
In essence, what we have to do is to remove that particular clause 4(a) of the Residential Tenancies Act. The member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan) mentioned earlier that the Residential Tenancies Act had a sunset clause in it. He was probably referring not to the Residential Tenancies Act but to Bill 198. We should remove clause 4(a) that refers to "or other similar accommodation."
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, I too support this bill, because it is an effort to plug one of the loopholes in the Residential Tenancies Act. But since the loopholes are legion, as has been brought forward by the various submissions to the Thom commission, I would have preferred to have had a bill that plugged a great many more of the loopholes. I hope this is just a step towards changing the Residential Tenancies Act to make it an effective piece of legislation to protect tenants.
We know the government never really wanted rent control. In 1975 they saw they were going to lose the election because there had been some very substantial increases in rents and there appeared to be a deluge starting of attempts to raise rents very radically and to charge what the traffic would bear.
The government decided that rather than lose the election, it would bring in rent control. It made it a campaign promise -- although the New Democratic Party had been promising it for a considerable time during the campaign and before -- and it brought in the legislation shortly after the election. Since then, it has been letting it be eroded so that now we have very little real rent control.
The legislation has been eroded by the fact that all new construction since January 1, 1976, is not covered. It has been eroded by the $750 ceiling on rents that are subject to review; and since inflation has started to push rents up to that level and beyond, more and more units are being removed from rent control. It is being eroded by the fact that the act permits a complete pass-through of refinancing costs, which means the tenants end up paying for the building several times over if the building changes hands several times.
There are many other loopholes which have been brought before the Thom commission. In effect, we do not have real rent review. I welcome an attempt to close one or two loopholes. But I would have liked to have seen many more covered, particularly the loophole where a landlord indicates he is going to make major renovations and the tenants have to leave during these renovations. Sometimes he is only pretending he is going to make renovations, or sometimes he makes only cosmetic renovations. Whether he makes real or pretended renovations, the effect on the tenants is that most of them leave and cannot afford to come back after the renovations. In effect, it removes affordable housing for those tenants.
Conversion to luxury apartments or condominiums is a method of reducing affordable housing. That is what we are talking about today, why we oppose conversions. With a vacancy rate that has been less than one per cent for the past several years, we cannot afford to lose any affordable housing. There was a slight improvement in the vacancy rate last June, but it was apparently due to one or two luxury condominiums coming on stream and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. was not able to pull those units out of its statistics. The false impression was created that the vacancy rate was being reduced.
At this time, any conversion is completely unacceptable because the vacancy rate is so low. But it is particularly unacceptable because of the refusal of the government to permit the city of Toronto to have demolition control legislation under Bill Pr3 as proposed by the city of Toronto, which is adding to the crisis we are discussing today.
The government's reason, through the comments of the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Rotenberg), the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, was that it felt demolition control would be prejudicial to the financial and legal rights of private owners. Apartment dwellers also have financial and legal rights; they have rights to their homes in the same way as home owners have rights, but unfortunately it is not enshrined in legislation.
Apartment dwellers have a right to consider their homes and their neighbourhoods as places where they have settled down and where they should have some security of tenure. Without demolition control, they have no security of tenure and they can lose their homes without compensation. A home owner cannot lose his home when it is taken, say, for a school or a road without compensation; but an apartment dweller, such as those who live in the Eglinton-Bathurst district, can lose his home and will end up with nowhere to go.
When Anne Johnston brought many of them down to the hearings before the standing committee on regulations and other statutory instruments last month, she reported that when they were asked what they would do if their apartments were taken over and demolished, they said they did not know; perhaps they would have to go to the cemetery. Certainly many of them would have to go to nursing homes, which would add to our costs of operating nursing homes.
We feel that this legislation should be considered by the government as a first step. It should bring in legislation that will cover all these loopholes and will permit the city of Toronto to have demolition control. The government should bear in mind that there is an election coming up, and this time the tenants of the province may decide they will not support this kind of erosion of rent review. If so, the government may not be able to withstand the tide this time as it did in 1975. After all, about half of the housing units in this province are tenant-occupied. This is something that they should keep in mind when they are considering the report of the Thom commission.
I draw to the House's attention that the chairman of the Residential Tenancy Commission, in appearing before the Thom commission, actually strongly backed up the tightening of the hotel exemption. That is what this bill is doing. If the government opposes this, it is opposing the recommendation of the chairman of the Residential Tenancy Commission.
Of the 42 buildings demolished in the city of Toronto in the past two years, not one was replaced by rental housing. All except seven of those were replaced by luxury condos. Of those seven, there were two freehold town houses, several mixed condominium-commercial buildings and an industrial parking lot. Not one new rental housing unit replaced those 42 buildings that were demolished in the city of Toronto. That is why we need legislation that will close the loophole that allows buildings to he demolished and converted into anything besides rental housing.
I urge the government to consider this bill and to remember that there are 4,000 households on the waiting list for assisted housing in the city of Toronto. We need a strengthening, not a weakening, of rent controls.
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I have two brief comments. I had several, but I understand I am being limited to five minutes today.
I think every member of this House is aware that the Thom commission is currently conducting an exhaustive study of rent review legislation in the province. I believe it would be a mistake on the part of this House to further amend the Residential Tenancies Act without benefit of the advice of, or report from, the Thom commission.
I heard the excellent presentation of the member for St. George, and I would suggest that if her suggestions were adopted by the Thom commission and by the government, we would not be worrying about rent controls today. I compliment her on that presentation.
Concern has been expressed about the possible negative effect that converting residential rental units to transient or hotel-like accommodation could have on the supply of affordable rental housing in the province, especially in major urban centres with low vacancy rates.
A number of groups and individuals have voiced the fear that by using this conversion tactic, landlords are able to circumvent the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act and by some means breach the spirit and intent of the legislation.
The bill before us today advises that we adopt a legislative solution to this conversion problem. Quite frankly, I think most members would want our rent review system to be as effective and equitable as possible, to reflect respect for the rights and interests of both landlords and tenants.
I do not believe the amendments proposed by the bill to clause 4(a) of the act are necessary to ensure that tenants are afforded the protection to which they are entitled under the Residential Tenancies Act. It is my view that the act and the decisions of the Residential Tenancy Commission have adequately protected tenants in the type of case under discussion.
I was interested in the response of Mr. P. C. Williams, the chief tenancy commissioner, to the Star editorial of March 21, 1983, which, as most of us here are aware, talked about too many rent control dodges. That was the title of the editorial.
Mr. Williams pointed out that the editorial contained a legal error which could have serious consequences for Ontario landlords and tenants. Specifically, the claim that landlords are able to avoid Ontario's rent review legislation by converting rental buildings to apartment hotels is incorrect.
Mr. Williams noted that it is a matter of interpretation as to whether furnished apartments rented on a weekly or monthly basis would fall within the intended meaning of section 4 of the act. He went on to cite a number of cases involving properties in Mississauga, North York, Scarborough and Toronto which had come before the Residential Tenancy Commission, in which landlords had argued that apartment hotels fell within the exempt category. However, in each case the landlord's argument was rejected by the commissioner.
It should be noted that these cases were heard by different commissioners, each of whom independently arrived at a similar conclusion. I think the decision of the Residential Tenancy Commission on the cases heard today make it clear the commission is not satisfied that those converted buildings fall under the section 4 exemption.
In general, the commission has found the converted units have much more in common with apartments than hotels and consequently remain subject to the act. They quite simply have not proved a successful dodge, or method of avoiding the act.
The decisions of the commission in these cases lend substance to the statement made by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations last session that this government did not intend that exemptions granted under section 4 be used to subvert the purposes of the Residential Tenancies Act.
Mr Speaker, I know you are going to cut me off in a few seconds.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): I thank the honourable member. His time has expired.
Mr. Harris: Suffice it to say, I will be opposing this bill.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member has had his opportunity. The member for Parkdale, for the time remaining to him.
Mr. Ruprecht: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the comments made here today. But one of the most important points in my presentation has been the question, does it work?
Members on the government side, especially the members for Oriole and Nipissing (Mr. Harris), must ask themselves what they would say to a tenant who announced, "It does not work because I am out on the street." What would their answer be? Would the answer be, "Well, folks, let us study it some more? Let us figure out whether the Thom commission is going to make recommendation 1 or recommendation 2?" Or would they hide behind the coat-tails of the police commission because the police commission is supposed to check into some of these illegal activities and say, "Let us wait for its report"? Or would they find other skirts to hide behind?
The government should tell me what its answer is going to be to the tenants thrown out on to the street. What will its answer be to those who are now out on the street without accommodation? To study the issue some more? To look at the question of interpretation and, even though it is borderline, at the flexibility of it to see if the commission has the discretion? I say to the members, what is the answer today to the tenants asking these questions? I am awaiting a reply.
Mr. Harris: I would be glad to reply.
The Acting Speaker: No, the member for Parkdale has the floor. He will resume.
Mr. Ruprecht: It is simply a rhetorical question. I am expecting a reply from the government in writing. That is what we are expecting. The member can put that down any time because we are going to write to the tenants in Nipissing county, to the members in North Bay, to the great riding of Nipissing, and ask those tenants what the written answer is going to be. The same will occur in the great riding of Oriole.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Nipissing. What is this?
Mr. Harris: I have a point of privilege.
The Acting Speaker: On a point of privilege, I recognize the member for Nipissing.
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, the member referred to the county of Nipissing. It is typical of a party that really does not understand northern Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of privilege, thank you.
Mr. Harris: There is no county of Nipissing. It is the district of Nipissing.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. I now recognize the member for Parkdale. The member will please continue.
Mr. Ruprecht: The question should also be raised today as to what happens to those tenants to whom the Residential Tenancy Commission has indicated: "You will get your money back because you appeared in front of us and we think you are right. These people are trying to circumvent the law. You get your money back."
The question should be, two years later, have these tenants received their money? While the government studies this to death, the tenants do not yet have their money back. In other words, this legislation has loopholes and it does not work. What happens instead is simply another way of circumventing the law. These companies, especially the Toronto Apartment Building Co., just say: "Okay, we have been instructed by the Residential Tenancy Commission to pay the money back. However, we are establishing a new company and we are now requesting that you tenants give us two cheques, one cheque for the rent and one cheque for the furniture." When one adds the two cheques up, he finds the two cheques actually come out to more than the commissioner had indicated should be paid back.
The government wants to tell us today that we should study it, that we should provide individual commissioners with the flexibility that is required. I say the government does not deserve to tell us about flexibility, reasonableness and the studying of this question to death, when the answer is clear, unequivocal and very simple: namely, this law does not work. This law needs plugging of the loopholes. This law needs changing.
Mr. Speaker, I speak through you to the government and to all the government members who have an iota of conscience left, especially the member for St. George, who has in her riding thousands upon thousands of tenants who voted for her the last time. She had indicated she would actually be in favour of making some changes in the Residential Tenancies Act; she had indicated that she would support some of these changes before the Commission of Inquiry into Residential Tenancies. Since she has appeared before them, I would expect that she and others coming from the Metropolitan Toronto ridings -- Scarborough is affected as well, and so are Etobicoke, North York and Weston -- I would especially expect the members for those ridings to stand up and defy those people from Oriole and Nipissing who are nothing but apologists for this government, because this Legislature needs change and this legislation should be passed today.
PLAIN LANGUAGE ACT
Mr. Mancini moved second reading of Bill 63, An Act to require that Consumer Contracts be Readable and Understandable.
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask and to notify you that I would prefer four minutes of the time to be reserved that I may be able, I hope, to answer some questions that may come up in the course of this debate.
This particular piece of legislation has been long needed in Ontario. We, in our everyday lives and on almost a regular basis, are signing contracts, whether these contracts are for life insurance, car insurance, home insurance, the purchase of vehicles, the purchase of other goods and services and/or the purchase of mortgages, etc.
In view of this fact, and in view of the fact that on a regular basis the vast majority of the people of Ontario are required to sign these contracts, this piece of legislation takes on a large significance.
First, I would like to explain to the House the requirements of the bill and exactly how the consumers would be protected.
The bill itself would allow only two exemptions from consumer contracts. We would allow exemptions where a lawyer has been asked by a consumer to negotiate on his behalf and where he would be signing the contract on behalf of the consumer. The other exemption would be where a consumer, through a partnership or through other motivations, negotiates from square one the contract that is to be signed -- where they negotiate every single part of the contract from square one on their own.
Having allowed those two exemptions for good cause, we would then require that all consumer contracts be written in plain English. I mentioned earlier to the honourable members the types of contracts that would be required to be written in plain English, contracts that we are required to sign in the everyday course of business in a person's life.
Section 2 of the bill, which explains in clear detail how a consumer contract should be written, should be placed on the record. I will take just a moment to inform the members that the consumer contract we would like to see put in place would (a) be written in clear and coherent language; (b) contain only words that are generally understood, used in their common and everyday sense; (c) not contain a word that is used in a legal or technical sense inconsistent with its generally understood meaning; (d) be arranged in logical sequence: (e) be appropriately divided and captioned: (f) have a table of contents if the consumer contract exceeds 3,000 words or three pages in length; (g) not contain any unnecessarily long or complex sentences; (h) not contain any unnecessary cross-references; (i) not contain a double negative or an exception to an exception: (j) not to be printed in less than 10-point type.
We would ask that the contracts be written in such a manner for some very specific reasons. The most specific, of course, is that people do not understand what they are signing. There is no one, except possibly for the odd Philadelphia lawyer who is a member of this Legislature --
Mr. Nixon: What about a Woodstock lawyer?
Mr. Mancini: I do not even think the Woodstock lawyer would understand, but there would be no one except for the odd Philadelphia lawyer in this Legislature who could understand exactly what he is signing. We went to the library and obtained the Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents, the fourth edition, London, Butterworths. As I looked through the regular normal form for a mortgage, it is clearly unbelievable how even the lawyers could understand what they are putting together.
Mr. Boudria: They don't.
Mr. Mancini: Yes, in some cases there would be some question of whether they themselves understand. For example, section 3 of this form mortgage reads as follows: "That so long as any money remains owing on this security the borrower will keep the buildings for the time being comprised herein in good repair, and if the borrower shall fail so to do the lender shall thereupon be entitled to enter upon the premises or any part thereof and execute such repairs as in the opinion of the lender may be necessary or proper without thereby becoming liable as mortgagee in possession, and the borrower will on demand repay the lender all the expenses thereby incurred by the lender and will pay interest at the rate of blank per cent per annum from the date of demand until repayment of any moneys not repaid on demand as aforesaid, and all such expenses and interest shall be charged on the property hereby mortgaged."
The Windsor Star recently did a story on plain language and also captioned a certain part of legalese and I would like to read that into the record.
"The purchaser represents that the above statement is made to induce the seller to enter into this contract and to induce the bank to purchase the attached promissory note and take as security therefor an assignment." It is as clear as day.
With this type of legalese used in so many important areas, I believe it is absolutely necessary for the consumer to be able to understand exactly what he is signing. I suspect there will be some criticism of the Legislature, specifically from the law society or lawyers and maybe some financial institutions who do not wish to change their practice solely because it may cost them money or they really do not understand the confusion that is out there among consumers. All of us know that words and phrases are the main means of communication and words and phrases should not be mystical. They should not be put in mystical form. They should not be placed in such an order that only a lawyer may understand the actual meaning or may say that a lawyer may understand the actual meaning.
This is not a religious rite but sometimes lawyers act as if the drawing up of a contract or reading of a legalese form is a religious rite. I was once told that these contracts which are prepared by lawyers are as unclear as a doctor's handwritten prescription, and that is exactly the way it is.
I want to bring to the attention of the Legislature that some consideration has been given to this particular problem by members on all sides of the House. The famous select committee on company law in its 1979 report had a section which dealt with plain language communications. It states:
"The committee sees three further alternatives available for resolving the consumer's difficulty in understanding the insurance contracts: (1) introduction of plain language, (2) translation of the insurance contract into plain language, (3) substitution for the contract itself of a plain-language brochure explaining the policy."
We already have agreement by members on all sides of the House -- at least the members who were part of this very famous committee -- that plain language is absolutely necessary. Anyone who has gone to buy a car and found it necessary to borrow money and signed that kind of contract will quickly realize that people do not understand what they are signing.
I have for the attention of the Legislature some plain language contracts. These contracts are now in use by Royal Insurance of Canada. When we called the Royal Insurance office, we were told that some members of the Conservative caucus had also called and that they also had wanted copies. I think that is just fine, but I sincerely hope the initiative by this one company is not going to be used as an excuse to delay the implementation of the bill or as an excuse to say that the bill itself is unnecessary.
Royal Insurance of Canada is one company out of many companies that are doing business in the province. However, only the other day I had placed on my desk a letter addressed to a certain individual from Laurier Life Insurance Co. Paragraph 2 of that letter read as follows:
"The group policy under which you were insured stipulates that 'the long-term disability benefit specified will not be payable in respect of a period of disability commencing within 12 months of the effective date of the individual's insurance under this policy, if such a period disability is a result of sickness for which the individual was treated or attended to by a physician or took drugs prescribed by a physician during the four-month period immediately preceding the effective date of the individual's insurance."
No ordinary person without legal training could even dare to try to explain that. While I say it is very good of the Royal Insurance of Canada to introduce plain language contracts, Laurier Life Insurance Co. and hundreds of others do not use plain language and will not in the foreseeable future.
We have heard what legalese sounds like. Let us hear what the plain language legislation sounds like. This is a copy provided to us by Royal Insurance on basic tenant shield policy. It is written in very big print and has a table of contents. It is done in two colours, which makes it very attractive to the eye, and important clauses are written in red ink.
For example, one of the clauses written in red ink specifies: "Your rented home is left uninhabitable by a fire. You are forced to move your family into a hotel and to eat in restaurants. Normally, your expenses including groceries come to $200 a week. Now your expenses average $300 a week. We will pay the difference."
It is clear, legible and understandable. The consumer knows exactly what to expect in case of an unfortunate accident. He does not have to get into a long conflict with the insurer as to what the contract actually meant. We will have protection for the consumer. We will have an understandable policy and we will have a situation where people actually know what they are signing.
During the four minutes I have reserved for myself, I would also like to read into the record some other documents that have been made available to me by Royal Insurance and I look forward to hearing comments from the other members.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, I rise with a variety of feelings to speak on this bill. Obviously, I have some sympathy for the bill. I have also a feeling of some futility and even some indifference, and a feeling that it is not the most important issue we could bring before this province.
Nobody could disagree with the explanatory note in the bill, which says the bill requires that consumer contracts be readable and understandable by the ordinary consumer. We are all in favour of that.
A consumer contract that contravenes the detailed requirement set out in subsection 2(1) may be rescinded by the consumer, who is also entitled to recover any damages suffered as a result of the contravention and may be entitled to punitive damages. We really cannot disagree with the principle of that.
I had occasion a short while ago to listen to the president of the Chartered Accountants Association of Ontario. He was discussing the Income Tax Act and the regulations.
Mr. Wildman: Was he doing your books?
Mr. Swart: No, he was not. Not under orders anyhow.
He was discussing the Income Tax Act and the regulations and he had everybody in stitches because here was the Liberal government at Ottawa with paragraphs, all one sentence, six inches high. Even the chartered accountants have to get lawyers to examine and determine what it means and even the lawyers do not know what it means. That is what the Liberals have done at Ottawa.
Of course, we in this House and in committee are guilty many times of passing legislation which really no lay person can understand. We are passing laws that people just do not know the meaning of. The Planning Act perhaps was a classic example. Anyone who sat in on that process for three or four years and who now reads the Planning Act is totally lacking in understanding of it. One just does not know what it means.
When I read over this bill, I came to the conclusion that the member who introduced it was a bit guilty of what he was trying to correct. Subsection 3(2) says: "Where rescission under subsection 1 is not possible because restitution is no longer possible, or because rescission would deprive a third party of a right in the subject matter of the agreement that the third party has acquired in good faith and for value, the consumer is entitled to recover any damages suffered as a result of the contravention."
That in itself is an example of what we should be trying to get rid of. I am not sure we can trust the Liberals or even the mover of a bill like this to see that the provisions of it are carried out.
I think it would have been much more valuable in this House if the member had brought in a bill to establish a fair prices commission so we had control over some of the unreasonable prices; or if he had brought in a bill to do something about the tremendous escalation in insurance rates that we are having in this province, particularly house insurance, which is another subject in itself; or if he had brought in a resolution or a bill to do something about the input cost to farmers, particularly the really cruel and unreasonable cost of fertilizers, where the federal government has put an exorbitant tax on natural gas in the production of nitrogen and has artificially increased the price of fertilizers. I would think that might have been an area that would have been somewhat more important than this.
I said I have some futility in this because I think that --
Mr. Ruston: The member should know the gas tax was taken off. There is no federal tax on natural gas now. He had better check that out.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): Order.
Mr. Swart: I think the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) will agree with me on the next comment I am going to make. As long as we have lawyers, we are going to have this complex and undecipherable wording of contracts.
My colleague sitting next to me just informed me that in Ontario there are something like 12,000 practising lawyers with our population of nine million, while in Japan with a population of 117 million there are only 11,000. Maybe that is why we have some of the complexity in the wording of the contracts. I guess it tells us a little bit about how they handle their civil disputes over there. Toyota, the largest auto manufacturer, does not have one lawyer on staff. They are able to write contracts in plain, simple and understandable language. Maybe the first step we have to take in our society is to give a higher priority to the education of people in professions different from those of lawyers and solicitors.
Another thing that bothers me about this bill is the difficulty of enforcement. It is a nice statement of principle, but what does it mean when it says a contract shall be "written in clear and coherent language"? What does it mean when it says it shall contain "only words that are generally understood, used in their common and everyday sense" or "arranged in a logical sequence" or "appropriately divided and captioned"? If any consumer decided to take somebody to court on the basis of those principles in that bill, the lawyers could have the greatest field day they have ever had in this province. I do not know how one would enforce it.
I do say, though, this kind of a bill in the statutes would be something of a guide to contracts. It would at least put this Legislature on record as saying we expect the contracts that are going to be made between merchants of every type and consumers are going to be understandable. It may have some merit.
At the present time, I suspect, some of the contracts and agreements that are written deliberately have complex wording to confuse the average person who is going to be reading and signing them. If this bill does establish some principle or give some guidelines to the merchants, if it does give the consumers a feeling they have some right to question the complex wording that is not understandable to them, then I guess it has some merit and I will be supporting it.
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the opening remarks of the sponsor of this bill when he talks about the fact that contract law is the backbone of commerce in our society today. It is the child of commerce and it has grown and become more complex as our society has moved from an agricultural to an industrial, commercial statehood. As this country has matured along those lines, so has the degree of contract law in its sophistication.
One can look at the simplest type of legal contract, for example, a simple promissory note for $200 at five per cent, repayable in three months; or one could go to the other extreme.
There was a great deal of publicity given some years ago to the example I cite. There was a picture in one of the national publications of members of 24 different law firms sitting around in an ivory tower somewhere in New York, probably in the Empire State Building, while they closed the deal on that building. It showed about 20 cartons of legal documents, and it took them four days to close the deal. One can go from one extreme to the other. It simply illustrates the fact that, as we have become a more complex society, legal negotiations between people have of necessity become more complex and so has the writing of contracts as well.
In the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, we clearly understand this situation. As reflected in the very name of the ministry -- and I stress the positioning of the names in the title of the ministry -- this government has recognized the need to protect the consumer. As a government we do have a ministry that, first and foremost, is there to protect the consumer because we realize that the consumer is involved more and more in complex, commercial undertakings. That is the very substance and nature of what our ministry is all about.
We are there to help the consumer. In that spirit we do believe there are good intentions in what the member has put forward in his bill before the House today. Certainly, no one can quarrel with the intent and purpose, although after listening to his somewhat backhanded, vicious and uncharitable attack on the legal profession, I suggest it may have arisen from motivation or prodding from his friend down in the front row, the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk. I would not dare make that accusation in this House; I am just thinking out loud. I know that really the motivation here is genuine. Without exception, I think all of us do indeed look to having contracts between parties for whatever reason to be as clear and precise as possible.
However, I think the sponsor did somewhat digress from what the real thrust of the article was. He mentioned the Windsor Star, from which I presume he got the idea to bring this bill forward. While he was being critical of the legalese that is used in the language in legal contracts these days, the headline on that particular article was "Two Companies Take Fog Out of Their Legal Language."
The article was designed to compliment the private sector on the fact that initiatives are now being taken by private sector companies that realize there is a need. It is not only good public relations, but good practical business sense to start trying to simplify contracts for customers and consumers. This article was lauding not just Royal Insurance of Canada, the company referred to by the sponsor.
I was also aware that the company had brought out the contracts some time ago and I contacted it as a Conservative member to review its particular policies. Its basic tenant and home shield policies and its condominium policy are all very similar in form and do indeed take some of the -- not mysticism -- perhaps unnecessarily lengthy verbiage out of the contracts. They are well designed, well presented and easily read. I have no hesitation in complimenting that company and also the Bank of Nova Scotia which has come out with a simplified mortgage contract form.
The member sponsoring the bill has talked about insurance and car contracts, but one of the most important documents that most people during their lives engage in are contracts related to offers to purchase property and the financing thereof. More often than not, we wind up at some stage in our lives signing mortgage contracts. They are probably one of the most important documents that we as individuals would involve ourselves in and commit ourselves to probably in a very substantive way as far as financial commitment is concerned.
Again, I compliment Scotia Bank in coming forward with a simplified, well-designed, attractive, presentable form that was developed only after several years of assessment and review. I understand that the bank now has this form in use in every province in the country. The interesting thing with regard to Ontario is that not only is the private sector moving in this field, but this government will be moving as well. In the immediate future, we will be bringing forward proposals in the form of legislation that will also simplify legal documentation so that Polaris, the province of Ontario land registration and identification system, which this government has put in place and which is now operating on a project basis, will be able to be developed and made more sophisticated.
We will be refining and shortening the existing legal documentation in that field for purposes of understanding and for purposes of registration and simply to reduce the sheer volume of paperwork. We will be talking about that in the House not too many days from now. Not only is the private sector recognizing the need to move in this direction, and is indeed moving in this direction; so too is government.
The comments made by the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) at his conclusion are ones that I also feel are necessary to address. While supporting the principle of the bill, the concerns he expresses give me cause not to support the bill in the form it is laid before us today. The honourable member cited the very ambiguous, vague sections of the bill that the sponsor spoke of in such glowing terms earlier. They really cloud the issue rather than improve it. For instance -- and I point this out, because the member for Welland-Thorold did not catch on to it -- within six months after the contract has been entered into, this legislation could be used by anyone who felt aggrieved as a vehicle for contesting the contract.
Lawyers are having a field day with the Charter of Rights. When we read the Ontario Reports weekly, every third or fourth case has to do with interpretations of the Charter of Rights. That will pale by comparison in trying to interpret what "logical sequence" means, what "appropriately divided and captioned" means and what "unnecessarily long or complex sentences" means. The lawyers will be working more rather than less if we adopt this bill.
While there is some suggestion that we who speak as lawyers have a vested interest, this type of legislation would probably provide many more work-years for the legal profession if it were adopted in this form. It is with regret that, because of its vagueness and uncertainty, I will have to oppose this bill at this time.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of the bill proposed by my colleague the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini). Contrary to what others have said, I think this is a very important bill and I do not treat it as lightly as the member for Welland-Thorold did earlier today.
I will just read to you, Mr. Speaker -- and I am sure that, having personal experience in those matters, you will understand what I read now -- from an article in the Ottawa Citizen which describes a problem regarding legalese in an insurance document. A reader wrote to the Ottawa Citizen as follows:
"The Guardian Insurance Co. claims the right to insure us against our will." I do not know if you have ever worked for them, Mr. Speaker.
"We had a household insurance policy for the past several years. The renewal date was last January 20. We decided to let it lapse and save the $144 yearly premium." Presumably, this person wanted to insure with somebody else who charged $144 less.
Notices started coming, requesting payment. We ignored them, especially after Guardian began saying our policy would be cancelled for nonpayment. That's just what we wanted and expected. Suddenly a collection agency came to us" on behalf of Guardian. "Guardian was demanding money. They said our policy was still in force because we did not terminate it in writing. Of course we didn't. We let it run out." That would sound normal, because the insurance company said it would cause it to be cancelled if one did not pay it in the first place.
"Guardian says we should have known because the rule is explained clearly in the policy. We can't see where. Can you?"
The person in charge of Action Line at the Citizen went through this contract and found the following: "The contract says how the policy must be 'terminated' ... But the usual meaning of 'terminated' is not explained. A policy is not terminated just because it runs out."
It is also not terminated just because the insurer tells his client he is going to terminate it if he does not pay. Apparently, that has nothing to do with a policy being terminated. A policy is terminated when a client writes to the insurance company telling them he wishes the policy to be terminated even if the insurance company had told him it would do that anyway.
Members can see some of the confusion that arises over having language that is absolutely impossible to understand in some insurance policies.
I want to read part of a policy I hold with the Home Insurance Co. for my car.
It says the following: "In consideration of the premium stated herein, the insurer agrees to indemnify the insured against the liability imposed by law upon the insured or assumed by him under any contract or agreement for loss or damages arising from the use, operation, care, custody or control, of any automobile, including its equipment, owned by the government of Canada or by the government of any province thereof and resulting from bodily injury to or death of any person or damage to property or from loss of or damage to such automobile.
"The word 'insured' as used in this endorsement shall include (a) his or her spouse, and (b) any other person who with the consent of the named insured personally drives the automobile.
"This endorsement provides insurance against one or more of the perils stated herein, but for insurance under the section(s) or subsection(s) for which a premium is specified hereunder and no other and upon the terms and conditions of the policy to which this endorsement is attached and for the following specified limit(s) and amounts.
"Provided always that: (1) The perils for which indemnity is provided by the several subsections of section C" and so on and so forth.
Do you know what this really means, Mr. Speaker? This means one is insured if one drives a government car. Of course, you being in the business, you may have guessed that already. Most of us would have to read it several times to understand that was even English, let alone any other meaning it may have had.
Mr. Williams: It is a good and precise clause.
Mr. Boudria: Of course, the member for Oriole (Mr. Williams), being a Philadelphia lawyer, would understand that right away and obviously thinks there is no need for the legislation that my colleague the member for Essex South has proposed.
But why we allow people to get away with writing things like that, expecting us to sign them and know what we are signing, is beyond me. For the life of me, I cannot think of one good reason why anybody should be getting away in this day and age with writing a document like that.
The interesting thing is that this policy is with the Home Insurance Co. One would think the Home Insurance Co. only knows that vocabulary because it is the one it uses. I have here another policy, again from the Home Insurance Co. This one is for my house.
It says the following: "The building described in declarations as location one, the principal resident premises, including additions in contract therewith occupied principally for dwelling purposes, outdoor swimming pool, equipment attached thereto on the premises, building fixtures and fittings," and so on, "glass plates."
Mr. Wildman: Do you have a swimming pool?
Mr. Boudria: I do not have a swimming pool. The same insurance company can have one policy written in words that even I can understand, with English being a second language, while the other one is written in such a way that I do not think anybody can understand it regardless of how many languages he speaks.
There is absolutely no logic for anyone getting away with writing policies in this manner. If an insurance company can write a policy for a house in plain English, surely it can write a policy for a car in a similar language.
Mr. Eakins: Or in plain French.
Mr. Boudria: Or in plain French, as my colleague the member for Victoria-Haliburton (Mr. Eakins) mentioned. I am glad he brought that up and I will come back to it in a minute.
Nevertheless, we can write it in plain language and make it easier for all of us to understand.
Getting back to the point raised by my colleague the member for Victoria-Haliburton, I think it is a great day in this Legislature for the following reason.
Today the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) introduced a bill in this House, a new Judicature Act. We are informed by the press that the following words are used in the bill: "English and French shall be" -- hang on to the seats -- "the official languages of the courts in Ontario."
I know all members are pleased to hear that. This is the same thing my colleague the member for Ottawa East (Mr. Roy) introduced in this Legislature five years ago. I am glad this government has now seen the light to describe in law that services are officially available in two different languages.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Did they introduce that on a Tuesday or on a Thursday?
Mr. Boudria: I want you to know that all members of this House voted for the bill presented by the member for Ottawa East, including himself and every member on this side. Our policy has never changed since that.
The Deputy Speaker: Remember to address the chair and continue speaking to the bill.
Mr. Boudria: Yes, thank you. I am speaking to the bill, but I am addressing the principle that plain language should be used. I was bringing it in the context that plain language does not necessarily mean English; it can mean English or French. I just thought I would bring this in because I know that you and all members would be pleased at the action of the Attorney General as he brought it into this Legislature today.
Mr. Samis: Il a parfaitement raison.
Mr. Boudria: Absolument, M. le Président, l'honorable ministre a parfaitement raison d'introduire cette loi comme ceci.
In conclusion, I want to say that the member for Essex South has brought a very interesting piece of legislation into the House today. I think it is incumbent on all members to support it, to make all the documents readable and understandable to people of this province.
The practice that has gone on for too long, of allowing insurance companies, lawyers and everybody else to write documents that only they can understand and they are in a position where they act as interpreters for anybody else, is just unacceptable in this modern day and age.
The member for Essex South has brought us a piece of legislation that is very interesting and should be supported by all members of this Legislature. I invite them all to do so.
Mr. Samis: Mr. Speaker, I will speak briefly on the bill. Naturally, I support the intent of the bill. Like the member for Welland-Thorold, I do not have any strong feelings on it; however, I support its intent. If I ever had any doubts as to where I stood, the member for Oriole confirmed that this bill is needed when I found out that he opposes it. I know that if he is against the bill, it has to have some merit. Therefore, I will support it on that basis alone.
I have always shared with my friend the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk the feeling that lawyers exercise an undue influence in our society. It applies to the Legislature as well as to the overall spectrum of society.
I recall the debate we had here a couple of years ago. I introduced a private member's bill that would have made a very simple change which I thought would benefit the consumer, namely, to allow the lawyers to advertise their wares and their prices. It is a normal thing, one would think, for any practice in society, so the consumer would learn something -- simple, understandable, something that would benefit the consumer and would even benefit certain members of the law profession. However, I remember the member for Oriole spoke against that move as well, and the Tory majority crushed the private member's bill.
The lawyers have been under increasing criticism ever since. I notice one of their committees recommended an experiment whereby we in Ontario would allow some form of advertising. However, once again their governing body crushed that initiative. Again we will not have the opportunity to make that simple advancement on behalf of the consumer.
If the intent and the letter of this bill were to apply to politicians and some of our speeches, I would hate to think what it would do to our whole style. It might undermine, if not destroy, the Legislature and 61 per cent of the debates and 83 per cent of the speeches that go on here.
The undue influence of lawyers is still reflected in this Legislature. For example, I look at the front bench over there and I see the Deputy Premier (Mr. Welch), lawyer; Premier (Mr. Davis), lawyer; Treasurer (Mr. Grossman), lawyer; Attorney General, lawyer; the ailing Minister of Health (Mr. Norton), lawyer -- right on the front bench there is a predominance of lawyers, right there among the power. I will not talk about the back-benchers.
Our former Deputy Speaker, the member for Durham East (Mr. Cureatz), who did an outstanding job in the Legislature and who is a man of whom we on this side are proud, is one of the few lawyers on that side who displayed any sense of objectivity and magnanimity towards the opposition, the way we truly appreciate it.
I do not know how this particular bill would be implemented. I do not know whether the law profession could even cope with it. But I fully agree that somehow in society we have to make the law profession susceptible and responsible and responsive to the masses of society, the ordinary people of society.
The expression used by the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk, I think, is that they are a "self-anointed, self-appointed, sacerdotal priesthood unto themselves." I agree 100 per cent that this applies today as much as it did a few years ago. I can think of no profession outside the doctors that wields such --
Mr. Wildman: I don't understand that phrase.
Mr. Samis: I did not either when he said it; I had to get my thesaurus out. But I do understand it now.
If something along the lines of this bill were ever to be accepted, I would consider the consumers to be tremendous beneficiaries. My understanding is that Ralph Nader and some of the consumer groups in the United States have been pushing for something along this line for quite a while. I understand they have had a few successes in certain states. I would say good old stately Tory Ontario is about long overdue to take the plunge and try something along the lines of this bill.
I do not know whether it would work. I do not know whether the member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Elston) would support it. I do not know whether the absentee member for Ottawa East would support it. I do not know whether -- have they got any other lawyers over there? -- the member for Kitchener (Mr. Breithaupt) would support it. But I would hope the intrinsic arguments behind the bill and the persuasiveness of the member for Essex South would prove successful; and there would be those three members of his caucus supporting this bill -- because they know and he knows it would benefit the consumers -- and none of them is suffering, as we know.
I do not want to prolong my remarks much more than this, but I do want to make the point along the lines suggested by my colleague the member for Prescott-Russell (Mr. Boudria) about buying cars, for example. Anybody in Ontario who buys a car and takes the time to read the contract will be absolutely and totally baffled by what he reads. There is no reason in the world why we cannot simplify that.
A mortgage contract, I suspect, is totally beyond the pale of understanding to most consumers. They would have to get the whole thing translated, not into English but into some basic form of legalese, so they would have a chance of even understanding it. If we can do anything in those two areas -- insurance contracts would be the third area, I think, that would need considerable attention -- if we can make any progress in those three areas, and if this bill would help us make each of those areas comprehensible, then I would support this bill wholeheartedly.
Mr. Treleaven: Mr. Speaker, the bill has an admirable intent behind it, and certainly all members and all speakers support the concept of making contracts that clear, but first I wish to address briefly the member for Cornwall (Mr. Samis) and his remarks on lawyers' advertising. The way it stands now in Ontario, lawyers may advertise so long as the signs with prices are inside their windows.
Mr. Boudria: I don't see one ad in this paper.
Mr. Treleaven: Right. They are not allowed outside the windows, and I suspect that is because of the inclement weather we have and the signs would deteriorate; so the prices are allowed inside the windows of their offices.
It has been well established and recognized for years in the field of law that the primary object in drawing up a contract, whether it be a will or a consumer contract, is that it be unambiguous. Whether it is long, short, concise, whatever, it must be unambiguous. That is where the bill of my friend from Essex South falls down.
My friend from Cornwall mentioned standard contract mortgage clauses. Mortgage clauses are perhaps somewhat complicated to superficial reading but they have had hundreds of years of precedent, so the law has set forth what those clauses mean. The law sets forth what they mean.
My friend's bill has many of these subjective clauses such as "clear, concise, logical sequence, appropriate" and so on. There is no body of law that says what "appropriate" means in a certain circumstance. Therefore, he is creating a situation where there is no precedence behind it and there is no clarity and there is no history.
May I just mention that there is one clause that my friend from Huron-Bruce and the other solicitors -- it may sound like a superficial bit of gobbledegook but it is not; it is a standard clause. At the end of almost every contract it says, "This agreement shall inure to the benefit of and be binding upon the parties hereto, their respective heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns." It may sound like gobbledegook, but it has been there for hundreds of years and all the solicitors in the House know exactly what it means and it is not ambiguous. It is clear. The courts know what it is and you will never get a court case over that or any of these other standard phrases.
I would like to look at the definition section. I would like to take examples of the legislation at hand. Mr. Speaker, look at the definition in subsection 1(a): "'consumer' means an individual." That is one person. Where are corporations? That is a question mark. In most offers to purchase real estate, homes and so on, which are covered here, or leases for apartments or whatever, husbands and wives usually sign the offer to purchase. Where there is a husband and wife, that is two people. We will not bother with the unity of marriage at this point. They sign together, but the bill talks about an individual. "'Consumer' means an individual," but husband and wife are two parties.
Mr. Wildman: You're dealing with this like a lawyer.
Mr. Treleaven: That certainly is the best way to go at this bill. Subsection 1(b) defines "consumer contract" and it deals with "real property to be used for residential purposes" only. Where does a farmer -- there is a residence on every farm -- or a merchant with living quarters behind and above the store fit into this? Those are residential quarters in a nonresidential package of land. It is not covered here. I suggest this bill is fuzzifying the situation rather than clarifying it.
Mr. Nixon: Fuzzify?
Mr. Treleaven: I think my friend the member for Oriole and my friend the member for Welland-Thorold dealt with these very subjective clauses about what is coherent, what is inconsistent, what is logical sequence, what is unnecessary and so on. I suggest those are totally unclear.
I would like to look at some more inconsistencies and the lack of clarity. I do not really like to use the clause that has been referred to in this House often by my friend the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan). He has used the term "weasel clause" before. I am not crazy about the term, but if you look at subsection 2(2) it says, "Despite clause 1(b)" -- and, of course, those are all the bad things the member has set out above -- "a consumer contract may contain a technical word." Is that one technical word? If there is one technical word, okay. Does it mean two? Does that subsection not operate and one cannot use two technical words? Is it one? I suggest the whole subsection 2(1) is emasculated if it is more than one.
Another thing, I notice there is room for mischief. My friend the member for Oriole looked at subsection 3(4), the one about having a limitation period of six months after the contract is entered into to bring an action for damages.
In the standard offer to purchase a house, it usually closes in one month or two months. That is normal. What happens if one has the normal closing of two months and then along comes the new buyer, his money is handed over, he has signed all the mortgage documents, he has moved his kids in, and then he finds there is a crack in the basement, or some bats in the attic, or the roof leaks or whatever? What is he going to do?
Everybody can find some word in here that he cannot understand. The country boys can understand it better. But let us say it is some city boys who do not understand some of these words very well, and they can find something unclear anywhere they find a long sentence.
The problem of the wording in this act means the deal is closed two months after the contract is signed and he has another four months to look around, find something wrong, bring an action in the courts, and where are we? The money is gone. The vendor is gone.
The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mr. Treleaven: Expired already? In conclusion, I believe this bill should be voted against.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: A good word.
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, I requested four minutes to wrap things up, and I will try to do that as quickly as I can. I really appreciated the comments made by the member for Welland-Thorold. I appreciated the comments in which he referred to some income tax problems in Ottawa. I appreciated his comments concerning a pricing commission, cost of fertilizer and a tax on natural gas. I think that added a lot to the debate on plain language legislation.
I also would like to refer to comments made by the member for Oriole, who suggested I made back-handed, vicious and uncharitable comments to lawyers. I wish to apologize to the House if my comments sounded in that vein.
I did not necessarily want this debate to be turned into a debate on lawyers. I wanted the debate to centre on the need for plain language in contracts which consumers are forced to sign in their normal lifestyles, buying insurance, buying cars, buying a mortgage, etc.
I would like to make a comment or two concerning the arguments used by the member for Welland-Thorold and the member for Oxford (Mr. Treleaven), who stated there is a body of law that has been built up so that the courts understand what has been written down, and that the requests I have made through the bill I have introduced would cause more litigation and problems for the courts.
I ask the member for Oriole and the member for Oxford, why has Royal Insurance not had that problem? How come one of the banks that was mentioned by the members opposite has moved ahead with plain language legislation and they do not fear the body of law that the members have talked about and have quoted from? Both members know very well that these contracts are being signed and the courts are not being tied up for any amount of litigation.
On one hand, the members say we need the body of law, then on the other hand, they say they congratulate Royal Insurance and these other people for going ahead with plain language legislation. They must make up their mind as to which side they stand on.
It was also referred to by some members that there was legalese in the bill. Certainly there was legalese in the bill. When I requested that the bill be drafted, it was sent up to the legal department and that group drafted this bill. At one point I thought of sending the bill back up, but I said no, I want to use the legalese in this bill as part of the point that must be made for plain language contracts.
Further, all members should know that the state of New York has passed a plain-English statute which has been in force since November 1, 1978. New York courts are not tied up, as some members would indicate. Every written agreement after that November 1, 1978, date, for lease of a residential space or one to which a consumer is a party -- Mr. Speaker, I think I have made my point. There are a lot of conversations going on. Thank you.
The Deputy Speaker: We thank the member for his remarks.
RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES ACT
The following members having objected by rising, a vote was not taken on Bill 59:
Andrewes, Ashe, Barlow, Bernier, Birch, Brandt, Cureatz, Cousens, Dean, Eaton, Eves, Gillies, Gordon, Gregory, Harris, Johnson, J. M., Kennedy, Kerr, Kolyn, Lane, McLean, McNeil, Ramsay, Runciman, Scrivener, Stephenson, K. R., Taylor, G. W., Treleaven, Walker, Williams, Welch, Wells -- 32.
PLAIN LANGUAGE ACT
The House divided on Mr. Mancini's motion for second reading of Bill 63, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Barlow, Bernier, Birch, Boudria, Bradley, Breaugh, Bryden, Cassidy, Charlton, Cooke, Eakins, Elston, Epp, Eves, Foulds, Gillies, Gordon, Haggerty, Harris, Johnston, R. F., Kerrio, Mackenzie, Mancini, McCaffrey, McClellan, McGuigan, McKessock;
McNeil, Miller, G. I., Newman, Nixon, O'Neil, Ramsay, Riddell, Robinson, Ruprecht, Ruston, Samis, Spensieri, Sterling, Stokes, Van Horne, Walker, Wells, Wildman, Wrye.
Andrewes, Ashe, Brandt, Cousens, Cureatz, Dean, Eaton, Gregory, Johnson, J. M., Kennedy, Kerr, Kolyn, Lane, McLean, Mitchell, Renwick, Rotenberg, Runciman, Scrivener, Stevenson, K.R., Treleaven, Welch, Williams.
Ayes 46; nays 23.
Ordered for committee of the whole House.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: The practice last week was to take the vote in private members' hour up and down the aisles so that was there was no recognition of the traditional party structure in the assembly. I think it would be rather a good practice for the assembly to continue during votes in private members' hours not to recognize the parties and to take the votes up and down the aisles as we did in our previous votes.
The Deputy Speaker: That was our intention. On this occasion, I think it was just an oversight. We appreciate the member's comments and will have them in mind in future.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate the business of the House for the remainder of this week and next.
Tonight, we will continue debate on the motion for interim supply. If any time remains, we will debate the motion for adoption of the 1981 final report of the select committee on pensions.
On Friday, October 28, we will deal with the estimates of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. When they are finished, we will deal with concurrence in supply for the estimates of the Legislative Assembly and concurrence in supply for the estimates of the Provincial Secretariat for Social Development.
On Monday, October 31, we will begin the estimates of Management Board of Cabinet.
On Tuesday, November 1, in the afternoon we will debate in committee of the whole on Bill 61 and deal with second readings and committee of the whole on Bills 85, 51 and 52. In the evening, we will deal with second reading and committee of the whole on Bill 90 and committee of the whole on Bills 86 and 87.
On Wednesday, November 2, the usual three committees have permission to sit in the morning.
On Thursday, November 3, in the afternoon, we will deal with private members' public business standing in the names of Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Wrye, and in the evening with legislation not completed on Tuesday night, followed by second readings and committee of the whole on Bills 93, 94, 92 and 97.
On Friday, November 4, we will deal with the estimates of Management Board of Cabinet.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I think the Orders and Notices indicates resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for interim supply but not the resumed debate on the motion for adoption of the report of the select committee on pensions. I think we should stick to the Orders and Notices.
Hon. Mr. Wells: That is fine, Mr. Speaker. In our original discussions we thought that in case the speeches ran out, rather than adjourn early we might like to continue, but I have every confidence the speeches will fill the time allotted.
The House recessed at 6:06 p.m.