The House resumed at 8 p.m.
ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Gregory moved second reading of Bill 90, An Act to amend the Assessment Act.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Speaker, when I introduced Bill 90 for first reading on October 18, I made some explanatory comments which I would like to expand upon as we consider the bill in detail.
The bill has three main purposes. First, the bill will defer to December 1984 the return of assessment rolls at full market value across the province. However, the bill will allow us to continue with the section 63 market-value-based reassessment program, which has been successfully implemented in 389 municipalities to date. The 90 municipalities considering the section 63 reassessment program at present will be able to proceed, if they so choose, with its implementation for taxation in 1984.
As I am sure honourable members are aware, the objectives of the section 63 program are to ensure that assessments within property classes are fair and equitable; to provide ratepayers with assessments based on market value, a concept they can clearly understand; and to provide municipalities with defensible tax bases.
The honourable members know that, together with the 142 municipalities proclaimed at full market value, nearly two thirds of all the municipalities in this province have been reassessed on a market-value basis. It is my view that this progress on the reassessment front is a remarkable achievement towards the goal of an equitable property assessment and taxation system for Ontario's municipalities. This accomplishment, coupled with the fact that the program is voluntary on the part of the municipalities, emphasizes its worth.
In summary, the first purpose of the bill is to provide for the return of assessment rolls for municipal taxation at present levels of assessment, except where the section 63 market-value-based reassessment program will be introduced.
The second purpose of this bill allows for the distribution of assessment notices to only those owners and tenants of real property in respect of which a change to any of the recorded information on last year's notice has occurred. In conjunction with this amendment, my ministry will also send notices to those owners and tenants who appealed their assessment last year.
In introducing this provision, I want to remind the honourable members that included with the mailing of the 1982 assessment notices to all property owners and tenants last year was a message advising them to retain their 1982 notices for future reference. I want to stress that every owner and tenant received this advance notification. That message read as follows: "Beginning in 1983 you will not receive a notice of assessment unless there has been a change to any of the information on your 1982 notice or unless your assessment was appealed in the previous year."
All ratepayers were further advised that this measure was being introduced for three reasons.
The present assessment notice duplicates information already contained on both the assessment rolls available for public inspection in municipal offices throughout the year and on municipal and school tax bills.
By limiting the number of assessment notices mailed each year -- currently approximately six million -- government spending in this area will be substantially reduced. The mailing of assessment notices costs Ontario approximately $3 million annually, and this cost will continue to rise as postal rates increase. Mailing notices only to those owners and tenants of property where there has been a change to any of the recorded information, or an appeal had been filed, will result in a substantial reduction in government spending of almost $2 million.
The notice of assessment will become more effective in alerting ratepayers to changes in their assessment. A targeted mailing of assessment notices will increase the significance of the notice, focusing on the fact there has been a change to some of the recorded information. Approximately 3.5 million assessment notices do not change from year to year.
It is for these reasons that this provision has been introduced in this bill. However, for the clarification of the members opposite I wish to highlight two points.
First, all ratepayers will retain their rights to appeal their assessments in the usual way. The final date for filing an appeal with the regional registrar of the Assessment Review Board will be Tuesday, January 10, 1984. Ratepayers will be advised of appeal procedures and the final date for filing an appeal through the ministry's annual media campaign in support of the return of assessment rolls across Ontario. At that time, the schedule of open houses and their locations will be announced. These open houses afford ratepayers the opportunity to meet with assessors to review their assessments.
Second, in the year when a reassessment occurs, under the provisions of section 63 or section 70 of the Assessment Act, all property owners and tenants in the reassessed municipality will of course receive assessment notices. The mailing of these notices in support of a reassessment is usually delayed until February, and the final date for filing an appeal is accordingly set 21 days after return of those rolls.
Finally, the bill contains an administrative amendment to provide that the regional assessment commissioner, as well as the secretary of the Ontario Municipal Board, will receive notice of an application to the OMB by a municipality for a review of its equalized assessment and equalization factor. This provision will allow the ministry adequate notice and time to prepare a report for the OMB's review at the hearing of the application.
Equalization factors are important, for they form the basis of the distribution of provincial grants to municipalities and school boards, totalling more than $5 billion last year, and are used in the apportionment of shared costs among municipalities within regions and counties. In this regard, my ministry produces approximately 1,000 equalization factors annually, and fewer than one per cent of these are appealed each year.
This concludes my introductory remarks on second reading of Bill 90.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I would like to bring to your attention that Lorne Maeck, the former Minister of Revenue, is in the gallery, on the Tory side for some reason. The only reason I bring it to your attention is that the poor guy, if he stays tonight, is going to have to hear the same criticisms of inadequate government policies as have been repeated for the past 12 years, ever since a succession of Ministers of Revenue have been fumbling with this whole reassessment policy.
The Deputy Speaker: I thought the point of order was a question of why you found it strange that he was sitting on the Tory side.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I would like the minister to clarify something. In a conversation before the debate began, he indicated to me that an amendment would be put forward that would substantially alter the bill; that is, to take out section 2. If we are to have a sensible debate on second reading, we should have some indication as to what the minister's intentions are. Certainly that would be a contentious part of the debate on the bill, and it would help if we knew now what amendment he did intend to propose to the House. It might well alter the course of the debate.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member misunderstood what I said. We have received, and it has been recorded with the Clerk, a copy of the amendment by a member of the Liberal Party. I really think the matter of how I intend to deal with that should come up in committee of the whole.
Mr. Breaugh: That is fine. I wonder whether I might get a copy of that amendment if it has been tabled with the table officers.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to congratulate the minister on his appointment -- or anointment, whatever it might be -- to that position.
I am also pleased to see the former member for Parry Sound in our midst today. He certainly brought a lot of interest and colour to the debates in the Legislature. At very many times he was blushing with embarrassment when he had to defend the government policy on these matters, but we sympathized with him and tried to help him out as much as we could.
He could not bear it any longer and he finally retired in 1981, but I understand that he is doing quite well now. He does not have the same embarrassment now in his own business as he used to have in being a member of the government at that time. So welcome back to the Legislature, Mr. Maeck.
This bill concerns a number of matters. We support the bill in principle, but we have difficulty with a number of matters in it, and I am going to raise a number of questions that I hope the minister will be able to respond to fully at the completion of the debate, whether that is today or another day.
First of all, I want to say with regard to the assessment rolls being returned and these kinds of matters that we do that every year; it comes as regularly as Christmas. We support the predicament the government has put itself into where it has to come before the House annually and have legislation passed so those rolls can be returned.
We also have no real difficulty with section 63, which used to be section 86, but I wish the minister would give us a greater explanation of how it is working in various municipalities.
I still find it difficult to understand why the current minister's immediate predecessor and his predecessor two back were very stubborn about giving municipalities the kind of computer data they wanted with respect to individual households. They gave municipalities general information with respect to how the new equalization of assessment would impact on the municipality and on groups, but they would not give them individual information.
I find that somewhat of an affront to the individuals in a municipality who pay taxes and yet, when a new system is incorporated, do not know how it is going to impact on their properties. I wish this minister would finally see the wisdom of giving out complete information to the taxpayers of this province so they can react in a very intelligent way when this new system is brought in.
The minister has indicated that 389 municipalities have adopted section 63 and around 89 are in the process of adopting it or asking questions about it. The minister has a chance to make an intelligent change in that policy so that the people of Ontario can get that information. I think they have a God-given right to that information. It should be in the freedom of information bill that the taxpayers get that information whenever the bill comes forward.
The minister indicated that we were going to have section 2 deleted, that we are going to move to have it deleted. That is the controversial section he referred to earlier. He stated that currently there are six million people who receive assessment notices from the province at a cost of $3 million. He has given a number of reasons for changing that, and I will not recite the reasons.
I do, however, want to refer to the city of Toronto where we have a problem in regard to a lot of people of ethnic origin. The city of Toronto has indicated in one of its reports that in ward 3 about 10.3 per cent of the people appealed their assessments notices; in ward 4, 20.6 per cent appealed; and in ward 5,44.7 per cent appealed; for an average of 21.9 per cent.
The wards where there is a very low record of appeals by citizens are highly ethnic-concentrated areas. When home owners who have difficulty with the language and so forth get these notices they have difficulty understanding what they mean and often they do not appeal.
If we are going to reduce the opportunities for those various home owners to appeal their assessments, if we are going to reduce the number of times they are informed about their assessments, whether they are changed or not, then we are going to reduce the number of appeals. I suspect this is what the minister is driving at.
What he really wants to do is not to save the $3 million minus the number of notices he is going to send out anyway when changes take place; he wants to cut down on the number of appeals that take place in Ontario. I respectfully suggest that the people he is going to hurt are not the ones who are very knowledgeable about the matters of the province but the ones who have difficulty in reading some of the notices or in comprehending what exactly is going on, and he is going to reduce those to even a greater extent than anyone else.
The government is going to save money on appeals because people will not know enough to appeal their notices even when changes do not take place. I recognize that they will be receiving notices when changes take place, but if they feel their assessments are too high anyway they will not be able to appeal them. I recognize that they can go to city hall and look at the assessment rolls and they will get their municipal tax bills, but they will not be getting notices from the province.
I want to refer to a city of Toronto executive committee report and cite a number of problems with assessment. I wonder whether the minister would be so kind as to try to explain at length the inconsistencies or problems people have encountered in the assessment courts in the province in the past year or two. The city of Toronto executive committee report number 44 was discussed on October 17 this year. I am sure the minister's officials have copies of that with them so they can easily refer to it.
These cases were drawn to the attention of the executive committee by Alderman Ron Kanter, a very able alderman in the city of Toronto. These cases have not, to my knowledge, been disputed by the ministry, so obviously they are accurate.
I want to quote from his report, "The board does not consistently use market value." I would like the minister to categorically tell us the ministry does always use market value. That is what they say in their various pieces of literature. He says, "The board does not consistently use market value of similar properties in the vicinity as criteria for determining assessment. According to the Assessment Act and the Step-by-Step Guide on How to Appeal your Residential Property Tax Assessment, prepared by the Ministry of the Attorney General, market value is the only factor to be considered in assessing property values.
"When the Assessment Review Board permits evidence of market value of properties, it excludes evidence of properties which have been renovated but not reassessed. Consequently, a property owner will be paying higher property taxes than his neighbours living in properties of similar or greater value for one or more years."
He goes on to say: "There appears to be little consistency of practice among different members of the board with regard to important procedural questions such as adjournments and prior disclosure of information. There are daily examples of market-value arguments being cast aside as irrelevant, while at the same time market values are referred to frequently by the assessors and the members."
He quotes a case. "On September 22, a resident of Lyndhurst Avenue presented an excellent case based on market value. That argument was totally rejected. During a later case regarding a property on Melville Avenue, the chairman stated that he was of the opinion that needed replumbing and rewiring greatly increased the market value and thus no reduction in assessment was deemed necessary."
It appears that market value is irrelevant only when discussed by the appellant. So in some cases the ministry accepts market value and in other cases, when it is convenient, it rejects it.
I am sure everyone in the city of Toronto and in every one of the 835 municipalities would like a clear and concise statement on what is really the policy of the ministry. Then I would like that distributed to the various assessors so they know the policy and so there is consistency.
I respectfully suggest that the inconsistency flowing out of Queen's Park and going to all the corners of Ontario is emanating from right here or the ministry is deliberately confusing the issue out there so people do not know what is happening and therefore they can give any kind of decision, whatever is convenient to the ministry.
"On September 20, evidence given by several residents of MacPherson Avenue of 'similar real properties' of similar size and renovation with lower assessments was not accepted because the assessment department was unaware that the named properties had been renovated and not reassessed. The member felt the evidence was irrelevant and disregarded it."
He goes on to say: "The Assessment Act does not interpret similar real property as that which has been categorized as such by the assessment commissioner or his department. I therefore object to this evidence not being accepted by the member as valid."
He speaks about another case here. "Moreover, there is a serious inconsistency in the interpretation of this section by the chairman which must be addressed and rectified. Some of those appealing their assessments are given complete information on the comparable properties used by the assessment department and others are given no information, or incorrect information.
"On September 19, my assistant requested an adjournment in a case she was attending. Her request was based on an assurance by Mr. Forrest Thompson, commissioner of the assessment department, that information for six comparable properties would be made available to each complainant. She advised the member that our constituent was not aware of the availability of such information and was not prepared to present his argument. The adjournment was granted."
There were six comparable properties they were going to use during an assessment hearing. "Mr. M. Bell, the assessor, provided six comparables and pertinent information on each." Fair enough. Then they go on: "Three days later, September 22, my assistant returned to the assessment review hearing to present the case armed with additional information on each of the properties listed by Mr. Bell. Four comparables were presented by the assessment department. None of those given her by Mr. Bell on September 19 were presented as comparables."
I ask the minister, is that deliberately misleading the court? If one is going to present a case for a certain property and the assessor says, "Look, we are going to use these six properties as comparables," one asks for an adjournment so he can get the six properties, he returns three days later and what do they do? They change their comparables. I would respectfully suggest they have deliberately misled that court for the sake of trying to protect their hides and for the sake of keeping those assessments up.
"The objection to the rather questionable change was ignored. Some of the members hearing appeals swear in those presenting evidence. Others do not." That is a matter of procedure, so the procedures are not consistent.
"Perhaps more disturbing, some members swear some people in sometimes, but not at other times. On September 20 and 21 there was great inconsistency in the swearing-in procedure. There should be established procedure followed by all members at all times. If there is some discretion allowed to individual members, each member should be required to follow the same procedure without regard to who is giving evidence.
"Lastly members have different criteria for determining what a 'renovation' is. Some members consider new plumbing and wiring as deferred maintenance, others consider it renovation. Some members do not differentiate between a partial replacement of defective wiring or plumbing and a total replacement of those utilities at the time of gutting a house for complete renovation. There should be an established guideline for determining what deferred maintenance is as opposed to renovation."
There are other cases of this nature; I could cite a number of them. I am not going to go through those, but I do believe the minister has a responsibility to this Legislature, to the assessors and to the people of the province to bring some consistency into the whole meaning of assessment in the province and I hope he is going to be able to do that.
I wonder whether the minister would also elaborate on "the media campaign" he hopes to engage in later this year. I wonder if it is going to be a complete in-house media campaign or if he intends to have consultants do it for his ministry and whether he intends to spend $500,000 or $1 million.
I noticed that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Mr. Bennett), when he had his get-the-vote-out campaign last year, spent $850,000. I hope I am wrong on this, but I just wonder whether the minister intends to give all of that out to private consultants so that in fact he is going to save $2 million on not sending out assessment notices but have an increased media campaign in order that people are aware of the changes that have taken place. Maybe the minister can elaborate on that and tell us how much it is going to cost and how it is going to be conducted.
Last, as I have indicated, we intend to move a motion in committee to delete section 2 because we feel that the people of this province would be better served if those notices were to be distributed to all six million people rather than to only those 40 per cent who would be receiving notices because a change in the assessment was being entertained by the ministry.
The Deputy Speaker: I thank the member for his remarks and recognize the member for Oshawa.
Mr. Breaugh: Try to control the demonstration.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to oppose this bill. There are some very valid reasons for looking at the bill, which at first blush appears to be rather an administrative bill, not substantial in nature and dealing with some fine points. If I recall the minister's statement when he introduced the legislation, he rather put it in that light as well, that this was something that was done every year now, that there were a few administrative changes in it but they were not substantive in nature.
On closer reading of the bill, one finds there is a bit of history to it. For one thing, it does in a perverse way postpone market-value assessment for I believe the ninth time in a row. Some members will be grateful to see that postponement made, myself among them. But I think it is time the government of Ontario made up its mind on this process. If it is accepting the concept of market-value assessment, if it believes that is a fair and just way to proceed, then it strikes me the government has an obligation to do what it apparently originally intended to do, and that is to implement market-value assessment across Ontario.
The process has not quite worked out that way. The process has worked out to be a system of subversion where there is a technique used which invites various municipalities to have this wonderfulness visited upon their municipalities. A little over 300 or 390-odd, whatever the number, but a fair number of municipalities have accepted the proposition put forward by the ministry and have gone that way. In other municipalities it has not worked quite as smoothly as that.
There are many municipalities that take a look at market-value assessment and say it does not seem to put the municipality ahead very much, even though there are long-standing arguments about the current process of assessment and a lot of recognition that there are problems in that. To move to a market-value assessment, particularly the one being promoted by this government, does not seem to do many people much good either.
The process is a rather interesting one. In Metropolitan Toronto last year, particularly in the city of Toronto, a model was done. A proposal was put forward to provide a study of what market-value assessment would do in Toronto. The then Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) made several of what I thought were rather clear pronouncements that he intended to proceed with putting in market-value assessment in Toronto. Rumour has it he was bushwhacked somewhere in a Tory caucus meeting and it never really came to fruition.
As a matter of fact, one might look across the aisle these days and see that Minister of Revenue is no longer there. He has found himself another occupation. He has paid the price for being so bold as to try to force that down the throats of people who live in Toronto.
I think there are some real difficulties with the current concept of market-value assessment. This is an awkward way for the province to proceed. It is almost asking the municipalities to invite it in to commit hara-kiri. It is a process which is somewhat stalled just now. Many municipalities are looking at those who have taken on market-value assessment and are not happy with the results. They see it solves some problems and creates others.
In general terms, I think it is not unfair to say the assessment process in Ontario is not widely understood. Many people here in the city of Toronto who have had assessments on their houses increased dramatically were somewhat startled to find out how that happened. Most of us would have assumed someone would rap on one's front door and say: "How are you? I am from the Ministry of Revenue. We understand you made some improvements to your house. We would like to go through it and make an assessment of your house." Somebody would fill out a little audit form and present that to one. If one did not agree with that, there would be due process.
Many people in Toronto were rather shocked to find that very often nobody knocks on one's door. Sometimes they drive down one's street and sometimes they do not but, at any rate, the assessment gets increased. Then one finds the joys and pleasures of trying to appeal that assessment.
The basis of that is another little twist which is proposed in this bill; that is, to eliminate the annual assessment notices to many people unless there has been a change in their assessed value over the year.
A second major point I would make in opposition to the bill is that very premise. It is a form of taxation without notifying people. It is a form of changing the basis for the municipal property tax without really providing them with a formal notice. It seems to me people are at least due that amount of information from the government.
More important, and it is a little below the surface but it has to be said, is that many people will forget who is doing the assessment on their property. Many people will not be given an annual notice of their assessment and perhaps might even forget what the assessment process is all about. It seems to me that is a particularly uncomfortable notion to put forward.
I want to say too that in the process of this and in reading some of the background materials, the premise was that Ontario is spending about $3 million sending out the assessment notices. It could save some money if it did not send everybody a notice, but only those people where a change would occur. This seems like a fairly straightforward, common-sense point of view. The difficulties occur when one looks at the appeal process. If one does not get the assessment notice, he is losing some of his rights to appeal.
Then one reads on a little further and finds out the ministry has other plans. It has decided to save some money on mailing these assessment notices.
It is also identifying in here -- a little earlier on and without any numbers attached to it -- that another kind of program will take place. That is a public relations program. The ministry, instead of mailing a formal assessment notice, will do so through the airwaves and in the newspapers. I am not opposed to governments informing the population at large about what they are up to. I think it would be nice if they did it in a slightly more straightforward way.
However, one of the things I do object to is the advertising campaigns that go on around the government programs. What I find particularly irritating, as a matter of fact it comes from the same ministry, is that even when there are programs under way that are having some difficulty -- the grants to senior citizens is a good example that springs to mind; the program is not working as smoothly in its initial years as they thought it would and still isn't, but a massive advertising program was under way. It was telling the people out there what wonderful programs were being run by the government of the day.
People somehow assume that if a government is running a program, the program must be working. This was not the case. The massive advertising program continues. The program itself does not function very well. The byproduct is that the government has this opportunity, at the taxpayers' expense, to tell people in Ontario how wonderful it is.
Quite frankly, I suspect that in the end this is pretty much what they have in mind with this program: taking away the simple idea of mailing people a formal assessment notice, taking away in that process some of their rights as citizens -- not all of them, but some of them -- and putting in its place a pretty hefty little advertising program which will convince the people of Ontario that the Minister of Revenue is a wonderful person. It would take a lot of advertising dollars to convince the people at large, but perhaps he might even try that. I even see his smiling face on television telling people how wonderful market-value assessment is. I think it would take a whole lot of tax dollars to get that advertising campaign under way.
In general, I think there is a good deal which has to be looked at in this legislation. It purports to be rather simple and straightforward, but it is not. It purports to be something which is kind of a bookkeeping thing, simple common sense, do not notify people unless there is a change. But there are ramifications to that. I think we have an obligation to look at those, almost like a hidden agenda to a bill. I think they are there and they are valid.
In terms of whatever advertising program the government might have in place, we have to judge what they have in mind by their previous record. I think the previous record of this ministry and most of the ministries over there is that when they undertake a program to inform the public, the thrust of the program is to inform the public of how wonderful they are. It is not necessarily to inform the public about the details of a program or of what their rights are, but to make this government look good. Particularly, it appears where I am told it might even be a pre-election period. It would seem quite in order, after its past record, for this government to seize that opportunity to advertise at great length to the people of Ontario about the wonderfulness of the big blue machine.
In general, there are a number of difficulties with this bill. There are enough of them that we should say, "If the government does not really want to proceed with market-value assessment, it should say so." It should end the annual ritual of a bill coming in which postpones that wonderful event. If the government of Ontario is serious about being fair with the people of Ontario, why does it not retain a system which provides an official notice of assessment on an annual basis so that their rights to appeal are maintained?
Finally, it has been brought to my attention that some members of the municipal field, particularly the city of Toronto, would appreciate an opportunity to make a presentation to a committee of the Legislature on this bill. I did take the time before the debate began to ask the minister for his consent to send it to committee. It appears the minister is not prepared to do that. We will be asking that the bill be sent out, perhaps only for a short period of time --
The Deputy Speaker: Order. If I may just interrupt the member for one moment, I would like to remind the members that all evening thus far the level of discussions has been up. At one point I counted no fewer than 18 conversations taking place. Could we either tone them down quietly or move them out so that we could hear the debate?
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, I just want to conclude by saying we will be asking that the bill be sent out to committee. It probably does not need a great deal of time in committee, but at least the city of Toronto wants the opportunity to make a presentation to a committee of the Legislature on this bill. I suspect I know what they will want to say and it seems to me that it is pretty legitimate.
Although I do understand there is some urgency on the part of the minister to proceed with the legislation, it is not as if anybody is proposing a blockade of the legislation, but rather providing the opportunity to allow the city of Toronto and others interested in presenting a point of view to a committee of the Legislature on Bill 90 to do so.
In summary, the bill itself is more than just simple housekeeping; it is more than administrative work. There are changes being proposed in the bill which have ramifications for municipalities and for individual ratepayers that I think are not supportive. I think the major question of whether this government is really intending to proceed with market-value assessment needs to be addressed. The annual bill that postpones that event is something I am tiring of rapidly.
We will not support the legislation on second reading. We will be happy to go to committee where it seems to me at the very least that second section should be investigated rather thoroughly. In my view, it ought to come out of there entirely.
If that is not the pleasure of the government, then at least it has to provide some clarification so that people who are not in receipt of an assessment notice will have their full legal rights honoured. I would appreciate at a later date in the debate on the bill if we can get some clarification on how the government intends to inform the people of Ontario, if it does not intend to give them proper written formal notice.
The Deputy Speaker: I thank the member for his remarks. Does any other honourable member wish to enter into the debate?
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I see the former minister has left. Probably he realized I was going to join the debate and did not want to hear the speech again. I do not apologize for being critical of the assessment policy that is embodied in the bill because this is the ninth time in succession that we have passed similar legislation allowing the assessment rolls to be returned without market-value assessment.
I certainly recall the election of 1971 in which the then Treasurer and Minister of Economic Affairs and minister of most things, Darcy McKeough, decided that the final solution, if I may use that phrase, for local assessment was to centralize it at the provincial level. Many municipalities had already centralized their assessment responsibilities at the county level. This was before there were many regions imposed on the province.
The county assessment commissioner was close enough to the municipalities that the assessment commissioner's policy reflected the needs of the smaller municipalities very well indeed. Naturally, in applying provincial policy vis-à-vis grants and other municipal support, the Treasurer found it somewhat inconvenient that he had to use a large spectrum of equalization factors so that the grants would be provided in as fair and equitable a way as possible.
I think Darcy McKeough had the idea that, with market-value assessment administered at the centre, the elaborate grant program we had in existence then, which has become even more complex, would be easier to administer, since the assessment values would be arrived at in precisely the same way in all parts of the province. It was not long before he was very deeply disappointed.
As you may recall, Mr. Speaker, the centralization of assessment saw an increase in the actual cost of the assessment function by a factor of about eight. The argument is made now that if assessment were turned back to the counties and regions, it would mean a much higher cost. That may be true, but only because the original centralization extended the costs so tremendously that really it is almost beyond repair.
Over these many years ministers as anxious to do a good job as the present incumbent have tried to come to grips with the problems of market-value assessment in the original McKeough concept and they have all failed. I happen to have a very high personal regard for the present incumbent and it may be that he will be able to get the kind of advice that will permit some sort of rational and equitable solution to this continuing problem, but when I hear his opening statement, carefully prepared, indicating that the utilization of section 63 on a gradual basis across the province, municipality by municipality, is going to achieve the McKeough goal, I do not believe that is so.
The minister is aware that section 63 does not allow for the transference of values among the classes of assessment, and unless there is such a transference of value, the kind of equity among industrial, commercial and residential cannot be achieved. Certainly, Mr. McKeough in the early experimental days -- I think Peel county was one of the first to experiment with this -- did move in with full market-value assessment with the transference of values among classes and found that the people who got lower assessments were delighted, but the people who got higher assessments did not like it.
This did not matter too much to Darcy McKeough -- because he was quite prepared to impose regional government on Haldimand and Norfolk, or some kind of a near regional government on Muskoka, which did not have quite the same effect politically there as it had in Haldimand and Norfolk but he was quite prepared to damn the torpedoes and go ahead here as well and do what he thought was right. He was such an influential member of the cabinet that even the new Premier (Mr. Davis) in those days was in a position to say, "Whatever you say, Darcy," because he certainly did not want Darcy to turn on him. The question would have been who would come out on top in that particular cock fight.
It was not long until Darcy moved on to other things, and there has not been anybody in the cabinet, with great respect to all our good friends over there, noticeable by their absence tonight, who ever came close to telling the Premier what was best, particularly when it came to winning votes.
The Premier was smart enough to know that real market-value assessment would not live in this province. Whoever brought it in would soon find himself the butt of bad feeling from the electorate, and the Premier is probably the person most sensitive to maintaining good relations with the electorate. Certainly, I know that probably better than anybody in this House, although all of us are gradually learning that lesson more and more.
In fact, true market-value assessment, McKeough-style, will never be accomplished. I really feel the act ought to be amended simply to take that into consideration, rather than having these amendments year by year which seem to hold out the hope of Utopian concepts of market-value assessment with transferences of values among classes that would enable all the provincial grants to be paid with little or no equalization factor applying. We are never going to do that.
At the same time that we centralized assessment and got ourselves into this rats' nest we are still involved in and cannot seem to extricate ourselves from, we lost the value of assessment being under local control.
We know municipalities have as almost their only independent source of revenue the access to local assessment and the rates that are charged to the local residents and property owners on the basis of that assessment. For us to take the actual assessment away from them, as if somehow the assessors controlled by the Minister of Revenue would be able to do this in a fair and more equitable way, just flies in the face completely of any kind of a rational understanding of local autonomy.
I doubt whether the present minister has as yet the clout to reverse what is a mistake that was entered into more than a decade ago. But if this government really thought seriously about local autonomy, it could come up with a package -- a new deal -- for the municipalities; and the cornerstone of that new deal would be to allow the municipalities to resume control over their own assessment. It would be quite possible, and it would be recommended that the minister could supervise it in any reasonable way he felt necessary, but still the responsibility would be at the local level. The minister could do the sounding necessary to have the sort of equalization factors that would permit him to advise his colleagues in Education and Treasury and in Municipal Affairs and Housing to administer the dollars of support -- and there are many hundreds of millions of them -- to the municipalities with the fairness and equity we talk about in this connection.
For the last three or four ministers, I have made a speech urging them to throw aside the political caution that has rendered them personally almost useless in the development of new policy and to try to sell to their colleagues this new deal, this new partnership with the municipalities, which would have as its cornerstone a new approach to assessment.
I wish the ministers would stop trying to sell us in their statements pertaining to assessment the idea that we are gradually achieving the McKeough ideal of market-value assessment and all of its values, because certainly we are not going to achieve it. I would expect the minister will eventually impose the requirements of section 63 on the remaining townships and municipalities that have not had recourse to it and then announce with fanfare that market-value assessment has been accomplished.
If that is attempted, it will be a snare and a delusion. We will have achieved nothing, but spent hundreds of millions of dollars messing around with assessment, throwing many municipalities off balance, wasting these dollars in the acquisition of many new staff members and, at the same time, leaving it still a mystic science that only a few people understand, most notably a member in the back row of the New Democratic Party, a professional assessor, who is probably the only one in the House who really understands the thing.
I certainly do not want to suggest for a moment that the minister does not understand it, but the machinations and the subtleties of assessment have certainly eluded me. I have heard the minister's predecessors, in doing the assessment part of their estimates, being advised in hoarse whispers by their experts sitting at the table before them. They obviously did not know any more about it than any of the rest of us run-of-the-mill members of the House.
Until we can take a new approach to assessment and local taxation, citizens are going to be more and more outraged that they are forced to try to come to grips with something that is as mysterious as the Law Society of Upper Canada or something like that. We feel the government is deliberately trying to make this difficult to understand. The poor people who own property and improve their properties in the city of Toronto or the township of South Dumfries feel they cannot cope with this at all.
They will go and talk with their local councillor and he will say, "That is handled at Queen's Park. You better go and see Bob Nixon. He knows all about assessment." Then I put it to the minister and he says, "I will put this to my experts." The experts, with the very best of intentions, may get together for a coffee break two or three times a week and talk to each other. There may be three or four of them who know what is going on, but nobody else in the universe does and, in a sense, nobody else cares. It is like a convoluted cryptic crossword where the prize is not good enough to warrant the time to work it out.
I would say to this minister, upwardly mobile as he is, with his eyes set on the leadership of the party -- and who knows whether the Premier is going to be here for another little while, another few weeks or months -- that there is time for anybody to make the big pitch. I am just suggesting to any of the upwardly mobile cabinet ministers that if they can say to the municipalities, "We have after 40 years evolved a new partnership involving real autonomy for the municipalities in which the cornerstone is going to be a return of the rational assessment function to the municipalities," they would make great headway.
I also want to say that the concepts of equalization factors referred to in this bill continue to add to the confusion and really the fury of some people -- many people who find themselves paying taxes on the basis of these equalization factors which are seen to be patently unfair. The section of the bill we are dealing with has to do with an appeal of these equalization factors and the fact that one has to let some other person know besides the Ontario Municipal Board. It does not make much difference anyway; it is for the convenience of the government so that they are not going to be caught high and dry by some smart municipality entering into an appeal successfully with the OMB.
The township of Brantford in the great county of Brant appealed its equalization factor, which was established by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The OMB found the equalization factor to be unfair and it was necessary to impose a new factor. You can imagine the disruption, Mr. Speaker, in all the municipalities in Brant county when they found that, one township having appealed its factor so that its payments for county and education costs were reduced, everybody else had to pay more.
But instead of saying, 'Yes, we were wrong," the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing imposed the very same factor the next year and dared them to appeal it to the municipal board. When a ministry dares a municipality to act against its direction, the municipality had better be careful what it is doing because the minister has ways of punishment that leave fiscal scars that are pretty deep.
I am just telling you, Mr. Speaker, that this whole concept of assessment and equalization factors is so ridiculously unfair and confused that as members of this House we ought to be ashamed even to be a part of it as the ministry goes on with these yearly corrections, and this the ninth year in a row.
As a matter of fact, one of the townships in the county of Brant, Onondaga, named for the great Indian tribe, is a small rural township, and it has found ever since 1972 that, compared with other land owners in the county of Brant, it has paid a disproportionately high share of education costs.
As a matter of fact, that finding is not argued by anybody. I can remember back in the early 1970s bringing it to the attention of the then Treasurer, who ran all these functions himself. He said, "Admittedly, there is going to be a little dislocation in the early months of centralized assessment as we move towards market value assessment." He was not prepared -- in fact, his officials could not think of any way -- to correct the problem, because once one diddles with one of those equalization factors in a county, the whole thing becomes so complex that it is like an elaborate nightmare of a tinker toy where the shafts do not fit into the holes, if members can get the picture.
Ever since then there has been no way to correct it. We have had delegations sit down with the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson), herself a very intelligent and hardworking minister. We would go up to her plush boardroom, we would be served coffee -- don't look at the clock; I'm just getting going -- and we would have the full attention of the minister and her excellent staff. And after she would agree that they were paying too much for education she would say, "The equalization factor is not my responsibility; it is the responsibility of the Minister of Revenue."
The whole thing gets more confused when we find that these equalization factors are changed from time to time and may be appealed under some circumstances, but for education they are frozen at the 1979 level or something like that.
My point, Mr. Speaker, and I know you are paying careful attention to all this, is that it is too complex for mortal mind to understand. Everybody says, "Oh, I know what we should do. We should get a Toronto lawyer." Pardon me, Al. "We should get somebody from McCarthy and McCarthy." That is the name that springs to their minds because they figure if you pay $1,100 a day, these guys in the six-piece suits and with the beautiful grey hair are going to be able to solve the problem.
Mr. Hodgson: Just like me.
Mr. Nixon: My friend needs a vest to qualify.
All these guys do is prepare marvellous briefs that are as convoluted and lacking in solutions as anything else; so the time limit for the appeal of the equalization factor -- and we are establishing that time limit in this bill once again -- has passed and the ministers say, "We will try to do something about this before next year." That has been happening since 1971, and there has been no rational solution.
The last time we tried was when we got good old Willis Blair, who was between jobs at the time, to head a committee to review assessment. He did a very good job. He was mayor of East York. He was educated by True Davidson; so he really knew about municipal affairs. He had good, sound roots in the Tory party. We thought, "This is one guy who is going to be able to come up with a solution and tell the ministers what to do."
He even came to see the Liberal caucus. We had the opportunity to give him the benefit of our understanding of this matter. I am not sure that he was better equipped to come to a solution when he walked out than when he came in, but we did our best. Even Willis Blair, now chairman of the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario and doing a very good job in many respects, came up with a report that the government simply could not act on.
My colleague the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) has very properly said we intend to support the bill, because there is no rational alternative to supporting it. We have to have the assessment rolls legally established, because the municipalities have to be able legally to levy their taxes for the coming year. Any party that suggests for a moment that the assessment rolls should not be properly established must surely have taken leave of its senses and is simply posing for a few New Democratic Party councillors back in Oshawa or something like that. There can be no alternative.
On the other hand, we believe this bill ought to go to the committee downstairs so that the citizens of Toronto and other municipalities that have some complaints can come in, but my colleague the Revenue critic for our side, who is concerned with assessment, has already given notice that he intends to move amendments at least to meet the problems the city of Toronto has brought to our attention.
It could be that the minister will accept those amendments, because obviously the point that is referred to is that the minister does not intend to send out assessment notices for assessments that have been neither appealed nor changed. He is talking about some footling saving of $2 million --
Mr. Breaugh: Give or take a million.
Mr. Nixon: Well, $3 million. Assessment is a serious problem in certain municipalities, particularly since it is still recovering from the chaos imposed on it by the minister's immediate predecessor, who was kicked unceremoniously out of his job and upstairs to the Ministry of Government Services. Surely the people in Toronto have an even graver concern than we are experiencing elsewhere.
It makes abundant good sense for us to support the bill in principle since it is necessary for these assessment rolls to be returned, even though this is the ninth time we have had to do it by special legislation. We do hope the minister will accept the amendment put forward by the member for Waterloo North so that the bill will be improved in that important but small particular.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I want to continue in the vein established by the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk when he talked about the folly this government has been engaged in since Darcy McKeough decided to bull ahead with market value assessment. Things had been relatively quiet until the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe) became Minister of Revenue and decided to initiate a kind of blitzkrieg on Toronto to speed up the process of introducing market value assessment.
I am really trying to plead with the current Minister of Revenue (Mr. Gregory) for a degree of sensitivity and understanding of the devastating effect of the imposition of market value assessment in certain communities and in certain parts of Toronto. For example, the area of Toronto I represent is a low-income, blue-collar neighbourhood in which market values have taken a fairly major jump in the past three or four years.
I hasten to remind the government that we are in the middle of a depression. There are thousands of people who are out of work. In my own community, where people work in the building trades, unemployment is between 30 and 40 per cent. In the midst of a very serious economic crisis, this government sends its storm troopers in to do mass reassessment based on what appears to be a quasi market value assessment. I will get back to that in a minute.
I am not sure whether the current minister realizes the extent of the reassessment that has taken place in 1982 and 1983. We had a debate in the Legislature six or seven months ago with his predecessor in which we tried to explain to him the damage being done by these large-scale reassessments. The minister argued that because there had been so much redevelopment and rehabilitation of housing in Toronto that had escaped the proper reassessment, there was justification for a mass reassessment. Special teams were sent in, first to the east end and then to the west end, to do this reassessment.
At that time, we discussed the curious fact that houses were being reassessed without anybody actually coming to the door, identifying themselves to the home owner and doing an inspection of the property. There was overwhelming evidence that these reassessments had taken place simply by people driving up and down the street and looking at which houses had been sandblasted, which houses had been repainted, which houses had new porches and which houses had certain cosmetic work done to the exterior, and major reassessments were imposed on the basis of these appearances.
We are not talking about one or two properties; we are talking about thousands of properties in Toronto in 1982 and 1983. In 1983, there were 4,510 properties in Toronto reassessed in this manner by these special squads of assessment storm troopers. I do not know how else to describe them.
I am sure the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Shymko) is living in keen anticipation of the westward spread of the assessment squads. They have done ward 3 and ward 4. I assume they are now moving in on wards 1 and 2.
Mr. Shymko: With their marching boots.
Mr. McClellan: Yes, marching boots.
Last year in ward 4, a total of 801 properties were reassessed by these special assessment squads. The statistical analysis of who was reassessed is very interesting, and it raises some rather disturbing questions. The majority of the people who were reassessed were in Portuguese and Italian households. They were reassessed in numbers that were totally disproportionate to their percentage of the population.
Only 50 per cent of the population in ward 4 is Italian and Portuguese, yet 78 per cent of the reassessments were done on Portuguese and Italian households. I think I know the reason for this. I do not think they were singled out because of their ethnicity. I think the reality is that Portuguese and Italian families are very meticulous about making improvements to the exteriors of their properties.
One of the first things an immigrant family does when it moves into a house if it is slightly run down is to paint it, replace the porch, replace the trim, replace the sidewalk and replace the landscaping, and it is immediately obvious because of these cosmetic changes that some work has taken place on the property.
What has happened again in ward 4 is that these assessment squads have simply driven up and down the street. They have not bothered to do proper reassessments; they have simply taken assessment decisions on the basis of cosmetic changes to the exterior of houses owned by Portuguese and Italian families.
That is what has happened in my community. I do not happen to think this is fair, and I do not happen to think it makes sense in the middle of a depression, in a community that has 30 to 40 per cent unemployment, for the government to be sending these assessment squads into the community --
Mr. Piché: You don't know what you are talking about. You haven't done your homework.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): Order.
Mr. Piché: No, just a minute.
The Acting Speaker: No, no. The member for Bellwoods has the floor. The member for Cochrane North (Mr. Piché) will refrain from any comment. He will have an opportunity to participate in this debate at the appropriate time. In the meantime, if the honourable member would be so kind.
Mr. Piché: Just a minute --
The Acting Speaker: Is this a point of order?
Mr. Piché: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The member from the basement party has not done his homework.
The Acting Speaker: The member from Cochrane North will please just listen. He will have his chance to participate. The member for Bellwoods will continue.
Mr. McClellan: As usual, the member lacks the courage to participate in debate and gets his kicks out of shouting down members of the opposition when they are trying to make a speech.
Mr. McClellan: I expect you to protect the rights of the members in the opposition, Mr. Speaker, and I am being hollered at by certain members.
The Acting Speaker: I am trying and I will continue to do so.
Mr. McClellan: I just make the point again. I fail to understand why the government has chosen the current recession to decide to send its reassessment squads into blue-collar neighbourhoods to undertake a program of reassessment: 801 properties in a community that is entirely made up of low-income blue- collar workers.
There are no affluent sections of ward 4 in Toronto. There are no pockets of affluence or high income. There are no professional groups. It is a blue-collar neighbourhood, an inner-city, downtown immigrant area. Why was it selected? Why would High Park-Swansea be selected? Why would Parkdale be selected for these kinds of reassessments? It makes absolutely no sense.
My first concern is that this government has escalated its campaign of imposing market value assessment on certain communities regardless of the kind of damage it is doing to communities and the kind of hardship it is imposing on people who, quite frankly, have enough problems to cope with in the middle of the current depression without having this extra burden put upon them.
The minister in his opening remarks referred to the fact that people will have, as usual again. the right of appeal and that the final appeal date will be January 10, 1984. That is well and good, but I have to tell the minister that there were literally thousands of people in Toronto last year who received their reassessments and who did not understand the appeal process, did not understand that there was a deadline of early January to file notice of intent to appeal.
The minister's predecessor, the member for Durham West, refused to extend the final appeal date, despite the fact that there were tens of hundreds of people who had lost their opportunity to appeal because they were not literate in English. That is the simple explanation. English was the second language --
Hon. Mr. McCague: That's not so. You know better than that.
Mr. Piché: I can't accept that.
Mr. McClellan: Forty per cent of the people in my community are Portuguese immigrants. They do not have English-language skills.
Mr. Piché: Who prepared your speech? It's not factual.
Mr. McClellan: I hope at least the minister understands what I am trying to say without the interjections.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Cochrane North has been warned.
Mr. Martel: Turf him out.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Mr. Martel: Don't call me to order, after listening to all that nonsense. I heard the screaming in my office; that is why I came up.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Mr. McClellan: There were many people who lost their right of appeal because they did not understand the --
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to try to speak in this Legislature with that clown yowling and howling at me. Either we have order here or we might as well close the place down. It is ridiculous.
The Acting Speaker: I will ask the member for Cochrane North to please refrain from making any further contributions by interrupting or he will have to be exited.
Mr. Piché: You haven't got that right, and you won't even try.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
The Acting Speaker: Order. The member will withdraw that.
Mr. Piché: It is nice.
The Acting Speaker: No. That is not kidding. The member will stand and withdraw it.
Mr. Piché: Mr. Speaker, I would like to withdraw it because you are such a nice fellow.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Now we are beginning to understand each other. The member will now not make any more interruptions to the member for Bellwoods or I will have to --
Mr. Piché: I will not promise that.
The Acting Speaker: The next time he does, the member is going to have to be careful.
Mr. Piché: How come, Mr. Speaker, when they --
The Acting Speaker: The honourable member will resume his seat.
The Acting Speaker: Order. The member will resume his seat quickly.
Mr. Martel: Out.
The Acting Speaker: Sergeant at Arms, I have no choice.
Mr. Martel: Goodbye, René.
The Acting Speaker: The member is as close as he could be.
Mr. Martel: You just named him, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Bellwoods can rest assured that if there are any further interruptions from the member for Cochrane North, there will not be any warnings.
Mr. McClellan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am trying to remember where I was. I may have to start all over again, but I do not think that is necessary.
To recapitulate, there are large numbers of people who were unable to appeal their reassessments because of their failure to understand the provisions and requirements of the appeal process. Nevertheless, many people did appeal, first in 1982 --
Mr. McClellan: I am not denying that. Many people did appeal in 1982. The vast majority of the people who appealed these reassessments from the special squad of blitzkrieg reassessors won their appeal and had their reassessments overturned. I think that spoke more eloquently than anything any of us could say about the fundamental injustice of that reassessment process.
In 1983, the reassessment took place and notices went out. People filed for appeal and they went to the Assessment Review Board. What happened? The amazing thing that happened was that the government changed the rules of the appeal process. It changed the rules of the game in the interval between the time the people had received their assessment notices and the information about the appeal process and the time they appeared in court.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that many municipalities hold workshops for citizens to inform them of their rights under our assessment legislation, of their rights before the appeal board and what the rules of the game are. The city of Toronto held these workshops in 1983. Many people attended them and proceeded to go to their hearings, only to discover the rules of the game had fundamentally changed.
I do not know whether the minister is aware of this. I believe a number of aldermen from Toronto have sent some information about this matter to the minister. I am referring to communication between the Minister of Revenue and Richard Gilbert, the alderman for ward 3 of the city of Toronto, Joe Pantalone, the alderman for ward 4, and David Reville, the alderman for ward 7. They wrote to the minister on September 21, bringing these concerns to his attention.
It is really important that the minister understands what has been going on. As if everything I have described up to this point is not bad enough, when people went to the Assessment Review Board they discovered the measure which had been used by assessors for the last couple of decades to justify assessments for the ARB had been changed at the hearings.
The minister is aware the familiar justification is the one of ratio of assessment to market value within a given neighbourhood, a clearly defined neighbourhood. If somebody feels he is being treated unfairly, what he has to do is show that the ratio of assessment to market value within his neighbourhood differs from the way his neighbours are treated. This is the litmus test of fairness before the Assessment Review Board. The criterion has always been the ratio of assessment to market value.
Lo and behold, the assessors in front of the Assessment Review Board this year were basing their arguments on an entirely new set of criteria which did not emerge, as far as anybody else knew, until the hearings were actually under way. People who had been to the workshops, who had been advised of their rights, who had read the literature put out by the Attorney General's office talking about the procedures and processes of the Assessment Review Board, all of a sudden discovered a new criterion, something called "the assessment per square foot of gross building area".
Quite frankly, this is a new one for everybody. It is not mentioned in the literature that is put out by the Ministry of the Attorney General. It is not mentioned in literature that is put out by the Minister of Revenue. It was not available by way of information for people who were going into the workshops. It was simply sprung by the officials of the Ministry of Revenue in the Assessment Review Board hearings, a whole new set of rules, of criteria, which people had never experienced before. It should be no surprise to anybody. They were unable to give a proper defence. They changed the rules of the game.
Mr. Piché: You are talking in circles right now.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I hope you heard about the previous difficulties. Thank you.
If one changes the rules of the game in the middle of the game, everybody understands that is unfair. That is precisely what this ministry has done.
This is not the only problem home owners face this year, home owners who are part of the huge population that had these extraordinary reassessments. They also discovered that the traditional definition of neighbourhood and the information upon which that definition was based was being withheld as a matter of deliberate policy by officials of the regional assessment office.
You know as well as anybody else, Mr. Speaker, the only way you can defend yourself against what you feel to be an unjustified assessment at the assessment review board is to demonstrate that people in your "neighbourhood" are being treated differently from you, but you have to know what the boundaries of the neighbourhood are in order to make your defence and the regional assessment office refused to provide information to appellants as to what were the boundaries of their neighbourhood. How on earth are people supposed to have a fair day in court with this kind of a kangaroo system? It is absolutely preposterous.
Pamphlets from the Ministry of Revenue boast that the regional assessment office is there to provide all the information that one needs in order to have one's fair day in court. This is contrary to the facts and it is contrary to the experience of many hundreds of people in the city of Toronto this year. I do not understand why it is happening. I am quite confident that this new minister will be able to take a fresh look at what has been happening in the city of Toronto and, quite frankly, put a stop to it, because it is grotesquely unfair.
Finally, there have been a whole bunch of procedural irregularities in the Assessment Review Board in 1983. I do not know why this is happening. It has not happened in the past, to my knowledge. My own experience with the review boards has been that they have been fair and impartial and really open to the citizen to have a day in court. For some reason, that was not only not true in 1983 but it was an absolutely grotesque and preposterous experience that people were subjected to.
Regional assessment officers were permitted to give evidence on more than one occasion without first taking an oath. Hearings were terminated before an appellant agent had finished presenting his case, on the grounds that the member of the board said he had heard enough already and did not want to hear any more. This is documented and the documentation is being provided to the Attorney General.
One board member told appellants that she tended to be more lenient with home owners who represented themselves. In other words, if an appellant made the mistake of exercising his right to attend the appeal board hearing with an agent acting on his behalf, he was penalized by members of the board who had a declared, stated bias against anybody who showed up with an agent.
I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that the Attorney General's pamphlets on processes and procedures before the ARB state that appellants are entitled to be represented by an agent. Why are members of the board then penalizing people for exercising this right? In one hearing, a board member stated that market value is not used to determine assessments. This is contrary to section 18 of the act, as the minister knows. One board member said that the ARB is not a court of law and is not bound by the Assessment Act. What is it? It sounds like a kangaroo court. It has not been in the past. What has happened this year? Why is this happening in the city of Toronto?
One board member said that assessment is determined by taking the factor for a degree of renovation and multiplying it by the gross building area. That is a new one, is it not, Mr. Speaker? I do not quite recall reading this in either the act or the regulations, or in the pamphlets of the Ministry of Revenue or the Ministry of the Attorney General. I do not remember reading that assessment is determined by taking the factor for a degree of renovation and multiplying it by the gross building area. I always thought that assessment was based on the ratio of assessment to market value. Didn't you, Mr. Speaker?
I mean, what is this? What on earth is going on? Some board member complimented an appellant on the strength of his case, which involved details of a neighbouring property, and then denied the appeal, saying that the best way to remove the inequity would be to raise the neighbour's assessment next year.
What on earth is going on in the Assessment Review Board in the city of Toronto? Are these people acting on ministry instructions, Mr. Speaker? I do not believe they are. I think what we have here is a bureaucracy that has run amok. We have people who are trying to implement a very foolish policy decision which started in 1982 with the blitzkrieg assessments in the east end and then was extended in 1983 to the west end.
The bureaucracy discovered the Assessment Review Board would not uphold its decisions under the regular rules of the game and the regular traditions of fair play that prevailed at Assessment Review Board hearings, so in 1983 they decided to change the rules of the game and to stack the deck against appellants before the Assessment Review Board.
If that is the way the government wants to play it, so be it, but I really do not think this is the minister's intention. Quite frankly, I do not think the minister is that kind of person. I think once these problems are pointed out to him and he has an opportunity to study the material that has been submitted to him by the city of Toronto, he will back off from the very foolish policy that his predecessor was too stubborn to abandon and will have a major reconsideration of this whole silly episode. At least I hope so. If the minister thinks he is doing the government any good with this kind of goon squad behaviour, then he has a different understanding of the art of politics than most of us on this side of the House.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: That is why we have 70 seats. We do have an understanding.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Back to the bill, please.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: A little different understanding from yours.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. McClellan: That sounded like a threat, Mr. Speaker. That sounded like a dire warning to the people of the city of Toronto that if this government had 80 seats the kind of jackboot behaviour we have seen in 1982-83 would be a mere peccadillo. Why don't you turn around -- Mr. Speaker, I advise the minister to turn around and ask his colleague the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Shymko) what he thinks of the behaviour of his officials. I do not think he will get very many accolades. Or if he asked his colleague --
Mr. Speaker: If I may have your attention, I am sure you are doing it inadvertently, but you are referring questions to the Speaker and asking the Speaker to convey messages to the minister. I am sure it is being done inadvertently. I would ask the member to address his remarks to the bill and to the minister through the chair. Thank you very much.
Mr. McClellan: It is a totally rhetorical device, Mr. Speaker. I would not want to ask you to --
Mr. Shymko: The pitfalls of eloquence.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I apologize for any distress my remarks may have caused you. I had been put off balance by the gruesome behaviour of the member for Cochrane North (Mr. Piché).
Mr. Breaugh: And the way he retreated with his tail between his legs.
Mr. Di Santo: That is what René is, a coward.
Mr. Martel: It was disgusting to watch him capitulate.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. McClellan: Absolutely gruesome and disgusting behaviour. I have never seen anything like it in all my years in the House.
Mr. Speaker: Back to Bill 90, please.
Mr. McClellan: Just by way of conclusion, regardless of the partisan bantering that we get into, I hope the minister will understand there are serious problems about the way his ministry has pursued the imposition of market-value assessment in the city of Toronto and serious problems in the way the rules of the game in the Assessment Review Board have been changed.
I say to the minister with great respect, it is absolutely necessary for him to take a sober second look at this exercise. I think now is absolutely the wrong time; if ever there was a wrong time to abolish assessment notices to the citizenry, it is right now.
The minister has to understand what happens when these kinds of reassessments take place, and the member for High Park-Swansea would be able to explain it to him. People get their assessment notices and immediately start to talk to each other about what is in them. People do comparisons on the street, on the block. That is the only way you have to defend yourself against increases in the order of 30, 40 and 50 per cent.
We are not talking about small increases; we are talking about increases of up to 50 per cent, where people are having their property taxes doubled. In many cases families who are out of work are having their property taxes doubled. The only way you can defend yourself is if you have the ability to go and talk to your neighbours about their assessments, make your own finger-in-the-wind comparisons and then take that into the Assessment Review Board.
If people do not have the information upon which their appeals have to be based, if their neighbours do not have information about their assessments, it becomes difficult in communities like mine for people to make appeals. People in my community by and large do not have agents to go with them, they have difficulty understanding what the procedures are, but they do understand that in the past when they have been treated differently from their neighbour who has a house of similar size they have grounds for an appeal before the Assessment Review Board.
This is a system that has been worked out over a long period of time. My colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) spoke in the debate we had six or seven months ago about the way the assessment system has developed in Toronto. It was not created with the stroke of a pen; it is a very delicate and complicated --
Mr. Piché: Bring it to an end.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. McClellan: It is not all that easy, believe it or not, to try to make an argument when people are shouting at you all evening. It really is very difficult and I happen to have lost my train of thought. If the member for Cochrane North wanted to prevent me from speaking, then he has done an effective job, because I have effectively lost my train of thought and I am unable to continue, sir. Thank you.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make some preliminary remarks on section 2. Like my other colleagues who have spoken before me, I have some problems under section 2 that a property owner would be sent an assessment notice only if his assessment or some other information on the notice had changed. This is designed, I understand and would imagine, as an economy measure and ads will be run informing property owners of their right of appeal. But instead of this cutback, which amounts to taxation without information, an assessment notice should be revised to be more understandable to the average citizen.
In the riding I represent, many people have English as a second language and it is quite confusing to them when they receive their assessment notices. Instead, I would suggest that the assessment notice should include current and last year's assessment and be sent to all property owners. property owners will be denied their original right to be personally informed under this section of the bill.
I would now like to address myself to the inequities in the present Assessment Act and the fact that the new amendment to the Assessment Act does not deal at all to correct the problem of unfair taxation to condominiums. In order to do this and to make it easier, I have spoken to the minister and I would like to report in a straight factual manner and without any editorial comment on some research I have had done for me on tax rates in the city of Etobicoke and the city of Toronto.
I am going to provide some 21 pages of tables I would like to use to the minister. It is the minister's understanding that, rather than my reading these 21 pages into the record, he would prefer the House give consent to simply having them tabled as an addendum to Hansard. This would reduce my speech from some six hours to about six minutes, and I am sure that would be in the interests of the House. I am going to send this to the minister.
Mr. Speaker: Do we have the consent of the House?
Mr. Philip: I will also give these tables to Hansard.
First, as an overview, I would like to say that in 1975 the Assessment Act, now subsection 65(2), was amended to stipulate that in residential assessment of a condominium "the value at which such unit . . . shall be assessed shall be based on the same proportion of market value thereof as that at which the owner-occupied, single-family residences in the vicinity are assessed."
In practice, however, it is commonly recognized --
Mr. Speaker: Order. The minister on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Speaker, I understood from the member for Etobicoke that I would get one copy of those tables. Is that correct?
Mr. Philip: Yes. I supplied those to him.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I think they both went to Hansard.
Mr. Philip: I am sorry. Did the minister not receive them?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: No. My understanding is that the member had said I would get a copy.
Mr. Philip: I sent one over with the page. I sent another one to Hansard.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I think the page took both of them to Hansard.
Mr. Philip: Can we correct that?
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Just one second until we determine what is going on here. Has Hansard got both copies?
Mr. Conway: I think we should start again with prayers.
Mr. Speaker: We will at two o'clock on Thursday.
The member for Waterloo North with a point of order.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I understand the member for Etobicoke has some tables he is desirous of distributing. Before we search for unanimous support on this, I think we should have a copy of that so we would know what we are talking about. I presume he has sent a copy over to us, or what is going on?
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I asked for the consent of the House when the honourable member requested that we append certain information to the statements he was going to make. I did not hear any objection. Apparently, there was some kind of an undertaking between the minister and the member for Etobicoke. I do not know of any such undertaking with anybody else.
Mr. Philip: If it would help the Liberal Party or the Liberal critic, I would be quite pleased to provide them to him. Perhaps a page would get the copy I have provided for Hansard, because they will have them later, and simply make an extra copy.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: This would certainly be the first time Hansard has ever admitted material that was not actually spoken. Maybe we ought to give it consideration. As you know, sir, other Houses, such as in the case of the Congressional Record, allow whole speeches to go in. I am sure there are occasions here when that sort of practice would spare a lot of difficulty, but I do not think we should embark on it. If the honourable member wants to include some statistics or conclusions drawn from statistics, why does he not do so in his speech?
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: When my colleague rose in his place, he asked precisely whether or not the House was prepared to give him consent. You put the question, asked for consent and there was no disagreement whatsoever. The member should have risen in his place and, rather than agreeing, he should have questioned it at the time, not five minutes after the discussion has started.
The member gave consent when the Speaker called for it, or he did not voice his objection to it, and now, some five minutes later, the member is voicing an objection. Surely the member should have been on the ball and objected at the time the question was raised and responded in the negative then, not five minutes into my colleague's speech, when, after all, the member accepted what he was requesting.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: If it would expedite the business of the House, and with the permission of the critic, I would be delighted to send this over to our caucus office, have it reproduced and send him a copy. I have seen it and there is nothing in it of a rhetorical nature. I think that might get us on with the business of the House.
Mr. Speaker: The point of the matter was that consent was asked for and, in my humble opinion, was given. I did not hear any dissenting voices.
Mr. Breaugh: Are there dissenting voices now?
Mr. Epp: This is a precedent.
Mr. Speaker: No, with all respect, it is not a precedent. I am advised this has been done before.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, in --
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I understood this to be a precedent. You said it is not a precedent. I wonder whether you would take the liberty of having this referred to the procedural affairs committee so that they can deal with it at a time and place that would be mutually convenient for all three parties to make representations on it.
This is a new procedure for a number of people in this House. The procedural affairs committee members should be the ones to look at this matter and give some guidance, probably to yourself, with respect to adopting this as one of the procedures of the House. From time to time they deal with these matters, and it would be an opportune time to have this more fairly discussed.
Mr. Speaker: I cannot give you any details, but I have been advised that it has been done before. It is not a precedent-setting procedure. If the procedural affairs committee wishes to take it under advisement, there is nothing to stop them doing so. I did ask for unanimous consent, and that consent, in my opinion, was given. Now I call on the member for Etobicoke.
Mr. Philip: I am pleased --
Mr. Kennedy: Mr. Speaker. on a point of order, I want to ask for clarification: will those statistics appear in Hansard?
Mr. Speaker: Yes. That is what the House agreed to, that they would be appended to Hansard.
Mr. Philip: I appreciate the unanimous consent I have obtained. This will shorten my speech by some five hours and 46 minutes. I have lost my train of thought, so I will start at the beginning.
In 1975 the Assessment Act, now section 65(2), was amended to stipulate that in the residential assessment of a condominium "the value at which such unit shall be assessed shall be based on the same proportion of the market value thereof as that which owner-occupied, single-family residences in the vicinity are assessed." In practice, however, it is commonly recognized that because of historical inequities and biases in the setting of assessments, severe inequities currently exist among residential assessments within Metropolitan Toronto.
The city of Toronto's Final Report of the Joint Committee on Property Tax Reform in 1982 documented the inequities of the current assessment system. It said: "Although based in principle on market values, the present system of assessments has not been systematically updated since 1949. Furthermore, it does not even reflect the 1940 values used as the original valuation basis in a consistent manner because of the many adjustments made by assessors in accordance with assessment manuals." That statement is found on page 12.
As an approach to rectifying this situation, the Assessment Act, section 63, allows for comprehensive reassessment of all properties to be conducted with the consent of the affected municipalities. The Ministry of Revenue has carried out a study on what the tax impact of a section 63 reassessment would be in Metropolitan Toronto. However, because of the political sensitivity of this issue and the apparent absence of consensus among various municipalities and various politicians at both municipal and provincial levels, the reassessment issue appears dormant at the present time.
The section 63 process, if adopted, would also allow municipalities to request that assessments be systematically adjusted to market value every four years. We admit, and my colleagues and I have gone on at some length to show it, that even were we to go the section 63 route, there would be great inequities without other changes to accompany it.
With regard to condominium and single-family assessments, I contend condominiums are unfairly assessed in relation to single-family homes. A contributing factor is probably associated with the volatile nature of the residential real estate market since 1980. Condominiums, in general, as compared to single-family homes, have probably lost value or appreciated more slowly than single-family dwellings. In addition, assessment experts admit that new construction, such as most condominiums are, is assessed at higher levels compared to older buildings. Since there has been no systematic residential reassessment in Metropolitan Toronto, I contend that condominiums have been unfairly assessed in comparison to single family homes.
Several recent Assessment Review Board and Ontario Municipal Board decisions have reduced condominium assessments in Toronto and Markham in relation to single-family assessments in the vicinity. Other similar cases, however, are currently under appeal before the courts. It would, therefore, appear to me that in addition to the remedies available through the assessment appeal process, there is currently no systematic approach being used to rectify the condominium/single-family inequities that may exist.
Even if an annual adjustment of assessment was made in such a review, unless improvements and selling prices were mechanically monitored, it would likely be a laborious process. In addition, the recent volatile market in real estate prices, often closely tied to interest rates, would probably never completely eliminate inequities in assessment among similar properties. Actual selling prices may also be a reflection of the purchaser's individual personal preferences and tastes, which would not necessarily have a bearing on the determination of the value for assessment purposes.
Even though the basic principle of property taxes is that they should be related to the market value, property owners would probably strongly resent a more direct adjustment of their taxes in relation to market value shifts or improvements. We admit these problems. But if annual property taxes were more directly related to values along the income tax model, an expanded enforcement bureaucracy would likely be required to police the system. Under such a system, people may be strongly tempted to disguise the true selling price of their properties.
We recognize these problems, but at the same time I think it is important that the minister and the rest of the House understand exactly what has happened in the ratio of condominiums to other forms of housing.
In an attempt to compare the assessment of market-value ratios of condominiums and single-family dwellings in the city of Toronto, I have placed before you tables A and B. These data are based upon a sample of luxury condominium units and single-family residences in prestigious neighbourhoods in the city of Toronto where sales occurred between 1980 and 1982.
These data demonstrate that condominiums on the average in the city of Toronto are assessed on an assessment to sales percentage of 5.9, while single family residences are assessed on an average of 3.9 per cent. This pattern would, therefore, appear to indicate that condominiums in general pay higher property taxes than single-family residences of similar value.
It would now be appropriate, having tabled with members the various tables, to mention the buildings we looked at. They were 33 Harbour Square, which is Toronto waterfront; 55 and 65 Harbour Square, which again is Toronto waterfront; 101 Bloor Street West; 1166 Bay Street; 61 St. Clair Avenue West and 63 St. Clair Avenue West.
The data in those tables were obtained from the computer data base of the city of Toronto planning and development departments, the city assessment roll and the Teela report -- Toronto Annual 1981-82. Teela realty sales review reports were also consulted in the comparison of these tables.
In Table B we deal with the Crescent Road area in Rosedale; Elm Avenue in Rosedale; Ardwold Gate, the Casa Loma condominium; Warren Road in Forest Hill; Forest Hill Road, which again is Forest Hill; Dunvegan Road in Forest Hill; and Dawlish in Lawrence Park. I have also tabled certain footnotes to table B, which will be included for reading in Hansard.
Again, the data in this table were obtained from the computer data base of the city of Toronto planning and development department, the city assessment rolls and the Teela report -- Toronto Annual 1981-82. Teela realty sales reviews were also consulted as in the previous table in compilation of these tables.
The pattern that exists in Toronto, where we are dealing primarily with luxury condos, also held true, and even more so, when we looked at the city of Etobicoke. In that city we did a study of various economic levels of condominiums as we can see from the tables I have placed before members.
The attached tabular data which Hansard now has, tables A, B1 and B2, appear to demonstrate the assessment to sales ratios for condominiums as compared to single-family dwellings in Etobicoke in general is higher. For 1982 the overall average single-family and duplex assessment to sales ratio was 5.46 with a neighbourhood range of 4.27 to 6.55 in table A.
For high-rise condo projects in Etobicoke, the range was 4.38 to 7.88. For town house condo projects, the range was 4.79 to 9.35. On this basis, condominiums of comparable value to single-family units are more likely to be paying higher property taxes.
That was another interesting finding in the study I did. It was a finding I did not expect. It was a hypothesis that might happen and, in fact, it turned out to be true, namely, that not only does the present tax assessment discriminate against condominiums in general as compared to single-family dwellings but also medium-income families living in mid-priced condominiums are discriminated against when compared with those living in luxury condominiums.
Since the 1975 base year, when, in accordance with subsection 65(2) of the Assessment Act, the assessment-to-sales ratio was set at nine per cent for both condos and singles, market shifts in the values of condominiums appear to have distorted this balance. Condominiums in Etobicoke and in particular projects have shown substantial year-to-year shifts in value. However, except through assessment appeals there has been no municipality-wide adjustment in condominium assessment. As indicated earlier, assessments across Metropolitan Toronto have been associated with the sensitive issue of comprehensive reassessment under section 63 of the Assessment Act.
In addition, the condo project sample data in tables B.1 and B.2, which I have tabled, appear to demonstrate that the lower and medium-priced condominium projects, such as 320 Dixon Road, which is a low-priced high-rise condominium with an average 1982 A/S ratio of 6.76; 714 and 716 The West Mall, which is a medium-priced high-rise condominium with an average 1982 A/S ratio of 7.5; 733 Tealham Drive, which is a medium-priced town house condominium with an average 1982 A/S ratio of 7.46; 6432-6466 --
Mr. Piché: Get down to the facts, because I don't understand what you said.
Mr. Philip: I am trying to give the facts. I know my friend does not have any condominiums in his riding, but he might be interested. The minister is interested.
Mr. Piché: What you need is an adding machine.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Philip: The minister has shown some interest, and I think he is trying to listen.
Mr. Piché: Talk about the Dash-7 and the Dash-8 and you will know what you are talking about.
Mr. Philip: If the member does not want to listen to me, at least he should listen to the minister. He is telling him to shut up.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Member for Cochrane North, I remind you that unless you are quiet, you will have to leave.
Mr. Piché: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: How come when a member on this side raises a couple of questions we have to leave? What about the other side, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party? They never have to leave.
Mr. Eakins: Throw him out.
Mr. Nixon: Bring back Cousens.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Piché: Every time I raise something, or members on this side do, we have to leave. You have never said that they have to leave.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Would the member please take his seat. I am sorry; this is the last caution.
Mr. Piché: I have to take strong exception to that, Mr. Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Fine. You have done that. Would you please take your seat.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, a considerable amount of work has gone into --
Mr. J. M. Johnson: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The member for Etobicoke requested that the House accept a part of his speech as being deemed to have been read into the record. I was wondering whether for the sake of expediency we could deem the rest of his speech to have been read into the record.
The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order. Would the member for Etobicoke continue.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order: I think it is too bad. If certain members realized the amount of work that went into preparing what I think is a rather valuable research document that documents the injustice of the Assessment Act towards condominium owners, and if certain Liberals and Conservatives then want to take it lightly, then frankly I say they are not insulting me and the amount of work I have done on this research; they are insulting condominium owners in this province.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order: Let us be fair about the whole thing. He asked to have this in the record if he got unanimous consent and he would speak for six minutes, or, as an alternative, he was going to take six hours to do it.
Mr. Di Santo: No, no.
Mr. Epp: That is exactly what he said and that is in Hansard.
To come back afterwards and say that we are being unfair to the condominium owners is a travesty of justice, because he is not being fair to the Legislature. I suggest that he withdraw that, because he is not being honest with the members of this Legislature.
The Deputy Speaker: I would say to the member for Waterloo North that --
The Deputy Speaker: Order. I say to all members, there has been enough discussion and debate about this previously, as it was dealt with from the chair.
Regarding the comments from the member for Waterloo North, until you know whether the member for Etobicoke was including or duplicating things that he asked permission to avoid by having them included in Hansard, I think we had best continue to hear his contribution to the debate.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the minister is paying attention and is not part of these rude interruptions.
As I was saying, 733 Tealham Drive, a medium-range town house condominium had an average 1982 A/S ratio of 7.46; 6432-6466 Finch Avenue West, which is a lower-mid-range town house condominium with an average 1982 A/S ratio of 7.36 had a higher A/S ratio than for selected complexes. Palace Pier, a luxury condominium at 2045 Lakeshore Boulevard West, had a 1982 A/S ratio of 5.13; 71-73 Old Mill Road, another luxury building, had a 1982 A/S ratio of 5.63; and 1387-1399 Royal York Road, a luxury condominium complex, had a 1982 A/S ratio of 5.25.
These statistics, in addition to the apparent condominium single family inequity, appear to demonstrate that there are inequities among various types of condominiums. Some luxury projects are less heavily assessed than some moderately priced projects and may, therefore, be regarded as paying less than their fair property tax load, in comparison.
The reason for these condominium-to- condominium inequities appears to be that assessments, except on appeal, have been frozen while some condominiums have appreciated or depreciated in sales value since their assessments were initially established, and the A/S ratios have changed accordingly.
I suggest to the minister that one possible remedy to the condominium assessment inequities, which I have just discussed and which I have documented with ample pages of tables and research that I do not think he would dispute, might be to amend the Assessment Act to allow a systematic adjustment to condominium assessments, presumably with the consent of the local municipality, back to the standardized base year, or adjusted each year, or possibly for a certain base year, for example 1980, and the readjustment at set, four- to five-year intervals.
A systematic readjustment formula would ensure that high assessments are reduced and low assessments are increased. With the present appeal system, it is most likely that only high assessments are appealed which, if successful, adversely affect on a random basis a municipality's budgeting process. A systematic readjustment of condominiums would also add equity to a property tax assessment based on market value.
Some nominal variation in the assessment-to-sale ratios might even be accepted, but differences above a certain amount would be adjusted. Each regional assessment office receives data on building permits and affidavits of property sales so that an annual tracking of individual and overall market value trends and the A/S ratios should be feasible. Again, I have tabled these various tables with notes.
I appeal once again to the minister. We have a very serious problem in that condominiums are being overtaxed and overassessed. I have traced the historical reasons for this. In the research I have tabled with the House, I have clearly indicated not only that condominiums are overassessed but also that within condominiums, those that are moderately priced and occupied by moderate-income families are being assessed more severely than those in the luxury class and presumably, therefore, occupied by more affluent members of society.
Having presented these facts in a nonprovocative way and having presented them purely as research findings, which I have been able to obtain with considerable labour and considerable effort, I hope the minister will have his researchers and various people look at the problems I have posed. I certainly want to thank those people who have put considerable time and effort into collecting the data and into testing the theories that many of us who have been involved with the Canadian Condominium Institute and with various other bodies in the condominium field have always hypothesized but that we have never known for certain.
We had hoped that before this bill came out, and indeed before the third annual convention of the Canadian Condominium Association, we would also have been able to do Ottawa. Unfortunately, time did not permit. I suggest to the minister that he can use the same research procedures I have used. From some preliminary explorations we have done in Ottawa, I suggest the pattern will hold true in that city. Since he has more staff than I have at my disposal, I hope he will consider doing Ottawa or some other city as well.
I hope my findings will be of assistance to the minister. Perhaps after he and his staff have had an opportunity to examine them, he might like to comment either during the debate on this bill or to me by letter within the next couple of weeks.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank you for the unanimous consent of the House to table what I think is an important research project.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Sudbury East.
Mr. Piché: Make it short, Elie.
Mr. Martel: Why does my friend not speak and I will rest for a while? If he does not want to, then I will speak and he can rest. One of us should speak --
The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Sudbury East will please direct himself to the debate.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, I will defer to the member for Cochrane North, should he want to speak.
It is interesting -- I make my comments to the minister -- that during the summer months six residents of a township I represent came to my office and brought me some assessment sheets they had from the school system. They tried to figure them out, and they went to one of the local assessment officers from the ministry, who suggested that rather than him explaining, they should come and see me and I would explain.
I should preface my remarks, by the way, Mr. Speaker, by asking whether you recall John Robarts in 1967. He was ticking them off: market value assessment -- done; all these things -- done; and that was in 1967. If any of the members should go to Carman's, they will see a picture of John checking them off. Here we are in 1983 and that "done" seems to be undone. We have had 16 years at least of modification, improvement, market-value assessment, and there is a mess out there.
These residents came to me after the ministry official suggested they come to see me instead of him trying to explain the situation. Let me explain it very briefly. They live in a township called Hendrie township. The very next township is Burwash township. The taxes in Hendrie -- they are not paid; let me be clear about it -- are three to four times more per household for educational tax based on the type of assessment that is there than in Burwash. It is three to four times for each house.
I wrote to the new minister. I thought he would be interested in this. I know how aggressively he pursued matters when he was the whip and the acting government House leader. I thought we would give him an opportunity on this first occasion to get with it and clear this up after all these many years. I wrote him a lengthy letter and at the same time I wrote to the school board.
I asked, could he tell the residents what these forms mean? I must say, I asked the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton) tonight to explain it to me, because he has some experience. I do not know how residents are supposed to understand the sheet; so I asked whether the minister or some of his staff would explain it to me.
Let me give a few examples. In Allen township, the residential assessment is $78,000, non-residents $14,000, the levy is four and the mill rate is 52 and 61. One goes to the next township down and one gets mill rates that are six mills. One goes down to the next one and it is 80 mills. We are supposed to explain the logic behind this government's assessment when it does that.
The minister did not tell me what it was all about. He did not explain it, nor did any of his staff. They gave me some gobbledegook. The first answer I got was from the school board when I put the same proposition to it.
This is what the school board said: "Thank you for your letter dated August 15. We are aware that the present apportionment system under which we must distribute our levy does result in some inequities." "Some" is understating it; it is three to four times as much. "This is presently under review by the province" -- not by the board --
The Deputy Speaker: Excuse me for a moment, if I may. There is a level of discussion taking place. May we have a little order, please. The minister is having difficulty hearing the member for Sudbury East.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, thank you for your assistance.
"This is presently under review by the province." There is no explanation by the way of what their sheet means so I can tell my constituents what it is all about, none from the minister and none from the school board.
The school board goes on: "We are also examining the feasibility of having a reassessment of all unorganized areas under the jurisdiction of the board in order to put all assessments on the same basis."
That is a nice-sounding letter, but I asked the board, as I asked the minister, to explain for me what the sheets meant and when we were going to get to a type of assessment that would get rid of this inequity where people in one township are paying $75 and if one just goes across the township line they are paying $350.
I am still waiting. I got an interesting letter today from the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson), because the Minister of Revenue sent it on to the Minister of Education. She said: "I note that you are aware there cannot be identical or similar mill rates where assessment bases vary widely from one municipality to another. For example, the information that the ministry has used since assessment was frozen in 1970" -- they are going to study it. It was frozen in 1970. The inequity has been there all these years and when one writes 13 years later, they are going to study it. Magnificent.
Let me go on: "For example, the information the ministry has used since assessment was frozen in 1970 indicates that the basis of assessment in Hendrie township differs from that in Burwash by just under 14 times." Try to tell residents how that comes about, how people who built a home, one across from the other and they happen to be in different townships, roughly the same size --
Mr. Martel: I am speaking on behalf of the member for Cochrane North. This is about northern Ontario and the unorganized townships, and he has many of them.
There is an assessment that is 14 times greater in one township than another. I do not know much about tax, but I know that if it is 14 times greater when trying to equalize it there will be a different mill rate. Trying to tell residents why it is that despite all of that they are paying four and five times as much as their neighbour across the road for a similar type of house does not work.
The ministry staff suggest these people come to them to review it. The board of education refuses to put anything in writing except to say, "It is being reviewed by the province." The Minister of Education says, "Yes, in Hendrie township compared to Burwash township, it is 14 times greater;" and then she goes on to say, "On the matter of using data more current than 1970, the advisory committee on financing elementary and secondary education has been given the task of developing and examining proposals for alternative methods of funding education."
I try to get the minister's attention. Where does that leave me? The minister has not told me what the sheet means. He has not told me how he is going to make it more equal. It should not be three or four times as much. The Sudbury Board of Education chooses not to explain any of it so that I can tell the people who pay taxes towards that board just what the hell all of this junk means. The Minister of Education tells me the difference between one township and another is 14 times greater, and I am supposed to somehow write my constituents, the six who have approached me with respect to their problems, and give them some type of answer.
Does the minister know what the problem is? The government does not even understand it. It is ad hockery at its best. The government has been going to change it. I recall during the 1967 election that one of John Robarts's promises was that we were going to have market-value assessment in this province and it was going to be great. Here we are in 1983 with a couple of Mickey Mouse amendments and the problem does not go away.
We ask for explanations. All of the experts do not even try to answer the problem. Everybody blames everyone else. For the people we are trying to assist, to give them some idea of why their taxes are four or five times as much as their neighbour across the road, we cannot even get the information out of the government in order to provide answers to the people we represent.
It is an indication of what a sad and sorry mess we have. I am not sure what it is, although I have some idea, that prevents this government from getting serious about these problems. Of two houses of equal size in the area I am talking about, one pays $385 in taxes. They do not have roads. One guy has this type of assessment. He lives on an island. He has no lights, no road; he gets to his home by boat. He has a tax of $365. His neighbour, who lives on land but in another township, pays $78 tax. Tell him, and perhaps the minister could tell me in the process, why it is that this is allowed to continue.
I see the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie) trying to help the minister, and he certainly needs help. I am not criticizing the minister's capacity, but I am referring to the mess he has to clean up. I have to make the point that the minister has an awful mess to clean up. Surely, the government has to get serious about cleaning up that mess because there is simply no equality in those unorganized townships across northern Ontario. There is a different assessment for each township. There are none the same; absolutely none. It is just a hotchpotch.
Before this debate is finished, I would like to hear from this minister just what it is he intends to do, first, to answer my queries in this letter so I can write to these people in the way I phrased it and not some innocuous answer that avoids the issue in telling me it is the school board, because they do not tell me either; second, I want the minister to clean up the hotchpotch. When he attempts to do that, of course, he is going to have to bring in some new legislation.
I want to see if this minister is going to bring in the type of legislation which is going to make it more equitable to those people paying taxes in this province.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of questions raised tonight. One is why the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh), when he rose to speak to this bill, announced that he would be opposing the bill.
I think the speeches that have been made this evening by my colleagues and the problems that have been set out and the perceptions, both by the public and by members of this Legislature, clearly show why we are opposing this bill. We are opposing it not so much because there are some specific aspects of the bill which we are not happy with; we are opposing it more because of the inaction it represents than its specific content.
I noticed earlier this evening, although I think he has left now, that the former Minister of Revenue twice removed, Mr. Lorne Maeck, was in the members' gallery. I would just like to say that while that good gentleman was the minister -- and I do not want these comments to reflect on the new minister; we are prepared to give him a chance to perform in his role -- while the Honourable Lorne Maeck was the Minister of Revenue we had some reasonable dialogue going on between the opposition parties and the government on the question of property taxation in Ontario. Some reasonable dialogue and some useful changes took place in consultation as opposed to political confrontation in this House.
I cannot say the same for the immediate predecessor to the present minister, the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe), who was not quite so helpful or so receptive in sitting down and helping to work out some of these problems that face taxpayers across this province.
I think it is very apparent from the speeches that have been made here tonight, both by my colleagues in the Liberal Party and by the numbers of my colleagues from the New Democratic Party who have spoken, that the major problem that confronts us with this bill is the fact that we are still tinkering with a system that needs a total package of reform, not only for assessment but the whole realm of property taxation and municipal finance in this province.
A number of my colleagues have mentioned it is now 15, 16, or 17 years -- it is actually 16 years -- since the discussions on property tax reform in this province began and we are very little further ahead than we were 16 years ago.
The province's program under the Assessment Act, a program which is referred to very clearly in this bill we have before us here tonight in section 4 of the bill, the program under section 63 of the act, the equalization program, is a program which, as an equalization program will deal with --
Mr. Speaker: I direct the honourable member's attention to the clock.
Mr. Charlton: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I noticed the time has reached 10:30 and, if I might, I will adjourn the debate. I would like to resume my comments when next we deal with this bill.
On motion by Mr. Charlton, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 10:30 p.m.