The House met at 2 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker: Before proceeding, I would ask all members of the Legislative Assembly to join me in recognizing and welcoming in the Speaker's gallery and the public galleries members of the regional council of Puy-de-Dôme, France, who are visiting the Ontario Legislature today to discuss and exchange information with respect to opportunities in the industrial and agricultural sectors and the operation of regional and municipal governments in Ontario.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
PUBLIC LIBRARIES BILL
Hon. Ms. Fish: Mr. Speaker, today it is my privilege to introduce amendments to the Public Libraries Act.
Hon. Ms. Fish: Hang on just a minute. Copies? I think they are probably coming. I will pause a moment until we make certain.
Ontario's first public library was opened in Niagara-on-the-Lake in June 1800. Legislation enabling municipalities to establish free library services was passed in 1882. Today 880 libraries circulate more than 60 million items annually. These legislative changes are designed to respect and maintain the proud traditions of a first-class library system.
The local public library is a familiar and welcome sight in municipalities across this province. For some, our libraries are portals to the world; for others, they are a peaceful retreat. They help us expand our knowledge, appreciate an author's vision or simply be entertained. Public libraries help us to explore our own traditions and to understand and share the traditions of others. They serve people of all ages, incomes, backgrounds, languages and education.
The Ontario public library program review, headed by Mr. Peter Bassnett, chief librarian of the Scarborough Public Library, was initiated in 1980. I might add that Mr. Bassnett, along with several colleagues, is with us in the gallery today. That review included 150 meetings held in 50 communities across our province, the presentation of some 360 briefs from interested groups and individuals, and 15 issue-oriented task group reports. Mr. Bassnett's report was followed by draft proposals in a consultation paper to which more than 350 responses were received.
I have continued this dialogue in preparing this legislation. I believe the result is a solid framework that meets today's needs while providing support and scope for future development. Those libraries are most successful that have their roots planted strongly in the community.
This legislation strengthens and expands the principles of free and open access and community control. It recognizes the desirability of co-ordination with school libraries and facilitates the exercise of municipal fiscal responsibility. The legislation encourages co-operation among library boards while ensuring that participation in county-wide systems is voluntary.
French-language services have been strengthened. Complementary ministry initiatives are now in place to assist local boards to respond to changes in the population mix of their communities. The provincial library service has been streamlined and local representation on all boards expanded.
These amendments will ensure the people of Ontario will continue to have one of the best public library systems to be found anywhere.
TEACHING HEALTH UNITS
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, for the past several years it has been a priority of the Ministry of Health to strengthen Ontario's public health system for an expanded role in preventive and community medicine. Today I wish to share with the House the details of a plan to formalize teaching and research within the public health sector through the introduction of teaching health units.
Affiliated with one of the five health sciences centres, a teaching health unit will serve as the public health counterpart of the teaching hospital. Teaching health units will become centres of excellence in public health service, teaching and research.
I stress that the teaching health unit is not a mechanism for expanding the manpower supply for public health. Rather, the focus will be on the quality of the educational experience. This new model will rationalize the current assortment of programs that provide practical training in public health and will enhance our teaching and research capability in this important health care area.
Through cross-appointments, teaching health units will promote a more positive interaction between professionals from the university setting and those in the field. I am confident this arrangement will create role models for future generations of public health professionals.
Teaching health units will also provide a greater exposure to public health concepts and techniques for undergraduate students who are planning careers in health care or health-related services. Through the program, we hope to instill a community health orientation in young physicians, nurses and other practitioners, and to embed preventive attitudes throughout the health care system.
The ministry will proceed immediately to implement a three-year developmental plan for the formal introduction of teaching health units. The health sciences centres and the associated health units in Ottawa and Hamilton have completed their initial planning and will now begin pilot projects. Initially, the two health units that will be participating in the program are Ottawa-Carleton and Hamilton-Wentworth.
Reflecting the ministry's commitment to strengthen French-language health services in Ontario, the Ottawa teaching health unit will become a bilingual centre for the training of public health personnel. With the public health field gaining in importance, the expansion of French-language services in preventive health care and health promotion is one of the priorities we have established for this program.
Since this is an innovative concept, we will proceed in a deliberate, step-by-step fashion. The progress of this initiative will be monitored by each teaching health unit itself, by an internal ministry advisory committee and by a collaborative evaluation group composed of representatives from the teaching health units, the ministry and outside public health specialists. Towards the end of the developmental stage, the evaluation group will prepare recommendations concerning our future needs and requirements.
The ministry will provide 100 per cent of the funding for the new teaching health units and we are allocating funds in the range of $500,000 to $600,000 for the first year of the developmental plan.
We believe teaching health units will improve the image and substance of public health by reinforcing the teaching and research base for the practice of community medicine. We fully expect that our investment will pay dividends through a higher level of community health across Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, violence against women and children in the home is probably one of the most serious social problems we face today. I have made this statement in the House before, but am going to say it again. The elimination of family violence in Ontario is the top priority of the government of Ontario and the Ministry of Community and Social Services in particular.
It is a fight we are currently waging on a number of fronts. On April 16 last, I outlined the range of activities in which my ministry is involved to counteract family violence. These include expanding transition homes and setting up family resource centres in the north, improving the funding for transition homes, prevention and education, and professional training.
I believe my ministry and the many people we work with, including other ministries of the government of Ontario, social service agencies, professionals and municipalities, have good reason to be proud of what we have achieved so far in identifying and taking action against this type of violence. At the same time, we have pledged to continue to expand our activities and develop new strategies to ensure that the victims of this violence receive the protection and support they so desperately need.
In his budget speech on Tuesday, May 15, the Treasurer of Ontario (Mr. Grossman) referred to a series of new initiatives being introduced by the government of Ontario to protect and assist battered women and their children. I would like to take this opportunity to outline some of the details of these new initiatives.
In total, they represent an additional spending of $3.5 million in 1984-85 and on an ongoing basis. This increases our spending for services for battered women and their children to over $10 million this fiscal year, $6.7 million of which is new funding.
Through these new initiatives I am announcing today, we will be attacking the problem from two different directions: First, we will be expanding our provincial shelter system for battered women and their children; second, we will be introducing new emergency assistance and prevention services.
Let me be more specific. I will start with the initiatives aimed at expanding our shelter system.
We expect to expand the current network of 57 shelters, including the existing transition houses and the family resource centres now under development in the north, by an additional 12 new facilities for battered women and their children. My ministry will provide operating funds, under our new improved funding formula announced in February, for six new transition houses with a total of approximately 110 beds in municipalities where local groups are already involved in planning shelters. Our aim is to provide funding to help these groups put those plans into effect.
Also under our improved funding formula, we will be providing operating funds for four new eight-bed to 10-bed family resource centres for women in crisis and their children, to be established in small municipalities where a need has been identified.
Furthermore, negotiations are now under way to develop two church-operated shelters for immigrant women in Toronto's ethnic communities.
For all of these 12 new residential services, we will be providing some assistance with startup expenses. These startup funds will help the service providers to cover a wide variety of costs, including renovations, equipment and staff salaries, during the initial months.
Finally, we will be providing funding for the establishment of a network of safe homes in rural areas across the province. "Safe home" is a term used to describe a private family residence that is used to provide emergency shelter to battered women and their children on a short-term basis. Working with the municipalities, we intend to develop service models that will be appropriate to their local needs. My ministry, in co-operation with the municipalities, will provide financial support for the families who agree to open their homes on an emergency basis to women and children who need a safe place to stay in a hurry.
These safe homes will have links to the nearest social service providers. Where feasible, our plan is to provide funding for outreach workers from these organizations to give crisis counselling and other assistance to women who seek shelter in nearby safe homes. By the way, this is in keeping with the growing trend for organizations and facilities interested in this most difficult problem to expand their traditional approach to service delivery by providing community outreach assistance.
Those, then, are the residential initiatives we plan to introduce. At the same time, we will be funding a number of types of non-residential emergency assistance and prevention services to assist battered women.
First, we will be providing funds for four pilot projects to develop crisis telephone services that will provide emergency information for battered women looking for help. Our plan is to give funds to existing social agencies to enable them to establish 24-hour local or area telephone crisis services. This will permit us to evaluate the effectiveness of this type of service in one large urban centre and two rural municipalities in the south, and also in one northern Ontario community.
At the same time, my ministry, together with the Ontario women's directorate under the Deputy Premier (Mr. Welch), will be enhancing our efforts in the areas of prevention, education and public awareness. As part of these efforts, we will be continuing the development of our film library. This library currently lends, free of charge, films on the subject of wife assault to professionals and to concerned non-professionals.
We will also be developing various training materials, including two prevention kits, one for the general public and the other for professional people, and we will be continuing to offer training sessions to professional people in the community and to the staff of the transition homes. The emphasis here is on improving the skills of people whose work brings them into contact with family violence situations.
In the area of public awareness, to augment the work of the Ontario women's directorate we will be developing pamphlets and brochures in other languages for new Canadians as well as providing information to native women in their own language. Under the initiatives I am announcing today we will be providing additional funds to continue all these projects.
I believe the initiatives I am announcing today demonstrate the ministry's deep concern about this important social problem and our determination to work towards eliminating the problem of domestic violence in Ontario. Let me assure all members once again that we will in no way decrease those efforts until the daily lives of all women and children in this province are freed from the pain and tragedy of violence in the home.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health regarding his policy on the funding, both operating and capital, of hospital care in this province, because there is a considerable amount of ambiguity. He will no doubt be aware that during discussions he has had in the House he was not prepared to commit himself on the subject.
I refer the minister to Hospital Highlights, the last edition, in which Randy Reid, the executive director of the ministry's institutional division, explains: "Hospitals certainly have to avoid thinking that we will be able to automatically kick in with two thirds. Those days are long gone.... It's a modest change in policy, I suppose...."
I want to give the minister this opportunity to clear up the policy. What is his policy with respect to the capital funding of hospitals, recognizing, as I am sure he is aware, that the Ontario Hospital Association predicts that the shortfall in capital funding alone over the next 10 years will be some $4.5 billion; recognizing that Metro Toronto alone needs $150 million this year in capital upgrading, and recognizing that the minister has put phenomenal pressure on hospitals to turn to charity to fund their operating costs? What is his policy, when did he back off and why did he back off?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, as I have explained in the House before in response to either questions from the honourable leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition or those of other members opposite, there has been no official change in the policy with respect to funding the capital cost of hospitals.
Mr. Bradley: What about an unofficial change?
Hon. Mr. Norton: No, I have explained precisely what has occurred. Everyone is aware of the fact that generally in our society we are faced with the effects of the recent experience of the economic circumstances in our economy; and even though we are in a period of recovery, it would appear it has not yet impacted directly upon revenues. As a result, we have had to live with the reality that less money is available for capital programs than we might describe as optimal.
Given this situation, we have clearly had to make some very tough priority decisions. We have not been experiencing major cutbacks in capital funding, but we have been facing a situation in which obviously the requests that are coming in from hospitals across the province have exceeded the available resources. Certainly in some cases one might say we have departed from the official policy in that we have said to hospitals, "If you have more than the normal share of the capital so you might be able to proceed more quickly with your project, then obviously we would consider you before others who require the full two thirds," if that was the funding share we were looking at.
Mr. Bradley: You have got money for the ads.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Those are very inexpensive ads.
Mr. Bradley: Self-congratulatory ads. That is what you are spending your money on.
Hon. Mr. Norton: No, not at all. We do believe the public is entitled to know what this government is doing and we are very open about that. From time to time it is necessary for us to rely upon the media to communicate it because we cannot always be sure the members are going to do it objectively.
Mr. Bradley: Is the minister saying the news people are not doing their jobs properly?
The Deputy Speaker: Order. The minister is just wrapping up his reply.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Yes, as a matter of fact I am, Mr. Speaker.
To summarize, there is no official change in policy, but on a purely pragmatic basis, in some instances where hospitals are able to provide more than the normal share of capital, it has meant they have been able to move ahead before others.
Mr. Peterson: The minister said there is no official change in policy in spite of the fact Mr. Randy Reid says there is a change in policy. What the minister is saying is the better-off communities will go ahead because they have more money, and the less well-off communities will suffer because they cannot come up with their share of capital funding.
How does the minister explain what Dan Drown, the executive director of the Hospital Council of Metropolitan Toronto, said? He said the government does not have a stated policy on capital funding. There are clearly indicated restrictions on the kind of new approach hospitals can take.
The reality is that no one except perhaps the minister, and I have no understanding that even that is the case, understands what is going on in his ministry. Would he not agree with me that it is discriminatory to favour the better-off communities and not help the ones that really need help, such as Nipigon? There are many more. Would he not take it upon his shoulders to enunciate clearly a policy with respect to hospital funding when there is such a chronic need in this province?
Hon. Mr. Norton: First of all. Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the member would define better-off communities. If he cites communities in northern Ontario, then I would recognize that in some instances they may have less of a base than others to draw upon for capital fund-raising.
He also ought to look at the programs we do have in place, not only involving my ministry but also involving the Ministry of Northern Affairs, where special assistance is provided to northern communities to enable them to provide the kind of health care services that will enable them to bring their standards up to an appropriate level for their communities.
With respect to southern Ontario, again the member has to be more specific in discussing this with me as to how he describes the better-off communities. I do not mean to single out one community, but I think it is noteworthy that the community of Owen Sound has managed to raise something in excess of $12 million for its present hospital construction program.
It is not a large community. It may be more prosperous than some, but I think it is an outstanding achievement. It shows a very real commitment on the part of the people of Owen Sound and the surrounding community in that they were prepared to make that kind of commitment to the capital construction program of their hospital facilities.
Mr. Martel: Come on; seven and a half minutes.
Mr. Wrye: This is not a filibuster.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Listen, if the member wants to ask me questions relating to policy on capital funding, the members should permit him to do so. They should also permit me to answer the questions.
With respect to Metropolitan Toronto, one has just to look at the total amount of capital being raised in the community generally. It is fine for Metropolitan Toronto to say it is running into some difficulty with raising its share of the capital costs for new direct care and health care facilities, but at the same time it is able to raise many millions of dollars for non-direct-care facilities, such as major research centres, that are not part of the programs in which we share costs at all. It has to reassess its priorities with respect to capital fund-raising.
I am in the process of having a review conducted of the whole issue of capital funding. There has been no change in policy to date. There might be a change in policy at the conclusion of that review, which is just now getting under way. I am doing so because of the concern I have that if the present situation should continue indefinitely, then I want to have some clear options set out for the hospitals.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, it is with some trepidation that I ask a very simple question. Since the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope) has spent so much time talking about the hospital in Timmins, can the Minister of Health say specifically if his ministry approved the construction of a new hospital there? How much funding is the ministry going to kick in on a percentage basis?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I believe there has been an outstanding commitment from the ministry, going back even prior to my incumbency, with respect to hospital facilities in Timmins. As of yet we have not approved any specific project for the replacement of those facilities. A proposal has been made and discussions are to take place between staff in the ministry and representatives of the board in Timmins with respect to the most effective way in which to meet their needs. I am not sure whether the discussions have taken place yet. Whatever is decided will not necessarily meet all their expectations. Nevertheless, there has been no approval of a specific proposal yet.
Ms. Copps: Is that the appointed board of the member for Cochrane South (Mr. Pope)?
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Of course, I would not be in a position to talk about the quantum of dollars until I know what the details of the project are.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that a crisis is developing everywhere in this province?
Mr. Peterson: Yes, there is.
It is not just on the capital side but on the operating side as well. The minister will recall that a year or so ago his predecessor, the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman), had to put another $110 million into the hospitals to cover operating deficits.
Is the minister now aware that the Ontario Hospital Association is projecting for this year a further $60 million in operating deficits? This is after his ministry had said there would be no more deficits. How is the minister going to fund those operating deficits that have developed during the last year right under his nose?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, the $110 million that was provided, I believe in the early part of 1982, was to increase the base budgets of hospitals. It introduced clearly, once and for all, the policy that there would be no funding of deficits. That policy still remains, and I intend to adhere to it strictly.
We do have a formula for those hospitals that experience uncontrolled growth in work load or a significant growth in life support costs. That formula assists them with the increased cost, which otherwise would be a deficit. For unapproved expenditures and unapproved additions to staff, any expenditures that are undertaken by hospitals that are not substantiated by either work load or growth in life support requirements, the deficits will not be funded.
We have been providing assistance to those hospitals by way of management advice. In a few cases we have had to put inspectors into those hospitals and we will continue to do so. It is amazing how, once there is an inspector in some of those hospitals, they are able to bring their budgets into line without cutting service.
Mr. Peterson: The Minister of the Environment (Mr. Brandt) was right here in front of my eyes and he has disappeared. Where could he possibly be? Could we shout at him? Perhaps he will hear us.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, I could get up on a point of order if you like.
Ms. Copps: I have a point of order.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague has a point of order.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, I have a point of privilege, actually. It relates to --
Mr. Rae: Oh?
Mr. McClellan: Stop the clock, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Copps: Excuse me, I have a point of privilege. I think those people would be the first to say it has to be heard before it can be determined not to be a point of privilege. This is a very serious matter for the city of Hamilton. It deals with the paramedics program and an announcement that was made by the Minister of Health in this House that Hamilton would be one of the test centres for the paramedics program.
The minister will no doubt be aware there was a newspaper article last weekend which suggested that if the workers were not prepared to --
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Will the member please take her seat for a moment.
Ms. Copps: In fact, Mr. Speaker --
The Deputy Speaker: Just a moment, with all due respect, it is not a question of privilege. We have confusion about what is a point of order and what is a question of privilege. A question of privilege, as members ought to know, relates to matters of privilege where it impinges upon those privileges we as a collective group hold by being in this place.
Mr. Martel: We are now down to 15 minutes and we have had one question. We are going great.
The Deputy Speaker: Now I did hear the member. Does the Minister of Health want to make a brief comment? It is not a question. The question can come up in question period.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, on the basis of what I have heard, it seems to me the member was implying I might have been other than fully open with the House. I want to make it clear I am here and willing and able to respond to that matter in the form of a question. If she would like to hear the truth, she should ask the question.
Mr. Martel: If it is not a question of privilege, why is the minister answering it?
The Deputy Speaker: We will deal with this in question period. The minister will take his seat.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, if it is not a question of privilege, why are you recognizing him, for God's sake?
The Deputy Speaker: It was on a question of privilege, and it turned out not to be a question. We will add a moment on to the question period to take care of that. We will proceed now with the second question from the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Martel: It was not even a point of privilege and you know it. Why recognize an answer then?
The Deputy Speaker: Just on a point of clarification to the member for Sudbury East, as in the case where I dealt with your caucus, I wanted to hear whether it was a point of privilege.
Mr. Martel: And it was not. You do not recognize an answer then.
The Deputy Speaker: Then I listened to the Minister of Health because he claimed to have a point of privilege. Neither had one.
Mr. Peterson: I will stand down my question until the Minister of the Environment returns, if I may.
The Deputy Speaker: Do we have agreement?
Ms. Copps: Yes.
VICTORIA RETIREMENT HOME
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health concerning the coroner's inquest last week on tragic events that took place at the Victoria Retirement Home in the town of Ayr. A Mr. Bannerman, aged 75, died on September 28, 1983, at approximately 9:30 a.m. Is the minister aware that at this retirement home Mr. Bannerman lost about 115 pounds in eight months? At the end of the coroner's inquest it was determined that the cause of death was bronchial pneumonia, and the coroner's jury decided it was caused by self-inflicted starvation.
One of the chief recommendations coming out of the coroner's jury from the tragic death of Mr. Bannerman was that there needed to be standards clearly established for those in rest homes and retirement homes in the province and that there needed to be enforcement of those standards. There needed to be a checkup on people and some way of ensuring that the health of people was being maintained.
How many deaths and how many mishaps is it going to take in privately run rest homes and retirements homes in this province before the ministry finally recognizes that there need to be province-wide standards and regulations to ensure that tragedies of this kind never occur again?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, the form in which the question was presented surely does not invite a serious, specific response to it. I know what the member is driving at. I am not familiar with the specific case he raises. I shall see if it is possible for me to obtain a copy of the coroner's report. As the member is aware, my ministry does not have jurisdiction over retirement homes or rest homes --
Mr. Rae: That is the problem.
Hon. Mr. Norton: -- therefore, it might not have been brought to my attention. We have discussed this matter in estimates and in this House on a number of occasions. We certainly recommend that standards be enforced in a variety of ways, such as by the municipal level of government. If there are concerns with respect to the health care aspect of individuals in those homes, then we would be pleased to have the medical officer of health, for example, have a look at the situation.
However, on the basis of specific, isolated incidents I do not believe the only conclusion is that there ought to be a province-wide administrative procedure established for the regulation of homes that people may privately choose to live in.
Mr. Rae: This home was listed in the phone book as a nursing home and the man's nephew, who put him there, thought it was a nursing home. Mr. Bannerman went into this home weighing 200 pounds and when he came out he weighed 85 pounds. The undertaker who saw the body said he had never in all his experience seen a body in that condition.
I would like to ask the minister how many deaths it is going to take before the government wakes up to the fact that there are thousands of people in private retirement homes and rest homes where there are no standards? Apart from municipal bylaws on fire and the odd inspection of that kind, there are no basic standards with respect to health or recreational activity. There is no checkup or enforcement carried out on a province-wide basis to ensure there are not other people in a similar condition in Ontario today.
Hon. Mr. Norton: That is basically the same question that was asked a moment ago. I would respond in basically the same way, although I would add that I will see if I can get a copy of the coroner's report, and I am sure I can.
I do not know what the cause of the weight loss might be. There are certainly many situations where persons have entered hospitals or nursing homes or a variety of other places and lost weight, not necessarily because of starvation, but because of declining health. I do not know what the condition of this gentleman's health was and I can only respond fully to the member's question when I have had an opportunity to look at the coroner's report.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health pointed out that it was not within his jurisdiction to implement regulations governing the rest homes of Ontario.
He will no doubt be aware that his colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Drea) was approached some time ago by the Rest Home Association of Ontario, seeking some province-wide regulation to weed out those rest homes and establishments that do not provide adequate service.
I wonder if he could impose upon his colleague and if they could put their collective heads together and develop a continuum of care in Ontario for the elderly and for those who are forced to live in nursing homes, rest homes and other homes in order to make sure they are all governed by province-wide regulation, which is important.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague heard the question. We get along very well. I would point out that we do not have collective heads; we have two separate heads.
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Speaker, when the minister is looking into this case, he might find that this gentleman lost 115 pounds, not over a short time but over eight months. He was medically neglected over that entire period by this rest home.
The Deputy Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Cooke: There will also be an inquest taking place in Chatham this week into a death at the Canadianna Retirement Home.
What is it going to take for the minister to come to the conclusion that municipalities do not have the authority, the power or the resources properly to regulate these facilities? While this government neglects its responsibility, people's health is being put at risk. When is the minister going to act to protect the thousands of people in rest homes in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I really do think the answer to that question is essentially the same as the answer to the two questions asked by the leader of the third party.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the newly returned Minister of the Environment. It concerns the announcement on Friday that five beaches in Toronto are going to remain closed for the foreseeable future. The information, for example, is that Humber River beach has 27 times the permissible concentration of faecal coliform in the water.
The city of York needs $90 million for sewage separation, East York needs about $35 million and our information is that Scarborough needs somewhat less. Outside Local 183 on Dupont Street, there are literally hundreds of people milling around every morning waiting for a job call. Does the minister not think it should be possible for the government of this province to put together those two ends of a problem and find a solution?
There are unemployed labourers in this province who are waiting for a chance to work. Kids and families are waiting for a chance to swim this summer and future summers. Does the minister not think he owes it to the people of Toronto to start right away with a major sewage separation program that will ensure that in the next decade we will not have thousands of children unable to swim in Lake Ontario because of the neglect and inactivity of this government?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member in response to a question last week, there is no jurisdiction anywhere in Canada that has a sewage separation program as advanced as Ontario's. Let us get that on the record first.
You allowed a series of questions, Mr. Speaker, and I will try to address all of them. A separation program as far upstream as some of the municipalities the member is talking about would have absolutely marginal impact on the quality of water at the Toronto beaches. The beach program we are working on in cooperation with Metro Toronto has effectively just got under way. We are reasonably satisfied with the results to date.
If the leader of the third party will recall, I made statements to the effect that I was not optimistic that all beaches would be open, but we are optimistic that we are on the right track with respect to improving the quality of recreational water at the Toronto waterfront, and we are moving towards finding some solutions to those problems.
In addition, we have a very extensive study ongoing at the moment with respect to the Humber and Don rivers in particular. We are trying to determine exactly where the point sources of those areas of pollution are. The member does not know, and I will not know until the study is completed, exactly where we should be expending our money in the most effective way possible.
Simply to throw money at the problem, which is constantly the solution of the third party, will not work. This side of the House, this party, this government are going to spend the money where it is most effective, where it will get the biggest bang for the buck and the most results for our efforts.
Mr. Rae: No one could ever accuse the minister of throwing money at the problem. He has cut his budget for project engineering by $9 million in the last budgetary year; since 1982-83 it has gone from $183 million down to $140 million. He is not throwing money at the problem. All he is throwing at it is his rhetoric in the Legislature of this province.
At the current pace it is going to take the city of York 45 years to complete the separation of sewage. I would like to ask the minister whether he is aware that, until the sewage separation is completed, every time it rains in the west end of Toronto it means raw sewage goes into the Humber River and Lake Ontario? What is he going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: I wish one could say the louder the rhetoric, the faster the solution. Obviously, whenever the leader of the third party asks a question he has to get the voice level up to the point where our hearing is impaired.
I have indicated to the leader of the third party on a number of occasions that our programs are not only effective but also the most advanced in Canada. He says $140 million is not adequate for our capital program for this year. I want to assure him that at no point have any of the municipalities that made applications to my ministry for funding in this current year been turned down because of lack of funding.
I have been provided with more than adequate funding by the Treasurer (Mr. Grossman). I do not yet know whether that will be the case through the full year. We are using the taxpayers' money judiciously, and the member should take a leaf from our book.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, given the need that everyone except perhaps the minister can see for major capital works in that area to solve the problem; given the ministry's measly, parsimonious contribution so far of some $3 million; given that the hot weather has not even started, five beaches are closed and the minister knows the disaster that lies ahead this summer -- even he can figure that out; given these visible problems right now, is he not getting tired of making that same silly speech all the time about how Ontario leads?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker. I do not have any difficulty at all. In fact, I never get tired of telling those people over there how Ontario leads, because it happens to be the truth, I am sorry. The reality is that the $3 million the Leader of the Opposition talks about as being so measly happens to be almost the self-same contribution as by his federal colleagues. After a great deal of coercion, I might add, on the part of this minister and this ministry, we were able to get about the same amount of money out of his partners in Ottawa. I would suggest to him it is not a measly contribution.
The amount of money involved, $3 million over two years, happens to be the exact amount of money requested by Metro Toronto as part of the beach cleanup program. They did not ask for any more and they did not receive any less. They received exactly what they requested.
We have a comprehensive plan that seems to be acceptable to the city of Toronto and Metro Toronto, which recognize the complexities of the problem. It is not as simple as the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party have suggested, that we go out and spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars cleaning up areas where we may not have a problem.
The scientific evidence to this point indicates that a great deal of the problem is associated with urban runoff, which is something no urban municipality anywhere in the world has controlled. That urban runoff cannot be controlled by separating sewers, by improving sewage treatment plants or by stopping industrial discharges, because it comes from the streets and other forms of contamination that are not controllable. We cannot simply spend more money and know we are immediately going to get an impact that is going to clean up the beach problem.
Mr. Rae: Let the record show the minister said in this House that sewage treatment will not solve the problem of material running into the sewers of the city of Toronto and Metro Toronto.
The Deputy Speaker: Question.
Mr. Rae: I would like to just say to the minister --
The Deputy Speaker: Do not say; ask a question.
Mr. Rae: -- that may be good for Paul Godfrey; he may have satisfied Paul Godfrey, but he has not satisfied the parents and kids in the city of Toronto, the city of York and the city of Etobicoke, who will not be able to swim this summer.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Will the member please put his question or take his seat.
Mr. Rae: Can the minister confirm that it will take 45 years for the city of York to complete its sewage separation program unless there is additional funding, unless there is a change in funding? Can he confirm that the problem of discharges into the Humber River and the Don River is at least part of the cause for the very real pollution that is going on at the Humber River outflow? Can he at least confirm those two facts?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Given the two questions again -- he always asks a series of them -- yes, I will confirm that part of the problem could very well be contamination coming from combined sewers. I cannot confirm the numbers with respect to the 45 years that are going to be required by a municipality to complete its separation program.
I can only tell the leader of the third party that while we are standing here arguing and discussing the merits of a separation program in this province, there are many jurisdictions in the world that would love to have the combined system that some of those municipalities have in place at present.
We are so far ahead of other jurisdictions that we are talking about the next level up, the next level of sophistication in terms of treatment. The reality is that it may take some years to complete that program; I make that admission. But until this time it has not been solely a provincial responsibility, as the leader of the third party knows; in fact, it has been specifically a municipal responsibility.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a new question for the Minister of the Environment, and I will give him an opportunity to make the same speech again.
My question concerns the Environmental Assessment Act. The minister will be aware that some years ago we brought that showpiece legislation into this province, and then it was systematically emasculated, as he knows, by the exemptions granted under section 29 of that act. He has even alienated the United Church of Canada in that regard. The minister will be aware that the United Church study said that something like 82 per cent of the applications were exempted by the ministry.
Subsequent to that, the government appointed the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee to advise him --
The Deputy Speaker: Will the member please ask his question?
Mr. Peterson: I want to bring the minister up to date on the history and let him practise his speech one more time.
The minister will be aware that, out of the seven or so cases in which decisions have been made, he has gone against the advice of the assessment advisory committee on two occasions; in fact, he has proceeded with Highways 403 and 407 in the parkway belt system and the Toronto Transit Commission Park Home subway station without environmental assessments.
Why, after appointing that committee to advise him, has the minister continued with his past bad habits to make a mockery of that legislation by exempting right underneath the act?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker, the Environmental Assessment Act was put in place by this government, and it is working effectively where it has application and is needed. The committee the Leader of the Opposition is referring to does advise the minister. As he is well aware, the minister is under no obligation to accept that advice; he takes it under consideration, along with staff reports and a myriad of information that is brought to the minister's attention, and he acts upon that information in determining whether an environmental assessment is required.
As the honourable member is well aware, the legislation is drafted in such a way as to cover all things that are involved in the act in the sense that nothing is left out unless it is exempted. Therefore, exemptions have to be granted for certain undertakings where there is no environmental threat and where there is no undertaking that is going to be at all hazardous or dangerous to the environment. In those instances we simply grant an exemption, and there is nothing inappropriate or incorrect about that. The legislation called for it, it anticipated it and we are following that legislation absolutely to the letter as laid down when it was originally passed.
Mr. Peterson: The minister put these matters to the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee and in two cases out of seven he rejected its advice and provided an exemption. What is the point of having that committee give him independent, objective, quality advice and then rejecting it? Why is he emasculating that committee, which the government appointed only under pressure and whose advice he is rejecting?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: The committee was not appointed under pressure, and for me to be out of step with the committee on two out of seven occasions is a reasonably good batting average. There are other considerations that a minister in any portfolio or any responsibility has to take into consideration when he is reviewing the advice of an outside committee.
If the member were to take a look at the opposite side of his argument, he might suggest that the minister should have no option whatever to overturn the decision or the recommendation of an advisory committee. That, in my view, would not be appropriate. The first thing we would hear from the members opposite us would be, "Why does the minister not take advantage of the opportunity to make a change in this situation?"
We are operating responsibly and we are using the legislation in an appropriate fashion.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister a question related to the first one with respect to the pollution of the beaches. The minister will be aware that one of the other causes of the pollution of the beaches, according to many experts, is the number of landfill sites that have been filled along the lake during the last dozen years in extending the harbourfront. These sites have affected the currents and therefore the outflow of certain sewage material.
Can the minister at least give us the assurance that any future lakefill projects will receive a full environmental assessment and that their impact on the quality of drinking and swimming water will be taken into account?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I cannot give the honourable member an absolute undertaking that in all instances there will be an environmental assessment. I share the same concerns he has raised with respect to the change in some of the currents caused by the infilling that has occurred. This is particularly applicable to the Leslie Street extension where that landfill has occurred and it has affected some of the currents. I am also concerned that it was an undertaking on the part of the federal government and was automatically exempt from an environmental assessment.
I cannot give the member an undertaking that all infilling that occurs in the future is necessarily going to come under the act. Not only do I agree it is a very good question but I have exactly the same concerns that he has. My staff is attempting to determine what the impact of some of that infilling is on both recreational and drinking water quality. I will be as sensitive about that point as the member apparently is in raising the question and I will give him that assurance.
Mr. Peterson: The minister will be aware that he has granted a temporary exemption to the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope) regarding the granting of rights to Ontario public land. He will be aware that the exemption -- presumably it is only temporary -- comes due at the end of this month.
Considering that blanket exemption involved literally thousands of activities on a very large percentage of the land in Ontario, may we have his assurance that he will not grant an extension of the exemption to the Minister of Natural Resources? Will he assure us that he, as Minister of the Environment, will keep control over the environment, look at it on a case-by-case basis and grant no more temporary or permanent exemptions to that ministry?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: The extension the Leader of the Opposition is referring to is something that I believe is coming up at the end of this month; I will review it at that time. I cannot give an undertaking now that I will automatically revert to a case-by-case review requiring a full environmental assessment. However, I will be most pleased to report back to the House on the reasons and the justifications for whatever I do.
I can assure the member that in the case of some of the undertakings he is discussing within the context of the Ministry of Natural Resources, there is no reason now to require a full environmental assessment. Where one is justified or required to protect the environment -- where there is even any hint of an environmental concern of any kind -- I will require an environmental assessment. I can give the member that assurance.
Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of the Environment. I am sure the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Baetz) and the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope) will be interested. I wish the Premier (Mr. Davis) were here, because this a pretty important question as it relates to the tourist industry in Ontario.
Is the minister aware of the promises made by Dr. Chant in the phase 3 interim report on Ontario waste management? I will read excerpts:
"To obtain and verify information, discussions will be held with local community groups, businesses and government officials." In another place, Dr. Chant suggested: "There would be a broader range of land use and socioeconomic factors when evaluating these lands." No such studies have taken place and no such cooperation has come about.
The Deputy Speaker: Question?
Mr. Kerrio: Is the minister aware that the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and the mayor of Niagara Falls, New York, had a press conference to tell all those who would listen that such a dialogue had not taken place? They wanted to make it known that there are people across this province who are very concerned about the disastrous consequences of selecting one of the world's major tourist attractions as a dump site for this part of North America.
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker, this undertaking of the Ontario Waste Management Corp. could hardly be called a dump site. It is probably the most advanced, sophisticated industrial waste treatment system being proposed anywhere in the industrialized world. The latest, most up-to-date technology is to be incorporated in that treatment plant and I suggest it is a little more than just a dump site.
Specifically on the question about the commitment of Dr. Chant, the member recognizes that it is an arm's-length crown corporation. However, I understand through discussions I have had with Dr. Chant that public meetings have been held in Niagara Falls and that there have been a number of discussions. In fact, I was in Niagara Falls and discussed the issue with a number of local people.
If the member is suggesting that adequate discussions have not been held, forgetting for the moment and leaving aside the merits of the location of the facility, I would be more than happy during the next discussions I have with Dr. Chant to pass on the member's concerns with respect to a full and complete airing of the issue with the local residents, including the municipalities.
Mr. Bradley: That is not what Bill Smeaton says.
Hon. Mr. Brandt: I heard the comments of the mayor of Niagara Falls and I cannot share all his concerns.
As the member for Niagara Falls (Mr. Kerrio) knows, I happen to have in my riding at the present time an industrial waste treatment plant that treats something in the order of 30 per cent of all the industrial waste generated in Ontario. I can tell him that it is not nearly as sophisticated as the plant being proposed by the Ontario Waste Management Corp.
I think we should go a little in the direction of trying to ease the concerns of some of the residents of our respective areas, because I think the member would agree that if the question was asked, "Do we require a treatment plant of this kind in Ontario?" there would be a unanimous voice over there saying. 'Yes, we do."
The moment we try to find a site for a plant in any riding, irrespective of the appropriateness of the riding, we immediately get a political reaction, which I can justify and understand to a certain extent, but the reality is that this government and this ministry have a responsibility to find a site for that plant, and we are going to do so in the most proper, responsible way possible.
Mr. Kerrio: Perhaps I can read one paragraph by D. Gordon Paul, president of the Niagara Falls, Canada, Visitor and Convention Bureau:
"You know, had Dr. Chant spoken with the tourist industry before making his short list, he would have known the facts. Instead, he dropped the bomb first and asked the questions after."
We are talking about 15 million people who visit that great tourist attraction at Niagara. We know the industrial waste has to go somewhere. In spite of the lovely floral speech the minister gave about it, they are going to call it a dump site.
The mayor of Niagara Falls, New York, Mayor O'Laughlin, came over and said, "What are you doing over there fighting a case about dumping in the river when you are going to build a site that is going to contaminate our Niagara Falls, New York?" He is going to fight it vigorously with all the people of Niagara who say: "We need a site. We cannot afford to have it in Niagara. We cannot afford to jeopardize one of the finest tourist industries in all of Canada and in all of America."
The Deputy Speaker: Order. I am not sure whether there was a question.
Mr. Kerrio: The question is this: Is the minister going to answer Mayor O'Laughlin about contaminating Niagara Falls, New York, while he is fighting a case of them contaminating Canada?
Hon. Mr. Brandt: Let me assure the honour-able member that in no way, shape or form are we going to contaminate the Niagara River or Niagara Falls, New York. He has been attendance during the course of the discussions we have had in this House over the S site, the SCA site, 102nd Street, all of those wonderful American sites that are causing us problems with potential leachate into the Niagara River and into the drinking water supply used by some 4.5 million Ontarians.
He knows that. If he thinks for a moment that we are going to take a chance on the drinking water supply of the people of Ontario by putting in a dump site that is going to leach or discharge any level of contamination into the natural environment, he has another guess coming because we are not going to do it.
Mr. Kerrio: It is in the brochure.
Hon. Mr. Brandt: I have read the brochure.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services in the light of his statement today. We welcome the additional moneys going into assistance for victims of family violence, but under the minister's improved funding formula, as he calls it in his announcement, why is there no recognition of the role of day care or child care and counselling that is done in a lot of transition homes?
Why has he not come forward with a program of block funding, which I understand is being followed in other provinces with Canada assistance plan support, if the information coming out of the meeting a week or so ago is accurate? Why did the minister not make a move in that direction to recognize the breadth of services being provided in the homes?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, first, I think we recognize the breadth of services being provided. There are arrangements for purchase of service with existing or newly developed community services. One of the main problems in the early difficult days of transition houses or women's shelters was when they tried to do it all alone. There were some difficulties and many of them simply were unable to get off the ground.
Block funding is one way of providing funds; however, we think the present arrangement with the substantial municipal component, which must go far beyond dollars because it means support, is superior in the long run to any block funding.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, I have a further question with regard to the minister's statement today. He particularly mentioned that he was planning "enhancing our efforts in the area of prevention, education and public awareness."
If this is one of his major commitments, is he putting any of the new funds into the very valuable work done by volunteer organizations in this field, such as Support Services for Assaulted Women which has been doing public education on the subject of battered wives for several years, but which is about to lay off its staff and close its doors because it does not receive any provincial help at present?
In view of the fact that the standing committee on social development on battered wives recommended that organizations of this sort should receive provincial funding, will the minister commit some money to assisting this kind of organization before it does have to close its doors?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, what I announced today is in conjunction with developments that will shortly come forward from the Ontario women's directorate. I pointed that out when I said "together with the Ontario women's directorate." Most of ours concern education and various training materials, including the prevention kits. The emphasis is on improving the skills of people whose work brings them into contact with family violence situations.
In regard to the member's question, I will have somebody take a look at the problems of the organization she mentioned.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, it has been many months since the government announced this response. It has been more than a year since the Minister of Community and Social Services announced his individual response with respect to the report of the standing committee on social development on wife battering. I wonder if the minister can answer a two-part question.
First, we still do not know how much research money is going to be available to researchers across Ontario, such as the group at McMaster University involving Dr. John Byles and others who have an eminent record in research into family violence and who have been refused help by the minister and by the government, in their future research projects. We do not know how much of the money that is being promised is being spent.
The Deputy Speaker: Question, please.
Ms. Copps: We do not know how much money is going to be set aside for research into the problem. Why does the minister continue to insist block funding is only one option when it was the only option endorsed by every group and every individual appearing before the committee to talk about the issue of block funding, with the exception of perhaps one or two individuals?
If the minister disputes that fact, I am sure Trudy Don from the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses is prepared to speak to it. Why does the minister not agree with all the groups that were so insistent they needed block funding in order to guarantee their survival?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, it is not simply my feeling but that of the ministry and a great many others that the present funding formula, including the improvements and enhancements made possible by the tremendous budget of my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Grossman), is providing for the new system of transition houses, services, shelters and a number of other things across Ontario. It is that simple. I do not think even block funding would produce as much.
With respect to the research capability and the organization mentioned by the honourable member, we have replied and told it that type of project simply was not in our plans. It may very well be within the work of the Ontario women's directorate that will be coming forward shortly.
NATURAL GAS FURNACES
Mr. Ruston: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations concerning the use of automatic damper systems on natural gas furnaces.
Since his ministry has been testing a variety of damper systems, which may prevent up to 30 per cent of the heat of a natural gas furnace from escaping up the chimney, can he tell me when he expects to be able to announce the approval of a mechanism that could be installed to save at least half the heat from such furnaces now escaping up the chimney?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I know this is an issue about which the honourable member has had considerable correspondence and numerous conversations with the fuels safety division of my ministry. I am sure he is also aware the Interprovincial Gas Advisory Council, made up of representatives of various provinces, has expressed its view on this.
Ontario has been supportive of that viewpoint, which says that retrofitting furnaces means the possibility of some hazards that are not there with original equipment. For that reason, no province in this country to date been in favour of retrofitting dampers.
Mr. Ruston: Such equipment has been used in the United States for seven years and in Germany for 20 years now. One mechanism of which I am aware, Effikal, has been used in Ontario on some tests. In fact, I am aware of some that have been used for up to two years. There are inspectors who have come in and had them removed. They said as far as they were concerned, they would have them on their own furnaces if they were legal.
Does the minister not think it is time that he took a closer look at that mechanism?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I have very little to add other than that this whole issue has been thoroughly reviewed by the lnterprovincial Gas Advisory Council. If the honourable member thinks it warrants a review once again, I will certainly draw that to the attention of the executive director of the fuels safety branch. I will not give a commitment that we will review the policy unless there is substantial agreement there has been a change from the decision reached in the not too distant past.
CLOSURE OF HOMES FOR DEVELOPMENTALLY HANDICAPPED
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services concerning the announced closure of the Durham Centre for the Developmentally Handicapped.
Is it still his intention to proceed with the announced closing of the Durham Centre, even though in the past two years he has yet to approve one new proposal for community care in that region?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I would reply yes, but I would remind the honourable member that the closing of or the provision of alternatives to care at the Durham Centre is some time away.
We stated very clearly in the beginning that we would not be consulting individually with parents or getting into the type of thing the member has just asked about until very late in this year or in the early part of next year.
Mr. Breaugh: The minister is aware that he has received a number of proposals for community-based care from the associations in the area. Does he not think it would be a rational move now, if he does intend to proceed with the closure, to put community-based care in place and to give himself a year or two years to phase it in?
It would appear that he has good proposals, which are being reviewed by his ministry, but we have yet to see one of those proposals get approval. Would it not be a reasonable thing to approve and put in place his community-based care program before he proceeded with the closure?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Before the situation at Durham is finalized, the alternatives will be in place. But I would draw to the honourable member's attention that we said it would be very late this year or the early part of next year before we got down to discussing it with the parents.
It is great to ask. "Why do you not approve proposals?" They are approved only with the consent of parents, and that is what has happened in the first four situations.
Mr. Wrye: Final supplementary, Mr. Speaker?
The Deputy Speaker: One brief one, if you will. You will recall that we mentioned one extra minute, if all members are agreeable.
Mr. Wrye: Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that the earlier closings have been accompanied by a last-minute scramble and a last-minute concern by many parents about where their kids were going, and in view of the fact that his ministry in certain cases was forced to delay the final closing because placements were not set, why does the minister not sit down with those parents and begin those discussions now rather than wait until the end of this year or early next year? Certainly the closing is somewhere down the road, but why wait until a crisis hits before he starts the discussions?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I disagree very fundamentally with the point put forward by the honourable member. I commend to him one of the Toronto Star editions of last week. It has taken a real look at the closing at Pine Ridge. What the parents have to say is very interesting and it is not what the member says.
We have a considerable amount of time in the situation at Durham and we said we would complete the closings at Pine Ridge and at the St. Thomas Adult Rehabilitation and Training Centre. They will both be accomplished very shortly, and then we will begin discussing in depth an individual plan for each individual with each individual parent. Then we will see how the proposals that have been put forward fit into what the individual parents want.
SALE OF BEER AND WINE
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition as follows:
"To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor in Council and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, petition the government and the Legislative Assembly to support the private member's bills of Don Boudria, MPP, to permit the sale of beer and Ontario wine in small, independent grocery stores.
"Pétition adressée au Lieutenant-gouverneur en Conseil et l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario:
"Nous, soussignés, par la présente pétition demandons l'Assemblée législative et au gouvernement d'appuyer les projets de loi du député Don Boudria qui permettraient aux petites épiceries indépendantes de vendre de la bière et du vin ontarien."
This petition was signed by 155 people, bringing the grand total now to 6,680.
STANDING COMMITFEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Mr. Kolyn from the standing committee on administration of justice reported the following resolution:
That supply in the following amount and to defray the expenses of the Provincial Secretariat for Justice be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1985:
Justice policy program, $1,506,500.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
PUBLIC LIBRARIES ACT
Hon. Ms. Fish moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Dean, first reading of Bill 93, An Act respecting Public Libraries.
Motion agreed to.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there any comment by the minister at this point?
Hon. Ms. Fish: My comments were made in the statement.
Hon. Mr. McCague: Mr. Speaker, I apologize that I could not be here during statements, but could I have the consent of the House to revert to statements at this time?
The Deputy Speaker: The Chairman of Management Board has asked for permission to revert to statements at this time. Is it the pleasure of the House?
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
HONDA AUTOMOBILE PLANT
Hon. Mr. McCague: It is my pleasure to confirm to the House today some important economic news for Ontario. At this hour in Ottawa, my colleague the Minister of Industry and Trade (Mr. F. S. Miller) and the federal minister, Ed Lumley, are accompanying the president of the Honda Motor Co. Ltd. of Japan, Mr. Tadashi Kume, in announcing that Honda will establish an automobile production plant in Alliston, Ontario.
Mr. Epp: The minister is late. We knew that on Saturday.
Hon. Mr. McCague: I grant that, but the members could not get it confirmed.
This, the first Japanese vehicle factory anywhere in Canada, will go into production in the late fall of 1987, and by 1989 will be producing approximately 40,000 vehicles a year for the Canadian market. Excluding land costs, the investment by Honda is estimated at $100 million, of which $45 million will be spent on plant construction and $55 million on machinery and equipment.
When full production is reached, the factory will employ 350 people. In addition, there will be many more indirect jobs created in other parts of the economy, including auto parts manufacturing, construction, equipment supply, transportation services and sales.
Every member of this House will welcome this decision by Honda. It has economic implications not just for the town of Alliston, the township of Tecumseth and the county of Simcoe, but for all Ontarians and all Canadians.
Just last week the Minister of Industry and Trade reported to the Legislature on the progress being made in attracting Japanese investments to this province. He referred specifically to Mitsubishi's purchase of the RCA picture-tube plant in Midland and Tokai Seiki's establishment of a disposable lighter factory in Uxbridge. Honda is the third major Japanese investor in Ontario within the past year and, in some respects, it is the most significant.
As members know, no industry has concerned this government more than that of motor vehicle and auto parts manufacturing. No issue has dominated this industry as much as the success of Japanese vehicle manufacturers in the North American market. During the past 18 months we continually urged Ottawa to initiate action at an international level which will help ensure the future prosperity of our automobile industry.
At the same time, we in the provincial government actively pursued a policy that foreign companies which sell cars here must be encouraged to hire Canadians and produce here. Since last October the Minister of Industry and Trade and Ed Lumley have both been to Japan and met with several vehicle manufacturers, including Honda, to discuss the possibility of their investing in Canada. Clearly, Honda heard the message. It is very pleasing to see the result of federal-provincial co-operation manifested in the company's announcement today.
Ontario will support this project by ensuring that the local infrastructure, such as road access and water and sewage service, will be sufficient for the expanded community's needs.
Honda's decision is a vote of confidence in our province, made for sound business reasons and based on the benefits they expect to receive from manufacturing in Ontario. The Alliston location, chosen by Honda after it evaluated many possible locations in Ontario, resembles the setting of the company's Marysville, Ohio, plant which it established in 1979 and has since expanded substantially.
Naturally. it is our hope that the steady expansion of Honda facilities which has occurred in Marysville will also occur at the new Alliston plant. We are hopeful, too, that other Japanese vehicle manufacturers will quickly see the benefits that Honda is reaping in Ontario and will choose to make similar investments here.
I thank the members for their indulgence.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF REVENUE (CONCLUDED)
On vote 901, ministry administration program:
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chairman, I do have answers to the items that have been addressed so far. It is up to the members of the opposition how they want them handled. Should I do it now?
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order: Since we have an hour and 45 minutes left, I think it might expedite business if we stayed on the main vote and let the minister reply now to the leadoffs. Then the other members who want to participate will not get caught in a bind about not being on the right item.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Referring back to last Monday, when we heard from the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) and the member for Rainy River (Mr. T.P. Reid), it is to their remarks I would like to address my comments.
First of all, the member for Oshawa asked how much money it cost us to gather up all that tax money and then to give it all back out again in various rebates, cheques and things of that nature. The staff has done a survey of this. I did not think the question was that serious, but we do have a serious answer for it.
Taxes are collected at a cost of 0.7 cents per dollar. Grants are paid at a cost of 1.4 cents per dollar of direct cost. Assessment operates at one cent per dollar of municipal property tax and grant base established.
Direct cost means only the operating cost for that program as displayed in the printed estimates. Other administrative costs are excluded. When administrative costs are included, taxes are collected for less than one cent per dollar, 0.77 cents. Grants are paid for slightly more than one per cent, 1.54 cents, and assessment operates at 1.1 cents per dollar of tax base.
I had some questions I was going to address, but they were asked in the question period.
Mr. Breaugh: I appreciate the way the minister has presented the material, but the question was rather straightforward. How much money does the ministry spend taking in the money and putting the money back out? Did the minister get an answer to that rather straightforward question?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I do not know how I can make it more straightforward than that.
Mr. Breaugh: How much money did you spend?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I am sorry, I do not have those figures. But as a percentage --
Mr. Breaugh: In a week the Ministry of Revenue could not put together those figures?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: We could have those very quickly for the member if that is what he wants.
Mr. Breaugh: That is what I want.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: The member wants us to apply this formula against the overall, coming and going.
Mr. Breaugh: Let me try again. I did not think it was this tough a question, frankly. I want to know how much it costs the ministry to gather in the money and to give it back out. How much does it cost to give away money in Ontario? That is straightforward. If the minister can do it this afternoon or if he can do it in a week, it is okay by me; I would just like an answer.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: We shall get an answer for the member. I will sit down right now with a pencil and paper and work it out on the basis of the budget. It works out to about one cent per dollar, so take one hundredth of the budget and that is about it.
Mr. Stokes: On what? A million, a billion or a trillion?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: We will get back to the member with that. I will have my gnomes --
Mr. Breaugh: The minister's crack staff is working on it. Are these the same people who wrote his speech for him the other night?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I will ask my assistants to give me that figure while I go on with the important questions.
Mr. Stokes: The minister did not think the question was very important, just the answer.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: That is right. Actually, the question loses in importance the further my friend goes with it.
The member for Rainy River wanted some broader information on 25 consultants related to the electronic data processing function in the Ministry of Revenue. Like many other ministries in the past, the Ministry of Revenue has used consulting services to augment its system staff and to provide services and expertise not available in the mix of regular employees.
I have a table here which indicates that the number of professional services contracts has been reduced from a high of 101 in 1981-82 to 25 in 1984-85. The ministry attempts to keep the number of consulting contracts to a minimum at all times; however, work-load increases will result in temporary fluctuations from time to time. In 1980-81, for example, we had 89 professional services contracts; in 1981-82, 101; in 1982-83, 55; in 1983-84, 28, and in 1984-85, an estimated 25.
The member for Rainy River also addressed building security information, including fire and data security, EDP. In the planning and construction of the Oshawa building, a great deal of attention was given to security and fire prevention. The building is equipped with a range of facilities to protect the ministry -- a full-time security officer, closed-circuit TV monitoring of exits and entrances, full-time 24-hour security personnel, limited entrance control by access cards and passes, fire alarms and Halon gas systems in computer rooms.
On the basis of these facilities and our experience during one year, we believe the Starr building is one of the most secure in the Ontario government and that the information entrusted to us by taxpayers is completely safe from unauthorized disclosure. This view was confirmed when the building was vetted recently by the Ontario Provincial Police in connection with the 1984-85 budget. The ministry recently conducted a full-scale fire drill to test evacuation procedures; all staff were clear of the building in under 10 minutes, and the Oshawa Fire Department sent a letter of congratulations to the ministry.
The matter of security of data covers both the danger of access by unauthorized personnel and the failure of the systems, and it is a complex one. A ministry committee made up of senior personnel and the ministry security officer reviews data security on an ongoing basis and makes recommendations where appropriate.
The member for Rainy River also addressed the compatibility of computers. He was referring to the IBM 4341 and the DEC 20/40. The IBM 4341 is used solely for the development of new systems and the maintenance of existing systems within the ministry. It was installed by the Ministry of Government Services, is operated by that ministry and is linked to the main computer at Queen's Park. No compatibility problems have occurred in the year we have been operating this machine.
The DEC 20/40 was also installed by MGS in response to a need for more economical operation of the ministry's analytical and financial interactive systems. Because the DEC 20/40 operates solely within the ministry, it is not connected to Queen's Park. However, it is capable of being connected and as such is fully compatible with the data centres operated by MGS.
We have the figure for the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh). The operating expenditure for 1983-84 is $52.5 million. That is the total cost. Taxes collected under the tax revenue program are $6,989,000,000. For the guaranteed income and tax credit program, $10.1 million is the cost on total grants of $698,600,000.
Mr. Boudria: Is the handwriting that bad?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: No, this is printed. It is a lot easier.
I think that is the information the member wanted. Is there something else I can do?
Mr. Breaugh: That will be a start. I would appreciate a copy.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: The member for Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid) inquired about incentive funding and replacement of the ministry's financial reporting system. The incentive fund is provided by Management Board, whereby ministries may borrow funds to carry out investment projects that will produce measurable productivity and efficiency benefits. The fund is operated on a business basis and requires ministries to present business cases and feasibility studies to the board. The whole process is subject to considerable scrutiny by the management technology branch of the Management Board secretariat.
The repayment of loans is for a negotiated period at 15 per cent interest. The ministry has made use of this source of funds on two previous occasions, one of which is now almost fully repaid. The replacement of the ministry financial reporting system is a logical step in the ongoing development of good management tools in the ministry. The new system is expected to have a life of up to 10 years and will provide detailed information to ministry management on the performance of the various programs. The new system is scheduled to go into operation early in 1985-86.
The member also directed a question on Revenews, the cost of Revenews and of the souvenir edition. Does he recall that one?
Mr. T. P. Reid: Yes.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: He does. The Ministry of Revenue has some 4,000 employees in the head office and 104 regional district offices. Like many large organizations, the ministry publishes a house organ, Revenews, to provide information to staff, to inform them of ministry events and to give them a sense of community within the organization. The annual budget for Revenews is $15,000. Usually four editions of about 4,000 copies each are produced at an average cost of $3,500 per edition.
Because the relocation was an event of considerable importance to the ministry, a souvenir issue was produced. The cost of this edition was $6,300. The reason for this higher cost was the large number of photographs used. However, to compensate, only two editions were issued in 1983-84. The overall cost in that year was considerably under budget. The letters were genuine attempts by the minister and deputy minister, not to mention the Premier (Mr. Davis), to thank staff for their patience and hard work in making the move the success it was.
Mr. T. P. Reid: How about the Revenue building? Does the minister have the answer to those questions?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Somewhere in here. Is the member talking about the safety of it? I covered that.
Mr. T. P. Reid: No. I am talking about whether the minister has settled with the contractor or whether there is an ongoing situation on the final cost of the building. Also, I believe there were some problems on the fourth or fifth floor or wherever a little while ago that were worrying the employees.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: There was some talk of this. The member did not mention this the other day or bring this question up. I will gladly get some information for him. I do not have any with me. Would the member like information on that?
Mr. T. P. Reid: Just to clarify, Mr. Chairman: At one point I understand the contractor and the ministry were arguing, perhaps through the Ministry of Government Services, but I would think the minister would be aware of the final cost of the building. Presumably there were some architectural changes and what not. I understood the contractor was not happy with the final payment. I wondered whether that matter had been resolved one way or the other, whether there was an outstanding lawsuit or court case, or whether negotiations were continuing.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Is the name of the builder Tom Jones? Okay. The details from that would have to come from the Ministry of Government Services. We do not have any details on that. They were the contractor. Apparently the dispute might well go to court. That is all the information I have for the member.
Mr. T. P. Reid: It has not been resolved?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Apparently not.
The member for Oshawa touched on some assessment problems in various communities. I can get into the specific problems now if he wishes. He mentioned the problems we were having in Newcastle. The reassessment of the town of Newcastle is just one of the 458 that have been successfully implemented throughout the province since 1978-79. In all reassessments the decision of the municipal council is made only when the council itself is totally satisfied. There is absolutely no pressure put on the council by this or any other ministry.
In Newcastle, assessment personnel presented the full tax impact study to council on November 14, 1983, when the matter was fully discussed. Staff again attended a council meeting on November 28, 1983, when the final resolution to implement the reassessment was passed. Once council has made its decision to implement the reassessment, a full program of public information is undertaken, consisting of newspaper advertisements, explanatory information inserts and public open houses. At the Newcastle open houses, which went on for eight hours a day for more than four days in January, 537 ratepayers attended. This represents less than five per cent of the total number of properties in the town.
The example cited by the member for Oshawa of a taxpayer who has experienced a tax increase of $2,000 is based on the taxpayer's misinterpretation of his assessment notice as a tax bill. Unfortunately, this was reported erroneously to the Oshawa Times. Over three years mill rates have risen, but the assessment of this taxpayer actually dropped by five per cent under the reassessment. The large, new house he has built was first assessed in March 1984, but even with this, the total tax bill in 1984 will be only $2,700.
The two per cent adjustments have been referred to as affecting the market value and being an underhand way of increasing municipal revenues. This is incorrect. To protect the cost and value of the municipal tax base and avoid mill rate increases solely as a result of reassessment, each class ratio is adjusted by two per cent.
The member for Oshawa suggests a question often posed is, "How come it happened in Newcastle and not in the other end of the region of Durham?" The town of Pickering was also reassessed under the program for the 1984 tax year and nobody is complaining. Three other municipalities in the region of Durham have asked for an update of their reassessment for the 1985 taxation year.
Mr. Martel: The minister should come to Sudbury.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Come to Sudbury'?
Mr. Martel: Yes.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Is that an invitation?
Mr. Martel: Yes.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Okay.
Mr. Martel: I will take the minister to the outlying areas.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: The honourable member wants an update.
Mr. Martel: The minister will get an update.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: The studies presented to council in preparation for reassessment clearly identified that in total, 56 per cent of the assessable units in the town would experience a tax increase, but in more than half of them the increase in tax was less than $50. This statistic was expanded on in a summary report given to council that showed the number of increases and decreases in taxation to be expected by class in each ward. The computer-generated impact study shows the actual range of tax changes anticipated in considerable detail, including the number of units affected at each level of increase or decrease.
The section 63 program is founded on the firm principle of municipal autonomy. It is totally inappropriate that the Minister of Revenue should be able to overrule the decision of a duly elected municipal council voting on a reassessment after being presented with all the relevant facts.
After the reassessment, there are 810 properties under appeal on the basis of new valuation in Newcastle. It is ironic that as a result of the smokescreen of confusion created in Newcastle, approximately 20 per cent are appeals against assessments that have been reduced under the reassessment.
Since its inception, the section 63 program has been founded on a redistribution of assessments within defined classes, the very formula used to prepare the class ratios and ensure the municipal tax base remains constant. While only five or six per cent of the audience at a public meeting may have had reduced assessments, more than 43 per cent of the 5,970 units that had reduced assessments would have had tax reductions of more than $50 based on 1983 mill rates.
Assessment must function independently of ownership. All homes must be equitably valued. Seniors are protected by the Ontario tax grant for seniors, which pays up to $500 of their property taxes.
We had heard of a few problems in Niagara Falls. As in Newcastle, the council of the city of Niagara Falls had a number of opportunities to review the detailed impact of the reassessment by class, ward, number of units and range of tax increase and decrease. Assessment staff appeared before city council or its finance committee on four different occasions before the resolution to implement the reassessment was adopted. The summary report presented to council clearly showed that 81 per cent of the units in the industrial sector would experience an increase in taxes under the reassessment.
The member for Oshawa suggested there was something dramatically wrong with the system. This is absolutely correct and provides a total justification for the implementation of reassessment. In the industrial sector of Niagara Falls, large, older buildings have become obsolete and have suffered a reduction in their value; their previous assessments had not reflected this fact.
We have heard and seen quite a bit in the newspapers about a certain amusement park in the Niagara Falls area. Of course, the assessment on that property has been appealed and is before the courts.
Mr. Breaugh: May I interject for a moment? I thought I heard the minister say the council in Niagara Falls was told that 81 per cent of its commercial assessment would get increased. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I do not know whether the council was told that specifically. Let us see here. The report that was presented to council did show that 81 per cent of the units in the industrial sector would experience an increase in taxes under the reassessment.
Mr. Breaugh: So the council knew that before accepting the reassessment?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Yes.
Another point the member for Oshawa raised was assessment in Metropolitan Toronto. In late 1982, the city of Toronto presented the ministry with a series of proposals that dealt with issues surrounding a possible reassessment of Metropolitan Toronto. The minister of the day advised the municipalities in Metro that the assessment and taxation issues would be considered with the tax impact study when they had reviewed the city of Toronto proposals and could approach the government with a consolidated position. To date, this has not happened.
While the basic thrust of the study is still valid, there have been some changes in the assessment base in Metro since the study was prepared. It is important to recognize that tax impact studies are not computer models. They represent, subject only to final verification, the impact of the actual values that will be used to generate the new assessment if the municipality chooses to implement the reassessment. There is no simulation involved, just the assessor's professional estimate of market value, supported by the calculation facility of the computer.
Mr. Breaugh: I would like to interject for a brief moment. I am very much interested in determining what happened to that model. I know one was prepared. I know certain Metro politicians allegedly have seen the copies. It is alleged that certain media people also have access to them, but they have never been presented for public discussion, to my knowledge.
I have pursued this for little better than a year now. I attempted to get a copy to see what the net effect of that study would have been. I am told copies are not available, and I certainly have been unable to get one. Would the minister be prepared to table a copy and let us have a look at it? We are interested in what the impact would be.
However flawed the system might be, I would be quite happy to have the minister put a little proviso on the cover that would point out areas where it would be flawed. It is a matter of great interest to many of us and we are unable to see the document. Would the minister be prepared to table that document and put on its cover whatever proviso he cares to pointing out areas where the information might be somewhat inaccurate?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: As the member well knows, when I became Minister of Revenue in July 1983, I was made aware of this problem in Toronto. I wanted to convince myself of the feasibility of this program and to make myself totally familiar with it. The viewpoint I have had from various parts of Metropolitan Toronto was that there is no consensus whatsoever. With that in mind and the fact that the study is in itself somewhat outdated at present, I see nothing to be gained from tabling that study.
If the time comes in the future when the municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto -- or primarily the city of Toronto, which seems to be the most difficult in regard to this matter -- decide among themselves to come to a common position and wish to proceed with this sort of thing, we will undoubtedly need to do a completely new study. I see nothing to be gained from tabling an old study that will not be used under any circumstances.
Mr. Breaugh: I do not want to belabour the point, but I do want to point out that the minister is asking us to take a look at something like market value assessment, which is very complicated. In theory, some of us have admitted there are problems with assessment. The minister cannot ask us to support or not support, in an intelligent way, a program such as this when he is unprepared to provide us with the information he has.
If the minister wants me to take a look at market value assessment and perhaps change my personal position on it, which I would be prepared to do, I need to be convinced that what the ministry is preparing, the models it is using and the examples it is projecting, have something in them.
The minister has said he is not going to use this document: he has said there are some flaws in it. I am perfectly prepared to accept him at face value. I am encouraging him to point out where there are inaccuracies and flaws. But it is a study of some substance. It would be useful for us to have it as a document to base future projections on.
It totally escapes me why he is afraid to table that information, especially since he has said flat out this afternoon that he is not going to use it. It would be a valid reference document to get a rough idea of what the impacts might be. I fail to understand why he has such fear in his mind, or why he is afraid to put that document on the table and let us have a look at it.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chairman, I can assure the member that I have no fears whatsoever. In answering his question where he said I am asking him to adopt the philosophy of market value assessment, I am not asking him to do that as it pertains to Toronto at this juncture. What we are dealing with is the areas where section 63 has been implemented.
Yes, I am asking him to adopt that philosophy as it applies to Newcastle, Niagara Falls and Waterloo -- the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) is totally in support of market value assessment, as he has said from time to time -- but in each of those cases we are dealing with the section 63 study as it pertains to that area.
I am not asking the member to adopt the Newcastle situation on the basis of a market value study of Toronto. What I am saying is that Newcastle has worked. The member has had the impact study. He has seen it. I know the member particularly has seen it.
Under the circumstances in Metropolitan Toronto, there are two reasons why we have not been imposing or putting section 63 on regional governments; and I view Metro Toronto as a regional government. It requires a certain amount of co-operation among the municipalities, the cities and boroughs of Metro Toronto. Until such time as that comes about, there is very little point in studying a study that is redundant. If the time comes when market value assessment is brought into Metropolitan Toronto, it would probably not be based on the impact study that has taken place; it would require a new one.
Mr. Breaugh: I want to point out to the minister that his paranoia about this study is going to lead to further complications. I think the minister admitted spending roughly $3 million to put this study together. Now he is afraid to let the study hit the light of day anywhere at any time.
I put it to the minister that I am not about to support market value assessment anywhere in Ontario until such time he has the intestinal fortitude to put documents like that on the table and let us have a look at them to see whether they are accurate or inaccurate, or exactly what the trends might be.
I fail to understand his paranoia, particularly in view of the fact that he has admitted he is going to run and hide from the document itself. How in the world can he justify spending what he admitted as $3 million, but in actual fact would be closer to $5 million or $6 million, to put this study together? Is he admitting it is so lousy that he cannot even trot the thing out now even though he has abandoned it?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I think the member is telling me he will only make a decision on market value as it applies to Niagara Falls on the basis of having seen the study of Metropolitan Toronto. I fail to understand his logic there.
Mr. Breaugh: The minister does not have the ability to put words in my mouth. He should not try to do so.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Well, my friend is putting words in my mouth, or attempting to. Nothing that has been said about Niagara Falls has any bearing on the Metro study.
Mr. Breaugh: I am not talking about Niagara Falls but about Newcastle.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Since I became Minister of Revenue, the member has not heard me suggest at any time that I would be imposing section 63 on Metropolitan Toronto. If he says he has, I ask him to tell me where I am quoted as having said that. I have never said that.
Mr. Breaugh: I have not heard the minister proposing section 63 in the Bahamas either, for that matter.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: That is right, and I do not intend to. However, I would not mind taking part in the study there.
Mr. Breaugh: The minister would not table that document either.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: That is right; I might not table that one either.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: That might well be; I do not know. The member would have his own opinions on why the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe) was not there. He was promoted. I hope I will be too, if I do a good job, to a position the member will hardly ever hope to get in my lifetime.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Terry Russell will get rid of the minister too; won't you, Terry?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: That is right. I think I would just as soon sit down now, Mr. Chairman, and let --
Mr. Breaugh: It will be a pleasure to see him do so.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: We can have some more questions. I am anxious to hear from the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Stokes).
Mr. Chairman: The member for Rainy River.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Are we on vote 1 now?
Mr. Chairman: That sounds fine.
Mr. T. P. Reid: I know there are others. My colleague wants to talk about assessment and my friend the member for Lake Nipigon has something. I have just three quick questions:
First, how does the minister explain the percentage change in administration costs being eight per cent over last year in vote 1?
Second, from the answers the minister was kind enough to give me, I thought there seemed to be a lot of vehicle use by his ministry. I wonder if he could tell us why there is so much use. Is that for the field officers in the various regional assessment offices?
Finally, I presume the legal services that have not been tendered are all under $15,000 or are technical services. They are exempt under Manual of Administration special directive 50-8-5, but what sort of legal services are they providing? Are these for appeals to assessments, appeals on retail sales tax or what exactly are they? The minister tells me there is a fairly lengthy list of lawyers and I notice most of them are the same lawyers year after year. I wonder what services they are providing to the ministry and how they are chosen.
There is just one other question the member for Kent-Elgin (Mr. McGuigan) has asked me to put. It is a letter that went to the minister on May 25, 1984, from Mrs. Hermie McPhail of Actionmatic Ltd. of Chatham and concerned a problem shared by operators of coin-operated machines. I gather it is with respect to the retail sales taxes on items of 25 cents. The machines are not set up to allow collection of the extra two cents or whatever the retail sales tax is. I gather this could lead to the Ontario industry and some employees being laid off, partly because of this increase in the retail sales tax.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chairman, I wonder if I might ask the indulgence of the members opposite. Could I move down to the front row and have my staff come out? Would members agree to that?
Mr. Martel: Go ahead.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Accept the precedent. It will be okay.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Come on, let's go.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Someone over there is saying no; I just wonder who is the boss.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Chairman, I suggest you take note of this and supply a copy to the Premier (Mr. Davis) and the government House leader (Mr. Wells). We had it out in the House last week that we were not going to tolerate this unless the government was prepared to tell the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope) he has to accord the same opportunity in the committee.
I know what the rule book says, but I suggest to the Chairman he should advise the government House leader that rather than making an issue out of it at the present time, we are giving him one last chance to put some common sense into that minister's head. We make this accommodation so ministers can answer questions put to them in the Legislature. The reason we changed the rules was to facilitate the minister; in committee, it should be to facilitate the member. That two-way street is not happening.
I draw to your attention that we do it today, but I ask you as Chairman to direct something to the government House leader to the effect that we have once again accommodated a minister. We would hope the government would have the integrity to do the same thing for the opposition members when they ask for someone to be brought forward in a committee considering the same sort of estimates.
Mr. Chairman: We have permitted the member to make his comments and I thank him for them. Before the committee proceeds, I would like to share with all members of the House on this topic that it is my understanding --
An hon. member: We cannot hear you.
Mr. Chairman: I am simply sharing with the members on this topic that it is my understanding that the practice of ministers coming to the front benches and having staff with them was initiated back in the 1950s.
Mr. Martel: No.
Mr. Chairman: Just a moment; I listened to the member. May I tell you what I understand? It was done to facilitate the work of the House, not just the ministers. We had the very same minister before us last week and we found it speeded up the time if he had staff handy, rather than shuffling papers back and forth. I think we are all served by that.
When they rewrote the standing orders, subsection 8(b) embodied what had been years of custom in the House. This is clearly my understanding of it.
Mr. Martel: I suggest to you that rule was put in after 1975.
Mr. Chairman: I am not disagreeing with the member on that.
Mr. Martel: No one was allowed on the floor of the Legislature until about 1975 or 1976. The ministers sat over there by themselves.
Mr. Chairman: The former Speaker is with us and I am sure he can help us if we are wrong. That embodied in the rules of order what had become an accepted practice. In any event, all comments have been expressed. We know what subsection 8(b) says and it permits up to three staff. Can we get on with the estimates? The minister is ready to go.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chairman, I am at the mercy of the members. I will go whichever way they want. The House leader of the New Democratic Party has requested I convey a message, which I will be glad to do. However, I really do not think I should be asked to answer for what the Minister of Natural Resources chooses to do. That is his problem. I intend to fight my own problems.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I am trying to. Is the member coming out?
Mr. Chairman: Time is running out.
Mr. Martel: It is a two-way street; that is all we are saying. We know when it came into the standing orders. We know why it came in, too, and part of the quid pro quo was that we could have cabinet people outside.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I forget what the question was.
In regard to the coin machines mentioned by the member for Rainy River, we are aware of the problem and it is being studied by Treasury at the present time. That is really all we can tell him at this point.
Mr. T. P. Reid: What about the other questions I raised, such as the question about the increase in the administrative costs which was over eight per cent this year? What are all these cars being used for? What services are the legal firms providing?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Regarding the cars, there are 142 owned cars and 49 rented cars, for a total of 191. They are primarily assessment vehicles for assessors to get around to different properties. What was the other question regarding legal firms?
Mr. T. P. Reid: Administrative costs and legal services.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: The legal services are primarily to fight assessment appeals. Most of the legal advice would come from the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Have we been using the same lawyers for years to fight the appeals? Is that because of experience? Do we tender them or what?
The lawyers are appointed by region. The same ones tend to be appointed because of the experience they have in defending the assessment cases.
Mr. Stokes: I want to refresh the minister's memory about the saga that is developing over the heavy-handedness of the retail tax branch of the Ministry of Revenue.
Given the high profile that problems with the Department of National Revenue in Ottawa have received and given the actions of the Tory task force looking into injustices to and harrassment of taxpayers by National Revenue, I want to raise the problem of Sinclair Stores in Geraldton with the minister.
In fairness to the minister, in the short time he has been in this ministry I have found him very co-operative and very efficient in providing answers to me, but I am wondering if the incident I am about to relate to the minister is typical of the kind of treatment of those who find themselves delinquent in remitting the retail sales tax to his ministry.
Mr. Sinclair wrote to the minister and sent a copy of the letter to me. I sent my letter to the minister and the minister responded on May 18, 1984. As far as the minister was concerned, he felt the case was closed and no further action needed to be taken. I am not going to bore the committee with all the letters and details in my file, but Mr. Sinclair, Sr., and Mr. Sinclair, Jr., do not think this matter is closed. It has received a lot of publicity in the local media, and there is a good deal of sympathy for the position taken by Sinclair Motors -- Sinclair Stores; it used to be Sinclair Motors.
It is not a case of Sinclair Stores denying it owed the money. There was a temporary problem with cash flow, but I think there was also a lack of communication, perhaps on the part of Mr. Sinclair. A good deal was a result of actions taken by the retail sales tax people in Thunder Bay. I want to read what Mr. Sinclair says to the minister on May 22, 1984.
"Thank you for your letter of May 18, 1984. There never was a question of our being lax filing returns or owing the interest in penalties on unremitted tax. There was never any question that we were legally obligated to pay the amount. The issue at hand is the means employed to collect said amount and the unnecessary expenses incurred therein.
"Since writing to you, I have discovered that the Thunder Bay office has sent the sheriff to the Bank of Nova Scotia in Beardmore" -- 50 miles away from Geraldton -- "to seize a bank account with $22.04 in it from an account that is almost never used. This collection cost my father $108.56. Imagine, $108 to collect $22. I am certain the tax office knew the amount before collecting it. It hadn't changed for at least four weeks.
"A week or so later, they seized my father's trailer and pulled it 180 miles to Thunder Bay at a cost in excess of $585. If this is deemed fair and equitable treatment under the laws of Ontario, then I suggest we might as well live in a dictatorship. I further suggest that the vindictive treatment and expense my father was subjected to in this instance was totally unnecessary. No notification was given in either instance. Is it your policy to seize bank accounts and personal assets with no notice before or after the fact? The procedure should have been to seize the assets of Sinclair Stores, which were all free and clear, before seizing any personal assets.
"This sneaking around behind everyone's backs, planning trailer seizures and emptying bank accounts without notification is nothing short of criminal, without justification and is indicative of a police state.
"I could understand looking to personal assets if the business has none, but all of the assets of Sinclair Stores were unattached. If business assets do not legally have to be considered first, then I suggest that a change is definitely required in the legislation somewhere. The more I discover about the office's sales tax collection activities, the more I become aware of the obvious misuse of power accorded to your ministry. The following is a summary of what occurred as a result of our being late in filing the return:
"1. A letter was sent from Sinclair Stores to the Thunder Bay tax office with a cheque for $600 asking if payment could be made on the outstanding amount.
"2. Without any notification to us, the sheriff was sent from Thunder Bay to Beardmore, 120 miles away, to collect $22.04, at a cost of $108.56. Investigations were apparently made as to the type, location and value of my father's trailer. Without any notification to us, the sheriff was sent from Thunder Bay to seize the 31-foot trailer and pull it 180 miles back to Thunder Bay. A lien could have been put on it or it could have been stored in Geraldton. When Mr. McLeod was told a certified cheque could be at his office in the morning, he said there was nothing he could do, the trailer had to go to Thunder Bay.
"This is far from being a dead issue, honourable sir. I am cognizant that you cannot be aware of all the occurrences in your ministry, but I do feel there definitely were injustices perpetrated under the pretext of legality and, as the minister, you are the one who is ultimately responsible.
"I have been contacted by all of the news media -- radio, television and newspaper in Thunder Bay, one station in Toronto -- and members of two other political parties. I have refrained from commenting on more than what was stated in Mr. Stokes's letter until I have heard from your office. If the stand your ministry is taking is that everyone is normal and above board in this instance, then I shall have no alternative but to publicize this case of government heavy-handedness to the utmost of my capabilities.
"If necessary, Mr. Minister, I am prepared to sue the ministry, the government of Ontario and everyone else involved to recover these unnecessary expenses incurred by my father. It is impossible for us to be any more publicly embarrassed than we already have been. I have already spoken to lawyers in Thunder Bay who are more than anxious to proceed. They indicated all the publicity in such a case would be great advertising for them.
"I sincerely hope this situation can be resolved amicably with as little bad press as possible. However, if no solution is available through your office, then I shall have to proceed with whatever avenues are available to me, no matter how damaging they may be.
"In closing I would like to inform you that as of the end of the month, we will have ceased business operations in Geraldton. While the abominable treatment accorded my father by your Thunder Bay office is not the only reason for the closing, it definitely was the deciding factor.
"The conclusion of this unfortunate matter, whatever it is to be, honourable sir, is in your hands."
I received a letter today from his father. I am not going to go over what the father said because he covers essentially the same ground, but I want to indicate the specific and detailed costs incurred by Mr. Sinclair, Sr., and Mr. Sinclair, Jr.
The costs were: bank seizure fee for the sheriff, $26; trailer seizure fee, $26; sheriff's officer, $50; travel to Beardmore, 192 kilometres at 43 cents a kilometre -- if members of the Legislature got that for travel it would be good -- $82.56; travel to Geraldton, 282 kilometres at 43 cents a kilometre, $121.26; towing the trailer 180 miles from Geraidton to Thunder Bay, $388, for a total of $693.82.
That is all the detail I am going to give the minister on it, because I am sure when it is brought to his attention, he has all those details in his files. Obviously, there was a breakdown in communications; perhaps Mr. Sinclair was not aware. But certainly the heavy-handedness of the ministry's sales tax people in Thunder Bay in instructing the sheriff as to what action he was to take put these people to undue expense.
Why can the minister not say there were errors on both sides and this is not the way his retail sales tax people act in the normal course of events? Because it was a breakdown in communications, because an Easter weekend was involved and because he has since paid it back, to the best of my knowledge, why does the minister not say, "No, this is not the way we do business"?
They are the minister's agents; they go to considerable time and expense collecting money on his behalf. I might add that, in many instances, if they have money due on the account, they have to remit the retail sales tax to the ministry even though they may not have collected the account itself. Because of the very fact that it is on their books, they are acting as ministry bankers until their accounts receivable come in.
This is a senior citizen who has made a significant contribution to the social and economic fabric of a town such as Geraldton and his son was trying to assist him. They had eight full-time employees, I believe. For this and other reasons, they find they can no longer stay in operation. Why can the minister not take his licks and refund to them the out-of-pocket expenses for the heavy-handedness of his retail sales tax people in Thunder Bay in instructing the sheriff to take the action he has taken? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chairman, I know it is very popular today to try to draw a parallel between this ministry and Revenue Canada, as my friend unintentionally did.
Mr. Stokes: I tried to make that distinction.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: He was drawing a parallel --
Mr. Stokes: No. Go back to the record. I said my experience with this minister and this ministry has been different from what happens in Ottawa. I said this just may be. I think this is an aberration; I do not think this is the way the minister generally does business.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: No matter how we slice it, what the member has just said is drawing a parallel. I can assure him that is not the case. I do not think I have to illustrate the difference between the procedure of this ministry and that of Revenue Canada; it becomes obvious every day.
With respect to the case we are talking about of Mr. Sinclair, I know that when we get these letters -- I have had every letter the member has had and I have read them -- if one gets the history, but does not necessarily get copies of my answers and does not know the full story, it sounds as if yes, the man has been persecuted. That is not the case. The fact is that the man --
Mr. Stokes: He thinks so and I think so.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I would like to attempt to answer the member's question. We can hear these horror stories and we can swallow them hook, line and sinker. The fact is that this is not one of them.
There has been a long history with this man. I think we have to approach this by first realizing that when we are talking about retail sales tax, we are not talking about money that is negotiable, money that can be used to improve the lot of one's firm. We are talking about trust funds given to that business by the person who is buying something knowing full well that those funds should be transferred to the government. That is where they are intended to go. Nobody pays tax willingly or loves doing it. But at least if one does pay retail sales tax, one likes to have the feeling that those funds are going where they are supposed to be going.
This was not the case in this instance. This vendor has been consistently late in filing his returns and in remitting tax collections. In other words, he has been using those funds for purposes other than what they were designed for. He has been using trust funds, presumably to help his business or to float his business or his liquid capital or what have you. I guess one might say he put it into the bank, saved it and just did not want to submit it. Perhaps that is the other way to look at it, but I do not think that happened. The fact is they are trust funds and should have been submitted. As I have said, he has been consistently late in filing returns. They were contacted on numerous occasions in 1983 about that matter.
No matter how gentle one hopes to be as Minister of Revenue or as a tax collector, there comes a point when action has to be taken, and that is precisely what happened. A registered letter was sent to the vendor on January 10,1984, that said assets and chattels would be seized or other legal action taken if the most recent outstanding returns were not filed. The letter was received and signed for by W. E. Sinclair. There is no question they got it, but no action was taken.
The member mentioned the bank account with only $22.04. That is quite true, but how would we know that when we seized the bank account? When a bank account is seized, one hopes some of the taxes are in the bank. That is why I said that was doubtful. There was only $22.04 there. Two steps: they have not been reporting or submitting taxes and they refuse to negotiate. Where does one go next?
Mr. Stokes: To the store.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: To the store. The member is suggesting we should be seizing the assets and closing the business. He sees that as a more equitable way of doing it.
Mr. Stokes: That is what the Sinclairs think the minister should have done.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Do they think we should have closed their business?
Mr. Stokes: No. What they are saying is, why did the ministry not go directly to the store and say, "All right. We are not prepared to go out on a limb for you any more"? Why did the ministry go behind their backs and seize a bank account 50 miles away with $22.04 in it? The minister must know where Hardrock is? It is outside the confines of Geraldton.
They went to the store and said, "We want to know where the Sinclairs live." They snuck in behind -- I guess it was the sheriff or the sheriff's officer -- and they said, "Is this Mr. Sinclair's property?" When they were assured it was, they took a look at the 31-foot trailer, hooked it on to a half-ton truck and took it 180 miles to Thunder Bay. Why did the ministry not go to the store and say: "This is the end of the road, Mr. Sinclair. We are going to take what you owe us." Why did they not go to the store?
One does not have to be really bright to understand that if I owe the minister something, he does not go to see if I have an interest in property in Toronto or if I have something he can haul away from my backyard in the darkness of night. He comes to me and says: "Stokes, this is the end of the road. What do you have here that we can attach so we can recover those trust funds?" That was not done. They even enlisted the aid of neighbours of Mr. Sinclair to say: "Is that where he lives? Do you know that to be his trailer?" They said. "Yes, but why are you doing this?" The reply was, "We do not have to answer any questions."
When Mr. Sinclair found out the truck was there, he said: "We already have a cheque in the bank. As soon as the bank opens, we can give you a certified cheque for the outstanding amount." They said, "That is all too late." That is not the way to treat agents of oneself.
Why did the ministry not go to the store rather than sneak around when nobody was looking and haul a trailer 180 miles to Thunder Bay? There are any number of places where the ministry could have stored it in safekeeping in Geraldton rather than charging him something in the order of $385 for towing charges. He had to go up there, recover it and bring it back himself. If the ministry does not want to be seen as being in the same boat as those rascals in Ottawa, and if the ministry is saying it acted in a normal, everyday business approach to the collection of retail sales tax, by gosh, maybe it is worse than I think it is.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I am sure the member realizes the decision to take a trailer in the first place would not be the decision of this ministry, but of the sheriff. Our function is to --
Mr. Breaugh: Oh, come on.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Whether the member wants to believe that or say "Oh, come on," that is a fact. I personally think it would be a far better decision to do that than to attach the man's business and put him totally out of business, which we had no intention of doing.
The member for Lake Nipigon talks about the great intentions of the fellow, but he still has not filed returns for February, March and April. He still owes $1,402.06 in taxes. The member tells me about these great intentions and the man wanting to do everything right, but he is not taking any steps whatsoever.
Mr. Stokes: He owed more than $3,200 or $3,300. He is making an honest effort.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: If he is making an honest effort, why has he not filed his returns for February, March and April? That is a necessary step, too, is it not?
Mr. Stokes: I guess he does not like the heavy-handed way he was treated.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: We treat armed robbers a little roughly, too, but that does not give them the excuse to point a gun at us.
Mr. Stokes: Is the minister saying that legitimate businessmen in Geraldton, in my constituency, are crooks?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: No.
Mr. Stokes: Is that what he wants me to take back to them? They had a cash flow problem. Has the minister never had a cash flow problem in his own life? I know I have. All we are asking for is a little bit of understanding and a little bit of compassion. Either his ministry, as a matter of course, or the sheriff does not know what the hell compassion is.
We have had two car dealerships go out of business completely in Geraldton. The minister does not know what the situation has been like. We had a General Motors dealer who went out of business and a Ford dealer who went out of business. Does the minister know we do not have a car dealership between Hearst and Nipigon along Highway 11? That is a fact. Residents of Longlac, Geraldton, Nakina or Beardmore cannot buy a car locally. They either go west on Highway 11 to Nipigon or east on Highway 11 to Hearst. That is the situation.
The Sinclairs used to have a GM dealership. Bob Meyers, who is a good friend of the minister politically, had a Ford dealership right across the street. They are both out of business through no fault of their own, because of the recession. This was the problem facing the Sinclairs. The minister says he wants to keep people in business, but the attitude that has been taken by his ministry in the collection of retail sales tax does not keep them in business.
Mr. Sinclair admits he owes the money and he admits he has to pay penalties, but the minister does not help. If someone is the friend of businessmen, big or small, he does not hit them over the head when they are down, as the minister and the sheriff have done. If the minister wants to leave the impression that he feels he is snow white and squeaky clean in this whole thing, if he wants me to take that back to all the businessmen in the north, then let him say so. That is not my impression of the way this minister and his ministry operate.
I think some mistakes were made and I hope the minister will admit that. I am not asking him to eat crow. Let him go up there and see the situation. They had a temporary cash flow problem, which they admit. They have been paying it back and they will pay it back, but the minister does not help them by putting them to another $600 expense because the sheriff has to be paid and the towing company has to be paid. There is only so much money and the minister is going to have to wait that much longer for his. I do not think he should treat businessmen or agents in this fashion.
There was never any doubt they owed the money and will pay the money. They are subject to penalties and will pay the penalties, but the heavy-handedness of the sheriff, the sheriff's officer and whoever instructed them to take the action they have, is not acceptable to me and I hope it is not acceptable to the minister.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chairman, I fully recognize there is no possible way I am going to convince the member of anything on this matter. He is putting words in my mouth and saying I am calling people crooks. I am not suggesting that.
Mr. Stokes: The minister made the comparison. It is on the record.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I drew a comparison because it was a silly point the member was trying to make.
I am not saying the man is dishonest. I am saying he is an very poor businessman. The member is trying to point out as a great businessman a man who, despite all this, has still not filed his returns. It has been a continuous thing. To my knowledge and to the knowledge of my staff, he has made no arrangements as far as repayment is concerned. His attitude seems to be, "I will pay you a little bit when I can." That is awfully nice. He still has not filed for three months in a row. He has not filed for February, March or April. This does not sound to me like someone who is legitimately trying.
Mr. Kerrio: He is deficit budgeting.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Yes, deficit budgeting. That is right.
The member asked me a personal question: Would I behave that way? If I were the guy sent up there to collect, I probably would not drive his trailer away, but that was not my choice to make. That was a choice made by a sheriff. That is what the sheriff chose to do.
I guess the member is asking if we as a ministry are going to reimburse this man for costs that were self-imposed, and I have to tell him no.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Chairman, I want to raise with the minister a local issue which concerns many of the people in the Ottawa Valley and in Prescott-Russell. It has to do with the retail sales tax.
A lot of the competition in our area is really not Ontario competition but competition from Quebec, right across the border. In Hawkesbury, one is separated from Quebec by the Perley bridge that links Hawkesbury to Grenville. If one is in St. Eugène, there is just an imaginary line that crosses into Quebec, the west island area of Montreal. If one is in Ottawa, Hull is right across the river. I am sure the minister is familiar with the local geography and the fact that much of the business competition is often across the river or across that provincial boundary.
The people of Cornwall have a similar experience with American jurisdictions. However, there is a certain barrier known as customs when people do business across the line. We do not have that barrier with Quebec, of course, and I do not advocate we ever do.
There is a problem, however, in that Quebec has no sales tax on furniture and large-ticket items such as that. I understand there is also no sales tax on certain clothing items. Many of our businesses in Hawkesbury and Ottawa are suffering greatly because Ontario residents just go across the bridge to Quebec to buy a bedroom suite or to completely furnish their homes. They pay no sales tax there at all because there is no sales tax on furniture in Quebec.
The minister will probably say this existed before Quebec eliminated the sales tax on these things. People would often get away with it in Quebec by saying they were from out of province. Then they would just carry it across the Ontario border, sometimes using a fictitious address in order not to get caught if ever inspectors followed up on it. That sometimes would happen in the past. However, sometimes they gave the right address and the officials would end up finding them later and getting them to pay the proper amount of sales tax.
However, now that there is no sales tax at all on those items in Quebec, Ontario businesses are losing out on that type of business and there is absolutely nothing they can do to get it back. No matter what they do, they are seven per cent higher than the store across the river. There are only 500 feet or 1,000 feet between the two stores. They presumably pay property taxes and have other similar costs. They buy their merchandise from the same large distributors in Montreal or the eastern townships where furniture is manufactured. It is hauled the same distance or close to it, but the retail price is seven per cent more in Ontario. So it is understandable that a lot of business is lost to the Quebec side.
The minister is probably wondering how I want him to fix that problem. I could mention a parallel situation that existed in Quebec a couple of years ago. He will probably recall that at one point Quebec raised the gasoline tax considerably to pay for past government largess in a variety of ways. They had doled out such large amounts that they found themselves in a serious financial bind and they raised the sales tax on gasoline.
A few months after they raised that tax, all the stations close to the Ontario-Quebec border protested to the National Assembly of Quebec. The government of Quebec did the following: It established zones. From zero to five kilometres from the border, it reduced the surtax it had applied by 33 per cent; from six to 10 kilometres, the reduction was 22.36 per cent; from 11 to 15 kilometres, there was a reduction of 12.24 per cent; and from 16 to 20 kilometres, there was a reduction of 1.27 per cent. At 21 kilometres from the Ontario-Quebec border, the tax's full rate applies in that province.
Gasoline in Quebec, right across the border from Hawkesbury, is almost exactly the same price as it is in Hawkesbury. If it is not, it is not worth while crossing the bridge to buy it on the Ontario side. It is not practical for the small saving there would be.
I am wondering whether the minister has ever thought about some of our local businesses who have been forced to contend with that very strong competition. It is a constant seven per cent competition elsewhere. Has the minister ever contemplated establishing a similar sales tax reduction zone near that border?
I recognize he may not have an answer for that right away, because it is a very complicated issue with repercussions galore. What is everybody else who lives beyond that zone going to ask for once we give it to them? He will have to contemplate all that good stuff.
There is a precedent elsewhere where other jurisdictions have sought to aid their businesses near borders that had a favourable tax rate to theirs. Quebec's tax on gasoline was completely out of sync with Ontario's tax; so it sought to give its merchants near the border a reduction. The result is that merchants have almost totally recovered all their lost business.
I can assure the minister that when the tax was established two years ago in Quebec, one could not find a car near a gas station in Hull, Grenville or any other Quebec border community. Now they have all that business back.
If the minister ever has the opportunity of coming to my constituency -- not to make a political speech but to look into this problem -- I invite him to visit the merchants in Hawkesbury, whether he goes into Assaly Furniture or any of the other furniture stores in the area, and ask them how big a problem this is.
He should take his limousine across the bridge into Quebec to visit some of the furniture stores on the Quebec side. He will see these small towns with big furniture stores doing all kinds of business from the Ontario side. This situation has existed for a number of years. It is not something the government of Quebec did three weeks ago and is only temporary for one year. Perhaps the minister's officials would know better than I, but this situation has existed for a number of years. Our stores are really in difficulty.
I invite the minister to respond to that. If he cannot respond to it right away, I invite him at least to give it some thought. I think it would assist our merchants greatly, not only in my constituency but in Ottawa and other communities as well.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chairman, I thank the honourable member for his comments. I do sympathize with what he is saying. We are aware of this problem. I cannot state unequivocally that it has never been addressed in the ministry. We would be interested in any method that could solve this problem. I do not think we would be too interested in a zoned approach, the way it is done in Quebec. I do not believe we would see that as a solution to the problem.
The member mentioned the furniture business as the one that benefits from this in Quebec. I would suggest it might be reciprocal to the benefit of Ontario in that many people from Quebec would come to Ontario to buy other products that are taxed at seven per cent as opposed to nine per cent in Quebec. If we talk in terms of an automobile, for example --
Mr. Boudria: That is ridiculous. The minister knows sales tax is paid on automobiles when the plates are bought. You do not pay the tax when you buy the car; you pay when you buy the plates.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: It is paid to the dealer when a new car is bought.
Mr. Boudria: I am sure the minister's officials will inform him that when an Ontario dealer sells a car in Quebec, the person buying it pays the Quebec sales tax and vice versa. I have bought cars in Quebec in the past and still paid the Ontario sales tax; so that is not quite the way it works.
In the past, if there was no reciprocal arrangement with the dealer, I had to buy my plates in Ottawa, drive to the dealer with the plates and put them on my car over there. I also had to take along a copy of the invoice. The sales tax on automobiles is paid in the province where the purchaser lives. That is actually the only item where that would not work.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I always hesitate to argue with my friend, but he has bought nothing but used cars. If he bought a new car, he would pay it at the dealer because he is an authorized collector. If he bought a used car, he would pay at the licence issuing office because a person selling a used car is not a collector.
I think the member will find, as I think those about him will advise him, that I am correct in this. If he buys a new car, he will pay sales tax on it where he buys it.
Mr. Boudria: Check it some more. It is not right.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: The member does not want to hear the answer; he has made up his mind as to what the answer should be. I am telling him what the answer is.
Mr. Breaugh: This is a rare occasion; the minister is correct.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Right.
Mr. Boudria: I hate to bring it up again, but in so far as cars are concerned, the minister is right where there is a reciprocal agreement between two provinces. If the car is bought at a dealership that is 50 or 75 miles into Quebec and there is no reciprocal agreement, you buy the car, take a copy of the invoice to the licence bureau in Ontario, get it transferred and then pick up the car. In that way you end up paying the Ontario sales tax.
I do buy new cars occasionally, although they are not nearly as expensive as the new cars provided for the ministers.
However, the car business is not the relevant issue. The issue involves items of furniture, which are not taxed in Quebec and which are taxed in Ontario. I invite the minister to respond to that aspect of it.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I am sorry, I did not get the last part of that, but I can assure the member he is totally wrong on that. I can understand why he wants to get away from that subject and not discuss it as a comparison.
Mr. Riddell: Do not be so bloody sanctimonious.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Look who is here. I am sorry. Did I wake him up?
Mr. Riddell: Do not be so sanctimonious.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I am not being sanctimonious. The member does not call the member for Prescott-Russell (Mr. Boudria) sanctimonious for the way he comes on, or even the member himself for the way he comes on.
Mr. Boudria: Why does the minister not answer the question?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I am trying to make the point that the sales tax is two per cent higher in Quebec than it is in Ontario. People could very well come to Ontario to buy a car with sales tax at seven per cent as opposed to nine per cent. I am sorry, but the member is wrong on that business about sales tax he paid at the dealer. Even my friends from the New Democratic Party agree with that. The member for Oshawa said I finally got one right.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Chairman, I would like to review with the minister some questions I raised the last time we had an opportunity to discuss his revenue bill. He will recall at that time, I tabled some 23 pages of tables that I had researchers do for Etobicoke and Toronto as well as some initial explorations for the city of Ottawa. Not having the budget for staff that the minister has, we were not able to complete the process in Ottawa.
The pattern basically held the same in all three cities, namely, that condominiums are grossly overtaxed compared to other forms of housing. We were able to show that in Etobicoke the condominium owners are double-taxed -- they pay municipal taxes and they pay to have services performed by private contractors -- and we have dealt with that in other estimates.
At the same time, in dealing with the specific research of the city of Toronto, we found that in Toronto the taxes on the average condominium were more than 50 per cent higher than those on single-family homes that sold for the same amount, and in Etobicoke the discrepancy in assessments was even greater.
I find the history of how this happened rather interesting. The minister's response was, "There is nothing we can do about it, because there is a matter before the courts." Of course, there is always a matter before the courts, and one can use that as a rationalization for not doing anything about practically any problem.
The minister may recall that in 1974 a lawyer by the name of Barry Widman won an appeal of unfair tax assessment for an Etobicoke condominium corporation in charge of a complex called The Grange. The case was initially presented at the assessment review court and it passed through successively higher court levels. The case was won by the corporation at each court level but was appealed by the province. After hearings at the county court, the Ontario Municipal Board and finally the Court of Appeal, the corporation had a victory; at that point the province stepped in and amended the Assessment Act.
The province had previously computed its assessment rates from 1940 property value figures. As I traced them in my speech in the Legislature on November 1, 1983, various things have interfered in the marketplace to put the property taxes on condominiums way out of whack in comparison to those on other forms of housing.
The minister admitted -- and I appreciate that he did admit it -- that with one or two minor discrepancies, the research held and in fact was valid. Having accepted the validity of my contention that condominium owners are being overtaxed on their property, is he now prepared to take any action to correct this great injustice?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chairman, I have of course spoken to the honourable member, and I do recall that when we were presenting the amendment to the Assessment Act back in the fall, I did get this research from him and I had my staff look it over. There was some degree of accuracy in his figures.
As the member will know, condominiums are assessed as single-family homes. I do not think he disputes that at all, although I think he would rather it were not so; but they are assessed as single-family homes on the same basis as such homes.
This has been challenged in the court, and there have been conflicting reports by courts as to which is the proper way to do it. At present, a vast number of them -- a lot of them from my riding and from Mississauga as a whole -- are being dealt with before the courts. I do not know what else I can tell the member at this point, but I am not looking at any major change in the way they are being assessed at present.
Mr. Philip: If you go for an assessment review and try to present your case as, "There is a house in the same area worth X dollars; I have a condominium of equal value," that kind of analogy will not be accepted; instead, you have to compare it only with other condominiums, which puts you in a no-win situation. It means that for a whole group of housing that is overtaxed, you have to try to prove the case that you are overtaxed by comparing it with other forms of housing that are also overtaxed, and you cannot win on that.
It is bad enough that condominium owners are overtaxed in the sense that they are being taxed to pay for services other people receive free from the municipality but which they pay for out of their maintenance fees; then the ministry comes along and gives them this other slap. They are being doubly taxed on their type of housing. Since the minister does accept the research as being valid, is it not about time he looked at the situation?
In 1974 he saw there was an inequity and tried to correct it. Why is it that now, when he can see there is an inequity being perpetrated, he does not try to remove that inequity?
The owners of larger and more luxurious condominiums, who can hire the lawyers, are being somewhat although not completely successful in going to the various stages of court.
The units in an average, middle-class condominium with 55 or 100 units of working-class and middle-class people are now selling for, at the uppermost, $60,000 to $75,000 per unit. Those people are not in the position to hire lawyers ad infinitum. They do not have the numbers in their condominium to afford it, in many cases because of the size of the condominium. They are put in a no-win situation.
Why is it the minister is not prepared to move on this?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: As I have told the member, and I think he has basically repeated his initial statement, this is under advisement. We are not contemplating any changes at this point.
Mr. Philip: Now that the minister has had an opportunity to examine the research, will he agree with two premises, that condominiums as a group are overtaxed in relation to other forms of housing and that middle-class, medium-priced condominiums are more highly taxed than luxury condominiums? If so, how does he justify this kind of inequity?
Those with more money, the owners of more luxurious condominiums, are paying fewer taxes proportionately to the value of their property than are middle-income and working people.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: The problem with condominiums is their sudden reduction in market value. Perhaps they are overassessed because they are assessed as a single family home and yet the actual marketability of condominiums has been reduced.
I do not agree that there is a point to be made, as he tries to do, that only rich people who live in rich condominiums get a fair shake because they can afford rich lawyers, and the people who are in lesser-priced condominiums get a poor deal because they can only get cheaper lawyers or no lawyers at all. I cannot approach it in that way.
I have to tell the member again that we do not want to be in the position of changing the system as he suggests. This would put us in the position of reassessing every condominium every year. I do not think the money to do that is there.
Mr. Philip: If the minister would read Hansard, he would see I did not suggest that. I said it could be done periodically; I did not suggest every year.
The minister still has not answered my two essential questions. Does he agree that condominiums as a group are overtaxed? That is the first question. It is a fairly straightforward question. I simply want an answer. Is it yes or no? Are they overtaxed compared to other forms of housing? Second, does he agree with my research that shows luxury condominiums are less overtaxed than medium-priced condominiums?
Will he answer those two questions? Yes for the first one, yes for the second; or no for the first one, whatever combination; but two words, one for each.
Are condominiums overtaxed as a group of housing compared to other forms of housing, and are middle income or medium-priced condominiums more heavily taxed than luxury condominiums?
Hon. Mr. Gregory: On the basis the member has put the question, I would say no and no. I do not think the condominiums are being taxed unfairly and no, I do not think a differentiation is made between a higher-priced condominium and a lower-priced one.
Mr. Philip: If the answer is no and no, what basis would he have for saying my research had considerable validity? Where was the validity? Those were the two theses, the two premises of the research.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I think the problem might be in the member's interpretation of his own research. We can accept his research as being carefully and well done, but his interpretation and ours might differ substantially.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I regret we have only 12 minutes left for the estimates of the Ministry of Revenue because there are a number of factors I would like to bring into the discussion. The first is the minister's interpretation of the contact members of this Legislature can have with members of the civil service.
I remind him that my staff was trying to arrange a meeting between myself and Mr. McClung, the commissioner of the region of York in late April or early May. Mr. McClung was told we could not meet unless we contacted the minister's office. The second time I spoke to the minister about this, he said it was okay to meet him in his office but it was not fine to meet any of his staff in this building.
If one wants to take that to crazy proportions it means that if I want to speak to W. J. Lettner, who is sitting back there, or T. M. Russell, the deputy minister, who is sitting in front, I cannot do so unless I first clear it with minister. If one wants to take it to crazy proportions it means that if the minister goes away on holidays for 10 days or for two or three weeks, or for whatever period of time, and we want to speak to a civil servant in his ministry, we have to wait for him to come back from holidays.
That same insecurity was not felt by Darcy McKeough when he was Minister of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs, or when he was Minister of Municipal Affairs, because when there were critics of the various ministries he held, he said, "Come on over and speak to the civil servants whenever you want or they will go to see you whenever you want." They had an open-door policy as far as information was concerned.
I want to draw to the minister's attention that this is something of an asinine policy. The civil servants are not his civil servants; they belong to the Ontario public. We should not have to clear it with his office so he can monitor their actions every time we want to speak with a civil servant, whether at his office or at Queen's Park.
If the minister follows that logic, I could not even speak to the deputy minister or the assistant deputy minister here without writing a note or coming over and asking for permission to speak to them, because that is what the minister said, that we could not speak to the commissioner of York at Queen's Park unless we had his permission. Although the minister indicated it was a courtesy, nevertheless when we went back a second time he was still not provided to us for consultation on assessment.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Obviously, the reason for that was that, after having spoken to me, the member continued to be discourteous. It is as simple as that. I would like to go over this step by step, because my story is substantially different from that of the member. He has given his story on several occasions by jumping up on points of privilege when he knew I would not have a chance to answer. That was a very good tactic.
Now that I have a few moments, I would like to tell the story as I understand it. It begins with a telephone call to Mr. McClung, the assessment commissioner in Newmarket. where he was directed by someone on the member's research staff, whose name escapes me, to appear at Queen's Park after question period, at approximately 3:30 p.m. to meet with the member and possibly someone else.
Mr. McClung contacted us and the message got through to me. My answer was I did not think a responsible civil servant in Newmarket, head of the office, should jump every time any member of this Legislature gives a directive to do so.
I talked to the member and his virtual seatmate the member for Niagara Falls (Mr. Kerrio) and explained to him in the member's absence that all I am suggesting is a reasonable notice for our staff to come from out of town. If a member is in one of the agencies and wants to speak to somebody, I could not care less, if they have time.
The point I am making is I do not think the member or any other should summon any member of the civil service staff in the town for his convenience. If the member cannot understand that -- it becomes a matter of common courtesy.
It would not be untoward for any member to write a note. Even the member for Middlesex (Mr. Eaton) writes me the odd note; not personal notes, they are usually in typed form. When he has a request, I get mail from him. If this member wanted to meet someone from the staff, what is wrong with sending a note saying: "Bud, we would like to have a meeting with Mr. McClung. What do you think"? I would say: "Fine. Arrange it. Give him a little notice."
He does not sit on his duff waiting for the member's phone calls. He has a job to do and is paid rather well for doing it. That is all I can say about the matter. If the member cannot understand it is just a matter of common courtesy, rather than being domineering and protective, then I feel sorry for him.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I approached the researcher on this. She categorically denied she directed him to do anything. She spoke to his staff. He said he was going to come, then he spoke to the minister's office and said he could not come. This has been going on since late April, early May. We have been trying to establish a meeting for a month now and still he has not agreed to come.
We tried the second time only last week, and it took him almost a week, from last Thursday to Wednesday, to reply to a phone call. That is a different situation. I have the notes here. She did not tape the call, but I asked her to make notes on the conversation she had. If the minister wants to go through them with me, I will be glad to do so. It is completely different from what the minister has been told, and I have spoken directly with the researcher on it.
If it takes more than a month to get a meeting, and nobody directed him to come here -- the minister told me himself he wanted to be informed; he thought it would be a courtesy to let him know whenever we wanted to speak to a civil servant because they are members of his staff. The minister said if I wanted to speak to his staff, then he would expect me to clear it through his office.
The minister can speak to my staff any time he wants to. He can call them without clearing it through me. Whenever he wants to speak to the staff he can do so. I do not feel insecure about the minister speaking to my staff.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: With the attitude the member has, I would feel insecure if I were he. He is wrong on this. I have said nothing about my staff not being allowed to talk to him. He seems to be deliberately avoiding this. The only stipulation I have made is if someone is pulling members out of the Newmarket office or any other branch office to come here to meet with him, all he needs to do is clear it with somebody, give somebody some notice. He is not sitting in Newmarket waiting for the member's call so he can come and attend to his business here when he already has his plate full there. All we need is a little notice. Surely, even the member can understand that.
Mr. Epp: I understand it, but why has he not been able to come? We have already tried for one month. Can the minister explain that to me?
Mr. Stokes: He has a big plate.
Mr. Breaugh: He is in hiding, that is all.
Mr. Epp: They tried on May 1 and today is June 4.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: It is very simple. The member seems intent that this is not the way it is going to be. He went ahead on a second occasion and proceeded in exactly the same way he did on the first occasion.
Mr. Epp: Exactly. I told the minister I would not ask his permission to speak to the civil servants of this province, and I will not ask his permission now, and I will not in the future. If the minister prevents me from speaking to Mr. McClung because I have to clear it through his office, I tell him now on the record that I will not do it.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Not once did I refuse to let the member talk to him or anything else, and he knows it. He continues hammering at this. He is hammering on this all the time, and he is not telling the truth.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I withdraw that
Mr. Chairman: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: But it will be in Hansard.
Mr. Epp: That is twice the minister has had to withdraw. He had to withdraw some last week because he told me I was from the boonies from Waterloo and that was after he was at the boonies speaking to the assessment --
Mr. Epp: What is that?
Mr. Gillies: That is right. Don't you have enough to keep busy?
Mr. Hodgson: I know exactly what you need.
Mr. Chairman: Order. Gentlemen, we have this rule about being "likely to create disorder."
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, we do not have a lot of time to speak about assessment. I did want to draw the minister's attention to the fact that there are a number of things with regard to assessment as applied to subsection 63(3). Let me ask him a very short question because we do not have much time. When municipalities ask for subsection 63(3) equalized assessment, and the ministry has all the computerized information and all the data it wants, why does it not share this information with the various municipalities before they have to make a decision?
As the minister knows, we have had the problem in Newcastle, Hamilton, Niagara Falls and North Bay. We hear the same problem wherever my task force goes. That is that although the municipalities get averages on categories, they do not get the individual information. The problem is that averages do not tell them anything. There could be a 400 per cent increase for somebody or a 400 per cent decrease. I ask the minister to give us some clear indication why he will not give that computerized information to municipalities before they make their decisions rather than giving it to them afterwards.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Before councils are asked to make a decision or before they pass a resolution to accept market value assessment under section 63, they are given this information. It is brought to them by the regional commissioners and explained to them and they are shown what the impact is going to be.
Mr. Epp: On groups, but not individuals.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Does the member want 500,000 individual cases given to him?
Mr. Epp: Yes, because averages do not tell them what it is going to do.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Under the Assessment Act, I do not believe we have the authority to divulge that information on a personal basis.
Mr. Epp: The ministry does afterwards.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: I do not have anything further to add.
Votes 901 to 903, inclusive, agreed to.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Gregory, the committee of supply reported certain resolutions.
House in committee of the whole.
BARRIE-VESPRA ANNEXATION ACT
Consideration of Bill 142, An Act respecting the City of Barrie and the Township of Vespra.
Mr. Chairman: Are there any comments on any section of the bill?
Mr. Rotenberg: Mr. Chairman, as we get into clause-by-clause of this bill again, after having done so in standing committee on general government, I would like to take this opportunity to bring to this House an understanding of the rationale for the bill. At the same time I know that many rural municipalities need reassurance --
Mr. Chairman: Order. Would we not be best served to go section by section at this point?
Mr. Rotenberg: I have some opening remarks, if I may.
Mr. Chairman: No, we do not have opening remarks in committee.
Mr. Breaugh: I think we are all anxious to make a few opening remarks. It has been some time since we had the bill before us and I think it is appropriate.
Mr. Chairman: The procedure has been that we would go section by section. Perhaps we could have those as a preamble to section 1. Your comments, please.
Mr. Rotenberg: My pleasure.
Mr. Breaugh: Yes. I think we are prepared to give unanimous consent here. The parliamentary assistant and the opposition critics would each appreciate the opportunity to make a few opening remarks on section 1. We are in committee and I think that would be in order.
Mr. Rotenberg: Mr. Chairman, if you would like to call section 1, I will make my remarks under that.
Mr. Chairman: I think members will find that tradition and precedent have always been to take it section by section. But we will call section 1 and then have the comments of the parliamentary assistant.
On section 1:
Mr. Rotenberg: On section 1, as I was saying, I would like to give the House an understanding of the rationale for this bill. At the same time I know there are many rural municipalities that need reassurance that annexations will not occur willy-nilly, as some would have them believe by an inaccurate rendering of the facts related to this bill.
There are two reasons for annexation. One is to provide raw land for urban expansion and the other is to recognize that urban growth has already taken place and should be part of the urban core. The second reason for annexation is logical because the cost of servicing fringe areas is levered on to the city or the province with the expensive infrastructure of roads, snow ploughing, water, sewage, garbage disposal, public transportation, schools and hospitals. More important, peripheral development without corrective change also imposes major demands on city core services such as sewer, transit, fire and community facilities.
The government has made a case, as Barrie did before the Ontario Municipal Board eight years ago, that the commercial shopping district and adjacent urbanizing areas on the edge of Barrie should be governed by the urban municipality. This has nothing to do with population projections. It has everything to do with the desirability of having the urban growth and its accompanying impacts and servicing needs -- policing, roads, fire protection and the planning of an urban community as a whole -- contained within one urban jurisdiction.
Even as I speak, there are many municipalities, cities, towns and townships talking and negotiating together, addressing those very issues in a serious attempt to make appropriate urban and rural boundary adjustments to respond to change or changing conditions in their respective areas of responsibility. There are seven negotiating committees now working across the province negotiating in good faith a resolution to their mutual boundary problems and issues.
Two negotiated agreements have already been reached in the Little Current and Glencoe areas. This approach reflects the acknowledgement by both provincial and local leaders that municipal boundaries are indeed arbitrary lines drawn with the object of creating municipal units within which citizens may best govern themselves and, through their administration, provide services to residents and properties. The drawing of such boundaries is clearly a political act that should be undertaken by politicians, not by an appointed administrative body.
Certainly annexation by legislation is an important part of our history and it is a very long history. But I will refer just to more recent times. The period of the 1960s and early 1970s was marked by major population shifts, and provincial and local politicians responded to meet the need for boundary adjustments. The response came in the form of studies and wide municipal and public input which led to the consolidation of dozens of area municipalities by amalgamation or annexation. About 200 municipalities in this province were affected.
Notable among these were Cambridge, Kanata and Kitchener-Waterloo. Waterloo, for example, was approximately doubled in size in 1973 by having annexed to it portions of Waterloo township. All of Waterloo township, as an example, was annexed to either Waterloo city or Kitchener. Thunder Bay, Timmins and Wasaga Beach were also legislated in that period.
The point I want to emphasize is that all the politicians representing all the parties participated. Not everyone got his way, but all participated. There was an understanding that if everyone's position were followed, there could be no policy and no resolution.
In even more recent times, we have seen local leaders quite prepared to take action on these difficult but important matters of public policy. It was the initiative of city mayors and a positive attempt by rural municipalities to find a solution that in 1979 provided the groundwork that led to the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act. Out of those early talks grew the concept of pilot projects, such as the Brant-Brantford area, where there was a successful resolution of boundary problems by local leaders with the support of members of the opposition parties at that time.
I would say just a word about one important motivating factor in moving boundary resolutions between and among municipalities clearly into the political forum. Points of law rather than public interest had become a fascination. For example, there seems to be some store placed in the fact that the Ontario Municipal Board decisions in the Barrie area were "overturned by the courts." Let us be clear on that. The courts were making judgements on procedural matters and procedural matters only, not on the merits of annexation.
I emphasize that this government considers boundary adjustments are matters for politicians and not for courts to decide. Even the courts were not pronouncing on the annexation itself, but on how a quasi-judicial body, the OMB, was proceeding to deal with it.
There was another matter that was resolved as a forerunner of the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act. That was the dispute between the township of Innisfil and the city of Barrie. This gives a good example of politicians coming to grips with problems of political jurisdiction.
I remind members of the comments of Reeve Andrade of Innisfil township before the standing committee on general government when we were holding public hearings last January on this bill. I consider these most impressive in terms of our ability to govern ourselves. Reeve Andrade was asked to outline briefly why he agreed to give up 9,300 acres and 4,400 people. I would like to quote his answer.
"It has been a very long story and our municipality was one that did not think the province was using the right process and went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and won. Not many small municipalities dig in their heels that greatly. There was also a recognition that our municipality had allowed, rightfully or wrongfully, fringe development to a point. There was also a recognition that some people, which is human nature, would like to have rural taxation but be totally related to and dependent on the city. We had allowed that, be it right or wrong, around the borders of the city. In truthfulness, the municipality was really not capable of giving the services to some of the areas."
That is the end of the quote of Reeve Andrade. There was more to the exchange in committee. I am sure members opposite will wish to recall it, but it was one of the most enlightened and encouraging statements made before committee, as modern parlance puts it, to tell it like it is. I say again that the reeve stated to the committee, "As a township that has been through the process, with a lot of unknowns ahead, we felt we have been dealt with fairly."
While I have described an enlightened society that is willing to talk about and take steps to adjust its shape to changing conditions, this is apparently anathema to Vespra township. Every body that has addressed and is addressing these issues in a spirit of problem-solving seems to be out of step with the township of Vespra. The government has felt obliged in this case, with a task force report, several OMB hearings -- one of which lasted nine months -- several court cases up to the Supreme Court of Canada and more than $1 million in public funds spent over 10 years on legal fees, to be referee and draw this matter to a conclusion.
A forum of last resort in these matters is the Legislature and its general government committee, which has heard a number of representations. I remind the members of this House of the changes to the bill which resulted from the committee's deliberations.
1. The acreage involved has been reduced by about half, leaving in Vespra the prime agricultural land, Little Lake and the Barrie Golf and Country Club.
2. The county has been made eligible for financial compensation.
3. A moratorium to the year 2012, the same as for Innisfil, has been placed on disputed annexations.
4. More flexibility has been added to the method by which the annexed residents will be represented on the Barrie city council.
There are many jurisdictions, not only in North America but around the world, that envy our ability here in Ontario to adjust municipal boundaries to meet changing needs and conditions if necessary.
Vespra stated in a recent letter: "Merely because an urban municipality says they want something, the provincial government can ensure that they get it without establishing the basic criteria or need." This is simply not true.
Previously, an urban municipality had to prove need before the Ontario Municipal Board. Under the new boundaries process, an urban municipality must make a case both during fact-finding and during negotiations to justify change. Change is not automatic.
May I state again that the government of Ontario is looking to local leaders to participate in resolving boundary issues. As the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Mr. Bennett) has stated, decisions related to municipal boundaries are, as a matter of public policy, being sorted out at the local level. The Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act, which was supported by all parties in this House a few years ago, is testimony to that belief. It is only when negotiations and mediations totally break down that the government, as provided in the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act, may find it necessary to act.
However, I want to assure this House and all the municipalities in the province that this government will continue to press for and assist in negotiations. It is committed to the negotiating process in all municipal boundary disputes.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to be able to speak to this bill. I regret the government has agreed to pursue this inequitable path of taking land away from a viable community. I regret the government has not proceeded through the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act. I regret the government is trying to punish one small municipality for a study that is regarded, even by the government, I am sure, as completely out of touch with reality.
This study, which was done in the late 1960s or early 1970s, forecast a population of somewhat over 100,000 for Barrie, and this bill is supposed to help to give it the population expansion that the study predicted. Everyone knows the government is going to have to have a miracle -- and we do not see many miracles these days, particularly with this government -- in order to show that population in the Barrie area.
I want to speak for a moment on the parliamentary assistant's comments that these are not "willy-nilly" annexations. I wonder what he is going to say when the Minister of Industry and Trade (Mr. F. S. Miller) becomes Premier. Is he going to say Frankie-Panky? Or when the Treasurer (Mr. Grossman) becomes Premier, is he going to say Larry-Parry? Just because the member for Brampton (Mr. Davis) happens to be Premier, he does not have to refer to him as Willy-Nilly. Nevertheless, it is something the parliamentary assistant will want to take up with the Premier when he is back from another one of his trips to Europe.
The parliamentary assistant has also commented on the fact that seven other sets of negotiations are going on across the province with two or more municipalities under the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act. I want to remind him that the township of Vespra gave up land on at least two previous occasions since the early 1950s through negotiations with the city of Barrie. It has always been prepared to negotiate.
I want to remind the parliamentary assistant that the township, in fact -- I think it was in the early 1980s, perhaps in 1982 or 1983 -- wrote to the Premier of this province and asked him to undertake to persuade the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to start negotiations between the city of Barrie and the township of Vespra. That was after Barrie refused to go along with those negotiations and asked for twice as much land as the Ontario Municipal Board had given to Barrie on a previous occasion. The OMB gave 320 acres to Barrie through a decision. It then asked for twice as much all of a sudden through negotiations.
In other words, it was showing bad faith. It was at that point that Vespra decided not to proceed with negotiations. It was Vespra, not Barrie that had asked for those negotiations.
The parliamentary assistant said Vespra did not ask for the negotiations. I tell him there is correspondence to show that Vespra did ask for negotiations. I believe the reeve of the township was Mr. Buie. I can get a copy of the letter and give it to the parliamentary assistant if he does not believe it. I note that the parliamentary assistant shook his head in the negative, that Vespra did not initiate those negotiations.
I want to draw the parliamentary assistant's attention to the fact that I come from the city of Waterloo. Right next door is the city of Kitchener. We have been twin communities for many years. We have an ideal situation in those two thriving communities. I am proud to be in one community, but I would also be proud to be a member of the other community. They live side by side and there is a lot of co-operation between them.
I have faith that if he had permitted Vespra to remain as an autonomous area without taking away 2,000 acres and to keep the 90 per cent of the commercial assessment he wants to take away from it and the 40 to 45 per cent of the total assessment he wants to take away from it, those two communities could grow up side by side and have a very good partnership in a lot of services the same as Kitchener and Waterloo have.
What he is saying is that the foresight of our forefathers in keeping Waterloo and Kitchener together and yet separate was not foresight, that it was an error and two other rnunicipalities could not do the same in Ontario. I tell him that he is totally wrong. I have greater faith in the people of Barrie and the people of Vespra than he has ever shown in this House or outside this House. That is why he has brought in this legislation.
I also want to draw his attention to the procedural thing. Despite the fact that the township of Vespra by going to higher courts has overturned the OMB rulings, he says that was on procedural matters. He just casts it aside as if procedural matters are unimportant. It was not that the OMB made a decision on nonprocedural matters and the case was thrown out; it was the fact that they were procedural matters.
I want to draw to the parliamentary assistant's attention that I am a member of the standing committee on procedural affairs and a member of this Legislature. Procedure is very important.
We have a Speaker or a chairman so we follow procedure. One can often reach the wrong conclusion by having the wrong procedure. That is what happened in the case of two decisions by the Ontario Municipal Board. The courts found they had arrived at the wrong decision by using the wrong procedure.
The parliamentary assistant said they arrived at the right decision. Many decisions are arrived at wrongly by using the wrong procedure, and that was the case here. Thank goodness for the courts. They saw what was happening, turned that decision aside and asked the OMB to start all over again.
Two of the hearing officers for the OMB were castigated by the courts for the kind of actions they had taken. Some of the people at that last hearing of the OMB were told they were going to have two stages of hearings. They were arguing legal points. After the hearing, the OMB made a decision, after completely misleading the city of Barrie and the township of Vespra and their representatives.
I say this very honestly. Whether they did it intentionally or unintentionally, I do not know. However, all one has to do is read the record. The minister, and anyone else who reads the case, knows they were told they were going to have a two-stage hearing. They were going to deal with some of the legalities of it, procedural matters, and then they were going to deal with the substance of the case itself, whether more land was supposed to go from Vespra to Barrie.
The minister knows they never had the second part of that hearing. They made the decision after the first part. That is why the Divisional Court threw it out. The minister tried to slough it off by saying it was an unimportant procedural matter. It was very important to the city of Barrie and to the township of Vespra that they proceed properly, and they did not proceed properly.
The parliamentary assistant raised the fact that Innisfil township gave up 7,908 acres in total. He said the township was relatively pleased with the way things had gone. It really did not have much choice. We asked Barrie to present its case in front of the committee. Neither the government nor Barrie put forth a very strong case in favour of annexation.
The best reference we got to the case for annexation came when we went to the county building. I think the chairman of the chamber of commerce for the city of Barrie was there. I forget his name. He referred to the fact that if Barrie got this additional 90 per cent of the commercial assessment from Vespra, the taxes in Barrie would not be as high as they are now. In other words, he perceived it as an economic measure.
It is some months now since I heard it, but I think he suggested that as far as he perceived it -- and if I am wrong on this, I will be glad to withdraw it, but I do not think I am -- Barrie wanted to annex this part for economic reasons. There was a considerable amount of commercial assessment and it needed it to keep its own tax base down.
This raises another very important part, which is compensation. The parliamentary assistant indicated earlier they are prepared to negotiate. I guess Barrie is prepared to negotiate.
I am not speaking on behalf of either Vespra or Barrie, as they are very capable speaking on behalf of themselves, but when one wants to negotiate with two municipalities, one does not have an open forum at Georgian College and send the Solicitor General (Mr. G. W. Taylor). The Solicitor General can address this himself since he is in his seat. He has taken a very active role on the part of Barrie, and that is his God-given right; he can do it if he wants to. However, one does not send a person as chairman to negotiate between two municipalities when his mind is already made up and there are about 40 people there to negotiate.
If the government wants to negotiate and if it wants to show the people of Vespra and the people of Barrie that it has an open mind on compensation and that it is going to negotiate the whole thing, then it should not send the Solicitor General down there to be chairman in a forum with 40 people. He can tell the House himself he is biased, and he has been biased from square one. I say it is his right to be biased. He has taken Barrie's position. He lives in the city of Barrie, as I understand it, and he can take that position. But the government should not tell the members and the people of Ontario it wants a fair settlement and send him down there to be its chairman.
Speaking about compensation, no figure was mentioned to give to the township of Vespra. The ministry wants the township to sit down and negotiate and accept the principle that Barrie needs this 2,000 acres of land. The township is not prepared to accept that. The ministry has not offered anything to make it easy for Vespra. There was a resolution put before the standing committee on general government asking that $10 million be given to the township, which is going to lose a considerable amount of money over the years.
Not a single person in the Georgian Mall asked to be annexed to Barrie. Not a single person who came before the committee and supported annexation came from that mall and said, "We think we would be better off if we were in the city of Barrie." I do not blame Barrie for asking for Georgian Mall. They are going to get a lot of good assessment. One would take it oneself if one could. Next week, Metropolitan Toronto, because it is bigger, may want to annex Barrie, which is a very viable community, and the government of Ontario will go along with it because it always sides with the bigger communities over the smaller ones.
That is why more than 100 small urban municipalities have supported the resolution that Vespra circulated in the province supporting its bid not to be annexed. They are opposed to annexation, and they favour a bill that the provincial government, this party and the third party supported, the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act. I almost come to tears at the fact that the government put in the bill, then would not let the bill work for it.
They put a bill out, did all the desk-thumping and everything else and said: "Are we not great? We have brought in the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act." Then, a few months before the Ontario Municipal Board's term on this negotiation procedure is to run out -- I think it would have expired on February 1, 1984 -- the government brought in Bill 142, which is going to completely short-circuit the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act.
If they had had that act, I suppose they would have appointed the Solicitor General as their negotiator -- without any extra pay, of course. The compensation the government wants to give to Vespra has never been put on the table. They have never said: "We are prepared to give you $5 million," "We are prepared to give you $2 million" or "We are prepared to give you 50 cents." The Solicitor General would never say that, not as chairman.
Instead, they say: "Why don't you people sit down like nice people, like good guys. We are going to rape you of 2,000 acres or 90 per cent of your commercial assessment. We are going to rape you of 40 per cent to 45 per cent of your total assessment. We are going to make you almost impotent, but you should be thankful to the great government of Ontario, which has a $25-billion budget to back up this piece of legislation and a $2.5-billion deficit to boot."
They are telling the township of Vespra: "We are good guys. Just listen to us. We are not prepared to put anything on the table, but you go along and negotiate yourself almost out of existence. Then tell your taxpayers to vote for the Solicitor General, because he is the guy who brought all this about."
If the Solicitor General had not been responsible for this, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing would never have had the courage to bring in this piece of legislation. I know the government already regrets bringing it in. I challenge the parliamentary assistant to deny it, because his back-benchers have already told me it would not have been brought in had he known it was going to cause such a stink.
Mr. Rotenberg: I deny the statement the member has made. We do not regret bringing in this legislation.
Mr. Chairman: We owe it to ourselves to remember our function in the committee on this occasion. We did permit the parliamentary assistant seven or eight minutes of comment on section 1. The member is now making his comments for his party, and I expect we will hear from the third party.
I have not called members to order as yet, but it is true that the function of a committee on a bill is to go through it section by section. We have had second reading, the principle of the bill has been passed and we are in committee to deal with it section by section.
I am in your hands, but we do have our rules and we are not technically abiding by them. I will not be calling anyone to order, but I ask all members to try to have some sameness in the sharing of time. Perhaps we can then get on with clause-by-clause.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, you understand we are talking about the township of Vespra being annexed. I am very much addressing the principle of this bill and the very first part, clause1(1)(a); so I am very much on topic.
Mr. Chairman: I am simply reminding the member that we have had second reading.
Mr. Epp: I would like to draw members' attention to the fact that Vespra council members are here. We have Reeve Adams and a number of councillors and staff here. Mayor Archer is in the opposite corner with members of his council and staff. We welcome them here for this debate.
Mr. Chairman: I want to abide by the rules that we have been given in our committee work.
Mr. Epp: As a member of the standing committee on procedural affairs, I do not wish to be found wanting. But I am speaking about this annexed area. I am speaking about 2,000 acres, I am speaking about environmentally sensitive areas and I am speaking about prime agricultural land that is going to be annexed.
I cannot understand why Barrie wants all that agricultural land unless it is going to develop it. Why would an urbanizing municipality want agricultural land taken from a smaller municipality if it were not going to build houses, industry, cottages, commercial malls, whatever? I cannot see why it would want the agricultural land. I always thought townships were essentially rural in nature and cities were urban in nature.
The land Barrie wants to build and expand on is the 2,000 acres it will be getting in this proposed legislation. By the year 2012, I believe it is, Barrie hopes to have the whole 2,000 acres it is getting from Vespra township filled up, as well as the 8,908 acres it just got from Innisfil township.
When we had hearings, a number of people came before the committee to say that Barrie had annexed some of this land 15 to 20 years ago. I am not sure whether it came from Oro, Vespra or lnnisfil; those are the three townships that surround Barrie. They still did not have services on some of that land.
My impression was that when areas are annexed to an urbanizing municipality such as Barrie, one of the reasons it is annexed is to get services such as sewers, water, regular garbage collection and things of that nature.
I cannot recall what they said with respect to regular garbage collection, but they did say they did not get the other services. They did not have water and certainly did not have sewer, and they have been in the city of Barrie for 15 or 20 years. What good was it to annex them to Barrie some years ago with some expectation of urban services if they still do not have those?
In annexing all this property to Barrie there must be an intention, first, to urbanize the property and, second, to provide services to those areas. The record shows they have not provided services to many of the areas they had annexed 15 or 20 years ago.
The other important thing was that in drawing the boundary lines -- we are speaking about annexed areas, and that obviously refers to the boundary line -- the ministerial staff originally put the boundary line partly through the lake. The committee felt very strongly that the most sensitive area of the lake -- that is, in the immediate vicinity -- should be kept in the township of Vespra.
As a result of discussions more recent than those, the boundary line was drawn into Barrie; and the lake, being the very sensitive environmental area it is, will be kept in Vespra.
Mr. Chairman: The member is pausing here. Is he wrapping up?
Mr. Epp: Yes, it is just a pause; but, coming from Waterloo, where we have Labatt's, I guess this is not going to be the pause that refreshes.
I just want to go back for a moment to discuss the more than 100 small municipalities. Having been the mayor of a municipality, a regional councillor and a municipal councillor for almost 10 years, I know that municipalities do not respond lightly to resolutions that are circulated, often, to all other municipalities of the province, and that means, as members know, more than 835 municipalities.
I suppose it is easier for the smaller municipalities to file in file 13 a resolution that is circulated, because they do not have the staff to respond to all the kinds of resolutions that come forward. So I think the fact that more than 100 municipalities have responded to a resolution that Vespra circulated in opposition to Bill 142 is a very important matter. It means that 750,000 to one million people represented in those very small, important municipalities are opposed to this bill.
They oppose the bill for a number of reasons. They oppose it first of all because it sets a bad precedent. It is the first case since the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act was passed in which the province is stepping in and trying to annex. It is not merely trying to annex; it will annex. It has the majority; it will bring down the heavy club and it will annex those 2,000 acres.
It does not matter what Vespra says, and it does not matter whether Barrie is in favour of it; that is unimportant as far as the government is concerned. Barrie got 2,000 acres, but that may not be exactly the number it wanted; it may have wanted 1,500 acres. It was in favour of the annexation, and it will get a considerable amount of land and a considerable amount of assessment. But the fact that more than 100 small municipalities have passed a resolution condemning the government and opposing this bill is important.
The other important point, and I want to get back to compensation for a minute, is how this compensation is going to be paid. If the government were to put down a formula and say, "Vespra is going to get $5 million and Barrie is going to pay it, because you are getting all the commercial assessment," then Barrie would know where it stood.
Barrie does not know where it stands right now. It got $24 million for a sewer project or something like that -- $18 million or $19 million; I cannot get a message from up there, but it was close to $20 million. Is it going to be expected to use part of that sewer money -- for want of a better phrase -- to compensate Vespra or is that money going to come from the provincial Treasury?
The province is bringing in the legislation. It is forcing this annexation. It is the culprit in this whole matter. I am sorry to say that, but it is the culprit. It is the one that is doing this. Barrie may want it, but it could not do it without that provincial assistance. What did the parliamentary assistant say? "Willy-nilly"?
Mr. Haggerty: A willing buyer.
Mr. Epp: Speaking about a willing buyer, the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Gregory) was here a few minutes ago; his ministry has assessment on properties. He keeps saying, "In order to determine assessment, one has to have a willing buyer and seller." This is not a very good case for establishing some kind of assessment.
The parliamentary assistant, the Solicitor General and all the members of the government party know it may have a willing buyer here, but it sure does not have a willing seller. It would never have a sale under these kinds of conditions. It is unfortunate the government has gone ahead with this, because it is not treating Vespra the way it would want to be treated.
Although the federal legislation is a little different with respect to powers and so forth -- I am familiar with sections 91, 92 and 93 of the British North America Act and the comparable sections of the new Charter of Rights and the Canadian Constitution -- if the federal government treated the province half as badly as the province has treated the township of Vespra, the Premier would immediately have a general election on that issue and come back with a majority of 125 seats or thereabouts. That is what would happen if the federal government were to treat the provincial government half as badly as it has treated the township of Vespra. Yet the government sits there smiling, pats itself on the back and thinks it is doing a great thing for the people of Ontario.
As a member of another community, the government would not dare treat the cities of Toronto, North York, Etobicoke, York and Scarborough and the borough of East York -- any one of the Metropolitan Toronto municipalities -- the cities of Hamilton, Ottawa, Waterloo, Windsor, London, Mississauga, or any of the larger municipalities the way it has treated Vespra, because it would become a provincial issue. Once that became a large-scale provincial issue, the government could see itself losing a lot of seats. Then it would not do it, but it will do it to Vespra because Vespra has a population of only a few thousand.
Even the Solicitor General can tell us that most of his votes are in Barrie and he is not concerned about Vespra. He never even appeared at the hearings when they were in this Legislative Building, and his office is only a few blocks away.
Mr. Edighoffer: He had a chauffeur to bring him in.
Mr. Epp: As the member for Perth tells us, he had a chauffeur to bring him in. He had staff who could have sat here and reminded him exactly what time the hearings started. He did have a staff member here who could have called him up and said:
"The meeting is going to start in five minutes. Why does the minister not come down, show his face and tell the people he is at least trying to understand the problem? He should tell the people of Vespra township, the ones who were coming down in busloads for the 10 o'clock hearings and leaving at four o'clock, that at least he empathizes and sympathizes with them. He should tell them he is going to try to get a fair deal for them. If he cannot make all those meetings here when they are only a few blocks from his office, he can tell them when they go back to his constituency." I think the county building is in the constituency. If it is not, I apologize. However, he was not to be seen.
I say to the parliamentary assistant that they botched this thing right from the start. He was not in on the making of the decision; the Solicitor General, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Premier were. I do not know whether Eddie Goodman was in on it, but Cadillac Fairview was involved.
That brings up another important point. He knows this bill --
Mr. Chairman: Perhaps the member could leave the other point he is about to bring up until after the supper hour.
The House recessed at 6 p.m.