The House met at 1330.
Hon Mr Elston: In my capacity as Chairman of Management Board, I would like to deliver a message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor, signed by his own hand.
The Speaker: The Lieutenant Governor transmits estimates of certain sums required for the services of the province for the year ending 31 March 1991 and recommends them to the Legislative Assembly. It is signed by His Honour Lincoln Alexander.
Mr Breaugh: It is too bad the member for Kitchener is not here, but he may be off on a crying jag today, because last night at the Civic Auditorium in Oshawa the fat lady sang for the Kitchener Rangers. The new champions of the Ontario Junior A hockey league are, of course, the Oshawa Generals.
Last night was another good night at the Civic. The Rangers ran into a product of the Oshawa Minor Hockey Association, a young guy named Kevin Butt. He just stoned the Rangers all night long. This is really quite a good hockey team. They have speed, they like to hit, they can skate, they have more moves than the dancers at the Dynasty.
The coaching staff, Rick Cornacchia and his crew, really have these boys ready. John Humphreys -- I hate to say a good word about an old Tory -- runs a class hockey team and they did well. They are getting ready now because they are going down to Hamilton. The Memorial Cup is there. The best hockey teams at the junior level from across Canada will be present for the Memorial Cup showdown.
We think this is the year of the Generals. They have had a couple of shots at it in recent years. They have a good team this year. They are well coached and well prepared. They have the support of all the people of Oshawa. We had a good rally for them at the Oshawa Centre earlier this week. They have the support of the community, and on 14 May the members are all invited to come to Oshawa because we are going to have yet another rally at the Civic Auditorium when the Generals bring home the Memorial Cup.
Mr Pope: I have to make a comment on the interesting difference of opinion between the Treasurer and the Premier yesterday with respect to the current economic situation that faces many Ontarians: loss of jobs, declining employment, increasing unemployment rates, plant closures, indications of declining private sector investment, inflation and high interest rates -- all an indication of a provincial economy that is facing some grave challenges ahead.
It is interesting to note that the response of this government to date has been to accuse the federal government. We all know that high interest rates are one of the vehicles to combat inflation. Statistics Canada has told us that one of the main contributors to inflation over the past two years has been government tax increases at all levels. This government has led the way with $2.6 billion in tax increases over the past two years -- 32 different tax increases. It has been one of the main contributors to inflation in Ontario.
Rather than casting blame, they should look within themselves, because they are robbing people of discretionary income. They are discouraging private sector investment. They are putting out the signal that Ontario is not a good place to invest money and create jobs. We cannot afford this kind of leadership.
Mr Adams: The Earth Day Ontario co-ordinating office is in Peterborough, the base for activities throughout the province. It is one of the spinoffs of the Our Common Future workshop sponsored by the city’s sustainable development committee last October.
Earth Day was celebrated throughout the city and county of Peterborough. There were tree plantings, waterway cleanups, plays, poster competitions and a museum exhibit -- a myriad of activities.
Both school boards, the city, county and township governments, Sir Sandford Fleming College, Trent University, the Boy Scouts, the downtown business improvement area group and a vast array of other groups were heavily involved. It seems to me that an Earth Day sermon was preached in every church.
A culmination of these activities was the Eco Fair in and around Peterborough Square. The BIA had a waste management booth, there was a corn stove on display and you could make your own bird feeder, study the city pollution control plan, hear the concerns of the Kawartha Rail Trail and Temagami groups and learn about organic gardening, household waste management and indisposable diapers. Even the MPP had a display.
Of course, one day is not enough. We should all remember the separate school board’s reminder that education and environmental awareness are a year-round commitment. My thanks to all the Peterborough Earth Day volunteers.
Miss Martel: The proposed health professions procedural code has given rise to new concerns regarding the health professions legislation review process. The language of the code has now negatively impacted upon health services delivered by other professions outside the review process.
Several examples include:
1. “The definitions of ‘diagnosis’ and ‘a licensed act’ and of ‘harm’ would preclude almost all of the initial assessment and joining work done in pastoral counselling,” writes the Pastoral Institute of Northern Ontario. Their doors will close if that occurs.
2. Counsellors at College Cambrian College in Sudbury note: “It will become illegal for analysts, psychotherapists, counsellors and many other mental health professionals to practise, because it is understood by all involved that there is a risk of mental pain or anguish. Many of them stand to lose their jobs as a result.”
3. The Anglican clergy of the deanery of Sudbury-Manitoulin believes, “Section 2706 seems to be a rather clumsy attempt to exclude clergy from the effects of the code, but it causes more difficulties than it resolves.”
4. The native friendship centre in Sudbury concludes: “Your proposed legislation will have a serious impact on our growth and healing. This legislation will once more criminalize our spiritual and healing ceremonies.”
Instead of the Minister of Health telling these groups, as she did in a recent letter, that their views will be considered by ministry staff as the legislation is prepared, she should meet with them now to come up with acceptable language that will not threaten the good work that they do.
TRAVEL INDUSTRY COMPENSATION FUND
Mr McLean: My statement is directed to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and relates to the recent collapse of Thomson and Odyssey.
According to recent press reports, the minister suggested there might not be enough money in the Ontario travel industry compensation fund to cover the expected $8-million cost of the collapse of Thomson and Odyssey. It is my understanding that no payments have been made into this fund for the past two years and that the regulations never took into account the possibility of an airline going bankrupt, when the ministry knew there was trouble as early as January.
The minister has also said that refunds would be mailed and handled by travel agents and that forms would be available by the end of the week. The minister said all this before he even discussed this matter with travel professionals, who are the people who must face the public. He has placed Ontario’s travel professionals on the firing line. He has placed them in an extremely awkward position.
It appears the minister is more interested in making headlines, rather than in providing travel professionals and consumers with detailed information and smoothing out the refund claim process. The Toronto Star claims that it may be two or three months before payments will be made and that the claim forms are expected to be in travel agents’ offices by 11 May.
The minister has handled this matter poorly. The statements he has made concerning the refund claim procedures are irresponsible and very unprofessional.
Mrs Fawcett: I would like to inform members of this House of the impending danger should the ground and surface waters in the northeast portion of my riding become contaminated if the Marmoraton mine is chosen as a landfill site for Metropolitan Toronto’s garbage. Should this site be chosen and leachate find its way into the Crowe River, the Trent River and the ground waters of the area, it would have a devastating effect on the quality of life of every member in the community.
The town of Campbellford is located on the Trent River system and is very dependent on the tourism industry. Should the Trent River system become contaminated, it would be a major blow to the town. Not only that, but the surrounding area is very dependent on the agrifood industry, and should water become contaminated, it would make it impossible for the farmers to feed their animals and irrigate their crops. Most importantly, the residents of the surrounding area depend on this water for drinking.
Many of the area residents are most concerned about the possible adverse effects and have in fact formed an organization, the Campbellford TNT, which stands for Take No Trash.
They are vehemently opposed to any suggestion that the Marmoraton mine site accept Metro’s garbage. I have spoken with them on numerous occasions and am most supportive of their efforts to protect and preserve the environment.
The government of Ontario is committed to the reduction of waste that we put in landfill sites, and this was reinforced by the recent budget. The Environmental Assessment Act and the Environmental Protection Act were established to preserve and maintain the water quality in this province. I will strive for the assurances that any future consideration of the Marmoraton mine site will fall under these and any other possible environmental checks in order to preserve and maintain the water quality.
Mr Kormos: Yesterday 1,000 Notre Dame high school students in Welland left their classrooms to march to the new headquarters of the Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board. Their march was one of protest, motivated by fear and anger. It followed a similar protest by hundreds of teachers and parents on Sunday.
These students, teachers and parents are intensely concerned about the quality of education in their schools. They are intensely aware that inadequate funding will result in larger class sizes, fewer teachers and the elimination of programs.
The scenario is not new. Over the past few years, we have seen community colleges, Niagara College among them, terminating staff and eliminating programs. Now high schools are being forced to follow suit. If anyone dares think even for a moment that this is restricted to community colleges or, now, Catholic high schools, well, they had better look again. Schools in both the Catholic and public school systems are going to be hit.
Education is expensive; there is no doubt about it. Quality education all the more so. But teachers, parents and students, like those in Welland and area who have been objecting to the cutbacks, are being victimized by a provincial government right here in Ontario that has failed to fulfil its obligations to share in the funding of quality education, both at the college level and at the high school level.
Municipal taxpayers, home owners, are being taxed to death because of a Liberal regime here at Queen’s Park that is transferring more and more financial obligation on to the municipalities of Ontario. Maybe the next demonstration of protest by these concerned students, parents and teachers should be right here at Queen’s Park where the real responsibility lies, with this government, these Liberals and this Premier.
Mr Sterling: I rise today to commend some residents of the Ottawa-Carleton region for the fine community service work they have recently undertaken.
Zone G5 of the Royal Canadian Legion has been working with a company called IMPACT to improve crime prevention techniques in the Ottawa-Carleton area. The legion has raised $33,000 towards the purchase and installation of three COPS computer units, which are part of an innovative system designed to facilitate the exchange of information from police to communities. This approach is currently being used in 18 police forces across North America. The Community Organization and Prevention System allows a police force to make up to 100 phone calls to community contacts over a one-hour period. It can be used effectively to prevent crime, for instance, when a dangerous individual is known to be in an area.
However, before the project can be fully implemented, the provincial sales tax, which totals a whopping $2,640, has to be paid. Today I call on the Minister of Revenue to wave this taxation. For community service to be a complete success, there must be involvement on the part of all members of the community. The citizens of Ottawa-Carleton have done their part. Now it is this government’s turn. In this case, the government could make its contribution by forgiving the sales tax. Such an action would demonstrate that the government of Ontario cares about Ottawa-Carleton’s wellbeing. I think it is time for them to pay their share.
NORTHERN POWER DEVELOPMENT
Mr Miclash: This past Thursday took me to the very northern portion of my riding to meet with a number of groups in Sandy Lake, a first nation settlement north of Sioux Lookout.
During my visit to the reserve, a major concern regarding the establishment of power dams was presented to me by a group of students from Sandy Lake, the Sandy Lake band council and the Severn River Coalition.
The group of students made it very clear to me that they did not want their future in the north affected by development that would flood their traditional land use areas and homes. As well, the coalition, a very dedicated group, presented arguments indicating that the residents of Bearskin Lake, Deer Lake, Fort Severn, Kee-Way-Win, Muskrat Dam, along with those I met at Sandy, have requested that the leadership of this northern area put forth a strong plea to have the Severn River area declared a dam-free zone.
Deliberations throughout the day brought forth many examples of other areas throughout the country that have been flooded in order that the construction of power dams might go ahead. The people of the Severn River area do not want to see this happening to their traditional land use areas.
In closing, might I congratulate and offer my support to the people along the Severn River and in particular to those who have given of their time to collect the views on this most important subject, the Severn River Coalition.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
SOCIAL ASSISTANCE / AIDE SOCIALE
Hon Mr Beer: I would like to inform members of another step in the ongoing reform of Ontario’s social assistance system.
As members know, last year we embarked on an ambitious program of reform. In addition, my predecessor announced our intention to move forward with new social assistance legislation.
The very first recommendation put forth by the Social Assistance Review Committee was that Ontario’s two pieces of welfare legislation be merged into a single, unified act. The SARC report acknowledged that new legislation is a key requirement for meaningful change in social assistance.
The process my ministry is embarking upon will result in one piece of legislation, which recognizes the realities faced by social assistance recipients in the 1990s.
The General Welfare Assistance Act was proclaimed in the 1950s, and the Family Benefits Act in the mid-1960s. Ontario’s needs have outgrown these decades-old statutes.
A new legislative framework is, I am proud to say, an indication of this government’s commitment to the type of fundamental reforms advocated by SARC. In keeping with that commitment, I am pleased to inform members today of the creation of a group of experts to advise me in the development of new social assistance legislation for this province.
The Advisory Group on New Social Assistance Legislation will be chaired by Professor Allan Moscovitch, associate professor in the school of social work at Ottawa’s Carleton University. Allan Moscovitch has dealt capably with many challenges during his distinguished career. He has practical experience in the delivery of social assistance as well as the perspective of a social services educator.
Over the past year. my ministry has been busy laying the groundwork necessary for the activities of the advisory group. We have identified no fewer than 230 issues which must be addressed in the course of developing new legislation.
A legislation unit has been established in my ministry to support the activities of the advisory group. Six project teams are being established to examine legal issues, the benefit structure, the disability determination process, employment services, Indian community issues and delivery and funding issues.
Les travaux du groupe consultatif constituent un exercice pratique qui se traduira par une réforme fondamentale en faveur des personnes ayant besoin d’aide sociale.
Ce groupe consultatif, composé de douze personnes, me fera part directement de ses observations dans le cadre de rencontres et de rapports prévus à intervalles réguliers. Les conseils de ces experts porteront sur la nouvelle législation et sur une évaluation du nouveau programme d’intégration sociale et de transition à l’emploi, programme de mon ministère mieux connu sous l’acronyme PISTE.
À la suite des activités que j’ai décrites ici aujourd’hui, un document de travail énonçant les détails précis de notre projet législatif doit être publié. Viendront ensuite le processus de consultation auprès du public et la mise au point ultérieure, à la suite de quoi j’espère pouvoir présenter un projet de loi à l’Assemblée en 1992.
The work of the advisory group is a practical exercise that will result in fundamental reform for people in need of assistance. The 12-person advisory group will provide direct advice to me through written reports and regular meetings. Their advice will relate to new legislation as well as the ministry’s evaluation of the new supports to employment program.
Following the activities I have outlined, my ministry will release a discussion paper detailing our specific plans for new legislation. Following public consultation and refinements, I will present a bill to the House in 1992.
I am very pleased with the calibre of the advisory group’s membership and of the expertise it brings to this important task. The other committee members are as follows:
Jacques Côté, Hearst, Ontario, justice of the peace, member of the social assistance review committee and former chief administrative officer in Hearst; Julie Davis, Toronto, secretary-treasurer for the Ontario Federation of Labour and former CUPE representative, hospitals and nursing homes; Reverend Susan Eagle, London, minister and community outreach worker for the United Church, member of ISARC, the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Committee, member of the Ontario SARC Network; Amy Go, Toronto, supervisor of immigrant services and community development at Woodgreen Community Centre, vice-president of the Chinese Canadian National Council; Cathy McPherson, Toronto, co-ordinator of education and development at ARCH, the Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped, active in the income maintenance for the handicapped co-ordinating group;
R. K. Joe Miskokomon, Muncey, Ontario, grand chief, Union of Ontario Indians, councillor for the Chippewa of Thames reserve; Lana Mitchell, North Bay, executive director of LIPI, Low Income People Involved of Nipissing, member of the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues and vice-chair of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty; Mary Jane Mossman, Toronto, member of faculty, Osgoode Law School, consulted on new legislation in Australia and writes extensively about social assistance;
Susan Pigott, Toronto, director of communications and social action, Family Service Association of Metropolitan Toronto, chair of the Child Poverty Action Group; E. Courtney Pratt, Oakville, vice-president of human resources and strategic planning at Noranda and active member of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce; and Dick Stewart, Ottawa, executive director of program delivery for the regional social services of Ottawa-Carleton and president of the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association.
At this time, I am pleased to recognize Professor Moscovitch, chair of the advisory group on new social assistance legislation, who is seated with us in the Speaker’s gallery.
TRAVEL INDUSTRY COMPENSATION FUND
Hon Mr Sorbara: I would like to provide the House with further information regarding the recent receiverships of Thomson Vacations Ontario Ltd and Odyssey International Airlines.
I am pleased to report that repatriation of stranded passengers is now nearing completion. The majority of the estimated 5,000 passengers who were caught outside of the country will have been returned by 13 May, thanks to the airlift organized in co-operation with representatives of Ontario’s travel industry. I would like once again to thank the Canadian Association of Tour Operators and the Alliance of Canadian Travel Associations for their contributions in responding so quickly in helping us serve the needs of affected travellers.
Plans to help consumers receive refunds from the travel industry compensation fund as quickly as possible are now well under way. Consumers will be directed to the travel agent who made their original booking to initiate their claim. Arrangements have been made with the Royal Bank of Canada to help process the claims as quickly as possible. The objective of this quick claim process is to get money back to eligible consumers as soon and as early as possible.
Affected consumers will receive an interim payout of 75 cents per dollar of eligible amounts claimed. The balance owing will be paid to the extent possible after the end of the six-month claim period has ended and when the total amount of the claims will be known.
I am confident that when all of these measures are put into place, we will be able to process the claims and get the cheques out to consumers as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
All of this has been made possible following certain changes to the regulations for the travel industry compensation fund which were previously under review. In particular, the current payout level placed on the travel industry compensation fund for any one receivership or failure will be increased from $1.5 million to $5 million. In addition, provision has been made for separate emergency repatriation expenses.
These measures have the full support of the Canadian Association of Tour Operators and the Alliance of Canadian Travel Associations, and have been approved by the board of trustees of the Ontario travel industry compensation fund and confirmed by cabinet this morning. The compensation fund was established in 1975 and provides protection for consumers through an industry-financed program. The industry makes semi-annual contributions to the fund based on sales.
I should also mention that we have under review, in co-operation with the industry, the Travel Industry Act and the role of the compensation fund, and have made contact with the National Transportation Agency to review the question of airline regulations. As well, I want to stress that the government recognizes that the travel marketplace is dramatically changing. We look forward to working with the industry in developing a comprehensive response to the changes that are taking place in this connection.
Mr Allen: I want to respond to the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ announcement of the advisory group on new social assistance legislation.
Let me say that I believe the minister is tempting me to respond in a very positive way. He has chosen an estimable group of persons to constitute this 12-person advisory group. I would almost believe that the minister was trying to recreate the days of the accord because I find a certain congeniality in perspective with respect to many of the names that I see before me. The choice is excellent and I have no doubt that he will get absolutely impeccable advice from this panel.
I have a problem with the timetable. The five steps that George Thomson recommended under the Social Assistance Review Committee’s report are becoming progressively elongated.
In September 1988 there was a belated deposit of the report, the contents of which the minister at that time knew pretty thoroughly, and we could have gotten into substantial implementation fairly quickly. That did not occur for a number of months when, last October finally, announcements made the previous May were implemented in terms of the support to employment program, STEP, and then, this January, in terms of the inflation-level increases in social assistance rates. This means that we really have only half of an implementation of the very first step.
This project, for which the minister is announcing his advisory group today, addresses the bulk of the second step. That was to include the merging of the two pieces of legislation that the minister has referred to, to overcome the hodgepodge of 22 different rate categories that people could find themselves in. Indeed, somebody suggested that a single mother with two kids could, if one worked hard at it, find herself under any one of about 32 different categories. That is how chaotic the social assistance programs had become.
That being the case, having to wait now until 1992 for a piece of legislation, which we note could even then be somewhat delayed given the nature of these things, is indeed a long time to wait, particularly if one is poor in this province, for those major changes that have to come by legislation.
At the same time, one would have to observe that this will leave the government in a rather unaccountable position going into the next election and that it will be able to answer all questions simply with the response: “Well, we have this in hand. We have a study group. We have an advisory community. We have a project under way.” That, of course, is always unsatisfactory for electors to respond to because it leaves things in a very woolly state.
At the same time, let me call attention to one or two of the specifics that still remain unattended to in the first stage of the Social Assistance Review Committee report. One of the major problems in getting STEP implemented and getting the income supplementation available for working people implemented is that the minister has not addressed the case-load problem. There are workers out there who simply have been so heavily burdened with case loads that I am told reliably that workers from some offices have deliberately not passed on information about STEP and they have deliberately not passed on information about income supplementation for the working poor because they cannot afford to invite a heavier case load on themselves. They do not have the time to undertake the publicity measures. So the minister and the government, in failing to respond to the massive case-load situation, are in fact impeding their own reforms and the pace at which they should be implemented.
Finally, the dependent poor, the working poor, are extremely interested in the dental program that the first stage recommended. That is one of the critical items that is so costly and difficult for persons on low incomes to cope with. Surely, the minister must be addressing those missing elements of the first stage of SARC, even as he moves in this direction.
Again, my compliments to the committee, my compliments to the minister on the choice, but I am afraid that I send my darts with respect to the timetable and some of the content.
TRAVEL INDUSTRY COMPENSATION FUND
Mr McLean: I want to comment briefly on the statement by the minister, and I hope that this will certainly relieve some of the minds of the people who have had some problems over a short period of time. I hope that the Bank of Canada will come to their aid, because obviously the minister does not appear to be giving his full attention to this matter.
When we look at two years ago, they were cut off. Nobody paid into this fund. In January, the minister knew they were in trouble. What did he do? He did not do anything, and he knew that. So I hope that this minister will complete the 75% payout and that there will be enough funds left to cover all their expenses.
Mrs Marland: In responding to the statement by the Minister of Community and Social Services on the new social assistance legislation, I want to say I find it disappointing that yet another review has been set up and that the people of this province must wait another two years for social assistance to continue to move forward. While we certainly welcome the expertise of the advisory group’s membership, we are afraid that this further study will be used as an excuse not to move forward with SARC.
In the budget, we were extremely disappointed that the Liberal government chose not to move forward with phase 2 of the social assistance reform. I was under the understanding that SARC was to be the end of all reviews. It is of considerable disappointment also that the government has been reluctant to proceed with SARC, which we all recognized and lauded as an excellent report.
I think it all says the same thing in terms of this Liberal government. I just want to give an example from the budget that we received last week. In referring to the Canada assistance plan, the budget statement says. “In its recent budget, Ottawa announced it was freezing Ontario’s CAP entitlement at 5% above that of 1989-90.” But in the very next paragraph, after it talks about Ottawa freezing the increase at 5%, the statement of the Treasurer says, “I am announcing today that basic benefits and shelter allowances will be increased by 5% effective 1 January 1991.”
Really, instead of there being a war of words, it is time this Liberal provincial government started a war on poverty. Frankly, I think playing politics with poverty is not the way that any responsible government would go.
Mr Jackson: Briefly, as relates to the announcement today of yet another review of social assistance in this province, I think it is worthy of note that the original document, which is being referenced today, made a very distinct, clear statement about the failure of rent control in Ontario. The recent public hearings on food banks in Ontario established that the number one problem facing the poor is the cost of accommodation.
Clearly, having a former Minister of Community and Social Services who is now the Minister of Housing, this government has enough evidence before it that rent controls are failing under the current configuration it has dreamed up and that the universal nature of rent controls is punishing the poor in this province.
Quite frankly, today’s resolution from the NDP, although it is ideologically sound for them, is inconsistent with the SARC findings, with the needs of the poor in this province and with really good government, which basically says the more you give to people who do not need it in this province, the less you have to give to those who do.
Accommodation is a critical issue. The minister’s statement today does not reference the notions of affordability in housing and the challenge which that presents to the SARC reviews. I hope this government will listen to those words, to today’s debate in particular, in the hope that it understands that the rising cost of accommodation is what is really hurting the poor.
TRAVEL INDUSTRY COMPENSATION FUND
Mr Jackson: Finally, I would like to commend the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and his staff for their response to the Odyssey International situation. However, I do have a constituent who is getting conflicting reports because he did not book through Thomson Vacations but through Vancouver Regency Travel. He is not being assured that he will be compensated. I would ask the minister to look into that. I am sure his staff would be pleased to do that.
Mr B. Rae: I want to come back to some questions which I asked yesterday of the Minister of Housing. I put forward some examples of incredible rent increases as a result of the loopholes in his law on financial loss and on capital expenditure.
In the minister’s answer to me yesterday, he stated, “the new regulation I introduced very recently ... now requires the support of the tenant in order to make those in-suite changes.” That is not how I read any of the regulations the minister has put forward. The regulations the minister has put forward do not give the tenants the right to say no to renovations they feel are unnecessary. The regulations which the minister has put forward say only that the landlord needs to give the tenants some notice of what it is he intends to do, and that if the landlord does not give that notice, he will not be able to claim a 5% bonus, though the landlord will be able to get 100% back.
Will the minister now admit that the tenants of the province have no effective control over what is going to be done to their homes and that they are being asked to pay in one shot for renovations, many of which are entirely unnecessary?
Hon Mr Sweeney: If the honourable member will check the new regulations again, he will find that in addition to requiring disclosure in order to get the 5% maintenance fee, the support of the tenant is also required for in-unit changes that the tenant wants to have or not have, as the case may be.
With respect to the one shot, the honourable member will be aware of the fact that one of the other elements of the regulation is to make a provision for the landlord to spread over several years the renovations that up to this time were often done in one year and therefore spread the economic impact over several years as well.
Mr B. Rae: Let me say to the minister that the interpretation which he is putting on the regulations is almost unique to him. One of the things we found, for example, at a rental apartment complex in the city of Toronto at 44 Dunfield Avenue and 33 Holly Street containing 326 apartments, a building bought by that well-known and warm Ontario landlord, 373041 Ontario Ltd, was that, upon purchase, the tenants were given notice of a 25% increase due to financial loss and to extraordinary operating expenses.
I would like to ask the minister how he can justify a system of rent review which allows buildings to be flipped again and again, which passes on at least part of the charge of the flip to each generation of tenants and which also asks tenants to pay for repairs, many of which are entirely unnecessary?
Hon Mr Sweeney: One of the other parts of the new regulation is to prohibit a landlord from going to rent review both for a repair or renovation increase and for a pass-through of loss if the building is sold. You cannot do it both times. That is what in fact was possible prior to this regulatory change. When we spoke to people for the tenants’ association, they made it clear to us that one change alone would go a long way to eliminating the problem they anticipated and were experiencing at the present time.
Mr B. Rae: I am sure the minister would not want to give a wrong impression to the Legislature. He knows perfectly well that the federation of tenants in Metropolitan Toronto does not support what the minister has been doing and finds what the minister has been doing to be totally and utterly inadequate. I am sure he would want to confirm that simple fact before the House.
Again, I want to ask the minister if he does not realize that what has been happening in Metropolitan Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor and in many other communities is this pattern of flipping and then bringing in repairs and renovations which are extraordinarily expensive, which change the entire character of a building and which turn it into virtually luxury accommodation. This is being done at the expense of people who are looking for affordable accommodation in Ontario today. I wonder what the minister has to say to those people who are in effect rendered homeless, and certainly put out of their apartments, by virtue of the kind of pass-throughs the government is allowing to take place.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let me share with my colleague opposite that while the tenants’ association did not agree completely with the regulatory changes we made, in fact it was consulted and all of the changes that were made were those that it had proposed. They had proposed others as well, but there is nothing in that regulatory package that they did not support. They wanted more than that, admittedly.
The honourable member will be well aware of the fact that the rent review system is a balance between the wishes of tenants and the intent of the government and of Ontario society to see to it that we have a good range of accommodation. The regulation also clearly recognized that, prior to its implementation, there were a number of incentives in the system. Those incentives have been significantly decreased and, in my judgement, we will see over the next 12 months that it will have a significant impact on the situation that existed before.
ADVOCACY AND GUARDIANSHIP
Mr Reville: My question is for the Premier. He will know that today the Ontario Advocacy Coalition again called for a system of independent advocacy to protect the elderly and people with disabilities. On 11 April, I asked the Premier what his government was waiting for and he said, not surprisingly, that the matter is under review. That is no good at all to people who are being abused today and who will be abused tomorrow. When is this government going to come to the aid of people with disabilities and the elderly?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the Attorney General can assist the honourable member.
Hon Mr Scott: As the honourable member knows, the issue of advocacy is closely associated with the issue of guardianship, which presents a number of practical difficulties. The committee that participated in the Fram study was concerned, as particularly the representatives of the Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped were, that advocacy should not be left aside as we move to guardianship, a view with which -- and I know I will not live to eat these words -- I entirely concur. However, the project, because it involves the analysis of three important reports and probably five ministries, is presenting difficulties of resolution.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Why did you say in 1986 you were going to deal with it in a year?
Hon Mr Scott: No, no, no. Five years ago the honourable members said we would never bring in pay equity, and I said by the autumn we would do it.
I want all honourable members to know that I am committed to the guardianship and advocacy project. We are working industriously with ministries to encourage them to participate effectively so that a government policy that we can announce can be devised.
Mr Reville: The Attorney General is responsible for only half of this library of government reports. The Minister of Health, next to him, is responsible for the other half.
Of course, the library indicates that we desperately need advocacy. The Attorney General talks about practical difficulties. Let me tell him what the practical difficulties of the vulnerable are. They are two to 10 times as likely to be sexually or physically abused as the general population. They are two times more likely to be abused if they are in an institution than if they are in the community. Those are very serious practical difficulties which, quite frankly, make the Attorney General’s practical difficulties a laughingstock. Why do we not have some action of some kind now, given that we started getting this library in 1987?
Hon Mr Scott: As the honourable member knows, the library which he rejects with such amusement is in fact a number of studies that were commissioned by the government to help us address what is essentially a very complex and very important exercise. As the honourable member knows well, I am fully committed to this exercise and had been long before I got into government, but it is not a simple matter.
What we have done is, we have got three reports. We have acknowledged the importance of the recommendations in the Fram report, made by ARCH and other groups, that advocacy services form a component in one way or another of the guardianship and representation determinations. That is a very important issue. We have addressed that effectively, I think, and we are working with the other ministries, the care givers, the institutional people who have major responsibilities in this field, to develop a scheme that will permit guardianship where appropriate and full advocacy where desirable, in a way that will permit these services to be carried forward.
Mr Reville: It is far too easy to be as patient as the Attorney General when it is not he who is being assaulted and abused. If he were to read again the Manson report, which describes an advocacy system that is in place, albeit under the Ministry of Health, it works quite well, lo and behold. This report makes some recommendations that, if taken together with the current system and moved into an independent system, would do the trick.
We need to shine a light into the dark corners of these institutions or, sure as shooting, people are going to continue to be pummelled and abused, as they are this very day. I find it absolutely intolerable that the Attorney General talks of practical difficulties when we are talking about people’s spirit and people’s bones and people’s dignity.
Hon Mr Scott: After hearing that question, I have grave doubts whether the honourable member has read the library of material to which he has referred us, because, as he will know -- it may be accurate -- Professor Manson comments on an institutional service. Father O’Sullivan and Mr Fram and his committee were talking about the provision of these services well beyond institutional settings to domestic settings in Ontario homes. That is an important and I think appropriate consideration. Frail adults who live at home are entitled to advocacy services if they are to exist in Ontario, as well as institutional members of the public. If the honourable member truly thinks the needs of advocacy in Ontario can be achieved by simply extending Professor Manson’s institutional care arrangements more broadly, he has a much narrower view of advocacy for Ontario than I have.
PROTECTION OF IN-CARE RESIDENTS
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services, when the Attorney General --
Hon Mr Scott: I am going to be famous in the advocacy field.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: I hate to remove the focus from the Attorney General.
My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. The minister is no doubt aware of the conference that was held today with respect to the Ontario Advocacy Coalition and a series of questions that were raised with the Attorney General in connection with the number of reports and studies that have been undertaken -- the Manson report, the Fram report, the Father O’Sullivan report -- all of which have indicated a series of steps that should be taken by the government to provide some safeguards, particularly in institutional settings, for the most vulnerable citizens that we have in our society.
I would like to ask the minister, in light of the fact that this question has been raised as it relates to children and the question has been raised today as it relates to adults, when is his ministry prepared to make some positive move towards building in some protection for some of the citizens who, as we have heard from too many sources, are being abused physically, sexually, even monetarily, on a daily basis?
Hon Mr Beer: I am aware of the press conference that was held today and have met with representatives of those groups on this issue. I think, as the honourable member has said, it is not one that anyone can look at with any degree of satisfaction.
I would say that one of the approaches we are looking at and which the Attorney General was discussing in the series of answers just before the member’s question is how we, as a government, can look at the question of advocacy and how to do that. There are within my ministry and the Ministry of Health some internal structures which deal with advocacy, or ways in which we work with groups in the community, that are themselves acting as advocates on behalf of some of the people whom the member has mentioned and who were referred to in the press release.
There are, I believe, other things that we want to look at very carefully in terms of ensuring that they are safe and secure. We have tried to move in the area of children with the review of our present procedures and I think there are a number of things that will emerge over the next while which will deal more specifically with the areas the member is addressing.
Mr Brandt: At this time we do not have standards and/or any kind of protocol with respect to acceptable types of services for residential care facilities, as the minister is well aware. Back on 5 December, the Attorney General of this province indicated quite specifically that this entire matter was, in his words, a priority of the government. Since that time there has been little, if any, action on the part of the government to provide any kind of safeguards, any kind of solution to an overwhelming problem which is surfacing literally on a daily basis in the media, where we hear of all types of abuses of citizens of all ages.
If the minister is not prepared to move on the independent advocate concept, is he prepared to move rather expeditiously, at the very least, on standards and on regulatory action with respect to residential care facilities?
Hon Mr Beer: I would certainly want to make very clear that within the institutions that fall under the purview of my ministry, we do have, I believe, very clear standards and administrative procedures and that we also have investigative procedures. We ourselves, in looking at those and in dealing with the advocacy question, are saying: “How can we improve those? Is the best route to go that of independent advocacy?” I would say that in those discussions, the Attorney General in particular has been ensuring that we look at the documents that have been brought forward around advocacy to see if that is the best route to go, but I would say that at the present time, within the institutions that we have, there are clear standards and there are clear investigative procedures. We are aware that that has not solved all of the issues, and we are going to ensure, as I say, in the short while that we are able to take a more proactive response to those.
Mr Brandt: I trust that the minister appreciates the urgency of this question, because as we are discussing this, situations that are simply not tolerable in this province are going on, as the minister well knows: stories coming from various parts of the province about institutional problems with respect to some of the residential care facilities, some which go back a long number of years, like St Joseph’s in Alfred, others which are more recent. This kind of abuse requires some sort of priority of a much faster response than the Attorney General has been committed to giving in this House.
I would ask the minister if he would indicate in a somewhat more positive way a response on the part of the government to the call that I made back on 17 or 18 April, when I indicated that an inquiry was necessary into this whole area in order to determine the extent of the problems and some of the actions that would be required by government to clear up some of these problems.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Brandt: Is the minister prepared to support such an inquiry?
Hon Mr Beer: I think we have demonstrated clearly not only our concern but that we are prepared to take action in this area of abuse. It was just the other day that I announced the appointment of Joanne Campbell to look specifically at the procedures that we have in place in terms of the whole area of child abuse of children who are in our care. We are equally concerned about the disabled and seniors who are in our different institutions and who may be suffering abuse and are looking at the best way of proceeding in terms of protecting those individuals.
I do not think that today there can be very many issues which are closer to being priority issues than these around abuse. I share completely with the honourable member that these must be dealt with. We are dealing with them in an ongoing way within our own ministry as well as with colleagues in other ministries -- the Attorney General, the Minister of Health -- in looking at some other different kinds of measures that we might take to protect them. But I believe that in the ongoing weeks we will be able to demonstrate action in regard to that concern.
PROPERTY ASSESSMENT CORP
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Revenue. Yesterday I asked the minister a rather straightforward and simple question. I asked him, would school boards be represented on his new Property Assessment Corp.
Based on his answer yesterday, it is clear that he does not understand fully the implications that his new Bill 156 is going to have for school boards as it relates to assessment changes in this province. Now that he has had an opportunity to consult with his staff, which is important to him, now that we have witnessed him come down and talk to the Treasurer immediately after his response, now that he has had that moment of reflection, I would like to ask the minister if he can give us a serious answer to this question: Simply, will school boards be represented on this corporation, yes or no?
Hon Mr Mancini: I have never objected to receiving advice from others, especially the Treasurer’s advice, which is always quite good. I may add that the honourable member should try seeking advice himself sometimes; it may help him in his political career.
I want to say to the House that the legislation, which has received first reading, that will turn the assessment division of the Ministry of Revenue into a crown corporation does in fact call for municipal representation. It calls for three -- which is, I believe, half of the board -- to be represented by municipalities. We do see a role for school boards and others; we have seen a role for school boards and others for a very long time within the Ministry of Revenue. As a matter of fact, the member should know, because I think he has been told, either yesterday or today, that we have an Advisory Committee on Property Assessment and Data Services within the ministry, where we do seek advice from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, from the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Mancini: -- and from three other organizations.
Mr Jackson: That is the issue, this minister’s overreliance on advice from other members of the Privy Council. Yesterday’s response to this question clearly indicated that he did not have this information about all the various groups in education who have been advising the Ministry of Revenue, and in fact he has not listened to their advice to include school board representation on this new corporation.
The minister should be aware, as the Treasurer reminded him, that 56 school boards in this province are issuing their own property tax bills, not through a municipality. Maybe this minister is now aware that the 1990 general legislative grants announced by the Minister of Education reported that 53%, more than half, of all the taxes collected in Ontario are designated solely for educational purposes.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr Jackson: Given all that information, will the minister now admit that there is a relationship between the education community and property assessment and that they should have a role and a position on this new property assessment board?
Hon Mr Mancini: If the member will remember what I said yesterday, because his memory is sometimes somewhat lacking, I said yesterday that there were a number of organizations that in fact had concerns about assessment and had input on assessment matters. I listed some of those yesterday; I again mentioned some of them today. This advisory committee, I believe, will continue to exist, and whether or not the board of directors will be expanded to include some of these individuals as board members may in fact be decided by the board in the future or may be decided by the committee that will hear what others have to say about this particular bill during committee hearings.
Mr Jackson: Yesterday’s Hansard clearly indicates that this minister said that there was only one major partner in Ontario on tax matters, and that was municipalities. This minister went on to say, what would we expect next, farmers and ratepayers? What did we want, a board of 200? That is directly from Hansard. The minister did not understand his own bill that he has before this House, and he does not understand it still to this day, if he is not prepared to allow school boards to serve on this board.
He should be aware, because he has had it since 24 April, of a press release from the Ontario Separate School Trustees’ Association. They clearly call this piece of legislation bad news for school boards if they are not included on the board. Again, now that the minister has had his time to understand the relationship, will he not publicly state that school boards, that the separate, public and francophone school trustees in this province, will have representation on this important property assessment board? He is going to be passing on taxes to the school boards from this corporation. They --
The Speaker: Order. The question has been asked.
Hon Mr Mancini: The honourable member is not listening. Yesterday, I mentioned the number of groups that could claim an interest in property tax matters. Today, I mentioned to the honourable member that for well over 10 years we have had an advisory committee that has worked with the ministry. I am assuming that this advisory committee, and other advisory committees that are in place, will continue to help the new crown corporation. Whether or not the board of directors will be expanded to include these other interest groups as full board members can be decided by the crown corporation at a future date and can also be considered by the committee when we have hearings on this matter.
MUNICIPAL ELECTION INVESTIGATION
Mr Kormos: A question to the Solicitor General: The Solicitor General knows that Tiny township has lived under a cloud of alleged corruption since its municipal election in 1988. He was reminded of that as recently as last Thursday. Police have been investigating offences under the Municipal Elections Act for over a year and a half, specifically crooked proxy voting, with no public report after all that time. This smacks of a cover-up. Why has it taken so long?
Hon Mr Offer: In response to the question, I hope the honourable member is not suggesting, or in fact advising or counselling, that any politician should get involved in any police investigation. I hope that he is not suggesting that. The police are in fact conducting an investigation. It is a complicated matter. They have been involved in that investigation. I do recognize that the investigation has been ongoing for some considerable amount of time, but it is the responsibility of the police to do the most thorough and exhaustive investigation possible and, after that type of investigation is completed, to consult with local crown attorneys to determine where and when appropriate charges should be laid. That is the procedure that is followed in every particular situation; that is the procedure that is followed in this particular situation.
Mr Kormos: The council that was perhaps fraudulently elected has been in office now for almost half of its term. I tell the Solicitor General this: Leah Gignac reports that her proxy was given to her neighbours in the Rowntree Beach Ratepayers’ Association so that they could vote for her. Ms Gignac further reports that her proxy was altered by one or the other of them. The neighbour that Ms Gignac speaks of is a judge of the Supreme Court of Ontario. This illegal proxy was used by his wife to cast a ballot. The involvement of a Supreme Court judge in the election corruption cries out for a speedy and open inquiry. It seems that this government has different standards for the rich and powerful than it does for the rest of us. Who is this government trying to protect?
Hon Mr Offer: The short answer to the question is that if there is any individual who has any information about any ongoing investigation, then that particular individual should share that information with the local police. That is what every individual in this province does, that is how police investigations are conducted and that is the way in which they should be conducted.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. I would like to talk to the Minister of Health about the Willett Hospital in Paris, Ontario. I am sure the minister is aware that the board of governors of Willett Hospital has now been offering the money that it raised as its share of hospital renovations and the 20 new beds that her ministry promised in 1986, is offering those contributions, some $250,000 of them, back to the contributors because it does not feel it is fair for it to keep the money, because it cannot get a commitment out of the minister’s government as to when is the start-up date to provide these 20 new chronic care beds and provide other hospital renovations that her ministry made a commitment for in 1986. How can that be, some four years later?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to tell the member opposite that in fact I met with the Willett Hospital board. It was a very excellent meeting. We discussed the framework for capital planning. In fact, we talked about the fact that we are looking at ensuring that we fund as priorities innovative projects which will respond to the opportunities to shift from inpatient to outpatient and provide services in alternative ways, that we acknowledge the important initiative of long-term care reform, that we set as a priority infrastructure renewal and that we acknowledge the speciality care programs that the ministry has announced in ensuring that our capital dollars meet the needs not only for today but for the future as well.
Mr Eves: I do not know what the minister’s idea of a good meeting is, but I can tell the other members of the Legislature, from talking to the hospital administrator today, that the minister and the Treasurer decided to meet with the hospital after the following editorial appeared in the Brantford Expositor. I am sure the members do not want me to read the entire editorial, but I think there are a couple of comments in here I am sure they would like to hear. I quote:
“For several years now the hospital board has been identifying and justifying essential renovations. It has complied with all the ministry’s regulations and requirements and recommendations. It has documented everything and has provided schedules of costs. In Toronto, officials of the Ontario Ministry of Health shuffle their papers and pursue a policy of studied neglect. Their years of inaction proclaim that they do not care about the patients at Willett Hospital. This is an absolute disgrace.”
I would concur with those quotes in that editorial comment. It was shortly after that editorial appeared that the Treasurer and the Minister of Health rushed to a meeting asking --
The Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr Eves: The question is still the same question I asked: How can it be that during the 1987 election campaign the government promised 20 new beds for this hospital and four years later is talking about doing another Ministry of Health report --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have had this discussion with the member opposite on a number of occasions. He knows of our commitment to ensure that we meet the needs not only for today, but for the future as well. The Premier’s Council on Health Strategy made a very important recommendation, that we review our capital plan, establish a capital framework and ensure communities that we respond appropriately, using new technologies and innovations to meet those needs.
I can tell him we had a very positive meeting. I have met with a number of communities right across this province. We are implementing our capital framework in a fair, consistent and appropriate way. I think the member opposite does not know what he is talking about.
The Speaker: Order. Perhaps the members would allow another member to ask a question. Are you finished?
ST REGIS AKWESASNE RESERVE
Mr Cleary: I have a question for the Solicitor General. I am sure my colleagues here are well aware of a very serious problem on the St Regis Akwesasne reserve, which straddles Ontario, Quebec and New York state. For the past two years pro- and anti-gambling Mohawk factions have been battling in a bitter dispute over the operation of six illegal casinos on the American section of the reserve. My primary concern involves safety for individuals both on and off the reserve. It grieves me to stand here today before this House and say that two individuals have now passed away. I ask the Solicitor General what the government of Ontario is doing to ensure the safety of these people.
Hon Mr Offer: I think all members in the Legislature will be aware of the serious events on the Akwesasne reserve. In that regard, I think we all recognize that particular reserve covers basically five jurisdictions, not only the province of Ontario, but that of Quebec, the state of New York, the federal government of Canada and in fact the United States of America.
We have always said, dealing with the province of Ontario, that if there were to be a request for assistance with respect to policing, we would provide that assistance. That request came last Wednesday and, as we have always indicated, we responded immediately. We responded, through OPP personnel, equipment and assistance, to ensure the safety and the security of those persons on the reserve.
I think it is important to note that, when we talk about the safety and security of those persons on the reserve, we are talking about that area for which we have jurisdiction, and that is the Ontario portion of the reserve. We also have --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Offer: If I may, Mr Speaker, for just one moment, we also have a police force on the Canadian side, the St Regis Reserve Akwesasne Police force, which has jurisdiction over both the Ontario and Quebec portions. By allowing the OPP to come on to the reserve, there have been --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Cleary: I question how the government of Ontario, along with the Quebec government, the federal government and the American government, will ensure that this most unfortunate situation expires permanently.
Hon Mr Offer: Again, the member raises an issue of concern that I think is on all of our minds. Last week I wrote to the honourable Thomas Siddon, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, expressing to him my concern about the escalating unrest and asking him to use his offices to contact Governor Cuomo of the state of New York.
I think we recognize that, in dealing with the unrest, we are talking about basically gambling casinos which are located on the American side and of course, until yesterday, no policing on the American side. That was one of the issues which was of great concern to myself. I would like to advise the member that our native affairs directorate has requested the federal government to again use its offices to convene a meeting. That meeting, made up of members not only of the federal government, but also of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, the state of New York, the --
The Speaker: Order. This is question and response time; it is not statement time.
The Speaker: Order. Would the members not waste time and allow other members to ask questions?
Mr Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of Energy.
On 2 April, in the minister’s absence, I asked the Premier a question about energy efficiency and Ontario Hydro’s claim that it had the most ambitious energy efficiency program of any utility in North America, a comment with which the Premier concurred. Has the minister taken a serious look at Ontario Hydro’s energy efficiency proposals for the next 25 years, and more specifically for the next 10? Is she satisfied that they are adequate and competitive with other utilities in other jurisdictions on this continent?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Yes, of course I have looked, in reviewing the proposals for future electricity demand and supply from Ontario Hydro, at the component that Hydro expects to be able to achieve through its energy efficiency and energy conservation program. I am also aware of efforts that have been made and targets that have been set in other jurisdictions, and I certainly do feel that Ontario Hydro is presenting what would be recognized as being among the top jurisdictions in both target and expectations of achievement.
But I would not want to make an absolutely categorical answer to the member’s question because, as he well knows, the whole question of the 25-year plan for electricity supply and demand is before an environmental assessment panel for review. One of the questions to be reviewed is the determination of need, which includes how fully can the targets for energy efficiency and conservation be met or in fact could a larger target be met.
Mr Charlton: The minister’s answer was somewhat as I expected. I will just repeat for her the second part of the question that I asked the Premier a month ago, hoping that she had looked into the matter further.
Central Maine Power, a small utility about one tenth the size of Ontario Hydro, in 1990 is spending twice as much relative to the size of its system as Ontario Hydro is spending this year and continuing over the next several years. They have already eliminated from their system in the last three years 200 million kilowatt-hours of energy use. That is equivalent to almost half of Hydro’s projections for the entire next decade.
Will the minister take the time to understand what is happening in the electrical energy sector across this continent and ensure that Hydro’s energy efficiency programs, which are continuing outside of the environmental assessment review, are updated as quickly as possible?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would recognize, of course, that Ontario Hydro is not waiting for a determination from the Environmental Assessment Board as to whether or not its target adequately reflects what could be achieved in energy conservation and efficiency over the next years. They have in fact embarked on a new and very aggressive program for energy efficiency and conservation and are putting substantial amounts of money into that.
Their program as well goes along with programs undertaken by the Ministry of Energy which have been continuing for some time and which we intend to continue. We are certainly going to look at everything that is possible to do to maximize the amount that can be achieved in energy conservation and efficiency over the next years, so that not only can realistic and achievable targets be set but also that we are in fact achieving those targets.
CARE FOR THE DISABLED AND ELDERLY
Mr J. M. Johnson: My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Last Wednesday 25 April, the minister made a commitment on behalf of his ministry, the Ministry of Health and the ministers responsible for senior citizens’ affairs and the disabled, to invest $2 billion in plans that will make major changes in both facilities and in-home services that will allow elderly people and people with disabilities to stay in their own homes as long as possible. I commend the government on this initiative.
Why does the minister not take some of that money and use it to install elevators in senior citizens’ apartment buildings, so that seniors living in second-storey apartments will be able to continue to live there after they have become disabled as a result of a stroke, a heart attack or even a broken leg?
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member points out, we have embarked on a major initiative over the next several years to improve the whole area of long-term care for seniors and the disabled. The honourable member also points out that in a number of communities, seniors are living in multi-floor accommodation, apartment buildings or old homes. That concern around the kinds of devices that could be installed to help is an important one and one that my colleague the Minister of Housing and I are discussing to see how we can help.
I would say to my honourable friend that we are still working with the major interest groups on the details of exactly what kinds of things we will be doing with the funding for the program and we will certainly take his recommendation into consideration during that time.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to point out that seniors living in apartment homes which are owned by the government are in a bind because no one will provide the funding for the elevators. Without the elevators, they cannot get access if they do have an accident or a heart problem. If they cannot get into their own homes, they end up in homes for the aged or nursing homes and they will cost the government much more money.
Would it not make economic sense and be in their best interests to provide a funding base to start to install elevators in seniors’ homes around the province?
Hon Mr Beer: I think the honourable member certainly makes an excellent point that if people have to move into institutional care, it is going to cost more. Everything that we can do to simplify their lives and to allow them to live in their own apartments or homes, we ought to do. I can assure the honourable member that we will look at his recommendation very closely as part of our overall program.
Mr Dietsch: My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons. I understand that Canon Borden Purcell’s report Next Steps for Action, which was submitted to the Honourable Lucien Bouchard, the former Secretary of State and minister responsible for disabled persons, recommended that a federal-provincial conference be convened during the fall of 1989. This, I presume, was to follow up at least in part on Mr Mulroney’s 1984 election promise to convene a meeting of ministers responsible for disabled persons to address the many issues of concern to that community.
I would like to ask the minister if the federal government has kept this election promise and, if not, is she aware of any plans it might have to do so?
Hon Ms Collins: I want, first of all, to thank the member for St Catharines-Brock for his ongoing interest in the issues that face people with disabilities. I can tell him that the federal government has not yet fulfilled its commitment to hold the conference that he mentioned.
I can also tell the member that this government and my office have been consistent in our support for such a conference. We think it is one way of promoting some of the issues that face people with disabilities and it is also an opportunity to strategize on a national basis. We would be very supportive but, as yet, we have had a lot of talk and consultation but no action from the federal government.
Mr Dietsch: The International Decade for Disabled Persons began in 1983, as everyone knows. It was declared for the purpose of promoting full participation and integration of disabled persons in all aspects of social and political life. A national forum of federal-provincial ministers responsible for disability issues would be an important element in furthering these goals.
In view of the fact that the International Decade for Disabled Persons is quickly drawing to its end and considering the importance of integration and awareness relating to disability issues, I would like to ask the minister what she has done to encourage the organization of this long-overdue conference before 1992 and the end of the decade for disabled persons.
Hon Ms Collins: I can assure the member that I am continuing to stress to my federal counterpart the importance of such a ministerial conference on disability issues. I have written to Mr Weiner, the Secretary of State responsible for disabled persons, and I have asked him if he does intend to live up to their 1984 election promise.
But in the absence of leadership from the federal government, I can tell the member that our province hosted an advisory councils’ conference last year from all parts of Canada and it was very successful. This year, on 10 and 11 May, there is going to be an advisory councils’ meeting in Quebec City and, of course, our delegation will be led by Bob Loveless, the chairman of the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons.
Miss Martel: I have a question to the Minister of Labour regarding gold mining claims. On 16 March, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal made a very important decision regarding these claims.
In the case of the worker. Mr Labine. the WCAT argued (I) that the use of the gold criteria to reject claims is improper and compensation cannot simply be denied because the injured worker does not meet the gold criteria, and (2) that when a worker does not meet the criteria, the act obliges the board to fully investigate the claim and determine compensation based on the merits of the case and using benefit of the doubt.
Compensation was awarded to the worker even though the Workers’ Compensation Board had already denied him because he had not met all of the criteria. I would like to ask the minister what he plans to do to ensure that the 573 gold claims that had already been denied will in fact be reviewed by the Workers’ Compensation Board in light of this decision.
Hon Mr Phillips: My understanding of the case is that the Workers’ Compensation Board is reviewing the WCAT decision and will be taking action as it sees fit based on its review of that decision.
Miss Martel: I think that answer is unacceptable. I asked the minister what he plans to do.
I have a press release here, dated 14 January 1988, which reads as follows:
“Ontario Labour Minister Gregory Sorbara today announced that the Workers’ Compensation Board has approved a policy of compensating gold miners who have developed job-related lung cancer. He said, ‘It is the first such policy to be adopted anywhere and makes Ontario a leader in its approach to the compensation of industrial disease.”’
This government took full credit for the establishment of the gold-mining criteria. If it is good enough in 1988 to take full credit, why is it not good enough in 1990 to fix something that is not working?
Hon Mr Phillips: Again, we have a board of directors at workers’ compensation that is widely representative of the community and one that I think we all look to provide direction and advice to workers’ compensation. They are, as I said before, reviewing that decision. I will await the review of that decision.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Villeneuve: I have a question to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. The Treasurer last week announced a $48-million interest rate relief to agriculture. Is it the minister’s intention to reduce the interest rate to 8%, as was the case in the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program, and when will we have the information on that?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I welcome the inquiry about the Treasurer’s announcement in the budget in regard to an interest rate reduction program. I am in the midst now of consulting with our different farm groups. As I have mentioned publicly, what I would like to do is make this payment as quickly as possible and make it retroactive on interest paid last year so that we can get money into the hands of farmers, who I know need it around this province, as soon as possible. We are looking at the criteria. I will make sure I will be working in concert with the various farm organizations.
Mr Villeneuve: When can farmers expect this? As the minister knows, many of them are paying 16%, 17% and even more in interest rates right now. They are putting in crops, and the prospect of the value of the crops they are going to be producing is not very good. When does he think he will have information for Ontario’s farmers?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to say to the member that I am trying to get the money out by this summer and --
Mr B. Rae: Do you want a shovel?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I will personally deliver these cheques. As the member knows from the offer that Mr Mazankowski has made to farmers of this country, I am also trying to cut a deal very quickly with the federal government in order to lever more money for Ontario farmers based upon the new money our Treasurer has given to Ontario farmers. Once we are able to do that, the member will be the first to know the program details.
Mr Kozyra: My question is to the Minister of Culture and Communications. As the minister is aware, Thunder Bay has its own independent telephone company, and a very good one at that. Year after year it turns in a substantial profit. I understand there is talk about allowing competition on long-distance telephone rates. I am wondering whether the minister can tell us what the impact of these discussions and deliberations by the federal government might be on Thunder Bay.
Hon Ms Hart: I thank the member for Port Arthur, who clearly has an interest in this issue. As we understand it, CNCP is poised to bring an application to the CRTC to apply for competition in long-distance phone rates. We understand that that should happen within the next few weeks. It is the second application that CNCP has made. The member may know that at the earlier hearing CNCP was turned down, but the CRTC made it quite clear that it was not opposed, as a general thing, to competition in long-distance; it just was not satisfied with the business plan in that particular application.
Mr Kozyra: In view of these impending developments, is Ontario going to be taking a position on long-distance telephone competition?
Hon Ms Hart: We consider this to be a very important issue in Ontario. Our business community and our consumers have both a very strong interest in whether or not there will be competition in long-distance, and the telephone company in Thunder Bay will also have a very strong interest. We do hope to take a position on it, but as yet we have not seen the application so it is very difficult to say what the position will be.
It has happened in the United States, of course; there is now competition in long-distance. Through that competition, the volume of long-distance calls has increased and the rates have gone down. That is, of course, of interest to consumers in Canada since we are a pretty chatty lot, but also to our businesses because they have to compete with long-distance rates that businesses in the United States currently have. It is an issue that we will be watching very carefully. As public policymakers, we will be thinking about access --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Wildman: We have disconnected you. You were cut off.
Mrs Grier: I have a question to the Attorney General concerning the Intervenor Funding Project Act, 1988, an act which was proclaimed just over a year ago. In an award last month, the Environmental Assessment Board heard applications for funding by groups who want to participate in a hearing into an application by Steetley Quarry Products in the town of Flamborough for a waste disposal site.
The board awarded $60,000. Of that $60,000, $45,000 went to the two municipalities involved, Dundas and Flamborough, and only $15,000 went to the Greensville Against Serious Pollution citizens’ group, and they were specifically precluded from hiring engineers or hydrogeologists. Would the Attorney General not agree that that kind of an award is not in keeping with the intent of the legislation as he described it when it was introduced and in fact subverts the intent of the act?
Hon Mr Scott: I would like to take the occasion to congratulate the honourable member and others for having served five years in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario today. Her questions have consistently got better day by day, better and stronger year after year. I know she will want to pay me the same compliment with respect to my answer, which is that I will undertake to look at the decision of the board and respond to her.
As the member knows, the act is in the nature of a pilot project. One of the things we want to do is to assess the way the boards are dealing with the criteria that we in the Legislature have established. This case, of course, may be an interesting example of whether the tribunals are responding to the criteria in the way we anticipated. I would be delighted to form an opinion about it and report to her.
Mrs Grier: Let me say to the Attorney General that that certainly is a better answer than any we have ever had from him in the past. Maybe after five years he is learning also.
I appreciate his undertaking to look into the matter and I will provide him with some information. But I wonder if he could, in addition, give me some assurance that he will look into it quickly. The hearing in question opens on 14 May, and I am sure that he would agree with me that that does not give the citizens much time to hold any bake sales or lawn sales in order to finance their participation in the hearing.
Hon Mr Scott: The member for Ottawa Centre, lately displaced, always thought more highly of me than the honourable member has done, but she is not with us now. I take the honourable member’s point, which was expressed as graciously as one might anticipate.
I understand the importance of the matter, but it does not seem to me that we are going to be able, in the present environment, to enact amendments to the intervenor funding legislation in the next 15 days. I will be glad to look at the act, to form an opinion about it in light of the decision that has been given by the board and report to the honourable member.
Mr B. Rae: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The Attorney General already referred to the fact that 2 May 1985 was a day on which a number of our colleagues on all sides of the House were elected. I am sure members will reflect on the significance of the fifth anniversary and will want to join with us in congratulating those who were elected on 2 May 1985.
The Speaker: It is not a point of order, but it is certainly a good point of information.
USE OF TIME IN QUESTION PERIOD
Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Yesterday during question period there was a question to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. Today we had two questions to ministers, or what were supposed to be questions to two ministers, the Solicitor General and the Minister for Culture and Communications.
I believe every member of this Legislature has a right to ask a question, but in these three instances I think there was some question as to whether or not they were questions. I believe the Legislature would be better served, if a minister has a long statement to make about a significant matter like what the minister for women’s issues thought about the budget and women’s issues -- that would be more appropriately done during ministers’ statements. I would ask, when a general lob is thrown to a minister that is not in fact a question, that you consider not allowing that kind of lob.
Mrs E. J. Smith: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It may be easy for someone in the opposition to make an assumption like that, but as whip, that particular question came to my office very shortly before question period and the minister did not see it until immediately before question period, so I give my word on that particular question.
The Speaker: I would just like to respond to the point. I listened very carefully and I do not feel it is the duty of the Speaker to decide the content of the question, to decide whether it is a question or not. I can recall a number of years ago here when every question had to be vetted through the Speaker’s office. If the honourable member is suggesting that this happen again, I am sure he can go to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly and make that request.
Mr Hampton: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: While I am aware that a question does not have to be answered by a minister of the crown, when a minister undertakes to find out what the situation is and undertakes to answer at a later date, I think he or she should do so. I asked a question in this House on 17 April on equal pay. The minister said he would get back to me and it is now two weeks hater and the minister has neither given a statement nor offered an answer in this House or in any other way.
The Speaker: It is certainly not a point of privilege. If the minister said that he or she would get back to him and did not, I would suggest that maybe the member should ask again or make some other contact.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr Elston moved that, notwithstanding standing order 94(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 49 and 50 and that, notwithstanding any previous order of the House, Mr McClelland and Mr Daigeler exchange places in the order of precedence for private members’ business.
Mr Eves: On a point of order on this motion, Mr Speaker: I am not going to object to this motion, but I do want to put on the record that the three House leaders agreed at the start of this sitting that none of these times would be waived, and I can already point out the two members of the Legislative Assembly, namely the member for Riverdale and the member for Cochrane South, who have both lost their spots on the private ballot tem order because of this agreement. If it is the government’s position that its House leader -- I do not blame the acting House leader -- is now going to unilaterally change its position and start waiving these notices, fine, and it will be fair for all members, I presume.
The Speaker: I listened as a point of order but I think that is discussion on the debate, so I will ask, do any other members wish to discuss the motion? The proposer will finish. Is that okay?
Hon Mr Elston: I do not mean to trip into what has seemed to be an understanding of the House leaders prior to this date. It is my impression -- in fact, it was communicated to me -- that there was an understanding that this was in fact okayed by all. Perhaps I should have, on consent of the House, a chance to stand this down so that I can communicate with both the House leaders to make sure we are not violating, that there is not any kind of problem. If that is the sense, I will go and speak to them directly while this is stood down, so that I can understand very clearly what is taking place. I do not wish to undo anything that was done before. I was just advised that there had been some understanding that this was okay and that it was in fact to be passed through.
I will undertake to the House to consult, if I may, to stand it down and bring it back later so that we can in fact proceed with what is important business, private members’ business. If I could do that, I would be pleased to withdraw the motion until I have a chance to --
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to the request to withdraw? Agreed to.
Mr Eves: I am pleased to table a petition to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, signed by over 900 residents of the Ajax-Pickering area, which calls once again for the original commitment to provide additional beds to the Ajax and Pickering General Hospital to be honoured. This brings the number who have signed this petition to more than 2,200 individuals.
Mrs O’Neill: I beg leave to present a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from four of my constituents. I have affixed my signature, as required by the standing orders. The petition is:
“Wherefore the undersigned humbly pray and call upon the Legislature of the province of Ontario to pass legislation repealing the French Language Services Act, being Statutes of Ontario, 1986, chapter 45.”
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr Philip from the standing committee on public accounts presented the committee’s 1989 annual report and moved the adoption of its recommendations.
Mr Philip: In 1989 the standing committee on public accounts completed nine reports, six of which are contained in this particular report. This report summarizes the committee’s findings on six individual inquiries and makes specific recommendations which we believe when implemented will result in efficiencies in certain ministries.
Our recommendations concerning the delivery of mental health services are part of an ongoing series of studies by our committee into the delivery of these systems in Ontario, and I know that all members of the House will be interested in our recommendations.
In addition to our study into mental health services, this report reports and makes recommendations on the committee’s inquiries into government advertising and expenditures, weak controls over water and sewage treatment plants by the Ministry of the Environment, improved cost controls and resource monitoring required in forest firefighting by the Ministry of Natural Resources, improved efficiency required by the Ministry of Transportation, and also opportunities for cost reductions in the municipal roads program.
The report also outlines new procedures implemented by our committee in our very effective pursuit, I believe, of making government more efficient and promoting policies that are most likely to achieve value for money.
On motion by Mr Philip, the debate was adjourned.
STANDING COMMITFEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Mrs O’Neill from the standing committee on social development presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Bill 143, An Act to Provide for Certain Rights for Deaf Persons.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
ONTARIO SKEET SHOOTING ASSOCIATION ACT, 1990
Mr Cureatz moved first reading of Bill Pr64, An Act to revive Ontario Skeet Shooting Association.
Motion agreed to.
FRAUDULENT DEBTORS ARREST REPEAL ACT, 1990
Mr Scott moved first reading of Bill 161, An Act to repeal the Fraudulent Debtors Arrest Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Scott: The helpful briefing note attached to this bill notes that it is self-explanatory.
The Speaker: Did everyone understand that?
LAW SOCIETY AMENDMENT ACT (INSURANCE), 1990
Hon Mr Scott moved first reading of Bill 164, An Act to amend the Law Society Act with respect to Insurance.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Scott: Negligence insurance for lawyers is in the nature of an insurance speciality and the Law Society of Upper Canada wants to be entitled to own shares in a local insurance company to provide that insurance. That is the purpose of the bill.
Mr. B. Rae: They can have it, but drivers can’t. Is that what you are saying?
Hon Mr Scott: No, drivers can.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr D. S. Cooke moved opposition day motion 2:
That, as a result of the Residential Rent Regulation Act favouring landlords over tenants, the act’s financial loss provisions intentionally rewarding speculative purchases, the act’s capital expenditures provisions intentionally rewarding landlords for the undertaking of unnecessary renovations thus causing devastating results on the financial security of tenant families in this province, this House calls upon the government to replace the Residential Rent Regulation Act with real rent controls that will allow only one guideline based rent increase per year with no exemptions.
The Speaker: Order. We are pleased to have visitors in our galleries. However, the standing orders say that there is to be no participation or any demonstration.
Just before I call on the sponsor of this resolution, I would like to remind the members of the standing order that the time this afternoon will be apportioned equally among the parties. If the member sponsoring the resolution wishes to reserve any of that one third of the time, he may, out of his party’s time. The question will be put at 5:55.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It is a pleasure to be able to bring this subject before the Legislature. As most members of the Legislature will be aware, the rent control or rent review issue in this province, because of the failure of the current legislation to protect tenants across this province, is becoming a very real and a very important political issue.
The fact of the matter is that right now in Ontario, over one third of all tenants in the private sector buildings already pay more than 30% of their monthly income on rent, and the government has opted out of the non-profit and co-op housing program. What I am saying here is that the government has established its program and has now decided not to initiate any new co-op and non-profit housing, that we are losing more and more affordable housing in this province, and that the housing crisis is only getting worse because of a lack of a plan by this province.
In the private sector, the rent review legislation that currently exists is simply not protecting tenants. There are too many loopholes and landlords are taking advantage of each and every one of those loopholes. I think the question the people in this province have to ask themselves, and tenants have to ask themselves, is who represents whom in this province. It is very clear. The rent review legislation that currently exists in Ontario was designed very clearly to benefit landlords and developers in this province, and it has done that extremely well. It has not protected tenants, and during the next election the question tenants are going to have to ask themselves is who it is in their best interest to support.
Obviously, developers will again be supporting the Liberal Party of Ontario. There is no doubt about that at all. The Liberal Party has earned the support of the development industry in this province. Tenants, on the other hand, have to understand that those hundreds of thousands in donations that go to the Liberal Party during an election time are repaid by the government when it is elected in the form of weak legislation that gives tenants the illusion that they have protection, but in reality they have no protection at all.
It was a very clever political tactic that the Liberals used in the last election. They brought in this new rent review legislation and tenants did not experience the effects of that rent review legislation until after the 1987 election. The Liberal Party received a lot of support from tenants in the 1987 election. It is now clear that tenants understand how the Liberal rent review legislation works. They not only do not deserve the support of tenants across this province; I am convinced they will not receive the support of tenants in this province in the next election.
I was at a tenants’ rally sponsored by one of the members of Toronto city council a couple of weeks ago. The member for Eglinton was there and she said it was only 15% of the tenants who are affected by the loopholes in rent review. It may only be 15% this year, and then 15% next year and 15% after. The reality is hundreds of thousands of tenants have been affected by the weakness of this legislation. We have been bringing a lot of these cases to the attention of the Minister of Housing.
As of 31 March 1990, 323,000 tenant families in Ontario have been hit by rent increases above the government’s guideline. I am going to read through a few examples: 44 Dunfield Avenue, 25%; 4918 Bathurst Street in North York, 29%; 147 and 175 Barrington Avenue in East York, 29%; 161 and 163 Gilmour in Ottawa, 189% -- that was the case I raised where the landlord asked for a 101% or 102% increase, went to rent review and got 189%; not bad.
I am sure workers in this province would like to be able to go to their employer when they are negotiating their wage package and ask for 6% or 7% and the employer would come back to them and say, “No, I insist that we give you 20%.” I am sure workers would appreciate that kind of intervention from their employers.
Tenants at 100 Gamble Avenue in East York, 23%; 150 Cosburn in East York, 27%. The list goes on and on. As I said, as of 31 March of this year, 323,000 tenant families have had rent increases above the guideline, and many of those increases are very substantially above the guideline.
Why is this happening if we have rent legislation that is supposed to protect tenants? It is because the loopholes that exist are so huge that landlords are taking advantage of them at every turn. We have raised case after case of unnecessary renovations that are being introduced by landlords for one purpose and one purpose only. That is because they want to raise the rent, which then raises the value of the building and then of course results in the building being sold. Then the new owner gets to bring in additional costs for refinancing and of course the tenants pay for that as well.
We even have, on the refinancing -- and this was raised in the House in the past -- this group of consultants who go and talk to developers and landlords and tell them how they can take advantage of the rent review legislation. One of the seminars they had was: “How to sell more apartment buildings under rent controls. What we will teach you: We will teach you how to sell rental property using the system. Here is what you will learn: How and why the new legislation contributes to apartment flips.” Consultants are out there making money teaching landlords and developers how to take advantage of this legislation to screw tenants. That is what it boils down to.
We have a very limited amount of affordable housing in this province. Part of the deal that was supposed to be arranged by the Liberal rent review legislation was that, on one hand, tenants were going to be protected and, on the other hand, the balance was that the development industry supported the legislation and therefore it would get back into the market of building rental housing. There is no private sector rental housing being built in this province with this rent review legislation and there never will be. There is no rental housing being built in British Columbia, where there is no rent control. The fact of the matter is, developers are going to invest their money in luxury condominiums and in commercial properties because that is where they can make big, big bucks. They are not going to be putting it into rental properties.
So what we have is the worst of both worlds. We have a rent review system that does not protect tenants, and we have no private sector rental properties being built, and the government now has completed its co-op and non-profit housing programs. No new non-profit and co-op housing program will be initiated by this government, so the housing crisis is going to get worse and worse for middle- and low-income families across this province.
Our solution is very clear. What we are saying is that the government has to initiate a new co-op and non-profit housing program. There is simply no question about that. In Toronto, we know there are between 10,000 and 20,000 people who are completely homeless; we know there are hundreds of thousands of people across this province who are doubling up in apartment units, living with relatives and friends because they cannot find affordable housing and we know that the waiting list for assisted housing in this province is growing daily. Tens upon thousands of people are waiting to get affordable housing in this province. We know there are seniors and families who are paying 60% and 70% of their monthly incomes on rent because we do not have adequate affordable housing. So there is simply no question.
It really irks me and bothers me when I hear the Minister of Housing get up and say: “What do you want us to do? We’ve built more non-profit and co-op housing than any other province in this country.” Big deal. Prince Edward Island has 200,000 people; Saskatchewan has 900,000; this is the biggest province with the biggest problem and we would expect this government to be having the biggest non-profit and co-op housing program.
But he cannot stop it here. He cannot leave the people who are out there now living in inadequate accommodation or living in the streets and say: “We can’t afford any more. One and a half per cent of our provincial budget is all we’re going to spend on assisted housing.” That is simply unacceptable. If the minister does not think he has a political responsibility to provide that kind of housing, he sure in God’s name has a moral responsibility to provide that kind of housing in this province and not allow people to be living in slums and on the streets in this province when there is a desperate housing shortage.
The other part of the solution -- and they cannot be separate; this was part of the problem the former Minister of Housing had. She thought that perhaps a co-op and non-profit program would be adequate and then leave this rent review legislation to let the landlords raise rents higher and higher. It has to be a total program. That means we have to protect the rental housing that exists there now. That only means we have to scrap the current rent review legislation, because it cannot be fixed.
The minister can bring in a regulation today to plug one loophole, and the regulations that he has brought in at this point are inadequate. Notice to tenants with no right of veto for tenants simply will not solve the problem. He cannot bring in regulations to solve one loophole and then discover another loophole and then discover another loophole.
I raised with the minister the case of the Sorbara buildings where we found another loophole, where the land and the buildings are owned by different companies -- same owners. They raised the rent for the land by 1,300% and it will be passed through. That is another loophole that will be taken advantage of and there are all sorts of buildings in exactly the same situation across Metropolitan Toronto. Insurance companies have invested in a lot of buildings in exactly the same way, so there is another loophole. The refinancing is another loophole.
The minister said a couple of weeks ago that deliberate neglect of buildings and then massive amounts of investment in the building to correct that neglect will not be allowed; that there are provisions in the current rent review legislation to disallow those kinds of expenditures if there is deliberate neglect involved. What he forgot to tell the Legislature was that if there is an apartment flip in between, if there are 17 years of neglect and then a sale of the building, the new owner is not responsible for that 17 years of neglect. That is what is happening, so that section of his rent review legislation is completely unenforceable because the buildings are being flipped.
The other part of the solution has to be a speculation tax. We have to say to the investors and owners of buildings in this province, “We are not going to allow you to make that kind of money on the backs of people who need affordable housing in this province.” There is no problem with making a fair and respectable profit in this province, but it is not appropriate to simply invest in a building when the market is hot and take advantage of hundreds of thousands of dollars -- in some cases millions of dollars -- of increased value at the expense of tenants on a basic right of housing.
The minister is going to have to come to grips with the fact that the only way of discouraging speculation is with a speculation tax. The Treasurer has said in the past that a speculation tax does not work, and his definition of “not working” was that the tax did not bring in any money. Our definition of a successful speculation tax is that it will not bring in any money because it will stop the speculation. That is the purpose of the tax. It is not a revenue-raiser, it is a tax that is designed to protect people in our communities in the residential housing field.
There will be other members of my caucus who will be contributing during this debate, but I think there is one thing that has to be made very clear. The record of the Liberal Party and the Liberal government on housing, and in particular of protecting private sector tenants in this province, is dismal. It should be embarrassing to the current government.
We are losing very rapidly what affordable housing we have left in the private sector. The government refuses to act. There will be an election soon. It may be fine for the member for St Andrew-St Patrick and the member for Eglinton and some of the other Liberal members who like to go back to their home ridings and say what a good job they are doing fighting for tenants and that they agree with the tenants’ movement. The reality is they are Liberals and the Liberal government has refused to act to protect tenants.
Tenants will have only one alternative in the next election. They will have the Liberals, who get headlines by saying they are going to protect tenants and providing phoney legislation, and they will have the Conservatives, who say, as the member for Nipissing has said, “Scrap rent review,” or as the member for London North has said, “Scrap it in 20 years,” and they will have the New Democratic Party, which is not beholden to the development industry or landlords in this province. We do not take donations from those interest groups in this province. We are obliged to protect the housing stock and to protect the ordinary people of this province -- the tenants of this province.
Mr Speaker, I commit to you and, through you, to the tenants of this province that is what we will do, whether it is minority government or whether it is an NDP majority government after the next election. This legislation cannot be allowed to stand and we will continue to fight for changes so that there is protection for the tenants and affordable housing in this province.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I want to take part in this debate because I think it is appropriate that we talk about these issues. I want, quite frankly, to thank my honourable critic and colleague for introducing this opposition day motion, because it does give us an opportunity to put some facts on the record. I am a little bit concerned that my honourable critic has spoken about generalities, about the sort of devastating things that are going to happen. Let me take a short time to put some facts on the record.
First of all, let us remember where the existing legislation came from. Let us remember -- and give credit where it is due -- that a change and a rewriting and a redrafting of the then existing rent review legislation was part of the accord between the New Democratic Party and the Liberals back in 1985 and 1986.
It was clearly recognized at that point in time that there were some serious flaws in a piece of legislation that had been in existence, I believe, for approximately 10 years. It was originally introduced in 1975. But the other decision that was made was that, instead of the government by itself redrafting that legislation, we ought to bring on side the two parties who were most directly affected by it, the tenants, who had to live in the rental units and who had to pay the rents, and the landlords, who were responsible for providing and maintaining those facilities.
So therefore we were quite happy, as part of that accord agreement, to review, restructure and redraft the rent review legislation in the province. We were quite happy, as part of the accord, to be sure that a tenants’ representation and a landlords’ representation were part, and a very significant part, of that review.
As a matter of fact, my recollection was there was a committee of nine landlords and nine tenants which spent four months going over the existing legislation and making a very significant series of recommendations. I remember our getting reports about how difficult these nine tenants and nine landlords found this particular task, because one of the opportunities they had available to them, in sitting across from one another, was to clearly understand much more clearly where the other person was coming from, what the responsibilities of the other person were and what the financial limitations on the other person were.
As a result of that rather difficult activity, we did come up with a new piece of legislation late in 1986. That is essentially what we have right now. So let us not forget the origins of what we are now saying is completely useless and supposedly does not work, now that we know where it came from.
I want to remind my honourable colleagues of some of the significant -- and I want to emphasize that -- some of the significant changes, not all of them, but some of them, that came out of that particular activity.
First, all of the buildings which had been constructed after 1975, which were not covered by the then legislation, were now covered. I want to tell you, Mr Speaker, that the tenant representatives on the committee felt very strongly about that and won the day on that one. So, therefore, literally overnight a very large number of buildings not covered under rent review at all were now covered under rent review. I would suggest to my honourable colleague, and I think he would probably agree, that was an important change and an important advance.
The second one is that under the old legislation it was possible for a rent increase to take place more than once during any given year. That was changed under the new legislation; it was made very clear that there could be one only increase during any 12-month period. That was something the tenants very much wanted and that is something they got.
The third element in there was that the tenants were concerned about the general maintenance of the building and that, in fact, there could be a municipal standard request to maintain the building. It was not done and nothing happened. Therefore they said, “As part of this new legislation, or redrafting it, we need some mechanism inside.”
I do not know where the name Residential Rental Standards Board came from, but that was essentially what that was. That became part of the new legislation which permitted, within the rent review operation, a board that would examine maintenance orders that had not been completed as they ought to have been, and then direct the rent review officer in the various municipalities to withhold any rent increases until that work is done. In fact, that board is operating and that is exactly what happens at the present time.
Another element the tenants brought to our attention was that roomers, boarders and lodgers were not at that time covered by the existing legislation; they were covered by this new legislation. That was another significant advance for many thousands of people in this province. I recall that during that debate my honourable friends in the New Democratic Party indicated that this was a very important advance in that we put under the rent review legislation a very large number of people.
Finally, and as I say this is a relatively short list, one of the concerns which the tenants brought to our attention was the existence of key money in its various and nefarious forms. There was no protection for tenants when in fact key money was being requested and sometimes literally ordered. Under the new legislation, that was outlawed. I am not suggesting that it may not occur at any one time at the present time, but I think my honourable colleague will agree with me that it went a long way to just about eliminate that practice.
The point I want to make is that we remember where this legislation came from; who were the people in this province who helped to put it together; what kind of balance and, yes, what kind of compromises were accepted by both sides in order to get a piece of legislation that they could both work with, and what were some of the very important and significant advances that were made as a result of that. I think we have to keep that clearly in mind.
Now, what about the operation of it? One aspect of the operation that the government has been rather severely criticized for -- and I say rightly so -- is the backlog. But let us again remember, the immediate cause of that backlog was the addition of all of those buildings that were constructed after 1975. Literally overnight, there were about another 18,000 applications that had to be dealt with.
As a matter of fact, I would remind my friends that in the summer of 1988 that backlog constituted some 25,000 units. Today, less than two years later, we are down to a backlog of 4,000. I would say we have gone a long way to deal with that particular operational difficulty. We have done it at great cost; the cost of operating the rent review system in this province now is about $40 million. That is a lot of money. It is a legitimate expense, but I think the tenants of this province would recognize that it is an expense that we should entertain and that, to protect them, it is an expense we should accept.
The other point in terms of the operation, I would remind my friends, is that the administrative structure under the old system was considered by tenant organizations to be very judicial. One had to almost -- at the very first stage, that is -- have hearings. In many cases tenants felt they had to have a lawyer. They did not have the necessary information to properly defend themselves or to deal with the issue, and they said: “Look. We want a simpler administrative process. At the first stage, we ought not to have a hearing, we ought to have simply a review officer, who would take all of the information in from the landlord, would make sure that the tenants knew what that information was, would make sure that the tenants who requested it understood the implications of that information and then would make the initial hearing.”
We have done that over the last four years. We now have a much simpler administrative procedure.
Of course, the second step is the hearing itself. If a tenant or a landlord is not satisfied with the decision at the first stage, he can request the appeal and then we do have a hearing, as we used to have in the first stage before. But I want to remind my friends that the request clearly was to make that kind of administrative change.
There has been a fair bit said about the massive number of very high increases across the province. Again, let’s deal with the facts. The facts are that in the past 12-month period and in previous 12-month periods, 83% of all rental units in this province did not have to go to rent review. The translation is that they got a rent increase of 4.6%, maybe less in some cases, but not more, because everyone is quite well aware of the fact that if an increase greater than 4.6% is requested, then it must go to rent review. So 83% of the rental units in this province and the people who live in those rental units did not get an increase in excess of 4.6%.
By the way, the record clearly shows that for the previous three 12-month sessions, the figures were almost identical. They fluctuated by 1% or 2%, but they were very, very close.
Mr D. S. Cooke: That means over half the units over the last three years have gone over the guideline.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Not necessarily at all, I say to my honourable colleague -- not necessarily at all.
Let’s look at the 17% who in fact did go above the guideline, who went to rent review either at the first stage or at the first and second stages. The average increase for the last 12 months was 10.8%. True, it is higher than the 4.6%, but it does not match the exorbitant increases which my honourable colleague read out as examples of what is going on generally.
I am not disputing for a minute the particular examples that my honourable colleague gave. I assume that they are correct. I do not have the data to confirm or contradict him, so I will assume that they are correct. But let’s not draw from that the conclusion that this is the general rule. It is not. The general rule is that 83% of the people in this province in rental quarters do not get an increase above the guideline. The general rule is that the 17% who do go to rent review get an average increase -- and we all know what average means, some are more and some are less -- of 10.8%.
The other point to keep in mind is that we get a considerable amount of discussion about the impact of financial loss and the impact of repairs and renovations. Of that 10.8% average increase, above the guideline, or those who go above the guideline, 2.5% represents financial loss and 2.5% represents repairs and renovations. Again, that is an average.
I am not disagreeing that there are some individual cases, and I think that both my colleague and I would agree that there are probably too many, but, again, let’s keep the figures straight. Let’s not suggest that this is what is happening everywhere to everyone; it simply is not. That is fact. I do not make those up. The records clearly show that information.
Mr D. S. Cooke: So what is the law there for? You wait till everybody does it and then you change the law?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let’s look at the question of financial loss that my honourable colleague talked about. I would remind him that this particular aspect of the legislation has been in it since 1975, right at the very beginning; it was an initial component. It was changed in 1982, because in the initial legislation, as my colleague well knows, there was no limit, on an annual basis, as to what it should be. We had a very serious incident at that time, what is commonly referred to as the Cadillac flips, and I cannot recall, but I suspect fairly strongly, unless my colleague tells me otherwise, that there was probably general agreement in this House that the government of the day reduce that to no more than 5% a year. I think everyone saw that at that time as a good thing to do.
When the legislation was being redrafted in 1986, and I will candidly admit this, there was not agreement all the way around that it should be left that way, but there could not be agreement among the nine tenants’ and nine landlord representatives of a better way of doing it. Again I would stand corrected, but I do not recall that during the debate of the 1986 legislation anyone else around here had a better idea of how to handle that situation.
Again, I am not suggesting that it is perfect. This legislation is not perfect; no one is suggesting that. It is the best compromise we can get to maintain a good supply of rental housing in this province and at the same time protect the majority of tenants in this province from high increases.
Let me talk about capital expenditures; my colleague mentioned that. He will well know that the reason why there is a provision within the rent review legislation for a pass-through of costs for capital expenditures, repairs and renovations is to maintain the stock. One of the standard rules -- and as a matter of fact I have often heard my colleague use it with respect to employment. I have often heard him say, “It’s just as important that we protect an existing job as to create a new job.”
That is a valid observation. I simply want to ask him to accept the same premise when I say it is just as important to protect an existing rental unit in good repair as it is to create a new one. We would like to create some more new ones, and in fact I will speak about that briefly, but it is just as important.
I want to remind my honourable colleague that we did, just in the last week or so, introduce a new regulation that did a number of things, and I have talked about them before. It eliminates any financial advantage for the fix-and-flip. They get credit only once, they do not get it twice. It required disclosure, and there is a financial penalty if it is not given. It requires in-suite support of the tenant, and there is a financial penalty.
I noticed earlier that the leader of the New Democratic Party indicated that he had not heard of that before. Let me just read the release that clearly indicates that. This was the release on the day that the regulations were put out. It says:
“In cases which involve replacing items within a tenant’s unit, such as appliances, cupboards, tiles or bathroom fixtures, the landlord must also obtain written agreement from the tenant. The landlord will lose a 5% allowance in rent review if the agreement is not obtained.”
Mr D. S. Cooke: Yes, that’s exactly what it said.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Sweeney: It clearly says that, so I have a little bit of difficulty understanding what the honourable leader of the party meant when he said I was the only one who understood that interpretation. I do not think it could be any clearer. That is precisely what we had in mind, and as a matter of fact it was one of the things we discussed.
Mr D. S. Cooke: You said it would stop them from doing it. It doesn’t give them the right to veto.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please, the member for Windsor-Riverside.
Hon Mr Sweeney: The other part of the regulation is that it is now possible, and there is an incentive to do so, to spread repairs out over two, three, four years rather than lump them all in one year, and it is now required that a number of amortization periods are spread out as well, which in all cases will reduce the financial impact.
We are convinced that, as a result of these regulations, there is going to be a noticeable financial reduction, and we have clearly indicated, and I did when I released the regulations, that we would monitor it for a 12-month period. I have told everybody -- I have told the tenants’ association, I have told the landlords’ association -- that if in fact it does not produce the results that we believe it ought to, then we are prepared to come back and strengthen those, either strengthen the regulations or change the legislation itself.
Let me clearly speak to the main purpose of this particular motion, and that is to change rent review to rent control. I can only suggest to my honourable colleague that if we were to do that, it could be described in only one word, and that would be “disaster.” Let’s be sure we understand the difference. Rent control means that a single guideline number is assessed each year and there cannot be any increase beyond that.
Hon Mr Elston: Next they’ll be advocating wage controls.
The Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would only ask my honourable colleague, what do we do when several hundreds of thousands of dollars need to be spent to replace a roof, to repair an elevator, to replace railings on balconies that have been ordered by the municipality, to repair the garage that is collapsing because of concrete deterioration, to replace the rugs in the halls that have become very soiled and very worn? My honourable colleague knows what would happen. Those things simply would not get done.
How do we know? Because we simply look at other jurisdictions that have a rent control system now. That is how we know. We are not making these up. I would invite my honourable colleague to visit those jurisdictions, as people from my ministry have visited them and have come back and told a litany of horror stories, the streets of buildings that are boarded up.
Let’s also keep in mind that in order to deal in this thing, there has to be investment money available. That investment money will dry up. They simply do not work.
But there is another effect that I am reasonably sure my colleague has not thought of, and that is that the guideline figure would, of necessity, in order to cover at least some of those other things, have to be higher than the one we have now. I do not know what it would be. For the last two years the guideline figure has been 4.6%. I would suggest to my colleague that if we are going to have a single guideline figure and nothing beyond it, then we would be looking at 8%, 9% or 10%. I do not know what the figure would be, but it would be higher. I suspect that it would be at least twice as high.
What is the implication of that? The 83% of people in this province who have paid the guideline or less would now have imposed on them, with his suggestion, twice as much of an increase. I think my honourable colleague has got to consider that very, very distinct possibility.
We know it could not be the same guideline we have now, because the guideline we have now does not factor in those other maintenance pass-through costs. It does not factor them in because there is a provision within rent review to deal with them in another way. If there were no provision to deal with them in another way, they would have to be factored into the guideline. I believe my colleague knows that. Therefore, what he would say is that 83% of the people in this province would end up paying higher rent increases as a result of his proposal.
The honourable member indicated that we would have to do other things, and I agree that we have to do other things. In fact, we have done other things outside of rent review. We have been told by tenants in this city, mainly in this city, that one of the best things this government has done -- one of the best, not the only thing -- is bring in our rental housing protection legislation. We knew before that legislation was brought in that rental apartments were being converted to condominiums, that rental apartments were being converted into suite hotels. We knew those kinds of things. This legislation prohibits that.
Mr Philip: They still are. You broke your promise.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Sweeney: As my honourable colleague the member for Etobicoke well knows, any piece of legislation which this Legislature passes is not an absolute guarantee that somebody will not break the law. We know that. We know people speed, we know there are people who rob banks, we know people who break the law, but the fact remains that now, under the Rental Housing Protection Act, those kinds of things will not happen. We have been told over and over again of the very positive impact of that legislation.
My honourable colleague said that we need to produce more units to add to the total stock. We have done that. In the four and a half years that this government has been in power, we have added 60,000 units. We have another 30,000 in the works right at the present time. My colleague says, “You’ve got to start a new program.” Well, that 30,000 is still ongoing and will continue to go on for another two years. I agree with him. We are going to have to start a new program, and we will, but let me remind him that of those 30,000 units, as of last year, just about 3,500 had actually started. There are going to be 17,000 started this year. There will be another 6,000 at least started next year, and more beyond that. We are very much conscious of that.
Therefore, let me just simply say that the legislation we have is not perfect, but it is far, far better than my honourable friend’s alternative.
Mr Philip: New Democrats have asked for this debate on the crisis in rental accommodation because there is a crisis in Ontario. The present crisis faced by many tenants in this province was predictable when the present legislation was introduced. Tenants are in their present situation because of a series of broken promises by the Liberal government.
Among the promises in the accord, which the minister earlier referred to, were that the rent review guideline would be maintained at 4%; that the rent review system would be made more streamlined so that rents could be set in advance rather than one or two years later, as often happened under the previous system; that legislation would be brought in to control the loss of rental housing through demolition or luxury renovation, and we know that that has not happened in the majority of cases; and perhaps most important, that the government pledged to address the serious shortage of affordable housing. None of those promises signed by the Liberals in the accord has been kept.
In introducing the present inadequate legislation, which we, as New Democrats, voted against, the then Minister of Housing said that, “This legislation will do three things: It provides the tenants of Ontario with a real and universal protection from unfair rent increases.” We know that that was simply not true. “It provides,” the minister said, “a revitalization of rental housing construction in this province.” We know that that is not true. There has not been new rental housing construction. The minister said that it would create a system of rent review that is fair and equitable to all. It obviously is not fair and equitable to all or we would not have so many tenants in the gallery today demonstrating against this government’s housing policy.
The booby-prize award for statements made on this legislation has to go to the Liberal member for Brampton South, who stated: “I have read this bill and its explanation. In the real world, this bill has gone a long way towards eliminating a lot of the mumbo-jumbo and bureaucracy that is involved.”
Well, any of us who have tried to assist tenants before their present rent review system know that the minister has created a huge bureaucracy, a bureaucracy far worse than what was in existence before.
The Conservative critic, Mr Gordon at the time, praised the legislation by stating in the House on 3 July 1986: “In commenting on the bill, I have to say that all measures in it appear to be progressive. Because of the changing nature of the needs of Ontarians, the changing demographics and the changing economic factors, they seem like fair measures for the day.”
That was the position of the Conservative Party at that time. The Conservatives voted with the Liberals to pass this legislation. Now, of course, the member for Nipissing, a leading contender for the Conservative leadership, says that he would vote against rent review entirely, abolish it entirely. That is his solution to the present crisis.
We voted against the present legislation because we argued that it was excessively cumbersome and bureaucratic and because it had so many loopholes in it that it would still allow for major increases. We see now that the loopholes on financial loss and capital expenditures will allow for major increases. We have seen some of these increases. The Liberal government in this province can legislate in the Condominium Act to require capital reserve funds to protect individual condominium owners from major increases in any given year, and yet it cannot legislate any kind of reserve requirement on landlords to ensure that tenants do not get major increases in a year.
New Democrats introduced amendments to the Corporations Act that would have stopped and reduced the likelihood of flips and the pass-through of refinancing costs to tenants, which many tenants are facing in this province. The Liberals and Conservatives voted against it. We called for a speculation tax to take away the incentives of people flipping buildings and making major capital profits at the cost of tenants. The Liberals and Conservatives have rejected these kinds of proposals.
At the present time, I am making written submissions on behalf of tenants in some eight or nine projects in Rexdale. Many of those are projects in which the landlord has allowed the accommodation and the appliances to deteriorate over a period of years, and now the tenants are facing 25% to 50% rent increases as a result of capital expenditures or improvements which the they have not asked for and which clearly, by the regulations this government has introduced, they will still get whether they like it or not.
Over 50% of the rental units in my riding are registered as condominiums even though they have been operated as rental units for as long as 11 or 12 years. In the last real estate market boom, many of these tenants faced eviction as their units were sold from under them. I pointed out to the then Minister of Housing, the member for Oakwood, on 7 January 1988, that a majority of the rental buildings constructed since 1975 were registered as condominiums and that the tenants were not protected. She promised legislation to protect those people. When she introduced her anti-demolition legislation she broke that promise. Those tenants are not protected and they in fact are in the process of being evicted.
In conclusion, let me say this: It is time to replace the present unworkable system with real rent controls that will allow only one guideline-based rent increase per year with no exemptions. It is time to have a speculation tax to take away the incentive for speculation. It is time that the $40 million which is spent on this bureaucratic rent review system, which the Liberals and the Conservatives voted for in this House and which we in the New Democratic Party predicted would not work and voted against, be replaced. It is time for the Liberals to stop keeping their private promises to the corporate landlords and keep the public promises which they have made to tenants.
Mr Jackson: I am very delighted to participate in this debate. Members of the House know that, from a personal point of view, I have a lot of interest in matters dealing with rent review, not just having been a former housing critic for my party, but also because I participated in the public hearings on this infamous Bill 51 and because I participated in what I thought was a good process of public inquiry and discussion to come to the conclusion of having filed that report to help look at the regulations. I could not in all conscience support this legislation, so many of my comments today are from my personal perspective as someone who voted against rent control and lived to talk about it.
I share that unique distinction with a member of the New Democratic Party, probably a most outstanding social democrat of the decade, Morton Shulman, who served in this House in a seat in downtown Toronto. Both Morton Shulman and I stood in our place in this chamber on two separate occasions to indicate what we considered was an inappropriate approach to meeting the needs of tenants and society’s need to ensure that all of our citizens have decent and affordable accommodation based on their needs.
Unfortunately, this debate has already shown elements of the political acrimony that we have become famous for in this House. It is unfortunate that a matter as serious as this has to be put in purely political terms and we have to focus almost entirely on the past. I am going to try to set out what I believe are my concerns for the homeless in this province and the affordability problem in our province.
I will be fair to the new Minister of Housing, who I believe is an honest, decent and very hard-working member of the Privy Council and who, I must admit, has given me the most straightforward answers to the questions around rent control. We must understand that two previous ministers have surrendered their seats in the Privy Council, generally because of the Housing portfolio and specifically because of problems related to rent control. Given the unfortunate demise that has occurred to those two individuals, I believe the present minister has at least learned the first appropriate lesson -- he did apply it in his previous portfolio -- and that is to speak squarely and fairly about the reality of what he is faced with.
He is on record in this House as admitting that he has a very difficult problem to handle. He has admitted that he has a backlog which he is having difficulty with, although it is an improved backlog over his predecessors. He has admitted that he has run out of money; on one occasion he has admitted to me in this House that there are insufficient funds from the Treasurer to implement fully all the regulations and all the sections of Bill 51. The public does not realize that there are some sections of this bill that still have not been proclaimed, and it is almost three and a half years old.
In his previous portfolio, as the Minister of Community and Social Services, he recognized the need for reform in this province for those people who have difficulty affording to live in this province. It is not just confined to the city of Toronto; this is a concern, and a crisis, that is affecting virtually every city in this province.
He has recognized, as the Social Assistance Review Committee report indicated, that there are intrinsic failures to the rent control system that we are operating in this province. The SARC report made that very clear statement, that the universal nature of rent control does not serve the poor of this province and does not assure accommodation with dignity and affordability. He has admitted that there are some elements in the SARC report that must be addressed.
My colleague the member for Hamilton West has caused this assembly to deal with the issue of food banks. Again, during those public hearings virtually every social service agency, every food bank, every volunteer group dealing with the struggle of the poor to exist in our communities, to live properly in our communities, stated that the number one concern was affordability, that the rising cost of shelter was what was causing the largest single increase in our food banks.
Faced with those observations, faced with the clear need to change our welfare system to address affordability, faced with the reality that rent control is not working, which the NDP is openly admitting -- and that is the tone and tenor of their recommendation, that the system as envisaged, known as Bill 51, just is not working -- there are other groups in society which have also indicated that this concept of rent controls is not working. When I say the “concept of rent controls,” I am saying the concept of the universal application of rent control.
I believe that a system of rent control which I would support would be to abolish the current system and replace it with a form of regulation and a form of shelter subsidy. I have come to that conclusion partially because of my work as a housing authority chairman a decade ago, when we had to deal with increasing access and affordability, and partially because I have come to the conclusion that there are a growing number of citizens in this province who cannot afford 30% increases year after year, as is the case of a building on Lakeshore Road in my former riding, which is now the riding of Oakville South; some 68% in three years for some of the senior citizens in that building.
The problem is that we should not be putting rent controls on bricks and mortar. Each building is different: it ages differently, it depreciates differently. The NDP has already indicated the problems with trying to schedule these elements for cost recovery. But rather, we should be looking at the tenant’s need, the individual’s need, his lifestyle need and his need to live in a part of a community that is convenient for shopping, that is close to other family members. Those should be the reasons why a person finds accommodation in this province and why he is allowed to stay in his own accommodation, not because rent control is on buildings. But we cannot fundamentally make that leap here in Ontario.
What is interesting is that they have made that leap in a lot of jurisdictions in this country, in North America and throughout Europe. In fact, we are one of the few jurisdictions in the world that has allowed rent control to go on beyond its 15th year. Provincially, if you look at all the provinces, there is only one other province in Canada that in the past four years has moved to further ratchet down and control something which quite frankly is uncontrollable, and that is Newfoundland. Every other province has recognized the important agenda of ensuring and guaranteeing affordability.
I have a few points that I am concerned about and that I want to focus on in a more direct way. One is the cost of rent control. One of the main reasons that I voted against this rent control legislation was because the cost of administering this system, the bureaucracy of rent control, has risen in what we heard today is the fifth-year anniversary of this government. In five years the cost of rent control has gone up by almost 450% in this province. When the Conservatives left office in 1985 it was costing around $7.8 million to administer this system of rent control; it is now close to $50 million.
I say that because when I was doing the estimates for the Ministry of Housing, not too terribly long ago, we found out that there had been some creative accounting to off some of these costs of rent control administration into other departments, and the government has the right to do that. The minister, to his credit, has already indicated to this House that he is running out of money to apply to this bureaucracy. But I propose to members what $50 million would do to help bridge the gap between current rents in this province and the affordability crisis that many citizens in our province are faced with. There is a myth that the government can provide all the housing. Every socialist country in Europe has found out that it cannot provide all the housing that is required. There has to be a partnership. There is a role for government and there is a role for the private sector, and yes, there is a role for the individual tenant.
There is not a role for a tenant who is making a really healthy income, and I am talking about people making $100,000 or $150,000 a year. Why do they need a 6% cap on their rent? Why do they need a cap on their rent? They do not.
Every study that we have seen, absolutely every analysis of this crisis, has pointed to one point, and that is that the people who are hurt most by rent control are the poor. Not only did the Social Assistance Review Committee report state that, but so did the Stuart Thom commission report.
I want to talk about the Thom commission report because I happen to very much support the findings of that report and some of its recommendations. There is a popular misconception that Thom recommended getting out of rent controls. He recommended a form of rent regulation with a free market operating in tandem with that so that the poor were totally protected. It is a system which has been applied to several other jurisdictions. I will address in a moment why we will not pursue these policies; because we do not have the political will to do it, but I will come back to that point.
What I want to talk about first of all is the fact that whenever there is a crisis, we tend to try to study it and take it off the front pages of the newspapers and bury it. Maybe the previous government, of which the Speaker was a member at the time, was guilty of taking this issue of rent control just before an election and putting it in the hands of Mr Thom. After all, he did study it for five years and he spent $3 million of taxpayers’ money. It was considered by many housing specialists in North America to be one of the definitive research pieces on rent control and rental accommodation and accessibility.
Yet the then Minister of Housing, the member for Oakwood, refused to even let Mr Thom use the Queen’s Park press gallery, the press offices here in this building, to make that public document available to the media, refused even to allow him to use this building. Mr Thom was forced to set up in rather cramped quarters in his own office to allow the media in to have a look at this report.
The minister dismissed in one simple sentence all of the work, that body of knowledge, the research that had gone into that. I do not wish to dwell on the lessons learned by the two previous members who are no longer not only ministers of housing but are no longer members of the Privy Council, but I do believe that the current minister will look seriously at what Stuart Thom has said. I know he is not going to look at it seriously between now and the election, because that would send a signal to tenants all over this province that the Liberals may be trying to do something that is in the best interests of affordable housing. Rather, they will do as all political parties seem to do with regularity and habit: they are going to tell tenants: “Vote for us because we will protect you. We will do what is in your best interests.”
Politicians have just got to stop doing that. We have got to stop doing it because quite frankly the problems the poor are experiencing with affordability -- it is not working under any of the rent control configurations in Ontario or elsewhere in this country that further go for regulation and flat-lining.
I cannot support the member’s resolution. I cannot support something which flies in the face of all the research that has been done. Sure, it lasts in some provinces where they actually do vote in NDP governments. We know that they have tried it and it works for a short time, but we have also had NDP governments get out of the very resolution which the member proposes today. These are NDP governments which are saying: “It’s not working. We have to get out of this.”
Mr D. S. Cooke: What are the examples of that?
Mr Jackson: We will get to examples in a moment.
I want to stay with Mr Thom and share with some of the members of this House some of the statements from the Thom commission report, which this government really did not want the public to understand.
Stuart Thom spoke extensively to the plight of the poor and the homeless in this province. Do not forget he was doing his research through the last recession in this province, in 1982-84. We are about to move into a new recession in this province, by the Treasurer’s veiled comments about a recession. He calls it something different, but we do know that we are going to be going into difficult times, in comparable terms to that which we experienced in 1982 and 1983.
Stuart Thom spoke extensively about rent review and its impact on the poor. On page 22 of his report, he said:
“Rent review is not targeted to the needy. It has not helped those unable to find a unit subject to rent review and it has not provided sufficient help to households with low incomes. It has, however, served households who required no help at all. Higher-income households have remained in units subject to rent review, while the needy have been forced to seek shelter in the exempt stock which is more expensive.”
We know that Mr Thom proposed a system of shelter subsidy. Just as a footnote to Hansard, because this is all in Hansard from our committee hearings, I posed the question to, I think, Professor Pat Laverty. He was the very articulate, very intelligent bureaucrat who dreamed up the residential complex cost index, the building operating cost index and all of the formula that goes with them. I said to Mr Laverty, “Why are we not considering a shelter subsidy program?” He said, “Well, it is going to be awfully expensive.”
Members have to put it in context. At the time, we were spending $7.8 million on administering rent control. I said, “Tell me, Pat, how much do you think this plan is going to cost to administer?” He said, “Twelve million dollars, and we’ll have it up and running in three months.” It is all in Hansard.
The then minister, the member for Scarborough North, reaffirmed in his press statements that figure of $12 million and that in three months it would be up and running. He said, “Cam, we can’t have a rent subsidy program because our estimates indicate it would cost over $20 million.” That is in Hansard. Using the government’s own figures, we cannot have a shelter subsidy program because it would cost $20 million. We are spending $50 million on bureaucracy.
We could get into a whole lot of horror stories. I have raised the question of the 9R forms. Interestingly, 100,000 copies were shredded because they were deemed to be too complex to understand. Tenants do not understand them. That is a whole other issue about this legislation that offends me. It is fundamentally wrong to provide a system which tenants rely on to keep a roof over their heads when in fact they cannot understand it and therefore they lack the means to defend themselves when they go before any proposed appeal mechanism or tribunal.
That is a fundamental issue about justice. You do not go to court unless you know how to protect yourself in court. You do not appeal a rent review decision unless you know how to appeal. I am deviating, but I have to bring this point up. Like all members of this House, I was approached, for the first time under this new Bill 51. It got us through an election and it held the promise that we were capping. It is interesting that before an election the rate is lower and after the election it is higher, but that is another issue. This was an increase, I think, of 26.9%. It was not a bad increase, now that we look back, because we have had 30%, 40% and some 60% increases.
I sat down and thought: “I have been a critic of this government and the bill. I voted against it and I had better put my money where my mouth is. I had better do some research and find out if anybody has done an appeal.” So I called the ministry. They said, “No, it’s too early.” I said, “What do you mean it is too early?” They said, “We haven’t got the system up and running.” I said, “Have you had any appeals filed?” They said: “Yes, we’ve had one or two. They were one or two pages.”
I decided it was worth the effort to try. I thought: “I have a background in housing. I am not a lawyer by trade, but it is worth it. I will do it for this one building.” Actually, it has the highest concentration of social assistance recipients in my riding. Of all the buildings I could have chosen to be helpful to, this was an important building. We had one lady who was expecting her second baby. She is a single parent and it was an economic eviction situation for her.
We made a decision in our office that we were going to take this building through all the levels of appeal. It is something I will never, ever do again, but I will tell members, we put 180 hours into our brief, did all of our research and interviewed the tenants. This is what we filed. That was our first filing right there, several hundred pages, all with affidavits.
After all that work and subsequent appeals by the landlord and with us and with the landlord threatening to sue me, all sorts of stuff, we got a 6.5% rollback. It left me with a lasting concern about this legislation. That is, in order to appeal this bill or, in other words, in order to exercise the rights this government promised were inherent in this bill, a tenant would either have to go out and hire, at an incredible expense, the technical expertise in order to do an appeal properly or, quite clearly, there had to be some system to assist people in the process of appeals.
Landlords have access, and rightly so, to all sorts of accountants and lawyers to prepare their cases. Tenants do not have this on average. Rich tenants do. That is what is interesting. If you come from a wealthier area and the average income in that building is high, then it is not a big problem to put $100 on the table to hire a lawyer and go the whole nine yards. But there are thousands of buildings in this province where tenants are making decisions about maybe skipping one or two meals in a month because they cannot afford it. Where are they going to come up with the money, $10, $15 or $20 to put into a pool in order to fight the landlord?
Ours was one of the first appeals that was ever done in this province and we fought the issue about capital improvements that were done in a first year. I was told later by the ministry that it was a test case that was testing the wording in the legislation. We had $2.5 million worth of expenditures being costed out in the first year. This was a substantive decision, yet the landlord went around and said to everybody: “If you sign this little bit of paper, we’ll only pass on a little bit of it. But you have to roll over and let rent increase go through.”
This system is lending itself to complications, to misinformation and, yes, even to abuse. It is unworkable and it is unfair; it is primarily unfair, as Stuart Thom told us in the Commission of Inquiry into Residential Tenancies report, to the poor, to the needy and to those who cannot afford to keep shelter over their heads in this province.
I have talked a bit about the politics of this issue. I am going to get into another area which my friends in the New Democratic Party do not like me to get into, but they know where I stand on this issue. I personally believe that we cannot survive in this province unless we have a partnership with the private sector, and that partnership has to have very clear and decisive rules with it or else it is not a good partnership.
My friends in the NDP of course disagree with me. They think owning land is a form of thievery. That is a philosophy shared by Marx, Lenin, Bob Rae and others.
Mr Allen: That’s putting it a bit extreme.
Mr Jackson: It is a bit extreme, the member for Hamilton West says. But I was standing here in this House with the member for Waterloo North -- we were dealing with a non-partisan resolution on private property rights -- and I distinctly remember the NDP saying, “We cannot support entrenching private property rights in the Constitution, because ownership of land is thievery.”
Mr R. F. Johnston: We know you can find that anywhere in Hansard.
Mr Jackson: Actually, it was the member for Nickel Belt.
That was --
Mr R. F. Johnston: He would never raise the term “thievery.” “Skulduggery” maybe, but never “thievery.”
Mr Jackson: The fact of the matter is that we have an ideological difference of opinion here.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Thank God Hansard will know.
Mr Jackson: From my notably agnostic friend the member for Scarborough West.
Mr R. F. Johnston: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member knows full well that I am not an agnostic, that I am blithely irreligious and quite atheistic in my views.
Mr Jackson: I thank the member for that correction and I thank God for that correction.
The point I am trying to make here very simply is that --
Mr B. Rae: What is your point, Cam?
Mr Jackson: I am glad the Leader of the Opposition has come back into the House.
We are talking about the philosophical differences between the NDP --
Mr B. Rae: I heard what you said. I wanted to be here to listen to it.
Mr Jackson: Excellent. I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition is here.
The fact is that most jurisdictions in North America have come to the conclusion that by overly regulating and ratcheting down, by denying the relationship with the private sector in terms of a solution to bringing on more housing, by following that path we have to show for our efforts less affordable housing, less ability for people to improve and upgrade and therefore retain older housing stock.
There are sufficient reports out from the federal government, both in the United States and in Canada, which indicate that some of the restrictive legislation, which is a natural outcropping of rent control -- it all starts with rent control and then it evolves into regulations on anything else you might want to do with your property, such as to convert it -- certainly we need some protections there -- to improve it, enhance it, even tear it down. We now cannot do anything with our property in this province.
Those jurisdictions that have done that all over North America have clearly indicated that they have had to reverse that trend or operate housing accessibility to their peril. The numbers, the costs alone of trying to compete with the private sector are astronomical. We think health is costing a lot. To do a proper job in housing would nearly bankrupt this government.
So we should be focused on that partnership. One of the key elements of that partnership is an understanding that we are here to protect those who need protection the most. That is what Stuart Thom said; that is what the Social Assistance Review Committee report said; that is what I have been saying and a growing number of people are saying.
It is clearly an absolute resolution of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. The Minister of Housing, who is also Minister of Municipal Affairs, gets this advice from them on an annual basis. The government has to find a way out of rent control and move into a modified system that deals with shelter subsidy.
Every major newspaper in this province has suggested that Stuart Thom’s report had merit and that that was the direction for us to go in. Even the Toronto Star, which I know this government has a certain marital reliance on, has come out squarely against the proposals of flat-lining rent control and the complexity of the government’s current bill, and said that the third alternative, as it were, should be considered.
I wish I could move into a couple of areas about this whole notion of the politics. I think the minister indicated he had a really nice and wonderful working relationship with the nine members of tenants groups and the nine members representing landlords, that came together. My recollection, having done all the public hearings, was that was a very awkward alliance at best. Reference was made to: “We have a gun to our head. We either capitulate or else we won’t get any regulations at all.”
We know that Dan McIntyre from the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Tenants’ Association, a member of that committee, broke --
Mr Chiarelli: He’s an NDP candidate now.
Mr Jackson: Listen, if we started looking at all the NDPers who are now Liberals because of reading a recent poll, then we would have a long list indeed to read into this House.
A person’s politics should not be the consideration when a person has clearly enunciated his credentials as a tenant advocate. Because he is a tenant advocate, he broke from this bill and he indicated it was too complex for people to understand and therefore people could not operate properly. They could not operate in a fully functioning way with full comprehension.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Did you enjoy your one term here, Mr Chiarelli?
Mr Chiarelli: After observing what I’ve observed, maybe it’s not worth staying any longer.
Mr D. S. Cooke: You couldn’t even get the hotline money reinstated for Ottawa, because the Ottawa Liberal members kept their mouths shut.
Mr Jackson: I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, for keeping order for me.
Mr Chiarelli: Be patient.
Mr Jackson: Perhaps the member for Ottawa West might participate in the debate and tell us the kinds of things he is doing for the tenants and the landlords in his riding.
Mr Chiarelli: I will.
Mr Jackson: I have already referenced the work we did on the appeal. I should also indicate that our office -- I did a memo some time ago and I did take the effort to acquire some of the manuals that are available. These are private sector manuals -- certainly the government does not publish this information -- which we purchased and made available to all the tenants groups and to all small landlords in our riding. We have even offered support in setting up seminars that deal with the actual details of their building before review. That was the only thing we could see doing that would be helpful to these people in understanding how complex this legislation is.
There has been reference in this debate already about -- actually, I am holding up How to Take a Building to Rent Review, which is a step-by-step guide to maximizing rental income. It is a guide for tenants and for landlords, if any other member is interested in offering something more than just a one-page letter to tenants’ groups and to landlords saying, “We are very proud of our legislation.” If you are a Liberal, you will say that. If you are an NDP member, you will say, “We did not vote for it, it is wrong, it is an evil piece of legislation and we support a cap.”
However, the tenants in this province have to live with this legislation, while we politicians get caught up in our politics and our debating and our positioning for this forthcoming fall election. In the meantime, a lot of tenants out there are being hurt, a lot of small landlords are being hurt and our system continues to degenerate.
I wish I had a little more time. I wanted to get into some of the information that we had uncovered in terms of the quality of applications, the changes in the regulations, the changes in application forms. I have already referenced the 9R form, which had to be scrapped because it was too complex. We also know that the rent registry is very much behind. There was a promise from the government that we would have a fully functioning and operating rent registry, but that has not been forthcoming. The minister might respond to that.
I also wanted to talk about the fact that not all of the forms that determine what the legal rent should be for a building were ever sent out in this province and that there are a lot of buildings which may never be determined for their base rents, unless of course there is an appeal or an application greater than the guideline. We may never know what the proper legal rents will be for some buildings in this province.
Now that there are a few Liberals who have expressed interest in participating in this debate, I would invite them to indicate rather clearly, for the record, how they are dealing with some of their major increases; how they are explaining this legislation; how they intend to indicate why there are no policy initiatives coming from this government other than simply to defend Bill 51.
As I have said and I continue to suggest, I believe we have a compassionate Minister of Housing who speaks very straight and clearly on what he believes to be the facts about rent control. He has not attempted to hide the facts about the costs of this program. It is the bureaucratic difficulties which have caused the system to be less responsive and reactive to tenants’ or landlords’ needs.
But I suggest to the minister that either he is going to have to face this music once the crisis becomes worse, which it will, or he will have to face it in opposition, to again take on the government of the day as he did in 1975. I believe the minister was a member of the House in those days, when the Liberals objected to the alliance between the NDP and the Conservatives which brought in the then temporary measure known as rent control.
I know the minister wanted to suggest that he wanted to credit rent review to the accord document. There was another accord document in 1975 which really in fact created rent control. In those days, Toronto had a serious illness and the rest of the province was forced to consume the medicine -- the medicine being regulating rent control across the province -- when in fact it was only needed in the Toronto area and perhaps sections of Hamilton, Windsor and Ottawa. But at the time, there were vacancy rates of 8% or 9% in some cities in this province.
I realize that I have put on the record most of my concerns with respect to this bill and with the NDP motion. I respect the position that they take. The NDP is consistent in its approach, and it fulfils a rather useful function in terms of public policy to help those of us who are left with the responsibility of governing.
Mr B. Rae: You certainly have shown that, Cam.
Mr Jackson: Yes. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition and I will in our lifetime talk about an accord ourselves and we will all have to eat some of those words, but until then --
Mr Kerrio: You’ll be sorry.
Mr Jackson: We know how well it served the member for Niagara Falls personally. However, in all conscience, I cannot support that direction and at least I have stood in the House because of my belief system and my conviction and voted against rent review.
I also have taken this message very clearly to my constituents, and I have over 100 apartment buildings in my riding. Yet there is a growing sense of awareness and understanding on this basic principle, and that is that rent control will not work because of its universal nature and because of its over-bureaucratization, if I can get that word out properly, of a process that does not have to be that complex. It does not serve the poor and needy of this province; it does not serve them at all. The evidence is compelling. It is empirical and it is documented.
I cannot in conscience support the resolution, nor can I support the government’s bill. I offer an alternative. I suggest that because I believe fundamentally that the economics of housing are clear: Every time we attempt to give something away to someone who does not need it, there is that much less to give to those who truly do need it. That is never more true than it is with the poor in this province and the affordability issue. It strikes directly at the heart of the way we operate rent control in this province.
The rich do not need further protections. That is certainly something we have heard the New Democratic Party talk about when it comes to revenue and taxation, but when it comes to housing, the NDP wants to protect the rich. It is very clear, “It doesn’t matter what your income is and your affordability, you’re entitled to just a 4% or a 5% increase.” It will not work; it cannot work. Virtually every jurisdiction in the world has found out, to its economic woe and to its social dysfunction, that it will not work.
I invite all members privately to consider carefully the alternatives that we are afforded from time to time in terms of policy. I encourage members, as I know the member --
Mr D. S. Cooke: You said this wasn’t your policy, this was your personal point of view.
Mr Jackson: It is my personal point of view and I have a few additional members who have agreed. I certainly know that the --
Mr McLean: A free and open party.
Mr Jackson: Yes. The member for Frontenac-Addington has already stood in his place in this House to raise the same kinds of questions I have. Certainly his constituents appreciate him for his pragmatic approach and his ability to look beyond the politics and simply look at a problem and say, “What are the solutions available to us?”
When something is not working, we should first of all at least open our ears so that we will listen to alternatives and not close ourselves to the alternatives that could be made available to us.
Mr Neumann: What is your alternative?
Mr Jackson: If the member for Brantford had been listening, he would have heard it. He can find it in the Social Assistance Review Committee report. I know that he, having just completed hearings on food banks, knows of the reference to the fact that rent control is not working in this province. I encourage the member for Brantford, if he missed the comments in this debate, to read Hansard. That is always available to him. But welcome to the debate, since he raised the point of his attendance.
I am going to yield to the government. I want to thank the member from the NDP for his resolution, for providing a forum for this open discussion, especially at a time just before a provincial election when all of us are going to have to deal with the real issues of affordability and rent control in this province. I just hope that we will all rise above our own partisan views to listen carefully to what the tenants, based on real need, are telling us.
Mr B. Rae: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was in my office and I heard a few things the member said. The first thing he said was he compared my views to those of Marx and Lenin, and in fact said, “Marx, Lenin and Bob Rae.” The second thing he said was that the New Democratic Party regards property as theft.
Mr Jackson: Private ownership.
Mr B. Rae: Private ownership as theft; that is right. I want to say to the member -- and I am not saying it by way of debate -- I am asking you, Mr Speaker, to rule under section 23(h). If you make an allegation against another member, that is unparliamentary. I want to suggest that putting me in the same company as Lenin in the current context of world events is a disgusting form of McCarthyism and I would ask the member for Burlington South to withdraw it.
Mr Jackson: Mr Speaker, I respectfully withdraw the reference and the connection. However, the statement that was quoted is a matter of Hansard attributed to a member of his caucus. But I apologize for the linkage and the reference. I seriously do apologize.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I thank the honourable member for Burlington South. The Chair is much relieved.
Mrs E. J. Smith: Like the member for Burlington South, I was one of the members of the original committee when this bill was being formulated, so it is my pleasure today to give a little background to this and remind the members of the circumstances in which the bill was brought forward.
Before I do so, I want to address briefly some of the remarks of the member for Burlington South. Of course, we all know that the housing problem is in many ways caused by a shortage, both a shortage of housing itself and as well a shortage of land. The economics of this has to be carefully reviewed.
If one were to consider having shelter subsidies with no controls whatsoever on rent, with just a free marketplace, one is not looking at the economic realities. In fact, the free enterprise system demands competition. If you have a government bill or a government ruling that says, “We will pick up the extra rent no matter what the landlord charges you or how much profit he is making,” this would become completely uncontrollable in areas where there is a shortage.
The fact is that the government did move into some shelter support for those on social assistance only, not the working poor but social assistance only, to pick up what was over 25% of their income up to a certain controlled limit. That program alone is costing $105 million. So the suggestion that there is some cheap way of moving into the member for Burlington South’s program is ridiculous.
I want to say as well that the statement from the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale that they were promised a 4% increase is perfect nonsense. We agreed on a formula. The formula is rather like a cost of living; it was to be applied on an annual basis and was agreed upon. It was never said it would be 4%. The fact it is in the 4% range is because the cost of living was such.
I wish to speak more generally on the long-term history of this bill and those factors that made it necessary.
Four years ago last month, the members of this House joined together to applaud a group of citizens sitting in the visitors’ gallery. Our applause that day was directed towards 18 people who had reached an historic agreement, an agreement on a system of rent review for Ontario that would be equally fair to both landlords and tenants. As we debate the resolution of the member for Windsor-Riverside, I think it is appropriate that we, and he for that matter, consider again the origins of the Residential Rent Regulation Act.
Let us recall that this legislation came about as the result of a unique process. In December 1985, the finest tenant leaders and the best landlord leaders in Ontario were invited to join a citizens’ committee that would advise the government on a new system of rent review. The committee was known as the Rent Review Advisory Committee and its 18 members -- nine tenant leaders and nine landlord leaders, as I have said -- represented some of the most experienced and astute representatives in this province.
This committee was asked to provide the government with a new approach to rent review that would balance the interests of landlords and tenants in a fair and effective manner and draw landlords back into the building of rental units.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Has that worked?
Mrs E. J. Smith: Yes, it has worked in London.
Not surprisingly, at the time of its formation virtually no one gave this committee a chance of surviving, never mind reaching an agreement. The concept of landlords and tenants actually working together on anything, never mind an entire system of rent review, was seen as pure pie in the sky. And yet, four months after its formation, the members of this committee reached a consensus. Their report of 18 April 1986 formed the basis of the Residential Rent Regulation Act. Small wonder that the applause of all members of this House on that day was vigorous and well deserved.
The people of Ontario owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the members of that committee. They were men and women who managed to put aside their particular interests to work for the common good. They spent hours and days and weeks, and they literally worked through the night in order to reach an agreement.
I invite the member for Windsor-Riverside to review the report of that committee and to look also at the minutes of the six months of public hearings that followed the presentation of the report. If he does, he will find that every conceivable aspect of the new rent review system was discussed and debated in minute detail.
Moreover, and perhaps most important of all, he will learn that the Residential Rent Regulation Act, as members may remember, represents a compromise. It represents a give and take between landlord and tenant leaders in Ontario. Neither side got everything it wanted, far from it. They disagreed at length and often quite bitterly throughout the process, but both sides got something very important: They got a deal. They compromised. They reached an agreement both of them could live with. That deal is the Residential Rent Regulation Act.
That deal makes the legislation entirely unique. It is, to my knowledge, the first time in the history of our province that a major piece of legislation has originated in such a fashion and the first time that the representatives of the people most directly affected by the law, the landlords and tenants of Ontario, reached an agreement about the law. It was a truly historic achievement. It is an achievement that this government is very reluctant to undermine. It is an achievement that this government is determined to defend.
Mr Reville: I must have been on a different bill from the member for London South.
It was interesting to me that my first political activity was around housing back in 1972 when I got involved with a beginning group called Neighbourhood Legal Services. We were trying to work with tenants in the south St Jamestown area who were suffering mightily at the hands of certain vicious developers who operated here in Toronto, now thankfully disbanded -- at least that particular set of vicious developers.
Members can imagine my delight when, 14 years later, my leader said to me, “I want you to be Housing critic,” and they can imagine how short-lived my delight was because about a minute after I was appointed Housing critic, the Rent Review Advisory Committee came down with its first report and I had to stand up and denounce it. Given that it had been written by a group of tenant representatives, it made me very nervous to have to do that.
In spite of what the member for London South says, one of the tenant leaders, Dan McIntyre, was wise enough to refuse to sign the document right off the top. All the other tenant leaders have since repudiated the document, alleging among other things that the Liberal government did not deliver on additional promises that were made in terms of supply and housing protection, which had encouraged them to sign the document in the first place.
The Minister of Housing, who was not there at the time, has a revisionist view of history. There is no question that the document was advanced under banners that flew high, saying, “Historic Agreement” and “Delicate Balance.”
The member for London South talks about the first time that a bill was ever conceived in this way. Let me tell the member for London South that it is the last time tenant representatives will agree to sit down in a situation in which they are basically padlocked to landlord leaders, put into a government hide-out and told not to come out until they have made an agreement.
Those who sat through the hearings, as I did, will recall that not a single tenants’ group in this whole province supported Bill 51; not a single tenants’ group in the province of Ontario was prepared to say that it thought this was a good deal for it.
The Minister of Housing said no one had a better idea. That is not correct. Tenants’ groups from across the province made detailed proposals to improve the bill, very detailed proposals. In fact, I turned each and every one of those proposals into an amendment. Of course those amendments were defeated by the combined strength of the Liberals and the Conservatives.
It is true that the member for Burlington South and the then member for the then riding of St George stood with the New Democrats against the bill, but if the tenants of Ontario want to know why Bill 51 is in place and why the current scrambled rent review system is in place, they have to blame the Liberals, supported by the Conservatives. It would not have passed without the support of the Conservatives because, of course, we were in that most happy of situations, a minority government.
The very first double-cross of the Liberal government was related to the housing program, because the accord was absolutely specific about what we thought was wrong with the current rent review system. Of course, the member for London South finds it convenient to forget that it said, in numerals and in words, 4% should be the rent rise, and it said that in the accord. Then the gnomes over in the Ministry of Housing invented RCCI and BOCI, if you will recall. All of a sudden, the 4% promise was forgotten and we had a building operating cost index and a residential complexes cost index, which tenant groups criticized as being unrealistic, as having inappropriate multipliers and adders and in fact creating profits for landlords which they did not need and did not deserve.
The Minister of Housing says it is not perfect. You bet it is not perfect, Mr Speaker. In fact, what happened during Bill 51 is that the Liberal government of the province swung the balance very strongly in favour of landlords to the disadvantage of tenants across the province. The member for Burlington South talks about tenants who earn $100,000 and $150,000 a year. In my travels across the province, I have not met many tenants who earn $100,000 and $150,000 a year; but, even if there were such, does not everybody deserve protection from arbitrary rent increases? Of course they do.
The notion that in 1975 protection for tenants was necessary only for those in some large centres is also poppycock. Housing is not a commodity that you can forgo when you cannot afford it, when your income does not rise as much as inflation does. Everybody needs housing. Housing must be treated as a right, not as some commodity that goes to those who can afford it and not to those who cannot. Virtually every study that has ever been done shows that trying to replace a tenant protection system with a shelter subsidy system in fact works ultimately to the detriment of tenants, because what governments discover very quickly is that they begin to impose lower and lower thresholds of who will be entitled to shelter subsidies. The results are catastrophic for people of low and moderate income.
What is clear and what the government has still not got through its head is that any housing program worthy of the name must have at least three components: it must have protection for tenants; it must have protection of the housing stock; and it must have an aggressive supply program. Regrettably, the province of Ontario has not provided any one of those in a way that is meaningful for people.
It seems to me that the tenants are going to have an opportunity to make their views known shortly. I suggest that they rise up. They have seen the enemy. The enemy is there and there and there. The enemy is Liberals and Conservatives. Turf the rascals out.
Mr Mahoney: I thought there might have been a speaker from the third party, Mr Speaker, but if not, I am delighted at this time to put my comments on the record and share with you some opinions that I hold very closely and some information about housing supply in my own community. As a matter of fact, I had the pleasure of being a past president of the Peel Non-Profit Housing Corp in the region of Peel, and I know from that experience that the supply problem is a direct result of many years of apathy.
On some points I can agree with some of the previous speakers that previous Progressive Conservative governments have totally chosen to ignore the problem. I can remember waiting with bated breath for small dribbles of allocation units coming forward from the government as if it was doing us some great favour coming out and making wonderful announcements and giving us allocations of 40, 50, 60 units at a time. We struggled with a very long and tragic waiting list in our community trying to get additional units from the government of the day.
I would just like, as one example, to show how both the present and the immediately past Minister of Housing have recognized the necessity of using the nonprofit housing sector in an attempt to try to increase the supply in our society, which has a direct bearing on the rent review process and the rent control issue. This government through the Homes Now program and through the provincial-federal joint arrangements, along with the municipalities, has provided in the past 18 months almost 1,800 units to Peel Non-Profit Housing Corp in the region of Peel. That is really quite a substantial commitment and I can assure members that the present general manager and housing commissioner in the region, Roger Maloney, would say they have never seen a government with a more aggressive, progressive commitment to the nonprofit housing field.
That commitment goes hand in hand, of course, with working with the community in an attempt to bring these housing projects on stream in the community. It requires co-operation among the various sectors, the local municipal councillors and aldermen and the housing people, the professionals within the community, as well as the member in the particular provincial riding and, in the co-operative side of it, along with the federal government. We even have good co-operation with our federal members. We appreciate that and recognize that as only one of the areas that this government can move in and has moved in, in an attempt to solve the housing supply problem.
I would like to address some of the events, though, that have taken place since 1985, some of which I had the pleasure of being in this House to be part of, along with my colleagues, and some of which occurred before my arrival on the scene here at Queen’s Park.
Since assuming office in 1985, this government has moved forward with legislation which has provided the tenants of Ontario with a set of major and crucial tenant protection measures that are unprecedented in the history of this province. I would like to just share some of them with members for a moment.
For starters, we have passed measures to ensure that all tenants in Ontario can only be charged one rent increase in each calendar year.
As well, we have passed measures to ensure that all tenants in all private rental units are protected by rent review. We have created a computerized rent registry to ensure that tenants are not charged illegal rents. We have created a Residential Rental Standards Board to ensure that tenants throughout the province receive proper maintenance of their rental units.
We have passed legislation which outlaws the charging of key money to ensure that tenants are not the victims of this unscrupulous practice. We have made changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act to extend protection to include roomers, boarders and lodgers. We have passed the Rental Housing Protection Act to ensure that tenants are protected from the conversion of rental housing units. We have regulated suite hotels to ensure that tenants are not victimized by the operators of illegal suite hotels.
Landlords are now required to inform tenants in advance of planned renovations or suffer a financial penalty at rent review. Under the new rules, landlords planning to do capital expenditures must notify all the tenants in writing at least 30 days before entering into a contract for the work.
A landlord is now required to provide a written description of a number of things: (1) the nature and extent of the renovation; (2) the estimated cost; (3) the earliest date that work will begin; (4) the amount of disruption due to the work, and (5) the reason for the work. In cases which involve replacing items within a tenant’s unit such as appliances, cupboards, tiles or bathroom fixtures, the landlord must also obtain written agreement from the tenant. The landlord will lose a 5% allowance at rent review if tenants are not properly notified of a capital expenditure or if the agreement of tenants is not obtained for work within their units.
I want to stress that none, not a single one, of the crucial tenant protection measures which I have just mentioned was in place prior to this government’s taking office. In 1985, this government promised to clean up the haphazard and piecemeal approach to tenant protection which was inherited, and this government has done exactly that. The passage of the Residential Rent Regulation Act in December 1986 created a new system of rent review --
Miss Martel: It gave a blank cheque to landlords, and you know it.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Mahoney: I am delighted to see that I am getting through and that the honourable member for Sudbury East is paying attention.
Miss Martel: I doubt that.
Mr Mahoney: I would be delighted to listen to your comments.
As I was saying, the passage of the Residential Rent Regulation Act in December 1986 created a new system of rent review which provided the focus of these fundamental protections for tenants. It is rather incredible that the member for Windsor-Riverside actually seems to believe that the Residential Rent Regulation Act favours landlords over tenants. In fact, the truth of the matter -- not something I am particularly convinced that member is interested in -- is that the legislation offers superb protection for tenants in the province of Ontario. As proof, one need only look at the changes which have come about as a result of the Residential Rent Regulation Act.
Miss Martel: You don’t believe that.
Mr Mahoney: I would not say it if I did not believe it. All tenants in Ontario are now protected, unlike some of my colleagues in this House who think they can say just about anything they want.
An hon member: And they do.
Mr Mahoney: And they do, and it has been proven that they had better not.
All tenants in this province are now protected from arbitrary rent increases of any amount. In the past, tenants in units built after 1975 could and did receive rent increases of any amount on a monthly basis. The Residential Rent Regulation Act has prevented this from happening.
Mr Philip: The guy who wrote Bill’s speech was a better writer.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. One member at a time. There is sufficient time for all members of all parties to express themselves one after another, not all together. The member for Mississauga West.
Mr Mahoney: I do not mind that they want to join in, but they will have an opportunity, I am sure, to add their own comments when I am finished, as the Speaker has suggested.
All tenants are now protected from illegal rents and illegal rent increases by a rent registry. In the past, tenants were at a loss to determine whether the rent they were paying for a unit was the legal rent for that unit. Again, the Residential Rent Regulation Act has changed this.
All tenants now enjoy the benefits of the Residential Rental Standards Board. This board has been established to ensure that tenants throughout the province of Ontario receive proper maintenance of their rental units. Failure by a landlord to meet proper maintenance standards is directly tied to the suspension or forfeiture of rent increases, again a first for Ontario in tenant protection and again a direct result of the Residential Rent Regulation Act.
The same holds for the charging of key money, a longstanding practice which victimized tenants in Ontario. We have outlawed this practice and we have established an active investigation unit. We currently have more than 200 charges pending before the courts and we have obtained numerous convictions which have saved prospective tenants literally thousands of dollars.
We have amended the Landlord and Tenant Act to include protection for roomers, boarders and lodgers in the province. Previously, these individuals were left totally unprotected, without any legal rights whatsoever. No longer is that true.
We have created a regulation governing suite hotel units, setting out the specific criteria such units must meet in order to prove that they warrant exemption from rent review. We move quickly against any unscrupulous landlords who attempt to circumvent rent review by converting rental units to illegitimate suite hotels.
Further, on conversions, we established the Rental Housing Protection Act in 1986, then made it permanent in 1989. This legislation has been most effective in reducing the loss of affordable rental housing by requiring municipal approval of the demolition or conversion of such housing.
In all, our government has brought into effect since 1985 some of the most comprehensive tenant protection legislation in the nation, legislation which, it must be stressed, did not even exist in any way, shape or form in the past. The Residential Rent Regulation Act is the centrepiece of these tenant protection measures. It is one of the most important and one of the most effective pieces of legislation in the province of Ontario.
Mrs Grier: I think it is very helpful to have these kinds of debates in this Legislature, because it allows those people who are concerned, like the tenants who mounted a very effective lobby today, an opportunity to see at first hand the differences in approach in the government of this party on rental housing protection, on rent review and on attitudes to tenants generally. To hear government members like the last member in their defence and justification of a piece of legislation that is not working is really quite incredible. If it were working, why would so many tenants come out today, wanting to see members of the Legislature talk about their own individual cases and the hardships they were suffering as a result of this legislation?
In a riding like mine, where almost 50% of the residents are tenants, the effect of this legislation is very clear. It is a hardship to tenants. It does not protect them. It does not guarantee them security. It does not guarantee their rent will be controlled anywhere near the level that is the annual maximum increase.
Most of the buildings in my riding are privately owned. We do not have a large pool of subsidized housing and we have a lot of people who are living in small buildings, be they triplexes or three- and four-storey walk-up buildings that were constructed perhaps 20 years ago. Because of the rent review legislation that has been in this province, many of those rents are still reasonable and the housing is affordable.
It is occupied by people who are particularly vulnerable when there is a massive increase in their rent: by a lot of senior citizens, by a lot of people who are living on disability pensions and by single parents who are trying to bring up children on inadequate incomes. So when they are hit, as one building in my riding was this year, by an approved rent increase of 32.96%, that has a very dramatic effect upon them. They are already probably paying far more of their income on rent than they ought to be, and when they are hit with that kind of an increase, they are not able to find alternative accommodation.
If this legislation were as good as the government members are telling us it is, there would not be as many people as there are in that particular situation.
Not only are these kinds of tenants particularly vulnerable to massive increases, they are vulnerable in the delays that occur and in the uncertainty that is created by how long the process takes for them when their landlords do apply for rent review.
They are vulnerable because of another piece of legislation of this government, the whole question of renovations and the pass-through that occurs, the low-rise rehabilitation program, for which I had some hope when it was introduced. I thought that buildings such as the many that exist in Etobicoke- Lakeshore would benefit from that legislation. I think the only people who have benefited are companies that install new windows. Regal Aluminium and Columbia Windows seem to have large advertisements on the majority of the buildings in my riding that they are doing something about the windows. It takes them for ever to do it, and the windows that they install, courtesy of the low-interest grants they get under the program, are not energy-efficient windows. They are just a replacement, in many cases, of the single-pane windows that were there initially, and in many cases, I suspect, some of those costs get passed on back to the tenants.
Of course, the other way in which these tenants are most vulnerable is in the speculation that goes on in their buildings. In my riding, speculators are playing Monopoly with property. They are buying apartment buildings and flipping them constantly, and they are buying them in the hope that they will get from the city council increasingly high densities as they demolish those buildings. Yes, they are looking to demolish many of those buildings.
When it comes to new supply, the alleged policy of this government that 25% of new supply will be affordable is also a joke. The interpretation of that guideline is so loose that it is not in any way going to replace some of the housing that I know is going to be lost as new development occurs.
We have, for example, one developer who is going to build 1,100 units on the waterfront in my riding. There will be no affordable housing because the land is too valuable land to have affordable housing put on it. But he also happens to own an industrial site where McGuinness’s distillery used to be, and he is going to be allowed to put affordable housing on that site. So he will build 1,100 luxury condominiums on the waterfront and he will build 1,800 units on the industrial site, but only 25% of the 1,800 units are going to be affordable, not 25% of the total number of units he is going to be allowed to build. That is the interpretation that this ministry is prepared to put on its own guidelines.
The interpretation of the Rental Housing Protection Act is in many cases even more bizarre. I have some buildings in my riding that were vacant on 30 June 1989, when the new Rental Housing Protection Act came into place. Members will remember that the amendments to that act were to prevent municipalities from approving demolition of vacant units, but lo and behold, because these ere vacant on 30 June 1989, they are subject to the old act and the owner has now turned them into a co-ownership, even though they were vacant, so the occupants at this time say, “Oh, we’re not tenants, we’re co-owners of the units and we’ve all applied for a demolition permit.” I have no indication from this ministry that that demolition permit is going to be denied, and I am quite sure that the city of Etobicoke, which has no commitment whatsoever to affordable housing or to the protection of tenants, will be only too anxious to issue that demolition permit.
In my municipality of Etobicoke, this government has funded the preparation of housing policy statements with grants from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Housing, and yet does nothing to make sure that the municipality, having developed those policy statements, lives up to the commitments or to the criteria that were supposedly established in those statements.
What that means is that as a building is allowed to be demolished, as a couple already have been in my riding, we see a domino effect. The Ontario Municipal Board and the ministry in the city rule, “Well, demolition of 37 units is not going to affect the overall supply.” But then the owner of the building across the street decides he is going to apply for a demolition permit too. So there is a cumulative effect and we lose affordable rental housing units because of the inadequacies of those laws.
What it boils down to is no understanding or commitment or recognition on the part of this government of the fact that housing is essential, that housing, as the tenants who are there today say on their buttons, is a right. I agree with the member for Windsor-Riverside, who moved this resolution, that it is time we clearly established that housing in this province is a right.
You cannot live in this province, in our climate, without housing. Why ought you then to be subject to the whims of the landlords, to the whims of the speculators, to the whims of a government that does not have a commitment to tenants? We have a commitment to provide health as a right. We provide education as a right. It is time that we stopped considering housing to be something that could be bought and sold on the open market and was not considered to be something that had to be provided at a reasonable rent to half the population, to the tenant half of the population.
It is all very well for those of us who are able to own homes to say, “Fine, we gain some when the market rises and property values rise,” but we are a privileged section of society because we can do that. Surely we have an obligation to those who desire, perhaps, not to own property or who are forced to live in rented accommodation, that they will not be subject to the vagaries of the market, that they can be assured that they have security in the accommodation that they occupy, that they have a right to that accommodation. That is what this resolution moves to achieve, and I think it is deplorable that the government is not prepared to support it.
Ms Poole: No discussion of rent review in Ontario would be complete without reference to the Rental Housing Protection Act. This legislation provides tenants in Ontario with one of the most comprehensive pieces of tenant protection in Canada.
As members will recall, the Rental Housing Protection Act passed in July 1986 as a crucial component of the agreement reached by landlords and tenants in the Rent Review Advisory Committee. A major part of the compromise which they reached on a new system of rent review involved the establishment of separate legislation to protect rental housing stock and the security of tenure of tenants in Ontario.
Until that time, tenants in Ontario effectively had no legislative grounds on which to fight action which drastically threatened their homes. Essentially, before this legislation, landlords were free to convert rental housing to condominiums, to gut rental units through renovations, to demolish rental housing at will or simply to change rental housing to another use, with no protections to stop them.
The passage of the Rental Housing Protection Act put a stop to the wholesale destruction threatening major portions of Ontario’s rental housing stock. With the passage of the act, municipal council approval is required for proposals to convert, renovate, demolish or change the use of rental housing.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Ms Poole: This legislation has had a dramatic effect on the supply of rental housing in Ontario.
Mr Pouliot: How do you explain to the tenants in your riding that their rent is doubling? Tell them you support that.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Ms Poole: Countless units have been saved from --
The Deputy Speaker: The members are getting restless again. Order.
Mr Ballinger: The member for Lake Nipigon is totally out of order.
Mr Pouliot: When did you become Speaker?
Mr Ballinger: When did you become judge and jury?
Mr Pouliot: No, but I can count, sir. I can count very well.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please, the member for Lake Nipigon.
Hon Mr Sweeney: We didn’t interrupt when your speakers were on their feet.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Are the members finished?
The Deputy Speaker: Le député de lac Nipigon, s’il vous plaît, and other members.
Ms Poole: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Since the member for Mississauga West and I were both interrupted numerous times by the members of the New Democratic Party, would we please be reinstated for several minutes on the clock?
The Deputy Speaker: Please continue. There were interruptions from members of all three parties this afternoon.
Ms Poole: Countless units have been saved from conversion or demolition because of the Rental Housing Protection Act. Indeed, we cannot even begin to estimate the number of units which might have been lost, and crucially, the number of tenants who would have lost their homes without this legislation.
That is the reason why in 1989 we decided to make this legislation permanent, and not only permanent, but we also improved it to provide tenants with additional protection from activities which might disrupt their possession of their homes.
One of the main examples of this is that coverage under the act has been extended to include vacant rental residential properties. This provision removes any incentives for landlords to get their buildings vacant, sometimes by questionable means, in order to escape the provisions of the act.
Another key change was that landlords must now get municipal approval for renovations or repairs which are extensive enough that vacant possession would be required for the work.
Still another change requires landlords to obtain municipal approval of eviction notices for personal possession where more than one unit in any three-year period is required for the owner’s use.
As well, the 1989 act strengthens enforcement procedures, extending the statute of limitations from six months to two years while enabling our inspectors to obtain warrants from a justice of the peace to investigate possible violations of the act. Perhaps the most significant new enforcement power enables us to ask a court to stop the conversion of a rental unit or require that the unit be returned to rental use or require --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Ms Poole: -- that a displaced tenant be returned to his or her home; in all, some very strong enforcement procedures, and, I might add, enforcement of this legislation has been strenuous.
I am proud of the Liberal members in this Legislature who have worked to strengthen and make permanent the Rental Housing Protection Act.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Will the member for Nickel Belt withdraw that remark, please?
Mr Laughren: Absolutely.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Ms Poole: As I was saying, I am proud of the Liberal members in this Legislature who have successfully worked to reinstate the tenants’ hotline for the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, and I am proud of the Liberal members who have worked to increase tenant protection with regulations to discourage luxury renovations. Contrary to what the opposition will have members believe, the Liberals do care about tenants and we are working hard on their behalf.
The Deputy Speaker: The third party had some time left, and I believe the NDP. Did some members want to use the time left?
Mr B. Rae: I am delighted to be able to participate in the debate. I want to begin by saying that, in my experience of politics, it is one of the most important issues facing this province and facing the people of Ontario. I can also tell members that when I was a social worker in England one of the very first projects that I worked on was trying to deal with the deterioration of property in London, England, and the ways in which this could be overcome.
This was the time of great exploitation of tenants by landlords. I suspect that if I were to go back, I would find that it is still a time of great exploitation of tenants by large landlords. We had properties that were being allowed to deteriorate, that were going very badly downhill, and of course we had the usual charge, which the minister has repeated again today and has repeated in many answers to me, that the main reason he does not believe in a real system of rent control that would actually work is because it would lead to a deterioration of property.
I want to say this very directly to the minister, that unless he does something to increase the power and ability of tenants, unless he extends the property rights of tenants as opposed to simply leaving passive owners free to do nothing with what in fact is the shelter of other people, then it is quite possible that property will be allowed to deteriorate. The minister mentions the example of New York City. The problem in New York City is that the laws in the state of New York and in the city of New York are not sufficiently strong to give tenants the right and the ability to withhold rent, the right and the ability to insist on improvements and repairs, and simply leave a situation where landlords’ political power is left completed intact and untouched.
That is why I say that the point that has been made by a number of speakers from the New Democratic Party has to be made again, and that is that the New Democratic Party believes so profoundly in the notion of property that we believe everybody ought to have some and not just the banks, the trust companies and the landlords. That is the difference between the New Democratic Party and the Tory party.
The member for Burlington South. in a speech that touched on many subjects, said that he believed that, “There ought to be a partnership between the private sector and the public sector, but of course the New Democratic Party would never agree with that.” Then he went on to associate my views with those of Lenin and said that I did not believe in the rights of private ownership. I got the member to withdraw the McCarthyite charge, which he withdrew. I also want to say to him that the suggestion that he is going to solve the housing problem without a partnership between all the sectors of our economy is, of course, nonsense.
Any serious political party in this province understands that it is going to require a partnership between government, the non-profit and co-operative sector and, yes, the private sector in order for us to arrive at a healthy housing policy. We have a marketplace; we also have a social marketplace.
Mr Jackson: Well, then we agree.
Mr B. Rae: The member for Burlington South says, “Well, then we agree.” I hope we would, at least in this House, be able to agree on some fundamental values without making absolutely ridiculous allegations about the political beliefs of other members, such as the member for Burlington South made in his speech, and then appreciate that within that broader framework we can have some very real differences about where the balance should be and how the policies in fact are really working.
We have demonstrated the reason we opposed this legislation when it came down, the reason we opposed the Liberal legislation when it came down, was because we said it would be too bureaucratic, it would be too complicated and it would fail to work, it would fail to protect the real interests of tenants. We have been proven to be right. We were right. The Tories, with one or two exceptions, and the Liberals were wrong. They said this system would work marvels. It has not worked marvels for tenants; it has, on the contrary, worked marvels for landlords.
It is an odd experience for me, but I can tell members I go occasionally to a charity dinner of some kind, or something else, and a person in the development field or somewhere will sit me down and say, “Do you know what’s going on because of the rent review law the Liberals brought in?” I say, “I know it’s a bad deal for tenants.” Then they will say, “No, let me show you.” They will take their pen out and the back of a piece of paper and they will say, “Harry flips to Joe, and Joe flips to Harry. and Harry flips to Sam, and Sam flips to Joe, and Joe flips to Sam,” and it goes on and on and the price keeps getting ratcheted up and up. That is the Liberal system of rent review. That is what has happened under the Liberal system of rent review.
Mr Polsinelli: It’s all been capped.
Mr B. Rae: The member for Yorkview says, “It’s all been capped.” I say to the member, if it has all been capped, why are the buildings in my riding still being flipped, why are the tenants at Jane and Woolner meeting their four, fifth and sixth landlord when they have been in the building for seven years? I will tell him why. Because they are making a mean buck doing it. If they were not making a mean buck doing it, they would not be doing it. That is the way the market works and that is how it operates. The member knows that as well as I do. He knows as well as I do that he has tenants in his riding who are paying too much rent and who are continuing to get increases imposed every year of 8% and 9% and 10% when the rate of inflation is 4% and 5%, and he knows the reason why as well as I know the reason why. The reason is because the landlord community has driven a truck through the rent review legislation. That is the system that we have.
My colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside, as the Housing critic most recently of our party, has brought forward example after example where, because of the loopholes in terms of capital expenditure, because of the loopholes in terms of financial loss, there are rent increases of as high as 189% which have been imposed on some tenants. This is the equivalent of eviction. It is an economic form of eviction. It is a message to somebody who is making a few hundred dollars a month on a fixed pension or on a fixed income, it is a message to him that he is gone and that he will have to go, and that they are looking for what one landlord described to me as a better class of tenant. This is the recipe for homelessness and this is the recipe for disaster and this is the recipe that is being followed by the Liberal government of Ontario.
There is an alternative. The alternative is a system which says we are going to have a system of rent control in the province which will provide some very real protection. There are those who will say, “Well, if you do that, landlords will stop flipping and you will decrease the value of buildings and landlords will want to get out of the business.” I can say without any hesitation that if that is the case, then I do not see why a building which is 10 or 12 or 15 years old should not be able to be purchased by the tenants as a group and should not be able to be operated on a non-profit basis for the benefit of the tenants who are in that building. If that is the only way and the most effective way to deal with the question of increases, then let’s deal with it. If that is how the marketplace will respond to an intelligent and tough system of rent control, then let not our policy be paralysed as it was for a decade under the Tories, between 1975 and 1985, where, yes, they brought in a form of rent review for some tenants but at the same time they had absolutely no supply program going whatsoever.
I think that the expansion of the non-profit sector into buildings that are currently owned by private developers and by numbered companies is an entirely healthy development. It is a positive one. It gives tenants more rights. It is an extension of our democracy to people who have very little power in the marketplace whatsoever, very little ability to deal with the quality of their lives and it gives them the ability to exercise some control over what is a very fundamental part of how they live -- their shelter -- how they want to live, how they want to deal with it.
It is not only people who own private property in a home who should have rights; tenants who live in apartments should also have rights. That is the basis of our message --
The Deputy Speaker: The member’s time is up.
Mr B. Rae: -- that is the basis of the policy of the New Democratic Party and that is why we believe so profoundly in it.
Mr Chiarelli: I did have some more extensive comments to make, but there is only about a minute and a half left, so I will try to capture the element of my position here. I wanted to do a statistical analysis and address some facts rather than rhetoric.
First of all, on those cases which go to review -- less than 20% -- there is an average increase of 10.8%. Let’s look at how that 10.8% is made up: 4.2% for operating costs, 2.5% for financial loss and 2.5% for capital expenditures. All other factors comprise 1.6%.
Yet the member for Windsor-Riverside says that these provisions intentionally reward the speculative purchase of buildings and intentionally reward landlords for unnecessary renovations, as though the minister and his officials went in the back room and said, “Let’s design a system to help speculation and to create unnecessary repairs.” That is pure hogwash. The numbers do not hold out.
Second, the statistics show that financial loss accounts for only 2.5% of the increase, and the statistics show capital expenditures are only 2.5% of the increase. But more important is the fact that in 1987 over 80% of the tenants in Ontario had an increase of 5.2%. In 1988 it was 4.78% and in 1989, 4.6%. In 1990 it will probably be 4.6% again.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Chiarelli: Those are the facts. The member for Windsor-Riverside should sit down and admit it.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. We have some time left. Do other members want to use the time left?
Mr Pouliot: Just briefly, what has happened is that you have twice the rate of inflation and, if you use a factor of 72, you cannot twist figures, with the highest of respect.
Mr Reycraft: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My understanding is that the official opposition party’s time had expired. Can you advise us how we are proceeding? If indeed there has been a division of the unused time, the member for Ottawa West had indicated that he really wanted more time to make his remarks. Perhaps he could get some and then the official opposition party could make its comments.
Mr Wildman: On the point of order, we made it clear that our time had expired and that we were prepared to have a division. So we are prepared to have a division. It was only because the table officers indicated that the time could or should be used that my friend the member for Lake Nipigon decided to intervene in the debate.
The Deputy Speaker: It is a rare occurrence when a party will allow the time to be used. I offered it to members and I saw two members pop up. It became free time for any member of the House. At the time that the third party offered its time, the first person who stood was a member of the official opposition. I recognized the member.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Chiarelli: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe the understanding that the time expired occurred when I was on my feet. If there is going to be additional time allocated, I would appreciate the opportunity to continue.
The Deputy Speaker: We have a few minutes left. I would appreciate the member sharing the time with the member for Ottawa West. Is there agreement?
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon was the one I recognized.
Mr Pouliot: I would quite agree to reciprocate. This is quite a surprise and I realize that things need to be said. You did acquiesce, Mr Speaker, that there was approximately some 11 minutes of time left, time enough, perhaps, to draw a comparison, a parallel. The minister must understand that the tenants in the province of Ontario, more specifically in Metropolitan Toronto, do not have the latitude, the cushion, that is given elsewhere.
I am going to tell the minister that if the Liberal Party of the province of Quebec was to use the same tactics, the same rent increases, ranging anywhere from 10% to 12% in the province of Quebec, they would be tossed out of office. He is putting the tenants in the city of Toronto, with respect, under a literal state of siege. What he is telling the tenants year after year, with an increase of 10% to 12% using the factor of 72, is that their rent shall double every six years.
I will give the minister an example. In my case, it is shared and paid for by the taxpayers of Ontario via one of the benefits that we have if we represent a riding that is outside Metro Toronto. In fact, to the day, five years ago today, when I was elected to represent the people of Lake Nipigon, I had to rent an apartment, a one-bedroom cubicle at Bay and Charles. I remember it so vividly, as if it was this afternoon. The landlord said, “Mr Pouliot, you shall pay $638,” which I passed to the taxpayers of Ontario by virtue of the provisions set forth. The same cubicle five years later, with no improvement whatsoever, is now costing the taxpayers of Ontario $930.
What about the people? What about the rich against us? What about the rich against people who are on fixed incomes and have nowhere else to go? What about the reality that the leader of our party has mentioned, that there is a tacit eviction notice? There is no competition of the marketplace by virtue of the lack of a vacancy rate. What are you going to do to those people? You are bridging the middle class.
People cannot afford to live within the recommendation of the Economic Council of Canada, to pay between 25% and 30%. They are being gouged. They are being gouged by virtue of ambiguity, by virtue of a lack of clarity, vision, intent and spirit; the kind of legislation that affords no protection to people but serves only one purpose, which is the purpose and the right for a selected section in our society, the people who have more to live at the expense of the less fortunate.
What the tenants are telling the minister is: “We have some difficulties understanding your legislation for you have brought some 50 amendments. But more important, we must devote a higher percentage of our income, real money on the table when we have so little left. What choice do we have? Do we leave the city of Toronto to go elsewhere? To go perhaps to another province, in some cases after having spent all our adult life in Toronto?” It is not unlike sending a Turk to Denmark.
The minister deserves, with high respect, not as a person but in the political context, to be judged very harshly, for very little can match the kind of arrogance that has been demonstrated by ill-fated but certainly ill-thought legislation that gives people the right to exercise a profit which is above normalcy.
We all understand -- people in the New Democratic Party are the first to acquiesce that if you make an investment in the marketplace, provided you have the component of competition, you shall be entitled to a fair, reasonable return on investment. That is the way society works. But the government has not done this. There is no element of competition. People are given the right to fleece, the right to gouge, and the minister shall be asked to carry the guilt for his government.
The Deputy Speaker: Correct me if I am wrong, but the official opposition has not agreed to give up its time. They still have some time. It is their time.
Mr Kerrio: It is not their time.
The Deputy Speaker: Yes, it is.
Mr Wildman: If it is our time, we will give it to them.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Chiarelli: How much time is that, may I ask?
The Deputy Speaker: Until 1755.
Mr Chiarelli: I just wanted to make a comment on the so-called backlog in the review system. As we know, the units that were built post-1975 at one point were not included and they are now included in the process. When that first came on stream, it put an additional 18,000 units into the system, which created a so-called backlog of 25,000. In the past several years we have cleared 42,000 of these particular units through the system and we are back down to the normal 7,000 units.
When I was first elected in 1987, I came into this House for about 14 months, and in question period after question period I heard the opposition talking about the backlog, the backlog, the backlog. For some reason, they do not stand up and talk about the backlog any more because they know the system is working. This Housing minister has reduced the 25,000 backlog to 7,000 units and, quite frankly, in my opinion the tenants appreciate the time to make their case.
The House divided on Mr D. S. Cooke’s motion, which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes -- 16
Allen, Breaugh, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Grier, Hampton, Laughren, Mackenzie, Martel, Mono-Strom, Philip, E., Pouliot, Rae, B., Reville, Wildman.
Nays -- 52
Adams, Ballinger, Brown. Campbell, Caplan, Carrothers, Chiarelli, Cleary, Collins, Daigeler, Dietsch, Eakins, Elliot, Elston, Epp, Eves, Faubert, Fawcett, Furlong, Haggerty, Hart, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes. Kozyra, Kwinter, Lupusella, Mancini, Matrundola, McClelland, McLean, McLeod, Miclash, Neumann, O’Neil, H., Oddie Munro, Owen, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Poole, Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Smith, E. J., Sola, South, Sterling, Sweeney, Villeneuve, Wilson, Wong.
The House adjourned at 1803.