The House met at 1332.
REPORT OF COMMISSION ON ELECTION FINANCES
The Speaker: I beg to inform the House that I have today laid upon the table the 14th report of the Commission on Election Finances containing recommendations with respect to the indemnities and allowances of the members of the Legislative Assembly.
The Speaker: I would ask all members to join me in welcoming the second group of pages to serve in the First Session of the 35th Parliament:
Benjamin Agnew, Wentworth East; Tyler Campbell, Sudbury; Elizabeth Clarkson, Brantford; Gregory Coughlin, Mississauga South; Lindsay Cunningham, Guelph; Ariella Elema, Dufferin-Peel; Jeanine Elston, Bruce; Emily Farrimond, Hastings-Peterborough; Jennifer Frohlich, Mississauga North; Calvin Hammett, Kenora; Kathleen Jackson, Norfolk; Jill Johnson, Windsor-Riverside; Brent Landry, Chatham-Kent; Patrick Lee, Scarborough-Agincourt; Joseph Maristanes, Scarborough-Ellesmere; Meaghan McFedries, Etobicoke-Humber; Michael Mullan, London Centre; Andrew Nowak, Waterloo North; Brenda-Lee Pineault, Algoma-Manitoulin; Josée Racicot, Ottawa East; Laurel Rounds, Essex South; Hemant Shah, Willowdale; Iain Wilson, Port Arthur; and Simon Woodside, Hamilton West. Would members please welcome the pages to our quarters.
The Speaker: At the same time, I would ask all members of the assembly to recognize in the Speaker's gallery today the honorary Consul General of Jamaica to Toronto, Kay Baxter, and His Excellency Dale Anderson, the High Commissioner of Jamaica. Please join me in welcoming our guests.
Mrs Caplan: In North York and in Scarborough communities they are very interested in the Sheppard subway proposal. In the last month, the Toronto Transit Commission held three public information sessions beginning a full environmental assessment study for the subway. Over 300 people attended these meetings.
The sessions dealt with the background material that has been collected and alternatives which have been examined by the TTC, ministries of the Environment and Transportation, engineering consultants, Metropolitan Toronto and North York staff.
According to Charles Wheeler, project manager for the TTC's Let's Move program, 88% to 90% of those who responded said that Sheppard Avenue was the preferred corridor route and that the subway is the appropriate technology. The project would reduce traffic congestion and support growth in the cities of North York and Scarborough.
While concerns were expressed about noise levels, accessibility and the need for more parking at or near the subway terminals, the most frequently asked question was, "When will the Sheppard subway actually be built and when will construction begin?"
The public will is evident. I would urge the government to continue its support for the Let's Move program and the Sheppard subway.
Mr Villeneuve: The report on the Agricultural Finance Review Committee is now public.
The seven recommendations, in my opinion, list much of what can be done to improve the financial position of our agricultural sector. Unfortunately, what we see are only recommendations, not actions, and farmers cannot be forced to wait any longer to see if this government is committed to helping them.
Our farmers are not in trouble because they are bad farmers, they are in trouble because of what other governments are doing, be it at the provincial or other levels.
The fact is that here in Ontario net farm income will drop again this year. Farm income fell last year, the year before and the year before that. With luck, farmers will make as much this year as they did 10 years ago, but with l0 years of inflation to their incomes, they will be effectively placed well below the poverty line.
For Ontario farmers, 1990 was a dismal year largely due to the provincial government's decision to cut interest rate assistance while real interest rates themselves were rising to historic highs.
The problem in our agricultural sector is government made and this government must take the necessary steps to ensure that our programs and spending match those of other provinces. No one, particularly Ontario taxpayers, will benefit from any further erosion of our farming community.
The Agricultural Finance Review Committee has made seven recommendations. I must tell the Treasurer, this does not mean one, two or three, it means seven of them must be accepted.
Mr Wood: Over the past several weeks I have had the privilege to visit some of the most northerly points of Ontario with the honourable Minister of Tourism and Recreation, as well as the honourable minister Elaine Ziemba. We were greatly impressed with the friendly welcome we were given, by the vast beauty of the James Bay and Hudson's Bay coast.
Tourism will be interested to know about our unique Polar Bear Provincial Park, about rafting tours planned by native Crees on the wild Albany River, about the fascinating train ride called the Polar Bear Express that links two new hotel complexes in the towns of Cochrane and Moose Factory.
We also had the pleasure of the visit of the honourable Minister of Northern Development to Cochrane North. She announced a substantial grant to develop hundreds of miles of skidoo trails in the Hearst area for a proposed route from Sault Ste Marie to Moosonee.
Hearst now has a new tourist information centre which will provide tourists with even more details about yearround attractions, adding to similar tourist centres which have recently opened in Kapuskasing and Cochrane.
I do not need to say how good the fishing and camping are in the north, but we need the tourist people to stay in the north as they travel through Cochrane North. We have about 600,000 people who come through there and we would like them to stay and spend a few dollars. Hopefully, the tourist information centres at Cochrane, Hearst and Kapuskasing will attract that.
Mrs McLeod: The wilderness areas and provincial parks of Ontario have lost one of their true and strongest champions. Shan Walshe recently died at home in Quetico Park. He may have been the best-known Ministry of Natural Resources employee. He was the Quetico Park naturalist since 1970 and enjoyed sharing his love for nature with everyone at the Sportsman's Show.
Shan was a botanist and author. His regular column, Lynx Tracks, appeared in the Atikokan Progress. He was a tireless paddler and a seasoned woodsman. In 1980, he snowshoed solo across Quetico in six and a half days. He was an environmentalist who loved all that was wild and natural. Shan was the conscience of Quetico and he was an ambassador for the provincial parks of this province.
Shan Walshe was special and he will be missed. I extend my sympathy to his wife Margie and his children, Patrick, Shannon, Kathleen and Bridget.
CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
Mrs Marland: I must say at the outset I do not think I ever remember seeing so many people here for prayers. I guess that means that the future of Ontario is secure after all.
My statement is on children's and family services in Peel. It should go without saying that the future of our society depends upon the health and wellbeing of our children and families, yet in the region of Peel, children's and family service agencies can help only a fraction of the people who require their services because funding falls far short of need.
These agencies feel so strongly about the funding shortfall that they have formed the Fair Share for Peel Task Force and have written an excellent report. Their report points out that on a per capita basis, Peel receives far less provincial government funding than Metropolitan Toronto or even the provincial average. For example, in 1989, children's services funding was only $93.62 per capita in Peel, compared with $353.75 in Metropolitan Toronto and a provincial average of $223.82.
Why should this funding be so inequitable? In one case I know personally a woman and her daughter must spend over two hours commuting by public transit to Toronto on Sundays in order to receive counselling to help them recover from severe abuse by the husband and father. It should have been possible for this woman and her daughter to receive counselling in their own community. The Fair Share for Peel Task Force is about the urgency of helping real people face real crisis on a daily basis.
VILLAGE OF WELLINGTON
Mr Johnson: Today I would like to bring some well-deserved recognition to a small village in my riding. It is the village of Wellington in Prince Edward county. The councillors, the reeve and the Wellington Lion's Club, with some funding from the Ministry of the Environment, have undertaken a very ambitious program to make the village of Wellington 100% compost-free; that is, they are going to eliminate compost and organic materials from their garbage and that will save them certainly a substantial amount of money and will divert this waste material from landfill sites in the area.
They are using compost barrels that are manufactured locally, so they are supporting some local endeavours. I think it is the kind of recognition that we need to bring to the House and it is the kind of example that we would like to see other municipalities undertake in the province of Ontario.
The village of Wellington expects to have 100% compliance with this by some time this year. They want everyone to know it has been only 30% so far. That has something to do with implementing the program during the winter months, but they are very optimistic. I expect they will be able to meet 100% compliance and it is a challenge I am sure they make to other communities in Ontario.
Mr Chiarelli: I rise today to congratulate the newly appointed mayor of Ottawa, Marc Laviolette. Mr Laviolette was appointed on 18 February to replace outgoing mayor Jim Durrell, who has moved on to take the position as president of Ottawa's new NHL franchise, the Ottawa Senators. Mr Laviolette is no newcomer to Ottawa politics. First elected as alderman for Ottawa's By-Rideau ward in 1980, he was re-elected in 1983, 1985 and 1988. Born and raised in Ottawa, Mr Laviolette is a graduate of the University of Ottawa and has been a teacher in Ottawa-Carleton for a number of years.
Les solides racines du maire Laviolette dans Ottawa et sa compréhension des aspirations de ses citoyens seront des atouts certains pour la communauté.
In filling the mayoralty chair until the next municipal election, Mr Laviolette has strong support from the council, his constituents and the many citizens throughout Ottawa. Again I offer my congratulations and I join with my Ottawa-Carleton colleagues in offering him full co-operation and wishing him every success over the length of his term.
Mr Jackson: I rise to bring to the House's attention yet another example that the NDP government's Agenda for People was in fact truly an agenda for election only.
This government's announcement of 31 January against day care workers in this province, who are almost entirely women, is patently unfair and discriminatory. The fact is, before the election and until that announcement we had headlines like: "The NDP will not ignore private day care. NDP promises restructuring of Ontario child care system." Today, because of these discriminatory funding practices by this government against women, we get titles like headlines in The Toronto Star, "Cheated day care workers vow to fight Rae at the polls."
We now understand that the $2,000 bump funding for the non-profit sector day care workers -- we now find that the government refused to announce on 31 January that it was also excluding municipalities, community colleges and the Young Men's Christian Association across this province which service almost 10,000 child care spaces in this province. Where are they supposed to get the money? Well, I can tell members, in Toronto it will mean $700,000 increases in the fees that those families will have to pay.
If this is the Premier's answer to the women of Ontario -- we know what he said before the election -- it is an awful shame that he has to stand up and defend a discriminatory practice for funding for these women.
CITY OF ST CATHARINES
Ms Haeck: I rise today to share with you an article that extols the virtues of St Catharines, Ontario, my home town and part of the constituency that I represent in this Legislature.
I was pleased this weekend to read in the April issue of Chatelaine magazine an article entitled, "Ten Best Cities to Live in Canada." What particularly pleased me was to find that part of my constituency, St Catharines, is the fifth of the cities named in that article.
St Catharines is favourably noted for its "small-town ambience and big-city cultural opportunities, its affordable house prices...and a less frantic pace," referring to its commuting times as "a dream come true for traffic-crazed urbanites." It refers to "its bountiful gardens, leafy streets and well-preserved Victorian neighbourhoods," its facilities and its mood that is "definitely upbeat."
Accompanying the article are a series of photos showing the curving streetscape of downtown St Paul Street as well as two photos of local sports and entertainment activities, one showing a game featuring the Baby Jays, the Toronto Blue Jays farm team, the other showing a race in the world-famous Henley rowing regatta. In short, it tells a lot of us, the residents of St Catharines, what we have long known about the virtues of our city. It reminds some of us just how well off we are and it trumpets those virtues throughout the rest of the province and throughout Canada at large.
The Speaker: Before continuing, members may also wish to welcome to our midst today a former member for Sudbury, Sterling Campbell, seated in the gallery.
DEATH OF FORMER MEMBER
Mr Harris: Mr Speaker, I wonder if I could have a few moments, with unanimous consent, to say a few words about the passing of a former colleague of ours, Mickey Hennessy.
Mr Harris: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. While we were in recess, as I indicated, a friend and colleague and a fellow northerner passed away. Mickey Hennessy was first elected in 1977 in Fort William, the community he still called, to his death, Fort William, not Thunder Bay. He was first elected at the age of 62, a time when many people are thinking of retirement. Many are suggesting retirement should have happened long before that period of time he began his career.
I would suggest that if there is anything such as having a genius for appreciating life, then I think Mickey Hennessy had that ability. He had a very human touch. He was small in stature, as many of us know, but he was very big in heart. He was good at so many things. He was not good about hiding how he felt, and I am sure that my caucus colleagues of 1981 to 1987 will permit me to reveal some of what went on at caucus at that time, as confidential as caucus discussions always are.
Mr Harris: Those who have been in government regale at that statement.
When the leader of our party at the time, the Premier of the day, Mr Davis, would come into caucus and would tell us what we had all decided, it was not cabinet members, it was not the chairperson of caucus who suggested there were other alternatives or other viewpoints; it inevitably was Mickey Hennessy who brought a touch of the common person back to the caucus discussions and to the policies that were being proposed and he did this consistently, I might say, much to the delight of all of us in caucus, but I suspect to the delight of the Premier as well.
He was very sentimental about family, about his city, about his province, about his country and it showed. He was caring of people in a very non-partisan way. When we had our caucus meetings every Tuesday, that was breakfast as well. That is how they enticed us to get there on time. Breakfast was buns, pastries, juice and what not and at the end of caucus there was always a fair bit of food left around. Sometimes we had lunch in our caucus meetings. There would be sandwiches left and Mickey took it upon himself to grab all that food at the end and he would distribute it among those in this building who he thought were most needy; perhaps those who were here at that time were the beneficiaries of that. In a sense, it was the Queen's Park food bank. It certainly served a purpose.
Many of us will recall and his constituents will recall that when he flew home every Friday, he would go through members' offices, he would go through the caucus room and he would gather up all the Friday newspapers, the Toronto papers, because in Thunder Bay they did not get there till the next day. He would take them with him on the plane and he would give them out to his constituents at the airport and as he was heading down to his office in downtown because they would not get this news until Saturday. As well, as we always suspected in many parts of the north, the editions we got were not the same ones as Toronto anyway, and so if you really wanted to find out what was going on down here, as some of them wanted to and others could not care less, you relied on Mickey on Fridays. Many people told me those stories.
In a sense he was a Queen's Park blue box long before blue boxes were brought in. He was recycling Toronto newspapers. He was taking Toronto trash and putting it to good use in northern Ontario, things that are now being talked about and discussed decades after he pioneered many of these things.
I suggest to members, and I think all would concur who knew him, that his only interest as a politician was in helping others, those he served, those he served with, certainly those he served alongside in all of the parties.
I think he would want me to remember this day in the Legislature to give you the non-partisan side of Mickey and to tell members how far he was ahead in saying and suggesting that there should be more free votes in the Legislature, that we should be representing our constituents' views, not government policy. That was his attitude, something that is now being talked about in many quarters across Canada and certainly in this province.
But there was a day when a non-confidence motion was introduced by the Liberals condemning the government and suggesting it should be thrown out of office for thinking about purchasing a government jet for corporate travel.
Mr Nixon: What a mistake that was.
Mr Harris: The leader of the Liberal Party points out what a mistake that was because many of them, once they got into cabinet said, "Why did we fight so hard to get rid of that jet, because it takes us four and a half hours to get up to Thunder Bay and Kenora and to travel this province?" But the government rationale at the time, as I recall it -- it was in all our briefing books, it was the Bible when we were asked -- was that we needed to be able to get cabinet ministers and the Premier and senior bureaucrats around this province faster, particularly to Thunder Bay and to northwestern Ontario.
Many of the southern Ontario members were a little embarrassed by all this, the controversy it was generating, but they were selling it, "Oh, well, it is not for us here in Ottawa, of course, or in London or in Toronto; it is for Ontarians of northern Ontario."
Then the vote came. This was a confidence vote. This was not just a private member's bill. This was not a government bill. This was the confidence about whether the government should carry on or not. And there, to the chagrin of all the southern Ontario members of the PC caucus of that time and indeed the cabinet and the Premier, was Mickey Hennessy voting against the government, voting against the party, voting against buying this jet.
He in effect set policy that day and of course when the Premier heard the rumour about this jet being bought he quickly moved to buy two water bombers instead, but it was Mickey who always had a way of making sure that everybody understood where he stood and where his constituents stood and he pioneered those free votes.
Even after he left Queen's Park in 1987, Mickey, with his big, green parka with that old twisted toque he wore, was still a familiar sight when he came to visit. I think a tribute to his relationship with the people was shown when he ran again for Thunder Bay council and won in a landslide, now well into his 70s. Today, as I walked through the halls of Queen's Park, I found myself thinking about that familiar green parka and that old twisted toque. I realized how much I missed, and I think all who knew him missed, the little Irish guy from Thunder Bay.
I believe we have lost a real fighter for democracy, a real fighter for the average guy to have access to government and to power.
I want to close by saying that I am told that a new sport facility is being built in Thunder Bay. Undoubtedly there will be a whole whack of government money involved in it, and I would suggest to those who may be involved in that that it might be a fitting tribute to the memory of one of the people were it to be named in memory of Mickey Hennessy.
Hon Ms Wark-Martyn: On 5 March Thunder Bay and Ontario suffered a great loss: Mickey Hennessy passed away. Mickey was known as Mickey in the community, and everybody knew where to find Mickey. Mickey was a man who definitely has left his mark, and now as the community goes out to functions he is a man for whom we all grieve when we know that he is not there any longer.
Mickey represented Fort William riding from 1977 to 1987 and was at that time deputy whip and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Northern Affairs. People will remember Mickey's devotion to public service and to people. Queen's Park, however, was only a fraction of his career. He served on Fort William city council from 1962 to 1969 and also on Thunder Bay council, seven years after amalgamation.
Mickey was a man who saw something good in all people. Two examples that I have had of this are when he supported me during my recent campaign in the election and was apparent in a lot of events that occurred during my campaign and was also in contact with our now Premier. He believed in people and he believed in people who also believed in people. During his funeral there were people from all walks of life, people who meant something to Mickey and people who saw something in Mickey and knew that Mickey was someone they could talk to. Regardless of his party or regardless of what he had to say, Mickey would always listen and respond with what was on his mind.
During the election in 1988 Mickey received the highest number of votes of any alderman in an election. Mickey also died less than 24 hours after attending the last city council meeting that he attended.
As a member from Thunder Bay, I wish you all as members of this House to join me in sending sympathy to Mickey's family and the community.
Mrs McLeod: I too am honoured to be able to share in this tribute to Mickey Hennessy on behalf of my party, as a representative of my community and as a representative of the Fort William riding. Everyone who knew Mickey here in the Legislature when he served his years as a member for Fort William can attest to the fact that Mickey was indeed very much his own person. He was a Conservative MPP, but I know that all the local Tories back home would agree that Mickey's support crossed traditional lines. People voted for Mickey because they knew him and because they liked him.
Mickey was a national boxing champion during the 1930s and he brought that combative, feisty style into his political roles. He certainly never pulled any punches, and in the best tradition of sports Mickey called every play exactly as he saw it. All of us at home knew of Mickey's long-time career and his love of sports. As a boxer, he was not only a Canadian champion but he was a member of the 1936 Canadian Olympic boxing team and he was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1977. Mickey and his family came to Thunder Bay in the 1950s when Mickey was a scout for the Montreal Canadiens, and he subsequently became a volunteer coach of the Fort William Canadians junior hockey team. Mickey coached that team for 11 seasons and they won 11 district titles.
But most of us, of course, knew Mickey primarily as a politician. He served the people of Fort William and Thunder Bay during 29 years in public office, as an alderman, as an MPP and then as alderman again. Mickey and I were political colleagues for 20 of those years, although I must tell the leader of the third party I do not remember ever having been the recipient of a newspaper. Mickey was an alderman and MPP while I served on the school board and then he was back on council while I took his seat here at Queen's Park.
I was asked just shortly after his death whether Mickey had been a worthy opponent in the 1987 election. There was certainly no question about that. Mickey was considered to be unbeatable. Mickey's record of success in politics was equally as strong as his success story in sports, and his personal popularity in our community was absolutely indisputable. The measure of that popularity is indeed the fact that he went on to lead the polls again in his election as alderman in 1988.
Mickey worked tirelessly for the voters of Fort William and for the citizens of Thunder Bay. He knew his constituency, he knew its problems, he knew the concerns that people had; and people in turn knew that he was interested, that he cared, that he would act on their behalf. Mickey was literally everywhere in our community.
People at home in Thunder Bay were shocked and saddened by his death. It is true that he had attended a council meeting literally hours before he died, and it seems appropriate that he would pass away as active and vital a member of our community as he had always been. Because he was so active and such a vital member of our community, it seems hard to imagine life and politics in our community without his presence.
I was not able to be at home for Mickey's funeral, but I am told that the cathedral was indeed filled with many, many people whose lives Mickey had touched. He will be missed and he will be long remembered.
Hon Mr Rae: I wonder if I might just be permitted a personal word, to say that Mickey Hennessy was loved by all members of the House who worked with him. He was one of those rare politicians who earned not only the respect but also the affection of people in all parties who knew and loved him. His family has suffered a loss; so has his community of Fort William and Thunder Bay; so obviously have his party and caucus and former colleagues. But I know that I speak for all members of the House when I say that this is an occasion to celebrate a good life that was fully lived with great gusto and affection for other people. He is somebody I think a lot of us might try to emulate -- certainly our young people as they look for people in public life -- and he is somebody who will be missed by all of us.
The Speaker: Your kind and thoughtful comments, as recorded in today's Hansard, will be sent to the family along with the deepest sympathies from all of us here, including the Speaker, who knew him well and had a great fondness and affection for him. We will forward those comments to his family.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Laughren: I would like to give the House an update on recent developments in the economy and share Treasury's current outlook as we prepare for the spring budget.
Since I last reported to members in early December, economic conditions in Ontario have deteriorated. At the time I indicated that, despite the various uncertainties involved, we anticipated modest positive growth in 1991. A number of significant developments have occurred since then which make the outlook clearer, if not brighter.
Traditionally, Treasury would issue its next economic forecast revisions with the budget. However, in light of the unemployment figures released earlier this month, I felt it was important to share with this Legislature the unprecedented effects this recession has had on our province.
The Statistics Canada employment figures released on 8 March show that Ontario has suffered the worst job losses since the Second World War: 196,000 jobs have been eliminated in this province over the last four months. The unemployment rate, which was already at a disturbingly high 7.2%, has now soared to 9.5%. The economic effects are serious and the human costs are enormous.
We have heard from many groups on the continuing and deepening recession, both at the standing committee on finance and economic affairs and in pre-budget consultations. In addition, the United States recession has deepened and Canada's federal budget has failed to provide support for the economies of Canada and Ontario and has instead aggravated the downturn.
In the final quarter of 1990, the Canadian economy recorded its sharpest quarterly decline since the first quarter of 1982, and early indications are that the current quarter may be worse. With its large manufacturing base, Ontario's economy has been hit even harder.
There is no question that the recession will be much deeper than expected last fall. Real output is expected to decline by more than 3% in 1991. The unemployment rate is expected to rise above 10% in the coming months. Moreover, the recovery is likely to be weaker than in the mid-1980s.
In terms of impact on employment, this recession now rivals the 1981-82 recession as the most severe downturn in the post-Second-World-War period. Over the past 12 months employment in Ontario has declined by 260,000 jobs, eclipsing the 223,000 jobs lost in 1981-82.
The deep and long recession we now expect is due largely to the restrictive monetary and budget policies of the federal government. While interest rates have fallen, they remain excessively high relative to US rates. The resulting overvalued dollar, combined with the free trade agreement, is producing severe dislocation in Canada's industrial sector.
We are experiencing not only the effects of a serious cyclical downturn but long-lasting structural changes that are disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers and will impede the pace of our recovery. A fundamental difference during this recession is the higher proportion of workers affected by permanent plant closures rather than temporary layoffs. This is a particular concern, because those jobs will not be there when these workers return once the recession is over.
Unlike Ottawa, Ontario has taken action to counter the recession. We do not pretend that any government can offset the full impact of such a serious downturn, but where Ottawa has capped its support to social assistance programs, we have filled the gap and committed the funds needed to keep this vital support flowing.
Our anti-recession plan is providing results. In my December economic statement, I announced details of the province's $700-million anti-recession program. I am pleased to report that as of today more than 1,300 projects have received approval to proceed under the program and more than $478 million has been committed by 19 ministries. More announcements will be made soon, completing the program's $700-million commitment.
School boards, municipalities and other local agencies such as hospitals are sharing in the cost of projects. As a result, spending is expected to reach a combined total of approximately $940 million when the full program has been implemented.
With the impact of the recession, pressure continues on our budgetary position this year. As a result of continued revenue weakness and higher recession-related costs, I now expect the deficit for this fiscal year to be about $3 billion.
There is some good news, however. Despite the economy's poor current performance, some of the conditions for a recovery are beginning to emerge. Interest rates have come down, the stock market has strengthened and the housing market appears to have stabilized. However, we do not expect this recovery to take hold until the summer at the earliest.
I want to assure the Legislature that as the economy begins its recovery, however slowly, the government will be addressing both the deficit and the challenges of these new structural changes in our economy.
Mr Bradley: The Treasurer has announced to the House what is already obvious to the people of the province of Ontario, and that is that we are in an extremely deep recession in this province and that we in Ontario are experiencing the greatest difficulty -- in other words, the worst unemployment record -- of any of the provinces in Canada. In fact, if you look at the figures, you will find that six of the other provinces have had a net gain in permanent jobs, even though they are experiencing some unemployment problems as well. With, I think, a 10.4% unemployment rate at the present time compared to about 6% a year, manufacturing jobs down some 153,000, and 310,000 fewer full-time jobs in the province of Ontario than this time last year, you can see that it is indeed a very significant recession we are in.
The response of the government has simply not been sufficient. Naturally, we have the usual excuse that it is the federal government, and by gosh, that is always a good excuse, particularly with the government that exists at the present time in Ottawa. There is no question that high interest rates have contributed to this, that the free trade pact and the implications of that have contributed somewhat to the unemployment circumstances we are facing in this province. I feel a bit good about this, because I think that the Premier has said that he is going to stop the free trade agreement with the United States. I fully expect that he will be doing so over the next several months, and that will certainly solve the problem.
What is required, of course, is some smart investment on the part of the provincial government on an immediate basis in major capital projects. There have been some announcements that have been made. This fiscal year there is precious little money that is actually flowing to various communities and various projects so that they are initiated and the money is actually being spent. Some $37 million was the last figure that I saw, although there have been lots of announcements, and I think that we have to recognize that some of these are reannouncements, recycled announcements, renamed announcements, a lot of things that will be done in any event in the province of Ontario with a new name. It is an old trick that has been played probably for dozens and dozens of years, and this government is exactly the same in doing that, except we are in the midst of a recession and we cannot afford that to be happening.
So the Treasurer has to find money for this, without the deficit ballooning to $10 billion, or between $6 and $10 billion, without that happening. That means that the Treasurer and the Chair of Management Board are going to have to examine every expenditure, all the wish lists of all these ministers who want to implement some bizarre schemes out there. He will have to examine those very carefully to be able to find the money to channel intelligently into capital projects which will have an immediate effect on the provincial economy.
We recognize that if he simply allows the deficit to get way out of control, we are going to find borrowing costs, because of our credit rating, are going to go up considerably and confidence in the province of Ontario might well be lost.
I have to say to the Treasurer as well that it is going to be important for this government to create a good and positive investment climate, because what people in this province are concerned about who are looking to invest or people outside who are looking to invest, is that they are looking at what your agenda is. They looked at the NDP tax commission. The Treasurer will notice I did not call it the Fair Tax Commission, which a lot of people seem to have been taken in by, but not those of us who are in opposition, only those who sit on the government side. In fact that is stacked in favour of people who would believe in the socialist agenda, which will simply result in less investment coming to the province of Ontario and much of it leaving the province of Ontario at the present time.
So the government will have to be very careful to create business confidence, and nothing I have seen in the province of Ontario, outside of the Premier, with his usual "quite frankly" as he knows he is delivering some bad news, or, "We're doing the best we can" -- how many times I have heard that? -- and the Treasurer and the Premier going on bended knee to Wall Street; that was perhaps a little bit in the way of alleviating those concerns. But much more, it is going to be important that they create the good investment climate, because if they wish to redistribute income in the province of Ontario or redistribute wealth in the province of Ontario, they are going to have to create it in the first place, or assist in its creation, and so far we have seen zilch in that direction.
Mr Harris: I too want to respond to the statement by the Treasurer as part of the government's ongoing agenda for publicity. It is not an agenda for prosperity. It is not an agenda for competitiveness. I am surprised to hear the Liberal critic talk about competitiveness after the disgraceful record of the last six years, by the way.
Mr Nixon: Fastest growth in the history of the province.
Mr Harris: I quite frankly do not blame the Rae government or the NDP government for getting us into this mess at all. However, there are things they can be doing that they are not doing. They are carrying on a most inappropriate agenda that was begun by the Liberal Party in this province.
I too want to pick up on what the critic for the Liberal Party talked about, and that is that, yes, we are in a recession. He is faulting them now for being not quick to recognize this and suggests that we should all have known this by this fall. We all knew it last spring. We all knew it last summer. To suggest that this is something that is new after their departure from office is an absolute disgrace.
We think they are all the same, quite frankly, when it comes to fiscal issues. The critic talked about the recession being worse in Ontario than it is in any other province, and it is. Ontario is feeling the effects more than any other jurisdiction. So you have to ask yourself, what has Ontario done for the last six years that we should suffer worse than all the other provinces that the other provinces have not done?
I can tell you some of the things. We have increased our spending here, year after year, in excess of 10% a year, much to the chagrin of the other provinces, who said, "Whoa, we can't afford this." The poorer provinces said: "We can't afford this. How can the richest one carry on spending like it's business as usual through 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990?"
What caused the pressure on the dollar? What caused the pressure on the interest rates? It has been free-spending governments. Who is the biggest offender? It is the government right here at Queen's Park. It is the Ontario government. When you have the largest jurisdiction in this country off in one direction spending like there is no tomorrow, contradictory to the other nine provinces, contradictory to the federal government, it is a recipe for disaster. That is why Ontario is not competitive.
They talk in this statement, and the Treasurer reiterates for about the 18th time, about the $700-million anti-recessionary package. We are not unsupportive of a package in the order of $700 million, but where does the money come from?
We offered a proposal to the Treasurer. We came forward and said that if like the federal government, if like all the other provinces, we had a program for public sector wage and program restraint, as all the others have, as all the others have recognized, we could free up $700 million. What we said was that if the brothers and the sisters in the public sector recognized it cannot be business as usual when the brothers and the sisters in the private sector are laid off and hungry, you cannot expect that you are going to have wage increases in excess of the rate of inflation while this other segment of workers are suffering and are hurting. If they had recognized that reality, as the other provinces have, as the federal government has, they could have freed up this money without increasing taxes or without putting pressure on the deficit, because that is what has caused the problem in the first place.
They have overspent collectively, both parties the same. The enemy is not over here. They are both the same. They both think government has all the answers. They both think that government spending should be an increasing proportion of the share. They both think that everybody who is laid off in the private sector can be employed in the public sector somehow, and the more they follow that policy, the more it is a recipe for disaster and the more uncompetitive we are.
So I suggest to the Treasurer, to the Premier, to all of those who think that big-spending, big-taxing governments are providing a solution, that they are mistaken. It is a recipe for further disaster, and that is why Ontario is hurting like no other province is in this country. That is why this industrial heartland is losing jobs today that we will not regain if, when we respond to it, we are not cognizant of what we are doing to our competitiveness, and I have not heard one program from this government that addresses the increasing lack of competitiveness that has been apparent over the last six years in this province.
The Speaker: It is time for oral questions.
Mr Nixon: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: News reports this morning have indicated that the Premier has dismissed one cabinet minister and appointed two others. Since this is a rather far-reaching change in the structure of the administration, would it not be in order for the Premier to make a statement to the House concerning this matter?
The Speaker: Members may be aware that we have ministers' statements, during which time any minister, including the Premier, is at liberty to make a statement. It is now question period and you may wish to pose a question.
Mr Nixon: Failing comment from the Premier, I would simply draw to his attention the occasion on 2 October last, I believe, when after contemplation and careful review he appointed the member for Welland-Thorold to the cabinet with substantial responsibilities, in fact full responsibilities in two ministries. It is not clear, for those who have observed this soap opera over the last few days, what the justification was in the Premier's mind for the dismissal of the member for Welland-Thorold.
As a matter of fact, I quote from an interview with the member for Welland-Thorold on CFRB radio today at 9:08 am as follows,
"Well, but I'm not sure what I got fired for, because if I didn't get fired for Sunshine Boy, because Bob Rae said no, that was merely inappropriate, and if Grimaldi is the issue, yet Bob Rae knew about Grimaldi, heck, even before I got elected, then it still remains open for Rae to explain precisely why it is I am being fired."
My question to the Premier is, why precisely was the minister fired?
Hon Mr Rae: I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Opposition. First of all, let me say as a general rule it is my responsibility as the Premier to choose the cabinet and to appoint new people and to ask other people to leave. That is my responsibility. It was my judgement that the interests of the province were best served with two new ministers, that this was in keeping with my responsibilities, that there were some examples of what I regarded as poor judgement by the minister and I felt that a change was necessary. That is the change I have made and that is the change that has been announced. This is an ongoing responsibility that I have as Premier. Cabinet is a privilege and membership is a privilege. It is a judgement that I have to make and I have made that judgement as Premier.
Mr Nixon: I simply reiterate that the Premier knew of the former minister's flamboyant personality and his rather forward approach to the issues; that he knew of his brushes with the law -- as a matter of fact, his conviction on income tax charges; that he knew about Mr Grimaldi's difficulties and the fact that he had been appointed as policy adviser to the minister. This was not new.
Surely it could not have just been the Sunshine Boy business. As a matter of fact, in the mind of the dismissed minister, and I quote again, "I got into trouble by trying to make sure that we kept the promises we made, like a public auto insurance plan with the right of victims to use the courts to sue for compensation."
Is it a fact that the minister's approach to these matters was so out of tune with the leader of the government's that the leader of the government resorted to what the member for Welland-Thorold called "intellectual totalitarianism" -- those are his words -- and booted him out of the cabinet?
Hon Mr Rae: I am sort of in some respects like the manager of a baseball team who has to decide who is going to play in what positions. That is my responsibility. It is my responsibility to ensure that the team is working as effectively as possible. It is my responsibility to ensure that when I do not think the team is working as well as it can, there need to be some changes. That is a responsibility that I have. I have exercised it, I have taken that responsibility and that is the way it is.
Mr Nixon: The Premier has repeatedly indicated that he is the sole arbiter on matters of conflict and inappropriate behaviour and for that reason he has stated without too much particularity that he has appointed two new ministers to replace the one who was dismissed.
This is a matter that has troubled me over the last few months. Can he outline why he decided to fire a cabinet minister today for the rather vague reasons he has put forward, but in the case of the Red Hill Creek Expressway, a case where cabinet secrecy involving millions of taxpayers' dollars was violated, all he required from the offending minister was an apology and an immediate adjournment of the House? Will the honourable member particularly indicate in the case of Red Hill, since his Minister of Transportation said that he cancelled it on moral grounds, why in this instance he would execute the flamboyant minister who is now in the back row and he would let the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Colleges and Universities off scot-free and in fact with a few compliments, with a mere apology?
Hon Mr Rae: Well, I think that it is a matter of judgement which a Premier has to exercise on a daily basis, as do others. The member may choose to disagree with the exercise of that judgement. That is certainly his right and prerogative. When I was Leader of the Opposition I took occasion to do the same thing and I can hardly object when he does so. All I can say is that I have made a decision with respect to the membership of the cabinet. Historically this has been the prerogative of the first minister. I think it has been exercised by my predecessors in this province and by every Commonwealth jurisdiction that I can think of. It is the prerogative of the Premier; indeed it is his or her responsibility to decide on the membership of the cabinet, to review that membership on an ongoing basis and to make certain decisions with respect to membership. That decision is one which I exercise with as much care and discretion as I can and I believe I have done so in this case.
The Speaker: New question, Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Nixon: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would like to pursue the matter, because the honourable Premier is not particularly forthcoming in this matter. I had really expected, when I asked the question, that he would say something similar to what he said apparently in a scum, or scrum. Not a bad Freudian slip. His scummy comments -- that is, scrummy comments -- were as follows, and I quote from today's Star. "Rae announced that Riverdale MPP Churley will replace Kormos as Consumer minister, while Charlton will take over his Financial Institutions portfolio. Rae said his concern about Kormos's judgement was 'with respect to indicating that this was the government's policy and this was exactly what was going to happen, when there has been no discussion in cabinet on sexism and advertising, he said. We simply can't have a situation where ministers are volunteering all kinds of policy ideas and the next day it is described in one of the papers as the Rae plan.'"
I wonder if the Premier would comment on that, because the dismissed minister himself has asked for an explanation, and naturally we are interested since the Premier has set himself up as the sole arbiter in these matters that have everything to do with the life of this government and its ability to function.
Hon Mr Rae: Of course they do, and the Leader of the Opposition says that I have set myself up as the sole arbiter. Let me suggest to him that if he were the Premier -- and there are many people, I know, over the last 30 years who feel that he should have been the Premier -- he would be exercising this responsibility too. I do not think I would say that he was setting himself up, or other predecessors, David Peterson or others.
The fact of the matter is I have to make a decision. Obviously cabinet solidarity, cabinet discussions of issues, an understanding of a full appreciation of all the implications of an issue -- these are all factors. But again, I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that it is an ongoing responsibility that I have to exercise in terms of the participation in the cabinet and I have exercised my responsibilities. As I say, these decisions are never that easy, but I have made the decision and I think that in terms of what we want to do as a government, in terms of the new team which is going to be taking over in the two fields which you have mentioned, I made a judgement that this was the best way to proceed and that is what I have done.
Mr Nixon: If I might pursue, once again I would say that the Premier is less forthcoming here than he was to the press, and of course I can only take as correct the words attributed to him in the Star. He indicates that he is worried that Kormos was talking about things that sounded as if they had cabinet approval, or as the Premier says, it would be referred to as the "Rae plan." I want to quote further from the article:
"Kormos appeared indignant at Rae's suggestion that his antisexism campaign was never approved by cabinet, saying, 'The Premier is simply wrong in that regard.' Kormos said he was simply doing his job by responding to community concerns about sexism in beer advertising. 'So holy zonkers, for the Premier to suggest that I was making policy without going through cabinet is really bizarre.'"
Now, since the Premier has said this publicly and it is widely reported, will he indicate to the House whether it is still his view that his dismissed minister was making policy inappropriately? He might even get back to the whole matter of no-fault in torts in so-called driver-owned auto insurance, if he would like to be helpful.
Hon Mr Rae: I am trying to be helpful. That is part of the reason that I am here. Cabinet solidarity is important to me as Premier, as I am sure it was important to the member when he was the Treasurer, and I am sure he would not expect me to comment on discussions that may or may not have taken place within our cabinet. All I can tell him is that I have made my decision and it stands.
The Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mr Nixon: Mr Speaker, I have a wide choice of last supplementaries, and I think I would like to just quote something from the Evening Tribune of Welland today.
Mr Bradley: Good paper.
Mr Nixon: Excellent.
This is an article by Pat Barevich and the quote from the former minister is as follows, "I don't want to see us, as a government, break our promises to the people across Ontario, but it's obvious Bob Rae and that little clique in Toronto have got a far different agenda from what the people of Ontario want."
Would the Premier indicate that this is a case of "intellectual totalitarianism," to use the populist phrase that the deposed minister used? Perhaps he would make some comment on that.
Hon Mr Rae: In light of the comments in the Welland Tribune, I rest my case.
Mr Harris: I think I would like to follow up with a couple of questions on this matter. I think it is important, not just for the events around this case, because there seems to be some information missing -- it just does not jibe with us -- but I think it is important for this Legislature and the public to know just what criteria the Premier uses in who should be in cabinet and who should not be in these positions of responsibility. Quite frankly, I would suggest to him that the majority of his cabinet ministers are probably listening intently to try and figure it out too. Could the Premier tell us specifically what he knows now that he did not know on 1 October about the member for Welland-Thorold when he appointed him to the cabinet? What does he know now that he did not know then?
Hon Mr Rae: Again, let me say to the leader of the third party that what I know in a very general way and have had a chance to assess is the conduct and the performance of all the members of cabinet. I decided to make a change because I felt that it was necessary in the circumstances to do so. I think it is an ongoing responsibility of my job to indicate, as Mr Davis did on a number of occasions, and others have done as well, that I have to exercise this responsibility.
Now, if the member is saying, "You put him in cabinet on 1 October; that means that you can't make another decision in the middle of March," what I am saying to him is that I have to exercise my judgement with respect to the judgement that is being offered by everybody who is in the cabinet. That is the responsibility that I have. I felt the team can perform and work better, the cabinet can work better as a team in this circumstance.
Obviously I have not been happy about the events over the last number of days, and indeed that is a fact. But if I may say so, I think I have the responsibility as Premier to exercise this judgement and this responsibility and to make sure that the cabinet is serving the best interests of the province. That is an ongoing responsibility that I have and one that I have exercised in this case.
Mr Harris: Nobody questions that it is the Premier's job to do this. What we question is this: the Premier is implying that he just kind of shifts the lineup. He brings in a pinch hitter from time to time, from week to week, depending on the situation. Obviously, this has been a major decision, it has been a major move. It was not planned. He said when he reviewed events of the last few days that he was not very happy. I asked him, what did he learn in the last few days that was not well known back in October when the member for Welland-Thorold was originally appointed?
If he wants to answer that one, I will give him a second shot at it, but I also am trying to get a handle on what the criteria are for the Bob Rae cabinet. I think that is important to the House and the Legislature.
With the Red Hill Creek Expressway, when he had cabinet ministers who breached cabinet confidentiality, clearly -- stood up, admitted it, they actually broke a guideline -- he said at that time, "I do not think you fire people every time they make a mistake." Can the Premier tell us what specifically he considers to be a mistake worthy of firing and what criteria he now has to be in the Bob Rae cabinet?
Hon Mr Rae: If I may say to the leader of the third party, who is a person of experience, who himself has participated in a cabinet, was chosen for a cabinet by a former Premier, I think that he will recognize that there are no rules that are written down. These are judgement calls that are made about people's performance, about their approach to things. I do not think there is a written-down sort of rule that says this or that. It is a judgement call that is made by the Premier. It is an exercise of judgement and an exercise of discretion on the part of the Premier in terms of who is best going to serve obviously the government, the caucus, and indeed who is going to serve all the people of the province. That is the basis upon which my judgement was made.
Mr Harris: The Premier keeps going back, and I think he said that the minister's actions were drawing attention away from the government's agenda. I do not know that it is drawing attention away from the government's agenda any more than when the Premier, after being elected, appeared on CBC Air Farce and participated in a skit to belittle the Prime Minister and now is going to have to sit down with the same Prime Minister to negotiate, hopefully, a renewed Confederation. I do not know how appropriate a type of action that is, but this seems to be what the Premier is talking about.
The Premier has danced around this issue. Let's get right to the point here. He has told us nothing new. I would like him to confirm today the rampant speculation around Queen's Park that I have heard, that most of the media have heard, that most members have heard, that Mr Kormos was fired as a direct result of a fundamental disagreement over policy on auto insurance and restoring the right to sue, that is, trying to deliver on that promise that he understood the Premier agreed with at election time. Can he confirm or deny that that is in fact the real reason why Mr Kormos was fired?
Hon Mr Rae: Mr Speaker, I can only tell you that the leader of the third party would be well advised to not listen to rampant speculation. The government generally has been looking hard at the issue of car insurance. We have indicated already that legislation will be presented to the House in this session and that commitment stands. Beyond that, I can only say to the leader of the third party that, as I say, he would be well advised not to simply repeat speculation as if it were the absolute truth.
Mr Harris: I was trying to come up, as was the leader of the Liberal Party, with any plausible explanation. We did not receive one. The Premier leads us in that direction.
Mr Harris: My second question is to the Premier as well and it deals with trying to understand what his standards are. I would like him to tell this House if the member for Victoria-Haliburton received his salary as an MPP during the time that he was in jail.
Hon Mr Rae: I will answer that as best I can. I received a copy of a letter that the member for Victoria-Haliburton sent to the Speaker, I believe last week. I received a copy of the letter -- it was something I did not see until I saw the copy -- in which the member indicated that he did not wish to be paid for the period during which he was in jail.
An hon member: Thank you, Mike.
Mr Harris: You are very welcome. I hope he was not being paid as a parliamentary assistant as well, but that is something for the Premier. As the member has heard, he decides these things.
Upon release from jail, the member for Victoria-Haliburton has been heralded by the Premier and this government as a hero. He remains as chairman of the government's caucus. He remains as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Citizenship. In the North Bay Nugget, on his release, he implied that he would be getting new responsibilities in fact, presumably as a reward for breaking the law and going to jail. The implication was that it was a reward for breaking the law and going to jail.
I wonder if the Premier can tell this House what law, what rule, what guideline the member for Welland-Thorold broke to deserve his dismissal from cabinet.
Hon Mr Rae: The question did not seem to flow from the preamble, so I have to exercise judgement. The argument that the only criterion for staying in cabinet is that you not break the law or break the Criminal Code is a rather bizarre way of assessing it.
If I may say so, there was a situation in the previous government where I think as many as seven or eight ministers were dropped in a cabinet shuffle in which others were brought in and in which the Premier at that time did not -- it was during the summertime, so obviously the House was not in session. But there is a sense that he has a responsibility and I have a responsibility, any Premier has a responsibility, the Prime Minister has a responsibility, under our system of government, to ensure that the government presents its case as best it can, that it presents itself in a way that reflects cabinet solidarity and that reflects the view that the people are best served if that is what is in place. That is the criterion that I followed.
Mr Harris: Surely the House finds it offensive that the Premier tells us this was a routine cabinet shuffle. Surely the intelligence of the House must find this offensive, if this is what he is trying to tell us today. When the Premier appeared before the committee of the Legislature last month he said that, in breaking the law, the member for Victoria-Haliburton had done nothing to decrease the public's confidence because he had acted with a moral conscience.
I would like to know two things from the Premier. First, what gives him the right to decide what laws or rules can or cannot be broken and, second, are these the Bob Rae standards for cabinet that we can now expect for the future, ie, as long as the cause is one that Bob Rae agrees with, then anything goes? Is that what we are led to believe and what his cabinet and his colleagues and the public have to believe? As long as he agrees this cause is there, you can break the law, you can go to jail, you can break the rules, that is the criterion, "As long as I agree with the cause."
Hon Mr Rae: I think, in his heart of hearts, the leader of the third party knows that nothing is that simple. The short answer to his question is no.
Mr Nixon: I will pursue the matter briefly at least, because I am concerned, along with the leader of the third party and many other members of this House, with the criteria used by the sole arbiter in these matters of political life and death.
I bring to the Premier's attention the circumstances involving the Red Hill Creek Expressway. The honourable member will be aware that interested citizens in Hamilton have been conducting or moving into a court case in this connection. The evidence has been heard and we have yet to hear some sort of a judgement.
I referred to this in my earlier series of questions because, since Hamilton went through all of the careful planning requirements and it was cancelled by the Minister of Transportation with the support of other ministers and undoubtedly of cabinet itself, and this cancellation was conveyed to NDP city councillors and the NDP candidate for mayor in Hamilton at a series of meetings, which frankly the member for Hamilton Mountain must have attended as an NDP caucus member at the time, can he explain under those circumstances, first, what really made it a moral decision in this regard when all the planning requirements had been fulfilled and, second, why he could permit his cabinet ministers to undertake this sort of an approach to public policy, this sort of an approach to special political friends in the community of Hamilton rather than to the mayor in council, with merely the slap on the wrist to the cabinet members that had been responsible for this.
Hon Mr Rae: I am happy to revisit that decision. First of all, the member states that it was a decision made by the Minister of Transportation. That is not entirely accurate. It was a decision made by the cabinet. There was a full cabinet discussion of this question of the Red Hill Creek Expressway.
The decision was made that we as a province have a right and indeed a responsibility to decide whether we want to spend tens of millions of dollars in order to pave over the Red Hill Creek. That was a decision that we made on environmental grounds. If you want to revisit that whole aspect of the decision, that is fine. We exercised our responsibility on what we felt on balance, on behalf of the environment, was necessary. It was a decision which we knew would not be warmly accepted by the municipal council but which we felt we had a responsibility and a right to make.
As to the timing of the announcement and the way in which the announcement was made, I have already said that I did not think it was handled tremendously. I have already indicated that in the House. But there was absolutely no breach of cabinet confidentiality and no breach of cabinet solidarity. There was a breach of what I would regard as common courtesy with respect to the mayor and the regional chairman, and I have apologized to them in person.
Mr Nixon: The Premier has indicated he would like to recall the circumstances and he would know that the cabinet decision was made on Wednesday. It was announced publicly to the mayor and corporation of Hamilton and the region of Hamilton-Wentworth the following Monday. But the previous Friday, the ministers concerned met with the NDP caucus, the NDP candidate for mayor and the NDP members of council, and brought them up to date on that information.
Although the ministers denied they made the information available, the people at the other end indicated that the information was provided for them. It was a clear breach not of cabinet solidarity but of cabinet confidentiality. The Premier on 20 December, just before the House adjourned, said as follows, and he is very clear in this: "This is something I regard as a mistake. It is something that I do not want to see repeated." Yet on 4 January of this year, members of the NDP cabinet, NDP councillors, the NDP candidate for mayor in Hamilton, met again in a closed, private meeting to discuss land use issues related to the Red Hill Creek Expressway.
Now I ask members how that appears to them. This is an instance where the Premier is prepared to gloss it over because he has no standards for the members of his cabinet in this regard or, if he has, he has not made them clear.
Hon Mr Rae: I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition, who is a man of great political experience, would not want to create a universe in which ministers were not able to meet with -- the ministers have met with the chambers of commerce, they have met with the mayor, they have met with the regional chairman, they have met with everyone. They have also met with New Democrats, they have met with Liberals and they have met with Conservatives. I hope we do not reach the day when these kinds of meetings are no longer possible.
Mr Nixon: Everybody in this House wants to undertake consultation wherever it is appropriate. But in this instance --
Mr Nixon: Have I run out of questions? Well, I am responding to the Premier's concern.
Mr Nixon: Don't I get three supplementaries?
The Speaker: We were not counting, were we? No, okay.
New question. The member for Dufferin-Peel.
Mr Tilson: My question is to the Minister of Housing as a result of his comment last week in a press conference here in Toronto, as reported in the Toronto Sun, that he is allergic to landlords. Would he therefore justify his half-a-million-dollar-plus rent control green paper consultation process?
Why he is having some 20 consultative meetings, only seven of which are open to the public? Why can opposition critics attend these public sessions but are not allowed to participate? I was invited to come but I was not allowed to speak. Why was my leader, when invited to the North Bay session in North Bay, denied information on where it was even going to be held? Finally, why would the minister even possibly think of barring my friend the member for Oriole from one such meeting?
Hon Mr Cooke: Every member of the Legislature in the 20 communities that we are visiting has been advised where the meetings are. The member talked about only seven meetings being open to the public. The fact of the matter is that we are going to 20 communities, and the process in each of the communities is that we are having meetings with landlord groups that represent organizations in each of the communities and we are meeting with tenant organizations and municipal folks. In seven of the communities I am having public hearings where anybody can say anything he wants to say to me about the rent control issue.
I indicated to the member as an opposition critic and to the critic of the Liberal Party that we were prepared to discuss with them their participation in this whole process. We are not prepared to turn the meetings into a debate between politicians. We want to hear from the people of this province.
As soon as I heard what had happened in the North York meeting, I discussed the matter with my staff and new procedures have been put in place. I apologize to the member for Oriole. It should not have happened.
Mr Tilson: The minister spent half a million dollars on advertising for this farce, and he will not tell anybody where the meetings are being held. Will the minister, with analogy to openness, confirm that the private green paper meetings are on an invitation-only basis and that secret predetermined speakers' lists, which are not revealed in advance of the meetings, effectively preclude much open, public discussion? Finally, will the minister call a halt to this farcical dog-and-pony show and permit the committee of the House, representing all parties, to carry on the consultations, not just the minister?
Hon Mr Cooke: I am not going to confirm anything that the member said in the first part of his question because it is absolutely false. There are advertisements that have been put in the paper and people are put on the list when they have requested to speak, and that is the way that it has been organized. The committee --
The Speaker: I bet the Minister of Housing was about to rephrase his response.
Hon Mr Cooke: No, Mr Speaker. What I said is that what the member said in the House is not accurate. It is false. Anyone who wants to appear before these meetings phones the 1-800 number. We have written to the MPPs. If the standing committee on general government wants to study the green paper, that opportunity has been made available through the House leader of the government, but the member and the Liberal Party instead have delayed on Bill 4. They do not want to talk about the green paper. That is their decision, but we are going to consult with the people of this province. The member has already made his decision. I do not know why he would want to consult or listen anyway. The position of his party is: Kill rent controls and let tenants fend for themselves. That is their position.
The Speaker: New question, the member for Sarnia.
Mr Huget: My question is for the Minister of Labour. Many workers in the city of Sarnia and surrounding area have been devastated --
Mr Eves: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Can you please inform the House whether the use of the word "false" as in untrue, as in not stating a true fact, as in lying, is parliamentary language or not?
The Speaker: The House leader was listening as closely as I was, and there was a rephrasing. The reply stands. The member for Sarnia.
Mr Huget: My question is for the Minister of Labour. Many workers in the city of Sarnia and the surrounding area have been devastated recently by plant closures. The most recent example is Fiberglas Canada, which will close leaving 191 workers and their families without a job. What is the minister prepared to put forward to assist these workers affected by plant closures and layoffs?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I thank the member for the question. I want to point out to him that I am certainly aware of the difficulty of the workers in Sarnia and, indeed, many of the other cities in the province of Ontario. We have recently announced, as the member will know, a brand-new $32.5 million program of labour adjustment, the setup of labour adjustment committees in the plants that are affected and the labour adjustment committee within the ministry to meet and develop the program in terms of retraining and skills upgrading that are necessary. The details of that plan which had been announced just about a month ago in this House will be before us very shortly in this Legislature.
Mr Huget: Can the minister advise the workers of Sarnia whether his ministry will be reviewing the Employment Standards Act to provide greater protection for these and many other Ontario workers?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: The Employment Standards Act will be the subject of amendments in this House and discussion first. I can tell members that the discussion papers are out with the constituencies across Ontario right now with some of the options, and as soon as we have the reports back in on those discussion papers we will be moving in this House for legislation in terms of severance, notice and so on for workers in Plant closure situations.
Mrs Caplan: My question is to the Premier. Premier Rae promised open government and yet I found that the door was closed without an invitation. I want to thank my colleagues in the third party for raising this matter in the Legislature and for their support.
I must say that, yes, I was turned away from a public consultation meeting in my own constituency, the riding of Oriole, where vital issues of rent control were being discussed. Will the Premier today, in this House, admit that his Minister of Housing showed bad judgement and made a serious mistake in holding the public consultations in this way? Further, will the Premier direct his cabinet, whether they are discussing the Red Hill Creek Expressway, Sunday shopping or market value assessment, to open the door, to say that an invitation is not required and that people, whether they are members of this Legislature, members of other political parties or whether they disagree with this government, can have a say in a public consultation process?
Hon Mr Rae: First of all, I was listening very carefully to what the Minister of Housing said. I believe, in answer to a question from the member for Dufferin-Peel, he made it very clear that he apologized to the member for what happened with respect to the meeting in Oriole. He has made that apology, I heard him make it today, in the House, very directly to the member. So when she asks whether I recognize that a mistake was made, of course it was made. I do not know what kind of mistake was made. It was an administrative one of some kind. It has been corrected, and the member has a legitimate grievance which she has expressed and to which I am responding.
With respect to the second half of the question, which is a substantive one, I think that we are getting criticized by the member's colleague the Leader of the Opposition because we are not announcing enough things. One of the reasons we are taking time in doing some of that is precisely because of the consultation process that goes on.
As is the nature of life, some of those conversations and consultations take place in private, some of them take place in the minister's office, some of them take place publicly. I have those kinds of consultations myself with business leaders and with labour leaders and with all kinds of people. Some of the meetings take place in private; some of the meetings take place in public. We are committed to listening to the public. Obviously, we are committed to listening to people who do not agree with us and we are very much committed to listening to members of the Liberal Party, to members of the Conservative Party and to members of all parties.
Mrs Caplan: I would say to the Premier that in fact what we see in place is a system of preferential access where people must have an invitation. I will say to him that a colleague of mine received an identical letter signed by the Minister of Housing after I had raised this issue with the media, who happened to attend that meeting, and that the answer my colleague received was that he could attend but he could not participate. This is unacceptable, for ground rules to be laid during a public consultation process, for dates and locations of meetings to be denied to the members of this Legislature and to the public after they have been advertised as part of a public consultation process. Will the Premier stand in his place today and say that he has directed all of the members of his caucus to open the door, to stop the preferential access and to allow the people of this province to be heard?
Hon Mr Rae: We hear what you are saying and I think what you are saying is in terms of the desire to have as much participation as possible. I do not want to embarrass anybody, but the member for Mississauga South sent me a letter the other day in which she praised the conduct of the Minister of Tourism and Recreation, saying that it was the first time in her memory and experience as a member that a government minister had informed her the day before an announcement was to be made, had given her the opportunity to not only look at the press release but to correct it and to be there with any announcement made. I have been around for a while. I do not recall that being done when I was in opposition. Let me say that the standard that has been set by the Minister of Tourism and Recreation is a good standard and I think it is one that all of us should look to.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is to the Minister of Colleges and Universities. I stand here today on behalf of many students at Trent University who are looking forward to resuming classes as quickly as possible. Many of them, of course, know that there are only five weeks left in their academic year, five weeks of a 25-week school year, and they are looking forward to getting back to school so that they not only gain their academic year but that they graduate as other students across the province have that opportunity to do. We would ask the minister, as the students approach exam time, as they risk losing this academic year, what plans he has to make certain that in fact they will succeed in their year of university at Trent this year.
Hon Mr Allen: I am delighted to respond to the member's question. Like her, I am concerned about anything that impacts adversely on the life of universities and, in particular, university students. I would say to her that she perhaps knows as well as I do that universities are legally autonomous institutions, that under the Labour Relations Act they have rights and responsibilities as employers -- as do the unions, as employees -- and that in a pre-collective bargaining situation those rules, regulations, contexts have to be played out in an appropriate way.
I am appreciative very much of the fact that faculty members at the university did in fact give advance assignments and also provided in some cases take-home exams and tried to pave the way to make it as easy as possible for the students in question. I do hope personally that the strike will be over soon because of its discomfiture and its inconvenience and the difficulty it creates for students and the whole institution.
Mrs Cunningham: I am sure that the minister, as well as members of this House, should know that in fact the university is in mediation -- the faculty association is in mediation for the next two days and that everybody at Trent University knows that this strike cannot be allowed to proceed more than a week because then the students will definitely be in jeopardy. We also know that the whole quality of post-secondary education in this province is one that many of us are concerned about and absolutely not proud of. Many of us have been eager to hear from the faculties as they presented their cases before the legislative committee. These students now only have five weeks left. One of the real issues is a need for dramatic change in government funding and tuition fees. That is part of this whole problem. The minister knows it. Again I ask him, when will he be responding to the recovery plan for Ontario universities and what can he do about it to give those professors at Trent University and elsewhere the recognition that they deserve with the problems that they are dealing with with the overcrowding of classrooms?
Hon Mr Allen: That was kind of an omnibus question that got us from the strike to university funding. I would just like to say on the first part of the issue that, as the member may know, the senior mediator of the Ministry of Labour will be meeting with the parties this week. I hope that will be effective.
With regard to the underfunding question, there is a serious underfunding issue that has been at the door of the universities through two administrations now. We did our best in the funding announcement to keep the system at a steady state despite the deficit that we face, and we hope that in point of fact we will be able to address such problems as the faculty face at Trent, which is a particularly severe case where the faculty are paid at the bottom of the heap in terms of faculties across this province.
I would hope that our address of the future funding issues in the university will enable us to assist the university to address that question in the future.
SUPPORT AND CUSTODY ORDERS ENFORCEMENT
Mr Cooper: My question is for the Attorney General, the member for Rainy River.
Mr Mahoney: Did you get your sign changed?
Mr Cooper: Yes.
During the hearings before the standing committee on administration of justice on Bill 17, An Act to amend the Law related to the Enforcement of Support and Custody Orders, the opposition has alleged repeatedly that this bill, once legislation, will not improve the lot of many women and children in this province. Yet it is my experience that in my constituency office many people have phoned in, as well as the representatives of the National Association of Women and the Law and the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses who appeared before the standing committee on justice during the recess, and all believe that this bill will have positive results for women and children where support is not being paid.
Can the minister tell the House how many women currently holding court-ordered support payments he and his ministry expect will have their position improved by this legislation?
Hon Mr Hampton: I believe that there are some 85,000 support order cases that are registered with the program, which at the current time is called the SCOE program -- support and custody orders enforcement. There are 85,000 cases. The vast majority of these support cases involved women and women with children. There are approximately 102,000 children involved. The current enforcement rate under the existing legislation is about 35% at best. We believe that with the amendments we have introduced, we can in effect improve the enforcement rate to about 60%. Looking at the number of cases registered, it would be a good bet that I think we would be assisting directly somewhere near 50,000 women with children and perhaps even more than that. That is the two-year target and that is the improvement we think we can make within two years.
Mr Cooper: That seems like a significant number. I understand that during the committee hearings the Toronto Star on 26 February said that the Attorney General was prepared to introduce some amendments. I was wondering if at this moment he could please elaborate to the members of the House what improvements will be coming in the upcoming session.
Hon Mr Hampton: A number of amendments were introduced in committee, and those amendments were introduced as a result of input from the third party and the official opposition. They were also introduced because we carried on ongoing consultations with employer groups, labour groups; with, for example, provincial court judges who were very experienced in family law. The majority
of the amendments that have been introduced again go towards streamlining the procedures so that where a support order is in existence, money will flow from the payer to the recipient in very short order so that we will not have the three-, four-, five- and six-month delays that currently exist in the program and hopefully we will be able to put money in the hands of the recipients from the payer in approximately 30 days.
Mr Chiarelli: My question is to the Premier regarding automobile insurance. In an interview this morning on radio station CFRB referred to earlier, the ex-Minister of Financial Institutions said that -- and I am going to quote here -- he "Got into trouble by trying to make sure that we kept the promises we made, like a public auto insurance plan with the right of victims to use the courts to sue for compensation."
Will the Premier confirm here today that the removal of the member for Welland-Thorold from cabinet does not constitute a backing off from his government's previously clear commitment to the reinstitution of tort and to the creation of a government-owned system of automobile insurance? Will the legislation be introduced in the spring? The Premier earlier said that it will be introduced this session and, as the Premier well knows, this session could be the fall or the spring. Will he confirm that this legislation will be introduced this spring?
Hon Mr Rae: We certainly intend to introduce legislation in the spring session. It will be later on in the spring session, but we are working very hard at it and I am hoping that when the member sees it, he will be very pleased with it.
Mr Chiarelli: The speech from the throne was quite clear in saying that a government-owned system of automobile insurance would be introduced in the spring. However, the member for Welland-Thorold repeatedly pledged to introduce a public auto insurance bill with the right to sue. He stated that quite clearly even after he was a minister, after he was appointed in October.
In November, a bill was introduced by the member for Leeds-Grenville regarding the right to sue and the Premier's caucus was split. In this House, a number of his caucus members voted one way and two of his members voted the opposite way. This is sending out conflicting messages, as well as many other conflicting messages that have been sent out by the former minister and it is causing grave concern to the 40,000 people who work in the industry.
There must be an interpretation put on the Premier's ex-minister's statements when he said that in effect he is being victimized because public auto insurance with the right to sue is being compromised, in effect, by his cabinet. A decision must obviously have been made that there will be no government plan, or no right to sue, or both. Which is it?
Hon Mr Rae: First of all, let me say to the member that I appreciate the concern that he has expressed. We feel that the Liberal legislation, which we have inherited and which the public has inherited, has not left us with a good system and we believe we can improve that system. That is something that is now under active discussion in the government and the legislation will be forthcoming, as I said, later on in the spring. There will be an opportunity for a very full discussion in the House and the government remains committed to auto insurance reform along the lines that we have discussed in the House.
I might make one other point. It would be a pity if private member's hour was turned into an occasion when the whips were used. The whole purpose of private member's hour is to allow members to express their views on an individual basis. That is the whole reason we have it.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the member for Hamilton East, the minister responsible for pay equity in this province. The minister would be aware that on 31 January his government announced a pay equity down payment enhancement funding of $2,000 per female worker in non-profit day care centres across this province.
The minister would also be aware that not mentioned in that release or any public statements by his government was the little-known fact that his government and his ministry had decided that multiservice providers will now be discriminated against and will not be eligible for the same bump funding.
The minister is further aware of the fact that these not-for-profit YMCA child care centres in this province, having implemented pay equity packages, find themselves on comparable footing with the very groups that the Minister of Community and Social Services has provided enhanced funding for. There is now going to be inequity and, as I indicated earlier, about $700,000 is going to be the shortfall in Metropolitan Toronto alone for the YMCA.
My question to the minister: Since he is responsible for pay equity, why is it that during cabinet discussions on this matter he did not defend the women who are being discriminated against by not receiving this bump funding, not only in the private sector, but also for the non-profit day care centres, which represent about 10% of all the spaces in this province?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I am sure the member knows I am not going to comment on what position who took on what in a cabinet meeting that discussed this matter. However, I should also say I am rather surprised that the member, with the research he does, is not aware of the long-standing position of this party that we do not usually fund for-profit organizations.
Mr Jackson: Given that the minister is from Hamilton, we already know that breaking cabinet solidarity will not cost him his job. You have to come from the peninsula and discuss cabinet matters, and that will cost you your job, but within Hamilton you are pretty secure in this government.
The fact still remains that his government has been deadly silent about this issue of the 10% of day care centres in this province which are now going to have to increase fees. These are non-profit centres. These are YMCA centres in municipalities all across this province. I am led to believe and have seen evidence that it is within the Ministry of Labour that we have the problem. We know the female Minister of Community and Social Services is not prepared to make any statements against the discrimination of this funding. We are coming to the Minister of Labour to intercede on a matter of discrimination against women in this province who are workers. Why will he not make a public statement about this issue?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I think the member would also know that in making the announcement we did just recently in the House, we announced the new procedures, the proportionate value approach and the proxy approach. That is now in the process of being discussed and we have not made the final decisions on the procedures we are using for pay equity.
Mr F. Wilson: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. The previous week saw the release of the report of his agricultural finance review committee. I would like to ask the minister if he could tell the House when he will be responding to this report.
Hon Mr Buchanan: I would be pleased to respond to that question. The agricultural finance review committee's report was alluded to in the statement from the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry earlier in the day. I just received the report last week. There are a number of recommendations in it, about seven in total. They primarily focus on short- and long-term credit support for farmers. We will be studying the long-term credit suggestions that are made in that report and coming up with a proposal. We then will be doing further consultation with farmers, farm groups and financial corporations. I might add that we will certainly be consulting with the opposition members to get their input as well.
In terms of the short-term financial suggestions, we will be putting together over the next few weeks some ideas so that we can respond very quickly to the problems in the farm community in terms of farm finance and interest rate problems. We hope to have something put together in the very near future.
MINISTRY OF REVENUE
Mrs Y. O'Neill: In the absence of the Premier, to whom I would much rather have asked this question, I will place my question with the Minister of Revenue.
There was a secret meeting on Metropolitan Toronto's market value assessment plan, which the minister held on 20 February with NDP municipal and provincial politicians. Many interested parties are concerned about this issue, but when she decided to arrange her own meeting, she only invited her NDP friends in downtown Toronto.
The minister will recall when the Premier was responding to questions regarding the Red Hill Expressway last December, favouring the representatives of one provincial political party over another, and I quote, "This is something which I regard as a mistake." Today the Premier changed it and said this was only a lack of common courtesy, so he has changed his mind slightly. But he also has said to us that this sort of privileged access to issues on the cabinet agenda was "something that I do not want to see repeated."
So I want the minister today to confirm to this House the statement the Premier made, that it is clear that this kind of exclusive NDP consultation should never happen again, is going to be the minister's policy in the future.
Hon Ms Wark-Martyn: I would like to answer that question. I had asked members of all three political parties who sit in this Legislature to meet with me regarding market-value assessment, to come and bring their people from their party and meet with me. Both parties on the other side of the House refused that meeting. The members in my party whom I asked to come to attend did attend that meeting. That was not a secret meeting. It was just as open as the invitation was to each of your parties to attend and bring your friends to meet with me.
The Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.
Mrs Y. O'Neill: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I have to say I received no invitation to any meeting from that Minister of Revenue, and I really feel that an untruth has been stated there. The meeting I refer to is not the meeting she is referring to. I want that corrected. It has nothing to do with --
The Speaker: Time for oral questions has expired.
Miss Martel moved that, notwithstanding standing orders 8(a) and 94(a), the House will not meet on the morning of Thursday 21 March 1991 to consider private members' public business; and that, notwithstanding standing order 94(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 5 and 6.
Motion agreed to.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
Mrs Caplan: I have before me two reports from committee. The first is on section 123 issues which were before the standing committee during the intersession. As I table them, I would like to say that as the Chairman of a new committee, I felt the representatives from all three caucuses worked very hard to ensure that the meetings were well attended and that all members had an opportunity to participate.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Mrs Caplan from the standing committee on social development presented the committee's report on Multiyear Plan for Deinstitutionalization of Developmentally Handicapped People in Ontario and moved its adoption.
The Speaker: Does the member wish to make a brief statement?
Mrs Caplan: As I said as I tabled the report, this being the first opportunity that the committee had to meet, I would like to compliment all of the members of the committee and as Chairman, I would like to compliment all of those who prepared briefs and appeared before the committee. I believe the work was outstanding and the report is one which I think all members of this Legislature and the public will find of interest. I am also sure that the government will find it helpful as it plans for the future.
On motion by Mrs Caplan, the debate was adjourned.
Mrs Caplan from the standing committee on social development presented the committee's report on Children's Mental Health Services in Ontario and moved its adoption.
The Speaker: Does the member wish to make a brief statement?
Mrs Caplan: Yes, thank you. There were a number of thoughtful presentations and some important recommendations contained in this report. I know it will be of interest, not only to the government, but to all members interested in the development of children's mental health in this province, so I would move the adjournment of the debate commending this report for your interest.
On motion by Mrs Caplan, the debate was adjourned.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Mr Runciman from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's first report and pursuant to standing order 104(g)(14), the report was deemed to be adopted by the House on Friday 1 February 1991.
The Speaker: Does the member wish to make a brief statement?
Mr Runciman: Just to say that this is the first report from the committee with respect to the new obligations placed upon it by the temporary standing order I referred to, and that is consideration of the review of intended appointments by the executive council.
Mr Runciman from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's report of 30 January 1991 and pursuant to standing order 104(g)(14), the report was deemed to be adopted by the House on Friday 1 February 1991.
Mr Runciman from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's report of 31 January 1991 and pursuant to standing order 104(g)(14), the report was deemed to be adopted by the House on Friday 1 February 1991.
Mr Runciman from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's report of 5 February 1991 and pursuant to standing order 104(g)(14), the report was deemed to be adopted by the House on Wednesday 6 February 1991.
Mr Runciman from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's report of 14 February 1991 and pursuant to standing order 104(g)(14), the report was deemed to be adopted by the House on Thursday 14 February 1991.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Mr Brown from the standing committee on general government presented the committee's report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill 4, An Act to amend the Residential Rent Regulation Act, 1986.
The Speaker: Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed? Agreed. Shall Bill 4 be ordered for third reading? No?
Mr Brown: I am pleased today to be able to make a few brief remarks about the standing committee on general government's report on Bill 4. I am certain that every member who sat on this committee would like to take this opportunity to make some remarks about what happened during the Bill 4 hearings and the subsequent review of clause-by-clause of this bill. I am especially looking forward, I think, to the observations of the six NDP MPPs who sat on this committee. Their views and observations might explain to their constituents and to the constituents in Ontario their votes on this very important bill. Many in this province, in fact, would like to see the six NDP MPPs explain their votes on this bill.
First, I would like to spend a few minutes and talk about the process, about the three weeks of public hearings we had, about the fact that the time for these public hearings was totally and woefully inadequate, about the fact that there are 150 people and groups in Ontario that did not have the opportunity to present their views to this committees; 150 people in Ontario could not tell their legislators what they thought about Bill 4 and I find that very unacceptable.
Time and time again, the opposition parties attempted to have these hearings extended to allow those 150 groups and individuals to have an opportunity to speak to us and time and time again the jackboots of the government majority told us, "No, we won't do that." It was really quite instructive to know that the Minister of Revenue pleaded with the committee through a letter for the committee to come to Thunder Bay, to the northwest, a place where the committee was not scheduled to go under the government agenda. What was the answer to the Minister of Revenue, a minister of the crown? The answer was: "Sorry, it doesn't fit our agenda. The people of the northwest don't care or we don't care about the people of the northwest."
We had to fly people from Thunder Bay to Sudbury, which is a long, long way, just so they could have their views heard. It is instructive that those people had to make presentations on behalf of other presenters because those presenters could not make the journey of over 1,000 miles. I found this to be very appalling. I have been in this place for about three years; I have been on many committees. I have never seen such a truncated set of public hearings on such an important issue to the people of Ontario. It is important to tenants; it is important to landlords; but most important, it is important to the people of Ontario to have a fair and just method of communicating their views to the government of the day.
Bill 4 is about rent control. Briefly, it says that for 27 months there will only be an inflation rise in rents. It does, however, allow for some pass-through of extraordinary operating expenses, such as municipal taxes or utilities. However, it retroactively disallows lawful rent increases. It retroactively changes the law. So what does that mean? That means that literally thousands of landlords out there in this province who obeyed the law, who did what the law told them to do, who repaired their buildings, who made their buildings better for tenants, who had every right to expect a rent increase in line with those improvements under the former legislation do not get them.
What does that mean? That means there are roughly 3,000 small landlords in this province who are facing bankruptcy. They may lose not only their building but their own homes. They may lose everything they have ever worked for. That is what the retroactive legislation does. That is patently unfair and unjust, because for these people in many cases this is their pension plan, this is their retirement income. They made these investments in good faith. In the vast majority of cases they behaved in a very responsible fashion towards their tenants. This is totally unjust for a government of Ontario to come before us, change the law retroactively and decide that thousands of Ontarians will lose their life savings, their investment and maybe everything they have.
Liberals object to that and the Liberal Party will not support that. But I am getting a little bit ahead of myself. Liberals know that there are some problems with Bill 51, the last incarnation of rent review. Like everyone else, we would like a simpler system. We would like control over luxury renovations, we would like disincentives to flip, we would like enhanced maintenance of buildings, we would like the protection of tenants. But Liberals live in the real world. We understand that the private sector will supply most -- the vast majority -- of rental housing units. It has to. The government quite simply cannot afford to do it. We must be partners with the private sector in providing housing stock for our people. We must be partners with the private sector.
On second reading, our party supported this bill. We supported this bill because we believed that it could be made workable. We believed that with amendments made in committee we could meet the needs of the people of Ontario. We believed that after having looked at the evidence, a bill could come out of committee that made some sense. We were wrong. The Minister of Housing would not listen. His NDP colleagues on the committee simply danced to his tune.
But Liberals are optimists. We believe that we can still support this bill. We believe that in committee of the whole House the government will listen to the sensible and reasonable amendments that we are suggesting to this bill. We believe that if the members of this House thoughtfully look at this bill, look at where the improvements can be found, a bill can come forward that could have the support of all members of the House. It just is a matter of weighing the evidence.
For the enlightenment of my colleagues, I want to take a little run through the committee hearings. The hearings began with the minister making a statement, and a very good statement it was. That is, as we all know, the way all committee hearings seem to start. They start with the minister making a statement.
The minister spoke eloquently of 100% rent increases out there: "A terrible thing. We can't stand for 100% rent increases. It can't happen. This is Ontario. We can't have 100% rent increases." He spoke of economic eviction. He talked of tenants having to leave their homes because of the extraordinary rent increases in this province. He talked about flipping of apartment buildings. He was most convincing, the Minister of Housing was very convincing.
As a matter of fact, however, he did not quite tell the whole story, and through a little bit of work by the opposition, we thought maybe we would ask the Ministry of Housing about the minister's information. What did we find out? We found out that yes, there were 100% rent increases. I think the number was 84 out of 1.2 million units. The fraction is infinitesimal. It is a small segment of 1%.
Further, we said to the ministry: "Could you outline the cases that the minister has given us? Could you look at the ones that he has cited as examples? Could you tell us if there is economic eviction in these cases?" Guess what, there were not. Do members know why? Because those increases were at the very, very low end of the market, where the rent increase of $50 or $60 equalled 100%, or they were at the very, very high end of the market, where people could well afford, and actually wanted, the renovations and were quite prepared to pay the price.
We wondered about that. We asked the minister about economic eviction because all members of the Legislature are very concerned with economic eviction. No one wants to see people put out of their apartments because they cannot afford the rent. That is just simply something we do not want to see in Ontario. We asked the minister: "Could you define economic eviction for us? Could you tell us what that really means? Could you tell us?" He could not tell us, or he did not want to tell us, because we find out that if we use the minister's own numbers, Bill 4 protects, according to what the minister seems to be saying, about 3,000 or 4,000 units, and it is very unclear even within them whether there would be any economic eviction. We find out really that economic eviction most often occurs when people lose their jobs, lose their incomes and can no longer pay the rent. The major cause of economic eviction in this province is job loss.
We talked about flipping. We asked the minister, "Could you define a flip for us?" We tried that for, I think, almost five weeks. We finally did get a definition -- actually, I think it was four different definitions, three from the dictionary and one they seemed to make up -- and we found that there was only one study done about flipping in this province, and it was done here in Metro Toronto. Guess what? The findings were totally inconclusive.
That is not to say that these are not problems. They are problems, but they are problems in a small fraction of the units in this province. That does not mean that we should not be concerned; we obviously should be. Therefore, our party presented a number of amendments which would have made the bill more fair and more just, to protect tenants and give them maintenance, but the New Democratic majority decided that cannot be done. I find that to be quite, quite strange.
The minister, when he was going through his wonderful commencement of the hearings, forgot some real, solid facts. He forgot to tell the committee that the average rent increase in this province was 5.8%. That is about inflation. He forgot to tell the members of the committee that the applications that went to rent review received, on average, an increase of 11%. As we all know, less than 20% of the units go to rent review; hence the 5.8% number. He forgot to tell us that the 100% rent increases were really only a small fraction of the units. He neglected to tell us that rent increases are not the major factor for economic eviction. He forgot to tell us a lot of things.
I wondered about why he would forget to tell us all these things, why he would not provide a slightly more balanced presentation, something that was a little shorter on rhetoric and a little longer on facts. I suspect that maybe it had something to do with the election promise over there. The election promise is quite attractive. In the agenda for power, the New Democrats clearly said that there would be one increase, once a year, tied to inflation. That is all there would be. There would be no pass-throughs. There would be, I think the phrase was, no bonuses to landlords.
The rhetoric was quite wonderful, and if I were a tenant I would find that policy to be pretty attractive. I would like to know that my unit's rent was not going up. On the other hand, I also would like to know that my parking garage was not going to fall down and that my balconies were not going to be trampolines. I would also like to know that the unit was going to be maintained in a livable condition.
The minister, after some thought, says, "Yes, but in the permanent legislation we'll look after that and you will be able to pass through capital costs." I am wondering about this. Why is it okay before 1 October to pass through capital expenses, why will it be okay after this interim legislation is gone to pass through capital expenditures, but it is not okay now to pass through capital expenses? Why would the people of Ontario want to see their aging housing stock deteriorate for a period of two years? I do not know. The only reason I can think of is the agenda for power. I guess it worked. Here we are.
During the hearings we heard from quite a number of tenants' groups. We heard from tenants' groups here in Toronto, we heard from them in London, Windsor, Ottawa and Sudbury, and we heard their concerns quite clearly. The majority of their presentations centred really on one thing, and what the tenants were concerned about was maintenance. They were concerned that their buildings be maintained because, after all, these buildings are their homes. These buildings are where they live and they do not want them to deteriorate. They do not want shabby-looking buildings, difficult places to live, bad places to raise children. They do not want that.
They came before us and they told us some quite horrendous stories about their buildings. They talked about insect infestations, they talked about crumbling walls, plumbing that did not work, they talked about a great number of things. My friend the member for Mississauga West asked them virtually every time: "What does Bill 4 do to correct this problem for you? How can Bill 4 be of service to you?" And the answer was the same from every tenants' group that came before us. They said, "It can't help us, it does nothing to help us, nothing, zero." The major concern that the tenants brought before us at the public hearings was maintenance, and the bill does absolutely nothing, zero, naught to help this very, very important problem.
As a matter of fact, Bill 4 does exactly the opposite. We had a great number of landlords come before the committee, and the landlords told us that they had cancelled capital expenditures on their buildings. They would not proceed with capital expenditures on their buildings because Bill 4 had been introduced. Was this because landlords are bad guys? No, it was because the bank would not give them the money, the banker would not give them the money because their revenue would not support the loan. That is why they did not do it. It was not because they were wearing black hats, it was not because they were terrible capitalists; it was because the bankers would not give them the loans because the rent revenue would not cover them. That is why they are not going to do it.
We had before our committee people from the renovation and repair industry, an industry that I did not know but is almost specific to apartments and to rental units -- concrete repairers, concrete renovators, people who would fix the balconies, who repair the parking garages. They came before us and they said: "We've lost our contracts. They've been cancelled. They're gone. That means that I as a contractor am laying off my crews. I can't keep the men. As a matter of fact, I'm going to go bankrupt myself." Many of them told us this. We had union representatives who were working in the renovation industry come before us and say: "We've lost our jobs. Our boss has lost his contract. We can't do this."
Now, if I am the Minister of Housing I am going to tell members that there were probably hundreds of thousands of people that this affects. That would not be true. We know that it affects hundreds of people. We do not know precisely how many, but we know it affects hundreds of people who have lost their jobs, who are going to be, or could conceivably be, economically evicted because they cannot pay their rent, because their UI cheque or their welfare cheque is not going to pay the rent. They are going to be economically evicted, and some of them own their own homes. Some of them own their own homes, and their UI cheque and their welfare cheque is not going to cover the mortgage.
That is what this bill does. It is not the recession. It has nothing to do with the recession. It has everything precisely to do with Bill 4. That is why our party offered an amendment to deal with capital expenditures, because we think it is important to maintain our aging housing stock in this province. We think it is important to look after those parking garages that are in dire straits, because many people do not know this, but our stock is aging. Most of our stock is over 20 years old. The salt corrosion in parking garages is an increasingly important and difficult problem. It takes specialists and wads and wads of money to correct. You need thousands and thousands of dollars to fix these, and yet obviously they need to be fixed. They are a problem for public safety. They are a problem to the tenant.
But that is not going to happen under Bill 4 unless the government decides that it is going to listen to what actually happened at the public hearings. I did not hear any of them, government members, in questioning witnesses before us, say: "You're wrong. You aren't telling us the truth. You're not really being laid off." They did not say any of those things, so I have to believe that the government believed these people were telling the truth.
Mr Callahan: Either that or they were wasting the money by having public hearings.
Mr Brown: Well, that is it.
Mr Callahan: Sure, it's just a sham.
Mr Brown: As we progressed through the public hearings, we heard, not just in Toronto but around the province, an important side-effect or sidebar to Bill 4 that I think must be of utmost concern to the people of Ontario, and that is the retroactive nature of this bill. We had big landlords who own thousands of units and we had small landlords who own duplexes and triplexes and sixplexes. We had the little guy before us. What did the big guys say about the retroactive nature of Bill 4? They said: "This isn't very good for us. This hurts our bottom line. But, hey, we're big enough, we'll survive."
Then we heard from the small landlord. Right here in this building we heard from three people, three men, I would guess of 50 to 55 years of age, who came to this country 20 or 25 years ago. One was a dry cleaner or worked at a dry cleaner's establishment, another worked at a machine shop, and unfortunately my memory does not remember what the other one does, but they were all good, hardworking people who had contributed to this province. They had helped build this province, and their only crime in life was to believe that they should invest in residential real estate, that they should try to make homes for other people. That was their crime.
They followed the rules. They did everything the law required of them. They told the committee that they are going to lose their investment, which is all the capital they have in this world. They have no pension plans. This is their pension. They are going to lose it. They are not going to be able to pay the loan costs without increased rent revenue, and they were told they could do this under the former legislation.
They were careful people. They did as the law required, and their tenants are happy tenants. The tenants do not think the rent increase is unjust. The tenants believe that this was a very fair and reasonable thing to do. Yet the gentleman who was before us who broke down in tears three times is going to lose everything. He told us he would even lose his own house, because he mortgaged it to invest.
He told us, I think, the most striking thing that was maybe said at the entire committee hearings. He kind of mournfully looked up and he looked over at the New Democrats, who I gathered he voted for in the last election, and he said: "What am I going to tell my children? How could this be Canada? How could this happen in Canada? How could somebody reach back retroactively and take what I have worked for so long? How could that happen in Canada?"
But he was not by himself. He was not the only case this was going to happen to. We had numerous other presenters come before us.
I think of Mrs Carpenter from Sudbury, who took a building that the municipality owned and renovated it so that it would be a decent place to live, and the rents were going to be quite sensible, still a way below market, but Mrs Carpenter is going to lose everything -- everything -- from helping the municipality. The municipality wanted this to happen, encouraged her to do this, and now a government reaches back and says, "Sorry, you're just going to have to lose everything you ever had in this world." I find that to be totally unacceptable.
So are these two examples by themselves? No. The committee hearings are just full of lists of these people who are in this situation. The opposition is not making this up. These are real people out there, and these real people are going to lose everything they have ever worked for in their lifetime.
Liberals cannot accept that. Our party cannot accept that. We implore the government, in committee of the whole House, to allow the reasonable and sensible amendments put forward by our critic, the member for Eglinton, to fix this great inequity. It just seems to make common sense. It is just. It is fair.
When we brought this issue up at committee, we got sermons from the government. The government would say, "It's for the greater good." What kind of greater good is it that 3,000 people in this province, little people, individuals -- these people did not come to the hearings in limousines. These people are just like you and me, no different. They came to us in good faith and they said: "Look, this is what's going to happen to us. Fix it." We presented the amendments to fix it. The government would have no part of it. And all for what? The greater good. "It is the greater good."
We do not think that is the greater good, because the bill at best protects 3,000 or 4,000 units from economic eviction. There are at least 3,000 landlords that are in economic eviction situations. There are at least several hundred or maybe 1,000 workers who are facing economic eviction because they have lost their jobs because of Bill 4. There are more people going to be economically evicted because of Bill 4 than there would be if Bill 4 did not exist, so I want them to tell me how that makes any kind of sense. Can they tell me? No.
When we went through this process, we went around the province. We could not hear everyone who wanted to be heard. It was not possible. The government would not allow us to. They said, "Three weeks is all you get." And the opposition was the most flexible opposition I have ever seen. The people over on the government side, when they were over here, would never have allowed a committee to work the way our committee worked, but we said, "Well, we'll try to make the best of the three weeks we have available; we'll do everything that is humanly possible," and we kept to a schedule that was quite incredible. We did our work, but we still did not hear 150 people. We still did not hear 150 groups. We did not get to Thunder Bay even though their own minister thought that was a great idea.
I do not know what this is all about. It is certainly not about consultation, because their minds were made up before they went in. This was show biz. The minister himself, when we brought the point up to him, said, "Aw, gee whiz, oppositions always say that." But never in the history of this province have public hearings on rent control been restricted to three weeks -- never. They just wanted to go through the motions. They just wanted to tell us: "Hey, we've done it, but we're not going to change our mind. We're not going to do anything about this."
Mr Callahan: It's called the hidden agenda for people. Use their money to lull them into a sense of false security; that's what it's called.
Mr Brown: I want to talk a little bit about one of the most bizarre things I think I have seen as a member --
Mr Callahan: We were just checking to see if you're listening.
Mr Brown: I do not need to be heckled by my own member.
I want to talk a little bit about one of the most bizarre things that happened in the committee hearings. Right in the middle of committee hearings, guess what? The government came down with a green paper.
Mr Stockwell: Green what?
Mr Brown: Well, supposedly green. They are a green party. The member has heard that rhetoric.
A green paper to talk about the long-term options for housing. This is right in the middle of the Bill 4 hearings. You know: "Do everything you can to baffle and confuse the issue. Just make sure that no one really can figure out what's going on."
When we talk about this green paper and the consultation that is going on because of this green paper, I share the views of my friends the member for Dufferin-Peel and the member for Oriole, because I had the privilege of finding out that the minister was going to appear in Sudbury, which is fairly near my riding. It is only a couple of hours' drive from my home, so I thought, "Well, I'll go over to this consultation hearing," or whatever the minister wanted to call it.
Mr Callahan: Did they let you in?
Mr Brown: I got in and I sat there like a good little boy, because they told me I could not talk, and I listened to what was being said and what was being said was most important. There were a number of very good presentations in Sudbury, but there was no opportunity to dialogue with the presenters. I could not speak to them. The minister had kind of a one-on-one with them. He had fun. It was interesting.
But you know, one of the very interesting things about the hearings was that -- I was there. I drove two hours to get to a meeting in Sudbury from my constituency. How many other MPPs were at that meeting in Sudbury? None, other than the minister. Where was the member for Sudbury? Nowhere to be seen. Where was the member for Sudbury East? Nowhere to be seen. Where was the member for Nickel Belt? Nowhere to be seen. And guess where they all live? In the region of Sudbury. They did not care. They had their own minister up there. They did not care what their constituents had to say, but it was okay for an opposition member -- the only northern member on the committee, I might add -- to drive two and a half hours to get there. These other people were doing much more important things than listening to their own constituents.
So we have some problems with Bill 4. We have some gigantic problems with the way the process has gone through, but we think that can be corrected and we are looking forward to a full debate in committee of the whole House, with the opportunity for the whole House to decide on each of the amendments to make this bill reasonable, sensible and workable, but the government seems intent on polarizing the division. I guess it is the Marxist view of the world. The tenants are the good people. Tenants are good. They are the proletariat. They wear the white hats. Landlords are bad. They are the bourgeoisie. And what you want to do is polarize those two groups, have them at each other's throat so that we can win the next election.
I mean, is that not it? Divide and conquer. Consultation means having private meetings with people in your own party. Consultation means behind closed doors with your pals and cronies. Consultation means if you do not know the secret handshake and the password, you cannot talk to them. That is what it means, and the bourgeoisie and the proletariat will fight to the finish and we will have a wonderful world here at this new Kremlin.
I think it is a great scenario, but I want to tell you members that in Ontario we will have partnerships between government and private enterprise or we will not have affordable housing, we will not have good housing, and the Liberals understand that. We understand that there needs to be a balance in this society, that government cannot just run off by itself. Government must participate, must actually really consult, must come up with a system that is balanced, that provides for maintaining the housing stock and building new housing stock, because private enterprise has to be a partner in both of those. It must be a partner.
This government does not seem to understand that partnerships do not mean that you start off by going out and kicking the other guy in the head. You cannot start that way. You cannot do that. I recall in Ottawa we had a very interesting presentation from two landlords. Mr Speaker, you will be especially interested in this. In Ottawa two women came before the committee. They came up to sit down at the table. It was a very large room. There were maybe a couple of hundred people in the room. They sat down at the table, but before one sat down she put on a cape, a black moustache and a black hat and sat down and said: "That's what this government thinks of us landlords. They think we're villains. They think that's what we're about." It is hard not to come to the conclusion that they came to. It is almost impossible not to come to that conclusion.
This government is about polarizing. This government is about dividing when Ontario, in the midst of a recession, needs someone who will show leadership and pull us together. Housing is not unlike any other issue in this province. You cannot just throw it away. You have to work with all components of this society to make it work.
In the committee hearings we also saw on two separate occasions NDP committee members using their parliamentary legislative immunity to impugn the integrity of presenters before the committee through character assassination. They thought that was the thing to do. They could not make cogent arguments to turn back the presenters' point of view, but they could do character assassination. It was extraordinary. I have never seen in my history within this place members using their immunity to question the integrity of the witness sitting before us.
Mr Callahan: Did they repeat it outside?
Mr Brown: This place should be about arguments on ideas, not assassinating people's characters when they have no opportunity to rebut, and they did not do this, as the member beside me points out, outside the committee hearing where they could have some problems with the law. They used their immunity.
I want to tell the members that after the three weeks on this committee in public hearings, I was certain that the government members had to have heard, had to have listened. They were there. But the Minister of Housing's long arm got to them and they did exactly what their whip told them to do.
I have a note here. People are passing me notes. It reminds me that the Bretton Place tenants came before us and they implored -- this is a tenants' group -- the committee to allow capital pass-through because they wanted an increased level of maintenance for their building. These tenants understood that the money has to come from somewhere, and if they want their lot improved, they will have to pay something for it. They understand that landlords, at least not all landlords have deep pockets and can afford to do this on their very own.
I again will tell the members that I was very disturbed by what went on at the hearings. I do not think the government listened. But we Liberals, as I said, are optimists, we see glasses as half-full, not half-empty, and we believe that in committee of the whole House we will be able to amend this bill, with the co-operation of the government, so that it can work. Our amendments are not that drastic. They make sense. They improve the lot of tenants.
I implore all members of the House during the committee of the whole process to consider carefully what is being said, consider the actual facts, consider the fact that the average rent increase in Ontario was 5.8%, that there is a minuscule, very small percentage of these apartment units that are facing unreasonable rent increases by anyone's standard. I would ask them to address the problems in rent control, because there are some, and as the minister said himself it does not matter what system we have, over time problems will develop. I agree with that.
Certainly some of the problems with Bill 151 were not apparent at the time, but are now apparent. We know that there are problems with luxury renovations. We know that there is difficulty with flipping, although not as great as the government might have you believe. We know there is difficulty with economic eviction. We know there are difficulties. Why do we not address those? There have been some very useful ideas on how to address those problems. But as we work towards a long-term, new rent review situation, let's at least maintain some sense of fairness in the old.
Bill 4 as it now stands is totally unacceptable and should be unacceptable to all members. The facts tell us that. If you take ideology out of the way and you look at the information that is before you, you can come to no other conclusion than that Bill 4 must be amended.
As I stand here looking forward to the debate as it continues and I listen to the six government MPPs tell me what they think about their particular position on this bill, I hope that they will show some retrospect and will look back at this bill. They will look back and say, "Yes, what we heard out there means there must be amendments." They will go to the minister and they will say, "Reasonable people would accept the amendments that the opposition is offering." Hey, we are not egotists over here. If the government wants to draft an amendment that will work, we will support it.
Mr Tilson: On a point of order, Madam Chairman: I do not believe there is a quorum.
Mr Callahan: Oh, you are kidding. In an important issue like this, there is not a quorum.
Mr Tilson: I think my friend should have the respect of the House.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Haslam): Check for a quorum, please.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals: A quorum is present, Madam Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. A quorum is present.
Mr Brown: I would suggest to members that we are dealing in rent control with a very, very complex economic regulation. It is incredibly complex, because any time you are playing with market forces, it ends up being very, very complicated, and I would suggest to members, although all of us want it simpler -- and the minister himself in Sudbury said, "We want it simpler, but we don't know whether we can achieve it; simple may not work" -- members are probably familiar with the old dictum that says, "For every complex question, there is a simple, neat and wrong solution."
I think that is what is being done here in Bill 4. I think that is what is being presented to us, and I again tell the government that we as Liberals want to support it. We want to do what is good for tenants and landlords in this province. We voted for this bill on second reading and we want to be able to vote for it on third reading. We want to do that because we believe that in this House there can be a partnership; that all views can be considered and that once rational minds come to bear on a set of facts, we can come up with a solution that works for us all and works, more important, for the people of Ontario; that we can come to that kind of solution.
So we want to vote for this, we really do, but we cannot unless the government decides that it will listen to the people at public hearings, that it will listen to the evidence that is before it, that it will listen to tenants, that it will listen to landlords and, more important, that government members will go home and talk to their constituents about this view and they will understand that there needs to be changes made.
I am looking forward again to hearing the members of the government speak to this and explain their particular point of view, because obviously it is different from mine, and I do not really quite understand what it is.
Mr Callahan: On a point of order, Madam Chair, I did not want to interrupt my friend's speech, but I do not believe there is a quorum in the House.
The Acting Speaker: Check for a quorum, please.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals: A quorum is present, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Brown: As I work towards concluding my remarks, I would like to suggest to the government that its long-term green paper solution includes pass-through for capital costs. It includes it, so I implore it again, if before it was fine to put capital costs through and in the future it is going to be fine to put capital costs through, let's pass those capital costs through now, because not to do it creates large numbers of unemployed people. It creates great deterioration in our housing stock. It causes tenants problems with safety and health. It means those parking garages, the plumbing that needs to be repaired, the heating systems, the boilers will not be repaired. If it was all right before and it is going to be all right in the future, why not now? Does that not make sense?
Does it not make sense to remove the retroactive parts of this bill? They help, in the final analysis, not an extremely great number of people. They hurt at least as many people as they help. That does not make a great deal of sense to me. It does not make sense to the Liberal Party, and I am sure this is not a Liberal point of view. You cannot reach back and change legislation, change people's investments, change people's lives, because those apartment owners cannot unbuy the building. It cannot be done. You cannot unbuy a building. You cannot do what the retroactive legislation does. It is certainly unfair, unjust, causes grave hardship and I would think to all members is totally unsupportable.
So with those few thoughts, I look forward to making more interventions during the committee of the whole procedures, and I look forward to voting for this on third reading and making a speech in support because the Liberal amendments to this bill have been accepted. I hope I can do that. I hope that the government will do the reasonable thing, that the government will listen, put its ears on, because even New Democrats are telling us the same thing. You do not have to be a Liberal or a Tory to come and tell us that this is kind of stupid, this retroactive stuff. Common sense tells you that. So I am sure that as I listen to the six government MPPs go through their speeches at this stage, I will hear some reason to be happy about the result.
Mr Tilson: I rise to address the motion of the Vice-Chair of the standing committee on general government to table Bill 4 as amended. I believe that this is probably one of the most damaging pieces of legislation that we have seen from this government as a result of the hearings that have been going on around this province and some of the remarks that have been made in this House by the Minister of Housing. Accordingly, I have taken the liberty of preparing some comments about the process by which our committee did or did not do its job with regard to the proper scrutiny of Bill 4.
As members will recall, Bill 4 was introduced into this House as one of this government's main pieces of legislation last fall. Much of its content was predictable, and I can recall asking the Minister of Housing about the possibility of a rent freeze or a moratorium even before we saw the bill itself.
I can also recall asking that Bill 4 be referred to the committee so that we as legislators would get the benefit of full public input. I can vividly recall the minister's reaction to that request. I can remember thinking that he was somewhat caught off guard by the suggestion of public input. Subsequent events not only proved the need for public input on this dubious bill, they clearly demonstrated that this government was totally unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the massive outpouring of sentiment against this proposed act.
We can recall the demonstration that was before this Legislature, outside, several months ago where landlords, tenants, construction people, people who had lost their jobs, appeared at a substantial demonstration, people from all walks of life showing their opposition to this bill. My leader appeared and spoke to the demonstrators, and the Minister of Housing spoke. He is experienced. He has been in this Legislature, he keeps reminding us, 11 years. I do not think he thought it was possible that so many people from different walks of life could appear and speak in opposition to his legislation, his brainchild.
I think that even my Liberal friends totally misjudged the mood of both tenants and landlords. Consider that when we last debated Bill 4 in this chamber on second reading, the official opposition was all over the map. Their critic said one thing one moment in defence of landlords, then only to say another thing to appease tenants. Individual Liberal members took a variety of positions. It is rather sad to see Liberal members speaking out of both sides of their mouths, to tell the people how they intend to solve the problems of the tenants and landlords in this province. They had their chance and they blew it. They prepared terrible legislation which created unbelievable bureaucracy, and yet they stand up to support Bill 4.
On the balance, however, I fully expected the official Liberal opposition to oppose this bill on second reading. They did not; they did not oppose it. The record shows that they supported it and no amount of smooth language about merely supporting it in principle can erase that fact. You know, they said it over and over and over -- they are supporting it in principle. Well, that is bunk. Does it mean they were just kidding when they voted for it? Clearly, the Liberals have no idea where they are going.
Now, I know that in committee my Liberal friends came to realize that they may have erred. We supported each other. We supported each other on numerous occasions. But I would suggest that it is they who saw the light. We in this party, the Progressive Conservative Party, have been consistent and steadfast in our opposition to this legislation. The Liberal Party's failure to assess this province, to assess the problems of this province, has certainly been a dismal failure.
I digress, obviously, from the purposes of these comments, and I believe we have a duty to you, each other and the people of this province when we feel that we as legislators are not permitted to do our job as we see fit. I cannot sit here and permit this bill to be reported back without some comment regarding the dubious process by which we considered it at the committee level.
I must tell you that notwithstanding my earlier comments about the other opposition party -- and I think they would agree with me in this -- the process by which we considered this bill and related matters has caused us a great deal of trouble. Bill 4 has turned out to be, as I have indicated previously, one of the most contentious pieces of legislation of its type to be brought before this House in a very long time. Members should know that I, for one, did not think our committee was allowed to do its job. I remind my fellow committee members, some of whom are in the House now, that I called it the mother of all bills, and I really meant that. Obviously I was playing on words from the disaster across the way, but it has been a disastrous piece of legislation.
From day one the government tried to tie the hands of this committee. Instead of giving the committee the flexibility of setting its own agenda, the new purveyors of open government around here decided that we would not hear from any citizens of this province who had and still have -- they still have them -- legitimate concerns about Bill 4.
Madam Speaker, let me tell you just how bad it was. By the time the ads appeared in the press indicating that we would be holding public meetings, our clerk's office, the clerk of our committee, had been inundated by requests to appear and had to turn people away who wanted to make presentations to us in person. We had to turn them away.
On 14 January, which was a day before the committee began its work, we in this party put out a press release which indicated that we would be demanding more time for public input, and at that point more than 100 individuals and groups had been unable to obtain standing before the committee. Can you imagine? We indicated that we were prepared to sit evenings and weekends and of course weekdays that were not scheduled for the hearings, but when the committee met the next morning for the first time on Bill 4, it was our Chair -- it was not a member of the government side -- who tabled similar proposals to enable more public input. The NDP members of the committee would not listen to the experienced voice of the Chair.
I would like to read to you, Madam Speaker, a letter. I have received many, many letters from individuals who have not been able to appear at this committee. I have just chosen one at random. It happens to be from an individual from Guelph and it is a letter to myself, enclosing a submission -- and I am not going to refer to the submission; that has been filed with the committee -- but just to express his frustration.
"Please find enclosed a submission made to the hearing committee for your reference. My wife, Donna, a landlord, after repeated attempts, was not provided the opportunity to personally appear. We are offended. The hearings process was stacked against landlords who want to appear. So much for open government promised by the NDP.
"Thank you for your previous correspondence to us regarding Bill 4, especially the copies of the various press releases published by your party. Bill 4 represents many issues. Issues such as public trust, property rights and retroactive legislation are at stake."
He goes on in his letter talking about his concerns with the legislation, the criticisms from his perspective, all of which of course were debated. But it was debated and he had the right to come to our committee and make these representations. Some of them are novel ideas, some of them are not novel ideas, but the fact is he was not given an opportunity to be heard, as were many other individuals.
He concludes his letter by saying -- and this letter has been sent to the Minister of Housing, the Liberal critic, myself, I assume the member for Guelph -- "Again we ask your committee to seriously review our comments and suggestions. The hearings were to have been a fair process open to all interested parties. However, facts indicate otherwise when so few landlord requests to appear before the committee were refused, ours included, as compared to other groups."
That is the frustration of individuals who wanted to speak to this committee. They simply were not allowed to be heard. A sad statement for a government that is claiming it is going to be different, that it is going to provide good government. It is not. Government members sat back and watched as we in the opposition moved the necessary motions to extend the hearing time and to travel to other locations in response to demand. Is that the new sort of thinking our Premier promised when he took office? Is that the kind of open government the NDP promised the people of Ontario? I certainly think not.
As we began our hearings, it soon became apparent that more and more people, as I have indicated, wanted to testify on Bill 4. I would like to compliment the clerk of our committee. In my view, and I think members of the committee would agree that that is probably one thing we would be unanimous on, she performed an amazing task of slotting in as many people as possible. However, thanks to the plans of this government, we still could not hear from all those who had something to tell us.
I believe that the number of people who could not be heard -- the number of delegations, not necessarily people; it could have been delegations representing groups of people -- there were 150 delegations who wanted to be heard but could not be, who made requests to be heard but could not be heard, and that does not include the number of people who heard about this failure to enable people to be heard and who simply did not bother because they thought: "Why bother? If 150 people are trying to be heard and they're not going to be allowed, why should we apply?"
The point that I am making here is that we, the members of our committee of this House, were not allowed to do our job. We did not hear from concerned citizens, many of whom are losing their jobs, their careers, their life savings and their very futures, thanks to this punitive legislation. That is serious, when you lose your job, when you lose your career, when you lose your life savings. It is fine to have a grand pension and, as my Liberal friend indicated, the buildings that these people own, that is their pension fund and it is being destroyed by this government.
I would like members to take the case of one of my constituents, David Hurst of Caledon. Mr Hurst is another of the many people we did not get to hear from, thanks to the single-minded determination of this government to ensure that our committee would not have the time it needed to do a proper job. Madam Speaker, I would like you to permit me to read Mr Hurst's letter to the committee.
As I said, Mr Hurst wanted to appear before us, but he had to be content with communicating in writing and we heard that, time after time, people had to submit in writing. Why are some people allowed to come to these committee hearings and make their representations orally and others are not, others do not even have a chance to do that? Why is that?
Madam Speaker, you be the judge as to whether our committee would have benefited by being able to hear Mr Hurst in person. I would like to read that letter from Mr Hurst. It is a letter addressed to the Chairman of the committee, Mr Mancini, dated 4 February, from David W. Hurst from Caledon, Ontario.
"Dear Mr Chairman:
"I own one 19-unit apartment building that was built in 1876. I purchased the property in 1978 and I have done my very best to maintain the building. I am in financial difficulty as a result of Bill 4. I am not a 'flip artist.'" Of course, that was one of the reasons that the Minister of Housing stood up in this House and said, "That's why we're passing this bill, to get rid of the flip artists." How many flip artists are there? Anyway, Mr Hurst says he is not a flip artist.
He also says, "I am not putting in marble or ceramic tile flooring or microwave items, and I am not an owner doing unnecessary renovations to purposely increase my rental income." That is the type of position we heard time and time again from individuals who would come to our committee and make that statement. But this is one of the individuals who was not even allowed to make representations.
Mr Hurst goes on to say, "The last major interior renovation on the building was carried out in 1929 and now almost everything is worn out." Well, I should say. "I replaced the old coal boiler a few years ago and I have tried to do 'patch work' here and there, but the old lead pipes, porcelain sinks, cast-iron sewer pipes have seen their best days. Even some of the old 'knob and tube' electrical wiring is still in place and in some areas could present a potential fire hazard. Even the old heavy ceiling plaster, beyond repair, is falling down in places and needs replacement.
"The exterior of the building is in good condition -- the roof is new and the brick work has been repointed and the front wood porches have all been replaced. But the majority of the interior is in poor condition, as my building manager informed me late last summer, and the apartments are 'unrentable.' "
So much for increasing the housing stock in this province as encouraged by the New Democratic Party.
"As Mr Welsh (building manager) told me, 'The heating costs are high and everyone in Belleville knows there is no insulation in the walls or attic.' In fact, during the month of February 1990, one heating bill which the tenants pay was in excess of $600. The new insulation will directly save the tenants a lot of money, and I know our Minister of Energy here in Ontario is committed to conserve our electrical power (moratorium on building of nuclear power plants)."
That is always an interesting point. I recall asking the Minister of Energy whether her policies of conservation were conflicting with the policies of the Ministry of Housing, which is literally discouraging landlords from improving the conservation of energy in buildings. I recall the Minister of Energy's response was, "Well, I'll consult with the Minister of Housing." Months have gone by and I am anxiously waiting for the Minister of Energy to report whether she has had a chance to talk to the Minister of Housing or whether indeed she does talk to him.
In any event, of course, she said she was going to talk it over with him. She was going to find out whether or not her policies conflict with his policies, and I think we are all waiting in the House anxiously to see whether they do. I believe they do and I challenge the Minister of Energy to come to this House and tell us that, as a result of what the Minister of Housing is doing with Bill 4, that is going to be in direct contravention of her plans to conserve the energy of this province.
Carrying on with Mr Hurst's letter, he said:
"I made the conscious decision in the late summer of last year to hire a building construction consultant to do building plans for application to city hall for a building permit.
"By the time we got our budget completed ($400,000 to $500,000) and approvals in place, it was the middle of October, but it was a 'go' situation and we didn't have to serve any notice for tenants to vacate on the west wing as they were empty anyway. I might also add that no tenant will suffer increased rentals, as any new tenant moving in is being told of potential increased rental that should be attributable to the work.
"We commenced by tearing the walls down and removing all the old lathe, plaster and fixtures -- a total 'gutting and ripping apart.'
"At the present time six units have been totally gutted and three of the six units will be ready for occupancy on or about February 15. But I am encountering financial problems. I applied to the mortgage company who holds the first mortgage for a loan to do the work and I received a verbal okay. But after the election and the introduction of Bill 4, my application was further reviewed and I was turned down." The government changed the rules.
Mr Hurst continues:
"I have nearly used up all of my available money and in fact I have moved virtually all of the furniture out of my principal personal residence to a rental town house in Mississauga in order to receive a higher rental as a 'furnished house' to assist in the financing of the Belleville project. Also I have my personal principal residence mortgaged to the maximum limit to assist financially in the repairs. As a result my marriage is suffering and my personal life is deteriorating. It is no fun having your wife and children eat from a picnic table in your dining room in the middle of winter.
"Various people have advised me to stop construction because of Bill 4, but I must go on. I have a commitment to the workers and to the future tenants of the building. I am committed to see the project through to completion and I must emphasize this strong work ethic must not be destroyed by Bill 4 and the proposed legislation.
"I would also like to point out that this Bill 4 and the proposed legislation jeopardizes some very basic principles of investment. Simply stated, if an individual invests money in a Canada Savings Bond, an annual interest income is received. Similarly, if I, as a landlord, invest moneys into necessary repairs and renovations, should I not be entitled to raise the rentals adequately to offset the borrowing costs which are required to pay for the materials and labour for the necessary repairs and renovations?
"If this government removes this basic business principle in real estate investment in Ontario, the recovery of all costs over time, including major repairs and renovations, it is my opinion the system will break down." This was told us time and time again by not just landlords but experts. Mr Hurst continues:
"Buildings will deteriorate rapidly as owners will have no incentive to do repairs; financial institutions will not provide any funding; renovation contractors and the various trades will have very little work; many landlords will suffer financial losses and the banks will be forced to foreclose, take back the buildings and perhaps sell them at below the mortgaged amounts. It is possible that this could cause solvency problems for some mortgage and trust companies which is not in the public's interest as the Ministry of Financial Institutions would be called in to subsidize the individual depositors."
Our party, of course, continually asked the committee for a representative from the Ministry of Financial Institutions to attend before the committee. No way, said the NDP-controlled committee, are we going to allow that. We have got an agenda, we have got an agenda for power and we are going to complete it no matter what. We are going to ram this thing through. That is what they are doing.
To continue with Mr Hurst's letter: "I do not believe any of the members of the new government or this general government committee expect me to be a philanthropist and just donate renovation costs to the future tenants of the building, the city fathers in Belleville or the provincial or federal governments."
That is what they are asking the landlords to do. They are asking the landlords to make a donation. They say: "You've been ripping off the system long enough. If capital expenditures need to be done, you pay for them. You've been ripping off the system long enough. It is time you paid." And landlord after landlord after landlord has been coming to our committee and saying, "We don't have the money to do it."
Mr Hurst continues: "Nor do you expect me to lose my residence to the bank when I cannot make my mortgage payments. The money has to come from somewhere and I believe there is a very serious moral and ethical issue at stake."
"Let's work together on this problem. I beg and implore this committee to recommend to the Minister of Housing to demonstrate the necessary flexibility and enact 'general discretionary' provisions in 'hardship exception cases' to allow for reasonable rental increases on legitimate capital expenditures and major repairs and renovations during the drafting and passing of the new legislation and Bill 4 (moratorium period)."
He also included, which I will not read, but he said: "I include a recent letter from the Premier stating that 'For long-term rent control legislation, options will have to be considered for some mechanisms to recognize legitimate capital expenditure' which will be too late for me.
"I ask the committee if 'legitimate capital expenditure' is to be considered in the long-term legislation, should logic not tell us that they should be included now in some discretionary manner?
"David W. Hurst, Owner,
"10 Patterson Street,
Can anyone doubt, listening to what I have just read, that Mr Hurst would have made a valuable contribution to our committee's deliberations? That is just a typical letter of people who have written me, and presumably to the Liberal critic and the Minister of Housing, expressing their concern to be heard. All they want to do is to be heard, but the New Democratic-controlled members of this committee simply refused people like Mr Hurst to be heard.
He and others like him should be given an opportunity to be heard. The New Democratic Party, in my opinion, has given new meaning to the word "consult." "We will consult with some of the people but not all of the people. We will consult with whom we select. We won't consult with everyone." We are seeing it today from the Minister of Housing's unbelievable demonstration in this House as to whom he is going to consult with. Worse yet, he is not even going to tell us whom he is consulting with. We cannot even get the list as to whom he is consulting with, and he calls these consultation processes public.
When I was elected to this House I guess I had a somewhat naïve view that we are supposed to listen to what people tell us. More and more, however, I am coming to the realization that we are really supposed to listen only to the government. Not only are we supposed to just listen to the government, we are supposed to listen to the minister because, watching the New Democratic members speak whenever they were told to speak in committee, they spoke when they were directed to.
Mr McLean: And what to say.
Mr Tilson: He has got it. Someone has just said, "And what to say." It is the Minister of Housing who is calling these shots, and this committee report, Bill 4 is a complete farce.
I have another reason for wanting to share my distress with you and with all members of this House. Frankly, I do not think that we as a committee did our job from the standpoint of examining all possible information in order to make an informed judgement on this legislation. Not that the facts, the information and the expert testimony would have necessarily swayed the government members of our committee. From what I have seen, there is no way in a million years they would be swayed. Their mind was made up before the Minister of Housing introduced this bill. Their mind was made up before they were told --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): Order, please. There is, I believe, a fire alarm going. There is smoke in the attic and we have had a request for a 10-minute recess.
The House recessed at 1701.
The Acting Speaker: We will now resume the recessed debate. The member for Dufferin-Peel had the floor.
Mr Tilson: Obviously, I was told to expect anything as a new member and I am seeing that.
Before I was interrupted, I had raised one of the concerns that our party had, and that was the facts the government was relying on to introduce this legislation. What facts, what information did they have to share with the members of the Legislature and the members of the committee to make the decisions that they were doing? As a member of the committee, I felt that I wanted as much information as possible to come to that committee from experts, from economists. Basically we heard from landlords and tenants. The government almost discouraged us from hearing experts in the various fields. Whether it be economists, tax experts, we were almost discouraged. That was regrettable.
As for information that has been made available to the House or to the committee, I would like to give the members an example. Back in November -- back on 28 November, to be exact -- I asked the Premier if his government had done an economic impact analysis of its decision to proceed with rent controls. He did not answer that, of course; he referred that to the Minister of Housing and the minister told this House: "I guess how I would like to respond to that is that we did....we did look at the impact on the economy." That was what he said on 28 November, and he did not stop there, because I asked him to make the analysis available to the House and he responded by stating, "I am certainly prepared -- and we will as we go through this process -- to share every bit of information we have that helped us make this decision." I did not forget that admission and offer, nor the fact that I immediately wrote the minister to request that material.
I would like to digress for a brief moment. In addition to having this rather idealistic view as a new member that we are here to listen to the people of this province, I also had deluded myself into the apparently false belief that we who are elected to govern are also supposed to make decisions on the basis of the best information possible. Well, I was wrong. Apparently we are not supposed to form opinions or to make decisions, let alone craft laws, on the basis of the best possible information. I will tell members why, and as I do they will further see why this committee did not do -- in fact, was not allowed to do its job.
With all the patience I could muster during the committee hearings, I waited for the information about the economic impact of this legislation, and when it was not forthcoming by mid-January when our committee started its deliberations, I once again made the request. This time the minister changed his tune. He told the committee and myself, "We have supplied you all the background information, a compendium of information that is required under the rules." Is that not a startling admission? Because every member of this House knows full well that all government legislation is based on much more than the rather thin compendiums required under the rules of this House. But if this snide remark of a minister determined to imitate some of his more arrogant Liberal predecessors was not bad enough, he proceeded to compound it. The minister went on to say, "I have never indicated in the Legislature that there is an impact study as you described it." I am still waiting for the minister to explain this contradiction. Back in November he said he had an impact study and during the hearings he said he did not have one. So I would like Mr Speaker and members of this House to judge for themselves.
What I ultimately did get from the minister was a letter wherein he attempted to argue that the rate of inflation was outpacing the average rent increase in Ontario. On the basis of this, he argued, we should support a rent freeze. It is a very brief letter. This is his impact study. It consists of, I do not know, three pages -- a couple of charts, a couple of drawings and a little more than a page. That is his impact study. That is it. That is what the members of this government based their decisions on to introduce Bill 4. The minister wrote me on 15 February, finally, saying: "Thank you for your letter of 28 November." It took him all that time to respond. He had it 28 November. I could not understand why he could not get it right over to us, but on 15 February he said:
"Thank you for your letter of 28 November 1990 regarding comments in the Legislature on the Residential Rent Regulation Amendment Act, 1990. I enclose summary statistics prepared monthly by the rent review program. These data clearly show the facts that helped the government come to its decision to put a temporary limit on large rent increases.
"The facts are that the overall rent increases of orders issued by rent review is about 11%, while tenants' average income has increased only 6.5%, according to Statistics Canada. Clearly something had to be done to address this immediate and pressing problem. We have discussed the possible implications with a number of interested parties, but the facts are that more than 330,000 tenant households have had to face above-guideline increases since the current legislation was introduced.
"The facts are that only about 19% of units come to rent review. That means that over 80% of landlords are able to perform capital improvements from their revenue base. I have no doubt that many responsible landlords will still undertake capital improvements without the need to ask for significant rent increases.
"Thank you for your questions, and I look forward to the forthcoming discussion on this and other issues."
"Thank you for your questions, and I look forward to the forthcoming discussion on this and other issues." Well, I will bet he does.
Then he proceeds to attach his impact study. It does not really say where it comes from. There are some charts that do not really identify where this is coming from.
I found it totally unacceptable. Was this the economic impact analysis the minister had that convinced him to bring in Bill 4? If it was, well, we are all in big trouble, if that is all he has.
Somebody obviously did not tell this minister that during the 22-month period prior to November 1990, almost 72% of all rent increases subject to rent review were in the range of 4.6% or less. He somehow has failed to advise us of that information.
If the simplistic argument put forward by the minister in his letter to me constituted the full extent of this government's economic impact analysis, we might rightly ask, where was the study of Bill 4's impact on the construction industry, on the trades, on employment, on apartment owners and on the provision of housing in Ontario generally? Where is that information? I know the people in the construction industry who came to us at these hearings would sure like to hear about it, because they are in deep trouble, and they blame it on Bill 4. The people in the trades on employment -- thousands of people have been put out of work as a result of the passing of Bill 4. They have lost their jobs and individuals have come to us and made these comments at our committee hearings.
Either this government did its homework when it produced this bill or it did not. If such information does not exist, what does that say about how this government is discharging its duties to the people of Ontario? Is it just a whim? Is it just a dogma whim? If we are going to make a decision, we should base it on facts. We should not do it on the minister's whim. Are we seeing government legislation that is grounded in facts, logic and reason, or are we witnessing legislation rooted in nothing more than dogma, ignorance and bias?
It may be that I am kidding myself, but I always thought we had a responsibility in this House to act on the basis of logic, and not some sort of wrong-headed ideological dogma spawned on the floor of an NDP political convention, and we have all heard how open that is. And if my friends over there think I am being unfair, let me remind them of what Stephen Lewis said. Remember him? Let me remind them what he had to say about his own party policy platform. He once called some of it skit material; yes, skit material.
That was back in the 1970s when Mr Lewis said that, and at that time NDP policy did not matter to the vast majority of people in this province, but today that skit material is slowly being transformed into full-scale, full-blown Broadway productions, and we have no choice of attending. The green paper: We have no choice of attending. That is the Broadway production. That is the skit material. The dream, the bad dream, has become a reality.
To spare this province the pain of enduring legislative skit material, we, the members of this Legislature, have a responsibility to seek out all available information. On the general government committee, we did make many requests for information, and I am the first to admit that we got much of what we requested, but it is what we did not get that is important.
What we also did not get was an adequate explanation of the legal underpinnings of this legislation. You will recall, Mr Speaker, that I asked this House that the minister produce the legal opinion behind this legislation. I wanted to see it for myself, and I believe my party and I believe all members of this Legislature and the people of the province of Ontario wanted to see the legal argument in support of the retroactive portions of this bill. You will remember what the minister told me. He told me that of course the bill had been vetted by the Attorney General's office, the same people, I suppose, who advised the former government on the Sunday shopping legislation, and we all know what happened to that legislation and we all know the chaos that has created and is continuing to create.
I am a lawyer, and it is not my purpose here to suggest that the Attorney General's office does not do its job, but I would like to see what it had to say about Bill 4. There is nothing unreasonable about requesting this information, of trying to avoid the taxpayers of this province being responsible for large litigation costs and to avoid chaos. There is nothing unreasonable about this, because if the Attorney General is saying, "Yes, it's similar to the Sunday shopping legislation and it shouldn't be passed," I think this House should know about it. I do not think it is for the eyes only of the minister.
When we got into committee hearings I again raised the issue of legal opinions with the minister and the ministry staff, and I asked how we as a committee were honestly expected to make intelligent decisions without knowing whether the bill was legally sound.
What emerged from our discussion was most revealing. We as a committee were told by ministry staff that Bill 4 was not retroactive; rather, it was retrospective. That is what we were told, and that was in the opinion of the government's legal experts. Retrospective legislation is apparently okay, although you might have a hard time convincing a victim of Bill 4 about that. We have already been put on notice by one group of people in this province that there is going to be litigation on this issue if this issue is implemented. However, retrospective legislation is okay, retroactive legislation is not. I suspect chaos will be created, and I suspect that the taxpayer of this province will be put to a great deal of legal costs in determining what is retroactive and what is retrospective.
The minister and his officials further admitted that in addition to putting Bill 4 through the usual legal check, a legal opinion was commissioned in the wake of the suggestion by the Fair Rental Policy Organization of Ontario that it might be flawed. Yet another opinion was apparently commissioned when Fair Rental produced its own legal opinion suggesting that the legislation would be open to challenge. Some of you have seen that opinion, and I am not going to -- it goes on for 13 pages. But I would like to just highlight a couple of thoughts. It is prepared by a very reputable law firm from the city of Toronto, which stated on 12 February 1991, "We are of opinion that the retrospective provisions of Bill 4 violate sections 7 and 15 of the charter and such violation is not saved by section 1 thereof."
So we know where we are going. We know we are going to have a legal battle over a retrospective and retroactive -- and this law firm says it is retrospective. So already we know there is a disagreement between the Attorney General's department and this law firm. They state:
"The provisions of Bill 4 are retrospective in that they give a different and more onerous rent review outcome to actions taken and expenditures incurred in good faith at a date prior to the enactment of Bill 4. Indeed, the actions would have been taken and the expenditures incurred in many instances before the last provincial election had even been called," and then they go on to elaborate on a number of decisions, judicial precedents to substantiate that position.
They further stated: "The retrospective effect of Bill 4 may directly affect an individual's right to pursue a livelihood by the ownership and operation of rental property. The retrospective aspects of Bill 4 will leave many individuals with a cruel choice of either giving up their rental property as a means of livelihood with the risk of the stigma of bankruptcy and the loss of other assets, including a home, or becoming a slave to the rental property by diverting other income, including taking a second job" -- and we have heard of that in these committee hearings -- "in order to keep the property afloat. In our view," the solicitors state, "therein lies the real harm produced by retrospective legislation. It leaves the individual affected by it without an ability to avoid its consequences because such legislation changes the legal consequences of actions which have occurred in the past.
"The retrospective provisions of Bill 4 are also discriminatory distinctions that violate subsection 15(1) of the charter. Bill 4 creates two distinctions: (a) one between those persons who sought or obtained rent increases greater than guideline and those who took guideline increases only; and (b) another between those persons who sought or obtained rent increases greater than guideline for which the effective date of first intended rent increase was on or after 1 October 1990 and those landlords who sought or obtained rent increases greater than guideline for a first effective date before 1 October 1990."
The final passage that I would like to refer to is in the main body of the opinion. They state, "Depending on an arbitrarily selected date, which effectively is at least two months before the election was even called, a person who owns rental property may suffer the catastrophic personal consequences detailed above." The lawyers listed some examples, actual cases of people, average people in this province who have been affected by the retrospective aspects of this legislation and they say, "In those circumstances we believe there has been a violation of the equality provisions of subsection 15(1) of the charter."
I would like to recount what the minister told the committee about government legal opinions. He told us that such legal opinions are between the Attorney General's office and the minister, that indeed a lawyer-client privilege exists. I appreciate the fact that any legal advice that forms part of a cabinet submission will not be shared with a committee of this House or the public. I know that advice to a minister is also specifically exempt from disclosure under the province's freedom of information and privacy legislation.
I would say finally that the government will be reluctant to share with us a legal opinion or assessment about another legal opinion commissioned by a group threatening action against the province. I understand that. It makes sense to me, but that is not what we are talking about here. As a member of the committee charged with reviewing Bill 4, I wanted the comfort of knowing that what we are proposing to pass into law is in fact sound. Is that really too much to ask?
I have a further problem with some of the minister's logic about government legal opinions. Surely the client of any legal opinion is not an individual minister, as was suggested, but rather the people of Ontario. The minister says, "It's mine and no one's going to see it except me." Even his own party cannot see it; even his own committee members will not see it. "It's mine." That is what he said. I thought he represented the people of Ontario. I thought this legislation represented the people of Ontario, but he has got this cutesy little legal opinion in his own hot little hands and he is not going to share it with anybody.
We have no problem asking for expert comment of every kind on all manner of subjects and bills. We do not hesitate sharing that with the public that elects us, but for some reason we stop short of disclosing the opinion of lawyers. How ironic.
Obviously, I was not satisfied with the position taken by the minister before our committee. To me, one of the key issues raised by Bill 4 is its legality. I want to know, and I believe the people of the province of Ontario want to know, whether the government is proceeding on sound legal footing or just winging it in the hope it can get away with it. Once again, the committee was not permitted to do its job. The government members lined up to defeat my motion requesting production of those legal opinions, as they lined up like so many trained seals to defeat many other motions.
When it happened, I was ready. When the motion happened, I was ready and I handed the minister a freedom of information form requesting the legal opinions. It may be the first time such a form has been personally served on a minister, but I felt that strongly about it, and while I fully expect the minister will claim some form of exemption -- and if he does I certainly intend to appeal it to the commissioner -- I would ask the minister, if he is listening, to reconsider his position.
Now, while the Minister of Housing correctly pointed out that legal opinions have always enjoyed a certain privilege in the past, something recognized in past governments, including Conservative governments, that in itself is no excuse in my opinion to perpetrate past policy.
The Premier and his party promised us government unlike that which we have never seen before. So far, however, with the possible exception of the antics of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, we have witnessed business as usual. We have indeed seen a government which we have never seen before in this province, and hopefully we will never see it again.
Mr Speaker, I would ask you to remember the words of the Minister of Housing in this chamber back in November: "I am certainly prepared -- and we will as we go through this process -- to share every bit of information we have that helped us to make this decision." It should be very clear by now that every bit of information has not been shared with the members of this House or the members of this committee. Indeed, the committee was not permitted to fulfil its mandate and the bill that our vice-chair proposes to be reported back sadly reflects that.
Now, if members want further proof, they should look no further than what happened to the attempt of my colleague the member for York Mills to the committee to hear expert testimony from a representative of the financial community. If members have not seen it, they should read about it. The member for York Mills was scoffed at at that request, simply scoffed at. Everybody knows, except possibly the government members, that Bill 4 is going to have, and indeed is already having, a grave impact on lending institutions. Like so many others, they relied on the existing law of this province, only to see it changed and, for many, changed retroactively or retrospectively, depending on which word members are going to use.
In our party we thought it was quite valid to ask a representative of lending institutions to appear before the committee. We moved a motion to that effect, only to see it defeated by the NDP majority on the committee. Once again, a shimmering display of open government on the part of people who promised government unlike anything else we have ever seen. To quote the Premier and lately the Minister of Housing, "Gimme a break."
Once again I contend we were not permitted to do our job. The members of this committee were not permitted to do our job. We have not been allowed to report back responsible legislation that takes into account the full range of effect on all parties.
Take, for instance, my attempt to have the committee hear from a tax expert. During our Ottawa hearings, the committee was told that, as Bill 4 effectively removes for many landlords the reasonable expectation of profit necessary under tax law to claim losses, its impact is even worse than we could imagine. This fact hit some of us on the committee like a ton of bricks. We were all quite shocked.
Even we were lulled into the belief that landlords in a loss position would at least be able to write off the loss against other income, assuming of course that they had other income. That, needless to say, was the case under rent review. It was built into the system. Landlords at least had the potential of getting out of a loss situation, and the NDP never shrunk from reminding us they were not as badly off as they might have seemed.
It seemed to me that before the committee went very much further in its deliberations, it was essential to hear from a tax expert who could confirm that Bill 4 or any other successor legislation that froze landlords into a loss situation would also preclude their tax loss claims. To my astonishment, the government members of the committee, the NDP members of the committee, seemed to agree with the idea of calling such a witness. They actually agreed on something that we, as the opposition members, put forward. However, there was a catch. We could call such a witness, we could ask that witness any questions we liked, just as long as it was done after the clause-by-clause debate was through. Once again, we were not allowed to do our job.
What happens if a tax expert does come to us to discuss Bill 4 and the implications of it on the loss provisions and makes comments that would perhaps lead a reasonable man to put forward an amendment? Too late. The bill will have been passed. An amendment might well have flowed from such evidence, but we were being told by the government members, "That's tough." Nothing was going to be permitted to distract the legislative committee from the government agenda. Come heck or high water, Bill 4 will be passed.
Just what is the government agenda? Bill 4, we are told by the committee members, by the minister, is interim legislation. It has also been called emergency legislation, although I am still at a loss to know why we cannot possibly wait for this government to bring in its long-term legislation and depart from simple crass political opportunism. I mean, it seemed quite clear that they had a plan during the election, but all of a sudden now they need to consult. Of course we all know what their definition of "consult" is.
This bill is so important that we as a committee are expected to pass it post-haste, while at the same time this minister thinks nothing of interrupting our deliberations with his presentation of this so-called green paper. Right in the middle of our deliberations, he comes forward with this green paper. Of course, we have all heard of the farce of that process and the tremendous expense it is putting on the taxpayers of this province, all for naught, because it is quite clear the minister has a grand plan. He is not going to tell anybody, but he has a grand plan.
The entire process has been badly confused and totally flawed. Many of our witnesses were not even addressing Bill 4. They were telling us about the broader issues of rent control or rent review. The Chairman, bless his heart, tried to keep some order and make it clear that we were there to debate Bill 4, but witness after witness felt so concerned to deal with the overall legislation that much of our time was spent on the overall problem of rental accommodation in this province.
What they had to say will now have to be said all over again to the ministerial dog-and-pony show currently touring the province to get responses to the green paper. When it is said all over again to us, when we examine the long-term legislation, one wonders whether this particular approach is designed simply to wear out the opposition to this government's rent control policies. Well, it wears me out simply describing it.
I should tell you something about the dog-and-pony show. We on this side of the House are not participating in this process. It is not that we are not trying. As I indicated to this House this morning, I wrote to the minister to indicate that I will attempt to attend some of these sessions and I expect to participate in those sessions. We will see whether I can but, as I noted earlier, already the member for Oriole was barred. She was tossed out or otherwise frustrated from participating.
Like the rest of us in this House, the member got a letter from the minister informing her of the hearings. Now, I am not saying that we, as MPPs, are not welcome to attend some of these dog-and-pony shows. Some apparently are open to the public while others are apparently cosy get-togethers between the minister and his friends and supporters. Twenty meetings have been scheduled, only seven of which are public. What is going on at the other 13 meetings? Why can we not hear what is going on in those other meetings? Why can we not participate in those other meetings?
I am told that I am welcome, along with the member for Eglinton, who is the Liberal critic, to come and sit on the stage with the minister and his parliamentary assistant and other government members, but I cannot say anything. I cannot say anything at all. I have a proposition for the minister: Why do the Liberal critic and I not send life-sized cardboard cutout pictures of ourselves to these hearings so that we are appropriately represented in the way this government apparently wants us to be?
These hearings are nothing more than a sham, a joke. Worse, they make an utter mockery of this institution. Cosy consultation is replacing the processes that the public has come to expect and demand from us. If this government was really interested in formulating sound, long-term legislation, it would have mandated our committee from day one to gather information, conduct hearings and make recommendations.
Instead, it chose to waste our time with Bill 4 and launch its own dog-and-pony show. Why? Because we knew full well that a committee of this House, doing its job properly with a proper mandate and adequate time, could not and would not sustain the NDP dogmatic line. But, no, we apparently do not operate that way. The anvil chorus of the government bench still drowns out reason. The brigades of trained seals are ever eager to take the bait of their political masters, still rise up to defeat even the most minor amendment.
One amendment which was made by the opposition was the amendment dealing with economic eviction. The government members of the committee continually reminded us, what are we going to do about economic eviction? It is clear, facts have been presented that 30% of the tenants cannot afford any rent. They cannot afford the rent they are paying now. Seniors, students, poor people cannot afford the rent they are paying now, yet this government is going to introduce Bill 4 or is going to pass Bill 4, which is going to detrimentally affect 30% of the tenants of this province. They do not care about the tenants of this province.
This government simply cannot afford to do things differently than governments have in the past. For one thing, with the exception of a handful of their members, they would not know where to start. They have not the creativity, they have not the intestinal fortitude.
I have a copy of the current Frank magazine. I do not know whether any of you look at that periodically, but it is really an interesting edition. This is the edition of 21 March 1991. They have got an absolutely hilarious two-page feature, entitled "Frank's Provincial Government Abstracts." They have a legend where they itemize -- they have a picture of a cannon, calling someone a loose cannon. They have got the hammer and sickle which they call "Running Dog of Marxism." They have another diagram for feminist cabal. They have another item for a person of colour and so on.
The Minister of Housing has got three items called "Lackey of Big Unions," and he has got one hammer, which is a heavy hitter. His description, the summary of him is that he fiddles with rent controls while Windsor bums. It is interesting. I recommend that the members of the cabinet read this. The Premier has two cannons, he has two hammers and sickles and he has a couple of other items. He is called a political Peter Pan hoping for Tinkerbell to sprinkle pixie dust on the recession. The Deputy Premier and Treasurer has seven hammers. He has one person of colour and he has a hammer and sickle, and it says: "Pink Floyd went to bed a Marxist and he woke up as Milton Friedman. Make the rich pay."
I have a few more remarks to make but I notice the time is now approaching six o'clock.
On motion by Mr Tilson, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1802.