36th Parliament, 1st Session

L083 - Wed 5 Jun 1996 / Mer 5 Jun 1996






















































The House met at 1333.




Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Our region of Ontario is extremely distressed by the recent closure of Phillips Cables in Brockville after 75 years in business; 335 workers have lost their jobs since Phillips decided to sell its building wire business to an American firm and shift the remaining production to plants in Italy and the United States.

The company's chief executive officer, Carl Painter, emphasized that the decision to close the plant is not tied to the performance of the plant's employees, who agreed to a four-year wage freeze in 1991 and made other concessions to keep the plant alive.

The Harris government has vigorously claimed that its policies, its changes to social and labour and other legislation would cause business operations to remain and expand in our province. It was presumed that the exodus of plants would end. It has not.

The government does not hold out much hope to these workers and their families in the Brockville community since it does not have a job creation plan. Where are the programs to assist the workers, many of whom have worked for Phillips for their entire working careers?

This government has abandoned its promise made in the Common Sense Revolution to create 725,000 jobs. The government's own figures in the budget predict that the unemployment rate will be higher in each one of the next two years, by 8.9% next year and 8.8% the year after. Going by these numbers, in 1998 there will be 6,000 more people unemployed than the day the Mike Harris government took over.

We hope the government will reconsider the abandonment of this key promise and offer hope to the laid-off workers of Phillips Cables and all of Ontario's unemployed.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Yesterday's announcement of the so-called automobile insurance reforms lacks so much, but in particular what they fail to do is to address a crisis that's been brewing in the brokerage industry for some time now. It's the dirty little secret of that industry, and you know exactly what I'm talking about, Speaker; I know you do.

What's been happening is that private auto insurance industries have been cherry-picking, high-grading, and how they do it is they cut brokerage firms free. We've got brokerage firms in this province -- they've called me -- who have only one insurance company left that they can sell for. Of course, the government requires that they disclose who their companies are. That brokerage firm, once it is disclosed that they only act for one company, maybe two, is out of business. They might as well shut the doors, because the private sector auto insurance industry in this province has not only been running rampant and footloose and fancy-free, picking the pockets of drivers and innocent victims; they've also been beating up on brokerages.

For a government that purports to have any interest in small business to permit brokerages, especially in small-town Ontario, small, family-run businesses, small businesses, to continue to be victimized by a voracious private sector auto insurance industry is unconscionable. The fact that these brokers, as they should, have to disclose who they act for is going to shut down the biggest chunk of small-town brokerage firms and leave the profits for only the biggest and the best buddies of this government.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I consider it a tremendous privilege to make this statement. Mississauga recently honoured Jim Murray with the Gordon S. Shipp Memorial Award for citizen of the year.

Jim Murray's dedication to community service has been unwavering for nearly 30 years. Despite the demands of his career as vice-president of J.J. Barnicke, Jim has found time for a wide range of community service. Jim's earliest volunteer activity centred around the Scouting movement, followed by the Kinsmen Club of Mississauga, where he served as president and vice-president. Through the Kinsmen Club, Jim initiated the Mississauga Canoe Club building project. Other organizations that have benefited from Jim's volunteer efforts include Counteract, Peel Regional Housing Authority, Living Arts Centre, Bethesda Concert Series, Cyclos Theatre Company, Credit Valley Hospital, Mayor's Gala, Peel Museum, Mississauga Sports Council, Don Rowing Club and Mississauga News Christmas Bureau Fund.

Jim Murray said of Gordon Shipp, for whom the award is named: "Gordon Shipp was one of the finest men I ever met. He set an outstanding example for people who wanted to contribute to their community." Jim, if Gordon was still alive, he would say the same about you.

On behalf of the people of Mississauga, congratulations for this much-deserved honour. Like your father, former reeve and mayor "Chic" Murray, you have made an outstanding contribution to our great city for which we will be eternally grateful.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): This government's education priorities are all mixed up. In a Mike Harris educational system, dollars and cents are obviously more important than reading, writing and arithmetic.

Yesterday, during the debate about this government's priorities in relation to Ontario's education system, the Minister of Education and the member for Niagara South stated that the reading and literacy levels of students entering and exiting our secondary schools are in a deplorable state. Indeed, the minister stated that today our grade 9 students are reading and writing at a grade 4 level.

What is the study that he is referring to? This flies in the face of testing that was done last fall on a province-wide basis that showed us that 93% of our grade 9 students were at a satisfactory or better level in their reading and writing.

Naturally, we should all be concerned with continually improving the capacity of our students. What is the government planning to do about this?

According to a draft plan to revise the secondary school panel, there are a number of plans. Some of the plans are to reduce the number of instructional hours for English and math and science. Does this make sense? I don't think so. This is going to affect us and our children for years to come, and now we're about to see some very negative things happen.



Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Yesterday I asked a question to the Minister of Natural Resources regarding fighting fires in my constituency and all across the north. I'd like to summarize briefly what the issues really are:

Fire crews fighting forest fires without radio contact having to come out of the bush to use a telephone to contact their supervisor.

Fire crews not being fed for over 24 hours.

The equipment that was formerly kept at the Gogama fire base airlifted from Sudbury to Timmins and then trucked back to Gogama.

The complete and utter lack of coordination of staff and equipment.

The inadequate staffing levels that necessitated a radio operator being sent from Timmins, and rehiring of surplus staff in Gogama.

Helicopters not arriving when scheduled to pick up equipment and fire crews.

Helicopters unable to transport fire crews and equipment because the refuelling stations are not operating.

The constant shifting of equipment and fire crews from location to location because of a computer projection of fire behaviour.

Believe it or not, this could be worse. The fire situation this year is much better than last year. So far, there have been few big fires. The fires around Gogama and Shining Tree have all been small to medium-sized. What would happen if a really big blaze occurred? This government has been very lucky that the fire hazard has been so low. Since they can't handle the fires we've had so far, I'd hate to see what would happen if a real disaster was to occur.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I rise in the House today to commemorate Canadian Environment Week, which runs from June 1 to June 9, and World Environment Day, which is today, June 5.

Canadian Environment Week is dedicated to promoting environmental awareness among Canadians. The week provides an opportunity for concerned Canadians to focus on environmental issues and to help conserve and protect our country's natural heritage.

World Environment Day, which is celebrated every June 5, was established in 1972 by the United Nations Stockholm Conference on Human Environment. It is expected to be celebrated in more than 100 countries around the world, and is meant to focus global attention on environmental action and awareness.

This government is committed to action and tough standards that ensure the protection of the environment for generations to come. We are committed to ensuring that the spirit of Environment Week and World Environment Day is preserved.

Air quality throughout Ontario, and especially in the hard-hit GTA and Windsor-Quebec corridor, continues to be an important issue. We continue to take a tough stand against acid rain. The province has established a 52% reduction in emission levels since 1986. These are just a few of the initiatives that we are pursuing to ensure that Ontario is the standard for environmental protection.

On this day and this week, I urge all members of the House and all Ontarians to make activities that preserve the earth part of their daily lives.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Today in Windsor, 17,000 signed coasters which read "Stop Unfair Taxes" have been given a sendoff here to Queen's Park for the finance minister, Ernie Eves. This issue is about jobs -- the jobs at Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. This government has the opportunity to save those jobs with a fairer tax to consumers, licensees and distillers.

Tom Racovitis, president of the Essex county branch of the Ontario Restaurant Association, says: "Our customers are appalled at the amount of tax charged for beverage alcohol," and fully support us in our initiative to get the Ontario government to change these discriminatory tax policies.

Mr Eves, in his speech to my Rotary Club in Windsor, acknowledged that this is a significant problem. We need more than an acknowledgement; we need a solution, and Ontario taxes are the lion's share of taxes.

Mr Eves, you say you're interested in creating jobs. How about starting by saving some -- the jobs at Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. Look forward to 17,000 signed coasters being delivered, as we speak, in an empty barrel to our finance minister, Ernie Eves.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I absolutely must draw the attention of the House to an article in today's Toronto Star, headlined "Environment Minister Won't Ride City Buses."

Yesterday the minister appeared at a conference on smog prevention, and those of us who were there hoped she would announce measures this government intends to take on this serious health issue. But no, not only was she not forthcoming with any strategy at all; she stunned the forum with the news that she wouldn't ever take the bus, certainly not in Toronto and not even in her own home town of Guelph -- too inconvenient, apparently.

I think those who take public transit -- who don't, by the way, have the luxury of a limousine and driver -- would agree with the minister that there is, to put it mildly, much room for improvement of public transit. But what does this government do in response? It cuts back funding for public transit.

If the minister thinks public transportation is inadequate, it is her job to raise these concerns at the cabinet table and demand improvement. It is her job to encourage, not to discourage, the public to take public transportation.

The minister continues to crow about how people will want government, as she articulated, "out of their face." I'm sure the people of Ontario are getting tired of that mantra being used as an excuse for inaction on the part of this government to protect their health. People are dying. Smog kills.

The minister should set an example. I'm sending her over this bus token, and I encourage her to take "the better way" to work tomorrow.


Mr Frank Sheehan (Lincoln): As chairman of the Red Tape Review Commission, I am pleased to announce the release of our interim report today. Copies of the report have been mailed to the members this afternoon.

The commission is a catalyst for achieving an important part of the government's agenda and to fulfil promises made in the Common Sense Revolution. Our role is to review all laws and the process for establishing and applying them. While carrying out our work, we're ensuring that the environment, public health and safety and community values are not compromised.

Government regulation is everywhere and growing. It's choking business activity, job creation and investment. The interim report tackles that challenge.

The ultimate goal of the Red Tape Review Commission is to design a test, or a knothole, if you will, to ensure new laws and regulations are necessary, efficient and not barriers to growth. Our report contains an interim regulatory impact test which will be used until the final report is presented. The test will be called the Less Paper/More Jobs test. We will work with ministries and the business community over the next six months to perfect this test.

I'm pleased to note that eight ministers are introducing legislation which will simplify and streamline the government process. All these activities help make Ontario a good place to invest and create jobs.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to advise the House that we have Mr Bob Mitchell, a former member for Carleton, in the east gallery.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Upon review of the circumstances around the point of order raised yesterday by the member for Oriole (Elinor Caplan), I must remind all members that it is not for the Speaker to determine the factual merits of any statement made in this House.

It is, however, the responsibility of the Speaker to ensure that no member accuses another of uttering a falsehood.

All members are honourable members and should be treated as such.



Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): It is my pleasure today to inform the House and the people of Ontario about my ministry's part in cutting the red tape that businesses and individuals face in government services.

Today I will introduce a legislative package, the Government Process Simplification Act (Ministry of the Attorney General), 1996, that signals our recognition that we in the justice system can help to create a business-friendly climate for Ontario. We can help to create an environment in which companies and individuals find government services working for them rather than against them, to make it easier for them to conduct their affairs and keep jobs in the province.

Under the able direction of the Red Tape Review Commission, we have prepared a list of changes to 14 statutes to simplify processes and improve the administrative efficiency of many of our services. This will translate into faster, easier access for business, individuals and their legal representatives.

These amendments will directly reduce the legal costs and other costs of doing business, both for companies and for individuals. They help this government fulfil promises made in the Common Sense Revolution to turn back the years of overregulation and remove the barriers to economic growth and job creation.

Three main program areas are affected by our ministry's efficiency proposals: the office of the public guardian and trustee, the Assessment Review Board, and the more than 70 tribunals that operate under the Statutory Powers Procedure Act.


I would like to highlight some of what our legislative changes will accomplish.

We will make simple amendments to the procedures of the Assessment Review Board to make more efficient use of hearings and promote better customer service.

In terms of the public guardian and trustee, our amendments start to break down some of the complex procedures that abound in that office and make it more accessible. This will benefit the wide range of clients who use these services: vulnerable adults, executors and private trustees, charitable institutions, shareholders in dissolved corporations and beneficiaries of estates, to name a few examples.

We've increased the public guardian and trustee's flexibility to make decisions around the sale of property belonging to persons who have died without a will.

In other cases, we have made it easier for beneficiaries of smaller estates to receive deceased clients' property from the public guardian and trustee without going through the expense of getting letters probate through the courts.

With the Statutory Powers Procedure Act we have put on the table a number of efficiency amendments suggested by the tribunals themselves through their organization, the Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators.

I commend the members of this society for their proactive work in this area. They consulted with the heads of tribunals, with their main clients and with other stakeholders about changes that could be made and forwarded their proposals to us. This is a fine example of how government, the business community and the public can work together. We need this kind of partnership to facilitate job creation and improve both government services and employment prospects for Ontarians.

My ministry's legislative changes support our vision for a modern, leaner, more accessible and more effective justice system.

As I have noted on other occasions outside this House, Ontario's competitiveness in the global marketplace is directly linked to the speed and affordability of its justice system. We in the justice system are proud of being able to do our part through the Government Process Simplification Act (Ministry of the Attorney General), 1996, to keep Ontario attractive for new and existing investment.

It is truly an honour to be able to support the work of the Red Tape Review Commission. I personally would like to congratulate its chair, Frank Sheehan, the member for Lincoln, for coordinating this effort and I would like to thank the people in my ministry who have worked closely with the commission members to better respond to the needs of business and individuals in Ontario.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I am pleased to inform members of the legislature that later today I will table proposed amendments to the acts governing the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Science North and the Ontario Heritage Foundation. These measures will reduce legislative barriers to efficient business practices, streamline operations and eliminate red tape.

The amendments proposed by my ministry will enable the boards of Science North and McMichael Canadian Art Collection to appoint their own CEOs. They will permit the McMichael board to remove the CEO if necessary. They will make the Science North board responsible for determining the salaries of the CEO and staff. They will allow members of the Science North board to serve more than two terms if desired by government.

They will make the board of the Ontario Heritage Foundation all volunteers and will enable the foundation to reduce the minimum size of its board from 21 to 12 at the board's request.

The proposed amendments bring the business practices of these agencies in line with established practices governing other government agencies. In part, they are the result of consultations with the ministry's cultural agencies on the barriers that hamper their ability to operate competitively, efficiently and cost-effectively in the course of conducting day-to-day business.

In short, we are cutting the red tape and better focusing our resources on serving our customers and all taxpayers. We are working with the Red Tape Review Commission to make government more effective.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Later this afternoon I will be introducing the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations Government Process Simplification Act. This legislation will eliminate redundant procedures and reduce regulations that are an unnecessary burden to business.

The Government Process Simplification Act will amend three acts administered by my ministry. These acts are:

The Motor Vehicle Repair Act: This act will be amended to eliminate reference to regional ministry offices in signage, repair orders and invoices, and the regulation-making power concerning size, form and style of signs. The regional offices have since been closed by the previous government, and other more effective options are now available to consumers seeking information or lodging complaints. These amendments simply eliminate excessive regulation concerning the types of signs to be posted.

The second act we will be amending is the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act. It will be amended to eliminate the regulation-making power requiring registered motor vehicle dealers to be bonded. The bonding requirements are no longer necessary because of the existence of the motor vehicle dealers compensation fund. The fund, which is industry financed, compensates consumers when dealers are unable or unwilling to meet their financial obligations.

The third act we will amend is the Consumer Protection Act. It will be amended to eliminate the registration requirement for itinerant sellers at the provincial level, as it has not been effective, while licensing at the municipal level has been more effective. While itinerant sellers no longer will be required to register, they will still be required to fully comply with the provisions of the ministry's Business Practices Act and the Consumer Protection Act.

We have worked in cooperation with the Red Tape Review Commission, headed by Frank Sheehan, MPP, to review the ministry legislation to make it easier to do business in Ontario. These changes will eliminate redundant regulations yet maintain necessary protection for our consumers.

I encourage all members to support this bill when introduced.

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I rise to inform the House that I will introduce legislation later today to eliminate red tape in the operation of some our tourism agencies and in the regulation of tourist establishments.

A number of our agencies and tourist establishments operate under legislation that requires that fees and forms be set by regulation. We will amend the Historical Parks Act, the Ontario Place Corporation Act, the St Clair Parkway Commission Act and the Tourism Act to simplify the process for setting fees and prescribing forms.

This is consistent with recommendations of the Red Tape Review Commission to reduce barriers to economic development and job creation.

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): My ministry is moving forward on the commitment made in the Common Sense Revolution and the speech from the throne to reduce red tape.

On Monday, I announced a series of proposed improvements to Ontario's environmental legislation that will help us meet our commitment to providing maximum environmental benefit for the taxpayer's dollar.

Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of environmental management, reducing barriers to economic renewal and competitiveness, and creating jobs are fundamental principles that this government will continue to act on.

Today, I am introducing proposed amendments to cut red tape and provide for more flexible operations of the boards that administer the following acts: the Consolidated Hearings Act, Environmental Protection Act, Ontario Energy Board Act, Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Red Tape Review Commission for its assistance in our regulatory review process. We will continue to work with the commission to find solutions that are fair, effective, and provide clarity and flexibility.

I would also like to thank my parliamentary assistant, Dr Doug Galt, for his tireless work in overseeing this review.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Later this afternoon, I will table the Government Process Simplification Act (Ministry of Health), 1996. As part of a greater package of amendments from eight different ministries, this bill is the first step in decreasing red tape for business and institutions in the health care sector.

The economic and social cost of regulation continues to rise. We must improve government efficiency and remove roadblocks that hinder businesses and the institutional sector from competing in an increasingly competitive market.

Under the direction of the government's Red Tape Review Commission, my ministry will reduce red tape by eliminating the requirement for cabinet approval for routine decisions by institutions, repealing obsolete and redundant statutes, and getting rid of unnecessary regulation-making powers over administrative fees and special forms.

This bill will amend or repeal 19 statutes administered by the Ministry of Health. We will eliminate the need for some government approvals of routine decisions or actions by businesses or institutions, Lieutenant Governor approval of bylaws, and the regulation-making power to prescribe some forms and fees.

We will also repeal the Cancer Remedies Act, the Hypnosis Act and the War Veterans Burial Act.

These amendments can be added to the growing list of ministry accomplishments in reducing red tape.

Since July 1995, we have eliminated the need for ministry approval of hospital bylaws, simplified hospital budget reporting, replaced previous bureaucratic and intrusive consent laws with the Health Care Consent Act, simplified drug submission and review regulations for faster processing, and replaced the plan to create 100 multiservice agencies by streamlining home care and placement coordination programs into 43 community care access centres.


By making these amendments to Ontario's health laws, not only will the ministry become more efficient, but the health care sector will be able to better serve Ontarians as a result of these changes.

We are being very careful to preserve the regulations that protect our health care system, while cutting red tape that discourages economic growth. We are also striving to make fundamental changes to prevent the creation of red tape in the future. We will ensure that the new rules make good sense and are fair, efficient and necessary.

Our commitment in the Common Sense Revolution is to reduce red tape. This is just the beginning the Ministry of Health's efforts to make the business of health care simpler. Over the summer we will continue to work and consult to bring further red tape reduction measures to the Legislature this fall.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to the Legislature on the actions of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines in reducing red tape for both government and business operators.

As part of our government's red tape review goals, I am pleased to inform the Legislature that later today I will table my ministry's Government Process Simplification Act. This act includes two components which will help reduce barriers to economic growth and job creation.

First, our government will repeal the Canada Co's land acts of 1922, which deal with mineral rights to more than 571,000 acres of land from Windsor to Ottawa. The repeal of these acts will remove the complex and lengthy process that landowners must go through to obtain clear title and mineral rights to their land, which are currently held by the crown.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines receives, on average, 75 mineral rights applications every year. The current process of handling the documentation required by the crown involves four ministries and can take anywhere from three to five months. The new measures will transfer the mineral rights to the registered owners of the surface rights, thereby reducing uncertainty and saving time and money.

Secondly, I am presenting an amendment to the Mining Act which will eliminate the requirement to license refineries. Our mining legislation currently requires refiners of gold and other precious metals to obtain a refinery licence from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

This administrative burden provides no significant benefit to either my ministry or the mining industry. Approximately 54 licences are currently held, and they must be renewed every year. This amendment to the Mining Act will eliminate the need for business to renew the refinery licences and will reduce administrative costs incurred by this ministry.

These amendments demonstrate my ministry's commitment to working with the Red Tape Review Commission to reduce government barriers to business and to create jobs.

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Later today I will table the Government Process Simplification Act (Ministries of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services), 1996. The bill will amend five acts: the Anatomy Act, the Coroners Act, the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act.

The amendments we are introducing today may not change the lives of Ontarians, but they will make it a little easier and a little less expensive to run the ministry, and that does benefit all Ontarians.

The changes contained in this bill are the sorts of things that should have been done years ago, at least in the last 10. For example, under the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, all licences expire and must be renewed on March 31. That means we have to hire temporary help to process the pile of paper that comes in the door all at once. The amendment will see licences expire throughout the year, depending on when they are issued, similar to drivers' licences, which makes a lot more sense. Not only will it save money, but it will mean better service to the individuals seeking licences.

Similarly, we now need to get what is called a removal warrant if we want to transfer an inmate from one jail to another, something we do 22,000 times a year. Technological improvements to our procedures are being introduced that will allow us to simplify the process we use and transfer documents electronically. We are therefore deleting the requirement under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act for a written warrant and letting our superintendents get on with their jobs.

This legislation demonstrates our commitment to remove unnecessary or obsolete regulations and to work with the Red Tape Review Commission.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): A lot of us were expecting a statement today of major importance, and we find that the really important items will be coming later, of course, in the dismantling of each of the ministries of this government.

A lot of the minor changes that are made nobody's going to object to. They're routine, they're changes which can be made, with computer technology and so on. But the government's real agenda is the dismantling of all protection for consumers and others in the province of Ontario, leaving the best to those who are the most powerful, the most wealthy and the most influential in the province. They are the people who will be applauding not only this statement but down the line.

Many of the regulations established by Conservative governments in the past and by other governments were established to protect consumers, to protect the environment, to protect those in the field of justice. If some of them are archaic, a century old, something of that nature, people are not going to object.

But we must look at the real agenda of this government. The members on the other side see government as evil because government can protect individuals, because government has the opportunity to provide equal opportunity for people in our province -- not equal outcome, equal opportunity. This is something that vested interests, powerful interests, will be interested in and applauding today.

The real fear is not so much about what we see in these statements as about what is to come. When there's a mention of 1,000 regulations being looked at -- many of those regulations were established for very good reason: to protect health, to protect safety, to protect the environment, to protect consumers. The people who will object, as well as the general population, are going to be good business people, good business people who are protected against bad business people. When you have the majority of people in this province in business doing a good job, trying to live up to the regulations, following the legislation of the province, they will be concerned when they see that you are watering down the regulations that their perhaps less ethical competitors will be looking at and taking advantage of. What you're doing is bringing the standard down across this province rather than raising it.

We've already seen the gutting of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy. It simply won't exist by the time the summer is over. My friend the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations will simply be the Minister of Commercial Relations, because there will be no protection for the consumer left in this province when he is finished with it; he may not even have the job when he's finished with it. Yet I can recall many Conservatives in the past who saw a need for many of the roles played by his ministry.

We are looking at the fact that you have already deregulated the field of busing and you are causing great problems in the future for the small communities across this province, small-town and -village Ontario, who are going to lose bus service as a result of worshipping at the altar of deregulation and having the government get out of providing some protection and assistance to those communities who require it.

The Ministry of Natural Resources is being gutted. The minister gets up and puts the best face possible on it, but he's losing his staff. One of the reasons some of the regulations are going to disappear is that you simply won't have even the staff or the resources to enforce them. I can just imagine the people in the investigations and enforcement branch of the Ministry of the Environment today, a diminished branch, a branch that's being reduced, seeing even more regulations removed so that the polluters can have their way in this province.

There is going to be, I guess you'd call it, a checkerboard of quality of roads in Ontario as you abandon your responsibility for ensuring a good road system throughout this province.

What we have had from this government is an abandonment of its true role, of its proper role and responsibility. People don't mind some of the reforms that are taking place. You're going too far and you're going too quickly.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): In response to the outrageous statement by the Minister of Health, which was nothing more than rhetoric, the reality is that he is not cutting red tape; he is cutting and gutting services. We heard not one word from him about care, about quality of care, about health care. What we have heard from him is $1.3 billion in cuts to hospital budgets, $225 million in user fees for the poor, for seniors and for disabled persons. We've seen cuts in chiropody services, feet services. Minister, stop the cuts.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): In a way, I'm of two minds about this interim report and the statements made by the ministers. On the one hand, the work in itself has been sort of a make-work project for Tory backbenchers in that it appears that some of the regulations being eliminated are those that were inactive and unused anyway, so it really is a bit of smoke and mirrors in that sense. In a way, actually having to sit down and find these inoperative regulations was in itself a bit of waste and duplication.

On the other hand, we are very concerned about what the final report might bring, particularly since the government says that it will eliminate 1,000 regulations. Many of them will be ones that are inoperative, that don't count, don't matter one way or the other, they're just sitting on the books and they haven't been used for a long time. But there may also be, within that very large pile of regulations, some very important ones that were established by governments, Tory, Liberal and New Democrat, for very good reasons.

The government seems to misunderstand the purpose of regulations. Governments, I suppose this government thinks, just came up with regulations for the fun of it, bureaucrats wanted to produce more regulations that justified their existence. But in fact, when it comes to travellers going abroad and being stranded overseas without a means of returning home when a company goes bankrupt, when it is a consumer that is not being given proper protection in regard to the purchase of a product that doesn't produce or do what it's supposed to do, when it comes to an auto dealership that may not be as scrupulous as others and may not in fact repair and provide the parts that a vehicle driver needs, these are regulations that should be examined very, very carefully before they are eliminated, because we want to ensure that consumers, the public, the environment and labour are protected. That's why regulations were established in the first place.

If we're talking about changing so many regulations at once, is this sort of the second coming of Bill 26? Is the government going to try to sneak dozens of regressive changes past the public with little or no consultation?

The process that we've seen so far has been completely business driven. The parliamentary assistant, the member for Lincoln, in his press conference had to admit that there has been no consultation with the public. He said he could identify one call from labour, just one call from labour. We're talking about changes that will affect workers' rights, we're talking about changes that will make it more difficult to ensure the protection of our environment, we're talking about changes that will hurt consumers perhaps, and yet labour, environmental groups, consumers groups, none of them were consulted, not one of them; they only talked to business. This government seems to think that business is the only group that counts, and as long as business agrees, then it's okay, even if it may threaten the general public and eliminate protections that Ontarians need in dealing with business.

Also there's the question of ensuring a level playing field. That's what some of these regulations are about. How are scrupulous business people going to be protected from the fast-buck artists and the con artists who will try to avoid doing what is right, will cut corners at the expense of scrupulous business people? How are we going to protect the public from con games and scams? How are we going to protect the environment from polluters? Will business be tempted, because there are some bad actors who are making a profit at the expense of the people and the environment, to follow suit because there isn't regulation and the regulations that are there are not being properly enforced?

I'm very concerned that this government may in fact be going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Efficiency doesn't mean letting the fox run the hen-house.



Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): My question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday in response to a question from my leader, the leader of the official opposition, you said, "We are doing everything we can, including, if the crisis is caused by the debate over the malpractice insurance, we fully restored that insurance." You went on to say, and I quote again, "We've asked the College of Physicians and Surgeons to monitor this because it is responsible for the licensing of these individuals."

Your statements have proven to the province, to the women in this province, that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about or how important this issue is. It's not about licensing, it's about patient care, and because of your policy decision to unilaterally scrap the malpractice insurance payments for Ontario doctors, women will not have the obstetrical services they need.

Last week I suggested you reinstate the malpractice insurance payments for doctors in Ontario until after Mr Dubin has concluded his report. That is a reasonable thing to do.

Do you not understand that it is women and their babies who may suffer because of your policy decision? You can fix this problem. Will you stand up today, put an end to this crisis, and announce that you are reinstating the malpractice insurance payments, called CMPA, for all Ontario doctors?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): First of all, it's the honourable member who doesn't know what she's talking about with respect to this issue. You have in yesterday's Sudbury Star an article that says, "Doctors Expect Province to Give In." It goes on to quote Dr John Maloney, an obstetrician in Sudbury, who says very clearly: "We are not endangering public safety one iota. Any woman having an emergency will be looked after." The article goes on to say: "A spokeswoman at Sudbury General Hospital, which handles the region's maternity cases, emphasized there is no immediate crisis. `The patients who are going to deliver over the next six months won't have a problem,' said Deborah Dunn."

We made it very clear that a crisis does not exist but that if services are withdrawn which would affect women as they get closer to having a birth, we will ensure that patients receive the care they need and deserve under our comprehensive and universally accessible health care system, publicly funded and administered.

Secondly, I did offer to fully pay the CMPA for obstetricians. We already did that in a 30% way on April 1 when we gave obstetricians and all of those delivering babies in the province a 30% raise through the fee schedule, which is the way prior to 1986 that government used to fund malpractice insurance. Most of our fees in the fee schedule contain a portion for the malpractice insurance, and we're trying to return to that way of funding malpractice insurance pending Justice Dubin's report.

Mrs Caplan: Minister, you picked this fight. You have behaved like a bully. You do not understand the situation that you created. You unilaterally scrapped the malpractice insurance payments, and you did so against the advice of the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

You have a responsibility to the people of Ontario and to the women of Ontario to ensure that they will receive the medical services they need. Don't wait for an emergency. Do not create a situation where the women of this province are forced to resort to emergency services. That is not in anyone's best interests.

You are not listening to the advice you have received. You say that you asked the College of Physicians and Surgeons to monitor this situation. Well, they didn't wait for you to ask them. In fact, they conducted a survey because they were so concerned, and according to their survey, women have a right to be worried and scared because many, many doctors are going to stop delivering babies in Ontario because of your unilateral action.

Listen to the registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, who told you back in December that patient care would suffer because of your actions. He believes you should reinstate the malpractice insurance coverage at least until Mr Dubin has reported. Listen to the women of this province who are asking you to solve this problem. Listen to the people of this province, but listen to those who know.

Minister, you have a responsibility. As a first step, will you stand in your place today, admit you were wrong, and reinstate the malpractice insurance payments for all doctors in this province so you can begin good-faith negotiations?


Hon Mr Wilson: When the previous Liberal government, in 1986, decided to pay the increases in the malpractice insurance above the 1986 base rate -- so they would pick up all future increases -- they forgot to put in place at the CMPA, which is an almost $1-billion fund sitting in Ottawa these days, any accountability. This isn't an insurance fund. It's not regulated by any government.

We've said for many, many months that we believe the physicians of this province, rather than pointing their guns at the Minister of Health or this government, should be pointing their guns at the CMPA board, which is made up of physicians, wholly owned by physicians, which has an approximately $1-billion reserve, which our actuaries tell us is more than enough money to cover any of the liabilities that may incur and that neither the government nor physicians needed to pay $48 million in 1996, a 20% increase over 1995, that there's more than enough money there. Our position has been that neither the government nor physicians should be paying these obscene insurance premiums to an unregulated body in Ottawa with a $1-billion reserve.

The taxpayers of Ontario want accountability in all our systems, and we're asking doctors and the CMPA to put accountability in their system. Thank goodness -- I give the CMPA credit, and the federal Minister of Health -- we have agreed, along with all the provinces and territories, that Justice Dubin will look into this matter, and we will find out in September who's right and who's wrong. Our position is that doctors shouldn't pay $23,000 a year for malpractice insurance for delivering babies, and neither should the government.

Mrs Caplan: What everyone is saying to you is rather than acting unilaterally and scrapping the malpractice insurance payments, wait until you have the report so you know what the facts are. You have created these problems by your actions, which you took unilaterally without any data, without any information. All of us know you created this problem, you created this crisis, and you are the one who has to take responsibility for that.

You have not offered to reinstate malpractice insurance payments for all the doctors in this province. I know that and you know that. That is the truth. You have not offered to reinstate CMPA, which is the malpractice insurance payments for the doctors.

But the worst part of this is that you were warned, were told by the College of Physicians and Surgeons: "We believe that patient care need not be compromised had the appropriate steps been taken at the time the government announced its intentions regarding CMPA dues. The fallout from the government's withdrawal from CMPA support was predictable, foreseeable, and therefore preventable. The fact that nothing has been done to alleviate the impact on medical services to the public to say the least is unfortunate. With the dramatic increase in CMPA dues for obstetricians, many will opt to stop delivering."

The college warned you. You have done nothing. It's now six months later. Do the right thing. Stand up and announce the reinstatement of CMPA. You've got a report coming in September. Stop the bullying and get women the care and the services they need. Reinstate --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The question's been asked.

Hon Mr Wilson: To say that we didn't discuss this matter with doctors or the Ontario Medical Association is a complete falsehood. I spent the first few months in office saying, "We've got to do something about CMPA." The Ontario Medical Association never responded. The CMPA never responded. In fact, the secretary of that association wouldn't return the calls of my deputy minister. The only way to get people to wake up to this issue was to withdraw the dollars on the table at the time.

Remember, this isn't a $23,000 hit all at once to these physicians in the higher premium brackets. They check off and they pay on a monthly basis. What we have said, and I think it's a victory on behalf of doctors, is that we're finally going to get, we hope, through Mr Dubin's inquiry, a full system of accountability in a very large insurance fund which right now doesn't have any accountability.

Let me tell you one other perverse thing that happens in this fund. The fund is supposed to be used for people and their families who win suits, malpractice suits against doctors, to compensate them for pain and suffering and loss. In recent years, the government has found itself in the perverse position at Medical Review Committee hearings or hearings before the College of Physicians and Surgeons of paying for the lawyers on both sides of the table out of taxpayers' money. The CMPA, using taxpayers' money, has in recent years been paying for the lawyers for the doctors on their side of the table and the Ministry of Health, OHIP as the plaintiff, also uses taxpayers' money. What a perverse position to be in and what a wrong use of a fund that is there to compensate innocent victims and their families, not lawyers, in the cases of disputes between OHIP and doctors.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Minister, you plan a major upheaval of the property tax system across Ontario. You're reported this week in the press as saying that you're preparing to introduce legislation to give effect to this province-wide upheaval of the property tax system.

Homeowners in Toronto, apartment dwellers in Ottawa, farmers across rural Ontario, senior citizens province-wide, cottagers in Parry Sound, to name but five groups, want to know and need to know what the specific impacts of your major revolutionary change to the property tax system province-wide will be.

Minister, will you commit today to this House and to the people of Ontario that you will not proceed with your revolutionary change to the property tax system in Ontario without first making public the impacts of your change on all property owners in Ontario?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member opposite for his question. What I will commit to today is to bring in an assessment system that is fair to everybody in Ontario.

The assessment system in Ontario is broken. I think everybody agrees with that. There are some people being subsidized by other taxpayers; some are paying too much; some are paying too little. We want to bring in a system that's fair and equitable to everybody and we will be doing that.

Mr Conway: Three months ago today, your parliamentary assistant, the Rev Derwyn Shea, was quoted in the press as saying that as your parliamentary assistant he was aware that your officials were busily gathering the specific impacts of your major property tax change.

Given the fact that your own parliamentary assistant has said that work is well advanced on those impact studies, I ask you on behalf of the property tax payers across Ontario, will you commit to tabling those impact studies in this Legislature before you proceed with your revolutionary change which, believe me, is going to capture the interest and the attention of property owners from Toronto to Timmins and from Cornwall to Kenora?

Hon Mr Leach: The Liberal Party may think that fairness is revolutionary; I don't.

All we're trying to do, all we intend to do, is fix a system that's been broken, that the two parties opposite didn't have the courage to address all the time they were in office, and I think everybody agrees with that.

We are going to ensure that the people who have been subsidized by their neighbours pay their fair share, and we're going to ensure that those who have been paying more than their share get back to a system that is fair and we will do that.


Mr Conway: Let me be clear, Minister. You yourself have said in recent days that some people in Ontario, as a result of the Harris property tax plan, will see their taxes increased by over 40%. Your own parliamentary assistant has said that impact studies are being prepared.

Why will you not today commit to the taxpayers of Ontario that before you proceed with this revolutionary change you will release into the public domain the impact studies which your own department is preparing?

Hon Mr Leach: Again I thank the member for his question. It's pretty tough to release impact studies when we haven't yet made a decision on the type of system we're going to implement. As you know, we've developed a panel to look at the options that are available to us and to report back as quickly as they can. As we have information that can be made available to the people of Ontario, we will make it available to the people of Ontario.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I want to return to the Minister of Health and the issue of obstetrical care. Minister, I've been listening very carefully and I know that all members of the House are very concerned about what we hear is taking place in the province and the fact that women do not have access at this point in time to this very important care unless they are already registered under the care of an obstetrician.

I have to say, in listening to your answers over the last few days, as you've explained what you've put on the table and offered the obstetricians, they sound like a pretty unreasonable group. I mean, it seemed like the CMPA was the issue that provoked this crisis.

You said on May 30 that you would give them a raise, including their full CMPA. You said on June 4 -- I'm reading these from Hansard -- that you're doing everything you can, "including, if the crisis is caused by the debate over malpractice insurance, we fully restored that insurance." You also said on June 4, "The record is clear that we offered to pay the insurance premiums, and then some, to the obstetricians of this province."

You've restored them, made them whole. Why would they be upset? So I gave them a call, and we spoke to someone who's involved in the group of people from the Ontario Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. They indicated that in fact you haven't restored the full amount, that you've offered about a third of what the government would be paying in terms of malpractice, that you're doing that in parts and there's some possibility about the second part coming after Dubin's report. Your officials also gave them 24 hours to respond and they said to you: "We're not a union. We can't speak on behalf of our membership in that way. We've got to talk to people and try and persuade them and see what the response is." "Twenty-four hours, give us an answer or it's off the table."

You've provoked this crisis, Minister. You've told things to this House that appear not to be totally accurate. I think it's time to be straight and to set the record straight with the women of this province so we know what the debate is, what the crisis is and where a resolve might come from.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I've been perfectly straight with the women of this province. I've also said that I would very much want from honourable members, including this honourable member, the names of any patients denied services and I'll personally make sure they get services. That's the commitment of this government. I don't know what else you can do.

We don't have a crisis right now. There's a lot of lead time before any withdrawal of services would have an effect on the women of this province, and therefore we're chatting with the Ontario Medical Association. I firmly stick by my previous comments about what was offered to the obstetricians' association and their response, which said it wasn't enough. I firmly stick by that. The numbers are available. They've been explained in press releases and press scrums. The numbers of what we offered are available, so there's nothing hidden there. People can do the math themselves and figure out that obstetricians, with the offer we made last week, actually got a raise from this government, and I can't think of too many other sectors, including health care sectors, where raises have been offered this year so far.

Ms Lankin: I don't think that information is accurate. You continue in this House to say you have restored full CMPA, and the fact is that you haven't. At least the obstetricians didn't understand that. Maybe you should call them again and explain the offer. Maybe they didn't understand what the offer was, because that's not what your officials told them.

You also said to the women of the province not to be concerned, that you're calling the College of Physicians and Surgeons and asking them to have a serious chat with these obstetricians that they should live up to their responsibility to take on new patients. We called the college and the college has said, "No, we're not going to be having any serious chat because there's nothing wrong with a doctor refusing to take on a new patient." So that's not going to solve the problem.

You were warned about this. During the Bill 26 hearings we heard from obstetricians, from neurosurgeons and from orthopaedic surgeons and other high-risk areas that if you proceeded along this line, they were going to end up seeing members of their profession withdraw services. Well, the obstetricians have.

I have two questions for you, Minister. Have you been warned by the OMA that other physicians' groups, such as perhaps neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons, will consider actions similar to the obstetricians'? Secondly, are you involved in any discussions with groups similar to your discussions with obstetricians around this issue? What are you going to do to avert a wholesale crisis in the delivery of specialty care in the province of Ontario?

Hon Mr Wilson: First of all, the OMA denied having anything to do with this in the meeting we had two days ago, and we're meeting again this afternoon. I have written a letter today to the president of the OMA asking whether his organization condones this activity, because they have nothing to do with it and they don't agree with the action taken by some of their members. Perhaps it would be incumbent upon them, as responsible leaders in the medical community, to condemn or at least disagree with the actions of their members.

It's clear where this government stands, and we will not be held by blackmail by this group or any other group, given that we have gone to bat for doctors in this province. It's a very positive thing that we have done to try and bring some accountability on their behalf into the CMPA fund.

Other provinces have reacted differently. Quebec, for example, is thinking of getting out of CMPA and setting up its own fund because it got tired of dealing with the fund in Ottawa. They're going to withdraw their money, which will call into question the future of that fund and the availability to cover all of Canada's doctors, I would think, when one of the largest provinces threatens to pull out. We didn't do that. With a lot of warning, discussion and media coverage we said we're very concerned about CMPA and couldn't get any response, so we took action which had the effect of the CMPA and the federal health minister and provincial health ministers agreeing to ask Justice Dubin to look into that, and we'll have his report in September.

I also spoke to the college yesterday and our lawyers had a little chat with them. They have an agreement that they have a responsibility to monitor the services provided or not provided and they will react to complaints, as is their responsibility, from patients who are denied services, if it comes to that.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The question's been answered. Final supplementary.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): The other day you said you had contingency plans for communities in a crisis. You indicated that you could bring new graduates and new gynaecologists into communities where a crisis exists. The fact is that the Ontario Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says there are 144 vacant positions in Ontario already, and when they are completed, those physicians are allocated to communities across the province two years before they even finish their training. In my community obstetricians are not taking new patients, general practitioners today are not taking new patients and there are no midwives in Windsor-Essex.

Minister, what is your contingency plan for the women and families in Windsor-Essex today?

Hon Mr Wilson: There is no crisis today. This is a discussion that obstetricians are having with the government and that we're having with the Ontario Medical Association. Obstetricians in Sudbury, and I have every reason to believe them, say we're at least six months away from any effect on women in this province. I assure you we will continue to do everything during that period of time. We will certainly have Justice Dubin's report.

I said that if we're wrong about the CMPA -- we should be getting credit for going to bat for doctors in this province, but I guess when government was paying the endless bills on CMPA the doctors and a lot of other people didn't have any reason to worry about it. The government doesn't have endless, deep pockets any more. The previous government capped health care. We've gone above that cap in the last budget through the generosity of my cabinet and caucus colleagues. We're putting more money into health care today, but it's not unlimited. It's not unlimited in any province. The amount of money available for physicians, including their insurance, is not unlimited.

This province spends 18.5% more than the national average per capita on physician services, so we're one of the most generous provinces, if not the most generous, in terms of what we pay our doctors. We will settle this pay dispute with them over the next six months, before patient care is affected. Let's not unnecessarily keep worrying the women of this province, who I'm sure have enough to think about during their pregnancy period.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the minister responsible for native affairs and the Attorney General. Last week, our leader asked the Premier to request you, the minister responsible for native affairs, to investigate who reportedly said, "Get the" -- expletive deleted -- "Indians out of the park." The Premier said, "I don't mind inquiring to find out if anybody knows about this."

Yesterday, our leader asked you again what actions you had taken to investigate whether and when this offensive comment had been made. You have not answered the question, so I ask you again, what actions have you taken to investigate who made this comment? What investigation process have you started? What have you come up with? What do you have to report back to this House?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I have spoken to those who I understand attended some of the meetings that have been referred to and I have not found anyone who knows anything about that comment or whether it was made or who made it.

Mr Hampton: I want to ask the minister responsible for native affairs, who is also the Attorney General, who have you spoken to, then, and what meetings are you referring to? You will know that this morning, the lawyers for the George family held a press conference and they raised questions regarding the government's involvement in directing the actions of the OPP. Those lawyers advised that they have been contacted by several different sources who have provided facts in the course of their job that the Premier or his office was involved in directing the actions of the OPP. So I ask you, whom have you spoken to and what meetings are you referring to?

Hon Mr Harnick: I've spoken to members of my staff, colleagues and people who have attended the meetings that my friends across the way have referred to. Quite simply I will say again, there has been no government involvement in directing the OPP.

Mr Hampton: We learned yesterday, for example, that the member for Lambton was at the police blockade. Have you spoken to the member for Lambton? Have you spoken to the Premier? Have you spoken to all of the actors in the Premier's office? Have you spoken to all of those people who attended the blockade committee meetings? Have you spoken to these people, and if you have, we'd ask you to table the names of the people whom you have spoken to in this House.

Hon Mr Harnick: My investigations have not indicated, number one, that this comment was made, and of course following from that, who made it.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. It concerns jobs in eastern and northeastern Ontario specifically. Minister, people living in communities like Gloucester and Hawkesbury and Pembroke and Mattawa, Kirkland Lake, Timmins, Cornwall, are increasingly concerned that they are the subject of ongoing discrimination in the Quebec labour market because the Quebec government continues to tolerate and apparently support an active discrimination of Ontario workers and Ontario businesses which seek to do business on a level playing field in the province of Quebec, particularly in western and northwestern Quebec.

As the Minister of Economic Development and presumably the minister of interprovincial trade, what are you prepared to tell the working men and women and the business people of eastern and northeastern Ontario that you and your government intend to do to correct this transparent, ongoing discrimination in the Quebec labour market and workplace?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm happy to respond that our Premier was in Quebec City last week. He spoke to the Premier of Quebec at that time and voiced our concerns about the construction industry situation between the two provinces. I think he made a very good presentation. He feels the point was made, and I think in the future we'll see much better treatment.

We're quite aware, by the way, that Highway 416 will be completed very shortly. We are taking steps to make sure there are proper jobs for Ontario people.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): What's that got to do with it?

Hon Mr Saunderson: You asked me about that district, so I am responding.

I'm very pleased to say that I have had a recent discussion with Mr Lalonde of your party, who came to my ministry and said he had a company that was wanting to consider coming to Ontario. We have had discussions with him, and I offered just yesterday to sit down again with him to try to bring his party together with the people in my ministry to make sure we get some process in this. That's going to create jobs.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Great work. Sterling work, Minister. Job by job we'll save this economy.

Hon Mr Saunderson: Yes, we are doing much to save this economy. But I wanted to report on what was happening in your particular region, which you asked me about.

Mr Conway: I must say that after 21 years in this Legislature I've come to the conclusion that voicing concern in Quebec City, whether the Premier is Davis, Miller, Peterson, Rae or Harris, is not good enough, however well intentioned those prime-ministerial communiqués are.

Yesterday my colleague Mr Lalonde, the member for Prescott-Russell, tabled in this Legislature private member's legislation which would have the effect of legislating in Ontario precisely the same kind of treatment that the Parizeau, Johnson, Bourassa and Bouchard governments have offered and continue to offer Ontario workers and businesses in Quebec.

Would you agree, as minister responsible for interprovincial trade, that the Lalonde bill introduced yesterday legislating equal treatment in Ontario relative to Quebec ought to be accepted by the government and legislated? I, for one, and speaking for my colleagues Lalonde, Morin, Grandmaître and others, believe that unless and until the Quebec government and the Quebec labour leadership and the Quebec business leadership feel the same kind of treatment in Quebec that Ontario labourers and businesses feel in Ontario from Quebec, nothing is going to change. Will you accept the Lalonde bill and will you undertake to support it as a government initiative?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I shall certainly look at the Lalonde bill. We always do consider every aspect on this side of the House. But let me say to the members on the opposite side that what is happening these days is a result of what they did not do in the past.

I can tell you that we are doing what has to be done in this province to create jobs. It doesn't matter in what particular region we do things. Let me tell you, if we raise the economic tide, the economic tide raises all economic areas in this province and the jobs start to come.

I am not concerned at this stage of the game. May I say that the records of jobs we have available from April show that there were 35,000 new full-time jobs created in Ontario. That's the strongest monthly gain we've had since November 1994. So I think we are doing our part on this side of the House to look after all regions of this province.

We will certainly look at Mr Lalonde's bill, but I would ask him to do what he can to bring together his company and my ministry.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): New question, the leader of the third party.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I just wonder how many of those jobs in eastern Ontario are going to be filled by Quebec construction workers.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. During the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park, you were regularly briefed by ministry staff. On September 6, 1995, the day of the incident that took Dudley George's life, you were quoted as saying, "The bottom line here is that it's our park; we paid for it and they're illegally trespassing upon it."

We know that the blockade committee met on September 5 and 6. We know that political staff from your office attended those meetings. Minister, will you tell this House what meetings or briefings you attended yourself with regard to this occupation, what participation you and your ministerial advisers had in those meetings, and are you prepared to make clear to this House what you said and what your ministerial staff said and to table that, if your colleague the minister responsible for native affairs is unwilling to table the whole list?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): The quote that you refer to is accurate. It is our park. It was purchased from the federal government. If there's a land claim around that, there is a legal process to enter that, and that's been made clear to the first nation and the legitimate chief, Tom Bressette, and I've met with him on occasion.

The involvement of our ministry is because it is our park; the MNR is responsible for the park. We would have been briefed on what was happening. Our staff would have said the state of the park as we knew it up to that point. Any advice or any concerns that we had would have related to the park and those issues.

Mr Wildman: The minister was quoted on September 6 as saying: "Public safety's always at the forefront of these decisions but on the other hand there has been, in our opinion, illegal activity taking place and it should be dealt with."

Minister, would you clearly explain what you meant by "should be dealt with," and what was your position with regard to how the public should be protected, and did your opinions, private or public, directly or indirectly influence the OPP?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I can't comment on whether it influenced or didn't influence the OPP, but I can tell you as the land owner responsible for the park that the question of public safety was an evacuation of the park of the campers and our staff. That had to be taken into account.

Mr Wildman: There were no campers. The park was closed.

Hon Mr Hodgson: You're referring to a quote, and I'm telling you where it came from. It came from the process around the evacuation, public safety being a concern. As the land owner, we would phone the police. I think I also went on to talk about, in that process, an injunction that might be requested from the Attorney General. If you have any questions on that injunction, that's a legal remedy to an act of trespass.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Economic development and job creation are top priorities of all local officials in my riding of Nepean. Like the provincial government, my local government is taking real actions to create jobs in our community.

I was reading in the Ottawa Citizen today that the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton has decided to lower development charges for single and semidetached homes. Several Ottawa-Carleton municipalities, including my own municipality of Nepean, have already lowered the development charges for new homes in order to encourage growth in the housing sector. Could the minister tell us very specifically what effect these municipal actions will have on the housing market and how much this will help families in buying their own home?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank my honourable colleague the member for Nepean for his question. I too saw the article in the Citizen, and I consider this to be a very, very positive step. Anything that decreases the cost of a new home is good news for the consumer. The building industry also sees this as good news, and I believe that it will pass these savings on to the consumer. Increased activity in the market will more than make up for any price decrease. As the member noted as well, Nepean has reduced its development charge by almost half, from $12,000 to $6,000, and this is going to create the opportunity for thousands of people to make the leap into new home ownership.

The spinoff benefits in home construction are also enormous. Besides the new tax revenue for the municipality, this is job creation. It's estimated that for every $1,000 reduction in the cost of a new home, 8,000 potential buyers would be eligible to purchase a new house. Think of it: A $6,000 reduction would make it possible for 48,000 potential new home buyers, and the spinoff effects to the consumers -- the purchasers of refrigerators, dryers, landscaping and moving -- I see this as a great move. It's jobs, jobs, jobs. It's music to my ears.

Mr Baird: I agree with the minister that municipalities helping to encourage growth in the housing sector is a very positive step. It will boost the sagging housing industry and create jobs, and it helps increase the overall housing stock, particularly the rental stock as well. Could the minister tell the House what his ministry is doing to complement these actions, to encourage growth and new jobs in the housing industry?

Hon Mr Leach: Again, I thank my colleague for that great question. In his budget my colleague the Minister of Finance announced the land transfer tax rebate of up to $1,725 for all first-time buyers of a new home. This is a very welcome step to encourage growth, and because of this and other measures the housing market is stronger now than it has been for a long time. The building industry tells me that consumer confidence in the industry is critical. A cut in taxes certainly goes a long way in this respect, and I note that resales in May reached their highest level in a decade in Ontario.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a question for the Premier. Just to be helpful to the Premier, I'm going to reference Hansard, page 5832 on 25 April 1994. I want to ask the Premier if he can confirm today that his Minister of Natural Resources is about to increase the tax on Boy Scouts who have property at Lake Panache near Espanola by 2,700%.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I have no idea whether this is what's happening. I would be prepared, if you would wish me, to talk to the minister and to ascertain if this is indeed the case. I don't know whether it's -- how much, 2,700%? I don't know whether that's a three-cent increase. I don't know whether that is accurate. I don't know whether that is real. I don't know whether that is new.

But my experience of the Ministry of Natural Resources is that it has been very fair and reasonable in any very modest user fees it has proposed to put our parks on a more sustainable basis. I can tell you as well that to the best of my knowledge -- I may be wrong; I'll check too -- I have had not one word of complaint from the Boy Scouts about this government, about me, about the ministry or about the minister. But I'll check that for you.

Mr Michael Brown: I can help you. It's not three cents; it's $720. This may not seem like a lot to you, but these are your words to the now deputy leader of the NDP, the former Treasurer, on April 25, 1994:

"This may not seem like a lot to you, Minister, but this is the first time in the history of this province that we've had to go after these kids, trying to teach them a little bit about conservation, a little bit about managing of our forests, that we've had to go into" the pockets of kids.

"For parents sending their kids to campgrounds, for the kids who sell apples to raise money, it may mean the difference between going to a...park this year and not going to a...park."

Mr Premier, in order to fund your tax decrease, do you have to go after the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of this province?

Hon Mr Harris: You have me a little bit disadvantaged. I don't have my 1994 quotes, where it sounds like for some reason or other -- and if you send them over I'd appreciate it -- the former New Democratic Party government was unfairly going after kids and children. I'm very surprised the New Democratic Party would do such a thing, particularly targeting the children.

But I can tell you this, that the --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: I can tell you this, that the current Minister of Natural Resources, whom you are referring to, who wants to bring in accountability and responsibility, and may be asking parents of children to participate in the use of some of the resources that are there, that the honourable member and minister is honorary chair of the Hamilton district Scouts and Guides. Just two weeks ago they applauded him; they thanked them for his involvement. His ministry is actively involved in the curriculum of Scouts and Guides, where they have actively applauded not only the long history of the ministry, but the current minister himself for leading the way in this area.

With regard to the specifics and any implications that may have for those parents of children who can afford to pay, we'd be glad to look into those specifics and get back to the member on that.



Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is for the minister responsible for women's issues. As you know, the national Women's March Against Poverty is making its way today from Wawa to Sault Ste Marie. In April, you said to this House that you could rationalize abolishing the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues, because women have been telling you they want more direct contact with the minister. But Minister, if any of those women who are marching across the province had tried yesterday and today, like our staff did, to contact the Ontario women's directorate, they would have gotten a voice mail. I'd like to ask you, what is going on at the OWD? Why don't they answer their phones?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): I'm not aware that they don't answer their phones, and I will take that observation under advisement and get back to the member as quickly as I can, within the next few minutes.

Ms Churley: Minister, I just don't think that answer is adequate. You don't even know that the phones are being answered. You told women you wanted to consult with them directly, and that's your link to women. Your idea of consultation is a joke if you don't even know if their phones are not being answered over there. You get rid of an advisory council and replace it with a series of meetings led by you, called "Community Talks."

How is the women's community going to talk to you when nobody is answering the phones? We called yesterday at 11:20 am and 3 pm, and today at 10:10 am and 12:20 pm. A message told us to leave a name and phone number "if you want."

How are you then, as the minister responsible for women's issues, going to explain to the women who will be gathering here this Saturday to protest what your government is going to do to them and has done to them and their families? How do you explain this?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I think really that the member is asking us whether or not we are able to speak to the women in the province of Ontario. The incident about the telephone is something I will look into. That is a complaint I have never had as minister responsible for women's issues, and you know in this House that we have a very effective Ontario women's directorate in the province of Ontario. When I was out last week in Winnipeg, Manitoba, speaking to the other women responsible for women's issues, they advised us that we have one of the best-informed directorates across Canada, of which you once were part, as were the Liberals.

I want all my colleagues to know that we met with the women who are marching across Canada at that time. We had an informal meeting. I have already spoken to them on more than one occasion.

As to our intent to get out and talk to the women across this province, I am out almost every evening speaking to the women, including this evening in Toronto. We have already had community talk sessions across the province. They have been very well received. We have already had Partners in Change sessions across the province. They have been very well received. We are getting good advice on policy, good advice on how we can improve our programs. We have a very open communication process in the province of Ontario for women and have no complaints, except for the ones you give us on a daily basis in this House.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): When I met with farm leaders in my riding of Norfolk prior to the budget and the announcement about the AgriCorp agency, I heard some concerns, concerns that our doing more for less could actually mean doing less for less.

Now that the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has introduced the agrifood and rural business bill, could he explain to the farmers I represent and the agricultural community across Ontario how this will enable the ministry to provide better service to farmers for less? Second, could the minister tell us a bit about the mandate for AgriCorp?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to thank my colleague from Norfolk for that question. I know he was in consultation with farmers in his riding, in Delhi and Waterford and Simcoe and other communities.

Let me tell him first of all that the agrifood and rural business bill is getting rid of a lot of deadwood that was laying there within the Ministry of Agriculture and had to be done away with. Second, AgriCorp was set up pursuant to a try by the Liberals, and they didn't have the political will to bring it forth. Another try by the NDP; they didn't have the political will to bring it forth.

We brought forth AgriCorp, which will be run by farmers, administered by farmers, to look after the safety net issue, which includes GRIP, NISA and the crop insurance. I want the honourable member to know that this will be administered by the Crop Insurance Commission initially, which is farmers working for farmers, and who better can administer something like AgriCorp?

Mr Barrett: We saw too many times under previous governments that farmers were not properly consulted when changes were pending to programs that affect them. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has set a positive precedent for consulting farmers in my riding and also across Ontario with the table talk sessions.

I wonder if the minister could tell us how the creation of a new crown agency, AgriCorp, would be accountable to farmers.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: As I mentioned in the initial reply, it will be managed and operated by farmers for farmers.

I want to remind my colleagues and my friends in this Legislature that indeed in the budget we had good news, good news from all across the agricultural sector: $15 million for research, development and competitive action that we in agriculture will have to bring forth to the world, and we will be rebating $20 million in the building products for farm buildings.


Hon Mr Villeneuve: The honourable members don't like to hear this good news. There is good news and the agricultural community knows about it; they've recognized it. I appreciate the opportunity of answering that question.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Health. Not only is there a crisis with obstetric services, but now we have a family physician crisis looming in Sudbury which jeopardizes the health care services for patients requiring a family physician.

Minister, you will know you have ardent supporters of the Conservative health care agenda deciding that it just ain't worth it any more to practise in Sudbury: specialists, such as Dr Jack Hollingsworth, a government appointee to the Ontario drug commission and Tory fund-raiser, leaving for one year at least, returning to his roots in Ireland; family physicians, such as Dr Killian De Blacam, another Tory fund-raiser, moving to Detroit; other family physicians, such as Dr Joel Andersen, relocating, Dr Deacon and Dr St Martin closing their family practices to operate out of their clinics. The crisis is real with these four family practitioners leaving.

Minister, on April 3 of this year, you designated Sudbury as an underserviced area, requiring four additional doctors. Since then, these four doctors have announced that they're going. Two more are going to retire this summer and several more are thinking of going.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Put your question.

Mr Bartolucci: My question is, what emergency measures are you prepared to implement to ensure Sudburians have an adequate number of family physicians?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I say to the honourable member, first of all, that the underserviced area program designation received by Sudbury is a very important and very substantial incentive package to attract doctors to Sudbury. I have letters from Dr De Blacam and Dr Jack Hollingsworth. Dr De Blacam writes saying:

"Dear Jim:

"Just a note to let you know that I'm on sabbatical leave from Sudbury for 12 months, taking extra training in Detroit."

He goes on to say he'll be back. He wants to upgrade his skills, a perfectly legitimate thing to do. We encourage CME, and in fact it's part of what the doctors are asking for and it's contained in the physician action plan, CME being continual medical education. The government, through the OMA actually, has a program to pay for some of these leaves.

With respect to the word "crisis," I have a letter dated May 29 -- because when I heard about these things up in the north, we chatted with the doctors in the north. Dr Chris McKibbon, who is the president of the medical society in Sudbury, certainly indicates that it's not a crisis in his letter to me of May 29. Jack Hollingsworth, I've a letter from him and he says he's going for some personal reasons and some reasons to do with his children. He wants them to get in touch with their Irish roots. He's going to Ireland for a year. So we see in many communities professionals coming and going and the ministry will work with the people of Sudbury as has been the tradition of all governments with the Sudbury area to attract physicians to that area.

Mr Bartolucci: It's interesting that the minister has these letters. I have a meeting with Dr McKibbon on Saturday morning at his request to discuss the emergency that he sees. Now I'm wondering who's on first here and what in fact the minister and how the minister is interpreting what Dr McKibbon is saying. There clearly is a crisis in Sudbury, with family physicians. The ministry designated it an underserviced area, when we had four family physicians more than we're going to have a month from now. Obviously there's a crisis, and the crisis continues to grow.

But let's talk about the underserviced program. The underserviced designation in Sudbury is not working. Why has the ministry refused to accept Dr Paul Rheault and Dr Tim Zimiowski as successful candidates for the underserviced area program because of a technicality which, when you compare their combined caseloads, you're looking at 6,000 cases. They've had to appeal to their patients for a letter-writing program, for a telephone phone-in program to try to convince the Ministry of Health in northern Ontario to designate these two doctors as underserviced designations. Why haven't you granted that to these two doctors?

Hon Mr Wilson: It would be inappropriate for me to divulge the personal information in those cases, other than that the doctors, in order to qualify for the program, need the consent of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. I would have to check if the technical difficulties were perhaps in the accreditation process from the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

We're eager to get doctors to the north. I've been up there and have spoken to the medical society and have a nice letter from Dr Chris McKibbon, who says he looks forward to continuing to work with me and the government to solve the problems in the north.

I'm looking forward in a few days to responding to the Professional Association of Internes and Residents of Ontario, who did a northern tour earlier this year and came up with some good ideas to enhance services to the north. I'm reviewing that right now and hope to make an announcement in a few days, which will be more good news for northern Ontario.

I've spent a considerable amount of my time delivering good news to northern Ontario. We're going to do everything we can to make sure you have physicians in Sudbury, I assure you.



Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended that North York Branson Hospital merge with York-Finch Hospital;

"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health to the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who in numerous cases require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;

"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendation contained within the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital, so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."

I have affixed my signature.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): "To all members of the Ontario Legislature:

"Whereas the children of Ontario deserve accessible, quality child care;

"Whereas the child care review committee of the Harris Conservative government is considering cutting subsidies to child care and threatening to introduce user fees;

"Whereas the Harris Conservatives are also contemplating a number of changes to current child care legislation that would lower licensing standards so that child care centres would be required to renew their licences only every three years;

"Whereas the child care committee of the Conservative government has discussed handing the enforcement of regulations over to a self-regulating body;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislature of Ontario to ensure that child care subsidies be restored to the level introduced by the previous NDP government, that licensing standards be maintained at the current level and that the Conservative government ensure that the enforcement of regulations not be devolved to the child care industry."

This is signed by a number of constituents in my riding, and I am proud to attach my signature.


Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I have a petition from some 440 people from my riding and southern Ontario ridings.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Bill 27, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act, was introduced for first reading on December 11, 1995;

"Whereas the bill amends the Children's Law Reform Act to emphasize the importance of children's relationships with their parents and grandparents;

"Whereas the amendment would require parents and other guardians with custody of children to refrain from unreasonably placing obstacles to personal relations between children and their grandparents;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Please pass Bill 27 with royal assent without further delay to amend the loopholes in the existing Children's Law Reform Act."

I affix my signature to this petition.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai reçu de Mme Cécile Bourdeau une pétition qui contient 650 signatures relative aux déchets industriels de papiers peints de spécialité Domtar.

«Attendu que l'industrie de papiers peints spécialisés Domtar veut faire l'épandage de déchets industriels sur les terrains agricoles d'Embrun ;

«Attendu que ces déchets industriels au bout contiennent des produits cancérigènes et que le taux de cancer dans notre région est déjà très élevé ;

«Attendu que suite à nos craintes pour notre santé, nous avons fait faire une analyse par un laboratoire qui confirme que ces déchets contiennent des métaux très toxiques ;

«Nous demandons que ce projet soit aboli pour le bien-être de la population actuelle et la génération future.»



Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): A petition to the Legislature:

"Whereas evidence placed before the standing committee on finance and economic affairs illustrates that the stated fiscal plan of the government of Ontario will not work and the government's commitment to deliver 725,000 jobs over the next four years is unattainable given the current state of the Ontario economy combined with the government's plan to deliver a 30% reduction in personal income taxes at the same time as eliminating the deficit, and that the evidence presented to the committee illustrates the contradictions within the government's fiscal and economic agenda as well as the damage it will cause in every community in Ontario;

"We, the undersigned, petition this government to recognize its responsibility to working women and men in this province and abandon its plan to introduce a 30% reduction in personal income taxes and instead the government should concentrate on the creation of jobs so the economy will grow, the deficit can be eliminated and accumulated debt reduced."

I'm affixing my signature to this petition in agreement.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My riding of Durham East is the home of the Darlington nuclear plant. The citizens in my community are concerned with the findings and decisions soon to be announced by the Macdonald commission.

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to not proceed with the privatization of Ontario Hydro, especially the nuclear component which represents a potential safety threat to the people of Ontario (in any unregulated environment)."


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ontario government has clearly indicated that it `wants to get out of the housing business'; and

"Whereas the Ontario government is reviewing the legal contracts and budgets of every co-op housing project in the province; and

"Whereas the Ontario government has announced plans to make huge cuts to co-op and non-profit housing funding; and

"Whereas the Ontario government wants to replace affordable housing with subsidies to private landlords; and

"Whereas co-op housing is a proven success in providing affordable homes owned and managed by the people who live in them; and

"Whereas the actions of the Ontario government threaten to destroy stable, well-maintained communities which have been built over the last quarter of a century and the investment all Ontarians have made in this stock of affordable social housing;

"We, the undersigned, request that the Ontario government sit down with the co-op housing sector to negotiate a deal which will ensure the long-term financial viability of housing co-ops and the continuance of rent-geared-to-income assistance upon which thousands of co-op members depend, and which will promote greater responsibility for administration by the co-op housing sector and less interference by the government in the day-to-day operations of housing co-ops."

I'll affix my signature. I know that if Kay Gardner were able to do so, she would also affix her signature to this petition.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have yet another petition from my riding on rent control. It reads:

"Petition to the Ontario Legislature:

"To Premier Mike Harris, Minister Al Leach and members of the Ontario Legislature:

"Whereas Mike Harris's Conservative government of Ontario is planning to destroy the present system of rent control; and

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative Party made no mention of scrapping rent control during the election campaign of 1995 or in the Common Sense Revolution document; and

"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with high tenant populations campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform of protecting the current rent control system; and

"Whereas the government has consulted with special-interest groups representing landlords and developers while cutting funding to organizations representing the 3.5 million tenants of Ontario; and

"Whereas although all renters will suffer, seniors and others on fixed incomes will suffer particular hardship if rent controls are abolished; and

"Whereas eliminating rent control will result in skyrocketing rents in Ontario;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call on the Legislature of Ontario to stop the attack on the 3.5 million tenants of the province."

I agree with this petition and affix my signature to it.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Honourable Solicitor General and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario has decided to scrap mandatory inquests as a result of fatalities in the mining and construction industry; and

"Whereas this unprecedented and callous decision sets workplace safety back 20 years;

"We, the undersigned, request that the Solicitor General, on behalf of all workers in the mining and construction industry, to reverse this decision to remove mandatory inquests from the Coroners Act of Ontario."

Because this is so important and because I agree with it, I have affixed my name to it.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have a petition here from the good people of the city of Toronto and it's addressed to the Legislature of Ontario and reads as follows:

"Whereas the Mike Harris Conservative government of Ontario is planning to destroy the present system of rent control;

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative Party made no mention of scrapping rent control during the election campaign of 1995;

"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with very high tenant populations campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform to protect the current rent control system;

"Whereas although all renters will suffer, seniors and others on fixed incomes will suffer particular hardship if rent controls are abolished;

"Whereas eliminating rent control will result in skyrocketing rents in Ontario;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislature of Ontario to stop this attack on the 3.5 million tenants of this province."

I sign this petition.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition today signed by a number of residents from Scarborough Centre and it's to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the recommendations of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council to close inpatient paediatric beds, the special care nursery and the burn care unit at the Scarborough General Hospital, resulting in significantly reduced access to paediatric, newborn and burn care for a large geographic area of Scarborough; and

"Whereas the paediatric unit, special care nursery and burn unit at Scarborough General Hospital provide very cost-efficient, quality care;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to: (1) continue paediatric services, including inpatient paediatric beds; (2) continue special care nursery services; and (3) continue and combine Metropolitan Toronto's burn care at Scarborough General Hospital."

I've affixed my signature to this petition.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition that reads as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario appears to be moving towards the privatization of retail liquor and spirit sales in the province; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a safe, secure and controlled way of retailing alcoholic beverages; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides the best method of restricting the sale of liquor to minors in Ontario; and

"Whereas the LCBO has an excellent program of quality control of the products sold in its stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a wide selection of product to its customers in modern, convenient stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO has moved forward with the times, sensitive to the needs of its customers and its clients; and

"Whereas the LCBO is an important instrument for the promotion and sale of Ontario wine and thereby contributes immensely to the grape-growing and wine-producing industry,

"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario abandon its plan to turn over the sale of liquor and spirits to private liquor stores and retain the LCBO for this purpose."

I affix my signature to this petition as I'm in complete agreement with its contents.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government is planning to remove rent controls; and

"Whereas the removal of rent control legislation breaks the campaign promise made by the Conservatives during the election; and

"Whereas a great number of tenants are seniors and people on fixed incomes and many of those have had their incomes cut by 22% due to social assistance cuts and cannot afford an increase in their rent; and

"Whereas growing unemployment and the scarcity of affordable housing in Metro makes the removal of rent control an even greater disaster for tenants and for people who cannot afford homes;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"That the government of Ontario keep their pre-election promise and not remove rent controls and continue with the Landlord and Tenant Act and Rental Housing Protection Act."

I affix my name to this fine petition.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): On the same issue, more and more concerned citizens, fully 15 more on this sheet, petitioning the Ontario Legislature.

"To Premier Mike Harris, Minister Al Leach and members of the Ontario Legislature:

"Whereas Mike Harris's Conservative government of Ontario is planning to destroy the present system of rent control;

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative government made no mention of scrapping rent control during the election campaign of 1995 or in the Common Sense Revolution;

"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with high tenant populations campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform of protecting the current rent control system;

"Whereas the government has consulted with special-interest groups representing landlords and developers while cutting funding to organizations representing the 3.5 million tenants in the province of Ontario;

"Whereas although all renters will suffer, seniors and others on fixed incomes will suffer particular hardship if rent controls are abolished;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislature of Ontario to stop the attack on the 3.5 million tenants of this province."

As a future tenant because, being of moderate means, I have no alternative, I'm pleased to join in this plea for common sense: Scrap the proposed legislation. Therefore, I will affix my signature to the petition.



Mr Harnick moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 61, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of the Attorney General / Projet de loi 61, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère du Procureur général.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Mr Wildman moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 62, An Act to revise the Endangered Species Act and to protect Threatened and Vulnerable Species / Projet de loi 62, Loi révisant la Loi sur les espèces en voie de disparition et visant à protéger les espèces vulnérables et les espèces menacées.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The purpose of the bill is to replace the Endangered Species Act. The act currently provides protection to endangered species of animals and plants. This bill extends this protection to threatened and vulnerable species as well.

A committee may be established to advise the Minister of Natural Resources as to which species should be declared endangered, threatened or vulnerable and as to possible recovery plans to ensure the survival of those species. The minister may acquire land or enter into land management agreements with a view to protecting designated species and their habitats.


Ms Mushinski moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 63, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation / Projet de loi 63, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère des Affaires civiques, de la Culture et des Loisirs.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Mr Sterling moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 64, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations / Projet de loi 64, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère de la Consommation et du Commerce.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.




Mr Saunderson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 65, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism / Projet de loi 65, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère du Développement économique, du Commerce et du Tourisme.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Mrs Elliott moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 66, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Environment and Energy / Projet de loi 66, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère de l'Environnement et de l'Énergie.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Mr Wilson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 67, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Health / Projet de loi 67, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère de la Santé.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Mr Hodgson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 68, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines / Projet de loi 68, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère du Développement du Nord et des Mines.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Mr Runciman moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 69, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Correctional Services / Projet de loi 69, Loi visant à simplifier les processus gouvernementaux et à améliorer l'efficience au ministère du Solliciteur général et au ministère des Services correctionnels.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.




Mr Wildman moved opposition day motion number 3:

Whereas the NDP government's Rent Control Act protects tenants from high rent increases; and

Whereas the 1992 Rent Control Act was the result of extensive consultation with tenants, landlords and other groups; and

Whereas tenants deserve rents that are predictable and fair; and

Whereas gutting rent control will do nothing to stimulate new private sector housing construction or solve maintenance problems; and

Whereas the Mike Harris Conservative government has cancelled more than 15,000 units of co-op and non-profit housing and has embarked on a plan to privatize public housing; and

Whereas the Mike Harris Conservative government now wants to gut rent control; and

Whereas the previous Conservative and Liberal governments failed to protect tenants from high rent increases;

Therefore this House calls on the Conservative government to keep the existing system of rent control, which protects tenants from high rent increases through a cap on rents, and ensures that landlords whose buildings are not properly maintained cannot increase rents; and to ensure that tenants still have security of tenure and access to the courts under the Landlord and Tenant Act.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Frankly, those of us in our party wish we did not have to bring this matter before the House. We had hoped that all members of the assembly would want to protect the 3.5 million tenants in this province and would recognize the responsibility to ensure that a rent control program remain in place. We all know, or should know, that one third of the residents in this province are currently protected under the Rent Control Act, and if that act is changed or rent control is removed, if the government caves in to landlord and developer pressure to allow for hefty rent increases, those residents are vulnerable.

Unfortunately, it appears that this government is intending to move and is stating that it will change the current system. We believe they should be keeping the present system in place to ensure that there is proper rent control, because we recognize that the current system, unlike the systems that were in place prior to its being passed by this House under the previous government, does indeed protect tenants from high rent increases.

This government has given mixed messages in this matter. There are members of the assembly who campaigned for the Conservative Party in the last election who came out squarely opposed to rent control, rent control of any kind. Many of them said the market should simply set rents and that somehow the invisible hand of the marketplace would serve the interests certainly of the developers and of landlords, but that it even some way or other might serve the interests of tenants.

We don't have the same laissez-faire, Adam Smith confidence in the invisible hand of the marketplace that many of the members of the assembly who sit on the opposite side appear to have. But I said it was a mixed message, because certain members, some of whom are even now members of the executive council, campaigned on the basis that the rent control system would remain in place and that tenants would have the protection of real rent control.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has made a number of different statements. It's interesting that during the recent by-election the candidate for the Conservative Party indicated that he and the Conservatives would continue rent control. What he meant by "rent control" is unclear, but he said a system of rent control would continue. The minister has said in this House that he intends to bring forward a "better" rent control system, some sort of system that would protect tenants, he says. He has said that the Liberal Party, when it was in government, failed to protect tenants. The Premier has said that the legislation currently in place, brought in by the NDP government, was better than what the Liberals did, in his opinion, but he thinks it can be somehow improved upon by this government.

Members of the government continually repeat the canard that rent control has somehow brought an end to investment in affordable housing in the province. It's interesting, because all the evidence, all the studies by experts have indicated that without a rent control system, tenants are significantly hurt, yet it is very unlikely that it will mean a significant increase in affordable housing for tenants in the province. All it will mean is increased rents.

It remains unclear what this government means by "a better system to protect tenants." The minister appeared before a large meeting recently and said he was guaranteeing that tenants would be protected under whatever new system the government is contemplating. We understand he has a number of options before him, and I guess he's getting close to deciding what option he will choose. But it seems very likely that whichever option he chooses, it is not going to be the kind of protection that tenants currently enjoy.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): It will be better.

Mr Wildman: Well, I look forward to the interventions of members of the government party during this debate in which they will explain how it will be better, since they continually say it is going to be better. We would like to know what it means. Instead of just saying "better," tell us what you mean, what changes are being considered. If the final decisions haven't been made -- I suspect they have -- what are the options being proposed, and how are those options likely to protect tenants better?

The reason I say we've got mixed messages is because the minister, at the same time he says he's going to have a better system, makes other statements which basically indicate that he believes rent control is a nuisance, an impediment to investment, an irritant for the private sector, a situation where government is in the face of the landlords and the developers, that somehow government is wrongly interfering in the system.


That's why we're interested in finding out what they mean by "better" when they say it, because it seems to me that any system they propose will not include caps or, if it does include caps, they will be so high that they will allow for very significant increases in rents. That is what will threaten affordable housing in this city and in this province.

There are very many people who are directly dependent on the continuation of a real rent control -- and I underline the word "control" -- system. If the government is considering returning to a rent review system or some variant of rent review, then tenants are indeed vulnerable. We've seen the kinds of increases that were allowed under the previous rent review system. We've seen situations where landlords carried out renovations that were not requested by tenants, were not required -- in some cases they were cosmetic -- but were used to justify enormous increases in rent that in some cases put the housing those tenants were occupying out of their reach and no longer affordable.

What does "better" mean? It is our view that this government should not tamper with the rent control system, should not make changes in the rent control system until such time as it's able to demonstrate what it means by "better" and until such time as they've properly consulted with tenants, as well as landlords and developers and municipal leaders, and until they have the acquiesence of tenants, tenants say, "Yes, this is indeed a better system." Because if you can't convince the tenants that change is necessary and useful and will benefit them, then you shouldn't be doing it.

What I say to you, what I say to this assembly and to the people in this assembly, what I say to the government is: Keep rent control; it protects tenants. Don't attack one third of the residents of this province simply to benefit developers and landlords who may not like the present system. It is imperative that tenants not be the latest casualties of the Harris revolution in this province. I call on all members of the assembly to accept and support the resolution, to state categorically and clearly that they stand on the side of tenants, they stand for affordable housing, they want to keep rent control in Ontario.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): I am pleased to rise in response to the honourable member for Algoma's resolution expressing concern for the situation facing tenants in Ontario today. Let me begin by stating that if his goal is to protect the rights of tenants, then this government is delighted to have him as our ally in our efforts to improve the system. However, if the honourable member's goal is to try and retain the current flawed system to the detriment of tenants in Ontario, then he will find no ally in this government.

I ask you to put yourself in the position of someone living in rental accommodation in Ontario today. What are the issues of importance to people living in rental accommodations at this moment in time? From the many years that I've been involved with tenant groups, particularly in my riding of High Park-Swansea and across Metro Toronto, I can tell you that their concerns and expectations are not unreasonable, nor are they all that different from those of people living in privately owned homes.

The primary concerns and expectations of tenants today can be summarized as follows:

They want security of tenure, confident that they can't be thrown out of their homes without cause and due process. They want stable rents free from outlandish and unanticipated increases administered at the whim of capricious landlords. They want to live in buildings that are clean, safe and well maintained. They and their families want security of community, not being terrorized by a tenant neighbour engaged in illegal activity. They want freedom of choice for a place to live and a wide selection of properties to choose from for a place to live so they aren't held hostage in an unsuitable building simply because there are no other acceptable and affordable places available to move to. Finally, they want to be protected by a legislative system of tenant protection that works and that they can trust, along with a dispute resolution mechanism that is accessible, inexpensive, quick, easily understood and not necessarily dependent on the courts and lawyers.

If the honourable member for Algoma could assure me that the system his party left behind was effectively addressing the legitimate needs of tenants, then there would be no requirement for further debate. But, Mr Speaker, you and I and the majority of this House today know from our tenant constituents that the current system is failing everyone in almost every conceivable way. The litany of horror stories from tenants has become legion.

The government acknowledges that the current system is running on life support and is now in desperate and urgent need of a traumatic and thorough overhaul so that once again tenants can justifiably feel reassured and protected. For that to happen, revised tenant protection legislation needs to reflect the following:

Tenants must have confidence that their rents will not be allowed to go up at an unreasonable rate, and never without justification. It must ensure that rental accommodations are properly maintained to acceptable standards of health and safety. No more should we hear stories of tenants forced to stuff towels in ill-fitting windows to stop drafts of cold air or hear of disintegrating underground parking structures and faulty electrical or plumbing systems, and no more should we hear or tolerate the incessant stories of elevators out of service for days on end. That's the present result of the legislation we have to deal with right now that my Liberal and NDP colleagues want to protect.

For this government and for the tenants of Ontario, it's simply not good enough to argue for the status quo. We need new legislation that will ensure a system that permits the landlord to respond effectively and quickly to complaints lodged by either tenants or the police about bad tenant neighbours.

Currently, the system the honourable member for Algoma praises and wants continued doesn't permit eviction of bad tenants without a protracted and expensive legal struggle. When this happens, everyone loses -- tenants, landlords and even the community.

Our changes must create an economic environment that is conducive to the private sector building new rental buildings. The current stock of housing in Toronto today is, on average, 35 years old. Much of it is beginning to show age and many units are finding it increasingly difficult and expensive to meet even minimum safety standards.

These buildings cannot continue to meet the demands of the rental market. New rental stock is urgently needed and we can only get it by stimulating private investment. In the GTA last year, only 20 -- I say again, 20 -- private rental units were built. Consider the implication. With a growing population and a growing demand for rental accommodation and a provincial economy left wallowing in a sea of red ink created in part by the shortsighted, gold-plated housing policy of the former governments, virtually no new private sector rental units have been constructed for years, and what was constructed years ago is now in the early stages of deterioration.


If we are to offer tenants real hope and help, we need to bring private sector investment back to the rental market. We need the competition that characterized the rental market in the 1960s and early 1970s. Then, competition worked to the advantage of tenants and it can do so again.

Finally, we need a system of tenant protection that is designed for the tenants and not the bureaucrats or lawyers. We need to collapse the six pieces of incomprehensible, unmanageable and very costly pieces of landlord-tenant legislation into one act that is concise, simple and easily understood by tenants and landlords alike, a tenant protection package which meets the needs of renters and seriously reduces the huge, $23-million annual administrative cost so that savings can be used to provide shelter allowances for seniors, low-income, fixed-income and handicapped tenants in genuine need and includes commonsense features such as an administrative dispute tribunal which processes tenant applications quickly and at a minimum cost -- a tribunal that prevents the need for a trip to the courts for every complaint about a leaky faucet or peeling wallpaper, a tribunal that's accessible, simple and quick with procedures that deal with tenant-landlord disputes quickly and doesn't leave tenants hanging uncertainly through a lengthy process that under the current system can take upwards of five months to resolve. Tenants shouldn't have to spend five months in court just to get their carpets cleaned.

I don't believe my colleague the member for Algoma seriously wants this House to believe that current tenant protection legislation continues to meet the needs of Ontario's tenants.

In recent months I've been shocked and saddened to see a concentrated effort to groundlessly raise the fear of seniors and all tenants concerned about the security and continuing affordability of their rental housing for purely partisan, political purposes, fearmongering of the worst sort.

The system the honourable member for Algoma wants to preserve is broken and must be fixed.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order. I'd just like to remind the members that you are not to communicate with people in the gallery, please.

Mr Shea: The minister has stated and restated time and time again, just as the Premier himself stated in this House on Monday, that this government is fully committed to introducing legislation that improves tenant protection, stimulates private sector investment in new rental stock, ensures security of tenure, maintains controls on rents, effects improved building maintenance and peace of mind and puts into place a dispute resolution procedure that is quick, inexpensive, accessible and exceedingly fair to tenants as well as landlords. Within the next month the minister will announce a new tenant protection package that will reassure tenants and stimulate the market.

Accordingly, I cannot support the motion put forward by my colleague from Algoma. It merely opts for the status quo which, as the Premier reminded this House Monday last, is the failed rent control policy particularly of the Liberal Party and to a lesser extent of the NDP. This government is committed to introduce legislation that will be far better for tenants and to end the failed policies of the past 10 years.

I ask members of this House, on behalf of tenants and landlords of Ontario, not to settle for second-best.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It is my great pleasure to address this House on this issue at this time and perhaps be of small service, particulary to the honourable members on the government side, due to the recency of my election and some of the contact I've had with electors in York South and people who have to use food banks across this province.

It's extremely important, in the light of the statements by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and by the Premier that rent controls are in jeopardy, that we'd be debating this essential item in the government's arsenal to provide for people in this province. We're not just talking about rent controls today, we're not just talking about nuances of how tenants are protected; we're talking about basic fairness in this province 12 months after a government was elected talking about common sense and instead has talked over and over again about measures that leave out the people and deal with only the problems the government chooses to see.

In rent control, we have a tremendous risk of the exact thing being repeated. Even though this was the one item that wasn't in the Comic Book Revolution, it is now being brought to bear because this government sees an opportunity to again isolate people and to create division in the province.

The perspective from the standpoint of the people in York South is fear. It's fear not just by people who are vulnerable, but people from all walks of life. That vulnerability is based on measures that this government has done. I've only been in the House two days and I've already learned that there's a pattern. Every time this government is called to account for its actions, it brings up the actions of previous governments. After 12 months it still will not take responsibility for the brand-new climate it has created in this province. Its brand-new climate is of fear and it's of division. It's about tenants versus landlords; it's about homeowners at the expense of tenants.

This kind of division is what was obvious to the people of York South and is why I'm standing here today. But when we look at the quality of life that's represented by rent control, by the essential lack of fairness that is starting to exist in this province, we recognize that part of the object here is for us to lose sight of the important things in this province. What matters in this province when we look at the kind of changes that are taking place, the genuine changes that we have to deal with and this government will not take the time to deal with -- the loss of jobs due to the changes in trade and technology, the need for people to feel that they can participate in society. Those things have not even been addressed by this government. Instead they would have us focus on the things that would divide us, and included in that is making tenants feel more and more vulnerable.

When we think of what affordable housing means for people, it's not just people having the ability to stay in their homes -- it's not just that -- it's about tenants being able to be part of society, to be able to be useful in society. Everybody in this province in almost every community of any size pays the Ontario premium in housing. This government has to recognize that. We have a structural problem that has to be dealt with in terms of the cost of housing, and it's been here since the 1970s. That pattern of response from the government cannot apply here. Every party has to take some responsibility, but you are the government now, and as the government you have to recognize that affordable housing includes as an absolute cornerstone effective rent control. It's very, very important that the kind of fear that's been raised by the Premier, by the Minister of Housing, has to be addressed by this government, and addressed very soon.

In a fair society, there is a role for government and the role that has to be played when we allow those kinds of structural problems to arise. Many, many people outside this House don't know what this government does and they don't know what good it can be to their daily lives. Five days ago, when they paid their rent, every single one of them said, "Boy, that's a lot of money," but they've become used to it and this government may want to take advantage of that.

We pay rents here that are 40% higher than the averages for all the other metropolitan centres across the country -- 40% higher. That applies in many of the smaller centres as well. We have higher costs of rent. We have also had until very recently the highest cost for homes.

Affordable housing doesn't seem to be on this government's agenda and especially when it lines up the threatened rent control for the sake of some big developers that seem to be wanting to have it changed. We have rent control existing in an age of insecurity that is the creation not of previous governments but of this government, and that insecurity has to be dealt with by everyone in this House, because it's about jobs, it's about having a place to live you can afford, and it's about having enough to eat. In this province, newly, never done before -- at least in my estimation -- is the actual deliberate action of government to create insecurity among people. That insecurity extends to the most vulnerable people in this society.

When it comes to judging the rent control debate, to looking at the measures the government is proposing to bring forward, I think a lot of it will hinge on what I found at the door: "Can we trust this government? Does this government believe in the average person? Will they, post-election, represent everybody in this province or just those people who they believe are on side?" It's going to come down to trust when we look at the matter of the people who are vulnerable.


This government, for the first time in the history of North America, has chosen, when it knew full well the effects, to create additional hardship. I don't believe that was the original intent, but ladies and gentlemen, it is what has happened. There has been a 54% increase in the number of people using food banks in Metropolitan Toronto. The average across the province is over 40%, of families, of individuals who are going hungry, not because of the whims of some global economy, not because something happened in terms of the job market, but because of the actions of this government.

We have to recognize that this age of insecurity that everybody feels, even if you've got jobs, starts from there, starts from what we do for vulnerable people. It hasn't happened in this province for the whole time we've had government trying to act in people's interests.

Tenants do not want their protection put on the table as part of whatever kind of deals this government feels it needs to make. What they need from this government is a gesture in the form of asserting absolutely that rent controls in their present form will be maintained, that there is room in this province for everyone.

The signal that's going out there is that people are being punished, people who have not done anything to deserve it. People who have worked most of their lives, paid taxes most of their lives now feel they live in a changed province. I think this government needs to acknowledge that at its one-year mandate. It needs to understand that people out there are not reacting to what it's doing with confidence. Instead, it needs to be looking at the kinds of problems it's creating.

When we talk about the number of children who are affected, when we look at some 28,000 additional children in the city of Metropolitan Toronto who have to turn to food banks, when we look at the thousands and thousands of children who live in rental accommodation in the major centres and the smaller centres across this province, think about what it means, that you have a full-time industry here of food banks. The food bank in Toronto is bigger than the food bank in Detroit, and it's bigger because we've made it so; we've made it necessary to be able to provide edible rent supplements for people who have to pay too much for rent.

I will say here today that this was not a problem invented by the Conservative government, but this is the first government I'm aware of anywhere that has gone out of its way to exacerbate that problem, and it's related directly to the reason why rent control must stay in place.

We have to have something that addresses the overall climate this government has created. They've taken away subsidized housing; they've taken away public housing; they've created a whole sense that people will have nowhere to turn. What is very, very important for this government to understand is that when it creates those measures, they affect everyone; they don't just affect a few.

That may be disappointing to the people who are calculating strategy in the Premier's office, but it matters to everybody how well they're able to get along with other people in society, how they feel in case they lose their job, about which you on the government side have increased exponentially people's concern, and it finally matters because we need a society that works. I put myself forward to come into this Legislature because I think that we're on the precipice of getting a society that doesn't work, that we're losing our chances to be not just a harmonious society but a productive society.

I would implore the members of the other side, with their majority, to take a look at what they're doing to this province and to look at rent controls as one way they can start to show the people of this province that they indeed are prepared to govern for everyone.

At the food bank, only 4% of the people have been evicted so far, but another 18% are facing evictions. We have a very fragile situation out there in the housing market. I've heard a lot of things from the government side, but nothing I've heard leads me to believe that this government knows what to do in terms of improving the protection for tenants.

When we look at what can only be termed the Comic Book Revolution, those 25 pages, it becomes very apparent this is part of a pattern where the government doesn't have its plans. You are the government now; you have a chance to do better. We would implore you, on your one-year anniversary, to change the way you're operating, because right now 40% of the people affected by the cuts in welfare are using late rent payments as a way to get by. The number of people who could be evicted, the number of people who could be homeless, that's where the real issue is, to try to deal with the problems people are experiencing.

We on the Liberal side don't advocate the government controlling the marketplace; we advocate instead the government acting responsibly when it needs to act. Successive governments in this province have recognized that need to act as a buffer between tenants and landlords, and indeed, if you look at the interests in terms of the taxing of different types of accommodation, between the interests of tenants and homeowners. There has to be firm legislation.

Even more important right now, in this age of uncertainty that has been created in the first 12 months of the Harris government, is that we have some markers people can hang on to and that we're not turning everything in their lives upside down, because that's what's happening as you threaten rent control. That's why 1,200 people were at city hall in Toronto; that's why thousands and thousands more people will be turning out for meetings -- not because of anything this side of the House is saying, but because your government has put that fear into their daily lives.

People recognized when they paid their rent five days ago that they were paying too much. That's the issue for this government to take on. When this government talks about shelter subsidies, there's already $2.5 billion being spent in shelter subsidies throughout the welfare system. It's not helping; it's not the way to go. We're propping up a system that isn't going to be improved by increasing it. You can't do the targeting. Only some kind of bureaucratic conceit would say that you could target the people in need, because this is not just about the people who are scraping to get by; this is about everyone. This is a quality-of-life issue for all the people who are tenants and, by implication, their neighbours who are homeowners.

What we have to do with the rent control legislation is maintain it -- that's absolutely the position from this side of the House -- but we also have to strengthen it. We have to make sure that we protect against landlord discrimination. Some 25% of the people who moved last year who went to the food bank faced discrimination from landlords either because they didn't earn enough money or because they were on welfare. This has to change. This has to become a focal point for the activities of government to regain some of the confidence of people out there.

When I think of the people in York South whom I met -- and I hope this is of interest to the people like Mr Shea, who's in an adjoining riding, Mr Saunderson, Mr Leach and Mr Turnbull, and members anywhere in the province who have a high percentage of tenants -- there is a fear there that is for real. It's not a fear that was put upon them by anything but the actions of this government. What I would like to do as my small service to the government side is to let you know that average people out there are talking about you. They're talking about you in ways that -- they don't know if they can trust you. They're now worried about what happens to their education; they're worried about what happens when they walk into that hospital emergency room; and very soon tenants are going to start to feel the effects of your legislation here.

We're talking about the very basics of life for people here in Ontario. These are not esoteric things limited to this Legislature. Because it's important to do so, I want to leave you with a warning that you will not be able to change rent controls to reduce the quality of life in this province the way you did so easily for people on welfare. Instead, there are thousands and thousands of people, not only those who are living in apartments, who want to see fairness brought back into this province.

If this government would like to earn the respect of the people I met on the doorsteps in York South and the hundreds of others who called from other parts of Toronto and the people I worked with at the food bank, the people whose responsibility you're charged with when you start making these moves, and when we start to forget about the people who put you in those seats -- there are a lot of seats on the other side and that's a majority, but that happened 12 months ago. With the age of insecurity that's out there, it's extremely important that the basic principles put forward by the Coalition to Save Tenants' Rights be preserved in this rent control legislation and that we be working, because it's in the public interest, to improve the kind of protections we have in place to protect tenants.

Finally, when we look at the words of the government -- the honourable member was saying we had gold-plated legislation and then described some of the problems that people are experiencing. We don't have gold-plated legislation, but we have a promise now from the Premier, made during the York South election campaign, that rent controls will continue. We have another promise made to bring tenants lower rents. I can guarantee you that the members on this side of the House will hold you to those promises.


The Acting Speaker: I remind people in the gallery that you're not to applaud.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I just have a few minutes to speak so some of my colleagues in the NDP can speak to this very important issue. As you know, it was our government which brought in the strongest tenant protection legislation in Canada. When I hear members like the member for High Park-Swansea say -- and I've heard the Minister of Housing himself say this. They stand up and say: "We're going to fix it. We're going to make it better for tenants." They say it's the opposition and others, I presume people like Howard Tessler from the Metro Tenants' Associations and Kay Gardner, who is a city councillor, people who really care about tenants' rights. I presume they're talking about those people who are out unnecessarily scaring tenants, when really what they're going to do is fix it.

I'm going to concentrate my remarks today on who really is scaring people out there. Guess what? It's the minister himself. It's the minister who's already made comments which have scared the tenants in this province. I'm going to read to you, and I would listen carefully if I were you, some comments from a Globe and Mail article written by Gay Abbate. "The loudest applause at the annual meeting of the Fair Rental Policy Organization came when Mr Leach said he is going to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act -- `One of the most unbalanced pieces of legislation I've ever seen' -- to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants."

A little later: "His speech was exactly what the several hundred members representing landlords, managers and investors in rental accommodation came to hear. `My government is here to help you,' Mr Leach began, and went on to promise that his ministry will stop interfering in their business and let the private sector do what it does best, balance supply and demand."

Later on: "He said his government will ditch rent control because, `It's bad for landlords and it's bad for tenants.' He said nobody is erecting rental apartment buildings and the current stock is so old"...blah, blah, blah. Later on, "In an interview after the meeting, Mr Leach defended his plan to shift responsibility for policing rents on to tenants. `If we're going to provide incentives for the building industry to build new stock, we have to give them something,' he said."

Later again: "Throughout his speech, Mr Leach said it is important to create a level playing field for both landlords and tenants. While rent control has protected tenants, he said, landlords have faced problems borrowing money to recoup their actual capital costs."

There's another article by David Lewis Stein, who says Al Leach brought a package to cabinet that even found favour with Bill Saunderson, but "Harris himself," so Mr Stein was told, "has ordered Leach to bring back a tougher package in June." Mr Stein goes on to say: "Meanwhile, the government is looking at ways to make it easier for landlords to raise rents and evict tenants. And if what I'm hearing is correct, it is also looking at ways to make it easier for landlords to convert rental apartments to condominiums."

I have several other quotes. I'm not going to read them now. It is the Minister of Housing himself who is scaring the tenants of this province. The tenants of this province fought hard for 20 years and they were still fighting hard when we came into government. Dave Cooke, who was the minister at the time, consulted widely. We came up with a package that really protected tenants in this province and they want to keep that tenant protection.

I say to the government members that they're being hoodwinked by this government if they believe the minister can actually bring in a so-called balanced package that will protect tenants better than they're protected now and at the same time give all the goodies to the landlords they made so happy at this landlord meeting I talked about.

It is absolutely impossible to do. It is a sham, and the tenants know that; they have been through it. I've been a tenant. I'm sure several other people -- there are tenants in the galleries today. They are terrified and this government is not listening. I personally am fed up with it. I am really fed up with it, because people are out of work and this government is doing nothing. They cut welfare recipients. Landlords lost money as a result of that. People are getting kicked out of their apartments and he's going to make it easier.

This government has gotten rid of all forms of social housing, affordable housing. They are making a made-in-Ontario, Mike Harris housing crisis, and I am scared, because we have seen housing crises before. I tell you, as some of you are smiling, and I've said it here before, we're going to see a housing crisis in this province that we have never seen before, and it's going to be on your heads. I suggest to you, as you get up and talk about how much you care about people and that this package is going to be better for tenants, that you tell tenants what you mean by that now. You've had many opportunities to do that instead of playing these silly games you play with people all the time.

Howard Tessler presented, at a meeting I attended with Kay Gardner and hundreds of tenants, what he called a true tenant protection package. In the House I handed it over to the minister and said: "If you truly believe and mean what you say and you want to stop scaring tenants, there are certain conditions that they need to know will be in this package. Will you sign this document?" He said that no, he would not sign it.

Some of the elements of that package would be:

That any new tenant protection package will include a cap on maximum rents.

That vacant apartment units would be covered. Vacant unit decontrol will spell the end of rent control after a few short years.

That rental housing stock will continue to be protected. The removal of limits on conversion, on demolition will decimate an already scarce housing supply.

That any rent increases will be linked to the ongoing maintenance of the building and that any increase due will be denied if there are outstanding work orders against their building.

If the government and the minister want tenants to relax and stop being scared, he should come forward today and tell them that this will be included in his new tenant package.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I am pleased to speak today on an issue that's very long on rhetoric and short on facts, an issue that is emotionally charged, but in light of the fact that our government has not yet presented a bill, I think the resolution is somewhat Don Quixotic. You're tilting at windmills that don't exist here today.

During the election it was a major topic in my riding, and in my neighbour Dan Newman's riding next door, 49% of the households are rental households. I believe Dan Newman and my colleagues and I took our responsibility to those voters just as seriously as we did to anyone else in the riding.

To the member opposite, I am a tenant myself and I think it's somewhat sanctimonious to suggest that the issues of tenancy are somehow known only to members on the other side. I am quite aware of the perspective of tenants.

Before dealing with the specifics of the resolution --


The Acting Speaker: Order. The member for Riverdale, you had your chance.

Mr Gilchrist: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will resume.

Perhaps before dealing with the specifics of the resolution, it would be appropriate to start off with a quote. The members opposite have been fulsome with their quotes. This quote comes from Mr John Sewell, not exactly the embodiment of Conservative thought -- a paragon of the left wing:

"Many people assume that rent control is there to protect the lower-income tenants in the units that they rent. In fact, it's upper-income tenants who get most of the benefits. They say the upper one third of the tenants get two thirds of the dollar benefits of rent control and in fact the benefits don't flow to the people who are at the bottom end of the slate when it comes to rent." I must say I agree with Mr Sewell, perhaps for the first time ever.

For anyone who doesn't believe John Sewell is an articulate spokesman for that sort of issue, a few examples of exactly the sort of rent increases that have occurred under so-called rent control might shed some light on why we are keen to bring about long-overdue changes. The Golden Elms apartment in Rexdale, 94 units, under the previous government had an order allowing a one-time increase of 33.7%; 221 Balliol in downtown Toronto, 481 units, had increases year after year of 10%, 6%, 17% and 18%, hardly in keeping with inflation. And it's not a Toronto-centric problem: 1001 Ambleside Drive in Ottawa, 254 units, saw a 37% increase, but the landlord appealed and the hearing board revised it to a 52.8% increase order -- absolutely shameful.


The current system doesn't work. Landlords and tenants both agree on that matter. They have both come to my office, and I'm sure to the office of every member in this House. We have consulted extensively with landlords and tenants and what we have heard -- and I would invite the members opposite to go to buildings such as 225 Morningside in my riding, where the balconies are falling off the building, and to go to any number of apartment buildings in that riding and see the deterioration that has occurred because landlords don't have the ability to make reinvestment. At the same time, you'll hear landlords come forward with stories about how much money they're losing from tenants who know how to play the system. I have sympathies on both sides, and the bottom line is that the entire system is broken and must have a major overhaul.

We've consulted with the landlords and tenants and we want a system and they want a system that's going to do four things: We're going to protect tenants from unfair rent increases and arbitrary evictions; we're going to improve apartment maintenance and make sure we're tough on landlords who don't take care of their buildings; we're going to produce a climate where people will invest in rental real estate; and we're going to streamline administration and cut red tape.

Of course we've already done a number of things in the short term our government has been in power. We have eliminated many of the planning barriers. We have announced we're moving forward on major property tax reform; not years from now, but six weeks from now we'll have a definitive answer, and this will have a major impact on rents because the landlords right now are paying a disproportionate amount of the property tax load across this province.

The current system is flawed. It takes an average of 130 days to complete an application under the current system -- 130 days. Talk about red tape. The previous government's system isn't working. The building stock is crumbling and nobody's building new buildings. In all of Metro Toronto last year, despite the fact that we had a population increase of close to 100,000 people, 25 rental units were built. How anyone can sit on the other side and defend the status quo when clearly nobody is making an investment -- where do you expect those 100,000 people to live? On the street? We believe that if we can reform the system, landlords who can earn a fair return -- not an excessive return, just something better than putting their money into bonds -- will make the investment back in the rental accommodation in this province.

The cost of administering the rent control system right now is another concern to all taxpayers in this province. It currently stands at $23 million to overview a system that by definition is not working.

Where are we going? I think that's the operative thing, and I'd like to touch on that very briefly. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business did a survey and one of the questions they posed was, "Should the Ontario government replace rent controls with a tenant-initiated dispute system?" The background of the question is that in Quebec and in British Columbia there are systems in place that protect tenants as long as they own an apartment. As long as you stay in your apartment, similar rent controls to what we have today would apply to prevent excessive gouging by landlords. On the other hand, when apartments are vacated, then market forces are allowed to determine their appropriate rent in that marketplace.

So the best protection, we believe, for the tenants is a healthy supply of rental housing, apartments competing with each other and keeping rents affordable. In Vancouver, with a hotter market than Toronto has seen in the last 10 years, without the kind of rent control burden we face, average rents have increased 3% less than they have in Metro Toronto. It's time we let the private sector do what they do best: balance the supply and demand of this product, no different than any other. We are considering a wide range of options, and the Quebec and British Columbia systems are certainly two of the options we're exploring.

The bottom line is, when we come forward this spring, this month, with a package of proposals, it will do all those things I mentioned earlier. It will give greater housing choices through increased supply. It will give protection from unfair rental increases. It will give the guarantee to tenants of improved maintenance and safety in their buildings, and it will ensure government support through shelter subsidies for those most in need.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): What are we talking about?

Mr Gilchrist: I find it exceedingly interesting that even the member for Scarborough North during the estimates process admitted that the current system doesn't work. In the Liberal red book, the Liberals promised to place an immediate moratorium on non-profit housing allocations and to review the effectiveness and management of the rent control program.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): That was last year, though.

Mr Gilchrist: Surely the fact that it's only one year later hasn't changed their mind. Surely the member for Scarborough North remembers what he said in estimates and still believes in those things today. I'm sure he will then see fit to oppose this resolution, because this is calling for maintenance of the status quo; and the status quo, the member opposite correctly pointed out, is not working.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): What did you say during the election?

Mr Gilchrist: During the election? I was very front and centre in my riding, that we needed to reform the system.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. This is an organized time for proper debate. If some members feel they would like to shout across the floor and so on, I would ask them to voluntarily remove themselves from the House so I would be relieved from enforcing the rules.

Mr Gilchrist: I'm sure the member for Oakwood knows the old maxim that you don't learn anything while you're talking, so I hope he'll listen to these last few comments I have to make.

The Deputy Speaker: I would further ask that those in debate would address their remarks through the Chair so we don't get into banter across the floor.

Mr Gilchrist: Certainly, Mr Speaker, and that was what I thought I was doing in entreating him, through you, to pay close attention.

The last comment I'd like to make is that not one, not two, but all three of the newspapers here in Toronto have come out strongly in support of the government's position.

The Globe and Mail said: "Rent control has been a dismal failure. It should be ended. Rent control is the most significant factor contributing to Toronto's uncomfortably tight rental market."

The Toronto Sun said: "It hasn't worked. All the dire predictions have come true that Ontario would suffer the same problems that have resulted from rent control all over the world. The horror stories are no longer about gouging landlords but about the toll on landlords. Many of them have abandoned the field because it's easier and more profitable just keeping their investment in bonds. What we have to figure out is not how to end rent control but when it should end."

The other two you could expect to take positions sympathetic to the government because they tend to be more commonsense in their outlook, but you certainly wouldn't expect the Toronto Star to come out front and centre in support of the government on this issue.

"The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has before it a report from Greg Lambert recommending that Ontario adopt British Columbia's system of rent controls. Unlike the heavy regulatory regime now in place in Ontario, the system in BC is streamlined. Sitting tenants still may take their landlords to an arbitrator if their rents are increased exorbitantly, but vacant apartments remain completely decontrolled. Tenants have some assurance that they will not be forced out of their home by double-digit rent increases." They end by saying: "Rental housing in now in a vacuum and nothing is growing in it. The sooner the government acts to fill that vacuum, the better." I couldn't agree more.

In closing, we're committed to tenant protection, particularly for lower-income tenants, not through increased bureaucracy, not through more red tape, not through state intervention, but by allowing the market to determine supply and demand, by celebrating the free market and allowing the landlords to make an investment and provide top-quality accommodations to the people of this province. I will not be supporting this resolution accordingly, and I would encourage all members opposite that when our government in the next few weeks brings forward specific legislation, at that time it would be quite appropriate to level whatever constructive criticisms they may wish to offer to the government.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: This afternoon -- and you have just taken over the chair -- the government members have not interjected with the speakers of the two parties opposite. The last speaker had interjections from both of those parties. I have been here the whole time. I ask you to please rule on that.

The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order. Further debate from the member for Oriole.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): This is indeed a passionate debate and I will be supporting the motion that is before the House.

Certainly, the one thing that people across the province are beginning to understand is that they simply cannot trust Mike Harris and the Tories. When I listen to what the members opposite are saying, I'm hearkening back to one year ago on the campaign trail when the Conservative candidate in my riding unequivocally wooed tenants with promises that Mike Harris and a Conservative government would not scrap rent control. That was a promise that was clear. It went out in brochures, not only in the riding of Oriole but right across the province.

When I hear members opposite stand and say that during the election campaign they were very clear that they did not support rent control, that in fact they supported other methods such as shelter allowances, I can tell you that it was very clear in the riding of Oriole, it was very, very clear in the promises of Paul Sutherland, it was very, very clear that he was speaking on behalf of Mike Harris and the Conservative Party and he was saying very clearly that you would not scrap rent control. That's why my constituents in the riding of Oriole frankly were horrified when Al Leach, Minister of Housing, stood up and said, "We are going to scrap rent control." The phones rang off the hook in my constituency office when the headlines said the Tories did not believe in rent control, that their promises had never been to protect --


Mrs Caplan: Let me tell you something. People are realizing that they have every right to fear. They have a right to fear because they don't know what your promises meant, since they are hearing something very different today than what they heard just a few short months ago when you wanted their votes, and that makes them very cynical and very angry.

Over the years that I have been in this House I have stood in my place and I have said that in the riding of Oriole some 48% of the population are renters, are tenants. Most of those people, I would say, consider themselves good citizens and want to be good tenants. They want value for their money; they want a clean and decent place to live. They realize that the existing protections that tenants have have their positives and their negatives and that it is very difficult to find the perfect system to protect everyone.

While I said that most of the tenants in the riding of Oriole consider themselves good tenants, they also know that there are occasionally bad tenants. I know that most landlords want to be good landlords. They want to keep well-maintained buildings. But there are some bad landlords. So I think it is wrong to paint all tenants or all landlords with either white hats or black hats. I believe that when we bring in housing policies, we have to look at the kinds of sensitive policies that will recognize what is in the public interest and what is going to treat people fairly.

I was very proud to be part of a government, under the leadership of then housing minister Alvin Curling, who did something very unique. He brought together landlords and tenants and in fact they worked out a compromise. That compromise was not perfect; it was enshrined in legislation. Notwithstanding the fact that over 80% of the awards as a result of that legislation were either at or below the guideline, there were many that had higher increases than what any of us felt were acceptable, and we were all very concerned about that. We were committed to looking for ways to protect not only against unjustified increases from unscrupulous landlords, but we also wanted to protect people against those unreasonably high increases, and that is something that we have been dedicating ourselves to as part of housing policy and social policy development.

While we look for those solutions, we have to recognize that you rarely find perfection. The existing laws, the existing methods that are in place today, are not perfect either. We all recognize that they can be streamlined and they can be adjusted so that they are more responsive to the needs. That was our commitment during the election. But what we said very clearly and what we say today is that we are committed to tenant protection, we are committed to making sure that people have a clean and decent place to live.

We recognize that the cost of the rental subsidy program, the rent supplement that is referred to by the Conservatives opposite, is frankly unreachable and unmanageable. If the record of the existing $2.5-billion rental subsidy program as part of welfare support is any indication of this government's commitment to people in need, then I will tell you, people have every right to fear because what this government did by cutting welfare rates to those people on general welfare assistance by over 20% was to make sure that more of their dollars had to go to rent with less available for food.

Their record of cutting social housing programs, not only placing a moratorium and examining it, as we have said we would do, but actually scrapping not-for-profit housing and co-op housing, has meant that in fact you have a supply problem on the affordable side.

When I hear the member for Scarborough and others talk about increasing supply, let me tell you the reality. The reality is, the only construction you get or will ever get will be at the high end. No one builds affordable housing unless there is some support from the government, whether it is in the form of not-for-profit or co-op housing. That is the reality. The reality is, you will get buildings of condominiums and you will get high-end. So who is going to look after those people who cannot afford high-end and market forces? If you are out of social housing, if you take away tenant protection, if you end rent control, we will continue to see the kind of abandonment of those most in need in our society and the ripping of our social fabric.

People are fearing that they will lose their jobs. They are now fearing that they will lose their homes. They know that under the present NDP policies, much of the maintenance work that was needed has been abandoned. They know that the work has to be done, and they need government support and encouragement to see that the work is done. You cannot totally abandon the whole field without seeing the fabric of society ripped apart.

There is too much fear and there are too many broken promises. Tenants are worried they will lose their homes. When they hear this government talking about the BC example and the BC model and support for that, they know what that means. They know that if they leave their home, if they move from their apartment or their rental unit, they likely will have no place to go, because once you move there is no protection and that erodes the stock of affordable housing.

The example in BC is not a good one for Ontario, simply because the vacancy rates in BC have not been affected in any kind of a positive way. You cannot import solutions from any other jurisdiction and say that they are right for Ontario. What you need to have in Ontario is a solution that is right for Ontario.

I'll tell you something: Tenants would rather see the existing system remain in place, perhaps with some minimum streamlining, rather than losing the protections that they now have. They do not want to see tenant protection eroded. They do not want to see them have the kinds of fears about losing their homes. They do not want to have to wake up in the morning and wonder whether or not there will be dramatic increases in their rents so that they cannot afford to stay where they are.

I'm going to be supporting this motion because, frankly, I don't trust this government. I'm concerned about what their policies are going to be. I want to put them on record today, as the member for a constituency with a large number of tenants, that you must keep your promise. You promised you would not scrap rent control, and if you attempt to do that, the tenants of this province will remember and they will unite and they will defeat you.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I'll be very brief, but I do want to make a few comments since, when we had the privilege of being in government, I had the privilege of working on this piece of legislation which I am pleased the Liberal Party is supporting today. They didn't support it back then, but enough of that, we won't talk in detail about the Liberal caucus.


Mr Cooke: To be completely accurate, I think maybe the Liberal Party supported it on second reading, opposed it in committee and opposed it on third reading. Then they sent out two sets of speeches, one to the landlords and one to the tenants, and that was basically the approach they had taken. I don't want to dwell on the Liberal Party. They're not --


Mr Cooke: Alvin, I know who the enemy is, but some time, if you're elected, when you put together the legislation, you do have legislation that's a problem. Elinor Caplan can talk about the Liberal legislation, but let's get real. There was case after case after case that was raised in this House where we had 60% and 70% rent increases. We had rallies in this community that were organized by Kay Gardner and others involved in the tenants' movement in Toronto that 500 and 600 seniors were at because they were frightened to death about what the Liberal rent legislation was doing to them. So your legislation and your process are no model.

I think what you went through and what we went through is something the government should study. The fact of the matter is that you cannot ever design rent regulation legislation in this province that both the landlords and the tenants will get up and cheer about, because the interests are totally different. Believe me, we went to more meetings, we brought landlords and tenants together, and there will never be agreement between FRPO, the Fair Rental Policy Organization, or the tenants' organization, because there are totally different interests.

We start in this caucus from the point that in a society like Ontario's there is a basic right to decent, affordable housing, and that government has an obligation to be part of the solution, to make sure that everyone in this province has access to decent, affordable housing.

As I said, there are different interests between landlords and tenants, but we also have made our choice in this party: We support tenants because they need access to decent, affordable housing. If there are sides to be chosen, we've chosen our side. We're on the side of tenants in the New Democratic Party caucus. I say that with no fear at all because on this issue you have to choose sides. There is no doubt about it at all.

I want to make comments on a couple of things that have been said this afternoon by Tories, because they're going into this with such a naïve point of view that it's absolutely silly.

Repairs: I hear the member for Scarborough whatever --

Mr Curling: East.

Mr Cooke: Scarborough East -- saying that under the rent control legislation our government brought in, as a result, buildings are deteriorating and repairs can't be made. What is rent? Rent is not just profit for the landlords; rent is to pay expenses and to pay repairs.

In the formula that is currently part of the rent control legislation in this province, it's even gone further, to the point where there was some criticism from some tenants in the province because there was an actual component in the formula that says every year there's 2% that goes to capital. That 2% builds year after year after year, so as part of the rent, after each and every year, there's more built into the monthly rent that goes into repairs and into capital. There is no reason, given the rent structure, for landlords to come forward and say they need more money because they need to replace a roof. Those expenses are built into the rent.

We also went further in the formula. We said, "If there's an extraordinary expense, then you can apply through the system and you can get an additional rent increase," but there's always going to be a cap because tenants in this province deserve some assurance that they're not going to be economically evicted from their apartments in this province. That's what's happened under previous rent review legislation, and we said that one of the fundamental principles in our rent control legislation is that no one is going to be economically evicted from their home. These are not apartments. These are not investment vehicles. These are people's homes, and they deserve to know they're going to be able to stay in those homes. We know that forcing people to move is so difficult on those families. It's emotionally traumatic and it can destroy a family.

I think in a civilized society we owe it to one another to be able to protect those tenants and to say to them: "Yes, you have the ability to stay in your apartment. You know what the rent is and there are not going to be 50% or 60% rent increases as was provided under previous rent review legislation."

I think it's important, and there's no issue that defines more clearly the ideology or approach to government that political parties have than rent control. I have explained to you what our position is: We support access to fair and affordable and decent rental accommodations in this province. But over there they look at this totally in economic terms. They forget that it's also very much a social issue. When I hear the naïve approach that's taken that if we deregulate, the private sector is going to build, or that we can develop a rent control system that will guarantee a return on investment that will be at least what you get on bonds in the province -- let's just take an example.

A rental unit costs about $100,000 to build in this province. You might be able to get it a bit lower and in some cases it might be a bit higher, depending on the land costs, but we'll say $100,000. We'll say that somebody wants -- because I haven't heard the figure that landlords want a 5% return. They want a higher return than that. Just for the sake of it we'll say a 10% return. That doesn't talk about the payment of the principal; it doesn't talk about things like hydro and property taxes and all of those costs. Right now we're just talking about a return on investment of 10%. That's $10,000. You're almost at $1,000 per month rent already without talking about paying the principal, without talking about paying your property taxes and all of those additional costs.

The reality is, the reason the private sector hasn't been building rental accommodation in the province is because the cost of building it and the ability to get a return on that investment make it economically non-viable, not viable to do. They can go and build malls. They can build office towers. They can invest their money in other vehicles that are going to give them a return on investment.

That's why we came to the conclusion, and I would say that even Republicans in the United States have come to the conclusion, that in a modern society, in a civilized society, government has a role to play. Government has a major role to play in the housing market, and that means there has to be government investment in non-profit and co-op housing as part of a housing strategy. So you have to have regulation of rents to make sure those rents remain viable, affordable for people, and you have to have investment in non-profit and co-op housing.

It's bizarre. Here we are in Ontario getting completely out of non-profit and co-op housing, and in the United States even the Republican House of Representatives supports the idea of housing being built by the state, co-op housing for seniors. It's absolutely bizarre that this government's housing policy is more right-wing than the Republican housing policy in the United States. It is not an overstatement of what my colleague from Riverdale said a few minutes ago. With the policy that this government is enunciating on housing, we are heading towards the biggest housing crisis in the history of this province.

It's a political issue, it's an economic issue, but more important than anything, it's a people issue. We cannot allow this to happen. There are too many people living on the streets in a community like Toronto, and in my home community of Windsor there are too many people living on the streets already. There are too many families that break up under the pressures of not being able to afford or find decent, affordable housing.

We owe it to the people we represent. We owe it to one another to have a housing strategy that works. That means the government has to invest, the government has to regulate and we as taxpayers have to pay. We have to pay for one another so we can all have a decent life and our neighbours and our friends can have a decent life. We have to support rent control and a housing policy.


Mrs Marland: Perhaps I'll start where the member from Riverside just left off. He's absolutely right that this government needs a housing strategy that works, to use his own words. We have had five years in this province of proof of a housing strategy that didn't work.

I never thought I would really have the privilege of sitting in this chamber again and hearing somebody go on and on about the advantages of spending taxpayers' money on bricks and mortar when the private sector can do that for us. I never thought, when we look at the housing strategy of the previous government, where in one year we had identified by the Provincial Auditor $200 million missing in the Ministry of Housing -- even the Provincial Auditor couldn't find it. When he identified that with the then Minister of Housing and that minister's staff, guess what? They couldn't find the missing $200 million either.

The member for Riverside is perfectly right when he talks about it being an issue of ideology. We heard that time and time again in the last 10 years, those of us who have been in this debate for that long. I would suggest to you that it's a matter of ideology if you're a member of the New Democratic Party and you live in subsidized housing as a member of this House. I recall that in the last government we had three members of the NDP government who lived in subsidized housing. At the same time, we have members of the New Democratic Party who serve on Toronto city council who also think it's okay, when their joint incomes are in excess of $120,000, that they too live in subsidized housing.

You see, it's a bit like this old hay-rube, I guess, of an example where it's fine for people to preach one message and they practise another. It's very interesting that when we raised in the House that members of the New Democratic Party were living in subsidized housing, they thought that was okay to continue. We just happen to have an absolute difference of opinion on ideology when it comes to the provision of housing. Yes, I think there is a basic right in this province to affordable, decent housing. The only point where we differ, I guess, is at whose expense. I can assure you that the housing policies of this current government will not result in the hundreds and hundreds of examples of scandal, waste and corruption that were in the non-profit housing program in this province under the administration of the previous government -- both previous governments.

As a matter of fact, it was a long time before we would use the word "corruption" in this House when we asked the questions about what the latest scandal was in a non-profit housing program in this province, but as the evidence became more clear, finally the previous government realized there were very serious problems and they hired KPMG, for example, in one instance, to do an audit of the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority. KPMG, in its report, found blatant examples of corruption and waste -- overbilling by suppliers, a questionable bidding process for contractors and rent cheques actually being taken home by staff. There were police charges arising from that investigation. Certainly we had the same thing with Houselink in Toronto.

The sad thing about those two examples was that they were public non-profit housing. When we get into the private non-profit housing, we have even worse examples. This is the solution the previous government believed in for the provision of affordable housing.

Our government believes in protecting tenants. We do not believe, as the previous governments did, that tenants have to be limited in their choice about where they can live. There are lots of tenants who wish to live near their work. They may wish to live near their day care, their relatives or their friends. They may want to have a choice of the type of building they live in. They don't want to live in a building with a big label on it that says "government housing." That's not what the tenants of this province want to live in and that's not the kind of building and accommodation we wish to subject the tenants of this province to.

Also, we are concerned about what the physical plant environment is like for people who need or choose to rent their accommodation. We are concerned if someone doesn't have a choice and has to stay in a building that is deteriorating, where the landscaping isn't kept up, where their carpets aren't cleaned, their walls aren't painted and so forth, where their kitchen appliances aren't replaced when they should be. We are not happy when that kind of situation happens, but without a fair balance between the investor in that building and the needs of that building being met by that investor through the income from rents, there will never be a solution. Those tenants will be doomed to living in deteriorating buildings with deteriorating environments. Our protection of tenants is far more real than either of the previous governments has ever considered.

It was interesting to hear a moment ago the member for Oriole refer to shelter allowances with some disdain, as she referred to the campaign of a year ago. If I had more time, and unfortunately we have only 10 minutes each in this debate this afternoon, I could read to her quote upon quote where the leader of the Liberal opposition, Lyn McLeod, is talking about what they would consider as a solution to the affordable housing crisis in this province. Time and time again, curiously enough, the leader, Lyn McLeod, was talking about shelter allowances.

Because of the constraint of time, I will complete my remarks at this point with some regret because you feel very challenged when you get up to remind the members of the two previous governments exactly what it was that some of those who were re-elected, who are still in this House, said over the last 10 years and what exactly their policies and their legislation did for the people of this province. It did not protect tenants from huge, enormous rent increases. That's what we're talking about. This government does believe in the protection of tenants in this province today.


Mr Curling: What a privilege it is to speak on this opposition day motion. I wonder if the Conservative Party has even read the resolution, I'm almost forced to ask, after the comments of the member for Mississauga South. Also, while this Conservative Party says it will listen to tenants and will listen to concerns about rent control, I wish the minister himself had been able to be here to listen to some of the concerns that have been expressed today.

I want to tell you right up front that I am in strong support of this resolution put forward here today and will be supporting it with my full strength, and all my colleagues here will also be supporting it today.

I also want to commend my colleague from York South, who spoke so well and addressed the issue so directly of the concerns we are facing today in regard to this attack the government is making on tenants and rent control.

I want to state at the beginning that government has a role in housing. I keep having to remind the Minister of Housing that there is a role for government, especially for us to have affordable and decent housing. We don't have to be much concerned about those on the top end of the market; they have enough money to buy the adequate housing they need. But those on the bottom end need good laws and a government sensitive to those kinds of concerns. I have come to realize this year that this government is extremely insensitive to those most in need of that kind of protection.

Government has that role. I want to deal with the difference between us and the NDP and the Conservatives. The NDP told you they're there to protect tenants, and that's it. This government is there just to protect landlords, and that's it. The Liberal Party is concerned about protecting tenants, of course, very strongly, and also to make sure the landlords have a fair return on their investment and to make sure we represent all people.

But today, the debate is about protecting tenants in the role of rent control, and that is why I support that very strongly, that we have decent and affordable housing.

My colleagues in the NDP asked me to say why it is that the last time I did not support their legislation. When we looked at it very seriously, I thought they would have struck that balance. Yes, they had some very good legislation there for the tenants, and I commend them for that and I go along with that. But I want them to see that we are in an environment where landlords also play a good role and we want that balance. So I have no apologies at all that I did not support it in its entirety, but I want to commend them for going ahead and making some very good protection in regard to tenants.

That's why we want to tell the government today, take your hands off rent control. You have nothing to put in its place, so leave it alone. The government seems to be spinning its wheels, has no packages, no policies in regard to rent control. The fact is, when they came in, your minister said, "Now you have a friend," and he told the landlords and the home builders, "Now you have a true friend who will defend your cause" and actually tell the tenants that those days are over.

Surprisingly enough, you recall that when the mayor, Barbara Hall, and Councillor Kay Gardner and the rest of the councillors at the city of Toronto organized an event of thousands of tenants who were concerned about their accommodation, they started to beat a retreat. You'd be surprised how the words change. Minister Al Leach immediately started saying, "There will be some protection and we won't change it until we have something in place." We thought he had a policy; he had none. When Kay Gardner again organized an event the other day at Forest Hill -- and I saw the representative there -- they beat another retreat. They said, "We won't touch it unless we have something in place."

I'm saying to you, leave rent control alone; bring the policy out so we can have a good look at it. But do you know what they intend to do, Mr Speaker? You said to speak directly to you, and I hope you pass the word on to the minister and the rest. We understand that they intend to bring out a package at a time when the House is not sitting, so intelligent discussion and debate will not take place.

I've written a letter to Mr Leach and I want to read it to you.

The Deputy Speaker: Can you read the letter in such a way that you aren't making a demonstration with the sign?

Mr Curling: My demonstration, Mr Speaker, is to tell the minister and to tell the Tory government what it's all about, and I will of course conduct myself in the most parliamentary way that is allowable in this House. I want you to listen carefully, Mr Speaker. It was a letter I wrote, an open letter, as a matter of fact, to the minister, recalling that on May 16 there was a private member's resolution which was debated here and which was passed unanimously to tell the government --

The Deputy Speaker: I'm a very patient man in most cases, but on the back of your letter you were exposing something that is quite unparliamentary, and I would ask you either to refrain from reading the letter or else doing it in such a way that it doesn't become a demonstration according to the --

Mr Curling: I'm so sorry, Mr Speaker, that "Rent control will continue" was written on the back of the letter. My golly, let me cover it now. It's all about that rent control will continue in this province. Is there anything on the back here? No, Mr Speaker. As I proceed to tell you about --

Mr Cooke: You don't have to cover it. What the hell do you think this place is?

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Speaker, that's way over the line. It's not a demonstration.

Mr Curling: It's okay. The point is made, Mr Speaker, that tenants are listening, people are listening and they're telling this government to take their hands off rent control, and we will fight for that. We will tell the tenants to organize themselves to make sure this government, tampering with people's accommodation, which should be decent and affordable, and trying to put it into the hands of the marketplace -- we know who they are, whether or not there's a demonstration by me here, but to tell them to take their hands off rent control because it is their home. It is their home.

When you say the private sector in its own way will look after those people and that it's rent control that is causing all this, we know that's not true, not true one bit. If we take rent control off and even tell them, "We will build," will they build at the bottom end of the market where people are putting 50%, 60% of their income into rent? Will they build for the people that this government has taken 21.6% from, the welfare people who are finding it hard to find a decent and affordable place? Will they build for the non-profit housing that this government has cancelled completely? When I asked those people, they said they would not build at that bottom end of the market.

So I will demonstrate here, I will demonstrate outside. We'll organize all the tenants outside to tell them to take their hands off rent control, because it is very important, extremely important that people are not threatened. It is not this party or the NDP that has threatened these people and driven the living fear into people. It is not these people who have told them, "We'll make eviction much easier," to throw tenants out, to drive the fear into those senior citizens who are feeling vulnerable. It is not this party or the NDP that is going around telling people that other councillors are living in non-profit housing, who are paying market rent, and that's what it's all about.

It tells me they don't understand the concept of what non-profit housing is all about: a community where we all can live together whether our income is $20,000 a year or $100,000 a year; that we build a community, not a situation where profit is the greatest motivation and the only motivation that government is interested in. That's all they're interested in: profit. They hope the trickle-down theory -- that with what is left over they will build for the rest. It will not happen.

Mr Minister, I'm so glad you've arrived to hear a part of it, and I hope you read that aspect of what has been presented here.


Bankruptcy is at one of the highest rates in the last six years. Layoffs in the government sector, which they call downsizing in the private sector, have been the largest in the last five or six years. People are out of jobs, people are fighting to pay for their accommodation and this government has driven the living fear into those people when it said, "We'll make the market deal with that."

It is sad to know that this government has taken this approach with its Big Brother attitude, "We will look after you," and then leaves them to the wolves. I was reading this letter, the back of which you are concerned about, Mr Speaker, so I'll cover it immediately, since you are so concerned about it. What I was reading is not a demonstration, and I want to bring this to your point. It is part of an attachment that this government, the Conservative Party, has sent around. They sent around this notice, "Rent control will continue," so I wasn't demonstrating. I will tell you what they said. "Tenants' protection will be improved under the Mike Harris government. Rents will be cheaper and less." It was not I demonstrating, it was they.

In my letter to the minister I stated, "I understand your new housing policy package is expected in the next few weeks and I trust it will reflect the results of the resolution that will not abolish tenants' rights in favour of a tenants-initiated conflict resolution system between tenants and landlords. It is unfortunate that your housing policy package announcement is planned on the eve of the summer adjournment of the Legislature, leaving little opportunity for members to comment on your proposal before the recess." We know that is your strategy. Bring into the House the package that you have so we can debate it properly.

On a brighter note I wrote, "I was encouraged by the Progressive Conservative candidate rent control flyer distributed during the York South by-election campaign and I have attached a copy of their flyer." So it wasn't a demonstration. "I look forward to your government living up to its commitment to continue rent control and ensure that tenants will not be subject to unfair rent increases."

I encourage you to bring forward that package so that we can debate it, but if tenants' protection is eroded in any way at all, my party will be right across this province -- because it doesn't only affect people in Toronto; it affects people in Windsor, in Ottawa, where they have a concentrated tenant population -- and we will tell them to be organized in every way they can. In the limited time we have before you bring in the package we will raise this over and over in the House: "Take your hands off the rent control that we have now. If you can bring forward anything better" -- and we don't trust you. The people out there don't trust you. They don't trust this government one iota. They don't trust them because they don't --

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I guess they didn't trust you in the last election, did they?

Mr Curling: You don't come forward in an honest way of debate or in an honest way of consultation. You know the type of demonstration we have to do and the points we have to make, especially with Bill 26, when this government was ramming through large legislation without any consultation.

Why should we trust you when the tenants are in your hands and you say you will protect them and talk about the marketplace? How can we trust you when we find that the Minister of Housing said he wants to be out of this business? How can we trust this government when it wants to hand it over to the private sector, which is not at all interested in building any affordable housing at the lower end?

The people gave you their trust a year ago, hoping you would defend their rights and their privilege. You have destroyed that in government, and the people will speak loudly: "Take your hands off rent control. Leave it as it is unless you can bring something better." Don't talk here about Vancouver's policy, British Columbia's policy. Don't tell me about shelter allowances, because you know you don't have the kind of money to give the shelter allowance support that is needed. Right now the policy is working -- not perfect -- and I will be supporting this resolution this opposition day and voting in favour of that.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I'm very happy to have a few moments to support the resolution introduced by the member for Algoma.

I want to say that this is a fight between the tenants and the landlords. It's an us-and-them fight. What we have on the other side is the landlords and the protection of their rights and privileges, and what we have on the other side is a struggle to protect the rights and privileges of the private sector. We also have on the "them" side the government that is there to basically protect the privileges of the landlord and to protect the privileges of the private sector. They're shortly about to legalize those basic economic privileges of the very wealthy. That's what they're doing.

Rent control was introduced to basically protect the tenant. The Rent Control Act said that no increase in the legal rent could be more than 3% above inflation, and if an increase above the guideline is to be given, it is to be given only when the landlord can prove the necessary capital expenditures or extraordinary operating costs. But the basic controls were there to protect particularly 25% of the tenants living on social assistance and those who are earning a living just above the kind of economic incomes those people were making.

Those basic protections that we had are about to disappear. Security of home, which is for us and for most humans a basic human right, is being threatened and is about to disappear. The government, we argue, has a fiduciary role to protect those who are most vulnerable. The right to a house and the right to a home, the right to basic security, is in my view about to disappear. We need to be vigilant and we need to protect those basic rights.

We as a government were building co-ops and non-profit housing because we knew and we know still that there is a need, because people are not wealthy, because people are basically trying to earn a living on part-time wages and it makes it very difficult for them to find a home they can afford. That's why we as a government stepped in, because we were building communities, communities that included a range of incomes, a range of different communities, and that included people with disabilities in those communities and included as well people with HIV. That's building communities. That's what we were doing. This government is tearing that away. The government offers shelter allowances. How much are those allowances going to be? Are they going to tell the person with the disability: "Here are a few bucks; now go find it somewhere. We hope you will find it"? That's what this government is offering. We don't think that's good enough.

The agenda of this government is to put support behind the landlord and it's to put support behind the private sector that will, I argue, as others have argued here today, not build affordable, decent communities because they are not going to make any money. That's why they're not building; that's why they're building condominiums. Unless this government is willing to subsidize them heavily to build that type of housing, they will not build.

So those basic protections of the people we are trying to protect are about to disappear, and all I can do, as I leave my remarks to make room for our critic from Cochrane South, is to say to the tenants: You need to organize. It's not fearmongering at all. We have a housing crisis and it's going to get worse. If you don't organize, the basic security that you've had, security of home, is going to become something very, very volatile. So I urge those who are listening to organize against this government.


Mr Klees: I'm pleased to rise to speak to this resolution. By way of introduction, I'd like to just say that I don't totally disagree with some of the things that are contained in this resolution. It may surprise some members of the House.

Specifically, the resolution speaks to the fact that "tenants deserve rents that are predictable and fair." I can agree with that. I don't think there's anyone in this government who would take exception to that. It also makes reference to the fact that there is a need for the rental accommodations to be properly maintained. Those are the objectives of this government.

I'd like to address some comments that were made previously by the member for Fort York. He unfortunately characterized this as a debate between us and them, as about tenants against landlords. It's highly unfortunate that this is what has developed over the last number of years in this province, largely due to the kind of legislation that was introduced by the previous government, largely perpetuated by the rhetoric in the House this afternoon.

What we're suggesting is that we need to take a step beyond where the previous government has been. We need to take a step beyond and not only talk about balance but actually bring in, have the courage to bring in legislation that will finally address the issue of balance between the requirements of tenants and the landlord, and bring in fairness. "Fairness" is a word that's been missing from this debate for a number of years, and this government is finally going to have the courage to bring in legislation that will do that.

I'd like to suggest that beyond the element of ensuring that there is adequate protection for tenants, which we will guarantee, the next very critical element in this debate is that tenants should have choice. That is something that's been missing from this province for a number of years, as is characterized by the 0.8% vacancy rate in the city of Toronto.

As many other members have quoted this afternoon from other publications, I couldn't allow the Toronto Sun not to have equal opportunity here. I'd like to take a minute and quote from an article that appeared in the Toronto Sun under the money editor's column. It said, "Of the thousands and thousands surveyed on the waiting list to get into Metro housing, only 213 were willing to move to Regent Park."

What is that saying? It's saying that there are thousands of people on the waiting list to get into affordable housing in this province and in this city, but there isn't enough choice available to tenants, to people who need affordable housing, and that's why we have a problem.

I'd like to take a minute and talk about -- perhaps it's timely to discuss in this context -- the theory of economics that members opposite have missed over the years. It's fundamental. Let's talk about Economics 101 here.

Principle number 1 is that if you have a product that is in high demand and there's a shortage of that product, the price increases; pretty fundamental.


Mr Klees: Listen up; you may learn something here. Principle number 2: If the price for a product is below the cost of producing that product, no one will buy it and no one will produce it. Let me make that application to this issue for you. It's very similar to you buying your Cadillac and getting a warranty with it that says you're limited to spending $100 a year in maintenance on that product, on that car. If that's the most you can spend on maintaining that car and the bill comes in for $2,000, what are you going to do?

Interjection: I'll bill it to my wife; she owns it.

Mr Klees: You'll have to sell your Cadillac, sir, and you'll have to buy a Chevrolet. The principle here is that for too long in this province we've had a situation where the marketplace hasn't been allowed to work, where your rent control has led to street control. That is what we have today. Why are people on the street in this province? It's because there isn't sufficient affordable housing. No one debates that. What we're attempting to do is to ensure an environment that is going to provide security to the people in this province that they have a place to live, that they have a roof over their head that they can count on. It certainly hasn't happened in the legislation that's been in place in the past.

Let me just make reference to the fact that the member for Algoma earlier, when I said what we would be introducing into the House would be better than the previous legislation, said, "How will it be better?" Let me suggest that the way it's going to better is that, first of all, we're going to recognize that to deliver affordable housing you have to consider the total picture, not simply the very narrow issue of control. You have to realize that delivering affordable housing starts with building, starts with the product called land, and affordable land.

This government not only is going to deliver tenant protection legislation that will ensure tenants are protected, that'll ensure a reasonable return on investment for those who are prepared to move in and build that product, but we're going to address the broader issue of what it costs to deliver a product to the marketplace. It includes the cost of construction, it includes the costs of maintenance, and yes, it includes the cost of a return on investment which the previous government was absolutely oblivious to, and that's why there were no investments in affordable housing. There were no investments in rental stock in this province, thanks to your legislation. Yes, we're going to change that.

But most important is the cost of limited supply. That was the cost of the previous government's legislation, the cost of limited supply. We believe that by having the courage to introduce legislation in this House -- that clearly isn't understood by the previous Liberal government either, because they flip-flopped on this issue so many times. In their literature they said there's something wrong with this rent control legislation and they would change it. Now I see them wearing buttons that were paid for by taxpayers of the city of Toronto. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Why not 'fess up to the fact that it's time the people of this province got a bang for their buck, for their tax dollars, and it's invested into the right places with integrity by a government that has the courage to do what's right.

I suggest that the people of this province, the elderly, those who need the support of affordable housing, will be encouraged by what this government is prepared to do for them. Stay tuned, because the people of this province will be very pleased with what the minister introduces in this House.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): The Tory members say this is about courage. Let me tell you, it has absolutely nothing to do with courage. It has to do with a government that ideologically believes tenants should not get the protection, that they should deliver to the hands of the landlords in this province tenants and higher rent increases. That's all this is all about. So cut the baloney and get to what this is really all about.

The reality is the government is utilizing three arguments to sell its package of goods when it comes to rent control. The first one is they're saying: "Rent control prevents the construction of new apartment buildings and if we get rid of rent control, automatically all these apartment buildings will be built across the province of Ontario. You just wait and see." Why don't we look at other jurisdictions and what happened in jurisdictions across Canada, in North America, in the United States, that don't have rent control or have very weak rent control. Are there any new apartment buildings being built at a greater rate than what we're seeing in Ontario? Not at all, because the reality is the cost of building the apartments is what prevents those from being built. It's a question of material costs, it's a question of property costs, it's a question of labour costs and it's also a question of taxation. It is not about rent control. You compare Ontario, which has the strongest rent control legislation in North America, to those other jurisdictions that have very weak rental legislation and what you find is basically the same amount of units being built one after another.


They also say the person who wants to invest, to build a brand-new apartment building, cannot do so because if they build that building it's going to fall under rent control and the government is going to set how much money the person has to pay in order to be able to rent that unit. Malarkey. The NDP rent control legislation says if you build a new apartment building in Ontario, you're exempted for five years. For five years the marketplace decides what the price of rent shall be, and after that it falls under rent control. So if people want to invest, nothing stops them from doing it now. You can build a two-unit apartment building; you can build a 2,000-unit apartment building. In the end, the marketplace will decide what the rents will be, not rent control legislation.

The other thing the government says is that we have to be able to deliver choice, that rent control somehow or other prevents people from being able to choose apartments. The reality is that prior to rent control or during rent control, those have always been issues. They're economic issues. They have absolutely nothing to do with rent control. They have to do with, if I've got an income of $1,000 a month and I can only spend $500 or $600 a month on rent, obviously I have less choice of where I'm going to be living compared to somebody who makes $4,000 per month clear. Questions of economics of the individual have nothing to do with rent control.

They say it's a question of maintenance. This is the best one: Rent control prevents landlords from being able to maintain their buildings. These are supposed to be business people? They don't understand that they bought apartment buildings which they invested in, that renters have paid good money to live in, and they have a responsibility to manage those buildings. So if somebody had a building 35 years ago and then turned around -- and what did they do with the money from the rent for the past 35 years? That's why people paid rents. It's a business. The individual is supposedly paying money; the tenant pays money to the landlord. The landlord then has to manage his or her building, and it's the responsibility of the landlord to in the end make the necessary investments to maintain the building.

But the Conservative government says: "No, that's not the case. Let us go to landlords who have not been responsible and allow them to raise the rents. Let's allow the landlord to pass on huge rent increases to tenants because the landlord hasn't done a good job of maintaining his or her apartment building." If that's what you're all about, I say that you're wrong.

The other point I want to make is that the Minister of Housing and his parliamentary assistant have gotten up on repeated occasions in this House and outside of this House and said, "The NDP who are fighting this fight on rent control are trying to scare all the tenants of the province of Ontario." It is you, Minister, who is scaring them, not us. It is you, because you're the guys who during the 1995 election said: "We will protect rent control. We will preserve it or we will enhance it."

We had rent control leaflets during the last election where the member for Eglinton, Bill Saunderson, said in his leaflet, "Mike Harris will strengthen rent control, not cancel it." We have Derwyn Shea, the member for High Park-Swansea. Elect him and what is he going to do? He's going to protect you. He's going to make sure that rent control stays in place.

We just had a by-election in York South where the Tory candidate went around saying, "Rent control will continue." But on the other hand, what have you got? The Minister of Housing, who says to FRPO last August: "Don't worry, guys. We're going to scrap rent control." And then you wonder why tenants in this province got nervous? They got nervous because they know that you're serious. They know because you picked sides, as we in the NDP picked sides. We decided we wanted to protect tenants; you have decided that you want to protect landlords. Obviously the tenants are going to get upset, the same way the landlords were upset with us when we introduced our rent control legislation.

We tried to find a balance, as Minister Cooke had said at the time, but you've got to come to the realization that when it comes to the question of rent control, there are two sides to the issue: Those who pay want rent control and, by and large, those who receive don't want rent control. Let's be clear: I understand the Conservative government has an ideology. They want to preserve and enhance and give all kinds of opportunity to the landlords; I understand that. But don't stand in this House and say that we are in some way trying to scare the tenants of this province, because it is your policy, or your intended policy, that is going through the process of scaring these people.

Last but not least, in the minute I have left, I say to the tenants of this province simply this: The only way you're going to be able to protect yourself in the end when it comes to rent control is by you getting involved with your tenants' associations across this province, by getting involved with the people at Metro Toronto who have been involved in putting together the rent control campaign, by getting involved with the Let's Save Rent Control, Keep Your Hands Off Rent Control campaign of the NDP, to speak out in unison, to speak out as a group to the government and say, "Keep your hands off the rent control system," because if you as tenants don't, this government is going to roll right over you like a steamroller.

Your involvement does have an effect. I remember when the minister said last summer that they were going to scrap rent control. They had full intention of doing so, of getting rid of the rent control system and not really replacing it with any kind of protection. In discussions I had with him in estimates he further concluded that this was going to happen. But as tenants started to put pressure on the minister, as tenants started to put pressure on Tory MPPs who live in areas with high tenant populations, the government started to back down somewhat. Will they stop? Will they keep the NDP rent control system? No. They will make changes, there's no question.

The job we have to do as tenants across this province is to band together and to say to this government at every opportunity, by contacting your local MPP and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, not at their ministry offices but at their constituency offices, "Keep your hands off rent control." If you keep the pressure on them, what's going to happen in the end is that they will moderate what they're going to do and at least you will only get partially run over by this Tory machine, you won't get squashed.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members; there will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1748 to 1753.

The Deputy Speaker: Would the members please take their seats.

Mr Wildman has moved opposition day number 3. All those in favour please rise.


Bartolucci, Rick

Cordiano, Joseph

Laughren, Floyd

Bisson, Gilles

Curling, Alvin

Marchese, Rosario

Boyd, Marion

Duncan, Dwight

Martel, Shelley

Bradley, James J.

Gerretsen, John

McLeod, Lyn

Caplan, Elinor

Grandmaître, Bernard

Pouliot, Gilles

Christopherson, David

Gravelle, Michael

Pupatello, Sandra

Churley, Marilyn

Hampton, Howard

Sergio, Mario

Colle, Mike

Kennedy, Gerard

Silipo, Tony

Conway, Sean G.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Wood, Len

Cooke, David S.

Lankin, Frances


The Deputy Speaker: All those who are opposed will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Galt, Doug

Newman, Dan

Baird, John R.

Gilchrist, Steve

O'Toole, John

Barrett, Toby

Grimmett, Bill

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Bassett, Isabel

Guzzo, Garry J.

Parker, John L.

Beaubien, Marcel

Hastings, John

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Boushy, Dave

Hodgson, Chris

Ross, Lillian

Brown, Jim

Hudak, Tim

Saunderson, William

Carroll, Jack

Johns, Helen

Shea, Derwyn

Cunningham, Dianne

Johnson, David

Sheehan, Frank

Danford, Harry

Johnson, Ron

Sterling, Norman W.

DeFaria, Carl

Jordan, Leo

Stewart, R. Gary

Doyle, Ed

Kells, Morley

Turnbull, David

Ecker, Janet

Klees, Frank

Villeneuve, Noble

Elliott, Brenda

Leach, Al

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Fisher, Barbara

Leadston, Gary L.

Wilson, Jim

Flaherty, Jim

Marland, Margaret

Wood, Bob

Ford, Douglas B.

Martiniuk, Gerry

Young, Terence H.

Fox, Gary

Maves, Bart


Froese, Tom

Munro, Julia


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 29; the nays are 55.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

It now being almost 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1756.