36th Parliament, 1st Session

L189 - Mon 12 May 1997 / Lun 12 Mai 1997











































The House met at 1332.




Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I am pleased to remind members of this provincial Parliament and Ontarians that this week is designated as Nursing Week.

Registered nurses are an integral part of our health care system. On the front lines of health care delivery, nurses have witnessed many changes. Through difficult times the people of this province have benefited from the creative and innovative solutions brought forward by registered nurses. Registered nurses think in broad terms: of populations, health, healthy communities and healthy public policy. Registered nurses know that people and families need practical tools to learn how to stay healthy.

"Sharing the Challenge," the theme for this year's Nursing Week, is designed to emphasize how registered nurses, along with other health care providers and consumers, are working to ensure our provincial health care system continues to deliver quality care. In Ontario, our citizens can access registered nurses through information hotlines, at community health centres, at home and at work. More than ever before we are realizing the value of asking for a registered nurse. Using the experience, expertise and commitment of the more than 100,000 registered nurses working in all parts of the health system will make a real difference to the health of Ontarians.

I wish to add that it's vital that we see today, when the health services restructuring adjustment board has been demolished by this government, some kind of commitment to the role of nurses, to the role of qualified health workers in general, to take their part in our health system on the part of this government.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Today we are going to be debating Bill 96, the Tenant Protection Act, or the so-called Tenant Protection Act. As you know, 33% of people live in apartments. Many of these people will be affected by the Tenant Protection Act.

The effect of this act will not be to strengthen the rights of tenants, but rather to weaken them. It will be easier to evict tenants. Landlords will be able to get away with doing less maintenance and repair work. When a tenant moves out there will be no legal limit on the rent the landlord can charge the next tenant. The rent registry will be shut down. The Rental Housing Protection Act will be repealed, and it will be easier for landlords to demolish rental units, convert them to condominiums or carry out luxury renovations.

What I think this will do is to make housing less affordable for tenants, many of whom are low-income tenants, many of whom are seniors with less income now, obviously, than they would have had when they were young. Many of these are people with disabilities. This act will do nothing to assist these most vulnerable citizens, but in effect will weaken their rights and make it more impossible for them to find affordable housing.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): Today I'm delighted to pay tribute to an organization that has served the health and social needs of generations of Ontarians. One hundred years ago the Victorian Order of Nurses formed in response to the hardship and suffering of people in remote areas of Canada. In Wellington, VON Guelph-Wellington-Dufferin has been providing health care and related services for local communities since 1919.

My own family is greatly indebted to our local VON, for when I was a toddler my mother became severely ill with rheumatoid arthritis and was in and out of hospital for more than a year. When she came home she was confined to her bed. During this period VON nurses and homemakers were a constant presence in our home, caring for my mom, my four sisters and me. Through the years, as my mother has fought the debilitating effects of arthritis, the VON has always provided caring service whenever we've needed it.

I know how important the VON is to our community, and recently I had an opportunity to meet with VON representatives serving Wellington. They raised several issues that I hope the Minister of Health will consider and review. Among the areas identified were the role of not-for-profit organizations in health care, recognition and understanding of the work of the VON's volunteers and nurses, and the VON's concerns regarding its ability to compete for home care services with private sector suppliers.

In closing, I'd like to thank everyone in the VON for their work serving communities. May your successes continue in the future.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): In the coming days the government will introduce changes to the way it provides income support to Ontarians who are now eligible for general welfare and family benefits. The changes have the potential to profoundly affect the lives of people living with certain disabilities and those who will become disabled in the future.

The government is expected to narrow its definition of "disability." If that happens, people living with the special burdens of mental illness may see a serious reduction in the level of their support.

The government is providing assurances that individuals already receiving support will not lose it under the new system. However, I implore the government to consider those who would not be covered under a grandfather clause. The realities of their lives -- who have yet to be diagnosed -- will be just as difficult. The circumstances they will encounter no one would choose. It will be on the government's conscience if it closes the door on the needs of these individuals -- just to be able to save a few dollars.

The responsibility of government will always remain the support of people who require assistance at difficult points of their lives. Let the record of this government show that it did not fail them.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): On Friday last, I joined with City Councillor Rob Maxwell and a number of constituents in my riding in front of the Bank of Montreal branch at the corner of Dupont Street and Symington Avenue to support the citizens who were protesting the shutting down of that branch and the merging of that branch with a branch over a kilometre away.

The point I wanted to make here today was the point many of the residents made there, which is the irony that you have here a bank that prides itself in being people-friendly, a bank that as the song goes is changing to adapt with the times, and yet it seems to have forgotten that in some instances good old-fashioned, in-branch banking is the best way to provide service to its long-time customers, customers like Joanne Lofeud, who has been a customer at that particular branch for 38 years and as a senior finds it difficult to walk the additional kilometre to the next branch.

Although it is not an issue on which, obviously, the provincial Parliament and government can be involved, it is an issue on which certainly, as a local representative, I again today want to join in supporting the residents who are saying to the Bank of Montreal, "Find some money within your profit margin to continue to provide the kind of support and services your customers have served you well for for the last number of years."



Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I am proud to rise in the House today to mark very important events: National Nursing Week and International Nursing Day.

We are proud of the extensive reinvestments our government has made specifically directed towards nurses. For example, last year the Minister of Health announced the largest single reinvestment in community services: $170 million. This announcement will benefit some 80,000 patients across Ontario in the communities and will help to create 4,400 new jobs for nurses and for home care workers.

We have also provided $1.75 million to McMaster University and U of T to operate the nursing effectiveness, utilization and outcomes research unit to advise the government on the type of nurses and nursing practices needed in the future, and $1 million for the province-wide nursing project to create centres of excellence to encourage the continual development of improved nursing practices.

Most important, our government recently introduced the Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act that will legally recognize nurse practitioners so that Ontario residents can have improved access to primary care.

On a final note, today is the birthday of a very important nurse: Florence Nightingale. If she were alive today, she would be applauding the above initiatives to bring health care into the 21st century as we've had the support of the ONA and the RNAO.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): If Premier Harris had any doubt about the views of residents of western Niagara on the closing of West Lincoln Memorial Hospital as an acute care hospital, that doubt should be completely removed by the almost unanimous results of a plebiscite held in the western portion of the Niagara region on Saturday.

With a total of 15,594 people casting ballots, 15,524 voted yes to the continued operation of West Lincoln Memorial Hospital with acute care services, medical and surgical beds, obstetrical services, intensive care and a 24-hour genuine emergency department.

The residents of Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln gave an astounding 99.6% endorsement to the hospital and an overwhelming thumbs-down to the Conservative health policy which calls for the closing of hospitals, despite the assurance of PC Leader Mike Harris on a provincial television debate, who said, "Well, certainly I can guarantee you that it's not my plan to close hospitals."

Congratulations are in order to the more than 300 volunteers who operated 41 polling stations during the citizens vote. This is an outcome that the Conservative government cannot ignore any more than the over 54,000 people who have signed the petition demanding that the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines remain open.

Residents in St Catharines, Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara-on-the-Lake and western Niagara say they would rather have their hospitals than the foolish tax cut for the rich people of this province.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It is important for all of us to celebrate together with the nurses of this province the fact that this week is Nursing Week and that we owe a great deal to the nursing profession for their delivery of health care in this province.

The Ontario Nurses' Association, which represents 45,000 registered nurses and allied health care professionals, has this morning released a public opinion poll. This is a companion piece to the poll the association released last year. In that poll they had looked at the opinions of nurses in the field and asked them what their opinion was of the changes in the health care system, and overwhelmingly those professionals expressed concern about the changes that are being caused by the lack of funding and the cutbacks by this government.

Today's results are extremely important because this was a poll that was done of the general public, and the poll overwhelmingly confirmed that 94% of Ontarians believe registered nurses play an important role in ensuring that the public receives quality health care; that 92% believe health care would improve with better cooperation and coordination between health provider agencies such as hospitals, nursing homes, doctors' offices and front-line health clinics; that 89% believe that increasing funding for health promotion and illness prevention activities will prevent health problems that will cost us a great deal in the future.

I endorse nursing --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): It's my pleasure to stand in the House today and offer my congratulations to the Minister of Finance. I spent this last weekend, as I do every weekend, speaking with the constituents in my riding of Perth. Although many continue to have concerns about the future of Ontario, mainly due to the financial mismanagement of previous Liberal and NDP governments, optimism is on the rise. This is especially noticeable following the 1997 budget, which was released by the Minister of Finance last Tuesday.

My constituents recognize hard work and are encouraged by the success of the plan this government is implementing. We promised jobs, hope, growth and opportunity to the people of Ontario, and the residents of Perth county are aware we are delivering on those promises.

By reducing the deficit, we are ensuring a more stable environment for business to grow and create jobs. The Ontario economy has responded in a renewed spirit of confidence and optimism. The creation of community small business investment funds, with the support of a network of enterprise centres for small business, will surely be of benefit to all Ontario.

Of considerable importance to the people of Perth county is the government's promotion of job creation in rural Ontario. The agriculture sector is an important contributor to jobs, growth and exports in Ontario. The announcement of a three-year, $30-million rural job strategy will boost job creation throughout rural Ontario. I'm proud to say our plan is working.



Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. On Friday we learned that the coroner's jury looking into the death of Shanay Johnson had completed their deliberations and had 107 recommendations for the government of Ontario and agencies responsible for the safekeeping of our children -- 107 recommendations.

Ever since these tragedies were made public we've been asking you to restore funding to our children's aid societies. Put back the $17 million you've stolen from our province's children. That's the only way we can describe it, Minister, because it was an irresponsible act on your part. The coroner's jury is pleading with you to restore this funding.

Today, in light of these recommendations, as a first step, will you restore funding to children's aid societies? It's a small price to pay --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Lawrence, thank you. Minister?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I think the jury is to be commended for an excellent report. They've given a great deal of thought. It was a very difficult process for them to go through. We are going through those recommendations in great detail. We're very pleased to see that many of those recommendations are steps we already have under way because we believe and we agree that the system -- there have been some very important flaws pointed out in the system and we must move very quickly to fix them.

Mr Cordiano: The minister would like us to believe she agrees that an overhaul of the entire system is necessary, and so would the coroner's jury agree that an overhaul is necessary. But when you begin that overhaul by cutting 5% from the budgets of the children's aid societies, how can anyone take you seriously?

You're not making children a priority. That's what's missing here. You are not making children your priority. It's your priority, as Minister of Community and Social Services. There is no evidence that you plan to put children on the legislative agenda, as is strongly recommended by the coroner's jury.

Given the fact that there are two more inquests ongoing and four more yet to come, we hope your plan does not include waiting for those to finish before you proceed with your initiatives. Will you make a commitment today to introduce to this House, before the end of this session, legislation protecting the children of our province?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I appreciate that the honourable member believes that throwing money at a flawed system is the only solution. If he will read those recommendations very carefully, and if he listens to what the workers on the front lines have said, if he's listened to what the professionals involved have said, if he's listened to all the messages that have come through, what is very clear is that there are many things that need to be done: training; better support for the workers; better information systems so children aren't falling through the cracks; yes, a review of the legislation. There are many things that need to be done, there are many things we are undertaking, because we do take this very seriously.


Mr Cordiano: Minister, we do not agree with throwing money at every problem, but we don't agree with taking money away from those problems as a way to make it better. That's what you're suggesting: Take money away and it'll solve the problem, it'll go away magically.

You and your government are the first to complain about too much time studying problems and not enough action. Today we're asking you to take action. This morning our offices spoke with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies. They are prepared to move ahead immediately and implement the recommendations, which they describe as fair and balanced.

Everyone agrees with the recommendations. What's stopping you? Introduce the necessary legislation today. Reviewing and examining won't save lives in the future, but additional resources and changes in legislation will certainly do that. Take action today. We're asking you to make those moves, undertake to make those initiatives possible, not some time next year or some time down the road. Take action today, Minister.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Perhaps the honourable member thinks that going out and making a great, grand pronouncement and getting a great headline is taking action that will help the children who need our assistance, but that is not what is called for in the circumstance.

I have met with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies officials. I've spoken to front-line workers. I've spoken to the Metro children's aid society. What is interesting is they do not believe that we can introduce legislation tomorrow with a quick fix. As a matter of fact, they have many things that they want us to work with them on as we improve the system, and we are certainly prepared to do that. We have also said --

Mr Cordiano: That is not what they're saying. They're saying, "We agree with the recommendations."

Hon Mrs Ecker: With all due respect, I was at the meeting. The honourable member was not. The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies are quite prepared to work with us; we're very prepared to work them and to support improvements in the system.

I think it's also worth noting that in last week's budget we have put forward money which will support the ministry and the children's aid societies in making the improvements in the system.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Beginning in December of this year, indeed prior to it, we have heard homily after homily after homily from you about the importance of road safety. In February of this year, amid great fanfare, with a great press conference and people all around you who are concerned about the safety of our highways, you brought forward your bill to make Ontario highways safe. In repeated correspondence to your office, in repeated press conferences you have talked about the importance of road safety and that your bill would address the issue.

On Friday, the Premier said it's too draconian. The Premier says it goes too far. In February, you said we had to have it. In March, you said we had to have it. You accuse the opposition of delaying tactics.

Minister, who's right? Are you right or is the Premier right? What are you going to do about it to make these roads in Ontario a lot safer than they are today?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I have no intentions of revoking the bill.

Mr Duncan: That's all very interesting, because you haven't brought it forward. You haven't brought it forward since February. We've offered to give you day after day after day in this House. We've offered to pass it in one day. I don't think you're giving us the full answer.

We think you've got two problems. First of all, officials in your ministry now tell us that the absolute liability provisions in that bill won't stand up in court. That's what your people are saying. We now have legal opinions from some of your biggest supporters that it won't stand up in court. If it's not the absolute liability provisions, has the trucking industry got to the government? Is that what it is?

We have had homily after homily after homily from you and nothing but talk and empty rhetoric. Bring the bill forward today. We'll deal with it, we'll pass it and we'll make Ontario's roads safe again.

Hon Mr Palladini: The member's rhetoric speaks just as well as their safety approach when they were in government: They did absolutely nothing. Just rhetoric, that's all the member is saying.

The wheel separation bill was supposed to be part of a major spring road safety bill. It was because of their continuing support and also saying and badgering: "We need higher fines. We need stronger legislation." We advanced the wheel separation bill, but all they wanted to do was create a filibuster and waste Ontarians' money on needless hijacking of the Legislature. We were not able to introduce the bill when we should have because of your lack of support.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Do you want a point of order?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): He would be misleading the House if he said that, so I know he didn't say it.

The Speaker: That's out of order. Member for St Catharines, you can't say that. You must withdraw that statement.

Mr Bradley: He would be if he did.

The Speaker: You can't say that either. You must withdraw.

Mr Bradley: If I would be saying that, I would withdraw it. I withdraw it.

The Speaker: Final supplementary, the member for Windsor-Walkerville.

Mr Duncan: The wheels aren't only coming off trucks; they're coming off the minister's credibility. Everything you've said since December is just an absolute crock. You had no intention of bringing this bill forward. You set it up so it would fail.

If you were serious, why haven't you responded to the recommendations of Target '97? Bring forward the bill today and we'll deal with it expeditiously. We'll deal with the Target '97 recommendations expeditiously. Let's bring it forward and put your credibility back on track, and let's make the roads in Ontario a lot safer than they are because of your dilly-dallying. Stop blaming everyone else. Will you bring that bill forward today or next week? We'll deal with it and we'll deal with as expeditiously as possible.

Hon Mr Palladini: I will compare this government's safety record to yours when you were in government any time. We have done more for safety on our highways in two years than your government did in their whole term. Your government did not even enforce legislation that was in place.

It took this government to enforce the aggregate haulers, I want to remind the member, something your government never did. On top of that, our record speaks for itself. We have stopped over 37,000 truckers out there. That's twice as many as your government did during your mandate. We have taken trucks off the road more than your government ever did during its mandate. Our record is intact, and I'll stack it up against yours any day of the week.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. One year ago our NDP caucus brought forward a resolution calling on the government to introduce a bill of rights for Ontario children. The resolution speaks to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and eight key principles were underlined: standards of living, standards of health, nutrition, protection from abuse, quality child care, social security.

It was a year ago that we brought that forward, and it received support from most members in this House. Now, a year later, the coroner's inquest into Shanay Johnson's death recommends that the provincial government establish explicit rights for children with the Child and Family Services Act. That's their first recommendation.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The question, please.

Mr Hampton: Minister, are you going to do that now? You had the chance a year ago. Are you finally going to do it now?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I appreciate the honourable member's concern. I think the bill of rights would certainly be something we should consider in a rewrite of the legislation.

Mr Hampton: On April 25 of this year, my colleague the member for Beaches-Woodbine wrote you a letter requesting that you refer the Child and Family Services Act to the standing committee on social development for an open and public review. You haven't responded to that request. Last week the coroner's inquest which examined the death of Shanay Johnson made their own far-reaching recommendations on changes to the legislation, on children's aid societies, on training and on other things. What my colleague is asking you to do is what the coroner's inquest is recommending that you do.


Minister, you can't act unilaterally here. You've got to involve all the stakeholders. This has to be a non-partisan review. Everybody who is concerned about children has to be involved. Will you commit to holding those open, public hearings so that all the stakeholders can be involved in this? Will you make that commitment today?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I agree that we do not need quick, knee-jerk reactions in terms of how to solve the very serious and very significant problems that are here. I've talked to the association of children's aid societies about putting in place an action plan and also about the process that they would like to see that might actually have some productive input.

What I don't want to do is subject the front-line workers or the parents or the other people involved or the families involved in the system to more public hearings where everybody gets to generate a headline. What I'm interested in doing is trying to have a credible process that gets that input from all the stakeholders in a way that will be extremely helpful.

The Speaker: Final supplementary, member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Minister, I appreciate your comments about not wanting a quick reaction and needing to have a response that is fulsome in terms of the review of the legislation. But I'm concerned about your approach, because it sounds like it's behind closed doors, and there are many people, CASs and beyond, who have a stake in this legislation that protects our children.

I want to return to the matter of funding, because I was disturbed when you responded to a question earlier and you talked about throwing money at the problem, that's not the solution. You've used that phrase a lot through this process. You've also talked about the CASs having access to contingency funds. The recommendations of the jury's panel said very clearly that the funding for the CAS is insufficient, and the distribution of funds continues to focus on contingency rather than on base-line, and that has led to a lack of long-term planning and erosion in preventive services.

Minister, you have to work out a new funding model. I'm sure you know that and agree with that. But in the meantime, those front-line services are stretched beyond belief. It is, I believe, incumbent upon your government to take those first steps by restoring the money that you've cut and working out in the long term the new funding mechanisms. Will you at least consider that?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I've already said that because we are going to be assuming 100% funding for children's aid societies in this province, that opens up a very good possibility to examine how they are funded. I think there have been flaws in the contingency system but it has been a support for those many agencies. We're certainly prepared to take a look at how they're funded to ensure that they have the support they need.

I think it's also important to recognize that we are spending $800,000 for training for children's aid society workers. Clearly we need to do a better job of that and we agree with the children's aid society on that. We want to improve that.

We also are working on the new data, the computer system, so that people are not falling through the cracks, children are not being lost in the system, which is one of the things that has been flagged very much. The money is in place for that, and we will be completing that work hopefully some time this year.

We have also put out almost $45 million for the prevention and intervention support so that children do not need children's aid society work, as well as the money that was announced in the budget last week.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Finance. Minister, your government has created a real crisis for municipalities, schools and hospitals. You have combined budget cuts with shutdowns and now downloading, and it's affecting some 800,000 workers. You call it restructuring, but what it boils down to is that more and more people are losing their jobs in hospitals, in schools and in municipalities. Last Friday we learned that you're continuing to fail on your jobs promise. There are 29,000 more people unemployed in Ontario now than when you became the government.

Minister, what are you going to do? We know your cuts to hospitals, to schools and to municipalities are going to put more people out of work. It's creating a drag in terms of jobs. What are you going to do to avoid more job losses? What are you going to do to avoid a more serious deterioration in terms of jobs in the province?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): There are not job losses in the province of Ontario. The reality is that in the last two months alone, 60,000 net new jobs have been created in the province -- in the last two months alone 60,000.

Mr Hampton: It's interesting, this Minister of Finance thinks that somehow Statistics Canada never gets it right. Well, StatsCan has been around for a long time and they have been studying the job numbers for a long time. They know there are 29,000 more people unemployed in Ontario this month than when you became the government. In fact there are 528,000 people unemployed in this province, and your cuts to health care, to hospitals, to schools, to municipalities are putting more people out of work.

What is equally crazy is that you've now shut down the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Panel. It was the one panel that connected out-of-work health sector workers with new jobs. In the last year alone, you have laid off 11,304 people in the hospital and health care sector. Now you're going to shut down the one agency that connected them with new jobs. Minister, this doesn't make any sense; it makes no sense. What are you going to do in the health sector, the education sector and the municipal sector to, first, avoid the job losses and, second, connect people up with new jobs?

Hon Mr Eves: Mr Speaker, through you to the leader of the third party, first of all, when he talks about how many people are unemployed, he doesn't also say that StatsCan will also tell him and everybody else, there are more people working in Ontario today than ever before in history. There are more people looking for work than ever before in history. The help wanted index at 18% speaks to that. There have been 60,000 net new jobs created in the province in the last two months alone. He is well aware of that. He's also well aware that the federal government, in its budget, predicts that there will be between 300,000 and 350,000 jobs created in the Canadian economy this year, about half of which will be created right here in Ontario.

Speaking very specifically to his question with respect to the health sector training and adjustment program, the member is quite correct that the $30-million program is being phased out. He also didn't bother to mention that in the budget there will be some $2.7 billion spent in health care restructuring over the next five years, which will more than compensate for the loss of this fund.

Mr Hampton: The finance minister's answer illustrates the real problem for this government. We've got a real unemployment rate of over 30% for young people and this Minister of Finance says, "Oh, there's no problem." We've got more and more people unemployed in the province, and this minister stands up and says, "Oh, there's no problem." He calls paying severance pay to laid-off nurses investing in retraining and investing in new jobs in the health care sector. What nonsense. The money you're spending in the Ministry of Health in your so-called restructuring is simply the money it costs to throw nurses and health care workers into the street, nothing more.

When you shut down the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Panel you're shutting down the only registry that exists that connects unemployed health care workers with possible new opportunities. You're shutting down the only organization that has any knowledge and experience in taking people out of institutions that are being shut down and hopefully connecting them to new opportunities. What you should be doing is doing the same thing in the education sector and the municipal sector. Will you do that, or are you just going to throw people out on the street, give them a few bucks --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon Mr Eves: To the honourable member, the $2 billion-plus that will be spent on health care restructuring is not simply severance costs. I know you like to paint that picture. The overwhelming majority of it is not. I know you want to protect your own little program that you created for health care workers that you were unemploying while you were in government; however, we are spending $2.7 billion, not $30 million. There is a little bit of a difference, and I'm sure you'll appreciate that.

If your government had kept pace with the job creation the rest of Canada had between the years 1990 and 1995 when you were in government, there would have been 150,000 jobs created in Ontario. Instead, you lost 10,000 net new jobs in that five-year period. We'll stack our record up against yours any time. There were six times as many jobs created in the last two months as you lost in five years.



Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. This House has before it a bill which will save children's lives. Bill 78 received the unanimous support of the House and was referred to the resources development committee where it has sat for over six months because you refuse to deal with it. There are 810,000 children riding school buses daily. We're counting on you to pass that bill.

The parents of Ryan Marcuzzi, who was tragically killed because of a careless driver, are waiting for you to pass the bill. Over 30,000 people have signed petitions demanding that you pass Bill 78.

Bill 78 calls for vehicle liability. School bus drivers and the police know that vehicle liability is the only measure which will provide Ontario school children with the safety on the roads they require and provide for convictions. When are you going to pass this bill to save children's lives here in Ontario?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I believe I've already thanked the member for his bill. It was something I supported, and I'm also pleased you have a lot of support from our colleagues in the House.

What I want to say to the member is that the safety bill we will be implementing is going to cover some of the things the member has proposed. I'm hoping we can actually expedite what he wanted to do and encompass and make it part of our bill. I'm very supportive and this government's very supportive of making sure bus safety is a priority, and we're going to maintain that.

Mr Hoy: Minister, quit stalling. Eleven children have been killed and over 80 injured in the past five years by careless drivers who ignored school bus warning lights. You say my bill would not achieve in practice what it intends in principle: convicting drivers. You are simply wrong. My bill does exactly that. It puts the onus on the vehicle owner to act responsibly and identify the driver.

We have expert legal advice that Bill 78 is enforceable, fair and would result in convictions in a court of law. Many groups supporting the bill want to come before the committee to tell you why vehicle liability is essential to save children's lives. Minister, your commitment to school bus safety is no better than your action on truck safety. Will you give me your assurance that a vehicle liability law will be in place before the school year ends?

Hon Mr Palladini: The rhetoric they would like the people of Ontario to believe -- one of the things this government has done is actually separate the two issues: truck safety and bus. The busing industry has a tremendous reputation as far as safety is concerned, and I believe safety has been practised and is at the very top of their list, as it is at the top of my list.

One kid's life is definitely worth pursuing better alternatives. I want to say to the member that I will stack this government's record on safety, whether bus or truck, against your government's when you were the government. I have already told the member that this is just the beginning. We still have a long way to go, but safety is going to be realized in the trucking and busing industries in Ontario.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to --


Mr Bisson: I'm going to try it again. My question is for the Minister of Transportation --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You've got a question. Member for Cochrane South.

Mr Bisson: Again, I'll try it. My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Over two months ago you introduced legislation in this House to try to deal with the issue of wheel separations. My party, my House leader, Bud Wildman, the NDP member for Algoma, has gone to you a number of times and said, "We are prepared to give you speedy passage of that legislation." In fact, last Thursday I asked in this House for unanimous consent for that bill to be called forward this week so that we can deal with it in order to get on with the business of making our highways safer for Ontarians across this province.

My question to you is quite simple. I will be requesting unanimous consent this afternoon in order to deal with this legislation today, tout de suite, quick. My caucus and I'm sure the other caucus is prepared to give you support. Minister, will you be supporting unanimous consent in order to deal with that legislation today?

Hon Mr Palladini: Here is a party that when they were the government saw the out-of-service rate go from 22% to 43% and did nothing, absolutely nothing, when it came to safety. Here's a party that hijacked this assembly, wasted Ontario taxpayers' dollars, when you could have passed this bill before the March break. Now you say, "Let's do it now." Why didn't you do it when we had the chance to do it?

Mr Bisson: Minister, you're the guy who calls the bills. You're the government. You have 84 members on the other side of the House. It's not up to the opposition to decide when bills get called. That is the function of the government, of the government House leader. My House leader has asked you on a number of occasions to bring the bill forward.


The Speaker: Minister of Culture, come to order. Ministers, members, please come to order.


The Speaker: Member for Lambton, thank you for being very helpful. Could you come to order as well?


The Speaker: And of course the member for Ottawa-Rideau.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): I'm trying to be helpful.

The Speaker: I know, but you're not being that helpful at the present time. Supplementary.

Mr Bisson: Again, Minister, I will be moving for unanimous consent in order to deal with this legislation today. I ask you again, will you vote in favour of unanimous consent so that we can deal with this bill today and we can get on with making highways safer for the motoring public of Ontario? Yes or no?

Hon Mr Palladini: Coming from a party that has broken every deal that we have made, I doubt very much if they're willing to keep this one.

The Speaker: New question. You are up on response?


Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'd like to take this opportunity to get back to the member for Essex South regarding his question to me on May 6 regarding flooding in his riding. He asked me to get back on when the ministry staff had been in touch with the municipalities.

I can tell you that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has been in touch with the representatives of the area municipalities. On April 11 and 14, our southwestern regional office spoke to the clerk of Mersea township, the clerk of the village of Erieau, the treasurer of the village of Erie Beach and the clerk of the township of Dover. On May 2, our southwestern regional office spoke to the treasurer of the township of Harwich.

The ministry, through the regional policy adviser, spoke directly to the member for Essex South two weeks ago regarding the flooding in his riding and assistance under the Shoreline Property Assistance Act. I understand that the member for Essex South also spoke to our regional office last week.

Notwithstanding what my ministry has done, I'd like to remind the House that the Ministry of Natural Resources --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, Minister of Municipal Affairs. Response, member for Essex South.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): To the minister: When I spoke with the ministry, I made the two calls. So let's get that straight. I was the one who rang the telephone, they didn't.

To the other calls that were made to the municipalities, and I'd like the minister to understand this, I stood on a letter from Mersea township regarding the shoreline protection loan act. To my knowledge, the calls between ministry and municipalities were about some disaster fund. I know nothing of that. Minister, I was asking you about the shoreline loans protection act. I would like to ask the minister if he's responded to that.


Hon Mr Leach: I guess that might mean that the member is withdrawing the apology he made to the regional staff in London regarding his comments.

Mr Crozier: I am not withdrawing anything.

Hon Mr Leach: I would also suggest that the member might want to explain to his constituents what happened to the program for shoreline protection. He might want to explain to them why his party cancelled the program in 1988.

Mr Crozier: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It hasn't been cancelled. The minister doesn't understand it. It is a legitimate piece of legislation.


The Speaker: Order, member for Essex South. New question, official opposition.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): In the absence of the Minister of Health, I'll direct my question to the minister responsible for seniors affairs. I want to bring to your attention the case of James McCooeye, a constituent of mine who is paying an absolutely impossible price for the Ministry of Health's mistakes and for your government's unconscionable decision to force seniors to pay a part of their drug costs.

Mr McCooeye is a senior whose annual income is $15,507. He supports on this very meagre amount a spouse who is not yet 65, is unable to work and requires prescription drugs, as does Mr McCooeye. Last August the Ministry of Health mistakenly misclassified Mr McCooeye so that he had to pay his $100 and the prescription fee for any drugs that he needed. It took until May 5 of this year to get Mr McCooeye on to the system that at least lets him pay the $2 copayment. In the meantime, on April 1, he was told that he would have to pay his $100 again.

My question is, do you have any idea how many other seniors are caught up in this costly and confusing mixup, and what compensation will your government --

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): First of all, I'd like to thank the honourable member for the question. If she'll give me additional details, I'll be pleased to investigate it.

But I would like to comment about some of the concerns. As members of this House know, we were the last fully funded public drug plan available universally to seniors in the world. We are now the most inexpensive plan. When we announced that we were going to implement this program, the difficulty we had was the difficulty in cooperation with the federal government in determining income thresholds and sharing that private, confidential information with the government of Ontario. Our first steps with the program were awkward because we did not achieve the level of cooperation.

The second part of your question deals with the fact of the threshold of $100, still, I might add, the least expensive drug plan in all of Canada and anywhere else that we can compare it with. But I want to reassure the member that the largest single cost problems associated with any person using the drug plan is for the hundreds and hundreds of drugs that were removed from the drug formulary by the --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. Supplementary.

Mrs McLeod: So that the record can be complete, I would remind the minister that his was the government that said there would be no new fees. That was before they brought in the $2 copayment and the prescription drug fee for seniors. I would also suggest that in Mr McCooeye's case, the first awkward steps the minister describes took from last August until May 5. The problem is that after all that confusion, all that frustration, all those costs, Mr McCooeye's problems aren't yet over. He has now been classified correctly, but he's being told that he can't be reimbursed for his 1996-97 drug costs because the arbitrary cutoff date for last year's plan was April 30.

Minister, the problems, the delays getting Mr McCooeye properly on to the right plan were all related to errors made by the Ministry of Health and to its delays, yet we are being told that there are absolutely no exceptions to the cutoff rule. Surely you would agree that Mr McCooeye, who is supporting himself and his wife on $15,507 a year, should not have to pay the costs of the Ministry of Health's mistakes.

I ask you not only to look into this but to ensure that there is clear direction given to Mr McCooeye that Mr McCooeye will get compensation and that the arbitrary cutoff date will not apply to any seniors who have been forced --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Minister.

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to assure all members of this House that seniors who were inappropriately classified will be adjusted fairly and appropriately and as quickly as possible. My understanding is that Mr McCooeye is an exception, and that's why I will look into the matter directly and personally.

I want to remind the members that the cost to the Ontario drug benefit plan is growing. If you read the budget carefully, it is over budget by $127 million in Ontario. The solution that every single government in Canada has done, when faced with that overwhelming issue, has been to increase the copayment. I'm here to tell you and all members of this House that the government of Mike Harris refuses to increase these copayments like every other government in the provinces of Canada has done in the past. We've increased over 400 new drugs into the formulary in the two years we've been the government.


M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Ma question est au ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones. Votre gouvernement est en train de passer le projet de loi 108, qui modifie la loi sur les services pour les infractions provinciales. Avec cette loi, le procureur-général pourrait transférer aux municipalités la responsabilité d'exercer le fonctionnement des administrations et des tribunaux là où la province le faisait déjà.

Vos membres du comité de l'administration de la justice, qui traite de la question du projet de loi 108, ont refusé d'accepter une motion NPD mise de l'avant par mon collègue qui aurait garanti que les francophones qui demandent d'avoir les services offerts en français quant à ces infractions auraient pu les avoir au sein de leur municipalité. Les membres conservateurs de votre comité ont voté contre.

Monsieur le Ministre, vous avez une chance. Le projet de loi est présentement devant le comité plénier de la Chambre. Êtes-vous prêt à accepter notre motion et de garantir que les services en français vont être garantis dans cette loi pour les francophones de la province ?

L'hon Noble A. Villeneuve (ministre de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones) : Le projet de loi 108 découlant du ministère de la Justice, je vais demander à mon collègue de répondre à votre question.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Bill 108 will be transferring provincial offence jurisdiction to municipalities. As a result of the legislation that exists in Ontario under the act that regulates our courts, there are to be guaranteed trials in the French language all over Ontario. As the jurisdiction for dealing with the Provincial Offences Act is turned over to municipalities, it will be turned over on a basis of maintaining levels of service, and we are well accepting of the fact that municipalities will be prepared to do that.

M. Bisson : Monsieur le Ministre, c'est très simple : la province de l'Ontario a mis en place la Loi 8 simplement parce que les municipalités ne sont pas prêtes à garantir que les services en français vont être offerts à la population francophone. C'est pour cette raison que tous les partis de cette assemblée, Libéraux, NPD et Conservateurs, avaient accepté cette loi à l'unanimité. Quand ces contreventions, ces infractions, vont être transférées à la population, on ne va pas pouvoir garantir dans le projet de loi 108 que les services en français seront donnés.

La loi est ici, aujourd'hui, au comité de la Chambre. Je vous demande : allez-vous accepter notre amendement qui va garantir à la communauté francophone que les services en français vont être respectés quand vous allez transférer ces services aux municipalités ?

Hon Mr Harnick: The Courts of Justice Act provides that guarantee, and the municipalities and the province and the Ministry of the Attorney General will be regulated in terms of dealing with the way the Provincial Offences Act will be devolved through agreements that will be made between the Ministry of the Attorney General and the municipalities. That will regulate the Bill 108 devolution.

The Courts of Justice Act, as well as the memorandum of understanding to be entered into between the ministry and the Attorney General, will regulate that relationship to guarantee a level of services that people want.

M. Bisson : Un point d'ordre, Monsieur le Président : Il est très clair que le procureur-général ne comprend pas exactement ce qui se passe avec la Loi 8. Pour cette raison, je demande que le ministre soit obligé de répondre à ma question à une date plus tard. Je demande une «late show».

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): That's not a point of order. New question.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. As you know, municipal leaders from the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities met in Hearst this past weekend. You will know, because you were there, that their real fear was, and still is, the downloading exercise and the new downloading deal your government and the AMO 16 reached.

They fear it will not be revenue-neutral in the short term or the long term. Initial number crunching by these northern municipalities shows severe shortfalls. For example, the region of Sudbury $73 million in the hole; the city of Sault Ste Marie $20 million short; Timmins $12 million short.

Minister, will you guarantee today that these individual municipalities, and all municipalities in the north that find themselves in a negative position because of your downloading exercise, will be given every single dollar necessary from your government to make this revenue-neutral?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): The honourable member opposite is correct. We did have an enjoyable meeting up in Hearst on Friday afternoon. I was joined by my colleague Mr Palladini. His question is in regard to the trade that AMO and the municipalities presented to the government of Ontario.

As you know, in January we brought the House back with a special Who Does What session. We said at that time that province-wide education, the opportunity for every student to have a quality education in this province, wasn't on the table. The province had to take that over.

We also said that the fiscal picture wasn't in question, but if there were better ideas on how this trade could take place, that was fine. We listened and responded to AMO and other municipal representatives, of which FONOM had a member at the table, Mayor Mavrinac from Kirkland Lake, and they brought forward a very sensible and practical alternative that the government agreed to.

The question northern municipalities had a problem with was the announcement prior to this on the cancellation of support grants to municipalities. Our challenge to work with AMO and to work with FONOM is to make sure --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, Minister. Supplementary.

Mr Bartolucci: You wonder why we get angry, Mr Speaker.

They were so concerned that they passed a resolution asking you to make sure it's revenue-neutral. They're not happy and they're still concerned. They're upset that you will not answer their questions. You didn't do it in Hearst and you refuse to do it today. Minister, your Premier and your finance minister have promised that the exchange will be revenue-neutral. In fact, they went as far as to say there's a possibility of a 10% tax cut.

Minister, will you guarantee today that property taxes in all northern Ontario municipalities will not go up next year or in subsequent years because of the downloading? If you'll give that guarantee, will you put it in writing so they have something tangible like they had in your commitment here on page 13 that you would do that? Will you do it in writing today?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I'm not sure that the northern representatives would want what the member opposite is asking. They had a concern that the grants are going to be cancelled, and that was announced a couple of years ago. Of course at the end of the day there's going to be $667 million less, and that could be equal to the amount of the grants.

Northerners don't want that. They want to be treated equitably right across the province so that as we work through this agreement, the tradeoff is fiscally neutral through the province. We want to make sure it's done equitably. One of the things they've asked us for is that they wanted the northern support --


The Speaker: Hold on. Minister --


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): They especially like the 37 bucks for a licence.

The Speaker: Member for Algoma, order. Minister.

Hon Mr Hodgson: Half of the gas prices they pay in the north compared to the south. But the member of the opposition brings up a good question, that we're going to have to work with our municipal partners. I and my colleague the Minister of Transportation and the parliamentary assistant to municipal affairs were there and we had a good meeting. They realize that it's complicated, that it's going to take cooperation between the municipal partners and the Ontario government, and we're going to work through this.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. There are two excellent adult education centres in my riding, the City Adult Learning Centre and the Jones Avenue Adult New Canadian School. I'm sure you've heard of them. The Jones centre will probably not survive your cuts, because it is geared to employment, it offers courses in business, computers and co-op program, and under your so-called GED program, this will all be lost to that school. CALC will be severely impacted; it will lose experienced teachers and important programs. Why are you discriminating against students in Ontario on the basis of their age?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the member opposite for the question because it gives us an opportunity to once again talk about the programs that have been brought forward by this government which will help adults get an education, get training and get on with their lives in the workforce. We have several initiatives under way right now and we of course are engaged in negotiations with our federal counterparts to make sure we get the right training deal for people in Ontario.

In terms of the specific reference the member opposite made in talking about our schools, just one of the adult education and training delivery systems in the province, we continue to fund education for adults, we continue to fund based on what adult needs are. I am surprised that after all this length of time, because after all we're talking about announcements that were made almost a year and a half ago now, the member opposite would rise to her feet and ask me the difference between adolescent education and adult education once again in this chamber. I think we've addressed that question time and time again, and the people of Ontario understand that there is a difference between adults and adolescents, a difference in their needs.

Ms Churley: I'm getting really sick of hearing the same tired old answers from this minister about adult education in this province, which severely affects adults, new Canadians and high school dropouts who need to get back into the labour force. They need a commitment from you today that you will restore that funding you cut. You can stand up in this House and say repeatedly to questions from the opposition that we over here don't understand. You are cutting the funding; it is as simple as that. Adult learning centres are going to close, and people are going to be stuck with programs that research done in the United States shows kills adult schooling overall. People are not going to have the same opportunities to get jobs; there's research that shows that.

You're telling boards of education for students that the boards will have to decide whether they'll be cut or not so it's out of your hands. I want you to stand up here today and say that you will restore that funding and make sure adults can get a good education and can get jobs in Ontario.


Hon Mr Snobelen: I too applaud the member opposite's use of recycling. You're attempting to recycle an issue that is now a year and a half old.

When we tailored the funding for adult education in our schools to the needs of adults, when we did that a year and a half ago, you stood up and other people stood up in this chamber and said, "That's the end of adult education in Ontario." In fact, it's not. We have school boards right across the province offering education for adults that is designed for adults, delivered in a time frame that is there for the needs of adults.

We recognize, this government recognizes that there is a difference between the needs of adults and the needs of adolescents. You cannot condemn adults to an adolescent program. I've talked to people across the province about this, and most reasonable people in the province understand completely that there is a considerable difference between adolescents and adults. I find it incredible that the member opposite cannot recognize and understand that.



Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is for the minister responsible for seniors. Could you update the House on the government's programs to offer long-term-care patients one-stop shopping?

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): You mean we had to wait for this?

Mrs Marland: I know the member for Beaches-Woodbine is concerned about these patients who need long-term care. We'd like to know how that's going to work through the new community care access centres.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I heard the member for Beaches-Woodbine interject and say, "We waited for this." The truth is, all through her government there was a whole series of programs in her riding, and she appreciated the opportunity, several weeks ago, to be present when I provided upgraded funding for several programs in her riding that deal on the basis of community-based support systems.

This government is very proud that we have created an infrastructure called community care access centres, that this is one-stop access. We waited for over a decade to have this program implemented in this province. We have taken 74 agencies and we have put those into 43 single-point access for the disabled and seniors across this province. The volunteer boards all across this province are involved with people who are seniors, members of the disabled community. These are individuals who contributed in their communities and volunteered, as I said.

Frankly, the contribution they're making to develop an accountable system in Ontario --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Mrs Marland: I know there is at the moment a wide disparity in the level of services for long-term care across the province. In the region of Peel, in spite of what the opposition is saying, we have a CCAC which is supported very much by those community agencies in the region. I would just like you to tell the House how you're going to address the problems of the imbalance across the province and how the CCACs are part of the solution.

Hon Mr Jackson: The CCACs have been working very hard to find savings. We estimate that, by this transfer, we have created savings in the magnitude of $4 million. It's enough money in savings to purchase about 100,000 more nursing visits in this province and about 211,000 homemaking visits.

As a result, we've been able to take a system in this province which has not been based on equity funding, acknowledgement for growth, no common assessment tools -- we've been able to, in as short a time as a year and a half, reconfigure this system so that we can provide equity funding in municipalities all across this province, municipalities that are represented in all sectors of this Legislature.

This a "more fairness" model. This is a model where seniors in one part of the province get the same level of service as in other parts of the province. This government is deeply committed to ensuring one-window access, more equitable financing in high-growth areas and to have more accountability with public funds.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): You might as well stay up. My question is to the minister responsible for seniors affairs. Can you please tell me, tell us in the House today, how many months are there in a year for seniors who receive benefits through the Ontario drug benefit plan?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I didn't catch --


Mr Sergio: Can I repeat the question?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Yes, go ahead.

Mr Sergio: How many months are there in a year for seniors receiving benefits through the Ontario drug benefit plan?

Hon Mr Jackson: There is no question. First of all, as I said earlier, we have one of the most comprehensive public drug plans in North America. I must indicate, not every senior in Ontario wants to admit when their 65th birthday is in order to become eligible for this plan in the first place. I want to indicate that there are --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Jackson: This province is currently supporting 1.4 million seniors who are utilizing this drug plan, and once they are fully into the plan, they are utilizing its services for 12 months of the year.

Mr Sergio: Since July 15 of last year seniors have been paying a copayment -- whatever you call it -- deductible, user fee, to the tune of $100. Through your programs they are being asked to pay another $100 three months prior to the expiry of that year. Can you please tell me today, tell the seniors through this House, that you will see that the seniors will be compensated for what they have paid for, which is 12 months and not nine months, in a year of benefits?

Hon Mr Jackson: I should advise all members of the House that this is not a question for people who are 67, 68 or older in this province. They understand the rules of participation of the drug plan. What the real question is is what I raised earlier in this House: that we have a $1.2-billion drug plan in this province, the most generous on the face of the earth. In one instance alone that I'll give the member who wants information, the drug Losec in this province was approved with an expectation that it would cost $2 million worth of taxpayers' dollars; last year alone we spent $57 million on one drug.

I invite the member opposite to come to this Legislature with creative ways in which we can lower the cost of the drug plan without increasing costs to seniors, because I want to assure the member that every government in Canada has always resorted to increasing utilization fees, but not this government.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I ask for unanimous consent so that this House can call forward the wheel separation legislation for passage today at second reading.

The Speaker: The member for Cochrane South is asking for unanimous consent to call forward the wheel separation legislation. Agreed? I heard a bunch of noes, so it's no.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 34(a), I wish to advise you of my dissatisfaction with the response of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to my question on Tuesday, May 6, regarding assistance to flood victims and his further comments today. I will file the appropriate papers.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): File at the table. Thank you.



Mr Peter North (Elgin): I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission appointed by the health minister has recommended closure of the London and St Thomas psychiatric hospitals; and

"Whereas psychiatric patients are being displaced without adequate support systems; and

"Whereas article 34(1) of the Mental Health Act states, `A patient shall be discharged from a psychiatric facility when he is no longer in need of the observation, care and treatment provided therein'; and

"Whereas article 34(2) of the Mental Health Act states, `Subsection (1) does not authorize the discharge into the community of a patient who is subject to detention otherwise under this act';

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to retain psychiatric facilities separate from schedule 1 hospitals and managed by the Ministry of Health to ensure that no person will go untreated or will be placed at risk or cause another to be placed at risk."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The campaign to save TVO is continuing and the amazing thing is that we're getting from all over the province, including Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Cambridge --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Let's hear the petition then.

Mr Gravelle: The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas TVOntario has served Ontarians of all ages for more than 25 years with quality non-commercial television that continues to focus 70% of its programming on education and children's programming; and

"Whereas TVO is available to 97.4% of Ontarians and for some uncabled communities is the only station available, making it a truly provincial asset; and

"Whereas TVO continues to work towards increasing self-generated revenues;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure that TVOntario continue to be a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster."

I'm proud to sign my name to that petition.



Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas drinking and driving is the largest criminal cause of death and injury in Canada;

"Whereas every 45 minutes in Ontario a driver is involved in an alcohol-related crash;

"Whereas most alcohol-related accidents are caused by repeat offenders;

"Whereas lengthy licence suspensions for impaired driving have been shown to greatly reduce repeat offences;

"Whereas the victims of impaired drivers often pay with their lives while only 22% of convicted impaired drivers go to jail and even then only for an average of 21 days;

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

"We urge the provincial government to pass legislation that will strengthen measures against impaired drivers in Ontario."

I affix my signature to this.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the private member's bill introduced by Rick Bartolucci which promotes smaller class sizes passed second reading; and

"Whereas this bill, known as Bill 110, was referred to the social development committee; and

"Whereas we, the stakeholders in education, want the government committee to hear what we have to say about smaller class sizes; and

"Whereas we want to hear what the government committee has to say regarding smaller class sizes; and

"Whereas all people in Ontario have a right to speak to the social development committee about smaller class sizes;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support the recommendation that the social development committee travel across Ontario to find out what the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Ontario are saying about smaller class sizes and Bill 110, the smaller class sizes act."

Of course I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): "Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to restructure completely the provincial-municipal relationship without having consulted the people of Ontario; and

"This restructuring proposes to download to municipalities the cost of transportation and such critical social services as welfare and long-term care for the elderly and the chronically ill; and

"Removes school boards' ability to tax, eliminating any effective local control over schools and school programs; and

"The government's actions fail to guarantee existing levels of funding and fail to recognize the unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and

"Whereas the government's lack of meaningful public consultation and disregard for public response pose a serious threat to democracy;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, because we care about the quality of life in our province and the wellbeing of our children, neighbours and communities, register a vote of non-confidence in the government of Ontario."


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Windsor-Essex county was the first community to undergo hospital restructuring; and

"Whereas the community supported the recommendations of the Win-Win report based on a funding model that included the expansion of community-based care; and

"Whereas recent reports estimate that Windsor-Essex hospital expenditure is underfunded by approximately $122 per person; and

"Whereas this represents the lowest funding per capita for hospital services of any community in Ontario with a population of over 200,000;

"Whereas hospitals across the province have been forced to further reduce expenditures 18%; and

"Whereas these cuts have forced hospitals to eliminate emergency services in the west end of Windsor and other desperately needed services; and

"Whereas the minister acknowledged that additional funding was necessary in high-growth areas;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Minister of Health to provide appropriate levels of funding to hospitals in Windsor-Essex which would allow Windsor Regional Hospital to provide urgent care services for the west-end community and to restore equitable health care funding across Windsor and Essex county."

This is today particularly poignant as the health restructuring commission is in Windsor today.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I have a petition regarding the proposed Social Work Act in Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, are concerned about the exclusionary intentions of the Ontario College of Certified Social Workers to regulate the delivery of social work in Ontario. It is imperative that graduates of social service worker programs are included in the proposed Social Work Act. More than 50% of practising social workers in Ontario are graduates of community college SSW programs. Any legislation must include the regulation of social service workers and their clients in order to realistically reflect the services provided in our communities."

I will sign my signature.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): "To the government of Ontario:

"Since the Hotel Dieu Hospital has played and continues to play a vital role in the delivery of health care services in St Catharines and the Niagara region; and

"Since Hotel Dieu has modified its role over the years as part of a rationalization of medical services in St Catharines and has assumed the position of a regional health care facility in such areas as kidney dialysis and oncology; and

"Since the Niagara region is experiencing underfunding in the health care field and requires more medical services and not fewer services; and

"Since Niagara residents are required at present to travel outside of the Niagara region to receive many specialized services that could be provided in city hospitals and thereby not require local patients to make difficult and inconvenient trips down our highways to other centres; and

"Since the Niagara hospital restructuring committee used a Toronto consulting firm to develop its recommendations and was forced to take into account a cut of $44 million in funding for Niagara hospitals when carrying out its study; and

"Since the population of the Niagara region is older than that in most areas of the province and more elderly people tend to require more hospital services;

"We, the undersigned, request that the government of Ontario keep the election commitment of Premier Mike Harris not to close hospitals in our province, and we call upon the Premier to reject any recommendation to close Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines."

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


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have a petition concerning gun control.

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has passed Bill C-68, An Act respecting firearms and other weapons; and

"Whereas we welcome real gun control and support those portions of Bill C-68 which provide tougher penalties for the criminal use of firearms, new offences related to firearms smuggling and trafficking and the ban on paramilitary weapons; and

"Whereas existing laws requiring the registration of handguns have done little to reduce the number of crimes committed with handguns or lower the volume of handguns smuggled into Canada; and

"Whereas the national gun registration provisions of Bill C-68 will result in a massive misallocation of the limited resources available to law enforcement agencies, with no practical effect on the traffic of illegal firearms or the use of guns by violent criminals; and

"Whereas the gun registration provisions of Bill C-68 will take police officers off the streets and involve them in bureaucracy other than fighting crime and will make the task of real gun control more difficult and dangerous for police officers;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the province of Ontario to continue to urge the government of Canada to repeal from Bill C-68 those provisions for a compulsory registration of all firearms."

I'm in agreement with this petition and therefore affix my signature.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition addressed to the Legislature of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, draw the attention of the Legislature to the following:

"That managing the family home and caring for infant and preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society and deserves respect and support;

"That child care policies and funding should provide equity and fairness to all Ontario families;

"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislature to pursue policy and funding initiatives such as a child care tax credit that will support a full range of child care choices for the families of Ontario including direct parental care."

I agree and I affix my signature to it.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have a petition with respect to ammunition regulations:

"Whereas the NDP government under former Premier Bob Rae passed legislation, Bill 181, the Ammunition Regulation Act, placing restrictions on the sale of ammunition in Ontario; and

"Whereas the provisions contained in Bill 181 are time-consuming, onerous and create unnecessary red tape; and

"Whereas the records for which these provisions have been produced do not track criminals; and

"Whereas Bill 181 was passed in only one day, without any discussion with law-abiding gun owners such as farmers, collectors, hunters and recreational shooters, who understand and have a deep respect for the power of firearms and ammunition and the need to maintain and use their equipment in the safest of conditions; and

"Whereas Bill 181 will do nothing to combat the illegal use of ammunition;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to repeal Bill 181, protect the rights of responsible firearms owners and work for tougher penalties against weapons offences."

I sign this petition.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition against Bill 111 which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and deals with the amendments to the Mental Health Act regarding involuntary commitment.

"We, the undersigned consumer-survivors and their supporters, oppose the amendments to sections of the Mental Health Act. The proposed changes threaten to increase further violations and abuse of people with mental illness.

"The present act requires in part that we be of imminent harm to ourselves and others. This criterion has been expanded to include harm that may occur at some undetermined future time. In addition, we can be assessed or committed if it is `believed' that the mental disorder will lead to physical deterioration.

"As consumer-survivors, we are able to judge, to predict and to determine our futures. We have the right to self-determination and to voluntarily choose treatment that is appropriate to our needs and oppose the changes to the Mental Health Act that address only the fears and lack of education of others."

Pursuant to the rules, I've signed it.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by a number of people from North York. It reads:

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to restructure completely the provincial-municipal relationship without having consulted the people of Ontario; and

"This restructuring proposes to download to municipalities the cost of transportation and such critical social services as welfare and long-term care for the elderly and the chronically ill; and

"Removes school boards' ability to tax, eliminating any effective local control over schools and school programs; and

"The government's actions fail to guarantee existing levels of funding and fail to recognize the unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and

"Whereas the government's lack of meaningful public consultation and disregard for public response pose a serious threat to democracy;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, because we care about the quality of life in our province and the wellbeing of our children, neighbours and communities, register a vote of non-confidence to the government in the province of Ontario."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas post-secondary educational costs have been increasing due to economic and technological changes;

"Whereas student tuition fees have increased greatly over the past few years;

"Whereas the cost of living for students continues to increase;

"Whereas students are unable to continue their education due to high costs;

"Whereas future economic growth depends on access to post-secondary education;

"Whereas the panel on the Future Directions for Postsecondary Education recognizes the inadequacy in financial resources available to post-secondary education;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to renew its financial commitment for post-secondary education and to recognize that a multi-year commitment to the restoration of support must be guaranteed."

This is signed by hundreds and sent in by Claudio Monteleone, a Lakehead University student.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition sent to me from the fine people of Longlac and Geraldton, Ontario.

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to restructure completely the provincial-municipal relationship without having consulted the people of Ontario; and

"This restructuring proposes to download to municipalities the cost of transportation and such critical social services as welfare and long-term care for the elderly and the chronically ill; and

"Removes school boards' ability to tax, eliminating any effective local control over schools and school programs; and

"The government's actions fail to guarantee existing levels of funding and fail to recognize the unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and

"Whereas the government's lack of meaningful public consultation and disregard for public response pose a serious threat to democracy;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, because we care about the quality of life in our province and the wellbeing of our children, neighbours and communities, register a vote of non-confidence to the government in the province of Ontario."

I'm proud to sign my name to this petition.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Speaker: I rise to correct my record. A moment ago, I introduced a petition very similar to the one just read by the member for Port Arthur, and I said that it was from residents of North York. I know that this probably makes absolutely no difference to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and to the government members, but it was not from North York. It was from the city of York.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Thank you very much for that clarification.

Mr Gravelle: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: In the petition that I read previously also related to increased cost to students, I meant to say very proudly that I was very proud to sign it. I did forget to do so, and I wanted to be sure. I have since signed it.



Mr Leach moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 96, An Act to Consolidate and Revise the Law with respect to Residential Tenancies / Projet de loi 96, Loi codifiant et révisant le droit de la location à usage d'habitation.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Today I move second reading of Bill 96, the Tenant Protection Act. This legislation constitutes an important new direction for Ontario. This legislation takes a seriously flawed system of rent regulation and improves it for the benefit of all tenants, property owners and taxpayers in the province.

This legislation is balanced, and balance is critical to the creation of a successful system of rent regulation. As I've said many times in all the consultations we've undertaken in the area of rent control, it quickly becomes obvious that tenants and property owners are never going to agree on rental housing. Both sides want to have it all their own way. Tenants suggest imposing the strictest controls imaginable, leaving property owners with absolutely no chance to break even, never mind making a profit. Property owners suggest eliminating the entire rent control system and all the regulations that go with it, leaving tenants totally unprotected. There was almost never a compromise position.

Yet both tenants and property owners are confronted with a system that is seriously flawed. More than $10 billion in repairs is needed to rental buildings in Ontario. There are apartment buildings across the province with dozens of outstanding work orders for maintenance.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): So why are you increasing the property taxes?

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Member for Kingston and The Islands, come to order.

Hon Mr Leach: There is little investment in rental housing, with a mere handful of new apartments being built each year. Vacancy rates in many of our cities are extremely low, leaving tenants with few choices about where to live. Clearly these are very serious problems, and this government is committed to do something about them.

We want to achieve four things: First, we want to protect tenants from unfair rent increases and arbitrary evictions; second, we want to improve maintenance and get tough on landlords who fail to take care of their buildings; third, we want to create a climate where people will invest in new rental housing; fourth, we want to streamline administration and cut red tape to create a faster, fairer system of rent control. That's where we're headed with this legislation.

Our objective is to protect tenants while fixing the problems with the current rent control system. Under the Tenant Protection Act, tenants continue to enjoy many of the valuable protections to which they've been entitled for many years:

The new law will continue to protect tenants from unfair rent increases by keeping the annual rent control guideline. The guideline is 2.8% for this year, the lowest guideline in the entire history of rent control in Ontario.

Tenants are a protected by a cap on rent increases above the guideline for capital repairs.

Tenants can only receive one rent increase each year.

Tenants must be given proper notice of a rent increase.

Tenants can apply for a rent refund for poor maintenance or a lower rent for reduced services.

Tenants can also apply to challenge illegal rent increases and illegal extra charges.

All these protections, and many others, remain in place as long the tenant continues to live in the apartment.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Then what happens?

Hon Mr Leach: I'll tell you what happens. When the apartment becomes vacant, the property owner can negotiate a new rent with a new tenant, and when the tenant moves in, that tenant will be protected by rent control and all the protections afforded to all other tenants. What we're doing is moving from a system that protects the apartment building to a system that protects the individual.


It has been suggested that property owners may take advantage of this opportunity to increase rents by evicting tenants by a number of means. Well, first of all, tenants are protected from arbitrary eviction. There are specific reasons laid out in the Landlord and Tenant Act for the eviction of a tenant. These involve serious violations of the landlord-tenant relationship. The new Tenant Protection Act continues the same protection from arbitrary eviction that tenants currently enjoy.

It has also been suggested that property owners will harass tenants to get them to move out of their units so rent can be increased. I'm not going to deny that harassment can occur in any landlord-tenant relationship, and it can occur in the system that is currently in place. If it does, an enforcement unit in my ministry takes action. The current maximum fine for a corporate landlord convicted of harassing a tenant is $25,000; under the new Tenant Protection Act, we're going to strengthen the enforcement unit, and we've doubled the maximum fine to $50,000. I'm not going to pretend that's a perfect solution, but it's twice as tough as the current system.

It's also been suggested that property owners will try to force tenants out of their units by refusing to do any maintenance, thereby making the premises so miserable that the tenants will have no alternative but to move out. Again there are provisions in the current rent control system which deal with poor maintenance in rental buildings. Unfortunately, as we all know, the current system isn't working very well, if it's working at all. That's obvious when you consider the number of rental buildings across the province with outstanding work orders for poor maintenance. Clearly, the current system is not ensuring good maintenance; in fact, it seems to be doing exactly the opposite.

What we've done with the Tenant Protection Act is to change the system to ensure good maintenance in a number of ways.

First, we've created a system in which property owners will have to compete for new tenants, and that's a very important change. There has not been any competition for tenants among property owners for many years, and that is a critical aspect of a healthy rental market. Under the Tenant Protection Act, when a tenant moves out of an apartment, the property owner can negotiate a new rent with the incoming tenant. Obviously, if the building is falling apart, the property owner is going to have an extremely difficult time attracting a new tenant. So to start with, we have created an incentive for property owners to do the required maintenance.

Second, we have changed the system to allow property owners to recover the money they spend on repairs. The new legislation places a 4% cap on the amount above the rent control guideline by which a tenant's rent can be increased due to capital repairs to a building. Under the current system, it is not surprising that property owners are not doing any repairs to their buildings. The current system allows the property owner to recover very little of the money spent on repairs, so the repairs are not done.

Obviously, if you've seen many of the buildings around our ridings, you would agree. The buildings have countless work orders against them and tenants are plagued by chronic poor maintenance. We're going to fix that by letting property owners recover the money they legitimately spend to repair the buildings. We're giving the property owners an incentive to do maintenance and we're giving them the means to recover the money they spend on repairs.

We're going to change the system a third way: We're going to get tough with property owners who fail to take care of their buildings.

First, we're improving the ability of municipalities to enforce their property standards bylaws. We're doubling the maximum fine for a property standards violation, such as failing to comply with a municipal work order. Under the Tenant Protection Act, the maximum fine will be $100,000 for a repeat offence by a corporate landlord.

Second, we're speeding up the process. The Tenant Protection Act will give local property standards officers the power to issue a work order for poor maintenance immediately. They will no longer have to issue a property owner with a notice of violation first, followed later by a work order, as is the case under the current system. We're eliminating that first step and making the system faster and more efficient.

The procedures associated with serving of work orders will also be streamlined. The Tenant Protection Act will also make it easier to recover the cost of municipal repair work carried out in emergencies and easier to recover the cost of the work carried out in those instances where the property owner fails to comply with a work order. The money involved will be recovered as part of the municipal property taxes, and this greater certainty will encourage municipal action.

I would like to point out that we've made an important change to this aspect of the proposed legislation as a result of public consultation which was held on the discussion paper New Directions last summer. Again, I would like to extend my appreciation to members of the standing committee on general government, which conducted public hearings in nine communities across Ontario at that time. The committee received a great deal of valuable information from the public and we have made a number of substantive changes to the proposed legislation as a result of those hearings.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Which ones, Al?

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Fort York. Come to order.

Hon Mr Leach: One of those changes involves the maintenance provisions. Initially we planned to make it an offence for a property owner simply to violate a maintenance standard.

Mr Marchese: You already went through that.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, come to order.

Hon Mr Leach: Municipalities could have issued tickets on the spot, without giving the property owner any opportunity to fix the problem before facing substantial fines. As the consultation revealed, this approach would not have been fair, so we've changed the legislation to give property owners an opportunity to fix the problem before a charge is laid.

Upon identifying a property standards deficiency, the municipal property standards officer can issue a work order. If the deficiency is not fixed within the time limit, then the property owner may be charged with an offence.

Another issue we're hearing about involves condominium conversions. It has been suggested that under the Tenant Protection Act, property owners will simply convert all their rental buildings to condominiums and evict all their tenants in that way. If a property owner wants to convert a rental building to a condominium, then the tenants of that building will have the first right of refusal to purchase their apartment. Those tenants who do not wish to purchase their apartments will have lifetime tenure in their apartment for as long as they like. Let me stress that: lifetime tenure. They can remain in their apartments for as long as they choose.

Mr Wildman: They are prisoners in their own apartment.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Algoma, come to order.

Hon Mr Leach: This too is an aspect of the legislation which came about as a result of the public consultation last summer.

Mr Wildman: This law brings in house arrest.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Hon Mr Leach: We listened to the tenants' request for lifetime tenure in case of condominium conversion and we have drafted that aspect into the proposed legislation.

Mr Wildman: House arrest.


The Acting Speaker: Minister, could you take your seat for a moment. Could I ask the member for Algoma and all opposition members, or most opposition members, to come to order, please. Thank you.

Mr Wildman: Thank you, Speaker, but I think it's incumbent upon all members to --

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Algoma.

Hon Mr Leach: Probably the only one who should be under house arrest is the member for Algoma.

I want to stress that as a result no tenant, not a one, will lose their home as a result of the conversion of rental buildings to condominiums.

Also, I would like to point out an additional matter which seems to have slipped the minds of some people regarding conversion to condominiums, and that is -- and this applies to the member for Fort York -- that while we are changing the Rental Housing Protection Act, we have made no changes whatsoever to the authority of municipalities to adopt official plan policies restricting condominium conversions. Municipalities can still discourage condominium conversions through their official plan policies that exist in the present city of Toronto if they feel a conversion is not in the best interests of their community.

Finally, we are hearing the claim that rents will skyrocket because of the Tenant Protection Act. Our studies show exactly the opposite.


Mr Marchese: Which studies, Al?

Hon Mr Leach: I'm glad the member asked. The Todd report examined the impact of rent controls if rent controls were lifted completely all at once. The Todd report concluded that after an adjustment period, on average, rents would be largely the same as they are today. The study also concluded that our proposal to keep rent controls in place for sitting tenants and allow property owners to set a new rate for vacant apartments results in an adjustment period which is less dramatic and easier on tenants. Not least of all, the report concluded that the availability of low-rent units for low-income tenants would remain unchanged.

All of this is not surprising, given the analysis of Ontario's rental housing market by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. In its study last fall, CMHC concluded that many property owners in Ontario are not charging tenants the maximum rent for their apartments; they're charging them less. Why has this happened? It's happened because the property owners cannot find tenants who are willing to pay the maximum legal rents allowed by rent control. CMHC also concludes that the demand for rental housing in Toronto will drop between now and the year 2001. The bottom line is that the market is setting rent right now, not rent controls.

In summary, the Tenant Protection Act is legislation that continues to protect tenants while solving problems with the current flawed system. This legislation will cut red tape, improve maintenance, help to encourage investment in rental housing and give the taxpayer a workable system at reasonable cost.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Gerretsen: It's difficult to know exactly where to start on this, but let me just start with the last point the minister made. He stated that his study clearly indicated that rents are going to be largely the same today as they have been over the last little while and that they will remain the same for the next four or five years. If that's so, why change the law? I think in Ontario we've probably had about 20 different rent control systems over the last 20 years, and changing the law every time certainly doesn't lead to any kind of tenant confidence in the system.

The other thing I think ought to be stated is that to call this the Tenant Protection Act when in effect you're opening up the system so that you allow landlords to increase rents a lot more often or to deregulate a unit once a tenant leaves there I think is a total misnomer. At least call it the Landlord and Tenant Act or something to that effect and don't just call it the Tenant Protection Act.

The minister makes a great to-do over the fact that the maximum fine for tenant harassment is going to go up from $25,000 to $50,000 if a corporate landlord gets convicted. Let's not forget that under the existing law it's my understanding that no landlord has ever been convicted on this and the maximum fine has never been imposed. If you're going from $25,000 to $50,000, it really doesn't make any sense at all.

The final point I very quickly want to make is that most municipalities are quite adequately equipped to issue tickets against substandard properties. They certainly don't need the pressure of the province against them in this particular case in order to speed that process along. They can handle it. Leave it alone to them. You don't need to interfere in that matter at all.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): What we need to keep in mind when it comes to this legislation is a very simple thing: What the government and the Minister of Housing are indulging in are the politics of special interests. Whose special interests, I ask? It's the special interests of developers and large landlords; not the mom-and-pop operations, but those like Cadillac Fairview and a whole bunch of other large corporations that have rental interests in this province and who say, "We want to line our pockets with larger rents so that we can make more profits and we can make a lot more money at the expense of" -- who? At the expense of the tenants of the province of Ontario.

Let's be clear about what this government is up to. Will this legislation create more housing? "Oh," the government argues, "of course it will." Tell me, Minister, how is it that when you build a brand-new apartment building today in the Ontario, there is no rent control applied for five years? They can set their rent to whatever they want to make it. There is no rent control on brand-new apartment buildings in this province as it is now; there isn't for five years. That's something we put in place, as the New Democratic government, because we understood that the market had to set the rent. But once the market has set that rent, you need to bring it under some form of rent control.

If the legislation is not going to create new housing -- we know that is a fact, because there is no rent control when it comes to new housing in Ontario -- then why is the government doing it? I come back to my first point. It comes down to a very simple premise. It is because the government of Ontario is playing special interest politics with the big developers and the big renters of this province. I say shame on the government, when the government decides they're more concerned about making sure that their large corporate friends can make much more money at the expense of the tenants in the province. I say shame to the Minister of Housing, and I say shame to the government. We know what side you're on; I know what side I'm on. We in the New Democratic Party are on the side of the tenants, pure and simple.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I know that none of the Conservative candidates in my area went from apartment building to apartment building saying the government was going to be ending rent control. Many of the senior citizens who are in those apartments, and some of them voted for the Conservative Party last time, are going to wonder why now they're finding out that the Conservative Party is going to end rent control, that they're coming down on the side of the huge landlords and these huge complexes and not on the side of tenants, particularly those who are on fixed incomes.

I expected this afternoon we'd be dealing with the truck safety bill, because that's supposed to be a high priority. Instead, the government seems to be anxious to end rent control in this province.

I know as well that people are going to be concerned about the fact that if they live in rental units they can be converted very easily now to condominiums. So we're going to see less and less rental accommodation as the rental accommodation in this province is easily converted to condominium. While in some cases when you're building new ones and they're condominiums, everybody knows they're moving into it, that's quite acceptable, these conversions are worrying people in the apartments in various municipalities in Ontario.

People are going to be virtual prisoners in their own apartments, because the only way they can dodge rent control, I say to my friend from Stormont, is to remain in the apartment they're in at the present time. That's why I say they're prisoners in that apartment: They would like to be able to move to other places. Those people are going to feel betrayed by the Conservative Party. They're finding out when it comes down to it, just as in health care, the Conservative Party, on this issue of rent control, will come down on the side of the most wealthy, the most privileged and the most powerful people in this province. This bill is just proof of that.

Mr Marchese: I'm glad to have this two-minute opportunity to respond to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, one of the most beleaguered ministers in this House. In the last two years this poor minister has had to deal with more bills than I can think of. I feel sorry for him. I'm sure most of the members on this side and of his own caucus feel sorry for M. Leach; I certainly do.

I will have an opportunity to exfoliate this malodorous act in the next little while, because I'll have an hour and a half, so I will leave that for that time. But in the meantime, to respond to the Minister of Culture, who talked about special-interest groups and was saying, "Special-interest groups" -- Minister of Citizenship, I'm addressing these comments to you, because you were asking how we could speak of special interests. We represent the most powerless people in society, because that's what social democrats are all about. It is true that we represent a lot of interest groups, but they are powerless in this society, and in this particular case it happens to be tenants.


The special-interest group the Minister of Citizenship and the Minister of Municipal Affairs are supporting is their powerful friends. Voilà la différence, Madame la Ministre. The difference is that you support the rich and the wealthy citizens of Ontario -- she's trying not to pay attention, but I know she is listening to me -- whereas we represent the powerless and the vulnerable. In this case today, we are talking about representing the 33% of the population who are tenants. These are the people who will be most affected by this law, a law that will hurt those people who are on low income, people with disabilities and seniors who are on low income. They'll fight back, I know it.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Minister, you can sum up.

Hon Mr Leach: I would like to thank my colleagues from across the floor: the members for Kingston and The Islands, Cochrane South, St Catharines, my good friend, and the member for Fort York.

First of all, I think we have to agree that the current system doesn't work. I know the Liberal Party was planning to bring in major changes to the rent control system. In the red book it was pointed out very clearly that the existing system doesn't work. I think the NDP would agree that the existing system needs some changes and corrections. The current system doesn't work; it doesn't work for tenants and it doesn't work for property owners.

What are we going to do with this act? The Tenant Protection Act will (1) protect tenants from unfair rent increases and arbitrary evictions; (2) it's going to get tough on landlords who fail to maintain their buildings; and (3) help produce a climate where people will invest in real estate.

What we need are more rental units being constructed. Under the current system, there haven't been any built in the last decade. I think that itself points out that the current system doesn't work. If people made all the profits that my friends opposite indicate, people would be rushing out to build apartment buildings to make these massive profits you keep talking about. Why aren't they doing that? Because it's not true.

What we're going to do is cut the red tape and create a faster, fairer system; a system that, as I said, will protect tenants. As long as they want to remain in that apartment, they will be under rent control. They can negotiate a new rent with a new landlord and then come under rent control. This is going to be the best of situations for both landlords and tenants.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): It's my intention to share my 90 minutes with the members for Scarborough North and York South.

The Acting Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Duncan: The Tenant Protection Act: The title in itself suggests that this bill is yet another example of a government that's intent on false rhetoric and has no intention whatsoever of protecting tenants. This government has systematically undone the protections that have been built up over years.

Yes, Minister, our party did advocate change, but we said explicitly then and we say explicitly now that rent control has to stay. To be perfectly clear about it, when we defeat you in 1999, we will repeal this bill and reintroduce a system of rent control that will protect the tenants of this province and not abandon them to a market that can't protect their interests.

The minister has stated a case for four things he wanted to do with the bill. I'd like to, in the course of my remarks, address those four issues: He said (1) they want to protect tenants; he said (2) that the government wants to improve maintenance; he said (3) that the government wants to improve the investment climate; and then (4) he said that the government wants to streamline the administration and red tape around rent control legislation in this province.

I'd like to begin my talk by quoting the minister himself, who on a number of occasions has said -- to the Ontario Home Builders' Association in October 1995 -- that rent control has got to go. That's the Minister of Housing, who today stands and says that we are protecting rent control. I say the minister's credibility, like that of his colleague the Minister of Transportation, is coming off the rails. The only wheel that's flying in here is the wheel of inconsistency in a government that recognized that the position it put forward early in its mandate has now changed its tune, or at least is trying to suggest it's changing its tune.

We have the scenario of a minister who on October 19 says, "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go." That's the minister who moments ago stood in this House and suggested to this House and to the people of this province that indeed he is protecting tenants in this province. "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go."

When we talk of the government's credibility, is it any wonder when the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism said in the last election that he'll protect rent control that he has failed miserably? The government in its campaign brochures in the by-election last year in York South said, "Rent control will continue." But then again, Minister Al Leach, to no other than the Ontario Home Builders' Association: "Rent control has got to go."

This bill is the tenant rejection act, not the Tenant Protection Act. The bill does absolutely nothing to strengthen rent control; indeed the bill provides for the slow death of rent control in this province specifically at the time when we need rent control.

The government talks about special interests and interest group politics. Here, in our view, is a case of a government giving everything to one very small interest group, forsaking the interests of tens of thousands of Ontarians. Again, we ought not to be surprised, because it was this minister who said, "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go."

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I heard it many times.

Mr Duncan: I've heard that, we've all heard it.

I'd like to take a moment to remind the government members, the members from Metro Toronto who have a lot of tenants, that there are approximately 1.4 million rental units in Ontario today; 45% of those are here in Toronto, 10% in Ottawa and the rest are spread throughout the province; 80% of those units are private and the balance are either non-profit or in government hands; over 50% of the citizens of the city of Toronto, the households in Toronto, are tenants.

I think the most salient statistic that the government has obviously chosen to ignore is that over one third of renters pay more than 30% of their income. What does that mean? It doesn't mean a lot to the government and its wealthy benefactors, it doesn't mean a lot to those people who have a comfortable lifestyle, who have been relatively blessed. But let me tell you, for people on a limited income, for people on a fixed income, 30% of their income represents an astronomically high percentage of their income, and this bill doesn't speak to their needs. This bill speaks to the needs of a government that wants to fulfil a promise. "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go."


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): How many more times?

Mr Duncan: We will say it again and again and again, to the member from Durham, and we'll say it in the campaign, and just to be unequivocal, as we said in the last election, when we beat you in 1999, we'll repeal this bill and reintroduce meaningful rent control legislation in Ontario because you are abandoning once again the people who need the protection of government the most.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Just like you did with the GST, right? Just like you got rid of the GST. You guys have no credibility at all.

Mr O'Toole: What does Sheila say?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Durham East, come to order. Attorney General, come to order.

Mr Duncan: You are abandoning the poor. You are abandoning those in our society who spend more than 30% of their income. You're ignoring the market, I say to the minister. You are not providing for tenant protection. You are providing for a free market that will penalize the poorest in this society and you are providing a piece of legislation that does nothing that the minister said it would do. Again, I remind you, this government, this minister, said on October 19 to the Ontario Home --

Hon Mr Harnick: What did the red book say?

Mr Duncan: It's page 28. It says, "We will protect rent control," and we will do it. We owe no apology to you or yours. Page 28, bottom of the page. We stand behind that and we'll scrap this bill and we will bring forward meaningful tenant protection legislation when we beat you in 1999.

Maintenance: The minister says that they want to improve maintenance in these buildings. He says the protections are in there. We've gone through this with a fine-tooth comb and what we see is unenforceable law with fines that mean nothing and won't be enforced, similar to the fines that the minister has brought forward in the occupational health and safety domain. We say that this does nothing to improve maintenance of apartments and that the government had no intention whatsoever of protecting tenants.

The provincial vacancy rate today is approximately 2.4%; Toronto's is 1%. That represents a tight market. The government claims this bill will stimulate development of apartment units. We say, wrong again. Investment dollars are not competing against the guidelines. Investment dollars are competing against a whole variety of other opportunities. It's our view that if the government's intention is to create more investment in housing, it's not going to happen.

The government again has a real credibility problem in the whole issue of housing and the provision of housing. Let's just review some of the government's initiatives to date in the area of housing.

Staffing: They have cut 21%, total staff cuts, 398 jobs out of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing since 1994-95. They have cut $27 million from the operating budget of that ministry -- that's 11% of the Ontario Housing Corp's operating budget -- and 26% of the $51-million capital budget was cut for this year. The corporation's capital repairs budget was cut by $13 million, or 25%. They had better hope this bill will stimulate private sector investment because they are abandoning housing as a government entity.

What does that mean? We submit that it means we will return to a climate where the most vulnerable people are exposed. The government suggests that they are protected: "Well, you know, rent control doesn't go off until they move." Let me tell you, with the rate of turnover in apartments in our large urban cores, we figure it'll be roughly four to five years before it has gone completely, certainly gone completely in those parts of Ontario where the protection is most needed.

Public housing operating subsidies have been cut by 12%, or $16.9 million; the rent review budget was cut by 31%, or $7.5 million; 100 rent review staff were laid off; field operations support was cut by 46%, or $8.4 million; rent-geared-to-income financial support to subsidize the rents of low-income tenants in private housing was reduced by 10%, or $8.4 million, in 1996. The government has also announced that all rent-geared-to-income agreements with private sector landlords will be terminated at the end of the individual agreement terms.

I remind you again: The same minister who said, "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go," stands in the House and says this bill protects rent control -- no credibility, none whatsoever.

The government has been very clear. They have wanted to end rent control. The minister was right when he first said that and that's what this bill does. They download social housing on to municipalities and increase property taxes. The members opposite talk about tax and spend. You're raising property taxes in this province; it will be the Harris property tax increase that will go into effect next year.

If you were as serious as you say about expenditure control, we suggested last week, we've said it for the last two years, and we'll say it again: Give up the tax cut. Wait until you've balanced the budget, until you don't have to borrow the $5.5 billion per year to finance the tax cut. You have not created jobs. You have not kept pace with other provinces. You have, in our view, failed miserably in your economic policy, and this is yet another attempt to undermine law that was developed in this province over a number of years. It has been modified and changed and subject to lengthy debate.

This bill, members know, will replace six pieces of legislation. It will amend others. Groups were heard all last summer. They made excellent presentations. Members of all parties sat through those hearings, and we look forward to going forward again. We look forward to public hearings this summer, especially here in Toronto and Ottawa and Windsor and Hamilton and other areas where this draconian legislation will have a huge impact.

You were told clearly by groups ranging from the Coalition to Save Tenants' Rights, the Ottawa-Carleton Federation of Tenants, the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, the seniors' groups, including the United Seniors of Ontario, that you ought not to proceed with this kind of legislation, and yet you march on. You are creating a potential crisis in housing in this province the likes of which haven't been seen since the mid-1970s. Landlords will be given free rein. The application of these laws, in our view, will not create any new housing, will not improve the status of maintenance, and will not improve the investment climate in housing in this province.

The minister has argued in the House today that other provisions in the bill will prevent landlords from forcing tenants to leave. We say that won't work. It's in the landlord's interest to have as many new tenants as possible. It's in the landlord's interest to try and get somebody out of a rent-controlled unit now so that unit is no longer under rent control.


You're proposing the creation of an anti-harassment unit in the ministry and a doubling of the fines: $10,000 for individual landlords and $50,000 for corporations. Those fines will never, ever be implemented. I hope the case backlog you create immediately in this new agency isn't like the backlog we've witnessed in other government agencies. Government agencies cannot deal with the type of volume you will be creating. Vacancy decontrol means the slow death of rent control. It will lead to landlord intimidation and higher rents right across the housing market, and the people who will pay the most are the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

It's interesting, almost ironic, that the government has said or acknowledges that the climate they are creating is a climate that in fact will lead to landlord harassment. If the government didn't believe that, why would they create this agency, this anti-harassment unit, and put in the fines? The government is now acknowledging that they're creating a climate for tenant harassment, and they are attempting to deal with that climate with a body that simply won't work.

We believe tenants also need the assurance of a maximum rent cap. We hope tenants, and landlords, will be better served by the tribunal the government has proposed to create; we don't believe they will be.

The climate of investment in our major housing markets in Ontario has been the subject of much debate since rent control was first introduced in this Legislature by a previous Conservative government in 1975. There has long been an argument that rent controls lead to no investment or disinvestment in rental housing. The economics are such, the vacancy rates are such that we have been able to absorb. Yes, there have been problems, and yes, in our view, there have been problems with the administration of rent control legislation and other tenant-landlord legislation in this province, but it is our view that the government is not solving a problem, that indeed it's creating a problem.

In 1986, in Bill 51, there were amendments by the previous Liberal government. My colleague the member for Scarborough North carried that initiative. The previous NDP government brought forward amendments and changes. Throughout the history of rent controls we have changed the system, we have adjusted the system, and those changes and adjustments have been subject to great public debate, but never has there been an all-out attack on rent control as we see today.

I remind you that this minister said to the Ontario Home Builders' Association on October 19, 1995, "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go." When the minister says he is protecting rent control, we know differently. We know by the minister's own words that he had no intention of protecting rent control. We've watched the government back and forth on this issue, one minister saying one thing, another minister saying another thing, and now we see the final product.

It's an interesting piece of legislation. It's far-reaching in its scope, attempts to deal with some administrative matters, we hope, but fundamentally on every major issue, in our view, it takes the side of landlords and developers over tenants and the poor.

We would rather see legislation that protects rent control, that recognizes that the last 22 years have not been a waste, because they haven't been. In markets like Toronto and others, even in a low-inflation environment like this -- and we acknowledge that when rent controls were first brought in, we had a high-inflation environment -- tenants need protection. With 30% of your income going for housing, even a 1% increase impacts on every other element of a life.

If you went to your bank and said, "I want to spend 30% of my gross income on a mortgage," the bank would look twice, because they know that's high.


Mr Duncan: If you went into a market and had to face 2% or 3% or 4% increases on any part of the basket of life goods we look at, that's a large increase, especially when it eats up a large portion of your income.

There is a need to protect tenants and there is a need to deal meaningfully with tenant law and rent control law in Ontario.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I guess I blew that one.

Mr Duncan: No, the member never blows anything, with all due respect. We may not agree on all issues, but his input is always welcome.

I want to take a moment to speak about section 200 of the bill. The minister will be aware that that is the section of the bill that amends the Human Rights Code. We're now in possession of a letter from the Tory-appointed chair of that commission, the Honourable Keith Norton -- the members opposite will remember Mr Norton; he was a distinguished minister in a previous Conservative government -- asking the government to repeal section 200 of the bill. Why? Because it contradicts the human rights legislation in this province. That's what he says. He says you'll have on the one hand the Human Rights Code trying to protect tenant rights, and on the other hand you'll have this section of this law trying to undermine them. I say to the minister, if he's wrong, tell us he's wrong and say why.

Let me quote the long letter:

"It should be borne in mind that the code's protection against discrimination on the grounds of public assistance...is limited to the social area of accommodation (such as rented housing). Therefore, regulations that purport to allow the use of tenant screening based on income information will effectively authorize discrimination against people on public assistance. This will wipe out the protection provided by the code, on the ground of public assistance, for all practical purposes. In short, the government will have granted the right to equal treatment on the ground of receipt of public assistance with one hand and will take it away with the other."

The minister is shaking his head no, no, no. Well, Minister, this is your appointment. The Ontario Human Rights Commission in a letter dated March 10; it's on their letterhead, to you. It brings into question precisely what the government is about.

The government is about removing protection from those who most need protection, whether it be in welfare assistance, whether it be in tenant protection, whether it be in labour law. This is yet another spoke in the wheel.


Mr Duncan: The minister disagrees with the chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and I respect that, but the commission is very clear and cites a number of legal references.

Again I'll remind you that this is a minister who today stands in the House and says that this bill protects tenants' rights, but on October 19, 1995, he said to the Ontario Home Builders' Association: "I've said it before and I'll say it again. Rent control has got to go."


We are left with a situation where we have a minister saying one thing and doing another, but we shouldn't be surprised, because this government said it wouldn't close hospitals. We remember the Premier of Ontario in a televised debate: "I will not close hospitals." What have they done? In Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Sudbury, Windsor, Toronto, London, Hamilton, and coming soon to a town near you, hospitals are closing.

This is a government that says it will preserve rent control, but the minister speaks a different game when he's talking to the Ontario home builders. We heard from the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism in the last election that they would keep rent control; they haven't done it.

Hon Mr Leach: Sure we have.

Mr Duncan: The minister says, "Sure we have." It's just like in January when the minister stood in this House and said the downloading was revenue-neutral to municipalities. We saw the spectacle of the minister standing again in March changing almost everything they did and backtracking. Why? Because they had in fact downloaded $1.6 billion in new costs to municipalities. They will be remembered as the government and the minister who increased property taxes for everyone in Ontario. When is a tax cut not a tax cut? Like the one we've seen in Ontario. It's a shell game, it's not a tax cut. They're downloading and downloading. There are still going to be net new costs to municipalities in excess of $600 million, dollars that will have to be paid by property taxpayers.

We have a government yet again today saying, "We're protecting rent control," yet the minister who introduced the bill said on October 19, 1995: "I've said it before and I'll say it again. Rent control has got to go." Those were the minister's words, not mine. Those were said to an organization that has long advocated this.

We say to the government, at least be consistent. The rhetoric before the election came fast and furious. Even after the election, the minister who stands today saying that his bill protects tenants has said unequivocally, "Rent control has got to go."

Hon Mr Leach: What have you got against landlords?

Mr Duncan: We have nothing against landlords. We think landlords should earn a fair rate of return, but we've got a lot in common with tenants who are exposed to unfair rent increases, particularly those tenants whose incomes are eaten up by their housing costs. In cities like Toronto, housing costs for most tenants eat up up to 30% of their income. It's a very fundamental and clear issue of debate: Should they be protected? They're not protected.

I challenge the minister to release figures of when he estimates that all units in Toronto and Ontario today will be off rent control. We think it'll be about five or six years by the time this whole thing has worked its way through the system. When you look at turnover rates in cities like Toronto and Windsor and Hamilton and other major centres where there are low vacancy rates, they will lose rent control when somebody moves. It's killing rent control slowly.

The minister said, and I quote again: "I've said it before and I'll say it again. Rent control has got to go." He was right: Rent control is going to go under this plan. There is absolutely no question about that.

We've seen this kind of rhetoric in education. A government that wants to improve education cuts education. Our universities are the poorest-funded in Canada. We say invest in education, invest in health care and give up the tax cut until we've balanced the books. Be responsible. Don't finance a tax cut. The government says it's going to create jobs. The government's wrong again. They had one good month so far. They're about 250,000 off the mark they predicted in their own Common Sense Revolution. We believe there is room for improvement and we will support anything that improves the administration.


Mr Duncan: Yes, Minister, there are lots of situations where people have invested their life's savings in rental situations, but that doesn't mean you abandon tenants across the province. That doesn't mean you treat those landlords like you treat a big multinational that's traded on the TSE. That's the problem with this bill. That's the problem with the government's attitude. It treats them all the same and they're not the same, just like all tenants aren't the same.

We say take back the bill and bring in real rent control or amend the existing statutes, but don't stand here and tell us that you're protecting rent control, because it was you, Minister, and not us who said, "I said it before, I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go."

We see the government's credibility issue just today. For four months we have had the story about the need to deal with truck safety legislation and for four months the opposition has been saying: "Bring it forward. We'll pass it in a day." Then Friday came along and the Premier said, "Oh, it's too draconian," so everything that had been said up until now must be wrong.

There's a pattern emerging. Just as you call this the Tenant Protection Act, it's not; it's the tenant rejection act. It flows from the government's and the minister's thinking: "I said it before, I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go." When we're before the Ontario Home Builders' Association, it's one thing, and when we're in the Legislature in front of the cameras, it's another. I would submit that the government, other than a few of the members from downtown Toronto, has been pretty clear historically: They have no place for rent control, they really don't believe in it and this bill removes rent control.

Hon Mr Leach: I'm a member from downtown Toronto.

Mr Duncan: That's right. You've been left in an awful position and we do sympathize. As my House leader said, you have had carriage of some pretty tough legislation. The minister has had to do some pretty tough things. We watched in January as he struggled with the disentanglement exercise, an exercise he has now abandoned, an exercise he is now saying was wrong. So when the minister says that this will protect tenants, even if he believes it, and I think he does believe it, he just can't be believed.

In January this minister told us unequivocally that the changes the government announced in mega-week were revenue-neutral. Then we spent two and a half months extricating ourselves from that and making a deal with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, a deal which still leaves them vulnerable to tax increases. There are a lot of municipalities out there that don't support the agreement. There are a lot of municipalities out there that are shocked at what AMO's agreed to, and we will take their fight to this House because we know what you're doing: You're forcing down costs so that your books can look good, and you're going to force an increase in property taxes.

When the minister says this bill will protect tenants and rent control, he's no more correct than he was when he said that the downloading exercise in January, the mega-week announcements, were revenue-neutral. He just isn't. Again I remind you of the minister's words to the Ontario Home Builders' Association: "I said it before, I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go."

Minister, we welcome the opportunity to have public hearings this summer on this bill. We know you've agreed to them and we hope you'll attend. We hope you'll come with us as we travel and discuss every section of this far-reaching bill. One certainly can't argue that it's not far-reaching, because it is. It restructures landlord and tenant law in this province.

One of the minister's four objectives is to streamline administration. We truly hope there is some of that. We think there's been an attempt in some parts of the bill to achieve that. But fundamentally this bill betrays the truth that the government does not believe in rent control, that the government is prepared to sell out the interests of tenants in the interests of big landlords.

We don't believe for one minute, nor should you, that this will stimulate investment in private rental accommodation in Toronto or any of the other major centres in this province. We think the bill is wrongheaded. We think it reflects what the minister said on October 19, 1995, the now Minister of Housing who today tells us he's protecting tenant rights. He said, and I'll quote, "I said it before, I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go."


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I want to commend my colleague from Windsor-Walkerville for starting to remind the members opposite of some of their responsibilities. This is a reprehensible bill which had found its way to the shelf and is now back. This is a bill which shows the true character of a government that can say one thing during an election, the same thing during by-elections, and then bring back to this House legislation, purported laws, to directly contravene the covenant they made with those prospective voters.

In my by-election one year ago this government said, "Mike Harris's tenant protection plan will guarantee rent control and will lower rents." Ladies and gentlemen, today we have in front of us the next stage of legislation that will have exactly the opposite effect. We have a minister opposite, who represents a large number of tenants, who told them the same thing in his election and brings in here an attack on tenants of a kind we haven't seen in the history of the province.

I think everyone in this House recognizes that rent controls originated with a Conservative government, but a Conservative government with a difference, a Conservative government that cared about its reputation for integrity, a Conservative government that could be depended on to listen to a wider band of people, to include the people who couldn't pay their way in their fund-raisers, to put them somewhere on their place of consideration.

What is the situation today for rental property in the province and particularly in Metro Toronto? We know that according to the Russell Canadian property index in the July 2 issue of the Toronto Star there's been a 10% average return for rental property, the highest of any commercial property in the province. That's where the landlords are coming from. That's what they have available to them; not all landlords, but that is the average.

What do we have for tenants? For tenants in this province we have rents which are 40% more than other centres across the country; 40% more than Montreal or Winnipeg; 50% more than Edmonton; rents which are completely out of proportion to what most people can pay.

This is not only an issue of protecting the disadvantaged, this is not only an issue of the very thin veneer of pretend integrity on the part of this government, this is not only even an issue of who this government listens to; this is an issue about the quality of life for Ontarians. You don't have to live in an apartment to recognize what happens when honest, hardworking people have to pay so much of their income for rent and when that has to be done simply because we don't have a government willing to recognize when there needs to be a level playing field.

As the member opposite from Etobicoke-Lakeshore, who played lacrosse, perhaps recognizes, in some games there's got to be a referee. Ever since 1974 we've had the government playing referee between landlords and tenants because of an inequitable situation. That situation has not changed in the sense of tenants still being disadvantaged, of landlords still being able to get fair returns, but for some unfathomable reason, for reasons that are not here in the House before us today, for reasons that were not part of the Comic Book Revolution, for reasons that were not part of the by-election that was fought on rent controls, for none of those reasons, we have this legislation back today directly contradicting what this government purported to stand for.

We see instead a situation that will inevitably and that we would respect better, I think -- I'm afraid my colleague the member for Windsor-Walkerville is perhaps a tad too generous. We would respect better a minister who stood up and said: "I believe it's important to raise the rents. I think it's important to give landlords a better return."

The minister can't explain this bill. The minister can't explain how this is going to protect tenants. I asked him on several occasions when I was critic. Not one instance could he give where this bill actually improves protection for tenants from the existing situation. This is a bill that enhances in every aspect the situation for landlords, and ironically in some ways that various landlords in this province don't even want, instead of having a situation where the government recognizes its honourable role as a referee and gets at the real situation, the problematic parts of why rent is so high, about the cost of land, about the inequitable part of taxes that we have seen go through this House in terms of Bill 106, and nothing about trying to change the burden of taxes that exist on the people who rent versus those who own. That's not courage for this government. They didn't see that in their mandate. They didn't see that as a way to be able to deliver for tenants, for the people who need some relief from the high rents they're paying.

We're left with the question of who is to benefit from this. If it wasn't in the election platform, if it directly contradicts what this minister said when he was running for election, if it directly contradicts what the Premier authorized to be said in his name during the by-election in York South, who does this benefit, who can turn this government to making these kinds of decisions? It seems clear. The only people who could possibly benefit are larger landlords.

We had, through the hearings last summer, all kinds of smaller landlords in front of us. Those landlords were interested in improvements, particularly in terms of being able to get rid of problem tenants. That was their singular preoccupation. But they agreed one after another that rent controls were not the issue, that rent controls were not the reason they wanted to see the legislation changed. To them, rent controls represented fair rules, predictable rules, a predictable return on investment which is often not available in other parts of commercial endeavour.

What we have instead is a narrow band of people who want to benefit from this bill. It's unfortunate that the public interest should be so badly sacrificed, that we should see a government prepared to contradict itself, to contradict so many people. Again, the quality of life here is for everyone; it's not just for a small band of people. Everyone who lives in our major centres is paying too much for housing. Everyone who is subject to rent controls needs it to keep a semblance of fairness in terms of what they're going to be able to pay for their rent.

When we have the minister unable to identify what this will do for tenants, we recognize there's a fundamental flaw in this bill, and the minister knows. If he had to answer a direct question, I think he would have to agree that rents will go up when rent controls are gone in our apartments, and the landlord will be able to claim whatever he wants; in a 0.8% vacancy rate here in Toronto, a 2% vacancy rate which exists in Hamilton and Windsor, the rents will increase. They're not fooling anybody. Those rents will go up.

I see the concerned look on the face of the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. That's right. They will go up for the members of your riding. I think it's important to know that even without the time when you move, it will still go up by more. Even in these low inflationary times, this minister and this government have seen fit to return a higher amount of money to landlords, so the amount for capital repairs is increased. The money for operating costs like taxes and other utility costs is flowed through, so that the amount of increase tenants could face is far higher than it is now. That exposure is there for every single tenant in the province.

I ask the minister again, where is the increased protection for tenants that you promised during the election? Where is it? What provisions? It doesn't exist. We see again the very extreme prospect that people are facing. We know there are many tenants out there who believe they are secure in their buildings, they live in well-maintained buildings, they have good landlords, yet they now recognize that the absolute elimination of the Rental Housing Protection Act is going to mean they're subject to having their good home -- it's nothing less than a home; for people who live in apartments, that's what it is; for seniors who have lived in a place for 20 or 30 years -- that home can be taken out from under them.


The minister talked earlier about some level of protection, but as long as there's any substantive change or renovation to that apartment, the only protection they have is three months' rent and they're gone from their home. Members of the Legislature, that surely is not what we're here for: to see people taken away from their safe and in some cases -- not enough cases -- affordable homes. Yet that's the legislation you're putting in front of us, inadequate protection for anyone who is living in a rental situation anywhere in the province.

Of course, while this is a quality-of-life issue, this is a defining issue for this government. When we talk about the basics that people look for you to regulate, to play the role of fairminded referee, if you're unable to do that in critical areas, like opportunity for people -- we've heard from the member for Windsor-Walkerville how that has been such a thunderous disappointment on the part of this government. We know there are other areas where people are having a hard time getting by, occasioned by this government; this is not unlinked.

To a government that wants to judge itself, that wants to put itself in terms of some kind of ability to look in the mirror in the morning and say, "This is what we're doing to the province," they have to bring up now what they did to the poorest people of the province, what you did to people on welfare, to people who have to pay some 60% and 70% of their income for rent. You took away 22% of their income -- to think that you did that full knowing that you were going to subject them to free markets rents, that you were going to subject them to higher rents.

There are people today who routinely spend the last week of the month going without food to pay for their rent. There are people in this province who have been given the impossible choice between too high a rent and being able to feed themselves and their children. This is a government for whom, unfortunately, that is not a significant statistic; the 150,000 people in Toronto who are forced to use food banks, who receive edible rent supplements, are not a statistic that moves this government. They were able somehow in some way to rationalize taking away 22% of the income from the people who are documented -- people may not realize that some 22 documents are required to be on social assistance -- seeing that taken away.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Welfare rates are 10% over the national average.

Mr Kennedy: The member across says something about having welfare rates 10% above the national average. That would be the same member, I assume, who voted in cabinet to see the rates cut, recognizing that rents here are 40% higher and that no one in this city, no one in this province, would disagree with people having welfare rates that were 10% above the national average if they could afford the rents, if they could pay for them.

What you're doing, Madam Minister, in supporting your colleague, is making it even more difficult for the 500,000 children, for the 1.1 million people on social assistance, because you're creating the situation out there.

Hon Mr Leach: There are no taxes in the apartment --

Mr Kennedy: The minister is starting to make some noise. He has inadequately addressed the problem from the Human Rights Commission. A very, very serious addition in this particular legislation is where this minister is striking --

Hon Mr Leach: What do you say about property taxes? It's four times the amount of --

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Minister.

Mr Kennedy: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I can see where it would be upsetting to this minister, because this minister is striking from the Human Rights Code the potential for protection from discrimination based on income for tenants.

I can tell you, Minister, in case you have delusions, some 25% of the people who use food banks were discriminated against because of their income. You've just consigned them to where they can no longer have any dependence upon the protections that should be available to them. You were aware, I believe, of the long-standing inquiry by the Human Rights Commission which was examining this very issue, and you moved in this legislation to enhance the existing unfairness by making that attainment impossible, of declaring it unfair that tenants shouldn't be discriminated against in that fashion.

Unfortunately, it doesn't speak well for the character of how we should receive this bill, because when we try to look at this bill and try to understand how this minister and how this government see the public interest, it's made only too clear by that particular provision. Rather than having access to human rights for the same people who need the benefit of rent control, it has been summarily taken away, should this bill be passed.

I don't believe that's the sense of fairness that's enjoyed across this province. I don't think that's the way people want to see people treated, in such a cavalier fashion. I don't believe that people in this province want to see housing subject to this kind of erratic planning. We will see ahead of us years of increases, years of disruption for the people who are currently in rental accommodation. We will see a playing field tilted now between landlords and tenants. As my colleague the member for Windsor-Walkerville and our critic for housing has said, we will not let this legislation stand. The next government will not let this legislation stand, should it be a Liberal government.


Mr Kennedy: We hear the minister, with what some might say is typical pronouncement, saying that he believes he'll be the government again. This is not the kind of legislation that is going to bring you back to government. Perhaps your openness on being re-elected might convince you at this late date to re-examine what you're doing to the tenants of this province, because really there is no possible conception in here in which you are protecting the interests of tenants.

We look at the way in which this government put this particular legislation together. They did a report called the Lampert report which didn't talk to a single tenant, not one, which spoke only to landlords and used data assembled by large landlords, only the kind of landlords who can pay to have those kinds of consultant reports done. That's who this government decided to listen to. That's only who this government will listen to.

I sat in on the hearings that took place in August and we heard from Peterborough to Hamilton, all around the province. We understand the report finished up with not one suggestion from tenants around this province, and from small landlords, I would add, and a number of landlords not in favour of this legislation -- we didn't hear one of those suggestions incorporated in terms of what we came out with.

We hear from this government talk about protection for landlords by making the situation worse, by pulling apart the existing laws, by subjecting everyone to a high degree of uncertainty. Every tenant out there, and I suspect a majority of homeowners who are worried about the climate of our cities in terms of the conditions people live in, all those people now unfortunately have cause to be anxious about their situation, these destabilizing measures purposefully brought on by the minister.

What we don't know is how this minister believes he'll be able to get away with this. How does he think that even landlords are going to be able to deal with this harassment legislation? The harassment legislation you're putting in there is meant in your estimation to circumvent what you think is inevitable: that tenants will be harassed. I can tell you that you're insulting a lot of landlords out there by the way you're setting up an adversarial situation between them and their tenants.

You have created this situation deliberately, we have to believe, where landlords are now going to have to defend themselves against harassment charges, where landlords are going to find it in their interests to have tenants stay in a certain place for a shorter length of time. When you say that rent will only go up once a year, you know that's not true. If that apartment changes hands more than once, the rent will also go up. You know that's what you're subjecting tenants to. When you see that those kinds of provisions are there protecting landlords, there's no sense of how you're going to be able to protect tenants.

The harassment provisions are almost perverse in the way they're put in place. Understanding the way you've stripped down the existing rent protection enforcement, the number of people who are there, the time it takes to be heard, the fact you're planning to get rid of the rent registry -- there will be no way to enforce how much rents are charged when there's no rent registry. Minister, you conveniently ignore that.

You talk about fines. Fines could be $50,000, $100,000, $250 million if there's nobody to enforce them, because where do you plan to seek enforcement for these problems of tenants? You had planned to send them to the same overburdened municipalities on which you just dumped $666 million worth of extra services.

It is clear you can't get away with this. It's clear nobody can believe this is a bill that will somehow help to create affordable housing in this province or provide benefit to either tenants or in the long run to landlords. What we've heard from landlords in this province is that they want some long-term stability. They want to be able to look at an investment and be able to get a return. As we mentioned earlier, there are some of those returns already available to them. The option you had was to focus on where landlords and tenants could have agreed, but you decided not to because you're following in the footsteps of a government that chooses instead to have people on its side and then many other people on the other side.

Your calculation I presume is for tenants not to notice, for tenants to believe they'll be secure for a longer period of time, and to believe that as long as they're in their apartment they'll be safe. Now that you've taken away their Rental Housing Protection Act, unfortunately they're not safe. Even those tenants who have no intention of moving are still going to be subject to being made to leave. For that small but unfortunately significant number of bad landlords we have out there, they're subjected to harassment and the dubious provisions of your anti-harassment provisions. For others, it represents the possibility that their building would be subject to being converted into a condominium or even turned into a parking lot. There is nothing to protect that.


Before 1985, when we had the Rental Housing Protection Act, there were something in the order of 2,000 conversions in Metropolitan Toronto in the previous 10 years, and since 1985 we've had 20. When we did have a time of a loophole, when a different kind of apartment was found to be available where you could exercise some level of ownership, hundreds of landlords took that route and took away apartments, took them off the market until that loophole was plugged in the late 1980s.

It shows us very clearly that you know what's going to happen when the Rental Housing Protection Act is gone. We're going to lose a tremendous amount of rental housing space in the cities that are dealing with, by and large, very difficult vacancy rates, inadequate supplies of housing and an already inequitable situation.

The minister has talked about being able to provide a better future in terms of the housing situation, but I don't think that even landlords can believe, given your unwillingness to work on the other things which face them -- the cost of materials, the cost of land, the cost of taxes, and particularly taxes because it falls in your other portfolio to do with municipal government -- your inability to work there, to be able to create openings for that inequity that tenants have to bear -- a heavier burden of taxes than homeowners do -- shows us, unfortunately, a certain lack of good faith in terms of where you'd like to see things turn out.

We see ourselves facing a completely changed situation in terms of how this province will evolve. We will see some people, those of us who are able to be homeowners, having a certain kind of existence; that housing is also expensive. Those taxes will certainly be more, and perhaps that's meant to distract us from the situation of those of our colleagues and our neighbours who will be undergoing the twists and turns you're going to be providing through a double whammy.

You're going to be taking away people's ability to have achievable rents, rents they could at least conceivably afford, predictable rents, all of that provided under the existing rent control legislation. You would swipe all of that away and give them instead bushels and bushels of uncertainty. You would provide that and the possibility their rent could go up as much as 7% a year, and even more, particularly when you've made this provision. So that we can at least admire that there is some coordination taking place between the different parts of the minister's responsibility, you've made sure that should landlords receive a tax increase, and they're bound to get a tax increase now that you're dumping on municipalities, they're able to get all of that tax back from tenants. So it's 7% plus that you're making now available as a routine kind of tax increase with the capital costs, with the costs you have for repairs and so on, and for inflation.

You've protected the landlords' end well. It is unfortunate you could not see yourself doing anywhere near that kind of job for tenants.

I think all across this province pretty soon, in a couple of weeks, there will be a lot of people who, when they pay their rent, already have a sense that they've paid too much. They recognize that there is a lot that we have to offer in our larger cities in Ontario, but they understand that they pay that Ontario premium, that they pay extra.

They did so in 1974. Rent controls were brought in to deal with that exigency. It takes a farsighted government -- not this government -- to be able to deal with the underlying reasons why Ontario has not been able to provide decent, affordable housing to so many of its citizens. It takes a certain other kind of government, a government unwilling to look at the basic facts, unwilling to entertain any kind of plan that would have a prospect of bringing together landlords and tenants on some of kind of basis to improve the rental housing market in this province, it takes a different kind of government than that to destroy the prospect of that being able to take place.

That's what we have in the legislation in front of us today. We have a tenant rejection act that really puts tenants in a very uncomfortable place. We have an act as well that is not kind to landlords in giving them all these extra tools to get yields, not to the best landlords, not to the ones who want a stable housing market, not to the ones who want tenants who will trust them and see that they don't have tools at their disposal to create a situation of disadvantage.

I believe that's not of interest to a vast majority of landlords in this province, but unfortunately it's a certain kind of government that we have in place right now. Once it has set its sights -- and these sights have been set since right after the by-election. Last year we started to hear noise about the shape of this legislation. We saw their white paper. We see a bill that puts in place exactly, almost to the word, the provisions of that white paper. So we understand very well, unfortunately, that this is a government unlikely to change the shape of this bill, a government that when it hears from its constituents in this regard may not change its mind.

But we hold out some possibility. We know that across Metropolitan Toronto, to give an example -- and perhaps through other parts of the province facing amalgamations, like Chatham-Kent -- there is no longer an abiding respect for this government in the sense that this is a government that would do what it says it would do.

We know this is a government whose Premier said, "I can guarantee you I will not close hospitals." We know this is a government whose Minister of Housing said, "Rent control has got to go." We know this is a government whose Premier authorized a statement saying he would lower rents and increase tenant protection. That is what the Premier of this particular government had to say in May 1996, and to permit this minister to bring forward a bill that does almost completely the opposite I think shows us very clearly the actual stance of this government.

It is not with pleasure that I address this particular bill, but with a sense of what this province may be able to deliver in response to this minister. This is a province that is now watching what this government is up to, and I believe this is a province that won't be lulled by the stealth provisions of this bill that would tell people to simply relax and not worry, that their particular apartment won't be the one to worry about, that it's only when you're planning to move that you need to get excited about this, and "For those of you who are in good apartments that could be turned into condominiums, don't you worry either."

Unfortunately for this government, as we saw with the megacity, the public is too wise for that. The public has now caught on that this is a government that doesn't follow through with what it says it would do. This is a government that needs to be held to whatever parts of its mandate the public would still like to see it implement, but this is a government that needs to be called to the test always on fundamental issues of fairness, because it has simply shown itself incapable of doing it by itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, we hope that each of you will re-examine this legislation in light of recent events, in light of the inadequacies that have been shown. We can accept those certainly as preparation problems, as what happens when a government tries to do too much too fast, but you should be clear, this is a defining bill for this government. How you proceed with the basic housing availability, how much money you're willing to take out of the pockets of people to feed some very narrow group of interests in this province will define you as a government, and it will also define you as a force in society.

I believe there are still people out there willing to extend to your government some level of respect. If you follow through on this bill and if you punish people for no crime, for nothing but the happenstance of their happening to be in rental accommodation in this province, you'll find yourself far on the wrong side of a discussion that you simply can't win.

Mr Curling: I'm really very happy to have the opportunity to speak on this legislation which they call the Tenant Protection Act, Bill 96. I think it is very important that we look at the historic process of rent control, because what happens here is that rent control has been one of the most emotional issues that goes through legislation.

As you may recall, it was the Tory government in 1975 that brought in rent control. After extraordinary pressure by tenants who were being denied proper accommodation and some exploitation by some landlords, they saw fit to bring in rent control. I should also mention that in 1975 there was strong campaigning by Stephen Lewis from the NDP, who had pushed hard so that the Conservative government of the day saw the light. In 1986 the Liberal Party brought in their rent control legislation, and I, at the time, was the Minister of Housing. That was Bill 51. What it did was strengthen the rent control legislation brought in by the Tories at the time.


I remember, as they said, what a turmoil it was getting a balance, to be fair to landlords and also to make sure that tenants are protected and get a fair deal in the commodity into which they were buying. I remember very well that the Conservative Party supported Bill 51 very strongly, and they were consistent. I see a few of my colleagues who are here today, still in the House. One such member is now the Premier, Mike Harris. He supported Bill 51 very strongly. My friend Marg Marland also supported that, and my colleague Mr Villeneuve supported Bill 51 with all the support that was needed to protect tenants and to make sure that landlords are treated fairly. It was quite applauded at the time. Mr McLean, the former Speaker of the House, also supported that very strongly.

These are Conservative members who believe that tenants should be protected, that the homes of people are affordable and when they purchase a commodity, they should get worth for their money. These were colleagues who believed that landlords who were investing and providing accommodation and providing that commodity should get a fair return on their investment.

That is why I think Bill 51 was applauded in that way. Unfortunately, the NDP did not support that bill for their own reasons, but we did go through and that bill made it after a year in office. Again, as I have always said, it was not a perfect bill. It needed improvement as it went along. There are things that we could have done more. We thought there would be improvement on that.

When the NDP came into power, they reformed that legislation and, of course, they put guidelines in and strengthened, as they would say, the rent control legislation. In 1994 the NDP also extended rent control to care homes and private retirement homes, and I would say that, yes, some of these were controversial issues, but the intent was to protect people. These were people's homes and they have to be protected.

Rent control has been quite an emotional issue within this House, but here we are now debating Bill 96, which is called the Tenant Protection Act. It's rather interesting that they call it the Tenant Protection Act. As you read through this legislation, what it does is end rent control, and one of the most important parts of tenant protection is to have rent control, so that the commodity, what they're buying, is protected and not being escalated for those who are unable to afford it.

Lo and behold, they have said they had this discussion paper, the Lampert report. I travelled the province with my colleagues, and many of my colleagues travelled and listened to tenants and special-interest groups, as the Conservative Party would say. Those special-interest groups were tenant organizations and landlords too, who wanted to give their version of why they need rent control, and some, of course, spoke about why they did not want rent control.

The three million people who are protected under rent control in this province spoke very loud. They said the discussion paper was not focused enough or did not include the things they wanted, and they rejected it. This government said it was only a discussion paper, but what happened? They proceeded to draft Bill 96 exactly like it, without listening.

They said they had discussion, but they did not listen at all. Thousands of other people also wanted to give their contribution on the discussion paper they brought forward, but they were denied, in the typical manner of the Conservative government, which is in a hurry and tries to undermine democracy in every way; in other words, to undermine the process in which people can make their presentation and let their concerns be heard. They thought they knew it all -- no need to listen.

They have been consistent in that approach, which has been labelled the bully approach, an undemocratic approach, right through the process. I think if they had listened carefully, they would have had a better bill, not a bill that says one thing in the title and says something else in the body. This is not a tenant protection act; it does the reverse.

What it does is that it will remove rent control from apartments when they become vacant, and I want to deal with that a bit. They're saying, "No, people will be protected once they're in the apartment." My colleagues the members for Windsor-Walkerville and for St Catharines also said that tenants will be prisoners in their own homes -- a strong statement, but fact.

Seniors who have come to my constituency office are concerned that their needs have changed and they would like to move. They ask, if they move under this legislation, what will happen. I've told them this government has dictated, relayed, that their rents will go up, meaning that once they move from that apartment and aren't protected any more under rent control, they have to renegotiate all over with a new landlord, who can then raise the rent to whatever level he or she feels like. That's not right.

Seniors are saying: "When I was younger, I was able to jump on the bus and go here and there. My distance of movement could be much wider because I was much more mobile. Now I would like to move to an area where things are more convenient for me, where things are within walking distance. But if I do so, I will lose the protection of the place I have lived for a long time; I will lose the protection of a rent-controlled building."

This government decided that the only way to go is to eliminate rent control and call it the Tenant Protection Act. You see, this government is systematic in how it goes about dealing with those who are more vulnerable in our society. It's a rather calculated way in which they deal with those who have affordability problems. If you recall, one of the first things this government did when it came in was to reduce the welfare allowance by almost 22%, attacking the most vulnerable in our society, those who are paying much more than 30% of their disposable income in rent.

I recall very well that the minister then stated in this House that they could go and negotiate for new rent if they wanted to. Many individuals have come to me in my riding of Scarborough North and said, "All I have left after I pay my rent is $100 to feed my two kids, and the 22% cut in my allowance has now caused me to choose between food or accommodation."

They've become more vulnerable in our society -- how insensitive -- by the government's looking after only their friends or those interest groups that were saying, "Let's get rid of rent control, because the individuals within those units are occupying nice space we can get lots more money for." Let me pursue that part too.


There are many landlords who have the rents at a certain level and cannot get adequate rent. They're allowed to increase the rent allowed by the guideline that was laid out in Bill 51; they can increase their rent according to the guideline. Many landlords were not able to get the amount it was advertised for; tenants were paying far less. In other words, the market could not accommodate it. Yet they say, "Get rid of rent control so we can raise the rent to the ceiling." I wonder why. Why would you want to raise it higher when you can't even get the price you're asking for? They were just obsessed with the fact that rent control is this demon that must be gotten rid of.

The most vulnerable in our society are not protected. This government just callously went ahead and said: "What we will do is that we will name this the Tenant Protection Act, but don't worry. In the body of it all, we will take away the protection." The minister came in here and tried to convince us all, "Now we are protecting tenants." They're not protecting tenants, not one bit.

The next move this minister promised was that he wanted to privatize the 84,000 units owned by the government, wanted to sell them off. I remember going to the minister and telling him that it would be one of the most impossible things to do because of the state of those homes. They're in terrible condition and nobody will buy them. But he talked about the Thatcherite kind of approach, that we should do like England did: Sell those council houses to those in residence.

Hon Ms Mushinski: That was a good move.

Mr Curling: The Minister of Culture says it's a good move, but she may recall -- she is so busy in her job -- that most of those units in England could not be sold after a time. The good ones were bought up and the bad ones were left, those that were neglected by the government.

Most of the 84,000 units here that this government has had are in poor shape, so when the minister decided to put them on the market, what he found was that the private sector was saying, "There is no way I will buy them in that condition." So what did they do? They decided they should maybe fix them up and have a fire sale, selling the homes from under the people who need them most, saying: "We won't protect those places. We will not support bricks and mortar; we will support people."

In the public hearings we had on the discussion paper, some of those landlords were saying, "Can we keep those guarantees of increase while you get rid of rent control?" They wanted protection all the way. They went further: They wanted the cheques of those on welfare to be given to the landlord first so that he or she takes their money out. There's no protection there.

I will tell you, Mr Minister, the people will not stand for that. It is their home and they will protect it with all their might. They will protect it to make sure they have decent, affordable homes.

There is nothing wrong with a government -- as a matter of fact, the intent of government is to protect those most vulnerable in our society. As I said before, the Minister of Housing said he wanted to get out of the housing business. Here's a minister who doesn't want to do his job, because to be Minister of Housing, especially to be one the largest landlords we have, the second-largest landlord in North America, the Ontario Housing Corp -- the houses are in terrible condition. It's not the tenants who put them in that condition. It is the landlord, the government, that did not maintain them in a proper way.

What he's trying to do, and I can see that, is to chase those folks out of those units into the private sector so that, as he said, it will create more housing. I can't understand how that will create more housing. It will not. Right now the vacancy rate is so low and landlords and developers are not building. There are no more units out there for them to go to, but what they are doing is trying to chase them out. What they want is all of these 84,000 units -- the private sector. This government is not protecting them in any way.

I have to appeal to this government, when you go out on the road for public hearings, not in any way to rush this thing through. Listen to the tenants. Listen to the landlords too because this should not only be a tenant act; it has to be with landlords and tenants.

In the short time I have I want to comment on the process. I am hearing that those who have problems with their landlords, with harassment and so on, can go before a tribunal to be heard. The minister responsible for human rights would understand this. The backlog at the Human Rights Commission is awful. The minister looked up and said, "There's no more backlog"; that's the expression on her face. What they have done is throw out all those that they feel, that they say are vexatious or frivolous.

If you don't have a lawyer to get your rights -- tenants who are having an affordability problem will have to seek a lawyer to confront that big bureaucracy because of course the landlord will be quite organized. He or she has vested interests and would like to protect their capital, and I agree with them. But the tenants are at a disadvantage to defend their rights -- the neglect of maintenance, the neglect of gouging. Now the government has given landlords the right to raise the rent as high as possible for those people who are having a tremendous affordability problem.

This government is saying it's a tenant protection plan. It is not. If you want to have good landlord and tenant protection legislation, listen to the people. But this is not the way of this government. This government has the way of a fixed mind. They say one thing and do something else. In their Common Sense Revolution, when they declared war on the poor and the most vulnerable, they said they would not end rent control. It's in there, in their little Bible, but as I said, they will say one thing and do something else. They will have one title and then in the legislation itself rip away all the protection of the tenants.

We can have balanced legislation that protects tenants and also protects the interests of landlords, and there's nothing wrong with that. Landlords are there, of course, with their investment to make a profit. That is what the process is all about. But now we have left tenants vulnerable to all the landlords and also to those individuals in government who should be protecting tenants who have no protection.


When this minister was appointed, he said to his landlord friends, "Now you have a friend; at last you have a friend who will protect you."

One wonders where the most vulnerable are in society who need decent and affordable housing. I see this bill, this legislation, levelling more discrimination to the poor, to new immigrants, from those who want to discriminate in any way they can, denying people the basic right of accommodation. It's a right. Housing is a right and it must be protected by the government. Free markets cannot help that. It has to be protected. That's why we have to have maintenance laws, and enforceable laws, not $50,000 or $100,000, so when they go to the judge he may feel it is extraordinary and therefore they're let go.

I will be looking very closely at this legislation, and my colleague from Windsor-Walkerville will make sure, as he goes around the province, that all tenants and landlords who want to be heard will be heard. As my colleague stated, my party, at election time when we become the government, will repeal this law. We'll make sure we have a rent control law that protects tenants and gives a fair shake to landlords. It was done before and can be done again. Regardless of what you have done today, we will make sure, if you continue in the same way without listening to the people, that we reverse that act.

It's important to tenants and it's important to landlords. It's important to the state of the buildings they live in. You must understand that when you dabble in this, you're dabbling in people's homes. These are their homes, the homes in which they live and raise a family and make this country, this province, a great place. This Tenant Protection Act will bite the dust one way or the other, whether by those tenants and the interest groups that will be coming forward when the public hearings come about or whether they wait until we become the government. At that time we will make sure the tenants in this province are protected under good legislation.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comment and questions?

Mr Bisson: I listened intently to the member for Scarborough North who said the government should be consistent in how it treats landlords and tenants. If there's somebody who shouldn't preach from the pulpit about consistency, it is the Liberal caucus, and certainly not the member for Scarborough North. I remember clearly in 1992-93, when the NDP government brought forth rent control legislation, the very legislation the Tories are taking away. What happened? The Tories were consistent. They voted against it in 1992-93, and then when they got into government, got rid of it. I don't like it, but they're consistent.

But the Liberals, when it comes to consistency, voted against the NDP legislation when we were in power. Now they've got the gall to come into this House and are suddenly converted, saying, "We're all in favour of NDP rent control legislation and we should keep it in place." I'm glad you're fellow travellers in this fight, but where were you, Mr Curling, in 1992-93? Where were you when it came to the tenants of Ontario? You and your caucus were out there busily trying to argue that the rent control legislation shouldn't be put in and that it was a terrible thing and that in the end you'd vote against it.

I remember being there, so when I see the Liberals get up in this House and suddenly say, "I'm all in favour of tenant protection, I want to do the right thing, the Tories are so bad, they're getting rid of rent control legislation," excuse me, on that issue the Liberal caucus has absolutely no credibility. Don't come into this House all of a sudden trying to woo the voters of Ontario, claiming to be the big friend of tenants in this province, because we know that the Liberal Party in power was the friend of whom? It was the friend of developers, and they made darned sure the developers were well done by. Now all of a sudden they're converts. I'm sorry, but when I see it, I've got to call a spade a spade and an ace an ace. In this case certainly you have not been consistent in your position. At least you should be honest in making sure the members of this gallery know this.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It was interesting to hear how the Liberals have recently flip-flopped, consistent with previous performances, and to see it being pointed out here in tenant protection. We heard an awful lot of talk about tenant protection. We didn't hear very much about landlord protection. I can tell you that some of the saddest stories I've heard in my riding office come from landlords telling about some of the things that have happened to homes they prize, homes of their parents they've rented out, and how those homes have been destroyed by tenants. Let me tell you, there should be a reasonable balance, and there hasn't been a reasonable balance in the past. This bill will bring a reasonable balance for tenant rights as well as for landlord rights.

When you bring in government interference -- and this is what happened back in the minority government in the mid-1970s -- things get all out of whack, all out of balance and kilter. There's a lot to be said about supply and demand, and that does bring a reasonable balance. With the interference of the Tenant Protection Act that came in in the 1970s, certainly we lost that kind of thing, and the supply of apartments and homes has gone steadily downhill ever since. We do not have, and haven't had over recent years, a reasonable supply of apartments for tenants. That's one of the problems. That's one of the reasons tenants do not have protection today.

Let me tell you that the very best protection a tenant can have is a good supply of apartments and homes out there so that they have a choice. That is the best protection they possibly can have. With the kind of legislation we've had in the past, landlords or developers are not going to develop the kinds of properties tenants want to rent. I suggest to you that this legislation will bring a reasonable supply. Builders and developers are taking a second look and will provide a reasonable supply in the future for tenants.

Mr Bradley: Of course that's exactly what will not happen. I can say to the previous speaker that will not happen. If it were to happen, one would be extremely surprised in this province, because that has not been the case at all in other circumstances where rent controls have been removed. That is simply not the case.

What we see now is that during the last provincial election campaign, as we talked to people in apartment buildings, many of them said: "Well, we don't have to worry, because the Conservative Party is in favour of rent control. They're not going to end rent control." Now the same people, many of whom are seniors who had felt comfortable with the previous Conservative administration, with the Bill Davis administration, are now saying: "We're very much afraid. We see that our hospitals are being closed by this government. We see that there are user fees being imposed on senior citizens in terms of health care."

They see a cutback in a number of government services, those services which are used by seniors in the province, and they're extremely concerned when they see this happen, because they have felt in the past, as I say, quite comfortable with the Conservative Party and now they're finding out that the Conservative Party is bringing in a bill that's going to end rent control. These people are going to be extremely vulnerable. The only way they can dodge this problem of losing rent control is to remain prisoners in their own apartment, not able to move to various places in the province. So they're concerned.

Those who live in rental accommodation are concerned that the ability of the major, huge landlords to convert to a different kind of accommodation, that is condominium from rental, is going to be much easier.

What will happen as a result of this legislation is that very vulnerable people will not be protected, and indeed we will not see any more accommodation; we will see a net loss in rental accommodation in Ontario.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): It was very interesting to hear the member for Scarborough North talking, because I have some things he has said over the years. For instance, on June 24, 1991, he said: "Let's not go about insulting investors and landlords. Let's not feel that tenants are the only ones to be protected in this process, but all."

On June 21, 1991, he said: "Bill 121" -- the NDP rent control bill -- "does not in any way protect tenants and landlords. It hurts both landlords and tenants. It does not provide funds that are needed to complete the necessary repairs on the province's aging rental housing."

We spent the entire month of August last year in committee, travelling around the province trying to hear so many different viewpoints on rent control.

Mr Marchese: I was there.

Mr Wettlaufer: Many of us were, and we heard a lot of the problems. One thing that came out loud and clear is that 80% of landlords are small landlords; they own buildings of six units or less. Most of these landlords are immigrants who came here after the Second World War: Italians, Poles, Germans. These buildings that are rented out represent their life savings, represent their pensions. We can't only be talking about protection for the tenant; we must be talking about protection for the landlords as well. That is what we tried to do with this legislation. We tried to make it a balance, as the member for Scarborough North talked about.

Mr Curling: That's right.

Mr Wettlaufer: Tenants will not be harassed. They can bring charges of harassment against landlords, but landlords cannot bring charges of harassment against them.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Windsor-Walkerville, two minutes.

Mr Duncan: To wrap up, I am reminded yet again this week of Kipling's words, "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools."

I'd like to remind my colleagues in the third party that when Bill 51 was brought forward, a bill that arguably extended rent controls more than any other piece of legislation, interestingly the NDP voted against it: Allen, Breaugh, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, Fish, Gigantes, Grande, Grier, Hayes, a whole list of them. Oh, my goodness, I also looked at how the third party of the day voted. Look at this. In favour of rent control: Harris, Marland, McLean, Sterling, Villeneuve. Flip-flop. Flip-flop over there; flip-flop over there.

We support legislation that will protect landlords. We support legislation, moreover, that will protect tenants. A balance can be found. You've lost the balance. You've lost credibility. I remind you that this minister said on October 19, 1995: "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go."

When we beat you in 1999 we will scrap this bill and we'll bring forward meaningful rent control that will serve the tenants of this province and serve the landlords, not abandon the poor and the most vulnerable to a market that can't possibly protect them. We'll be consistent in our word. We will do it; we'll do it as quickly as we can. We'll bring forward legislation that will undo what you've done to tenants in this province, and we'll do so quite proudly.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Marchese: Thank you, Speaker. It's good to see you in the chair. I'm happy to have an opportunity to speak to Bill 96. I want to begin by saying that we really don't have much time to revisit the sins of the Liberal Party; we are here together today, side by side, to attack a common enemy that is by far a little more dangerous, I would add, because although the Tories are more consistent, they are more consistently bad, usually all the time, in areas that affect vulnerable people.

I know that my friends here want me to be kind and reasonable as I discuss this bill, because they hate it when I become vociferous; I have noted that. So I'm going to do my best to be as reasonable as I possibly can without being vociferous, but I'm going to tell you it's going to be very difficult. So you will see from time to time that I will be able to have a voice that's reasonable to you and from time to time it will be an angry voice, because what you are doing is, you honourable members on the other side and to my left here, you are about to whack 33% of the population, most of whom are tenants, with some serious injury with Bill 96. You are about to whack most of these people, these tenants, with an increase in their rents that most of them cannot afford. That is why it's going to be very difficult for me to stand here and try to be reasonable in order to please a few Tories who want us on this other side of the House to be kind every now and then as we respond to the evils of the acts they introduce.

Who are these tenants that we're talking about? We lose sight of the fact that these tenants are human beings who are trying to make a living and trying to have a home in order to protect themselves and their families.

Mr Wettlaufer: And the landlord too. They are human.

Mr Marchese: Most of these tenants, 33% of them, M. Wettlaufer, are low-income people.

We're not talking about wealthy tenants. We're not dealing with their interest groups here. We are dealing with, by and large, a third of 3.4 million people who are earning less than $22,000 a year. A third of those three million-plus are earning less than $22,000 a year. We're dealing with vulnerable people. We're not dealing with their developer friends, their rich financial backers or their rich landlord friends with whom they are hand in hand, drooling along as they attempt to pass this bill because there are benefits to both parties.

We are talking about people who are seniors and vulnerable. We know that seniors are poor. We know that more and more seniors have become poor under this government -- and under the federal Liberal government, I would add -- than at any other time in our history. Their earning power has diminished under this government and under the federal Liberal government as well, and it is diminishing rapidly. They have less and less to spend on basic needs.

We have people who are disabled, who live in these homes, in these rental units, who do not have the means to move around and find some rich, luxurious rental accommodation. The Tories speak of choice as if somehow we have wonderful choices for these people out there. The choices are not many. They have very few places to move around to.

Mr Wettlaufer: Because of rent control.

Mr Marchese: Mr Wettlaufer says, "Because of rent control." I will try to get to these points as reasonably as I can in order to be able to deal with this.

We have seniors who are on low incomes; we have people with disabilities who obviously, because of their disabilities, earn little; we have single mothers with children, who because of that have a diminished ability to pay for rent and for other basic needs. That's the kind of tenant we're talking about. We lose sight of that.

I know the Tories always lose sight of that because they seem not to talk of people. They seem to talk about their landlord friends and what we need to do in order to get their developers to build more, but they never talk about how these vulnerable people will be hurt by this bill, the so-called Tenant Protection Act. That is the difference between this Tory-Reform government and we New Democrats. The difference is we worry about what happens to vulnerable people, and these honourable members on the other side don't have the same concerns. If they did, this bill would not be before us.


When the Minister of Culture earlier on talked about special-interest groups and accused the social democrats of being so closely allied to so many special-interest groups, she's right. She's so absolutely right. In fact I say proudly that I am a big supporter of these special-interest groups: a big supporter of tenants; a big supporter of injured workers; a big supporter of single mothers who have greater needs to worry about; a big supporter of women who are, for one reason or another, on the streets or battered by men who do that for one reason or another; a big supporter of people of colour who, in my view, have been discriminated against for years, and that's likely to continue in spite of the government's claim that we are all equal and we have a Human Rights Code that prohibits discrimination. I'm a big supporter of an aboriginal community that doesn't share the same benefits of capitalism as the rest of us because of the long history of what we did to those communities. Mr Wettlaufer, I'm a big supporter of all these communities that are disfranchised.

Mr Wettlaufer: So am I.

Mr Marchese: I know you believe you are, but you need to manifest your actions by carrying through bills, and this is not it. This bill is not a manifestation of support for vulnerable people; it is a manifestation of support for the powerful. You people support the rich and the powerful. That is your interest group and you delight in that. They drool in that. I'd like to see the account of the Minister of Municipal Affairs in terms of all the meetings he has had with a number of these people over the last year and half or two. It would be very telling, I have no doubt; at the taxpayers' expense, I have no doubt as well.

But I tell you, the interest groups you are supporting have the big bucks and the power to influence each and every one of you, and some of you are very closely interconnected, interlocked by individual or family connections. All of you, most of you, are interconnected to the powerful interest groups of this province. That's what the audience who is watching needs to understand.

The sad thing is that as we social democrats support the causes of the most vulnerable, these very people end up not supporting us. It's a strange dichotomy. It's a strange paradoxical thing that the very people we support either do not vote, or if they do vote, they end up supporting the evil-doers on the other side. It is the most insane thing that happens in society, that the victims end up supporting their victimizers. Paradoxical. It's strange. I've always found that so very difficult and complicated to believe.

A lot of your upper-middle-class supporters, your rich, wealthy Ontarian friends, believe that it is the poor and the vulnerable who support us. They don't realize that is not the case. In fact, you'll probably find that you honourable members have more supporters of those we end up fighting for and worrying about than we do.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): Doesn't that tell you something?

Mr Marchese: It does tell us something. It does. That should not and does not deter the rest of us from continuing to fight on their behalf, because that's what social democracy is all about. Because this is the reality I'm expressing, we could not, all of a sudden, change our politics and start supporting the wealthy. They already have enough parties to do that. They've got you and they've got the Liberals to do that, and they now have the Reform Party. They now have another party called the Reform Party, which is an even greater supporter of the wealthy than you fine, honourable Conservative members.

There are plenty of parties -- Liberals, Tories, Reform -- who support the wealthy so we need not be trapped in doing that. We can't. In spite of the reality that I am expressing, we continue to support the weak and the vulnerable in society, and the growing middle class that is diminishing as a class because it's becoming poorer and poorer. We will stand by them no matter what.

Mr Wettlaufer: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: The member for Fort York has been criticizing the Liberals, saying where they stand. I think it should be on the record that the Liberals aren't representative of the big interests. They don't know where they are.

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order. The Chair recognizes the member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: The Liberals and the Tories are cousins politically, unlike any other parties in Canada -- close cousins; in fact I suggest that half of that party caucus or half of their members probably belong to your party but are holding on to some conscience that we social democrats nurture in this society. This is unfortunately the reality in this country. We have a Liberal Party that will vacillate between the right and the left whenever it needs to, and we've got to deal with that. But this is not the issue of today. That's not what we're talking about.

Before I got interrupted by a motion that was not in order, I was arguing that I still remain optimistic that the people watching will eventually take sides with this party, the social democratic party, because they will see this Conservative Party driving a wedge between the wealthy and the poor, and they will side not with the very wealthy, who obviously are not with them, but with those who are much more victims of these Tories than they think. I am optimistic that that will change.

I want to get back to the document called the tenant protection package. Mr Wettlaufer, the member for Kitchener, will remember this. We dealt with this for four weeks. M. Villeneuve, we dealt with this for four weeks. We went out with this document called the tenant protection package to have hearings. I want to deal first with the title, because it is something that I have addressed in the past and I want to continue to address. I want to bring in a line from Shakespeare, because it speaks very well to this party, to its natural face. One of the Shakespearean lines that I remember so vividly is this -- M. Villeneuve, écoutez -- "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." It's a theme of deception. It's a theme of reality versus appearances. That is what "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" means.

M. Villeneuve, should I continue to expound? You seem perplexed by it. I'll do my best to try to explain what I mean. The point of it is this: It's a theme in literature that is a constant one, and that is what is real and unreal, appearances versus reality. This title in its appearance is called tenant protection; in its reality it has nothing to do with tenants. "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Shakespeare had a sense of this 400 or 500 years ago.

Seventy-three per cent of the deputants who came --


Mr Marchese: Minister of Municipal Affairs, you weren't there. Seventy-three per cent of the deputants who came before the meeting that Mr Wettlaufer attended, by and large -- I think he was there most of the time -- said, "We don't like this." This is your tenant protection package. They said: "We support rent control. Keep rent control, because that's the best protection we've got."

Hon Mr Leach: That's because all your activists would be there.

Mr Marchese: Activists? Monsieur le ministre, it had nothing to do with the activists. They were there, true, but the majority of people who came were just innocent people who are very concerned about what is about to happen to tenants.

Mr Wettlaufer: And innocent small landlords too.

Mr Marchese: Organizations. I call them innocent because they are organizations that are very concerned, and I know you, Minister, as a minister of the cloth, would be very concerned, because you have been there. You have been there and you are very worried about these very people I'm speaking about.

The very people those organizations came to speak about were concerned about the so-called tenant protection package. They said: "Rent control is our best protection. Do not take it away." Four weeks of hearings. I thought this government surely will listen to them, because this government prides itself in listening to people. I know they drool together with their developer and landlord friends as part of the meal they share on a daily basis. I know that happens, but they do not listen to those who have no power.


We had four weeks of hearings. In the clause-by-clause, I expected and anticipated a debate on what we heard, and do you know what they did? The parliamentary assistant, from somewhere that I cannot recall now, did not say, "Speaker, we need a debate on what we heard." He said, "We listened, and now we're going to refer the entire package to the minister," presumably for his pleasure, to read and to do whatever. Not one hour of debate on what 73% of those who came in front of the committee had to say.

All they did was to listen to the other 27% of the population, developers, landlords and their buddies, political buddies who came in front of the committee and said, "You're on the right track, Minister, keep going, you're doing fine." They were Tories by and large, landlords and developers, who came in front of the committee and said, "The system is broke," as the minister says from time to time. "The system is broke. We've got to fix it."

You hear Tory after Tory, minister after minister, constantly saying the system is broken, they've got to fix it. It's like having a butcher do an operation on you. That's what this change is all about. When the system is broken, it's like having a butcher do the operation on your lungs. That is what it's all about. Would you trust butchers to do an operation for you when they say: "Your heart is not well. We need to fix it"? No. But what we have is butchery in this province. We have butchers as surgeons; that's what we've got.

I wanted to give you the background of the tenant protection package, because it is critical for the audience that is watching to know you have not listened.

What we did with rent control when we were in power as New Democrats was to try to bring some predictability to the system, some measure of control, so that vulnerable tenants would not face the increases they had to endure during the Tory regime of the past and during the Liberal regime before we got into power, where rent increases under rent review with the Liberals skyrocketed anywhere from 10% to 110%. People could not afford those increases. That's why we brought in rent control.

Ordinary people could not afford those increases, and what you have had in the past under the Tories and the Liberals is a constant increase of rent and a diminishing amount of money coming in from the salaries they were getting from whatever source, and as this government fires so many, 15,000, 20,000, 25,000 people, as the federal Liberals fire 40,000 people, what happens is people end up on the streets. The unemployment level is so high, the highest we have ever seen, under a Conservative regime that claims to open up these markets so that jobs would flow from that Niagara waterfall. They would flow eternally. Nothing is flowing except balderdash and bull. That's what's flowing down that waterfall.

We have the highest unemployment in the country in our history under Tories, and under Liberals federally. They boast about the number of jobs they're creating under a Conservative climate of investment, and the Liberals, their federal cousins, boast of the jobs they're creating, and unemployment is close to 10%. But under the Tories who were going to create this climate for investment, climate for jobs, already two years on the job, unemployment in Ontario is so excessive. It is excessive to the point where many, many are suffering because of it.

The salaries of those individuals who have been fired by this government have diminished if not disappeared. There is no money left, and the people who are finding jobs are earning little in those jobettes, in those McJobs. They're earning so little many of them can't afford to even pay their rent. Some of them are spending close to 70% of what they have on rent. That's what it's all about.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): Whose fault is that?

Mr Marchese: It's your fault, M. Beaubien. It is this government that's causing the insult and the injury to vulnerable people. It's your fault. It's certainly not ours. As you pass on a transfer of money from tenants to landlords, you say it is our fault, that we're causing this problem? You, M. Beaubien, you, Monsieur le ministre, as you transfer money from tenants, who have little to give, to landlords, who have a great deal, it's unconscionable. You caused that problem, not us.

When I speak in this House, I'm not speaking to Tory members. I know you are so ideologically anchored that you are immovable. I need to talk to those who are watching. That is to whom I am speaking, not you, because I know you're not listening. I knew in committee you weren't listening. You don't listen as a government. We've seen this in the amalgamation file, when you amalgamated the cities in Metropolitan Toronto; 76% of the population rejected what you had to say. You didn't listen. That is the trademark of this party.

The propaganda of this government never ceases: the "tenant protection" package. These Tories want to leave this whole issue of rents to the market. The member for Northumberland said earlier, "The best protection is a good supply of houses," so they have choice. There is no choice and I'll tell you why there is no choice. I want to get to the goals the minister spoke about. There's no choice because no one is building, and the minister says, "That's why we're passing Bill 96" -- this so-called Tenant Protection Act -- "because we want the developers and the investors to build." The minister surely must know or ought to know that is not the case. Whether he knows or deliberately doesn't understand what he reads is something I cannot speak to, but he should know. He should look at the facts.

There was a study done by Greg Lampert, a discussion paper, The Challenge of Encouraging Investment in New Rental Housing in Ontario. He says, "Based on a pro forma of a typical new rental apartment project in Toronto developed by the industry, the estimated gap between the economic rent required to make the project viable and the achievable market rent is estimated by the industry to total over $3,000 per unit annually." There is a gap and it's $3,000. So the developer is saying, "I can't build the kind of housing you want me to build because I can't make enough money." The minister with great fanfare says, "This bill will make them build housing." How do we make them build housing? How do we overcome the gap? This is what this economist hired by the Tories said --

Mr Galt: Get out of the way.

Mr Marchese: No, the member for Northumberland. You would like us out of the way.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, member for Northumberland.

Mr Marchese: Thank you, Speaker, for being around. We need your help every now and then.

Here's what the industry said: "The industry recommends a number of measures to overcome the gap. These are outlined below, along with the estimated annual per unit cost savings, for the typical project which would result from each measure." Member for Northumberland, try to pay attention to these figures, if you don't mind, while you're underlining or writing, please.


They say, "Reduce development charges," and they put a price to that. If you reduce development charges, I'm not sure by how much, maybe 30%, 40%, 50%, it's not quite clear, you would have a saving of that gap of $355. To be fair, you fine, honourable Tories have already begun to do that work because you started to reduce the development charges. We're still debating that. You had the Mississauga mayor who fought you on that so you had to backtrack a little bit because they weren't happy with what you were doing. But you've got to reduce development charges if you want to get close to that gap. It says, "Equalize property taxes $1,200," and you're moving in that direction. "Halve the GST payable, streamline regulations on building, halve the CMHC mortgage insurance fee, lower administration due to reform of the rent regulations" -- that's the one we're dealing with. That value is $200. You introduce this bill and you save 200 bucks, member for Northumberland.

Mr Galt: Oh, I'm listening.

Mr Marchese: Finally, "eliminate provincial capital tax," $3,000 worth; they tell you how to do it. You introduce Bill 96, and the savings for that is approximately 200 bucks.

Now, member for Northumberland, member for Kitchener, do you think this will do it, help the developer build affordable housing?

Mr Wettlaufer: That's one of the things.

Mr Marchese: It is the smallest of things. The point is this: Your developer friends are not going to build any housing that is affordable. You know what they're building, Mr Wettlaufer? They are building luxury condominiums.

Mr Wettlaufer: You know what will happen, though? The people who can afford that --

The Speaker: Member for Kitchener, come to order.

Mr Marchese: I appreciate the help, because I'm shouting over his voice. It really gets tiring after a while. You would understand that, Speaker. You've been there.

The point is that the developers are building condominiums because that's all they make money on. They're not building affordable housing. Why? Because they make no money.

When the minister speaks and these other members do their two minutes, who are they trying to help? When members say they care about low-income people, how do you care? How do you manifest that care?

Mr Wettlaufer from Kitchener, we're going to have a housing crisis in the next couple of years. Some say we have it now. I tell you, I predict a housing crisis that will be enormous, because you, Tory government, said you want to get out of the housing business, and the private sector is getting out of the housing business because they can't afford to build because they don't make any money, so what we are going to have is a serious housing shortage. We will have a hell of a time housing people who have very little income.

Mr Wettlaufer: It was moving and you taxed it; it moved again and you taxed it again. If it stops moving --

The Speaker: I've got to say, the member for Kitchener, will you please come to order? You have the enviable, or unenviable, distinction of sitting right next to the Speaker and it can be very distracting. I would ask that you come to order. Thank you.

Mr Marchese: I appreciate the help again, Speaker.

This bill is a bonanza for landlords. I can just see the landlords whispering in the ear of M. Leach, saying: "M. Leach, we've had such a hard time in the past with the NDP. Please give us a break. We need a break from you." Over lunch and over dinner they talked about how M. Leach and this Conservative government would help out, and boy, have they helped out the rich and the powerful in this regard.

Existing landlords can and do make money, contrary to what Mr Leach might be telling you. In the Toronto Star on March 10, 1996, a representative of the commercial real estate broker J.J. Barnecke said: "Apartment buyers can make a return of better than 15% on their equity, and that even with rent control. Apartment buildings have been one of the hottest real estate buys in the greater Toronto area recently."

Minister Leach, J.J. Barnecke says your friends are doing okay, they've been doing well for years, and they've been doing well even under rent control. Why would you create a situation where you would make more money for these fine people? Why would you do that? Is this what it means to become a Canadian now? Are we changing the culture of what it means to be a Canadian? Are we moving so far to the right -- you, the Reform Party and the Liberals -- that we have nothing left except to accept the inevitable, which is, "We've got to give in to the special, powerful interests because there's nothing we can do"?

Often, I meet people who say: "There's nothing we can do. The big fish are big and the small are small and we can't fight the big fish." That hopelessness and that sense of helplessness is so engrained in our society that they're losing the ability to change the course of where you Tories, Reform and the federal Liberals are taking us.

It is becoming so disillusioning for me individually, and I probably speak for a lot of members of the NDP, that we are changing the threshold, that it's moving more and more to the right where we have less and less respect for those who are affected and hit by the market that cannot and will not protect them. Canadian culture is changing, and it's changing in Ontario probably at the same pace. It is a pitiful thing to witness and to see yourself helpless as these Tories, who are the spokespeople for the rich, the wealthy, the powerful, do their bidding daily in this House. You feel often as if there's nothing you can do to change the course of this country and this province, and it's tough to take.

Mr Leach speaks of balance when he talks. He says: "Balance is what we need. The system is broke and we need to fix it. We need balance, because those poor tenants have had the power for so many years that we need to restore balance to that poor landlord who has lost so much power under the NDP. We need to restore balance because the poor landlords have been losing money and they need to make more." Thankfully the Tories got elected to do their bidding, and they did, and do constantly and will do in the future. The landlords need help, and there are the Tories to come and give them a helping hand, to give them a hand up, as it were, because the poor landlord has been languishing in the years we were in power. Mercifully the Tories have come by to give them a hand up because they've been doing so poorly over the years. It is pitiful. It is so pitiful to witness.

When I talk about landlords, there are good landlords, there's no doubt about that. And the smaller landlord is probably the best landlord because they take care of their little place.

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Are you one of them?

Mr Marchese: Madame Cunningham, I can't hear you. I wish I could, because I'd stop to listen to your words. I know there are pearls there, but I can't hear you.


Mr Marchese: I think you should go and find some money for battered women's programs, Madam Minister. That's what you should go and do. That is your task as a minister. Go and do your duty and find money for those programs for battered women. You would do us all a favour. Do that.

The little landlord is not the problem here. The homeowner who rents a little room or a basement is not the problem here. They keep their place, by and large, from my experience, relatively clean, relatively safe. A landlord, Mr Leach, who might own a nice home like yours and rents out a couple of rooms to make ends meet is probably not the problem. We are not talking about that landlord, and your bill, M Leach, doesn't deal with that landlord. We are dealing here with your powerful landlord friends. We're dealing here with those landlords who own buildings where there are more than seven levels or six levels and up. We're talking about that landlord.

When we did our hearings, we had a litany of complaints, mostly from seniors and vulnerable individuals, complaining about their landlords, complaining about lack of maintenance, just complaining about a basic lack of response to basic needs that these people have, and often abuse from some of these landlords as well. That's who we listened to, M Leach. We listened to those organizations that came and said, "We've had a lot of landlords here who don't treat us well." That's what we were talking about. I don't know what Mr Leach is talking about.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Neither does he.

Mr Marchese: Sometimes I wonder about that. He's so beleaguered these days that I'm not convinced he has the ability to wrap himself around all these issues. There are just too many bills to worry about. He is so beleaguered that he doesn't know what to do. I feel sorry for him every now and then. I do. I know how it must feel to have all these secure ministers, able, no doubt, who have nothing to do, and Mr Leach, day in and day out, comes into this House taking punches from the left, from the right. Poor man. I don't know how he does it. I would have resigned a long time ago. I would have said to Mike Harris: "You do it. If you want somebody to do the dirty work, you do it. I'm not doing it for three years. I've got a good pension, I'm doing all right. I'm not going to go through this hassle to comfort you, Mike Harris. No way." I would have done that. You got the limousine. I understand.

So here we have it. We're back to the tenant protection package, right?

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Are we? Is that where we are?

Mr Marchese: We are. The audience and you need the big picture. You see, what you government on the right want to do is to isolate the issues. What we try to do is to give people the big picture, to see how things are interconnected with you, government, and your actions and how they affect the entire Ontario population.

They talk about decontrolling rents.

Mr Kormos: What the hell does that mean?

Mr Marchese: I know M. Leach knows what it is. Decontrolling rent says that as soon as you move, you're going to be hit with a rent increase.

Mr Kormos: You're going to be whacked again.

Mr Marchese: Whacked seriously. But the minister says you don't have to worry about that, because if you don't move you're okay; if you stay, you're okay. But there are two problems I want to talk to. First, we know from studies that over 70% of people move within a five-year period. Surely he must know that, or ought to know that. Seventy per cent of tenants move within a five-year period. It means that people, for one reason or another, have to leave. That means rent control is gone, because if within five years -- unless you do something else to increase the pace -- that 70% of people move, you in effect have gotten rid of rent control. That's what you've done. Decontrol means you are allowing your landlord friends to increase rent as soon as they step foot out of that apartment.

Mr Kormos: Their wealthy landlord friends, the big developer landlords.

Mr Marchese: I already mentioned their developer friends.

The other thing is this: If you stay, you're okay, says M. Leach and the other mouthpieces of the right on the other side. But I want to speak to what it means if you are a sitting duck, because that's really what they are. If you stay in the apartment --

Hon Mrs Cunningham: How many more minutes have you got?

Mr Marchese: Madame Cunningham, I know you're enjoying this, but I've got so much time and I've got so much to say. Please.

If you stay in the apartment, this is what it means: You get an automatic 2% guideline increase, which this government has now given away, because you don't even have to do any improvements any more. That 2% increase is something Mr Leach gave away to the landlords. He says: "Boys, you can just have that 2%. Don't worry about maintenance. That's not part of the deal any more." Can you believe that? Mr Speaker, you would understand what I'm saying. It's a giveaway. You don't even have to do maintenance any more. It is so insane.

First, that's 2%, the guideline amount that includes inflation. Then what this government has done is said this: You can spend for capital repairs -- under the New Democratic government we allowed for a 3% increase of capital repairs. This government hides the extra per cent they've added. I was trying to listen to M. Leach when he was speaking. He doesn't say that in the beginning. He finds a different way, some other place, to add that 1%, but it's unclear to anybody who's watching. It's 3% existing and M. Leach and Mike are adding one more per cent for capital repairs.

So we're up 2%, whatever that inflation amount is, plus 4% now, not 3%; that would take it to 6%. And what you fine people have done is that you've added another cost. You've added the cost of utilities, so if you were ever to privatize Ontario Hydro -- as I know you want to do; you drool at the thought of it; you haven't been able to do it just yet but you know you want to do that -- rates are going to go up, so the poor homeowner is going to be subjected to untold and unforeseen utility increases and property taxes.

Speaker, I know you're enjoying this; I know you are. You've got property taxes now and utilities added on top of the 4% for capital repairs, added on top of the inflation amount. It could, under this government, with the offloading to municipalities, amount to anywhere from a 7.5% to 10% possible rent increase.

Mr Wettlaufer: Where would the capital repairs come from?

The Speaker: The member for Kitchener.

Mr Marchese: M. Leach says, "You don't have to worry if you stay at home any more, because nothing essentially has changed," but it did. I tried to do it as simply as possible so M. Wettlaufer and other members who take an interest in this could see the graph. The injured worker, woman, disabled person, man or woman, the senior are subject to inflation plus the extra percentage in capital repairs plus the addition of -- I'm going to read this -- "after the addition of property tax increases and utilities increases."

Are people safe? Do people who are tenants feel they have nothing to worry about because M. Leach said, "If you stay at home it's okay"? They have a lot to worry about, because this act is going to whack tenants who stay at home and is going to whack tenants who are moving from one apartment to the other, called the decontrolling of rents, which is in effect the elimination of rent control.

But because they were advised by Mr Lampert not to eliminate rent controls right away, this government was very clever -- it was. They decided to decontrol rents. They thought, "Tenants won't see it and we can still call it tenant protection." They say, "Once you move, yes, you'll get an increase, but then you're subject to the controls again, so everything is okay."

Very clever, I have to admit, because if they had eliminated rent control they would have had a big fight on their hands. As it is, they have masked the bill in such a way that tenants believe everything is okay. That is why I referred to Shakespeare's line, "Fair is foul and foul is fair," because what is fair in the act, in the title at least, is foul, and what is foul within the content of the bill is fair on the outside.

I'm going to have an opportunity to return to the subject tomorrow. It has been a pleasure. I hope the people are watching, because I want those who are watching, hopefully tenants who are watching, to understand we have a big fight on our hands. The enemy is right across from me. They can be fought and they can be defeated.

If they stay at home and pretend everything is okay, we will not be able to tackle the evil of this government, but if they fight back, we can stop the whacking of vulnerable people today. We can do it today if those 33% of the people who are tenants begin the fight to tackle this government.

The Speaker: It being now 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned till 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1800.