36th Parliament, 1st Session

L195 - Wed 28 May 1997 / Mer 28 Mai 1997












































The House met at 1332.




Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): On Monday I attended the unveiling of a new initiative, the vehicle recovery program, launched in my riding by the Hawkesbury OPP detachment in the village of Alfred, where citizens are always pulling together to prevent and eliminate crime.

I want to convey my sincere congratulations to Staff Sergeant Michael Aho of the Hawkesbury OPP detachment. Mr Aho played a very important role in the introduction of this innovative program, a first in Ontario. With small electronic devices, stolen cars can now be quickly identified and recovered.

I want to commend Staff Sergeant Aho and his staff as well as the people from the communities in Prescott and Russell who take an active part in this program.

I know that in recent years the Conservative government has slashed $17 million from the OPP budget. I certainly hope the Solicitor General is listening and will make sure that funding is sufficient to spread this new program to many more communities in my riding and to communities throughout the province in the very near future.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I'm still reeling from the statement the other day by the Tory environment minister that by polluting Lake Ontario with thousands of pounds of copper and zinc, Ontario Hydro's Pickering nuclear plant is somehow doing Lake Ontario's fish a favour. Not since Morley Kells said in response to a PCB spill that if you're a rat eating PCBs on the highway you might have some problems, or since Ronald Reagan suggested that trees are a major contributor to air pollution, have I heard such environmental claptrap from a public official.

Donald MacKay, an expert quoted in the Star, says that copper and zinc are persistent -- they never go away -- and are toxic, and they tend to bioaccumulate in fish.

On behalf of Ontario's fish and her citizens who eat them, I brewed up a concoction for the minister which I'll be sending across later. If copper pollution is as benevolent as he claims, perhaps this brew will kickstart his brain.

It's becoming clear that this minister is incapable of taking Hydro's pollution of our drinking water supply seriously. Minister, stand in this House today and announce that you are referring this entire matter to the Environmental Commissioner, who will take this seriously, so that the truth about what's happening over at Pickering nuclear plant can be uncovered.


Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): It is my pleasure to rise in the House today to congratulate Todd Boys as the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association's male athlete of the year. The pride of the athletics department at Loyalist College, which is in my riding, Todd, a 20-year-old recreational leadership student, is the first-ever Loyalist College student to be unanimously selected for this award.

While Todd led the men's Lancers volleyball team to a gold at the Ontario championship and a fourth-place finish in the national championship, he maintained a 3.4 grade point average and won several individual honours, including: Canadian Colleges Athletic Association all-Canadian; CCAA championship all-star; OCAA championship MVP; OCAA all-star; OCAA east region scoring champion; OCAA all-star game MVP; Loyalist College male athlete of the year; Loyalist College men's volleyball MVP.

While Todd contemplates a possible move to Europe to use his considerable talents to play professional volleyball there, I want to once again congratulate him on his achievements and wish him well. No doubt, whatever path Todd chooses, he will succeed.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The Ontario Liberal Party has gone through this month's budget, and we are left wondering, along with Ontario's arts and culture community, whether this government will ever understand the value of the arts to our communities, let alone our economy.

We remember the Premier promising on the election trail that he would not cut cultural support. We also recall how the culture minister herself recently said she'd maintain funding for the Ontario Arts Council at last year's level. Yet budget '97 revealed a government intent on extinguishing the artistic spirit that brings fire and life to Ontario's non-profit arts community. It revealed an additional $5-million cut to the Ontario Arts Council, putting funding levels at 1975 levels.

But culture does matter to the people of Ontario. It matters to the economy of Metropolitan Toronto, where the loss in economic activity already far outweighs what this government has ripped out over the last two years. It matters to the residents in northern Ontario who access cultural opportunities like the Thunder Bay Symphony and Magnus Theatre, which can only be maintained with stable and predictable government support.

It matters to the individual artists who, as noted by Paul Hoffert, the chair of the Ontario Arts Council, are in essence the research and development wing of Ontario's not-for-profit arts sector.

The Ontario Liberal Party today asks the government to make two commitments: (1) to restore the budget for the arts council to 1996-97 levels and (2) to undertake an immediate round table discussion with provincial representatives from the non-profit arts community to devise a constructive provincial approach for funding to the not-for-profit arts sector.



Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Yesterday in the debate here on the issue of truck safety, the Minister of Transportation yet again showed his colours when it comes to just who he listens to on the issues of highway and truck safety.

Specifically, yesterday in debate I mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing whether the comprehensive truck policy legislation the government is bringing forward was going to contain some of the issues that have been raised by the public and associated groups who have been trying to lobby this government to address some of the issues of truck safety.

In that debate I think the minister tipped his hand and told us where he's really coming from. I was making comments at that time, saying that I hoped the minister was going to try to listen, at least this time, to CRASH. I quote from Hansard the response of the Minister of Transportation: "No need."

You're the Minister of Transportation and you're responsible not only to listen to the paid lobbyists of the trucking association, but you should also be listening to the public and those groups that represent the public when it comes to highway safety. The job of the Minister of Transportation is to listen to both sides.

I look forward to the legislation you will bring forward. I truly hope it addresses some of the issues that have been raised not only by the trucking association but by the public, and very much look forward to a time when we're able to start dealing with some of these issues. But I really wonder just how effective and comprehensive this policy is if you've only listened to one group of people, the paid lobbyists within the trucking association, and not the people of Ontario.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I rise today to add my voice to the chorus of outraged citizens across the country in protest of the federal Young Offenders Act.

It seems almost every day I pick up the paper and read about some heinous crime being committed by a youth, who gets a ludicrous sentence. The federal government is sending a message to an entire generation of youth that you can commit any crime, no matter how gravely serious it is, and society will not exact an appropriate penalty.

I have met people who have lost their children, brothers, sisters and friends to teen killers. These people have sat patiently through the legal process and gone through the revictimization of hearing accounts of the death of their loved ones gone over in the courts. They relive the crime because they want to see justice served, because they want the killer to pay for what he or she has done. However, they get no justice. All they get is insult added to grievous injury.

This government has long supported having young offenders tried in adult court for serious offences. Crimes like murder and rape should automatically go to adult court. These are adult crimes, and the offenders deserve an adult sentence.

I ask all the members of this House to urge the government of Canada to finally listen to their constituents and amend the Young Offenders Act: "Adult time for adult crime."


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Election campaigns produce strange occurrences. A press release with the Progressive Conservative letterhead was issued on Friday, May 23, ridiculing the investment of over $2 million in federal funding for the environmental cleanup of Martindale Pond and the Royal Canadian Henley Rowing Course, a project that has received widespread support in St Catharines from people of all political persuasions.

Indeed, not only will environmental contaminants be removed from this well-used waterway, but the dredging taking place will enable St Catharines and Ontario to host the 1999 World Rowing Championships, an event certain to return millions of dollars on this wise investment.

It is hard to fathom why the Conservative Party would be so critical of such a beneficial initiative. Certainly Premier Harris and my colleagues the Conservative members for St Catharines-Brock and Lincoln must be shocked and surprised by this PC campaign salvo since the Conservative government of Ontario matched the initial federal funding of $1.5 million, as did the council of the city of St Catharines.

Even committed Conservative partisans must be mystified that the federal Conservative campaign has decided to attack a splendid and progressive project which will help clean up a waterway, provide a habitat for fish and improve a world-class rowing course while creating jobs in our part of Ontario, a project which has brought together the federal, provincial and municipal governments, along with the private and volunteer sectors. Only Jean Charest's Conservatives appear to be offside in this play.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Algoma.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I hope all members of the House --


The Speaker: Order.

Mr Wildman: Is this on my time?

The Speaker: No. I'll restart the clock for you, don't worry.

Order. It's statements, and we want to hear the one from the member for Algoma.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I hope all members of the House are aware that the Minister of Education and Training's so-called formula for determining the number of trustees in the new amalgamated school boards is not working. It's particularly problematic in northern Ontario, because in determining the number of trustees, the ministry staff are interpreting the instruction that they take into account scarcity of population as only to be applied in areas where boards actually tax.

That means in northern Ontario the vast expanses of crown land are not counted, even though in order to attend a meeting, a trustee would have to drive through these crown lands. So in Algoma district, district school board number 2 is counted by the ministry as only being 20,000-and-some square kilometres, instead of the real total of 72,000 square kilometres.

As a result, there will be no trustee north of Sault Ste Marie to represent Hornepayne, Chapleau, White River and Wawa. There will be five or six trustees in the city of Sault Ste Marie and a couple east of Sault Ste Marie, but none for that whole expanse of territory and those communities north of Sault Ste Marie.

This is just ridiculous, and the ministry staff says, "You've got four years after this election to campaign" --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Statements?


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): May is Hearing Awareness Month, and I am proud to rise in the House today to acknowledge this very important occasion.

We all recognize that our population is aging, and this, along with the increase in noise pollution, has made hearing loss the fastest-growing disability in North America.

Often referred to as the invisible disability, hearing loss affects one in 10 Canadians. This incidence increases dramatically for people over the age of 65. In fact, more than 50% of our elderly experience some degree of hearing loss.

There are many misconceptions about sound and hearing loss. For instance, some people believe that hearing loss after sound exposure is temporary. This is not true. Some of the hearing loss will be permanent. Another misconception is that if you have a hearing loss already, you don't have to protect against hearing loss any more. This is not true either. Hearing loss accumulates. More exposure to loud sounds leads to more hearing loss.

Communication barriers can be significantly reduced through the use of technology like interpreters, note-takers, closed captioning and assistive devices, but it's noted by the Canadian Hearing Society that increased understanding and awareness lie at the heart of lifting these barriers.

The Ministry of Health provides funding for hearing aids for children and adults through the assistive devices program. Anyone who requires the use of a hearing aid for six months or more is eligible.

Once hearing loss occurs, it cannot be recovered. We need to remember this in our day-to-day activities so that protection and awareness become a fact of life.




Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I saw him here a moment ago.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): If you ask the question, I think he'll hear you.

Mr Cordiano: He's everywhere, is he?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): He's ubiquitous.

Mr Cordiano: He's ubiquitous, yes.

Minister, I want to talk today about your MVA property tax scheme, which you renamed CVA, current value assessment. We know that many people across this province are going to see dramatic increases in their property taxes. In some cases taxes will more than double. We also know there will be a massive shift in business taxes from bank towers to small businesses such as barber shops and hair salons. In fact, some reports suggest that businesses will be facing 200% increases. That will force many small operators out of business. You are going to be responsible for that. Will you today stand up and guarantee to small business that they will not be put under as a result of your property tax increases?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'll refer the question to the Chair of Management Board.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): As we indicated before, this is a bill that comes under the responsibility of the Minister of Finance, not the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

I will state the obvious, in that an updated assessment does not generate more revenue; it simply makes it more fair in terms of what each individual taxpayer pays, whether that taxpayer is a residential homeowner, whether it's a business -- a big business, a small business -- commercial, industrial. No matter what the class is, it raises the same amount of money but apportions it more fairly.

Municipalities have been given all sorts of tools to assist the elderly, to assist the disabled, to phase in any increases, to ensure that there aren't big increases and to ensure that not only will people have fair taxes but they will have affordable taxes.

Mr Cordiano: The reality is that you're transferring a massive tax burden from big business to small business. You're telling municipalities to come up with an extra $1.6 billion that they lost through the business occupancy tax, and if small businesses can't afford to pay, you're telling them they should blame the municipalities: "Don't blame the province."

Your government is playing games with the public. Not only are you shifting responsibility, you're also shifting the blame. And that's not the only game you're playing, because you're still downloading over $700 million in responsibilities such as social housing on to the backs of municipal taxpayers. How are taxpayers going to cope with these huge increases? How are they going to know which part of their tax increase is downloading and which part is from your municipal tax scheme?

Hon David Johnson: It's our position that there won't be any tax increase, and I believe that will be the situation. Indeed, the members of the transition team here in Metropolitan Toronto for example have already discussed that and set as a goal that there would not be any property tax increase. Bear in mind that the education tax, which is largely on the property tax now, is being shifted to the province of Ontario, so there's a great burden that --

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): That's not true, not any more.

Hon David Johnson: Not all of it, but there is a great burden being taken off for education on to the provincial income taxes.

Further, Bill 106 calls for the elimination of the business occupancy tax, which business has been asking to have eliminated for many years. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has requested the elimination. Through this bill, we are eliminating that and taking that burden off the business community in Ontario.

Mr Cordiano: It's very clear that what you've achieved through your MVA, AVA, CVA or BSA plan is total confusion.

The Speaker: With the greatest respect, "BSA" has connotations that are certainly out of order. I ask you to withdraw it.

Mr Cordiano: I was referring to a broadly based scheme, assessment plan, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: In future if you could say "broadly based scheme," I'd appreciate it.

Mr Cordiano: Call it what you want, it's all the same. It's mass confusion.

We know municipalities have no idea how they're going to deal with the $1.6 billion in revenue lost through the elimination of the business occupancy tax. We know that downloading social housing and social services on to municipalities will also cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, $350 million to Metro property taxpayers alone. We know also that as a result of megacity, property taxes will go up. But what we don't know and what you're not telling the public is how municipalities and municipal property taxpayers will cope with this additional burden.

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Lawrence. Your time is up.


The Speaker: Member for Lawrence, come to order, please.

Hon David Johnson: I can tell you how the city of Brampton is going to cope with it. The city of Brampton, in a press release I have, has announced a tax decrease, the first tax decrease.


The Speaker: The member for Fort York. Minister?

Hon David Johnson: I find it interesting, and I'm trying to recall: Who introduced the commercial concentration tax? Which party was it that introduced the commercial concentration tax in Ontario? I notice there's quiet from the Liberal ranks. If there was one tax, one adjustment to the property tax system in Ontario, that was reviled by the business community that the member opposite professes to support today, it was the commercial concentration tax. It's a credit to the NDP government that they undid that damage.

We have gone through a process of --

The Speaker: Sorry. Thanks. Time's up. New question, official opposition.


The Speaker: New question.

Member for Algoma.


The Speaker: Member for Algoma, you have the floor.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I'll yield to my friend.


The Speaker: I'll tell you something: I've done it; the government has had the same situation. I called it twice. I looked. I waited. No one stood. The member for Algoma stood. I called him. If the member for Algoma hadn't stood, I would have gone to the government side. I looked back here. Yes, I did.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was waiting for the applause to subside from that side of the House. As it did, I rose. That's when I stood up and you looked this way.


The Speaker: Order. Government members, come to order, please. Member for Dufferin-Peel.

You can take your seat now. I appreciate the fact that you may have been confused, but when I called for an opposition question, I called very clearly twice. I know I looked over here and I waited for someone to stand, and you didn't. Now, I really appreciate that you've lost your question. All I can tell you is that in the future you have to be a little more cognizant, I guess. I tried my best and twice I called it.

Mr Wildman: Would it be in order for me to yield to him and move to me after?

The Speaker: You can seek unanimous consent to go back, if you like.

Mr Wildman: I seek unanimous consent to allow the member for Hamilton East to ask a question.


The Speaker: I have to ask for it before you need say no. The member for Algoma is asking for unanimous consent to go back to the member for Hamilton East for a leader's question. Agreed? Agreed. Member for Hamilton East.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I guess I'll have to be kinder with the question now. I appreciate the members across the floor and the NDP members.

My question is to the Minister of Health. There is grave concern with regard to the level of ambulance service across Ontario. There is grave concern across this province as to the impact that your cuts are having on the delivery of emergency ambulance service across this province. We have seen cuts of over $40 million in the last two years both in ambulance operations and municipal ambulance transfer funds.

Two particular examples in my own community in the last week bring this to mind: A 64-year-old woman faints, hurts herself on the way down and is bleeding. Her husband calls an ambulance; 40 minutes before an ambulance appears at the door. A seven-year-old boy, broken leg, waiting to be transferred from one hospital to another; seven and a half hours to be transferred, after repeated calls by the staff to the dispatchers to get an ambulance. In both cases we were told that because of the shortage of funds, they don't have the ambulances available.

Minister, is it acceptable in Ontario today for someone to wait seven and a half hours to be transferred with a broken leg, or someone bleeding who --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, member for Hamilton East.


Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'm disturbed by the honourable member's suggestion with respect to emergency transfers. Ontario has an excellent record across the province, including in Hamilton. We've not cut one penny; in fact, we put $25 million in. I just received an award recently from the ambulance associations for the fact that we'll now have paramedic training across the province in 99% of our ambulances and for the defibrillation --


Hon Mr Wilson: No, it wasn't -- for the defibrillation and medications that the ambulances are carrying with them. No one else in Canada has a better ambulance service than Ontario. There are problems in Hamilton with respect to bypasses occurring, in terms of volume problems at the emergency rooms, but my understanding is the ambulances are operating very well.

The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): Minister, I am really concerned. I was stunned when I read an article I just received today by fax that rural people are going to be considered second-class citizens. You have supported the Ontario patient transfer services. We know you are forcing the municipalities to take over the ambulance services. We know the municipalities are going to be right up to their necks in debt as of next year. There will not be any tax decrease; there will be a municipal tax increase.

Looking at this, it's going to cost a rural patient, to be transferred to a hospital, anywhere from $103 to $110 for the pickup and then $1.25 per kilometre and $50 for --

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Lalonde: Minister, can you assure the people of Ontario that the Americanization of the Ontario ambulance services will not continue --

The Speaker: Thank you very much, member.

Hon Mr Wilson: The largest ambulance service and one of the best in North America is run by a municipality called Metro Toronto, as are dozens of other municipal ambulance services in this province. Every ambulance service, whether it's the private sector, the municipality or another entity, including the 10 the Ministry of Health operates, signs operating agreements. The Ambulance Act will not change under the Who Does What legislation. I firmly believe you may even see more attention to the rural problems with respect to transportation, because now local politicians, who are right there every day when it's snowing and it's raining and it's difficult to get around, will be having direct input, in fact taking money from the property tax to pay for those service agreements, and they can build in higher service requirements than are now required in the province if they choose to do that. They certainly have enough tax room to do that.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Three Niagara men, including a St Catharines teacher, were seriously injured in a two-car collision Saturday night in Lincoln. In one of the cars all three of the occupants and the driver had to be extricated with hydraulic equipment. "One of the five responding ambulances had to be called in from Hamilton because of a shortage in the area, said Constable Cliff Priest, one of the Niagara Regional Police officers on the scene."

In light of the fact that in the existing situation you have a shortage of ambulances available and a problem now at emergency centres where people have to go to a critical bypass -- that is, they can't get into the hospital -- how the heck do you expect municipalities, outside of the large ones such as Metropolitan Toronto, to be able to handle the downloading of ambulance services? Are we really going to see now the invasion of huge American companies providing this service, at a huge increase, without the same kind of care and attitude we've had in Ontario over the years?

Hon Mr Wilson: No. The law will not change one iota with respect to the ambulance standards, which are the best in Canada, the best services available in Canada. If there's a problem in a particular area, the dispatch centres -- we have the best dispatch centres in Canada. In fact, they are the envy of North America and of US firms that come up here and look at our dispatch centres. They will remain in the hands of the province.

If there's a particular situation where there may need some beefing up of services, we'd be happy to look at that. But we have the best ambulance services, the best-equipped ambulance services, including our air ambulance services, which are the envy of the world.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Minister of Education and Training: Bill 104 received third reading in this House five weeks ago today. Forty-five days have gone by and there still is no Education Improvement Commission. Beyond the initial naming of the two chairs, we've seen no announcement of appointments.

On April 2, the minister said in this House, "If the members of the third party would allow us to get Bill 104 through the House, we'll have an EIC," that is, an education improvement commission. Even if cabinet approved a list of appointments today, it will take some time for the commission to be up and running. Why did this government ram through Bill 104 only to hold up the process of appointing the commission?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'd like to point out to the member for Algoma that he's wrong on two counts: (1) The government did not "ram through" Bill 104 and (2) the government is not holding up appointments to the Education Improvement Commission. In fact, we're looking forward to going forward with that commission, to having it fulfil its mandate as contained in the legislation.

Mr Wildman: It has taken five weeks. The appointments, if they are going to go forward, will still have to go through a committee process. Meanwhile, boards of education and separate boards in this province have not been able to proceed with capital projects and other contracts to be signed. We've heard from school boards that they cannot get bond holders to issue debentures for capital projects because there is no Education Improvement Commission to give approval.

If we have children returning to overcrowded schools next fall because of your five-week delay in making appointments to this commission, how will you justify that to the ratepayers and to the parents of Ontario students?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I can assure the member for Algoma that the Education Improvement Commission will be up and running within the time frame necessary to approve the budgets and programs during this transition period. We have of course retained the co-chairs, and I'm very pleased that we have two very experienced people, Dave Cooke and Ann Vanstone, who are working right now with a staff and have already provided this government with some information it has accepted. I know the member opposite knows that those recommendations, as they relate to northern boards, have made some improvements.

The transition is moving very quickly and I think very smoothly. I can assure the member opposite that there are no building projects, as they were proposed, as we have promised to fund -- $650 million worth of funding -- that will be delayed by this process. If those projects are going forward according to their plan, if there aren't any changes, there should be no problem in building those schools and having them ready for our students.

Mr Wildman: The government's falling down on the job. You've left school boards with unanswered questions about how to proceed with amalgamation. You've left boards unable to proceed on capital projects. You've left them waiting to get approval for their budgets as they've struggled to pass those budgets despite your cutbacks.

The minister has created a crisis. There are only seven months left for school boards and the Education Improvement Commission to work out amalgamation. At the same time the minister is turning the curriculum upside down from grades 1 to 9. He's bringing in high school reform that no one is clear about. He's creating chaos in the education system.

How can the minister justify this delay and his lack of action? How can he justify his performance as minister in this regard?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me tell the member for Algoma very directly: First, let's be clear, the Education Improvement Commission co-chairs have already released draft guidelines, and we are working as quickly as possible to help those school boards during this time of transition.

How do I defend my actions? Very interesting. I think we can answer that very directly. We are moving on several fronts. We're moving to get a curriculum that has clear standards, written in plain English so that students and parents and teachers will understand what's expected of students at every step along the way in their education. We are moving to reduce the cost of bureaucracy in education. We're moving quickly to do that. We're changing to a funding system where there won't be second-class students in this province by virtue of not having enough money to ensure a high quality of education.

Why are we doing all of that all at once? Because, sir, your government did not. Because Ontario is one of the last provinces in Canada to take on this kind of restructuring, and that is why our students are mired in mediocre performance. We won't tolerate it. That's why we're moving forward, moving forward right now.



Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Premier. The Premier might know that in Sudbury for about three years now Inco has been developing a new high-tech nickel foam battery for a very fast-growing consumer market. This project has meant high-quality jobs for technicians, technologists and process workers. In 1994 the northern Ontario heritage fund awarded a $12-million loan to Inco to help launch the project. It was the largest single investment the heritage fund has ever made. Today we learned that Inco wants to move this entire project to Clydach, Wales. Premier, my question is very simply, what are you going to do to keep those jobs in Sudbury?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I am not aware that Inco is proposing to move the jobs or the technology or the process to Wales. I'd be glad to look into it. I don't know on what terms you gave the money, whether it was conditional that should they leave, they had to repay the money, but if you were that judicious, we'd be prepared to look at that.

Mr Laughren: I would remind you that Inco last year made $642 million and over the years it has made literally billions from exploiting the resources of the Sudbury basin. The technology we're talking about is exactly the kind northern Ontario needs in order to diversify its economy. Don't you think that when a company becomes as rich and powerful as Inco has become, the corporation has an obligation to provide opportunities for the people whence it derived its riches?

Hon Mr Harris: I suppose if they're making that much money, it begs the question why your government felt compelled to give them $12 million. Second, if you are now telling me, and you would know the conditions, that the $12 million was given without conditions, then I suppose legally there may be nothing we can do to compel a company to stay.

But listen, we are always concerned when any private sector company chooses any jurisdiction in the world other than Ontario. It's why we are striving to cut the taxes you hiked on top of the taxes the Liberals hiked. It's why we are striving to bring balanced labour legislation. It's why we are striving to make this province more competitive. But we will take a look -- I appreciate the member raising it -- and see if there are any avenues open to us in any of the agreements former governments have made with them that might help leverage keeping jobs --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you very much. Final supplementary.

Mr Laughren: I would remind the Premier that this was a loan, it was not a grant, and you would want to know as well that the threat to move this technology and the jobs out of Sudbury was uncovered and announced today by the former member for Sudbury East and the soon-to-be federal MP for Nickel Belt, Mr Elie Martel. This is what Mr Martel had to say about the situation --

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Boy, are we grasping. He's in deep trouble.

The Speaker: Minister of Agriculture, come to order, please.

Mr Laughren: This is what Mr Martel said today at a press conference: "The nickel is here, not in Wales. The jobs should be here, not in Wales."

My question once again to the Premier is very simple: What are you going to do to keep those jobs here in Ontario?

Hon Mr Harris: We will continue to clean up the mess you left in making Ontario an attractive jurisdiction to do business, and we will look at whether there are any agreements in place as a condition of throwing this money at a company like Inco, which your government did, whether there are any conditions there, when you loan money or give them money or give them concessions, where you are able to attach anything to the technology. We'd be prepared to look into all that.

I would say this: You quote the former member for Nickel Belt currently, I guess, because the question has been raised in a tight race in the federal election. It was his long-standing policy and yours to nationalize Inco. You had the chance for five years and you did nothing.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): My question is to the Solicitor General. Minister, when your government was considering the introduction of VLTs, video lottery terminals, last year you were in possession of the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario report, Gambling in Ontario: Current Enforcement Concerns. You denied us access to that report not only as members of this Legislature in Ontario but also as this Legislature's committee on administration of justice.

Subsequent to that and during that demand, bits and pieces of this report were leaked to the opposition and the public. You were concerned about that and an investigation was initiated. Could you today give us the status of that investigation and when you consider it would be wound up?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): No investigation was initiated by the government or by the Ministry of the Solicitor General. I believe at the time the head of CISO, Chief Julian Fantino of London, indicated his grave concern with respect to the leakage of a confidential intelligence report which was supposed to be confined to the policing community. I would suggest the member contact Chief Fantino with respect to the progress of that investigation.

Mr Ramsay: Minister, are you saying to me today you have no knowledge of this investigation and its progress to this date? Do you not have any suspicion that maybe it was the intelligence unit itself that released this report with the approval of Chief Fantino?

Hon Mr Runciman: I'm not going to speculate on that. As a minister of the crown it's not appropriate for me or any other member of the executive council to be involved in the details of any police investigation. I respect that and I have not asked Chief Fantino or any other member of the CISO organization any questions related to a police investigation.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Health. This morning I attended with my colleague from Fort York a rally about the future of Doctors Hospital. This is a hospital, as you know, that serves primarily the west end of Metropolitan Toronto and serves a very multicultural population in a multitude of languages. It's a community-based hospital and its future is threatened by your actions and those of the Health Services Restructuring Commission.

This morning the slogan they used was, "Take the bricks, not the mix." They're saying by this that they're not objecting to the move of the hospital to the western wing of the Toronto Hospital, but they are very clearly saying and the whole community is saying, including the earlier commission that looked at this, the district health council, that what you should do is to maintain the integrity of the hospital, maintain it intact by keeping the present governance structure. They have shown you how that will save money and how that will maintain, most important of all, the uniqueness of this hospital that will continue to have, if you allow it, as its primary function that community-based health care.

Minister, will you ensure that Doctors Hospital continues to exist? Not the bricks and mortar, but the institution.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I saw one of the flyers that was being passed out today and certainly the sentiment there is, as the honourable member has described it, the same sentiment the government has expressed throughout restructuring; that is, the services are to be maintained and enhanced where they need to be enhanced, very valuable services that the staff at Doctors Hospital provide to a wide range of groups in our society, often in their first languages, with the cultural sensitivities that the patients need in order to do well in their journey through our health care system.

The commission will make the final determination. In the public pronouncements I've heard from the commission, they're very sensitive to the valuable role of the services provided by the people at Doctors Hospital.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): You appear to be saying that services will be maintained and that you think the commission will keep that promise, or at least respect the cultural linguistic services that are there. We're worried. That's why they've been chanting, "Take the bricks but keep the mix." They're worried because they're afraid the commissioner is not going to say Doctors Hospital needs its own independent board at Toronto Western. That's what they're worried about.

The question to you is this: In the event that this restructuring committee, through the commission, fails to heed the advice of all the linguistic communities out there -- the Chinese, the Italian, Portuguese, Vietnamese and Spanish communities -- will you intervene, as the boss of the health care system?

Hon Mr Wilson: The mandate of the commission is very clear. Of their top three priorities, at the top of the list is accessibility to services, maintaining and enhancing services. As you know, in both the DHC report and the Health Services Restructuring Commission report, they made it abundantly clear that the commission itself and its members are committed to those cultural sensitivities and to providing those services.

Their agenda is what everyone in the health care system agrees about, including those who were out in front of the commission this morning, and that is that our eye has to be on maintaining and enhancing services. I remind the honourable member that I hope he made his submission to the commission, as appropriate, because the commission will make the final determination.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): My question is for the Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for privatization and relates to the recently announced privatization review framework. In communicating the framework, the minister pointed out that while in the past there may have been a need for government involvement in a wide array of tasks, that same level of involvement may not be appropriate or required today. I'd like to ask the minister to please elaborate on this point so my constituents may better understand the purpose of the privatization review.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): It's important to understand that times have changed since the time when governments got involved in many of the businesses they run. Governments are currently running various businesses throughout their ministries. I think it's appropriate for Ontarians that we take a look at the changing times and changing needs and changing priorities of Ontarians, and the demands of taxpayers nowadays, who are far more attuned to making sure there is value for the money we are taking from them and spending on their behalf. The framework we've established will make sure that we can perform that assessment and that analysis, to understand very clearly whether or not there are ways in which private sector involvement in public sector activities can help out.

Mr Hardeman: I'd like to ask the minister specifically about the Province of Ontario Savings Office, which has been announced as a candidate for review under the privatization review framework. I have a savings office in my riding, and consequently one of my constituents recently contacted me regarding the fact that it had been referred to your office. My constituent has requested that I ask the minister whether the government plans to sell the Ontario savings offices, and why. I'd like the minister to answer the question, to assist me in answering my constituents.

Hon Mr Sampson: It's quite important to understand that part of the assessment of the privatization framework is an assessment of a range of options, which could include the sale of an asset, could include a franchising partnership with the private sector providers. There are a number of alternatives we could look at, and we will look at, when we take a look at assets such as the Province of Ontario Savings Office.

I want to assure the member that there are no predetermined plans as to which option will work best. That's why we are doing this assessment. That's indeed why we have designed the framework so that the candidates will get a fair assessment of what the appropriate relationship and what the appropriate involvement of the private sector should be in public sector activities.

There is certainly a question that has got to be answered, and that is whether government, given the nature of financial institutions in this province and in this country, should be involved in the business of running a bank. That's indeed the question we hope to get an answer to.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier. Today, you will be aware that the highly respected credit rating agency, Standard and Poor's, issued a discouraging report card on the Harris government. We now are two years into your government, and Standard and Poor's has refused to upgrade the province's credit rating. You will know that in 1990 Ontario had a AAA credit rating; it was downgraded three times over the last period of time, and each time I remember well your yelling at Bob Rae about how disappointing and discouraging that was. We now find that Standard and Poor's, after watching you in action for two years and looking at your plans for the future, gives you exactly the same credit rating as Bob Rae.

If you said Bob Rae was mismanaging the finances of the province because he got a AA- rating, shouldn't the people of Ontario naturally conclude that your rating is AA- and therefore you are mismanaging the finances of the province?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): No.

Mr Phillips: I think the people will take the word of an independent, highly regarded, respected credit rating agency called Standard and Poor's, whose business it is to coldly and objectively look at the way you are managing the finances of the province. That is what they are paid for, and they are concluding that you are mismanaging the finances of the province. They are refusing to upgrade the credit rating of the province, a AA-, the same rating Premier Rae had.

They go on to say that revenue pressures associated with your tax cut are one of the reasons they are refusing to increase the credit rating. They go on to say that in 1998, three and a half years into your mandate, Ontario will have the highest debt-to-revenue ratio among all the Canadian provinces. They go on to say that this rating they are giving anticipates good economic growth. If that doesn't happen, that rating will be at risk.

My question to you again is this: Recognizing that a respected credit rating agency, Standard and Poor's, has indicated to you their concern, will you now listen to a group like them who are telling you that your tax cut is putting Ontario's fiscal house at risk?

Hon Mr Harris: No.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Environment. Tomorrow, a conference called Water and Waste Water Treatment in Canada will open about two blocks north of here, and it's all about privatizing our water. As a matter of fact, the conference is sponsored by the Center for Business Intelligence, of Burlington, Massachusetts, and will bring municipal leaders and corporations together to talk about privatization. The corporations are paying $1,700 for the privilege of attending this conference.

On Monday, your government passed Bill 107, which has to do with downloading sewer and water services and ultimately their privatization. Will you today, before the people at this conference get too excited about the possibility of making money out of our water, make a statement in this Legislature indicating that the privatization of Ontario's water supply is not in the public interest and that you will take measures to stop it?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): As I indicated yesterday to another honourable member, water and sewage services in the province of Ontario have remained in public hands for a period of 100 years. There's no indication that's going to change. Municipalities are totally in charge of this. They are fully autonomous levels of government that tax their citizens to pay for these services. They own these services. Therefore perhaps the member opposite should be asking them the very same question.


Mr Laughren: That's a rather disingenuous response, I say to the minister. If Bill 107 had nothing to do with privatization, do you think it's just a coincidence that these companies are flocking to Toronto to talk about the privatization of water? Do you really think that's just a coincidence?

When you are squeezing the municipalities, that makes sewer and water services easy pickings for the private sector. You know what happened in Britain, at least you should, when they privatized the water services there. Now your member for London South, Mr Wood, is heading up a workshop at that privatization conference entitled Privatization and Contracting Out: A Political Perspective. So don't tell me that Bill 107 has nothing to do with the privatization of water. It sure as hell does.

If your government is not in favour of private water, why are these companies flocking to Toronto and why will you not make a statement saying that it's not in the public interest and you will stop it?

Hon Mr Sterling: Toronto is a wonderful convention city. It's a place where conventions from all across North America, in fact North and South America, come to have meetings. There are meetings with regard to different water associations. There was one in London three or four weeks ago. There are all kinds of meetings like these particular meetings going on. I put no emphasis on whether they're meeting in Toronto at this time or in the future on the basis of what is happening here in Canada or in Ontario.

Bill 107, as you well know, is the first time any provincial government has made a stand with regard to discouraging privatization of our water system. As you know from that bill, what it says is that if a municipality should choose to privatize, they would have to pay back to the government all the grants they had received since 1978. What did your government do with regard to this matter?


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. In the last budget the finance minister introduced 20 new tax credits, including an enhancement to the Ontario film and television tax credit which was introduced in last year's budget. Minister, why have you chosen to enhance a tax credit that is already existing and how is this going to help our film industry in Ontario?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you to the honourable member for St Andrew-St Patrick for an excellent question. As I said in the House prior to the break, our moves in this sector really reflect our commitment to doing business differently. Lower taxes encourage investment -- we know that -- investment equals production -- we know that -- and more production means more jobs. This is the best thing we can do in this particular industry. They know how to compete and they are successful. Our job is to create a positive environment for growth in this sector and then get out of the way.

Ms Bassett: In a follow-up to that, I'd like to ask how these tax credits compete with those in other provinces. As you know, a lot in the film industry are like gypsies: They pick up and move where there are tax credits. As you pointed out, we depend on this industry for jobs. Could you just say how we compete with other provinces?

Hon Ms Mushinski: We have certainly identified cultural industries as a core business of my ministry. We expect that the tax credit enhancement that was announced by Mr Eves will result in significant economic benefits, including stimulating an additional $72 million a year in film and television production. More important, the increased activity will allow Ontario's best and most creative talent to stay and work in Ontario; we believe it will create the most competitive environment in North America. Hollywood is going to become known as Toronto South instead of Toronto as Hollywood North.

Elizabeth McDonald, who is the president and CEO of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, said that Ontario, in particular Toronto, is the largest film and television production centre in Canada. There's no doubt that the tax credit will stimulate jobs --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Next question, official opposition.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a question for the Minister of Health. I'm particularly glad to be able to ask it with the Premier present, because we want to know what the minister is hiding. The minister has not explained to the public or to this House the implications of a very expensive doctor deal that came after a year of his mistreating doctors in this province, a deal that's estimated to cost $660 million.

Minister, when I asked your ministry for a briefing on this, I was referred to your office. After 14 calls to your executive assistant, not one of which has been returned, we still don't have a briefing. I called your deputy minister twice personally, and nothing has been returned.

The people of this province want to know what you're hiding. They want to know why you won't discuss how this deal -- that came about, I'll remind you, because of your bungling of the issue the last 12 months -- is going to be paid for. Who is going to pay for it? The patients of Ontario? The nurses of Ontario? Who is going to cover up for you, Minister? Will you stand in your place today and agree to table all the details of this deal, including how it's going to be paid for?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member has made several calls. I'm aware of all of them. He has insisted that only one person can brief him; that's my executive assistant. She is swamped. We've offered everybody else in the bureaucracy, including people who were at the table, to brief the honourable member, and he has declined. Let's get the record straight here.

Second, I have been scrummed on this issue dozens of times. I have given dozens of interviews. I've been on TV with this issue. The only reporter accusing me of not is Jane Armstrong, and I wasn't in the country last week so I couldn't return her call. I have been very forthright; this government is very forthright.

The unratified agreement -- it is not ratified; so the tentative agreement -- is available to anyone who wants a copy of it. You know that, honourable member, so stop spreading this misinformation in the province.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Health, that's unparliamentary, and I ask you to withdraw it.

Hon Mr Wilson: I withdraw it.

Mr Kennedy: I will not stoop to the language used by the minister, but I will say a lot of people are wondering why the minister will not answer questions. There are 10,000 people at Doctors Hospital. There is a symbol here, a brick, that I would like to make sure the minister gets today, that talks about their not understanding your not answering the questions.

In estimates, in the information we have been able to get --


The Speaker: Order. Just a minute, member for York South.

Mr Kennedy: There is a question I want the minister to answer. On page 71 of the detailed estimates, there's $435 million cut from hospitals. On page 87, there's $242 million added to pay to doctors.

Minister, your deal is going to cost even more than that. Do you not agree that you're taking away from nurses because of your mismanagement, from basic care, from emergency services we heard about today, from Doctors Hospital, to be able to pay the doctors' deal? Will you tell us also today, since you've offered to answer the question, I'll remind you, how you will make up for the $203-million shortfall in what you've put in the budget and what you've actually done? By the way, Minister, this is for you and the Premier to be reminded about some of the shortfalls.


Hon Mr Wilson: I met with the Ontario Nurses' Association this morning, and they had some of the same thoughts the honourable member had. I was able to explain to them that after many years the agreement finally recognizes what the doctors have been saying all along, and that is that we have to recognize the growth and aging of the population. We've done that at 1.5% a year for the next three years.

It's not more money for individual doctors. Their fees will be exactly the same the day after the agreement as they are today. It is simply allowing them to serve more patients and older patients. If you're suggesting -- because you're all over the map on this issue, typical of you and your party -- that we should lock the doors at a certain period during the day because there's no more money for patients and we shouldn't recognize growth and aging of the population, get up and say that.

Otherwise, support and help this deal to be ratified so we can get on to reforming the health care system, to restructuring it, to finding every dollar through getting rid of the duplication and waste in the system and driving that money to pay for more patients and an aging population. That is needed, whether the honourable member wants to recognize those facts or not.


The Speaker: Order. We can wait.

New question, the member for Algoma.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. Is the minister aware that his commitment to take into account scarcity of population in rural and northern boards, as well as the size of population -- that is, the distribution -- is not being properly implemented by his ministry staff? In proposed district school board 2, the area being counted by the ministry for determining the number of trustees is only the area taxed by the existing board, an area a little over 20,000 square kilometres, instead of counting the whole area of the district board, which is about 72,000 square kilometres. In other words, the crown land is not counted, despite the fact that a trustee would have to travel through that crown land to get to the community where the meeting is to be held.

Why is it that as a result of this, none of the communities north of Sault Ste Marie -- Wawa, Chapleau, White River or Hornepayne -- will have any trustee representation under your formula?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I am pleased to inform the member for Algoma that we have sent out distribution formulas; we have provided those to the boards. If a board has an unorganized territory, like crown land, in their jurisdiction, it's the obligation of the board to treat that land like a municipality. Distribution is the responsibility of both the local education improvement commission and the municipal clerks. Those unorganized lands, the crown territories, will be taken into account and must be taken into account under the directions we've given boards and the municipal clerks and the local improvement commissions.

Mr Wildman: Part of this problem relates to the fact that the minister agreed with the recommendation of the Education Improvement Commission, the designated co-chairs, to put Hornepayne into district school board 2, even though that community did not wish to be put in that board and none of the existing boards believe it makes sense to add another 120-mile round trip to the travelling that will be required to get to the end of the area of jurisdiction they're responsible for.

But the point is this: The minister made a commitment, which I believe to be sincere, that scarcity of population would be taken into account in determining the numbers of trustees. As a result of this decision by your ministry staff and the meetings that have been held between local officials and the ministry staff, the ministry staff agrees there will no representation north of Sault Ste Marie. Their only response is that the communities can lobby for the next four years so that in the election after this year's they might get some trustee representation. Why won't you change it now?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I hope that the member for Algoma didn't hit himself as he passed himself in his earlier argument that the Education Improvement Commission transition process is not under way. It clearly is under way, and yes, we have received a report by the co-chairs of the Education Improvement Commission and we have acted on that to increase the amount of representation, to increase the number of boards, the number of trustees in the north because we've recognized the case for the north, the case for more representation. We've moved on that and moved very quickly.

Let me restate this for the member opposite: The distribution formula we have distributed to the boards recognizes low-density areas and ensures that these areas receive trustee representation. Just once more for the record, it is the obligation of the municipal clerks and the local Education Improvement Commission to identify those low-population areas and to have trustees represent those areas. That is being taking care of. It's in the distribution formula that we have presented, and I can assure the member that this is an improvement on what was first proposed and those people --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question is for the minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. It's a well-known fact that agriculture is the engine that drives the province of Ontario. The province does well when the agricultural sector is doing well.

My riding of Perth has a strong agricultural base. Perth ranks first in hogs marketed in Ontario and second in milk shipped. Perth county has a farming population of a little over 10,000 people and they account for over 6% of the livestock and poultry sold in Ontario. That's over $150 million a year. The farmers of Perth want to see their industry grow and expand.

We as a government are placing a high priority on expanding our agrifood exports. Increased exports not only benefit the agrifood sector but they also create jobs. This is what is important to the people of the riding of Perth. Could the minister please update us on how our export development is progressing?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I wish to thank the honourable member for Perth for his question. I certainly want to advise my colleagues in all sides of the House that we're very pleased to say we had $5.3 billion of agrifood exports in this past calendar year. The government is committed to boosting the agrifood exports with measures like the Grow Ontario program, the sales tax rebate on capital construction, indeed the rural jobs strategy.

It's very important, and a lot of people don't realize that for every $1 billion of exports in the agrifood sector, 15,000 new jobs are created. Last night the Ontario Cattlemen's Association invited me to meet some beef importers from Korea. They tasted some of the best beef that's produced anywhere in Canada.

Mr Bert Johnson: Farmers in my riding have listened to 10 years of rhetoric from the other parties that were in government. For years they have been asking for a government that would act on their behalf. I am aware that the Minister of Agriculture has been acting for the farmers of Ontario. He has been taking part in trade missions in an effort to sell our top-quality Ontario agrifood products. I'd like to know if the minister had any -- pardon the pun -- feedback as a result of his efforts.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: As a matter of fact, I am proud to say I accompanied the Team Canada group to Asia and indeed we are exporting considerably more of our agrifood products to Asia. It was an honour to join the Honourable Ralph Goodale, at his invitation, to attend and to sell Ontario produce. When Ontario agriculture prospers, all Ontarians benefit.



M. Gilles E. Morin (Carleton-Est) : «À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que la recommandation de la Commission de restructuration des soins de santé en Ontario ordonne la fermeture de l'hôpital Montfort et que cette décision constitue le rejet de la volonté de l'entière communauté francophone de la province et de la communauté de l'est ;

«Attendu que 40 % des francophones de la province de l'Ontario résident dans l'aire de service de l'hôpital Montfort, soit à l'est de l'Ontario, où la population connaît un des plus hauts taux de croissance de toute la province, que le comté de Russell n'a pas d'hôpital et qu'en plus, Montfort dessert le nord le l'Ontario, où le nombre de francophones est très élevé ;

«Attendu que la fermeture de Montfort éloigne et diminue grandement l'accessibilité à une salle d'urgences pour plus de 150 000 personnes ;

«Attendu que Montfort est le seul hôpital d'enseignement et de formation des professionnels de la santé en français en Ontario et que la fermeture du seul hôpital spécialisé, offrant une gamme complète des services en français, mènera à la dilution et, éventuellement, à la disparition des services de santé en français en Ontario ;

«Attendu que l'on fait disparaître l'hôpital qui a un des meilleurs rendements de la province et qui, pour fins de comparaison, constitue l'exemple de choix du ministère de la Santé ;

«Nous, soussignés, adressons à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario la pétition suivante :

«Nous demandons que le premier ministre de la province intervienne fermement auprès de la Commission de restructuration des services de santé en Ontario afin que soit préservé l'emplacement actuel de l'hôpital et que soient consolidés la vocation, le mandat et le rôle essentiel que joue Montfort auprès de sa communauté.»

Il me fait plaisir d'ajouter ma signature à cette pétition.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a petition signed by some 10,000 people concerned about this government's management of health care, and it's to the Legislature of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, strongly support the preservation of the high-quality, affordable and accessible community health care by Doctors Hospital to Toronto's central west-end community. The Doctors Hospital must be retained to manage its distinct ambulatory and community health programs and to continue its 100-year role in listening to and serving the health needs of this diverse community."

It is with great pleasure that I add my name to the hundreds, actually the 10,000, who have signed this petition to the government.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm pleased to present a petition which reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, strongly support the preservation of the high-quality, affordable and accessible community health care by Doctors Hospital to Toronto's central west-end community. The Doctors Hospital must be retained to manage its distinct ambulatory and community health programs and to continue its 100-year role in listening to and serving the health needs of this diverse community."

This is signed by several hundred people.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I have a petition signed by many residents in my riding who are opposed to the granting of a certificate of approval for a waste disposal site processing facility at 97 Frid Street, for several reasons, which I won't read.


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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I've got a petition from 300 or 400 people here in support of Doctors Hospital. It reads:

"We, the undersigned, strongly support the preservation of the high-quality, affordable and accessible community health care by Doctors Hospital to Toronto's central west-end community. The Doctors Hospital must be retained to manage its distinct ambulatory and community health programs and to continue its 100-year role in listening to and serving the health needs of this diverse community."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The resolution is:

"Physicians should have the right to prescribe safe, alternative and complementary treatments without fear of being disciplined by the CPSO."

This petition is signed by several constituents from the Athens area and I present it on behalf of the Honourable Bob Runciman.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition 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 TVOntario 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 TVOntario continues to work towards increasing self-generated revenues;

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

I've also signed the petition.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Canadian Parents for French recognizes and supports English and French as Canada's two official languages and believes that young Canadians should have opportunities to become proficient in both languages;

"Whereas in recent years the members of CPF chapters have become increasingly concerned about annual budget meetings in which funding for French immersion transportation and quite possibly the program itself has come under scrutiny by school board trustees;

"Therefore, in an attempt to secure a safe future for the French immersion program, CPF wishes to petition the Ministry of Education and attempt to have French immersion mandated in those school areas which already have the program established."

This is signed by many thousands of concerned parents.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition, a very important one, related to library services, Bill 109, the Local Control of Public Libraries Act, sent to me by Rebecca Frise from Hastings, Ontario. It reads:

"The system of public libraries in this province has successfully and equitably met the needs of Ontarians for nearly a century and a half. This has been done through the effective use of independent citizen boards that have been relying on adequate provincial and local funding. Bill 109 and other initiatives of the present provincial government will irrevocably undo this system.

"I call on the government to withdraw Bill 109 and to:

"(1) provide for the continued existence of county library systems, as already established, and to endorse, support and nurture existing partnerships in keeping with promotion of government policy;

"(2) restore adequate provincial and local funding;

"(3) abolish and forbid user fees; and

"(4) ensure universal and equitable access to library resources and services."

I am proud to sign my name to that petition.


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): 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 infants and preschool children is an honourable profession which has 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 have identified this petition.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario:

«Attendu que TVOntario dessert les résidentes et les résidents de l'Ontario de tous les âges depuis plus de 25 ans en leur offrant une programmation de qualité sans aucune annonce publicitaire dont les 70 % sont des émissions éducatives et des émissions pour enfant ; et

«Attendu que TVOntario est à la disposition de 97,4 % des Ontariens et Ontariennes et que pour certaines communautés non desservies par la câblodiffusion, TVO est la seule station disponible, ce qui en fait un réel atout à l'échelon provincial ; et

«Attendu que TVOntario continue de travailler à augmenter ses revenus provenant de l'autofinancement ;

«Nous, les soussignés, adressons une pétition à l'Assemblée législative pour assurer que TVOntario demeure un diffuseur d'émissions éducatives, et propriété publique financée par les fonds publics.»

J'y ajoute ma signature.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which I'd like to file with the Legislature.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You can read it.

Mr Tilson: No, I'm not going to read it.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition to the government of Ontario.

"Whereas the Mike Harris Conservative government has brought forth Bill 96, legislation which will effectively kill rent control in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris campaign literature during the York South by-election stated that rent control will continue; and

"Whereas tenant groups, students and seniors have pointed out that this legislation will hurt those that can least afford it, as it will cause higher rents across most markets in Ontario; and

"Whereas this Conservative proposal will reduce the stock of affordable housing and encourage landlords to harass long-term residents, pushing them to move out so new tenants paying higher rents can be brought in; and

"Whereas this Conservative proposal will make it easier for residents to be evicted from retirement care homes; and

"Whereas the Liberal caucus continues to believe that all tenants, and particularly the vulnerable in our society who live on fixed incomes, deserve the assurance of a maximum rent cap;

"We, the undersigned, demand that the Conservative government scrap its proposal to abandon and eliminate rent control and to introduce legislation which will protect tenants in the province of Ontario."

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


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My petition is 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; and

"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 this Minister of Health acknowledged that additional funding was necessary in high-growth areas;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to call on the Minister of Health to provide the appropriate level 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."

I sign this as well.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This petition is to the government of Ontario.

"Whereas the Conservative government of Mike Harris has closed three out of five hospitals in Thunder Bay and two out of three hospitals in Sudbury; and

"Whereas drastic funding cuts to hospitals across Ontario are intimidating hospital boards, district health councils and local hospital restructuring commissions into considering the closing of local hospitals; and

"Whereas hospitals in the Niagara region have provided an outstanding essential service to patients and have been important facilities for medical staff to treat the residents of the Niagara Peninsula and will be required for people in Niagara for years to come; and

"Whereas the population of Niagara is on average older than that in most areas in the province;

"We, the undersigned, call upon the Minister of Health to restore adequate funding to hospitals in the Niagara region and guarantee that his government will not close any hospitals in the Niagara Peninsula."

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


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a very important petition related to TVOntario and I was very glad to be a part of TVO MPP night last night. I was very proud that several of my colleagues joined me for the occasion. Unfortunately the government members weren't able to make it there, and it's a shame.

"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 to ensure that TVOntario continue to be a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster."

I am very pleased to sign my name to this petition. The Save TVO campaign is going very well.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This is a petition to the government of Ontario.

"Since video lottery terminals will contribute to gambling addiction in Ontario and the resulting breakup of families, spousal and child abuse and crimes such as embezzlement and robbery; and

"Since the introduction of video lottery terminals across Ontario will provide those addicted to gambling with widespread temptation and will attract young people to a vice which will adversely affect their lives for many years to come; and

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across our province is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the desperate in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest income; and

"Since the placement of video lottery terminals in bars in Ontario and in permanent casinos in various locations across the province represents an escalation of gambling opportunities; and

"Since Premier Harris and Finance Minister Eves were so critical of the provincial government becoming involved in further gambling ventures and making the government more dependent on gambling revenues to maintain government operations;

"We, the undersigned, call upon Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to reconsider its announced decision to introduce the most insidious form of gambling, video lottery terminals, to restaurants and bars in the province."

I affix my signature as I'm in complete agreement with the sentiments expressed in this petition.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Earlier today -- I don't know whether this was picked up by Hansard -- when there was an exchange in the House about the future of Doctors Hospital I interjected, referring to a former member for whom we all have a great deal of respect, Larry Grossman, recognizing his role in protecting Doctors Hospital in the past, when he was a member of the House.

I know that Mr Grossman is very ill and I want to assure all members of the House that I meant no disrespect to him. I wish him well. He's a good friend of mine. I join with all members of the House in wishing him a speedy recovery.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of 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.

Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): It's certainly a pleasure to have an opportunity to add a few comments this afternoon concerning the legislation that's before us. I want to approach it from the perspective of an individual who had the opportunity to participate in the pre-consultation hearings throughout the entire session that they were sitting.

During that process we had the opportunity to receive some 193 different written submissions and approximately 197 oral submissions from different individuals and groups across the province, both here in Toronto and elsewhere throughout different municipalities. Certainly that pre-consultation process added greatly to the opportunity for us as a government to gain a better understanding of those issues that are important to individuals affected by tenant legislation in this province, those being landlords and tenants. It's an important stepping point in terms of providing some good input and direction with respect to the legislation we now have in front of us.

It's important to realize that in an effort to address the issue of tenant-related issues and landlord-related issues, this legislation attempts to find an element of fairness and balance between the differing viewpoints that exist between tenants and landlords in this province. It's one of truly trying to find balance, because clearly there is a difference of opinion, whether you are a tenant or a landlord. Somewhere in between, we need to find a common ground to move ahead in a positive way that finds solutions to the concerns that are expressed by many.

I found it interesting, notwithstanding the opposition we heard from various tenant organizations across the province that was expressed with respect to the contents of the draft document, that there was little to say positively about their personal experiences with tenant legislation as it exists today. I think it's an important point to recognize that there are just as many concerns existing today with respect to the legislation that governs not only their protection, their safety, but their places of livelihood.

This legislation, in an effort to find that balance and fairness, essentially untangles six different pieces of legislation that currently regulate rental legislation in this province. It's an effort to find that balance and move away from the regulatory burden that we currently are experiencing.

At the same time, we want to very clearly provide a foundation of fairness for landlords, and I found it interesting that the member for St Catharines, during our period in this Legislature when petitions are read, raised the issue of affordability for vulnerable people in this province.


It's with interest that I look back upon the history of rent control legislation. It was during the late 1980s, in fact in 1989 during the Liberal period of time, when investment returns in this province were increased by about 30%. I suspect and I hope the member for St Catharines, as a respected former minister of the crown, was equally concerned at that time about the 30% returns that landlords gained off the tenants in this province.

The fact of the matter is that on new units in this province there has been very little development. The rate of return on new units has been virtually zero. That's the stepping point we're moving forward from in terms of trying to find that balance, trying to find the fairness so that there is opportunity for investment, there is interest in creating new units in this province, to provide housing alternatives for individuals who are in the tenant market.

As it stands now, the government spends approximately $18 million annually to administer the system. Even with that expense and given the comments we received throughout the consultation process, it was very evident that we are falling far short of where we ought to be with respect to tenants' rights and privileges and the system they need to provide the protection they're looking for.

Currently under the existing system as well, it could take as much as four months for a landlord to effectively evict a delinquent tenant. I should say it's very evident that most tenants are very forthright and very conscientious as renters of property and there's a minority of individuals who would fall into those classifications as individuals who are not cautious and respectful of the properties they rent.

We're not passing a negative viewpoint on all tenants in this province by any means. I think it's a very small number of individuals we're speaking of. But certainly it's a very important issue for landlords who find themselves in a position where they have to remedy problems with respect to problem tenants and the time frame it's taking them to deal with that process. There has to be some mechanism in place to speed this process and so that the costs associated with this process are brought more appropriately into line.

At the same time, there has to be some incentive provided for landlords to adequately maintain their buildings and ensure that work is being pursued on outstanding work orders. That's generally a very large concern to many in this province. It's conservatively estimated that there is approximately $10 billion of outstanding renovations owed to rental properties in terms of building stock repairs in this province. That's a concern to all, both to those who own the property and obviously to those individuals who are living in facilities that are in desperate need of structural repair.

As I mentioned at the outset, we heard regularly about the experiences tenants have across this province in terms of conditions that are not satisfactory to them, and it's certainly an issue that must be remedied in an effort to move ahead and address their concerns as well as the concerns of landlords.

From my perspective, as someone who sat through the entire deliberations both here in Toronto and across the province, it certainly became very apparent to me that the current situation we have is not acceptable. We must move ahead to provide legislation for tenants and landlords in this province that is respectful of both the industry needs and tenants. I think that consultation process served very well in bringing that issue to light. I fully recognize as well that there's opposition, there's concern, there's some fear. Those are things that the government is fully aware of and sensitive to, but equally, we are committed to providing a very fair tenant protection package system.

Often we think of rental accommodation in this province as being solely owned by large developers and large property owners. In fact, about 80% of all rental buildings are made up of four or less units in this province. I think that brings a very localized perspective to the issue, because that very much means that it's not large developers who are generally occupying the rental market but individuals who are reflective of you and I; friends or neighbours who have a small business investment in various rental accommodations. Too often too much focus is placed on the larger individuals who are involved in the industry, but we must remain mindful that the largest percentage of them are very much small business people.

Those were the very people, as the committee met, who were most dramatically impacted as we moved from the Liberal approach to rent regulation to that of the NDP. The small business people found themselves in a position where it just didn't make sense any more to have rental accommodation. We heard story after story of individuals who acquired, for whatever reasons, either through personal investment or inheritance, small rental properties and who from a fiscal perspective or a personal financing perspective are simply no longer in a position to maintain and operate them.

Those are the very people we have to be mindful of as we move ahead to establish the new legislation in this province that is proposed under Bill 96. Those are the individuals who have an obviously keen interest in terms of their own properties, how they arrived at receiving those properties, contributing to their communities. Above all, it's more of a personal interest versus a professional interest that would be more reflective of the larger development community.

I think it's important to emphasize the four key areas the bill is addressing. Those areas include the process of keeping the annual rent control guideline at 2.8%. I think it's important to realize and emphasize as well that the 2.8% which is this year's guideline is the lowest in the entire history of rent control. I think that's a very important point to highlight at the outset.

Certainly placing caps on rents is very important as well, because that is generally the fear people have. It's not so much the legislation but the fear of having escalating costs which exceed their ability to house themselves and their ability to choose the apartments of their choice.

As well, as part of the second component, to move it positively, to address the maintenance aspect, as I mentioned at the outset, there is the concern of some $10 billion of outstanding capital or structural repairs that are estimated in this province and the need to provide incentives so that landlords move ahead progressively and in a timely fashion to start to repair and improve the building stock we currently have in the rental housing market.

To encourage the repair of buildings, this legislation allows property owners to recover the money they invest in building improvements. When landlords are prevented from recovering their costs, those repairs are not undertaken. That is certainly the case and certainly the evidence the committee heard as we heard a variety of deputations across the province.

I think it's equally important, though, as you provide incentives for landlords to move ahead positively, that we also have to remain mindful that there is a need, perhaps from a punitive side, to encourage those who are not as progressive in addressing those concerns from a property standards perspective, to provide the appropriate fine framework that would encourage people to be more progressive in dealing with maintenance issues. As a result, we are moving to double that maximum fine, in the area of $100,000, for repeat offenders. I think that's certainly an enticement, in part, to start to move ahead and demonstrate that the government is very serious about addressing maintenance issues associated with rental accommodations in this province.

I think as well we need to emphasize from a third perspective that we must provide a very positive climate for investment so that the private sector will start to move positively to develop new units in this province. Historically, there simply haven't been the new units developed in this area, where there is an affordability and accessibility problem. It's an issue of heightened awareness in Toronto and Ottawa, and to a certain extent in Windsor, where the issues of affordability and accessibility come into play very definitely on the rental housing market, the availability of rental housing accommodation.

The legislation represents in my mind a crucial step in creating a climate where the private market will again invest in the rental real estate market. It has been evident from the outset that the government is very committed to moving ahead in areas of reform as it affects development charges in this province, as it affects reforms to the Planning Act and as it affects reforms to the housing sector or the rental part of the housing sector.


Those actions together, in my opinion, will provide the framework by which we can start to move from a position of inactivity to one where at least there's a recognition that we're attempting to address the various regulatory burdens that exist today in preventing the further development and placing of rental units on the market.

The fourth item, which is very important as well, is the process of streamlining the administrative process. By doing that, we're moving disputes between landlords and tenants out of the courts and into a tribunal system which will be known as the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal, which in our opinion will be an effective means to deliberate over disputes in a more timely and effective manner than proceeding through the court system. I fully recognize that we heard on a number of occasions that the court system has been effective in dealing with tenant disputes, but we as a government feel we can improve upon that by establishing a tribunal system and move effectively to deal with those disputes that arise between tenants and landlords.

Equally important to that whole process, though, is the process of cutting the red tape and providing the necessary vehicle to increase efficiencies that will help create a faster and fairer system of rent control in this province.

While some might ask questions, and certainly it's primarily an urban-focused issue, one of the interesting issues that was discussed for I think members from all sides of the House who were representing their various interests on the committee, and one of the issues that we heard frequently -- it affects more rural Ontario and, I would say, northern Ontario -- is the whole issue of home-owned lease-lot communities.

From my personal observation, it's still an issue that's not well understood. It's not well understood from the perspective of the ministry. Certainly there has been, in my opinion, a great deal of emphasis placed on all committee members during the pre-consultation period to encourage the submission of further detail and viewpoint on how to address the issue of home-owned lease-lot communities, because it's critically important, commonly used in communities in rural and northern Ontario, predominantly reflective of seniors. I think we have to be sensitive to those issues, not only in terms of seniors' ability to pay on properties they are involved in, but as well the ability of those owners who happen to own these communities to meet capital expectation and improvements.

On a regular basis we heard of examples whereby municipalities, either in disagreement or agreement or in conjunction with expectations of provincial ministries of these property owners, who were going to be required to move to a higher standard of municipal service, be it from private water and sewer to a municipal system of some sort -- the concerns they had in terms of their ability to recover costs associated with those capital improvements.

Those were very valid concerns. At the same time, we have to be cautious about the ability of landlords or property owners in those areas to effectively and fairly recover those costs through those individuals who live in their communities. As I suggest, in many cases those individuals are seniors or entry-level people who in some cases have chosen that type of community to live in.

Those were issues that came to the forefront very strongly as we moved out of Toronto as a committee and into other localities where home-owned lease-lot communities are more prevalent.

As we move forward in dealing with this bill and, as I suspect, this matter will be referred for further consideration before another standing committee, I would only hope that those individuals who had concerns centring around this particular issue have their voice heard, that the ministry, the minister, my colleagues and colleagues on all sides of the House who are involved in the committee process take the time to become better informed. I say that respectfully, because as we moved through the province I think all committee members became better informed of the issues associated with this particular issue. I would again hope that as we deal with this issue in committee, the concerns are heard and are not simply overshadowed by larger, typically urban-oriented, tenant protection issues.

I think those are very important issues that need to be dealt with. As I said at the outset, the consultation provided a very strong basis to lead us into the legislation. It was certainly very extensive, from my viewpoint, and it provides us further opportunity to receive additional input at a later date as the bill moves into further reading.

Certainly there is a different viewpoint in many communities. As I said at the outset, the issue in Toronto and Ottawa is one of accessibility and affordability. The issue in my own community is not the same. The issue is not about affordability. We have an oversupply of rental accommodation in our community, a great deal of vacant rental accommodation. At the same time, by and large, the market is already dictating what landlords are able to charge with respect to rents in the London and area community. In many cases landlords are not charging the maximum rent they could under legislation. By and large, the market is dictating a much lower rent, which is ideally what we would like to see in all cases with respect to rent controls in this province. I think it's important to realize that the market forces, albeit described as "evil" in some cases in this place, are effectively working to meet the needs of those people who choose to live in rental accommodation in this province.

I know from my own media in the London area; the London Free Press has summarized by describing the grandfathering of tenants under the established rental condition as the right thing to do, because it doesn't necessarily unfairly change the rules in a way that could come to force some people to move out.

Those are important items to remain mindful of, that this is not just a Toronto issue; it's an issue that needs to be addressed across the province. That's why it's equally important to find that fairness and balance that is reflective of all our communities in the province and not simply one or two large urban communities, recognizing that there are some significant challenges here to be dealt with.

I think as well last summer's consultations resulted in four significant changes to the proposed legislation.

One is the issue of lifetime security with respect to rental accommodation should a rental facility be converted to a condominium.

There was the issue surrounding the violation of property standards, that it will not be made an offence, but a work order may be issued immediately.

Those were typical comments that we heard from a practical perspective that just didn't make sense in the original draft document, so we've moved to address those practical observations that so many people addressed with the committee.

With respect to the issue that I raised of home-owned lease-lot communities, there is the issue of the ability of tenants in those communities to pay with respect to capital improvements and the provision that there would be consideration or provisions for anti-gouging rules and the placement of those rules in mobile home parks and land-lease communities when a new lease is entered into. Effectively this is an effort, a first important step, to address the uniqueness of those communities, and one which I felt very positively was an indication that the committee was listening to the comments we received on that particular issue.

The fourth item is the ability to carry forward capital expenditures, which will not be restricted to the two years but will be allowed until the justified amount has been recovered by the landlord. We believe this change would encourage maintenance while protecting the tenant from high rent increases in any one given year.

I said at the outset I wanted to provide some brief comments this afternoon because I have another colleague who would like to address this issue as well, as it is important to her. In summary, I think it's important to recognize that we, as a government, are making every effort to find balance in the system, fairness between those expectations that tenants have and the expectations of landlords.

I think as well that fairness needs to be achieved because there is a degree of uncertainty in the rental market industry. That uncertainty is not a positive thing. By finding a fair and balanced approach, we're safeguarding ourselves from an extreme that potentially wouldn't assist the rental industry in this province. At the same time, it provides the assurances that tenants are looking for. As we move from a system that really addresses the financing of units to one that protects and follows the tenants, it is one that should be fully considered and given every test, and it's one that is very positive in terms of moving this particular legislation forward into the future.

As I said at the outset, there has been considerable consultation already around this issue. It's one that has a great deal of history in this place, also outside of this place among tenant associations and organizations, as well as within the industry itself. It's an industry of importance, one that, as we move into the next level of debate, I suspect we will continue to hear from on an ongoing basis and continue to receive the valuable input that's important for this sector of the housing industry.

In summary, the package we have before us is a good, balanced approach. It's one that's good not only for landlords but for tenants. I think it's also good for the economy. As we start to assess not only this legislation in isolation but also the changes we have made to the Planning Act, to the Development Charges Act that I anticipate will be coming forward, and to the Municipal Act in terms of municipal reforms and greater responsibility, I think, by and large, we can look favourably upon the impacts of this legislation and what it means to the housing industry in this province.

There's not an individual in this room who would deny the positive returns and growth we have seen in the housing sector during the last 12 months, one which needs to continue, albeit it has primarily been within the single-family development sector and the resale of existing homes, but a positive climate that's providing growth in the housing sector and development industry. I believe strongly that this legislation will continue to provide us with the necessary steps to provide a strong rental housing market in the province.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Questions and comments?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm very concerned about this issue, particularly when a number of senior citizens probably voted for this government in the last election thinking there wouldn't be any substantial changes to rent control in Ontario, and these same senior citizens and other vulnerable people on fixed incomes are now going to be thrown to the wolves if they decide they're going to move from one apartment to another.

This is in effect the end of rent control in Ontario, rent control which has permitted some increases for landlords to take place but has, overall, restricted the amounts of increases that can take place in our province. I think of students, disabled people and, as I say, our senior citizens and wonder what they're going to do when they find out that they're going to be placed in jeopardy by this legislation, which is catering largely to land developers in this province. I'm sure they were there in great numbers at the Conservative fund-raiser at the convention centre in Toronto -- which had 2,500 people, probably at about $500 a plate -- there cheering them on. I know that group is going to be mighty pleased with this piece of legislation.

But there are a lot of vulnerable people in society, and they are the people who really require the protection of those of us who are elected to the assembly. A lot of vulnerable people are going to be hurt by this, particularly if they have to move from one development to another, one apartment to another, when they can see a substantial increase in rent; and their incomes are likely not going to increase.

As well, we're going to see very easy conversion from rental accommodation to condominium accommodation. What you're going to find out is that instead of increasing rental stock in this province, the consequence of this bill will be to reduce that rental stock and increase the rents.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): To respond to the comment by the previous speaker, I would like to say that the Tenant Protection Act, as it is called, does not do what it professes to do. I think the aim was to bring some equity to the disparity which exists between tenants and landlords, but unfortunately the bill does not do that.

We have spent some time hearing various people on the issues, and absolutely no one is happy with the legislation as proposed, other than the government, of course. They are happy, because they introduced the legislation -- against the will of tenants, the opposition parties, developers, builders, architects, engineers and what have you. Everyone is unsatisfied with this bill.

Tenants are not satisfied, because it does not offer them any more protection than they have now; whatever little protection exists is being removed with the approval of this legislation. The minister said this will promote development of new rental units, but developers came before the committee saying: "This won't do anything for us. This will not help us to build one single affordable rental unit."

If the government has been listening to the comments of engineers, architects, builders, developers and tenants in general, why don't they come up with something much more acceptable, something much more reasonable, that indeed will bring some equity to the system and bring about a system that will be fair to developers to promote and build new affordable rental units -- there is a list of 30,000 people -- and be fair to tenants as well?

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): While I have high regard for the member who spoke, I must say that I don't accept his analysis of the need for this legislation or its impact. Frankly, it's going to mean that tenants are stuck in their rental accommodation. It will mean they cannot move, because if they do, a new tenant coming into an apartment will be subject to a rent increase.

In my area, the committee held hearings in Sault Ste Marie on the paper, and almost unanimous was the rejection of this legislation, of the proposed changes. Of particular interest in my own constituency were the interests of residents of mobile home parks. Many members may not be aware of this, but about 10% to 12% of all the residents of mobile home parks live in my riding, north of Sault Ste Marie. Those people are particularly vulnerable because they own their own accommodation but they rent the lot on which it's located. If they are unhappy with the situation with their landlord, they don't have very many alternatives, because there are not very many lots available for them to move their homes to. It was pointed out very emphatically by representatives of the public who appeared before the committee that the proposed changes in this legislation would make residents of mobile home parks even more vulnerable.

I have said, in a somewhat jocular way, that this legislation will turn tenants into people who are essentially subject to house arrest, because they won't be able to move. If they move, they face rent increases, and that can hardly be characterized as protection of tenants' interests.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise in response to the comments made by my colleague. I certainly appreciate the sincerity of the comments, but the message that came across loud and clear from all the public hearings we attended, I know in my own community of Hamilton and right across Ontario, was very clearly that there was a tremendous mistrust by tenants of the intent of this bill.

Although the title sounded wonderful, although the rhetoric sounded great in terms of the intent of the bill, the reality at the end of the day is that this bill is going to do nothing more than remove rent controls and leave tenants at the mercy of the market forces.

The market forces usually work well to take care of people who are wealthy, to take care of people who are working, own expensive units, who have nice cars, nice jobs. Those folks can probably deal with the changes in the market and those folks can probably adjust to the removal of rent controls, but the vast majority of tenants in Ontario do not fit that category. The vast majority of tenants in my riding of Hamilton East, which has about 8,000 housing units that tenants live in -- apartment buildings -- do not have the luxury of being able to simply pick up and move and choose another apartment they think they can afford, or, when they move into another apartment, of being able to handle a 20% or 25% increase or whatever the landlord decides.

Most tenants are in that exact same situation. This really is a developer protection act rather than a Tenant Protection Act. This protects the big developers, the big landlords of this province at the expense of working Ontarians, poor Ontarians every day.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Middlesex has two minutes to respond.

Mr Smith: It's certainly a pleasure to have the opportunity to respond briefly to the members for St Catharines, Yorkview, Algoma and Hamilton East.

I would say to the member for St Catharines that obviously I don't support the notion that people are being thrown to the wolves or placed in jeopardy.

With respect to the issue of condo conversion, I think it's important to realize that the legislation still retains the first right of refusal to any of those individuals who would be involved in a condominium conversion process. As well, the local official plan still would have the ability contained within it for restrictions to be placed on condominium conversion. Not only are there protections on the provincial side of the legislation but certainly opportunities from the local planning perspective that those interests be protected as well.

The member for Yorkview indicated that no one is happy with the legislation, and I would suggest to him that no one is happy with the legislation we have now. I think we need to move forward. Obviously the Liberal approach is to do nothing and our approach is to move ahead positively, to find a balanced approach to the legislation. It's important to realize that we can't look at this piece of legislation in isolation from the other reforms that are taking place, as I mentioned, with respect to Planning Act and Development Charges Act changes.

I would like to recognize, though, that the member for Yorkview did represent his caucus very well throughout the entire deliberations of the consultation process. We've had the opportunity to exchange ideas on many occasions on this issue previously.

The member for Algoma made reference to the home-owned lease-lot communities, an issue I fully recognize, as I represent a rural community, and an issue that was made very evident in northern Ontario as well; one that requires great consideration, as I said at the outset; one that I hope, as we move to the next step, will be given further consideration in terms of those concerns.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Agostino: I'm pleased to rise today to speak to the legislation that's in front of us, the legislation introduced by this government that somehow would like us to believe that it really is a Tenant Protection Act.

When you look at what is in front of us, when you look at the legislation, when you look at the intent, there are many ways one can describe this. The first one that would come to my mind is that it's a continuous attack on the needy in this province and it's part of a bigger agenda that this government ran on, a bigger agenda that this government espoused in the Common Sense Revolution, which they now try to hide and run from, but it's an agenda of trying to attack the most vulnerable in this province.

When you bring in a system that masks as tenant protection but what it in effect does is force tenants either to face big increases when they move or to be prisoners in their own apartments, you are hurting the most vulnerable in this province, people, as I said earlier, who do not have the flexibility, who do not have the income to be able to simply pick and choose the luxurious apartment they're going to move into next; people who are often struggling to meet their rent as it is today; people who are in buildings that do not meet the standards they should, in buildings that are in need of repairs, in buildings that often lack heat, where often the windows are drafty or windows don't exist and elevators don't work. That is the reality of many buildings across this province today.

Many of these people live in very difficult and harsh circumstances. But at least today they still have that ability not to feel intimidated, not to be stuck in this particular unit. They can try to get it fixed. Failing that, if they're fortunate enough to find something else reasonable and affordable, they still can find another building that is under protection, where rent controls are there today. Under your legislation, all that is gone.

Let me give you one specific, clear example of how this hurts the most vulnerable. Let me show you how it fits in one specific case very clearly this government's agenda of attacking people who are in need in this province. Previous governments brought in programs to help particularly women who were in situations where they were suffering from drug or alcohol abuse. Under previous legislation, before this government changed it -- and I'll get to how this fits -- if a woman checked into a treatment program and she was on welfare, she could continue to collect her welfare payments for a number of months while still being in a residential treatment program. That means a woman could check into a treatment program for alcohol abuse and continue for up to six months to collect welfare assistance to pay her rent on her apartment so she wouldn't be forced out while she was receiving treatment.

What did this government do? In its wisdom, in its wonderful vision and foresight and compassion, this government changed the legislation. What happens now is that if a woman checks into a treatment program for alcohol or drug abuse, her welfare is immediately cut off. That means she immediately loses her apartment. That means she goes into a treatment program for three or four months, she comes out and she has no apartment. If that's not bad enough, the same woman, once she comes out of this treatment program, will have to find a new apartment, a new rental unit.

I would venture to say that most of these people who are collecting welfare probably aren't very wealthy; that's why they're on welfare. Now they're stuck, because with your legislation, once that woman has lost that apartment because she has made the choice to move into a treatment program, which is a good thing, she now has to move into a unit that no longer fits under rent controls; she now has to move into a unit where a landlord can charge whatever he or she chooses to charge. That's one very clear, very simple example of how your legislation is going to impact the most vulnerable and the neediest in this province.

What do you say to this woman now? What do the Tory members say? The message you're sending is: "Stay on welfare. Continue your drug and alcohol problem. Don't check into a treatment program, because if you do, you're going to lose your apartment because we're going to be taking your welfare away. Then once you come out, you have to find a new apartment, maybe at double what you're paying now."

You're attacking kids, kids living in poverty. You've done that from day one. You attacked kids from day one when you took office. You attacked kids in Ontario the day you cut welfare benefits by 22%. You pounded your chest during the Common Sense Revolution and you pranced out all these people who were living high off the hog on welfare. You abused and stepped on welfare recipients for your political purposes. You cut their benefit by 22% while failing to acknowledge that 400,000 kids in this province were relying on welfare assistance. So 400,000 kids had their benefits cut by 22%, and you talk about protecting children and you talk about children in poverty and you talk about children's rights on that side of the House. What have you done? You cut their benefits by 22%.

You're now making those children, living often with single parents in apartment buildings now under rent control, prisoners of that building, of that unit, because their parents -- their parent as it is in most cases -- will not have that choice to move once your legislation comes in, because your legislation says that once you move out of the unit you're in, rent controls end both for the unit you're leaving and the unit you're moving into. So you're hurting kids again. You're hurting the most vulnerable.

You have attacked the disabled community. You promised in the Common Sense Revolution you weren't going to attack the disabled community, you were going to spare them, they weren't on your hit list. Welfare recipients were on your hit list, visible minorities were on your hit list, a bunch of other people were on your hit list when you took office, but you claimed that the disabled community was not on your hit list.

They were not part of your target, because it was not politically popular. It was politically popular to beat up on single moms, it was politically popular to beat up on welfare recipients, it was politically popular to beat up on visible minorities, but it was not politically popular to beat up on disabled people, so you claimed in the Common Sense Revolution you weren't going to do that.


What did you do? You cut benefits to disabled people who were receiving welfare. You cut support services. You cut agencies that serve the disabled community. You cut funding to transportation services that serve the disabled.

Many disabled people who live independently in this province live in subsidized apartment units that today they consider affordable. What are you doing to those people under this legislation? What are you doing for the disabled individual in Ontario under this bill? What is in here to protect them if they want to move because they don't like the apartment they're living in, because maybe there's another apartment that's more accessible for their wheelchair, maybe there's another apartment that has consistent heat in the winter, instead of drafty windows? What are you doing to those folks through this legislation?

What you are saying to them is: "You are a prisoner in your unit, because if you dare to leave that apartment, if you dare move, you know what? Rent controls are gone. The apartment you move into is no longer under rent controls. The landlord can charge you anything he wants. You may be paying $300, $400 a month right now, but there's nothing stopping someone from charging you $800 a month for a new unit." You have taken away the protection that was there, so you've hurt the disabled.

You've hurt seniors. Aid for seniors was not going to be cut. That was a famous line in the Common Sense Revolution. Two years after the revolution steamrolled over Ontario, there are still 8,000 senior citizens receiving welfare, because you moved them out of the category, at 22% less than two years ago. That is not cutting aid for seniors? Well, ask those 7,000 or 8,000 seniors if their benefits have not been cut by 22% in the last two years. Ask those seniors who now have to pay user fees for drugs. Ask the seniors whose services you have cut. Ask the seniors whose agencies that serve them you have cut. Ask them if services have not been cut.

You're going to attack senior citizens again through this legislation, because many seniors who live in what is affordable housing for them, affordable apartment units, will also become prisoners, will also be stuck in their own units. You know what? They're intimidated. They won't dare complain if it's too cold in the winter. They won't dare complain if there's a leak. They won't dare complain if the elevator doesn't work, if the fire exit sign doesn't work or maybe the fire exit door doesn't open. They won't dare complain, because they're afraid to be thrown out, because once they're thrown out, under your legislation they have no choice but to move into another unit, which means rent controls will not be on because they have left the unit they're in; they've lost that protection. You force senior citizens to be prisoners in their own apartments.

How can you not say that this is an attack on the most vulnerable in our society? How can you not say that forcing people who are struggling on limited, fixed incomes, forcing those individuals to remain in the unit they're in, come hell or high water, under all circumstances, because if they move the rent protection is lost, how can you not say that is attacking the most vulnerable?

Let's compare that to someone living in a unit paying $1,500 or $2,000 a month. My sense is that the living conditions just may be a little different from the disabled or the senior or the single mom with a couple of kids living in a building paying $300 or $400 a month. Somehow, the concerns about the heat won't be there. Somehow, the concerns about the elevators working may not be there. Somehow, the concerns about the roof leaking may not be there. Somehow, if they choose to move, if their rent goes from $2,000 to $3,000 a month or from $3,000 to $4,000, it's probably not a big deal because their income can handle it. That is really who you're protecting here. How can you sit here and suggest that you're not hurting seniors, disabled, kids, welfare recipients, the most vulnerable in our province?

In case after case that I've outlined, the people who are most vulnerable under this legislation are going to be those folks. They're probably not too big a priority on your list. We've seen that already. Your actions have said that clearly. Your actions already have moved to marginalize these people. You've moved to marginalize seniors, the disabled, welfare recipients, poor kids, single moms. You've done that from day one, so this is only one further step.

I had a meeting in my riding four months ago to deal with rent controls, to deal with the proposed legislation. This meeting was attended by over 200 people on very short notice. Every single person who spoke was fearful of this legislation. Every single person who spoke said: "You know what? The system we have now is not perfect, but it has improved. It has come a long way and it has certainly gotten better over the years. But the system that is now being introduced and will be implemented by this government is about to make life miserable for us." That was almost unanimous. Almost every single person who spoke expressed those concerns.

We have organizations in my riding -- McQuesten Community and Legal Services, a Hamilton action coalition of tenants' associations, other organizations in Hamilton such as the Housing Help Centre and the self-help centre -- who deal with tenants and tenant issues every day. Speak to those folks. Find out what tenants are telling them. Find out what the most vulnerable tenants in this province are saying to the organizations that work with them and try to help them, and they'll tell you the fear that is there. They'll tell you how people are afraid, are intimidated. They will be further afraid and intimidated as a result of the legislation.

What protection do you have for someone who, for whatever reason, has to move out of the unit they're in and then has to move into a new unit which they cannot afford because you've taken rent controls away? What part of this legislation protects those people? What part of this legislation helps make up the difference between what they're now paying and what they may have to pay? You're going to leave it to the goodwill of the market to take care of that.

The survival of the fittest may work well in the jungle, but it certainly is not what we've built this province on. Trying to help vulnerable people, trying to help people on fixed or limited incomes, is what built this province. Survival of the fittest has been the American concept over the years. That's what your Republican governors, the people you based your campaign on, are preaching and talking about all the time. But that is not what previous Ontario governments of Bob Rae, David Peterson, Bill Davis, Robarts, Frost and others over the years have built this province on. It wasn't built on, "If you can make it on your own, that's great; if you can't, that's too bad," the attitude you're taking not only with rent controls but with many other issues every day in this Legislature.

What is disturbing with all this as well is how the government tries to play both sides of this coin, how it tries to suck up to the developers and their rich, powerful friends who have donated millions to you over the years, how you try to say: "We'll take care of you. This is going to help you. You're going to be able to build apartment buildings right across this wonderful province and charge whatever the hell you want."

You promise them you'll fill their pockets, because once rent controls are gone people aren't going to have a choice. You try to play that end of it with your developer friends, with the big corporations. Then at the other end, you bring in legislation that's called the Tenant Protection Act. "It's not really removing rent controls." You keep claiming that. You keep saying, "This is not taking rent controls away." In the same legislation, though, as soon as someone moves out of their building, the unit they move out of is no longer covered by rent control, so that unit becomes all of a sudden without rent controls, for the first time in many, many years in this province.

Let me remind you, rent controls were brought in by a Conservative government in this province because they saw a need that was there -- a Progressive Conservative government, not the Reform government we have today, a Preston Manning or Christine Whitman style of government, but a Progressive Conservative government that had some compassion and some sense of community, that saw there was a need there and moved to address it.

That unit, for the first time since before those days, is no longer going to be under rent control. How can you say it is tenant protection? How can you say you're not eliminating rent control? We have a turnaround rate of approximately 20% a year, so once your legislation is in place, within five years, maybe six at the most, maybe even seven because people will be less likely to move -- they'll stay in substandard, intimidating conditions because they're afraid once they move they'd have to move to a non-controlled unit -- every single unit in Ontario will be without rent controls -- every single unit.


Your own members' quotes are interesting. On the one hand you're suggesting you're not going to remove them. Mike Harris said:

"We want to bring in a rent control program that will protect tenants and give them lower rents. We will replace nothing until we have a superior plan in place proven to work better."

That was Mike Harris on April 3, 1995, before he became Premier. If you read that, it leads you to believe that rent controls are not going to be removed, that tenants should be happy, right? Mike Harris said: "We're not going to do anything until we bring in something better, something that's actually going to protect you. We're not going to get rid of rent controls."

Al Leach said on October 19, after the revolution had kicked in and the troops had taken over the palace, "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go." So do we believe Al Leach when he said on April 19 to the Ontario Home Builders' Association -- surprise, surprise -- that rent controls have got to go, or do we believe the Premier on April 3, 1995, when he said, "We want to bring in a rent control program to protect tenants"? I don't know whom to believe, frankly. Based on what has happened today, Al Leach is right. Rent controls are going, are gone, are going to be eliminated in Ontario.

It's very clear. The Premier says, "We're going to bring in a rent control program to protect tenants and give them lower rents." Maybe someone on that side of the House, when they speak on this issue, can explain to me how a tenant moving out of a unit today that is under rent control will somehow be better protected and have lower rents by moving to a unit that no longer has rent controls. Maybe I'm missing something here. Maybe someone can enlighten me and tell me how that is going to work, because surely experience has not shown any of that.

You believe that all of a sudden, because you remove rent controls, it's going to spur this great development, that buildings are just going to be built all over the place? There's not a shortage of high-end housing in this province. There's not a shortage of high-end rental units in this province. What there is a shortage of is affordable, lower-end, subsidized housing. That's where the waiting lists are, folks. It isn't for the big condos in the sky. The waiting list is not at that end. The waiting list is for people who are on fixed incomes, the working poor, many individuals who are on pensions, disability, otherwise, who cannot get affordable housing. Which developer is going to go out and build units for those folks? Where are all these units going to come from? How are you going to deal with the shortage and the crisis in affordable housing in Ontario by getting rid of rent controls? Do you think all of a sudden somebody is going to go and put up a 50-storey apartment building and say: "You know what? I'm going to make this affordable. I'm not going to charge $1,500 a month. I'm going to charge $500 a month?"

That's ludicrous. It's crazy. It ain't going to happen.

If the need is not at the top end of the scale where the money can be made, then is there not a different role for government to play than simply to remove rent controls and suggest that by removing this, there's going to be all that housing development and all of a sudden all these buildings are going to go up, pop up in the sky across this great province of ours? I doubt it. I doubt if it's going to get close to touching that.

If it is not going to help that, if it is not going to spur the economy, and it is not and there's very little evidence -- I would challenge members across the floor to show what evidence there has been in what jurisdiction that the removal of rent controls has led to an increase in affordable housing -- if that isn't going to happen, then what are you left with? You're left simply with an attack on the poor, an attack on tenants. You're left with a situation where you're only going to open the door to allow your rich landlord friends to make more money on the backs of the neediest in this province.

If you look at the numbers and what makes up the majority of people who rent across this province, you only have to look at the percentage of their income they pay for rent. Over one third of renters in Ontario pay more than 30% of their income for housing. This is the current level with rent controls, so you can imagine what happens when you remove rent controls from this package. One third of tenants in Ontario earn below $23,000 a year. Last year 66% of welfare recipients or social assistance recipients in Ontario paid more than their shelter allowance, and that is again under rent controls; 66% of people in Ontario receiving assistance paid more than the shelter allowance given to them. That means that money came out of food, out of clothes, out of shoes. Money came out of those budgets to pay their rent. That was under the old system with rent control, with at least some degree of protection. What happens to that same person now once you remove rent controls? Eighty-three per cent of two-parent families with two kids, receiving assistance, had paid rent higher than the shelter allowance given to them. That's a pretty damn high number. That's under the old system.

What happens under your new system? What happens once you remove the ceiling? What happens once you take away the protection that is there for tenants? What happens to those numbers? Does the 83% obviously become 100%? Does that 66% number that reflects social assistance recipients who pay more than they receive in shelter allowance for rent? You've got to remember, if a single mum with a couple of kids is paying substantially more than the shelter allowance given to her for rent, then that money can only come out of what she does for her kids. There's not a heck of a lot left. Are you going to increase welfare benefits to make up the difference somehow? I doubt it.

If someone with a couple of kids moves, is forced out of a building, out of a unit, and is receiving family benefits and their shelter allowance is at $300 a month and all of a sudden they've got to pay $500 or $600, are you going to increase their benefits by $300? Why do I have a tough time believing this government would even consider that for a second? You're not going to do that. That's a given. Nobody expects you to do that. We know you're not going to do it. You've cut their benefits by 22%. So how do these people manage? How do these people cope? How can one argue against the fact that this is going to hurt the people in Ontario who can least afford it? There is absolutely no other way around it; there is no other way to explain it; there is no way to try to skate around this issue. Again I would ask the government members to address that. You're going to get up here to speak.

I would ask you to address how this is going to help a disabled person who may be forced out of her unit because another building may have better wheelchair access, may have wider doors, may have lower light switches, may have a better working elevator, may be more accessible. Maybe someone on the government side of the House can tell me how this Tenant Protection Act is going to ensure that person moves into a better accessible unit and not have to pay more money. How are you going to guarantee that, or on the other hand, if they do, that you're going to increase their disability benefits and their pension for that to happen? That's not going to happen. Of course it's not going to happen.

I don't understand what has motivated this government to do this. I don't really understand it. We're not talking about a small group of people here. There are 3.2 million tenants in Ontario.


I can tell you that tenants will organize. I can tell you that tenants will fight back. I can tell you that tenants will petition your offices. I can tell you that tenants will sign petitions, that tenants will hold meetings, will hold rallies, and they're not going to forget. If you're cocky enough and arrogant enough to believe you can dismiss 3.2 million voters with the stroke of a pen, if you believe you can dismiss the wishes of 3.2 million people that easily, if you think your polling numbers are that good that you can afford to throw away those 3.2 million votes, then I ask you do so at your own peril, because tenants are not going to forget.

Tenants are going to hold you accountable for the fact that they are going to be prisoners in their own units, that they're going to be trapped in conditions they shouldn't be in, that they're going to lose freedom and flexibility because of what you have done, because of your promise to your developer friends, to your corporate friends, to your real estate friends that you're going to get rid of rent controls. Somehow there's going to be this cash cow coming in for them. Tenants are not going to forget what you have done to them, that you shafted them, that you betrayed them.

This fight will be over soon in the Legislature because you have a majority. You're not going to listen to anybody and you're going to ram this thing through. We know that. That is the reality. The fight will be over in the Legislature once you've passed this bill, but this fight is going to go on in every apartment building, in every unit, in every city, in every town, in every street that has an apartment building on it, across this province for the next two years.

It's going to come back to haunt you. It is going to hound you at election time. If not every single member, the vast majority of members have tenants in their ridings. Many have more than others. In many ridings, the tenant vote will make the difference between winning or losing.

I urge the government members to stand up for your constituents, stand up for people in this province who need your help, who don't have a voice. Do not listen to the whiz kids in the Premier's office, because they won't be there at election time to protect you. You're on your own when you have to go to the door of a tenant and explain to that senior citizen or that disabled person why they're trapped in their building or why they have to face 25% increases. Do what is right. Do what is honourable. Vote against this bill. Protect tenants and protect the people you've been elected to protect.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I just want to respond quickly to the comments made by the member for Hamilton -- is it Centre?

Mr Agostino: East.

Mr Bisson: I didn't think it was Centre. My good friend Dave Christopherson might mind that one.

I just want to say that what we need to take a look at what the motivation of the government is in getting away from a rent control system in Ontario. Let's make no mistake about what the government is doing here. The government of Ontario of the day, the Mike Harris government, is saying that when this legislation passes, barring any amendments made to the bill, tenants will no longer have the protection of absolute caps when it comes to the rent being charged for their apartments. Presently under the law, if a landlord wants to increase the rent, he or she can only do so up to a maximum amount. What happens with this new legislation is that there will be no cap, there will be no control. Once the person leaves the apartment, the landlord will be able to either increase or decrease the rent to whatever the amount might be.

The problem is that in cities like Toronto or Hamilton where the vacancy numbers are quite low, we know what the laws of the market will do. We know what supply and demand does. When there is a very high demand and there's a very low supply, we know the rents aren't going to go down; the rents are going to go up. If the landlord is able to get a higher price for his or her rent, we understand that. We're all human beings. The businessperson says, "I own an apartment building and I'm charging $800 a month for the unit, and hey, all of a sudden I can get $1,100." The landlord is going to go for the $1,100, but what does that mean to the tenant?

When the government says, "We are trying to devise legislation that's fair and balanced," I don't see anything fair and balanced in this. I see quite a balance towards the landlord.

What's the real issue? I think if the government were to be fair and balanced in their approach, we would look at what the issues are for landlords and tenants, and those are found within the Landlord and Tenant Act, not the Rent Control Act. That's an argument I've always put forward in this Legislature and on which I'll get an opportunity to comment further later.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): It's my pleasure to respond to the member for Hamilton East and his comments about the proposed legislation.

We have not in fact taken our guidance from any staff member in the Premier's office; we've been listening to the tenants themselves.

The physical condition of the buildings in my riding is utterly deplorable in some cases, and small wonder. Almost half of the public housing stock in this province is older than 25 years of age. It's small wonder these buildings are starting to take on the resemblance, in some cases, of some of the worst slums; not because it was any government's intention, of any stripe, but because the sheer realities of our climate, if nothing else, have guaranteed the continued decline of the physical stock and because there was no incentive for the landlord to make investments in improving and maintaining those buildings. They couldn't even recover the cost of fixing them up.

Clearly it has not been in the best interests of the tenants to have substandard housing. We may have all the property standard rules, but if there is no incentive for the landlord to recover the money -- and that includes the governments, both provincial and municipal -- to recover those investments, they just don't get done.

This bill is all about ensuring that there is a fair balance. In all of Metro Toronto in the year 1995-96 there were 20 multi-unit apartments constructed. Some 50,000 more people lived in Toronto and only 20 housing units were built. Clearly the current law is not working. It isn't meeting the needs of tenants. It isn't meeting the needs of anyone, because as I mentioned earlier, the landlords are just as disaffected and just as concerned.

This bill will improve the climate for investment in multi-unit housing projects in this province. It will encourage maintenance by allowing the flow-through of those costs to a greater extent and in a more timely fashion. But it has to be stressed that existing tenants are still controlled, absolutely controlled, against rent gouging in their current units, and only if they move out would there be a change in those circumstances.

Mr Sergio: I welcome the opportunity to respond to the comments made by the member for Hamilton East. I have to say, on behalf of the House, that he has given a very comprehensive overview of the bill as it has been introduced in the House. He has mentioned everything from how the bill affects tenants in general to the most needy ones in our society, including those who are lying in nursing home beds and are in fear now that they may have to move far away, to the despair of seniors themselves and their families, to the ones he has most crystallized: the children of those families that cannot afford to move to another location.

I can tell you that I have cases in my own particular riding where families, and especially single mothers, with two and three and four kids are forced not to speak up, are not able to move out of their existing apartments. They are forced to keep their children inside because they know what goes on in the yard and in the halls and in the staircases of some of those buildings. There are drugs taking place, there is prostitution taking place, and those tenants are not able to speak up for fear of reprisal, because they know if they move out they will not find the tenant protection they now enjoy in the existing unit. They will not be able to afford another location, another unit. Therefore, as the member for Hamilton East said, this is not tenant protection. There is no tenant protection once you remove those guidelines.

I think he has given a wonderful, comprehensive and --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time is up. Further questions or comments.

Mr Wildman: I'd like to congratulate the member for Hamilton East on his remarks. I took very seriously his concern about those who are vulnerable and are at the bottom of the income scale and what the effects of this legislation, euphemistically called tenant protection, will have on them.

This is not tenant protection; this is an attack on the rights of those who rent. It is an attack on their ability to defend themselves against the market and to ensure that they have shelter which is adequate.

The government says this protects tenants because as long as they stay in their accommodation they will not have rent increases. They say that rent control as proposed by our government and previous governments did not protect tenants, it applied only to accommodation, and that their approach is to protect the tenant. How silly. That's just silly. As I've said before, what this law effectively does is to turn tenants into people who are under house arrest. They cannot move. If they move, they will be subject to rent increases. As the member for Hamilton East pointed out, if these are people who are dependent on social assistance, this government has effectively made it impossible for them to move by cutting their income by 22%, so they are prisoners in their homes. How can anyone characterize this as tenant protection?

The problem with this government is, for some reason I can't understand, that they believe that the poor have too much and the rich have not enough.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Hamilton East.

Mr Bradley: Don't we have one more?

The Acting Speaker: There is one more?


The Acting Speaker: I am sorry. Just one moment, member for St Catharines. I think four have spoken, because we had a Liberal, so we went NDP, Tory, Liberal, NDP. I was right. The figure was right after all, and now the member for Hamilton East can sum up.


Mr Agostino: I thank the members for Cochrane South, Scarborough East, Yorkview, Algoma, and the attempt by the member for St Catharines for their input. I'm sure if you had given him a chance to speak, he would have said some wonderful things about me; I paid him to do that earlier today. I'm sure it would have been worth the money I gave him.

I appreciate the comments that have been made, even the comments from the government member who said, "We are listening to tenants." I find that somewhat interesting, because I sat in on all the hearings in Hamilton, I read the Hansard of many of the hearings that took place across Ontario, and there were very few examples of tenants or tenant groups actually coming forward and supporting the legislation that is in front of us. Again, the key in all this is the issue of protecting people while they remain in their units, which is true, and no one will disagree that this legislation does that: "While you stay in the unit you're in, you're going to be subject to rent control."

Do we not realize, though, that we're then taking away individual freedom, individual choice, we're taking away the opportunity for people to have some bargaining power, we're taking away the opportunity for people to complain and not feel intimidated or oppressed and be forced to stay in the situation they're in? That is the reality of what this bill does today. I go back to what I said earlier: The biggest impact of this legislation is not going to be on people living in high-end, expensive accommodation; the biggest impact of this bill will be on the poor, the disabled, children, people receiving welfare and family benefits, and senior citizens, people who are generally on fixed incomes and cannot afford to have their rents go up at the will of the market. I ask you again to do the right thing and protect those folks.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bisson: I am happy to be able to rise to speak on this bill, but I am not so happy about what this bill is going to do to the millions of residents in Ontario who live in rental housing units. It is really unfortunate that it has taken a number of years to move forward progressively, one step at a time, to try to create rent control legislation in this province that adequately protects tenants and at the same time allows a landlord to make a living renting out his or her apartment building. It's taken a lot of years. It first started under the Conservative government in the 1970s, when it was pushed by the then leader of the NDP, Stephen Lewis, and other members of our caucus who were there at the time, who were able to highlight the issues of what was happening within an unregulated rental market where people's rents were going literally through the roof.

In the 1970s you had people who were being forcibly evicted from their apartment buildings in the city of Toronto and other cities across this province. Why? Because they couldn't afford to pay the rent increases the landlords were trying to pass on year after year in order to exploit the marketplace. Even the Bill Davis government of the 1970s, the Conservative government of the day, recognized that when the pressure was on they had to do something, that you couldn't have a situation where people were being forcibly evicted from their apartments because they couldn't afford to pay the rent. So with some pressure, a lot of work on the part of tenants in this province and a lot of work on the part of the NDP and others, the Bill Davis government listened, and for that we gave them full credit. They introduced what was the first piece of rent control legislation in the country we call Canada, and it was done here in Ontario.

Since the mid-1970s every Parliament, every government since then, has tried to build on the successes of their predecessors. We saw changes to the rent control legislation again in the 1980s under the David Peterson government, not exactly what I would have wanted at the time, but at least they were steps forward; and under the Bob Rae government we finally moved to a system where there is an absolute cap on the amount of rent that can be increased on the part of a landlord. It was set in law.

I remember the debate of the day, because not everybody was unanimously supporting what we were doing as a government, but by and large -- Madam Speaker, you were there and you know, because you come from a downtown riding where this is a very important bread-and-butter issue for the people you represent -- in the end the majority of the people in the province supported what the Bob Rae NDP government had done. Why? Because it was built on fairness and it was built on reality. We realize that landlords have to be able to make a dollar, but they cannot make that dollar at the expense of the tenant to the point that the tenant can't afford to live in that apartment building.

That sets the scene we've seen over a period of time with every government since the mid-1970s: first of all introducing rent control legislation and then every time after that building a better rent control system that works for all.

I remember the election of 1995 because the Tories of the day, the third party under Mike Harris, were making noises about getting rid of rent control. I remember that election well because I was a participant in that election, as you were, Madam Speaker, and everybody else who was in this assembly. At first Mike Harris thought he had a hot button because he had sort of worked against rent control when we had done it. Not "sort of"; he worked against our rent control moves in 1992 and 1993. Mike Harris thought he had a hot button. You know what he thought? "We can tell the people of Ontario that rent control is no good and we're going to make better rent controls for citizens," when what they were really talking about was the elimination of rent control.

The public of Ontario realized what was going on and they started putting pressure on Tory candidates in the last provincial election. How did they end up winning their seats? They said, "I make a solemn oath that I, Bill Saunderson, the member for Eglinton," "I, Derwyn Shea, the member for High Park-Swansea," "I, Al Leach, the member for St George-St David, will not rip rent control apart." "We will preserve rent control" was in their leaflets. They made solemn promises. I remember canvassing in that particular riding for a short bit coming through Toronto one day and seeing on elevators and in hallways in apartment buildings the solemn pledge by the now minister responsible for scrapping rent control: "I will not scrap rent control." I remember those leaflets.

Mr Gilchrist: We didn't do it.

Mr Bisson: The parliamentary assistant says, "We didn't do it." We'll get to that in a second.

They get elected, and what do they do? They flip-flop. They completely turn around by 180 degrees and are running the other way. I heard what they said during the election, that's the problem here, and so did the people of Ontario, especially those people who will be affected by this legislation, namely those tenants who live in cities and towns like Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener, Sudbury and other municipalities, to name a few, where there are very low vacancy rates. They heard what was being promised, because the Tories recognized that if you start mucking around with rent control, you're mucking around with bread-and-butter issues of people. In the end, what does the average citizen care about? "That I've got a roof over my head, I've got enough money coming in the door that I can buy food, and every now and then I can go out and enjoy myself and have a bit of pleasure in my life." When you start mucking around with one of those three things, I'll tell you people don't like it, and that's exactly what this government is doing. They're threatening the tenants of this province by what they are doing through this legislation.

What are they doing specifically? Let's move to that. Unfortunately, I've only got about 24 minutes to go through this entire piece of legislation, and there's not enough time to properly do it. I'll do as best I can in the 24 minutes I've got. Let's go through it one piece at a time just so that we understand here what the government is trying to do.


Let's get to the crux of it. What are they doing? Quite simply, they are saying that in the future, when this legislation is passed and a tenant moves out of a building that is now protected by rent control, the landlord will be able to charge what they want for the rent, no matter.

Madam Speaker, let's say I am the landlord and you are my tenant. You say, "Mr Bisson" -- or Gilles, if we are on first-name terms, which we are -- "I'm leaving your apartment." I go and rent it to my good friend Cam Jackson across the way. Cam walks into my building and says, "Gilles, I want to rent an apartment unit from you." If I charged you $800 a month for that one-bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto, I can charge him $1,000, I can charge him $2,000 or I can charge him $500. There is no rent control once you've left that apartment. And the government has the gall to stand in this House and say, "We're not scrapping rent control"? Come on. What do you think people are? Of course you're scrapping rent control. Rent control is not just about protecting the tenant; it's about protecting the rent on the apartment so that every tenant who comes after is protected when it comes to the price of the rent.

The reality is that we have very low vacancy rates, and there are reasons for that and I'll get to that later, because the government makes a big fanfare as to the reason they've got to do what they are doing.

But the crux of it is that they are getting rid of rent control. When you're able to charge somebody any amount of money you want for rent once the apartment is vacant, that means there is no longer any rent control. The government says once the person moves out and Cam becomes my tenant, he's under rent control. Whoopee-doo. Right, Cam? If I'm charging you $1,200 a month and I used to charge Marilyn $800, that's real good for you. I've already gouged you. It doesn't make a whole bunch of difference.

The interesting thing is what the government is doing by way of this legislation, Bill 96, when it comes to brand-new apartment buildings. I had to check with the parliamentary assistant, because I had read the notes I had written about this bill some months ago when it was first introduced in this House and I didn't believe my own notes. My notes said, "All new units will be exempt from rent control forever." I thought: "Oh, Gilles, you were being an alarmist when you read the bill. That can't be. Certainly at one point, after the building is built and after a number of years, when the tenant moves in, it will fall under some system of rent control."

I then picked up the legislation and I thought: "My Lord, I think when I read the legislation I was right." So I checked with the parliamentary assistant, and I am right. If you build a brand-new apartment building in the province of Ontario under this bill, there will never be any rent control on it. Never.

The government says we have to do this because this is the only way we can encourage builders to build new apartment buildings. I'm going to get to that discussion in a second, but the point I want to make is to go back to the first one, that rent control will not apply once you move out of a building, and if you move into a brand-new building there will be no rent control. That is what is called a deregulated market. What's going to happen, and I predict it and I'm going to say it here today, this date, May 28, 1997, here in the Legislature: You will see rents go up drastically in Ontario, especially in cities like Toronto and Hamilton, once this legislation is introduced and people start moving out of their apartments. No question about it. It is going to happen.

Why? Because those are the laws of the market, and if anybody should understand that, it's you people across the way. The Conservatives tout themselves as the masters of the economy and the masters of the market, and they have the gall to stand here and say: "Oh, Gilles, you're an alarmist. Of course rents won't go through the roof." Come on. Supply and demand. Grade 10 economics class: I took it. The reality is that once you deregulate the rental units and you have low vacancy rates, the landlord will increase the rent, and if he or she doesn't, I'd be very surprised. I would be terribly surprised, because the reality is, when it comes down to it, I don't care who you are -- and in a way I don't blame the landlords; I understand it -- if you have the chance to make a bigger dollar, what are you going to do? You're going to take it. You're going to do it.

It's like I go to work in the morning and my boss says, "Gilles, you're an electrician and you're getting 21 bucks an hour, but if you come to work tomorrow, I'll pay you 23." I'm going to say no? Of course I'm going to say yes. It's the same thing with the landlord.

I should have rephrased it this way: If I go to work and the employer gives me an opportunity to work overtime, more times than not I'm going to do it, because it's more money in my pocket. That is what I really find amazing, that the government has the gall to stand there and say rents won't go through the roof. Come on. The economics are very simple: Supply and demand is going to happen.

The government is saying we need to do this, we need to change this law, why? Because there are no apartment buildings being built in the province. I agree with you. There haven't been a lot of apartment buildings built in Ontario in a number of years, but that is not true just in Ontario. Do you think Ontario is an island unto itself, that it's an economy on its own and is not affected by what happens in Manitoba, Quebec, New York or California? Go and look at the stats in those other jurisdictions. Brand-new apartment buildings aren't being built there either. Why? Because of the cost of construction. It's the price of land; it's the rate of taxes. Yes, in some cases it's the regulation by which you have to meet standards to build these apartment buildings. Those are the issues that developers look at.

I say to the parliamentary assistant across the way, I will bet you today, right now, whatever amount of money you want within the marginal means I have at my disposition, unlike you --

Mr Gilchrist: Your re-election. You won't run again.

Mr Bisson: I will get re-elected; don't worry about that. But I will bet you that five years after this legislation, new construction will not be any greater than it is now by any kind of significant amount. The reality is, the current rent control system that Bob Rae had in place, which was introduced in 1992-93, exempts apartment buildings for a period of five years. If you build a brand-new apartment building, there is no rent control on it for five years. So the market establishes the rent, and at the end of five years rent control is applied.

The government is going to say, "You know, Gilles, the problem is that the developer knows that at one point it will be applied." I say it doesn't make a heck of a lot of difference. The reality is, look at the building costs. If you go out and build a 20-unit apartment building in the city of Timmins, what do you think is the rent you have to charge on that apartment to recoup your investment over a period of 20 years? Take a guess.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): You can't afford it.

Mr Bisson: Exactly. You can't afford it. It's somewhere between $900 and $1,100 on a two-bedroom unit in Timmins. That maybe doesn't sound the same here, but for our rental market, that's quite a bit. The point is, the cost of construction is anywhere from $90,000 to $110,000 per unit. That's what the cost is. If you amortize that over a period of 20 or 25 years, the reality is that the amount of rent you would have to charge to recoup what it cost you to build doesn't make it economically feasible.

Use the simple rule that for every $100,000 of mortgage, you have about $1,000 a month in payment. That's what it comes down to. It's pretty simple stuff. If you're in a market such as we have in Timmins, if you're trying to charge $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, you're not going to rent it, because you can probably get one cheaper than that.

In the city of Toronto, the building costs are even higher. You've got to transport your materials from northern Ontario down to here. The cost of labour is higher in some cases. The property prices in southern Ontario are through the roof. If you go out and buy half a block to build an apartment building in downtown Toronto or Mississauga or Burlington, you will pay a pretty penny compared to what you'll pay in Timmins and that cost per unit is significantly higher than you'd find in the city of Timmins.

Those are the issues. That's the reason they're not building apartment buildings. So don't come into this House and don't go to the public saying, "We're going to do this and we're going to get all kinds of construction to happen," because it ain't gonna happen. The reality and what it comes down to is that it's too expensive for landlords to build it.

If you want to address those issues, I'm prepared to do it. When I was the critic for housing, when the Minister of Housing first started advancing the idea of scrapping rent control -- look at the Hansard records. I said it then and I'll say it again: I am prepared as a New Democrat to sit down with you to address those issues, because I think they are real issues. I have no argument with you there. Let's take a look at the level of regulation in the developer's face when it comes to being able to move projects forward. There are some things you have done that address some of that. There are other things that need to be done. Let's not do that at the expense of the environment, let's not do that at the expense of good planning, but there are certain things we can do. Let's take a look at the issues around development charges, let's take a look at all of those issues. I'm prepared to address that as a New Democrat.


But my fear is, even if we do all that, we still will not address the basic issue, which is the cost of the building itself. That's going to be, in the end, what's going to determine. The only way you can lower that: We'll have to lower people's wages, or you're going to have to go to the property owner and say, "Lower your price." I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a system where the government comes in and tells an individual property owner what they have to charge for the property, or what you can charge for labour as a worker. In a democratic society I don't think that's what we'd want to be doing.

Moving on, the other point I want to make in this particular debate -- there are so many points -- is this: In all my years in public life, when landlords or tenants have come to see me when it comes to problems -- I'll talk about landlords; I won't talk about tenants in this particular part. You know, because you get it as well as I do at your constituency office, landlord X comes walking through the door and they're jumping this high, they're just madder than you can bet. Why? Because they've got a problem tenant and they're not able to deal adequately with the tenant. The rent is not being paid, there may be damage happening inside the apartment, there may be all kinds of problems happening, and the landlord is not able to deal with it.

The problem is that those issues are not contained within the Rent Control Act; they're issues contained within the Landlord and Tenant Act. If the government was coming forward and trying to find some way to balance the need to protect the tenant so that the tenant is not abused by the landlord but also respecting the right of the landlord to make sure his unit is safe and the rent is being paid and that if the conditions are not being met by the tenant there's some way of being able to deal with it, I have no problem as a New Democrat dealing with it. I think that would be fair.

I come from a community where most of the apartments in my constituency, as they would be in most northern members' constituencies, are the people next door who own a building and have one unit in their basement or have one unit upstairs or the people two doors down from me, the Boulangers, who have one apartment upstairs in their building. If you get a bad tenant, that's a problem.

If the government wants to come forward and say, "Let's find a way to deal with that," let's do that. One thing you'd be able to do that would be quite simple -- and I suggested it when we were in government, and we had moved partway to addressing it but unfortunately didn't have the time to finish the work we had started -- is to take a look at what you do when somebody is on social assistance or on welfare and, for whatever reason, they're not paying their rent. Is there a mechanism to do what they do in public housing, which is that the rent is extracted from the payment before it goes to the individual?

I do not advocate that you do that up front. I believe all people should be given the right and the ability to pay their bills on their own without the intervention of the state. But if there's a repeat, a person who is constantly not paying rent, and they happen to be on social assistance, maybe we need to take a look at some means by which the rent is paid directly by the city or province when the cheque is issued, and what's left to the tenant is the money that's left over from the rent, if that's a problem.

I feel for the small landlord. That's a real problem. I've got a gentleman in my riding right now who happens to be out of work because he has been sick for a couple of years. His only source of income is a very small pension he gets, I believe, from the Canada pension plan and what he has from the rent on one unit. He now has a problem tenant. He can't get the tenant out. It's going to take 30 to 60 days by the time he finishes the process of kicking the tenant out. The tenant has refused to pay the gas and has refused to pay the hydro, and consequently the gas and hydro have been shut down in the building. Not only the tenant who hasn't paid but the guy who lives upstairs has got no hot water. The person refuses to pay the bill, and the landlord doesn't have the money to pay for it. How do you deal with that? Those are real issues, and if the government wants to deal with those issues, let's deal with them, but don't come into this House with rent control legislation such as this, because you won't be dealing with what is really going on here.

The other thing I want to comment on are the changes being made when it comes to mobile home parks or, as we call them in real terms, trailer parks. The government is moving in three areas when it comes to trailer parks. I think both tenants and landlords should be wary of what this government is doing.

One of the things they're doing under section 107 in the act is that the landlord can't charge a new tenant more than what the rent was the last time. Let me say this the other way. Under section 107 of the act, what you're doing is putting it under the rent control system, which I guess is not a problem. Let me rephrase that. I was going one way and I decided to go the other; I've got to bring them together some way so it's a nice little package.

The point is that what's happening with mobile home parks is that they're going to be treated just like all apartments out there. If I own a trailer and I'm renting the land from the landlord in the trailer park, there will be no rent control if I happen to move that unit out, and that is not right. The landlord, when he or she develops the trailer park, calculates in what the allowable rent should be and does the planning accordingly, and to leave some tenants without any protection at all isn't right.

You're going to have a situation in trailer parks where some people will be under a form of rent control and other people who are moving in will have no rent control. You're going to have a hodgepodge within the trailer park. You're going to have lot 32, where they're paying $100 a month, and lot 32B -- where I used to live at one time -- because the trailer has come out and the new one has gone in, paying $150 for the same space of land, the same use of services, and they live next door. I don't think that's right.

I don't advocate that you take rent control away, but I think you need to make sure the rules apply the same to the people within the trailer park, because what you'll end up with is a hodgepodge of rents in the end. When trailers start to be moved out and moved back in in some of these trailer parks, you're going to end up over a period of years with a hodgepodge of rents. The one guy over here is going to pay $100 and the lady down the street is going to pay $120 and this person across the street will be $150. It will be all over the map.

Then you're going to have tenants fighting among each other, saying, "How come you're only paying $150 and I'm paying $200?" or whatever the case might be, and then the landlords get caught up in the middle of that. I don't think that's good for anybody. What you need to do is make sure there's some stability when it comes to the rents being charged in the trailer parks so that at least you get away from that part of the confrontation and you keep it fair for individuals.

One thing they're doing in the legislation that I've got to say is probably not a bad idea is something I've long advocated for when it comes to trailer parks; that is, if the city of Timmins -- in the case of the city of Timmins, where I come from, or the town of Iroquois Falls or Matheson -- orders a trailer park to build a new sewer system, build a new water system, redo a road, whatever it might be, the landlord will be able, under this legislation, to factor into the rent the cost of doing those capital improvements.

I think that's not a bad idea, because one of the problems new owners of trailer parks have had is, a trailer park has been built, it's 20 years old, its infrastructure is getting run down and not maybe working as well as it needs to, and the landlord doesn't have the money to go out and do the reinvestment he or she needs to do to bring the trailer park up to standard. The trailer park owner might be trying to do the right thing, but if he or she can't recoup the money on the capital improvements, that gets to be a real problem over the long term. It means work doesn't get done.

I had to deal with one trailer park where that happened. We had what was called Elliot's trailer park in the city of Timmins. It was an old trailer park that had been sold a couple of times. In the end, to make a long story short, the guy didn't have the money and the sewer system broke down. Raw sewage was going into the creek at the back of the trailer park. Finally the Ministry of Health shut it down. They said, "Listen, if you can't run this thing right, shut it down or do the reparations that need to be done." The guy couldn't afford it and the trailer park was shut down.

Luckily, I worked with the city, and we made an arrangement with the trailer park next door. Mr Dan Villars and his wife, Shari, bought the trailer park and made one bigger trailer park and changed the entire sewage system and brought everything up to standard. They're now building the trailer park extension between what used to be Sharidan's trailer park, Ruttan, and what is now this new trailer park between Elliot's and Sharidan's.

What you end up with here in a case like that is not a bad idea. In that case, if Mr Villars had been allowed, he could have factored into his rents existing at Elliot's the kinds of repairs that were done to the trailer park. I think that would have been fair for the tenants, because, as a former trailer owner, I want to make sure I've got good water and sewer. I moved a trailer out of one trailer park because the water was so bad you couldn't wash your clothes in it; it stank because it had a lot of groundwater in it. The owner at the time of the trailer park couldn't get the work done because he didn't have the money to do it and there was no way of being able to recoup it within the confines of the rent control system at the time.

We addressed that as a government by allowing capital improvements under rental buildings, but unfortunately it was never done under trailer parks. The government is moving in that direction, and for that particular one you can give them some credit. That's the good news.


The bad news for trailer park owners is that when Mr Villars down the road on Pine Street builds his new trailer park, which he's doing now, and he starts to install trailers on it, he will be limited as to what he can charge when it comes to the installation of brand-new trailers. As it is now, trailer park owners are allowed, when you move a trailer in, to set it up and charge a fee and to profit from the construction and the fixing of the installation: pouring the cement slab, putting the sewer and water to it, putting the lawn in and putting in the driveway.

I don't understand this. This is a government that says they are the be-all and end-all of the market. In this particular case, and I don't know why, they're saying: "We're going to limit them. The only thing the trailer park owner can charge for is the actual cost." I don't know why you're doing that and I don't think that's a very good idea at all. If somebody's developing a trailer park, it's a very long-term investment. One way they're able to get some dollars to reinvest back into the trailer park to improve the infrastructure is to make a few dollars on installation. They don't make a lot; most trailer park owners are pretty reputable when it comes to that. I say "most," because there are some bad apples out there.

I've got two minutes left and I will just wrap up on this particular point. Let's be clear. What is this government doing? They are scrapping rent control. No ifs, ands or buts about it. I understand it. This is a government that doesn't believe in any form of control.

Mr Wildman: Even self-control.

Mr Bisson: Good point. They don't even have self-control. But mark my words, you will pay the price. Tenants in this province have already started to mobilize. They will start to organize and start to mobilize, and come the next provincial election, if I was the member in Scarborough or the member in High Park-Swansea or wherever there are low vacancy rates and you have the possibility that rents will go up -- I'll tell you, those people aren't going to be happy with you.

I make a note of one thing. The member for Scarborough East or Centre -- I always forget your riding, sir; I apologize for that: Scarborough East -- said: "People are in favour of this. I've gone around my constituency and talked to people and they're in favour of it." No. I've been in your constituency and I held a number of public meetings there, some of them well attended, some of them not as well attended, where people came forward and said --

Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): Low.

Mr Bisson: Yes, one meeting was low, the other ones were high. That happens in this business. What happened was people said quite the contrary. I've got to tell you about one particular meeting. I held a meeting in the city of Timmins where we advertised for a week that we were going to have a meeting on this very issue. We advertised in the paper, on the radio and on the TV to let everybody know it was going on. It was a public meeting, televised live through the community events channel.

You wouldn't believe the interest on this particular issue. It is the one issue that I've had the biggest response from in the city of Timmins since I've been elected as the member for Cochrane South. We had young and old; we had from one range to the other. In the end, you know what they said? "Don't scrap rent control." And 70% of the people there were landlords, not tenants. They said, "Our problem is the Landlord and Tenant Act, Gilles, it is not rent control." Those were supporters of your own party. Those were card-carrying Conservative members from the riding of Cochrane South.

I was very surprised, because I thought, "Hey, the landlords have organized and they're here to say I'm doing something wrong in protecting rent control," but they said quite the opposite. So don't kid yourself. People aren't in favour of this.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gilchrist: I'm pleased to respond to the member for Cochrane South. Let me just say that contrary to the two or three times you may have been in the riding -- at one meeting I think you had a grand total of six people who showed up, and one of them was the former NDP member -- I've canvassed every building, I've met with the tenant associations, I've met with the people, who tell me they don't like the status quo. I'm going to tell you that they want to talk about issues such as privatizing, in the form of making their own condos or co-ops. They want to see movement. They don't want the status quo.

You spent a lot of time in your address talking about why we have a shortage of buildings. You made it sound as if the only suggestion on how to make buildings more profitable for the landlords was to cut wages. That's a typical NDP response. Of course, you'd have to pick on the worker. You left aside the fact that the greatest problem landlords face is the duplication, the red tape and all sorts of other bureaucratic hurdles they have to cross. Development charges: We've taken that on. You're going to see a more positive attitude, because we've come to a more reasonable balance in what the municipalities can charge.

The other red tape in terms of the planning process: Under your government official plan applications took 22 months. Under our Planning Act they're averaging three months in the first seven months since that bill was passed, one seventh the amount of time. Obviously, in all that time period the person who wants to build that building is paying interest on the cost of the land and the cost of the engineering surveys and everything else they've done.

You've got a number of other things. Under Bill 106 you can have a chance for municipalities to assess apartments fairly. Right now, the member opposite knows full well that apartments are taxed at least twice the value of the same-size private homes, and they didn't do anything about that; in fact in Toronto it's as high as four times as great. If you cut property taxes by one half, you're talking about a $100-a-month discount off the current rent. Talk about making it more affordable. We've made the legislative changes to do that, but we're not doing it with blinders on. It's a multifaceted approach to make it more practical for tenants.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'm someone who has been around the track a few times on this rent control routine. I went through both permutations of the NDP rent control, went through the hearings all across the province. I said to one of the New Democratic members at the time, who is no longer with us, "You know, we'll revisit this within five years." I suspect over there you will be revisiting this before the next election.

It's easy to have these grand plans to get rid of rent control, to do these wonderful things in the name of free enterprise. But if the vacancy rate in the city of Toronto becomes lower and lower, which I expect it will, and there are no buildings being built, which there won't be, you will find yourself in a position where the rents are going out of control, where people will not be able to find any affordable accommodation in this city. If that happens, if the market plays like that -- and it has already started -- you'll be back. That's what will happen, because you will not be able to face an electorate under that situation.

Rather than do that, why don't you come up with some real, solid rent control legislation that will protect those who need affordable accommodation? That would make sense. As it is, you're just encouraging -- and I'm happy about it -- all those on fixed incomes, retirees, to come to the wonderful place of Elliot Lake, where we have affordable accommodation in the best retirement city in Ontario. We're happy that you're asking people to come there.

Mr Wildman: I understand the comments of my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin. Elliot Lake has become a refuge for many retirees who are trying to escape the high cost of accommodation in other parts of the province; not just to escape those, but to actually come to stay in the north and enjoy a very high quality of life in our part of the province. It is true that vacancy rates are somewhat higher in Elliot Lake than they are in other cities in this province, but even if all those vacancies could be filled immediately, it would not make a dent in the problems that we are going to see come out of this legislation.

Like the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, I have seen a number of attempts at rent control in this province -- rent review and then rent control -- by Tory, Liberal and New Democratic governments. I can say without any fear of contradiction that this attempt by this government to euphemistically paint an attack on tenants as protection for tenants, to destroy any ability that tenants have to protect themselves from rent increases in the long run, to protect themselves from the vagaries of the market, will be defeated, and this government or a future government will be back, as my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin predicted, revisiting the issue of high rents and how to protect tenants, because this bill does not provide protection for tenants.


Mr Rollins: I think somewhere along the line we've got to look at that inventory of non-existing new stock that's in our province. There's none here. There's been none here in the last five or six years. There has been no new development. Somewhere along the line it's wearing out, and it's wearing out at the cost of not being replaced, and we've got to take a good look at it.

The member over there stood and said, "We can bring in some legislation that would afford to make sure we could cut the cost down." He wanted to dictate to the people who were either working or the people who were buying or selling that property. I don't believe you can legislate to tell people exactly how much an hour you're going to let them pay them, how much an acre you're going to buy that property for, how many dollars you're going to spend to put the bricks and mortar up and then turn around and tell the tenants who are there how much you're going to charge them and then turn around and they add a little bit more on to it and say, "Now you can't raise the cost of it."

Somewhere along the line the system has got to be so that at least the owner can get back a reasonable return from the tenant and the tenant knows the rent isn't going to go bouncing up ridiculously. I think we will put into place a piece of legislation that will at least balance the field. It'll put it a little bit more level. You can't sit there and say, "Yes, it's good now," because if it's good now, how come they're not building new ones? They're not. How come the rents are being raised that sometimes people can't afford? I think we've addressed the problem. We've taken away some development charges. We've made the thing start to get closer to being right. It may not be perfect but it'll be better than what it is at the present time.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Bisson: I would just say in reverse order, to the member for Quinte, that there was a cap. There is presently a cap when it comes to rents now, and the argument you made earlier was that you should leave it the way that it is. That's what you were arguing. The present system has a cap and that's the way it works.

To the member for Scarborough East, yes, I visited your riding. I went to a number of public meetings when I was the housing critic and I can assure that the majority of people I've talked to in your riding, including the former member -- which one was it? I can't remember now.

Mr Gilchrist: How soon they forget.

Mr Bisson: There are so many.

Mr Gilchrist: Not from the NDP, there aren't.

Mr Bisson: Yes, though from Scarborough there were. I can tell you definitely he was opposed to what your government is doing.

In all seriousness, I talked to people across this province when I was the housing critic, not only in your riding, sir, but in ridings across this province: in Sarnia, Hamilton, Windsor, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Kingston, Ottawa, wherever it was. I met with tenants and I would just go and canvass their buildings. They weren't pre-arranged meetings in some cases because sometimes that's hard to do. You told people what was going on and you asked people for their views. They were deathly afraid of what your government is doing with rent control. People understand this. It's a very basic issue. What really matters to individuals' lives, from where they're at, is that they've got a roof over their heads, that they have an income so they can put food on the table and be able to afford a decent lifestyle with whatever is left over.

One of the problems with this legislation is that you're putting that at risk. The minute a person leaves an apartment and has to move, because of a job or whatever it is, into another unit, rents will go up. If you're in an area where you have low vacancy rates like the city of Toronto has, I can guarantee you rates will go up and that will affect the pocketbook. I'll tell you, at that point people will not support what you have done with this legislation. You'll pay the price come the next election. It's as simple as that.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of Bill 96, the new Tenant Protection Act. In his introductory comments to the standing committee on general government on Monday August 19, 1996, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Al Leach, well described the conflicting views of tenants and landlords as "just give us everything we want" style solutions.

The minister pointed out that when obvious problems are brought to the attention of tenants and landlords and when we ask for solutions to these problems, tenant advocates suggest imposing absolute, ultrastrict rent controls that will ensure that a property owner can't get a dime. Landlords on the other hand suggest getting rid of the entire rent control system and all the regulations that go with it.

Our job in establishing a new rent control policy is first to ensure that we clearly understand all aspects of the issue by taking into consideration the views of the many varying groups across the province. To this end, the standing committee on general government travelled throughout the province and heard from over 220 delegations, each well representing their specific views. The delegations included such diverse groups as tenants' associations, landlords' associations, seniors' groups, churches, legal clinics, development companies, student groups, various types of construction companies, municipalities, social planning councils and other various groups and individuals.

After listening to the various delegations, often, I might add, presenting diametrically opposing points of view, it was obvious that regardless of what policy we established, we could not possibly satisfy everyone. Our job in establishing the new rent control policy is, to quote the minister, "to fix the system in a way that is fair and fix it in a way that is balanced." I believe our policy in Bill 96 accomplishes this goal.

The problems resulting from the current system are extremely severe. Over 10% of all rental stock needs substantial repair work and more than $10 billion. Let me repeat that: Over $10 billion in repairs is needed for rental buildings across the province. New rental units are not being constructed. Only 20 private sector rental units were built in the city of Toronto in 1995. The former government's housing policy resulted in Ontario growing into one of the largest landlords in the free world, the second-largest in North America, responsible for over 84,000 units.

The government was in direct competition with the private sector in apartment construction. This, combined with unrealistic rent controls, not only resulted in no rental construction being undertaken by the private sector, but we actually drove many small and medium-sized developers out of the industry altogether. In effect, we have been in direct business competition with the very people we count on to create jobs and pay taxes.

The members of this government clearly understand that we cannot continue the cycle of building and being the landlord of hundreds of new projects while at the same time enforcing rigid controls on the private sector and then expect the private sector companies to be motivated to start building new stock.

Without fundamental changes to the government's existing policies, private companies have no basic motivation to start building new rental units. I can tell you from my own experiences that members who believe the government can construct rental units at a lower per unit cost than a competitive private sector are naïve. I am raising this aspect because rent control and new rental unit construction are interrelated. Private sector firms will only start building new rental units when they believe they are being treated fairly. To ensure new rental units are being constructed by private sector firms, the government must remove itself from direct competition in the industry and allow the natural forces of the marketplace to be re-established.

I consider the proposals of Bill 96 to be very reasonable. The framework of the new rent control policy will allow landlords the right to set rents for vacant apartments at what they consider to be fair market value and not be limited by a provincially set standard. One of the major concerns tenants expressed in response to this point is that they believe there is now an incentive for landlords to harass existing tenants into vacating their apartments, thereby opening the door for the landlord to rent the unit to a new tenant at a significantly higher rent. The possibility of facing a $50,000 fine for harassing existing tenants to move out will force landlords to think twice before they start harassing anyone. Few landlords could sustain $50,000 fines, and they will not jeopardize losing their property merely to pay harassment fines for the difference in rental income they would potentially gain. It simply isn't worth it.


As well, Bill 96 maintains protection for tenants by re-establishing the rent control guideline at the lowest rate it has been in Ontario in 20 years. The rent control guideline will continue at its current rate of 2.8%.

I am very pleased with the new method of settling disputes. Currently disputes are settled in court. Our court system is overworked and backlogged. We are wasting millions of dollars in legal expenses because we have historically used the court system to settle what in many instances are minor problems. The proposal to establish a simpler, faster, less expensive and less intimidating adjudication or arbitration process will be welcomed by all parties.

As well, the existing government policies are piecemeal and confusing, covering eight different acts, including the Rent Control Act, the Landlord and Tenant Act, the Rental Housing Protection Act, the Municipal Amendment Act, the Residents' Rights Act, the Land Lease Statute Law Amendment Act, as well as the Building Code Act and the Planning Act. What we are proposing is a Tenant Protection Act which consolidates everything into one package that is fair to tenants, landlords and taxpayers.

In summary, the government believes that tenants must be protected from unfair rent increases. It believes that buildings must be properly maintained. We also believe that the private sector must be encouraged to build more rental units and that the entire system must be simplified and made less expensive for the taxpayer. Bill 96 accomplishes all of these goals and I believe that it establishes a system which is fair to all sides.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?

Mr Sergio: I congratulate the member for her presentation, but I have just a couple of points. I have to say that the legislation as presented is aimed at providing tenants with continuous rental protection, but indeed it doesn't do that. What it simply does is eliminate whatever protection tenants presently have within the present legislation. It does not protect tenants any more once they move out of that particular unit. So we cannot call that tenant protection any longer.

What we have is a set of guidelines, if you will, that will force tenants to stay within their own present apartments, without taking into consideration the possibility that somewhere along the line, be it a family, be it a single person, a student, a senior, an unemployed, whoever he or she may be, they may have to move for reasons other than simply wanting to move: relocation, job changes, school is over, the family is getting bigger, the senior is changing. For whatever particular reason, they've got to go, and once they leave that apartment, their tenant protection is gone.

The legislation, with all due respect to the members of the government, does not offer them that protection, and I think they know that. But the thing is, they have to proceed and support this legislation. With all due respect, in all the hearings we had, the over 200 presentations -- I attended every day for those five weeks of hearings -- no one said, "We can accept this legislation." So I hope when it really comes down, changes will be made to make it better.

Mr Wildman: I listened carefully to the member for Durham-York and I must say that it must be wonderful to have such blind faith. To believe that a provision in the bill against harassment that provides for a $50,000 fine will protect the rights of tenants from harassment is to misunderstand the realities of the relationship between tenant and landlord.

I know there are many, many good landlords, small landlords and large, who treat their tenants well. Unfortunately, there are many who do not. In those kinds of situations, no matter what it says in the legislation, the tenant will not be able to protect herself or himself. No tenant will even risk the possibility of retribution by complaining in that kind of situation. That landlord does not have to worry about a $50,000 fine, because there will be no complaint made against him.

I don't understand why the member, who obviously has thought about this carefully, doesn't take that into account. These provisions, first under what was then called the Landlord and Tenant Act and then the Residential Tenancies Act, which subsequently was changed and moved to the current rent control situation, were provided because there were reasons. They weren't just thought up by some unscrupulous, nefarious administrator who convinced an unthinking politician to implement them. They were put in place because there were indeed serious problems that tenants faced because they were being harassed and were vulnerable to the unscrupulous demands of some unfair landlords. They didn't just appear. They happened because they were needed, and to simply write them off doesn't mean they're no longer needed.

Mr Gilchrist: I'd like to compliment my colleague and thank her for her comments in support of this bill.

As usual, the members opposite have missed the point completely. To stand in this House and fearmonger and cause concern to the seniors and the less-well-off people in this province, who are living in public housing in particular, with these sorts of absolutely scandalous and outrageous comments is really unbecoming.

The fact of the matter is, with 120,000 more people living in Ontario between the years 1995 and 1996, a grand total of 1,400 apartment units were built. Where do the members opposite propose that these people live?

Your bill is a failure, sir, an abject, utter and complete failure. It has not served tenants. It has not served landlords. It has not served the taxpayers who would be earning property tax on all of those vast tracts of land that are already zoned to be developed into multi-unit apartment buildings but will not be because nobody can make a cent of profit. I'm not talking about one year down the road. I'm saying five, 10, 20 years after building the building, there is no chance of making a profit.

While the idea of profit may be a dirty word to you, the fact of the matter is it also means no jobs in the construction industry when they don't build those buildings. It means no revenue to the municipalities, as I mentioned, which would allow the addition of new services or augmenting the existing services. Those are the sacrifices you've made the rest of this province incur as a result of your very ill-considered bill, which itself was just a continuation of a lot of woolly-headed thinking in response to a phenomenon in the mid-1970s, in a minority government where quite frankly the government of the day was blackmailed into coming up with a piece of legislation that solved a Toronto problem.

That is not the case today. The law of supply and demand will work. The vacancy rate has doubled in Toronto since our election, and I'm sure the bill will serve its purpose.


Mr Michael Brown: That was an interesting set of comments from the member for Scarborough East, but I too want to share a few comments on the speech.

One of the things I know is that tenants are a little bit different from somebody who rents a store. In commercial real estate, we know that vacancy rates change extraordinarily. We know that sometimes during a recession in this province commercial real estate had vacancy rates of over 30%. However, the difference in residential real estate is that it's somebody's home, somebody lives there, somebody who has to have a place to live. If only the market is to decide how things happen, there will be people who cannot afford to live in their home. That is what this legislation does. This is not the commercial real estate market; it is a market that, especially at the low end, needs protection.

No one builds an apartment building to serve low-income people. You cannot make a cent doing that; we know that. We also know that we have to encourage more units to be built. I would say to you at this time that under this legislation you are not going to see any more buildings built than you otherwise would; it isn't going to happen. People are going to continue to invest in condominium projects and conversions. I suspect you'll have fewer apartments a year from now.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Durham-York, you have two minutes.

Mrs Munro: Thank you to those of you who have chosen to comment on these remarks. I would like to begin by summarizing some of the comments that have been made by various members, as they reveal so much of the issue this legislation addresses; that is, the effort to make sure there is a balance between the needs of the tenant and the need to provide new units. That is precisely the kind of thing the member for Algoma-Manitoulin referred to, and I think that is really the critical issue on which this piece of legislation pivots.

The member for Yorkview referred to the need for protection. Very clearly, that's exactly what is suggested in this legislation, that it will provide protection. There is an understanding that people do require this.

The member for Algoma referred to the $50,000 fine. It seems to me that even in the face of much more rigorous legislation, tenants have been able to work together, have been able to become an extremely strong voice, so I really feel the $50,000 fine is certainly going to provide a sober second thought for any landlord.

The member for Scarborough East referred to the need for providing incentive for construction. This is clearly spelled out by many, many others --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.

Further debate?

Mr Sergio: I am pleased to join the debate on Bill 96, the so-called Tenant Protection Act. Let me say at the outset that I will not try to address my remarks solely in support of tenants or landlords, but let me say this at the outset so we clear this up outright: Landlords, big or small, are entitled to make a profit on their investment. The proposed legislation does not include small buildings with three units or less and also does not include new buildings. But if landlords, large or small, are entitled to make a profit -- and yes, they should be making a profit -- we should also take into consideration the small investor, even a homeowner who has finally managed to pay for a single unit and wants to support himself or herself or the family through some additional income by renting a basement apartment or a second-storey flat or unit. They should be offered protection from bad tenants and also should be allowed to make a profit, because they have already invested in that particular unit.

Having said that, let me address the bill itself as I see it. We had three weeks of hearings, one week in Toronto here at Queen's Park and two weeks throughout Ontario, and we travelled in many parts and heard over 200 people, including developers, tenants, tenants' groups, individuals, planners, you name it. Even we ourselves recognize that some changes are needed. We are not saying that the present legislation is totally fair for both the landlords and the tenants; we recognize that some changes are needed, are possible and should be made. But we also recognize that what we heard during those three weeks of hearings is exactly the way we see it: that the bill as proposed does not do what it is intended to do, to give tenants protection.

If I were to say -- I'll try to smile on this one, Mr Speaker -- that the legislation as proposed is misleading, it would be improper in the House, and therefore I won't say it. But it has been introduced with two main purposes in mind: to provide continuous rent control for tenants, and to possibly give the opportunity to developers to go on the market and build more units that would be affordable and yet would allow them to make a profit. Unfortunately, the legislation does not do either one. What the legislation does is eliminate whatever control tenants in Ontario enjoy now under the present legislation.

On June 25, 1996, the minister introduced the legislation and then we had the three weeks of hearings. He was hoping that he would come back in the fall of 1996, introduce the legislation and have it approved by this House. That, as we know, did not happen.

Some previous speakers alluded to the fact that they would combine the other six pieces of legislation into one and make it better for tenants. It is not, as the minister said in his release when the bill was introduced, that he was was consolidating six other major pieces of legislation into one and making it a better tenant protection package. With all due respect to the member who alluded to that, they are removing those six pieces of legislation, not consolidating them. They are totally, completely removing them from existence. How can we say, then, that the changes in Bill 96 as proposed are going to make things better for tenants?

It is most unfortunate that prior to the election of 1995 the Premier made two particular, very straightforward promises with respect to rent control. He said that rent control would continue and that any change to rent control legislation, rent control reform, would have to result in lower rents. Those are two major, totally broken promises when it comes to providing protection for tenants in Ontario. We did not hear from one deputation, individuals, groups, landlords or developers, that this would be the case. How can it happen that we are going to have a reduction in rent when you eliminate rent control? This will not happen.


I must read a couple of quotes from the news release after the bill was introduced by the minister. He said: "We are proposing a complete overhaul to the current system. We want to create a new tenant protection package that works for tenants, landlords and all Ontario taxpayers."

Mr Leach said, "The government plans to create a new Tenant Protection Act by consolidating," as I said before -- in his communiqué, the minister said the act consolidates six pieces of legislation: the Rent Control Act, the Landlord and Tenant Act, the Rental Housing Protection Act, the Municipal Amendment Act, the Residents' Rights Act and the Land Lease Statute Law Amendment Act.

The following is curious, if not hypocritical: "We are looking at the whole picture," the minister says. "We realize that in order to protect tenants, improve maintenance, create new supply and strike a fair balance for everyone, we have to look at more than just rent regulation."

It says, "Mr Leach stressed that the new law will continue to protect tenants from unfair rent increases by keeping annual rent control guidelines." If I were allowed to say it in this House, I would say this is totally misleading and lying to the tenants of Ontario, but I won't say that, because I'm not allowed to say so in the House.

What the minister failed to say publicly to the tenants of Ontario -- let me say that all the tenants, both individuals and groups, that we heard during the submissions were not uneducated or silly or stupid. They were well familiar with the legislation proposed by the government, by Mr Leach. They are not being fooled by what the minister has been saying even in his communiqué. What he is saying indeed is, "We are keeping the 2.8% guideline, and we are going from 3%, which presently exists, to 4%," which represents a 1% increase from the NDP era, allowing directly, without any problem whatsoever, rent increases of 6.8% per year.

The minister says, "Tenants will continue to be able to challenge illegal rent increases." Well, hold on a second. That's the part tenants don't like -- they don't like to be lied to -- because once the tenant removes himself from that particular unit, the new tenant has no protection in that unit. There is no control in that unit. Is the minister trying to fool us, trying to fool tenants in Ontario? There is no protection, as he said in his communiqué, from illegal rent increases. The fact is that once a tenant leaves the particular unit, that unit falls within the new act guidelines, with no protection, no control whatsoever.

Who, even in the workforce, is getting a straight, without any challenge, 6.8% increase? Who? No one. Plus there are some other clauses in there which say that if you have extra costs that you can justify, then your rent will even -- do I have 173 minutes or is something wrong with the clock, Mr Speaker?

The Deputy Speaker: Go ahead.

Mr Sergio: It's correct now?

The Deputy Speaker: Yes, it is.

Mr Sergio: I can start all over again; I have no problem with that.

When it comes to what the minister was saying, we have to be honest, we have to be truthful with tenants, because they are the ones being affected and they are the ones the new legislation should be taking care of. Let me repeat that once this legislation is approved, there is no protection for tenants in Ontario.

What the tenants were saying during the public hearings was that if this legislation is allowed to proceed and is approved by the government, this will mean the beginning of the end for protection of tenants and rent control in Ontario. For many, I have to say this is the end of a dream. Who can say no? Who can be opposed to that when so many tenants can no longer afford the luxury of moving at will from one place to another? They will have to move for whatever reason may happen to be causing them to move, from east to west, north to south, or even within an existing neighbourhood.

It is most unfortunate also that the minister has chosen to say that the housing crisis is a phoney crisis. I say it's most unfortunate because the government and the minister do not recognize the fact that there is a waiting list of 30,000, and growing, of people waiting to get into affordable units. That spells a waiting period of some five years or more. I'm asking you and the government and the minister if it is fair that we should tell needy people -- I'm talking needy people -- "Go ahead, make your applications, and we will call you five years down the road when a unit will be ready for you." This is most disheartening for tenants in Ontario, especially when we have about 42% of seniors occupying rental units, most of them subsidized units.

It is totally unfair when the government says, "We are producing a document that is going to be better than what we have now." It is totally impossible. Let me tell you that especially seniors living in rental units are living in fear, because they will be trapped. They will lose the freedom to move from one place to another. They are living in fear that they may be subject to undue intimidation, harassment, even though you may say the legislation provides that harassment is not allowed. Take it to court and prove that yes, indeed, this was harassment. Most tenants don't even know how to go about that. They don't have the luxury, the money, to do exactly that.

Plus, as has been said before, many tenants don't want to bring any problems they may have into the open, for fear of reprisal. They know that if they can barely afford to stay in the existing unit, they won't be able to find another unit that will be affordable, because wherever they go, if they find a unit that is empty, they will have to pay whatever price the landlord wants for that particular unit.


Let me say that it is a total fallacy when the minister and the government say: "Well, you negotiate with the new landlord. You negotiate your own monthly rent, whatever that is." I wonder where you're going to find a landlord, when the minister recognized that we have a zero vacancy rate in Metropolitan Toronto, who will negotiate their monthly rental. Let's be fair. Let's be honest with tenants in Ontario.

As I said at the outset, landlords should be making a profit on their investment. The large developer, the large investor, the small one, the individual one, should be making a profit on their investment. But it is also our responsibility, the responsibility of this government, to provide continuous protection for all tenants in Ontario. I can't support Bill 96, we can't support it, developers can't support it, tenants can't support it, because it does not do that.

Even during the hearings we had big, huge developers and builders saying, "If this is not acceptable to tenants or us either, why is the government proceeding with this legislation?" Nobody knows. Developers said, "In order for us to build more affordable units, a number of things will have to be done on top of eliminating rent control completely." We said, "What else would you like to see the government do, Mr Developer, for you to go on the open market and provide affordable units?"

They said, "you would have to eliminate the federal taxes, the provincial taxes. You would have to provide cheaper land. On top of that, you would have to provide a subsidy." I mean, what else do they want? On top of that -- and we just approved Bill 98, I believe, which deals with development charges -- they said, "You have to drop development charges." With all due respect, what do we give to tenants?

Developers came and said: "On top of what we are now making legally, 6.8%, if you want us to go on the market and build more affordable units, you've got to remove completely provincial sales taxes, federal sales taxes, and provide us with very cheap lands. You've got to reduce completely the development charges. On top of that, you've got to give us a subsidy."

If this doesn't do it, and they said this doesn't do it, why continue to press on with the elimination of rent control as it is? As I said before, we should strive to make the system fairer for both, but in the eyes of eliminating rent control completely, leaving tenants with no protection whatsoever, this legislation should not proceed, should not have been introduced. It does not do what the title of the proposed legislation claims to do, does not do what the minister said and does not do what the now Premier said prior to the election. How can it? How can it provide long-lasting protection for tenants when you are removing those barriers?

The other thing is this, and I don't think we have addressed it at all, or to any extent: On top of the 6.8% that landlords are allowed to charge tenants without any question, landlords are allowed extraordinary operating costs, which means that any tenant, present or future, under the new proposed legislation would have to absorb the cost of an increase in property taxes. Should I deviate, Mr Speaker, and go into more property taxes with the downloading? I think that would be an issue on its own. I don't have to tell you the amount this would represent. The landlords can pass to tenants the increase in property taxes, and they will; increases, for example, in hydro rates, in water rates, in any other thing they call extraordinary operating costs.

How much more the tenant is going to pay if he has to leave an existing unit. The tenant has to move out, go to another place, perhaps pay hundreds of dollars more than what he's paying now. On top of that, they will never know what the final rent will be because the landlord may come and say: "Look, this is not my problem. The municipality now is charging me more because of hydro or water rates; they just increased the rates." That poor tenant has no recourse.

There is no recourse for tenants, Mr Premier, Mr Minister, because they are extraordinary costs brought about by the downloading by the government on to the municipalities, the municipalities downloading on to the landlord, and the landlord on to only one person: the tenant. That means there is indeed no assurance of how much at the end that tenant is going to end up paying. So now not only do they have to live in fear that they can't move from their existing units, they're living in fear that, "I have to go to another building, I have to pay more, and at the end, how much more will I have to absorb because of extraordinary costs?" I think it's totally unfair.

Some of the previous speakers have addressed the concerns of the tenants. One of the speakers said: "What did the tenants say? They didn't complain too much." My goodness, if the tenants didn't complain, there is one very wrong thing: It means we did not listen to those hundreds of tenants who came, day in and day out, telling the members of the committee that what we are proposing doesn't do them any good.

What they were telling the members of the committee was that this new proposed tenant protection package will lead to larger and more frequent increases. It will lead to unfair and unreasonable evictions. As I have said before, the bad tenant has got to go, no problem; I'm in favour of supporting landlords small or large who have problems with someone abusing the unit.

Tenants are in fear that this will not provide better maintenance of a building, that fewer repairs instead of more will be done, and that this will provide a complete loss of rental units to other uses and will add, I have to say, to homelessness in Metro and in Ontario.

To those members, I would say they did not listen to the plight of the tenants during the three weeks of hearings we had, one here and two throughout Ontario. This is what the tenants were suggesting, and I want to ask the members on the government side, what is wrong with this request? The requests are fair, reasonable, and indeed, if applied to the proposed legislation, would provide some tenant protection, as we should, and the legislation is entitled to supposedly do that.

They would say that rent increases must be set by government guidelines. Bill 96 does not do that.

Tenant and tenant groups are saying that above-guideline rent increases must have a cap. Who can argue with that? Tenants must know how much their rent is going to be, so there should be a cap.


They say that rent must be linked to maintenance. I think that's fair. If a slum landlord does not maintain the building, why should a tenant be living in those conditions when a landlord fails to maintain the building because he wants the tenants to get out? That's totally unfair.

Tenants have rights. Tenants must have the right to stay in their home without fear of being evicted unfairly or just because their lease runs out. Why not? Why shouldn't we offer that protection to tenants?

Also, tenants must be entitled to their privacy.

Tenants must be covered under tenants' rights legislation.

These are some of the things tenants told the committee during the three weeks of hearings. Why shouldn't we provide those rights and that protection to tenants in Ontario? Is this unfair? I don't think so.

I can see I have only a couple of minutes left, and I want to rush to the conclusion.

One of the members, I think it was the member for Scarborough East, said, "Oh, please, don't throw at us this fearmongering that seniors will suffer, that seniors will be subject to rent increases and all that." Well, let me tell you, when you have a waiting list of some 30,000 and growing and when the Ministry of Housing is telling those people -- I have letters on file that tenants go there and are being told: "Don't bother us. Don't call us. Don't write us. You have made your application; now you've got to wait your turn, which is going to be five years down the road. By then we'll call you." Is this fearmongering? Those are real people with real problems and real needs.

The figures don't come from me, they come from the government files. This is not fearmongering. This means truly that there hasn't been one new rental unit built at affordable prices. It's not fearmongering. It is telling the people: "You're on your own. You go and look for your affordable housing, and if you can't afford it, that's too bad." I think we have a sacrosanct responsibility to provide for those people who cannot provide for themselves, in the same way that we should allow the landlords to make a reasonable profit on their investment.

We recognize that the system is unfair in many ways, but this is not the way. Now the scale is totally tilted to one side in favour of developers, even though they will not provide any new affordable units, versus the tenants. They will be left without any protection whatsoever. I believe that waiting five years for an affordable unit is not only unfair, it is unjust. No government, present or future, should abandon those who can't look after themselves and say: "That's too bad. Go on the list and look after yourself."

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to be able to comment briefly on the speech made by the member for Yorkview. As he pointed out, correctly so, this bill isn't exactly what it seems to be. In fact, when we look through this bill, we see a lot of impact that is completely different from what the government claims is going to be the case.

We know this is the end of rent controls. The government likes to pretend that rent controls are still here because, as they say, they're going to apply to those tenants as long as they live in the same apartment or the same dwelling unit. We know that just the mere fact that over any five-year period some 70% of tenants tend to move means that controls are automatically going to come off the vast majority of properties.

Then what about the protections that now exist for tenants with respect to increases in their rent? Again, if you look at what this government is doing with this bill, they of course put it all in nice words that say: "The guideline is still going to be there. We're still going to have a little bit more room in terms of the capital." Only when you push a little bit do they point out that in fact they're increasing the ceiling under the capital cost up to 4% and that this is being given now automatically, as I understand it, to landlords when they apply for it, as opposed to them having to justify it. That means again an automatic increase that's going to take place.

That, together with some of the other changes we see in the bill we've been discussing and I know we'll have a chance to continue to discuss, will mean at the end of the day that rent controls, not just as we've known them but really in any kind of meaningful way, will disappear from Ontario. A system that has generally worked is no longer going to be with us to protect tenants and to provide that balance between tenants and landlords.

Mr Smith: It's certainly a pleasure to provide a few comments. I did, as I mentioned before, spend a considerable amount of time with the member for Yorkview in committee as we went through the pre-consultation period, and I think it's important to realize that we have some guidelines in place, both the 1996 and 1997 guidelines, fixed at 2.8%, the lowest rate in some 20 years. I think it's very important to recognize that we're moving in that direction.

One of the interesting points, and this legislation addresses it, was that across the province all landlords called for the retention of maximum rent. This is associated, my comments, in terms of the fears that rents are going to skyrocket in increase. If landlords were concerned that this scenario were going to materialize, they wouldn't have been as aggressive in terms of their position to retain maximum rents in the event that there is a soft market. From that perspective, we know that in many cases the market is already starting to dictate what it will bear in terms of rent.

As well, we heard very clearly that tenants were concerned, but we heard of outrageous stories in terms of conditions and experiences under the current system. We know the current system doesn't work. We know vacancy rates are low. We know housing stock is down. We know maintenance is poor.

The sitting-on-the-hands approach the Liberal member is proposing is not acceptable to the government. We have to move ahead. If we sit, as some have suggested, for another five years until we revisit this issue, those conditions will not improve. There are some immense challenges that have to be dealt with. In fact, the waiting list of some 30,000 individuals the member referred to speaks very loudly of the need to change the system we have in place today.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I'd like to compliment my colleague the member for Yorkview on his contribution to today's debate because he certainly has a view from a perspective in large urban Ontario that some of us in small urban Ontario don't have, and yet we have our concerns like my colleague has.

I represent in particular the communities of Amherstburg and Leamington, where they have apartment buildings, but all the communities where they have rental accommodation. In my riding we have the largest concentration of seniors, retired people, in the province. It's on their behalf I want to speak, and I'll use an example.

My mother and her husband had a two-bedroom apartment because the two of them wanted a little more room. Now that my father is in a rest home, my mother may want to move to a smaller apartment, a one-bedroom apartment. Now she'll be afraid to do that, because all the apartment owner then has to do is jack up the cost of that accommodation. So she's going to be staying in accommodation that's a higher cost than she wants to pay because of the size of it, but she can't move to a smaller one because the rent will go up. Is it fair that if she moves, an apartment she lives in may cost half again as much or twice as much as accommodation somebody else down the hall has?

We heard during the hearings from both landlords and tenants; both objected. I still don't think the government has it right.

Mr Bisson: The member for Yorkview succinctly went directly to the point of what this legislation is all about: giving additional ability to landlords in Ontario to raise rents. That's purely and simply what this is all about.

You have to ask yourself why. Why is the government doing it? They're not exactly stupid on the other side of the House. They understand that if you take rent controls away and you leave the rents to be established according to the market, according to supply and demand, rents will go up. If the government knows that, which I know they do -- they understand that taking away rent control is going to drive up the price of rents -- why are they doing it? That's the question you have to ask yourself, especially when a number of key members in this government, namely the Minister of Housing himself, the Honourable Al Leach, campaigned in the last election saying he wouldn't scrap rent control.

Why are they doing it? Because they've clearly decided whose side they're on. They've said, "We are on the side of the landlord and the developers and there's nobody else in this equation." They've picked sides. I understand that because I'm a member of a government that also picked sides. We said, "We will pick the side of the tenants, because the way we see it, there are far more tenants in the province than there are landlords, and the reality is that the Rent Control Act itself allows landlords to make an adequate return on their investments in the way it's structured." We said, "We're not going to forsake tenants and put them in a situation where they in the end will be hurt because of rents going up."

We picked sides; you have. You're on the side of developers. I say you're wrong. In the end you will pay the price.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Yorkview.

Mr Sergio: I thank the members who responded to my presentation. Let me say that it boils down to one thing. It's not an issue to play politics with. We are dealing with tenant protection here; we are dealing with a piece of legislation to which the government evidently is not attaching the due attention it should.

We are dealing with tenants' lives, many of them seniors who have nowhere to go, nowhere to turn. We are dealing with people who are on a single, low monthly income. We are dealing with single mothers with two or three kids who have nowhere to go; they can barely afford to pay the rent, buy some food, clothe the children. How can we turn a blind eye to those people? This is what it is about. This is what tenant protection legislation should be. I am totally disenchanted with the government side, which does not see the plight of those people in need.

As I said before, we know in my particular area there are tenants who are afraid, let alone seniors who are afraid, but younger people who are afraid to voice their concerns for fear of reprisal, that they will be kicked out of their present units.

There are a number of other things I didn't have time to address, such as the loss of existing rental units to condos and other uses. The present legislation gives power to local municipalities to convert existing rental units without any problem, without any hearings, to other uses. I think that's unfair. This will compound the problem.

I thank all the members and I thank you for your time.

The Deputy Speaker: It being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1804.