Monday 29 July 1991

Closure of Land Registry Offices

Canadian Bar Association--Ontario

Terrance Carter

Association of Ontario Land Surveyors

Patrick Galway, Dorothy Finner, Garth Teskey, Jonathon Robinson

Afternoon Sitting

Ron MacDonell, Raymond Lapointe

Douglas Grenkie

Karen Gorrell

Bill Dillabough, J. P. Touchette

Maurice Sauve, Pierre Aubry

Richard Tobin, Barry Laushway, Wilfred Peters

Coalition Against the Closing of the Registry Offices

Gil Deverell, Derek Graham

Ontario Public Service Employees Union

Glencoe and District Historical Society



Chair: Mancini, Remo (Essex South L)

Vice-Chair: Brown, Michael A. (Algoma-Manitoulin L)

Abel, Donald (Wentworth North NDP)

Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South NDP)

Drainville, Dennis (Victoria-Haliburton NDP)

Duignan, Noel (Halton North NDP)

Harrington, Margaret H. (Niagara Falls NDP)

Mammoliti, George (Yorkview NDP)

Murdoch, Bill (Grey PC)

O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa Rideau L)

Scott, Ian G. (St George-St David L)

Turnbull, David (York Mills PC)


Conway, Sean G. (Renfrew North L) for Mr Scott

Fawcett, Joan M. (Northumberland L) for Mrs Y. O'Neill

Ferguson, Will (Kitchener NDP) for Mr Bisson

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC) for Mr Turnbull

Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville PC) for Mr Turnbull

Also taking part:

Arnott, Ted (Wellington PC)

Jordan, Leo (Lanark-Renfrew PC)

Clerk: Deller, Deborah

Staff: McNaught, Andrew, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1100 in room 228.


Consideration of the designated matter pursuant to standing order 123, relating to the closure of 14 land registry offices.

The Chair: I would like to call the standing committee on general government to order. The committee has scheduled 12 hours on a motion that had been presented to the committee some time ago, the matter designated pursuant to standing order 123 relating to the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations decision to close 14 land registry offices. That is the matter Mr David Turnbull has put before the committee as one of the opportunities under standing order 123 to look into a subject which may be of interest to any particular member or party.

We have a full slate of presenters this morning and also this afternoon. We are going to spend tomorrow on this matter also.

Mr B. Murdoch: Before we go on, I would like to move a motion.

The Chair: Mr Murdoch moves that this committee request that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations attend these hearings on the closure of the provincial registry offices and that when the matter comes to a vote, we hold a recorded vote on this motion.

Any discussion on the motion?

Mr B. Murdoch: I think it is imperative that the minister be here to hear the discussions on this matter because it is an important matter to a lot of areas in Ontario. I just think this is her doing, and if she is not here to hear what we have to say about it, I do not think the impact will be as great. I feel that she must be here.

The Chair: Any further discussion?

Mr B. Murdoch: Not at this moment; maybe some of the rest.

Mr Ferguson: I have a number of comments I would like to raise on that. First of all, I do not think it is reasonable under any circumstance, where you disagree with the government on one of its cost-cutting measures in order to ensure efficiency, that you immediately ask the minister to appear. I do not know if the minister can share with us any more information than has already been shared to this point in time.

I want to assure the member opposite that in fact the minister has every intention of reading the committee minutes and consulting with members of the committee on what is a critical issue, an important issue, facing some municipalities throughout Ontario.

The minister, in her statement to the Legislature, clearly outlined why she is undertaking this measure. It is not just this ministry, but it is a combination of efforts among many ministries. That is the reason we are looking and planning to proceed with the closing of some offices. Some of the offices, as she has already rightly explained, are not the most efficient. Efficiencies can be gained.

I think this begs, of course, a broader question and a much larger question any time any government of any political stripe tries to effect some efficiencies. Obviously there is a cause-and-effect relationship and some of those on the receiving end of that effect are not pleased with the government's decision. However, I think if you look at the big picture in a much broader context, you certainly will recognize that it does make sense, particularly when you look at the bottom line.

I have received many calls on this matter. I met with the mayor of Cambridge on this matter and have spoken to her, as well as some of the legal counsel who operate in Cambridge. They have outlined their concerns as well, and it is the old alternative that is always presented: "Well, you can cut somewhere else." The fact of the matter is, no matter what you cut, no matter what efficiencies you try to put in place, somebody is going to be affected somewhere and not everyone is going to stand up and applaud the decision. I think we all know that.

The minister is on record as stating that. She has put forth the reasons and the rationale behind it and, quite frankly, I just do not see at this point any good reason why we should ask the minister to come in and appear before the committee and reiterate what everybody here knows. We know her position. She has outlined her position, I think, very succinctly, very concisely.

In all fairness, we did not receive any notification that this motion would be brought forward. If you want to deal with the motion now, that is fine. I am going to ask for a 20-minute adjournment then, which is going to put the schedule right back and you can plan on being here later today, which certainly is not a problem with our side. But I am going to ask for a 20-minute adjournment if you want to deal with the motion right now, until some of our individuals who are late in arriving, for some very good reasons -- I want to reserve my right to adjourn for 20 minutes until we get our members in place.

Mr Tilson: I am disappointed that Mr Ferguson is suggesting he is going to delay these proceedings. Our concern from our party is that the whole process be speeded up.

Mr Brown: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I am concerned that this is taking time from the 12 hours we have to debate the actual substance, so could you inform me as to whether the time being involved in this debate right now is part of the 12 hours?

The Chair: This is part of the 12 hours.

Mr Tilson: There are a number of things that we do not know. Since the minister made her statement in the House, there have been a number of articles in the press, some of which have been distributed to us this morning, specifically the Law Times, where a number of questions have been raised with respect to what the real costs are. We do not know what the real costs are. We do not know what the costs are for closing, for moving, for setting up new facilities. Are they going to have to expand the facilities that these registry offices are moving to? What new staff is going to be hired?

There have been very serious allegations made with respect to ministry staff. There is the issue of loss of employment. There is the overall effect of this on the financial aspect, on the budget. There is the threat of litigation. There has been a threat specifically out of the Law Times that there may be litigation as a result of all these proceedings.

There is the overall issue of the cost to the consumer. There are the difficulties and the confusion, as reiterated I think in the editorial of the Law Times, in regard to specific legal problems that one set of lawyers in a particular area may be aware of in a particular area around a registry office, whereas if you move to an area a substantial number of miles away, those problems may not be found because of the specific knowledge of those lawyers in that area. I can tell you that when you get into encumbrances and road allowances and rights of way, those are very difficult issues.

All of those questions have not been dealt with by the minister and, accordingly, I think it is most appropriate that the minister attend this committee and answer these comments that are being made in the press and that are about to be made in these hearings.


Ms Harrington: First, this time, according to our agenda, is to hear the guests we have invited, and I think it is very appropriate that we make sure we do that. Second, I would assume that a request that a minister come should have been made before this point in time, since we only have two days for this matter. I would have assumed that for all the guests who have been invited, at the time they were invited the minister would have been invited as well, and her staff should have arranged such. At this time I believe she is in the Maritimes, so it is just physically impossible.

I would respectfully request that the member withdraw the motion for several reasons, but it is the mandate of this committee itself to deal with the issue and I would presume to bring this committee's recommendation to whomever, including the minister.

Mr Jordan: I really believe I would have to support the motion because the minister's analysis relative to Lanark county is flawed. The analysis, as I understand it, only refers to the Almonte registry office relative to Lanark county. It does not take into consideration the fact that it serves part of West Carleton, Kanata and the Ottawa district, so if the actual activity of the Almonte registry office was to be part of the analysis, I think the minister would understand the concern that the people from Almonte and district have.

The other thing is that the minister was invited personally by myself, in company with another member, to this committee. She at that time was doubtful she could attend, but she was aware of it and we verbally discussed it, just as we did in the House relative to when she said, "I'll have the staff review the analysis of Almonte." This is again verbal, which was never confirmed to me, but I would just like to make that point. I think the minister would be well to have the extra information that is available, and perhaps be able to ask the people from Lanark some detailed questions.

Mr Arnott: I would just like to add one very brief comment. I definitely feel that the minister should be attending to listen personally to these proceedings. There have twice been local meetings, public meetings in the last couple of weeks in the communities of Arthur and Durham to generate some opinion to determine what the local people feel about the closures. Ministry staff have been invited to both. They declined to attend both. There is tangible evidence to suggest that the minister is not prepared or willing to listen, and I think she had better start.

Mr Brown: I am surprised that the government is taking this view that it does not wish to have the minister appear, or at least be here at the committee to hear what is being said. It seems to me that it means this government has made up its mind and does not want to listen to the people of Ontario or the people who are coming before this committee.

Having the minister come perhaps might be a useless exercise. It appears from what we have heard from the government benches so far that they do not intend to listen to what is being said here by the people and by the two parties in opposition, that it is a foregone conclusion and maybe the next two days is just a lot of flapping of the gums, so to speak, without a whole lot of real useful result.

Anyway, we would be supporting a motion to have the minister appear and listen to this committee and what is being said here, because we think that in good government the minister should hear what is being said in the committees on this important issue.

Mr B. Murdoch: Just to wrap up, since it was my motion, I feel the minister should be here to justify her actions. She has made statements on the floor that all counties will have a registry office. This is not true; some will be without them. She has had lots of time to set this up. We knew this a month ago. It is just appalling that the governing party would say that she does not need to be here. I thought that is what these meetings are all about, for people to understand and find out what is going on. I am really upset that they would even think she should not be here.

Ms Harrington: I would like to clarify the record. The government members would certainly be most pleased if the minister were here. We have no particular objection to that. As you know, ministers are very busy, and for any ministry, any ministry at all, the staff or deputy minister, etc, would certainly be able to do that job of bringing the message directly to the minister herself. That is in fact what their job is.

The Chair: Other members who have already spoken wish to speak again, but I think there has been full discussion. We have only 12 hours to do the public's business.

Mr Ferguson: Just as a point of information -- I do not want to prolong the debate on this.

The Chair: I am afraid we are going to get into a full second round and I do not want to.

Mr Ferguson: Just as a point of information for the members --

The Chair: Order, please. I am not going to allow any further discussion because everyone, every party has been allowed full discussion. We have only 12 hours. There has already been a request that we delay the vote for 20 minutes, which is going to come off the 12 hours.

We have people who have come to Toronto, some from long distances, and others have interrupted their own schedules, to make presentations to the committee this morning, and we are going to try to hear everyone who has been put on our schedule. I apologize to all of my colleagues for not allowing each and every one of you to have a second chance at this discussion, but the first thing we are going to have to decide is whether or not we want the 20-minute recess as has been requested. Do you want the 20-minute recess?

Mr Abel: Absolutely.

The Chair: That is fine. The committee will vote on this motion at approximately 1132. The committee stands adjourned for 20 minutes.

The committee recessed at 1117.


The Chair: The standing committee on general government is called to order. I would like the clerk to read the motion as put before the committee.

Clerk of the Committee: "Mr Murdoch moved that this committee request the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations attend these hearings on the closure of the provincial registry offices, and that we hold a recorded vote on this motion."

The Chair: All in favour? Keep your hands raised until we call your names.

Ms Harrington: On a point of clarification, Mr Chair: I would ask the Chair if he would explain the circumstances of the minister's whereabouts at this point for the record.

The Chair: I do not think it is the position of the Chair to do that, but if any committee member wishes to do that after we call the vote, I will certainly allow it. The whereabouts of any individual member of the assembly is not something that directly involves the Chair.

The committee divided on Mr Murdoch's motion, which was negatived on the following vote:

Ayes -- 5

Brown, Conway, Fawcett, Murdoch, B., Tilson.

Nays -- 6

Abel, Drainville, Duignan, Ferguson, Harrington, Mammoliti.

The Chair: Mr Ferguson on a point of privilege.

Mr Ferguson: Mr Chair, it is not on a point of privilege. It is for the information of this committee. The minister currently is with her ailing father in Labrador. So a decision, let me tell you, would be academic at this point in any event.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, I think I would rather have cool air than noise, but I am having difficulty hearing.

The Chair: We will have silence, from the machine, I mean.

Mr Tilson: Yes.

Mr Drainville: Do we need to repeat that so people hear that, Mr Chair?

The Chair: Yes. Ms Harrington?

Ms Harrington: Just for the record, I understand from talking to ministry staff that the minister had wanted to be here. Her father had a heart attack and that is where she is at this time. Thank you.

The Chair: The first presenter of the day is the Canadian Bar Association --

Mr Abel: Sorry, I had my hand up. I guess you did not see me. In light of what has happened, if I may, I would like to present a motion to rearrange the agenda. We have the assistant deputy minister here and I feel it would be a benefit to all if we heard what the assistant deputy minister had to say first. It would answer a lot of questions and deal with a few misconceptions.

The Chair: My understanding from looking at the schedule is that on Tuesday, July 30 at 2:30 pm Art Daniels, assistant deputy minister, is supposed to make a two-hour presentation to the committee from 2:30 to 4:30. I do not know how we are going to get a two-hour presentation made now when we have a list of presenters already in our audience waiting to come forward. Do you want to reconsider your motion?

Mr Abel: No, sir, I do not.

The Chair: The Chairman will follow the wishes of the committee, but I want to inform everyone that if your motion carries, everyone in the audience who had planned to speak, who made arrangements through the clerk to speak, their arrangements are no longer going to be valid. Are you sure you want to do that?

Mr Abel: I understand the situation.

The Chair: Just one second, please. Could you read your motion again?

Mr Abel: That the agenda be rearranged to allow the assistant deputy minister to give his presentation.

The Chair: I do not have a copy of your motion, but it has been moved by Mr Abel that the assistant deputy minister -- I am assuming it is Mr Art Daniels -- be given permission and that the schedule be changed so the gentleman could make the ministry presentation at this point. Any discussion on the motion? Mrs Fawcett?

Mrs Fawcett: Do you mean we are going to hear a two-hour presentation by the assistant deputy minister? Some of these people have travelled a long way and they were here under the impression that they were going to be heard at the correct time. They are already late and I think this is just not right at all.

Mr Abel: The motion delayed it --

Mrs Fawcett: Two wrongs never made a right.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, would you clarify? You say there is a ministry person coming tomorrow?

The Chair: Mr Tilson, the agenda will show that tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 pm Mr Art Daniels, assistant deputy minister, registration division, will be making a two-hour presentation. I believe the schedule was set up in such a way that the ministry officials would come near the end of the hearings so the committee could hear all of the deputations from the general public and then pick up new information, which is the normal course of business, and that the committee members would then be able to question the gentleman who was going to be before us. That is my understanding.

Mr Tilson: So as I understand it, this individual wishes to speak to the committee now, as opposed to 2:30 tomorrow afternoon?

The Chair: I do not know if that gentleman wishes to speak to us now. All I know is that there is a motion on the floor asking that the gentleman speak to us now.

Mr Tilson: I guess my question to the mover of the motion is, what about all these people? They might as well not have shown up this morning. What are we supposed to do with them?

Mr Ferguson: You should have asked that question when you got into --

The Chair: Can I have order, please? Ms Harrington?


Ms Harrington: The presentation that we would wish to have at this time, and I just spoke with the gentleman from the ministry, is 25 minutes. Unfortunately the delay has already been 40 minutes. We would like to have this at this time.

Mr Tilson: Just because.

Ms Harrington: No.

Mr Tilson: Why? What is the reason?

Mr B. Murdoch: Why would you change the agenda?

Ms Harrington: Because we wish to.

Mr Tilson: Just because.

Interjection: "We are the government party. We do what we want to."

The Chair: Mr Tilson, you still have the floor.

Mr Tilson: I think we are all interested in hearing from the member of the ministry. There is time this afternoon, at 5:30, after Terry Moore. I wonder if the ministry person could address us later this afternoon, because this is going to give everyone in this room a great deal of difficulty.

The Chair: Mr Tilson, are you --

Mr Tilson: My question is whether or not that individual would be prepared to speak at the end of the day.

The Chair: Sooner or later someone will answer that question.

Mr Tilson: I know you are out there.

The Chair: Is there anyone else who wishes to speak to this motion? Seeing none, I am going to ask for a vote on the motion.

All in favour of Mr Abel's motion that Mr Art Daniels be allowed to speak at the present time for 25 minutes, please raise your hands. All opposed to the motion?

Motion negatived.

The Chair: The Chairman will carry on with the agenda as outlined by the full committee.


The Chair: The first presenter of the morning is the Canadian Bar Association, Garth Manning, president. Mr Manning, the committee has allotted 30 minutes for your presentation. You may wish to use all or part of your 30 minutes. Please have a seat and relax. The committee members will divide up among themselves whatever time is remaining from your presentation for questions and answers. Please identify yourself for the record.

Mr Manning: My name is Garth Manning. I am president of the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario. With your permission, Mr Chairman, I will probably use less than the allocated 30 minutes in view of what has occurred in the last 45 minutes. I will take you through my submission, which is in front of each member of your committee, and I will allow as much time as I can for questions if that is acceptable to you and your members.

This association represents over 16,000 lawyers around Ontario. It is by far the largest organization representing the interests of lawyers. I happen to be a real property lawyer with more than 30 years' experience. While I am one of those unfortunate lawyers who practice in Metropolitan Toronto, my own experience extends far beyond those boundaries over those years.

This is not a lawyers' issue. It is not an issue of inconvenience to lawyers; it is an issue that affects the public in the most direct way in 12 communities and it is an issue of service to the public.

It was on May 7 that these offices were announced as being closed. There was no prior consultation despite the frequently expressed views of the Premier and of the Attorney General very directly to my association about the need for prior dialogue and input on any matter affecting the administration of justice. This particular minister in this particular ministry saw fit to have no prior consultation from a number of groups which are experienced in the field. Two days afterwards, I wrote to her and said, "Hey, please wait a moment and let's have a meeting." Her office first denied she had received my letter, which was hand-delivered. It was eventually replied to over two months later with a letter that frankly, and with respect, says nothing.

My association has contacted the president of every law association in the 12 affected areas. We have no objection to, and we are not going to address, Ottawa and Toronto, which are among the 14.

We have contacted every MPP in those areas and have received in reply more mail, more contacts, more articles, more editorials, more news stories, more complaints than on any other issue that I can remember in my own living memory and knowledge of my association. All of that contact, all of those reactions, were opposed to the closings.

My association and the association which represents separately the presidents of every local law association in Ontario have each passed motions opposing the resolutions where they are demonstrably against the public interest.

I have given you some basic statistics for the 12 offices concerned. For example, Morrisburg is in S-D-G & East Grenville. It is about 40 kilometres one way from Cornwall, with which it is to be integrated. The second example of Port Hope, obviously in Mrs Fawcett's riding, is about 45 kilometres one way from Peterborough, 80 from Lindsay and 15 from Cobourg. The reference there to three different places is because if Port Hope closes, its records will go to three different land registry offices. I have given you the equivalent information for all of the 12.

By far the largest direct users of the land registration system are lawyers. Probably about 98% of the thousands of people who troop through the doors between 9:30 and 4:30 every working day are lawyers. The next largest group is surveyors. Their association's president, I believe, follows my presentation very shortly. Local governments use it a lot. Members of the public use it a great deal. Those of us who are lawyers, surveyors and government officials are not doing it in our own right; we are doing it for the public who are our clients and whom, in legal matters for example, we represent.

All of you are conscious of the fact that members of the public really only come across the administration of justice in two very direct ways. One is if they are called as jurors or have to face a driving charge, for example, in court. The other is if they buy or sell or refinance a modest house.

Taking a house purchase as an example, under the present system and until technology has caught up with reality, there is only one way a lawyer can properly fulfil his or her function in acting for a client buying a house. He or she has to go to the registry office twice, at a minimum. The first time is to search title. There are certain parts of Ontario, of which Cambridge would be an example, where titles are complicated and sometimes it takes more than one trip to do a search properly. You have to take a second trip several weeks later, sometimes several days later, to close the deal. There is no other way of doing it until every land registry office is computerized and until the records are accessible from terminals in lawyers' offices. We all know that strides are being made in the technology, but the ultimate goal to be reached is still decades away.

Lawyers charge fees on the basis of time. They also charge for out-of-pocket expenses which they properly incur, and their fees, through no fault of ours or yours, are subject to the GST.

The current rate per kilometre for using a car to drive from the office to a land registry office is somewhere between 25 and 30 cents, depending on where you practise. I will give Morrisburg as an example. In future, if you are a Morrisburg lawyer, you or a member of your staff will be driving to Cornwall on those two trips. You will be spending extra time. You will be paying more for gasoline, insurance and repairs. All of those will be passed through to the ultimate consumer, who is the client.

I have given you some examples on page 4 of our brief. I am not going to go through them in any greater detail, but I can tell you that a bunch of lawyers like us do not have the necessary expertise to do the arithmetic to demonstrate whether the additional burdens, of which I have given you a very clear-cut example, will cumulatively -- what the final cumulative figure will be. I am absolutely certain, and so should you be from your own common sense and experience, that the annual figure of increased cost, for only the two heads which I have underlined, will far exceed the $1-million annual saving and the possible $8-million capital outlay to which the minister referred in her very curt announcement of May 7.


It is my submission to you that if these closings proceed, all they will do is, one, add to the cost of the system, and two, transmit the cost of their system from taxpayers generally to a very large segment of taxpayers which has the temerity to buy or to sell or to refinance small properties, both residential and commercial. We are not talking about Bay Street in Toronto. We are talking about real people in real localities in real parts of southern Ontario extending from Glencoe in the west to Russell in the east.

You would not expect a bunch of lawyers only to advocate a position without pointing out, in fairness, part of the other side. I have given you an example towards the foot of page 4. If Port Hope, for example, closes, the Peterborough lawyers may not be displeased. If they have a deal where otherwise they would have gone to Port Hope, they will now not have to make that trip, because some of the records are going to Peterborough, so they will save time and save money in that one narrow case. However, instead of going to Port Hope, they may have to go to Lindsay or they may have to go to Cobourg where they are acting on transactions, to which the Port Hope records will be transferred in addition to Peterborough.

On the top of page 5 I emphasize again what every taxpayer and every politician knows, that governments of all levels use tax revenues, quite rightly, to provide the infrastructure for many things which all of us take for granted and which the public has a right to. Obviously, air travel, road travel, rail travel are very simple examples. So is the administration of justice. The provision of land registry offices and staff falls into this category, and I repeat what I said when opening, that the concept is necessary service to the taxpaying public not the perceived convenience of the government or of its civil servants, and all of this despite the fact that any given land registry office may not be an individual profit centre, based on its own merit or demerits.

I have given you individual examples for only two of the 12 offices affected. They are not exclusive, they are merely examples, two out of 12. I have given you what I think about Prescott from information I have received and checked. Almonte is perhaps in a class of its own. The former government established a need for a new land registry office in Almonte, for which the taxpayers paid almost $1 million and which was opened with great fanfare almost exactly one year ago. It is modern; it is safe; it is up to present-day standards; and the suggestion there is that it be closed and that the records be moved to Perth, to the south. Almonte is owned by the taxpayers. Perth is leased. It is an older building. It is not fire-safe. It will need changes to take on the new records. Those are only two examples, and no doubt you will raise questions on other individuals.

In my conclusions, I have told you quite bluntly that all 12 communities, as I have seen their reaction, are shocked by the thoughtlessness of the minister's announcement and by the utter lack, and apparently the lack of perception, of the need to get input from communities and from people who will be very directly affected. That shock is reflected in the manner I described to you earlier, and I repeat that I have never ever seen such an adverse reaction to any topic in which my association has been involved in recent memory.

I repeat again: This is not an issue of lawyers or the convenience of lawyers. It is a public issue and one of service and cost to taxpayers. In the absence of the consultation which one might have expected to have taken place, and in the absence of any proof that the proposed closings will accomplish anything except major inconvenience and extra cost to the public, my association is at this time totally opposed to the proposed closings.

It is one thing to be opposed, and I hope I have told you why; it is another thing to suggest what should be done. Our recommendation is very simple. In the strongest possible terms, we recommend that the proposing closings of 12 land registry offices not be proceeded with and that the minister and her staff should go back to first base -- I have said dressing room, because I prefer hockey to baseball, but the simile is the same -- and start all over with consultation with other people who know what they are talking about -- I am not obviously only talking of lawyers; I am talking of a huge constituency -- and then start all over again.

I offered the minister all the help my association can give. I offer it again. The president of the County and Districts Law Presidents' Association has done the same. I am authorized by him to repeat his offer.

I am not stupid enough to suggest that a case cannot properly be made for the closing of one or two of the 12 suggested candidates. If, in fairness, consultation takes place and a case is made based on demonstrated facts backed up by demonstrated evidence, then any fair person will go along with such evidence and such decision. In this case, nobody has been given that opportunity. That is why my association recommends it be stopped, we all go back to the drawing board and we start all over again.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Manning. We have about three to four minutes per party to divide up.

Mr Tilson: I must say, Mr Manning, we are honoured that someone of your stature would come and address us on an issue such as this and reiterate your offer to consult with the government and put forward your views, and certainly the views that you have put forward would hopefully encourage the minister to delay these closings and allow you and others to discuss with her further possibilities.

With respect to the fees, which is something that obviously lawyers have said publicly and you are reiterating -- and it is not just lawyers' fees, of course; it is the fees of conveyancers, fees of surveyors, fees of government officials, I suppose, of all levels, fees of real estate agents, although generally they are fixed, but it will affect them, the general public, an owner of a house who wishes just to go and look at his title for personal or historical reasons -- the minister has publicly responded to that charge and as much as said: "Tough. The lawyers will get blamed for it, you know, the lawyers raising their fees. It's not our problem. It is the lawyers' problem and the lawyers are the ones who are going to be raising their fees. We didn't cause them to raise their fees." What is your response to that?

Mr Manning: I read that statement, which I think appears in Hansard. I think it is unfair, untrue and unresponsive to a problem caused not by lawyers but by proposals that have not been properly or adequately thought through.

Mr Tilson: I have one other question. Why do you think the government is really making this decision? Is it really over the saving of funds or is it more to centralize?


Mr Manning: I think it would be fair for me to emphasize that my association is utterly non-political and we are not approaching this on any partisan basis at all. We do not deal in politics. It probably fair to say, as a taxpayer and as one who takes an interest in the practice of politics, that this government must properly look everywhere it can to effect whatever economies should be made. My guess would be that this proposal is of such a nature. As such, in fairness, most of us understand what is going on. What we are addressing is the basic unfairness of it, the lack of consultation and the incredibly draconian results it will have on the public.

Mrs Fawcett: It is nice to see you again, Mr Manning. I am very happy you are here today.

One argument used to me was that registry offices should be close to sheriffs' offices. I believe that maybe was so in the past but I do not think it is true now with all of the various computers and faxes and so on that are available. Would you care to comment on that?

Mr Manning: It no longer matters a damn. Where a sheriff's office is not located in close proximity to a land registry office, there are either telephone or electronic links between the two, so proximity is no longer important. It was before technology was not as advanced as it is now.

Ms Harrington: Very briefly, I want to thank you for coming. We appreciate it and your submission.

First of all, the idea of savings is certainly a reality that we are looking at. We do not want to inconvenience the public unduly. That was, I believe, the basic premise of your submission. You also mentioned that an evaluation of all the offices across Ontario -- which, of course, I did not do; I am in a different ministry -- is certainly a good thing to do, and I think you would acknowledge that there probably are very many which can be either integrated or streamlined to some extent. I am just wondering if you want to comment further on that.

Mr Manning: The points we were trying to make are (1) the public service and (2) the additional cost which will be placed on the backs of the public, thus, in effect, wiping out any perceived savings to which the minister referred in her announcement.

On the second question you asked me, if everyone goes back to the drawing board and really deals with this on an office-by-office basis and adds other offices in other parts of Ontario whose performance as profit centres might be equal to or even worse than some of the 12 here suggested, there is no doubt at all in my mind that at the end of such a thorough and open process recommendations should probably come forward for something to be closed. I am not prepared, without those recommendations on that, to tell you which, in my mind, they would be. It would not necessarily be any of these candidates. It might be others which have not been considered but might be in the future.

The Chair: Mr Manning, thank you for your presentation.

Mr Manning: Thank you.


The Chair: The next presenter is Mr Terry Carter. Mr Carter, we will be following the same procedures. You have been allotted 15 minutes. You can use part or all of that for your presentation or hold some time back for questions and answers.

Mr Carter: I am the president of the Dufferin County Law Association, located just north of Peel. We are not directly affected by the closures, but we do have two counties on either side of us that are. One is Wellington to the north with the Arthur registry office which is being closed, and the other Grey to the north with the Durham registry office. So we do have some effect upon the local county of Dufferin, and I have been authorized on behalf of our law association to speak before you today.

I would like to divide my comments into two sections, first dealing with the specifics of the closures of the registry office, and second about what I believe are some trends that are taking place that should be addressed by this committee.

I sent a letter to the minister back on May 31 of this year indicating the objection which our association has to the closure. We are handing out copies of that letter to you at this point. Just in summation, really the points are fivefold.

First of all, the cost that is going to occur, certainly in the town of Orangeville, county of Dufferin, is going to be a cost which will be passed along to the consumer. It works this way: The registry office in Arthur is now going to be relocated to Guelph, which will double the time and the mileage down to the Guelph registry office. The same thing with Arthur being moved up to Owen Sound: that is going to double the cost. Those costs are reflected in mileage costs, which are disbursements recovered from clients.

Second, if it is too far away, you do not have your own staff go. You hire somebody in that particular area, Owen Sound or Guelph, and again that is a disbursement which is passed along to the public. So any savings you have with the operations of the relocation of the registry office, I would suggest to you, are going to be in fact absorbed by the public who are going to be using the services through whatever lawyer they have in their particular area. It is unlikely that an Orangeville person buying property up in the Durham area is necessarily going to go to a lawyer up in Owen Sound. He will probably stay in the same area but have additional costs.

Third, I would question the cost saving which is being proposed by the government arising out of the closure of the registry office. A document is a document, and you have to register it. It takes individuals to register and it takes a facility in which to house it. Any relocation of the registry office will still require the same amount of labour. If it is done in the Arthur registry office or it is done in the Guelph registry office, for example, it is still the same thing. You have to have a place to store it, and if you do not have the facility in Arthur, you are going to have to expand the facility in the new location in Guelph, and the same thing with Durham and in Owen Sound. So I would seriously question whether or not there really are going to be any savings at all. I think there may in fact be a cost factor tied in with the relocation of the registry offices.

My fourth point is that these are little, tiny communities -- and again, I can only speak of Arthur and Durham; I have been up there myself -- that are very dependent for their economic wellbeing upon something as small as a registry office. Arthur has Sussmans Men's Wear, and other than that it has the registry office. The village of Durham does not have much else other than the registry office. Those little communities are going to be terribly affected by the closures. Surely, when everybody is trying to assist during this recessionary time, that is going to be a tremendous blow to those communities.

My last point is that the lack of input was simply amazing. We did not have any input from the local municipalities or the counties or the lawyers or the real estate agents or the paralegals or the surveyors. It was simply an arbitrary decision that was made. I would reiterate the comments of Mr Manning that certainly there needs to be input. There is no harm in input. It would certainly be recommended and welcomed by our association.

What I would like to talk about in the few remaining minutes I have is what I think is a more dangerous matter, a more serious matter. These registry office closures are a problem. There is no question that they need to be reviewed, but I see it as a thin edge of the wedge. I see what is developing is the closure of what is argued to be an inefficient registry office at a later time being argued to close down what are some larger registry offices.

I think Orangeville is an excellent example. The county of Dufferin is near Brampton and Simcoe. Why do you have to have a registry office in Orangeville? Why not bring it down to Brampton? It certainly would be more efficient. The same thing about the court systems. Once you start to argue that it is inefficient for a particular registry office, then you can start to eliminate some of the county court systems such as in the county of Dufferin, such as the court system in Milton; move it into Brampton. There have been discussions about Brampton having a supercourthouse. Why not try to make it more efficient by bringing everything in together?

Once you start getting rid of the registry office and the court systems, then you do not need to have the county government structure. There is no rationale for it. You might as well have the regional municipality of southern Ontario. It certainly is more efficient to operate from that standpoint. The effect is that we are undermining the whole infrastructure of rural Ontario without even knowing it. I see this as a first step in that regard.

Rural Ontario has worked because there has been the infrastructure there. Surveyors set out the areas back before the turn of the century with the governments in place, the counties in place, the courts in place and the registry office, and now we are starting to chip away. You chip away at some of the smaller registry offices, then you move into the bigger ones, the county courts, the county government situation, and soon you are not going to have the infrastructure you need for rural Ontario.

I do not see this as a policy of any particular government or any politician. I could not imagine anybody following that type of policy. I did not see it in any platform of any government during the last election. I am sure that nobody here would want to see the demise of rural Ontario.


What I am saying is that there are consequences and I am concerned that this is the beginning of that whole process. If you speak with the senior-level public servants who are putting this into place, I would suggest that they probably would argue that this is not the effect. But I say to you that it is.

I have come from a large city, Montreal. I have worked and lived in Toronto for five years. I have been in a rural community now for 11 years. You must have these facilities in place to maintain the Ontario that we know. You see in travelogues of Ontario not just the CN Tower but rural Ontario. You must have your registry office and your county court systems in place.

I fear the senior-level civil servant is putting in place programs that the politicians are really not aware of the effects of. I would challenge all committee members -- nothing to do with a particular party -- to re-evaluate what is taking place to ensure that we are not losing the heritage of our rural Ontario. I do not think there is an efficiency factor, but even if there is an efficiency factor, these are things we want to preserve and keep in place.

I would challenge you then to look at the control factor of what the senior civil servants are in fact putting in place. I fear we may have the dismemberment of rural Ontario as we know it within my lifetime. I will not be surprised to hear in five or ten years that they are going to be reviewing the efficiency of the county of Dufferin registry office and county court system. I think it is just a matter of time. Even though it is not directly the issue you are dealing with, it is a consequence of the closures, and I think it is a point that should be looked at at the same time.

Those are my comments and I would be happy to take questions.

The Chair: We have time for about one question per party.

Mr Arnott: Thank you very much, Mr Carter, for your presentation. I agree with everything you have said, with the exception of the village of Arthur. I have to defend my home town. There is considerably more in Arthur than what you have characterized. However, we would very much appreciate keeping our registry office, no question about that.

You would have had some experience searching titles in the city of Guelph office. Could you describe how the service levels are at that office and how you feel they may be able to handle a significant new influx of work, given the closure?

Mr Carter: The facility there is absolutely cramped. There is no room. It is an antiquated facility. It is very pleasant, the staff is very good, they do the best with what they have to work with, but the facility is absolutely inadequate even to deal with the city of Guelph, let alone all that is going to come down from northern Wellington from the registry office in Arthur.

Mr Arnott: Would you then presume that if a significant new level of work were to be introduced at the Guelph office, a new building might be required in the next number of years?

Mr Carter: I do not know what else they are going to do. They are going to have to put it someplace. I would think they are going to have to build or relocate. There is a capital cost factor involved. So whatever they are saving from Arthur, they are going to have to pick up somewhere else. It is six of one, half a dozen of another. They are creating expenses back and forth. Again, when I say "they," I do not refer to the government. I do not see this as a governmental issue; I see it as a bureaucratic decision that the politicians collectively are not aware of the consequences of.

I think the minister had no idea of the consequences. She was told probably it is a cost-saving factor, but none of these consequences were identified to her.

Mr Conway: Mr Carter, I really appreciate your submission and I think you make some very interesting points. I am very glad my colleague from Wellington has defended the honour of Arthur, which I do not know as well as he does, but my memory of Arthur and Durham is somewhat more expansive perhaps than your recitation.

Other than that, I think you make a good point. I sometimes think as well, when I hear lawyers speaking -- and I do not want to offend any member of the committee, to say nothing of any witness -- that a good project might be -- I might even do it myself some day -- to do a history of the registrars and sheriffs of this province. I think it would be a colourful best seller. I know it certainly would be in my part of Ontario. Thank God governments over the years have had the nerve to shake it up a bit because it was a pretty happy little bit of patronage that I do not think always effected the most efficient kind of public administration that I know my constituents in rural eastern Ontario would expect any government to support.

One of the things Mr Manning suggested, and I wanted to just put this to you as a question, I think Dufferin would be a very good point to ask the question to. Accepting all that you have said about rural Ontario, which I do, but accepting as well that in rural Ontario there are a lot of people who expect governments to be just a little more efficient -- and as I say, I think this is an area where over the years efficiency has not always been the order of the day -- could you see a productive dialogue between, say, the law societies and any government about making some efficiencies in the name of the general concern about costs?

Clearly, this is cost-driven. I was reading something in the Law Times in which Larry Grossman was talking about the happy experience he had -- 12 years -- in sticking his finger into this vise and I do not think he did it a second time. Is there anything that from your vantage point you could imagine as effecting a change that might at the one time satisfy government's management concern about costs and at the same time the very legitimate points you have raised about servicing the communities in Wellington or Dufferin on the points that Mr Manning made earlier, or is it just a dialogue of the deaf?

Mr Carter: No, I think there is always area for improvement. I think any system, including the registry system in Ontario, should be reviewed on a regular basis. I do not think there is any problem with that. In fact, I think there is a lot of merit to be had out of it. What is missing, though, is that dialogue in place that --

Mr Conway: Just give me one concrete example, assuming that we changed very little in terms of the number of registry offices, assuming we did not cut back significantly. Can you think of, just offhand, one thing that could be done -- I do not know, there may be none -- where some happy civil servant might say, "Yes, this is something that perhaps turns the ship in a slightly different direction"?

Mr Carter: Remember that in Ontario we are working towards the Polaris registration system, which is going to be a totally computerized system. That is the long-term goal that is being worked towards. I do not think there is any question that is going to be a much more efficient operation. If you are asking me what specific things can be done with the current registry system to make it more efficient --

Mr Conway: Without closing or rationalizing in the way proposed --

The Chair: A very quick answer, Mr Carter.

Mr Carter: Without giving it some further thought, I would not want to comment on it.

Mr Ferguson: Very quickly, I want to thank you for taking the time to come this morning. As you know, there is a rationalization taking place out there in the business community, and I am told that to a large extent they are depending on a lot of advice from the legal community which you represent.

In that you or your colleagues in the field are associated with this rationalization that is taking place, why would you be providing advice to the business community on a rationalization and yet coming here this morning and suggesting that the government of Ontario or this level of government in particular, this provincial government, ought not to be involved in a rationalization of utilizing and deploying its resources in the most cost-effective manner possible on behalf of the residents of Ontario?

The Chair: One minute, Mr Carter.

Mr Carter: Okay, three things. One is that there has not been any input. We are not afraid of input; we are happy for input. Second, what has been done is questionable as to whether there is any cost saving arising out of it. The third point is, what is the cost even though you may have an efficiency of effect in rural Ontario? You have to weigh the two of them back and forth, and that requires a dialogue back and forth. Nobody is afraid of it; we are happy to participate in it.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Carter, for your presentation.



The Chair: The next presenter this morning is Mr James Nicholson of the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors. Fifteen minutes have been allocated for your presentation, sir. We will be following the same procedure. Will you just identify yourself for the record.

Mr Nicholson: My name is James Nicholson, president of the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors.

I have supplied each of you with a paper prepared for the use of this committee in consideration of the matter before you. I would like to give you some background to touch briefly on some of the matters that are contained in this paper.

The association is a provincially chartered organization mandated to regulate the profession of land surveying within the province of Ontario. As such, we were probably the second largest user of the land registry office system in Ontario. Our present membership in the association is approximately 800, of which 500 to 550 conduct private practice in the private sector.

The association has a proud tradition of serving the public. This year it is observing its centenary.

A lot of the citizens of Ontario believe that the surveyor is linked very closely with the engineering profession. Other than the tools we use on a day-to-day basis, in reality our profession has very strong ties to the legal profession. That is the reason I appear before you today.

Plan surveyors historically have prepared subdivision and now prepare subdivision and condominium plans to be recorded in the land registry office, creating new units of ownership. We also prepare reference plans, expropriation plans, Boundaries Act plans, again all entered in the land registry system.

In the early years of our association, the majority of practices were situated in the larger centres in Ontario and provided easy access to the land registry office and local and county governments. As southern Ontario has developed over a period of years, land surveyors have spread themselves out through the smaller centres, particularly in southern Ontario. This decentralization has permitted the surveyor to become a part of the community, more aware of the needs of the area, and to deliver survey services on a more personal basis.

In the 1960s, an Ontario Law Reform Commission report recommended that provision be made in the land registry system for the filing of plans. They were called reference plans and were prepared for the purpose of facilitating the conveyancing of complex and complicated properties. The ministry at that time implemented a program of pre-deposit checking of these plans by ministry surveyors located in strategically located land registry offices.

This procedure continued until the mid-1980s, at which time the influx of plans into the land registry system overcame the ability of the ministry to provide this pre-examination on a timely basis. At that time, there was dialogue and consultation with the ministry, and with some seed money provided to the association, the association co-operated and established the survey review department within our association to conduct ongoing review of the surveys and plans entering into the land registry system.

In 1971, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations commissioned a study to assess the viability of various land registry offices in Ontario. This report was released in 1972 and recommended the closing of 26 land registry offices in northern and southern Ontario. The rationale of this wholesale closure of offices was that they did not meet the criteria adopted and applied by the committee for financially viable operations. The committee also stated that closure of these offices would aid in the computerization of the system. Today, those 26 offices remain open. Twelve years ago, the Honourable Larry Grossman, then the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, decided to close three offices. The opposition and protest resulted in a reversal of the minister's decision.

Why do surveyors care? In many land transactions throughout the province, the surveyor and the solicitor act jointly to serve the parties involved, being the general public. The solicitor investigates and determines the condition of the title; the surveyor investigates and determines the extent of the title.

More lands are entering into the land titles system in Ontario wherein titles are guaranteed and are shown on the face of the register. However, I would have to say that at least 75% of the lands are still held in the land registry system, where the documents are merely a continuing historical record dating back to the time of the crown patents.

The present laws respecting conveyancing usually permit a solicitor to limit his investigation of the historical records to the last 40 years. This is not the case with land surveyors, as many surveys require examination of the historical documents that are on file and may well exceed the 40-year period and may reach back as far as the crown patent.

We suggest that it is the preservation of the historical documents, particularly with the old surveys attached, that are of paramount importance to the surveyor.

In one larger registry office in Ontario, all documents over 40 years have been purged and these were microfilmed. To obtain one of these documents, one must fill out a requisition, make an appointment to see it, and if you are fortunate, you might get a copy that same day. Also, the quality of the microfilm has left something to be desired, because the plans now, when produced on microfilm, in many cases are illegible.

The director of land registration advises that to consolidate in larger offices will provide the same high level of service or better. As a user of this system for over 35 years, I do not believe it. In many of the smaller offices the staff has gained and exhibits knowledge of local conditions and local circumstances that are most helpful to the user of the system. Service is provided on a more personal basis and in most cases exceeds the level delivered in the larger offices.

What are the economic realities of the ministry decision? Many of our members, particularly in those small centres, will have added costs and time involved in producing plans and surveys. Estimates received from those affected by this proposal suggest that an extra $100 could be added to the fee of a survey and, depending on the nature of the service to be provided, additional costs may be required beyond the $100.

In the competitive market environment we encounter today, surveyors are under pressure to deliver services in the most cost-effective manner. We suggest that the ministry's decision to close these offices will give us no alternative but to pass these on to the public. This in turn will also render the smaller firms in the smaller centres less competitive than those in the larger centres.

We suggest that the closure of the Almonte registry office begs answers not provided by the ministry. Improvement and enlargement of leasehold facilities is not fiscally responsible when the facilities to be closed are government owned.

The majority of the land registry offices in Ontario are profitable. In the larger offices we suggest that the cost of operating those probably is in the neighbourhood of 5% to 10% of the gross revenues obtained through the collection of fees for service and land transfer taxes. We submit that the minister and the Management Board of Cabinet have a duty to return sufficient funds to this system to ensure the integrity of this system.

Computerization is coming; we know that. The Polaris program is being implemented. It is suggested that this program will be in place in eight years. I think that is overly optimistic in the light of past performance.

The minister has suggested that with the closing of smaller registry offices in Ontario computer access points would be made available throughout the larger centres. We submit that these centres are already there and should not be closed. They are presently owned by the government and could provide that need.

In summary, we submit that the integration of Toronto city with Toronto's boroughs and Carleton with Ottawa land registry facilities makes some economic common sense.

Our association has a committee charged with liaison with the ministry and stands ready to fulfil its mandate if given the opportunity by the ministry. Many of our members affected by this decision of the minister are most anxious to have the opportunity to have input into this decision. Together we must ensure that the integrity of the system is preserved and the interests of the citizens of Ontario are well served.

The Chair: Thank you. We have time for one question per party.


Mr Tilson: The Law Times made a comment in one of its editorials that, specifically with legal issues, lawyers in these areas know, to use their words, the lay of the land with respect to searching of titles; for example, discovering encumbrances, road allowances, rights of way; in other words, lawyers in specific areas are able to find these things better than people from outside the areas. Does that same issue apply to surveyors?

Mr Nicholson: Yes, it certainly does. As you work within an area, you begin to know the peculiarities of that area, the problem areas where titles are bad, where old surveys are bad, where they deserve particular attention and require special needs as far as survey services are concerned.

Mr Tilson: Might that lead to errors?

The Chair: I am sorry, Mr Tilson. We have no time for second questions.

Mr Conway: Just a brief question: On page 4, paragraph 3, I note that there is a fair degree of scepticism on your part about the claim made by the director of land registration that the integration and consolidation will effect a higher level of service. Could you perhaps elaborate on your scepticism in this regard, given that you have had long experience in dealing with governments of a variety of stripes?

Mr Nicholson: I find it is no different in most cases. The larger the organization you have in place, the less apt you are to have -- the staff have the personal knowledge of the area, as well as being caring in providing the service that is required to be provided.

Mr Ferguson: Just one question, sir: At this point in time, as I am sure you are aware, Kitchener and Cambridge are border communities. A surveyor who lives one kilometre inside the border of Cambridge from Kitchener will now have to travel to Kitchener. In fact there are certain circumstances where that surveyor may be travelling much less distance than previously. So when you make the blanket statement that it could be as high as an extra $100 per survey, depending on the travelling costs, it really depends to a great deal on the circumstances that currently exist. I just want to ask you, what would happen now with somebody from Tobermory who is in this business who has to make the 200-mile trip to Walkerton? Are you telling me that the person in Tobermory is not competitive with the person in Walkerton?

Mr Nicholson: First of all, I have a map of Ontario with all the practices noted on it, and I can leave it with the committee if you so desire. However, I would say that there are certain areas in the province where costs will not be increased, but there are certainly areas where costs will be increased. As a matter of fact, in the Cambridge area that office was opened by the ministry simply because there were not storage facilities in the office in Kitchener. I am not so sure the situation has changed that much. We are proposing to close Cambridge, and in fact it is providing a storage facility that the office in Kitchener was not able to fulfil.

Mr Tilson: Mr Nicholson has referred to a map. I think our part of the committee would be interested in having a copy of that.

The Chair: I will certainly make the map available to the committee clerk. We are going to make sure every single member gets a copy.


The Chair: We have a group of presenters scheduled for this time, if you would all please come forward. The committee has allocated 45 minutes for your presentations. We are going to follow the same procedure you have seen this morning. If you wish, you can hold back some time for questions and answers. I would like each presenter to identify himself or herself for the record. I will turn the floor over to you.

Mr Galway: My name is Pat Galway and I am a lawyer in Almonte, Ontario. There are Ms Dorothy Finner, the mayor of Almonte; Mr Jonathon Robinson, with the New Democratic Party in Lanark county, and Mr Garth Teskey, a real estate agent-manager from Almonte.

My remarks will be about 15 minutes. I believe the others have some remarks to make in the neighbourhood of five to six minutes long, and then we would like to reserve some time for questions at the end.

Obviously some time has already been taken by others to speak about things I have in my presentation. I will try to edit that as I go, not to be repetitive; however, I would like to emphasize that I can see right away that part of our difficulty here is that we are the first group to speak. We are talking about a specific situation, not the situation across the province, and I would highlight what Mr Manning has said, that Almonte is in a class by itself in terms of saying, "Please, let's reverse a mistake here." I believe the last speaker said the same thing.

Now, to go to the presentation I have to make, first, I have been a member of the bar for 20 years and I have practised in Almonte for 12 years. Almonte is a town of 4,000 people, with a similar and growing population in surrounding townships. We are the second largest geographic county in Ontario. We are a rural community, but we are also 20 minutes away from the west end of Ottawa. We believe that gives us a rather unique set of circumstances and character.

We are being told in Almonte, north Lanark, Arnprior and Ottawa -- these are people who use our office; it is a $1-million, brand-new building -- that the government of Ontario will close us down, without any consultation or warning to us at all, without any hope of reversal by the bureaucrats being held out to us, without any specifics being given to us of the closing, without any access to an analysis to justify the closure -- that has been denied us, but it is seriously flawed in our view -- and without a review being conducted by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations as promised. That has not been carried out.

The proud flagship office of our community is being closed by bureaucratic officials who have exhibited in the very reasons announced for the closure a degree of arrogance, insensitivity and ignorance rarely matched in any democratic country. They have made a mistake and we are here today to ask you ladies and gentlemen to correct it, please.

In August of last year a $1-million building in Almonte was opened to replace the old, cramped facility which had simply been outgrown due to development taking place, particularly in the towns of Carleton Place and Almonte and in Ramsay township. Situated 20 minutes away from Ottawa, as I have said, there is a migrating bedroom community population coming out from Ottawa. So far we have suffered the burden of that and not the benefit yet, but we are not at the point in time when we think we are going to get some of the share of the pie that we have been looking in the window at all these years. Now our registry office is being yanked away from us.

Some of the facts relating to the Almonte office: It is wholly government owned. Both offices in the county are the same size. Almonte is new, Perth is leased, and people have referred to that already. The only concrete saving that we have been told about is a saving of one man-year of employment in the Almonte office.

Registration volumes are contained in my presentation. I will not go over them, but as of the last year-end, March 1990, Almonte's total registrations were 43.5% of the total for the entire county. We are not that small, even though other people would like to make us think we are. Certainly there is growth in north Lanark county. That is where the growth is coming from, Ottawa and north Lanark. In a few short years Almonte's registrations would likely be equal to Perth's if the situation were left the same.

Polaris, the computerization of land registry office records, apparently is five to seven years away in Lanark county, and I think that is an important point, which I will come back to later. The members of our community, it goes without saying, were completely shocked at the announcement. There was no consultation, not just with the Canadian Bar Association; there was no consultation with anybody from the local bar and as a result, zero input was given. That is what we are asking for. We are asking for the people who make these decisions to come to the local communities and find out the facts of the particular cases we are talking about here.

I propose to go through the government's announced reasons in the flyer that was left in the registry office one by one. All of them that were outlined in this announcement are general. Every one of them is intended to blanket 14 closures across the province. None of them has anything to do with the Almonte situation.

A: Taxpayers will save in the neighbourhood of $1 million a year. Also, proposals for capital cost improvements totalling $8 million will be eliminated.

How closing down a $1-million, less-than-one-year-old, government-owned facility in Almonte, and an admitted need to spend money on a Perth leased office and on the Almonte office to convert it to another government use when it has been declared surplus by Consumer and Commercial Relations, and the operating costs of whatever government department is put in there that may not produce revenue the way a registry office does can save money is quite beyond us.


The $1-million saving referred to is province-wide. There are other factors you have to take into consideration. I have just mentioned them. Also, there is the loss of an historic service we have had for 120 years in Almonte to be taken away from us without any of these figures being quantified for us in any way. I think that if the figures were quantified, they would probably show it is going to cost money to move this office to Perth.

The minister wrote me a letter and in her letter she said that the branch average in Almonte is higher than the branch average throughout the province and moving to Perth will lower this cost when all factors are considered. If we consider factors other than the fancy and creative accounting of one ministry, we challenge this statement. It is the cost to the government of Ontario that matters, and I have referred to those factors that have to be brought in. The Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations is not an entity unto itself, but I think that is the way it is looking at it and I think it is the way it is presenting that to the public as a cost saving, and I do not think it can possibly stand up to examination.

To put things into perspective, I understand the only real saving is the one man-year of employment we have been talking about. That could very easily be recouped in Almonte by charging $10 more every time you register a deed or mortgage. That would produce about $50,000 more a year. Why can we not do something like that? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater when there are apparently some rather simple solutions to this problem?

B: The high level of customer service at land registry offices will be maintained, in many cases improved.

This is a really fascinating thing to say to people from an area where there will not be any level of service provided because an office will cease to exist in October 1991. That is a rather strange thing to put in as a reason to justify the closing of an office in Almonte. It might make sense in other areas, but why insult us by putting that in there? Nobody from Arnprior or Ottawa, where people utilize our office in great numbers, will be impressed by that. There are significant numbers of users who have already been mentioned: Real estate agents, building inspectors, volunteer LACAC workers, planners, developers and many common, ordinary people in a small community like Almonte use this registry office, and it means a lot to them.

The major point we want to make here is that the minister refers to an analysis that was made. The analysis we have been able to determine took into account the lawyers and maybe the surveyors in Lanark county. In the Almonte registry office, I believe Mr Teskey can confirm that more than 60% of the real estate transactions through his office, and I can verify it from my office, involve lawyers from Ottawa and Arnprior, outside of Lanark county on the other side. There are substantial users of the registry system in Lanark county who were totally and absolutely ignored and were simply not counted. We think this constitutes a serious mistake in the analysis the minister was given, and she may simply not realize it, ladies and gentlemen.

C: Boundaries served by the new integrated offices will correspond to the actual jurisdictions of counties.

Is that not just great, hunky-dory? Who really cares? I have not been able to find one member of the public who is in full possession of his faculties who really gives a darn about this. It is just a fancy way of saying, "You're going to get one registry office in the county." It does not particularly stand as a reason for doing it. It is no justification for doing it. It is just a statement of fact. That is all it is.

D: Each office will be located in the same community as the local sheriff.

I had a half a page on this but I am just going to refer to Mr Manning's comments and hope you read my comments. He has already said this does not matter a damn. It is a complete red herring. All the members of the bar, including the members of the bar in Perth and Smiths Falls, would come forward here today and say that does not matter, that it is a red herring. Pretty soon anyway, with the wave of the future, you are going to have the computer terminal put in the registry office, and that is where you are going to search for your execution certificates. It just does not matter.

E: Clients will also benefit from the ability to research and close transactions within a county or regional municipality in the same office.

Again, this does not matter. The overwhelming number of users of the system could not care less. You do not go to the registry office to search county-wide. You go because you have got a title to search, lot 1, concession 3. That is what you go there for. To put this in as a reason for taking our office in Almonte and putting it into Perth simply says to me and everybody else who uses the Perth office, "Now every time you have to do a deal or a search you have to go to Perth, but that's good for you."

F: The larger integrated facilities will be more up to date.

It is patently ridiculous to lump this in with the Almonte case, but lump it in they did. This rationale, quite frankly, insults the intelligence of all of us from Almonte. That might make a case in some other place, but that was stuck in the document we got in our registry office in Almonte. I personally regard it as insulting and everybody else in our community does as well.

In summary, as a result of the examination of the announced reasons, we in Almonte, Carleton Place, north Lanark, Arnprior and Ottawa do not see any good reason, any positive reason for closing the Almonte office. We see a lessening of service, we see an increase in legal and other professional costs to the public, we see our heritage disappearing and being packed off to another town. It is very important to us in the Ottawa Valley, I can tell you that. We see a promotion of automobile travel by our government, supposedly devoted to the environment and public safety. It is a decision which will cost the taxpayers more money, not less, and a decision which will result in many intangible factors not measurable in dollars, such as inconvenience, aggravation, loss of local pride and the economy being affected in an adverse way.

It should be clear that the Almonte decision is a bad one. It has been carelessly and callously lumped in with all the others, with no individual consideration being given to it whatsoever. It is a decision made by bureaucrats to suit their own purposes, whatever they are. I do not know what it is; you will have to ask them. A shroud of secrecy has been put over the deliberations they have done. We have been denied access to the analysis. We have been denied access to I think it is an MB20 study done by the Liberal government. We have asked for them so we can see what the reasons are for this. Is there any rationale, is there any reason? They will not even let us see them.

I would like to ask this committee to please reverse this decision -- obviously, that is why I am here -- but at the very least to postpone this closing until the benefits of the Polaris system can be reaped. We are going to save people an awful lot of trouble. If you are going to integrate to one office in five to seven years, we could live with that, wherever that is. But give us the time so we can sit down and go to our Almonte office, do our subsearches until such time that if you move it to Perth, I can look at my computer terminal and do the search I have to without every time jumping out of my chair, or a member of my staff, and going down to Perth. I think it was Dianne Custance, a lawyer from Russell, who put that well. I heard her on the radio. She said: "The cart is being put before the horse here. What is the rush to cause all this aggravation to people?"

I would like to see Perth and Almonte both keep their registry offices. I think it is the right thing to do and I do not think it makes any sense in our case to close either one. But ladies and gentlemen, if you are going to, please wait at least until Polaris is here, because it would save an awful lot of trouble for an awful lot of people. I believe Ms Dorothy Finner, the mayor of Almonte, has some remarks to make.

Ms Finner: Ladies and gentlemen, I really cannot improve on Pat Galway's presentation, I can assure you, but I do have a few remarks to make with regard to the town of Almonte itself. The north Lanark registry office has been located in Almonte since 1879. The original building is heritage designated and stands empty. I am not going to belabour the aspect of the tradition that Almonte was selected then to be the site of the land registry office and has been continuously for 112 years.

In 1987, it was announced by the provincial government of the day that the north Lanark land registry office located in Almonte had outgrown the building in which it was located. In February 1988, a letter was received from the then Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations assuring the mayor that the government was looking at possible locations for alternative accommodations in the town of Almonte. A status report regarding possible locations in Almonte was being prepared. After a great deal of consultation, on June 24, 1989, the announcement was made in Almonte by the Minister of Government Services that construction would begin in late summer. His announcement stated, "The building was custom designed to meet the special requirements of the people using this facility." The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations stated at that time, "The new land registry office will significantly improve the working environment and will provide better access to clients from surrounding areas."

I am amazed that after studies were done regarding the location of the north Lanark land registry office in Almonte no mention was made of amalgamating the Almonte and Perth offices at that time. Because of the large number of professionals, lawyers, realtors, surveyors and the public, both from Ottawa and the surrounding areas, Almonte, Carleton Place, Ramsay, Beckwith, Pakenham and other townships, it would be the decision of this government to close the north Lanark registry office.

I am shocked that this present government would decide that a $1-million facility, custom designed for the express purpose of providing all the necessary services of a land registry office, would decide to close it one year after the official opening, without any consultation with the municipality.


As mayor, I spent hours speaking to ministers, deputy ministers and policy persons regarding the location of the land registry office in Almonte. There was consultation all the way, and yet, by the stroke of a pen and a letter from the honourable minister, the registry office is to be closed without any consultation whatsoever with the municipality.

Also, I have written to Premier Bob Rae, the honourable ministers Fred Wilson, Minister of Government Services; Floyd Laughren, the Deputy Premier and Treasurer of Ontario, and, of course, Marilyn Churley, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Strange to say, I received letters of acknowledgement from everyone except the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the Honourable Marilyn Churley. I wrote on May 15, 1991, and on June 12, 1991, I wrote a personal invitation to the minister and any members of her staff she might wish to include to come to Almonte and see the registry office for herself. I have had no acknowledgement of either letter, right up to this day.

This government is supposed to be one that is close to the people of the province. From Almonte's experience, that statement is certainly open to question. On reading the Hansard report of Monday, June 17, 1991, Mr Sean Conway, MPP, asked the Honourable Marilyn Churley about the closing of the registry office in Almonte. Her response was this: "The reality is that a lot of the offices that will be closed have incredible occupational health and safety problems. In fact, in closing a lot of these buildings, the taxpayers will be saving at least $8 million in capital costs."

I may say that Almonte is not one of these buildings that will save any money by closing, and money will be spent to upgrade the Perth offices, both with regard to occupational health and safety problems and redesigning the building for its particular use in extension of services to a larger population.

I know for a fact that Mr Leo Jordan, MPP, has also spoken many times on the floor with regard to our situation.

I and the residents of Almonte and Lanark county are at a loss to understand what prompted the minister's advisers and researchers to present an analysis that would illustrate a need to relocate the north Lanark registry office and the minister to make a decision such as the one that has been made, which seems to go blatantly against everything the New Democratic government purports to stand for: to be close to the people it governs and to listen to them. How can this be when a ministry decision has been made with absolutely no consultation with the community? Obviously, the government does not have to listen and we ask why. It makes one wonder if there is a hidden agenda. But we have an official closing on October 18, 1991 at 4:30 pm. Thank you.

Mr Teskey: Mr Chairman, members of the committee, first let me thank you for the opportunity for us to be here with you today. My name is Garth Teskey. I have been a resident of the town of Almonte for the past 25 years and at present I am an associate real estate broker and branch manager for the Albert Gale Real Estate Ltd in the town of Almonte. I have been continually active in real estate in the area since 1980. I am an active member of the Real Estate Board of Ottawa-Carleton and I also served for a couple of years as manager of our Carleton Place branch office. I am well aware of the real estate industry in the area.

Mr Galway and I prepared our briefs independently, but he has said a lot of things that I propose to say as well. I am speaking this morning on behalf of the people practising real estate sales in the area. They, along with myself, were shocked by the announcement on May 7 that the Almonte registry office was one of 14 registry offices to be closed in the province starting on October 21 of this year.

My first reaction was one of disbelief. There must be some mistake. Someone in Toronto just did not realize that our 120-year-old registry office had been replaced with an attractive, state-of-the-art building designed to handle the Polaris system when it comes on stream at a later date.

I will be the first to admit that real estate practitioners do not require the services of the registry office nearly as much as do lawyers, title searchers, surveyors and the like, but our quest for accurate documentation is just as important to our clients, the vendors and purchasers we represent.

Like other industries, the real estate industry has seen many changes in the last decade. We live in a consumer-driven society. The consumer is king. He not only demands but deserves better, more complete, more accurate services from the professionals. Indeed both the Canadian Real Estate Association and the Ontario Real Estate Association are constantly striving to upgrade the qualifications and knowledge of real estate practitioners.

It is no longer good enough to take the word of the vendor regarding lot sizes, location of survey bars, easements and things of that nature. The responsible real estate person should make every effort to corroborate such data as a duty to his clients. I know that in our branch office we insist on that kind of accuracy, and as a result we find ourselves making more and more use of the registry office all the time.

Today that does not present a problem in Almonte. For those working in our area, the registry office is minutes away, and the costs in terms of time and money of tracking down documentation are easily borne by those working in the area. However, moving these important services to Perth will definitely result in one thing: no question about it, the cost of doing business will increase. There is only one source to recoup those losses and that is the consumer, the person for whom we are supposed to be doing all this.

Speaking for real estate practitioners working in Lanark north, I cannot accept statements made in the May 7 communication from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations regarding the integration of offices such as, and I quote, "improved customer service," and, "Clients will benefit from more convenient locations, better access to complete records, and more up-to-date facilities." We already have those, and we are about to lose them in Almonte.

It has been reported that the Perth registry office handles many more registrations than does Almonte. I believe that, but I wonder how much longer that would be true in the event that the Almonte registry office gets a reprieve and remains open. That office is barely two kilometres from the boundary of the municipality of Ottawa-Carleton.

I would just like to demonstrate by map for those of you who are not from eastern Ontario and are not familiar with Lanark county per se. I apologize for the size of the map. This yellow line represents the boundary between Lanark county and the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. We abut the region.

The Chair: You might want to pass the map around so that committee members can look at it.

Mr Teskey: Anyone checking recent regional government increases in property taxes, lot fees, lot levies, etc, will not be surprised to see the trend of development towards the adjacent townships. It is inevitable, in particular in Ramsay and Pakenham townships, which abut directly on to the region.

Before you is a letter from the clerk of the corporation of the township of Ramsay containing a list of subdivisions in the township that are presently being sold, are now in the development stage or have been proposed to council. There are 120 lots presently available, or some have been sold. A further 155 residential lots are being created and will be coming on stream within the next 24 to 30 months. In addition, according to the clerk, approximately 50 new lots are created every year in Ramsay township by the severance process.

As you can see, Ramsay township is definitely gearing up for the move westward, away from the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. By my tally, this means that on the drawing board in Ramsay township alone are 275 residential lots plus 50 a year through severance, for a total of 325 lots. That is more than half the residential base of the town of Almonte. That, to me, is substantial projected growth.

In neighbouring Pakenham township to the north, residential development is also becoming a more urgent issue. The township's first full-blown subdivision came on stream last year with the first phase of 48 lots, some of which have been sold and are being built upon. Mount Pakenham Golf Estates promises to become a first-rate development, and phase two of an additional 17 lots is presently being proposed.

Of course, most of the people who are relocating outside the region will continue to work and earn their living in and around the city of Ottawa. Driving time to and from work will continue to be a consideration to many of those people. Therefore, those areas in the eastern portions of those affected townships will feel most of the developmental pressure. I firmly believe that within a few short years registration in the Almonte registry office would far surpass the numbers in Perth, due to that development.

I understand that an analysis has been conducted regarding the users of both respective offices and that the Perth office gets much heavier use. Not knowing the terms of that analysis makes it difficult for one to determine how it was conducted, but I wonder if any consideration was given to determine just how many non-residents of Lanark county make regular use of the Almonte registry office.


With that question in mind, we conducted a mini-analysis of our own in our branch office, and you have the figures in front of you. We came up with some interesting figures. We researched all of our trade record sheets from January 1, 1990 to December 31, 1990 and found that of the total office transactions of 64 sales, out-of-county solicitors, mostly from the city of Ottawa, represented one or both clients in those sales in 42 cases out of 64, an involvement of 65.6%. The figures for January 1991 to date were somewhat lower, probably due to lower interest rates, which triggered a lot of upgrading by local young families this year within the town of Almonte. None the less, out of a total of 53 office transactions to date this year in our office, out-of-county solicitors were involved in 42 of those transactions for a percentage of 60.3%. These figures can be corroborated. We have these right in our files. Although we are only one real estate office in our area, I expect similar results would be found in the other offices as well.

In closing, I respectfully urge the committee to review the process whereby the usage analysis was conducted and to perhaps consider a postponement of the Almonte registry office closure at least until 1992 so that further studies can be undertaken. I am certainly not suggesting that the Almonte registry office should remain open at the expense of the Perth office -- not at all -- but I wonder why an all-encompassing policy of one county, one registry office in the province is totally necessary. Lanark county, as you have heard, is the second-largest county in the province and its proximity to the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton puts us in a rather unique position. Speaking for the real estate practitioners of Lanark north, I would ask that careful consideration be given to that position.

Mr Robinson: My name is Jonathon Robinson. I am president of the Lanark-Renfrew New Democrats and I am here today to bring what might be a little bit different perspective to this issue.

I have as much concern with the process of how this decision was made as with the actual decision. I stood at the brand-new Lanark registry office waiting for one of the minister's people to come to look at this new building and nobody ever showed up. I followed that with a long letter to the minister on May 11. I picked up the response to that letter this morning. I spent hours and hours on the telephone trying to get information from this government on the decision so that I could understand the decision and we were not just dealing with the disbelief the other members have mentioned. I got absolutely nowhere.

I am really wondering where the open government that I worked very hard to elect last year is, and I find it very discouraging when people in our riding say they expected a more open and more forthright government and it is just not happening.

I think the rationale used that there be one office per county is no more rational than saying there should be one two-lane highway for every city. If you people in Toronto were asked to drive to the other side of Oshawa to register your deeds, you would find that totally unacceptable, yet that is what you are asking us to do.

One of the things that was also mentioned in the press release was that there would be enhanced career opportunities for the people they were moving. That is a real insult to people who work in small communities, who walk to work, who enjoy their work. You are now telling them, "You are going to drive 90 kilometres to work to enhance your career opportunities." To me, there was no consultation going on. There was no information conveyed to anyone about the decision so we could have some input into it. I think if you listened to some of the reports earlier, we have some solutions and we would like to offer them, but we were given no opportunity for that.

I would really like to urge this committee to recommend that the decision be reviewed so we can all look at the hard facts and the numbers and weigh up whether we really want to save $70,000 per county and what we are giving up.

There was a lawyer earlier who mentioned they could not do the mathematics to justify this. I am a grade 3 teacher and I will just indulge you in some grade 3 math for a moment if you do not mind.

There are 5,000 registrations every year in Almonte. If we assume at least two trips for each land registry to register and search the deed, that is 10,000 trips a year. It is approximately 100 kilometres round trip from Almonte to Perth. That is 100,000 kilometres a year. At 30 cents a kilometre, that is $30,000 a year. That is just the mileage charge. That does not include the time and effort or anything like that.

When you talk about improving services for people in Lanark county, it is an insult. It is one thing to disagree on an issue, but it is another thing when the facts just make no sense to anyone living there. As a New Democrat I find it very strange for me to be here this morning. But when we look at the facts, it does not matter whether you are Liberal, Conservative or New Democrat, whether you are a farmer or a lawyer or a teacher: Everyone says the decision makes no sense.

We have brought those concerns to the minister over the last two months but have not got a single reply. I would ask you, in terms of the way the decision is being made -- and we think it is a bad decision -- that you at least review the decision and give us a chance to offer you some solutions.

I would just like to close by saying that Premier Rae mentioned, "This government will make mistakes, and it is by how we respond to those mistakes that we will be judged." I would suggest to you that this is a prime example of that, that the right decision can still be made and the right process can still be followed. I would urge you to do that.

Mr Jordan: First of all, Mr Galway, Mayor Finner, Mr Robinson, Mr Teskey -- we also have the warden of Lanark county and the reeve of Pakenham with us concerning this issue -- I certainly want to express my thanks to you for coming this morning and driving that distance to present the feelings of the riding of Lanark-Renfrew in particular, of Almonte and district, to this committee.

The thing that damaged our feeling for government and even for the whole process was the lack of consultation, the lack of reason. To you, Mr Galway, we were made aware that there was a needs study done to initiate the construction of the building, and in a letter you received there was an analysis done to initiate the closing, both of which are being withheld. My understanding is that we would like a postponement so we can have access to this information, so the whole situation can be reviewed and the municipality and the people who use it can have further input. Would you care to respond to that?

Mr Galway: It is sort of like beating a dead horse. It is the non-consultation. We have not been consulted, we have not been advised of the facts. That is coupled with the fact -- which I tried to do this morning; I do not know if I did it that effectively -- that the reasons given and left in the registry offices do not apply in Almonte. We have not been given another reason, other than these general reasons, which applies to our situation.

We have been trying to find out what the reasons are. If they are contained in this analysis, if they are contained in any other document -- all the people I know involved in this protest are reasonable people. If the rationale can be explained, we will accept it, we will live with it, but we just want to know what the rationale is, because it does not make sense.

Mr Jordan: I think the other part is the geography of the county. As the map illustrated, the county is the second largest in Ontario. The population is steadily growing now, especially in the Almonte-Carleton Place district because of its proximity to West Carleton, Kanata, and so on.

As demonstrated by Garth, the real estate sales and activity are showing that, and I am proud to say that our representative of the present government in that riding has also spent a lot of time in the interests of the people and came forward, and the mayor. I really believe the group and myself would be satisfied if we were given the opportunity to have this delayed till a later date so we can have some consultation and input.

Mr Conway: Just a couple of quick things: I want to say at the outset that I have spent my entire adult life in this building, listening to presentations, and I can honestly say I do not think I have ever heard a presentation that was more compelling. I really congratulate you for it. I know this case very well. It is a neighbouring county. The four of you are to be commended, and I do not say this lightly. I think this is an absolutely compelling case that has taken time and creativity and some real courage for you to come and present, and I just hope the committee and the government in this one case -- I do not know the others very well, but I do know Almonte.

We have all made our mistakes -- I know I have made them -- I think the point Mr Robinson alluded to. The opening of a new office in one summer in a community as busy as north Lanark that is so closely associated with the burgeoning municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, and the announcement of its closure nine months later, is seen by everyone I have talked to to be madness.

The one question I guess I would ask -- there has been some reference to it -- is that Perth is not only a leased facility, but when one looks at the statement the minister made, the argument I think on the basis of those criteria could be more compellingly made to close the Perth office. My information is that the Perth office is not only leased but that in fact the latest fire marshal's panel, or whatever that public inspection panel is, suggests that there are significant upgrades required to bring that building into a better compliance with fire and other safety regulations. The question I might ask Mr Teskey is whether I am correct in that, and would you guess from a real estate point of view what the cost of those upgrades would be?

Mr Teskey: I am not that familiar with the Perth registry office. I have only been in the facility maybe half a dozen times, although I do know it is an older building; the facilities all seem to be aged, as well as the building. I would hazard a guess that in order to bring it up to the standards we now enjoy in Almonte it would cost just as much as it did to produce that office in Almonte.

Mr Conway: Am I correct in remembering there was an inspection panel that reported very recently that the leased Perth facility is substantially below safety requirements according to that panel?

Mr Teskey: Yes.

Ms Harrington: Thank you very much for coming. Certainly it is very important that if the government is not able to come to you, you are able to come here and put forward your position, as Mr Conway has said.

I have noted down here that we will make sure your specific concerns are addressed by ministry staff. From what I am hearing, it sounds like a unique situation. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted ministry staff to come forward at the beginning was so you could hear some of the answers they are putting forward. Unfortunately, I am not sure if you will be able to stay until tomorrow or later today. We would like you to hear the ministry's reply.

The other thing I wanted to comment on very quickly is that you noted with regard to NDP principles -- I cannot let that go -- you talked about the environment and its relationship to automobile travel. We are certainly committed to those concerns. Our heritage: I grew up in Brockville, and I very much like eastern Ontario and I believe we are committed to preserving as much as possible rural Ontario, the farm land of Ontario, the rural aspects of the small town, and we need that vision of Ontario. I just want to assure you of that.

The Chair: Mr Ferguson, you have 60 seconds for a question and an answer.

Mr Ferguson: Thank you very much. I am glad that the dynamic of time has turned out to be my collective responsibility for the entire committee. To the delegation, I heard not only from you folks this morning but other delegations earlier the whole question of consultation: "People didn't discuss this with us. We weren't consulted on the process." Quite frankly, I do not want to get into a debate on consultation, but I want to tell you that we have to make some day-to-day business decisions about running the government, and we cannot consult the general public or every affected party on every decision this government has to make.

That aside, I can make a very good argument for telling you that in fact we are opening up the process. If you look at the number of committees on the road this week, we have more road shows going than Conklin, the midway people, have on the road at this point.

In any event, if the minister came to your community and met with you and listened to all your concerns and to your compelling reasons why she should or should not close the registry office, if in the final analysis she decided to close it, would you be any happier at the end of the day?

Ms Finner: Yes, we would have a rationalization for it.

Mr Ferguson: So you are telling me that if the minister would take time out of her life to come and meet with you, rationalize to you her decision, even though you may not agree with it, at the end of the day you are going to be happier than you are now?

Mr Galway: Yes, because I think she will change her mind. I really do.

Mr Ferguson: But if she does not change her mind, if she says, "No, I've made my decision, I've listened to you" --

Mr Galway: I am going to be happier with it because this whole process, which I have probably put a hundred hours of volunteer time into, will be over and I will be quite relieved personally.

Ms Finner: May we be sure to get the response from this committee at some point? We have had nothing up to this point and we would like to be informed.

The Chair: The clerk will send every presenter the committee's report.

Ms Finner: Thank you.

The committee recessed at 1315.


The committee resumed at 1405.


The Chair: I would like to call the standing committee on general government to order. We are continuing our hearings into standing order 123, relating to the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations decision to close 14 land registry offices.

We already have presenters at the table. If you could identify yourself for the record. I understand you have been allocated 30 minutes by the committee. If you wish to save some time for questions, you will have to do so.

Mr MacDonell: Ron MacDonell, warden of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry counties.

Mr Lapointe: Raymond Lapointe, co-ordinator, clerk-treasurer, the united counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

Mr MacDonell: Mr Chairman and members of the legislative committee on the issue of registry office services, we first want to thank the committee for the opportunity afforded to us today. So as not to duplicate what has been said by others with regard to our purpose for being here, we will concentrate our remarks on certain specifics with respect to the registry office services in each of the counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

To begin with, we wish to refer the committee to a letter sent to the Honourable Marilyn Churley, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, which relates to the subject matter, including a resolution of county council.

The registry office for the county of Stormont, located in the city of Cornwall, has an area of 305 square metres, 32,183 square feet, of space and is under lease with an option to renew to the Ministry of Government Services until December 31, 1992. The registry office for the county of Dundas, located in the village of Morrisburg, has an area of 135.5 square metres, 1,459 square feet, of space and is also under lease with an option to renew to the Ministry of Government Services until December 31, 1992. The registry office for the county of Glengarry, located in the town of Alexandria, has an area of 113 square metres, 1,213 square feet, of space and is under lease with an option to renew to the Ministry of Government Services until December 31, 1992.

The county of Stormont comprises an area of approximately 400 square miles, and excluding the city of Cornwall, has 6,002 households and a population of 15,823. The county of Dundas comprises an area of approximately 420 square miles and has 7,652 households and a population of 19,462. The county of Glengarry comprises an area of approximately 460 square miles and has 8,946 households and a population of 21,164.

Combining the three individual counties for registry office purposes would result in the providing of service to an area that is in excess of 1,200 square miles, with a population of 56,449, and which, by including the city of Cornwall, has a total population of 102,000.

The cost to the province of Ontario for buildings occupied by the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations for the purpose of providing registry office services in each of the counties of Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry: In 1990 Stormont was $24,000; Dundas, Morrisburg, $14,500; Glengarry $7,900. At this time I would like to ask Mr Lapointe, our clerk treasurer, about these figures.

Mr Lapointe: These figures are actual costs to the province for the cost of maintaining the buildings, which includes the heating, utilities, etc, all costs associated with maintaining those buildings in a reasonable state of repair. Our warden has indicated the costs for 1990. In 1989 it was $23,865 for Stormont and Cornwall; $13,224 for Dundas, Morrisburg, and $7,778 in Alexandria, for Glengarry. In 1988 it was $24,130 for Stormont and Cornwall; $13,989 in Morrisburg, for Dundas; $7,660 for Glengarry. In each of those three years, if you consolidate those figures, we are maintaining three individual offices for registry office services at a cost of less than $48,000. Looking back to 1987, the cost was $21,577, $8,478 and $7,028.

The committee may ask us what happened between 1987 and 1988 to escalate the cost, particularly in Dundas, or the Morrisburg office, from $8,000 to $13,000. That occurred at the last lease renewal, at which time the ministry, through the Ministry of Government Services, requested certain alterations and renovations to each of the three buildings, but more significantly to the Morrisburg office. The initial costs of those renovations and alterations were assumed by the county and then amortized over the period of the five-year leases, so the costs have been recovered back to the counties over the lease duration, which is five years beginning in 1988. As our warden has indicated, the present leases run until 1992.

Mr MacDonell: The square footage of the premises in both Alexandria and Morrisburg is probably sufficient and adequate for the needs of the respective counties for the foreseeable future. However, the premises in Cornwall serving the county of Stormont will likely experience a space deficiency with anticipated economic growth, and this will be compounded if the services currently at Alexandria and Morrisburg are permitted to transfer to Cornwall.

The elimination of the costs being incurred by maintaining registry office buildings in Alexandria and Morrisburg will, in our opinion, be offset by increased costs for the additional space requirements of the Cornwall premises if a transfer of service were made possible and permitted.

The buildings that are presently being occupied and utilized for registry office services in each individual county are county owned and the lease payment is not a profit generator for the landlord, but it is sufficient to cover the costs being incurred for maintaining the buildings in a reasonable state of repair and including utilities, heating, property insurance and janitorial services.

County council is prepared to continue the availability of the existing premises for ongoing registry office services and is respectfully requesting that the inhabitants of each individual county continue to have the benefit of such services, a service that is deemed to be a requirement of the statutes of Ontario and, more specifically, the Registry Act.

Appendix A is the resolution that was sent from the united counties of Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry, if I could read that. It is addressed to the minister.

"Whereas it has come to the attention of this council that the government of Ontario proposes to phase out the Dundas and Glengarry registry offices by transferring and centralizing the operations thereof to a central office in the city of Cornwall, and;

"Whereas it is the opinion of this council that such a decision would create an inconvenience to the citizenry of the united counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry that would neither be accepted or tolerated without proper justification,

"Therefore be it resolved that this council strongly object to any movement that advances such action and thereby deprive the local citizenry of its right and entitlement to a service that is both efficient and convenient, and further, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Honourable Marilyn Churley, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, and each of the local members of the Legislature.

"Council cannot envisage any cost savings to the centralization of registry office services and, if your ministry is not prepared to reconsider the recently announced decision, it is respectfully being requested by council that you accept to receive a delegation of individuals from these counties who are wanting to be heard on this matter."

At this time I would like to thank you again for receiving us today and hearing us.

Mr Villeneuve: Warden MacDonell and Clerk Lapointe, thank you very much for your presentation.

I had the opportunity of questioning the minister pursuant to the announcement that the registry offices in Alexandria and Morrisburg in the united counties were going to be closing. In reply to my question, the minister said in part: "This decision, however, was based not only on fiscal responsibility. You cannot have it both ways. The government of Ontario saves $1 million a year plus capital costs of about $8 million. The reality is, the users of the system have been consulted regularly by the ministry officials."

We heard this morning from the legal professionals that there was apparently no consultation with them. Were you, as a county council that uses the facility quite extensively, or as the lessors of the property, consulted as to the possibility of these closures? Was there any consultation?

Mr MacDonell: Not to my knowledge, there was not, Mr Villeneuve.

Mr Lapointe: Just to follow up on that question, as indicated in appendix A, there was a letter forwarding a resolution of county council and the wishes of county council requesting an opportunity to meet with the honourable minister on this very issue. That letter was forwarded to the minister on May 23, 1991, and to this date we have not received any acknowledgement of our letter or request.

I might point out that approximately three weeks ago I contacted the ministry's office by telephone, and the individual I spoke to in that particular office was to get back to me the following day, which she did, indicating to me that they could not find our letter, and asked me to fax a copy of it, which I did immediately. As yet we are still waiting on an acknowledgement and response to council's request for an opportunity to discuss this issue with the minister.

Mr Villeneuve: I gather from your statement that there was no consultation prior to the announcement, and there has been no consultation since the announcement. That pretty well clears the air on that one.

I am quite familiar with the facilities as a former appraiser who was using the three registry offices. Your statement here is that both Morrisburg and Alexandria, in your opinion, have sufficient area and space to accommodate them for some time to come. However, the consolidation would occur in Cornwall, where there is a problem with space, parking, and a number of other areas of concern. Could you elaborate on that just a little bit.

Mr Lapointe: The accommodation in both Alexandria and Morrisburg, serving Glengarry and Dundas, has adequate space for the foreseeable future. As a matter of fact, the indications we are getting from the users of the registry office services say it is ample and sufficient to serve the needs for the present time and for the time to come without experiencing any difficulties.

Probably of more importance here is the parking facilities. The office in the city of Cornwall has very little parking facilities. As a matter of fact, it only has parking sufficient to accommodate the present personnel employed there, so if additional personnel were brought in, they would have to find parking outside the present facility or premises.

Mr Villeneuve: This is for employees only and it does not take into consideration the users of the system at all, I gather.

Mr Lapointe: That is right.


Mr Cleary: Having been involved some 15 years municipally with these united counties, I know how important it is to have these registry offices in place, both in Glengarry and in Dundas. I know our counties have some 1,200 square miles and there would be a lot of inconvenience if these registry offices were to close. I know the proposed plans are to move them both into Cornwall, but I think it would be a step backwards if we were to do that. That is all I will say for now.

Mr Ferguson: My question is to the delegation: Are any of you gentlemen aware that in fact there are regular meetings with the users of all registry offices to dialogue with them to sort out any problems they might have in using the registry offices?

Mr Villeneuve: When? Tell us.

Mr Lapointe: We have not been made aware of any meetings. As a matter of fact, this is the --

Mr Ferguson: No, I am not asking you if there are meetings. I am telling you there are regular meetings. There have been meetings going on for perhaps the last 20 years with ministry officials and with users of the facilities to sort out any difficulties they might have. The meetings take place on an ongoing basis.

Mr Lapointe: We have some users of the registry office services accompanying us today and I am sure they could comment on that particular statement.

Mr Ferguson: So you are not specifically aware --

Mr Lapointe: No, we are not aware.

Mr Ferguson: Just to clear up the matter, in fact there are regular meetings that happen with the ministry and with some users of all registry offices right across the province that take place on a regular basis. When the minister made the comment in the House that there in fact have been some discussions around this issue, she was referring to the discussions that take place on a regular basis between her officials and individuals who use the registry offices.

For the committee's information, I think what we ought to be doing is requesting some information as to who is consulted on a regular basis surrounding the operation of registry offices by the ministry officials. I think Mr Villeneuve would be happy to receive that information and I think it is a valuable piece of information that the committee ought to be looking at.

The Chair: If that is your request, maybe we will have the clerk initiate a request to the minister's office to the appropriate official. We will request a list of meetings that may have taken place and who was involved and we will distribute it.

Mrs Fawcett: May I make a further request and ask for minutes of those meetings, if there were any minutes taken, please?

The Chair: You want the minutes of the meetings too?

Mrs Fawcett: Yes.

The Chair: Very good. Anything else added to that request, unless there are any objections?

Mr Villeneuve: Just as a supplementary to Mr Ferguson here and also in the reply from the minister, the reality also is these 14 land registry offices are in the only counties in Ontario where there is more than one land registry office per county. That is not right, I am sorry.

The Chair: I am sorry, Mr Villeneuve, it is a good point but it does not have anything to do with the request. Mr Lapointe, do you have something further?

Mr Lapointe: Just to follow up on that statement about these meetings, municipalities are --

The Chair: Mr Lapointe, if you do not mind, I think what we should do first is kind of clarify what the committee wants, so we can distribute it, and then we will go on to other points. Mr Ferguson, what is it exactly that you were going to request?

Mr Ferguson: The point has wrongly been made that there has been no discussion --

The Chair: No. Right now the only thing I want to do is clarify what it is --

Mr Ferguson: I know that. I am getting to that. We are not all as succinct as you are, sir. Meetings have been going on for the last 20 years. There have been meetings with ministry officials and officials of various registry offices on an ad hoc basis. What I think would be important for the committee to recognize is that, number one, those meetings have been taking place; number two, there has been discussion around this issue with the registry office officials. The suggestion has been advanced that we should get minutes of the meetings. Do you want the minutes for the last 20 years?

The Chair: After hearing the committee members, we are going to have the clerk request of the minister copies of all meetings with the attendees from both sides -- from the ministry and from the user side -- of the last, say, 24 or 36 months, and if there are minutes that go along with those meetings, we will request that also. We will make all the information available to the committee as soon as possible and we will make the information available to the warden and to Mr Lapointe since they are vitally interested in it.

Mr Villeneuve: As an amendment to that request, these registry offices are scheduled for closing on November 11. If the ministry, for whatever reason, takes six months' time to find these minutes, registry offices are closed. I would say, as an appendix to that request, that registry office closures be put on hold until such time as the information is provided.

The Chair: The Chair cannot request that. The Chair can only request information. The clerk will review the Hansard of the last five minutes and we are going to then make a request to the minister's office for some basic information. Those things, I am sure, exist in files. I do not think it would take six months to compile a list of all the meetings.

Mr Villeneuve: It took an awful long time to get the answer to this letter, which is still forthcoming.

The Chair: Mr Villeneuve, I am only serving as the Chair of the committee. I cannot make comments on any of these other things.

Mr MacDonell: There is one more thing I would like to add. We had a Rural Ontario Municipal Association meeting in Goderich, July 17-18, and there -- I am a past president of the board -- it was brought to the board's attention what was happening across the province, and there is quite a concern in rural Ontario for what is taking place. It is affecting everybody, not just in our area. We are concerned with our area in eastern Ontario, but at this meeting it was brought out that this seems to be happening right across the province and it is quite a concern, because the closing of all these federal-provincial ministries in the small towns affects us very much.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. Mr Lapointe, do you have any final comments to add for the committee's benefit?

Mr Lapointe: I would like to draw the committee's attention to appendix B of our presentation, which is a map of our counties, Dundas, Stormont and Glengarry, that shows the geographic location of each of the existing registry offices. I think if one were to study that map and look at the distance that would be required to commute, let's say, from the northwest corner of Dundas, the Hallville area to Cornwall, that is going to add considerable time and expense to the users of the library services; the same thing with the northeast corner, the Lochiel township area. For those users of the registry office facilities to commute to Cornwall is going to require considerable travel time, expense, etc.

The only other item I might draw to the committee's attention is that it has been indicated that the three facilities are under lease to the Ministry of Government Services, a lease that does not expire until December 31, 1992. There has been no notice served to the counties that those premises would be vacated prior to the expiration of the existing lease. We are not sure what the ministry's intentions are should the premises be vacated prior to the leases being expired and we would appreciate some sort of comment so that plans can be made. Either we are going to renew the leases or look for alternative services to be placed in those facilities, because they are good facilities. They are serving a present need and purpose, and the people want to keep that existing service in place. County council has indicated a willingness to co-operate for the purpose of continuing the existing services that the people want retained as they presently are.

The Chair: Thank you for your presentation today.



The Chair: Doug Grenkie is the next presenter. You have 15 minutes for your presentation, Mr Grenkie. That includes questions and answers.

Mr Grenkie: I have brought with me today a copy of the book called Lunenburgh or the Old Eastern District, which relates to the history of our area. We also have historical atlases, which I am not going to file. They are too valuable to have for each committee member. It is the historical atlas of Leeds and Grenville, which was published in the late 1800s, as well as the historical atlas for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Our area, including the united counties of Prescott and Russell, is very historical, and all of us are very proud of our area. I think what the ministry has attempted to do is wrong not only in an economic sense but in a social sense as well.

I can advise you that I have been a lawyer in Morrisburg and I have continually used the registry offices located in Russell, Alexandria, Cornwall, Morrisburg, Prescott, Brockville and Ottawa.

The proposed closure of the registry offices in Russell, Alexandria, Morrisburg and Prescott will have a negative effect on the economy, tourism and history, cost of municipal government, cost of banking services, construction, real estate services, surveys and legal services for the residents of the particular villages and towns in each county. Indeed, in my opinion, there will be a loss of income to the province of Ontario. The presence and communication of the provincial government in the rural areas of the province will be further eroded. The proposed closure would violate an express act of the Legislative Assembly.

Dealing with the economy: Each registry office is located in a small village or town in eastern Ontario. The presence of the office attracts people to come to each particular village to use the services, and as a result those individuals spend money in those villages and towns. In addition, each office not only employs permanent staff, usually a registrar and deputy registrar, but many contract positions, and those contract positions provide moneys for people in those small towns, which they then spend in those towns. That would be a loss for us.

Dundas, Glengarry and Grenville were three of the original 19 counties established in Upper Canada by Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1792 and were contained within the district of Lunenburg, later the eastern district, one of the four districts of what is now Ontario. We were one of the first. This was proclaimed in 1788 by Lord Dorchester. The settlement of this province was the result of the actions of our early ancestors in these counties. The counties are steeped in history and the residents enjoy it. There are strong community feelings tied to the history of these counties. I might say that the registry offices are the epitome in each of those counties of that history.

Tourism is one of the major industries in these counties. Upper Canada Village is the most well known facility, located in Morrisburg, in Dundas county, but Fort Wellington in Prescott, in Grenville county, is annually becoming more popular. Glengarry county has its Maxville Highland Games near Alexandria. In addition, there are multitudes of historic places and events throughout the three counties which attract many tourists to the area. These tourists like to visit and investigate the historical roots of themselves and the province found in each particular registry office. The registry offices are a further attraction to draw people into the area.

The historical records are located in each registry office and are enjoyed by historical groups such as local genealogical societies, the United Empire Loyalists, the Women's Institute and other community organizations. The registry offices are located locally and are accessible to them. These people will not go the distance when the offices are closed. This will be a great loss to those individuals.

Municipal governments, being the four townships, incorporated villages and towns in each of the counties, are regular users of the offices through their employees. The clerks, road superintendents, bylaw enforcement officers, building inspectors and Ontario home renewal program administrators must often attend the registry office to ascertain ownership and register documents. The closure of the offices will cause substantial increased costs for each municipality in unnecessary travel and lost time. Russell to L'Orignal will add 1.25 hours; Alexandria to Cornwall will add 1.25 hours; Morrisburg to Cornwall will add 1.25 hours, and Prescott to Brockville will add 0.8 hours.

With respect to banking services, each of the registry offices provides easy accessibility to the major banks located in each of the counties. Bankers regularly use the offices to determine ownership and mortgage registration. It is common practice for bankers to verify applicants' information personally prior to approval of loans or renewal of loans. The increased cost to local banks in each county, because of time and travel, will no doubt be directly transferred to the clients who are residents and businesses in that particular county.

With respect to construction, local contractors and construction companies are necessary users of these offices. Ownership and easements, such as gas, hydro, Bell, etc, must be verified prior to any works being undertaken. Increased time and travel costs will be directly billed to the consumer, being the residents and businesses of each county.

Real estate services: Real estate appraisers, brokers and salesmen are regular users of these offices. Once again, increased time and travel costs will be directly billed to the consumer.

Ontario land surveyors are situated with full-time offices in each of the counties. Obviously, surveyors and their crews must be on the land to do each survey. Increased time and travel for document search for ownership and easements will be necessitated by these closures. Again, the consumer will pay the increased costs.

With respect to legal services, the most obvious increase in costs for the consumer will be legal services. Dundas county had 3,687 registrations, Glengarry had 3,546 registrations, Grenville had 5,908, and Russell had 17,153 for the year ended March 31, 1991. Travel and time costs will be increased for the client or consumer whether he or she uses the lawyers in the county or he or she takes time off to travel to the new locations.

The additional cost per transaction for Dundas county consumers will be a minimum of $150 per transaction. This translates into over $500,000 annually for Dundas county alone. I can assure you that Glengarry county, Grenville county and Russell county will feel the same amount of loss and they will have to pay out that same type of money.

Tourists and casual historians who regularly visit the registry office will not be inclined to to make the trek to Brockville, to Cornwall or L'Orignal. As a result, the ministry will not benefit from the fees it charges for such inquiries and searches of the abstract for each lot and copies they make in those offices for which they charge 50 cents. I estimate that the weekly loss for each office would be between $50 and $200, and that will be a direct loss to the province.

Each registry office provides a presence of the provincial government in each county. At these offices, residents may obtain the necessary forms to apply for certificates from the registrar general, landlord and tenant and other applications to various government ministries. The residents of each county, therefore, know that their government is giving them a service which they have earned and pay taxes for.

The registry office system, as you know, brings income to the province. It is a net income-maker for this province. The closure of each of these offices denies the residents of their rights in having an essential service of land registration in their locality, a system which was originated and was present prior to the formation of the province of Ontario.

The announcement of the proposed closure was made without any prior local consultation with the users of the system. Indeed, after the announcement, many individuals and groups have written strong letters of protest to the minister. I wrote a letter on May 27, 1991. Neither I nor any other person I know of, and I have received many copies of objections, have received a reply or acknowledgement to date.

Home ownership in eastern Ontario counties is a goal which all residents strive for and most achieve. Whether on social assistance or working or whatever, people in our counties want to own a home and they do achieve that, all of them, as best they can. A land registry system is, therefore, most important to all the residents. This attempted denial by this government is yet another example of a continuous denial of the rights to services of rural Ontario residents.

The Registry Act provides for the registry divisions in section 4 of the RSO 1980, chapter 445. Subsection 4(2) of that act provides that there shall be one land registry office for each county, and subsection 5(1) provides that except for the Toronto boroughs, the registry office shall be located in the county. The proposed closure would clearly violate an act of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

This right by law for each county to have its own registry office is further confirmed by the Territorial Division Act, RSO 1980, chapter 835, as amended. Section 1 states that the Territorial Division Act applies for municipal purposes; subsection 4(1) clearly states for municipal and all purposes not otherwise provided for by law. The Registry Act provides for by law.


Therefore, the Territorial Division Act does not apply, but it does state that the following counties continue to form unions of counties: Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Leeds and Grenville, and Prescott and Russell. For municipal purposes, there is one counties council for each of the unions, but historically and legally, and as recognized by all prior governments of Ontario, there has been one registry office for each and every county in the province.

I have appended to my presentation, which I have filed with the clerk, a copy of page 316 of Lunenburgh or the Old Eastern District by Judge Pringle, which was written by him in 1890. It should be understood that we have had a registrar in Dundas county since 1795. We have had a registrar in Glengarry county since 1795. We have had a registrar in Prescott since 1795, and a registrar in Grenville since 1795 as well. That predates this province of Ontario and is an example of the history that has been associated with this.

I have also attached for your reference copies of the relevant sections of the Registry Act and the Territorial Division Act.

Ladies and gentemen, I would like to say that since we have had our own registry office in Morrisburg and Prescott and in Russell and Alexandria since 1795, it would be my humble suggestion that if the province does not wish to operate the registry office, we would be glad to do it ourselves.

The Chair: We have about one minute per party.

Mr Villeneuve: Thank you, Mr Grenkie, for a very thorough and historical presentation. I think that puts it well into context. Were you, as a member of the bar association and as an active lawyer, ever consulted regarding the potential closure of registry offices that you use on a daily basis?

Mr Grenkie: No.

Mr Conway: I am quite intrigued by your last observation. I know the people of Dundas are quite resourceful, but is that a practical suggestion?

Mr Grenkie: Yes.

Mr Conway: You could run that?

Mr Grenkie: Yes, we could. If you heard the presentation by the united counties, it is quite clear that the costs of actually running the office are minimal. We could have our own staff there just as easily as anything. It is only 2.5 in staff. With 3,600 registrations at $25 a registration, we are well over $100,000 in income on that part alone. So yes, we could do it very easily. I am sure that in Prescott county, its Russell office was over -- if Cumberland is taken out, you are probably looking still at well over 11,000 or 12,000 registrations, so we could easily do the same thing. That is a growth area.

I did not want to get into it terribly, but from Prescott county, that is to say Russell, which is at the west end of the county, to go to L'Orignal is almost impossible. That is the growth area in that whole region. It is just unbelievable that anybody could think of moving the registry office out of Russell to go to L'Orignal. It just is not practical in any sense whatsoever.

I did file with the committee, and I will make a note on the record, a letter from Mr James D. Campbell, of the firm of Baribault, Campbell, Martel, and LaViolette. They are lawyers in Russell, Ontario, and have a very active practice throughout the five united counties. Basically what it means is that if they have a transaction just over the county line to the south, they are going to have to go all the way to Cornwall, and if it is a little bit to the west and south, they are going to have to go all the way to Brockville. It is just awful what is going to have to be done to that kind of service.

Mr Ferguson: I just want to note as part of my question that the Registry Act states that there is one office for every provincial judicial district, not one office for every county or territory.

Your delegation made a number of observations in its brief today. Among other things you seem to have inferred that in fact land registry offices are tourist attractions. Surely you do not believe that?

Mr Grenkie: Yes, I do. For example, you will be hearing from Prescott, which is in the county of Grenville; the building itself is a historic site, as is the building, as you will be hearing later on this afternoon, in Alexandria. Our building in Morrisburg, which serves Dundas county, is modern because we got flooded out back in the Seaway days, back in 1957, but before that time it was a very historic part. One of the original registry offices, I think, is 145 years old. It was a house originally and it still exists in Morrisburg and people live in that house right now. Morrisburg, I know, is in the throes of developing an historic site path for people to do a walking tour in the summer months. So yes, it is very historic and a tourist attraction.

The Chair: I am sorry, our time has expired. Mr Grenkie, thank you for your presentation.


The Chair: The next presenter is Karen Gorrell. The committee has also allocated 15 minutes for your presentation and you can withhold some time for questions and answers if you wish. Would you please identify yourself for the record and any organization you may represent.

Mrs Gorrell: My name is Karen Gorrell. I am a real estate broker. I have been in real estate for 13 years and my office is located in the village of Morrisburg.

Honourable members, it is to each of you individually, as the person dedicated to representing the interests of your community, that I speak. All decisions you must make involve a balancing of gain and loss. Too often arguments are presented mainly in economic terms. Those contained in the presentations from my fellow realtors are persuasive in themselves, but I wish to raise with you another dimension.

As members, you are conscious of the continuing tension between the aims of bureaucracy and the needs of your communities. Whatever the financial or economic outcome of arguments for and against moving the Dundas county registry office from Morrisburg, the entries on the balance sheet in social terms, in terms of service to individuals and to the community, are all on the debit side of the ledger.

Where presently situated, the history of land transactions in Dundas county is easily accessible to all, not only those earning their living in relationship to them, realtors, lawyers, bankers, builders, but to those considering purchase of land and those studying the past.

The continuing record is at present in the hands of members of the community. Individuals who know Winchester, Williamsburg and Iroquois are individuals who know local anomalies and who may well know a piece of land by somebody simply saying, "I want to look up the old McIntosh farm."

The Morrisburg community focuses on the shopping centre, the post office and its nearby registry office. The registry office is not the heart of this entity, but the lawyers, realtors, banks and others related to land transactions all form part of the sinew of the community. At present their focus is within the county. If current proposals are implemented, the community focus will be diminished.

Dundas county is a community. It is defined in terms of a land area, true, but it is much more than that. It is an integrated set of individuals providing for each other's needs.

The government of Ontario today is under the direction of individuals whose credo has been that of caring and sharing, of building better communities, of seeking to awaken individuals to a greater sense of social responsibility.

The communities that most approximate in reality the ideal that the government, its ministers and members are seeking to foster are those which exist in rural Ontario, in Dundas county. Yet while efforts are being made to build communities in metropolitan centres, it is an integral part of our existing, functioning community that this proposal will destroy if implemented.

As you ponder the balance sheet for and against implementing this proposal, I ask you to accept the argument that any destruction of our community life should not be implemented without very strong reasons, reasons far greater than can be brought forward once all other factors are balanced out.

Also submitted to the clerk, attached to my presentation, are objections from five other realty companies, all located within the boundaries of Dundas county.


The Chair: Do you have anything you wish to add at the present time, or are you ready to take questions?

Mrs Gorrell: No, not at the present time.

The Chair: Very good. Mr Villeneuve.

Mr Villeneuve: Thank you, Mrs Gorrell, for a very thorough presentation. How many realtors are there in Morrisburg and area?

Mrs Gorrell: I would say in Dundas county we have approximately 40 at the present time.

Mr Villeneuve: Forty people who are involved in the transactions of --

Mrs Gorrell: Yes, they are licensed people.

Mr Villeneuve: Of course, when a transaction occurs, quite often a mortgage follows, so we are talking two transactions when a transaction occurs. Therefore we are talking considerable additional costs which are basically the fault of the registry office not being close at hand, I gather.

Mrs Gorrell: We have to spend many hours in a registry office going back, getting deeds, getting copies of plans, etc. We are in a rural community. Many times the deeds the owner has of the property are just copies of where it states metes and bounds. We therefore have to do a further search to make sure we are not advertising a property that really the owner, the vendor, does not own, and therefore we will be legally charged. That is how we spend a lot of our time.

Anyone who is doing appraisals within our business certainly has to spend a number of hours in the registry offices, not only in our profession, but also builders whom we deal with. There is a lot more dissent in the sale of the new homes.

Mr Villeneuve: You are a broker with Thom Realty and you are representing a group of individual realtors in Dundas county. Have any of the realtors, to your knowledge, been consulted by ministry officials regarding the potential closure of your registry office?

Mrs Gorrell: None whatsoever.

Mr Brown: I too am very pleased that you have taken the time to come before us today and to bring a very good and well-prepared brief.

I could not help but think, as you made this presentation, that this is about community rights as much as anything. I represent a northern riding, but a riding that relates relatively well to your experience. I know in our area that the closure of the rural post office has created quite an interesting backlash. People do not like that. I think all three parties in this room have objected strenuously to the closing of rural post offices.

It strikes me that this is exactly the same thing that we are seeing here from this government. Without any consultation or whatever, we are going out and taking part of the very fabric, part of our very history, from the people who have lived there and have settled there and have strong community traditions. Do you think there is some validity in that? Do people see the issue in the same way, I guess is what I am asking you.

Mrs Gorrell: Very much so, and I can state my personal feeling in this, one I share with many other people. We are beginning to feel that unless you live in an urban centre in the province these days, they are taking away any kind of services that are presently in existence. We have a hard time trying to get anything into our community in the line of government services and we certainly are going to fight very hard to keep what we have. After all, I pay the same amount of taxes as the person living in the city and I like to have a little bit of the services. I feel personally that this particular government has always stated that it is a people's party, where it likes to represent the small businesses.

We might be six realtors' offices in Dundas county. We are all small businesses and it hurts us badly. We do not have 200 people or 150 people. We cannot afford to have a person go to Cornwall and sit all day in the registry office. We do not have that type of manpower. We are struggling to get by day by day. That is my concern, and that is one of the very reasons I am here today.

Ms Harrington: I wanted to first of all thank you for your very kind comments about this government. You said our "credo has been that of caring and sharing, of building better communities, of seeking to awaken individuals to a greater sense of social responsibility." I appreciate that and I believe you are correct.

What I would like to say is yes, that is true. My parents lived in an old stone home between Brockville and Cornwall where in fact there was a plaque that said 1790-something, if I remember correctly. So this is a historical area and it is a tourist area and there are people who want to come back and find their roots. It is a United Empire Loyalist area that stretches all the way up towards Cornwall, I believe. Unfortunately, we would like to have things stay the same but change is inevitable, I am sure you would admit.

What I would like to just tell you is that after careful evaluation, change does take place, and we will assure you that there is careful evaluation of this and many other things. Of course, our government must make the tough decisions. It is not easy, as you know. In this last year, with the recession, there are many very difficult things that have to be done. I would just like to let you know that.

The Chair: We have about a minute left.

Mrs Gorrell: I would just like to respond to that, if I may. Does it have to be at the cost of the small businesses in the rural communities?

Ms Harrington: It is very difficult to respond to, but it has to be a cost to everyone in this province if we are to try to live in this difficult time and share the problems we are all facing.

Mrs Gorrell: We do not mind sharing the cost, but we do not want to have to bear the burden of them. That is my problem.

The Chair: Thank you for your presentation, Mrs Gorrell.


The Chair: The next presenters I believe will be sharing their time, Reeve Bill Dillabough and Mayor J. P. Touchette. The committee has allocated 15 minutes for your presentation. You can share the time and save some time for questions and answers if you wish. Will you please identify yourselves for the record?

Mr Dillabough: I am Reeve Bill Dillabough, the village of Morrisburg. I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to be here today to talk about our concerns. I do not have a prepared brief; I am just going to talk from the cuff.

The only one this is going to affect if you were to close this office is the blue-collar worker in eastern Ontario. They are having a hard enough time now buying property and this is only going to add to it. The GST has been added to the buying of property. If you close the registry office, there will be another cost to the average Canadian, and that is who I am concerned about.

Mr Grenkie and Mr MacDonell, our warden, told you our concerns and there is no sense in my being a repetition of that.

There was a study made by the province, I understand. I have a copy of it here, and it says, "Government withholds registry office study." I do not know why. Why would they want to withhold the study? That is what concerns me on that. And what would that study cost? Has anybody any idea in this committee here?

The Chair: No, but we can try to find out for you.

Mr Dillabough: I just cut this out of the paper. It says, "Provincial government bases closure of Almonte office on a study which won't be made public." It is very hard to know why they would not want to make it public if it is paid by the taxpayers of the province. They will have to answer to that question.

The Chair: If there is any ministry staff here, I would just ask that they take note of the reeve's request and forward the information to the committee clerk and we will distribute it and make sure it is given to you, sir.


Mr Dillabough: I would like the committee to understand that at no time in my 18 years as reeve have I had anybody -- this one gentleman here tells me that there were meetings going on all the time across the province concerning the registry offices. I have never been notified and I have been here for 18 years, and that concerns me.

I estimate in the county office in Morrisburg we take in roughly maybe $125,000 a year, and any time you can run a business at a profit, you stay in business. To me, if they close this office, they are closing a business that is producing revenue. I do not know how the government handles its books, but profit and loss is the most important thing. I think there is a profit here, and that is one of the reasons we are prepared to run our own registry office if we have to.

If I recall, not too long ago the Premier of this province was in Cornwall. He told me he would guarantee that government would not stop in Kingston, and already we are getting 14 offices in our riding being closed in eastern Ontario.

We are people. We are proud people, and I just hope that this government -- and I am not criticizing the government, because I think every government has to have a chance to operate. I just hope this government will show responsibility when the time comes to make a responsible decision and a fair decision. That is what I think we should be talking about.

Also, I have a letter here from the president of the NDP riding association and he wanted me to read it here today. He says:

"Thank you for sending me a copy of the correspondence sent to the Honourable Marilyn Churley considering the discontinuation of registry office services at Alexandria and Morrisburg.

"I had already, in fact, written to the minister pointing out the widespread concern in the counties over the proposed closures. I believe that Helena McCuiag, the NDP candidate in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry in the last provincial election, has done the same.

"I attach a copy of my letter to the minister.

"Trevor Tolley,


"NDP Riding Association,

Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry."

He says:

"Dear Minister:

"I am writing to you as president of the NDP provincial riding association for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

"I feel that I should draw your attention to the very strong feeling throughout this riding concerning the proposed closing of the land registry offices in Morrisburg and Alexandria. There is widespread both individuals and the press. This is not confined to lawyers and real estate agents. The entire council of Williamsburg township, of which I am a member, felt that the move was most retrograde. In addition, long-term NDP supporters, including our candidate in the last election, feel that the move will have very bad consequences for local communities.

"I would respectfully ask you, in the circumstance, to give your most careful consideration to the question of whether the closing of the Morrisburg and Alexandria offices is appropriate, particularly in view of the large distances involved and the distribution of population in the area.

"Yours sincerely,

"Trevor Tolley,


"NDP Riding Association,

Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry."

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

Mr Touchette: I am J. P. Touchette, mayor of Alexandria. Mr Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, as mayor of Alexandria and on behalf of our community, I thank you for providing us with the opportunity to address a problem of great magnitude and with a far-reaching, detrimental conclusion if it is allowed to happen. I especially want to thank our member, Noble Villeneuve, for his help in making this meeting possible.

Alexandria is a town of 3,300 inhabitants. We are the only town in SD&G. We are proud, hard-working individuals who have struggled and worked together to advance and promote Alexandria as a wonderful and progressive place to live and work. Alexandria is the hub of Glengarry, the very centre of the county. We are proud to provide many services to our surrounding townships. It was only natural that close to 200 years ago our town would be the home of a registry office, the first, or one of the first, in Ontario.

Alexandria has been a victim of the Mulroney government. Free trade, deregulation of the trucking industry, elimination of shoe quotas and the Crow interest policy for creating a made-in-Canada depression have taken their toll on Alexandria. Some 600 jobs have been lost.

The announcement, or edict, regarding the closure of our registry office -- totally without consultation in any of the 25 years I have been in council -- by the minister is something we cannot accept. Our letters, resolutions from our municipal councils, petitions, phone calls and presentations from all walks of life have all fallen on deaf ears.

We believe this decision is based on bureaucratic bungling, a few civil servants who believe that bigger is better and who have tried for many years to bring this closure about.

Bob Rae was elected by the people of Ontario with a platform of helping the little man, of giving everyone in Ontario an equal chance of making sure that all provincial money is spent equally and protecting small communities and preserving jobs and creating new ones.

The closure of our registry office would be an economic disaster. Our service industry is already adversely affected. Our restaurants and retail outlets would be further undermined.

The savings effected by centralizing to one office in Cornwall are a work of fiction. We would like to meet the author of such a report. The present facilities in Cornwall are inadequate, lacking in parking. At times people wait in line and have to stand up to do their work. A centralized office would cost four to five times the proposed savings.

I ask this committee, in the name of God and everything that is decent, to convince the elected government of Ontario to halt the dismantling of all that is precious to us and not to eliminate a natural right to be treated with fairness and justice. I thank you.

Mr Villeneuve: Thank you, your worship, and Mr Reeve. I think you have pretty well said it all in not too many words, which is not typical of politicians. However, I thank you for that. I think you got the message across very clearly.

In Alexandria's case, I think there was a question a while ago. How old is the building, in your opinion, Mr Mayor?

Mr Touchette: I think it is close to 200 years.

Mr Villeneuve: Yes, I think you are absolutely right.

Mr Touchette: It is a gem.

Mr Villeneuve: The users of that facility are going through some very difficult economic times, as you have touched on. You did not touch the rural economy in the area, which is also suffering very drastically.

I come from a background that did a lot of work with the registry office. Of the 3,500 or so transactions, how many of those would involve agriculture, farmers either renewing mortgages or getting new mortgages, acquiring more land? The federation of agriculture in Glengarry sent me a letter -- I have a copy here -- about its very deep concern as to the added cost of doing business as a farmer, renewing mortgages and what have you. Would you have an idea as to what the proportion might be?

Mr Touchette: A guesstimate of the transactions going on in the registry office, excluding Alexandria, would probably be 85%, in my estimate. I do not have anything to back that up, but going on the population, the way we are divided, etc.

Mr Villeneuve: And certainly Alexandria is the hub of Glengarry, situated in the centre of Glengarry. It is the logical spot. It is the metropolis of the jurisdiction that I very proudly represent, at 3,300 people, and they are attempting to take away the registry office. I really thank you for being here.

Mr Reeve, the same question to you. I know there are very good agricultural enterprises in Dundas county. Would you have an idea as to the proportion of the transactions in Morrisburg that would be agriculture oriented and those that might be oriented more towards Winchester and Morrisburg, the towns?

Mr Dillabough: In our case we have four villages.

Mr Villeneuve: Yes.

Mr Dillabough: Winchester, Morrisburg, Iroquois --

Mr Villeneuve: Chesterville.

Mr Dillabough: And Chesterville. So I would say it is roughly about half and half.

Mr Villeneuve: Fifty-fifty.

Mr Dillabough: Because there are four townships and four villages. Does that answer your question?

Mr Villeneuve: Yes, I think it does. Thank you very much, Mr Chair. I pass to my colleague.

Mr Conway: We have before us two of the senior senators from municipal government in eastern Ontario. My friend from Moose Creek was talking about how the mayor of Alexandria speaks so clearly. He sings beautifully as well, I want to add, but we are not here to talk about singing.

I want to ask a question of both of these gentlemen and it has to do with the actual costs of the so-called integration. I think it was the mayor of Alexandria who said that it would be as part of that work of fiction to which, in the land of the decent, he made reference. What are the real costs? You said three, four, five times over would be likely the result of the integration. Can either one of you or both of you give some indication? Perhaps, J. P., you might start by simply elaborating on how those costs are going to pile up.

Mr Touchette: I would say that the building in Cornwall is completely inadequate. It does not have enough parking even for the employees. They say that the savings are roughly $1 million in one of the studies I found. I would say that in the first year or the second year you will have to build a brand-new building that will cost anywhere from $4 million to $10 million somewhere in Cornwall, completely without any justification.

Mr Conway: That is an important point, I think. As I say, I do not know the situation in Cornwall. I do know the case in Perth. My guess is that the upgrades in Perth will be -- well, I think one of the earlier witnesses talked about several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your guess is that in Cornwall it would lead almost certainly to a new building?

Mr Touchette: Completely. There is no way they can handle the job from there. They cannot handle what they have at the moment.

Mr Dillabough: We all know what happened in Almonte. They built a new one for $982,000 and they are talking about closing it.

Mr Conway: But the point in Almonte is that the move to Perth -- and here I think there is some similarity. According to earlier witnesses and a lot of commentary in eastern Ontario, the leased facility in Perth is going to require very substantial upgrades just to bring it into conformity with current fire and safety regulations, and that seems to be what you are saying about Cornwall as well, that it is just overburdened with what it has now before any of the so-called integration takes place.

Mr Dillabough: They are probably the only two facilities run by the government that are not losing money. Maybe that is why they want to close them, and I think that is wrong and they should think about that. I think governments like to get into things that lose money and we politicians municipally want to break even.


Mr Conway: Well, I am very sensitive on that point, so I would yield the floor to my friends opposite.

Mr Drainville: I want, first of all, to thank Mr Dillabough and Mr Touchette pour votre intervention. I would like to say, first of all, that, just really as a point that should be made, in 1968 the counties of Ontario petitioned the provincial government to take over the justice system, courts, land registry offices and jails. The province did so under the 1968 Administration of Justice Act. The reason for that at that point in time was, I think, the municipalities felt strongly that the infrastructure and the cost of that infrastructure needed to be taken on by the provincial government.

In the discussions we have heard, there is obviously a willingness on the part of the municipalities at least to take back the registry offices. I have heard it now from a couple of witnesses. Following along from what my colleague asked before, do you believe that the municipalities have the wherewithal to do that, and could you give some indication of whether there is a true willingness there to go that route?

Mr Touchette: I think I can answer for the town of Alexandria. We are part of the three united counties, and as a last resort -- but I still think the provincial government would be negating what it should be doing. They have taken it on. By the way, we have asked you to operate it, not destroy it.

Mr Dillabough: Actually, we do own the buildings now. All we are saying is, do not close them. That is what we are saying. If you are going to close them, I think that -- I certainly can speak on behalf of the village of Morrisburg -- we are prepared to pay our share to maintain them.

The Chair: Gentlemen, thank you for your presentation.


The Chair: I am just having a little trouble from looking at the schedule whether you have been allocated 15 or 30 minutes. Do you recall?

Mr Sauve: Probably 30.

The Chair: Let's try with 15, and we will see how far we get, okay? We will try to saw it off in the middle. Would you just identify yourselves for the record. We are going to use the same procedure we have been using all day.

Mr Sauve: I am Maurice Sauve from Alexandria, 26 years as a real estate salesman and broker in Alexandria, two blocks away from the registry office.

I came here today to help save a needed institution in Glengarry, which happens to be situated in the very centre -- the hub -- of the county; that is, in the town of Alexandria. Our county -- Glengarry -- is composed of four townships: Lancaster, Charlottenburgh, Kenyon, and Lochiel, plus three incorporated towns, Maxville, Lancaster and Alexandria. Its area is about 25 miles wide and about 30 miles long. Its population is about 21,000, well interspersed throughout the area.

Sitting in the very centre of Glengarry is our local land registry office in Alexandria. Everyone knows it is there and uses it when needed. A large majority of the population does its shopping in Alexandria, so they are often in town. Travelling to Cornwall is very much out of their way for most of the general population of Glengarry. Why should they be forced to travel to a strange place when it is already a viable operation where it is now in Alexandria?

There are at least seven real estate companies in Glengarry, most of which are located right here in Alexandria. We all use the registration office on a regular basis for all types of searches, for our vendors and buyers. It will be extremely expensive and time-wasting to have to travel to Cornwall, and why should we when the registry office is already a viable and successful operation right here in Alexandria? None of us has ever been consulted or asked to discuss the closing of our registry office. I have never heard of our Alexandria registry office being a money-losing operation. It would have to be proven to me. Even if it does lose a bit, can you imagine the high extra personal costs the many real estate sales people and brokers, the legal professionals, the business people, the workers, the farmers and the retirees will have to spend to go to Cornwall instead? You have only considered the possible small loss that you will incur. What about all the users of the registry office? Have you considered their extra costs and time?

You talk about increased efficiency. Have you considered how inefficient it is for us to go to Cornwall, 25 miles away, completely away from our work area? Our workload is already too high. Imagine having to add an hour and a half to our time every time we need to use the registry office. How inefficient. Then there will be one more empty office building in Alexandria. Alexandria needs that like a hole in the head. Here we have a needed, profitable institution and you are shipping it off to Cornwall and leaving us with an empty office building.

I have empty space that I cannot rent, and I can name several others. This will only make the situation worse. It is even worse at the centre of town. We try to encourage the centre of town to stay lively and survive, and you leave us with another empty space. What will we do with it? Keep the registry office where it is and keep everybody happy.

Many visiting lawyers, surveyors, engineers, real estate salesmen, appraisers, business investigators, builders and others use our registry office and afterwards will have dinner at our many fine restaurants, and may even do some shopping. These are people who can well afford a good meal. Our community will lose many thousands of dollars from the loss of these business people. They will have one less excuse to come to Alexandria.

Also, job losses: There are two to four people who work at the registry office. That means lost jobs for now and in the future.

In closing, I would just like to say that I hope and pray that we are not too late to help you reverse your decision.

Mr Aubry: My name is Pierre Aubry. I am a solicitor practising real estate in Alexandria. I have been there now for nine years. May I, first of all, thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. I certainly hope that after these hearings have concluded you will agree with me that the closure of the Alexandria registry office is a shortsighted initiative.

May I also add myself to the chorus of voices that maintains that no notice of these changes was given by the ministry or ministry staff. I can also tell you that even the registrar at the registry office in Alexandria was not aware of these impending changes until the day they were announced on May 7 -- hearsay, mind you, but I know that for a fact.

I would like to address the minister's justifications for the closure of the registry offices. There are basically two arguments, the first of which is that closing many of these registry offices will increase the level of service to customers. As you have heard all day, we know who these customers are. I have spoken to members of all these customer groups and I can tell you that the opposition to the closure is unanimous. Closing the Alexandria registry office, I submit, will cause a dramatic decrease in the level of service to consumers.

To put it in perspective, even though the registry office in Cornwall is exactly 50 kilometres away from Alexandria, I can tell you that it takes approximately 45 minutes to get there from the time you leave your house until you are parked. That adds an extra 90 minutes to our day's work just to go and close a transaction in Cornwall.

I might also add that a large segment of the northern portion of Glengarry is serviced by Hawkesbury lawyers. These lawyers will now have to spend approximately two and a half hours on the road to close a single transaction in Cornwall. In my view, that is completely unacceptable.


The Alexandria registry office serves its customers very well. The staff is well known to the community. They are very friendly and helpful. People do not hesitate to go there for information. The office provides a variety of government pamphlets and forms, and it is widely known that those forms and pamphlets are available there. Moving the registry office to Cornwall will simply mean that many of these people will simply no longer have access to that information.

As well, eastern Ontario, I submit to you, is not served by government services as other parts of this province, notably urban areas. Closing the Alexandria office will only remind the residents of the community how poorly served they are, and how little this government and past governments have cared.

To measure the utility of an office or a service by constant standards underplays the significance of distance in these populated areas. Let us make an assumption, that this change is irreversible and that when November comes along, the Alexandria registry office is moved to Cornwall. I can guarantee you one thing: The registry office in Cornwall is going to be in utter chaos. I am a frequent user of the registry office in Cornwall, as well as in L'Orignal, Russell, and the other places in eastern Ontario. There is currently enough room for approximately 15 people to search titles. There is barely enough room in Cornwall now to serve its existing clientele.

In my view, there is absolutely no question whatsoever that come November, the Cornwall registry office will not be sufficient in terms of size. You have heard about the parking problem. Let me tell you as well that even though there is very little parking, there is also no parking on the street, because there are several other businesses in that area. I might advise you that most of the Cornwall lawyers' offices are located on Sydney Street where the registry office is. So it is really amazing to me how the ministry staff think this is going to be carried out. When both the Morrisburg and Alexandria offices are moved to Cornwall, there will be no room to search titles at the end of the month. I can tell you right now, as a practitioner, that the end of the month is a crazy sight in any registry office. It is a crazy sight in Alexandria; it is a crazy sight in Morrisburg; it is a crazy sight in Cornwall. Cornwall will not be able to accommodate it.

The only way they will be able to deal with it is to build a new building, which brings me to the second justification the ministry advances, and that is that these changes will bring about savings in the order of a million dollars across the system annually. I do not have a degree in mathematics, but I can tell you right away that the cost of maintaining the Alexandria registry office for 20 years is far less than the cost of building a new building in Cornwall.

There is talk in Cornwall right now that they are going to build a new provincial institutions building, which will supposedly house the courts and other ministry offices. We are told that perhaps this is where the registry office will go. At this point, there are no plans on the drawing board. Nobody can tell us what is going on, so if we assume that we are only going to build a new registry office, I would submit to you that the cost of doing so will be no less than $4 million. I cannot project the high side. To put the registry office in a larger provincial building, I submit to you that the cost of that building will be in excess of $20 million. To me that is not fiscal responsibility, and I hope you understand where I am coming from.

I received a letter dated June 26 from Carol Kirsh, who is the director of the registry system. She advised me that in 1990-91 the Alexandria registry office handled 5,588 transactions. Of those, 3,546 were registrations. Registrations, I might advise you, cost approximately $25 apiece. There are some for municipalities that cost zero, but then on the other side you also have applications for certifications of title, which will cost you, I think, $850. In the end for calculation purposes I have simply multiplied the number of registrations by 25, which gives me $86,640. The remaining transactions are probably subsearches, which are billed at $4 a crack, which gives us revenue there of $8,168. So, a very conservative revenue figure for the Alexandria registry office is approximately $95,000.

In so far as the cost of operation is concerned, Ms Kirsh advised me that the cost per transaction is $20.48. If you multiply it by the number of transactions, that gives you a total cost of operation of $112,000. Therefore, very conservatively, the net loss at the Alexandria registry office would appear to be $17,000. But mind you, that is bearing in mind that these figures on the revenue side are very conservative.

In my view, $17,000 is a rather insignificant amount when you look at the complete picture. Historically, the Alexandria registry office is the second oldest, continuously operating registry office in Ontario. It has been there since the mid-1850s. I cannot give you an exact date, but I do know that is when the united counties bought the property for the purpose of building a registry office, so it is somewhere around the middle 1850s. Only the Kingston registry office has been in operation longer. The building, I can assure you, is in very good shape. The registrar has advised me that there are no repairs required in the near future. The only thing that is required is a coat of paint within the next couple of years.

Glengarrians are very proud of their history and they take it very seriously. Many families can trace their family ties on the same farm upwards of 150 years and up to 200 years. There are many bicentennial farms in Glengarry county. The registry office has been part of that cultural heritage. Closing the Alexandria registry office, I submit, is a very insensitive initiative for a community that has been neglected for too long.

As the mayor indicated, our small town of 3,300 has seen a loss of jobs in the magnitude of 600. Unfortunately, no level of government has come to our aid. Closing the registry office is simply hammering another nail in the coffin. If in fact the registry office is closed, I submit to you that the next thing to go in Alexandria is the provincial court and after that the small claims court, probably at the same time. That is mere speculation on my part, but if there is no registry office there, there is even less reason to keep the courts there, so it is just a domino effect, one after the other, and I am convinced of that.

Perhaps I may now, Mr Chairman, address a point that was brought forth by Mr Ferguson.

The Chair: Very quickly.

Mr Aubry: Subsection 4(2) of the Registry Act stipulates that there shall be one land registry office for each county, regional municipality and provisional judicial district. I heard him make reference to the fact that SD&G might be a judicial district. In fact, Mr Ferguson, I can assure you that it is not a provisional judicial district; neither is it a regional municipality. Our feeling is that what the government is doing is not in accordance with the Registry Act. It cannot be done by order in council. Our view is that these changes, in so far as Glengarry and Morrisburg are concerned, can only be done through an amendment to the Registry Act. Those are my comments.


Mr Villeneuve: Mr Aubry and Mr Sauve, thank you very much for your presentation. From a legal standpoint I really appreciate your legal opinions on what indeed the minister had confirmed in reply to a question of mine in the Legislature. Further to Glengarry, do you have land titles in Glengarry on any of your municipalities?

Mr Aubry: No.

Mr Villeneuve: I know you have Indian lands going through there in a very confusing legal description issue that necessitates in most instances a lot more time at the registry office. Could you comment on that, just because of the uniqueness of Glengarry, I believe, with Indian lands going from the Ottawa River to the St Lawrence River.

Mr Aubry: There is no doubt that searching titles in Glengarry county is more complicated than in other counties. There is no land titles system, so it makes it more difficult. We do have to go back and search the usual 40-year period as provided for under the Registry Act in order to provide good title to our clients. Charlottenburgh township, being the most populous township, was surveyed three times in the early 1800s, and that has caused confusion in terms of the titles to many properties. But to answer your question directly, yes, it is more complicated to search title in Alexandria than in other areas.

Mr Villeneuve: Mr Sauve, you are a realtor -- you emphasize the fact -- and I know very well where both the registry office and your office are situated. How important is it to a realtor to have that registry office within a stone's throw, literally speaking, as you sign up a potential vendor who may or may not know what his legal descriptions are? Could you just elaborate a little bit on how this facilitates the job of the realtor and possibly reduces the legal cost to the vendor and purchaser?

Mr Sauve: In practically every instance we have to go and check it out at the registry office, just to see who the neighbours are, and then write a legal description, if there are any old rights of way going through. There are all kinds of reasons why we have to go and check it. Every salesman probably goes there a couple of times a week. So costwise, to go to Cornwall --

Mr Villeneuve: And that would be compounded by the fact that you have the Indian lands coming through both Kenyon and Charlottenburgh.

Mr Conway: I cannot really think of much. I think this case is building fairly clearly and I really do not want to waste the committee's time sort of begging the obvious. I think these gentlemen, like the previous presenters, have made the case, particularly around distance. I know those highways fairly well. I did not realize it is 45 minutes from Alexandria to Cornwall.

Mr Aubry: From the time you leave your office until the time you are in the registry office, yes. That is assuming you do not have to go around the block five times trying to find a parking spot come November.

Mr Conway: The distance factor in all these rural eastern counties is very significant and I am certainly very sympathetic to what the witnesses have said.

Mrs Fawcett: Just further to that, there are all these extra distances, extra costs, that seem to be floating out there. Who do you feel will bear the brunt of those?

Mr Aubry: The consumer, obviously. The first thing I am going to have to do is buy a cellular phone. I am probably going to have to buy a new vehicle sooner than I had anticipated. I might have to hire somebody else. If I do not hire somebody else, I will simply have to pay more for the clerk we will have to try to organize with other lawyers. It is going to add to each transaction a minimum of $100 to $150 in legal costs. There is no doubt about it. There are the surveyors as well.

Mrs Fawcett: What percentage would that be?

Mr Aubry: Let us take the average house in Alexandria and area that sells, let's say, for around $70,000. Legal fees on that type of transaction, depending on how difficult it is, will probably vary between $650 and $800. Now it is going to be more like $750 to $1,000, I can guarantee you.

Ms Harrington: I thought I should mention that I represent the city of Niagara Falls and to my knowledge we do not have a provincial court in Niagara Falls. We do not have a land registry office either. So we have people going back and forth to an adjacent municipality. I think it is unfortunate. I know it is not a good situation, but I just wanted to let you know that it is happening in very many parts of this province.

Mr Conway: Surely the distance between Niagara Falls, Welland and St Catharines is qualitatively a different situation than the trip from Moose Creek to Lancaster to Morrisburg.

Ms Harrington: We are talking 45 minutes one way. From Niagara Falls downtown to Welland would be 30 minutes, so we are in the same sort of ballpark.

I want to try to help the committee. We do not have the answers. You have the questions. I would like to ask our assistant deputy minister to help us with a couple of things. First of all, the question of the status of SD&G as either a county or a judicial district, and whether it has the legislative authority or the requirement to have an office there, and second, the question of the Cornwall office: It has been made clear in several presentations -- or it seems to be -- that it is at maximum capacity at the present time. What you have told us is that there is absolutely no way it can handle anything further. Is that correct? Is that what you are saying?

Mr Aubry: That is correct.

Ms Harrington: Okay. I would like to ask Mr Daniels, I believe it is, if he could comment on those two questions.

The Chair: Is Mr Daniels here from the ministry? Sir, if you could please come forward and identify yourself for the record and take a chair, Ms Harrington has a couple of specific questions.

Ms Harrington: The first was about the status of SD&G.

Mr Daniels: I am not a lawyer and I will quote from our legal opinion on that. If you bear with me, I will just read it into the record.

"Section 4 of the Territorial Division Act provides that Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Leeds and Grenville, Prescott and Russell are united for all purposes not otherwise provided by law. Subsection (2) goes on to provide that they have in common as one county all courts, offices, institutions pertaining to counties. If these can be treated as one county, of course, the offices can be combined.

"However, section 4 of the Registry Act is somewhat confusing. Subsection (1) states the registry divisions in existence in 1925 are still in effect, `subject to the provisions of this act, except where otherwise expressly provided in any general act.' Subsection (2) concludes with the statement that there shall be at least one registry office in each county, regional municipality and district.

"Notwithstanding section 4 of the Registry Act" -- this is our lawyer's opinion -- "in my opinion, combining these offices authorized under the Territorial Divisions Act, the counties shall share all county institutions and are to be treated as one county unless other legislation specifically provides otherwise. If the united counties can be treated as one, a single office is authorized under the Registry Act and section 4 itself provides the authority for changing the registry divisions." So we are saying legally we can consider it as one unit, as one entity.

Mr Conway: Could we get a copy of that?

Mr Daniels: Sure. Did I read it too fast?

Mr Conway: No.

Mr Daniels: For sure, put it in the record.

Mr Conway: It certainly seems highly interpretative and I would like a referee to just -- I am not a lawyer, but I think I know the bail-out clauses when I hear them and I think I heard a couple in that, but at any rate it is good to have.

Interjection: Copies for everybody.

Mr Daniels: Sure.

Ms Harrington: Certainly that is the crux of what we are talking about here. With regard to the floor space and workable space for people in the Cornwall office, how would you handle that?

Mr Daniels: In each office we analyse the existing office's floor space. In the office in Cornwall, we feel and our study would indicate there is enough floor space and adequate space to maintain the files. The important thing to also remember is that the staff from both offices, the front-line staff, will be coming along with the records, so the service level should be maintained. The people who were providing the service in Alexandria, the people who were providing the service in Morrisburg, will continue as public servants.

Ms Harrington: And is there room for them physically?

Mr Daniels: Yes.

Mr Villeneuve: Art, have you been there lately?

Mr Daniels: Yes, I have. I have been to the Cornwall office.

Mr Villeneuve: I am afraid I have to disagree.

Ms Harrington: I think this committee should take a tour.

Mr Daniels: Do you want me to answer the question about consulting, because I think a lot of people have asked if there are regular meetings --

The Chair: Order, please. I think we are going to have to keep moving along. Thank you very much.

Mr Conway: We are going to have a chance to have Mr Daniels back.

The Chair: Yes, he is going to be back tomorrow for two hours.

Mr Aubry: Sir, may I address the question raised?

The Chair: To the committee.

Mr Aubry: Yes. I am not disputing the fact that there may be adequate room in the registry office for its records, but I will tell you how they are going to do it. Right now, they have filing cabinets which are four drawers high. They are replacing those with filing cabinets which are five drawers high. That is how they are taking care of the space in the back room.

The main problem is the users in the front room where the public is. There is room for 15 people to search title right now. In Alexandria, in our small office, 10 people can sit around tables to search. In Morrisburg, I am not exactly sure but if my memory is good it is around eight. If you want to be able to accommodate the same number of people at the same time, there is no physical room. I do not care what that gentleman says. He is not in there every day and he is not there at the peak periods, either.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Aubry. I think that concludes the committee's questions. Thank you for your presentation.



The Chair: The next presenters, please: Richard Tobin, Barry Laushway, Wilf Peters. I hope I have pronounced all that correctly. You have been allotted 30 minutes for your presentation. We are going to follow the same procedures you have been able to witness. I would ask all of you to identify yourselves for the record and I will turn the floor over to you.

Mr Laushway: I will go first since I am in the centre. I am Barry Laushway. Seated on my right is Richard Tobin. Both of us are lawyers in Prescott. Seated on my left is Wilfred Peters, who actually works for a living.

I am practising in Prescott as a lawyer in a small firm. There were two of us and I am now alone. I do a great deal of my practice in the real estate law area and I am actually a user of the registry office. I have been practising for about 16 years now. Most of the time spent by me in a registry office is in the registry office in Prescott.

Some of you may never have been to beautiful downtown Prescott, so we have brought with us a little brochure that many of you have. Hopefully, it will give you a bit of a sense of something we are pretty proud of in the Prescott area. I will be touching on that in the short address I am about to give you, but pictures being worth a thousand words, it is something you can have and follow.

There is a map on the back that indicates where Prescott is relative to the centre of the universe, Toronto. It also has some pictures on the front of something we are pretty proud of, which is our heritage. That goes back to 1783, and I will be touching on that.

Also on the back, in the colour foldout, is the brand-new Prescott marina basin and the newly constructed lighthouse in the Prescott marina basin, which is a 120-year-old heritage light that has recently been restored.

I have handed in a presentation that I would like to quickly go through, if I might. I think most of you should have it by now.

We are indicating that the Prescott registry office is in the centre of beautiful downtown Prescott, which is located on the shores of the St Lawrence River halfway between Toronto and Montreal.

The area was originally organized and surveyed in 1783 by Major Jessup preparatory to the locating of the United Empire Loyalists in that area. It was settled by loyalists who were escaping persecution from what they perceived to be insensitive government because of the strength of their loyalty to the British crown and the monarchy. It was one of the first areas of Upper Canada to be settled and has a long and proud history on the river, revolving around loyalty and hard work.

In 1834, the Legislature of Upper Canada passed an act to incorporate it as a police village and later as a separate municipality. The people of Prescott have a very strong attachment and respect for their rich heritage, and each summer we hold a 10-day festival, which you see pictures of on the brochure, called Loyalist Days. It is highlighted by a three-day battle, with period re-enactors dressing up in costume and pitching their tents and shooting guns at each other and riding horses back and forth. It is a wonderfully authentic reproduction of earlier battles.

We have resisted in Prescott, to a large extent, the trend away from decline that has hit many small towns in Ontario. We had until recently a very vibrant economy with a strong base industrially and a wealthy commercial core. We have been hurt very badly in recent times by the recession, as everyone has, but in particular in Prescott by the cross-border shopping problem.

My friend Wilf Peters, who is with us, is the president of the chamber of commerce in Prescott and owns some appliance stores that he will tell you about. He will be able to comment a little more particularly on how cross-border shopping has hit Prescott in the vital areas.

Cross-border shopping, as everyone knows, has been brought on by the GST, in part, and by the currency problem and the free trade agreement. Our Main Street commercial zone now has the highest vacancy rate that any of us can remember.

Because we are so proud of our heritage and our present status, the proposal to move the registry office from Prescott was particularly hurtful. It is seen by many private citizens as another diminution of our heritage. For years we had the impression under some of the former governments that the maps of Ontario that were located up here ended at Kingston. We were reminded of the original maps of the explorers who sailed the world. At the end of the civilized world they had a sign that said, "There be dragons." We thought that was what was in eastern Ontario, that there was a sign that said, "There be dragons," and it was uncharted land.

We had all hoped that the new government, when it was elected on a mandate to listen to the concerns of the little guy, would not fall victim to the TBD syndrome, the "There be dragons" syndrome. You can imagine our horror when one of the first announcements that affected our small town was that one of our oldest and most important institutions would be closed without any opportunity for public input or comment.

We, the people of Prescott and Grenville county, believe that the decision to close the Prescott registry office is a tragic mistake. It is located in a beautiful two-block area surrounded by stately old churches and manses. It is well away from the busy commercial zone and was a sea of tranquillity for the serious user and casual heritage buff. It is a beautiful old building, about 125 years old.

It was renovated about 10 years ago. People in your ministry might have a better idea of the cost. We estimate it cost $250,000. The renovations were very carefully done to make them appear as if they were original and they have done a beautiful job. They have stones that were brought in to match the old registry office and it is very nicely done. It would seem to need no immediate upgrading or work and it is one of the nicest, best-lit registry offices anywhere I have been.

What may be different about this one is that it is owned by the government and it is in a zone in the Prescott zoning map that is R2. That means if it is not used as a registry office and if it is closed down, you have a white elephant on your hands that can only be used for a residence. Unless someone has a really wonderful idea of how to convert a registry office to a residence, you have a building that is now maybe worth $250,000 to $500,000 that you cannot sell for $20,000. It cannot be used for anything other than residential if this use is discontinued.

The Prescott registry office has consistently won efficiency awards, and plans were on the table to make it wheelchair accessible by the fall. I do not know what the cost would be, but there is just one little step up and I suspect it is just a little bit of concrete. On the other hand, the Brockville registry office where we have been sentenced to go is in a leased basement area in a building not owned by the ministry. It is beneath the Bank of Nova Scotia. You have to go down three steps into a dingy sort of entrance. If you turn the wrong way you end up in the hairdresser's and if you turn the right way, you end up in the registry office. It simply does not have the character and feel that the Prescott registry office has.

It takes approximately five to 10 days to have your documents abstracted. If you do not work in a registry office, you may not understand how important that is, but if you register your deed today, no one will know about it for 10 business days and someone could theoretically come along and buy your property without being aware that you had already sold it eight days ago.

By contrast, the Prescott registry office abstracts are up to date daily. Prescott registrations average about 500 per month; Brockville is double that. My guess is that the Brockville budget is about five or six times as much. I think if you wanted to look at trimming some costs, maybe you should look in Brockville. You have heard from earlier speakers and I agree -- I had it in my presentation -- we estimated the added cost per transaction to be around $100.

I spoke this morning to a Kemptville lawyer who expressed something I had not really appreciated. They are particularly hard hit. Kemptville is halfway between Prescott and Ottawa. If the Morrisburg registry office is moved to Cornwall and the Prescott registry office is moved to Brockville, I have the scenario in here. They may have two clients who live one mile apart. To complete their real estate transactions the lawyer would have to drive 80 miles to Cornwall one way, 70 miles to Brockville and 40 miles home. That is assuming he does not have to stop in and drop off the trust cheques so that they can actually get their money on that day.

Kemptville lawyers are expecting they will have to actually send their clients away, clients whom they have acted for for years, because on busy closing dates they just simply cannot and will not be able to get to two registry offices that far apart.

In conclusion, we would urge the government to delay the implementation of the closings, at least until the matter can be studied further and all of the true costs to the public are factored into the equation.

I have also filed, if I may refer to it, a letter I sent as the president of the Leeds and Grenville Law Association. Our association passed a resolution on June 13, 1991, unanimously requesting that the government reconsider the announced closure. That resolution was also adopted by those practitioners who are from Brockville, Gananoque and other parts of the united counties, not just from Prescott.

It says at the bottom of the letter that there is a bit of a historical pattern that has repeated itself, and it might tweak your interest to know that this is not the first time something like this has happened in the Prescott area. Originally the county seat was to be Johnstown, which is three miles away from Prescott in Grenville county. In 1808 the records were removed by Brockvillians, some of them by force, the corporate seal was ripped off the front of the building of the county seat in Johnstown and removed to Brockville and the records have remained ever since in Brockville, about 170 years. We see history repeating itself. They are trying to steal more of our records and take them to Brockville.

Those are all the submissions I have, and I thank you for your patience.


Mr Tobin: As Mr Laushway has mentioned, my name is Richard Tobin. I have practised law in Prescott for the past 32 years. A large part of my practice is real estate, and therefore it will be obvious to you that it would be in my best interests to have the registry office for the county of Grenville remain in Prescott. However, I hope I can convince you that what I have to say applies not only to myself and the other law firms in Prescott but to the general public as well.

I personally am in the registry office in Prescott an average of two or three times a day. If the registry office is moved to Brockville, this will mean a 25-mile round trip and it will be impossible for me to avail myself of the registry office facilities as I have up to this time.

Also, I have a fairly large agency practice, particularly Ottawa lawyers requiring searches, subsearches and closings on their behalf. I have generated this business over a number of years. Up to now, I have handled it efficiently and that is worth while for me to do. This cannot be handled efficiently and economically by any Prescott lawyer who has to travel to Brockville. All of that business, in my opinion, will go to Brockville lawyers.

Also, the 25-mile round trip from Prescott represents approximately three quarters of an hour. However, our confrères in Kemptville at the north end of the county will experience a round trip of approximately 75 to 80 miles instead of the 50 miles it takes to go round trip from Kemptville to Prescott at the present time, which is long enough for them as it is. There is no question that you have heard people comment on this before, that the additional time and expense in travelling will have to be passed on to our clients.

Lawyers are not the only persons using the services of the Grenville registry office. I know that on any given day there will be members of the public -- bankers, farmers, historical society members, tourists searching family background, municipal officials and title searchers. A great number of these people reside in Grenville county and it will be inconvenient and expensive for them to travel to a registry office outside of Grenville county.

I would suggest to you that the registry office can be considered as a viable small business in our community. It hires staff, hires contract personnel, purchases supplies and attracts customers to the town.

In 1990, the registry office had 6,794 registrations -- 6,800 approximately -- which represent $170,000 in registration fees alone at $25 a fee. I would estimate that there is probably another $200,000 to $300,000 in land transfer tax collected in the Grenville county registry office. My opinion is that the closing of the registry office would be a severe loss to Prescott which has serious problems, as you have already heard, with border shopping and also competition from the larger communities.

Persons who use the registry office facilities buy in Prescott, and I am aware that many of them have lunch in the local restaurants. I have enjoyed lunch with many of my confrères from Ottawa, Renfrew, Smiths Falls and places like that. Also, I know they purchase goods at our stores such as the Hathaway Factory Outlet Store, and I suggest that these stores will suffer if the Prescott registry office is moved to Brockville.

Mr Laushway has mentioned, and I can confirm, that the Grenville registry office is extremely well run and its recent addition provides an excellent facility for the public use. I personally have serious doubt that the Brockville office will be able to handle the business of both counties in its present location, not only for floor space but there will be traffic in there that will make it extremely difficult on a busy closing at the end of the month to have real estate deals closed efficiently.

In closing, it would be a pity if Grenville, a very proud historical county, cannot be served by a registry office within its own boundaries, and I trust the Legislature will consider again the impact on our small town. I thank you for your attention.

Mr Peters: I am president of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce and owner of several small businesses in the town of Prescott. It is a very small community of 4,500 people. Every job that is lost in our town means a lot. It is not like a big city. When you lose 50 jobs, people get concerned. If there are two jobs lost in a town like Prescott, we are very concerned. The registry office has been there for many years. Everybody is very proud of it and we would certainly like to keep it there because we need all the business we can get. We need all the people in our town we can get. The stores are hit very hard this year. Business is down roughly 30% over last year. We just cannot afford any more losses.

At the chamber of commerce, it was brought up at our executive meeting that the registry office was going to close and it was unanimous that everybody was very concerned about it. We sent a letter about our concerns and we would certainly like to see it left in Prescott. I think it is a very important thing because people are talking about consolidating things and bringing them to bigger centres, and we would like to see it left here. I think it is more efficient the way it is.

Mr Villeneuve: Gentlemen, thank you for being with us today. I think you have expressed what had been expressed previously. Kemptville, or the surrounding areas in Oxford on Rideau and South Gower are probably the most rapidly expanding areas to accommodate people who work in the city of Ottawa and would be commuting back and forth. I think it is well taken. That concern was expressed to me as well by the legal profession in the Kemptville area whereby they are situated in the northeastern section of Grenville county. The removal of the registry office from Prescott to Brockville would basically have these people or their title searchers on the road for half a day to and from the work they have to do at the registry office. I think the point is very well taken that, given the location and the activity occurring in that area, they have cause for concern. The $100 additional cost per transaction may be very low indeed. You may want to comment on that, particularly to those whom I try to represent in the Kemptville area.

Mr Laushway: If I may answer that, I was commenting on what it would cost us in Prescott. We are estimating the added cost of at least one trip to the registry office in Brockville to search the title, and there is generally a follow-up of any problems that arise on the title search, and the attendance on closing. I estimate that to cost an extra $100. The lawyers in Kemptville are so despondent about this that they really feel it is going to cost them so much they simply cannot accept real estate transactions, particularly for someone who lives in Mountain township which, as some of you may know, is five miles from Kemptville. They may have to send them 70 miles away to get a lawyer. So if it does not cost the lawyer extra time, it will cost the consumer to drive at least once to a lawyer in Cornwall to sign the documents, review them and meet his lawyer.

Mr Villeneuve: I think you make the point very clearly. In the area I represent, the largest community is Alexandria with 3,300 people, and the community and the area I represent stand to lose three registry offices that have been there for probably as long as any registry office in Ontario. This government needs to take a second look at it.


Mr Conway: The distance from Kemptville to Prescott is what?

Mr Tobin: It is 26 miles; 12 miles or so to Brockville.

Mr Conway: The upper corner of Grenville is what, Hallville?

Mr Tobin: Yes.

Mr Conway: What is the most westerly corner of Grenville?

Mr Tobin: Merrickville.

Mr Conway: Merrickville. So the way it works now, all that business flows into Prescott. For those people in Merrickville going to Brockville, it is how much further?

Mr Tobin: It is closer, or both the same distance, Merrickville to Brockville.

Mr Conway: But it is in the Kemptville area.

Mr Tobin: There are no lawyers in Merrickville. Mr Villeneuve touched on something and it is very important. A lot of the business now is being generated in the Kemptville area.

Mr Conway: Ottawa-Carleton is the dynamic that is causing the growth. Everything, whether it is in Russell, Kemptville, Almonte or Arnprior, is all spinning out of the Ottawa-Carleton area. It just so happens that four or five of those old counties are contiguous or run into that area. Your problem is essentially the same as Lanark. The growth in Lanark is closer to Ottawa. The closer you get to Ottawa, the more the growth and the greater the pressure on the office. I am just trying to imagine again that situation in Kemptville, so just repeat that story someone told here earlier. I know the area fairly well, but I am trying to visualize that problem you were describing for Kemptville again.

Mr Laushway: That was me.

Mr Conway: Just take me through it. I guess I want to ask you, in fairness, how typical is this? I take it from your testimony, and lawyers always want to understate the case, that this is presumably typical; this is not the one-in-a-thousand case.

Mr Laushway: I spoke to a Kemptville practitioner this morning who is very despondent about it and he said it is a very typical thing that can happen. The split-off area is about five miles outside of Kemptville, so he has a 50-50 chance of going either to Brockville or to Cornwall.

Mr Conway: When you say the split-off area, explain that again.

Mr Laushway: Mountain township and --

Mr Villeneuve: Dundas and Grenville county line.

Mr Laushway: Dundas and Grenville county line is very close to Kemptville. The scenario is on the pamphlet actually. You might be able to get a bit of a sense of it. If you left Kemptville, you would have to drive down Highway 16, which is two lanes and may be so for some considerable time, pick up Highway 401 and drive to Cornwall. That is 70 miles one way. You might then have to drive back to Brockville on Highway 401 to close the deal for a person who lives five minutes away from the first person. That is 40 minutes to an hour to get to Brockville, and then you are 40 minutes to an hour home. It is not the worst-case scenario.

Mr Conway: That is because the Dundas traffic is being directed into Cornwall and the Grenville traffic, under this plan, is being directed over to Brockville.

Mr Laushway: Yes.

Mr Ferguson: I think the delegation before us at this point is fairly representative of individuals who have appeared to date. We have a representative from the legal community as well as the business community and I want to make the observation that if I listen to these individuals, eastern Ontario is going to come to a grinding halt if we close one registry office.

Mr Villeneuve: Keep chipping away at it and it will.

Mr Ferguson: That has been the resounding message I think we have heard today and quite frankly I have to dismiss that. We have continually heard that costs are going to increase anywhere from $100 to $150 per transaction. Quite frankly, to any one of the gentlemen who cares to answer it, why as a cost-conscious consumer would I pay an extra $100 or $150 to a lawyer in a transaction when I could quite simply jump in my car and go to the municipality 12 miles down the road and retain legal counsel, thereby saving myself $100 or $150? Is not the real question here that you are going to have to operate with a lower profit margin than you are operating with now?

Mr Laushway: Actually, it is quite a bit more than 12 miles. If you live in the Kemptville area you will have to drive 70 miles to Cornwall to get a lawyer who practises in Cornwall and you will have to do it three or four times on a typical real estate purchase. You have to go down to review your offer to purchase with the lawyer. You have to go down to get instructions from him on the closing arrangements. You have to go down to bring him money. You have to go down to sign the deed, and you will have to go to get your key. So there are at least four trips to Cornwall. That is real people, not just lawyers.

Mr Ferguson: Some of the users of any transit system across Ontario might have to walk five or six blocks to get the bus. The fact of the matter is that you strategically place these institutions and facilities so they serve the greatest share of the population in any given place.

Mr Villeneuve: That is where they are now.

Mr Ferguson: You are giving us the outside example.

Mr Villeneuve: That is where they are now.

Mr Ferguson: That is the furthest point where somebody is going to have to drive? Is that not the case?

Mr Laushway: Yes.

Mr Ferguson: Yes, so that is the extreme example.

Mr Laushway: Yes.

Mr Ferguson: That certainly is not going to be the average. It is going to be the outside extreme case.

Mr Peters: I am a businessman in Prescott. I deal with these people as lawyers and I certainly do not want to deal with a lawyer in Brockville because I run a business in Prescott. I do not know why you would want to send people away from our town to do business when you are already trying to take our registry office away. Now you are trying to tell us that our people should be doing their business with lawyers in Brockville or other places.

Mr Ferguson: No, I am not telling you that. I think the legal community from Prescott is saying that because it is saying: "We're not prepared to eat any of that cost. We're going to pass that cost on." I want to tell you quite frankly that people will get in their cars and drive 12 miles to save $10, let alone $100.

Mr Peters: Maybe I am not a professional person and maybe I am not that intelligent, but I think I just understood somebody to tell me that if I want to buy a piece of property in Prescott and own a business in Prescott I should go to a lawyer in Brockville to save money. That is what I understood.

Mr Ferguson: I am not telling you to do --

The Chair: Order. Mr Drainville.

Mr Ferguson: Because people will drive 15 miles to save --

The Chair: Order. We have had thorough discussion on that.

Mr Drainville: One of the messages that seems to come through very loud and clear is the difficulty of these long distances. I have to understand on the one hand that it is wonderful to have a land registry office in your community, but as somebody who lived at the top end of Lennox and Addington, at the top end of Hastings, at the top end of Frontenac county, I had a lot farther to go than any of you will have to go to get down to the land registry office. People are selling and buying land all the time and they have to go down to the county cities at the very bottom, on Lake Ontario, and you do it because that is the way it is. You have to do business. To sell land, you have to go to the land registry office and to make it sound like it is an impossibility -- that it is going to be more inconvenient, there is no question. But to say it is an impossibility for business to go on because of this or that -- if not an impossibility, I am sorry to use the extreme case -- to say it just is not going to work out for businesses is nonsense. Of course they are going to do this. Of course they are going to go to the land registry office wherever it is.

Mr Villeneuve: Keep chipping away at it.

The Chair: Any last comments from the presenters?

Mr Laushway: I remember from university debating days that this is called the straw man concept. He just answered something we did not say. We did not say the town of Prescott was going to blow up and dry away. I do not think anybody said Alexandria was going to blow up and dry away. What we are saying is that the economic advantage to closing the Prescott registry office is not there. I am not talking about a situation where we set a new registry office in an area where it had not been before. All we are asking is whether you have really clearly studied the economic cost of what is being proposed here, and he just answered his own question, with the greatest of respect.



The Chair: The next group of presenters? We have set aside 30 minutes. I would ask them to identify themselves and whom they represent for the record, and turn the floor over to you immediately.

Mr Janzen: My name is Robert Janzen. I am a lawyer in the village of Arthur. Sitting next to me on my right is Bert Moore, who is the warden for the county of Wellington. Sitting on his right is Bob Shaw, who is a real estate agent in the village of Arthur, and to my extreme right is Doreen Hostrawser, who is the reeve for the village of Arthur.

You have before you a brief that comes from the Coalition Against the Closing of the Registry Offices. That comes from a joint committee representing the south Grey-Durham area, and the north Wellington-Arthur area. I would like to have Bert Moore begin with his comments to the committee.

Mr Moore: Thank you for hearing us today. It has all pretty well been said. I have a letter here, so I am just going to take it off the cuff and try and tell you something a little different.

We in the county of Wellington have two registry offices. One is in Guelph, which is maybe not in the county of Wellington, but the point I am trying to make is that the county owns both of them and we have been trying to be good landlords. The Ontario government rents them from us and we have always fixed them up when we had to. I think we charge reasonable rent, and if not, you can take us to the Rent Review Hearings Board to fix that up.

Right now we have, I believe, a two-year lease with a six-month escape clause. We have not, as yet, heard officially that the registry office in Arthur is closing, which is good. If the one in Arthur closes, the people of Mount Forest would have about 80 kilometres to drive to Guelph. There is no parking there. That is one of the reasons I ran for warden: I get a parking place. The other 20 reeves have to go over to the Eaton Centre and pay for parking and walk. There is absolutely no parking there, and they tell me there is no room in the Guelph office to house the records from Arthur. We cannot expand there; we have no more room. It does not make sense to move things from Arthur to Guelph, in my opinion.

The other thing is that all we have heard is this million dollars we are supposed to be saving by closing these offices. The two offices in Arthur and Durham are making a profit, so would you please tell me how you close something that is making money to save money? I cannot figure it out.

Mrs Hostrawser: We have a limited time frame, so I had better read my statement, because I have a tendency to get off on a tangent. Mr Shaw and Mr Janzen will relate the inconsistency of numbers presented to us by the ministry, along with the refusal to share the facts these closures are based on.

As reeve of the village of Arthur, I was appalled at the decree from on high to close our registry office. Here was a service that generated revenue, with no complaints about buildings, personnel or service, to my knowledge. This is another case of 120 years of heritage being lost, just swept away by a numbers game.

The department in the government responsible for this action showed its disdain of small communities when its ad in the local paper declared the registry office closing, while over the page, the county -- which still has not been officially notified of the closures, and it is the landlord -- was advertising for cleaning staff for the next two years because the government lease is not up until then. If you do not think that showed egg on everybody's face and everybody looking foolish, it certainly did.

This closure action has been made with very little thought or consideration for anything other than a few numbers conjured up out of who knows where. Do civil servants care? Not a bit. Ms Kirsh, a very capable young woman who should find something constructive to do, not destructive -- anyway, she informed us at the Guelph meeting that she had no intention of changing her mind -- her mind. I would like to ask who runs this provincial government? The people in my area are realizing it certainly is not the elected politician.

Take a look on the map of south central western Ontario. If the offices in Arthur and Durham are closed, there is a large hole. A large number of people in a huge geographical area are deprived of easy access, affordable servicing, plus the province loses its only presence in the area. Talk about fairness. Apparently, this only applies if you live in the GTA or large cities. Others in Ontario do not seem to count, and we are wondering what we are. Are we second-class citizens? Certainly that is how we are feeling.

The government is moving a Toronto office 66 feet across the street. We are talking 66 to 70 miles, from the north end of Wellington county, in the snowbelt area, no less. Ms Kirsh has some numbers. Someone else should look at the people side of this equation, the flesh and blood of this province, the ones who pay the bills and vote.

I wrote to the minister, as reeve of Arthur, on May 16, 1991. She did respond on July 2, 1991 with a statement that she is "confident that the majority of the clients and taxpayers will benefit." That is pure crap. Whoever wrote this letter, plus the minister, have no concept of distance or the costs this will add to every transaction in our geographical area. It is a rather condescending remark also, as it is obvious no one took the time to check distances or costs before they wrote me back. Here again, they just looked at one side of the equation.

We held a public meeting, because in our area this is an important issue. It was well attended, considering holiday time and people's commitments to coaching and everything. Every municipality in the area, the townships, towns and villages, were well represented at this meeting -- everyone but the ministry. They had been invited so they could hear for themselves other opinions on the subject. They did not see fit to send anyone to our meeting, but saw fit to send someone to the Cambridge meeting. Here again, cities are more important. I am getting a little sick of provincial bureaucrats who think no one lives a useful existence if he lives more than six miles north of Highway 401.

The added costs -- travelling, loss of office time -- to municipalities alone will be substantial. The centralization causing loss of service was best said in our local paper. This was talking about the meetings we held. It said: "Most of the area municipalities had at least one representative in attendance, plus our MPP. To no one's surprise, there was no representation present from our NDP government."

What does the future hold for north Wellington? In fact, what does the future hold for all of rural Ontario? If our politicians do not wake up soon to the fact that they are eroding the future of small-town Ontario, there will not be any life left in rural Ontario.

The municipalities are aware of policies that always dump costs on to the taxpayers while making it appear as if they are having savings. Actually, all they are doing is shifting the money to a favoured project somewhere.

Last year, Wellington county did an in-depth county review -- if it is not county review ruining my summer, now it is registry offices. Anyway, registry offices were not broken out, so were not included in the study. The option of reinstating the running of registry offices into the county system could have been studied at that time. We, the local municipalities and the county, could very well disentangle this whole mess. Just give it back to the counties. The only reason I can see that the government will not consider this is that it must be making money from registry offices or we would have had them dumped on us by now.


Around the registry office in Guelph, which I want to draw to your attention is not in the county, there is no parking. That has been mentioned. The Guelph office is full now. Therefore, if you add the Arthur office, they are going to need a new building. Now where are the savings? This whole concept is a Band-Aid approach, one small part, and it only adds costs. The government should use good business sense and wait until Polaris comes on stream, then make decisions appropriate to the circumstances.

Our office is a problem. The Arthur office meets all the building codes. Our building inspector checked for us. It could be enlarged or there are two facilities that come to mind that could be contracted. Mind you, I could add that if you want to centralize everything in the county, Arthur is about the centre of the county. You could move Guelph up to Arthur and build a good building there.

People here at Queen's Park are always talking about protecting and enhancing rural communities. The action by this government department blatantly contradicts this. The government is perceived as speaking out of both sides of its mouth. It talks about good planning. The government says fewer severances for rural areas. Therefore the growth should be in urban areas, and we do have urban areas other than Guelph.

Arthur just opened a new sewage treatment plant. Palmerston and Drayton did a few years ago. Harriston has updated its. Clifford is working on plans for one, and Fergus is expanding and building new facilities right now. This is only in Wellington county. When the economy dictates, expansion slated for our area is great. This government wants to add two hours' travelling time and a minimum of about $320 in additional fees -- $120 for lawyers and $100 for surveyors -- to every transaction. Now who has the blinkers on? This is not just add up transactions and divide by the number of lawyers in the area. We are talking about efficient, low-cost servicing for everyone, not just those around cities and the 401.

There are probably hundreds of things that need fixing in this department, probably in every department. Why are you allowing registry offices in rural Ontario to be closed, moved to the cities, while people are doing without servicing so pet projects in certain departments do not have to be cut? This is the fairness government is going to give the people of Ontario? No matter what political party you represent, you all should be concerned, because all politicians are being tarred with this same brush. I would hope you could do something about it.

This decision, closing registry offices, was well known to be a hot potato. Another politician had been advised politically not to do it a few years ago. Why was this thrown in a new minister's lap? Who is playing politics? We in Arthur know who is suffering for it. As a politician, the minister may not wish to be used for civil servants improving their rating or standing. As reeve of a village whose registry is being closed because we are small, not in the GTA and insignificant in some people's eyes, I resent being used as a rung for climbing the bureaucratic ladder.

I realize the minister is new to this office and probably was and still is unaware of all the implications of these closures. At this time she, the minister, is perceived as weak and being led by her staff. To counteract this perception with the public and gain the respect of her staff, the minister should postpone the closings and give herself and her staff more time to weigh the circumstances, the consequences, and especially to familiarize herself with all the aspects of the decision.

Please, anyone here who has the minister's ear, help her realize the need for rural Ontario to be a part of provincial decisions based on its needs, not the GTA needs. Help her realize the need of provincial presence to be seen, not just heard, in rural Ontario. The so-called saving may not justify such drastic measures as closures. Thank you for your time, and I hope I attracted your attention to get some positive results for us.

Mr Shaw: I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. I would like to thank Ted Arnott for his efforts in helping to set this up.

I am currently a real estate broker in the village of Arthur, with an office in Elora. These are both in the Guelph area. Guelph is 40 kilometres from Arthur, 20 from Elora. Previous to that, I was a farm machinery dealer in the area for 18 years and I had quite a bit of experience with registry offices, registering personal property security agreements for finance notes, which had to be done in either Guelph or Orangeville.

I have had a lot of experience with Guelph. The staff are very competent and very polite; no complaints, but I cannot see how they can handle any more workload than they presently are. The parking is nil, as was pointed out. Because of the good nature of the Eaton Centre, you get one hour free. You walk several blocks from there and stand in line. It is very inconvenient, to say nothing of the cost.

These costs were mentioned, these few hundred dollars, and as usual it is the small guy who is going to get hurt with that. In a big development deal of $250,000, a few hundred dollars more does not mean much. It is going to be the farmer trying to sell a few acres of wasteland for $20,000 to reduce his bank loan who is going to get hurt the most.

It has been pointed out before that both Arthur and Durham are financially profitable. They are profitable entities; they are making money. I cannot for the life of me see the sense in closing them, in one case sending them to Owen Sound, and in the other to Guelph, because I cannot see how it is cost-effective, and it certainly would not give the service to the people of the community that we now get.

That is about all I have to say. Most of it has been said and I do not want to take up your time unnecessarily. I thank you again for the opportunity.

Mr Janzen: I would like to make a few comments as well. The brief in front of you has six areas of dissension and then there are a number of recommendations that are contained at the beginning on pink paper. I am not going to go through all those. I would like to talk about two areas.

One is kind of a summary of much of what you have heard today, and that is that the closing of these registry offices will have an impact on the rural communities. That has been presented on a number of occasions as additional costs that are going to be borne by the community.

I would ask your committee and the members to consider that what is being expressed here also has to do with rural outrage. The rural people feel they are not being heard by the government, that this was a decision that somehow came from an urban area, that registry offices are being moved to urban areas. What you are hearing is that anger.

How can that anger be addressed by the government? My suggestion is that it can be addressed by listening to those people. That is what they have asked for. We have tried to quantify it in terms of saying there are dollar costs available, but I think it comes down to a request that the government hear before making a decision, that we would like to be consulted, that we would like to be a part of what is going on in Ontario.

More and more, our feeling is that decisions are being taken out of our hands and are being made by people in urban areas, who certainly are doing it to the best of their ability, but they are not taking into consideration the important parts of the rural communities of Ontario.

The second area I would like to address is the area of cost savings. Our brief points out that we had some difficulties in getting the information. Much of it is considered to be confidential within the meaning of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and government officials have told us they are not at liberty to release it. We do have some information.

On page 17 of our brief you will note the figures we have been able to get in terms of the revenues for the Arthur and Durham registry offices and the costs for those two offices. You can see there that in terms of registration fees, each of those offices takes in more than what it costs.

The registration fees, that revenue, is made up of a cost that you pay when you register a deed or a mortgage. When you search a title, there is a search fee charged, and when a person makes a photocopy or gets a copy of something, there is a fee charged for that. Those are the revenues.


In addition to that, the government collects land transfer tax each time a deed is registered when consideration has passed, when an amount is paid for a property. That tax is in addition to these revenues and it is considerable. In the case of the Arthur registry office it amounts, if memory serves correctly for one of the previous fiscal years, to something of the order of $600 million. They are substantial revenues that go to the government and they are collected at no cost, we would submit, because the costs are already covered in the registration fees and the related expenses that are charged for.

Our submission to the government is that here is a service that is paying for itself, that should be considered and looked at as a service that is capable of paying for itself. It does do that, so there is no rationale then for withdrawing it.

I think you will hear from Mr Daniels that there is no relationship between the revenue that comes in and the cost that is attributed for these registry offices. My comment to the committee is that this should not be an argument that carries weight. It may be done for certain budgetary purposes, but it also is true that for some purposes they do calculate the relationship between the revenue and the cost. You can be assured that if the cost of running the registry offices exceeded the revenue, there would be an increase in the registration fees to cover the cost. Accepting that principle, then my submission is there is really no cost to the government that needs to be saved.

The second question has to do with whether there are real savings. I will address both of the comments that have been made about savings. One is the $8 million in capital improvements. You have heard that in the case of Arthur and Durham, those are offices that are owned by the county governments involved, so any capital improvements that would be incurred would be incurred by the counties involved. There would not be any expense to the government. Several other of the offices, you have heard today, are also owned by the counties.

You have also heard that it will be necessary, in the case of Prescott and Perth, to build new offices. There will be increased capital costs that will be necessary. We were also told by Carol Kirsh, regarding the Guelph office, that it is expected that this office will also be overloaded and that moving the Arthur registry office registrations into the Guelph office will raise the priority of the Guelph office for a new office. I submit to you that this is not very good planning. In fact, that would not be necessary if the Arthur registry office were left open.

In terms of the $1 million which is said to be saved by the closing of these offices, we are told that approximately three quarters of that saving will come from the elimination of 14 registrars' positions. You will hear from Mr Fallis tomorrow regarding the Durham office that there cannot be a saving in Durham, because there is no registrar there. There is now a deputy registrar. That position will not be eliminated, and we have challenged the government to say how much is the saving on the Durham registry office. The response is that they will not tell us on an individual registry office basis what the savings are. We do not know, and we expect there are no savings in Durham.

The situation in the Arthur registry office is that a registrar has been there up until July 15. That person has been promoted to a position in Walkerton. There is no registrar in Arthur now, and it would not be necessary to replace the registrar in Arthur. A deputy could be placed there. The full savings, I submit to you, could be had by simply putting a deputy registrar in the Arthur office and leaving the Arthur office open. There is no saving that can be achieved by closing the Arthur registry office. The saving has essentially been had now by taking the registrar out of that position.

Those are my submissions with respect to the costs. I think I will terminate my remarks there and allow questions.

Mr Arnott: I would just like to commend and congratulate the panel for the presentation it has presented. I appreciate the fact that you have come down to Toronto today to participate in this important process.

I have a question for Mr Janzen. I understand that since the announcement you have been corresponding with ministry staff in an attempt to ascertain some more background on the rationale for the decision. I wonder if you would characterize for the committee what sort of response you have been getting.

Mr Janzen: Immediately after the announcement of the closing of the offices on May 7, we began to ask questions. On May 22 we were able to have a meeting in Guelph at which Mr Daniels and Carol Kirsh were present. At that meeting, I requested information to substantiate the report that was made to the minister upon which the recommendation was agreed to. Carol Kirsh and Mr Daniels concurred that they would be able to provide us with that information. It was to be provided within a space of three or four days. The information was not provided within that time.

As the time got longer and longer, it became apparent that the information would not be presented and the reason that came up was that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act prevented that information from being released to us. I accept that. However, it is an indication the ministry staff in this case were not really aware of what they could and could not do. It is an honest mistake. I suspect there have been other honest mistakes that have been made in this matter.

Mr Arnott: My second question is to Reeve Hostrawser. It has been said many times that the minister's main excuse for the decision is to save money, to save $1 million a year and $8 million in capital costs. I have spoken to the minister a number of times informally and I have even suggested to her what you mentioned today. If an office has to be closed and a new office has to be built -- because the combined business of the consolidation of the two offices, Guelph and Arthur, would be too much for the one office in Guelph -- if they are really interested in saving money, the land would be cheaper in the county, in Arthur, for example. I believe she sort of laughed it off. The presumption is that you cannot expect the people of Guelph, who have for a long time been used to local provincial government service, to drive 45 minutes way up north somewhere, which is exactly what the government is asking the people of the county to do.

I would go a little further than what you have said. I think basically what the government has done is tell rural Ontario and the people of the county of Wellington that they can go to Hades. I wonder how you would feel about that comment.

Mrs Hostrawser: I tried to mention that when you come from the rural central area, the farm area and small urban areas, Queen's Park sometimes has trouble realizing that if you are not a city or if you are not within a six-mile radius of Highway 401 -- they do not think you do anything up there, or can do, I am not sure which. I was really disappointed in this government, that this is basically what it told us, because on the one hand, I think in the brief it says this government was saying, "Rural Ontario, we have to enhance it." This is what I say: This department just blatantly contradicted that whole statement.


Mr Brown: I would like to thank you for appearing today. Just to comment, I represent a northern riding, Algoma-Manitoulin, but I spend some time through your neck of the woods trying to get to where my parents live in Sarnia. It is a beautiful part of the world and the finest part of rural Ontario perhaps.

I am a little puzzled by the approach of the government here. One of the things we think is important in our party is that we provide civil service jobs through the province. We had undertaken as a government to move jobs out of Toronto and into the west of the province, hopefully trying to get them out into the rural part of the province as we went.

I am also puzzled by the government's attitude, given the fact that this is the party that is for plant closure legislation, that wants to have plant closings justified to the government, so that if you are in the private sector, you should be looking for plant closure legislation where the company has to come before the people of Ontario and explain why it is going to move its company. It seems to me we have not got those kinds of numbers on their own operation. You tell me they have some problems with freedom of information, and yet they seem to have suggested, at least in election campaigns, that the private sector should be able to supply that information when the government here is telling us it should not supply that information.

I am just totally puzzled why the government is moving on with this and I am sure that this committee, after considering this, will change the mind of the minister. At least, I am hopeful. If anyone wants to comment on my ramblings, go ahead.

Mrs Hostrawser: Just a statement: If the minister or ministry or whatever is going to look at this situation, the closure in Arthur is October 7 and I am not sure just how fast the ministry or the government can work. If they were going to have another look at it, if they honestly really were going to have another look, can they in the interim put off walking in and walking away with the things in the office before October 7?

Mr Brown: I guess the encouraging thing is that we often have governments that have difficulty doing things. You know that. It takes a government a long time to do something. For a government to do nothing is maybe something that is fairly easy.

Mr Ferguson: I think we all recognize that governments at all levels, whether it be local, provincial, federal -- whatever level -- have generally been accused of being inefficient, not very cost-effective and have always been accused of quite simply wasting money. If we were fair about this we would sit back and say, yes, they are trying to rationalize where the offices are located and trying to get the biggest bang for their buck. When I hear people complain about either a provincial deficit or a federal deficit, let me tell you at this point that it never ceases to amaze me why we are in that situation, because no matter what you do, wherever you try to cut, there is an example of people who get upset because they are directly affected. It does not matter where you cut. You are going to directly affect somebody.

Just to the delegation, if we are going to be fair about this, you have tried to paint this as some sort of rural versus urban fight. That is not the case at all.

Mrs Hostrawser: In our area it is.

Mr Ferguson: We are closing an office in the city of Toronto; that is not rural Ontario. We are closing an office in Cambridge; that is not rural Ontario. We are closing an office in Bowmanville; that is not rural Ontario. We are closing an office in Ottawa; that is not rural Ontario. So it is not a rural versus urban fight here. What we have looked at in very rational terms is where the offices are located and where we can reasonably expect to amalgamate services so that generally people will still be well served.

The delegations earlier today from eastern Ontario, and I am sure you heard their comments, feel that section of the province is going to come to a grinding halt if any offices are closed there. Let's get a grip on this. That obviously is not going to happen.

My question to Mr Janzen is, is it not true that lawyers often use lawyers in other communities to search titles of properties?

Mr Janzen: It can be done with other lawyers. It is done more with paralegals nowadays.

Mr Ferguson: Well, lawyers, agents, whatever.

Mr Janzen: That is correct.

Mr Ferguson: That is the norm, so would it not make sense, if I am a lawyer in the community, 30, 40, 60 or 100 miles north, whatever the case would be, and I am operating presumably a small business, for me to phone somebody in Guelph and say, "Look, here's the deal, this is the address, and you go down and search the title"? instead of getting into my car and spending three or four hours or three or four days to go down and search the title?

Mrs Fawcett: So now the consumer has two lawyers' bills to pay.

Mr Ferguson: No, I do not think that is the case at all. One individual is going to do the work. Either it is going to be the agent or it is going to be the solicitor you retain. If you go to a solicitor, generally it is not the solicitor who goes to search the title anyway. They have their own paralegal in the office who does that. Not very many lawyers today, let me tell you, go and search titles on their own, save and except for very small-town Ontario, so would it not make sense to pick up the phone?

Mr Janzen: Mr Ferguson, I think the point you made at the end, "except for very small-town Ontario," is exactly the point we are trying to make. By and large, we are representing very small-town Ontario, and we are saying we do our own work. We are not saying the province will fall apart if the registry offices are closed. It is a serious matter for us.

At one time in the village of Arthur we had an agricultural office. At one time we had a small claims court. Those things are gone now, and it has meant change, and we do not think it is a good change. In this case, we have also argued that the cost savings which have been submitted by the government and which we cannot find out the details about are illusory, and we presented a rationale to show that is not the case.

The Chair: I am going to give the reeve 60 seconds to wrap it up. Our time has expired.

Ms Hostrawser: I am not here to represent lawyers, and I am not representing land surveyors or anyone. I am representing the everyday Joe and the constituents of my area plus the surrounding area.

Mr Ferguson: The everyday Joe never sees the inside of a registry office.

Ms Hostrawser: If he does or does not, it is my responsibility as the reeve, and you well know, as an alderman, that I have to stand up for them when they do not know what is being done to them. That is why I am here today to say that small urban, rural areas should have the same kind of servicing as the one in Toronto that is moving 66 feet across the road. I think the people in Arthur and the surrounding area should have that same servicing, never mind lawyers, surveyors or whoever. That is what I am here for, to say that I cannot see a savings, if that is what your government is basing it on. I think I would appreciate it if people would go back and do their numbers again.

The Chair: We are two minutes over time. Thank you for your presentation.


The Chair: The next group of presenters is Derek Graham and Gil Deverell. Gentlemen, you have 28 minutes.

Mr Deverell: My name is Gil Deverell. I am a lawyer from Mount Forest, which is on the northern boundary of Wellington county. It is also at the southerly boundary of Grey county. My concern is with the proposed closings of the Arthur and Durham registry offices.

Mount Forest is about 72 kilometres from Guelph in Wellington county, and 72 kilometres from Owen Sound in Grey county. If the minister's plans proceed, the registry offices serving Wellington and Grey counties will be 144 kilometres apart. The map marked schedule "A" to my written presentation to the committee illustrates this graphically. Guelph is at the south end of Wellington county and Owen Sound is at the north end of Grey. The Arthur registry office is ideally located to service north Wellington, and the same applies to Durham in south Grey.

I am going to give you a little bit more history, not too much. To truly understand the impact of the proposal, you need some sense of the history of our area. Arthur, Mount Forest, Harriston, Clifford and Palmerston in north Wellington, and Durham, Hanover, Ayton, Neustadt and Dundalk in south Grey are all small towns and villages in a large rural area. One often hears of children having to go to the city to find jobs. This large rural area has been fighting this and trying to provide jobs and growth at home for over 100 years.

The "city" in our case would be Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Hamilton, possibly London, all of them quite distant. In any rural area, whether the inhabitants are trying to grow to ensure its viability or are trying to at least maintain the status quo, every small piece of the fabric is of great importance.

Among other attributes, which are arguably of greater merit, Mount Forest has been a lawyers' town for over 100 years. This means that the people who lived here and others in the townships, hamlets and villages the town serves could get a lawyer without travelling.

I recently came across a newspaper in an old file in our office dated January 31, 1907. It was labelled a special trade edition of the Mount Forest Representative. There are schedules, by the way, attached to the written material for every quote I will make here. This helps to put the real issue here in perspective. The paper proudly proclaimed that the town was "an excellent site for manufacturers to locate," and in support of that proposition pointed out, among other things, that the town had five medical doctors, six lawyers and three dentists. Today, some 85 years later, we still have six lawyers who practise full-time in Mount Forest.


The reason Mount Forest was a lawyers' town 100 years ago, 85 years ago, and still is today lies primarily in the fact that there is a registry office serving north Wellington at Arthur and a registry office serving south Grey at Durham. The 1907 editor of the Trade Edition warned against an attitude which, unfortunately, we are seeing today in the civil servants who have persuaded the minister to shut down the registry offices at Arthur and Durham. I quote as follows:

"One great mistake that has been made in the various towns, small cities and villages, and which the people in these various centres have during the past 10 years begun to rectify, is allowing prospective manufacturers to go elsewhere when a small loan would have brought them to their town. The history of a great many villages and towns in Ontario has been one of too strict economy. And when in many cases they have had factories, they have allowed more aggressive centres of population, with inducements in the way of loans, exemptions from taxations, to profit by their cheese-paring policy and carry off these factories."

The analogy, ladies and gentlemen, is clear: Minister Churley is quite prepared, on the basis of too strict economy -- even false economy -- to carry off our registry offices to Guelph and Owen Sound.

I want to speak about the viability of the rural area. The registry offices have played and continue to play an important part in the development of our large rural area. Yet in closing them, our government and the civil servants advocating the closings trivialize their role and function and, sad to say, trivialize our rural area and our small towns. This attitude is clear to me in every attempt I have seen to date by the ministry's staff and the minister to justify this decision.

There is clearly a lack of understanding of the real world outside of the Toronto government administration offices. Unfortunately, this decision appears to have originated with people who live and work away from the subject of their alleged money-saving idea. These are people who have jobs because of a system of government service to the property owners of Ontario, but they do not work out in the fields of the system. These people operate in the unreal world of the registry office system. All of the lawyers in north Wellington and south Grey counties, as well as all of the surveyors, title searchers, law clerks, municipal employees, real estate agents, land appraisers and others who use the ROs on an ongoing basis, operate in the real world of the registry office system. None of the people in the real world were asked whether it would be a good idea to shut down the ROs at Arthur and Durham.

I have been operating in those offices for 27 years. No one has ever consulted me on anything to do with the operation of the registry offices. The fact is that our law office alone employs seven people apart from the four lawyers in it. What the closures will do is send work away to Guelph and Owen Sound from the whole rural area. That is what Mr Ferguson wants to do.

This will impact on all of the registry office-dependent employers and self-employed in north Wellington and south Grey, and there are many. It is revealing to note that the announcement of May 7, 1991 made in Toronto by Carol Kirsh, director of land registration, goes to great pains to point out that the closing of the registry offices will not affect the jobs of any of the civil servants. Kirsh stated: "The integration will be accomplished with minimal effect on ministry employees.... All classified employees will be offered positions at neighbouring offices or elsewhere in the ministry." People I have talked to ask what the ministry is going to do for those in our rural area who lose jobs or lose their freelance title search business because of these closures.

Revealing as well is Kirsh's statement at the beginning of her announcement to the effect that the closures will result in the consolidation of a number of land ROs with existing nearby offices. In the case of Arthur and Durham, this is a gross understatement, and tends to show the depth of investigation which was undertaken when the decision to close these offices was made in the unreal world. As indicated earlier, Guelph is 48 kilometres from Arthur, which means that a person from Arthur or any point north of that in Wellington county would have to travel an additional 96 kilometres round-trip to close a real estate or mortgage transaction or search a title. The same applies for Durham: an additional 96 kilometres for anyone in Durham or in the south portion of Grey county.

This approach is further illustrated in the May 7, 1991 news release, "Consolidation of Land Registry Offices Brings Improved Customer Service." Part of the news contained here is, "One in Toronto and one in Ottawa will be merged with existing operations in the same buildings." Those are the city ones. "The 12 other offices are integrated into neighbouring offices." I stress that word "neighbouring." A daily drive from Durham to Owen Sound or from Arthur to Guelph is not a neighbourhood jaunt.

Whatever civil servants authorized this news release did so without knowing the true facts or ignored the true facts. There are three names appearing at the bottom of the news release and one of these names is the director of land registration.

I expect that some of the others appearing before you will use part of their time to show you that all of the announcements and letters that came out of the ministry on or about May 7 are nothing more than honey-coated public relations statements made without any apparent understanding of the adverse results in some cases, and an embarrassingly superficial investigation of the effect upon the users of this public service at our doomed outlets.

Some comments, which I believe are very relevant to the issue here, from people who know about the real world follow. A few of these were made in 1978 when someone else in a Toronto office suggested to the minister of the time, Larry Grossman, that he should close down some of the little country registry offices to save money.

1. John H. Giese, Bruce-Grey, federal NDP candidate. Letter dated June 14, 1978 to Mr Jack Johnson, MPP:

"While I am from a different party, I like to do the same and ask you to use your influence to reverse the government's stand on the registry office. The erosion of services from our small towns is a bad thing. One should not submit to the alligator syndrome, feeding everybody else to the alligators in the hope of being eaten last. The removal of services from our small towns has the same effect. It should not be permitted because it will eventually destroy our towns."

2. Michael N. Davison, MPP, New Democrat, Hamilton Centre; NDP critic, Consumer and Commercial Relations. Letter dated May 11, 1978 to Larry Grossman:

"The point has been well made by the press and concerned Durham citizens that the south Grey registry office is useful and provides efficient, convenient service to those who do business there. It is my hope that you will consider making every effort to keep the south Grey office open."

3. Norma Peterson, president, Wellington NDP Riding Association. Letter dated June 27, 1991 to myself:

"Attached you will find a copy of a letter I have written to the Honourable Marilyn Churley. I think the letter adds a local perspective to the issue that the minister may not have been properly apprised of prior to her May 7 announcement."

4. Norma Peterson again. Letter dated June 27, 1991 to the Honourable Marilyn Churley re closure of land registry offices in Arthur and Durham:

"At the last convention of the Ontario New Democratic Party in March of this year, a resolution sponsored by the Wellington NDP was passed by the delegates. This resolution concerned `viable rural communities' and ends with the commitment that `economic decisions take into consideration the impact on the rural community.'

"The towns of Arthur and Durham are small communities surrounded by townships which still have an agricultural base. As you know, the agricultural sector has been under intense market pressure for many years and family farms have been going under at an alarming rate. The current recession has resulted in a record number of bankruptcies and declining business assessments.

"Your announcement of May 7, 1991 to close some 14 local registry offices may not severely affect the larger communities, but the impact will be much more dramatic in smaller rural communities like Arthur and Durham.

"Your announcement made reference to improved customer service, better working conditions for employees and alleged economic savings to be realized from the closure of the offices. However, this decision was arrived at without prior consultation with either customers or employees.

"We're proud that our party has refused to jump on the bandwagon of dramatic service cuts in the midst of a deep recession. Our pride in this general approach has been tarnished, however, by a decision which will see the closure of the only provincial government offices existing in the towns of Arthur and Durham."

In point 5 there are quotes from Terrence K. Moore, staff representative, Guelph regional office, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, and in point 6, some quotes from the OPSEU news release. I am not going to quote those because Mr Moore is actually here, I think, and is going to address you today. I do urge upon you, though, that you should read them because they make eminent sense.

I have included all of these quotations because they make the points better than I can. In particular, I draw to your attention the reference of Mr Moore to the wider role of the registry offices in providing a government presence in the rural area. This, of course, they do. He refers to information about government programs being available to the local public.


In this vein, it is with considerable irony that I noticed in the May 1991 issue of the Ontario Reports, published almost at the same time as Minister Churley's closure announcement, an ad to the public from Ms Churley's own ministry stating that a copy of the new forms required for registration of small business and partnership names, which became effective May 1, 1991, together with instructions and even a brochure "may be obtained from the land registry offices" -- this is to be emphasized -- "located throughout the province." This ad was placed by the companies branch in Ms Churley's own ministry. They certainly seem to understand what purposes these registry offices exist to serve.

Why are we losing our registry offices? The short answer to this question is because some senior civil servants in Toronto, securely away from the scene, felt this would be a good way to save money. As a user of two of the doomed registry offices, I could just as easily have suggested saving money by cutting the administration people by half in the Toronto area government offices, or asked the minister to show us how serious she is about saving money by holding back on the salary increases to the senior civil servants, or even requested the symbolic gesture of cutting out such frills in the civil service as the registration division's internal newsletter, Registration News. Any of those approaches would be just as off the cuff as the May 7 announcements which will destroy two registry offices out in the country which have been operating for over 100 years.

The real reason we are losing our registry offices, however, is because people in the positions of power have lost sight of what the registry offices were created for in the first place. They are there as a public repository of information and legal documentation dealing with a concept which is fundamental to our whole system of government and way of life in this democratic country, that is, an individual's right to purchase and own real property. They are there as a government service to the public, and I want to emphasize the word "service."

The people who have made this decision have made the error of viewing the registry office system as a business. This is best illustrated by a letter to me from Minister Churley dated July 5, 1991. I allege that the Ontario government, when all of the ministries involved with the rental and operation of the registry offices are looked at together, receives surplus revenue from the land registration system. To be sure, the registry offices are not public funds depletion sources like hospitals and schools are. The people who want to treat this system as a business, however, want the business to produce more money and be more productive or efficient in the business sense. The minister states in her letter:

"At the regular meetings we hold with clients, they frequently voice the need for more equipment and staff in all the registry offices.

"Our figures show that the average cost per transaction" -- you hear that a lot, "per transaction"; I do not know what it means -- "in Arthur is well above that in Guelph, and the cost in Durham is above that in Owen Sound.

"By integrating the Arthur and Guelph land registry offices and the Durham and Owen Sound offices, this average cost per transaction will be significantly reduced. The resulting improvement in the overall level of cost-effectiveness in the branch will support our efforts to staff and equip all 51 land registry offices across the province equitably and effectively."

I ask the committee to examine the logic of this. This is clearly saying that small is bad. It is saying that if the ministry cuts off the service to our rural area despite whatever inconvenience that causes the people who live and work in that area, there will be more money to spend on the service being given to the majority who reside and work in the large urban areas. In our case, of course, the urban areas are Owen Sound and Guelph. To some of you people, those are probably rural places too, but to us those are cities and those are the urban areas that are going to benefit at our expense.

This approach could be used for any government service, of course. Mount Forest has a hospital. I happen to be on its board of directors. There is also a hospital in Palmerston in north Wellington county. The Ontario government could also say to the people of the north Wellington rural area: "These hospitals aren't efficient. They cost too much per transaction. We are going to close them and you can travel to Guelph or Fergus for your health service." This will, of course, benefit the majority, because the majority live in and around Guelph and we will have more money for equipment there. The Guelph hospitals are always asking for more equipment and staff. All hospitals are.

I want to talk for a minute about Polaris. In April 1991, just before the minister's May 7 announcement, the registration division published a special edition of Registration News. The headline reads, "Minister Signs Landmark Deal With Real/Data Ontario Inc to Form the Polaris Strategic Alliance." Some of the news is as follows:

"At long last that day has arrived: Strategic Alliance will become a reality by May of this year!

"On Friday, February 15, 1991 former minister Peter Kormos announced the formation of the Polaris Strategic Alliance between the Ontario government and Real/Data Ontario.

"Real/Data Ontario is a consortium of Ontario firms specializing in surveying and mapping, computer systems and management consulting," etc.

"In his remarks at the news conference Dr Phillip Lapp, chairman of RDO, said, `The purpose of this Strategic Alliance is to allow the partners to pool complementary resources and co-ordinate efforts to achieve results that neither could achieve alone.... RDO brings to the partnership proven international marketing skills, technology expertise and business acumen.'"

Ron Logan in the ministry is quoted as saying, "The Strategic Alliance is a unique partnership, merging together private and public sector in a business arrangement" -- emphasis on business as opposed to service. "It will be an Ontario corporation which is jointly owned between the Ontario government and Real/Data. The partnership will soon have a name and identity of its own which reflects the nature of the business arrangement.

"This is a unique partnership between government and the private sector." Now listen to this. This is Ron Logan again, "It represents a model for future delivery of government services at a reasonable cost." Does this perhaps explain the business mindset of the senior civil servants who have advised the minister to close our registry offices?

In closing, I want to refer again to the minister's July 5 letter. I stress the need for someone to approach this problem with logic and common sense. The minister further explains the need to close our registry offices by saying that "the majority of users of the land registration system in Wellington and Grey counties, respectively, are located in or near the community where the integrated office is located."

What fairminded person would give any weight to this? Of course the majority of the registry office users in Wellington county are in or near Guelph. That was even more so over 100 years ago, when the county council placed the registry office at Arthur to serve the people in Wellington north. It was deemed to be a need that existed then and still does.

The minister goes on to say, "many of the users of the offices being closed already also go to the community where the sheriff and integrated office is located to complete real estate transactions." Although I keep seeing that repeated, the fact is that the vast majority of the users of the Arthur RO do not go to Guelph to obtain the sheriff's certificate required to close a transaction at Arthur. This is simply done by telephone. I have been using the Arthur RO since I was a law student in 1964. We have never had to go to Guelph in order to complete a deal at the Arthur registry office. The same is true at Durham and Owen Sound.

This type of rationalization, still being used two months after the closing announcement, is insulting to the people in Wellington north and Grey south. It does, however, tend to undermine the soundness of the minister's decision.

My proposal is this: If the Ontario government is serious about cutting services, then develop an across-the-board plan and strategy so that everyone in government will be doing the same thing and there will be a meaningful impact on the budget. Equally important, so that all of the people will know what to expect and what the government's intentions are, if business efficiency is to become the goal, and taking from the few so that the majority have more is to become government policy, then at the appropriate time the people can decide as a whole if this is the way they want things to be.


Mr Graham: I am a fifth-generation Ontario land surveyor and president of Derek G. Graham Limited and have practised technically and professionally for over 33 years in the field of cadastral or legal boundary surveying and planning in Ontario.

Since 1979 I have maintained an active private legal boundary surveying and planning practice in Elora, which is within the centre of the geographic area of the regional municipality of Waterloo and the counties of Wellington, Dufferin, Grey and Bruce. My firm services public and private clients in this area and works for specific clients from Ottawa through to Sarnia. Our clients include all four levels of government in Ontario.

Prior to opening my own practice, I worked in both private and public land surveying and planning organizations, including the Department of Highways, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Ministry of Natural Resources, where I was inspector of surveys for mining lands for the province of Ontario.

Three land registry offices in the minister's proposed list of closings, Cambridge, Arthur and Durham, are the ones I am concerned about. You have heard and you will hear other expressions of concern from various parties regarding the proposed unwarranted closing of 14 land registry offices. I am greatly concerned about the closing of the Arthur and Durham registry offices as they serve the majority of my clients with whom I deal as the lands involved surround these very offices.

These two offices, for those of you who have never been in a land registry office, have served for over 100 years as recording libraries for all the registrable events which deal with all patented lands in north Wellington and south Grey. As an Ontario land surveyor I must research lands I am surveying in order to render an opinion as to the extent of title to the best of my ability following the guidelines of survey practice as laid down by the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors.

Also, I must go back to the original creation of the parcel in order to be assured that I am giving the best opinion possible. In some cases this can mean researching documents of over 150 years of age. Following an initial research of my firm's own records, the land registry office is the first place I visit to research every piece of land for which I have been instructed to render an opinion as to the extent of title.

Given the importance of research in my rendering of an opinion, it is incredible to me the complete lack of research and consultation that has taken place in arriving at the decision to advise the minister to propose to close 14 land registry offices. I have been informed by the registrar of the AOLS that the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario and the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors were not consulted at all prior to the announcement of these closings.

I am amazed that two of the major users of the land registry office system, lawyers and surveyors, were not consulted prior to the minister being advised to announce the said closures and that the demography used for the minister's staff statistical analysis was based solely on the geographic position of lawyers' offices. I resent being left out as a member of a group and more particularly as a member of a family that has provided for five generations political, professional and business expertise to this province since 1820.

At a meeting called on May 22, the minister's staff advisers Kirsh and Daniels advised the approximately 150 people in attendance at the county of Wellington council chambers that they were unaware of which ridings were to suffer the proposed injustice. When I was a management-level civil servant, you certainly knew how the minister's decision might impact on the various ridings. It was at this meeting that a clear indication was given that no notice had been given to the county of Wellington, and that was referred to by Warden Bert Moore.

I wish to point out to you, as no doubt others have and will, that there will be unnecessary extra costs involved which will be passed directly on to our clients by the extra travel time and inconvenience these closings will cause. Surveyors work to deadlines, as do others, but we have one further complexity: the weather. So a nearby library is of critical importance. By forcing the surveyors who practise out of the Arthur and Durham offices to go further afield for their base information, the minister's staff recommends an uncompromising injustice. There will be no more free parking or easy access available to those clients if the records are to be moved from the Arthur and Durham land registry offices. The extra hours of driving to and from the Owen Sound land registry office for my practice falls well short of intelligent, rational planning.

It has been postulated by the minister's staff that because of the new program, Polaris, electronic microfilm retrieval is the thing of the future. At a recently arranged visit to both the Arthur and Durham land registry offices, the minister's parliamentary assistant, Derek Fletcher, and his legislative assistant, Virginia Wilson, became acquainted with the quality and capability of that microfilm retrieval system. A random sample of microfilm sketches attached to a document was virtually illegible, a common occurrence.

I wish to state how appreciative I was of Mr Fletcher and Ms Wilson taking time out of their busy schedules to visit these land registry offices with me. They both displayed great diligence in trying to learn about the system when they met with three lawyers who were in these land registry offices at the time, together with one freelance title searcher. This was the first time the honourable member for Guelph had ever been in a land registry office, and there were a great number of matters to absorb during the five hours or so it took to visit these two offices. A previous recommendation from the minister's staff has been the concept of microfilming and destroying all documents registered prior to 1948 in the land registry system. Due to poor reproducibility these documents on microfilm are now lost for ever. As we cannot retrieve the original documents, on many occasions all we can do is guess at the dimensions shown on the original plan.

I am certain all of you would like to hire a surveyor to guess where your property limits are. The staff of the ministry --

The Vice-Chair: Mr Graham, could you summarize your comments.

Mr Graham: I can appreciate that, Mr Chairman, and I will skip and go to my recommendations. But there is one thing on the bottom of page 4, the last three paragraphs. All the rest are very important, and I am emphasizing that there are three ministries involved and they are all going off on tangents. They are not co-operating. The ministry staff over a period of years have orchestrated a program called Polaris. Rather than being a star in the sky, present users indicate a feeling more of a very expensive pie in the sky. Under Polaris, the staff of MCCR have created a parallel system of mapping on their own, with their own number that already exists. Complimentary remarks have never been made on the pilot project by users of the system.

I would hope the members of the committee use the clear-cut example expressed earlier about Almonte as an example of the management level that we are working at: open it this year, close it next year, same staff over three governments. I would recommend in the short term that all mapping and database functions, including Polaris, be moved together with the mapping functions of the Ministry of Revenue and the Ministry of Natural Resources under the aegis of the surveyor general's office. I would also recommend the downsizing of the real property registration branch.

This concept of getting along between ministries has been frustrated in the past by incompatibility of personnel and personalities in trying to achieve a smoother, non-duplicating organization which would greatly and immeasurably benefit the taxpayers of Ontario. It is frighteningly absurd to have to wait up to nine months to have one's plans examined for affordable housing subdivisions. I certainly appreciate the consideration of another pair of eyes, but when one has to go to the minister's parliamentary assistant to get action, clearly the system is not working. In my second last paragraph on page 6, I again point to my willingness to serve this province as did my great-great-grandfather in this very House.

My copy of my letter of June 15th -- no answer. I believe the minister's staff has the responsibility to develop plans and concepts for the efficient and orderly management of the land registry system, that the minister should have all the facts on which to make a balanced decision. After all, the minister is in charge, is she not? I would also like to thank the good work of Ms Deller. I am open to questions as is my younger friend.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. I am afraid, however, that the time has expired and we must move on to the next presenter. Thank you very much, gentlemen.


The Vice-Chair: Mr Moore, welcome to the committee.

Mr Moore: Do members of the committee have the copy of the brief?

The Vice-Chair: Yes. Would you introduce yourself for Hansard. I understand you have been allocated 15 minutes by the committee.

Mr Moore: Mr Chairperson, members of the committee, my name is Terry Moore and I am staff representative employed by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, OPSEU. I am assigned to the OPSEU Guelph regional office and have the responsibility out of that office for a geographical area extending from Cambridge in the south to Tobermory in the north, from Brampton on the east to Kitchener-Waterloo on the west. Within my service area, 3 of the 14 land registry offices designated for closure in the minister's May 7 announcement are presently situated in the communities of Cambridge, Durham and Arthur. The nine bargaining unit employees working in these offices are organized into OPSEU locals 246, 225, 255 respectively.


In addition to being an OPSEU staff representative I hold the position of executive member at large on the Wellington County New Democratic Party Riding Association. Wellington county is a largely rural riding with most of the people outside the city of Guelph living in small towns and villages. Before joining the staff of OPSEU in 1983, I worked at the NDP caucus at the Legislative Assembly as a research associate as well as an officer in what is now OPSEU Local 593 which represents caucus employees. I held the position of research associate for five years during which I served both Michael Cassidy and Bob Rae in their capacity as opposition leaders. I mention my personal background in order to clearly indicate to members of the committee that my political affiliation has been and continues to be with the New Democratic Party.

I am here today to express opposition, my own personal opposition and the opposition of my members to the closures of the land registry offices in Arthur, Durham and Cambridge. I am personally opposed to these closures as is the Wellington County New Democratic Party Riding Association. OPSEU as an organization has not taken an official position as an overall entity across the province with regard to the minister's May 7 announcement principally because the employer has committed itself to preserving the jobs of bargaining unit members affected.

One of the principal jobs of a union, of course, is to protect member job security, and the employer is to be commended for offering a job to all affected employees in the offices that will assume responsibility for those that are closing. Job security, as important as it is, is only one of the issues, however, that a union must pay attention to in representing the interests of its members. Impacts on working conditions, the delivery of public services and the impact on the larger community are all matters which OPSEU members want their union to pay attention to. Notwithstanding the fact that job security has been largely dealt with in the case of the land registry office closures, OPSEU is reviewing its position on the employer reorganizations that do not result in job loss to current members. This review has been prompted by membership concern and reaction to the closures in the land registry office situation.

OPSEU has a long-established track record of advocacy on behalf of public services delivered to the people of this province by OPSEU members. OPSEU members, being citizens in the communities in which they work, have an interest in public services as consumers as well as producers. In addition, public services, because of the economic activity which they help to generate or support, have a significant impact on the overall wellbeing of the communities they operate in. The opposition I am here to express is based on three concerns: (a) the criteria upon which the closure decision was apparently made; (b) the impact on individuals and their communities; (c) the way in which the decision was made.

Dealing with the first two issues first, the justification given is mainly the financial savings involved, an estimated $1 million per year in operating costs and $8 million in replacement and renovation costs. No breakdown of these numbers were produced or have been provided to any of the stakeholders in the present land registry system despite explicit promises made by Ms Carol Kirsh, director of the land registry branch, at a meeting in Guelph on May 22, 1991. In the absence of a detailed breakdown of how these numbers were arrived at, it is impossible to directly respond to them.

However, some comments can be made on the general issue of costs. The NDP has long been a severe critic of the private sector's propensity to pass the costs of corporate decisions on to individuals and communities. This has been the basis of the party's repeated calls for plant closure justification laws designed to make the private sector accountable for the social impact of its ostensibly private decisions. That comment was made by Mr Brown earlier this afternoon, interestingly enough. The land registry closures may result -- and I emphasize "may" because I think the briefs you have heard so far indicate that there is a serious question as to whether or not there are any savings to be had, at least in certain offices.

There may be overall and across the system some savings, but certainly that is highly questionable with regard to certain particular offices. Arthur and Durham, as you heard just immediately preceding my presentation, either make money or break even. So across the system there may be some savings but it is undeniable that there will be increased costs and decreased revenues for others in the community.

Employees will incur travel time and commuting costs. Think about it. If you have to travel an extra 80 kilometres to and from work a day, given what the CAA says is the average cost of running an automobile these days, which is 25.6 cents a kilometre, that is going to cost you close to $5,000 extra a year if in fact you have to travel an extra 80 kilometres to and from work. So the impact is going to be significant on those employees in terms of increased costs, but also the travel time involved.

Client groups, as you have heard and you will hear again tomorrow and the rest of today, will incur increased travel time and associated transportation costs, which of course will be passed on to the users of the system.

Small businesses in Arthur and Durham in particular will lose what I am referring to as "secondary sales" currently made to individuals who purchase meals and other goods and services as a result of being in town to do land registry business. This may sound on the surface to be a small item, but I think in a small community the size of Arthur and Durham, it is not a small item to have this kind of secondary sale as the result of people being in town to do land registry business.

Did the ministry take any of these costs into consideration? Not likely, but it should have, and it is indefensible for an NDP government to make decisions without doing so. It is not good enough, in my opinion, to carry on the same standards as previous Tory and Liberal methods of doing business.

We support the requirement that the private sector be accountable to the community for its closure decisions and therefore must demand at least the same level of accountability on the part of the public sector for its closure decisions. I can remember when I was a research associate writing the plant closure legislation, which we used to table regularly in the House as private members' bills at the time, and thinking at the same time about the government's own responsibility to justify to the community as well as the private sector the economic and social impacts of its decisions to withdraw services.

Bureaucrats in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations have managed to convince the minister that one land registry office per municipal jurisdiction makes sense. All jurisdictions, large and small, urban and rural, are to be subjected to the same rule without regard to local conditions.

In the case of Arthur and Durham, the land registry offices represent the only remaining provincial government operations in these communities. Removal of these offices will have a greater impact given the size of the communities and will contribute to a process by which government services are centralized in regional service centres.

I can remember, also back to my time as a research associate, thinking about the planning exercise that went on during the 1970s where -- was it Planning for Tomorrow? I forget what the exercise was called, but this idea of regional service centres was the centrepiece of the Conservative government's planning process where all services were going to be like this one-stop shopping idea in regional service centres. We criticized it at the time because what that was going to do was withdraw services from the local level and make the government more remote from the individuals, and I make the same comment today. This move that the government has made will make government itself more remote from smaller communities and put more pressures on the towns which are already hard pressed to resist the urbanizing pull of the larger urban centres that is already there.

Concerning the way the decision was made, on May 7 the ministry faxed letters to community and employee representatives announcing the closures. The decision was a done deal; no prior consultation or notice was provided. In my experience, nothing infuriates union members and citizens more than being faced with undemocratic decisions. People may not like a specific result, but if they have been fully involved and were allowed to participate and to debate the merits of a particular proposal they can often live with the results, even if they will not like it. Without participation, people are justifiably outraged and become more cynical about the role of government and their political leadership.

The Liberals were defeated, conventional wisdom has it, because of widespread anger about the party's arrogance while in power. The NDP promised a much higher standard, with Premier-elect Rae making a commitment to "earning the public's trust each and every day." The land registry decision, both on its merits and in the manner it was arrived at, contributes nothing to establishing the higher standard that people expect and demand from an NDP government.

I want in conclusion to talk about a couple of things, including the standard on which I think this decision should be reviewed, or would encourage you to review it on. I cite as a source Bob Rae himself. He wrote a truly remarkable speech. I do not know if anybody on the committee has read it, but I recommend it to you if you want to understand at least the thinking of the Premier. I appreciated that speech. It is called What We Owe Each Other, and it is a very personal kind of speech. It is his own personal political manifesto of how he makes sense of the world. In it he says, on page 29, "Equally important, we must open up government and the ways it delivers services to these tests of democracy" -- being a lawyer, it is tests, right? -- "participation, decentralization and accountability." So he sets up the three tests.

In fairness, the NDP has only been running the government of Ontario for 10 months and it takes a while for a new leadership to make it clear to the bureaucracy that it is not business as usual. However, we are entitled to hold the government accountable to the standards it has set for itself.


In light of Premier Rae's tests of democracy, I encourage committee members, particularly those in the New Democratic Party, to ask themselves the following questions when it comes time to write their report: Does the land registry closure decision represent a model of citizen participation in government decision-making? Does the land registry closure decision result in decentralization of government services to the community level? Does the land registry closure decision represent a standard of government accountability which you can find defensible?

If you find yourself answering no to these questions, as I have and my members have, then clearly something has to be done to put things back on track. The absolute minimum requirement, it seems to me, for this government to undo the damage that has been done already, to its credibility in particular but also to the lives of the people in those communities, is for it to do the following things.

First, impose an immediate moratorium on the closures. You have to go back to the status quo if you are going to get the credibility of people on your side again. You cannot continue to put forward an indefensible line to the community. They are not going to swallow it and the briefs you are going to hear today and tomorrow are going to be absolutely clear proof of that. They are not going to buy the line, because it is indefensible, so I think you had better go back to square one.

Second, do a full public cost-benefit analysis that directly involves all stakeholders and covers all the costs, not just narrow financial considerations, and incorporate in that cost-benefit analysis Bob Rae's test of democracy. Live by the standards that the leader has communicated to the party, and then reassess the decision following consultation based on the results of that full cost-benefit analysis.

Finally, I want to indicate to you that I am not particularly happy making public criticism of a government forum by the political party that I have been a member of my entire adult life. I am not entirely comfortable, for example, sharing the same position on this issue as the Conservative Party. This is not because I do not think Conservatives are ever right about anything. They often are. Rather, it is because the Conservative Party of Ontario has followed the line of its federal counterpart in attacking the New Democratic Party for not having made real and deep cuts to public services in the April budget. I have been following that very closely. And now, in one area where the NDP has cut the budget, so to speak, the Tories are on the attack. There is an inconsistency here at the very least, and some would say more than a little political opportunism.

But my personal discomfort aside -- and that is not really the important thing here -- what is important is the issue and the underlying political principles that surround this particular issue. A mistake has been made, I think a fairly serious mistake; at least from my neck of the woods it is a very serious mistake. The party's credibility is clearly on the line in those communities. We should admit to the mistake and get on with the job of rebuilding our credibility and doing it right the second time.

That concludes my remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions the members of the committee have.

The Chair: We have three minutes left, one minute per party.

Mr Arnott: Mr Moore, I would like to thank you very much for coming down to Toronto today. You have exhibited a great deal of integrity and courage to come here and talk about your concerns with respect to this decision. I would just like to say that I am very pleased that the Wellington NDP has endorsed the position that we have taken for some time.

We have done everything we can to try to convince the minister to overturn her decision, everything that we can think of. Now, I could not afford the $750 to take that seminar the NDP held, How Do You Deal With The Government? Do you have any suggestions as to what further we might do to convince the minister that her decision is wrong?

Mr Moore: Other than what we are doing in terms of arguing partly on the merits and partly on the process, I do not know what else we can possibly do. Obviously it is a political decision and obviously it is attached to the budget and therefore a matter of serious concern to the government. I think we have to do more of the same thing. We have to argue on the merits. We have to talk about the impacts on the ground and we have to try to get through to the membership.

Mrs Fawcett: I really appreciate what you have said today because I think everybody in this room -- I am not so sure about over there -- agrees that a mistake has been made and that we really should go back to square one and take a good look at it because in most areas and certainly in my area of Northumberland it does not make sense.

Mr Ferguson: I want to thank Mr Moore for appearing today and I also want to indicate to other members of the committee that I think it is a healthy process we are in. We are not simply trotting out our people to sing the government line. We do have some free thinkers on the side of this government --

Mr Villeneuve: Funny they are not elected.

Mr Ferguson: -- who are encouraged occasionally to come about and express their individual opinion. We do not promote, "I never had to think at all; I voted my party's beck and call" to everybody who happens to have a membership in this party. I think that is important and I think Mr Moore very aptly demonstrates that.


The Chair: The last presenters of the day are the Glencoe and District Historical Society. I would ask all the presenters to please come forward and take a chair and to identify themselves for the record. You might want to mention any positions you hold within the organization that you are representing. You have been allocated 15 minutes. You can use it all in your presentation or withhold some time for questions and answers.

Miss Kendrick: My name is Karen Kendrick and I hold the position of second vice-president of the Glencoe and District Historical Society. I am also a director of the historical society and the supervisor of the Glencoe library, and as such am a liaison with the historical society. I will ask the two gentlemen with me to explain who they are.

Mr Hamilton: I am George Hamilton, the founding president of the historical society in 1978.

Mr Diamond: My name is Jim Diamond. I am the treasurer and the membership director of the historical society.

Miss Kendrick: The Glencoe and District Historical Society has nearly 100 members drawn mostly from the Glencoe area in Middlesex county but including members from the neighbouring counties of Lambton and Kent and as far away as Toronto, Michigan and Alberta. Those of our members who live a considerable distance from Glencoe belong in order to access our resources for genealogical research, as do our local members.

Several times each week, the Glencoe Public Library building, where the historical society's resource room is located, has visitors from other parts of Ontario and the US doing family histories. Glencoe is a comparatively old settlement dating back to the 1830s. Middlesex county has one of the few 1878 county atlases which were compiled with the names of land owners inscribed on their properties shown in the township maps. Many visitors arrive at the society's resource room having just come from the west Middlesex land registry office or, having completed their research in our resource room, go to the registry office to obtain a photocopy of wills, deeds and other registered documents. The library and registry office are conveniently located within a block of each other.

People are often surprised with the data available at the registry office, thinking that its information is limited to the names of land owners. Wills and mortgages registered in such offices can provide the researcher with family names and other pertinent information not otherwise available. One of our members is doing an inventory of early businesses from registry office records. Others are working on various aspects of local history in which the registry office records are of assistance. This includes members who have published books of local history and those currently preparing books for publication.

The wealth of information which registry office records contain is valuable only if it is accessible. If they are moved to London, where even finding a parking space is a struggle and where long, slow-moving lineups are the norm, non-professionals like us will be lost in the shuffle. Volunteer research for west Middlesex will dry up as far as the registry office is concerned.

Glencoe also has a local architectural conservation advisory committee, LACAC for short. Members have letters of permission to examine registry office records free of charge, as authenticating the age of a building is basic to determining its historic merit. Volunteers can use records under this agreement provided that the same record is not needed by professionals, who must understandably have priority. In other words, moving the records to London would force volunteers to drive an 80-mile or approximately 130-kilometre round trip, wait in line for assistance and then at any moment, as per the agreement, relinquish the records and move to the end of the line. In a location to which the history researcher can easily return several times if necessary, where parking is not a factor and traffic not a deterrent, volunteers can and do gladly function. A move to London presents a researcher with such obstacles as increased traffic, minimal parking and time lost in transit. Therefore the obstacles in London would simply be too overwhelming.

Glencoe's registry office, originally built in 1871, was modernized in 1985 and doubled in size to over 600 square feet at a cost of over $250,000. We have brought some photographs for you to examine afterwards. It is air-conditioned, has ample work space for staff and public alike, a fax machine, public phones and washrooms, a large paved parking lot, and is wheelchair-accessible.

The reasons for closing the west Middlesex registry office have been given as: to help cut $1 million from the branch's budget, to improve the delivery of the land registry system and to improve cost-efficiency.


"Integration," the minister claims, "will improve customer access to the land registry system." Not so in west Middlesex, where transfer of records to the already congested London office can only impede and frustrate customers even more. "Clients will also benefit from being able to research and close all transactions within a county or regional municipality at one location." How can this be when people are forced to travel many miles farther before waiting in a line even longer than it is now?

The extra staff and transportation costs will be passed on by professionals to their clients, the general public. Transactions can be completed in one location now in west Middlesex in a fraction of the time required at the London office. How much worse will it be if all west Middlesex records are transferred?

The minister says it will "be easier for clients when land registry offices are located in the same community as the sheriff." In the west Middlesex office there is a fax machine and computer link with the sheriff's office, which, by the way, is in London. For the past year, this has enabled staff to issue sheriffs' certificates and complete transactions in a single location.

The minister says, "One million dollars will be saved in operating costs per year and $8 million over the next few years in capital improvements." The west Middlesex full-time staff will be transferred to the London office. No saving will be gained from salary reduction there.

It should be obvious that the projected $8-million capital expense set forth as an excuse for closing all offices does not apply to west Middlesex, where the improvements have already been made. Perhaps other offices targeted for closure need improvements, but the saving produced by integration will be eliminated by the cost of expanding the county and regional offices. That the latter expansions will be required in a few years' time is virtually certain.

As more than $250,000 was spent only six years ago to make the west Middlesex office into a top-grade facility, the capital improvement savings rationale does not apply. Integration would leave the province with a building ill-suited for any other purpose.

The Middlesex Bar Association suggested the $1-million extra yearly revenue could much more easily be generated by increasing the land transfer tax from 25 cents to $1 per transaction, leaving offices accessible to the public, which has a right to examine the records. No doubt each of the communities on the hit list would suffer the same withdrawal of public access which this so-called integration would produce.

Decentralization of government offices, both federal and provincial, has been part of the plan in Canada for years now. How can the consolidation of the modern, fully equipped west Middlesex registry office with the London office be justified in terms of decentralization? Furthermore, there was no consultation with the vast majority of the users of the system before the decision was announced by the director of land registrations, Carol Kirsh.

Early records are being microfilmed, Ms Kirsh has informed us. When historical society members asked her where they could see these copies, Ms Kirsh replied, "Oh, several centres, for instance, Belleville." This is a 12-hour round trip drive from Glencoe. She made it clear that rural communities are unimportant to her, saying, "I have a provincial view," and that is a direct quote. Perhaps she meant province-wide.

Ms Kirsh discounts a petition of over 1,000 names protesting the closure of the west Middlesex registry office, drawn from about 2,000 voters in the adjacent municipalities, and she discounts the 65,000 people in the Middlesex riding. If her ancestors had taken this attitude in early history, there never would have been a rural Ontario.

The frustration our society envisions in this ill-conceived plan is compounded by the special realization historical societies have of the importance of local history and of the need for knowledge and pride in our past. Surely these goals still deserve to be encouraged.

From the comments of Ms Kirsh and the ministry, we fear that insufficient investigation of the condition of and services available at the west Middlesex registry office was done. Perhaps this is true in the case of other small offices as well.

The impact upon non-professional users, which will be immeasurable, and the ripple effect in the local economy are major concerns, as this is a busy office which attracts people from a wide area. Already forecasts of the added congestion and lack of space in London are expected to squeeze out all but the professional users of the system. Will someone please listen?

Attached also to what I have just read you will find the two-page letter which our LACAC representatives got, and I believe this is true across the province, which is signed by Ms Kirsh, giving them permission to go into the registry offices. You also find attached the letter from Ms Kirsh telling us of the proposed consolidation of the Glencoe and London offices.

We would be very happy to answer any questions the committee might have.

Mr B. Murdoch: One question I would like to ask again. We have heard from the other side that there was a lot of prior consultation and meetings with different users. Your group, though, was never consulted about the closure. I just want to make quite sure.

Mr Diamond: Absolutely not.

Mr B. Murdoch: We are having a hard time finding out who these users were who were consulted. I just wanted to make sure that was --

Mr Diamond: Absolutely not, sir. When we heard was when this second letter attached to your handout was delivered to us.

Mr B. Murdoch: As you are with LACAC, though, would you say there would be some tourist attraction to some of these buildings all over Ontario, the ones that are being closed?

Miss Kendrick: Most definitely, because many of the buildings, as is ours, would be of sufficient age that they are historic themselves.

Mr B. Murdoch: That is another thing that was mentioned to us, that this would not happen, but you would think there would be?

Miss Kendrick: I would think so.

Mr Brown: I am also interested in particular about the consultation. Has there been any after-the-fact consultation? Has the ministry come out to the community and said to the community, "We want to close this registry office and this is why," and laid out those reasons in a community forum so that the people of the community may have some opportunity to understand the whys and wherefores of this?

Miss Kendrick: There was a meeting with Ms Kirsh and two other representatives that was scheduled to start at 5 o'clock. It did not start until 5:30, quarter to 6. It was scheduled to end at 7 o'clock. It actually ended at a quarter to 7, when one of the people present felt they had listened to sufficient doubletalk, as it were, not really being given reasons why it was being closed. It was, "Yes, it costs us money; no, it doesn't cost us money." As a result, the public really did not feel they were being informed of anything.

Mr Brown: So there were no particular numbers given, no particular cost savings for the Glencoe registry office?

Mr Diamond: I asked Ms Kirsh for those and she pointed at a file, but she did not cite any specific numbers. At one point she told me the Glencoe office was more efficient than the London office in terms of the per transaction cost, whatever she may mean by that, and about five minutes later she told me the exact opposite.

Mr Brown: In other words, you were not very satisfied with the responses you got.

Mr Diamond: That is one way of putting it.

The Chair: I want to thank the Glencoe and District Historical Society for making its presentation today. It will be part of the record. Thank you very much.

Mr Diamond: We would like to thank you very much for the opportunity to state our case. It is unprecedented, in my opinion. Thank you very much.

Mr B. Murdoch: Mr Chairman, I would like to provide the committee with a notice of motion that tomorrow during the committee debate of its report I intend to introduce for debate the following motion. I think we have some copies we could give out. I will read the motion.

"That it be moved that the committee recommend the closure of the provincial registry offices be held in abeyance until such time as the Polaris system has been brought into full and complete operation; and that at that time only this committee reconvene to examine the effects of the introduction of the Polaris on the provincial registry offices, including a complete analysis of all costs and savings associated with any closure of these registry offices as proposed by this government."

The Chair: Thank you for your notice of motion, Mr Murdoch. We will deal with this tomorrow at the appropriate time. The committee stands adjourned until 10 tomorrow morning.

The committee adjourned at 1749.