Tuesday 30 July 1991

Closure of Land Registry Offices

Peter T. Fallis, Delton Becker, Harry R. Whale

Northumberland Bar Association; Northumberland County Law Association; Don Chalmers; Walter Rutherford; Gifford, Harris Surveying Ltd; Kawartha-Haliburton District of Ontario Land Surveyors

Kimberley Thompson, Jane Brewer, Brenda Bilodeau, David Bond, George Ingram

Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations



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

Perruzza, Anthony (Downsview NDP) for Mr Drainville

Runciman, Robert W. (Leeds-Grenville PC) for Mr Turnbull

Clerk: Deller, Deborah

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

The committee met at 1003 in room 228.


Resuming 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. There have been some minor changes in our scheduling today, and I understand that the individual presenters who were scheduled for the first hour have decided to make a joint presentation. Is that correct?

Mr Fallis: That is correct, Mr Chair. That was the way the invitation was extended to us.

The Chair: That is fine. I understand Peter T. Fallis is going to act as a co-ordinating person. We will just turn the floor over to you, and you can introduce your entire delegation, and for the record you can tell us whom you are representing. You have approximately an hour, and you can retain some time for questions and answers.

Mr Fallis: I will indicate at the outset that my name is Mr Peter Fallis. I am a lawyer from Grey county. I have with me two other presenters, Mr Delton Becker, the reeve of Bentinck township and former warden of Grey county, and is Mr Harry R. Whale, Ontario land surveyor from the town of Hanover. They will be making a presentation.

I might indicate to the committee that I notice it is very few in number and I do not know to whom I am talking, because there seems to be nobody here.

Mr Mammoliti: The important ones are here.

Mr Fallis: Yes, good. Before I go to the other presentations, I wish to announce that it grieves me to announce that while we sat here in this hearing yesterday in the comfort of the fact that only after November 29, 1991, would a closing and transfer of documents take place, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, unannounced to anybody, arrived in the registry office at Durham and removed all the registered instruments from 1848 to 1948 that were stored in that facility.

Those instruments were removed yesterday, in 23 bags apparently, and taken to unknown parts. I am grieved that in the face of the fact that these hearings are going on, when the very issue of closures is at stake and it is before your committee, the ministry staff would act in such a callous and contemptuous manner towards this committee and remove the 100 years of instruments yesterday from the Durham registry office.

Mr Runciman: Unbelievable. It is in contempt of the committee.

Mr Fallis: Mr Chairman, I am very grieved by the actions of the ministry and I would ask that your committee immediately initiate an inquiry. I do not know how you have to do it, police or whatever, to find out who authorized the removal, when the removal was authorized, who executed the removal, where the instruments were taken and when they will be returned.

I would say it is in total contempt of this committee and brings the whole system of the administration of justice, which the registry system is part of, into disrepute in this province and violates every sense of the Charter of Rights, a right to a fair hearing and the right of the users of that facility to have access to the potential of those documents, albeit they were ancient documents. They are our heritage and they are the heritage of this province. For them to remove those while this hearing is going on, I think, is tantamount to -- I do not know who authorized it, but I believe this committee should take some action. I may be spoken to after the presentation if somebody wishes to confirm any information.

Mr Runciman: Mr Chairman, if the witness does not mind my intervention at this point, I do not know whether the clerk or you can advise me in the procedural wherewithals with respect to this, but I would like to make a motion at this time that we follow the witness's advice. I think indeed this is a contempt of this committee with respect to its proceedings under way in trying to deliberate on this whole question. The ministry intervening at this stage certainly undermines the efforts of this committee to take a look at the whole question of the appropriateness of these closures, and I would like to make a motion so that we can have that information made available, today if possible.

The Chair: Would you care to prepare or draft this motion, because I think there is going to be further debate on this. I saw two or three hands go up right away. Would you care to draft a motion in co-ordination with the clerk while we continue on so that all the committee knows what we are ultimately going to debate? I thought I saw Mr Brown's hand go up.

Mr Brown: I am just sharing the thoughts of Mr Runciman in this matter, that it is a serious matter and that the committee and the presenters certainly deserve to have the answers they request. Certainly it appears that the minister moved in a capricious and totally unconscionable fashion, given the committee hearings yesterday and today. I would appreciate that information, and when Mr Runciman has the resolution drafted we would certainly be in support of it.

Ms Harrington: I would certainly like to find out from the ministry what this is all about. I have just come in and heard what happened yesterday. I would certainly like to ask the ministry for its side of what has happened here.

The Chair: Maybe Mr Daniels can come and we can save a lot of time. Mr Daniels, if you would take a seat before the committee and identify yourself for the record, if we are all in agreement, maybe the committee could hear your presentation for a couple of minutes and we will have a few short questions and answers.


Mr Fallis: Mr Chairman, I might just indicate at the outset that the instruments themselves are not instruments that are readily available for use on a daily basis because of the fact they have been gathered in a containment area for storage. But the fact is that they were removed. The custodial area is to be the repository in the Durham registry.

The Chair: We understood your point, Mr Fallis.

Mr Daniels: The removal of instruments from prior to 1948 is a long-standing issue with the ministry, going back to 1987, when we began negotiations with the Ontario Historical Society. Pre-Confederation documents were removed and moved to the Archives of Ontario.

At the same time, we worked out with the archival group, the archival standards, the Ontario Historical Society, the conservation societies of Ontario, what we would do with the instruments prior to 1948. They were microfilmed and are retained in the land registry office as microfilmed instruments. The paper documents are part of a retention schedule. Some will be destroyed, a lot of the discharges and such. I am going to bring you a copy of the agreement with the Ontario Historical Society, with the conservation societies, about which instruments prior to 1948 would be retained, which would be retained only on microfilm and which would be retained in hard copy.

This is a 1987 decision and negotiated with the historical societies up until, I would say, 1990. I will bring you the final agreement and we will table it here. I do not have it with me, but we are talking about something that was under way, is under way across all Ontario. Our offices would collapse under the weight of paper that we gather of discharges, mortgages, etc. That is why over the years we have moved to microfilm. So this is quite separate and not part of the integration process, but was ongoing records retention as part of government maintenance of papers.

Ms Harrington: When was that initiated?

Mr Daniels: That I do not know. It just would be part of the normal process of picking up these bags of paper. I was in Parry Sound a couple of weeks ago, and we store the Newmarket documents -- because there is no room in Newmarket -- in Parry Sound, just to create space. But it would have no relation at all to the integrations.

Mr Mammoliti: He has answered one of my questions anyway, and that is its being totally separate from what we are dealing with here today.

Mr Daniels: Totally. Absolutely. It is happening all across Ontario with the pre-1948 documents.

Mr Mammoliti: In view of its being separate, I would suggest that we go on with our business.

Mr Daniels: I think what will help is when I table the agreement between the ministry and the Ontario Historical Society. You will be able to see what it is all about and that it was done in consultation with the user groups, with the conservancies and the historical societies, because they were concerned what instruments would be retained and what instruments would be retained only on microfilm.

The Chair: I was wondering if Mr Runciman had any questions, because Mr Runciman was going to make a motion. I want to make sure that all the committee members feel comfortable before we carry on, and that way we can easily move into the next phase of the hearings here.

Mr Runciman: I guess I would like to hear a response from the witnesses. If nothing else, it sounds like pretty lousy and insensitive timing with respect to this move, but if there is more to it than that, I would like to hear from the witnesses.

Mr Fallis: The instruments have been there in that registry office and the concern has been over the way they have been stored. They have been bagged, but nevertheless they have been the property of that repository in that facility, and for them to be removed -- I have made my statement before. I hear what has happened, but I do not want to delay the presentations, because we have a presentation to make.

Ms Harrington: Just to finalize this particular question, because Mr Daniels is here now, if there is any further clarification needed, I am wondering if you would like to ask Mr Daniels.

Mr Fallis: I have heard his answer. I have no questions to ask of him.

The Chair: Mr Fallis, we will just continue.

Mr Fallis: I would like to turn the presentation over to Mr Harry Whale.

Mr Whale: I thank you for this opportunity. If you will bear with me, I would like to read my presentation more or less verbatim in case I miss some point.

I am an Ontario land surveyor and a past president of the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors. I have been in private practice in Hanover since 1961. For the first 12 of those years, I was also the director of public works for the town. I have also been chairman of the Hanover parks committee, president of the chamber of commerce, chairman of the industrial committee, and at this time, chairman of the board of governors of the Hanover and District Hospital. Each of these last three offices, I might add, has been without remuneration. All of this I mention only by way of background and to maybe lend some credibility to my comments.

My initial gut reaction to the sudden announcement of the closings was one of shock, incredulity and then indignation and anger. Having pondered this, my own reaction and that of others, I have come to the conclusion that there are basically two aspects to it.

First, and probably over the long term the more important, is the humanitarian aspect. The Durham registry office stands at the intersection of the Garafraxa Road and the Durham Road. These are two colonization roads surveyed and opened before the surrounding territory was surveyed into townships. These roads were opened to facilitate the settlement of south Grey and north Wellington, among other territory. Our registry office stands and should continue to stand in this location as a sentinel of our very heritage. Within its portals are recorded the history of the land upon which we live and the history of those who lived upon that land before us.

By the nature of their work, surveyors are acutely aware of the trials and tribulations and the sheer effort and perseverence required of the earlier settlers to survive and to develop the fabric of the society we enjoy in south Grey today. More and more often, one can see peop]e in the registry office attempting to trace their ancestry or researching township history. Government has no right to take this from us. To do so without inviting comment or consultation is an affront to our dignity and integrity, and strikes at the very foundations of that which makes us proud Canadians and Ontarians. The whole process smacks of some clandestine Big Brother type operation. It makes no allowance for local autonomy and is tantamount to writing us off as far as this ministry is concerned.

The other aspect of my reaction to this announcement is the economic factor. Since this concerns my own survival, I confess to a certain self-interest in the subject and hope you will bear with me if I make my point from a personal perspective.

During my term as chairman of the Hanover industrial committee, I discovered just how difficult it is to bring industry and commerce, and therefore jobs, to small communities in rural Ontario. In my present position as chairman of the Hanover and District Hospital board of governors, I just signed a budget that, because of the recent wage settlement with nurses and in the absence of any increase in government funding to cover same, could only be balanced by reducing some services and laying off some employees.

As an employer, I will tell you that my firm has been on work-sharing since February. It runs out at the end of this week, so yesterday I gave notice to three of my employees. In short, the job market in south Grey is not exactly flourishing.

I chose Hanover to set up my practice 30 years ago mainly because of its proximity to the registry offices in Walkerton, 10 kilometres to the west; Durham, 18 kilometres to the east; and Arthur, 58 kilometres to the south. I run a modest operation with a regular staff, until the end of this week, of 11 employees who between them have 23 kids and God knows what in mortgages. Of the 11 employees, 10 are the main breadwinners in the family.

Should this move go through, I estimate that surveys by my firm will increase in cost by an average of about 8% due to increased driving time and distance. This means survey firms in Owen Sound and Guelph will have a distinct advantage over mine. Therefore the 11 jobs are suddenly in jeopardy, not because of the general economic situation, not because of poor performance on the part of the employees, not because of inefficient management on the part of the employer, but because a bureaucrat has been able to convince the minister that 70 cents per transaction can be saved.


I am sure I am not alone in this situation. Other firms, be they lawyers, surveyors, title searchers or appraisers, must be similarly affected to a greater or lesser degree. We, the users of the registry office, cannot take our business elsewhere. We must attend at the registry office and do our work there on the premises. We are entirely at the mercy of the system and apparently have absolutely no say whatsoever in how it operates.

Some time in the past year, I was invited by the respective registrars to fill out a questionnaire regarding both the Durham and Arthur offices. My comment was approximately, "It is working beautifully; change nothing until Polaris comes into effect." This is still my point of view and that of other surveyors affected by this proposal. We are not against progress, but why disrupt the existing efficient system until the actual advent of Polaris within the next eight years, at which time the entire situation will probably have to be reassessed?

Two or three weeks ago, I heard John Sewell, chairman of the committee recently appointed by government to study land use in Ontario, state on CBC radio that he is very concerned about preserving the identity of rural Ontario. I suggest that the proposed closing of the registry offices in Durham and Arthur flies in the face of such a sentiment.

I respectfully urge this committee to persuade the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations that this is indeed not a well-founded proposal, but rather is based at best on dubious information and hasty conclusions and can only serve to alienate the citizens of south Grey and north Wellington and threaten their livelihood.

Mr Becker: I would like to thank you for this opportunity to present the concerns of our very fine taxpayers in south Grey.

First I will bring you a brief history of our heritage. The registry office moved from Meaford to the Durham area in 1848. The township of Bentinck, which I represent, was first surveyed in 1850. The first council meeting was also held this same year. The town of Durham was incorporated in 1872. Before that date, it existed as a village partially in Bentinck and partially in Glenelg. The county of Grey operated this service for about the first 100 years. Perhaps we should reassess the situation to look at the county resuming the service it provided in the beginning. Sometimes a government that is closer to the people can be more sensitive to the needs of the people it serves.

I hope you can understand why we feel this registry office is so important to our heritage in south Grey. The roots of our heritage and our history are recorded in this office, located in the midst of the area it serves. Particularly in the present times when people like to research their forefathers, it is right there, allowing us to research right in our own community. I think that is very important to our history and certainly to the residents who are in south Grey, and no doubt important in all the other closures that are being proposed.

I think it is rather unusual for any service the government provides to operate at a profit, and any that do should be preserved to act as role models and remind us that, after all, that is how it should be. From the figures we have collected, the Durham registry office has shown a profit over the expenses of operation of about $100,000 a year for the last three years.

The most important losers in this proposed move are the people who are dearest to my heart, probably because I am one of them. They are the residents and taxpayers who are already overburdened by taxes and by a lower income and higher unemployment than is experienced in a lot of the more industrialized areas of the province. There has been no concern or understanding for rural Ontario. A minority live in rural Ontario, and we are being ignored in favour of the more populated areas, the cities, with a complete lack of understanding of our needs.

This plan does not conserve gas and alleviate pollution for a government that professed to be an environmentally friendly people's government. People is what we are here for, and a system to better serve the needs of the people who use it. It has been said that the system would be better served. Maybe the system would be better served, but not the people whom it serves, and that is why I am here today.

I would like to thank the professional people who have taken up this cause on behalf of south Grey residents to make this presentation to you today, but they are not the largest financial losers. The real losers are the 25,000 people whom this registry office has served since its conception 143 years ago. We cannot step back and watch our heritage being taken away. We must fight back.

There will be additional costs to cover the increased cost of travelling approximately 48 kilometres to Owen Sound. That figure is derived from the distance between Durham and Owen Sound. For a lot of our residents it is much farther than that. That probably does not even meet an average, and that is one way to the city of Owen Sound. For lawyers, paralegals, surveyors, municipal staff, real estate people, etc, the additional time and inconvenience will be paid for by our already overburdened residents.

As farmers, we cannot afford to pick up any additional costs. As an example -- it is only one example; I could have used any other commodity -- we are delivering wheat to the elevators for an initial return of $70 a tonne, the lowest price the farm community has had to accept for well over 40 years. Yet when we go to purchase a loaf of bread at the grocery store, the price has never been higher. I ask, where is the fairness?

There is only one taxpayer, so please do not let our provincial brother deliver yet another devastating blow to our very valuable residents of south Grey. We are not asking you to spend millions to provide a new service, but only to maintain a service that we have enjoyed since 1848. May I remind you again that it operates at a profit. We are not prepared to accept this arbitrary move by the province, by a government that has stated on numerous occasions that it is going to consult with the people of Ontario before it makes a decision that is going to seriously affect the lifestyle and the standard of living we have enjoyed in this province until now.

On May 29, 1991, the Honourable Elmer Buchanan stated, "There has to be a better spirit of co-operation between government and rural communities in order to serve and strengthen" our residents of rural Ontario. I ask you to demonstrate the spirit of co-operation the honourable minister referred to.

Premier Bob Rae spoke to the Association of Clerks and Treasurers of Counties and Regions of Ontario in Peterborough soon after being elected Premier of our province and spoke of the co-operation his government would deliver to the municipal partners. David Cooke, Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs, recently announced the government's $13.4-million package to boost economic development in 69 municipalities. The program's goal was to help ensure Ontario's communities remain vital, attractive and economically sound. The government as quoted by Mr Cooke is "demonstrating the high priority it places on local job creation and other economic spinoff. By stimulating local economics, the province can help our communities remain strong and viable places to live and work."

Is the proposal to close 14 registry offices in the province not in direct conflict with these statements? We all thought that maybe this new government would be a breath of new life and co-operation for Ontario, but I am sorry to have to say today that until this point we have not seen new co-operation from our provincial partners. Instead, I find myself embarrassed by the lack of that co-operation or even being able to tell my ratepayers we were consulted before such decisions as this one to close the registry office in Durham were made. I am sure the residents of the 14 other municipalities or the municipal politicians could say the same.

Again, I ask you to reconsider the decision to close the Durham registry office before adequate consultation with municipal politicians, lawyers, paralegals, surveyors, real estate people and, equally important, the residents who are most seriously affected because they have to pay the bill. We cannot accept the present decision to close this office, so please reconsider. I ask you to reconsider on behalf of the little people of Ontario. Not because we have lawyers, surveyors and municipal politicians here to speak to you. Somebody has to bring the message and we are carrying that message.

All of us who are here to speak to you today are residents of southern Grey. We have not been brought in from outside our area. We are all residents and we are speaking for the little people. I ask this committee to please take steps to have the minister reconsider the decision that was made on whatever information she was given. I believe the facts you will hear today will offer an opportunity for the minister to reconsider. I believe she has been given some facts that perhaps were not researched thoroughly enough. With that I conclude.


Mr Fallis: Yesterday the committee was given a report that was submitted and it is part of our presentation -- the presentation from Arthur and Wellington. We did an evaluation impact study together. We went together to pool our resources and I wish to just briefly take you through it. It is there for the reading and I implore you in your considerations to read it. I might indicate that the report was prepared with the valuable assistance of the government relations consultant, Mr William Kennaley.

In the report there is a part at the front which are the recommendations we will ultimately be making to your ministry as to what you can do. There is an executive summary in blue at the front which is several pages, setting out the summary of the facts. The bulk of the report really discusses the minister's comments. Starting on page 13 is "The Improvement in Customer Service," the comments we found on that. On page 14 is "The Question of Efficiency" On page 16 is "The Alleged Savings." On page 18 is the negative impact on the community. On page 21 is the convenience to the public and how it negatively impacts them. On page 26 is the difficulty we have had in obtaining information from the ministry.

I think you gathered from all the presentations that in effect the ministry has stonewalled any attempts to get valid, credible information to make a presentation to you. It is what we asked for and what we have not got, except that I suppose with the persistence of our inquiries we have been able to get it.

I would like to go directly to the issue of costs and savings as I think that is what the focus of this hearing is really about. You have heard the heritage. You have heard the feelings of rural Ontario. It is spoken loud and clear. But I think it is time to move into the other areas. I can safely say I am speaking for a lot of other registry offices that have not been able to find those facts because the ministry has withheld the information needed to make a proper presentation to you.

The Durham registry office, if you look at page 17 of the report, generated last year in revenue $215,842, and in 1989 it generated $218,613 against costs in 1989 of $84,000 and in 1990-91 of $107,000. Two years ago there was $133,000 profit. Last year there was $108,000 profit. That means the system, and it has been dedicated to be, is a user-pay system. The users are the public who walk into the facility and pay charges for using the system to register, to search, to do things. That happens in Arthur, it happens in Durham, it happens in every one of the presenting registries you heard from yesterday.

But they have not been given the figure as to the cost. It has been denied to them; it was denied to us as well. We found those figures. They are stated in this material before you, stating that it is confidential information -- freedom of information act. Mr Chairman, that is crap, that is absolute falsehood, that statement by the ministry. It is public information on the fees book in every registry which each register must maintain. There is no charge for looking at that book and we found it last Wednesday only because we did not know it was contained there. It is public information and hence the figures. Every other registry office can find the same information as to the costs of their office. So the minister has been misled, we have been misled, we have been told it is confidential. It is entirely a public document and that is where the information comes from.

To say you are moving the savings when the Durham registry office and the Arthur registry office both turned profits into the province -- and you must realize that fees are usually there to operate a system. Taxation is a form of raising money for other purposes. But when you can turn $100,000 profit on a yearly basis, which we have estimated conservatively over the 13 years since 1978 is almost $750,000 to $1 million to $2 million that we have actually given to the province out of those two registry offices, it is hard for us to be persuaded that closing us is a savings, because you must look at how the office operates. Nobody has told you this story and I am about to.

Three ministries are involved. There is the Ministry of Government Services, who is the landlord. They rent the facilities for all the places in the province. There is the Treasurer of Ontario, who is the recipient of all the moneys. When we go into the registry office we write a cheque out to the Treasurer of Ontario and it goes to the consolidated revenue fund. The third ministry involved is the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. They are in effect the staffing -- for want of a better word, the grunts -- who have to do the work, to lift the books and make the system work. They do not receive the revenue and they do not pay the rent. They have a budget in which they work to put people in the facility. It is a combined government that operates this system, it is not MCCR alone. It is the Ministry of Government Services, the Treasurer of Ontario, and MCCR who staff the facility.

I have proved to you, and I think the figures speak for themselves, that there is no cost or burden on the province. There is $100,000 a year to the good in Durham and $60,000 right now in Arthur. The savings: What is going to come about by moving it to the other facility? That is a question we asked the ministry at the outset; May 7 they closed it, May 8 the question was asked. Demonstrate to us the saving afterwards. The report came back, "Confidential, we can't tell you." You are the committee: You ask them; they are going to be here today. I would like to hear the answer and do it on a registry office basis, one by one. You have the figures for Durham, show them the saving.


Our committee brings a lot of experience to the hearings. In 1978 Durham was faced with the announcement it was going to be closed and we were one against the whole province. We were one of 27 scheduled for closure, and of those 27 we were the first one to be attacked. To resist the closure, we had to fight the whole concept in the province and we won.

Since 1978, that office has been run with two people; 7,000 registrations a year, two people. There is no way that can be done by any fewer people no matter where you are.

In Owen Sound there are 13,000 registrations a year, seven people. That is 1,900 registrations a person. In Durham we are doing 3,500 a person. It is a pretty tight little ship and it is running well. It cannot be done with any less.

Look at the savings. On the rent side, that is the Ministry of Government Services, there is a perception of saving $9,000 a year for rent. There is a perception that it would be saved -- the county is the landlord in both facilities. If anybody thinks the county is going to accept that the ministry will double its volume in one office at the expense of the other for the same rent, they are not a very good businessman because the county will charge more rent for the entry into that facility. No question. So there are no savings on rent, and it is not this ministry that pays freight and rent anyway.

Staff: The labour part of it has been guaranteed. Two people have been guaranteed a job in Owen Sound. There is no labour loss because they are going to be guaranteed a job, albeit it will cost them $5,000 a year in travel to get there to do the job that they do not have to drive to now.

The other side of the equation is the supplies. To register you need requisition slips, abstract pages, copy paper and so forth, but that is all a product of searching. No matter where they do the 7,000 registrations, that paper is going to be consumed in Owen Sound or Durham, so there is no cost saving there.

My gut response to the stated saving, that there is $1 million savings in the province, is that there is none in Durham, there is none in Arthur, and if we had the figures I could list the figures and walk you through each of the registry offices in the province saying there are none in any of the registry offices in rural Ontario. I am almost positive in saying that.

How can you achieve savings? There are some ways to achieve savings in a system without closing the registry offices. In Durham we learned that in 1978 at the suggestion, I might add, of an opposition critic at that time of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Mr Michael Davison, the NDP critic, who came up with a suggestion in 1978 that was acted on in Durham, to eliminate the position of registrar, satellite it to one that is a larger registry office, and save that money. Mr Frank Drea, who would replace Mr Grossman as minister, implemented that suggestion of the NDP, and it was a very positive and powerful and working suggestion. Unfortunately, it has not been implemented in other registry offices and very easily can be.

An example is the registry office in Arthur, which has 5,000 registrations. Durham has no registrar. Arthur has 5,000 registrations until July 15 of this year and had a full-time registrar. That position can be and now, as of July 15, has been eliminated. It has gone from three to two. It will save $55,000 a year by the elimination of that position.

I suggest that if your committee wishes to look at savings in the system, you can save money without closing service. You can save people. That is where it can be saved. You can pare it a little further.

I suggest the statement by the minister's representatives and emanated through the minister that there is $1 million savings is nothing but bafflegab. The way they have expressed it and the only way they will come back to us is they say it is a cost per transaction.

A definition of "transaction" is found in the red volume, on the back of page 17. After we said: "What is a transaction? There are 7,000 registrations a year?" they said there are 10,000 transactions.

Here is bafflegab for you, signed by Carol Kirsh, director, real property registration branch: "With respect to the term `transaction,' it is the workload factor used to measure all work performed in a land registry office. The number of transactions is not an empirical measurement, but rather the result of an algorithm relating the many factors detailed in the definition of `transaction.' The same process is used in each registry office to determine the number of transactions, and therefore the numbers obtained are statistically significant and may be used for comparison purposes across the entire branch."

You are paying this person $80,000 a year to define that? Give me a break.

The Chair: Do you want to read that again?

Mr Brown: That is right, we missed something.

Mr Fallis: It is on page 17, on the back of it.

The real significance is, how many deeds do you register and what is the cost of operating? You do it on a cost basis, that is what you do. Actually, the last time there was a closure -- it is set out at page 47 -- when we asked for the thing in 1978 from Larry Grossman, the closure was in April and on May 25 we had a response from him. He told us the salary cost per registration, the number of registrations. It is all there. It is a very clear statement as to what you want.

In 1990 was the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act -- it is called the secrecy act, by the way -- you do not get anything because of that act supposedly, or they hide behind it.

I suggest that our demand for figures is very proper, very real, and it is a proper request made by all of the delegations.

In summary, there are no savings by the move to Owen Sound. They are not substantiated. There is a profit to the province which can be preserved by staying in Durham, by staying in Arthur and, I say, by staying in probably all of the registry offices.

If you look at it in its true sense, this is what has happened. You have a young minister who has been appointed to office after Mr Kormos resigned from his position. She has been in there a couple of months and she has staff in whom she has to have confidence to rely upon. They have been working on the system, and I do not think it is NDP policy, I do not think it is Conservative policy, nor is it Liberal policy; it has been bureaucratic policy that has been focused. They are the people that have designed this, and they have taken a green minister and said, "We can save you a million dollars a year." If I were a minister, I think I could trust my staff, I would have to have that trust, and I think the public has to have trust in their staff, and my reaction would be: Where do I sign?

That is exactly what she did. The press release was there, she signed, she stood behind her staff and relied on her staff to provide her with accurate information. The same information that has been withheld from Durham and from Arthur and from all the other registries, I suggest, has been withheld by Mr Daniels and Ms Kirsh from that minister. They are the ones who have withheld that information and have put her in the embarrassing position that this hearing is going on because of the lack of proper information.

I think what we have here is a situation where she put her ministerial career on the line by saying, "Where do I sign?" when there are certain facts that had been misrepresented to her. I would like to go through the facts that have been misrepresented to the minister and, I would say, misrepresented to us, and, in fact, to you. I think Mr Daniels, who is here today and listening to this, owes you an explanation.

First of all, fact 1: In Durham there are no savings, and I think the figures I have just gone through demonstrate that. We were generating $100,000 and, after closure, will still be generating $100,000 and there will be no savings as a result of the merger.

Fact 2 is that there is an $8 million capital savings. How do you achieve that? The county is the landlord in both facilities. There is no capital cost to incur in Durham and no capital cost to incur in Owen Sound. Those are costs that would be incurred by another government if the request were made of them to incur it. It would be incurred by that landlord. So there are no costs that are going to be incurred. Same as Arthur. Wellington controls both facilities, is the landlord in both facilities. There are no capital costs that will be incurred.

Fact 3 is that the closures can take place without a problem. This is the problem. We are here and we are about to show that there is a problem for Ms Kirsh and Mr Daniels to recommend that.

Fact 4: No notice is required to the users. That is what the representation was of the staff to the minister.

Five, that they had done a user survey and consulted with the users before the recommendations. You have listened to all of the presentations and we will hear more today to that effect.


The confidence and trust and relationship and reliability of the senior staff must repose with the minister. This minister, I suggest, has been ambushed by her senior staff and is now being embarrassed by a complete absence of supporting facts. This committee must advise her of this, and I invite you to ask her to remove that staff from their employment for a lack of confidence. If my staff were the same, they would be out the door the same day if I was embarrassed in such a way. I suggest that that is what should happen to the staff.

The recommendations as to why the office must close: I suggest that is grounded and rooted in Polaris. The 1991 budget estimates you have created for this year have allocated $19.4 million to Polaris this year. That is 20% of the entire MCCR budget.

This program will take 10 years to implement and has been on the road for 10 years, and its purpose, I submit, is to reinvent the wheel. It is to create a different system to do exactly what we are doing now. Is it better? We do not know. Is the present system working? It certainly is. Is there something that needs to be repaired? We are not telling you that; it is the ministry staff who are telling you that. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

You are putting in $19 million of money this year to design a system, one of whose stated objects is to hand it over to Real/Ontario Data Inc, a private consortium that will market this around the world. That is not the reason why we should be spending $19 million.

There is $15.2 million of fresh money that is coming into your ministry and the rest of it has to be grabbed by robbing from the real property division and from other divisions of the ministry to gather a million dollars here, a million dollars there, of perceived savings. We are not trying to save money for the province; we are trying to fund a system to reinvent the wheel, to design the Polaris system that we do not need. The system works.

The lawyers are the policemen on paper for the system. We make it work. That is our job. The surveyors police it on the ground, and they are doing their job. The system that we have presently is working.

What we are doing, I suggest, is trying to create a system to justify floors of bureaucrats who are going to consume $19 million in designing a system that we already have in place to guarantee work for this government bureaucracy. I am saying that they are living off the avails of taxation and on the backs of us who are trying to make a living and practise and do a job for the public who are being served.

The real reason that the closure is being done, I suggest, is to generate funds internally for the operation of Polaris.

I would like to indicate that in 1978 there were 27 registry offices that were targeted for closure. Those candidates are still there today. They have announced 12; there are 15 more. Those 15 that are still candidates for closure have been set out in the material at page 35 of the red book material. For those of you who wish to refer to it, they have been highlighted as a dark blocking in there on that material.

I would indicate that the test that was there in 1978 is exactly the same test that is there today. They want to downsize, centralize, consolidate the system into many fewer numbers. The test is to look at, if you want to verify it, where the regional assessment offices are located, because those numbering systems are the puzzle right now that exists to put the pieces together, all of the puzzle of Ontario. It is all done through a different number, it is on your tax bill, each number has a different code system there for each piece of property. That is where the registry offices are going to gravitate to if Polaris goes in.

You can eliminate a lot of places: Walkerton will go to Owen Sound; Orangeville will go to Peel; Brantford, St Thomas, Perth, Minden, Goderich, Chatham, Sarnia, London are Windsor-bound facilities; Lindsay, Welland, those will all be ones that will eventually be eliminated. The 12 that are here this year, I suggest that next year you are probably going to see another 15. I ask you, why are the 15 not being announced this year? The one thing that is there is a program the government has put in place to reward senior civil servants of an 11% bonus, announced by the honourable Frances Lankin, for cost-saving measures that are implemented. If they did all 27 this year they might get the 11%. If they split it in two they get the 11% twice. I do not know if that is right or not, but I am saying they make some candidates to be eligible for that, and that announcement is found on page 41 on the back. It is an article in the Toronto Star, May 23, and the quotations are in the book.

The recommendations that this presenter makes on behalf of his constituent coalition are, number one, that the standing committee of public accounts be convened to request the Provincial Auditor to perform a special assignment, namely to carry out a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether there are any savings as alleged. The authority for that is the Audit Act, section 17. The public auditor can be requested to undertake that special assignment. I submit that it should be done.

Number two, I would ask you to recommend to the minister that she immediately put a moratorium on her decision to close the 12 registry offices -- the Cambridge and the other 11 rural ones -- until that review is completed.

I would ask you, third, to recommend to the minister that the committee has reason to believe there is no evidence demonstrated that there are savings at any registry office. On the contrary, evidence now exists that those allegations are incorrect, certainly in the case of Durham and certainly in the case of Arthur. I would ask you to recommend to the minister that she present an answer to the request that was made to her for facts and to eliminate the bafflegab and genuinely give her the statistics that everybody has been asking for and that the people whom you have heard to date have been denied.

Two things can be considered. One has been alluded to by Reeve Becker, and that is the fact that the county is prepared to consider taking over the registry system. I might indicate that the county has a recommendation from the property committee to do just that: to take over the registry system it ran until 1968 and which 25 years later the province is indicating it cannot run. Let the county do it again. The other is to consider merging the two registry offices of Arthur and Durham into one facility.

I would suggest that this committee give consideration to those recommendations and particularly the recommendations outlined in the front of the report in the pink sections, as I believe you will be well respected by your provincial constituents for so doing.

I might add that this should not be considered a matter that is party politics. I think it is a matter of a minister who has been given a set of facts. Be it any ministry, I grieve for a minister who has been asked by her staff to rely on a set of facts that just are not correct and which cannot be supported. I think the minister should show the courage that one would expect the minister to show to admit the mistake, as Terry Moore indicated in his presentation yesterday. All of you can walk proudly from this room knowing that you have done something meaningful for democracy. Rise above party politics, admit the mistake, have the minister admit that and deal with the staff who have misled her in that regard.

Those are my submissions.


The Chair: Thank you, Mr Fallis, and I want to thank the entire delegation. I am going to allow two short questions from every party, if they wish.

Mr B. Murdoch: First, I would like to thank you people for coming down here and making your fine presentation. There is something I would like to ask and get on the record, because there are three of you here and from three different users. We have been led to believe here that there was quite a bit of consultation before this happened. Were any of you contacted in your businesses before these closures?

Mr Whale: Absolutely not in my case, no.

Mr Becker: Definitely not in my case.

Mr Fallis: Definitely not, from the legal community.

Mr B. Murdoch: So I hope you will stay around this afternoon. We will be able to ask questions and find out who these people had these meetings with.

Mr Runciman: I just want to reiterate, Mr Chairman, what Mr Fallis has been saying with respect to the minister. I believed from the outset, as the critic for CCR, that the minister was duped by senior bureaucrats with respect to this matter, because this recommendation has been around for some time, since, I think, the onset of Polaris. You go back in your literature to Larry Grossman. For a variety of reasons that decision was not taken at that time, but the bureaucrats have persisted.

I think your suggestion with respect to the Provincial Auditor is an excellent one and something that even the government members of this committee should have no difficulty with. We are being faced with a decision here. Ministers are telling us that real cost savings are being achieved, and the government members should have no reluctance whatsoever in sending in an independent expert like the Provincial Auditor to come up with the facts for all of us in this committee and the Legislature at large, telling us what really is the case here.

Are savings indeed going to occur or have the minister and the Legislature and the public been sold a bill of goods by senior civil servants in the ministry? I think those are answers that need to be delivered and we can trust, I believe, the Provincial Auditor to deliver them and deliver them quickly so that we can get on with either backing off from this decision or proceeding, if indeed there are real savings there. I do not believe there are, and I think that all of us in this committee should have no difficulty with the Provincial Auditor doing a cost-benefit analysis.

Mr Conway: Just very briefly, Mr Fallis, could you explain a bit about Polaris? If it is implemented as planned, what impact is that going to have on the user in a community like Durham or Arthur? You seem to be rather more negative about the impact of Polaris than some of the previous --

Mr Fallis: The whole registry system is to record your deed so that another person can know that you own it and what you own. That is the whole object of the registry system. Polaris is only going to do that in another manner with an electronic system to record it, and it is only as good as the information that goes into it because that is all you get back out.

With our existing system, the information is there and you have the searching of title and working of all of the adjacent lands. It is a very complex but very sophisticated and well-utilized and respected system.

Mr Conway: I had the impression from earlier witnesses that it was going to be some kind of electronic highway that was going to provide much greater flexibility to both user and provider.

Mr Fallis: The one electronic medium they have right now is personal property security searches with chattels, with cars and so forth. The system is maybe a little bit better than what was there before; the registry system for chattels was pretty poor before, not as sophisticated as land registry. But the system is not perfect. An example: you have to put in the right name. My father's name is William Claude Elgin Fallis, but William is only on his birth certificate, and if you do not put in William it is not properly recorded. The computer system is a scary system sometimes. The human mind and the old systems sometimes have their ways.

Mrs Fawcett: Thank you, Mr Chairman. I really do not have any questions. I just want to congratulate you for a very thorough presentation. I think it has been one of the best so far. You have delved into a lot of areas and you answered any questions some of us might have. I want to congratulate you for that and sincerely agree and hope that the government and the minister in particular will take heed that a mistake has been made. We can all benefit from honest mistakes if they are corrected.

Mr Mammoliti: I too want to congratulate you. It was very interesting, and I want to thank you for being very specific about the cost. You certainly got my ear. I do want to ask some questions. Not to say that other presentations yesterday were not interesting, but some people talked about history and how much it is going to cost to travel and that sort of thing. Those are legitimate arguments, but the cost factor, the argument you brought up today, is something I am concerned about personally.

But I am also somewhat distraught in that yesterday and today individuals such as yourselves have said that this government has never consulted on this particular topic. I feel compelled at this point to stick up for the government and to say that I am proud that the government has consulted, not only in this particular area but other areas. We have gone through with our promises. I understand that we have consulted. I guess the definition of consultation would be my question. What do you mean by consultation? What do you expect from the government when you talk about consultation and can you honestly say we have not consulted?

Mr Fallis: As directly as I can honestly say, there has been no consultation. The only meeting I was ever invited to attend, and I have been very high-profile in Grey county in being a practising real estate lawyer and former president of the bar association, is a meeting that took place prior to 1978, prior to the closing of the other registry office. That meeting took place in the town of Walkerton. It is the only meeting I have ever been asked to attend at the initiative of the ministry and that is the extent of what has happened in Grey. We have not been asked.

Ms Harrington: I would like to thank you for this whole set of information you gave us. Obviously, this cost money to put together, and you have shown that you really do care when you put all this together. I spoke to you yesterday outside. I knew how earnest and eager you were, so I just wanted to thank you for coming today, staying over, in fact, for the two days.

The Chair: Mr Fallis, I want to thank you and your delegation for your presentation this morning. The committee appreciated your work.

Mr Fallis: Thank you very much.

The Chair: I understand that between 11 and 12 o'clock we had scheduled four presenters. They may wish to make a joint presentation. It is up to the individuals who are here. There have been some minor changes, I am also told.



The Chair: We have Mr John Carter, Mr Wilfred Day, Mr Paul Smith and Mr Joseph Banbury. Mr Doug Mann is also going to join the group. If one of you gentleman would act as co-ordinator for your delegation.

Mr Carter: I will, Mr Chair.

The Chair: We are going to follow the same procedure. You have approximately 55 minutes for your presentation and answers and questions. Will you identify everyone for the record?

Mr Carter: I hope we will not take the whole 55 minutes, because we hope you will ask us some questions rather than have us do all the talking. The prior group obviously presented an excellent brief to you, the part I heard. I would echo our support of their proposals as well.

My name is John Carter and I am the president of the Northumberland Bar Association. To my left is Wilfred Day, who is on the executive of the Northumberland Bar Association, and Joseph Banbury, who is also on the executive. Joe is from Brighton, and Wilf is from Port Hope. I am from Colborne. Doug Mann is also a solicitor in Port Hope.

With our group today we also have the reeve of the village of Colborne and the mayor of the town of Port Hope, along with the president of the Kawartha-Haliburton District of Ontario Land Surveyors and two surveyors who work in the Colborne and Trenton area.

I will present the brief you have before you to start off, followed by Mr Day. After that, Mr Banbury has a considerable amount of correspondence he has collected from people who were not able to come today due to the fact that they had business commitments to take care of, not to say that they are not extremely interested in this issue.

I cannot say we are pleased to be here today, because of course we are not. We would rather be doing almost anything else than be here. But since the announcement on May 7, when the government announced it intended to integrate these offices, we have been extremely upset. You talked about prior consultation just a minute ago, and I can assure you that none of us received any prior consultation from the government with respect to these changes. If there was any consultation, it may have been made with the local staffs in the registry office, but it certainly was not made with the users.

All prior governments over the years, during the 20 years I have been in business, have always consulted with us whenever any major change is going to be made to our system. However, in this case, it appears there has been some change, probably because of the reasons stated by Mr Fallis, which relate to the bureaucracy more than to the government itself.

Mr Day, as I said earlier, will be presenting the case for Port Hope. I am presenting the case for all the registry systems and the registry offices in our particular county, the village of Colborne, for example. Mrs Fawcett knows it very well. She happens to be a resident of that particular village. Colborne is a small village of 1,800 people and this is the only provincial office in that village. It acts not only as a registry office but as the distribution point for materials from the provincial government. There is no other office in the village. The general public makes considerable use of this office searching for their roots and also searching their own titles. The small size and convenient location of the office, and this applies to Port Hope as well, means that ordinary people are not intimidated by it. They come to that office, they can park right by the front door, they can walk into Colborne, there is no restriction. A wheel chair is accessible to the Colborne office. The friendly staff make it easy for ordinary people to carry out their business.

Of course, it helps us as well. The lawyers, surveyors and real estate agents in the area have located their offices in Colborne and Port Hope, partly on the basis that these offices exist in these towns. It might be difficult for some of these offices to maintain their viability should these registry offices be closed.

You should also be made aware that we not only are serving the Colborne area businesses but businesses as far away as Trenton and Belleville as well. If you look at the map attached to the rear of my presentation, you will see that the Colborne registry office serves a large eastern portion of Northumberland, but it also serves lawyers and title searchers and surveyors who work out of Trenton, Belleville, Frankford and other villages which are in the county of Hastings.

Murray township is the most easterly township in our county, and you can see that it kind of surrounds Trenton, which is over on the right hand side of the map. Many of the surveyors and lawyers in that area -- and people, of course -- do work for people who live in Murray township and therefore make use of the Colborne registry office. I can talk about the increased cost to the clients because of the extra travelling distances, but you are going to hear about this from other people and I am sure you understand it, in any event.

As I said earlier, the location and the size of these registry offices mean that the staff provide exceptional service. The amalgamation of the offices into a larger office will undoubtedly lead to a reduction of the quality and the time of service. We, the users of the system, know that the larger the office the longer it takes to carry out any task in that office. The result, of course, is increased cost to the user. We know that because we have to go to larger offices sometimes to do our own work and we can predict exactly the extra time it will take us in those offices, compared to the small offices of Colborne and Port Hope. People from outside the area enjoy coming to our offices from Oshawa and Toronto, for example.

The Chair: In light of the fact that our cooling system is not working we opened the window, so we will ask everyone to speak a little louder because I am having just a little difficulty. That is the best we can afford this morning.

Mr Carter: That may be the best you can afford, period.

As I said, the village of Colborne is a small village of 1,800 and this is the only provincial office in the village. The recent recession has taken its toll on Colborne, leaving many gaps on the north side of our business area. The closing of this office would be a devastating move to the village. Every day dozens of people, I would say, attend the Colborne registry office to carry out their searches and other work. Each of these people leaves behind a small amount of money in the restaurants and the businesses in the town. If this leaves us at a point like this, we are going to be in real trouble. The reeve may have something more to say on this matter.

Port Hope, on the other hand, is a little larger community. Probably the closing would not be a disastrous financial matter to them, but Port Hope, as most of you know, is a historical and architecturally beautiful town, and what better use could there be of a building of historical value than for it to be used for its natural purpose? If the building is closed, of course it would be preserved by the village or by some historical group. In a place like Port Hope, there are so many places like that now that I doubt anyone else would be able to take it over and maintain it. Government use is obviously the best use of this building. It has been the best use for 100 and more years; I do not see why it should not continue.

Both offices in Port Hope and Colborne are approximately the same size. The number of people served is also approximately the same. If you look on page 4, you will see I have listed the number of registrations relating to the population of each area of our county. Please note that Colborne has the largest number of registrations, consisting of some 37.5% of those registrations. Cobourg and Port Hope are much the same in size. We are closing the largest registry office and moving the facility to one of the smaller ones as far as size of registration is concerned.

Port Hope registry office has been renovated over the last few years, and minor repairs have even been made to Colborne. As a matter of fact, about a month after the announcement of the closing of the Colborne registry office, a truck arrived. They did a complete renovation of the washroom in the building. This is a building which has already been announced is going to close, so it looks like one arm of government does not know what the other is doing.

The village of Colborne has many sites available for an expanded facility as well. I have had clients come into my office and offer to donate free land for the building of a new community centre, which would include a registry office. I do not know how many places you get that kind of offer from, but I would ask that you consider that in Colborne. I am sure the reeve will expound on that matter of facilitating the construction of a new town hall and community centre. Our town hall at the present time is in an old high school with a considerable number of steps for anyone to get into. It is really inaccessible to a lot of the people in our town who are quite elderly. In any event, I believe the village would be prepared to enter into a multi-use facility construction project with the province, or independently, if it knew the registry office would be one of the tenants.

One of the points made by the minister in her announcement, or in Ms Kirsh's announcement, I should say, was that the sheriff's offices are located in the towns where the registry office will be after the closings take effect. The fact is that the location of the sheriff's office has not been a difficulty in our area because the lawyers in the area have set up a fax system from their offices in Port Hope and Colborne so that the individual sheriff's certificates can be obtained by them before closing real estate transactions. It is not necessary to drive to Cobourg to get a sheriff's certificate before you register your deeds. We also provide that service to lawyers from out of town who might come into Colborne and need that service, if they forget to stop in Cobourg on their way or if they come from the other direction.

One of the most upsetting things about the announcement, of course, is the lack of consultation. The notice that was published on May 7 is an insult to our intelligence and contains many inaccuracies and untruths, as does the letter from the minister to Mr Day. I wrote several letters to the minister, I might say, as the president of the Northumberland Bar Association, and have not yet received a reply. The first one was sent on May 7 by fax.

In the notice to users put out by Ms Kirsh, she states that the Cobourg office was chosen because it already serves the majority of clients in the division. If you look at the figure on the last page, you will see that is not true. Cobourg in fact makes 32% of the registrations. I think you can extrapolate that to mean the users as well. In a recent letter to Mr Day, the minister states that studies have shown the majority of the system users are at or near Cobourg. I would beg to differ with that as well. If you look at my map, you will see the large area that Colborne covers. A study we did ourselves of the daily registrations over the last months shows that no more than 5% or 10% of the users of the Colborne registry office come from the Cobourg area; 90% are from Colborne, Campbellford, Brighton and east into Hastings county.


I will not get into the cost matters here. My colleague Mr Day will probably do that, and Mr Fallis, my predecessor here, certainly covered that area to a great extent. You will see the conclusions we have made, though, and they are very simple and straightforward. I do not think anyone could not understand them.

We have not been provided the cost figures to prove that the million-dollar savings will be obtained. You have already been lectured on that one, I am sure.

The existing offices provide efficient, fast, friendly service which will deteriorate in a larger setting.

No consideration was given to the extra costs that will be incurred by the users of the system with the closing of these community offices. The public service has forgotten the meaning of the word "service" unless it applies to looking after themselves.

I can only add that my feeling on this is that what has happened is that the bureaucracy feels it would be simpler for its purposes to operate with fewer registry offices in central locations. It is for their convenience, not for ours, that these registry offices are being closed.

I also referred earlier to the negative effects on the communities, and it will be a major effect on Colborne especially.

Item 5, I believe, is self-explanatory.

As I said, Mr Day will now make a presentation on behalf of Port Hope and Colborne as well, and we would like to leave time at the end so you can ask us questions.

Mr Day: I would like to thank all of you for giving up part of your summer to be here. I think you are getting my brief right now, and I will highlight the main points of it for you.

Costs are the main concern. The closure of these 12 offices will supposedly save $1 million a year, but if the savings of $1 million do not include accommodation costs, then the figure is meaningless. We would like to see the estimated savings of the two closures in Northumberland.

We believe these two closures would actually have a net cost, not a saving. The cost of more space to replace these offices will not be offset unless the old buildings can be leased or sold. The Port Hope and Colborne land registry offices, which are owned by the province, are not easily adaptable to any commercial use. Both are heritage buildings, which certainly no one would want to see torn down. The similar old Picton office ended up as a museum. We believe the provincial government would end up donating these offices for some such use. Since present staff would stay on, there simply is no saving.

The unique thing in Port Hope is that the deeds would under the government's proposal be divided between Lindsay, Peterborough and Cobourg. My written brief sets out the details of how this would work. Skipping down to point (d) on my brief, the point is that ministry staff are not yet sure how they would do this sorting job, let alone what it would cost.

Turning to point (f) in my brief, when this very move was considered by the government in 1978 and again in 1981 and again after 1985, each time the effort was found to be not worth the cost. No matter how logical splitting these deeds up may look when seen from Toronto, we cannot afford it now. And Peterborough would not only need more space but more staff. Also, the substantial renovations made to the Port Hope land registry office only four years ago, costing at least $70,000, would be money down the drain.

If the ministry wants to save $1 million, there are far simpler ways to do it. For example, a few years ago search fees were reduced. Under the new system it is a $4 flat fee each time, a total of $8 for a typical purchase. This fee is the bargain of the century. Even our local health unit charges my client $25 just to tell us it has no file on the septic system. If only $4 million per year now comes from search fees, a raise in search fees to $5 alone would generate the necessary $1 million. A raise to $10 would give you $5 million towards improvements to the system.

Returning to accommodation costs, we have all been amazed to note that the savings from these closures do not include the additional accommodation costs, simply because those are paid for by the Ministry of Government Services. In some counties there may be no increased accommodation costs, but that would not be the case for Northumberland. Closures causing increased accommodation costs should not proceed until they have been fully costed. Even across the whole province, the costs of the closures, Carol Kirsh admitted, will wipe out the first year's savings, and in Northumberland it would be worse.

Wearing my other hat as a school trustee who has lived through seven years of cuts in government funding, I am well aware that all systems must be made more efficient. But there is no money to be saved in the Northumberland land registry offices except, as you have heard the last hour, by making Colborne a satellite office, which would save a few dollars. Port Hope already is a satellite office.

Consistency is a major problem. The ministry announcement says all offices will now be located in the same area as the local sheriff. This is not true. Minden is not being closed, although the sheriff's office is in Lindsay. Similarly, the notice posted says jurisdictions of land registration divisions will be the same as the administrative boundaries of the counties or regions they serve. This is also untrue. Niagara and Haldimand-Norfolk will continue to be served by two land registry divisions each. If you can live with this result in St Catharines and Welland and in Simcoe and Cayuga, you can also live with it in Colborne and Port Hope.

Port Hope has only 2.5 staff, which means staff occasionally has to work alone. No one has ever complained about this, but I am now told that this could be a consideration. However, Fort Frances has only two staff. If this is unsafe, that office would have to be closed and moved to Kenora. Picton has only 2.5 staff. Napanee has only three; so does Cayuga and so does Gore Bay. If all these small registry offices are deemed a problem, will they all be closed?

What I am saying here is that there really are no grand principles of one office per region or one office per sheriff's office or no working alone. There are only a series of local circumstances which must be looked at individually.

I am sorry to say there was in fact a serious failure in consultation here. In most decisions, the new government has shown itself very good at consulting and listening, but this announcement is a very strange exception. Even the Conservative government, when it was in full cutback mode in 1978, backed down on its identical decision after being forced to consult. In October 1981 the Conservatives looked at transferring Manvers to Lindsay and Cavan to Peterborough from Port Hope, but after consultation they cancelled that plan. Finally, when the Liberals took office, they had ministry staff consult the local bar and they reconfirmed the ministry's commitment to involve the Northumberland bar in any study of the possibility of closing these registry offices in advance of any decision being made.

In fact, for at least 13 years senior officials in the ministry have yearned to tidy up a situation which they do not fully understand, but politicians listening to local needs have in the past had the final say. If ministry staff told the government that no consultations with local people were needed before these announcements, the government was misled.

Ministry staff do hold regular meetings with a committee of the real property section of the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario, but the ministry staff failed to consult even that committee on these proposed closures. They have still failed to even apologize for the failure to consult or for breaking the ministry's commitment. In fact, the minister's office was under a misapprehension as to whether that committee had been consulted. It was not.

I submit this is yet another example of the civil service failing to realize that consulting a few people in Toronto may have been an acceptable standard of consultation under previous governments, but it is no longer acceptable to the new government. We are quite sure that the minister never meant to look arrogant, and yet here we are trying to catch up, two and a half months late.

Bill 208 is an important bill. Someone recently misled the minister into believing that the Port Hope office needs significant upgrading to comply with Bill 208. In fact, there are no Bill 208 problems at the Port Hope land registry office.

No improved customer service in Northumberland county can be put forward as a reason for closing these two registry offices, which give excellent service. Lawyers, municipal clerks, real estate agents and the general public all find the present locations good.

Probably the most annoying insult, as Mr Carter mentioned, to the intelligence of local lawyers is the stack of press releases, which are still sitting in our local registry office, proclaiming improved customer service. We are used to Brian Mulroney proclaiming improved Via Rail service while cutting it in half, but we really did expect something better from Marilyn Churley.


There will be an economic impact of these decisions. Northumberland county has a development strategy developed locally and approved by the province. It calls for a balanced growth pattern, including both Port Hope and Colborne as growth centres. Without registry offices in Port Hope and Colborne, lawyers and land surveyors will be less likely to locate in those towns in the future.

There is time to have another look at Northumberland. The effective date announced for March 23, 1992 cannot in fact be met. Deeds cannot be moved to Peterborough until more space is available there. An addition to their county building could not possibly be ready for occupancy as early as March 1992.

The same point applies to Cobourg. The space analysis for a combined Northumberland land registry office has not even been finalized yet. We are not complaining that there have been no costs given to us for the Cobourg operation. The costs are not known yet; the ministry has not done the study yet. Once it has been done, the county will wish to take part in the procurement tender process. However, occupancy of the old county building would again not be possible by next March, perhaps not until next fall.

In the unlikely event that when these costs have been developed there are some real savings from these proposed closures, we would still submit that they should not be carried out at the cost of the public. Lawyers, municipalities, real estate agents and other users of the system have staff costs, mileage costs and long distance charges. All these costs must be passed along to the lawyers' clients or to the taxpayers or to the other customers.

In conclusion, there are two points I would remind you of. First, the minister was misled by ministry staff into believing that this proposal had been properly costed and the necessary consultations had been done. As a result, we are here in the position of arguing against a decision that came out of the blue. This proposal should be put on hold until it has been fully costed and consultations with users then take place.

Second, the present land registry office locations have been unchanged for over 100 years, and on three previous examinations no good reason has been found to change them. We submit that they should stay.

Mr Banbury: I of course would echo my friend's presentation. I frankly would describe myself as being incensed by the lack of warning and absence of consultation. I have never met Ms Churley, but I think she could stand a lesson in manners in that it is my understanding that the president of our county law association has not as yet received an acknowledgement from her of his request for a meeting or for further information. A written acknowledgement does not take a lot, even if she defers action or clearly signals she does not plan to respond.

Following the posting of the notice in the registry office on May 7, 1991, which was the first word that any of us had on this, there was a meeting called at which Carol Kirsh attempted to explain the mechanics of how this would be changed and of course found herself bombarded by questions as to why this was being done.

At one point, as people pressed for figures as to what the savings would be for Northumberland, she said they would be insignificant and then immediately tried to take the words back. Our quest for further information, of course, has gone unanswered, and one can only conclude that what Ms Kirsh said, perhaps without thinking too thoroughly, was perhaps the truth of the matter. Again, we can only reinforce the request for an independent assessment. In the absence of any facts on the financing, we have to conclude that they do not have facts to substantiate it.

I would also point out to you that in that public meeting that was called to explain how all this was going to happen, Ms Kirsh explained how rent does not count because it is paid by another ministry, and a relative of a significant shareholder in the company that is the landlord in Cobourg blurted out a guffaw that the taxpayer gets it in the ear again.

That man went to the meeting really satisfied. He was quite happy that it would move to Cobourg. Relatives of his were going to have a good tenant and possibly a tenant wanting more space. He left the meeting quite incensed with the approach that was taken to the budgeting. If there were overall total savings, true savings, not just paper savings playing one ministry against the other or whether I pay it out of my brown wallet or my black wallet, we would have to deal with this on a little different basis.

It is not just three lawyers who are upset about this. Quite a number of municipalities in our area have their clerks or other employees go to this registry office to register things like housing development liens or discharges and other things. I have here letters from the corporation of the town of Brighton and the township of Brighton, both strenuously objecting to this; the town of Campbellford and the village of Colborne, which is represented by its reeve; the township of Percy. Taken all told, there is a majority of the municipalities affected by the Colborne registry office, which I might say is the one I use the most.

Going back to the consultation, I think I am in that registry office at least three days a week in that I personally do my searches and close my deals, and if there was any attempt at consultation, it was pretty short and quick and the staff were told not to tell any of us, because I did not have a sniff.

Going on with the lawyers, Neil Burgess from Campbellford, Benjamin Ring from Brighton, Thomas Fleming from Trenton, all protesting that this is just unreasonable and inadequately thought out; Alex Winkler, another lawyer from Trenton; William Baker, who I thought wrote a rather good letter, and he of course finds fault with the facts in the announcement, which was incorrect. He says, "My suggestion for serious cost savings in the public service is that the minister fire the civil servant who is responsible for this stupidity" and use the savings to offset losses.

Mr Parsons, a lawyer from Frankford, again objecting; Thompson and Thompson, Daniel Thompson in Brighton; Campbell, Garrett, Weston and Sioui, a firm in Trenton. Mr Garrett would definitely have been here and was very upset about this, except he had a family commitment in North Bay that coincided with today. Gifford, Harris Surveying. Again, the two principals from that firm are in this room. One lives in Colborne. They just feel this is lunacy.

Real estate people: Bowes and Cocks had every member of their staff signed a letter that they objected. Similarly, Mincom real estate; S. Greetham real estate; Barry Simpson real estate, and another surveyor, P. A. Miller of Campbellford.

In addition to that, I have one letter from a private citizen who may have been in the registry office, but she just read some of the reports in the newspaper and made it her business to go to the meeting in Cobourg. She writes me a letter to say that this is crazy.

I would like to leave these letters with you. In becoming something of a lightning rod in our area for a protest, I ended up undertaking to deliver this correspondence, if I might do that now and keep myself honest.

The Chair: When the clerk returns we will have photocopies of all the letters made and the individual members of the committee will receive the whole group of letters and they could be part of the appendix.


Mr Banbury: I appreciate that. I would like to file with you my letter that provoked this response.

The only other thing I would say is that a registry office is a very basic public service. It was recognized very early. Anyplace where the European arrived, we needed a secure place to record ownership of land and mortgages. It was one of the very early commitments of government to provide this. Having a convenient place to register a deed and check on such records is a basic necessity. We are in a society where at least a majority of people aspire to owning a home. It may be harder to do in the city, but in our part of the world it is a very important thing to most people. I think you will find there are a lot of folks in Northumberland who feel rather strongly about this. We have a lot of farmers who bring their own discharges of mortgage from the Farm Credit Corp to the registry office, if they are so fortunate as to be able to pay it off. They are not going to be pleased at an extra hour's driving, or in the event they need information, have to pay long distance to telephone the registry office. You know, we cannot get there on provincially subsidized public transit. We do not have it.

Mr Carter: We have the reeve of Colborne and the mayor of Port Hope here. As well, a representative of the surveyors may wish to make a statement too.

The Chair: If they would just come forward and take seats and identify themselves for the record, we still have some time for short presentations.

Mr Chalmers: Don Chalmers, mayor of Port Hope.

Mr Rutherford: Walter Rutherford, the reeve of Colborne. Thank you for the opportunity of making a very short presentation. I prepared a brief and I discovered after listening to Mr Carter that many of my comments were the same as his. We obviously think along the same lines, but living in a small town, I guess that comes naturally.

I will not go over the loss. The loss of revenue and business with regard to our local stores and shops and businesses regarding the people who come to use the office has already been stated. One thing our council was quite concerned about was that a decision was made to close the office without any consultation with the village, our officials or the staff. We recognize that the land registry office is limited in size and with a very limited opportunity to expand on the present site. However, the village could certainly use a new and more easily accessible municipal office, and it had been hoped that a facility could be built that would accommodate the needs of the village and the land registry office. We regret that a decision was made before this possibility could be explored. So we would like to register our concern very sincerely that this closing has been announced, and we would like to have the opportunity to take part in some discussion regarding a facility in the area that would serve perhaps more than just the land registry office. We think something could be worked out along that line. That basically is the presentation.

Mr Chalmers: I am not going to say too much, because it is all going to be repeated all over again. I feel we were insulted, when somebody on the streets of Port Hope told me that our registry office was going to be closed. I went over to the registry office and there was a letter on the board saying, "This registry office is going to be closed." That is the first time anybody in Port Hope and, I know, myself or my council, had heard anything about the closure. I am sure you are going to get all the facts here today concerning Port Hope and Colborne.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Mayor. Any further presentations?

Mr Carter: Yes, Mr Chairman. Mr Rob Harris, who is a surveyor working in the area and living in the area.

Mr Harris: How to make a brief brief. My name is Robert Harris. I am an Ontario land surveyor. My partner and I operate survey offices in Colborne, Trenton and Picton to serve the local community.

The crux of the matter is that we have a small group of senior civil servants and a minister who have omitted to seek public input. To me, that is the very worst thing they can do. I do not like to speak in public. I am scared and embarrassed, but public input is the key to our system and I sincerely hope that you, the legislative committee, can do something to stop this policy.

Mr Boehme: I would like to speak as the regional group chairman of the Kawartha-Haliburton District of Ontario Land Surveyors. My name is Kerry Boehme. I am an Ontario land surveyor. I would like to register the protest of all the surveyors in our area. We are probably the second-largest group to use the registry office facilities following lawyers. I know you have gone through all the costs and everything related with this through other presentations, but it is going to cost the people, our clients, more money. We are going to have to charge more. We have additional travelling time, if we have to travel. My practice is in Trenton. I live in Brighton. We are going to have to travel an additional 45 minutes, probably, for each visit to the registry office and, as the old saying goes, "Time is money," and that will have to be passed on.

I think it has already been proven or stated that the cost saving by closing the Colborne registry office will be nil or there may actually be an associated cost with that. That does not mention the cost to the average person who orders a survey and has a lawyer, a surveyor, and others whom he contracts to work for him. Those costs are going to have to be passed on to that client, and east Northumberland and Northumberland in general is not a money area. We have people who get by, and most people are working people and cannot afford additional costs. I, as a surveyor, am not going to absorb those costs myself. I will be forced to pass at least some of them on to the public.

Mr Carter: Mr Paul Smith would like to say a few words. He is the past president of our association and actually was the president at the time we made the presentation to Larry Grossman.

Mr Smith: I am not going to talk very long. I would like, of course, to say that I agree with what statements I have heard today. Unfortunately, we did not get the communication that we did in 1978, when we did bring a delegation. The consultation was done away with.

I really wanted to say, though, that I am a lawyer representing an area in the northeast corner of the county, and that this area does use the Colborne registry office almost exclusively because of its location, and that there is going to be an increased cost to the public in a couple of ways. One is the additional cost of travel and so on. The other is the turnaround time. At the present time we can handle mortgages at the Colborne registry office and release funds before 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and this allows there to be no loss to the consumer in so far as interest goes. Going to Cobourg, it is going to be a different matter. We just are not going to be able to do it that fast and it is going to be another day's loss at that point.

There is also the consideration that the service we get in Colborne, I must say, is excellent. We have a personal service. They know the land. If we go to Cobourg we are going to be all of 40 miles away, and we cannot expect to obtain the same type of service. In fact, they will not know the same problems that we have up in our area, simply because they are at the other extreme southwest corner of the county.

The county of Northumberland is unique, I think, in that it lies along the edge of Lake Ontario. It is the area that was first populated, of course, when the Europeans came over, and it is an area that is going to increase in population. There is no doubt in my mind that the area lying east of Oshawa and running through to Kingston is going to be heavily populated in the years to come and there is going to be a need for a diversified registry system, rather than one that is united in one location at the southeast corner of that county.

These are considerations I would like you to consider, and I wanted to make sure you were aware that we in Campbellford are concerned about this proposal.

Mr Carter: Mr Doug Mann of Port Hope would like to say a few words.


Mr Mann: As a lawyer who has practised in Port Hope for approximately 15 years, with deep roots in the area, I come to express my sincerity and, because I know all these other people here today, I know their sincerity, and the many other people with whom we have been talking over the last several months, their very, very sincere concern with respect to the proposed closure of the Port Hope and Colborne offices.

I, of course, share the thrust of the comments of my colleagues here today. I am not going to repeat the point they have made, but speaking to a number of the merchants and professional people in the town of Port Hope, they are very concerned with respect to the proposed closure. It simply means one less attraction, if you will, to the municipality. I would not suggest that it is as serious as closing a liquor store in a small community, but closing a government office is a very serious consideration because it does bring business into town. There could not be a worse economic time to be taking away an attraction such as the registry office, which is located in the core area. So there is this very real concern.

The registry office, by all reports, functions well. I have never heard anyone say it does not, and certainly Carol Kirsh did not indicate there were any problems when she came down to meet with local lawyers and other interested parties late one afternoon. They say there were not any complaints with respect to operation of the Port Hope office. So one aspect of it is, if it isn't broke, why fix it?

The second aspect that I particularly try to underscore is the supposed economic rationale for the closing. You have people here who are trained in various different professions; myself, an honours degree in economics from the University of Toronto as well as a law degree. There are a lot of other people with various degrees and experiences, and while we have not been made privy to all the facts, I think it is fair to say that not one of us can conceive of how there can be an economic saving.

We can certainly see where there are going to be increased costs to the lawyers, to the surveyors, etc, and how there is going to be increased costs to the clients, and we very much feel that there are going to be increased costs to the government because, simply put, and I have to rely on what Carol Kirsh was able to tell us, they did not look at the whole story. One ministry looked at one aspect of this situation and came up with this proposal, and they did not look at the entire repercussions, as Mr Day and my other colleagues have mentioned, with respect to ownership versus rental of space, etc.

There were statistics mentioned at that meeting which were very suspect in the way they were generated, statistics as to the use of the registry office and to the proposed savings. I would hope that could be reviewed very carefully by members of this committee. Simply, it appears to us that it is going to cost far more to operate in one registry office in the county of Northumberland than to maintain the two very efficient offices we have now.

As I am sure you are all aware, people generally in this country, this province, have a lack of confidence, if you will, a disaffection, a disillusionment with government. The registry office really does go to the core of people's confidence in our whole government system, and it really is going to have a significant further undermining effect of these areas if this goes ahead on the basis that we have seen here so far and the evidence that has been available. Believe me, it is not a case of not-in-my-backyard syndrome. That is not what we are dealing with here from the people that have been voicing their objection to the proposed closings.

Mr Carter: I believe that is all of the people who have to make presentations. I am sure you will see that we are just ordinary people who are very concerned about our particular village and town, and we want to see the registry offices continue in them because they are part of our heritage and part of our lives.

Mr Abel: I would like to thank you for taking the time to express your concerns to the committee. However, you must realize that the government had to consider the overall picture. It was clearly a budgetary decision. I believe Larry Grossman in the Law Times had said that he agrees that the government should do this as a part of a serious strategy to deal with inefficiency, and that is exactly what we are trying to do. The bulk of the savings will come from salaries. I understand that the 14 registrars affected are being transferred to vacant positions, thus eliminating 14 positions and on average between $40,000 to $60,000 a year plus benefits. That is a substantial saving every year.

Another cost reduction would be in administration costs by approximately $1 million. There are also leasehold improvements. Over a period of time it would accumulate to approximately $8 million. These are all substantial savings.

Mr B. Murdoch: He is making a statement, Mr Chair.

Mr Carter: Is this a question?

The Chair: I have allowed members to make statements.

Mr Carter: I am sorry. I thought you said there were going to be questions.

The Chair: We are allowing latitude.

Mr Abel: There is a question coming. I am working up to that. I hope that that will clear up any misconceptions you have about savings and what not. Considering the fact that it is a budgetary decision, where would you gentlemen cut? Would you start with hospitals? Would you start with schools? I am curious to find out where you would start to cut.


Mr Abel: It is an intelligent question. It is a legitimate question. What do you mean, "Come on?"

Mr Carter: First of all, we have asked for information to substantiate the numbers that you have just reeled off to us, and we have received absolutely nothing. If you can provide us with the actual figures backing up the numbers you have given us, we might be able to answer your question. I am sure there are many places that savings can be made.

I know I visit several offices in Toronto over the year and often walk into the lobby and look into the office area of various ministries and see a number of people with bare desks sitting there with their arms folded or with the Globe and Mail crossword puzzle. You might want to start there. In any event, give us the figures so that we can answer your question. You have just given us the figures that Carol Kirsh gave us but no evidence of the justification for them. Mr Day, would you like to say anything?

Mr Day: I am not making a general point about every closure. It may be that there are some closures that would save money when you look at them. The point I am making is that when the costs are developed for Northumberland, which have not been developed yet by the ministry but will be shortly, I believe it will then be possible to look at those and see that there will be no money saved in Northumberland.

The second point I would make in answer to your question, which I agree is a very good question, is that the land registry office should be self-supporting. If there are going to be costs required to keep it going, then the correct answer is to raise the search fees, which are ridiculously low and have not been raised; they have in fact been lowered.

Mr Ferguson: I just want to compliment Mr Chalmers and Mr Rutherford, two municipal officials who appeared this morning who focused on the issue of the land registry office. Many municipal officials have appeared before this committee on this issue and have done a remarkable job dumping on all levels of government including this one and accusing us of not co-operating and not being there, of doing all sorts of negative things towards municipalities. As a former municipal elected official, I have an appreciation that it is very easy to use the province as a whipping boy and nobody gets too upset. It is like bashing the post office. Nobody gets too upset, it is a popular cause, and if you nod when you say it, you can get everybody nodding with you as well. I just want to compliment those two individuals for focusing on what is obviously an issue of importance to them, but talking about that specific issue rather than bringing in all kinds of other baggage we heard earlier today.


Mrs Fawcett: First of all, I want to say how pleased and proud I am that so many people from Northumberland have taken the time to come today and present the views of the people of Northumberland, because I think we are all starting to at least hear that it is unanimous that they feel a mistake has been made here and that we have to look at that.

In speaking to the registrar at the Colborne office, and in fact in seeing a letter she received from the ministry, it was my understanding that all of the staff would be placed somewhere. So really, I am just not sure about the figures on the savings as far as salaries will go, because it seemed to me that assurances were made that the staff would be placed.

However, another thing comes to mind: It is also my understanding, and maybe the people from Cobourg could help out here, that the Cobourg office is at capacity. Maybe all of you know that. In fact, in talking to the registrar at the Cobourg office, there is no more room there, and all of a sudden we are going to put two more offices into that place. Obviously, you are going to have to expand, and expansion means money.

I just cannot see where the suggested savings are in any way, shape or form. Would there be a comment here from any of you?

Mr Carter: My understanding too is that the Cobourg office is at capacity, although I understand they have been looking at the facilities available. I do not know what the ultimate result of that study has been, but just being there physically and the space available behind the counter, for example, for the extra filing cabinets that would be required and the furniture and one thing and another -- it does not appear to me the facilities are available and they will therefore have to rent more facilities, I would assume. I believe Mr Day commented on that earlier.

Mrs Fawcett: Right. I think we have to keep in mind too that the Colborne office does more transactions than the Cobourg office.

Mr Carter: Yes. It is a larger office than Cobourg right now in registrations, so if Cobourg is as big as it is now to handle what it handles, then it would have to be at least twice as big, if there is such a rule that applies to space, and I am not sure there is.

Mrs Fawcett: I think someone alluded to it also. Is that it? Is that all the time I have? Anyway, I thank you so much.

Mr Runciman: With respect to the comments made by the government member, I guess he once again emphasized that this was a budgetary decision and asked you for other options. I think that is frustrating from an opposition member's point of view, in the sense that he outlined it as though there is no question in his mind, despite your testimony and testimony we have heard over the last day or so, excellent testimony raising some real questions about whether there are any cost savings, yet we hear the government member say, "Yes, it's there." There is no question mark in his mind at all, apparently. I think that is one of the reasons the situation in the House has deteriorated on a day-to-day basis, because of our frustration that, "Despite the facts, this is our position."

Hopefully that is going to change by the end of the day, because I think one of your witnesses suggested here that if indeed there were real cost savings your approach would be different. I think the approach of the opposition would be significantly different if it was clear that there were cost savings.

I would really like to hear your views with respect to the suggestion made earlier about calling in the Provincial Auditor under the Audit Act and having an objective assessment of the recommendation of the ministry. If there are real cost savings to be achieved, indeed the opposition members are going to have to take a different position, as you are. I would think that the government members, if they indeed believe strongly in the case their minister has put forward, should have no reservations about it whatsoever. I would like to hear your views on that recommendation.

Mr Carter: I believe that was the recommendation from Mr Fallis, who preceded us. As I stated at the very start, we agree with that, if that is the only way we can get the figures. We have not been able to get the information any other way and I assume the Provincial Auditor would be able to do that. So we would be very much in favour of such an audit, I guess, and we would look forward to the results, because we feel confident they would show there will be no cost savings in closing our registry offices.

The Chair: I want to thank the committee members and the presenters.

Mr Brown: Before we recess for lunch, I understand the ministry is coming before us this afternoon to make a presentation. I am just wondering if Mr Daniels can confirm that Ms Kirsh will be here with you.

The Chair: We cannot have a conversation unless it is officially recorded. Mr Daniels, could you please come forward and take a seat by one of the mikes. That way we can get it on Hansard.

Mr Brown: Will Ms Kirsh be appearing before the committee?

Mr Daniels: No, Mr Brown, it will be myself. I am boss. I am responsible for the registration division.

Mr Brown: My interest here is that Ms Kirsh's name has been mentioned quite a bit in the last couple of days and perhaps she would like an opportunity to clarify some of the statements personally that have been made.

Mr Daniels: I think we will represent Carol's interests.

The Chair: Is it the wish of the committee that Carol Kirsh be here?

Mr Mammoliti: I do not think it is necessary, myself. You are responsible for her. I cannot see the logic in --

Mr Daniels: The meeting is in Cambridge.

The Chair: I am going to have to ask the members what their wish is, Mr Daniels. We have about three opinions on the floor.

Mr B. Murdoch: My question would be, is it possible for her to be here? Is there any reason why she cannot be here?

Mr Daniels: First of all, I am responsible for what Carol does and says, and the decisions she makes go through me. The decisions around recommending budget constraints, etc, will come through me. We did joint presentations to the minister. I have been with her in Glencoe --

Mr B. Murdoch: I asked a simple question. I do not need a statement. Is it possible she could be here?

The Chair: Mr Daniels, the question from Mr Murdoch was as to whether or not it would be possible for her to be here.

Mr Daniels: No, I think the time allotted is for my presentation and my response.

Mr B. Murdoch: He is worse than the government. He cannot answer a question. Jeez. It is yes or no.

Mr Daniels: We say no.


The Chair: Order, please. This is a sensitive matter and we are going to deal with it properly. Mr Murdoch, are you finished?

Mr B. Murdoch: Yes.

Mr Brown: I am uncomfortable with that response. If she is available, and I know this is short notice, it may be that the committee has some things it may wish to discuss with her, as her name has been one we have heard most often representing the ministry's position from the groups that have been before us in the last couple of days. I am prepared to make a motion asking that she come, provided she is available. I do not want to be unreasonable about this, but it seems to me we have heard her name a considerable number of times.

The Chair: If you want to make a motion, we can make the motion and then we can debate the motion. Is that all right with the committee members? I know there is going to be some discussion. We may as well have it surrounding the motion, if it is going to be made. Is there consensus to handle the matter that way?

Mr Mammoliti: Not on our part.

The Chair: Not on your part? All right, that is fine. We will have --

Mr B. Murdoch: I want to know what happened to, "We're going to work with everybody." I have heard that crap all the way for nine months now. Where is that? Where is that big thing, "We're going to work with you guys"?

The Chair: Okay, we are running a list. We have Mr Ferguson, Mr Abel, Mr Mammoliti. We have a notice of motion from Mr Brown.

Mr Ferguson: Mr Chair, we have a ministry official who is going to appear this afternoon. This is the second time Mr Murdoch has pulled this sort of stunt. I mean, he comes in here yesterday morning, we have delegations backed up, and he delays the committee proceedings for well over an hour while he brings a motion at the eleventh hour. Quite frankly, I do not think that is particularly fair. If you want to talk about co-operation, then I would suggest the co-operation ought to start from his side of the room and not roll in with last-second motions.

Mr B. Murdoch: You had better figure out who made the motion.

Mr Ferguson: The person who has been named here during the proceedings most of the time is the minister, and she cannot appear. As you know, she is in Labrador with her father, who is extremely ill at the moment.

I do not know why you would want to bring in an underling from the division when we have her boss right here. He is going to present the ministry's side and I think he will do a quite capable job. I do not see the rationale in trying to bring in somebody from the front line. The next thing you will want to be doing is requesting individuals from each registry office to appear.

Mr Jordan: Why do you not want her to appear?

Mr Ferguson: Because we have the utmost confidence in this individual and we think he will do an exceptional job. In fact, we think he is going to be able to answer all of Mr Murdoch's questions, and he has agreed to stay after the proceedings if Mr Murdoch does not have time to ask all the questions he wants. I do not know what else you would expect from the government side. So we are going to have a vote and we are going to ask for an adjournment. We can run through the lunch hour. If you want to play games, that is fine; we will play games. We will run it out through the lunch hour and we will come back at 2. That is fine with us.

Mr Abel: I think Mr Ferguson has quite eloquently touched on the points I was going to bring up.

Mr Runciman: Loudly, if not eloquently.

Mr Mammoliti: I am having a little bit of trouble with why they want the individual here. I am a little concerned that the opposition is trying to convert this process into a court proceeding and perhaps put this person on trial. Having the superior here, having the individual who is ultimately responsible for this person and the decisions, should be enough for this committee.

I would suggest to the committee that instead of stalling, instead of wasting time and instead of the tactics that have been consistently brought up here the past couple of days, we deal with this item rationally. I suggest that we act as adults, as opposed to arguing and raising our voices. It is ultimately our responsibility as a committee to deal with this as human beings, and I would suggest that in order to expedite things, perhaps we do feel comfortable that you can answer the questions this afternoon, if there are any. My side certainly feels comfortable and I just wanted to relay that thought.

Mr Brown: In view of the fact that I can count, and therefore this motion will not carry, I will withdraw the motion, if it was ever actually made. I thought it might be helpful to the committee, I thought it might be informative and I thought perhaps Ms Kirsh might appreciate the opportunity also. But given all that and the fact that I can count, I will not make that motion or will withdraw it.

The Chair: Unless there are any further comments, the committee stands adjourned until 2 pm this afternoon.

The committee recessed at 1214.


The committee resumed at 1406.


The Chair: The standing committee on general government is called to order. We are continuing our hearings into the matter of the government of Ontario's proposed closing of 14 registry offices. These hearings are being conducted under standing order 123, by which 12 full hours have been allocated for hearings.

The first group of presenters for the afternoon include Mayor Jane Brewer, David Bond, Kimberley Thompson, and two others, George Ingram and Brenda Bilodeau. I will call all the presenters forward, please, and ask one of them to serve as chairperson and make sure that everyone gets an opportunity to speak to the committee. You have been allocated 30 minutes by the committee. You can use all of that time on your presentation or reserve some time for questions and answers. I would like all the presenters to identify themselves and whom they are representing or what position they may hold for the Hansard record.

Ms Thompson: I am Kimberley Thompson, director of the Downtown Cambridge Business Improvement Association. I am here on behalf of 250 businesses located in the core area.

We would like to thank you for this opportunity to allow us to voice our concerns and the specific circumstances surrounding the Cambridge registry office.

I would like to introduce the others who are here with me today. On my right, George Ingram, president of the Waterloo Law Association; Mayor Jane Brewer of the city of Cambridge; Brenda Bilodeau, president of the Cambridge Real Estate Board; and David Bond, president of the Shades Mill Law Association. We have Bill Barlow, former MPP for the area, with us today as well. The people here today represent various self-interest groups but also the 90,000 Cambridge citizens.

The Cambridge land registry office was created from the Kitchener registry office in 1971 because of the high volume of transactions at that time, numbering about 6,000. Since then, Cambridge has experienced phenomenal growth, and in the last two years there were approximately 31,000 and 25,000 transactions respectively.

The region of Waterloo has a large population with three major centres: Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge being the smallest of the three. The city of Cambridge itself was created by an amalgamation of the cities of Galt, Preston and Hespeler in 1973, and ever since we have been struggling to have an identity of our own, particularly a separate identity from that of Kitchener, which is a difficult situation considering it is less than 30 kilometres away. We are constantly made to feel inferior to these two cities and overshadowed by them and we have lost a lot of services to that area since regionalization. We will continue to fight for what services remain.

As a business association, we are concerned about the loss of yet another service. The provincial and municipal governments, as well as private investment, have spent literally millions of dollars in core revitalization. The closure of the registry office will not only result in a profound effect on the businesses located in the core and throughout the city, but will also cost the citizens of Cambridge more money for any transaction associated with the registry office. The closure will also signal other governments of all levels and quasi-government offices that it is all right to relocate to Kitchener, all this without any consultation with the people affected of the city of Cambridge.

The effort to reduce costs is commendable. However, after meeting with the assistant deputy minister, Art Daniels, and the director of registrations, Carol Kirsh, I still do not understand what costs are being saved by closing the Cambridge office. If $1 million is being saved by closing all 14 offices, what part of this is saved by the Cambridge closing alone?

Permanent ministry staff are not being laid off, I understand, although I am sure many will be forced to resign if they must commute great distances. So again I ask, how much is being saved by closing a very busy, and according to the ministry, a profitable office?

Our city has worked very hard to attract business, industry and citizens to the area. We have experienced significant growth and will continue to do so. However, let's not make it more expensive and more inconvenient for residents and businesses alike to relocate in the city of Cambridge by moving the registry office to Kitchener.

Ms Brewer: The city of Cambridge is a regular user of our local registry office. City staff in a number of departments, clerks, treasury, engineering, planning and fire departments, all utilize the Cambridge facility. With the exception of the fire department staff, the registry office is within walking distance of the city's office in Cambridge Place.

The following comments are from Mr Vern Copp, who is the solicitor for the city of Cambridge:

"As solicitors for the city, we should advise you that the proposed closing of the Cambridge registry office will have an adverse impact on the cost and promptness of service which we are able to provide. On behalf of the city we search and register documents on many, many matters, including tax arrears, lane and road closings, easements, site plan agreements, as well as property acquisitions and sales. Our clerk attends at the registry office specifically on city matters several times a week. To travel to Kitchener to do this work will involve additional time and mileage costs as well as probably some delays."

If the south Waterloo registry office is consolidated with the registry division in Kitchener, we estimate that an additional hour and a half of staff time per visit will be required for travelling to Kitchener. Also, the city will then incur additional expenses for mileage to the Kitchener registry office and for parking. We conservatively estimate the cost per visit at $40 each, and over the course of the year, the cost to the corporation would easily be in excess of $25,000. This figure of $25,000 does not include the additional cost of legal fees.

It should be noted that the region of Waterloo has forecast the city of Cambridge's population as growing from 90,000 persons in 1991 to 124,000-plus by the year 2011, and households will grow from 31,000-plus to 47,000-plus in the same period. The rate of population and household growth strongly suggests there will be a continued high demand for local registry office services.

The location of the land registry office is described in our official plan as being in the city's centre. This plan states this area shall be developed as the city's central business district, recognizing that there are three cores because of the three communities we formerly represented. In that core there are a number of services listed in the brief that are provided as part of that official plan. Millions of dollars have been spent by the Grand River Conservation Authority and the city of Cambridge on flood control through the city centre and in beautifying the area.

Private business that has been attracted to this area includes lawyers, professional planners, real estate offices, and they will seriously have to consider remaining where they are located. If they remain, the cost to their clients will be higher. These additional costs will be passed on or these companies may consider moving their businesses to a location closer to the registry office in Kitchener.

Heritage Cambridge will be working closely with our local architectural conservation advisory committee and has agreed to help with the inventory of significant heritage buildings throughout our city. Today, the land registry is easily accessible to volunteers who will be doing the work. The proposed move to Kitchener will make it much more difficult, because many people will not be willing to drive or take a bus at a cost to them to do the work.

Two things that have appalled me about this issue are the lack of consultation with the cities affected before the decision was made. This government said time after time, "There will be consultation." There have been a number of requests for additional information regarding the operation in Kitchener, but no response other than a letter from the minister saying that the cost for transactions in Cambridge are $11.08, and in Kitchener $9.48. What we are asking is, is this office losing money?

Carol Kirsh, the branch director for the ministry, said at an information meeting held in Cambridge last Thursday evening, July 18, they could not release how much money will be saved by closing the Cambridge office, as the figure is confidential under the province's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. If that answer had been given to us two months ago, we might have made application for the information, and I hope that in your deliberations you will give some thought to the cost of operations and cost benefits to our local taxpayers. I thank you for your kindness.

Ms Bilodeau: My name is Brenda Bilodeau. I am the president of the Real Estate Board of Cambridge. I am here representing not only the 350 members of the Real Estate Board of Cambridge but also our clients, and on behalf of the city as well.

We are not the main users of the registry office. However, it is directly due to real estate transactions we handle that the registry office is used through the lawyers' title searches, etc. Ours is not a financial issue, but it is a financial issue for our purchasers and our vendors. It is also an inconvenience issue for the same purchasers and vendors -- I will get into that a little bit later -- and another loss of our city's quickly growing identity or losing identity, I am not sure which any more.

We are very concerned about the lack of consultation to the users of the registry system when this decision came down. We are very concerned about the extra costs involved to the public in the form of legal fees and surveys and possibly appraisals that are likely to appear as a result of our people having to go to the city of Kitchener, to the registry office there.

We are concerned that the registry office was moved from Kitchener to Cambridge many years ago, and that all of a sudden it is going back. We are concerned with the fact that there are going to be withdrawals from our lending institutions' trust accounts. Trust accounts will be moved to the city of Kitchener because it is almost impossible to have them locally. It is just a time factor there.

We are concerned with public inconvenience on closing transactions. There will probably be long delays, particularly at month's end, resulting in late key exchanges, rental truck cost increases, all these things that may seem small but will add up to the public inconvenience and also the long lineups that will no doubt happen at the registry office in Kitchener.

Apart and separate from the fact that our city of Cambridge is trying to retain its own identity and not become a portion of Kitchener-Waterloo, I want you to understand that we do not even have a public transportation system between the cities, so it is not as if you can hop on a bus and away you go. You have to have a car to do this. We have our own separate real estate board. I seem to get the feeling from the ministry that it thinks Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge are all the same, that we use the same real estate board, the same lawyers, the same whatever. It is not the case. We are a separate identity and we ask that the decision be reconsidered. I thank you for your time.


Mr Bond: My name is David Bond. I practise law in Cambridge. I am the president of the Shades Mill Law Association. Shades Mill Law Association, for your information, is a group of Cambridge lawyers, Shades Mill being an old name for the Cambridge area. That has been retained in the name of the law association. There are about 90 to 100 lawyers involved, but I want to stress to you today that this is not a lawyer's issue. We have heard a mention of legal fees. Legal fees are going to go up, yes, but that is not the main issue here.

The main issue, I think, that you have to take with you and consider is what you have heard already in these hearings, and that is the lack of prior consultation with the users of the system. The users of the system are not just the lawyers. We have heard from Mayor Brewer that the city uses the registry system. The local architectural body, Heritage Cambridge, uses the registry system actively.

So the lack of prior consultation is certainly one of the issues that in my view should come out of these hearings and be something that should prompt you to recommend to the minister that she reconsider this entire decision. I will tell you in a few moments why I also think that in her announcement on May 7, some of the items that she recommended as being improvements to the system are simply not the case for Cambridge.

Kimberley Thompson is correct that the history of the registry office is that it was carved out of the Kitchener registry office back in the early 1970s, when there were 6,000 registrations. There are now approximately 31,000 registrations. In the area of Cambridge, those three cities that were amalgamated, the number of individuals living in those three cities is going to be over 100,000 in a few years' time. It is only, I think you have all heard, with the onset of the Toyota factory that Cambridge is a growing and vibrant area. Now we are being asked to simply accept the fact that without prior consultation, our registry office, which is the centre of the community -- and not just the legal community, but the community itself -- should be moved to Kitchener or merged with Kitchener.

I gather from our meeting with Art Daniels and Carol Kirsh a couple of weeks ago that one of the primary and driving reasons for this, in the minister's mind, was to merge, wherever there were two registry offices in one county, into the one, and where there is a sheriff's office, to merge it into that one particular office. In my view, that was a driving force in the minds of the ministry, and it completely forgets the other human factors involved in making a decision of that nature.

A good reason, I suppose, for making a decision to merge services and to cut costs would be if the costs were tremendous. I submit to you that the costs that are going to be saved by this decision are not tremendous. But the point is that if you operate from that principle of one county having one registry office and one sheriff, you are simply forgetting the human factors involved in the closing of a business in a community. I submit to you that the registry office is a business.

There are people like Herb Trim, a local freelance title searcher who spoke at the meeting with Art Daniels and Carol Kirsh. He is 51 years of age. He has been title searching in that Cambridge office for many years. He says he is not going to be able to continue now. He has no transportation to get to Kitchener to start searching titles in the Kitchener area. There are people like Jim Collishaw, a planner who set up his business for planning close to the registry office, only a few blocks away. He advises small- and medium-sized businesses. He is going to be affected by the closing. I mention only two of the numerous people who are affected by the closing of this registry office.

I want to mention fees. There are planners whose fees are going to go up, there are surveyors, there are appraisers and, of course, there are lawyers. The fees will go up because those individuals are charging based on their time and effort in doing something. Inevitably, the time in travelling approximately one hour return to Kitchener is going to create additional costs. But let's presume that competition will result in the fees not going up. Let's presume that everybody says, "Let's all go to Kitchener." There is still going to be the cost of disbursements of mileage to travel to the Kitchener registry office. I submit to you that those particular costs are going to be passed on and will be passed on as disbursements to the client of the surveyor, of the appraiser, of the planner and also of the lawyer.

I understand that a meeting was supposed to be scheduled later in May in Guelph to start to inform people about what the ministry had decided. Instead, rather than holding that meeting or holding other meetings, the minister decided on May 7 to stand up in the Legislature and make her announcement. Her announcement talked about the taxpayers obviously, and the savings that would result. She used the figure of $1 million. That is spread across the 14 offices, as you know.

We have not been able, as you have heard this afternoon from Mayor Brewer, to obtain information on the Cambridge office itself to show that it is in fact a viable operation, having approximately 30,000 registrations.

There is a suggestion in the minister's announcement that the high level of customer service now provided at the land registry offices will be maintained, and in many cases improved. I suggest to you that the services to the customer are not going to be improved in any way as a result of the closing of the Cambridge registry office. In fact, it will create additional time in the closing of real estate transactions, in terms of the travelling. As I say, it is a one-hour return from Kitchener. I am also aware that other registry offices on that list of 14 have even greater amounts of time spent in getting to their particular offices.

The minister made a statement in her announcement that the larger, integrated facilities will be more up to date, generally offering upgraded information processing systems. The Cambridge office is a very up-to-date facility. As I understand it, it also had been slated to have a new Polaris system put in on a trial basis. That was to have been done within the next 12 months, that is, 12 months from about last April, prior to the announcement. There was the suggestion that Cambridge would be a good spot to start the Polaris system for our particular area. It has very up-to-date facilities. It has not the antiquated facilities that the minister referred to in her announcement on May 7.

I do not understand how she can make a comment about customer service, not having consulted with the users of the system. The "customers," if you can call them that, the individuals who have their lawyers close real estate transactions for them, do not see the registry office in many cases, but their lawyers do, and their appraisers and their surveyors. Other individuals in the community, like the city and Heritage Cambridge, all see it. There was no consultation whatsoever. That question was asked of Mr Daniels at the meeting two weeks ago, and he stated that no, there was no prior consultation whatsoever.

In answer to a question concerning whether the human factors were taken into account in making the decision -- he was talking about the figures indicating that they could save money based on the closing of it -- when asked about the human factors, I think both Carol Kirsh and Mr Daniels answered that they were able to maintain the same level of employees within the registry office. Really, the human factors that civil servants in the ministry are talking about are human factors within their own ministry. It is not the factor of the person on the street who may be affected by that. That is why we are glad to have an opportunity to speak to you here today at the hearing. I suggest to you that this should be taken into account when making a decision of this nature. We respect the ministry for attempting to maintain job levels, and that is an important issue, but I also ask you to consider that there may be some additional savings for the ministry through its own staff cuts in some of the offices. It may be that some of these offices that are being proposed to be closed could simply have staff cut somewhat, and that would constitute a saving.


Mr Ingram: My name is George Ingram. I have been a practising lawyer for approximately 22 years in the province. I have my practice in the city of Cambridge and I am president of the Waterloo County Law Association, which is an association of about 400 lawyers in the entire regional municipality of Waterloo, encompassing Kitchener, Waterloo and, in the southern end of the county, Cambridge.

We applaud the effort of the government to make the administration of government more cost-effective and efficient. However, where there are important principles involved and serious concerns expressed, I think it is mandatory that the government do some reconsidering and reconsider the decision the minister has made.

The Waterloo law association is not only concerned with the effect that such a decision will have on the users of the system, the increased cost to the general public for the services rendered relating to any land investigations, but also, and more important, I underline, with the dangerous principles that appear to be emerging in this case. I am going to focus a spotlight on certain procedural things that have occurred that I think all members of this committee should be aware of.

As you know, lawyers are concerned with legal principles. Particularly in this case, there is an agonizing concern that is being focused on, which is that there is an appearance of a denial of natural justice. Any lawyers on this committee will recognize the decision that was made in the last century by a well-known English judge who said that it is not that justice be done, but that it be perceived to be done. That is an issue I want to talk about today, the perception in the eyes of the public and of your electorate that this decision is having.

There is an appearance that the bureaucracy is leading the government, that on this particular issue at least it is exercising an undue and inappropriate influence, and that certain undemocratic measures are surfacing, being evidenced by a lack of accountability, an unresponsiveness to legislative concerns -- legitimate concerns -- and a supposed refusal to reconsider its decision, all giving an impression that there is an arrogance of political power. I say this with some reluctance, but I am saying it seriously. This has been expressed to me on many, many occasions, not only by my fellow brothers in law in the area but also by many people in the general constituency.

There are four concerns which I have indicated in my paper. Because of lack of time, I am not going to read through my paper; however, I am going to highlight some of these concerns.

First of all, the lack of prior consultation has been addressed by the other speakers. There is a growing concern, as I say, that the bureaucracy may be leading the government on this issue. There is a self-admitted statement by Mr Daniels at the recent public meeting in the city hall chambers referred to earlier that his department did not consult with members of the public. The same concern has been expressed by members of the staff in the registry office in our area. They were shocked when they heard this thing, which came out on the same day as the press report. The union representative has also expressed concern.

There has also been evidence of improper and inefficient research by the bureaucracy in making the recommendation to the minister, from my investigations, including a personal discussion of the issue about one week after the decision was made on May 7. I had a talk in the Cambridge registry office with Carol Kirsh. She admitted to me that the decision was made without knowledge of the population involved, of the number of transactions for the fiscal period ending March 31, and she was not able to give information as to the costs. She indicated that this information would be available later and sent to me. I did get it about a month later, at the end of June, and some of the relevant particulars are on page 2 of my paper. From that, you will see that the volume of transactions exceeds 25,000. The branch revenue is millions over the branch allocation. Clearly it is a profitable operation. The concern in our area is, why close something that is working?

The concern I wanted to address particularly in the time I have available is the matter of perceptions, and what is affecting the legal profession in our area. There seems to be, in the facts of this situation, an undemocratic political system emerging. I will give you four indications of this.

From our experience in dealing with the government, the bureaucracy and the way the decision was made, it appears that, first, the government was guided by insufficient research; second, there is a bureaucracy which does not consult with the interested parties affected by its recommendation before the recommendation is made to the minister; third, there is a minister who is difficult to approach and obtain an audience with; and fourth, there is a government which gives undue weight to political theory rather than the practical reality of the situation. Some of these have been addressed by other speakers on this panel.

When comparing the presumed cost saving of the Cambridge registry office closing with the overall budget of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the result is akin to trying to hit a fly with a scud missile. We urge the minister to reconsider her decision, to change it, to exempt Cambridge from the list of closures. That is not an expression of saving face or of weakness, but we suggest it is an element of humility and a positive sign that this is a government that does listen and reconsiders. To refuse to do so, however, would encourage the general electorate in our area -- and I am serious about this -- to change its perception of the NDP government and characterize this as a new, destructive program.

The Chair: I will allow one question per party, as time has more or less run out.

Mr Runciman: I am interested in a couple of things which I hope I can incorporate in one question.

The last witness was talking about the number of transactions, and we had a rather convoluted definition of transactions earlier today. When you reached these conclusions in terms of transactions, were you using the ministry definition of "transaction"?

I am also interested in your comments with respect to Ms Kirsh, that she admitted she did not have the information. We have heard testimony earlier today and perhaps yesterday -- I was not here yesterday -- that she has been quite forthcoming in indicating to a variety of concerned individuals that perhaps the ministry did not do the necessary research to reach the conclusion it reached. That may explain the reluctance of her boss to have her appear here today. I do not know, but in any event I thought I would put that on the record.

I would like to know what you used with respect to your definition of transactions.

Mr Ingram: Those figures were taken from a letter I received, dated June 26th, from Carol Kirsh's department. It is in response to my previous comment to her, and I believe this is also in the packet you have.

Mr Runciman: It is in conformity with the ministry definition.

Mr Ingram: She did not define the word "transaction" as to whether it is the number of registrations over the counter or whether it is the number of contacts the staff had with members of the public, some of whom are not lawyers. We will have to yield to the department's definition of transactions. My figures came from this letter from the department.

Mrs Fawcett: Thank you very much for your presentation. Just to be clear, because I know the word "consultation" has been used so much, what would you have liked to have seen happen by way of consultation before that announcement? I think we are going to hear from the ministry what it believes it has done as far as consultation goes, and I think it would be nice to have on the record just what you would have expected.

Ms Brewer: We were told that there normally are not consultations before this kind of decision is made, that when you are dealing with finances, you deal with finances. We would very much like to have received more than a letter from the minister saying the office is going to be closed. Surely there was a process that could have been set up to involve us before the decision was made and not after. In addition to that, it would have been nice to have had the figures for the cost of the operation, and that could have been part of that process.


Mr Ferguson: I would like to thank you for taking the opportunity to wend your way down the 401 and appear before the committee this afternoon. I am glad you are here, because you are one of the few groups to have acknowledged and commended the ministry for its attempt to reduce the operating and capital costs of its budget. That does not happen often.

Mr Villeneuve: Not to make blind decisions with no information.

Mr Ferguson: We do not get a lot of commendation. We get a lot of people who just criticize us. In fact, Mr Villeneuve, this government, on almost a daily basis, is being urged by the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party to reduce taxes and cut expenditures.

Mr Villeneuve: Not to make blind decisions with no information.

Mr Ferguson: It is at his urging in part that we are following this course of action. The real difficulty I have --

Mr Mammoliti: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: This is out-and-out rude. We do not interrupt. Have a little compassion. Be quiet.

Mr Ferguson: One of the real difficulties is that not only your brief but almost every delegation that has appeared on this issue over the last two days has suggested: "We've got good reasons for keeping our office open. You can look at the other offices, but at least keep our office open because we think we've got good, solid reasons why our office ought not to be amalgamated with somebody else's."

I want to let you know that the people in Tobermory have to drive 200 miles to the town of Walkerton to access the registry office. Although it is not right around the corner and although it is not the most convenient, somehow the system works. If, by the grace of God, the registry in Cambridge is amalgamated with Kitchener, are you telling me that under no circumstances will the system work? Will the city of Cambridge come to a grinding halt?

Ms Brewer: Mr Ferguson, you have not changed since you sat on regional council. All we are saying is that in our estimation this office is not losing money and that there is an additional cost not only to the city but to all these other people who are here today. We can recognize that there are other areas where they will have to travel further, but we are suggesting to you and to this committee that this is a viable operation. It is a new building. I have been there three times since the group met in Cambridge a couple of weeks ago. Each time there were 10 to 12 people in that facility, and there were some people there who are not going to be able to get to Kitchener. They do not have cars. As has been said, the transportation is not regional. They can take a coach bus up there three times a day, and there is a cost for them to do that. If this is a viable operation and they are making money, then why are you closing it? The only reason from the ministry's letter was the fact that the sheriff is in Kitchener. That is the reason.

The Chair: I want to thank the delegation for making its presentation to us today. Unfortunately, time has expired for this portion of our hearings.


The Chair: The committee had decided earlier on that we would also hear from staff. We set aside approximately two hours to hear from and to question Mr Art Daniels, assistant deputy minister, registration division of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I would like to call Mr Daniels and any other staff who are going to join him to please come forward. I assume what we are going to do is allow Mr Daniels to make some kind of presentation and then we will divide equally whatever time is left for questions and answers. There may be an occasion during Mr Daniels's presentation when individual members have questions. We will allow those questions to be put as long as it does not turn into a long dialogue and as long as Mr Daniels will be able to make an entire presentation.

Mr Runciman: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I am wondering if it would be appropriate for Mr Daniels to indicate before he begins how long his opening statement is going to be, because I think there are some of us on this side of the room who are concerned that we have appropriate time for questions.

The Chair: It is now 2:45 and our 12 hours expire at 6:15. We have approximately three and a half hours in total, not only to hear from Mr Daniels but to give direction to the research officer as to what we would like in the report, so it is going to have to be a consensus by committee on how we proceed. If there is no objection to the way I outlined and if we can hear from Mr Daniels how long he is going to be --

Mr Daniels: I would say about 20 minutes.

The Chair: Mr Daniels, we will turn the floor over to you.

Mr Daniels: I am pleased to be here today to explain the background and analysis which led to the cabinet decision to integrate land registration divisions. Before I go into the specifics, I would like to comment on some of the misconceptions surrounding the integration plan.

Misconception 1: The land registry offices are run at a profit and it does not make sense to close an office when it is generating more revenue than it costs to keep the office open. I think we have heard that quite a bit. I have heard this myself, and I sat through the two days of hearings. I have attended local meetings in Cambridge, Glencoe and at Guelph, with Arthur and Durham. Again, this question of revenue and expenditures come up.

I have been involved in government for 25 years, and expenditures are quite separate from revenue. The amount of money ministry generates in revenue it does not retain. This revenue is transferred to the consolidated revenue fund to be disposed of by the government as it chooses.

Of the ministries I have worked in, two do not generate any revenue at all and rely on other ministries to generate revenue for them. I worked in the Ministry of Correctional Services and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Those ministries rely on other ministries, such as the Ministry of Revenue, through tax generation, or through a ministry like CCR, which does generate a number of places of revenue. It generates revenue through its land systems; it generates revenue through its personal property; it generates revenue in its companies branch; it generates revenue through its agencies, that is, the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario, the Ontario Racing Commission. It is a major revenue-generating ministry, and it retains none of that revenue. Each year it must go forward and argue for its expenditures, and the expenditures are salary, wages, benefits and operating costs. This is what we are asked to manage. This is what we are asked to control our costs on. There is no connection between the amount of revenue we collect and the expenditures we lay out.


As I travel across Ontario people ask us to raise the fee. To raise the fees would generate enough revenue to leave the office open. The fees do not come back to the ministry. It is not a user fee. It is a fee that relates to general revenues.

The ministry, as I said earlier, is trying to manage its expenditures and at the same time generate sufficient revenue for the government to utilize for other important purposes. In the ministries I worked in, like the Ministry of Community and Social Services, it makes good sense to take the revenue that we generate through fees in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, fees that the land registry system generates. In the letter that we sent Mr Ingram, we showed him that the real property offices do generate substantial extra revenues. This extra revenue goes to the Treasurer of Ontario and is applied.

Let me just get that figure exactly. In 1990, the branch generated -- and this is the real property branch -- revenues of $57 million and our operating costs were $38 million. It is not a two-for-one but it is approaching a double ratio. It is unlikely that any of our offices, because of the revenue structure, are not profit centres in a P and L statement, but that is not how we operate in government. We operate revenue separate from expenditures.

I am asked, as a manager, and have been in my years, to control my spending. I think that is the issue today that we have to examine. The ministry's decision is to control expenditures. I cannot and I am not permitted to relate it to our revenue.

Misconception 2, consultations across the province: I have been in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations since 1987 and I travel across Ontario meeting with the local county bars. We have a thing called a client dialogue. I again supply to the committee a list of the client dialogues that I or the previous director of land registration or Ms Kirsh have attended. I am not going to read them all in, but they cover locations from Muskoka, Barrie, St Thomas, Milton, Stratford.

We meet with the Canadian bar, with Andy Skinner and the real estate wing; I meet with the Canadian bar in the companies area, I meet with the Canadian bar in the personal property area, and we discuss customer service. We discuss services, we discuss the future of automation, we discuss staffing levels, we discuss where records are housed, we discuss legislation and future plans for legislation. We consulted on the new Business Names Act. We consulted on the Personal Property Security Act. In fact, we consulted with the Catzman committee for almost eight years to develop the personal property, so we do a lot of consultation and we do a lot of community work.

Two weeks ago, I was in Parry Sound talking to the local county bar, and as well as the bar, we invited local service conveyancers, local members of the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors, very much listening to our clients.

Last year also we conducted an across-the-province client survey and asked staff what they thought, and I think a couple of people have mentioned that. In fact they said: "Don't change anything. You're doing great." But also some people said: "Don't let your service erode. Try to maintain the existing service levels." This is where the decision on expenditure control comes in.

We do have service levels, we do have to control our expenditures and this is a tough one for anybody managing in government or managing a business. Do you take a general constraint across the board each time there is restraint or constraint or a bringing in of expenditure, or do you make a tough decision to cut a program or to close an office or close a facility and limit the amount on the whole system and continue to provide a customer-service-driven system that serves the majority? That is at the heart of this.

As I said, we very much involve ourselves with the local community. We get out to the client dialogues. We sit down and talk to the users. We survey the users. We have a customer service week where we salute our users. We are very much customer-oriented.

When it comes to controlling revenues and controlling expenditures, as I said in Cambridge, the consultation around the closure was not a consultation. It was a decision embraced in the estimates and budget process, which in all the governments I have worked in is confidential.

I indicated that I was involved in the Ministry of Correctional Services when it was closing training schools and facilities across Ontario. I was not involved in the decision-making but I was involved in delivering the message, as director of human resources, when we closed a prison in Burwash employing over 400 staff. I was director of personnel there and we were able to place all those staff in alternative work.

We have always had a vision to make sure nobody loses his employment and that we are a good employer. Nobody consulted the communities of Sudbury or Burwash, because that is a tough decision. Obviously people are going to say, "No, don't do it," but this is within the estimates process, within the budget process.

In the Ministry of Community and Social Services again, decisions were made in the mid-1980s to close facilities for the developmentally handicapped. They had to make those announcements and there was quite a reaction. They made the announcement to close and then the ministry staff began to explain their decision. But they had made their decision to close the institutions for the developmentally handicapped, again to find alternative placement.

Each time when you are doing it within the budget process, within the estimates process --

Mr Ferguson: You mean you don't consult with the public first?

The Chair: Mr Daniels, can you proceed, please.

Mr Daniels: Okay. I am just saying there are certain things that you should consult about -- law, and changes to law. We consult on services to clients. I have never consulted, nor have I seen any government, on fees and fee increases or tax increases. These things are part of the budget process and come out of the expenditure budget line.

Misconception number 3: There is an antirural bias in this registry office integration plan. When the integration plan is complete, there will be 51 land registry offices across the province. There are still 51 land registry offices.

I have attached to this report that 18% of the communities where these offices are retained have populations under 5,000. A further six, almost 12%, have populations of less than 10,000. In other words, 30% of the offices are in small communities and municipalities. These are being maintained, despite the fact they account for less than 8% of the workload.

It may be interesting to note that only five registry offices, or 10%, are in cities of populations over 250,000 or more, even though these five offices account for 30% of the work. We are still maintaining our presence across the province of Ontario, from Fort Frances to L'Orignal, from Kenora to Windsor.

It is clearly untrue therefore to suggest that rural parts of the province are being neglected or discriminated against in the land registry system. It is interesting that some users in Cambridge are making the opposite argument as to why their office should not be integrated into Kitchener. It is their contention that a city the size of Cambridge deserves its own land registry office, even though Kitchener is 17 kilometres away.

What is shown in another table is that there are many other cities larger than Cambridge, such as Burlington, Oshawa, Mississauga, which will have to travel even greater distances and continue to travel those distances to their land registration offices. Burlington and Oakville are served by Milton, Mississauga is served by Brampton, Oshawa is served by Whitby. In terms of great distances to travel, centres like Timmins are serviced by an office in Cochrane.

I trust that this underscores that there is no antirural bias in the delivery of land registration services. I also want to note that not only is there no antirural bias; there is still a large network of land registry offices across the province. Even after the integration plan is completed, there will still be 51 land registry offices in both very large and very small locations.


Misconception 4: I would not be commenting on this conception, because it is hard to imagine that anyone would be taking it seriously. However, it has been receiving a lot of attention in the press and I think many people have started to believe it. I am referring to the misconception that this plan is -- and I quote from the article in the Law Times of 15 July -- "greed-driven."

Some people think I or my staff will receive huge pay increases because we are going to save money for the government. Now this is another job I had: I was responsible for the development of human resource initiatives in the government when I worked at Management Board of Cabinet. One of those initiatives was the pay-for-performance system. I was the person who brought in the pay-for-performance plan in 1987-88.

I would like to explain it. In previous years, civil servants received cost of living and also merit increases, similar to what the staff now receive within the bargaining unit. A few years ago, the Human Resource Secretariat proposed a program where these merit increases and a predetermined salary range would be eliminated and performance would be tied directly to effectiveness.

This effectiveness measures many things. It measures, of course, financial responsibility, but it measures other important things, like human resources and management of people and customer services. It is not just focused on a financial bottom line. It does focus on all sorts of things.

Last year, for instance, my performance was rated on some of the human resource initiatives. We employed a night staff of entirely disabled people and companies and won a national award. In our recruitment in Thunder Bay we recruited 30% of our staff as native Canadians. Those are the things I am measured on and most proud of. But I do not think I am being measured on the fact that we can close facilities as a major commitment or that this is the thing that is going to drive a performance measurement of the senior public service, or of the public service in general.

I clearly want it recorded it that neither I nor my director nor any other civil servant that I know of -- and I have been involved in the civil service for a long time -- has ever been promised that he would receive wage increases related to constraint measurements. I think we are a lot bigger than that. We are measured on a lot more important things and we measure all areas of results, not just financial results.

Misconception 5: The government is trying to save money on the day-to-day operations of the land registry offices to finance the automation of the land registration system through Polaris. The government has been working on the land automated system for a number of years and in fact received approval to proceed in 1987. At that time the government set a fund aside to automate the land system, separate from our regular registration budget.

They had set aside -- and it is quite an enormous amount of money -- close to $100,000 over 15 years to automate the system, because it has to be automated. It is large, it is cumbersome, it is paper-driven and it has to move into the 20th century.

Mr Conway: You said $100,000. What do you mean?

Mr Daniels: It is $100 million. Thanks a lot, Mr Conway. That would be a very inexpensive project for computers.

In the spring of 1988 we began to discuss a partnership, and this came from our user groups; from the Ontario land surveyors, who felt that there was a role for them in the automation; from various lawyers, from other users, from systems companies. They approached the government and said, "We are really behind Polaris, but we think there is a way of doing this in partnership with private sector and public sector working together to create jobs and to create an industry that will have demands far offshore." In fact, in the last couple of years we have had over 40 visitors from different countries and delegations across the world to look at our Polaris system. We realize that there is a large pent-up demand for land-information-related systems worldwide, and Ontario, because of its land mass, its interest in automation and its value, could be very much a large partner in this.

In the spring of this year, 1991, this government entered into a partnership with the private sector to establish a new organization called Teranet. The government is a 50-50 partner. The arrangement will speed up the automation. The contract is required to be completed in eight years rather than 15, and the cost to the government has been reduced by $50 million by speeding it up and by going into partnership.

The original amount of the program was considerably higher than $50 million. It was always our intention to fund this through other revenues. To say then that the government is reducing the real property registration budget to fund this project, which already has a higher allocation to it, does not make sense. In other words, this is a separate budget line.

It will result in improved customer services, and I think it is a very exciting venture for government. It took a number of years to get it through, and I am really excited about it. I think we will all be seeing the dividends, not only in Canada but worldwide, as this product is marketed across the world.

The next misconception is that there will be significant job losses in regard to the integration. I think some people have alluded to this already, that we are very proud, and I think Terry Moore yesterday mentioned and supported us that we did this in consideration without creating job loss. There are fewer jobs, but by using vacancies, etc, we can save the salaries and wages without putting our staff at risk. We are very proud that we are able to offer equivalent jobs to all classified government employees.

It is true that a major component of the $1-million savings is also the elimination of 12 land registrar positions. All of these people, except one who was eligible for full retirement, have already accepted other positions in the branch. The land registrar in Russell is now going to be the land registrar in St Catharines. The salary that he was making in Russell is gone for ever. The salary he is making in St Catharines was the salary of the person who retired; that salary is there. This is how we achieved the savings. This is how the $1 million rolls up. Close to $800,000 of the savings is related to salaries and wages and is wrapped up in the elimination of the land registrar positions, and these people have already been reassigned and we have lead time to make sure that those savings are real and will be achieved.

In fact, our concern for our employees influenced the development of the plan from two points of view. The first relates to workplace health and safety. While two of the three offices do provide staff with acceptable working conditions -- we do not argue about the new office in Almonte, and in our statement we said most offices were archaic; we did not say all. We realize Almonte is a good office. Glencoe has been renovated and Cambridge. But the other offices do require upgrading.

Further, we feel that when we begin to bring our staff together into a more consolidated base we can provide better training and services to them and offer them enlarged opportunities for career development. The major staff consideration affecting the development of the plan relates to what alternatives might have been chosen had we not chosen this decision to restructure. What would our choice be to save $1 million? That would be to take 35 to 40 positions out across the province. We cannot afford to do that by attrition. It would have to come out in the offices that are less busy. That is a more draconian move. It also means that you are taking it across the board as opposed to taking your target, focusing your target and making a business decision to take the hit, to make the decision and consolidate yourself. That is what we have done here.

Having commented on what we believe to be the major misconceptions surrounding the plan, I would like to provide you with some of the background and context to assist you in your considerations and report to the Legislature. The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations is responsible for the administration of the Registry Act and the Land Titles Act. Pursuant to these acts, the province is required to maintain a land registration system for recording interest in land for the purpose of protecting those interests and providing ready access to such information to all those interested. The Registry Act requires that at least one registry office be maintained in each county, group of united counties, regional municipality or provincial judicial district. The boundaries for a registry or land titles division are set by regulation, and the majority of them coincide with the statutory requirement of maintaining one land registry office for each of the above-noted jurisdictions.

Again I would like to digress slightly and refer to a 1978 decision of the court. Justice Van Camp, Re Town of Durham et al and the Attorney General of Ontario, and -- I am getting old. I have got to take my glasses off to read this. It is really small.

"Having regard to the history of the legislation...of the Registry Act...which permits the Lieutenant Governor in Council by regulation to combine two registry divisions into one provided that there is at least one registry office for each county, regional municipality, and provincial judicial district...permits the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations respecting any matter necessary or advisable to carry out the intent of the act, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may by regulation combine" them in one county "and direct that the registry office for the combined registry division be located in the county town."

It goes on to say where such a statute "provides for the making of regulations as part of the administration of government, the Lieutenant Governor in Council when making regulations under the statute must take into account financial and budgetary matters. Accordingly, a regulation combining two registry divisions and, in effect, closing a registry office for reasons of budgetary restraint is valid."


This has been tested. It goes on to say that also it does not require hearings; that the government, faced with financial constraint, as a matter of policy can proceed.

Until 1968 the land registration offices were administered at the county level. I have heard a lot of people talk about that. I guess I am getting old enough because I worked in this justice system in 1968. I admit I was a pretty junior civil servant. I was a regional personnel officer for eastern Ontario and working and living in Millbrook, which is an area, by the way, that is affected by this. I travelled across eastern Ontario from Pembroke and L'Orignal and Russell to our county jails, which were county jails until 1968. In 1968, as part of the administration of justice, it was not just the transfer of the land registry system, it was the whole justice system, and parts of that justice system do not generate any revenue.

If we reverse the decision, then do we reverse the whole decision? Do we return the justice system, the probation services that do not generate revenue, the county jails? In 1968 when I was involved in the takeover of the county jails as a personnel administrator, the staff were paid very, very low wages, compared to the provincial wage structure. They were very excited about becoming part of the Ontario structure. There were very many jails that were closed in 1968. There is no longer a jail in Picton; there is no longer a jail in Kingston; there is no longer a jail in Belleville, because it was more correct budgetarily to bring these into regional centres. That was part of the administration of justice.

The evolution of the land registration system has resulted in several land registration offices not being legally required, and that is what we are saying. We do not need these offices in the proximity of others. The cost of maintaining these extra land registry offices is borne by the system as a whole. This means the majority are subsidizing a special level of land registration services which benefits a minority of users.

One of the tables attached shows the proximity of these extra offices to the other land registration offices in its jurisdiction. A majority of primary users are located in the consolidated offices. The system was able to accommodate this situation initially without disadvantaging the majority of users because the budget allocation to the branch was sufficient. This situation, however, has dramatically changed in the last few years. With the long-term view of updating and modernizing the registration system and services in the province, the government is investing in technology and automation to facilitate access to the system regardless of the location.

At the same time this government has been allocating resources to this long-term development, the ongoing need for fiscal responsibility in all government programs has been reducing funds available for the day-to-day operation. What this means in practical terms is that the budget of running the land registration system and the real property registration system has been reduced in real money, given 1990 dollars, from $39 million in 1987-88 during the boom years, to $35 million this year. This year almost 92% of our total budget is accounted for by salaries, wages and benefits. This is consistent with the nature of the work, which is labour-intensive. Given that so much of our budget relates to staff, the branch has responded to fiscal responsibility in recent years by reducing its staff. The result is that in 1987-88 we had 898 staff in 65 offices. This has been reduced by 14% to 771.

Somebody else brought up, "What other places have you been doing?" We have been constraining year after year, pulling back our workload, pulling back our staff numbers by significant numbers, well over 100. So it is not just this year or this closure. It is a matter of constantly reviewing our fiscal requirements and constantly paring back.

The situation is that the entire branch is under stress to maintain its current workload at an acceptable level of quality. Using the number of transactions per staff as a productivity measure -- by the way, the average person can do 3,818 transactions. We talked a bit about what a transaction is. It is all the workload in an office. It is the pulling of the document; it is the abstracting; it is the registration.

This is higher than the 3,500 which we consider to be the optimum. The consequences of this stress can be gauged in the situation in 1988-89 and 1989-90 when our transactions rose to 3,912 and 4,054 respectively. In those years the average month-end backlogs in document abstracting and microfilming was at times twice as high as it is now. At most meetings that we have attended people seem to be confused about what a transaction is. I think I have said that. It is a general workload measurement.

Also, during those very busy years we suffered a serious increase in errors and omissions as identified by our monthly reports, and users across the province have complained of very slow service. The major difference between those years and the current situation is that there was a real estate boom and even with many more staff we could not keep up with the demand.

In situations like this we have to make tough decisions. Either we reduce our services and reliability everywhere, or we make significant structural changes. The structural change we are making is to consolidate the land registry offices from 65 to 51. An examination of the registry offices not located in the same community as the sheriff and not legally required shows that they all operate at a higher cost per transaction than the office into which they are being integrated. Again, this is attached.

Mr Runciman: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: We have now gone over half an hour, and obviously, looking at this, Mr Daniels is going to go on for another 10 or 15 minutes. I wonder if we simply cannot accept this as submitted and move on to questions and answers. He is 11 minutes over what he suggested he was going to be.

Mr Daniels: I would like to just read the last few paragraphs into the record. I will skip over the rest.

In closing, I would like to say that the decision to consolidate our offices was a difficult decision and one we did not take lightly. It was a decision we chose to make, however, because we believe it is in the best interests of our users, staff and the real property system. We have chosen to control our costs by restructuring our service rather than imposing a general restraint within the branch, which would have eroded the services across the province.

We have chosen to strengthen our service in 51 offices rather than weaken our service in 65. We have chosen to use our resources in a way which has allowed us to provide fulfilling jobs for our classified staff who work in the branch.

The last table attached to these comments lists the 51 offices which will exist after the integration is complete. We have chosen to support the staff who work in these locations, the clients who attend these offices and the population who rely on the land information system held in these offices in a way which is both legally and fiscally responsible.

The ministry has also received many letters of support regarding our decision to integrate the offices. The following are quotes of typical sentiments:

"My understanding is that small -- "

The Chair: Mr Daniels, could we have copies of those letters for our records?

Mr Daniels: Yes. I have tabled all the letters, not just the ones I am referring to, that we have received in support of the closures.

"My understanding is that small registry offices originated in, literally, the horse-and-buggy era of the 1860s when it was time-consuming to travel. The anomalies remaining from situations of 130 years ago are finally being redressed.

"In other areas such as municipal realignments..., the continuing court reforms under the aegis of the Attorney General's ministry, the province is moving forward to recognize existing realities. I am pleased and congratulate you for your ministry's joining the rationalization of this long-standing, confusing and costly anomaly."

Another quote:

"It is an improvement long overdue that small and physically inadequate merged into more modern and efficient premises. As a solicitor who is located on the border of three counties...I have occasion to use all of the local registry offices with some frequency and I can only applaud your proposals."


"I do hope your ministry will stand firm on your decision. It makes sense from a budgetary point of view, from the point of view of serving the public more efficiently and from the standpoint of changing demographics.

"Once again, my congratulations on a decision which my colleagues and I feel is long overdue."


The Chair: Thank you, Mr Daniels. What I am going to suggest to the committee is that we divide up the time. What I thought I would suggest is that each party take 20 minutes. Then we will have a second round of five minutes each. That way everybody will have a chance to come back to an item or items they may not have completed. That pretty well will keep us within the time frame we have allotted ourselves for Mr Daniels. It will not take much time away from the time allotted to discuss matters with our research officer. If there is general consensus with that, who would like to proceed? Mr Runciman.

Mr Runciman: Mr Daniels, in reference to your submission here today about consultation, you provided the members with a list of consultations that have occurred or are going to occur in the future. The consultations we are interested in, of course, are in respect to the closures of these facilities. You have been rather general in respect to the kinds of discussions that take place in these matters. I would like to ask you a specific question. In the consultations, the list you provided us, were you specifically discussing the closures, the number of closures, the impacts on communities and those sorts of things?

Mr Daniels: No. As I was saying, these are called client dialogues and they tend to run interest in the service in that town or that community, what that office is doing, to talk about forms, formats, new legislation, the Polaris system, when it is coming, what it is going to do to them. But in some cases it did get into the area of where offices are located. When I was in the Lindsay office, to relate it to the client users there, they were quite vociferous in demanding the rationalization of the Manvers township back into Victoria county. These records are held in Port Hope.

At another meeting I attended in Peterborough the users, lawyers, etc, were concerned about the Cavan and Millbrook documents, which are in Peterborough county, also being held in Port Hope. When I went to Ottawa just a few months ago, the Ottawa lawyers were asking for the return of the Cumberland office. So it is pretty much a part of that.

Mr Runciman: I appreciate that. You have heard a great deal of criticism over the past two days about this particular decision and the lack of consultation of user groups. What you are suggesting is that that criticism has some validity, that there was no real effort to talk to user groups about this specific decision?

Mr Daniels: No, I think the decision to integrate our offices was part of an estimates-budget decision, as I said. My experience, either direct or indirect, is that it is not normal to discuss a major constraint or closing if it is part of an estimates or budget activity. It is maintained in the budgetary secrecy in moving the process through.

Mr Runciman: When this process was under way within your branch in the ministry, was there any disagreement with the approach, the decision, or was it something that was unanimous within your own branch to take this decision?

Mr Daniels: Let me just put it in perspective. As part of the budget process the ministry was asked to come up with X millions of dollars that it could save to operate more efficiently. We were asked to go back and think of areas where we could reduce our costs, reduce expenditures.

Mr Runciman: This was during the fall of 1990?

Mr Daniels: During the estimates in the fall of 1990, during the billing of the estimates in the budget at the local ministry level.

Mr Runciman: Yes.

Mr Daniels: The year before we had the question asked us --

Mr Runciman: I am not interested in the year before, please. We have limited time here.

Mr Daniels: That is right. We had a number of issues that we examined. Do we take a general constraint across the board and hit our service generally or do we make a tough decision to restructure ourselves?

Mr Runciman: My specific question was, when this recommendation came forward, was there no difficulty within your own branch in respect to this decision?

Mr Daniels: No. It had been discussed with the director, the previous director, financial analysts --

Mr Runciman: No one had any reservations?

Mr Daniels: No. They did point out the studies done by the previous governments and the community dissatisfaction. We also had the legal argument, which said it was quite legal to do, that it could be done for physical and budgetary reasons and that it would be a valid decision.

Mr Runciman: Was this proposal taken to the former minister, Mr Kormos, and discussed with him?

Mr Daniels: Yes, it would be, through the budget process, because the estimates were prepared at that time. Our submissions would go through.

Mr Runciman: So this was discussed with Mr Kormos. Why was a decision not taken when Mr Kormos was minister?

Mr Daniels: Because it is part of the budget process. The budget was not out until April.

Mr Runciman: Can you indicate whether he was in agreement with this recommendation?

Mr Daniels: It was permitted to go forward as part of the ministry's estimates package, yes.

Mr Runciman: I guess that means he agreed. So this went forward prior to Ms Churley assuming office?

Mr Daniels: No. It goes forward to the Management Board of Cabinet which reviews it. We usually get the result some time in February or March. By then Ms Churley was our minister, and we were able to brief her on the --

Mr Runciman: On the decision that had been taken.

Mr Daniels: On the decision to push it as an estimates issue.

Mr Runciman: Now how long was that briefing with Ms Churley, and how many briefings took place in respect to this issue prior to her announcement in the House?

Mr Daniels: I would say we had about three or four briefings about the office closures.

Mr Runciman: Specifically in respect to this issue, how much time would you say the minister devoted to that, or listened to that point?

Mr Ferguson: Mr Chair, this is crazy. This is not 60 Minutes and he is not --

The Chair: Order, please.


Mr Ferguson: Mr Chair, on a point of order: It has nothing to do with the principle, whether or not registry offices --

Mr Runciman: Mr Chairman, I hope this is not part of my time.

The Chair: That is not a point of order. Mr Runciman, you can continue.

Mr Runciman: I think, Mr Chairman, this is completely relevant. We are talking about a very significant decision.

The Chair: Mr Runciman, you can continue with your questions.

Mr Runciman: I think it is very appropriate to know how much time the minister placed on this issue.

Mr Ferguson: Mr Chair, on a point of order: This individual made a presentation. I would suggest that the line of questioning ought to relate to the individual's presentation and the facts he shared with --

The Chair: That is not a point of order, Mr Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson: I find it unbelievable that we could sit here for almost two full days and listen to all the individuals that the other side lined up --

The Chair: That is not a point of order, Mr Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson: -- their lobbyists -- then the minister's representative comes here and you do not want to give him 20 minutes.

The Chair: Mr Ferguson, you are out of order. I would have to say, Mr Ferguson, that a lot of individuals and people representing municipal government came here, and you may want to reconsider your phraseology in calling them lobbyists. I do not know if you would want that to stay on the record.

Mr Ferguson: I do not think I would want to cast the blanket that far and wide, Mr Chair, but obviously there were some individuals who were very much prompted to come and appear before the committee.

Mr Villeneuve: You know how it works.

The Chair: It is up to you, Mr Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson: Are you going to dispute that?

The Chair: Order. At this time I am adding the four minutes that we have used --

Mr Ferguson: I have heard the caucuses outside the committee room with your folks and I have heard them inside the room, so do not tell me you have not been out there working the province to get your folks in here.

The Chair: Order, please.


The Chair: I am adding four minutes to the time allotted to Mr Runciman. Mr Runciman, you and your party have until 3:44 to complete your first round of questions.

Mr Runciman: Mr Daniels, I would still like the short answer to the question in respect to how much time you believe you and your officials spent with the minister in respect to this decision. Approximately. I know you cannot be specific.

Mr Daniels: I would say quite a significant amount of time, many, many hours, and there would be quite a bit of confidential discussion.

Mr Runciman: What is "many, many hours"? Just give me a number approximately, or a range.

Mr Perruzza: On a point of order, Mr Chair: Mr Runciman is pursuing a series of questions, and I really do not understand what is at the end of the day, but they are all built on speculation on where the minister was; how long the briefings took; how well was she aware of what has transpired. I do not understand how that relates to --

The Chair: It is not a point of order. This is normal practice, sir. Mr Runciman is not out of order. He is directing questions to the witness, and as far as I am concerned, there is nothing out of order. I am adding another minute to Mr Runciman's time; that is 3:45.


Mr Runciman: Mr Daniels, if you cannot give me a figure, that is fine. I am asking for you to give me an approximate figure, and give me a range, if you would not mind.

Mr Daniels: I cannot give you an exact figure. Besides my presentation --

Mr Runciman: I was not looking for an exact figure, a rough estimate.

Mr Daniels: In-person briefings would probably be about 10, 12 hours. Then she would have devoted much more time to appearing and working with her staff. I think we are getting into the whole cabinet part in the ministerial --

Mr Runciman: Let us move on to the budgetary questions. Certainly we have heard a lot of expressions from the government members and certainly they have thrown it back at us. In respect to the question of savings, your explanation here is -- I do not know how to describe it, but it is certainly one that would cause most observers some concern, I would think, unless we are misinterpreting what you are suggesting here when you talked about the allocation of revenues and the fact that they are directed to the Treasurer of Ontario and the consolidated revenue fund, and that your budget does not reflect those revenues, so that when you are looking at ways of achieving cost savings, you cannot or do not take into account those revenues that flow as a result of the operations of land registry offices.

Mr Daniels: I guess that is true.

Mr Runciman: I guess I have some difficulty with the economics of that, and if we are saying on one hand the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations is saving approximately $1 million, but on the other hand, the government of Ontario is losing seven or eight or ten, or whatever millions of dollars, that does not make a hell of a lot of economic sense to me, and I do not think it would to most taxpayers in this province.

Mr Daniels: But I did not say they were losing any revenue.

Mr Runciman: You did not say? Well, we have had testimony before us.

Mr Daniels: No, no, the amount of revenue that we will collect before and after the integration will be the same. People will still transact.

Mr Perruzza: That is right.

Mr Daniels: There is no loss of revenue.

Mr Runciman: That is your conjecture at this stage.

Mr Daniels: No.

Mr Runciman: We are certainly having witnesses appear before us who suggest otherwise.

Mr Daniels: Most of the requirements under the Registry Act are legal requirements. Very few are discretionary.

Mr Runciman: Well, we have had a lot of questions raised about the economics of this and whether indeed it is saving the government any money or not saving the government money, and you have indicated that because there are cabinet documents involved, the cabinet process of that information is now confidential.

We have also had a suggestion earlier today which I have no difficulty with, and that is the proposal to have the Provincial Auditor come in and take a look at this whole issue and come back to the standing committee on public accounts, which is the appropriate committee, with a report. Then we have an objective assessment of the decision taken by the ministry, and if indeed it is an appropriate one. Of course, there are a number of other factors which could be incorporated in that, which perhaps the ministry has not considered.

I am wondering how you would view that kind of initiative. Do you have any difficulty with the Provincial Auditor coming in and taking a look at the decision and doing a cost-benefit analysis?

Mr Daniels: First of all, we are saving a million dollars. There are going to be 11, 12 less registrars. There is going to be less cost --

Mr Runciman: I asked you a specific question. We are on a very tough time line here. I would like you to answer it, please.

Mr Daniels: Sure, I think we could satisfy a Provincial Auditor, or any auditor, that there is a million dollars saving.

Mr Runciman: You have no difficulty with the Provincial Auditor coming in? I will give the floor to Mr Murdoch.

Mr. B. Murdoch: Ted, did you want to?

Mr Arnott: Mr Daniels, I want to thank you for coming forward today. I am exceedingly disappointed that the minister has not been present for this. She is away apparently. But frankly this has been a political decision. You started off by saying it was a cabinet decision, but you have been left to hold the bag, and I regret that your name has been essentially dragged in unfortunately.

Mr Daniels: It is part of our job to recommend and try to operate an efficient organization.

Mr Arnott: Responsible government suggests that the minister should be prepared to take responsibility.

The Chair: We cannot hear you. It is very noisy here with the window open.

Mr Arnott: What complaints did you have about the Arthur office or the Durham office that necessitated the decision to close? Did you ever receive a complaint that either of those offices was operating inadequately?

Mr Daniels: No, we received no complaints from the consumers, but --

Mr Arnott: Have you received any applause from those areas, from Guelph, for example, or Owen Sound, that the other two offices have been closed?

Mr Daniels: Yes. In Owen Sound I saw a letter to the editor applauding the decision.

Mr Arnott: I have not seen it. It is not included in here. What formal notice was given to the county of Wellington or the county of Grey that its facilities were inadequate, according to Bill 208, and that it should be upgraded so as to retain its office?

Mr Daniels: In terms of notice to the counties, Bill 208 is just coming into effect. We have been analysing it ourselves. We have not advised the counties yet.

Mr Arnott: Briefly, how would you define consultation?

Mr Daniels: I was saying earlier that the type of consultation we have been doing around customer service, service to the clients, talking about the future coming of automation, sitting down and having a really free-form discussion about what the clients want, that is what we consider consultation.

Mr Arnott: To me, if I am contemplating closing an office, consultation is where I sit down with the users and the other affected individuals or groups and say: "I'm planning to close this office. How do you feel about it?" Then I would get their response back. Would you comment on that? Was that done at all in any meaningful way?

Mr Daniels: These decisions around restructuring and closures were done within the estimates and budget process. We knew obviously that people would be concerned and upset, that there would not be a groundswell of support in the local communities. We took that into account, which is the way it was when I was involved in previous decisions closing prisons or closing facilities for the disabled. These things are tough decisions and they are made part of the estimates process.

Mr Arnott: So you focused on the target and let go at them.

Mr Daniels: We advised them, told them our reasons, but mentioned to them that it was part of a government expenditure process.

Mr Arnott: The reasons the minister has articulated in the answers to various letters she has received have been completely shot down in the last day and a half.

Mr Daniels: I do not think they have. We are saying we can consolidate our service and provide better services; rather than taking a general government constraint, target our constraint through restructuring.

Mr Arnott: You suggest you are going to save $1 million through the elimination of land registrars' positions. Some years ago it was suggested that the land registrar's position in Durham was eliminated --

Mr Daniels: And satellited.

Mr Arnott: -- and yet continued to function. Why could that not be the case?

Mr Daniels: The satelliting operation still requires us to travel, for the land registrar in Owen Sound to maintain a supervision. There are still costs related to the satelliting. There are still the costs of the janitorial services, of the lease, of the machines, of the telephones and all the other things that are going to be saved by the outright closure.

Mr Villeneuve: I have had occasion to go to the Cornwall registry office on a number of occasions in my other incarnation as a real estate appraiser, and I can tell you that I have had to wait for a corner on a table for quite some time. I have also had occasion to go to Alexandria for Glengarry county and to Morrisburg and to Prescott. We are dealing with a situation -- I think Cambridge has it also in the switch to Kitchener -- where you have a state-of-the-art building ready to receive whatever. I think we have that in Morrisburg, Alexandria and Prescott. Have you considered the cost to renovate the buildings that are theoretically going to be receiving all these additional customers? I do know that Cornwall cannot handle it properly, and we heard yesterday that Brockville cannot do it. I gather that Kitchener is going to have a problem. Have you looked into the capital cost?

Mr Daniels: Yes, we did. In fact, we recognize there will be costs of relocating files and filing cabinets and furniture and that in certain cases there will be minor capital expenditures. But remember, the savings of $1 million is for ever, and the expenditure of a few hundred thousand dollars to get things ready is one time. When you are making a decision, you have to look at long-term costs and short-term costs. This is a base reduction to our salary, a basic $1 million out of our total operating budget, and it goes on and on and on, whereas if there are certain small capital requirements, that is a one-time cost.

Mr Jordan: You stated that since 1987 you have been excited about Polaris and getting it moving and getting it into place. Why would you build a new office in Almonte at a cost of $1 million, open it last year, and serve notice this year that you are closing it? Where is the planning? Would you mind explaining that to me?


Mr Daniels: I think I was talking about the planning for the Polaris system, not necessarily the planning around offices, but you are correct. The office in Almonte needed to be replaced. It could not be renovated, it could not be retrofitted, and it cost close to $1 million, as you said. It had outserved its usefulness. Right now, this decision in the process is saving immediately $1 million in Colborne, because Colborne has to be replaced. The Colborne land office would have cost $1 million --

Mr Jordan: But my question is that you were aware last year -- there was a needs study done prior to building the building in Almonte. You are still there; you were also there in 1987 in this position. Will you please explain to me what changed?

Mr Daniels: The requirements to continually control our expenditures. We had made decisions in 1987 to close our legal audit area. In 1988-89 I closed down the condominium area. Another year we closed something else. Each year we have to cut back and try to manage our resources. This is the year we had to make a decision around the closing and the restructuring of offices.

Mr B. Murdoch: What you are saying is that you spent $1 million in Almonte and you are saving $1 million this year, so now you are even. What are you going to do next? That does not make any sense at all.

Mr Daniels: The capital expenditure in Almonte is one time. The saving of $1 million is ongoing.

Mr B. Murdoch: So you are guaranteeing us today that there will be no more civil servants hired in this area? Is that what you are saying?

Mr Daniels: I am not saying that. I said we will continue to reduce our manpower as the workload reduces. The real estate business is down. That means our workload is down. We have reduced our staff, not for ever, but we have to pull back to match our service requirements. That is what we were asked to do and that is what we have done.

Mr B. Murdoch: So you have a plan for the next five years. Would you release now some of the names of the others you are going to close so people will not be so upset?

Mr Daniels: We do not have a plan that would address further closures. We look each year at our estimates, each year at how we can control our costs, what the volumes are, what the transactions are.

Mr B. Murdoch: Then it is the philosophy of the bureaucrats to save this money but put it on the backs of the consumers. If you are saving this money by closing these registry offices, but you also say you are going to make the same revenues you were before, then somebody has to make up this money you are saving. Obviously, according to all the people who have been here for the past two days, it is going to be made up by the users. That is your philosophy. Am I getting it right?

Mr Abel: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Mr Murdoch is continually trying to put words in the witness's mouth.

The Chair: That is not a point of order. Let's continue, please.

Mr Abel: I would hope you would not allow that, sir.

The Chair: I have not seen anything out of order all day, all afternoon. I am sorry if you --

Mr Abel: I am talking about this particular case. I am talking about Mr Murdoch. I have been listening very closely to what he has been saying, and he has continually been putting words in the witness's mouth.

Mr B. Murdoch: I would hope this civil servant who has worked here for 25 years could answer for himself.

The Chair: Can we please continue? I am sorry, Mr Abel, that was not a point of order.

Mr B. Murdoch: I was asking you, is this a philosophy of the government, to put the savings on --

Mr Daniels: Not at all, obviously not.

Mr B. Murdoch: How do you explain it? We have been here for two days. You have been here with us and you have heard that. All the people who were here brought briefs that said it is going to cost them extra money. Is that not directly putting your savings on their backs? You explain that.

Mr Daniels: Sure. We look at the restructuring of the whole operation to one per county. Most counties only had one land registry office. The lawyers in those other locations have been competitive. The lawyers in Mississauga are competitive with the lawyers in Brampton, even though they travel to Brampton. The lawyers who are working in Oshawa travelling to Whitby are competitive. I would challenge --

Mr B. Murdoch: Does this mean there should be one registry office located in each county, or could we just put one in Toronto for all the counties of Ontario?

Mr Daniels: No, we are saying that 51 is a reasonable number.

Mr B. Murdoch: I just want to get the philosophy straight. Is it one registry office in each county, so in the counties that do not have one, you will reconsider and not close theirs?

Mr Daniels: No, we talked about united counties.

Mr B. Murdoch: Talk about the county of Grey. Where is theirs located within the county? If you want to use specifics, the city of Owen Sound is not located in the county of Grey.

Mr Perruzza: Mr Chair, if Mr Murdoch would like to discuss government philosophy, he should do that with the minister and with the cabinet. He should probably write the minister and the cabinet a letter. The deputant is making representation to this committee today, and I guess he can speak on how he sees the government's directions and what the government's philosophy is going to be a year down the road, but I think it is a little inappropriate and unfair to him for you to be putting him on the spot this way. He probably should tell you he is not going to answer those kinds of questions.

Mr B. Murdoch: Is that putting words into his mouth, I wonder?

The Chair: Mr Daniels is here, from what I understand, to represent the ministry. Mr Daniels is here to answer questions of the members of the committee, all members of the committee. I have to repeat that so far everything I have heard this afternoon is in order. I am sorry if not all members of the committee happen to be in agreement with that. Under the rules of the Legislature and of the committees and the traditions we have worked under for a very long time, at least as long as I can remember, the questions that have been put this afternoon are in order.

If the witness feels he, for any reason, cannot or should not answer a question, the witness is free to say that. I have been in committees where in fact civil servants have said to members: "You're asking me a direct political question. You should go to the politicians or the ministers or the parliamentary secretaries for that answer." Unless Mr Daniels feels these questions are such that he cannot answer, I think we are going to continue. We have time for one short question.

Mr B. Murdoch: Maybe this is the time to ask Mr Daniels, do you think it is appropriate that when we are in these hearings the instruments in the Durham registry office are being moved? We are having hearings here today on this issue.

Mr Daniels: I have filed with the committee a report, both our ministry and the Ministry of Culture and Communications, with regard to the removal and destruction of documents prior to 1948. This is a long-term process, begun in the mid-1980s and continuing. It has nothing to do with the integration or the closure of offices. It is merely part of a records retention process.

Mr B. Murdoch: I would like my answer, though. He has not answered my question. I just asked him if he thinks it is appropriate when we are in these hearings that this should be done now.

The Chair: I say to the member that I cannot advise Mr Daniels as to how he should answer your questions.

Mr Daniels: I think it is quite appropriate. It is part of a normal process of records retention.

Mr Conway: I would like to take a few moments to review a couple of things. I do not know a great deal about registry offices. We have one in my community, which is Pembroke, the old county seat of the old county of Renfrew. What I do know, as I was alluding to yesterday, is that there was a time when it was a great political plum to be selected as registrar. Successive governments over the generations used to offer it to members of the Legislature who got quite tired of being here or otherwise were required to leave.

I have really enjoyed these two days. I cannot remember a time when I have enjoyed two days of testimony quite as much as these last two days, and I say that because I do not know a great deal about this business. I do know something about your public service, and I must say you have had some very difficult cases to carry. I do not think this can has been one of the lighter ones, from everything I can --

Mr Daniels: I think closing Burwash Correctional Centre was pretty difficult.

Mr Conway: I can only go on what I have heard, and I had nothing to do with the organization of these hearings, though I know a lot of the people who came, and they are quite good people, the ones I know.

On the basis of what I have heard, I think you are in some difficulty here. It is difficult for me to talk to you, because ultimately this is a political decision. You are doing very well in defending or explaining the decision that has been offered but, classically, this is a political decision any government has to take. We have all had to take them and defend them, and sometimes they are not much fun.

Let me make a couple of observations of where I think I would take issue with you. One of the reasons I am here today is that I asked to be substituted on to this committee, and from the point of view of being a representative from rural eastern Ontario. I know nothing about Cambridge and all of the rest of it, but certainly on the basis of what I know and what I have heard, I would absolutely reject any suggestion that for people living in the rural counties of Lanark and Leeds and Grenville and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and, quite frankly, south Renfrew, this integration will be anything but a reduction of service and an increase in cost to the consumer. There is absolutely no question in my mind about that on the basis of everything I have heard.


There may be a body of evidence out there I have not heard that will make something of the contra case, but listening to these people my friend from Moose Creek brought in here to talk about the united counties, it could not be clearer. If you are living up in northwestern Dundas county and you are going to beetle your way into Cornwall, let me tell you, not even yours truly who has had to kind of string lines in crazy directions would not try to make that case for being more efficient and less costly. If I were a taxpayer, there is no question in my mind, living in all of those eastern counties that are essentially rural, this is going to be more inconvenient and more costly. No question about it on the basis of what I have heard.

The difficulty I have is the argument being advanced that you had a difficult choice, and you are in a difficult position. Someone said it here yesterday, and I want to just repeat this because you cannot say, but I can, and this takes us to the sort of macro picture for the government.

There are at least two main players involved in this: the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, which manages these offices, and the Ministry of Government Services, which is the landlord. I believe you when you say, and argued quite convincingly just a few moments ago, that there will in fact be at first instance operationally $1 million worth of savings. I would dispute that those savings will hold up over time; I cannot prove that but I would be prepared to make a wager. I will accept, without any question, that for the first couple of years your $1 million will more or less be achieved. However, there is absolutely no question in my mind that when I look at the overall picture for the Ontario government, and I go one department over to Government Services, I would hazard a guess that the $1 million in operational savings for the first two, three or four years will be completely buried in millions of dollars of capital upgrades. Absolutely no question.

My friend from Moose Creek knows Cornwall a lot better than I do. I certainly know what is going to happen in Perth. My friend here from Colborne has talked and the member from north Wellington has talked about Arthur. Now that is not your concern because you are the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, and the difficulty in this discussion is that in some ways it is unfair to have at you on this account because you are going to appear before Management Board and make the case that you have made here, and within a very limited perspective, you are right.

But corporately there is much more to this story, and there is no question in my mind -- and it is a rhetorical question because you cannot answer this. This is a question the Legislature has to answer and the government has to think about that overall, the costs, because I do not think the savings are going to be there. I think the service reduction for people living in rural Ontario is going to be real and palpable.

A lot of very learned people came before us and they certainly seem to speak almost as one. I noticed that on occasion some lawyers thought the transaction costs might be up by $200; some thought $150. But it seemed that the general weight of the testimony from lawyers is about $150 minimum, and the surveyors were saying for transactions, $100. If I live in south Mountain, I am going to be annoyed -- I am going to be really ticked off about an additional $200 to $250, and I do not want to read in the Almonte Gazette that somehow I have saved money, because that is really going to annoy me.

I could understand that the debate at Management Board will be entirely of a different kind, but the argument that this is going to improve the service and save money, I would submit to you on the basis of the overall picture of the government of Ontario and on the basis of what we have heard, is not correct for the reasons I have submitted.

You have made the case that you had a decision to make at the ministry level. You could either administer the cut across the board -- and I think the figure used was that there would be 35 jobs lost -- or you could isolate the cut by integrating Arthur with Guelph, Durham with Owen Sound and Almonte with Perth.

Mr Daniels: I would like to answer that.

Mr Conway: I just want to make this point. I submit, as a representative from rural Ontario, that we lose in that. There is absolutely no question that we lose and we lose in a real and big way and we are fed up with losing. As somebody said, I forget who it was, there are -- I guess it is Colborne, the only government office left is the registry office and down it goes.

The Almonte example my friend from Montague has talked about is just madness on stilts to the general taxpaying public out there in Lanark county because we opened this beautiful office in Almonte a year ago. I will confess something. I was around, not as the minister responsible but the political minister, and I had an awful lot of people tell me about a lot of things internally that should not happen. I do not ever remember anybody saying to me: "Listen, this is just politics. For God's sake, don't do this in Almonte. There is going to be, or there should be, a consolidation in Perth." I heard that about a lot of other things, but I will not bore you. I do not ever remember anybody saying, "Listen, don't do this." And we did it.

It is too bad Doug Wiseman is not here because for the five and a half years I was in government, every time I saw my friend Wiseman, all he wanted to talk about was what we were going to do about that beautiful, little, old, completely overburdened office in Almonte. So we spent $1 million. We opened it last year and we announced its closure in May. Down the road 37 kilometres is a leased building that everybody knows. If you read the Carleton Place Canadian you could see this spring that a lot of money -- it is not your concern, but the Minister of Government Services is going to be sitting there saying, "We've got a big upgrade just to meet the fire marshal's requirements."

You're sitting in Lanark county and you just say: "I can't talk about any of the rest. This is insane." My point is that when you look at the overall picture, would you not agree there is more to this than just the limited savings that are going to accrue to the MCCR account; that when you really look at it, and I am just using those two examples, Cornwall --

The Chair: Excuse me, Mr Conway. Mr Perruzza has a point of order.

Mr Perruzza: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I do not understand the procedure for today. Is it a question and answer to the deputy or are we going to engage the deputy in a debate with the individual members? Mr Conway has been going on at some length and he is making more of a speech. If that is intended to solicit --

Mr Conway: It is a fair criticism and I will accept it, but I wanted to set a bit of the flavour for how this appears from the perspective of rural eastern Ontario. I just want to focus in on two or three specific questions.

On the point you make about your inability to retain the fee revenue, I understand. Is there perhaps a case to be made for, in some cases, devolving this back to the counties?

Mr Daniels: No, not at all, because the revenue the government retains from this it uses, I think, quite well. Coming from other ministries that have no way of generating revenue --

Mr Conway: But are you not looking at it from Management Board? I am asking you if you are sitting out there in Stormont-Dundas or in north Lanark, saying --

Mr Daniels: No, I am looking at it from anybody's point of view. The government has requirements. They have a lot of pressure to spend money and we can generate --

Mr Conway: I am a citizen in Lanark county and I am looking at this because, unlike some of the other things you have highlighted by example, this is a service. This is a very direct service that has a very real impact on my ability to buy a house and sell property, so I am looking at it from the point of view of a user-friendly service that has been traditionally provided by the provincial government. Looked at from that perspective --

Mr Daniels: And within the county of Lanark, it still will be provided. We will continue to provide this service in 51 locations, not 25, across Ontario.

Mr Conway: But if I live in north Lanark, west Carleton or south Renfrew, the new proposal is significantly more costly to me as a consumer and much less user-friendly.

Mr Daniels: First of all, I think the system will adjust. It has. Certain counties with one office have operated for years. Lawyers in Mississauga, Oakville, Brampton, I would be wondering, how can they be competitive?


Mr Conway: But, Art, you know, if you have lived in Peterborough county -- for some of these people, and I guess I am one of them, it is like discussing electoral redistribution. Every time I hear these judges and commissioners my blood starts to boil because I represent 3,000 square miles. That is different than being the member for St Andrew-St Patrick -- not better, not less significant, but it is a hell of a lot different. To be in Bainsville -- it is a long way from Bainsville to Prescott.

Mr Daniels: The other day I was in Parry Sound and I asked the lawyers what they thought and they said to me that the lawyers in east Parry Sound district organized their workload, that they come to the land registry office in Parry Sound from Burk's Falls once a week. They organize their work and they do not pass that on to their clients. They organize themselves around it.

Mr Conway: I know there is an historical difference, but in the united counties of S-D-G you are dealing with three of the original counties in the province of Ontario. As somebody said, they pre-date the province by 100 years. That is, they go back to the creation of the province of Upper Canada.

I see the submission that has been offered -- and I am not surprised; all of these lawyers in Peterborough are very happy. I am not surprised they are happy and I do not fault you for that. I would be happy. I am not arguing this cannot be adjusted here and there, but Pierre Aubry and some of those people who were in here from Glengarry -- and there is also, I would think, in some of these cases in S-D-G, a linguistic factor. That may not be a problem, but Glengarry is -- what? -- 50% francophone. Dundas is decidedly less so.

Mr Daniels: Cornwall is a designated francophone office.

Mr Conway: I know that, but the Parry Sound situation, I suspect, is not at all comparable with S-D-G and I shall finish with this. I see the point you were making on table 1 on one of these handouts. In Renfrew county, for example, Arnprior is 80 kilometres from Pembroke. But the irony of this is that these people are going to be ticked off -- I have talked to a few of them -- because, if you live in Arnprior I would guess about 40% to 50% of your transactions -- maybe not that high, but 30% to 40% -- will be in Almonte. So they are mad. The gang in Arnprior will do, in many cases, as much business with north Lanark as they would with Pembroke.

Mrs Fawcett: Just to carry on from there, I notice in the distance between integrating -- and we are talking now Colborne to Cobourg -- you say it is 24 kilometres, which is right. That takes maybe 15 minutes at the most to go, but there is no consideration here that a lot of the business comes from Trenton. We are talking 50 kilometres one way and then returning again. You do not give the true, full picture here, and I think that is what is really annoying to so many people. It looks like you are saving this almighty million dollars, and I know we are not supposed to put them both together but, God, what is going out on the other end to incorporate this, to save the million bucks, is nuts; it really is.

I know you are going to have to do something with that Cobourg office if you are going to put part of Port Hope and all of Colborne there. Colborne does more business even than Cobourg. It is not going to fit. They cannot all get into that Cobourg office. You are not going to get it for free. You are already paying rent. You do not even have to pay rent in Colborne.

Two weeks before you made the decision you were dealing with land in Colborne to build a new one there. Something was made very, very quickly here and obviously these client dialogues -- I am interested in that. What do you mean by a client dialogue? Who is your client?

Mr Daniels: Surveyors, lawyers, conveyancers, searchers.

Mrs Fawcett: I read down this list and it says deputy minister and senior branch staff.

Mr Daniels: That is from our side, but the clients are all the other people. We meet with all the clients in that office.

Mrs Fawcett: But there was not anybody who came before us who met with you. I just do not understand this.

Mr Daniels: We are talking about 51 offices and 65 locations. We have only heard from 12.

Mrs Fawcett: No, we are talking about 14 that are going down.

Mr Daniels: Two are being integrated, Toronto and Ottawa, so 12.

Mrs Fawcett: There are 12 going down. I want to know whom you met with because maybe they had some ideas how you could save money. Was that question asked? Did you ask them?

Mr Daniels: We always ask ways for efficiency. Yes, that is one of the things we discuss. In fact, when we met with the lawyers from Lanark and Almonte, they wanted a fax machine between Lanark and Perth, and that was probably the main item of discussion at that meeting.

Mrs Fawcett: Because they did not know that Almonte was going to be closed.

Mr Daniels: No, and in fact at that time the budget had not been struck either.

Mrs Fawcett: If they have no knowledge of what is around the corner, obviously --

Mr Daniels: But to reduce their travel time between Lanark and Perth and for deals they would do in Lanark or Perth, they wanted a fax system. So that was one of the things that came up in that kind of discussion. Yes, we talk about all sorts of things.

Mrs Fawcett: But it has nothing to do with really what you are going to save now, because you are going to force them all to travel the route anyway. They cannot fax it.

I have one question that one of my delegation left for you and it says, "Ask Mr Daniels how MCCR is going to sell its multimillion-dollar Polaris program to its customers when it has done such a rotten, lousy job of convincing its customers to accept a few registry offices closing."

Mr Daniels: That is a loaded question. First of all, the product, the Polaris --

The Chair: You have 15 seconds to answer.

Mr Daniels: It is a very good product, and we would not have had 30 or 40 delegations from around the world looking at it unless it was a good product. It automates and it will involve digital images --

Mrs Fawcett: He wonders how you are going to sell the multimillion-dollar --

Mr Daniels: It will sell.

The Chair: Very good. Thank you very much. We have on the list Ms Harrington, Mr Mammoliti, Mr Ferguson, Mr Perruzza, Mr Duignan. You have 20 minutes to split up. The Liberals have finished their 20 minutes.

Ms Harrington: We have certainly heard some very real concerns over the last two days. It has been a very interesting process, as Mr Conway has said, because all of us, I believe, were not involved in the background work. We did not really know what we were in for here.

I do have some real specific questions for you, and the first one is with regard to the answering of letters and correspondence that you have received over the last three months. People came before us and asked, and I certainly am not prepared to answer, but I would like to ask you why they were not responded to.

Mr Daniels: I think -- and I am looking here at a couple of letters -- some are responded to very quickly and others may have more -- and I cannot suppose to answer all that. But I am looking here at a letter that was sent to Mr Fallis on June 7, the reply to his May 13 request. I have another letter from Mr Ingram, again responding to his request. A number of the letters that I have before me are responded to, but maybe some of the questions, and I am only reading into this, were more complex issues.

I think we have a good track record in trying to respond very quickly to letters the minister receives and help her staff respond to them.

Ms Harrington: I know it is certainly a difficult process; you receive a lot of letters in any ministry. But I am getting the impression that in this particular case the job was not done well enough for our government. That is my feeling personally. I was just wondering if there is any explanation.

Mr Daniels: No, I think we have responded to the letters that we were able to as quickly as we can. The letters I brought forward have a fairly quick turnaround time.

Ms Harrington: The other thing you mentioned was that the government can proceed without consultation. That was a statement you had made. I would like to let you know that I believe, as a new government, the process of consultation is a very important one and I think in this case it could have been done. Whether it is a necessity by the book or not, the idea of talking to people, feeling where they are, is a very important one. I know even in my ministry there had been legislation which was all set to go that had been left over from the previous government, but that was not good enough. I personally took it and we did a whole go-over again, back to the same people, go at it right all over again. I think that is what you have to do.

Mr Daniels: I just want to say that our ministry has a good record of consultation around legislative change -- always has, always will have. We have consulted. Personally, I was involved in the Personal Property Security Act. That consultation began in the mid-1970s and did not wrap up until mid-1980s. It was 10 years of consultation, so yes, we do consult on legislative change and I do not think we are backing off from our consultation model at all. This was a financial, administrative decision related to budget, and there, as I said, and reading from the legal --


Ms Harrington: Yes, I know what you are saying.

Mr Daniels: It is cast in a different light.

Ms Harrington: Okay. I had a couple of other concerns. First, the people who came before us were certainly representing their individual communities and speaking from their point of view, maybe not representing the whole province, and of course we have to look at the vision for the whole province and what is best in the long run. That is why we are here and you are here, to help us.

I think it is fair that we evaluate the branch-by-branch situation, and we are talking at this point about 14 or 15 offices. As a group, I think it would be suitable for us as a government and yourself to look at branch-by-branch situations and how they affect that community and maybe do it piece by piece where it is feasible. Along that same line, the costs we are talking about when you amalgamate one office with another, the space requirements, we have not been told how much that will cost and how that works in with the figures, because we are talking about Cornwall, Kitchener, Brockville, where there will be some adjustments made.

Mr Daniels: There will be costs associated with many of those moves, and some will require only the cost of moving the documents, but there will be in certain cases a need to retrofit. But as I said earlier, those costs are one-time, whereas our savings are for ever.

Ms Harrington: I want to be assured that what we are doing is correct in the long term. We know there are going to be problems in the short term, but as some of the other members have said, we do not want it to be just good in the short term; we want it to be good in the long term, and there are considerations besides financial. I would submit that to you.

Mr Daniels: We felt in our examination that we looked at distances, location of offices, workload, physical plant, future cost of building such as in Colborne. We looked at all those things and felt that it would be better to consolidate ourselves to 51 offices and do a better job on those 51 than spread ourselves thinly through 65.

Mr Mammoliti: Sir, I too am very new at the whole registry office problem. I guess we have the same thing in common with my friend Mr Conway to a degree. He probably knows a lot more than I do, even though he said he is very new at it.

These 24 hours that have passed have certainly been an educational experience for me. One thing I have learned is that we are going to be criticized -- "we" being the government -- in everything we do, and I would be willing to bet that no matter what decision the government made in this particular case we would get opposition, we would get criticism from the people sitting across from me. Leave that aside; that is just a personal note.

You mentioned earlier that we had to make a decision and that we made a decision. One decision was that we chose this route, as opposed to laying off employees.

Mr Daniels: That is right.

Mr Mammoliti: I must commend not only you, because you obviously agreed with it, you said it would have been draconian, but my government as well. When I hear the world "layoff," my blood starts to boil, and I am glad we chose not to do that. I think for the most part the people who would have been laid off, if we talk to the employees, probably would say the same thing. So in that particular case, I am glad and I am glad that you agreed with it as well.

Sitting in the Legislature there is something I have learned, that there is going to be criticism. Both parties, the third party and the opposition, have continually criticized us and have said, and I do not agree with this of course, that we cannot make a decision and it is time we made a decision. Well, we made a decision. This is a decision we chose to make, and a fairly good decision from what I can see. If we had chosen another route, we probably would have been criticized for that as well.

The Chair: Is there a question there someplace?

Mr Mammoliti: Yes there is, Mr Chairman. It is coming up. This is not a new project, is it? It has been going on now for how many years now?

Mr Daniels: Well, in 1978 it was attempted.

Mr Mammoliti: What government was in at that time?

Mr Daniels: I think someone quoted earlier from the Law Times, where Mr Grossman said he wished he had done it all at once rather than take it one at a time.

Mr Mammoliti: The Liberals too played around with this somewhat when they had their turn and their kick at the can. Am I right?


Mr Mammoliti: Well, I am asking a question, Mr Chairman.

The Chair: Please proceed.

Mr Mammoliti: They too played around with this, did they not? And they did not make a decision.

Mr Daniels: Everybody looks at consolidation of services.

Mr Villeneuve: They made the decision to leave it alone.

Mr Mammoliti: That is what I am getting at. I am getting to that, Mr Chairman, if I am allowed to continue.

The Chair: Mr Mammoliti should be given the courtesy of being able to ask questions, as other members have been able to do.

Mr Mammoliti: In your opinion, the other two governments that were in at that time agreed to this at first, did they not?

Mr Daniels: I was not here in 1978, but that government obviously reviewed that decision. They had a major report which I have had a chance to review. There were persuasive arguments. The government services operational review said to look at the consolidation of land registry offices. As I say, reading the Law Times, Mr Grossman said he wished that he had done it all at once rather than piecemeal.

Mr Mammoliti: So from what I understand, both governments changed their minds at a later date. After they looked at it, after they agreed to it, then they changed their minds. I say to you this government made a decision and that can say a lot for this government. In my opinion, we have the guts to make this decision. I believe, as you do, that it will work out in the future, will it not?

Mr Daniels: It is a tough decision, and I am --

Mr Villeneuve: What are we doing meeting here?

Mr Mammoliti: The point I wanted to make was that this has been played around with by three other governments, I believe, and we are the only ones who have had enough guts to put it into play. I will leave it at that.

Mr Ferguson: I have one very brief question: Given that you have been around the civil service for a number of years, obviously you have witnessed a number of mergers and amalgamations of government offices and services. Is that correct?

Mr Daniels: Yes. Lots, actually.

Mr Ferguson: Generally speaking, does the government of the day go out and consult with individuals and state that it wants to close this government office or that government office or X government facility before it is done, or does it make the announcement that this is what it is proposing to do?

Mr Daniels: In my experience, they have always made the announcement. When I was involved in the Ministry of Correctional Services we closed a number of prisons and county jails and made the announcement. Then the community would react. In the Ministry of Community and Social Services, we closed a number of facilities for the developmentally handicapped, made the announcement, and people reacted.

Mr Ferguson: So what has this government done differently --

Mr Daniels: That is what I am saying; it is the same process.

Mr Ferguson: -- than the previous Liberal government or the Conservative government prior to us? Nothing at all?

Mr Daniels: That was my answer in Cambridge when the people asked me. I said this is a process that I have seen before in decisions around --

Mr Ferguson: Thank you very much.

Mr Perruzza: I am going to keep my comments fairly brief. I just want to pick up on a couple of points that were raised. I am glad to see that Mr Conway cleared up some of the confusion that Mr Runciman was experiencing with the numbers. I guess he was equating this particular move to a McDonald's closing. People who cannot access a McDonald's would then turn to Burger King and McDonald's would lose some revenues and that kind of thing. I am glad to see that was clarified to some degree, saying that if people intend to sell their houses or subdivide their farms they will go on and do that and the registry office will still do the same volume of business as is consistent with what is happening in the marketplace and the impacts on that.


Mr Conway also dared a wager where he suggested there may be a savings of $1 million in the short term in operating costs for a number of years, but in the long term, substantial capital moneys would probably be eaten up, if I am understanding his point correctly, in bringing the facilities up to par. But that implies that the facilities would be retained by the government or by some other ministry and some moneys would have to be put into that. If you go back to the announcement that was made by the minister when she originally announced the move in the Legislature, she talked about the fact that there would be in fact an $8-million savings in capital works that would otherwise have to be undertaken in some of the older facilities by this consolidation move. So I think in the immediate, the way I can read it, there is close to a $9-million savings. I think that kind of initiative and that kind of fiscal responsibility should be applauded by both the Conservatives and the Liberals, because I have heard them time and time again talk about these very things in the Legislature.

I would like to close just by making an observation. I am glad Mr Mammoliti alluded to the 1978 review that was undertaken by the Conservatives. I was not aware of that particular review, but it only further supports the observation I am about to make in saying that we have had some really great technological advancements from 1978, or from the 1960s, when I guess it was more expedient to have a large number of offices scattered throughout the province to provide these kinds of services. Now, with fax machines and computers and the technology that is available, it is becoming more cost-effective and the people out there can access the same kind of service for the same kind of moneys. I am glad to see that in 1991 we are making this kind of decision.

The Chair: Sorry, for the first round of questions the time has expired. We are moving into the second round, five minutes per party.

Mr Runciman: Mr Daniels, something I was talking about earlier with respect to the decision on whether this was indeed going to benefit the taxpayers, something along the lines Mr Conway followed as well: This went to Management Board, I gather, at some point prior to the announcement, and I assume there was some sort of cost-benefit analysis that went to the board at the time you made the recommendation to it?

Mr Daniels: Yes, the analysis basically we discussed today, the salary savings, etc.

Mr Runciman: Did that analysis take a look at the broader impact in terms of, for example, the expenditures that the Ministry of Government Services might be obligated to incur?

Mr Daniels: Yes, it did.

Mr Runciman: MGS, through the deputy or whoever, made representation at the board hearing?

Mr Daniels: That is right.

Mr Runciman: And had no concerns about this decision?

Mr Daniels: No. MGS was a partner in this submission.

Mr Runciman: We have talked about the question of the broader impact of this, and the fact that we have had a couple of witnesses appear before us with respect to Ms Kirsh making some comments that perhaps all of the ramifications of this decision were not looked at as thoroughly as they could be. I am paraphrasing some of the testimony. You talked about the time frame here as well for the decision being taken. I gather that you do not share Ms Kirsh's views, or do you disagree that indeed she had even voiced those concerns?

Mr Daniels: I do not think she would have voiced those concerns. But I would say that the process in the announcement in May followed the decision of the budget, the statement of the budget, the estimates for 1991-92, and this was an outcome of that budget. That is why the announcement was in May.

Mr Runciman: You talked about the savings in salaries, essentially in salaries in the jobs that were going to be saved, representing $1 million, and you said you were going to take the hit on this, if I am quoting you correctly. Was there no other option available in terms of saving that $1 million? For example, was it not feasible in terms of these land registrars to have them operate out of a central location so that you did not need a registrar in each specific office? Is that not a feasible option?

Mr Daniels: We looked at the option of satellite offices, and it does not have the same effect of savings. There is still an office going on there. There are still lease costs, janitorial services, phones. In the true constraint, the restructuring, we do not have to go and visit the office or supervise the staff. All the costs related to operating a physical plant are eliminated. To run it as a satellite is only a half measure and we would not achieve the savings we would have otherwise. But we did look at that, very much so.

Mr Runciman: So when you are talking about the $1 million which has been bandied about, you are talking essentially about salaries and not these other factors?

Mr Daniels: No, it is a combination of salary, leases, support, telephone lines, all that stuff that goes into an office.

Mr Runciman: So you indeed incorporated the satellite option, but your savings would have been somewhat less.

Mr Daniels: A marginal savings.

Mr Runciman: I gather, when we are talking about this, and it has been brought to our attention, that the human factors apparently have not been a major consideration to the ministry, and its impact on rural Ontario.

Mr Daniels: I think we said they are. We thought they were a major consideration.

Mr Runciman: Well, I do not think so -- its impact on rural Ontario or its impact in terms of costs for consumers. So what we are talking about is something less than $1 million, probably significantly less than $1 million in savings, if you had opted for the satellite operations. And on the other side of the ledger are all of those other costs, which apparently you deem not to be significant enough to back away from a decision which former governments did back away from following additional study.

Mr B. Murdoch: Just to go on with that, these studies you had done to show that you could save money and things like that, is there a way we can find out what your savings will be, say, taking Durham office to Owen Sound? Are these going to be available? No one seems to be able to --

Mr Daniels: I think today we are explaining to you that the salary savings are over $770,000 --

Mr B. Murdoch: But people like to have the breakdown. We had a lot of people here who were upset with their closings and they would like to know specifics.

Mr Daniels: I think we best look at in the aggregate. Sure, you can piecemeal us to death, but I would say it is best to look at it in the aggregate and the total savings.

Mr B. Murdoch: So these results are not available at all?

Mr Daniels: No. We looked at it in the aggregate.

Mr B. Murdoch: I cannot believe that.

Mr Daniels: We roll it up, but it is the aggregate savings that count.

Mr Jordan: Mr Daniels, you stated that you had spoken with the lawyers from Almonte?

Mr Daniels: Yes, that is correct.

Mr Jordan: You do not recall which firms or --

Mr Daniels: Yes. It was quite a few, I think half the -- I am just trying to think of the table, how it was set. There were about six surveyors.

The Chair: Sorry, the five minutes has expired. We are going to need all of this time.

Mr Daniels: There were six surveyors and about seven law firms in Almonte. And the chairman of the law society.

Mr Conway: I would just like to take up on Mr Jordan's point. I thought the group from Almonte that was here was really compelling, four of them, each from a different perspective: Pat Galway, the lawyer, Mayor Finner, Garth Teskey and the president of the NDP, to whom I give full marks; I thought that was a very gutsy and courageous thing he did, and I do not say that in any kind of a patronizing way. If there are people in Almonte who have applauded this, I want to know who they are, because I am not as close to Almonte as my friend from Smiths Falls, but I am there a lot and they are real unhappy about this.

I come back to the fundamental issue here. Rural Ontario has been screwed. There is no other way to look at it. I will absolutely accept the argument that we have to save money and we have to do a variety of things, but there is absolutely nothing in this testimony that makes me think that there will be any real money saved, either operationally or capital. I think that both will show net gains, not even baseline holds.

Mr Daniels: But the jobs are gone for ever, Mr Conway.


Mr Conway: What you have basically said here is, "We've got to get the $1 million and we're going to get it by this integration, because we have decided" -- and my friend from Yorkview made the point that he was happy that 35 jobs, the classified positions within the public service, were protected, and I respect that. Therein, it seems to me, lies the fundamental choice.

I have to be quite frank. I am here advocating for thousands of people who live in rural eastern Ontario, in the counties of Renfrew, Lanark, Stormont, Dundas, Leeds, well represented by a lot of people here, and we have been screwed. The costs are going up, the services going down. There is absolutely no other conclusion on the basis of the testimony offered. It is that choice, the choice to increase the cost and reduce the service while protecting the classified jobs, that I am having a real problem with.

Mr Daniels: But there are still offices in Cobourg. There is still an office in Belleville, still an office in Kingston, still an office in Napanee, still an office in Cornwall.

Mr Conway: I am the member for Renfrew North and I look to my friends and neighbours in Lanark.

Mr Daniels: There is one in Pembroke. There are 51 offices.

Mr Conway: Let's look at Renfrew. Renfrew is a big county. I guess it would be a different situation if we had a registry office in Pembroke and another one in Barry's Bay. We have not. We put up with distances that, quite frankly, most of the rest of the province would not tolerate. It is part of the culture, I guess. I live on the road. I am not even happy about these terrible bills I have to submit every month for my mileage allowance.

But in Lanark the situation is different. There were the two divisions, north and south Lanark, and the point that was made so beautifully by those people from Lanark is that Almonte services not just north Lanark but south Renfrew and West Carleton, a dynamic growth area in that part of eastern Ontario.

Mr Daniels: You can take that logic one step further. If we were fully automated, does the office belong in Ottawa?

Mr Conway: A famous Prime Minister who lived in Mount Royal once said, "If my grandmother had wheels, I suppose she could have been a bus." I can only deal with what I have before me, and what I have before me is bad news for rural eastern Ontario.

The case that has been advanced, which God knows internally I understand -- I remember. I should not confess this, but in just about every year I was Minister of Education they would come from Management Board, "It's terrible, it's awful," and we had to cut more money. One of the favourite programs was something called the Ontario scholarship program. Probably for all kinds of bad reasons, I kept saying no, not because at a certain point there is not an argument for that, but among other things, I cannot take the grief. For $2 million, I am not going to be abused by every editorialist in the province about something as sensitive as the Ontario scholarship, but it is $100. Other people have made other choices. I respect that.

Mr Mammoliti: What is your alternative, though?

Mr Conway: My alternative seems to be, quite frankly, on the basis of what has been argued, somebody I think from Grey made the point -- I give Frank Drea credit, and Michael Davidson, who got some credit here yesterday. Mike Davidson apparently said here 14 years ago that there was a way to do some of what the government wanted in Grey. I forget the particulars, but they decided to make it a satellite office.

I do not believe the argument that has been advanced for Lanark. It is palpably not going to be borne out. I will bet anything with anybody on that. I was once the Minister of Government Services, and that is one of the reasons I am prepared to make the wager. I know what is going to happen here. It is not going to be the concern of Consumer and Commercial Relations but the government as a corporate entity. There is more than one department out there.

When I start from the assumption that, having heard two days of testimony -- and it may be very skewed testimony. There must be somebody out there who can make a case on the ground for this decision. I am just caught in the situation that it has not been made. Art has done a good job from the point of view of the senior public servant. I would feel differently if somebody came in here from north Wellington or north Lanark or east Grenville and said, "Now, listen," but I have not heard that.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Conway.

Mr Duignan: You mentioned the cost-saving factor of $1 million and some capital expenditure of about $7 million or $8 million. I was wondering, was there any auditor involved in making this recommendation, or how did these figures come about?

Mr Daniels: Yes, the major work was done by my chief financial officer. We will be looking at it in terms of the financial viability. So yes, very much a business acumen was brought to bear to it.

Mr Duignan: In each case an audit was done of the office?

Mr Daniels: Yes, to look at the volumes, the workload; things like that. It was not just done by a policy person; it was done by both policy -- line -- people and people with financial background and capital services background.

Mr Duignan: So in fact these figures were not just plucked from the air, they were hard costs come up with by doing some auditing on those offices.

Mr Daniels: I could easily show anybody who wanted to see it, if they are auditors.

Mr Ferguson: Have you received any communication from individuals out there who are quite happy?

Mr Daniels: I tabled close to 20 letters from Peterborough, Northumberland and Ottawa. Quite a number of people there are quite happy.

Mr Jordan: Nobody from eastern Ontario.

Mr Daniels: The city of Ottawa is happy that Cumberland is coming out of Russell.

The Chair: Any further questions?

Mr Mammoliti: I would like to respond to Mr Conway's remarks.

The Chair: No, I meant questions of Mr Daniels.

Mr Mammoliti: Would not the savings be an incentive? Would that not be just cause for making this decision, a $1-million saving?

Mr Daniels: A $1-million saving is the reason.

Mr Mammoliti: You mentioned earlier that every year we are getting that $1-million saving.

Mr Daniels: Every year from now on, yes. It is a base reduction to our budget. The capital costs are one-time only, whereas the base savings, the salary savings, go on and on ad infinitum.

Mr Conway: My point is simply to clarify that on the basis of what I heard. I heard a very good case being advanced by Mr Daniels and the government as to the hoped-for savings, but I have heard two days of testimony the bulk of which makes me believe those savings are not going to be achieved.

Mr Perruzza: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I understand that you have a process for this committee. I do not know whether you are going to allow across-the-table debates that will go back and forth from one member to another. I understand Mr Mammoliti had the floor and then Mr Conway decided to jump in and clarify or expand on whatever he was doing and then Mr Mammoliti jumped back in again. Are you going to clarify this for us?

The Chair: Mr Mammoliti and Mr Conway were both out of order. You are absolutely correct. Time has expired. Thank you, Mr Daniels.

The 12 hours of the committee work expires at 6:20 so we have one hour and 42 minutes to do a lot of work. Basically, we are going to have to give some direction to the research officer on the writing of the report, and there may be other things, such as motions, etc, that members may wish to discuss. Let's not forget that we have one hour and 42 minutes left to do everything.

Mr Runciman: Since this is a request from our caucus for the 12-hour hearing, as Mr Murdoch has a notice of motion which he gave to you at an earlier date and we have to deal with that notice of motion, so that the committee does have time to deliberate its report, I suggest we deal with it now and perhaps set aside 15 minutes, five minutes to each caucus, so we could have the remainder of the time to deliberate or give direction to our researcher for the report.

The Chair: I think that is an excellent idea. We have had a notice of motion by Mr Murdoch. Because time is limited, could we get unanimous agreement that we limit each party caucus and discussion to five minutes and then we will take the vote and leave the rest of the time to discuss the report with our research officers? Is that okay?

Mr Ferguson: We do not have any difficulty with the suggestion other than that I think the party lines are pretty well defined. I could give Mr Runciman's speech for him and I am sure he could come over and give my speech for me. Quite frankly, I do not see a lot of merit in debating the matter any further. I would prefer that we call a 15-minute recess. We will have our people in place and we will have a vote.

Mr Runciman: It is important for us, in any event, and I think you want to take a position on this. Mr Murdoch has a motion dealing with a specific matter, and we are trying to recognize your concerns about time as well and the fact that our positions seem to be fairly well defined. That is why I suggested limiting debate so that we do not get into political harangues for an hour or more. I am suggesting five minutes to each caucus. If we do not want to move any further, that is a decision of the committee.

Mr Ferguson: If you really think a debate is necessary, that is fine.

The Chair: We have unanimous consent that the committee set aside five minutes per party to discuss Mr Murdoch's motion. Mr Murdoch, why do you not move your motion and take your five minutes?

Mr B. Murdoch: I already gave them a notice and I passed this around. I would like to change it a little, if I can. That is all.

The Chair: You want to change the motion?

Mr B. Murdoch: Yes. I still have the notice of motion, but since we debated things today, I would like to --

The Chair: You have not actually moved the motion. Why do you not move the motion?

Mr B. Murdoch: I will move the motion that I would like to be in there:

That the committee request the public accounts committee to, at the earliest possible date, call upon the Provincial Auditor to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the government's decision to close and/or amalgamate land registry offices.

The Chair: That is your motion?

Mr B. Murdoch: Yes.

The Chair: Would the clerk please read the motion into the record so we can get on with our discussion?

Clerk of the Committee: Mr B. Murdoch moves that the committee request the public accounts committee to, at the earliest possible date, call upon the Provincial Auditor to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the government's decision to close and/or amalgamate land registry offices.

Mr Runciman: I think this whole discussion has essentially revolved around the government's stated view that this is going to save the taxpayers money. They have talked about a variety of figures. To me, it is important that we as a committee get a clear understanding of just what are or are not the real costs to taxpayers of this decision. Obviously, the government, for a variety of reasons, does not want to take a look at other factors -- the human factors, the impact on rural consumers and rural Ontario and the real cost this is going to add to consumers who are users of registry offices in these various locations.

In essence, the government and the bureaucracy representing the government have put their case with respect to cost savings. We have had a variety of witnesses challenge that. We have had a number of people here today suggest that in fact there are not going to be any real cost savings. I think it is incumbent upon us as a committee to make sure we have the real facts before us. I suggest the decision was taken by the minister without sufficient consideration of the impact. It has placed her in a difficult position, there is no doubt about it. But I think Mr Rae, the Premier, has on a number of occasions indicated that this government is indeed going to be different. If a mistake has been made, the Premier and his ministers and backbenchers are prepared to stand up and say, "Look, a mistake was made and we're not going to proceed."

I want to compliment Mrs Harrington on the questions she directed. I am not trying to be divisive with respect to the government caucus, but I think it was apparent that she was indeed listening to the testimony before the committee in the past two weeks and it has raised some questions in her mind. In my view, it should have raised questions in the minds of other government members represented on this committee. As we said, there are some very sincere, intelligent, dedicated people who have appeared before this committee in the last two days who have genuine concerns about the impact of the government decision. It seems to me you should be prepared to take those into consideration.

Again, you have lodged your case essentially on the benefits to taxpayers in this province. I say, let's prove that case. Mr Daniels apparently had no reservations with respect to the Provincial Auditor coming in. I spoke to the Provincial Auditor's office during the noonhour break. They have no difficulty with the timing of this, because CCR is overdue for an audit, and they see no difficulty whatsoever in responding rather quickly to a request from the public accounts committee, so we could have an answer to this in a matter of weeks, soon after the House reconvenes. Unless government members have some reasons that we have not heard up to this point not to allow the Provincial Auditor to go in and come back with an objective assessment of this decision's real impact on the taxpayers of Ontario, I do not see why they should be reluctant to see that proceed.

We can talk about a variety of reasons, about embarrassing the government, but essentially I think most of us on this side understand that this is a minister new to her responsibilities and that perhaps she did not have an opportunity to really take a look at the impact before the decision was taken. I do not think you have to be reticent about backing away from a decision where perhaps all the considerations were not taken into account. I am simply taking this opportunity to urge the government members to support this motion. I think you should be as desirous as those of us on this side of the room to make sure we have accurate facts before us before this kind of decision, impacting on many, many communities, is taken. That is, very simply put, the request of our members.

Mr Brown: We will obviously be supporting this motion and there are some reasons. Over the last two days, the basic concern we have heard is over cost saving and a reduction in customer service. I do not think there can be any doubt in the mind of any MPP in this room that service will be reduced for a certain number of people in this province. That is not a question. The question is, what is the cost saving for reducing the service to these people?

There has been a great deal of debate here about what the actual saving might be. Maybe Mr Murdoch could clarify his motion, but I do not think he was just talking about CCR. I think he wanted to look at the whole issue of what costs to government services are involved and have the auditor look at the whole ball of wax and not just CCR's particular involvement here. From that standpoint -- I want to be brief because I think we want to get on to debating the full report -- I will just indicate our support for this, because we are not very certain that the cost benefit is there and we would like to know that before we see any reduction in service to the people of Ontario.

Mr Perruzza: I will keep my remarks relatively short. I am really surprised that Mr Runciman would try to create the illusion that our civil service is either incompetent or that its abilities are in question here. He has drawn their abilities into question. I cannot read this move in any other way. I have heard his leader stand up in the House and attack the civil service time and time again and I think this is just a move in the same kind of direction.

He is also suggesting a duplication of service. We have had experts from the ministries produce some numbers that would suggest there is going to be a saving of about $1 million a year and potential for $8 million in capital costs and that we can streamline the delivery of government simply by upgrading its technology. I cannot understand why he would attack their professionalism and their credibility and their abilities to provide this kind of information. If he is doing that, then he should simply come out and say: "I believe the people who have undertaken this analysis and done this study aren't capable of doing it. Bring in the auditors and let's do it all over again." If you are not prepared to say that, Mr Runciman, then I think the motion before us is simply out of place.

Mr Ferguson: I will be very brief. I think we have to recognize, first of all, that this is not a popular decision with a lot of folks out there. Of course, I think most people in this room recognize that we are not going to govern by opinion poll and only do what is popular. We have a responsibility not only on behalf of the client population group that accesses the services of RLOs on a daily basis; we have a larger responsibility to the residents of Ontario as a whole.

Quite frankly, I am surprised that we have been criticized by my friends opposite for not going out and spelling out the decision prior to making it. In fact, they have suggested to us that we should be doing what they never did. I think there is a little bit of irony in that suggestion.


I have the utmost confidence in the integrity of the decision. I think it is part of this government's commitment to a much larger and more serious strategy of dealing with inefficiency, and I do not think we want to get into a habit of running to the Provincial Auditor every time somebody happens to disagree with a decision. I do not think you have to be an economist or a rocket scientist to figure out, if you follow the practice of the business community, that by merging and achieving economies of scale on a per-unit basis -- and that is exactly what we are doing here, nothing any different from that -- obviously that has to result in savings, not to suggest that there will not be a cost on the other end.

Ms Harrington: I want to respond to a comment by Mr Runciman about this government acting in this particular instance or other instances solely on the basis of saving money. I would like to have it on the record that our overall way of doing business is to consider other factors. Quality of life in rural Ontario is a very important factor that we will take into consideration.

We did have a chance over the noonhour to speak with some of our people in the ministry with regard to the cost analysis and the question of the auditor investigating this, and I feel confident and have been assured that the cost analysis has been done and that it justifies this position that has been put forward to us.

The Chair: Time has expired for debate on the motion.

All in favour of Mr Murdoch's motion?

Mr Runciman: Request for a recorded vote, Mr Chairman.

The Chair: Mr Runciman has requested a recorded vote.

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

Ayes -- 5

Brown, Conway, Fawcett, Murdoch, B., Runciman.

Nays -- 6

Abel, Duignan, Ferguson, Harrington, Mammoliti, Perruzza.

The Chair: Now we have to turn our minds to the report the committee is going to prepare. I believe it is going to be important to give proper direction to our research officer. I am assuming the first thing the research officer is going to do for the committee is to prepare a summary about the committee hearings, with a cross-reference index for us. Then an interim report will be prepared, which the committee will discuss, and a final report will be submitted to the committee. At that point I am assuming the committee either will endorse the report unanimously or that there will be a split in the views of the committee. We may even have a dissenting report.

Mr Conway: I would be prepared to write my own report and just submit it for collation. I do not expect there will be any kind of unanimity out of this, so I do not think we should put the poor researcher through a pointless exercise.

Mr Runciman: As part of the report, I think it would be beneficial to have some sort of compilation of the witnesses appearing before us and the testimony, and then obviously we are going to have minority or dissenting opinions. Perhaps the best way we can deal with that is to leave the researcher with the task of compiling a record of what transpired during the hearings, and each of the three caucuses can submit in writing to the researcher our stands on this issue. They could be incorporated in the report; I suggest they are going to be minority opinions. That is one way we can expedite it and at the call of the Chair at the next meeting spend some time discussing it. That is one way of getting around it.

The Chair: Do we have consensus on that?

Mr Runciman: Perhaps we should put some time requirement on it, in terms of having two or three weeks to prepare the positions and have them submitted.

The Chair: The committee schedule is full for the entire month of August. I believe there is a week in September where we may be able to take an hour. I will have to consult with the clerk and will notify every member of the committee. I ask the research officer how long it would take to compile the review of the committee's work with the cross-reference index, as suggested.

Mr McNaught: Perhaps by the end of next week.

The Chair: That being the case, as soon as we get the data from the research officer, the clerk will distribute it to all the members. Then at the earliest possible date we will communicate with the members as to a time for a meeting.

Mr Runciman: I wonder whether the clerk would prefer that we set a specific date to have the submissions from the various caucuses, say the end of August, and then hopefully you can find an hour in September.

Clerk of the Committee: Can I just say something about finding an hour in September. This committee was specifically authorized to consider this standing order 123 designation yesterday and today. There is nothing that prevents the committee from continuing its discussion of this when the House resumes, but during the recess we are authorized to meet on Bill 121 aside from these two days only. That is an order of the House. The committee cannot change that.

Mr Conway: I think it has been a good two days. The idea that the staff would collate the summary of material and that each of the three caucuses would prepare their own conclusion, recommendations and what have you and just submit --

Ms Harrington: I would like to comment. There may be some common recommendations. I would like to see whether there are. Maybe the researcher could come up with some and then diverge from there.

Mr Conway: I do not put the research person into a position of trying to make chalk out of cheese. That is a very taxing experience.

The Chair: If we get all the information from all the parties by the end of August, then some time early in September we will be able to convene. Ms Harrington, I think your idea is a good one. If there is common ground, we are going to seek to find it right away.

Mr Conway: We imagine there would be a first section, which is a summary of the evidence, a second section of three parts and what conclusions that evidence leads the three groups here to reach. There may be some commonality in all or part of that.

Ms Harrington: That listing could be stated at the end of the three parts.

Mr Conway: Yes.

The Chair: Is that process fine with everyone? Yes? Okay, so as not to waste any more of our time, the committee is adjourned until further notice.

The committee adjourned at 1659.